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
37: Is it Over?
Kennet woke to the now familiar-unfamiliar feeling of soft blankets over him, a warm body next to him, and a soft bed underneath him. He could feel Na’im the back of his mind, quietly controlling their shared body so that Kennet didn’t strike out and hurt… Toma.
Yes, it was Toma snoring softly on Kennet’s shoulder. Fortunately, Toma had chosen the shoulder that hadn’t been dislocated or Kennet probably wouldn’t have slept this well. He reconsidered that a moment later. His ribs felt fine. The wrist was still wrapped but Kennet could tell that it was healed up. Every injury that he’d gotten in the battle seemed to be gone. Na’im’s quiet amusement answered what had happened there though Kennet was pretty sure that he was still very low on power just from the way he lurked silently in the back of Kennet’s mind.
The next thing he noticed was the quiet sound of Dimi sharpening his knives on the other side of the room. It made him smile because somehow over the last few weeks the sound had become soothing, calming. If Dimi had time to carefully and methodically sharpen his many knives then things had to be calm and boring outside. Deep inside, Kennet knew that he could relax and allow himself to wake up slowing with Dimi on guard.
“That’s nice,” Kennet murmured quietly enough that Toma just snuffled something and sighed.
“The knives?” Dimi asked, equally quietly. He was smiling at them when Kennet open his eyes. “Toma asked me to sharpen them. He claims that the sound is comforting. I always found it quite threatening, personally. That’s why I like doing it when people are being stupid in meetings.”
“If you got time to sharpen your knives then it’s safe to relax,” Kennet explained.
Dimi laughed, shrugging his agreement with that as he continued his sharpening. His laughter woke Toma who gasped and sat up with one hand in the center of Kennet’s chest. He looked as though he expected Kennet to be beaten to shit. Seeing that he was perfectly fine made Toma blink and then run careful hands over Kennet’s chest and shoulders, one hand going down to his formerly broken wrist.
“You can take that off,” Kennet said while grinning at Toma’s excessive gentleness. “It’s healed now. I only need to stabilize it until I got enough power back to fix the break.”
“You’re sure?” Toma asked. “Really? You didn’t want it removed when you went to the bathroom earlier.”
Kennet blinked, surprised. He didn’t remember waking up at all. In fact, he had no idea how long he’d been out. His bladder made him think that it hadn’t been all that long but his stomach was empty enough that Kennet thought it might have been as much as a full day. When Kennet looked at Dimi, he chuckled and set his knives aside to sit on the foot of the bed with them. His grip on Kennet’s ankle was just the wrong side of too tight so maybe Kennet had been out longer than he’d thought. When he gently poked Na’im for an update Na’im sighed.
“You have been asleep for a day and a half,” Na’im explained. “I took the liberty of relieving our bladder a couple of times and of eating what they thrust at us but I am afraid that I was nearly as exhausted as you.”
“You feel more exhausted than me,” Kennet snorted. “Get some fucking sleep, Na’im. They’ll protect us and I doubt we have anything major in the magic area to worry about.”
“Mmm, I am not sure about that,” Na’im sighed. “I do feel a pair of mages of considerable power moving through the far north, in Egar near Rudrash’s northern border.”
“Any way for them to get here quick? ” Kennet asked. “Haven’t seen any Gates on this continent yet but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”
“No, there are no Gates,” Na’im said even more thoughtfully and tiredly. “But if they come this way they may yet be an issue.”
“Granted, but it takes a few weeks to ride that far, Na’im,” Kennet said. “You got time to rest so go the fuck to sleep.”
Na’im laughed at that, settling back into a quiet, cool presence with no real awareness attached to it. Once Na’im fell asleep Kennet could tell that he still had power available to him but it was a lot less than he’d had before. He had no idea how long it would take for Na’im to regain his strength but Kennet was pretty sure he could handle things until them. After everything that he’d survived so far there probably weren’t many people who were willing to challenge him. Of course that always presumed that they’d be able to get past Oren, Dimi and Toma, which Kennet doubted.
