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Aloys is on his knees in the garden when he first hears the horses. By the time he’s made his way around to the front gate of the churchyard, the visitors have beaten him there, their great steeds stamping impatiently in the dust.

The intruders, to be more precise. Nobody needs to say a single word for Aloys to understand well enough that the men before him are no simple townsfolk come to pray at the church or seek the council of the priests. No one from the town owns such fine horses, as far as he knows, or such fine clothing. No one from the town would come to the church with swords strapped to their waists.

There are only four of them, Aloys tells himself, as if that means anything.

The one in front – the leader, he must be – peers down at Aloys, seeming a little curious but mostly unimpressed. Aloys stares back at him, hoping that he looks more confident than he feels. The man is dressed for riding and rough work - for violence, a voice in the back of Aloys’s mind hisses – but his clothing is well-made, of material that looks to be of a higher quality than anything Aloys has seen in some time. He wears no armor save a sturdy leather guard over his chest.  Some kind of wolf or lion has been pressed into leather at his breast, an insignia that Aloys doesn't recognize. The sword sheathed at the man's side is longer and wider than Aloys’s arm.

“You there,” the man calls out. “Priest. Where is the leader of this place?”

What a strange and uncouth man, to speak so. Irritation overtakes worry inside of Aloys for a fleeting moment, long enough that his voice comes out loud and steady when he replies, “Father Morris is occupied with holy matters. What is your business?”

He can see one of the other men snigger, as if he thinks Aloys’s words to be false bluster. Let him believe what he wants. Aloys has spoken no lies. Father Morris is certainly occupied with holy matters, at the neighboring parish to which he had departed early in the morning. Just as the other priests are currently occupied with good works in the town.

The leader seems to consider Aloys a little more closely, eyes narrowing. “I have come to collect what is owed to me.”

“What do you mean?” says Aloys, with rather unholy haste and sharpness, because trying to puzzle out the possible meanings of that statement on his own, even for a second will bring nothing but additional unease.

The leader straightens his shoulders. “I am Jurian. These lands belong to me, and it is right that my subjects should present me with a tribute. You have not made your offering to me, and so I have come to collect it.”

“But we’ve heard nothing of any of this,” Aloys protests. His words are weaker now. In truth, the priests hear very little of the goings-on of the world outside their corner of the countryside, and most of it only long after the fact. It’s entirely possible that the man’s words are the truth, just as it’s entirely possible that these could be simply bandits who figure that a church will be an easy target. The end result is likely to be much the same, in any case.

The man – Jurian – doesn’t even bother asking do you think I care at all what you have or haven’t heard? out loud. He swings a leg over his horse and jumps to the ground, landing heavily with a faint jingle of metal fastenings and a creak of leather.

Even on his feet, he’s at least a head and shoulders taller than Aloys, his shoulders broader even allowing for the padding of his clothing. The other three men – starting to dismount behind Jurian, now – are built in much the same way. No half-starved country outlaws, these. Fear is a cold weight in the pit of Aloys’s belly.

“You are the only one here,” Jurian observes. Aloys opens his mouth to argue, but no lie comes quickly enough to his lips. The stillness of the empty churchyard behind him seems to almost roar. Aloys can feel his ears burn with foolish embarrassment.

“You will show us what valuable things you keep here.”

“Valuable things?” Aloys repeats, strained, because right now that’s as close as he can possibly come to I will do no such thing.

But Jurian seems to have little interest in holding a conversation about the matter. He nods towards his men and two of them step forward as if to accompany him, while the last hangs back with the horses. Such an arrangement is unnecessary, Aloys could have told them. The other priests will surely not return until much later, and unexpected visitors from town in the middle of the day are rare, and easy to see from a ways away. Aloys and these strange men will be perfectly alone in the church.

This is a sacred place, not one for ruffians like you. Aloys is sure that Father Morris would have told Jurian something like that, if he were here.

Jurian would knock Father Morris to the ground with no effort at all. Aloys gulps. He stands aside meekly as Jurian and the others make their way past him, through the gate.

