Leaf woke up on his belly. Disoriented and sore, dirt pressed into his face and threatened to invade his nostrils and mouth. He tried to bring his hand up to rub his eyes, but something tight around his wrists stopped him short. He frowned in dazed bewilderment. What on earth..?
His confusion turned to horror as he realised his arms were bound to metal stakes hammered into the ground. Heart racing, he yanked at them, but the ropes were tied tight. Thankfully, his legs were free. He struggled awkwardly to his knees only to realise his trousers were missing.
Still groggy, he looked around as best he could from what he realised was the forest floor. He could hear no sounds, nor catch glimpses of any light, from the Elbiyan military camp he’d fallen asleep in. They must have taken him far enough away from it so he couldn’t call for help. He just hoped they’d had the sense not to stray too close to the enemy Murkuri territory.
“Hello?” he called, his voice shaky. “Is anybody there?”
His dark hair fell across his face and began to tickle his chin. Much as he tried, he couldn’t flick it away without the use of his hands. He sighed. He knew what this was about. After all the mean-spirited practical jokes the other soldiers had played on him, he supposed this was the next logical step. They must have drugged his drink at dinner. The thought struck him that it could have been worse; if nothing else, sooner or later they would have to let him go — or, failing that, he would be found by a morning patrol. A cold night in the forest would be unpleasant, but at least he would be left alone and in peace, at last.
Then voices murmured behind him and he groaned. Though he couldn’t catch a glimpse of them from his limited angle, he knew it must be his tormentors. Footsteps approached. Leaf readied himself for the suffering that was sure to come, wishing they could all just fuck off for once and not subject him to some cretinous idea of a prank. He couldn’t imagine the things they did to him being funny even if he wasn’t on the receiving end. Frustration settled in his chest as he tried to console himself that they were ultimately just pranks, though some were particularly unkind.
But then his blood froze as he heard a sentence he hadn’t realised he’d been dreading.
“Try not to kill him, but if you do, it’s no problem,” a familiar Elbiyan voice said. “Our deal will still stand.”
Panic hit him in the chest. He began to struggle against his bonds once more, the gravity of his situation sinking in. But the stakes were embedded too deeply into the ground. No matter how hard he twisted and pulled, the knots didn’t slip.
He was so caught up in his pitiful escape attempt that he didn’t notice someone drawing closer until they were standing right behind him. The hairs on the back of his neck rose.
“Please, whatever you’re about to do, please, please, don’t hurt me,” he begged.
Whoever it was gave no reply. Instead, Leaf felt them drop to their knees behind him. Without thinking, Leaf kicked out, catching them in the stomach. The other man gave a soft grunt and caught hold of Leaf’s ankle, pushing it aside. Leaf tried to kick again. This time the man held tight to his calf, robbing him of the force necessary to do any damage.
“Please stop,” Leaf tried again. “Please, just let me go. I won’t tell anyone, I swear, I swear…”
“Quiet,” the man grunted.
Even in just that one word, there was the hint of an accent, the vowels cut short, the consonants harsher than they ought to be. Cold chills swept through him as he realised his tormentors had somehow convinced a Murkuri to do their bidding. Still groggy from the drugged wine, Leaf didn’t imagine what was about to happen, but he knew it couldn’t be good. Then a rough hand gripped his tunic and lifted it up his back to expose his naked lower half, and horrific realisation dawned. He began to struggle with renewed desperation.
“Help!” he screamed. “Somebody, help me!”
“Quiet!” The man tugged at his ankle and leaned forward. “They want to see you suffer. Don’t give them the satisfaction.”
Leaf barely understood what the man was saying. A moment later, he felt something thick and fleshy press up against his bare arse. He jumped and tried to squirm away, but his attacker had every advantage. Pinning Leaf down to the ground, he placed one hand on the boy’s hip and rubbed his palm in a circle over Leaf’s back and side. If Leaf has been less terrified, he might have recognized it as a gesture of comfort, but his mind was rapidly losing its sense of reason.
“I am Artux,” the Murkuri began in an undertone. “I am not—”
But Leaf was too focused on his own misery to register the foreign combination of sounds as a name.
“Why are they doing this?” he sobbed, interrupting. “Why are you doing this?”
