Travelling alone should have made slipping past the Murkuri easier, but somehow Tomas had been thwarted at every pass.
On his way to Colbrook he had almost run afoul of some scouts. Three mean-looking Murkuri with sharp spears and evil glints in their eyes had chased and almost cornered him in a bluff. He’d only barely escaped being captured, or worse.
Colbrook was the largest town aside from Tithdale for over a hundred miles. Shaywood was out of the question, too. Even though Wolfe might try to help him, Tomas knew his brother was just as much a prisoner as the rest of them. It had too much potential to make things worse. Sure, he put up a good front, pretending to be unbothered and playing along. But Tomas remembered those first nights so clearly.
Remembered little else sometimes, if he was honest.
The journey would be long if he was to make it to Leminster or Hywood. Leminster was closer, but the terrain was difficult, crossing the mountains and straying far too close to the cursed Ursinmoor for his liking. Hywood might be easier. Further, but crossing fewer natural obstacles, and if he followed the river he might encounter a ferryman and barter passage.
He trekked for a week before he realised the problem.
The Murkuri front line seemed to have shifted to block him. Since they’d taken Tithdale and Shaywood, then besieged Colbrook, he was well and truly in enemy territory. And whatever he thought of them as people, there was no question they were highly skilled invaders.
He tried to confront the terrifying reality as a good soldier should, with no fuss and turning to his next solution without hesitation. During the daytime he almost felt that it worked. But during the darkest hours of the night, every cracking twig or sudden swoop of an owl made him jump and tremble.
He couldn’t go on like that. Sleeping rough would already have been exhausting, but being woken by nightmares that distorted and worsened reality only pushed him further into panic. What they had done to him was vile. He’d never known the depths of the depravity one man could inflict on another, but now that he knew, it was all he could think about if he didn’t keep himself well in check. And there was no escaping the memories at night.
He woke up one morning sobbing at a sudden gust of wind in the trees and vomited almost faster than he could sit up. The acrid burn only served to remind him how little he had eaten of late. Around him, the forest watched in silence, uncaring. He had to find shelter. He was far from any mapped towns, but he had no choice. He could feel death closing in on him with every halting breath.
After a bit of thought, his muddled brain recalled a vinyard he’d passed a week or so earlier. If not for a patrol he’d been playing cat and mouse with he might have gotten closer to it, but even from a distance he wasn’t sure it would be worth it. It had looked thoroughly ransacked.
It took him four days of licking moisture off mossy rocks and chewing poplar bark to find it again. He hoped the Murkuri wouldn't pass by it again and waited in the trees, watching and praying until nightfall before approaching.
Inside was a mess. He’d expected nothing less. Furniture had been tipped, curtains shredded and one of the stairs ripped up from its frame. But the roof was intact, and the back rooms were far enough from the road that he felt a little more secure.
Six front rooms had once been extravagantly decorated. He’d visited similar places with his father and knew that the vintners would have hosted nobles in these ones for tastings, then lived in more modest quarters out the back or on the second storey. If he went looking he would likely find a separate building for the workers’ quarters. The state of the front rooms brought a sickly feeling and memories of his childhood hall to the surface, defaced and occupied by enemies, so he made his way to the back.
There was a bedroom with the remains of a bed, the frame hacked apart and riddled with blade marks. Feathers from the pillows had collected predominantly in one corner of the room, the wash bowl overturned by the window and dark marks that looked like blood staining the windowsill.
Further back he found a sitting room and a kitchen in a similar state, a few other doors leading off a short hallway to rooms too dark to tell what they had been. The kitchen had a storeroom and covered earth cellar in one corner, the colder space supposed to keep food fresh longer, but it had all rotted to black ooze. The raid must have been a while ago. That, at least, gave him some comfort. With any luck, the Murkuri didn’t even remember the vinyard existed.
He didn’t even bother to make up a bed. He just dragged himself to the sitting room and sank to his knees. He would investigate the storeroom in the morning.
The floor was hard and cold, but at least it was manmade, dry and sheltered. He felt the usual gasping sobs rising in his chest as he settled and resigned himself to crying himself to sleep.
