"Which one is the translator?" Dear gods, the man asking the question was the size of a horse, broad shouldered, with legs like tree stumps. He was dressed in the manner of the tribal war chiefs of the region, thick leather armor over brightly colored fabrics, bearded with hair that hung in a black curtain past his shoulders. Agostino had overheard that his name was Kadri, lord of a handful of mountain villages in the Middle Kingdom, most likely a distant cousin to the illustrious families that held more valuable lands. Not a politically significant figure in the grand scheme of things, but he didn't need to be a high king to cheerfully murder a dozen enemy soldiers trespassing on his land.

Agostino blinked, clearing his throat, disliking that he was being addressed specifically. "Yes. I can speak Uthroo." He kept his eyes lowered, trained on the leather of his boots. When he'd been hired by this regiment of idiots, he'd thought he would be putting his skills to use negotiating the price of supplies in local villages, not discussing the terms of their surrender to someone that looked like he could crack the lot of them in half without breaking a sweat. But then again, he never considered himself a particularly fortunate man. Generally, as a rule of thumb, he had to rely on his wits over luck.

"Come here." Kadri crooked two brown fingers in his direction and Agostino went, approaching the chieftain where he stood, arms folded across his chest, looking like he'd just put something in his mouth he didn't much like the taste of. The Uthroon camp consisted of a few dozen canvas tents, the color of ash, utilitarian and easily transported. They flapped lazily in the high desert breeze, lending a false festiveness to the scene. When he reached Kadri, Agostino dropped down and kneeled in the dirt at his feet, head bowed. His captor stiffened and some of the soldiers in his regiment made noises of disapproval. They would most likely openly hate him from now on, already having expressed suspicion of his knowledge of foreign languages and culture. To hell with them anyway.

The man reached down, tilting Agostino's head up until their eyes met. Kadri's were the dark golden color of honey. "You're a child."

"I'm twenty-six."

"Hmm. Then you are just soft."

He frowned at this, but answered honestly. "I was a student at the University in Merdeth— before the city was put under martial law. My training is as a scholar, not a fighter."

"You are a long way from Merdeth." He was not wrong, this rough and sparsely populated terrain was worlds away from the cosmopolitan trade city nestled on Abrea's southernmost peninsula, that jostling in between place where a thousand cultures collided and the people only superficially recognized what country at any given time claimed them.

"It was in my best interest to seek other arrangements."

"You kneel at my feet like a war slave."

"Oh. Yes. Am I not?"

"You are Abreanian, no?" He gave him a look of revulsion. "Do not pretend to understand us." A miscalculation on his part, then. Agostino repressed the urge to sigh and squeeze the bridge of his nose. What a fucking disaster this entire trip had been. If his uncle hadn't been of a mind to burn half the city to the ground in an effort to locate and most likely assassinate him, he might have taken the time to pick a better means of escape. As it was two months of rough living had left him with little to show for it save bitterness and bruises. He almost envied his brother, who at least got to sit in a nice quiet prison cell while he waited to die.

"My most humble apologies."

Kadri snapped his fingers. "Come. You will tell these men what I have to say, that there have been skirmishes on the border and now I find you here? Your Abreanian king is dead is he not?"

"That is what I have heard, yes." Agostino scrambled behind him, trying to keep pace with his long strides.

"And his son is the murderous bastard that killed him? And now the king's brother assumes the title of king and sends little rats like you scurrying across our borders. It smells like shit to me. Like shit and war." Agostino agreed with the bulk of that summary, save for the part where his brother could have had anything to do with his father's death. He refused to believe it.

"Did...did you want me to translate that?"

Kadri looked at him like he was truly stupid. "No. Tell them that they are our prisoners, if they try to escape we will kill them and tomorrow we march towards the mountains where they can find a more productive purpose in the silver mines."

Oh gods. He stared in shock for a moment. "Manual labor? In...the mines?"

"Yes mines. Do you know that word?"

He nodded, letting the wave of fresh misery wash over him. "No, I understand. I'll tell them."

"What were you doing here?"

He cleared his throat. "As far as I understand, making notations for a map maker."

Kadri rolled his eyes. "As if drawing these lands could help any stupid Abreanian understand them. Come on, I tell you what to say while you translate."

"Well you had quite an exchange with that big hulk didn't you?."