“Problem?” Dimi asked, fingers definitely too tight on Kennet’s ankle.
“Just making sure everything is okay,” Kennet said. “I was seriously out that long? A day and a half?”
“Well, you did get up and eat but you seemed to be more asleep than awake,” Toma said. “We were… worried.”
Kennet snorted. “Yeah, justified I guess but I think I’m entitled to be exhausted after fighting and killing a mad mage-king, escaping an erupting volcano by flying some damned way, crashing in the middle of my enemy’s army and having to talk down a homicidal princess bent on gutting me so that she could steal my power.”
Toma started laughing, shaky with relief, as he curled up against Kennet’s side again. The hug wasn’t at all a surprise. He’d intended to keep their relationship purely physical but Kennet could tell that Toma was falling hard for him. Had fallen hard. For once the thought didn’t make him want to run. Maybe it was because he’d been through so much or maybe it was because he was just too damn tired of running to do it anymore; Kennet didn’t know. He didn’t care.
This wasn’t half bad, overall. Dimi smiled and released his ankle when he saw the almost-tender smile on Kennet’s lips. His mask of sardonic amusement did a poor job of hiding the relief that Dimi felt as he stood and stripped his clothes off. Kennet automatically raised his body temperature to match Toma’s. The one promise Dimi had demanded of him was that Kennet didn’t let him be cold. It was a tiny thing but Kennet was determined to keep that promise to Dimi, just as he would keep all his promises.
“You’re such a liar,” Dimi said as he slid into bed with Kennet and Toma.
“He is not,” Toma protested.
“He is,” Dimi insisted while curling his fingers around Kennet’s cock. “All those claims of being too tough and cynical to care about anyone and he goes and saves the entire country, risks his life and even falls in love.”
“Hey, now, none of that,” Kennet complained. “No using the ‘love’ word around here.”
Toma looked at both of them as if they were crazy but he picked up on what Dimi was doing when Kennet rocked his hips. Then he laughed and settled in to watch Dimi’s agile fingers coax Kennet’s cock into full hardness. Dimi bit Kennet’s neck, using his nails to tease Kennet to the point that Kennet growled at him. With Na’im’s power so low the nails were a bit too much but Kennet didn’t tell Dimi to stop. A little bit of pain during sex had never bothered him, even with Juraj when they were kids. Of course, Juraj had been more of a tender, sweet lover than aggressive like Dimi but that was fine. Kennet wasn’t the same person he had been then, not by a long shot.
“Where’s the oil?” Kennet asked Toma.
“Oh, you think you’re going to take me?” Dimi asked, squeezing Kennet’s cock hard enough to make him grunt.
“Didn’t say it was for you, now did I?” Kennet said.
The way Dimi blushed and shuddered was enough to make Kennet pull him in for a kiss that went from amused to scorching instantly. Toma rolled and got the oil from the little bedside table, chuckling at the way Dimi clutched it. Kennet gladly spread his legs for Dimi, pulling Toma in for a kiss that made both of them moan while Dimi did his level best to drive Kennet wild while getting him ready. His fingers were small compared to Kennet’s or Toma’s but Dimi knew exactly how to curl them to hit the spot that had always made getting fucked worthwhile for Kennet.
“Can’t believe you enjoy this,” Dimi muttered while licking Kennet’s cock and hitting that spot dead on.
“You were so never suited to be a slave,” Kennet laughed breathlessly. “Oh, fuck yeah, right there!”
“No, I wasn’t,” Dimi agreed. “Neither were you. More?”
“Hell, yes,” Kennet said. “Come on, get in me, Dimi. You know I’m not going to object to a rough ride. I want to feel you. I want to feel both of you.”