Upon waking, Tomas took inventory. Thankfully it seemed the Murkuri had been more interested in gems and gold when they passed through, as he found some dry food and preserves in the storeroom, a few relatively undamaged blankets in a chest in the sitting room, and some firewood under a short roof out the back. There was probably more to scavenge, but he had been on survival rations for months now. The prospect of real porridge, jam, and nuts he didn’t have to forage was far too tempting.
Tomas took himself outside to eat. The ruined porch provided enough cover that he could both watch the road and shelter from the summer morning sun while he ate. For a few minutes, spooning porridge into his mouth with shaky hands and wondering if there were any berry bushes nearby, he felt calm. His nerves settled for the first time in weeks. Even a rabbit bounding from the bushes nearby didn’t startle him quite to tears. Vines had already begun reclaiming the little house. With luck, that meant everything from pheasant to hind would be on offer if he could devise some traps or weapons.
As he returned into the house, a ripple of unease washed over him. The Murkuri had left a few arrows embedded in the walls but he now saw that that wasn’t all.
The stark white outline of a dagger surrounded by a wavy circle was painted roughly on the broken door. A calling card, perhaps. The pictographic signature of whoever had gutted this building and, most likely, all of its inhabitants.
Tomas screwed up his face and spat directly onto the dagger’s hilt. He would see about scrubbing it off if he stayed longer than a few days. In the meantime, he could only try to avoid looking at it. Something about the crude outline made his stomach churn with nerves.
The best Tomas could manage that day was filling a covered jug with water before crashing on the remains of the master bed and sleeping like a rock until early evening, then getting up, eating more porridge, and falling straight back asleep until morning. All he remembered of his dreams when he woke were hands under his clothes and the sound of pleasured groans interspersed with his own sobs. He beelined to the nearby stream before even emptying his bladder and scrubbed himself with a rock until his skin was red and raw.
After bathing, if it could be called that, he took a minute to examine his body.
A few months in the wild had taken their toll. Where before he had been muscled with a thin layer of what his mother called ‘growing fat’ and his father called ‘pathetic weakness’, he was now leaner than he’d ever been before. His muscles had shrunk, but what was left was starkly outlined and defined, with barely any fat left to protect him from starvation or cushion a light blow. His hip bones in particular pushed out painfully from his abdomen. He ran his hands over his arms, his clear blue eyes following their progress and noting the occasional bruise or scar under his fingers.
After a moment, he realised he was crying. Again. The weakness made him burn with shame, though inside his chest was surprisingly void of emotion. It was always like this now. Feelings touched him only in passing. Even the guilt of abandoning his family felt less like a harsh voice in his ear and more like a neighbour calling to him from across a field. He stared blankly into the sky until his tears abated, then got dressed and made his way back to the vinyard.
By the third day, he felt a little better. He’d managed to trap two pheasants and had eaten one with some wild greens and porridge, hung the other up in the earth cellar, and fixed a hole in the roof of a small room near the back that he felt safe in. Now all he had to do was make it cozy, and he would have a good place to rest up, lick his wounds, and figure out what to do. The prospect of setting out again was enough to send his mind spiralling into panic, but he knew he couldn’t stay here forever. The isolation would drive him insane. Assuming he wasn’t insane already, he added, the voice in his head snide and bitter. A pit settled in his stomach as he set about plucking the other pheasant.
At least he had training, he mused later as he rinsed his hands and set about collecting up blankets and pillows. The months out in the wilderness had been hard, but he’d survived. It helped that it was first spring and then early summer while he travelled. By winter, he would need stores and shelter, and preferably some tools so that he could break through ice for water and boil it for stew without too much trouble.
It was a monumental task. Under normal circumstances, he would be confident in his abilities. Even if he didn’t succeed at everything, he would at least be able to survive, of that he was certain.
But alone, exhausted, and still reeling from… still suffering? He was less sure of that. He’d first noticed how much his emotional injuries slowed him down in the wilds, and he felt even more sluggish now, with a degree of security to fall back on. It was some safety – but not enough. The house wouldn’t care if he couldn’t drag himself from bed to eat, nor if a section of it collapsed and trapped him. No one would know if his attempts to rest and heal cost him his life. The fact that he was truly, completely on his own was enough to make his chest tight and his eyes water.