“I have my reasons,” came the curt reply. “I can’t speak for them.”
Leaf shook as the man positioned himself. He expected his arse to be invaded in short order, with all the blood and pain that entailed, but instead he found Artux’s cock rubbed in firm circles against his hole without breaching him. His muscles fluttered instinctively.
“Just cut me loose,” Leaf whispered. “I’ll run, you run, they won’t catch us in the dark.”
Artux gave no answer. Leaf pressed his forehead into the ground and tried to will himself away as the man put his finger against the tight ring between the boy’s legs. Again though, rather than forcing his way in, the man simply pressed and circled Leaf’s hole.
“What are you doing?” Leaf hissed. “Just get it over with, or kill me. I can’t take this. I can’t.”
Still Artux said nothing. Leaf found the man’s silence unnerving, but he wasn’t sure if speech would soothe him at this point either.
“I need oil or something,” Artux said to the forest at large. “He’s too tight. I can’t fit inside him like this.”
Rustling in the bushes somewhere behind him made Leaf jump, but only his attacker was near. He waited in breathless silence for what felt like hours. All the while, the man massaged his arse cheeks and pressed lightly against his hole. Leaf found his muscles beginning to loosen against his will. He tried to clench himself harder to compensate.
“Don’t do that, you idiot,” Artux hissed at him. “Do you want to bleed? Just try to relax, it will be over soon.”
Violent shudders ran through Leaf’s body at those words. There was some sense to it, but he hated the thought of making his rapist’s job easier. At least Artux was being gentle. With a bit of luck, Leaf would still be able to walk when it was over.
Clenching his teeth, the young soldier forced his muscles to relax again as his attacker continued playing with his hole. A soft sob escaped him as the exploratory finger pushed in a little, burning in its wake. Artux didn’t press any further though, instead just holding his finger in place, his other hand rubbing and kneading at the tense muscles around it.
Footsteps approached and Leaf heard something small and hard drop to the ground beside him.
“Better than either of you deserve,” muttered a reedy voice.
Leaf knew exactly who it was. Braden. The bigger boy had made his life hell since they were drafted, along with his slimy friends.
But there was no time to dwell on it. Artux made a sudden move, a soft growl in his throat, and Leaf heard Braden trip and stumble in his haste to get away. That brought a faint smile to Leaf’s lips. At least he wasn’t the only one terrified tonight.
“This will make it easier,” the man told him as quiet fell around them once more. “But you still need to relax, yes?”
Leaf nodded, resting his cheek against the ground and chancing a glance at his rapist. He gulped as the man came into view. There was no doubt. He was not just a Murkuri but a warrior, and a massive one at that. Fair hair tied back in a topknot and a thick, braided beard glinted in the moonlight. Even in the night’s gloom, Leaf could make out his huge shoulders and sturdy midsection. More horrifying though, the Murkuri’s cock was in proportion with the rest of him, and even half-hard it looked bigger than anything Leaf wanted inside himself. He screwed his eyes shut and tears rolled down his cheeks as Artux removed his finger.
When the finger returned, it was slick with oil and slid inside him with ease. Leaf gasped and stifled a cry at the intrusion. It took all his effort not to tense against his attacker, his body shaking in horror. Being fingered against his will was the most disturbing thing he’d ever felt. It was as though each knuckle was amplified to an excruciating degree as it slipped back and forth through his ring. He finally fell silent as he adjusted to it, though he could still feel tears crawling down his face.
“Get on with it,” Braden hissed from the bushes. “He’s not even screaming yet, this is boring.”
“You said if I fuck him, you get Ariete free,” Artux retorted. “I am fucking him. So shut up.”
“I thought Murkuri were supposed to be fierce and bloodthirsty,” came another voice - Willes. Several murmurs too soft to understand answered him. It seemed the whole vile gang was watching him get raped. Leaf’s cheeks burned with shame even though he knew none of it was his fault.
Leaf heard his attacker sigh, then the man twisted his finger inside him. A jolt of electricity ran up his spine and a startled cry escaped him. Of all the things he’d expected, pleasure whilst being violated was not one of them. Artux pressed again inside him and Leaf couldn’t help but moan. He bit his lip to try and hold it in. Lewd murmurs from the bushes made his cheeks burn harder, the heat spreading down his back and neck and curling unpleasantly in his stomach. Fuck this, fuck them. When he made it back to camp, there was no way he wouldn’t report this to their superiors. Maybe they would actually listen this time.