Agostino sank to the floor next to Matteo in the prisoners' tent, a little less graceful for the way his hands were bound in front of him. "Did I?"

"You really do have some kind of perverse fascination with these savages don't you?" There was innuendo there that stung—one that hit too close to home, although Matteo wouldn't know that. Agostino's own father had been all too happy to send him from court, to have him study far from home, in a land with enough distance that rumors of his younger son's interest in other men would no longer reach his ears. The Uthroon had a reputation for a tolerance of such things—and in his experience it rang true, but it still wasn't a pleasant thing to have thrown in his face.

"I told you before, my kin were merchants," he snapped. "It is merely a tool of my trade." He had truly hoped to be useful to his family one day, perhaps when Cosimo took the throne and he could play ambassador and trusted advisor, plying all his practiced skills to his older brother's benefit. That counted on Cosimo not hating him as much as their father had, however, and considering how little he had objected to him being sent away, it seemed doubtful. He'd always adored his brother and that wound had been deep.

"I somehow don't think that skill set requires a man to kneel down and lick another's boots."

"It doesn't matter," he said glumly. "It was meant to beg mercy, but we'll be having none of that here. If you're more afraid of injuring your pride, than ending your year in the mines then you're dumber than I thought."

"You shouldn't be begging for anything from these dogs," Matteo scolded him. "Are you an Abreanian or not? Fuck, I really wonder sometimes."

Agostino had to suppress a laugh, shaking his head. What a shit show this was: captured and on his way to a life of slave labor in the Black Mountains, still officially second in line to the Abreanian throne and being accused by a mercenary with a missing front tooth of not even taking his citizenship seriously. Maybe he should let the whole country rot, they certainly seemed to want as much for him.

"They said we're marching tomorrow, so you should try to get some rest," he said instead, stomach complaining that his last meal had been the afternoon before. He scooted until his back was to one of the tent's support beams and closed his eyes, wishing with his whole heart he was back in Merdeth with a glass of wine, a good book, and a pleasant body to warm his sheets—the sound of the waves drifting through his window.

Agostino woke in the dark to someone shaking his shoulder. "Hmm?" He blinked, just making out the outline of an Uthroon man with an angular face and a serious expression.

"You," he said in an Abreanian dialect, accent thick. "Come with me." He reached down, pulling him to his feet by his arm. Between his exhaustion and the restraints he was happy for the help. The man held the tent flap open for him, an odd courtesy under the circumstances, and he stepped out into the cool night air with a sigh. The stranger led him across camp in silence, past horses, camels and a handful of men still up talking around a low burning campfire.

They stopped at one of the larger tents and again repeated the ritual of the man holding the flaps for him. "Go in," he ordered, putting his hand on the small of his back and guiding him forward. Inside the tent was lavish as far as travel accommodations went, with a floor of woven rugs and a plush raised platform for bedding. Ornate lanterns cast the space in warm yellow light and the air smelled faintly of incense. Kadri sat at the edge of the bed watching them. Agostino openingly stared back, his heart rate kicking up a notch as he tried to calibrate the warchief considered him back for a moment, eyes stormy and difficult to read. He'd removed his armor, now dressed in a pale blue tunic with gold embroidery and a matching set of pants. He also appeared to have bathed, his dark locks still damp.

"Leave us," Kadri said and the man that had brought him gave a little nod and went, latching the strings of the tent behind him. "Come here." Agostino obeyed, crossing the room to stand in front of the man, who even sitting felt twice his size. "On your knees," the order was a low growl, loaded with intent. Oh . He felt a shiver run through him, the hair on the back of his neck prickling as his stomach lurched. He slid to the ground, draping his bound hands between his knees. The thin carpet of the tent gave some cushioning, an appreciated luxury. Apparently, Kadri had reconsidered their earlier encounter and now wished to revisit it in a more private setting.

He bowed his head, eyes tracing the intricate pattern of the rug beneath him to try to settle his jangled nerves. "I admit that I am curious how I can be of service at this late hour."

Kadri reached forward, cupping his cheek, rubbing the rough pad of his thumb across his bottom lip. "I said you looked soft for a soldier, but you are also very pretty, delicate like a bird." Agostino eyed the glass of wine at the bedside table, suspecting it was not his first. "Do you know what it means to kneel to a man like me?"