Both Dimi and Toma groaned. Toma pulled one of Kennet’s legs back while Dimi knelt up and then slowly pushed in. Kennet held his breath, letting it out slowly once Dimi was all the way in. They hadn’t done much of this since Kennet freed Dimi. Apparently there were too many bad memories around sex for Dimi to fully enjoy it but Kennet hadn’t offered this to him yet. As he watched the wonder and relief on Dimi’s face, Kennet had to wonder why he hadn’t.
It was pleasurable with Dimi, with Toma. They weren’t like the other people he’d fucked and Kennet knew perfectly well why. He just didn’t want to say it, even in the privacy of his own mind. Na’im stirred, making a little trill that was almost a purr when he realized what was happening. Kennet shuddered because he could actually feel how good this was for Dimi, how exciting it was for Toma to watch them together, to get to touch both of them.
“Hard,” Kennet moaned. “Fuck me hard, Dimi. I won’t feel it for long but make me feel you!”
“You’ll make me come right away if you say things like that,” Dimi protested. “Toma, give him something to keep that mouth busy, will you?”
“You don’t have to ask twice,” Toma laughed. “Though I don’t know how long I’ll last. Blessed Inina, the two of you are going to be the death of me.”
“Good way to go,” Kennet laughed until Toma knelt up and offered his cock.
Dimi didn’t follow orders, no surprise given his general attitude about orders of any sort. Instead of taking Kennet hard and fast he took it slow and easy. Toma did the same thing but more because he was shaking from watching Kennet being taken. Kennet sucked Toma’s cock, using his tongue to pressed and caress Toma as he moved. One hand slid behind Toma to rub against his ass. The other one reached for Dimi only to be knocked away.
“No touching, Kennet,” Dimi snapped. “Should tie those hands up so that you can’t make us come too soon, Kennet.”
Kennet pulled off Toma’s cock to grin at Dimi. “Fine by me. Hold on a second.”
He shifted slightly, wrapping his hands around the headboard and then using little threads of magic to secure himself there. It wouldn’t hold if Kennet wanted to get free but it would restrain him for a little while. Dimi hissed an old Pensric curse under his breath, shutting his eyes and shaking as he buried himself in Kennet’s ass. His nails were like claws on Kennet’s inner thighs, leaving long red marks.
“Oh, yeah,” Kennet groaned. “Use those nails. Fucking love that, Dimi.”
“No talking!” Dimi laughed. “Toma, you’re failing!”
“I’m too busy enjoying that he likes this,” Toma admitted as he offered his cock again. “Can I be on the receiving end next time?”
“Mmm, we can arrange that,” Kennet said. “I’m sure Dimi would enjoy spanking your ass for you.”
He sucked Toma’s cock back into his mouth immediately because Dimi grabbed his balls and squeezed hard enough to make Kennet wince. Dimi kept on massaging his balls, playing with them as he fucked Kennet. His movements weren’t as slow anymore, thank goodness for that, because Kennet really wasn’t sure how long he was going to be able to hold off. This should have sent Kennet into a panic attack. Situations like this used to remind him of his training but this time was different.
Kennet could feel the love beating in Toma’s heart, the joy fluttering inside of him that he got to have this. Dimi’s joy was a colder thing, a matter of reclaiming who he was and what he wanted to be from the scars his slavery had left on him, but it was still so real, so powerful, that it made Kennet shudder. And this was something that Kennet had chosen; that was the real reason why it was better. He wasn’t fucking them because he had to or because it would help him get a better position in life.
For the first time since Juraj got Kennet exiled, Kennet was fucking just because he wanted to, because he cared about these two people.
Toma gasped when Kennet sucked harder on his cock, bucking into Kennet’s mouth. One of his hands landed on top of Kennet’s bound wrists while the other settled on Kennet’s shoulder. When Kennet looked up it was straight into Toma’s wide eyes. There was a wash of blue over Toma’s face so the little bit of magic he was using to restrain himself had to be making his eyes glow.
“Blessed Inina,” Toma whispered. “So good at that!”
“Mmm, he really is,” Dimi moaned.
