Fiction~~Ice Wind's Bride~~Ch. 9

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Ice Wind's Bride
Chapter 9 - Pyotr

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Bey grit his teeth as the man ahead of him tugged at his horse’s reins again, making the stupid beast sidle left nervously. He swore. If it weren’t for the gloves in between the damn leather ties and his skin, his restraints would likely have scraped his wrists to the bone. He couldn’t keep his seat well enough on the horse to avoid getting yanked side to side, and his wrists showed it.

Right now, if every horse in existence ran off and went feral, Bey would cheer them on. If only Silva’s family would follow, then the world would be nearly perfect. Bey scowled at the men riding in a loose group around him. They all looked the same, blue-gray hoods pulled up over their heads, faces veiled against the cold. Bey wouldn’t be able to tell which one was Silva until he was able to see the man’s hands, tied to the saddle exactly like Bey’s.

He was pretty damn sure that every member of Silva’s family was an utter asshole. Except possibly Fyodar, at least that bastard had a sense of humor. But so far, Matvey was even more of an uptight little prick than Silva’s damn brother, and not half as smart. The ‘uncle’ couldn’t be much better, not if he was this rag’s father.

Bey would like to gut him and watch wild dogs eat them from the inside out. While still alive, if possible.

He flexed his hands against his bindings, trying to get some feeling back in them. He didn’t know if he’d ever feel his fingers again in a place like this. The air was so cold his dick was growing icicles. No one who had any sanity would live where it was this cold. Normal men who valued the vital parts of their anatomy would have taken one step into this region, realized it was as cold as the lower reaches of hell, and turned around to find someplace where trees had real damn leaves instead of needles.

These pine trees made him twitchy. Their shape was too sharp and thin, triangular rather than the comforting round softness of the trees closer to the coast. The smell of them stung his nose when it managed to sneak in through the cloth. They…loomed. Bey had always had the urge to take a man down a peg when he tried that with Bey. It was a bit more difficult when it was a tree, but he’d had the unpleasant realization that the urge still existed.

Silva had already granted him a smile, when Bey had mentioned his frustration, but that had been the evening after they’d come across the first supercilious pine tree. Silva hadn’t smiled since, and there’d been nothing but pine for days now.

Bey wasn't sure how long they’d been traveling, at least as long as they’d been trapped with Vasha, but the pace was twice as brutal. By the end of the day, Bey’s legs could barely hold him, not that he’d let them know. Any hint of weakness and he was sure he’d be paying for it. He was too worried for Silva to give Matvey a reason to incapacitate him. Silva had been nearly incoherent the first day in the saddle, but he’d cleared up by the second day. Bey had been almost sure that Silva was going to fall off his horse before he regained his senses and they’d leave him insensible on the ground, no matter what they said they needed him for.

It had eaten at him every second, and Bey didn’t think the feeling was going to go away any time soon no matter how healthy Silva looked now. Every time they stopped for the night and he was able to see that prissy, blue-eyed glare, it felt like his heart started again for another day.

Once it did, he occupied himself for the rest of the evening by imagining what he was going to do to these tribal scraps of fishbait once he got Silva free and they could get a little revenge. The bastards seemed fixated on Silva. Bey would snap at a guard and get a small slap for it, but Silva’s behavior was receiving a lot more attention. He’d taken to  glaring at everyone around him, and it had earned Silva quite a few heavy handed gut-punches. Bey marked every one, who had done it and how hard, and exactly where they were sleeping that night. So far, he hadn’t had the chance to put the knowledge to use, but he would.

They would get out of this. Period. No other option was acceptable. He had to remember that.

If it weren’t so fucking cold, he’d be able to remember a hell of a lot more.

