- Attempted Rape
- Permanent Injury
- Alternate Universe
- First Time
- Fix It
“If I’ve counted the days right, I’m sixteen,” Tristan murmured into Galahad’s ear.
“I’m sure you did,” Galahad said as he leaned back into his embrace. “Are you fully awake?”
Tristan blew out a frustrated breath. “No. Damn it. My hearing is excellent, taste and smell are there, my sense of touch if enough that I am glad you supervise the making of my clothes, but my eyesight is just about where yours is. Maybe a bit better. I can feel that I will be getting better at that, but it isn’t here yet.”
“We can’t bond until you are fully awake, and you know it, Tristan,” Galahad said before turning to kiss his jaw.
“Doesn’t mean that I don’t want to,” Galahad reassured him. “But pressing the point now would only hurt you in the long run.”
“I find myself wishing that we had someone who knows more than we do about our abilities,” Tristan admitted. “I feel like I’m trying to navigate a dark room where every step is covered in traps.”
“I know exactly what you mean, brother,” Lancelot broke in as he sat down opposite them.
“Arthur still having mental fits about bonding?” Galahad asked.
“On any given day he’s at turns fine with the idea and then horrified that he’s fine,” Lancelot admitted. “And then he sees how settled Bors and Dagonet are with Vanora and I can feel the want pouring off him.”
“Hell, I want that,” Galahad muttered as he shifted slightly to bring the other Guide into view.
Tristan grunted once in agreement. Vanora had been an unexpected surprise that had actually turned out for the best. Her family had come to the fort to claim refuge and had settled in the vicus, opening a public house.
Not long thereafter, Bors and Dagonet had headed out to get a drink and come across the redhead being harassed by some of the forts hothead youngsters. Despite the fact that they were actually younger than their opponents, the two managed to send them on their way with ease.
Vanora had been unimpressed but had invited them to her family’s business for an ale. While on their way, the three of them had formed a spontaneous bond.
It had taken a great deal of fast talking on the part of the Guides and money from Arthur to smooth the whole thing over. As it was, Vanora’s parents had only grudgingly given their blessing for the match. To say her father wasn’t happy that his daughter had two husbands was a bit of an understatement.
Her mother seemed to be a bit happier about the arrangement. When she had been asked by Galahad and Lancelot on why she seemed more agreeable to it, Vanora’s mother had been blunt. “She’s marrying men who go into battle for a living. If she has two, there’s a better chance that one will make it through to old age.”
Neither Guide had argued and none of the listening Sentinels had disagreed wither the logic. Their job was dangerous after all.
After that, Lancelot and Galahad had devoted most of their free time to training Vanora in what she needed to know to guide both Bors and Dagonet. She had taken to the lessons easily and managed both men with an iron fist and they adored her for it.
“She smells a bit different now,” Tristan muttered into Galahad’s ear as Vanora walked by with a carafe of ale in hand for a customer. “Sweeter somehow.”
“How long has she been smelling different?” Galahad asked as he leaned over to look at his brothers Guide.
“About three weeks? Maybe a bit longer? Why?” Tristan asked after thinking things over.
“I wonder…,” Galahad trailed off and turned to look at Lancelot. “If?”
Lancelot was already nodding. “Yeah, they’ll be absolute messes.”
“Should we wait to tell Arthur?” Galahad asked.
“Yes. Because you know that things can happen to change that status,” Lancelot reminded him.
Tristan looked between the two guides for several moments before it dawned on him what they were talking about. “Really?”
“Yes. And let her be the one to mention it officially,” Lancelot instructed them both.
“You lot need new hobbies,” Vanora told them as she dropped off ale for the three of them. “And what makes you think the two of them don’t know? Both strutting around like cocks of the yard they are.”
The comparison was so amusing that Tristan didn’t bother to hide his laughter and that set Galahad off as well. The infrequent sound drew the attention of their brothers and they moved away from their game of throwing daggers. Bors and Dagonet crowded around Vanora and beamed proudly.
“Well, this will be interesting to see as the years pass,” Lancelot said before offering his congratulations to the happy trio.
Tristan blinked awake, staring up at Gawain. “What?”
“How did I not know you two were sleeping together?” Gawain asked before shaking his head. “Not why I’m here. Arthur says we have a caravan from Rome coming. The relay rider thinks they are past Lindum.”
Galahad cracked open one eye and glared at their brother from his place against Tristan’s chest. “You’ve known we were a pair for over two years. How did you miss us rooming together and sleeping together in the field?”
“I don’t know?” Gawain said with a shrug. “But I did. Anyway, Arthur wants to talk to you two, Bors, Dragonet and Lancelot. Where is he, by the way? He’s not in his room.”
Tristan looked at Galahad and raised an eyebrow. From the huff of irritation, his Guide knew something. “Well?”
“He finally managed to get into Arthur’s bed,” Galahad confided. “It’s new.”
“How new are we talking?” Gawain asked eyes narrowed in speculation.
“New. If he wants to let you lot know, he’ll tell you. And no placing an inside bet,” Galahad snapped before rolling out of their bed. He only had his small clothes on and got dressed quickly. “This is a shit time of year to travel.”
Tristan rolled out of the bed as well and hissed at the slap of cold. They had no fireplace or bazaar in their room, so the chill of the outside seeped in with the stones of the building. If they didn’t sleep together the cold would be affecting them both badly.