"I believe I offer my servitude," he said carefully, "in acknowledgement of our defeat. So I suppose...I should ask what kind of man you are and what kind of services you require?"

He returned the thumb to his lips pressing inside, running it along his tongue. His skin tasted of salt and Agostino let his eyes flick up to stare. "Have you sucked cock before?"

He raised an eyebrow at that. Blunt. At least he'd had enough Uthroon lovers in Merdeth to understand that crude terminology. "Are you going to hurt me?" he asked. Kadri gave a derisive snort at the question.

"I wasn't planning on being gentle."

He shrugged. "That's fine. I just don't like to be hit and I don't want you to make me bleed."

Kadri scowled, mood seeming to darken. "Why shouldn't I? What are you to me?"

Oh for fuck sake, it wasn't like he was asking for romance. "My Lord, I didn't say you couldn't," Agostino, clarified, the tiniest hint of exasperation in his voice. "I said I wouldn't like it. I suppose you can do with that information what you like."

"My god, you're not even speaking your mother tongue," he said, letting out an exasperated laugh. "You're fucking with me in my own language. A warning, I distrust cleverness."

"Have I offended you?" He found as intimidating as this man was, he didn't mind looking at him, dark sun browned skin and a wall of imposing muscles. He liked his jewelry, the nose ring and multitude of earrings. He'd always preferred Uthroon fashion to his own.

"Not particularly...yet."

"Then may I have a sip of your wine?"

His expression closed again. "No."

"A shame. It has been my experience that it does wonders for loosening the throat." Kadri looked like a bolt had gone through him as he sat up to stare, incredulous. Agostino had acted whorishly on plenty of occasions for no reason save indulgent princely pleasure, it seemed stupid to find the moral high ground now that his actual life was at stake.

"Who the fuck taught you Uthroo? Sailors?"

He answered the question with a sheepish smile. "Sometimes? There are no lack of their lot in Merdeth." It had been his experience that a bedroom was a far finer place for language lessons than a classroom.

"Hold out your hands." Kadri fetched a blade, cutting away the rough rope holding his wrists together.

"Thanks," he said, rubbing at the raw skin.

"I've never talked to a Northerner like you. Where were you born?" To his great surprise he handed Agostino a full cup of wine. He sipped at it cautiously, mindful of his empty stomach.

"The capital, but I haven't been back in four years. I think the warmer climate—the warmer people—suits me better."

"And yet you joined a band of men set out against a peaceful neighbor?"

Agostino took a larger gulp of wine than he'd intended. "A mistake. I only had eyes for getting out of the city as quickly as possible..." to disappear into an anonymous identity, away from anywhere they might search him out. "My deceased father's politics does not endear me to Prince Paoluccio di Rosmarino."

"Your county seems dangerously destabilized."

"It is. I would suspect you will soon see a fair number of refugees fleeing the wrath of this regime."

"Come here," Kadri said. Agostino set his wine aside and went without question, sliding between the man's parted thighs, fingers pushing up on the tunic and mouthing his erection through the thin fabric of his pants, anticipating the stretch of it in his mouth already. Kadir's fingers caught in his hair, pulling, making his scalp sting until he gasped, cheeks flushing, mind spinning with the combination of wine and sharp sensation. Kadri worked the lacing of his trousers open, releasing his cock and Agostino took that as invitation, swirling his tongue around the fat head, opening his mouth only to have his hair gripped again, head pushed down as Kadri thrust up, sliding to the back of his throat without preamble, fucking his mouth like he was indeed a bed slave, put in this world only for this man's carnel pleasure. His eyes watered, as he desperately tried to suck in air through his nose, to relax his throat and jaw at the same time. His hands went forward to steady himself, splaying across thick thighs. It shocked him when the arousal came, a hot syrupy feeling that blossomed in his groin and slid up his spine as he was used as little more than a wet hole.

"Fuck," Kadri's hand loosed on his hair a bit, then released. He glanced up to see his head thrown back, adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed, the lines of his muscles taunt. He began to pump in a punishing, snapping rhythm—in and out, then almost completely out, the head of his cock hovering on Agostino's lips before slamming to the back of my throat again, bruising in a way he would feel for days. He gurgled, felt saliva slip from the corners of his mouth and down his chin. The musk of him was stronger then, wafting up his nose and seeping into him, marking him. He felt dizzy, mind going blank as a sheet of paper. Kadri came down his throat then, acidic and hot, before pulling out just as suddenly. Agostino fell forward, resting his forehead on the man's knee, gasping air into his lungs, everything burning, tears pricking his eyes and running down his cheeks.