Kennet squeezed his cock, wrapping one leg around Dimi’s hips to encourage him to do more, to go wild on Kennet. Dimi cursed at him in Pensric, Rudrai and then dug those wonderful nails into Kennet’s hips. He started pounding into Kennet, muttering things that Kennet honestly didn’t understand, not with his ass being fucked and his mouth full of cock. The words sounded angry and worshipful, hungry for everything that Dimi could get.
When Kennet squeezed again at the same time as he sucked Toma’s cock even further into his mouth, both Toma and Dimi shouted. Kennet kept squeezing, unable to keep a good rhythm because Dimi was pounding him so hard that Kennet couldn’t focus on it. After a moment Kennet gave up on focusing and allowed himself to simply enjoy the sex. As soon as he did, Kennet’s orgasm roared up on him like a monster pouncing out of the underbrush.
He came, shouting around Toma’s cock and jerking against the restraints hard enough that the bed banged against the wall. Dimi shouted with him, slamming in several more times before freezing with his head flung back. Toma took another couple of thrusts into Kennet’s mouth. He pulled out and came on Kennet’s chest, laughing at Kennet’s frustrated noise of complaint.
“Gimme,” Kennet grumbled despite Toma and Dimi’s laughter.
“You’ll suck it off,” Toma complained while rubbing his cock against Kennet’s lips. “You’re too good at that.”
Dimi chuckled as he pulled out, once again slow and gentle even though Kennet didn’t really need the consideration. He flopped next to Kennet on the bed, playing with the mess on Kennet’s stomach as Kennet did his best not to suck too hard on Toma’s cock. Eventually Toma laughed and pulled back, sitting next to them and tapping Kennet’s wrists.
“You can probably let go now,” Toma said.
“Oh,” Kennet said, looking up at the headboard. “Good point.”
He dissolved the restraints, working his wrists and nodding that his arms were okay despite the tugging he’d done. Dimi was drawing circles in the come on Kennet’s stomach so Kennet caught his fingers and sucked them clean just to make Dimi laugh. It worked well enough that the three of them ended up wrestling and rolling together, Kennet getting both of them sticky despite Dimi’s laughing protests.
“Ew,” Dimi said once Kennet had him in his arms with Toma pressed up against his back.
“Eh, just gives us an excuse to bathe,” Kennet said. “Always did like sex in water.”
“Death of me,” Toma moaned. “I mean it. The two of you will be the death of me. Who has sex in water?”
“Perverts, of course,” Dimi snickered. “And you’re right. That is nice, as long as there’s some form of lubrication to make the movement easier. No oil or grease and its quite horrible.”
“Mmm, always liked doing underwater blow jobs,” Kennet observed just to see which of them responded more strongly. “Holding my breath for it always made me come twice as hard.”
They both jerked but Dimi was the one who reacted as if he’d been slapped with someone’s cock. He gouged a new set of red scratches into Kennet’s side, hissing as if he was a cat. Toma humped against Kennet’s ass for a moment even though he wasn’t hard by any measure. Kennet grinned and hugged Dimi, pressing a kiss against his forehead just because he couldn’t help himself. The punch to the gut was deserved but Dimi was smiling as he pulled back enough to meet Kennet’s eyes.
“I don’t love you,” Dimi announced with a look in his eyes that meant the exact opposite. The feeling coming off him was full of love but that love was completely terrified, as if he’d run if either of them challenged him on it.
“That’s fine,” Kennet said, smiling somewhat helplessly at him. “Not like I’m in any shape to declared my heartfelt undying love for anyone at all.”
“I may already have figured that out about the two of you,” Toma snickered. He laughed outright when Dimi smacked his hip. “I don’t care what either of you say. I do love both of you, even though Dimi’s violent and terrifying and Kennet’s crazy and terrifying and the whole damned country’s watching every breath we take.”
