Author name: herminekurotowa
Artist name: dulcetine
Alpha: somer, junkerin
Genre: RPS, pre-relationship
Pairings: Jared/Jensen, Jensen/Matt (implied), Jared/OMC (implied)
Word count: 20,000
Warnings: hurt!Jensen, slavery, torture, implied child abuse, mention of castration and rape
Disclaimer: If I would own anything or anyone depicted in this work of fiction, believe me, I'd do other stuff.
Summary: Jared and Jensen are both noble princes. But while Jared is the successful conqueror, Jensen is mistaken for a bed slave. He is stripped of his past and thrown into a present full of pain and hurt. And his future will only bear death and destruction.
Jared is drawn to the mysterious man in his bedroom. He could use him, but doesn't want to; he wants to love him, but dares not to touch him. He tries to save his live, but instead Jared hurts him worse than ever. Maybe, though - maybe together they can heal each other.
Villads Ackles is a scary man on his good days. When he is furious, he's terrifying.
“You have thirty minutes to pack your things!” he roars.
“You come or you're dead, it's simple as that! Pack your things!”
He stops shoving papers into a bag. “What did you say?”
“I said no,” his son's voice doesn't waver; his eyes, though, betray his fear. “Lordmaster, we should not run, we can stop this war-”
“Enough! We won't negotiate with these cretins. I said we pull back to the mountains, so pack your things!”
“I'll stay; I'll try to stop this insanity.”
“If you don't pack your fucking things, I'll remove your name from the List!”
Villads Ackles is seething with anger at his youngest son's disobedience. His hand grips the bullwhip tight that's attached to his belt. He's turning to the young man, the papers forgotten.
“I'm staying. I'm sorry, Lordmaster, but if I need to let you down to stop the war, I'll do it.”
He feels like he is going to explode any moment now. He always knew that his youngest child was a good-for-nothing, a wuss and a weakling, but he never thought him to be a traitor.
There is the tiniest pang of regret in his chest; nevertheless he does what has to be done. Villads Ackles, the Lordmaster of the Seal, always knows when to smother scruples.
“From this moment, you're disowned,” he says. “Your name will be removed from the List of Ancestors, and then it will be forgotten.”
“I'm the Lordmaster of the Seal, and disowning you is still too good for you!”
Suddenly, the bullwhip is in his hands, and he does what he does best; he puts the traitor in his place.
Whoever in his right mind named a castle Steadfast? Probably the same person that chose the hideous furnishings.
Sprawling in the throne-like chair in the reception hall, Jared warily eyes the domestics cowering in front of him, huddling on the cool stone floor. They are what you expect in a big home like this one, servants, waiting maids, cooks, stable boys. And slaves, of course.
The free men and women are crying, sobbing, or scowling at Jared's soldiers lining the room's walls, their swords drawn. The slaves, however, kneel silently and seemingly unaffected, their heads bowed, their backs straight.
The wine in his goblet is dark and rich, the best wine in Ackles' cellar. Jared would enjoy it more without so many eyes full of fear and hate staring at him.
“Penikett,” he says.
“Your Royal Highness?”
“These are all attendants of Steadfast castle?”
“No, Highness. General Beaver detained another twenty servants in the bath house, and we're still yanking footmen out of the cellars.”
“How big is the bath house?”
“It's suitable, Highness.”
“All right. Lock up anybody who fights back in the oubliette, the rest in the stables where it's warm. The girls and women are off-limits. Then bring the wounded to the bath house and have them treated. After, the baths are open to everybody.”
Taking a sip of wine, Jared thinks.
“I need numbers. Casualties, wounded – both sides. Prisoners. Stocks to hand. And – I want the general to debrief as soon as possible. I want to know where the Lordmaster and his family hide, and I want them found. Go!”
“Your Highness.” Penikett bows low and hurries away, executing his orders.
Soon, the captive domestics are herded away, and Jared remains sprawled in the chair, sipping wine and tracing the carved wolves. It's an uncomfortable posture, but he needs to maintain an air of superiority with his casual behavior.