"Could I have water?" He asked, surprised by how raspy his voice sounded.

"I didn't hit you. I didn't make you bleed." Agostino went still, a chill running through him, mixing with his lingering arousal in disorienting ways. He wet his lips cautiously.

"Did you want to?"

"No. Get on the bed." He moved off the floor, removing his boots first and wiping his face with the back of his hand.

The water Kadri brought him was cool on his throat and he drank it greedily, eyes sliding shut. "Thank you."

"Undress." Apparently a cup of water was all the reprieve his captor wished to give him.

Agostino stared back, considering. He wondered if he would fuck him as brutally and selfishly as he had used his mouth. He wondered if he would like it. "Do you have oil? I will need a moment to put it in." He took a drink of the wine on the bedside table, had a feeling he was going to need it for his nerves.

Kadri huffed, annoyed. "I said I wouldn't make you bleed."

He gave him a side eye at that. "Did you actually say that though?"

"Oh just shut up and take off your clothes. I'm getting oil." He watched the man stand before turning to the task at hand, removing the well worn garments from his body, the cool air making his skin pickle. He'd lost weight in the past few months, though he'd replaced some of it with the long lean muscle gained through hard travel. Feeling uncharacteristically shy, he pulled a blanket over his nudity. It had been awhile since he'd taken a man. This was probably going to be uncomfortable , especially with a partner that didn't seem too concerned about what he felt at all. Kadri returned with a long bolt of silk fabric and a bottle.

"What's that for?"

"Something to keep you where I'd like."

"Uhh? I don't…" Agostino's objection was cut off when Kadri kneeled on the bed, dragging his wrists up over his head, using the silk to bind his hands to a support pole of the tent. This close he smelled like orange oil and cloves, like leather and lingering traces of sex. Restrained, his body felt hot and panicked, breath coming in short gasps as Kadri slid the blanket from him, eyes drawing across his skin hungrily. The man had the audacity to smirk then, dragging his tunic up over his head and casting it to the side. Agostino took in his dark nipples and the smattering of coarse hair across his chest, the way his honey eyes seemed to glow in the low light.

"Pretty little bird." He leaned over him, fingers wrapping lightly around his throat, thumb stroking the pulse point there. "Hair the color of autumn and eyes as green as spring." His arousal was building again, pooling in his stomach and groin despite his apprehension. "Do you want me to fuck you?" His heartbeat quickened, blood thudding in his ears. Agostino had the sudden image of being on a small raft in shark infested waters and being asked if he liked to sail. "I think you will look lovely like this, tied to my bed with my cock spearing you deep."

He made a helpless sound and Kadri bowed his head, dark hair drawing across his skin as he took one nipple into his mouth, working the flesh with his teeth until Agostino gasped, then cried out when he turned his focus to the second. He suspected they would still sting by morning. His mouth moved down his body, biting and sucking, as calloused hands stroked his sides, his stomach, between his legs, mapping his body, possessively.

Kadri spread Agostino's knees wide, moving between them to bite a stinging mark on the inside of his thigh, tonguing the ache. He massaged between his ass cheeks experimentally, rubbing his hole with one finger, feeling him flutter against the pressure before uncapping the oil. "Do you usually enjoy being had like this?" The finger was back, slick with oil, just circling without yet pushing in.

"Yes." Agostino said, not seeing any point in denying it. "Do you want me to do that? I would prefer to prepare myself." Kadri's reply was the slide of the digit into him, slipping past his ring of muscle easily before pulling back and going in again. It had been awhile, but his body relaxed and accommodated out of memory, the heat in his core building. Kadri added more oil and a second finger. Two fingers burned, but not terribly, and then when he hooked and twisted them, going good and deep, Agostino saw stars, made hiccupy little noises before he could stop himself. He felt his face go red, pulling at the restraints, wishing his hands were free so he could cover his mouth.