He tried to push through as much as he could. Every day counted, and winter would not wait for him to grieve.
He set about chopping wood once his sleeping area was complete. The rhythmic tok of the splitting logs lulled him into a soothing state where thoughts were few and far between. For a time he felt peaceful, just focused on his task. But even amidst the calm, he could feel the dark thoughts circling at the edges of his mind, memories ready to rise up and swallow him with pawing hands and rancid breath.
He chopped wood far longer than his convalescent body was happy about. But when he fell into his blankets that night, his sleep was deep and dreamless.
In hindsight, pushing himself to the point that he slept so deep was foolish. Night was no safer than daytime, and anything – or anyone – might approach the little house without him being aware.
But he was still at heart a nobleman. He’d been raised with a safety net few others could hope for. In the past his mistakes, however serious, had been mitigated and recouped without too much trouble, thanks to the foresight and skill of those around him. In the wilds proper he had been keenly aware of that lack of second chances.
But now, under a real roof once more and wrapped in blankets instead of sorrow and little else, perhaps he had forgotten. Perhaps some deeper part of his mind that had screamed and panicked in the forests had calmed before its time. Perhaps it should have stayed taut and scared forever.
The sound of deep male voices brought Tomas back to consciousness. The sun was already peeking through the cracks between the siding planks, but Tomas felt as though he hadn’t slept. His head pounded, his mouth was dry and his limbs were stiff and sore.
His first thought was relief.
People! After all these months, someone might save him!
Despite his exhaustion, he began to scramble to his feet before his groggy mind could caution him. He realised the voices were not Elbiyan the moment his feet hit the floor with a soft thud.
His heart froze the second his brain caught up though, along with the rest of him. Oh gods… had they heard? Had he just doomed himself with his eagerness to be saved?
Tomas stayed still and silent, straining his ears. Whoever was outside made no further noise. Had he imagined it? That was possible. He had been deeply asleep. Though he didn’t remember his dreams, they might still have bled through into his first wakeful moments, turning a birdsong into human voices and making him think he was not alone.
The longer he waited, the less sure he was either way what he would find outside his door. The house beyond now felt unnaturally quiet. He slowed his breathing, his heart beating painfully hard and sweat gathering between his fingers and along his collarbone as he tried to calm himself and make a plan.
He couldn’t stay there forever. After a certain point his terror would be not only futile but dangerous, blocking him from the tasks he needed to accomplish and stealing further strength from his limbs. But how long might that be? And, if he was in fact no longer alone, how could he prevent himself being discovered?
In the end, he waited what felt like hours before slowly getting to his feet. He did his best not to make a single sound as he eased the door open and crept out into the hallway. Nothing was visibly out of place. He could hear the birds chirping outside, accompanying the low drone of bees and the swish of the long grasses as they bobbed in the breeze. Maybe he’d just been imagining things. Maybe he was actually still safe.
A harsh creak from one of the front rooms made him yelp and dart into the ruined bedroom for safety. There was none to be found.
Tomas had barely crossed the threshold before he collided with something warm and solid. He scrambled back, nearly tripped on the doorframe, then somehow wound up bolting for the window instead of out of the room. When he turned, he nearly screamed. A giant Murkuri was looking at him with a lewd, growing grin.
“What do we have here then?” His gaze roved over Tomas’ body with undisguised interest.
“Nothing,” Tomas spat. “I’m going.”
His tone was fierce but his heart felt like it might burst out of his chest, his mind alternately freezing and racing as he glared at the brute and tried not to let on how terrified he was.
The Murkuri let a smug smile settle on his face and he just watched Tomas for several moments. Tomas swallowed harshly. He began to back up towards the window, reaching out for the sill and readying himself to jump, but another voice rang out from outside. He blanched. He would have to be very fast.
Without warning, he sprang back, clutching at the curtain rod above the window for stability. The Murkuri’s eyes widened. Tomas tried to spin on his arm, succeeding in breaking the curtain rod and almost stumbling, but it was enough to propel him out the window.
He landed with a soft ‘oof’ and scrambled up. Behind him, the Murkuri was already in pursuit. Tomas could hear his footfalls landing heavily on the wooden floors.
