Content note: kidnapping, cliffhanger (unfinished story — full version available in ebook)
Beloved, The baron, my husband, is dead. I am fighting to secure these lands and title in my own right as his widow. If you still feel as you once did, come to me now. I have need of you and your sword both.
With all my love,
Myrtle, Baroness Fireridge
Eryk folded up the well-worn letter and tucked it away in his jerkin. Six months ago Baron Balmont of Cliffside had invited him to swear fealty and become one of Balmont’s knights. For the bastard son of the hated Black Baron, the chance to belong was a dream come true. He accepted the lord’s invitation without a moment’s thought. Three weeks later, Myrtle’s letter reached him.
From the tower, a bell rang the time. He stood and stretched, forcing his thoughts to more productive trails. He had a patrol to run. The border with the Cirisian Empire might be quiet, but it still needed watching.
A short time later, he and his detachment of men at arms rode out. High Range Castle was one of several fortifications on the Baron’s lands. The castle walls overlooked one of the few roads to cut through the mountains between the Westerlands and the Cirisian Empire. The mountains were the main protection for the warring minor lords of the Westerlands against the ever-expanding Cirisians. The mountains—and the Empire’s knowledge that if attacked, those feuding lords would unite until they drove out the intruder.
Turning down the road, the patrol passed a trade caravan. The caravans were the most common traffic between Cirisia and the Westerlands, far more common than invading armies. Still they guarded. Just in case.
~ ~ ~
The first hours of patrol were routine. They found nothing more interesting than some woodsman’s rabbit snares. Halfway through their circuit, Eryk called a halt to water the horses. Habit had him telling off two of the soldiers as sentries. He doubted they’d be needed, but there was no reason to be sloppy.
Eryk’s saddle had been slipping as they rode, and he took the opportunity to check his girth. The familiar sound of a man falling to the ground had him spinning around, hand on his sword hilt. He could see no enemy, but one by one the men of his patrol slid off their horses. Exhaustion swept over him, and the world went black.
~ ~ ~
Eryk woke to the movement of a horse under him. He came awake in an instant. His hands were tied to the saddle in front of him and a blindfold covered his eyes. Straining his ears, he heard the quiet clomping of horses walking a forest trail. Too few horses. “Where are my men?” His voice was hoarse with disuse. “Told you he’d beent alright. Long sleep never hurt none.” The rough voice marked the speaker as a mountain peasant and full of good cheer. Eryk growled and pulled at the rope binding his hands. “No need to get excited. We left your men sleeping like babes. Even tethered the horses so theys wouldn’t get stepped on.”
Eryk started to ask how he knew he was being told the truth, but stopped himself. Whether they lied or not, he could do nothing until he managed to escape.
They rode through the afternoon and made camp in the evening. His guards were careful, and never gave him an opportunity to get free. Nor did they answer any questions.
For three days and two long nights, he endured. By the middle of the first day, he knew they had left Lord Balmont’s land behind, but had no clue where they were.
He spent the time pondering his strange abduction. Magic was rare – very rare. He knew of only three mages in the Westerlands. No one used magery for a minor raid. But only a spell could have taken he and his men down so quickly. Someone very powerful or very rich had ordered his capture. This couldn’t be an attack on the Baron. He didn’t know enough of the Baron’s secrets to be worth interrogating, and the disappearance of a low ranked patrol leader would hardly hurt the Baron’s defenses.
Years ago, the Black Baron had terrorized the northern Baronies. The two decades since the Black Baron’s death had done little to ease the fear and hatred. Eryk had spent a lifetime fighting to be accepted as himself and not the Black Baron’s child. Might someone have decided that with the father dead, they would take their revenge on the son?
It was not a comforting thought.
~ ~ ~
The third night they didn’t stop. Eryk had no way to judge the time, but shortly after the frogs started singing, the horses moved onto a cobblestone road. A few hours later they passed through a guarded checkpoint.
Soon after, the horse under him stopped, and his captors pulled him from the saddle. They led him into a building, and a tired voice told them to bring him upstairs.
Climbing those stairs, blind and with his hands bound, was slow and nasty. But they allowed him to move as best he could, rather than dragging him or carrying him. He was grateful for the small dignity.
A hand on his elbow guided him through the second floor. They stopped in a carpeted room scented with wood polish.
“You hain’t caused us trouble yet, sir. That change if I untie you?”
Unarmed against three armed men and god only knew how many guards stationed about this place. “I don’t think I’m ready to commit suicide today,” Eryk replied.
Something tugged at his wrists, and the ropes fell to the floor. “I’m told the lady’s spelled the room to keep you here. She don’t throw around magery much, but when she does, it usually works.” A few moments later a door closed.
Eryk pulled the blindfold off. A single candle lit the room. The faint light pained his eyes after so many days in darkness. Chafing wrists rubbed raw by the rope, he examined his prison. A wooden bed, larger than some wagons, dominated the room. A study post at each corner supported draperies that matched the thick blankets. A small table and single chair were the only other furniture. His feet sank into a deep carpet. The room wouldn’t have been unsuitable for a minor lord. As a place to stick a captive it was ridiculous.
He shook his head. The only thing that mattered was escape. He needed to get out of here and back to Baron Balmont. The lack of windows made the door the only exit. A few minutes careful listening left him confident no guard stood outside. Apparently they trusted their mage.
He turned the handle, and it moved under his hand. The door swung open revealing the empty hallways beyond. Either his abductors were idiots—in which case he should have been able to escape days ago—or the mage was so good he might as well give up now.
Well, no one ever called him smart. He reached a hand through the doorway, prepared to pull back at the first sign of danger.
His eyes rolled up in his head and he collapsed to the floor. Sound asleep.
~ ~ ~
He woke on the bed, with his hands and feet bound to the corner posts. He yanked against the ropes, but they weren’t coming loose anytime soon. This was starting to turn into a habit. One he didn’t like.
Standing at the foot of the bed was… Shock turned his blood cold in his veins. “Baroness Fireridge.”
Fealty is the first story in Whips & Fangs, a short story collection of kinky fantasies (in both senses of the terms). Most of them focus on power exchange relationships (with a fair bit of dubcon and noncon). Mix of sexual, romantic, and aro/ace relationships. This is not an erotica collection, more an exploration of the various forms D/s relationships can take in fantasy settings.