Occupying the castle was too easy. Ackles lost the last of his allies when he took Lord Omundsen's son and little grandson as hostages to make sure he would stay loyal. Instead, Omundsen remained neutral, withholding his support, at the Crown's request. The young man and the boy are already heading home, wanting to leave as soon as possible.
Jared snorts derisively. As Lordmaster of the Seal, Ackles could have bribed a lot of Great Lords to follow him into revolution and coup d'état, but he chose coercion and force. And when the Crown granted amnesty to his reluctant allies, he lost everything – half his army, his exalted position, his precious home. Maybe he even lost his oldest son, Ragnar, on the battlefield; Jared still waits for confirmation of the rumor.
He needs to get a hold on Ackles and his family. The daughter is married off to a Count Chau, living abroad now, but there are still the middle and the youngest sons with their wives and children, and a mother-in-law. The wife, Great Lady Hilda, died more than ten years ago. If there are still other members of the family in the castle, it is irrelevant; Jared needs the Lordmaster and his sons above all. He may be Designated Crown, but he has to prove to his father that there is more to him than just being the heir. He needs to show his true worth.
General Beaver's entry pulls Jared out of his thoughts.
The man is gray-bearded, but still able to put up a fight. Dropping down on one knee, though, takes quite some time. He's using the sword as support, both hands folded on the pommel; apparently, he got hurt during the castle's storming.
“General,” Jared greets the old man, sitting straight. He doesn't want him to use the official salutation when he is in pain, but to excuse him would be understood as an insult.
“Your Royal Highness,” the general greets back. “All soldiers and guards surrendered. The officers are detained in the south tower. We don't have exact numbers yet, but I guess that we have about two hundred wounded and two or three dozen dead.
Jared nods in appreciation. He was afraid there would be more. “And Ackles?”
“I'm sorry, Your Royal Highness. We have no lead on his whereabouts. Presumably, he fled, taking his family with him.”
“What a nuisance!”
“However, we found a bed slave in the Lordmaster's rooms. I think he could tell us the one or other.”
The poor guy has been severely whipped. There are bloody welts all over his back, his naked body smeared with blood. It is not a pretty sight.
He is unconscious, bound to the big four-poster bed with a leash attached to a leather collar.
“Where are the physicians?” Jared asks.
“They're in the bath house, your Highness. They take care of the wounded, together with the barber surgeons.”
“Oh yes, of course.”
“Though this slave needs medical treatment as soon as possible, his wounds are not life threatening; he'll survive until a physician can take care of him.”
“Armstrong. I want my personal physician to treat him. If he is Ackles' bed slave, he'll know something.”
“Hmm. I don't think he'll be able to tell your Highness much.”
“Do you see the skin at his throat, under the collar?” Beaver lifts the leather with a finger. The skin he is referring to is flawless. “Either he was bought only recently, or he usually didn't wear a collar. As a pampered pet, he won't know a lot of the goings-on outside of the bed chamber. And I don't think Ackles would leave a slave behind that could reveal secrets.”
“Maybe he believed him dead. Well, I don't care. He's our only chance to find Ackles. Spare him the pain until Armstrong arrives, give him some drugs.”
“As you wish.”
“Alright. I'll be in Ackles' study. It's through that door, isn't it?”
“Yes, your Highness. It's the adjoining room.”
“I tell you, general, this place is a maze. I'll have Penikett draw a map.”
A small smile appears on the general's lips. “A map would be pretty helpful, indeed.”
“Alright, I'll tell him. Please send him to me, preferably with a tray of food.”
While the general is bowing, Jared walks into the adjoining study. It looks more like a library with book shelves from the floor to the ceiling. There is also a cabinet full of plans and maps, but of course, there is no layout plan in its drawers.
On the desk he finds a chaos of papers, writing utensils, and socks, everything dripping with ink. Unfortunately, the papers are completely ruined; he won't be able to use them.