“You’re tensing up again.”
The warrior’s voice cut through his inner tirade. Leaf realised Artux was right. With a deep breath, he forced himself to relax. He could block out the stupid, cruel giggles and comments, he decided, to try to just enjoy the pleasurable aspects, and endure any pain that came along with it with some of his dignity intact. More pressure inside him from Artux’s finger helped.
Artux was being far kinder than Leaf had expected a rapist to be. Leaf convinced himself they could work together, as long as the Murkuri stayed gentle. Perhaps Artux wanted that too, he told himself, or why not just fuck his victim senseless without ceremony? Surely the care and time he spent fingering Leaf and ensuring he was relaxed meant the boy could find a way to emerge unscathed. Leaf grit his teeth, talking himself around and trying to find his feet in the assault.
After the initial shock of penetration, Artux’s finger didn’t even hurt, Leaf realised, though the back and forth felt strange. He wondered how long the Murkuri would spend preparing him. No sense dragging it out, his shaky thoughts reasoned. Especially since it seemed his rapist was reluctant to hurt him — though probably not as reluctant as Leaf was to be hurt. With tentative movements, Leaf spread his legs a little to allow easier access.
Artux took the invitation and added another finger, oil running between Leaf’s cheeks and easing the man’s passage. Leaf uttered a short cry as his hole stretched, a knife of regret at his decision to play along cutting through him. He gripped the ropes binding him with both hands and screwed his eyes shut. But the discomfort passed quickly. Before long, the Murkuri was rubbing the sweet spot inside him at a steady pace. Leaf found himself moaning and gasping at the sensation.
“Nearly there,” the Murkuri muttered. “You’re doing well.”
Leaf didn’t know why the curt encouragement hit him so hard, but at those words he felt sobs rising in his chest and spilling from his mouth without restraint. So much for his dignity. Raw emotion mingled with more pleasure than he’d imagined he could feel. Intense, sharp sensation ebbed and flowed within him and brought more tears to his eyes. His toes curled as the Murkuri picked up his pace, waves of carnal bliss rolling through him from the base of his spine and deep inside him. He tried to hone in on the pleasure. With some effort, the physical sensations managed to override his emotional turmoil, his sobs turning to breathy moans.
When the man slowed and withdrew, he took a shuddering gasp and blinked back more tears. For several agonising moments, Leaf thought it might be over. He couldn’t hear the Murkuri making any sounds behind him.
Then he felt the man lean forward, his bulk covering Leaf’s slender body with ease, and the boy tensed. Artux was huge . The sheer size of him drew a sharp, primal fear into Leaf’s chest and he found himself cringing.
“Please, please…” he begged, even as he felt the man’s oiled erection slide between his cheeks.
“Quiet,” the man ordered. “Spread your legs. Wide as you can.”
Leaf squirmed beneath the bigger man’s bulk, panic coursing through his veins. For a few moments he didn’t even register what Artux said. Then understanding dawned. He tried his best to obey, though it still didn’t feel like enough to fit the massive Murkuri between his thighs. Somehow Artux managed to settle comfortably in the narrow gap. He brought one arm up to rest beside Leaf’s face for support and his bicep alone looked as big as Leaf’s head. The boy whimpered and tried again to pull free of his restraints, terror addling his thoughts and making him heedless of how the ropes tore at his skin.
Then the Murkuri moved his face close to Leaf’s, and the boy froze. The man muttered something in his own tongue. His tone was soothing and sweet. As he did so, he moved the head of his cock to Leaf’s hole and pressed inside. Leaf cried out and almost clenched, but Artux’s voice drew him in, calming him enough that the invading erection barely hurt.
As Artux’s cock pushed past Leaf’s slight resistance, he moved one hand up to grip the boy’s hip, steadying his unwilling lover. With the other arm he moved closer, wrapping Leaf in an embrace, his lips still lingering by Leaf’s ear and murmuring those soothing foreign words in that gentle, lilting accent. Leaf sobbed and closed his eyes as the man began to fuck him. The feeling of being stretched too far consumed him.