Clutching the broken curtain rod as though his life depended on it, Tomas started to run. His lungs began screaming almost immediately and his side tightened into a stitch. The Murkuri was only a few paces behind him. Tomas felt a gust from where the brute landed, but instead of spurring him on it just made him despair. He was not ready for this. His body was too weak, his limbs shaking both from shock and exertion.
The Murkuri caught up with him in under a minute. To his credit, Tomas managed to avoid being caught in one shot, ducking at the right moment to avoid a blow to the back of his head. But the brute grabbed him by the collar on the return and flung him bodily back towards the house.
Tomas wasted valuable seconds struggling to his feet. He’d landed poorly on his side and he felt winded, dull pain throbbing from his skinny hip and shoulder. He backed up as the Murkuri feinted a lunge for him.
“You belong to me now,” the brute said.
Tomas bared his teeth and clutched the curtain rod tighter.
“I am a free man,” he retorted.
The Murkuri tutted and shook his head.
“That,” the brute pointed at the strange dagger symbol, “is my kroffa. It means I own everything in that house. And you were in that house.”
Tomas’ face twisted in a scowl and he stuck out his chin, refusing to be cowed. The brute smirked. Internally, Tomas felt nothing but panic, but he managed to keep himself relatively stony on the surface. He had seen that expression before. The mere memory of it had left him crying and shaking almost every night since the Murkuri overran his home.
He didn’t think, he just acted. The shattered curtain rod was flimsy but sharp, and he was no amateur with a spear. He gripped it tight and lunged as the brute opened his mouth to speak again. Tomas gave a mirthless grin as he found his mark. The brute roared, blood oozing from a deep gash that only barely missed his neck, and Tomas tried to duck back out of reach, as he’d always been taught.
But something stopped him.
He spun and his heart plummeted as he found himself face to face with another Murkuri. He tried to regain his balance and pace back without leaving himself open, but he knew it was hopeless. This new brute wasn’t as big as the first but he was still solid and strong. He chuckled as Tomas tried to keep his distance from them both and said something in their awful language to his friend.
“I’ll kill you both where you stand,” Tomas hissed. Gods be damned, why did his eyes have to fill with tears as he spoke? “I’m trained. Back away or die.”
The warrior in front of him gave a soft smile, right as the one he’d stabbed made a move. Tomas whirled to face him, then whirled again as he caught a flash of movement from the one he’d turned away from. They weren’t close enough to grab him but he knew the stand off would doom him. He spun once more, then tried to dodge out from between them.
He might have made it if not for the third Murkuri stepping out from the side of the house and clotheslining him as he passed.
Tomas fell on his back with a thud. His already winded lungs seized and he raised his arms instinctively to defend himself. The warrior who’d felled him reached down at him and he tried to shimmy away, but another was ready, grabbing him by the hair and dragging as the first ripped the curtain rod from his hands. He thrashed, reaching up to try and twist the man’s wrist and free himself, but his slender fingers shook so hard he doubted the warrior even felt it.
“Get off me!” he howled. “I will slit every one of your throats and let wild dogs fuck your corpses, you fucking filth!”
The Murkuri all chuckled. The first one he’d seen, the biggest by the looks of it, stepped forwards as his crony brought Tomas to the porch.
“Some of these Elbiyans are so pretty.” He addressed that to his companions but Tomas knew it was directed at him, for why else speak in Elbiyan to say it? “I wonder if he’s a screamer.”
“You have all the luck, Arbjen,” one of the others said.
Tomas tried again to free himself, succeeding only in hurting his scalp as the man’s grip tightened in his hair.
“I think there’s enough of him to share.” Arbjen grinned and dropped into a crouch before Tomas. “Probably enough to share with the whole camp.”
The knife of fear that pierced Tomas’ heart barely registered before he was kicking out at the brute. Arbjen caught his ankle with deft skill, then slapped him hard across the face. Stars swam before Tomas’ eyes and he slumped from the force of it. The one twisting his hair gave a nasty chuckle. Before Tomas could fully register what was happening, he felt more hands on him, their grip tight on his wrists and hair, and he was being dragged into the house.