Jurian looks back towards him, a look of faint impatience on his face. “Come,” he directs, as if to an ill-trained hound.

Being lead into his own church by these men is more than Aloys’s pride can bear – and there’s little he can do about this, about any of it, anyway – and so Aloys hurries after them, until he’s walking even with Jurian as if this is all according to his own wishes.

Jurian and the others seem rather unimpressed by what they see before them, another thing that Aloys could have warned them of himself. He does not know what they had expected to find here, but the church is small and – Aloys must admit, though vanity is most unbefitting of a priest – rather shabby, perfectly appropriate for a handful of priests supporting a poor stretch of countryside, but with almost nothing of any more earthly value than the vegetables in the back garden. There’s a moment where Aloys dares hope that the men will lose interest entirely, will turn around and ride off to darken someone else’s doorstep.

But his luck will not change now. “Well?” Jurian says, giving an expectant look first to Aloys, and then in the direction of the church door.

At least I am leading them now, Aloys thinks, until the meaning of it fully sinks in. He is leading these heathens straight into this holy sanctuary, when he’s the one who should be defending it. The only one who can, now.

Aloys’s steps have started to slow. “Priest,” Jurian urges. There’s the hint of a steel edge in his voice.

“There is nothing here.” Aloys’s voice is little more than a murmur. “This is a simple church, my – my lord.” He stutters over the title, a pathetically weak attempt at flattery. “We hide no great wealth here, I swear it. Please, leave us in peace.”

His gaze has dropped to the dirt of the courtyard. He sees Jurian’s boots take one step and then another, until they’re so close that Aloys’s nose is filled with the scent of leather and horses and sweat. The next moment, there’s a hard, leather-gloved hand pinching at his chin. Jurian does not allow Aloys to jerk away, forcing his head up until their eyes meet. Jurian’s eyes are dark, just like the thick hair that falls to his shoulders. He looks young for either a conquering warlord or a leader of bandits, not so much older than Aloys himself. The features of Jurian’s face are strong and proud. He does not look like anyone from the village, nor does he look exactly foreign. A mystery, through and through. Aloys wants to be rid of him more than almost anything else he can ever remember wanting in his life.

“This land is mine now, priest.” Jurian’s voice is low, but he doesn’t have to speak loudly, not when they’re so close and the rest of the yard is so dead silent. “This church is mine. I will enter what is mine as I like.”

“The church is God’s.” Aloys doesn’t mean to speak boldly – he doesn’t mean to do anything that might anger Jurian at all, now – but the words slip out before he can catch himself.

Jurian’s eyes, so close to his own, seem to widen for a second. Aloys waits for a blow, or worse – if he kills me now, at least my last words will have been faithful – but instead, Jurian barks out what Aloys’s fear-addled brain takes a few seconds to recognize as a short burst of laughter, and then his hand is off of Aloys’s chin, and shoving him between the shoulders, sending him stumbling towards the door of the church.

“We will see about that,” he hears Jurian say behind him.

Opening the door is almost a relief, because it means that Aloys doesn’t have to look at Jurian, if only for a moment. Jurian and the other two men stride brazenly past him into the church, showing as little respect as if they were entering a common inn, or worse.

They inspect the wooden pews, the plain iron candlesticks and ornaments at the alter without much interest. Aloys watches them. With a little distance between him and Jurian again, he can let himself think I told you so, even though he doesn’t say it out loud.

“There is nothing else here?” Jurian asks at last.

Aloys shakes his head hurriedly. “Nothing more than what you see. I am sorry, but you can see that we truly have nothing to offer you, so…” So begone, and may you be damned for disturbing this holy place.

His relief is cut short when he sees that Jurian shows no sign of moving. There's a frown on his face. “I am owed tribute. I will not leave until I get it.”

Aloys’s gaze flits nervously from the alter, plain but sincerely arranged, to the passage to the place where food and the priests' few possessions are stored, trying to imagine what these men might choose to steal or ruin out of spite. But Jurian is looking at none of those things.