Bey took a deep breath, cursing as he inhaled a makeshift veil into his mouth along with air that tasted of ice. He couldn’t believe that even these bastards thought that Bey needed to have his face covered. Matvey had seemed almost gleeful about leaving the veil off, but one of his men, a baby-faced youth named Zhenya, had torn a piece of rag and put it on Bey before the end of the first day. Seemed to think Bey should be grateful that he’d done it, too. Like the dumb bastard had just protected his virginity or something.

Considering that everyone had an outer veil attached to their coats, as well, Bey didn’t see why he was so special he needed two. And Zhenya had made sure to check their bindings every morning and loosen them if necessary. If it weren’t for him, Bey thought they might have lost their hands to gangrene, with the bindings so tight the second day. It made it hard for Bey to despise him properly, and that was a constant sliver under his skin.

He did not understand Silva’s countrymen, but he already knew he didn’t want to feel anything positive for them. The tribesmen were just as dangerous as he’d always heard; he couldn’t afford to view them as anything but the enemy. 

But he was willing to let Zhenya get up close so he could learn what he could. Bey needed to figure out how the tribe thought and use whatever advantage that got him, before they ran out of time. The little furrow between Silva’s brows was a permanent feature now. If Silva was this worried, they were in deep shit and no joking about it. Bey needed to get them out of this mess.

If they could figure out why the hell they’d been taken, that would have helped, but so far, no one was talking about it. Silva had passed on what he could in the few moments they had at whatever temporary pit was dug for wastes, or when they were fed, but it wasn’t much. Bey couldn’t even follow what most of the men around him said.

Bey grunted as the horse skittered on a loose stone and his bindings tightened again painfully. He wished a moment that Zhenya didn’t tie knots as proficiently as veteran sailors. If only there were a few moments where he could get free, they could have had a chance in the moments when pines obscured the rest of the party. Bey could lead them away and give Silva a chance to free himself as well. All it would have taken was a moment of freedom that he didn’t have yet. And a much higher level of skill with a horse than Bey would ever have.

How they hell was he going to get them out of this?

He didn’t know enough about the damn culture, even if his best friend in all of existence was of the tribes. If Bey had been one to judge the tribe by the one person he knew from it, he would have thought all tribesmen were a pinch too moral, rather uptight, duty-conscious, loyal, and just a little nave. And good warriors.

Not that Silva couldn’t fight, or that he wasn’t good at discerning tactics. Hell, he was usually better than Bey at determining what an enemy was going to do next, when they were in an actual battle as opposed to putting down a riot. But he had a kind of…innocence. Best way Bey could think of it was how he looked at a person. Silva met you, he was going to assume you weren’t an ass unless you were proving it otherwise at the moment you met. You betrayed him, he’d take you down, but he had that trust, first off. Bey assumed you were a fucking bastard right off, and if you proved him wrong, it was a happy surprise.

Bey didn’t get a lot of surprises.

Silva was probably one of the first. Bey still couldn’t get over how Silva was exactly what he appeared to be, aside from his pathetic attempts at sneaking, and even those weren’t aimed at screwing you over. They might be irritating, but Silva never…

Bey looked up at the morass of horses between him and his partner, searching for the slim line of the back of his head, unable to pick it out of the sea of hoods. He kept searching as his mind reflected.

All the shit that happened, the entire two years they’d been partners, Silva had fought him, pissed him off, and harangued him like a fishwife.  But he’d never let him down.

Bey wasn’t going to be the first between them to do so. He’d stay alert and if there was anything, anything, he could do to get them out of this, he’d do it. The fact that their staying in Varlan for so long might have led to this….

No, fucking dammit. He had let Silva down. He hadn’t meant to, but if he’d just fucking gone in the first place, they wouldn’t be in this damn mess. And Bey really wished there’d been enough of a moment for him to let Silva know how much Bey was sorry for that. Maybe let Silva beat on him a bit to make him feel better.

Once they were free.

The sounds were changing, a low rumble of voices getting louder, and Bey started looking around him again. Through the trees, the horses were gathering; Bey worried at his veil with his teeth. Everyone had stopped up ahead, but it was too early to stop for the day, not with the pace they’d been keeping.