“No!” he shrieked. “No, let me go!”
The warriors ignored him. The third stepped forwards and they lifted his writhing body off the ground. He kicked out, no longer able to hold back his terrified sobs as they carried him by the arms, legs and hair into the kitchen.
“Now, since I am the biggest,” Arbjen said. “And I have the biggest cock, I will let you two go first.”
The other two gave appreciative murmurs, grinning. They twisted and pulled Tomas while Arbjen reached under his tunic and loosed the knot on his braies. Tomas struggled harder, gasping in terror, but the three of them wrangled him until his legs and arse were bare. They tossed his shoes and stockings away to start on his tunic and chemise.
“You bastards!” Tomas sobbed. “I’ll fucking kill–”
Arbjen cut him off by wrapping his strong fingers around Tomas’ throat. The lord choked, his eyes widening as his hands tried and failed to wrench free and save himself.
“Let us know when you start trying.” Arbjen’s tone was light, conversational even. “In the meantime, we have a hole to fill.”
“Or two,” one of his companions added. Arbjen snorted. Tomas’ vision was getting blurry, but the warrior seemed in no hurry to release him.
“I wouldn’t trust my cock in there, but you are welcome to try it, Yarnid,” Arbjen replied. He turned a critical eye on Tomas and squeezed harder. Just when Tomas thought he might lose consciousness, the warrior released him. He coughed hard, tears in his eyes. His limbs were shaking too hard to stop them pulling his tunic and chemise off over his head.
“N-no…” he whimpered.
Stark naked now, the Murkuri grabbed him again and heaved him up onto the table on his back. He twisted in their grasp but he wouldn’t have been a match for three of them even at his peak. They pinned him easily. Arbjen and Yarnid took a side each, wrenching his legs up and apart at the knees and crushing his wrists into the wood. Tomas shrieked in terror as the third man got into position. He kicked, his legs useless, and felt the draft of the warrior unbuckling his trousers against his bare, vulnerable hole. He barely registered the lewd chuckles around him, too panicked to do more than scream and struggle.
“So tight,” the man about to rape him murmured. “Have you ever been fucked before, boy?”
Tomas closed his eyes and sobbed as the man dragged his thumb over the hole in question. Yes, he answered in his head, unable to stop the flood of memories now as history repeated itself. He choked as the man put pressure against his hole, his head and shoulders rising up off the table only to be slammed back down by a strong hand on his chest.
“Fuck, he’s making me so hard,” Yarnid groaned. “Hurry up and fuck him, Gurdi.”
Gurdi tutted, eyeing Tomas’ tearstained face, then pulled out his cock and leaned in. Tomas screamed so loud he felt his throat tear as the brute pressed his cock against his hole. The feeling of it pushing through the feeble resistance he could offer with his legs spread like that made him gasp into silence. His face twisted in discomfort and he tried to ignore the terrible burn as his arse stretched around the invasion.
Gurdi gave him no time to adjust. No sooner was he fully sheathed than he pulled back and thrusted in again, snapping his hips and bracing himself against Tomas’ shoulders. Tomas found his voice and wailed as the thick cock moved inside of him. The warrior’s weight on top of him combined with the other two restricting his movements intensified his panic. He screwed his eyes shut, his body heaving with sobs as Gurdi fucked him without restraint.
After what felt like an eternity, his hips slammed into Tomas even harder. Once, twice, and then a forceful push as deep as he could go. The feeling of cum sloshing around inside him as Gurdi withdrew made Tomas feel sick to his stomach.
Gurdi and Yarnid switched places and Tomas could barely find the energy to care. His whole body felt stretched far too thin to risk moving, every inch of him close to shattering. The Murkuri were talking in their foul, barbarian filth of a language. Tomas grunted as Yarnid forced his way inside him. His stomach turned as he realised the reason it hurt less was because he was now lubricated with Gurdi’s cum.
Yarnid fucked him hard, tweaking his nipples and flicking the head of his limp cock until he squealed. Distantly he realised that where Gurdi had wanted only to cum, Yarnid was just as interested in hurting him. His inner thighs burned with the stretch of being held open so long but he had no strength left to fight it. Each thrust pushed a pathetic yelp from his throat but beyond that he barely reacted as Yarnid dug his fingers into his hips and used his hole to completion. He flinched as Yarnid’s pace suddenly increased and he felt more thick, hot cum gush into him.