"Like this?" Kadri did it again, making his breath hitch, teasing at his prostate deliciously. He added more oil, pushing it into his body with three thick fingers now, setting a slow and steady rhythm, stretching him as he gasped and squirmed, pleasure overriding most of his self consciousness. "You're so pale. I love the way my teeth mark your skin." He pressed his thumb into the bruise on his thigh with the hand that wasn't inside him. Agostino swore elaborately in his native language, cock twitching. "You didn't answer my question."

"What question?" His voice was low and gravely, a sheen of sweat gathering on his skin.

Kadri pulled back, undoing the laces of his trousers and pushing the fabric from his hips. His cock was hard, heavy between his legs as he stroked it idly. "Do you want me to fuck you or not?"

His mind was a riot of confusion, but the words were easy enough to find. "Yes. I want you to fuck me." He didn't know if he meant it or not.

"Good." Kadri spread him, folding him practically in half as he oiled his cock and pressed it to Agostino's hole. He slid home in one stroke, surprisingly little resistance despite his girth. He paused to let him adjust and Agostino let out a groan, momentarily feeling stretched beyond his limits, but no true pain. Kadri was inferno hot, a wall of hard flesh that made him feel helpless and dominated in a way that gave him vertigo. Kadri's mouth found his ear, teeth grazing the shell. "Ready, little bird?"

When Agostino nodded, he began to move, slow shallow thrusts at first, breath coming in quick huffs in the crook of his neck. Then Kadri's hand fisted in his hair, immobilizing him further as he pulled almost all the way out then slammed back in. He did it again and Agostino could feel his eyes roll up into the back of his head, could feel the pleasure building from the very core of him, making his head buzz and his limbs tingle. He'd been fucking men for the better part of a decade, had more of them in his bed than he cared to track and none of them, not one, had delivered him here. He moaned, back arching as Kadri fucked into his body with the same relentlessly entitlement he'd used to fuck his mouth. It should have made him mad, it should have insulted his honor—but instead it just made him feel needy . The fear, the sorrow and anger of the last few months seemed to melt away as his mind distilled down to this single moment, to the cock claiming its right to him with every body wracking thrust. It seemed to go on and on, making his legs quiver, tears leaking from the corner of his eyes to roll down the side of his face as he moaned.

Kadri pulled out suddenly, reaching to yank restraints loose in a practiced motion. He flipped Agostino onto his belly easily, kneeing his legs apart before pushing back in. His hands spread his ass in a bruising grip, strokes hard and impossibly deep as he ground him into the bedding. He sobbed open mouthed now, begging and cursing, bouncing between languages with no rhyme or reason. Kadri blanketed his body across him, almost crushing all the air from his lungs as he found the tender skin just below his ear and sucked a hard mark between his teeth. Agostino came with a scream, face buried in the blanket, body jerking like a puppet as Kadri rode him mercilessly to his own completion.

Agostino woke to the sound of outside voices and the smell of rich dark brewed coffee. He stretched and winced as his body complained about how roughly it had been used the day before, a number of aches and pains flaring at once. He hissed as he sat up, rubbing at his temples. The man who had come for him in the prisoner's tent was there a moment later, handing him a robe woven in rich blues and greens. "We're breaking camp this morning. Put this on and I will walk you to the river to relieve yourself and wash." He felt his face heat, but he did as he was told, pushing back the blanket and sliding the garment onto his body. If the man noticed the patterns of lurid marks across his skin he said nothing, instead handing him a soft pair of leather slippers. "Come on. There is too much to do as is."

The morning was crisp and bright, the air smelling of food and woodsmoke, making his head light. He was really going to need to find a meal somewhere soon. When they reached the river banks he left his robe and shoes on the shore, wading out until the water was up to his waist. Fed mainly by mountain runoff, the temperature was bracing, his skin prickling as submerged himself. He used the bit of soap he was given to clean away the dust from the road and the sweat, spit, and semen that clung to him, taking the time to wash the tear tracks from his face and massage soap into his scalp before rinsing it away.

"What should I call you?" He asked as he was helped back into the robe.

"I am Balian. Come, quickly. Do you drink coffee?"

"Yes," he said, trotting to keep up, suddenly feeling hopeful. "I should eat something as well. It's been too long." Balian didn't say anything, but he gave a nod of acknowledgement, again unlatching and opening the tent flaps for him.

