Being enslaved was better than dying but only barely. Kennet did what he had to in order to survive as a slave with the knowledge that freedom would risk being found by the people who drove him into slavery. Kennet saw no reason to do anything extra for the men who bought him. They didn’t care about him and he didn’t care about them.
That was true until the royal family of Penhale purchased Kennet guard Prince Didymos. Protecting Prince Didymos from the assassins seeking to kill him dragged Kennet into the world of national politics and onwards to face an enemy that threatened to destroy not just Kennet but the whole world.
Kennet didn’t want to deal with any of it, the assassins or the magic that lurked around him but if he wanted to survive, Kennet would have to not just face down the threats surrounding them but also track the assassins back to their shadowy leader.
What he found at the source of the chaos changed Kennet in ways he could never have anticipated, taking him in all new directions. Hopefully Kennet’s new skills would be enough to let him save the world, his lovers and himself.
Artifacts of Awareness
By Meyari McFarland
10: Sudden Attack
“You… were in love with someone?” Prince Didymos gasped, his serious look dissolving into shock. “How could anyone betray you?”
His shock turned into anger at Juraj almost instantly, not that Prince Didymos had any idea who he was mad at. He gestured at Kennet, all but demanding that he explain what had happened even though the sounds coming out of his mouth had turned into gibberish.
“Happened easier than you think,” Kennet chuckled as he shrugged. “Life outside the palace isn’t as easy as you seem to think it is.”
There was no way that he’d explain in detail what had happened. Elder Danek had to still be there, lurking in his home village like a spider in the center of his web. As far as Kennet could tell he’d managed to escape Elder Danek’s sphere of control but you never knew. He hadn’t seen anyone who looked like one of Elder Danek’s slaves since he was sold out of the Old Empire and into Chargrene.
Still, there was always the possibility that news of Kennet’s survival and retention of his mind would get back to Elder Danek. Given his connections that would mean that Kennet would be dead or mind wiped immediately thereafter. It would probably happen before Kennet had a chance to protest, honestly. Elder Danek had always been scarily efficient about dealing with things that annoyed him. Kennet knew he’d seriously annoyed the creepy old man by surviving his exile announcement. People escaping from his control always pissed Elder Danek off.
“I grew up in a little farming village in the Empire, Highness,” Kennet said. “My family was pretty fucked up, not violent, just unhappy. My best friend from the time we were toddlers had an even more messed up family. He got abused physically from time to time, mostly just emotional abuse though. We spent all the time we could together. That developed into love when we hit puberty. Whenever we could, we’d escape somewhere and, well, fumble at making love together. I was certain that I’d marry him despite the town Elders’ disapproval. But he had the eye of one of the Elders on him and I did something to piss the guy off. He got me exiled for it even though I was in the right. I ran before they could catch me. Got caught by slavers on the Alliance border instead.”
“Oh Kennet,” Prince Didymos breathed, his heart in his eyes. “That must have been horrible!”
He seemed determined to see the story as a great tragedy with Kennet as he wounded hero who just needed love to be healed. Kennet snorted as he lightly kicked Prince Didymos in the shin. Prince Didymos’ shiny leather boots protected the prince from any pain, not that Kennet kicked that hard in the first place. Prince Didymos laughed at the kick, shrugging while smiling wryly.
“Don’t make it out to be some epic, Highness,” Kennet said. “It’s not. The two of us cared about each other, yeah, but he always complained that I was too cold and logical. He was more like you, romantic, trusting, open hearted. Not quite as open hearted given his family but still a lot more like you than me.”
“But you loved him,” Prince Didymos murmured, his heart in his eyes as he stared at Kennet. He could almost see Prince Didymos willing Kennet to fall in love with him just like he’d fallen in love with Juraj.
“Yeah, I did,” Kennet said. “And love for him is why I got exiled. It’s why I ended up in the Alliance as a slave. Your father tell you that I’m properly Alliance trained?”
Prince Didymos went pasty pale at that little revelation. Kennet snorted. He should have realized that King Barabbas would keep that one a secret. It wouldn’t do for the whole country to realize that the Prince’s potential Consort had been Alliance trained. The training was illegal in Penhale, to the point that slaves who were visibly Alliance trained were put down because what had been done to them was considered such a horror. His previous owners hadn’t included that bit of information when he was sold, probably because he didn’t show the training very much. Or at all, if he could help it.
“How…?” Prince Didymos whispered, eyes like saucers as he stared at Kennet.