Anything new was bad, in a situation like this.

His body tense, Bey scanned the faces around him, reading them carefully. No tension, a little excitement. Relaxed for some of them.

Damn. They were probably almost at Silva’s uncle’s then. There was a different feel to the excitement when someone was about to catch hell, more vicious than the joy at returning to home and comfort. Bey’d been hoping he could have freed Silva before this.

He and his horse emerged from the trees and the man ahead who controlled his reins began to slow. Most of the horses were resting while the men looked them over, but no one was breaking camp. Were they simply caring for the horses, or was something else planned now?

He’d use whatever opportunity it provided. A quick check finally found Silva, staring back at him, face set and cold. Prissy bitch face plus something else that Bey rarely saw.

Silva was…scared?

Bey checked him over, the man holding his horse’s lead, and then past him where the land plunged down a sharp, sudden cliff. He couldn’t see any way down. The tribesman didn’t look threatening, no one was talking to Silva, so it must be what lay over the edge that had him spooked. As Bey’s horse was shuffled closer to Silva, he had a chance to see down into the wide valley. A castle hunched there, cradled between peaks that made the mountains Bey was used to feel like pimples.

First pretentious trees, now ostentatious mountains. Silva’s home country was damn irritating.

He tried to ignore the prickling awareness he felt, up close to such massive peaks that they seemed to block half the sky. He had to pay attention to the more mundane issues of mortals like himself. Matvey the Ass and one of his higher ups were heading over and he thought they were more of a threat than the castle down below, but he couldn't ignore it entirely. Bey tried to halve his time watching them and taking in everything about the area. Silva and he had to know which way to go when they escaped.

He had a feeling they’d have to head towards Silva’s father, but if that was the way it fell out, so be it. If it would keep Silva safe, Bey would take it.

He saw Matvey laugh at something one of his men said, gesturing as they dismounted and came close. The men with him checked Silva’s bindings, then the horses: hooves, their legs, how the saddles lay. None had weapons unsheathed; he hoped that was a good sign. Another one headed over to Bey for the same treatment.

The men spoke back in forth in their own language. Every word tightened Silva’s jaw another notch. His eyes were deadly flat by the time Matvey walked up to him. Grinning, the bastard yanked Silva’s head forward by the braid, contorting his body still attached to the saddle.

“Hey, fucker, what do you think you’re-” Bey grunted as the bastard’s little helper yanked him forward the same way. His back was on fire, trying to keep him upright while his legs screamed at the stretch, tied tightly against the horse. He had the chance to look into uncaring blue eyes before he was hooded like some damn hawk, leather coated cloth over his entire head. Silva cursed up a blue streak that ended with the sound of flesh against flesh and a gagging gasp.

“Silva?” Bey raised his voice, nearly sneezing inside the pungent blackness.

There was a long moment where the sounds of horses and men were all Bey could hear and then Silva’s voice came from ahead.

“I’m fine, Bey. Don’t worry. We’ll be….” Silva didn’t speak as Matvey said something in a growling laugh and there was another pained grunt. “We’ll be fine.” Silva sounded like he was gritting his teeth as he spoke.

Bey was going to kill Matvey if he ever got out of this. When he got out of this. He couldn’t say if, because if implied that he was going to lose Silva again, and that just wasn’t fucking going to happen. He didn’t care who he had to damage, kill, or fuck to get Silva free of this; the man wasn’t going to die again. 

The horses started to move, shockingly nerve wracking when Bey couldn’t see where they were going. He didn’t know how to adjust his body and felt constantly on the verge of falling off. His ears tried to pick out whatever clues they could. The horse’s hooves shifted from the almost silent crackling of pine needles to a sharper ting of shod horses on loose stone.

