Season Content notes: con noncon*, pain play, sexual contact, trauma reactions, people handling emotions badly, rape (not explicit), torture (not explicit)
The rest of the evening went without incident. Barely. Mattin had observed Falthro’s habits during the meal. Little things, like knowing when to refill his drink, were easy. He found himself falling back on Brit’s earliest training: he stood at the lord’s shoulder and became a piece of furniture.
Falthro began trying to break him almost immediately. “Oh yes, I heard the tale from Althsuar. Oeloff had him and Lothren over some weeks ago. A pretty piece, and untouched.” The lord savored the words, almost as much as he savored Cook’s meats. “They had a delightful time helping him break her in. Said she fought like a wild thing. At least to start. By the time they finished she learned to beg very prettily. And Lothren took the chance to teach them all a fascinating trick with pins. I’ll have to try it sometime.”
The training he had hated and feared saved Mattin then. He became furniture, a post. A simple piece of wood that had been shaped into usefulness. A post doesn’t fear or rage. A post doesn’t have a sister in the hands of monsters. A post is. He was a post.
Once, a lifetime ago, Brit had told Mattin that Lady Jahlene would demand all of him. That he would change and be changed so he, like that post, could be he needed to be to survive. He hadn’t understood it then, not really. But now, as he played his role in a social dance that was key to saving Marta — now as they lady gambled the political power she needed on his ability to satisfy this strange fae — now, he understood. Not just his face and form, but the ‘taste’ of his emotions would determine the success of this venture.
He would feel later. He would fear and rage and weep. Cook would offer him tea which something extra added and listen while he broke. Brit would take him somewhere private so he could scream. Elose would offer a hand or a hug or a shoulder to lean on when he needed it. And he would do all of it. Cry, and scream, and need, and fear… later.
But he felt none of it now. Now, he felt nothing. He was only a post.
When the dinner was finished and cleared away, Falthro gave up trying to provoke Mattin. Instead, he suggested a game of chess. Mattin wasn’t sure if Falthro enjoyed the game or wanted to see if prolonged boredom would make him twitch. But posts don’t get bored.
The game took several hours; Mattin had plenty of time to figure out the rules of play. Maybe he could ask Cook or Brit if they played later. When he was done being a post.
After the game, Lord Falthro was finally ready to retire for the night. Mattin escorted the lord to the guest rooms he had been assigned.
The lord instructed Mattin to sleep in the sitting room of the guest suite, “In case I need anything overnight.” Mattin decided to play it safe and sleep on the floor, so the lord couldn’t take issue with his using a couch or chair without permission. He seemed like the type to do that.
As it turned out, where he slept wasn’t the issue. In fact, after the fourth time Falthro called him out of bed, he gave up on sleeping at all. The lord needed a hot drink. There was a lump in the bed. He wished Mattin to find him a book. The fire needed to be built up. The fire needed to be damped down.
Halfway through the night, Mattin was disgusted, annoyed and exhausted. It was more and more difficult to keep a courteous expression when responding to the lord’s summons. Finally, as the first light of dawn crept through the windows, Lord Falthro started to snore.
When Mattin realized he wasn’t going to be permitted any sleep, he had worked out a plan. He waited what felt like hours to be sure the Mare damned toothpick was truly asleep. When the fae remained quiet, he put his plan into action.
Walking as quietly as possible, he crossed the room and pulled on the bell to summon a servant. Then he opened the door, and waited in the doorway. A few minutes later, Elose, bleary eyed, hair mussed, and annoyed, came down the hall. She stopped when she saw him.
“Mattin? What’n hell?”
“Elose, I need help. I need to wake myself up and get presentable, and I can’t leave the lord alone. He’s asleep now but might wake up and start making demands any moment.”
“Oh!” She grinned at him, “So you’re the reason I’ve gotten some sleep with the bloody prick in the place. Sure I can help you out. For a price…” She winked at him.
Mattin’s brain shut down. “Ah… sure. Anything you want.”
“Good. You can start teaching me to read tomorrow.”
Mattin froze. “What?”
Elose giggled. “I’m teasing, Housekeeper’s already teaching me. But Mare’s sake, Mattin, never agree to a bargain without asking the terms.