The church floor is cool and unforgivingly hard against Aloys’s back, and the equally unforgiving side of one of the pews half-catches his head, and all of this makes it take even longer for him to understand what’s suddenly happening. Jurian’s thrown him on his back in one smooth motion, and now he stands over Aloys.

Flat on the ground, Jurian seems to loom larger than ever, like some cursed idol to a heathen god. Flat on the ground, Jurian’s sword hangs directly in Aloys’s line of sight. Aloys tries to scramble away, with arms and legs gone too boneless to raise him even a little without shaking. “Oh,” he gasps. “M-my good sir, please. Have mercy.”

The only answer he receives is the worst possible one – the sharp rasp of a blade being drawn. Out of the corner of his eye, Aloys can see that the other two men are standing in their places, unmoved by what’s unfolding before them. But of course, Jurian’s men will not come to his aid. Nobody will save him now. Aloys squeezes his eyes shut – watching the movement of the fearful blade is too much to bear – and tries to force his lips to work. He will meet his heavenly reward in prayer, at least.

There is to be no swift killing blow. Instead, he can feel the sword brought down and over slowly, so that it catches at his robes. This alone doesn’t seem to have the desired effect, and before long there’s a hand pulling roughly at his robes, and a boot holding the fabric in place – Aloys cringes at the heavy footfall so close to his ribs – until finally Aloys’s robes are ripped open clear down the front, in the way that one might skin a rabbit.

Even paralyzed with fear as he is, part of Aloys still manages to register dismay at this new indignity – must he be killed naked? But a much larger part of his mind is fixed on the fact that he is still alive, for now. He sucks in a great, shaky breath.

Jurian is putting hands to him again, shucking off what remains of his robes and gripping high on Aloys’s arm. The sword seems to have been set aside. For now, Aloys thinks.

“Up, priest.” When Aloys only goggles at him – the order makes no sense at all, he surely can’t be any more at Jurian’s mercy than he already is – Jurian lets out a huff of annoyance and yanks Aloys to his feet as easily as he had knocked him down a short while before. “I will not kill you,” Jurian says.

“Oh,” Aloys replies, numb with confused relief.

“I will have my tribute,” Jurian continues, with the faint air of one who is starting to grow tired of repeating himself. “You will pay it with your body.”

Aloys had been on the verge of babbling out something pathetically grateful, but Jurian’s words freeze the air in his lungs.

Jurian looks his body up and down. When he starts to move towards Aloys again, Aloys recovers his wits enough to step back. “No!”

“You would deny me?”

The warning is clear, but even after his terror of only minutes earlier, Aloys barely pays it any heed. What Jurian seems to be suggesting is – is obscene, unthinkable. “I will do no such thing,” Aloys insists, mouth dry. “I – I cannot.”

God help him, Jurian is smiling. “You will not speak so before long.” As he takes another predatory step forwards, and Aloys another hasty one back, Jurian adds: “Will you submit to me, or will my men hold you down?”

The other two men are still inside the church, watching Aloys and their leader with no more concern than when Jurian had drawn his sword against Aloys’s prone body. Devilry, Aloys thinks. A cold sweat has begun to rise on his skin. “I will not submit,” he says, but he does not step back again.

Jurian’s gloved hand runs down his chest and belly, agonizingly slow and deliberate. When he reaches Aloys’s prick, he cups it loosely for a moment, as if in appraisal. Aloys shuts his eyes again, a pathetic sound slipping from his lips. Should he pray, as he had when he thought that Jurian meant to kill him? But how can he invoke God amidst such depravity?

The hand slips behind him, squeezes, and once again this is more than Aloys can bear, overwhelming for a moment even the threat of death. He shoves at Jurian’s chest. “Stop!”

They are so close – too close – that Jurian’s voice seems to roar in Aloys’s ears. “I am a generous man, priest. I might share pleasure with you, if I wish.”

Before Aloys can even begin to find words to respond, Jurian’s mouth comes down on his.