“How is it?” Artux asked. Leaf opened his eyes, confused, and the Murkuri clarified. “Does it hurt a lot? I can go slower, if you need.”
“N-no, it’s… it’s fine.” Leaf swallowed a hard lump in his throat. “It just feels strange, that’s all. I-I’ve never…”
He trailed off, shame and fear constricting his throat. Somewhere deep in his mind, though, a part of him was touched his rapist had bothered to ask.
“I understand.” Artux sounded terse. “If I go faster, I will cum faster too. But you must stay relaxed. Yes?”
Leaf took a steadying breath and nodded. His dark brown eyes flickered up to his attacker’s face. Harsh cheekbones and a long, straight nose was all the glimpse he got before his courage failed. He tried to press his head into the ground again, but found the Murkuri’s forearm there instead. Before he could pull back, Artux gripped him a little tighter, encouraging him to seek comfort in the embrace. Leaf went slack against the other man’s arm without thinking.
The Murkuri began to thrust harder. At first the feeling was too strange, but then the head of his attacker’s cock brushed that same spot inside of Leaf that brought him so much pleasure before and he moaned.
“Good?” the Murkuri asked in between thrusts.
Leaf nodded, more moans and soft sighs tumbling from his lips. With the bigger man’s cock making him feel so good, it was easy to forget that a group of bullies watched and ogled him getting fucked against his will.
With a jolt, Leaf realised he felt strangely safe in the bigger man’s arms, even as his size and the things he was doing sent ripples of fear through the boy’s body. Certainly far safer than he’d felt since being drafted. It was insane. Leaf knew that. But if nothing else, Artux was gentle. He was working with Leaf and making sure he was as fine as a person could be in such a situation. And all that despite the fact that they were supposed to be enemies. It was more kindness than Leaf had been shown in years, even before the army. He pressed his forehead into Artux’s arm. Warmth swept through him when the man laid a brief kiss on his cheek. The strangely happy sensation settled in his crotch and added fuel to the pleasure radiating from his arse.
The Murkuri’s cock pumped into him at a steadily increasing pace, and Leaf abandoned all attempts to control the noises he made. He was startled to find his own cock hardening as he got fucked. Every thrust ground his erection into the earth, and, despite the rough surface, he felt an orgasm build in his balls. His moans grew more wanton as the pressure rose. Every inch of him felt as though it was being burned with exquisite fire, and he couldn’t hold out very long.
He came with a long, low cry, his toes curling and his back arching up into his attacker’s thrusts, seeking out more of the incredible pleasure. Nights alone with his hand had never felt anywhere near this good. Hot, sticky mess mingled with dirt and began to spread up his stomach, and he went limp in his restraints as the Murkuri pounded into him. After cumming so hard, the feeling of being filled was almost too much. He grunted at each impact and his breath came in shorter, sharper bursts.
Just when he thought he couldn’t take any more, the Murkuri pulled out and gave a low groan. Leaf felt Artux’s cum spray across his arse and lower back. Breathing hard through his nose, the warrior gave him a rough kiss on the shoulder. Leaf trembled in the dirt. Disbelief at what had just happened mingled with the aftershocks of pleasure washing over him, bringing fresh tears to his eyes and making his breath catch in his chest.
Artux tucked himself away and pulled Leaf’s tunic down to cover him before climbing out from between his legs. The bigger man rested one hand on the boy’s back, massaging gently.
“You bring me Ariete now,” Artux told the bullies.
There was a momentary silence, then Braden’s petulant voice rang out.
“That wasn’t what we agreed,” he whined. “He didn’t bleed, he barely screamed — it seemed like he was enjoying it!”
“You said fuck him, I fucked him,” Artux calmly retorted. “Now bring me Ariete, or I will rip your balls off and shove them down your throat.”
“Fine.” Braden didn’t sound happy about it. “Wait for us by the river, we should be able to get him out in a few days.”
Artux rose suddenly to his feet. Braden gave a startled squeak and Leaf heard him stumble back. Leaf paled at the tangible aggression rolling off his rapist. He was still bound face-down in the dirt. If things got violent, he would be helpless.
“I said now!” the Murkuri roared.
“Okay, okay,” Willes tried. “Just give us Leaf back, and we’ll go get him for you.”
