I'm still half asleep. Staying up all night doctoring a sick dog is not fun. I'm at the stage where my brain is full of cotton wool and I can't remember what prompt I used. I'm sure you'll find it in there if you look
I fell asleep content and replete in the arms of my lover. I wake to chaos.
Jerked rudely from sleep when the warm furs are torn away, my somnambulant mind struggles with the bright light, raised voices and sudden cold. At first, I can make no sense of what is happening. Then my Prince cries out and I am awake in an instant.
Our small tent is filled with men – at least four of them. They are shouting – at us and each other. One, who I now recognize as a particularly unpleasant Counsel member, grips Castien by the upper arm, having clearly dragged him from our bed. From the way my Prince struggled the man is hurting him. My lip draws back in a snarl and I immediately spring.
I knock the man to the ground and he releases Castien, with a cowardly squeak, as he falls beneath me. He is a weak man; a bully, quick to hurt a small man like Castien but with no fight in him for one such as I. Before I can raise my fist to break his face, arms circle me and pull me roughly to my feet.
“Don’t hurt him,” Castien calls and the man, getting to his feet, sweeps his arm, striking Castien in the face with his open hand. Castien cries out and stumbles back. Catching his foot on the sleeping skins, he falls heavily and is clearly winded. He curls on his side, gasping for breath. At least the Counsel man has the decency to look aghast at what he has done, but his concern is fleeting.
“This is your fault, demon.”
I anticipate the blow when he backhands me and snarl in his face as I struggle hard to free myself. The soldiers do not appear happy about what is transpiring but, at least until Castien is able to stand, they have to take their orders from the Counsellor.
“How dare you lay your sick, perverted hands on our prince? Have you no decency? The King will hear of this, and your betrothal to our Princess will be dissolved forthwith.”
I wish I could spit in his smug, self-satisfied face.
“He was never betrothed to my sister,” Castien gasps. My heart reaches out as he struggles to his feet, clearly in pain. A trickle of blood runs from the corner of his mouth. He wipes it with the back of his hand, running his tongue over the inside of his bottom lip.
I growl, low in my throat and throw myself forward again. He hurt My Prince. He made him bleed. Someone strikes me to the back of my head and stars burst in front of my eyes taking the strength from me.
“Behave yourself, demon,” the Counsellor hisses, “and you just might live.”
“Take your hands off him,” Castien demands. He stands very straight, although it clearly hurts. “Tian was never betrothed to Jandra. He is, and always was, betrothed to me.”
“Ridiculous,” the man snarls. “Men do not have relations between themselves, unless they are sick deviants. The King would never sanction this, and the Counsel most certainly will not.”
“Do not talk to me like that,” Castien snaps. “Remember your place. My father did sanction it, and the Counsel has nothing to do with it. I don’t need your permission to love who I choose.”
“You do when the love is forbidden and reviled. Neither the Counsel nor the people will sanction what I have witnessed this day.”
“If you had not violated the sanctity of my tent you would have witnessed nothing.” Castien turns his attention to the guard. “Get your hands off my bonded,” he growls and the grip on my arms lessen, only to be renewed at a snapped command by the Counsel man.
“You would override a direct order from your Crown Prince?” Castien sounds outraged and I feel a tremor of fear run through the guards who hold me.
“I’d do more than that if I had my way,” the man growls taking a step forward. Castien shrinks back.
A roar from outside heralds the King’s approach. A moment of panic flashes through the eyes of the Counsel man but he quickly recovers. “Take him outside,” he commands. The guards drag me into the harsh sunlight. I’m sure the man was expecting me to be humiliated, being naked in the middle of a waking camp. He couldn’t be more wrong.
“What the hell is going on?”
“Father,” Castien’s voice calls from inside the tent. It appears the Counsel man has prevented Castien from leaving. There is a brittle edge to Castien’s voice and I ache to go to him.
The soldiers drag me further from the tent, into the center of the camp, so I can’t hear the conversation taking place inside. What is clear, is that the king is not happy. If I can’t hear the words I can hear the roar.
“Release the Prince, or die.”
The call takes everyone by surprise. The camp is immediately thrown into chaos, but it dies quickly when it becomes clear we are at the center of a closing ring of archers. The thrum of arrows finding non-living targets cause everyone to freeze and there is no resistance when a small contingent of forest-men stalk into camp and relieve the soldiers of their weapons. The two men who hold me drop my arms, but before I am able to run to the tent I am faced by a tall, imposing figure, dressed in forest green, with a close-cropped beard and golden eyes.
“Exactly what trouble have you got yourself into this time?” he asks, crossing his arms across his chest.
Even though I am desperate to go to my Prince I cannot help the grin that breaks over my face. “I am fairly sure it is trouble you would approve of, Father.”
Father laughs and grips my shoulder in greeting, then we turn together to rescue my love.
Now go read the rest of the great flashers this week