After quite a while his horse shifted, heading down slope on a steep angle. Bey clung to the pommel of the saddle so hard that his hands were knots of hot pain after only a few minutes. Knowing there was likely a steep drop to his death if his horse didn’t obey the lead attached to it made Bey sweat. He clamped his teeth down over his tongue, then moved the appendage out of the way before he accidentally bit it off.

Hated fucking heights, especially when he couldn’t see them.

Bey ran the valley’s defenses through his mind, trying to commit it to memory for later and distract himself from his stomach trying to heave its way back up his throat. Castle first, what had it been? The structure was massive, definitely a castle or keep. Dark stone, probably granite like the surrounding peaks. Set in the midst of mountains on the edge of a sheer drop off on the other side, its squat presence should have blended in, but the giant stone wart sat on the ground and glared at the world around it. Ugly and chilling. If Bey had ever traveled and come across that keep as a place to stop for the night, he would have risked a bedroll by the river instead.

They had a big enough river nearby, at least. He couldn’t tell just how large it was. The mountains were so huge around here it played havoc with his ability to judge size and distance. But the river came in from the east through the valley, moved past one side of the keep and possibly through it – he hadn’t been able to see it clearly enough - and plunged over the edge of the escarpment. Bey imagined it would be very difficult to hear anything over the roar of the falls.

That was good. Guards that couldn’t hear were guards that could allow an easier escape. Once Silva and he got to that point, they’d remember that.

But the river…not so good in that there wasn’t really anywhere else to go. There had been small bits of white in the water that Bey was worried were chunks of ice. If they tried to cross the river itself, he didn’t see how they’d last for more than an hour or two afterward without freezing. Not without stopping to get warm, and if they stopped, they were dead.

The rest of the valley hadn’t looked opportune for escape paths, either. The entire backside of the castle seemed, from this distance, to be on the very edge of the drop off that the falls went over. The rest of the area was flatter until it sloped up to the cliff Bey was still descending, but the trees and brush had been cleared for at least a mile surrounding the castle. Maybe more – still couldn’t judge the distance.

So once he and Silva freed themselves and got out of the keep, their escape routes could be open ground, open ground, sheer craggy cliff, or watery plummeting death. Not much of a choice.

Bey nodded, flinching as his horse stumbled before righting itself. He panted heavily inside the hood. Didn’t matter. Didn’t-fucking-matter. Whatever happened, they were getting out of here. Bey wasn’t letting anyone get their hands on Silva.

They weren’t dead yet, and it was only over when you’d bled out on the ground and your shade took revenge. Matvey and the rest might have plans, but plans were never certain. The smallest slip-up was all he and Silva needed.

He tried not to think about what could happen before the slip-up though. Family always made people a little crazy, and Silva’s family seemed crazy enough already. Whatever his uncle had planned for them was probably on the far side of painful and wrong. Bey wished he hadn’t seen so much in his life that he knew just how much there existed on that side. Growing up, he’d done more, and had more done to him, then he liked to think about during the longer winter nights.

Much better to drink and screw and enjoy what you had. Couldn’t change the past, and better not to dwell on it unless it made you smile.

If only Matvey’s speech didn’t bring Bey an uncomfortable, familiar shiver. In the evenings, the man would sometimes let Bey sit in close to Silva. He’d bring in some of his soldiers to keep guard, including that young Zhenya, and talk to them. He usually spoke in Silva’s tongue, saying something that would have Silva’s muscles as tight as boards, even if his face looked relaxed and unconcerned.

Bey really hoped it simply threats of what was to come. Hopefully, that would involve violence and nothing more. They could both take a lot of hits and bounce back. Beatings, even repeated ones, could be dealt with for quite a while before you couldn’t remember anything but the desperate hope to avoid more pain, even if only for a few minutes.

Rape…he’d rather avoid it. His guts churned even contemplating anyone touching Silva, for beatings or rape, but if it didn’t prevent their escape, then they could get over it. That’s all there was too it. Survive and escape, or wallow in the pain and die a prisoner; as if that was really a choice.