“Willes! What - no, just leave him,” Braden muttered, but fear made his voice louder than he perhaps anticipated. Leaf sobbed and pulled on his restraints.
“Don’t leave me, please,” he begged. “Take me home.”
“You will not get him back until you bring me Ariete.”
Artux’s tone was final. The burly Murkuri put himself between the bound, crying boy and his bullies, and Leaf realised with dread that he was not going back to camp any time soon.
“The commander will notice if he’s not at muster,” Willes said. “He’ll guess we’ve done something to him, he knows you ripped up his shirt the other day.”
“Fuck.” Braden was never good under pressure, and it came out in full force now. “Listen here, Murkuri. We had a deal. You’re not honoring the spirit of—“
But before he could finish, Artux lashed out and caught him on the jaw with his fist. Leaf heard Braden drop. The bully groaned in pain, then scrambled unsteadily to his feet.
“Bring me Ariete, or I keep this one, and tell anyone who’ll listen how I got my hands on him. I’m sure he can tell me your names. Let’s see what your commander thinks of that .”
Leaf trembled and tried to curl himself into a ball, only succeeding in bringing his knees up to his chest. His arms and shoulders ached. Under the ropes, he could feel the skin was red raw, the circulation to his hands sluggish. But he didn’t dare bring it up. He doubted anyone else present would care.
After what felt like an eternity of hostile silence, Leaf heard his bullies shuffle off into the bushes, whispering frantically amongst themselves. That left him alone with Artux. He took a frightened breath and tried to look up at his attacker over his shoulder, wondering if he dared ask to be untied or if the Murkuri would rape him again if he spoke.
But Artux seemed to read his mind. Once Leaf’s tormentors had gone, the bigger man knelt by the boy’s head and began loosening the knots. Blood rushed to Leaf’s hands with such a burn that he gasped. He tried to get up, but after so long in one position his arms were stiff and useless. Artux reached out and lifted Leaf’s tunic to look at the mess they’d made, then let it fall with a sigh.
“You were very brave,” he said. “I was impressed.”
Leaf chanced a look up at the other man and found himself being carefully examined in the darkness. The scrutiny made him tremble. The insane thought that Murkuri could see in the dark like wolves popped into his head, then he dismissed it before it could get any more ridiculous.
“Thank you,” he managed to answer. “A-and thank you for being so gentle. I know you didn’t have to be.”
Artux gave no reply. Instead he searched around in the gloom until he found some wide, flat leaves, then gripped Leaf by the wrist. Leaf jumped and tried to pull away.
“Please, please, no, I’m sorry,” he gasped, his thoughts as jumbled and incoherent as his words.
“Quiet.” Artux dragged him closer. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”
Leaf tried to comply as Artux pushed and pulled him around, using the foliage to scrape as much cum as he could off the boy’s slender body. At each contact, Leaf jumped, and it took all of his willpower not to dissolve into a wretched, crying ball on the forest floor.
Finally the Murkuri seemed satisfied. He scrunched up the leaves and tossed them away, letting Leaf’s tunic fall to cover him. The boy gave a shaky breath. He still couldn’t bring himself to look at his attacker. The darkness around them lent an even more sinister tone to the man’s massive silhouette.
“Do…” Leaf’s voice cracked and gave out, so he tried again. “Do you know where they put m-my trousers?”
He made it to the end of the sentence, but he was so quiet he wasn’t sure if Artux heard him. Fat tears rolled down his cheeks as he waited for an answer, and harsh shudders ran through him against his will. He tried to suppress them but they only rolled over him with greater force.
He was so focused on his body’s involuntary responses that he shrieked and jumped when he felt Artux’s hands on him. Before his scream could reach its peak, Artux clamped one palm over his mouth and dragged him in.
“Be quiet,” Artux murmured. “I don’t know where your trousers are. But either way, you should be held after what you just went through. And I guess there is no one at your camp who will comfort you, is there? No. So I will do it.”
Leaf brought his stiff, sore hands up to try and fight the Murkuri off. But as the man’s strong arms encircled him, he felt that same rush of warmth and safety as he had while Artux fucked him. He stopped trying to fight and leaned into the embrace, sobbing softly against the bigger man’s palm. Artux relaxed his grasp, then removed it from Leaf’s face, holding him close. Burrowing into the man’s thick neck, the boy found himself oddly comforted by the Murkuri’s strong musk.
