Fiction~~Nature's Choice~~Ch. 6


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Nature's Choice
Chapter 6 - Gift to the Arcane God

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The carriage smelled like expensive cologne and sweat; the scent gave Nemaro something to focus on as he tried desperately not to shiver in front of Lord Lanosh. Cloying and a little too musky. He wrinkled his nose, nearly sneezing, but decided he’d rather he find the smell distasteful than attractive. His eyes ran over the carriage, noting the mahogany paneling in the walls and the scrolled ironwork over the windows.

The wood was so polished he could see his reflection in it, but combined with the ironwork it added to his feeling of being caught in a trap. Glancing over, he saw Lord Lanosh watching him and looked away again. Up, this time, and he paused to stare as the ceiling. An artist had painted a vivid, and bloody, rendition of some random battle in the Keep’s past. As he examined it, he could actually see small dismembered corpses on the battlefield.

Suddenly queasy, Nemaro dropped his eyes and concentrated on his dress.  In a few seconds he was running his hands over his skirt. It was very soothing until Lord Lanosh cleared his throat. Nemaro glanced up and smiled weakly, still stroking his skirt. Peach silk gave way to coarse burgundy velvet as his fingers moved from his skirt to the seat and he fuzzed it, rubbing against the nap to make a small, prickly circle.
   
His fingers stopped moving as he met Lanosh’s eyes. The Lord’s black hair was as perfectly arranged as the man’s clothing, unpleasantly perfect. Nemaro had to hold back another shiver of fear and he clamped his fingers together to keep them from fidgeting.

Lords were like feral dogs; show any sign of weakness and they’d tear your throat out. Of course, show any signs of strength and they were likely to view it as a challenge and destroy you anyway. And if one of them found you desirable? Faces of the God help you, because no one else certainly would.

Nemaro could only hope that he was looking increasingly undesirable. He certainly felt bilious; his stomach was giving him fits, clenching violently every few seconds. As though he needed a reminder that this was a bad idea? Getting involved with a Lord was always stupid, forced or not, and this one seemed worse than usual.

Since the carriage door had closed, it took everything Nemaro had to keep from bolting. Lord Lanosh stared at him like he was trying to see past Nemaro’s clothing and into the writhing innards underneath. The fingers rubbing softly over fine wool pantaloons should have softened the unsavory impression. They didn’t.  Nemaro’s eyes ended up following the man’s hand, wondering what the fabric felt like, and wishing Lanosh would stop fondling his clothes. Because for some reason, with every movement, Nemaro expected to see those fingers stop petting and make a fist instead.

And he didn’t even know why.

All Nemaro could think of was a stallion he’d once seen at market. With the same dark eyes as the Lord, it had reveled in trying to trample the poor bastards who had the task of feeding it. Nemaro watched Lanosh and shuddered, waiting for the stallion to charge.

He needed to find a way to get to the knives at his thighs. It would have to be more than a brief distraction; the stays kept him in place too well for him to lean over without any obvious motion. If he paid attention to the bumps the carriage was hitting and pretended to fall on the floor, perhaps? Nemaro’s dignity was a lot less precious to him than his life. He could slide up the dress’s skirt while he was on the floor and reach underneath for the comforting heft of his daggers.

“You made this easier than I would have thought,” Lord Lanosh said. Nemaro kept his eyes big – innocent – as his stomach fluttered in warning again.

“I beg your pardon?”

The man’s head tilted and he smiled. “You left your face unaltered. Convenient, but not very intelligent, was it? A dress isn’t that much of a disguise. Then again, what can one expect from a pampered little Gift?” Nemaro’s stomach twisted so violently Nemaro almost threw up. Lanosh continued in a soft, caressing voice. “And that’s exactly what you are, isn’t it, Nemaro Tesa du Arcana Johl?

Nemaro’s blood slowed, thumping through his ears with a roaring rush of sound that blocked out everything but his own panicked thoughts. He hadn’t heard that name in over two years. It wasn’t possible that Lanosh knew it. It wasn’t possible! Not even Horu knew that name!

He was just Nemaro now. Not Nemaro, Gift to the Arcane God

How did the Lord know his name?!

