go to the third quarter and calm those fools,” the king ordered.
The dining hall
was filled with people sitting at long, long tables, where platters of food had been laid out. Darian and the king sat up
at the front of the room on a dais, and Torrin sat like a pet on a soft pillow next to Darian. He bent his head fairly often
in order to hide his scowl, wholly unhappy about the situation.
You Highness.” Darian turned to Torrin and offered him a piece of meat. Torrin couldn't help the blush as he ate from
Darian's hand. Like a dog. Darian turned back to his father. “I would be honored.”
“Make to kill
them all, boy.”
Torrin's heart chilled
at Darian's reply. “Of course.”
A soprano voice,
somewhat louder than the sea of voices behind him, caught Torrin's attention. He turned to the sound, curious. A woman was
hurrying up to the dais, her skirts in her hands, her breasts fairly bouncing in her rush. He noticed the bouncing golden
curls and the deep violet of her dress, then how the dress seemed to bring out the full color of her irises.
He curled in his
fingers and carefully sat to cover his toes.
She ignored his
existence, though, and he relieved about that. Instead she curtsied deeply to the king and the prince. “How wonderful
to see you again,” she twittered.
If Darian hadn't
expressed concern over her possible visitation, Torrin would have dismissed her as an idiot.
Darian returned. “You were not here for my return.” Though his words were inquiring enough, his tone made it seem
like he couldn't care one way or the other. The king, Torrin noted, was watching Darian closely.
“No, I'm afraid
I wasn't here at the time.” She fluttered her eyelashes prettily. “But may I congratulate you on your victory?”
“If you wish.”
Darian continued to eat.
Your Highness, on a stunning victory!”
“It is surprising
that I won, Lady Ledia?”
Torrin had to look
down to muffle his chuckle in his hand.
The great Lady Ledia
backpedaled. “Oh, no, no, of course not! I only meant that the Stravians must have been surprised.”
are fools. They should know that no one can stand to our army.”
Torrin almost lost
control of his laughter at the furious thinking Lady Ledia was churning. He could almost see the wheels turning madly.
“Of course not! But such a sudden change–”
would be best to speak to my concubine on such a matter. He was a medic of the Stravians, after all.”
The woman was shocked.
Her face contorted a bit. Torrin didn't know much about the life of nobility, but he knew it was insulting to tell a lady
of gentility to speak with a slave. It placed her on an equal footing with the slave she spoke to, making her no longer a
She gave Torrin
a heated look before quickly looking back to Darian. “Yes, I had heard you'd taken a concubine. He is young. The boy
likely doesn't have his wits yet.”
Darian smiled darkly and picked up his goblet. “He has wits enough.” And he took a delicate sip of his wine.
Torrin blushed at
Darian's obviously sexual innuendo. Vaguely he saw the king's eyes sharpen. Torrin felt a chill strike through him.
Saying such a thing to a lady!” Lady Ledia gasped, putting a hand to her breast and letting one side of her skirts finally
fall. It was apparent, however, that she was too furious to be so piously outraged.
“What is the
matter, Lady Ledia?” Darian asked, placing his goblet back down on the table and carefully wiping his lips clean. “I
have merely assured you that my concubine has with enough to speak to you about Fort Shiro. He looks young, but he is nine-and-ten.”
Lady Ledia seemed
shocked to hear this. Torrin once again cursed his small stature.
The king, Torrin
noticed, had a strange gleam in his eye.
boy is nine-and-ten? Surely you jest, my prince.”
“I am not
in the habit of jesting, Lady Ledia.” He placed the napkin back down and picked off a piece of meat with his fork.
Torrin thought of
Darian pushing him into the bath and bit back another smile. Darian could jest with the best of them at times.
apologies, my prince. Please pardon me. I must return to my table.” The woman curtsied once more and shot Torrin a filthy
look. Feeling slightly mischievous, he cocked a brow and watched her seethe.
Darian dismissed. Lady Ledia stalked daintily away.
and set off tomorrow morn,” the king said, acting as if they'd never been interrupted to begin with. “And leave
all your precious little toys here.”
Darian nodded his
head in a small bow. “Yes, Your Highness.”
Darian had Ven leave
and left Torrin to learn how to take the garments off. “You will not join me tomorrow.”