There is nothing he can do until the mess is cleaned up, so Jared decides to just think.
Looking out of the glass doors onto the courtyard where there is bustling activity, his thoughts are drawn towards the bed slave in the adjoining room.
Jared can't stand slavery. He can't abolish it, but he already made his father to pass a law against excessive corporal punishment. Unfortunately, there are still a few Great Lords who don't approve, including Ackles.
The poor guy looks like he is as old as Jared, maybe only a few years older. He is handsome; no wonder Ackles took him as a bed slave. Jared never heard about such proclivities of the proud Lordmaster of the Seal, but what does he know.
Obviously, he doesn't know enough. He doesn't know where Ackles is, where his sons are. He doesn't know if they lay dead on the battlefield. He doesn't even know how they look. He only met the oldest one once, never the other two, and only learned about the girl a few years back.
Ackles is an old bastard.
Tahmoh has seen his fair share of abused slaves. Thank the Crocodilians, they're getting less in the capital city due to the new laws. But this poor guy... He has only a few scars, not more than any random citizen, but that whipping was brutal. It was meant to kill the slave. Even if it wasn't successful, it will take some time to recover, which they don't have. They need to know where the fugitives are, the prince made it very clear.
“How is he?” Tahmoh asks the physician. Armstrong is the prince's personal physician, the best one in the palace, but he is no faith healer.
Only glancing up from bandaging wounds and welts, the physician says, “He'll live, the Crocodilians won't feast on him. He's young and strong, he'll be up and about soon.”
“When do you think can we question him?”
“I'd like him to have a few day's rest but of course that's not possible, I know. He should wake up towards evening. If he's not feverish, you can question him.”
Before Tahmoh can ask more questions, the prince enters the room. He stops in front of the bed of blankets the hurt slave rests on, looking down on the unconscious man.
“How is he?” he asks, scowling.
Armstrong sighs. “He'll be up and about soon. And yes, you can question him this evening if needs must, on condition that he's not feverish.” As an afterthought, he adds, “Your Highness.”
Tahmoh suppresses a grin. He knows about the prince's relationship with his physician who is like a second father to the young man.
“Good. That's good. How about my soldiers, Penikett?”
Tahmoh stands at attention, even though the prince's concentration is focused on the slave.
“We have two hundred twelve wounded, most of them with minor injuries, thank the Crocodilians. Only a few won't survive the night. Then there are seventy-eight injured enemy soldiers that we also put up in the bath house. The Lordmaster may betray the Crown, but he knows how to take a proper bath; I've never seen such a spacious bath house.”
“So they're accommodated and cared for?”
“Yes, Your Highness. We found records about stocks and supplies, my men will be finished looking through them soon.”
“Alright. I have a lot of things to do. Have him interrogated as soon as he's awake. I want results after dinner.”
The prince turns, leaving the room, his cloak billowing.
Seriously, when the world is pain, why should he wake up?
He tries to stay in the warm, blessed cocoon of oblivion, but the Wolf's hungry teeth are gnawing at his back.
The rustle of clothes and clanging of metal makes him open his eyes, and first, he can't understand what he sees.
He is lying in a bed. Bloody Teeth, it's the Lordmaster's bed in the Lordmaster's room, and there are three men standing in front of him, their faces stern. The old warrior cradles his helmet in his arm, his other hand resting on his sword; what he lacks in head hair, he tries to compensate with a beard. The other older man with dark, unruly hair is not a warrior, the look in his eyes almost warm; and the youngest guy is tall with bright, piercing eyes.
They wear armors and crests of the Padalecks, a lizard or something like that.
He scrambles backwards, trying to get away, until his back, wrapped in bandages, hits the headboard, and the pain is sharp, too sharp, and he doubles over, moaning. Burying his face into the pillows, he's riding the wave of pain.
There's a hand on his shoulder, a soft voice telling him to calm down. He is flinching reflexively, trying to escape, but he is tangled in the sheets, and suddenly, there is no bed beneath him, and something is yanking painfully at his throat, cutting off his air supply. Again, there is pain all over his body when his back hits the soft carpet.