Nemaro tried to keep his fatuous smile intact as he met Lanosh's gaze. Fuck! Frantically, he searched his memory for some way out of the carriage. The metalwork over the windows was better than any bars could have been. The walls were too heavy to break through, but there wasn’t a lock on the small door. Nemaro’s hands twitched. He could try for the door and take his chances with the guards. That would work. They wouldn’t expect it; he might make it. If he ran fast enough…

He couldn’t think what to do after that. How did the man know who he was?!

Lanosh’s hand reached out and Nemaro pressed back against the seat. The fingers trailing down his hair had his breath come out in harsh pants. His hands fisted, readying himself for anything.

“Such a lovely color,” Lanosh mused, fingering a lock of Nemaro’s hair. “You do look the part of a Lord’s concubine, even if we both know differently.”

“I’m sorry? I’m confused…” Just another second and he could-

Lord Lanosh grinned wider. He leaned back and his foot suddenly lashed out and caught Nemaro in the chest, slamming him back into the seat. “I imagine you are.”

Nemaro struggled to catch his breath. The bodice was so stiff it was crushing his lungs! He groaned, the pressure increasing while he fumbled weakly at Lanosh’s boot. Nemaro thought he heard something crack, and thought for a moment it was a rib until he felt the bodice shifting.

Lanosh watched, eyes bright and fascinated as a crow’s. “The temple’s artist hardly did you justice, you know, not that it matters in the slightest. The description for the masses would be enough to find you: a small, striking boy with Nehman features and Kimarn eyes.”

Nemaro pushed at Lanosh’s foot, gulping for air, trying to glare. He was sure it came woefully short when the Lord merely chuckled, shaking his head.

“Pouting? That’s simply perfect. No wonder the Temple decided to make you into a runaway toy in need of saving. You fit the part. And they’re even offering a reward out of the goodness of their hearts; they wouldn’t want you to suffer, poor lost lamb that you are.”

Nemaro tried to respond to Lanosh’s derisive laughter and couldn’t get more than the bare amount of air needed to take another breath. If he could just lean down far enough, he could reach a dagger, but the man had him pinned like a fly on a board!

“I’m surprised someone hasn’t turned you in already.” Lanosh eased off long enough for Nemaro to take a full breath.

Mind racing, Nemaro struggled to come up with something. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.  My name isn’t Nemaro. Just because my coloring’s a bit different…”

Lanosh tsked. “That lie was barely worth the wasted breath.” He focused on Nemaro’s face and Nemaro saw the lust from the dress shop creeping over the man’s features. Lanosh ran his eyes down Nemaro’s body and licked his lips. “Nemaro Tesa du Arcana Johl, given to the Arcane temple in Kimarn as an offering as soon as he was weaned, missing since he turned 18. Not that they can advertise the fact. You’re the first Gift to leave in over a hundred years, boy, and it looks very bad for a temple when they can’t even hold on to their own offerings.”

Adjusting himself as he looked Nemaro over again, Lanosh chuckled. “I can see why they’re so eager to have you returned rather than assassinated, however. You don’t usually see your kind of looks except in a High Lord’s concubine. And here the Historians waited all those years for you to grow up so they could taste you, and you ran away the night before your initiation.” He chuckled darkly. “Their cocks must have been weeping over the loss of that ass, Tesa.”

Don’t call me Tesa.” The response was automatic and Nemaro cursed himself the moment the words left his mouth. Who cared what the bastard called him!  Nemaro needed to get out! He got ready to bolt again and cursed as Lanosh leaned all his weight back on his foot.

“But that’s what you are.” Lanosh continued smiling as he ground his heel against Nemaro’s chest, fouling the pale fabric with black smudges. “They own you.” The smile tightened. “And as long as you’re still unscarred by the time I return you, they’ll give me exactly what I want in exchange for you.”

Nemaro’s skin sweat coldly. He wasn’t going back to being a Gift. This man could abuse him for weeks if he wanted, but that was nothing to what Nemaro’s life would be like if the Arcane temple got to him. There would never be another chance to escape. He’d be initiated immediately – trapped in that hell of unending conformity, told what to eat and read and wear and do.