“I never submitted fully to it, Highness,” Kennet explained with a tired shrug. “I’m not stupid. I’m actually a lot smarter than people think. I was brought in at the end of a batch of trainees, after the others had already started through the process.”
“You watched what happened to them,” Prince Didymos murmured. He swallowed so hard that Kennet wondered if he’d come close to throwing up at the thought of the Alliance training.
“Exactly,” Kennet replied. “I could see that the more they resisted the harder the trainers emphasized the training. You realize that they use magic to mind wipe slaves who resisted too hard?” Kennet snorted when Prince Didymos winced. “I’m good at pretending to be compliant, Highness. Got a lot of practice at it in my fucked up family before I was exiled. So I pretended to be a lot more compliant and docile than I actually am.”
The admiration and awe that bloomed on Prince Didymos’ face made Kennet groan. How the hell did he automatically assume the best about Kennet? It was frightening and weird to have someone be so determinedly positive about Kennet’s character, especially when Kennet knew Prince Didymos was dead wrong.
“You weren’t really trained then!” Prince Didymos exclaimed.
“No, Highness,” Kennet sighed. He rubbed his face as he resisted the urges that would probably always live inside of him. Kneeling, being ‘good’, always doing what his Master wanted; they’d beaten and spelled enough of it into Kennet to make this a hard discussion. “It… worked to a degree. I still have the urges to obey and be ‘good’ but I’m stubborn enough to resist them. Just like I’m stubborn enough to see that we’re not good for each other.”
Prince Didymos winced at the abrupt return to the topic of discussion. “I think we could be.”
“No,” Kennet said gently enough that Prince Didymos sighed and curled in on himself. “Highness, you really need someone who’ll love you, honestly love the fuck out of you. I got no problem fucking you if and when things calm down but that’s not what you need. You need the sort of lover who’ll dote on you, send you little notes, give you presents for no damn reason at all. The sort who’ll wear a particular outfit because they know you like it. Who’ll stay up and talk with you for hours while cuddling. Who laughs and smiles only for you.”
The description made Prince Didymos slowly smile and then laugh self-consciously, probably because he realized that Kennet had him dead to rights. That was what he needed. It wasn’t a want in Prince Didymos’ case. After this long living next to the prince Kennet knew that he really truly needed someone who would devote themselves to him.
“You don’t think you could…?” Prince Didymos asked with only a faint shred of hope.
“Highness, seriously,” Kennet said. “I helped myself survive the Alliance training by burning the heart right out of my chest. I’m more likely to punch J… my former lover in the face than I am to hug him if I see him again. I don’t want love like that anymore. I think my ideal lover now would be someone strong, defiant, cynical, and maybe a little bit crude. Someone whose heart had been burned out the way mine was so that he or she doesn’t expect too much out of me. The best would be someone who just wanted the sex and companionship without expecting a deep, abiding love affair.”
That got a shocked little laugh out of Prince Didymos along with his pants tenting out. Kennet snorted, amused. He didn’t think that Prince Didymos had even masturbated since Kennet became his bodyguard. The instant reaction made sense. Even though he knew that he shouldn’t give into the urge to tease Prince Didymos, Kennet wagged his eyebrows and licked his lips suggestively. No surprise at all Prince Didymos squeaked and went flamingly red.
It made him wonder if Prince Didymos truly never had had sex. That was something that Kennet had a hard time understanding. He’d first kissed Juraj when he was thirteen and Juraj was twelve. They’d fumbled each other into orgasms by the time Juraj was thirteen. Kennet had been happily exploring various sorts of sex with guys and girls up until the day he’d been exiled. To think that someone could be over twenty and still a virgin surprised Kennet, especially given how forgiving Pensri’s religious leaders could be about sexual activities.
Hell, from what he’d seen, the Pensric religion was perfectly happy to encourage open sexual play between anyone who was old enough and mature enough to consent. They didn’t forbid anything that Kennet was aware of other than parent-children sexual relationships.
The one time he’d been brought into a Pensric temple it had looked and sounded a hell of a lot more like a brothel than the churches back home, complete with people having sex on benches along the walls and a golden statue of a hugely erect man on the altar surrounded statues by heavily busty women and nubile young boys.
“You’d… want a purely sexual relationship?” Prince Didymos asked. His voice shook nearly as much as his hands over his lap did.
“Sure, Highness,” Kennet said. “Sex is fun. I’m good at it. You do realize that Alliance training includes some pretty damned advanced sexual training, don’t you?”
“Ah, no?” Prince Didymos squeaked, his eyes like saucers again.