Finally, he can see clearly again, though he has still trouble drawing breaths. Lifting a hand, he touches his neck, the tips of his fingers brushing the collar around his neck.
That's impossible! He is a free man, the Lordmaster's son. The Wolf's bloody teeth, what did these men do to him?
“Calm down,” the youngest man says, “we won't hurt you.”
He stares, trying to wrap his head around what happened. He can't remember...
“What's your name, slave?” The old warrior asks gruffly, but not unkindly.
He keeps on staring. They think he is a slave, so they didn't collar him, and they don't know his name, so they probably don't know who he is.
He should tell them his name, his status, clear up the misunderstanding.
“Do you know the whereabouts of your master Ackles?”
It's the tightening of the warrior's fingers on the sword pommel that makes him come to a decision: he won't betray anything. He wanted to negotiate peace with these people, but all they want is his father's head on a pike. He would rather die than betray his family.
The accounting records are a mess.
Jared is not an accountant, but he can see that the Lordmaster is broke. The accountant checking the books is looking pretty much frustrated.
Presumably, Ackles' dire finances are a reason for his conspiracy against the Crown, apart from his burning ambition.
Morosely throwing his pencil onto the desk, Jared sighs. There is so much he needs to consider. He is glad that Penikett is a reliable aide and adviser; he is also head of the royal guard, and Jared really trusts him with his life.
The good news is that the castle is big enough to accommodate the officers and higher ranks, and the soldiers took up quarters in the surrounding town. That is one headache less to worry about; content soldiers don't plunder, and non-scared townsfolk are more willing to cooperate. This way, Jared got to the hearty breakfast he devoured not so long ago.
The bad news is that the damned slave doesn't talk. He didn't open his mouth during the interrogation, so now he is being tortured.
Jared is not proud of himself. Torturing a hurt and frightened slave is not a thing he ever wanted to order. But he needs all the information the man can provide. He only prays that it's worth it.
Sick of all the paperwork, Jared stands, leaving the study. Flanked by two guards, he only gets lost once on his way to the torture chamber. Unsurprisingly, there is this kind of room in Steadfast castle, and it seems to be well used.
Pushing open the sturdy door, Jared calls, “Penikett! What did he say?”
Bowing, the head of his guard replies, “Your Royal Highness. I'm sorry to say that the only thing he uttered was May the Wolf devour you with blunt teeth. And a few curses.”
“What does that mean?”
“I think it could be translated as May the Crocodilians drop a huge pile onto your head.”
“Your Highness. I'm afraid this slave is stubbornly loyal. I assume he should be happy to be rid of his brutal master, but he's still loyal. He won't talk.”
“'Dils!” Rubbing his face, Jared stares down at the slave who is lying bruised and exhausted at his feet. His hair is wet, his eyes red-rimmed due to lack of oxygen; his bandages are dirty and bloody where the welts re-opened. He is breathing fast and shallow, his eyes mere slits, but there is still a spark of something, maybe defiance.
“Alright. Clean him; I want him and Armstrong in my room in thirty minutes.”
Jared's room is Ackles' former room. He doesn't like it, there are too many wall hangings embroidered with too many wolves eating people and too many bloody battles. However, it is imperative to showcase the Designated Crown's power so he has to stay there. The bed is quite comfortable, though.
Two guards are dragging the slave into the room, heaving him onto the bed and tying his arms to the headboard. Penikett takes up position beside him.
The poor guy is almost out of it, and Jared feels a hard pang of conscience. He doesn't want to do it, but there's no other way.
Armstrong is angry. “How could you order to torture the poor man! I don't patch up people just so you can break them once more. Your Stupid Highness.”
“I'm sorry, okay? There was no other way to make him talk. I ordered though not to leave any lasting marks.”
“That's a feather in your cap.” The physician glares at Jared, making him squirm.
“No, it didn't work. That's why I want you to use snake bite.”