Because Gifts didn’t have choices. Pampered or not, Gifts were property. And initiated Gifts were cloistered; Nemaro wouldn’t be able to sneak so much as a basil leaf, not like when he was younger.

That’s why he’d damn well left before he was initiated, dammit! He wasn’t going back!

“I told you, I’m not this Nemaro person!”

“Don’t try my patience. You might be lovely, but you are a man.” The foot released only to shove back harder into Nemaro’s stomach.

He choked, gasping frantically. “I’m not-” It was so hard to breathe! “I’m not denying th-that! But-” Name. He needed a name! “I’m Horu! Horu…uh…Meeta-ShaKara. You’ve got the wrong person.”

“Lying will only get you punished, Tesa.” Lanosh smiled. “And I’m certain the Historians would be pleased to have the task already taken care of by the time they arrive to claim you.”

“I’m not -” Seeing the utter disbelief on Lanosh’s face, Nemaro stopped himself.  Gritting his teeth, he shifted his eye from the door and dropped his hands helplessly into his lap, fiddling with the silk and velvet. If he could get the bastard to relax, he could get to his knives and get out. “Please, you’re hurting me.”

It took no effort at all to let a couple tears out. This fucking hurt! Nemaro wasn’t surprised to see Lord Lanosh’s eyes light up as he saw them, either. Fucking bastard. “I swear, my name is Horu. I’ll tell you all about myself, but please, don’t hurt me.”  As long as he shifted his foot away…

“You Gifts truly are as soft.” Lanosh leaned in with his foot again and Nemaro groaned. And then he moved away and Nemaro fell forward onto the floor of the carriage. When Lord Lanosh grabbed his hair to force his head up, Nemaro had a knife at the man’s groin.

“Stop the carriage.” Nemaro’s voice shook, but his hand didn’t.

But neither did Lord Lanosh. He smiled slowly and his hand over Nemaro’s hair tightened. “What a nice surprise. I think we’re going to have much more fun than I’d originally thought.”

“Stop the carriage!” Nemaro pressed forward with the dagger. The pain in his neck from being held back so awkwardly made him flinch. A small bump jiggled his hand and the point tore a small hole through the woolen cloth covering the man’s thigh.

Lanosh’s smile disappeared. “Drop the knife this instant.”

“Are you crazy? Stop the carriage, or you’ll lose your reason for molesting women in the first place!” Nemaro grunted as the hand on his hair clenched hard, and he pressed the dagger in until it almost broke the skin.

Another smile, much darker. Pits of hell darker.

“Have you forgotten about your lovers so quickly?”

Nemaro froze: Horu and Mosumato? What- How did Lanosh know about them?

“The guards have already overpowered them by this point, I’m sure, although I was impressed by their size. You must enjoy being dominated. First the Historians, and now women who are obviously your physical superior. Quite the submissive little toy, aren’t you?”

Sha and Meeta. Merciful face of the God, he meant the women. Nemaro shifted the dagger higher, to the soft bulge between the Lord’s legs.

“Stop the carriage and let the women go. This is the last time I’m saying a damn thing before I start cutting.” Nemaro didn’t want to be saying anything at all, but he didn’t know if they could get away from the guards without Lanosh.  They needed a hostage.

Lord Lanosh’s eyes got even darker, but he didn’t so much as flinch. “If I stop the carriage early, the guards will kill your women. And if you so much as prick my skin with that quaint little dagger, the guards will do far worse to your female companions before they kill them.”

“I don’t believe you.”

Lord Lanosh smiled. “You did hear the guards asking about my wife, didn’t you? Did you really believe they wouldn’t already have orders for that sort of situation?” Nemaro looked at him blankly. “The men were asking how many of them should surround your lovers during the trip. It’s standard practice to have hostages if I have company in my carriage, to prevent situations such as this. If I don’t leave this carriage alive, intact, and unthreatened, then your lovers don’t live out the day.”

Nemaro stared at him, trying to gauge the truth from his eyes, and he saw not the slightest hint of fear. They’d really do it. He’d-

“Now drop the knife, into my hand, or I’ll ask them to kill one of the women when we stop, on principle.”