Aloys knows of kisses, of course. Devoted to the church since practically before the temptations of the flesh had even entered into his thoughts, he has never experienced such things, but he has heard his share of love ballads, and even a few of a much more bawdy sort. In the ballads and the tales, kisses are sweet things, to be shared with a lover upon parting, or maybe even in a bed, in the midst of a passionate embrace.

What Jurian is doing is not like that, not at all – his mouth is hard and unrelenting on Aloys’s, as if he means to devour him. Aloys’s head would be pushed back painfully, if not for the gloved hand – the one that isn’t still pawing at him – that’s come up to grab at his hair, keeping him pinned in place, and oh, that’s a tongue that’s just been shoved between his lips –

The hands on his body are tightening, yanking him back. Aloys sputters for air. His mouth feels disgustingly wet, but when he wipes at his lips his hand comes away streaked with red. Looking up, he sees that Jurian’s lip is bloody.

I bit him, Aloys realizes faintly.

He has just a second to appreciate the look on Jurian’s face – he actually looks surprised, for the first time since he and the others appeared at the gate – before one of those cursed gloved hands comes up like a striking adder to catch him back-handed across the face. Aloys goes down, sprawling over a pew this time, and then Jurian’s on top of him in a flash, too big to push off and too covered up for Aloys’s scrabbling fingers to find any weak spots. He ends up on his belly across the pew, one hand half-pinned under his own weight and the other yanked up behind his back.

“Ah.” God in heaven, Jurian sounds excited, and that realization is somehow more terrifying than anything that’s happened so far. “So you will give me sport, priest?” His hand suddenly comes down across Aloys’s backside, with a sound that almost seems to echo. Aloys yelps, tries to squirm away, and Jurian does it again.

After the second blow, Jurian’s hand lingers in a way that's growing horribly familiar. Thick, leather-coated fingers squeeze at Aloys, spread him open. All Aloys can do is press his face against the wood of the pew. Perhaps this is all a nightmare, some vision of hell sent to teach him something important, or test his faith. But what has Aloys ever done, to be deemed deserving of such horror?

Cloth rustles, the weight bearing down on him shifts, and then Aloys can feel hot breath on the side of his face. “Pay attention, priest.”

There’s still a streak of blood drying on Jurian’s lip, but his face is flushed, and his eyes are bright and wild. He shoves one of his hands in Aloys’s face, two fingers pressing at his lips.

“Suck,” Jurian orders. “Bite me this time, and it will be the hilt of my sword in your mouth, and then in your arse.”

The sharp taste of well-used leather and the careless way that Jurian pushes his fingers inside makes saliva well up in Aloys’s mouth in seconds. He coughs as the fingers get closer to the back of his mouth, and is faintly aware that he can hear Jurian hum approvingly.

“There. It is not so hard to do as your lord bids, is it?”

My Lord is in God in heaven, not scum like you. Aloys wants to say it. He should say it, no matter what the consequences to him might be. Instead, he chokes down a mouthful of spit, prying fingers heavy on his tongue.

When Jurian finally pulls his hand away, he’s no longer focused on holding Aloys down, but the relief of having his mouth empty again is all that Aloys can think of. Until those wet fingers are suddenly pressing at him somewhere obscene, somewhere Aloys would have been ashamed to even imagine being touched before today, and Jurian’s spare hand is flat on the small of his back.

“Don’t-!” Aloys can’t keep speaking, can’t try to push himself up and away from Jurian’s grasp, because the next second the fingers are pushed inside just as unceremoniously as they had entered his mouth, and both of Aloys’s own hands fly up to try to stifle the noise that he lets out.

“Tight.” In God’s name, why must Jurian keep talking to him? “Hot and tight, priest. You will make a fine tribute, indeed.”

Why would Aloys be any other way, when no man of the cloth would ever do such a thing, surely no decent man would –

“You are mine,” Jurian continues relentlessly, as if he can read Aloys’s mind. “This land is mine, this church is mine.” His fingers twist, and Aloys can’t hold back the noise that action wrings out of him. “This hole is mine.”