“Now go on, I’ll look you up sometime when things are quiet and we’ll see what bargain we can really strike.” She stepped into the suite, twitching her rear at him as she passed.
Mattin closed the door—being careful to not make a sound. First stop, a bath.
An hour later, Mattin was alert, thanks to a brisk bath and some over-steeped tea. He was also neatly dressed with his hair straightened and not a thread out of place (he didn’t want to think about what Parlen would ask for in return for her help.) He had a tray of Lord Falthro’s usual breakfast (bless Cook for keeping notes on visitors) and an arrangement for a fresh tray to be brought up every half hour. No matter when the fae woke up, he’d have a hot meal waiting. Mattin also managed to grab a meat roll for himself and was as ready to face the day as he could manage.
Luckily, Falthro had slept—or at least been quiet. Elose hadn’t heard anything, and he was still snoring away. Mattin thanked her as she left and set the breakfast tray on a convenient table. He laid out three outfits for the lord, ranging from overdone to obscene. Mattin was taken by a strong urge to burn the stuff—and replace it with clothing that wasn’t drenched in lace, velvet, gems and frills. The male should look like a walking cake the way he dressed. But Mattin had to admit he managed to pull it off. Somehow.
Then it was waiting, and staying alert. An hour and a half after Elose left, the snoring stopped, and the lump under the covers began to stir. Mattin entered the bedroom and built up the fire for the day, then went to the bedside and bowed to the bleary-eyed fae. “Good morning, lord. Would you wish your breakfast in bed, or at table?”
Falthro glared at him “You are disgustingly awake, toy.” Mattin blinked, not knowing what to say. “It’s just the two of us now, and I know your mistress isn’t into all this starch and nonsense. So why not cut the act?”
“Lord,” Mattin fumbled, desperate for a “safe” response, “I am sorry if my conduct is not pleasing. I—if you will tell me your wish, I will comply.”
The fae scowled, but only said, “Breakfast.”
“Yes, lord.” Mattin replied. A quick bow hid his face long enough to hide his relief. Then he went to fetch the latest tray.
After Falthro finished eating and dressed, Mattin escorted him to a meeting with Lady Jahlene. They spent some time discussing matters before the council and the prospective trade agreement between their counties. Falthro instructed Mattin to take notes for him, while Parlen did the same for Jahlene. Shortly before lunch Falthro announced, “That’s all for business. I get enough at home. What entertainment can you offer a guest Jahlene? Hopefully something better than last time?”
Jahlene waved to Parlen. “Send a page for Jaffrey and Elose.”
Parlen bowed and left. Jahlene turned to Falthro with a smile Mattin knew was forced. “You can have your choice of entertainment, Falthro.” The smile changed, became more real. “Unless… no, probably not…” She sighed and shook her head.
Falthro jumped on the bait. “Unless what?”
“Unless you might be interested in an unusual traiglamour I’ve been experimenting with. It is not as satisfying a meal, I’ll admit. But a truly unique taste.”
Falthro fluffed the lace as his wrists, “Alright, my lady, you’ve caught my attention… again. What do you have up your charming sleeve?”
“Yes or no, Falthro.”
“Oh, very well.” The lord sniffed and looked down his nose at her. “Show me this ‘unique taste’ of yours.”
Jaffrey and Elose entered the room as he finished speaking. Jahlene turned to them with a smile. “Jaffrey, inform the stablemistress I require the light carriage and the special tack. Elose, please have Sare and Berta report to the courtyard.”
Both bowed and left the room at a run. Falthro stared at Jahlene with a mix of curiosity and skepticism. Mattin tried hard to remain invisible and not let his surprise show. Whatever Jahlene had planned, it was as new to him as it was to Falthro.
“I should warn you,” Jahlene said, “they’ll be a bit skittish. I haven’t had a chance to work with them in several months, and Berta especially gets restive.”
Falthro scowled. “You are baiting me.” He strode through the door and Mattin hurried to take his place on the male’s heels. “You would not be making a point of your slave’s misbehavior unless you were laying a trap. I decline to walk into it.”
Jahlene laughed. “Well, I had to try.”
Mattin suspected she had succeeded.