With tight lips, Nemaro dropped his blade into Lanosh’s large, smooth-skinned hand. He wasn’t going to take a chance Sha or Meeta could be hurt, not when they’d come along because of him.

Not when he still had one dagger under his skirt that he might be able to use later.

He jerked back with a cry as Lord Lanosh fisted his hand in Nemaro’s hair and yanked him up on his knees. “Foolish to care for someone enough to give up your advantage, Tesa. And you nearly cut me. Now we’re definitely going to see you punished before your temple comes to get you.” He smiled viciously. “If the ride was longer, I’d see what you can do with that pretty mouth other than scream.”

Nemaro couldn’t even swallow, his throat was so tight. Lords always threatened, always wanted some new sexual perversion, but it had never been this bad before. Escape was something Nemaro kept in the back of his mind on each and every job, but how in the name of the Dark God was he going to get out of this? If he could even get out the door and past the guards, all he could do was run. And he doubted he could manage that unless he left the women behind.

That seemed too chicken hearted, even for him. And it would mean leaving behind Horu as well. Nemaro couldn’t…  He wasn't leaving Horu.

Dammit, they’d been willing to fight Mosumato for him. That was far worse than this, wasn’t it? Nemaro closed his eyes and stayed on his knees, breathing deeply and trying to simply revel in the fact that he could breathe deeply. He just had to hold on and things would get better. Stop panicking and remember one vitally important thing: Horu would come get him.

There was no way Horu would leave him here for the Temple. And Horu was the scariest thing Nemaro had ever seen, when the god was feeling protective.

“Open your eyes, Tesa.”

Nemaro did, and Lanosh was right there, leaning forward and staring into his face. He tried to flinch back instinctively and was halted by the burning pain in his scalp.

“I find myself curious.” The man’s voice was casual, as though he didn’t have Nemaro trapped on the floor of a carriage wearing women’s clothing. “How rigorous was your training?”

Was Lanosh hoping for help on his search for the Eye? “It was thorough.”  Maybe he’d let Nemaro take a look at the map, if he wanted someone to look it over. When Horu came after them, Nemaro would have the information they needed and-

“Mmmmm.” The Lord’s eyes fell to Nemaro’s mouth and he pulled Nemaro in close, pushing the tip of Nemaro’s own dagger under his chin. “And how much can you take down your throat?”

Nemaro couldn’t answer if he didn’t want the point of the knife to puncture his jaw, but he was instantly reminded of what the rumormongers called the Gifts to the Arcane Temple: the Historians' harem. The Lord pulled the knife back just enough to allow for speech.

“You’re mistaken.”

Lord Lanosh’s face darkened again. “I’m never mistaken.”

“It’s an old wives tale. Gifts aren’t used like that.” And thank all the faces of the God for it.

He cried out again as the Lord slammed Nemaro face first into the hard seat and yanked him back. “I said, I don’t make mistakes. Historians talk as much as anyone else when their ale is drugged; I know exactly how they make use of their gifts. Did you think all your food and clothing, all your little luxuries, were free? There’s always a price to pay.”

Lips scraped and bruised from the seat, Nemaro stared at him. He’d thought the man was insane before, but now he knew it. The Historians were archaic, changed at a geologic pace, and wouldn’t let a Gift choose so much as the color of their socks in the winter. But Gifts weren’t prostitutes. Historians were so stuffy they never even used… prostitutes…

But they visited the initiated Gifts in the cloister all the time. Usually at night.

“Y-You’re wrong.” He had to be wrong.

Lord Lanosh suddenly smiled at him, his head tilting as his lips curled. “You didn’t know.”

Nemaro didn’t speak. He didn’t trust himself to say anything, not when there was the slightest chance that this man had any kind of a point.

“That’s too delicious. A whore in training and you didn’t even know.”

“I’m no whore!”

“No?” Lanosh brushed the point of the dagger down Nemaro’s throat and teased the lace of the bodice with the edge. “I find that hard to believe. A Gift has no skills but being pretty, pampered, and cared for. Simply because you managed to find women to keep you doesn’t make you any less a whore.”