Bey swallowed, remembering his last sight of Silva, struggling while he was hooded. The man was so fucking molestable that he worried Silva would be more likely to be targeted by any lonely, lusting soldiers who were given free reign. Bey could focus it a little more on himself, though. Not a problem. The right word at the right time and he’d have Silva’s share of beating and gang rape on top of his own. He was tougher than the princess, anyway. Bigger bones. Harder to snap.

And if it was something worse? He tried not to think about it. They were still on the horses, not even down from the cliffside yet. They still had a chance.
His mind wound itself tight with ideas and worries as the horse finally leveled out what seemed hours later. The air felt colder – in the shadows or the sun was already going down – when the sounds changed. Bey clenched his teeth together and shifted his weight in the saddle. He worked hard on keeping his breath even and calm as the horses hooves hit stone blocks and their shoes rang over them. The horses clomped over wood as they crossed what was likely a moat. It echoed oddly against the hood over Bey’s head.  He tried not to panic.

So they were in the castle. They could still find a way out. It could be done. It wasn’t impossible.

The soft puft as hooves cut into packed dirt slid into his ears. Bey tried to pinpoint the sounds to figure out where the gate was located. He could hear a smithy working, but was it to the left or right? Men’s voices – too many of them. No women that he could hear, yet. A few livestock, cows lowing, poultry, a very irritated goat.

The sounds of conversation died down the further they went in. Hushed. He thought they’d been seen rather then overlooked by the crowds and he cursed. He’d rather prisoners were so common that he and Silva were unnoticed. Noticed made it harder to leave.

Although it also meant if you could figure out a way to blend in, the residents might not be as used to people trying to escape. He could work with that.

Bey went along with getting untied from the horse, stumbling to his knees as soon as he was released and the blood rushed back into places it had been denied for a while. He tried not to grunt, failed, but his pride was salvaged a bit when he heard Silva have the same trouble. If Silva – who was a better horseman, even if Bey wasn’t going to admit it to his face – was having trouble too, then Bey’s pride had a little bit of leeway. Not that there was a lot of pride in being hooded. He tried to reach up to free his face, but his hands were secured behind his back before he could move them, and his pride dropped another notch.

Hooded and naked would have been worse, though. Always good to remember things like that. There were always worse things, right? They weren’t dead yet.

After he and Silva were prodded along for a ways, Bey stumbled again over a shallow beam set in the floor. He thought it might be a doorway into the main hall, from the size of the thing. Heat seeped in under the skirt of his clothing as he stepped onto a harder floor. It felt like stone, with something crushing oddly on top of it. Reeds, most likely. The sound of voices and the scent of food slowly trickled in.  Bey’s mouth watered at the smell of roasted duck. His stomach growled loudly. The man holding one arm snickered.

The voices were more reserved, not as numerous, and they quieted almost as soon as the smell of food hit Bey’s nose. He wished his gloves were off to feel the warmer air and get rid of the chilled near-numbess encasing his fingers. He focused on keeping upright, not hitting the uneven patches in the reeds strewn over the floor. Had to stay up, stay sharp, stay a pain in the ass to see if he could keep Silva’s pretty head on his shoulder. Silva could keep it there once he got a weapon, but until then, vulnerable like this…he had to be on his toes.

They were stopped with a quick yank. Bey heard Silva next to him, snarling something. A deep voice called out irritably to Matvey, more warmly after Matvey replied, and Silva and he were brought forward again.

Bey cursed as he was shoved down to his knees. Two sets of hands held him down, one on each shoulder. He heard Silva growl, hitting the ground at nearly the same moment. The hood was pulled off.
Bey squinted in the light, unable to see for a critical moment, and then the blur in front of him cleared. He glanced around quickly. He’d been right, they were in a main hall. A few large, polished wooden tables filled the empty space. Brilliant tapestries over the walls would have kept out the chill. The tables were filled with polished silver and…was that actual porcelain?