“What if you are hurt?”
Darian seemed surprised.
“I will not be.”
Torrin muttered. He glared at the buttons in front of him.
Darian played with
Torrin's hair. “You worry for me?”
Torrin blushed and
fumbled with the button in his fingers. “You promised,” he whispered finally.
Darian's hand stilled.
“Yes,” he murmured, “I did.” He lifted Torrin's gaze to meet his. “I have something to tell
But first...” He bent and kissed Torrin breathless. “This...” And he began nibbling on Torrin's war.
Darian grabbed Torrin
up and shoved in hard, one last time, then groaned and released himself inside Torrin. Torrin cried out as he came, as well.
Darian licked Torrin's
exposed neck before laying comfortably on top of Torrin. “I need sex,” Darian said without warning.
Torrin cracked open
an exhausted eye. “Uh-huh.”
Darian smiled at
the tired sarcasm in his lover's voice. “No. I mean that sex gives me power. In battle, I get a heightened awareness
and stamina. This ability has been in my family for centuries, and it is what originally made my ancestor king.”
Both of Torrin's
eyes were open now. “Really? That's why you have so much sex?”
Funny, but his little
medic sounded almost disappointed. “It's why I had sex with many others.” He again began playing with Torrin's
hair. “But never before have I wanted someone more than once. I had never even considered a concubine before. It's strange
– with you, I get even stronger than I had with the others.” Darian frowned, then carefully cleared his face of
the tension. “So do not worry, my little medic – you are different.”
Torrin seemed to
wondering if he should be pleased or not, but his blush made it evident that he was pleased, nonetheless. “But
how does it work?” Torrin asked.
“That I do
not know. I only know the legend of my family, and I have felt the truth of it in battle. The notes on our power are sealed
to all but the king.”
“Just in case
there's a weakness,” Torrin murmured.
Darian nodded. “Exactly.”
may know a weakness of yours that even you don't know,” Torrin protested, angry and afraid of the thought alone.
Darian said gravely as he stared into Torrin's eyes. “I know.”
Torrin leaned up
and kissed Darian deeply. “Be safe,” he whispered.
Darian held Torrin's back and neck up when the younger man would have fallen back down onto the bed. “You must not
leave this room. Trust no one but myself and Ven. I will order Ven to bring you food and taste it before you eat it. Dear
Torrin, I have entered you into a world of deceit. For you to survive, you must hide yourself as much as possible.
Do you understand?”
Torrin nodded. Darian
seemed genuinely afraid. “Do you think he'd planning something?” Would he be yelled at for asking that?
“I know he
is. You must be careful.” Darian's eyes bored into Torrin.
I will. If you come back unharmed, I will remain unharmed.” And Torrin smiled.
Darian gave him
one short, decisive nod. “All right, then.” He was dead serious.
Torrin felt worry
chew at his insides despite Darian's words. Would he really come back unharmed? It seemed like the king was trying to have
Darian killed on the battlefield. The thought made Torrin's fear multiply.
Desperate, he brought
Darian's face down to his, trusting the man's arm to continue holding him steady.
When they parted
from the kiss again, Darian's arms curled possessively around Torrin. “Do not fear. I now have something to return to.
I will not fail to come back, Torrin.”
Torrin could only
continue nodding. He felt like he'd been doing that a lot. “I'm sorry you have to kill,” he said, his voice slightly
muffled in Darian's chest. Darian's arms only tightened around him. “I'm sorry,” he repeated, “but I can't
let you go.”
Darian nuzzled Torrin's
hair. He was blessed, he thought, to have this man, this little medic who cared for him so very much. “Good.”
They lied there
in silence then and did nothing more than hold one another. Darian felt the fear overwhelming him moment by moment, piece
by piece. The people here could not be trusted. His father would surely do something. The king always loved to test him, seeming
to know pieces of Darian's heart. That was why he was always sent to kill the uprisers, and thus earn his allies' enmity.
What would his father
do to Torrin? He couldn't protect his medic from the king. What would Darian do? If Torrin was harmed, what the hell
would he do? He already knew he would wish death on anyone who would dare to harm his lover. If it were his father, would
he kill the man?
He closed his eyes.