Nemaro didn’t answer, but the man looked at him with suddenly narrowed eyes. “Or did you whore for them?”

“What does it matter what I did.” Nemaro tried to keep his voice sullen, as though he was ashamed of it. He was a moron! Now that he’d protested, Lanosh might start looking for other reasons Nemaro had come. That was the last thing they needed!

He had to use his head! Horu would come in time, they’d all get out of this psychotic man’s Keep, and everything would be fine. As long as Nemaro didn’t screw it up.

Screw it up more.

“Hmm.” Lord Lanosh sat back against the seat, pulling Nemaro’s head with him until Nemaro was pressed against his leg. The wool was scratchier than Nemaro would have thought and itched his face. Lanosh held him there almost absently, his grip on Nemaro’s hair tightening and releasing in a creepily reminiscent way of someone in the throws of an orgasm.

With the man’s crotch near Nemaro’s face, it was too suggestive by half.

You can do this. Just calm down and think, dammit!

The women would be brought in with him, wouldn’t they? The carriage was going slowly enough for men to walk alongside it. He could hear the high-pitched coin-jingle of chain mail as the guards walked, and the muted ring of boots on stone. He strained his ears to see if he could hear women’s voices, but there was too much noise.

Were they worried about him? He didn’t have to ask if they were ready for a fight; they were always ready for a fight. Did they know what was going on? Maybe they’d been told the same thing: that he’d be killed if they didn’t cooperate. Shit. If he could just see them, he’d be able to figure this out!

Nemaro grit his teeth as they hit a small bump and his knees protested noticeably at the constant pressure from the floor of the carriage.

“May I get up? I won’t try to hurt you. Or run away.” But it would make it easier to do both, later.

“Of course you wouldn't.” Lord Lanosh tightened his grip and pushed down until there was even more pressure on Nemaro’s knees. “You care so much for your protectors. Or rather, you think that they might still be able to protect you. I wouldn’t hold out much hope.”

Nemaro tried not to make a sound as the man forced him to stay there for the rest of the trip. He knew it was almost over when he heard someone raising a portcullis. The jostle of the carriage as it went over the holes underneath jolted his whole body. Nemaro tried to control his breathing and keep the panic at bay, but it wasn’t working as well as he’d hoped. He was in a carriage with a very powerful madman, inside a ‘stone mansion’ that sure as hell felt like a castle. And someone from the Temple would be coming for him.

Just like he’d originally thought – there weren’t any good ways out of a place like this. He needed a home to steal something from, not a damn fortress! And even if this bastard only hurt him in little ways like this, what was Lanosh going to do to Sha and Meeta? Meeta wouldn’t put up with any shit without fighting; would they hurt her?

The carriage came to a stop while he was still worrying.

“I- I’ll do whatever you ask, if you let the women go,” he said quickly. “I know things. About the Arcane temples, and where they store their riches.” The temples could get more riches, but the women only had one life each.

Lord Lanosh chuckled and finally let go of Nemaro’s head. With a groan, Nemaro tried to scoot away and caught himself on the other seat as his legs refused to support him.

“Of course you’ll do whatever I ask. If you don’t, your women will suffer for it. As it is, they’ll be entertaining in the barracks tonight.”

“What!”

Lord Lanosh’s eyes were slits. “You were going to cut me, Tesa. And when you make a mistake, they’ll pay for it, as well.”

“You can’t!”

“I can do whatever I wish.” Lanosh leaned over Nemaro until they were nose to nose. “Although if you prove to be entertaining enough, perhaps I might change my mind.”

Nemaro would have spit in his face, but his mouth was suddenly far too dry. He stared, trying to swallow, to come up with something to say. The only thing that came to mind was ‘get the fuck away, you sick bastard,’ and looking into Lanosh’s smirking face, he was too fucking terrified to say a damn thing.

The door opened before he could work up the courage, small steps set up against the opening. Lord Lanosh didn’t even bother to look at him as he left; no criminal Nemaro knew would be that stupid. You needed that Lordly arrogance, the idea that nothing would dare harm you once you had the upper hand, to turn your back on someone you’d just threatened.