He ignored the people. They didn’t matter yet.

Silva sucked in his breath, his eyes wide, and Bey turned to follow his gaze. Bey wasn’t sure what had startled him. The big bastard in front of them, seated on a chair so pretentious with gilt and carvings that it could almost be called a throne? A young page stood on either side, nothing unusual about that. But the man smelled of control. Not that impressive physically, but he had that look of someone who knew he could say ‘die’ and someone would make it happen. Late middle age, even though the silver hair that all Silva’s people had made it hard to tell. Heavy beard, heavy jowls and a stomach to match reinforced the impression of an older man, but it was the odd slackness to one side of his mouth that brought attention to it.

“Father?” Silva whispered. When the man’s eyebrows lowered Silva sucked in his breath again. His voice flattened. “Uncle.”

Pyotr smiled slowly with just one side of his face before frowning again. He flicked a glance at the tables beside him. The others in the room, all the family seated at the tables, didn’t make a sound. It was eerie.

Glancing at them from the corners of his eyes, trying to ignore the two men holding him on his knees, Bey tried to keep his features blank. His knees were already beginning to take on sharp points of pain where they pressed against the floor.

It was obviously a large family dinner. Men, a very few women, youths and children, and all were expensively dressed with richer, heavier fabrics in the same style as Silva’s family. The blues were deeper, with silver and gold embroidery on the cuffs of tunics and pants. A number of men and women both wore thin shifting veils that concealed everything but hopeless eyes.

Their stares gave him a very, very bad feeling. What the fuck was wrong with Silva’s uncle? And how bad was it that no one was still saying a damn word. Not a taunt or a whisper. Not even the children made a sound. That was just fucking unnatural.

“Leave us.” Pyotr looked at the tables and they all stood as quickly as possible without looking hurried and left, taking the children away with them. A few of the younger ones whined about still being hungry and were quickly shushed on the way out the door. After mere minutes, the only people left in the room were Silva, his uncle, Bey, and a few of the guards, including Matvey.

Pyotr turned his glare on his son as soon as the door to the great hall closed. “Where’s Anatoli? He was supposed to retrieve Valeri’s sons.”

Matvey puffed out his chest. “He’s still searching for them. They were moving so fast, I had no choice but to attack Vasha’s camp when we saw them coming North. Waiting for Anatoli would have lost us the chance to take them. So I captured Valeri’s son. I’m the one who’s avenged Ivann and Yegor.”

The older man didn’t look impressed, and Matvey’s chest deflated. “You disobeyed my orders?” he asked with a deadly soft tone.

Matvey shifted uneasily. “I had to. They would have escaped…”

“Where’s Vasha?”

Matvey hesitated. He licked his lips nervously. “He hasn’t been found yet. But half my men stayed behind to make sure he was found while we retrieved Silva. I’m sure they’ll-”

“So not only did you disobey me by not informing your brother when Vasha entered the lower territories, but you left before you’d even insured that we had both Vasha and Silva?” The old man’s voice was softer than before. Even Bey shivered.

Now he could see why Silva had wanted them out of here before they ever saw this snake. He glanced at Silva and his pulse began to beat heavily at his throat. Silva was paler than snow, his pupils mere pinpricks. He returned Bey’s glance and seemed to grow even paler.

“They’ll have Vasha soon!” Matvey insisted. He took a step towards his father and flinched back as the man roared at him.

“If Anatoli had been in charge of the raid as he should have been, we’d have Vasha already!” Pyotr dismissed his son with a contemptuous flick. He turned his attention to Silva, staring at him with a strangely satisfied gleam in his eyes. Bey clenched his fists.

He had to get Silva out of here now.

Bey tensed his body to try and wrestle free of the men, even if he was half-sure it wouldn't result in anything but his own death, when Pyotr looked at him. “Why have you brought me a southerner?”