He didn't want to wonder, because he truly did not know what he would do. Despite that fact that killing the king was a criminal
offense, no matter who did it; no matter that doing so would be akin to a death wish...
He kissed the top
of Torrin's head and forced himself to sleep.
Torrin watched in
trepidation as Darian checked the straps of his armor. He was leaving, and for the first time ever, Torrin would be completely
alone. And in the most dangerous place in the world. And what of Darian? He was heading immediately back into battle after
having just managed to escape back to the castle! Would Darian really be all right?
Darian caught his
eyes and gave him a small smile. “I will return as quickly as possible.”
Torrin nodded, even
as he noted that 'as quickly as possible' could mean 'never.'
Darian saw how Torrin's
eyes remained worried. “Torrin, I will return to you.”
smile. “I wish I was going with you.”
For an instant,
he thought he saw a matching regret in Darian's own eyes. “It has been decided that you will stay.”
So it wasn't really
Darian's choice? Somehow that made Torrin feel better, even as he wondered why. “All right. As long as you stick to
Again there was
something in Darian's eyes, something that went deeper than his words. The steady gaze managed to convey the prince's own
wish for Torrin's safety. “I will.”
Torrin could only
Darian came forward.
“Then until we meet once more,” he breathed, and captured Torrin's lips. As always the sensations made Torrin
heady with pleasure, even after their night of lovemaking. He lifted his hands to Darian's shoulders, feeling the cold metal
beneath his fingers. In desperation, he put everything into the kiss.
Darian paused for
a moment before tugging Torrin toward him, crushing him to his breastplate. Torrin arched against the metal and leaned his
throat back and wrapped his arms around Darian's neck. Whether he loved this man, this prince, or not, losing him was not
an option. If only he had the strength to say it... but he had the strength to give the information to Darian in other ways.
Right now. And if Darian came back... if Darian came back, safe and sound and still able to push Torrin into the bath and
laugh, then he would tell him. He would tell Darian everything.
broke off the kiss, but he didn't back away, keeping his eyes close to pierce into Torrin's soul. “I will not lose you,”
Darian whispered fiercely, nearly repeating Torrin's own words from the night before. His voice and eyes and stance were harsh
and determined. It was the heat of Darian's will that touched Torrin now, the strength of his desires. Finally, Torrin felt
“I won't let
you lose me,” Torrin whispered back.
deep and long, before kissing Torrin again. And when he turned to leave, his fingers slowly trailed down Torrin's lips until
finally he left through the curtain to give his last instructions to Ven.
Torrin had gotten
up and gotten dressed, and Ven had brought him food, taste-testing each piece, before having left again. The food smelled
good, and Torrin was hungry. But he couldn't make himself get back up off the bed.
The bed truly was
beautiful, even more plush than the one at Darian's camp. The covers were a deep, dark red, almost like blood but too comfortable
for such an analogy. Torrin wasn't the type to wax romance, but the deep beauty seemed to be a color only a gem could resonate.
The wood was dark, too, but not too dark to be mistaken for black. Torrin knew nothing about wood except for what was done
with paper, but the wood looked exquisite nonetheless.
Finally he sat up
and looked at the food. It saw atop a small table. The table was the same dark wood of the bed and embroidered with signs
and swirls unknown to Torrin's eyes. The food was on a silver tray and beautifully arrayed. Eggs with melted cheese, ham,
and a biscuit. Beside the plate was a glass of what appeared to be orange juice. A napkin held a fork and butter knife.
With a shrug, Torrin
The food was absolutely
delicious, the eggs light, the ham sweet, the biscuit soft. Torrin savored each and every bite.
When he finished,
he went to the restroom and took care of the necessities. He wondered if there were books or something to occupy his time.
Torrin turned to
the doorway, hidden by the curtains. Who was it? What should he do?
we have been sent by His Majesty the king to escort you to his presence. Open this door immediately, or we will break it down.”
seized up. Darian had only been gone for about an hour. Would the king really demand his presence now?
But Torrin knew
he couldn't risk angering the king. Darian hadn't answered Torrin's question about what would happen to him if he went against
his father's wishes. Would Darian be punished for Torrin's insurrection?
Torrin sighed as
he made his way to the curtain. Since when had he become a martyr?