Nemaro wished he had the guts to come after the bastard and stab him, but he was still staring at Lanosh's back, readying himself, as the carriage door slammed shut.

“Hey! What are you doing?” Nemaro stumbled to the door, tripping over his skirts. Shoving at it did absolutely nothing; it was barred from the outside. The heavy thing barely creaked as he crashed into it, and the carriage started moving again. He reached under his skirt and palmed the last dagger. Could he pry open the ironwork with it?  

He didn’t get the chance to try. The carriage entered somewhere dim and hollow less than a minute later, coming to a halt with an aggrieved creaking.  There was a muffled thud against the door and then it opened again. Nemaro stayed half-crouched inside the carriage, trying to see outside it.

“Come on out, pretty, or I’m comin’ in after yeh.”

The hairs on the back of Nemaro’s neck stood on end and he gripped the dagger tighter, checking to make sure it didn’t show. He hoped the man wasn’t as big as his voice sounded. Taking a few deep breaths to gather his courage, and wrinkling his nose as the pungent smell of manure assaulted him, Nemaro stood up. Was he in the stables? 

The light was dim, but the carriage doorway was still visible. Nemaro didn't even have to squint as he found the step with his eyes and exited the carriage. There was a brightly liveried footman on either side of the steps, both large and dark, with closely cropped hair barely covering their scalps. No sign of Lanosh, or anyone else, just the loud snorts of horses and the periodic stamping of shod hooves. Nemaro swallowed heavily as he glanced at each man. Lanosh must acquire his servants from the local prisons; such scarred, mammoth men should never be servants.

“C’mon, now. Stop messin’ about and get your fancy ass out.” The servant held out his arm for Nemaro to take hold of. At least it wasn’t the side holding the knife. Hiding his unease, Nemaro put his hand out to allow the man to help him down.

The servant grabbed his wrist in a harsh grip instead of leaving his arm there to rest on. Nemaro was so on edge, he stabbed out almost immediately, but not fast enough. The other footmen wrenched his free arm to the side before he connected. Nemaro yelled out as his arms were pulled apart so tightly they nearly dislocated his shoulders. Both pressure points in his wrists were triggered; his hands spasmed. The dagger fell to the floor with a rustling thump into the hay. Struggling to breathe without moaning, he hung in mid-air by his arms. It was so painful…

“Li’l brat. Shouldn’t’ve tried to cut me.”

Nemaro clenched his teeth as the men shifted, dragging him down the two steps from the carriage. He hissed like a cat when they managed to get his arms behind his back.

“Not so easy to cut me now, eh?” The man yanked Nemaro’s arm up behind him until he cried out.

His friend chuckled. “Not so hard; you’ll break her arm.” The pressure eased. “Naughty gel. Should’ve minded your manners. Shan here don’t like his women too rude.”

Woman?

Wait, his woman?

“But I’m not-”

“Quiet!”

As the order was punctuated with another jerk on his arms, Nemaro shut up. The guards walked towards the back of the stables. Nemaro’s feet dragged furrows along the hay strewn floor as he stumbled after them. What in all the hells was going on? Maybe there was some mistake. They didn’t know he was a man, maybe they’d take him to the wrong place, as well. If it could buy him some time, Nemaro might even be able to get out and find Sha and Meeta

Except they didn’t seem to be dragging him anywhere but the back of the stables. Standing in front of a wall, Nemaro looked up at both of them, worrying over what they were planning. His body tensed. Two big men, another in a dress, and an empty stable. It had all the makings of a really bad dirty story, with Nemaro on the losing end. If they thought they were going to-

A hidden door opened in the wall with a dragging scrape.

“Shit!”

Whistling, a gust of air blew around them, cold enough that all three shivered. Nemaro wished it had been enough to keep them from dragging him into the darkness.

He started babbling as soon as the door closed behind them. He couldn’t help himself. “Where are you taking me?  You know I’m- I’m a special guest of Lord Lanosh. He’ll be furious if anything happens to me.”