Surprised, Armstrong takes a deep breath. “Snake bite? You know how hard it is to dose him correctly in his condition? And what happens if I overdose him?”
“I know. But I'm trying to save his life here. If I can't make him talk, the Crown will execute him as the Lordmaster's substitute.” And he needs all the information the slave can provide.
Armstrong still glares at him, then says, “I'm acting under protest.”
“Acknowledged.” Jared nods grimly.
Rummaging in his bag, the physician takes out a little bottle. Whispering reassuringly, he settles on the bed besides the bound man who is glowering pretty menacingly, Jared thinks. Armstrong needs to hook his fingers between the slave's tightly clenched jaws to open his mouth, but he does so without force.
Jared acknowledges that the slave knows to pick his fights; he doesn't flinch, it is no use anyway. His tethered hands are clenching and unclenching, though, while Armstrong counts drops of snake bite into his mouth.
It is only a few minutes until the drug takes hold. The slave is struggling for breath and convulsing, his fists clenched so tightly his fingernails are leaving bloody marks on his palms. Then he collapses, going limp, showing no sign of life, just the hardly perceivable rising and lowering of his chest.
Penikett starts moving, but Jared stops him with a wave of his hand.
“What's your name, slave?”
There is a groan emanating from the man, struggling fruitlessly against the drug. “Not.. a... slave,” he says, his voice deep and gravelly, hitting Jared right into his gut. Well, a little bit further to the south.
“But you wear a collar.”
Moss-green eyes, dull or maybe hooded, are directed at Jared, but there is still some kind of defiance swirling in their depths.
“Not... a slave. I was born... free.”
A rarely experienced feeling is blossoming in Jared's chest: compassion. He remembers the knife, the dangerously sharp and glistening knife. He remembers a young boy's fear and despair.
Squashing the memories, he continues.
“What's your name?”
“I have... no name. It was removed from the List.”
Jared looks questioningly at Tahmoh who replies, “Removing a name from the List of Ancestors means disownment, repudiation. The people in question are nameless and no longer considered as persons.”
Rubbing his chin, Jared sighs. “I don't want to call you slave. What did your mother call you?”
“Peaches? Great! Now that's a name for a grown-up man,” Jared groans. “Well... Peaches. Do you know where the Lordmaster of the Seal is?”
“'Dils! Let's phrase it differently. Do you know where Villads Ackles is headed?”
Jared waits, but the slave remains silent. Obviously, he has to worm every little bit of information out of him.
“What's his designation?”
“White Mountain chalet.” The answer is given through grit teeth.
“Where is it?”
“I know that! Tell me the exact location!”
“Head of river Numeras.”
With a silent order from Jared, Penikett is already leaving the room, taking the guards with him. Another sign, and the physician makes sure that the slave isn't hurt more than necessary.
Then Jared is alone with the man. Stroking a hand over short, soft hair, he rubs his thump over a frowning brow. “You did well,” he praises. “Sleep now.”
He can see that the slave wants to defy him, but the drug leaves no real choice, and the stress and pain of the past day finally catch up with him. Closing his eyes, his body goes limp; no more glowering, or frowning, or gritting teeth, no more strong hands clenched into fists.
Jared is running a finger over the bandages on Peaches' chest and the smooth skin of his stomach, stopping just short of the waistband of his linen pants.
No, he won't go there, as tempting as it may be. He knows now that his past bedfellows may not have been as willing as he thought at the time; after all, how do you reject the Designated Crown? He vowed to himself to never force someone into his bed, and not even for this tasty morsel will he break his vow and lose all self-respect.
Restraining himself is hard. This person is everything he ever wanted in a man; a mind of his own, defiant, gorgeous, a body like caramel, hard and sweet. And yet, seeing him bound and helpless did something to Jared he hadn't known before.
He can't have the slave because he can't say no to his master. He can't manumit him because he is the Ackles' slave and may be able to provide more information about his former master. Unfortunately, it may be necessary to break the man in order to obtain it.
That would be something Jared would be reluctant to do.