Tomas only realised his chest was heaving and his cheeks were drenched in tears as Arbjen got into position. The Murkuri reached out and took him by the chin. Tomas somehow managed to focus on his face, his whole body trembling, too numb even to feel the rage that had coursed hot and reckless through him earlier. Arbjen smirked.
“Not so mouthy now, are you,” he gloated. “All you Elbiyans need is a good dose of cock. Look how good you are now.”
As he spoke, Arbjen slid his fingers across Tomas’ lips, then forced two of his thick fingers into his mouth. Tomas choked and tried to turn away but there was no escaping the pressure against his tongue. He tried to bite down but Arbjen only laughed.
“Still got some spirit in you, then?” He nudged Tomas’ entrance with the head of his cock. “Don’t worry. I can cure you of that.”
The stretch in Tomas’ hole was both sudden and overwhelming. Arbjen was bigger than the other two all over, it seemed, and by a hefty margin. Tomas cried out in pain as the girth of it began to fill him. Arbjen, that bastard, it felt like he was going slow just to torture him. Sweat broke out over Tomas’ forehead and he shrieked as the thick cock ran over something inside him that made his stomach twist and flush rise on his chest.
A surge of adrenaline rushed through him and he kicked out as best he could, managing to twist one wrist free of Gurdi’s grip and reaching up to scratch at Arbjen’s face. The warrior just backhanded him. Metallic disgust rolled across Tomas’ tongue as his head snapped and his vision swam. The only thing that cut through the haze was the feel of a rough hand on his cock and balls. He twisted, crying, and the hand only got rougher. Sharp pain shot through his core and his stomach clenched around itself in knots. For a moment Tomas was so winded he could barely breathe.
Then Arbjen begun to fuck him in earnest and he let out someting between a shriek and a wail. There was no denying the fill of it, the way it punched up into his guts and made his stomach swell around the head. He could feel his insides churning around it as it rammed into him and sucked the breath from his lungs. Every breath he managed sounded like a death rattle. Even when he noticed that Yarnid and Gurdi had released his limbs, there was nothing he could do. Arbjen’s bulk bore down on him and destroyed every shred of of him that it touched. He grit his teeth as the table rocked beneath him and the pain of being skewered consumed him.
Finally, Arbjen wrapped his fingers around Tomas’ throat. The vacant thought that at least death would spare him more of this floated through his mind and he didn’t even bother to clutch at Arbjen’s wrist as he squeezed. Black spots formed at the edge of his vision as his lungs struggled to draw in air that would never come, and he closed his eyes, praying the end would come quickly. The sounds around him faded, along with the excruciating pain, and he felt something close to relief as he slipped away.
But then reality came rushing back.
Arbjen was withdrawing his cock and the other two were grabbing him again as he coughed, his throat aching and tight.
In the next moment he was trembling on all fours on the floor. Tears flooded his eyes again and he tried to crawl, only to slump forwards as his limbs gave out. He let himself collapse in a heap and just cried. Around him, the Murkuri were talking again, and Tomas’ shocked mind couldn’t even decipher if it was Elbiyan or Murkuri. A boot nudged his ribs and cringed away from it, curling into a ball and clutching his chest as soft, panting sobs rocked through him. He could feel cum running out of his hole and a sickening breeze where he felt too loose. No thoughts ran through his head as he shook and sobbed on the floor. Curse the gods, why hadn’t Arbjen just killed him?
One of the bastards dropped into a crouch by his head and he gave a frightened sob. Thick fingers carded through his hair, trailing down his neck, making him shudder. He longed to pull away but his whole body felt like one wrong move might have him shattered to pieces. His father’s voice swam in his head.
Weakness. Can’t even find enough honour in yourself to end it. Coward.