"Sit there," he pointed to a cushion next to a low table in the corner of the room. "Stay put and behave, no wait a moment." Agostino went still as Balian approached him, eyes speculative. He ran hands down his arms, across hips, crouching to touch his legs through the fabric of the robe with alarming focus. "Your boots are fine for travel, but I will find you something to wear as what you had before is little good for more than wash rags."

Oh. He blinked. "Thank you." Balian made a noise that conveyed that he was hardly doing it for his benefit. Still it was hard to care when a moment later a boy arrived with a sizable tray, placing it on the table in front of him with a nod before scurrying off. Agostino sighed in deep felt relief. There were grapes and a handful of figs, a yeasty scented flatbread, sweet chili jam and a generous dollop of sheep cheese. The coffee came in an ornately decorated urn, brewed in the traditional Uthroon style with mint leaves and sweetened with honey. The finest meal he'd had in recent memory and he ate it with pleasure.

"Ah Balian has had his way with you, good." In the light of day, back in his armors, Kadri was a formidable figure, his silhouette massive in the frame of the tent entrance. He crossed the room settling across from him, lounging casually on the cushions, reaching out and popping a fig in his mouth. He smirked as he chewed. "You slept like the dead. It's been awhile since I fucked someone unconscious."

Agostino sipped his coffee. "I'm grateful for your hospitality."

He laughed "I suppose we will find out just how much hospitality you can handle. Come here, little bird." He stood, letting Kadri reach for him, guiding him down to straddle his thighs. He opened the robe, pushing back the fabric and palming his handiwork from the night before, fingers pressing into fresh bruises, toying with over sensitive nipples. He pulled him close, finding the mark on his neck and tonguing it. Agostino whimpered, gripping broad shoulders to steady himself, eyes going wide as he felt a finger pressed to his hole, already oil slick. Softened from the night before, he easily breached the muscle, pushing into him insistently. Kadri mouthed his collarbone, adding a second finger. Too soon, still sore, he gasped, squirming to escape the sensation of those deep probing fingers. "Shhh, shhh. Breathe."

"A little warning would be nice." Agostino was flushed hot with a mixture of arousal and annoyance. His body was not property to be used at this man's whim and yet he knew he should cooperate and let him.

Kadri was undoing the laces of his trousers. "Alright, here's your warning: I intend to ram my cock up your ass until you cry out. No time for anything fancy this morning, I'm afraid." He took himself in hand, applying oil to his shaft as Agostino watched. The grip on his hip was firm, smearing oil as he guided him up and forward, lining them up, the slick head of his cock pressed firmly to his hole, already starting to work its way in.

Agostino let his head fall forward, resting it on Kadri's shoulder, taking deep, restorative breaths, enjoying the masculine scent of him, how hot and firm he felt under his hands. The grip on his hip tightened, urging him to move. He sank down with deliberate purpose, stretching to accommodate as he took Kadri into his body yet again in so many hours. He didn't try to make it last, grinding and clenching muscles as he would with any lover, rising up on knees and sliding back down. The stretch still burned, but at this angle he could work his pleasure, bringing himself over the edge quickly, spilling across his stomach and Kadri's leathers with a low whine. Kadri grabbed his hips, holding him in place as he thrust roughly up into his tender insides, gasping as he released, breath heavy.

"Okay. Kad, we really have to go now." Agostino jolted at the sound of Balian's voice, the casual annoyance in it. He slid from Kadri's lap, pulling closed the robe, semen cooling on his belly and making a sticky mess between his legs. How long had he been standing there?

Kadri, stretched, looking languid as he cleaned up and tucked himself away. "Yeah yeah, forgive me I got distracted."

"Well forgive me if I don't like holding up a hundred restless men so you can nut. Especially considering you had ample opportunity for that last night. Do you know how many fights I've had to break up this morning? You," he pointed at Agostino. "Wash up over there and put those clothes on. They should fit halfway decently. Then everyone out so that they can break down this tent."

Kadri picked up a handful of grapes as he stood. "Can you find somewhere for him?"

Balian rolled his eyes and gave an exasperated sigh. "Yes, I can. Now please go control your men before I start handing out capital punishments."

"Thanks, Bal." He gave his friend's shoulder a squeeze and then he was gone. Not once looking back at Agostino.