The motion of his fingers gets worse, and Aloys has the sickening feeling that Jurian is trying to repeat the reaction that he’d just gotten out of Aloys a few seconds earlier. It’s hard, so hard, but Aloys tries to hold back with every ounce of strength left to him, biting down on his lip until the pain almost becomes a merciful distraction from what Jurian is doing.

“Remember what I said earlier, priest,” Jurian’s voice is almost coaxing. “I could make this good for you, too, until you cry out with pleasure beneath me. You need only accept and obey.”

No!” Aloys can’t keep himself from responding. “I will never – never do such a thing, you foul-“

Jurian’s laughter, every bit as entertained as when Aloys had bitten him, cuts him off. “Really? You grow excited for me already, priest.”

“I do not!” How dare this man say such things?

“See how your cock has grown stiff, from only my touch on your body and two fingers inside of you.”

More disgusting lies, but before Aloys can deny them, those damned fingers slip out of his entrance only to move down under him, to where Aloys’s length has been pinned between his own body and the seat of the pew. The touch is brief, but it makes a strange, warm ache spike in Aloys’s belly. His breath leaves him in a gasp. Very distantly, he thinks that he can hear Jurian laugh again.

No. It cannot be. What he’s feeling is nothing more than stimulation, and pain from how ruthlessly Jurian’s violated him.

As Aloys is preoccupied with trying to recover his senses, Jurian finally takes his hands off of him, only to begin pulling at his own belt. In only a moment he’s lewdly exposed, not caring that he stands in the middle of a house of God.

He is still less naked than you. The thought enters Aloys’s mind out of nowhere, makes his stomach curdle with a mixture of shame and the odd sensation that’s still festering low within him.

Jurian drops himself heavily onto the pew besides Aloys, so that Aloys has to pull back his legs quickly or be sat on. Uncaring, Jurian looks to Aloys. He beckons. “Come, priest.”

Aloys has only enough time to begin to shake his head before he’s grabbed yet again, dragged on his stomach until he’s flush against Jurian, Jurian has one foot on the ground and his other leg folded beneath him on the pew, and Aloys can feel his length hot against him.

“Will you beg for mercy now, priest?” Jurian is crouched over Aloys so that the sense of him is inescapable, his leather chest guard sticking to the sweat of Aloys’s bare back. His mouth is very near to Aloys’s ear, so much that Aloys thinks he can feel it when the other man’s lips curl into a smile. “Or will you beg for me to fill you?”

Before Aloys can even fully process such obscene words, let alone respond, Jurian enters him in one merciless thrust. Aloys screams.

Having fingers inside of him had seemed to be almost too much to bear, only a few moments earlier, but it had been nothing compared to this. This is domination, possession. Aloys can’t think, can’t breathe.

“That’s good.” How can Aloys still hear those words over the rest of the noises that roar in his ears now, from the scrape of the pew on the stone floor to Jurian’s ragged breath? “You take me well, priest. Do you feel how deep I am within you?”

He yanks Aloys up by the hips, the angle sending him even deeper. Aloys’s eyes water. His fingers scrabble blindly at the pew seat, searching for a purchase that isn’t there.

“And look,” Jurian is unrelenting. “Your body knows how to find its pleasure.” His hand is on Aloys again, stroking. When Aloys moves his hips, it’s to jerk away from the touch, not back against Jurian, but Jurian makes a pleased sound low in his throat, and squeezes him even tighter. All the while, the ache inside of Aloys grows like a fire.

After an undeterminable length of time Jurian stops, only to sit back on the pew with Aloys on top of him, speared.

Yet another cry escapes from Aloys’s lips, and by now he can’t even try to hide it, not when his arms feel so weak that he can’t even lift them, can’t do anything but grab helplessly at the thick legs that are spreading his own.

Jurian bounces him, makes him shout again. “Sing out. Let your god hear how you give yourself to me.”

“N-no…” The alter is square in front of Aloys like this, blurred by tears and the unholy heat that has overtaken his body bit by bit. He can just make out Jurian’s men – he’d forgotten about them, but now he’s painfully aware that they’ve been there, watching everything – standing not far away.