Still, he left the
sanctity of Darian's bedroom and moved to the small outer room. It was with trembling fingers that he opened the door.
The two men were
huge – always, always they're huge – huge enough to carry mountains. Torrin wanted to shrink away from their small,
beady eyes, but he stood firm. They couldn't hurt him. They didn't have the authority.
But the king did.
Torrin was ushered
out of Darian's room and led down to the left. He managed to follow the next three turned before once again getting lost.
The two hulks, one
before him and one after him, led him to a small hallway, where embroideries no longer hung. The walls, call, cold stone,
seemed to close in on him. Where exactly was he being led?
Another two turns
found Torrin's escorts halting. A tall stone door stood, formidable, before Torrin's gaze. What did the king want with him?
Why could the king be here?
One of his escorts
opened the door and pushed Torrin inside. Before him stood the king himself, wearing a long golden cape and balancing before
him an elaborate cane, obviously more for appearance than anything else. A burly bodyguard stood on either side of the man,
waiting silently behind him.
concubine,” the king ordered.
Torrin felt like
he was walking toward his death. The king's eyes were so cold and cruel, as if he were envisioning Torrin on a torture rack.
Torrin felt like a bug being pinned to a board with those gray eyes staring at him like that.
Darian has left.” The king's smoke-gray eyes bored into Torrin's, waiting for a response.
Torrin only nodded,
then cast his eyes down to escape the look. Should he speak to the man or not? Which would be acceptable? Which wouldn't?
Torrin very much did not want to be whipped.
“You are his
first. Never before has that boy taken a whore.”
at the word, but still said nothing. What could he say?
times have you fucked?”
again. What? How could he possibly answer that question? Was this man a sicko?
whore!” The king angrily banged the cane on the stone floor, making Torrin jump.
He trembled and
blushed and tried to think back. “I – I don't know. Your Highness,” he added hastily in afterthought.
The king was silent
for a moment. Torrin didn't dare look up to meet his gaze. “It is as I thought.” The tone had changed to
a sort of cruel amusement. Torrin felt the foreboding inside him rise into outright panic. Something was happening, and he
didn't have all the information he needed.
He thought Darian's
admission and feared, suddenly, that this conversation had something to do with whatever power Darian had. And it was something
the prince didn't know.
“Go bind him,”
the king ordered suddenly, and Torrin's head snapped up. The two men behind the king were coming forward, a rope in the hands
that had been behind their backs. Behind Torrin came the two men who had led him into the room.
Panicked, he turned
to the men behind him, the ones without rope. He dodged desperately to the side, trying to maneuver-
But he was grabbed
around the waist and pulled back roughly. He clearly heard the king's laughter as he struggled, trying to escape.
His arms were grabbed
in burly hands and wrenched behind him. He cried out in pain as his shoulders protested sharply. Thick, bristly rope twined
around his wrists, cutting into them. He cried out again and continued to buck and twist in futility.
One of the guards
touched his stomach, fondling Torrin's flesh. His cries rose in volume.
Then his legs were
captured and bound, and he was dumped cruelly to the ground. The hard stone floor was cold and unyielding.
The king stepped
closer then, looming over Torrin with a wide smirk on his face. Still he held that cane before him, using it more as a sign
of power than for balance. Torrin could only stare at that smirk in horror.
I warn you now, you are not permitted to have sex with that boy any longer. Do you understand?”
Torrin's mind immediately
flashed to Darian's words, to the knowledge that having sex made his lover stronger. Why would Darian's father want him weaker-
Unless he wanted
Beat him, curse him, whip him – he wouldn't hurt Darian! He wouldn't lose Darian!
“I see the
rebellion in your eyes, but you will do as I say. Place him in.”
The guards surged
forward again. Torrin knew it was useless to try to escape, especially bound as he was, but he couldn't help but squirm around,
anyway. He was lifted into the air and carried to another part of the room. A loud screeching sounded, like stone scraped
on stone. Place him in.
obey me, whore. Soon enough.”
The man laughed,
a loud, cruel sound, before Torrin was stuffed beneath the floor. He only had a short time to see how tiny, and how very cramped,
the small hole was before two of those hulking guards shoved a square slab of thick stone over top the one and only exit.
Unable to move –
his limbs bound, his body crushed into a tiny square – the light of his world went out.