Someone was pulling his arms up. Soft cloth over his shoulders and back vaguely registered as his chemise, but he kept his eyes screwed shut, trying to stem the ebb and flow of misery swirling within him. They didn’t bother with his braies and stockings. He didn’t even have it in him to do more than watch as Arbjen tied his wrists together in front of him. For how bad it had been at Tithdale, Tomas suddenly felt a pang. Wolfe was clever. He’d managed to convince that ugly brute who’d married him to step in and protect him over dinner. Tomas had never imagined he might miss those awful days, but now he wished he’d never left.
Something around his neck snapped him out of his stupor long enough to examine it. A rough wooden pendant with the same dagger symbol on it now hung off a leather cord, resting just below his collarbone. This symbol means I own everything… Tomas stared up at Arbjen with dull eyes. This monster owned him. Arbjen noticed him looking and gave him a slow grin. Tomas blanched and pulled his shaky knees up to his chest, trying not to panic. The Murkuri had talked about sharing him among the whole camp earlier. He wasn’t sure which was worse, getting used as a communal cumdump or being bound to the vicious prick in front of him.
The other two were nowhere to be seen, but they reappeared shortly, their arms laden with food from the storeroom. The depth of his bad luck struck Tomas like a physical blow. If he’d left sooner or arrived a few days later he probably would have avoided them completely, blissfully unaware of how much worse things could get and still struggling through his plans for winter.
Arbjen broke his train of thought by grabbing him and hauling him up. Tomas shook violently and almost collapsed in his grasp. He kept his mouth pressed in a determined line, refusing to let any more sounds of weakness out. Arbjen tutted. He said something in Murkuri to Gurdi and then swept Tomas into his arms. Tomas stiffened, too weak to resist as the brute laid him belly down across his shoulders. One of his giant hands snaked up to grip Tomas’ sticky thigh, the other resting loosely on his bound wrists. So he was to be carried like a felled deer then. It felt fitting. A humiliating position for a spineless worm like him. He couldn’t even stay rigid long enough to get outside. Arbjen carried his limp form as though he weighed nothing, and they set off into the forest, the hot summer sun beating down on his bare legs and sweat running off his scalp to collect on the front of his neck.
Tomas couldn’t say for sure how long they were walking. He slipped in and out of consciousness, sometimes waking to his own sobbing, other times just watching rocks and twigs pass by beneath him. His heart sank when the first wisps of campfire smoke met his nostrils. The sound of metal clanging against metal and rough voices calling out to each other soon followed, and before he knew it he was in the middle of the camp. Cramps seized his guts and legs as Arbjen deposited him by a bench. A couple of Murkuri sitting on it eyed him with interest, then grinned and moved at a word from Arbjen. Dread gathered in his back.
Arbjen dragged him over the bench longways and secured his hands with a chain, then spread his legs and did the same with his ankles. Tomas could barely face the horror of what was about to happen. He caught sight of Arbjen settling on a tree stump a couple of metres away and accepting some coins from a Murkuri he didn’t recognise.
There was no way to brace. His legs were forced apart again, just like earlier, his puffy, distended hole spread wide and inviting for anyone who happened to look. He managed a soft gasp as someone settled behind him and pushed his tunic up his back.
The next few hours passed in a blur of screams and pain. Cum leaked from his hole and fell splattered across his arse and back, bruises forming on his ribs from where warriors gripped him too tight as they plundered every inch of him. A couple had been biters. And all the while Arbjen watched with a soft smile, collecting coins as warriors lined up to take their turn.
Tomas had stopped begging after the first was done. No one was listening, and his throat felt raw from crying and screaming. All he could do was press his head into the bench and try to endure as best he could.
By the time night fell, he was ready to die. He watched Arbjen approach him with trepidation. The warrior had collected quite the stash, coins jingling in a pouch on his belt now. He crouched by Tomas’ head and stroked his hair. After everything he had been through, Toas barely registered it.
“Such a good whore,” Arbjen murmured.
Tomas closed his eyes and cried as the warrior untied him from the bench. Arbjen forced some food into him and gave him a slapdash wipe to clean him up, then dragged him off into the camp.
When he was deposited on a thin fur, his wrists tied to a stake driven deep into the ground, Tomas couldn’t even sleep. He stared at the sky above him until morning broke.
There were already a couple of warriors waiting for Arbjen to open for business.