Matvey stuttered. “I- You wanted Silva’s husband.”

“And how would you know what I wanted, Matvey?”

“I happened to…  That is, Anatoli told me what you wished, to capture Vasha and Silva, and Silva’s bride.”

Pyotr shook his head. “Eavesdropping again? I thought I’d whipped that bad habit out of you already.”

Matvey paled almost as white as Silva.

His father continued in his smooth, soft voice. “If you’d had even half the brains of Anatoli, you’d learn to lie better. Anatoli didn’t speak to you of this, because if he did, he would have told you that I wanted Vasha, and Silva, and I wanted Silva’s new husband eliminated. How else can we protect my dear, under-aged nephew from harm?” Silva tensed, and Bey prepared himself. He wouldn’t go down without a hell of a nasty fight.

Matvey licked his lips again, looking confused. He glanced at Silva and back at his father. “We’re…protecting Silva?”

“Of course,” Pyotr murmured. He stood up slowly, making his halting way off the throne and onto the reeded floor with his pages following behind like frightened shadows. “Valeri has treated Silva shamefully, trying to force him into such an early marriage, and then letting him run off to the South to be taken advantage of by some amoral southerner. Someone so…young…can hardly be blamed for the flaws of his guardian. It’s obvious Silva is in need of protection.” A hand reached out and stroked over Silva’s cheek. Silva yanked his face away and glared. “I’m sure the prince will agree, once he receives my letter expressing our deepest concern for Silva’s welfare. Anyone would understand our desire to help our own blood once he’s come to us, begging for sanctuary.”

“I wouldn’t beg you for a scrap of bread,” Silva spat.

Pyotr smiled benignly and hit him so hard in the face that Silva spat blood onto the floor.  Bey erupted furiously, his only thought to tear out the bastard’s throat, and hit the ground when the men around him leapt for him, pinning him to the floor.

Silva’s uncle barely spared him a glance. “You’re too young to know what you need, nephew. And the prince will make sure that we have the proper means to aid you, when he grants permission for Matvey here to make you his bride. Very self-sacrificing of my son, isn’t it? The perfect way to ensure Valeri loses any right to demand your return.”

Matvey swallowed hard. He looked almost as shocked as Silva. “But, father-”

“I told you I had your bride chosen. This will put us in favor with the prince, going so far to do our duty by my nephew, simply to protect him from his own father.”

“You’re out of your mind if you think I’ll go along with this,” Silva spat, still pale despite the vivid red welt against his cheek.

Pyotr smiled and hit him again, waiting until Silva shakily lifted his head back up to glare up at him from the floor. Bey struggled wildly against the bodies pinning him down, unable to break free and beat the fucker unconscious. “You’ll find we’re very traditional here. Brides are not to speak unless given permission.”

“I’m no bride,” Silva hissed.

“Not yet.” Pyotr finally looked at Bey, like he might stare at a snail on a piece of rotting garbage. “Toss him over the falls. I need it to look like a natural drowning. Just in case.”

A familiar high tenor answered. “Of course, father.” The man speaking stepped from behind Bey. Zhenya? He was one of Pyotr’s sons too?

“You fucking rat bastard. You fucking touch me and I’ll-” Another of the soldiers holding him slammed down into his back, knocking the air out of him. Bey could barely breathe as he was wrestled to his feet. Zhenya didn’t even have the grace to look ashamed for having acted like he wasn’t a complete asshole on the trip here. His face was completely blank.

“Leave him be!” Silva started struggling as well. Bey kicked out, bucking as he was dragged out of the room. Silva’s voice yelling his name echoed behind him. Zhenya’s men pulled him out of the great hall and into the courtyard. The man started toward a set of stairs leading up the outer wall. Bey could see the spray of the waterfall shooting above it.

He thought he heard Silva’s voice screaming for him one last time just before the door closed behind them.

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