“Please don’t keep me,” Leaf found himself saying, though privately he was no longer sure he would hate it if Artux did keep him. “I’m supposed to be a soldier. I don’t want to be a slave.”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” he replied. “Do you think those little shits will bring me my brother?”
Leaf shrugged and wrapped his arms around Artux, tired and confused. The Murkuri’s body was so warm, his embrace so tender, it was difficult not to simply relax into him and fall asleep. With the main ordeal over, Leaf could barely keep his exhaustion at bay.
“Maybe?” he said. “They’re afraid of you, so they might come through. And afraid of not bringing me back. But they might lie and say you’ve taken me, then come back with more soldiers.”
“Hmm. Good point.”
Artux rose, bringing Leaf with him, and led him a little away from the clearing to a giant tree. The deep shadows of the branches concealed them completely, the clearing still in sight. Artux leaned back against the tree’s trunk. From there, they would be able to see who approached from the direction of the Elbiyan camp without being seen themselves. Leaf stood for a moment beside him, unsure but craving more of the Murkuri’s touch. He took a tentative step towards the bigger man. Artux welcomed the frightened boy into his arms, and Leaf melted into the embrace, letting an exhausted sigh run through him.
“How long have they been harassing you?” the Murkuri asked at length.
“Since we were drafted,” Leaf told him. “About a month ago. My mother wasn’t wed when I was born. Willes is from my town, so they know about it, and so do the officers. It was bad back home too. It’s not usually like this, though. Just… stupid stuff. Cutting holes in my clothes. Hiding my equipment. I never thought they’d…”
He fell silent and Artux held him tighter. Leaf savoured the contact, knowing that any such tenderness would be out of the question once he returned to camp. He hadn’t realised quite how touch-starved he was until now. Fear still stung his heart, but if he ignored that and just focused on Artux’s arms, the bigger man’s bulk felt like a shield against the unending misery of the previous month.
Just stupid stuff.
That’s what he’d called it. But on further reflection, the bullies had been cruel from the start. They’d stolen his clothes at the river and forced him to walk naked through the camp, beat him with wet towels until he couldn’t feel his face, and even smeared the contents of the latrine inside his mattress so that he woke cold and covered in filth one morning. His bed still reeked of shit a week later.
But the thought of revealing any of that to the huge Murkuri filled him with more shame than the rape had done. Would someone like Artux have any concept of such humiliation and persecution? He suspected not. The first person to raise a hand to the giant warrior would likely find it broken off, then shoved into every orifice and set on fire.
“If they continue like this, they will kill you,” the Murkuri said, breaking the silence. “It is no small thing to have you raped by an enemy warrior. Where do you think they can go from here?”
Leaf pressed his face into Artux’s chest, drawing in the other man’s intoxicating scent, and tried to keep his breathing steady. Artux was right but Leaf didn’t want to think about it. There was nothing he could do to stop them. He just prayed it would be quick and painless if it did go too far.
“How did they get you to fuck me, anyway?” Leaf turned his head so that his cheek rested against Artux’s collarbone. “I mean, I get that they have your brother somehow, but…”
“Ariete was taken in a skirmish last week,” Artux told him. “I came to the camp a few days ago to negotiate his release. Your commander denied me and wanted to keep him as a hostage, but those boys approached me as I left and said they could help. They met me by the river yesterday morning and pointed you out. Asked if I would fuck you. I don’t like being strong-armed into things, but I agreed, to free Ariete. I didn’t know they meant rape until I saw you tied down tonight.”
“And if you had known? Would you still have agreed?”
Artux rubbed his thumb against Leaf’s shoulder, sending warm shudders through the half-naked boy.
“Probably.” Artux’s tone was neutral. “You’re pretty, and I like fucking men like you. But I would have brought my own oil. I should have anyway, I was just impatient to get it over with and my things are back at camp.”
Leaf fell silent, returning his attention to the musky heat of the man holding him. For several minutes, Leaf just focused on enjoying the embrace. But then his mind started up again. What would happen if the bullies didn’t return? Artux had said he would not let Leaf go until Ariete was released, and the Elbiyan believed he meant it. Nor would he have any chance of resisting if Artux tried to take him somewhere against his will.