He can’t help but look away, only to have his shame deepen immeasurably when his gaze drops. His prick is red and stiff, bobbing against his stomach with each jolt of Jurian’s hips.

It cannot be. But the truth is there, as solid and real as the cross that hangs on the church wall. Aloys’s body has given into sinful urges, under the touch of this depraved heathen.

His shoulders sag, despair robbing him of his last reserves of strength. As if Jurian senses this – because of course he can – he begins to touch Aloys once again, fingers playing from the tip of him all the way down to where their bodies are joined.

Aloys moans, helpless. “There,” comes the low rumble at his ear, the voice of the snake in the garden.

“You are the devil,” Aloys gasps out.

Jurian nips at the lobe of his ear. “Then deny me, if you can.”

Aloys would, he wants to, but he can’t think of the words to a single prayer, not now. The rocking of Jurian’s hips has slowed, and now the man runs his other hand up Aloys’s heaving chest, the leather of his gloves sinfully smooth and warm when he brushes against one of Aloys’s nipples.

“What is your name?” Jurian asks.

Aloys sobs. “A – Aloys.”

The hand on his chest finds his other nipple, pinches. “Come, Aloys. Take the pleasure that your lord gives you.”

You are no lord of mine, Aloys might have said, once. Now, all he can do is whine, high and broken. It barely takes one more stroke of Jurian’s hand for him to finish, the heat inside of him flooding his body like a poison that stops his breath, seizes his muscles, and makes him spill himself over Jurian’s gloved fist in one burst after another.

He does not know how long he’s left senseless. Time means nothing, who he is or where he is means nothing, until Jurian starts to move his hips, thrusting into Aloys slower than before, but just as deep. It’s enough to shock Aloys back to reality, to Jurian at his back and to his own seed growing cold and clammy on his skin.

He groans. Jurian answers with a groan of his own, and then the grip on Aloys's hips tightens, until Jurian stiffens and finally grows still.

He has spent himself inside of me, Aloys thinks, too weary to apply any particular emotion to the thought.

Just as I spent into his hand, as he abused me so obscenely.

Helpless shame rolls over Aloys in a wave, so that he does nothing when he’s lifted and set down on the pew. Jurian gets to his feet and tidies himself leisurely, brazen as ever. He wanders out of Aloys’s line of sight, unobscuring his view of the alter.

May God save me, Aloys thinks. May God forgive me.

He hears the rumble of Jurian’s voice from far away. He can’t bring himself to try and focus on what’s being said, but he can’t ignore the rough laughter that floats back in response. He squeezes his eyes shut again.

Heavy footsteps, sickeningly familiar. Aloys tries to block them out, to focus on the sound of his own shallow breathing.

“Priest,” Jurian says. “Aloys.”

When a hand comes down on his head, Aloys can’t stop himself from flinching. But instead of a slap, or fingers tugging at his hair, the hand just rests there, tender and possessive as when Jurian had lead him into sin minutes before.

“An adequate offering.” Aloys despises how easily he can picture the smug look that’s surely on Jurian’s face. “I will accept it, this time.”

Hot breath on Aloys’s cheek. “Be ready for the next time.”

Aloys does not move as Jurian steps away, as he hears the sounds first of the men walking out of the church, and then, a while later, of horses riding out of the yard. Silence falls once again, interrupted by nothing more than the occasional faint sound of a bird.

Later yet, Aloys finally sits up. The ache between his legs becomes more apparent immediately, and makes his breath rush out in a hiss of pain, but he finds that it is not too much to bear. The rest of his body feels stiff and achy too, but that part is not so bad either, really. No more uncomfortable than too long a time spent kneeling on a stone floor, he tries to tell himself, only to immediately feel a sting of self-reproach at even thinking to compare prayer to that.

He makes himself get to his feet. There will be time for contrition later, but right now his clothing is strewn ruined between the pews, and the church is a mess. Aloys himself is filthy, covered with the stink of Jurian’s body and other, still fouler, substances. There is much work to be done before the other priests return.