“Heh, it does,” Kennet laughed. “I’m not being overconfident when I say that I’m probably the best fuck of anyone around here. Not what you need for a long-term relationship and I don’t want to distract myself from protecting you with thoughts of sex but it’s true.”
Kennet’s heart nearly stopped as Prince Didymos dove off the bed and into his lap. For a terrifying moment he thought that an assassin had managed to sneak into the bedroom and stab Prince Didymos in the back but instead Prince Didymos whined as he caught Kennet’s face in his hands to kiss him desperately. He whined as Kennet patted his back instead of kissing back, looking for knives, and then all but sobbed when Kennet pushed him away enough so that he could breathe.
“What was that?” Kennet snapped, doing some furious blinking and staring of his own.
“Sorry, sorry,” Prince Didymos whimpered as he tried to escape from Kennet’s lap.
“You wanted to kiss me,” Kennet said since Prince Didymos didn’t seem capable of coherent speech anymore. “That’s all it was.”
Prince Kennet nodded miserably. “Just one kiss. I wanted just one kiss from you.”
Kennet snorted at that. “Don’t lie, Highness. You wanted a hell of a lot more than that.”
The dirty look he got from Prince Didymos made him shake his head. He really shouldn’t have teased Prince Didymos but oh well. A kiss wasn’t going to make the world come to an end. Kennet checked the window, noting that the two guards were shifting around on the balcony but weren’t making any noise like they’d seen anything to worry about. It was dark enough outside by now that Kennet couldn’t see their faces but they were good men, strong warriors who seemed fairly dedicated to keeping Prince Didymos alive.
“I’m sorry,” Prince Didymos whispered while pushing at Kennet’s chest. “I shouldn’t have.”
“Oh, stop that,” Kennet sighed.
Rather than let Prince Didymos escape, Kennet pulled him close for a proper kiss, one of the ones that his Alliance trainers had called ‘enticing, alluring, seductive’. No matter what they’d called the kiss, Kennet always thought of it as a ‘fuck me now’ kiss.
His tongue thrust into Prince Didymos’ mouth, commanding his attention and demanding that he focus on Kennet and nothing else. It wasn’t the tender sort of kiss a guy like Prince Didymos would expect or want but it was the sort that Kennet liked best of all. He wrapped his hands around the back of Prince Didymos’ neck and at the small of his back, gently encouraging the prince to rock against Kennet’s body in a rhythm that matched the thrust and probe of Kennet’s tongue.
It only took a few seconds for Prince Didymos to melt into the kiss as though this was better than his wildest dreams. Kennet didn’t bother to try and hide his smirk at the reaction, nor his laugh at the way Prince Didymos huffed in annoyance. Instead he encouraged Prince Didymos to rock against him faster and faster until he shuddered and gasped loudly. If he hadn’t just come in his pants Kennet would be shocked. Once that was done, Kennet let the kiss slowly relax until he was pressing little butterfly kisses against Prince Didymos’ lips.
Eventually he let Prince Didymos pull back enough so that they could rest their foreheads against each other. Prince Didymos’ cock was softening against Kennet’s belly. He had to feel Kennet’s cock which had only gone half hard through all of it. No matter how much Prince Didymos wanted Kennet he really wasn’t what Kennet found most attractive. It had to show now much more than it had before. At least Kennet hoped that Prince Didymos got it. His brains were probably completely muddled by the sex.
“You… wow,” Prince Didymos finally whispered.
“Told you so, Highness,” Kennet chuckled. “I’m good at sex.”
“More?” Prince Didymos asked so hopefully that Kennet had to groan and let his head thump back against the wall.
“Highness, you know I don’t want to lose my focus,” Kennet complained. “I don’t want you to lose your focus either.”
“You’re too late by several weeks for that,” Prince Didymos muttered nowhere near quietly enough for Kennet not to hear it. “I haven’t been able to think of anything but you for ages.”
He opened his mouth to say something more, probably to argue that they should take the chance on sex and maybe even romance despite the stupidity of it all but Kennet held up a hand to say no. As he did it he realized that he couldn’t see the guards out on the balcony. They had been ordered to stand on either side of the window, just in sight so that Kennet could be sure that the window and door were defended.
No one was there.
Kennet stiffened dramatically enough that Prince Didymos’ expression went questioning. He froze when Kennet slapped his hand over his mouth. The tension and fear that had begun to rule Prince Didymos’ every move returned with a vengeance, making his whole body stiff as a board in Kennet’s lap. Just as Kennet moved him off to the side into the corner nearest the door, the back door and window exploded inward.
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