Kennet grinned until the last part of that actually penetrated his amusement and afterglow. He twisted around so that he could meet Toma’s eyes, frowning at the wry amusement he found there. Na’im had been weak enough that Kennet hadn’t reached out to see how the others were doing. Now he rather regretted that. If things really were going to hell he ought to get up and take care of it. That was what a king was supposed to do, after all.
“Wait, what the hell is going on out there?” Kennet asked.
“Don’t ask,” Dimi groaned.
“I’m asking,” Kennet growled at him. “I didn’t check that shit when I woke up, just my injuries and that there wasn’t anything magical that was urgent in the area.”
Both Dimi and Toma sat up to stare at Kennet, probably because of the way he phrased that. Dimi frowned and put one hand on Kennet’s stomach while Toma got out of bed and grabbed a little hand cloth and wet it from the pitcher by the door. He cleaned himself off and then came to take care of both Dimi and Kennet.
“In our area?” Dimi asked as he let Toma take care of him. “Explain right this minute.”
“There are a couple of seriously powerful mages up in Egar who’re headed this way,” Kennet explained. “No idea who they are or why they’re traveling south. I didn’t feel them before I woke up so they had to be really far away or shielded somehow. They don’t really feel hostile but… Well, there’s no way to know, not until they get here. And yes, I do think they’re coming this way.”
“The volcano?” Toma asked as he set to work on wiping Kennet clean.
“Probably,” Kennet sighed. “But what the fuck’s going on here? Give.”
Dimi sighed. “King Barabbas is talking about ‘reparations’. King Niniano thinks that the borders between Kelairn, Penhale, Chargrene and Rudrash need to be redrawn, of course favoring Kelairn. Oren’s fallen head over heels for Prince Didymos, to absolutely no one’s surprise other than Prince Didymos and King Barabbas. Princess Jovanna has made it quite clear that she thinks that someone else should be king in Rudrash. A great many of the soldiers would dearly like to stab her for that. Prince Didymos is mooning over you while blushing over Oren’s attentions. Idris appears to want to stab everyone nearly as much as I do. He has fielded more than a few threats to his survival but Oren pounded on the men responsible.”
“Princess Tahirah’s men are actually integrating very well,” Toma said as Dimi rolled his eyes in disgust. “Everyone was surprised that you follow Inina and Haraldr. It seems to have calmed most people in Rudrash down. People have been coming out of the hills and reclaiming their old towns, well, other than the desert wanderers. They’re upset about the volcano and say that they have the right to travel there even though a few animals that got too close to the lava have already been warped into monsters.”
“Didn’t I say to stay away from the fucking lava?” Kennet complained as he rolled out of bed and got fresh clothes out of his trunk. “Didn’t I explicitly say that first? The fuck is wrong with them? They’re gonna get themselves turned into monsters and there’s not a fucking damn thing I can do to fix it! Bunch of fucking idiots, the lot of them.”
Dimi laughed his ‘about to stab people’ laugh, the one that sounded like breaking glass and screaming babies in the background, or maybe that was just the emotional impression Kennet got from it. He strapped on his knives before putting on his clothes. Both Dimi and Toma looked to Kennet once they were dressed. He shook his head at them.
“Well, let’s go deal with the idiots,” Kennet said. “I’d rather have another round but if they’re being that damned stupid then I suppose we’ll have to put it off for the moment.”
“There’s always another chance,” Toma said with a wry enough smile that Kennet didn’t tell him that he didn’t know what could happen. “If nothing else, Dimi can always climb in your lap and start kissing you. That always shuts people up.”
“I might just hold you to that,” Kennet said. “Or you could. I think they’d all fall over in shock if you did it.”
Toma’s blush made both Kennet and Dimi laugh which was probably a better attitude for going out to deal with people than anger. Not that it mattered; Kennet would deal with this stupidity just like he’d dealt with the rest of it. He sure as hell hadn’t wanted to be a king but now that he was here he might as well keep at it. Rudrash needed someone strong to rule them. With Toma and Dimi by his side, and Na’im giving him magic, Kennet thought he might do better at the job than anyone else out there.
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