The boy decided on the spot that he wouldn’t fight. As kind as he’d been, Leaf could tell that the muscles rippling beneath Artux’s clothes were not just for show. He could do some serious damage if he chose to.
But more than that, after how the Murkuri had behaved, a part of Leaf wondered what it would be like to go away with him. Somehow he didn’t think the burly warrior would be cruel. Nor could he imagine Artux letting other Murkuri treat him badly, even if he was a slave. Perhaps not even if he was a body slave... he squashed that thought immediately. To even think such a thing was treasonous.
But it seemed the Murkuri was thinking along the same lines. His grip around Leaf’s shoulders tightened as he spoke next.
“If I must take you, would you enjoy my cock?” the warrior asked. “I would be gentle. Even more so than tonight. It seemed you got some pleasure from it, and I like the way you ride.”
Leaf blushed and considered the question in silence. After the fear and humiliation had eased, he couldn’t deny he enjoyed the feeling of being touched inside. Under different circumstances he could see himself seeking it out. But that wasn’t really the question. Ultimately Artux would decide whether or not to fuck him, if it came to that. All Leaf could do was choose if he would fight it or not.
The boy took a deep breath, trying to keep himself calm, and let his hand drop to Artux’s crotch, where he rubbed on the man’s trousers. He had no idea if he was hitting the right spot but he was at least confident the warrior would understand his meaning. Artux let him fumble for a few moments then took him gently by the chin and tilted his head back to look up at him. In the dark, Leaf couldn’t see much, but he felt warm, sweet breath on his face and sensed the man moving closer. His pulse fluttered. He couldn’t believe what he was doing even as he rested his hands against Artux’s chest.
The Murkuri’s lips met his own with gentle, confident pressure. Leaf whimpered in delight. The other man’s mouth was soft and inviting, his braided beard tickling Leaf’s face. Leaf submitted eagerly as the warrior kissed him and opened his mouth to press his tongue clumsily against Artux’s. Artux held the back of his head and ran his other hand up and down the boy’s back, cupping his arse before pulling him in closer and moving his lips down to Leaf’s neck. Leaf sighed and melted into the attention.
The prospect of returning to the cold, lonely camp and subjecting himself to further cruelty from Braden and his friends seemed more idiotic by the second. Leaf took a shaky breath, about to ask a treasonous question.
But before he could speak, he was interrupted by the return of his bullies. A tall, broad man in Murkuri armour was with them. They had brought Ariete. Leaf swallowed the question down with bitter resignation as Willes ran into the clearing, panic etched in every line of his face, calling out and looking around wildly for them. Artux made a regretful noise as he pressed one final kiss into Leaf’s lips before pulling away. He gave a disdainful snort when he saw Willes’ worried expression and pushed off the tree.
Leaf wiped his mouth on his sleeve, his heart beating double time, and followed Artux back into the clearing. On the horizon, dawn was breaking, and he got his first good look at the man who’d fucked him. He trembled. Artux was surprisingly handsome. A tug of longing rose in his chest as he watched the Murkuri move.
“Ariete!” Artux strode over to his brother and embraced him, slapping him on the shoulder. “They treated you well?”
“As well as they know how,” Ariete scoffed.
There was a thread of family resemblance between the two, one highlighted by the identical looks of disgust the brothers threw at Braden and his friends.
Leaf recognised every one of the bullies, five in total, but he only knew Braden and Willes by name. Willes turned to him, relieved, and jerked his head for Leaf to follow them back to camp. Leaf tried to fight the overwhelming sadness in him as he obeyed. He couldn’t help the glance he shot at Artux, the man’s scent still lingering on his tunic. The Murkuri’s face was unreadable as he met Leaf’s eye. He leaned in and muttered something to Ariete as Leaf turned away.
Tears gathered in the boy’s eyes as he fell in step with Willes. Around him, the bullies were already starting to gloat over what they’d done to him in low tones. Leaf knew it would be all over camp by lunchtime — though no doubt with the bullies’ involvement carefully scrubbed from the tale. Worse, the fact that he’d been raped meant it was more likely the rougher, older warriors would take an interest in him. He’d already noticed their eyes on him. It would be impossible to keep them at bay now. His shoulders shook as he walked, knowing it was unlikely any future rapes would be as gentle as what Artux had done to him.