The irritable one snorted. “Furious if anything happens to you that he doesn’t get to watch, you mean.” They started walking down a gray, stone corridor, decorated with torches that lit themselves as Nemaro watched.

Dank stone, no rugs, no paintings on the walls, the smell of mildew and burnt pitch, and the echoing sound of water dripping out of sight. Oh this didn’t look good at all. “No, really. Lord Lanosh and I…” They ignored him and hustled him around a corner, following a down-sloping hallway. “I- I have other friends you don’t want to have as your enemies, either. Really powerful- ”

“I don’t care how much power your friends have, no bit of pillow fluff is worth crossing the Lord of the Keep over.” Another corner

“I’m not pillow fluff!” It was hard to sound firm when he was hunched over, trying to keep the pressure off his arms as they walked.

“Sure look like something made to bend over the pillows to me,” one of them said.

“Or over a table.” They both leered down at him, bending his body at the waist suggestively, and he shuddered.

He was red and stuttering by the time they let him up. “L-look here, m-my friends will-”

“Don’t want to hear about your friends, so shut up about it already.”

“But they’re-” Nemaro’s head rung as one of them boxed his ear.

“Shut up. Understand?”

They went down a shallow flight of steps as Nemaro stumbled along with them, trying to clear his head. Another few turns – how far down were they going? – and he was grateful for his memory or he’d never find his way out of here.

When he got free.

“I have money,” Nemaro said weakly. His head still felt like he’d been hit in the face with a tree trunk. “I could pay you.”

“Of course you do,” one of the men muttered.

“I do!”

“Give it to me now, then.”

“I don’t have it on me. But I can get it.”

“Yeh, 'course you can. Think we haven’t heard this before? Every plea and bargain and promise in the book?” They turned another corner and Nemaro saw a huge wooden door ending the corridor.

It stopped Nemaro cold. His feet dragged another foot before he started walking again. “Lord Lanosh…has kidnapped people before?”

“Why do you think he has a playroom in the dungeon?” One of them left him to open the heavy door; it was humiliating how easy it was for the other one to keep Nemaro immobile.
 
He tried to speak as they took him in, breathing a sigh of relief when it turned out to be just another hallway. But he hadn’t known they were headed to the… “Dungeon?”

One of them chuckled and yanked up higher on Nemaro’s arm until Nemaro cried out again. “Of course it’s the dungeon. Can’t let his lady know about the Lord’s little games with other gels, now can he?”

“But I’m not a woman! I’m a man! A-are you sure I’m not supposed to go to some other room?” Somewhere easier to break out of?

“You’re a man?” They both snorted. “Well, that’s a new one.”

“No! I am!”

“Really.” Nemaro yelped as one beefy hand reached for the front of his skirt and groped him. He yelled as it found his crotch and squeezed. His groin was free from molesting hands almost immediately.

“Well I’ll be damned, he really ain’t a woman.”

“See! So it must be a different-” They pulled on his body and arched him back. He stared into two nearly identical faces, chiseled and cold as they looked him over.

“Huh. Pretty enough to be a woman.”

The other one snorted again as they started walking. “And a hole is a hole. Maybe Lord Lanosh wants to start trying out the pretty boys, now.”

“I wouldn’t mind that.”

Nemaro couldn’t help the small squeal that left his mouth as another large hand grabbed his ass and squeezed tightly.

“Not so hard,” the other guard said, and the hand disappeared. “You know Lord Lanosh doesn’t like marks on them until he can see them made. You’ll get a chance later.”

Nemaro’s heart sank to his stomach.

“Hard to wait sometimes. ‘Sides, yeh know he always marks up the pale ones himself before we get to play. It’s not the same when the skin ain’t so white.”

“No, but still fun.”

Nemaro’s ass got another squeeze and he closed his eyes, praying Horu was coming soon.

“Yeh, still fun. Think he’d let me break this one in, if he got to watch?”

“Maybe. Bet a pretty toy like this’ll squeal more than the girls.”

Nemaro tried to hold his tongue as his ass was groped one last time before they continued on. They kept talking, getting more and more graphic about what they hoped they’d be allowed to do to him.

He was proud that he managed to make it all the way to the ‘playroom’ without whimpering.

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