Leaf obeyed instantly. The other boys did as well, though they turned and shuffled nervously while Leaf stood still where he’d halted. Artux strode over, Ariete by his side, and the brothers crowded the youths with their bulk. Leaf stayed frozen to the spot. Neither the bullies nor the warriors paid him any attention. He briefly considered running, but then he decided he’d likely prefer whatever Artux had in mind to going it alone in the wilderness. Besides which, he was beyond tired. Running might save him, but equally it might result in him dropping after a few paces. He just hoped the Murkuri would not turn savage now that he had his brother back.
“What are you doing?” Braden’s voice shook even as he tried to sound indignant. “We’re done here, take your brother and go.”
“I will.” Artux took a menacing step and Braden almost tripped on his own feet. “But that’s not all I’m taking. You can have your companion back when I get a signed, sealed letter from your commander detailing your punishment for what you’ve done to him.”
Braden scoffed, though he was pale, and made to grab Leaf. The boy jumped and stumbled away from him, tripping over a sharp stone and falling to the ground. Ariete elbowed Braden in the face mid-lunge. Blood spurted from the bully’s nose, and his companions startled into action. Willes looked like he might make a try for Leaf as well, but Artux drew his sword and leveled it between them. Willes blanched.
Leaf felt panic rising in him as the youths all grabbed at each other and turned tail. He barely had time to blink before they’d vanished into the bushes.
Alone. They had left him alone with the two Murkuri, and they were not coming back. Though a part of him had wanted that outcome, another part of him dreaded it. There was nothing stopping the brothers from doing whatever they pleased to him now. Leaf tugged his tunic down to cover more of himself and stared at his knees, tears rolling down his cheeks. He stifled a frightened gasp when Artux dropped into a crouch beside him.
“Relax.” The warrior reached out to rub his thumb gently over Leaf’s cheek, catching his tears. “We won’t hurt you. But those boys need to be taught a lesson.”
Leaf trembled uncontrollably, his eyes fixed on the ground.
“But what if they don’t say anything to the commander?” he whispered. “What if they decide it’s easier just to leave me with you?”
“We will send him a letter of our own in a few days if we hear nothing,” Ariete told him. “And in the meantime, you will be our guest. My brother has taken quite a liking to you. Consider it an honour — he usually doesn’t care for most people.”
Leaf let out a shaky laugh, a small smile shining through his tears, and glanced up at the brothers. Both smiled back at him.
Leaf looked in the direction his bullies had gone. If everything worked out, they might actually leave him alone once he was released. Ariete offered him his hand to get up, then Leaf let the brothers lead him away into the forest. Artux put an arm around him and included him in light conversation as they walked. He asked about his family and what sort of food he liked. Leaf leaned his head on the warrior’s shoulder and answered every question with growing confidence, feeling comfortable enough to fall silent and just listen as his exhaustion caught up with him.
He wasn’t sure he trusted either of the Murkuri, but if things continued as they were going, he realised he might actually enjoy his time away from the other Elbiyan soldiers. His nerves settled as the sun rose and they reached the Murkuri camp. It was quiet and still. The warriors on guard gave him curious looks as the trio passed, but they made no comment.
Artux bade Ariete goodbye as they reached a plain leather tent, then he held the flap open for Leaf to enter. The warrior followed him in and kicked off his boots. Leaf did the same, climbing onto the bed beside Artux when the warrior threw himself down with a groan. The Murkuri wrapped one brawny arm around his bedmate. Pulling a soft woven blanket over them, he pressed a kiss into the back of the boy’s head and gave a long, tired sigh.
“Do I need to tie you up?” he mumbled, his voice already slurring into sleep.
“No.” Leaf snuggled back into the warrior’s bulk. “I’m… I’m glad you didn’t let them take me back tonight. Thank you.”
Artux gave a tired chuckle and squeezed him closer. After a few minutes, Leaf felt the Murkuri’s breath even out against his neck.
Whatever awaited him when he woke, he found himself happy to let it be. It couldn’t touch him here. Not with Artux holding him and the deep, safe warmth those strong arms promised. Leaf closed his eyes and let himself drift into dreamless sleep.