“Any idea who we are going to be hosting?” Tristan asked as he pulled his boots on.
“A Bishop Germanius,” Gawain informed them. “Arthur said something about the Bishop being a friend of his father.”
“That sounds like something that could be good,” Galahad muttered as he ran his hands through his hair.
“Or bad,” Tristan shot back. “Do we know if this Bishop knows that Arthur is a Sentinel?”
“No. We don’t,” Gawain said.
“Wonderful,” Galahad sighed. “Go wake Lancelot up and get everyone to the meeting room. Bors, Dagonet, wake up and get up here to the fort.”
“Your Guide is a pushy bastard,” Bors muttered around a yawn.
Tristan yawned in sympathy and grunted. “Like Verona is a wilting flower.”
“None of us go for the wilting type,” Dagonet, muttered. “And I would rather sleep.”
“So would we all, brother,” Tristan agreed.
“Jols, do we have quarters that the Bishop can use?” Arthur asked as Tristan walked into the room they used for meetings.
“Not really. The best we have is your room,” Jols told him.
Tristan pursed his lips and headed for the spread of food on the sideboard. “If you are going to do that, you might want to make sure to clean it thoroughly. This guys a Bishop right?”
Arthur nodded once before looking at Jols. “Get the women in to freshen up the place? New linens, some wine and maybe ale?”
“Bread and cheese as well?” Jols asked as he headed out to get started. “Maybe minimize that there are two people living in there?”
From the startled look on Arthur’s face, he hadn’t expected that observation. “You’re Catholic, Arthur. You had fits for more than a year about your Guide. Can you imagine what a Bishop of Rome would do? If you don’t want to have to grovel for months when he insults Lancelot, do yourself a favor and minimize the chances of conflict,” Galahad told him as he came in the room.
“You both have been waiting to say something about that, haven’t you?” Arthur demanded, amused.
“Tristan was ignoring things, so I don’t really know if he paid attention to you and Lancelot. Me? I have been paying attention. Lancelot is damn near purring in contentment now and that’s better than the mess of pain and despair that he had been projecting,” Galahad informed him.
“Okay, so we’ll go sleep in Lancelot’s old room,” Arthur decided. “Are you sure he’s in a good place?”
“I’m not going to tell you how to handle your Guide, Arthur, but yes. He’s more content now than he has been since we got here,” Galahad informed him. “And it started when you two began sleeping together.”
Conversation petered off after that as they waited for the rest of the Knights to arrive.
Once everyone was in, Arthur called the meeting to order. “Bishop Germanius is coming to facilitate the turnover of command from the Legion commander to me. He has troops traveling with him and I can expect that they will be making their way through both the Legion and you Knights to get news.”
“You mean gossip,” Lancelot observed. He was sitting beside Arthur breaking his fast. Eggs, bread and ale, it was a typical morning meal.
“Gossip, blackmail, information that isn’t readily available to the commanders,” Arthur agreed. “He’s going to try to find out information so he can handle me. Make me bow to Rome’s will.”
“Arthur, your Roman, you already bow to them,” Gawain reminded him.
The look Arthur gave him was peeved. “Thank you for reminding me.”
“You’re welcome!” Gawain told him with a sunny smile.
“How do you want to handle the bonded pairs?” Tor cut in from his spot at the table.
“Bors and Dagonet should be good, they spend the majority of their time outside the fort in the vicus and are very obviously involved with a woman,” Arthur admitted. “Tristan, Galahad, Lancelot and I will all be mostly exposed.”
“Exposed how?” Tor pressed.
“You can’t hide the fact that Tristan and I have been living together and are very, very deep in each other’s pockets,” Galahad reminded the room. “And I don’t think it would be wise to try. We’re not from Rome and not expected to be. Lancelot will also be covered by that grace.”
“But I am Roman. And it is expected that I will be acting with all the gravitas of my station,” Arthur warned. “While I will be rooming with Lancelot, the recent change to our relationship isn’t known outside this room. It is well known that I am close to him, but it’s known I am close to you all. You are my Knights and I take my duties very seriously.”
“That isn’t in dispute, Arthur. What I think we need to know is: Does this Bishop know about Sentinels and Guides?” Gawain asked.
“I know about them because my mother made sure I was told the stories of her people,” Arthur said. “Does the Bishop know the same stories? I doubt it. He is a friend of my father and hasn’t been back to Britannia since we buried him.”
“Sounds like a real winner,” Bors muttered before taking a sip of his ale.
“You know travel isn’t easy,” Dagonet reminded him, voice quiet.
“Dagonet’s right, travel isn’t easy, but Germanius has stayed in contact with me and the commander of the Legion. I’m sure that’s why he was chosen to facilitate the changing of the guard,” Arthur reminded them.
“Kaeso’s staying, right? He’s not going to be heading out with the Legion?” Gareth asked.
“He’s staying. He’s up for retirement and his spouse has already opened a food service out in the vicus,” Bors told them all. “The food is good and they aren’t using garum n every dish. Most of the ingredients are local, and what they have that’s imported is pretty rare. Mainly olives and the oil.”
“Sounds good. Do we know if anything else will be staying?” Arthur asked.
“About twenty percent of the men are staying. They have spouses here and children,” Lancelot informed him. “Since we won’t be getting additional troops, we are going to need those veterans to man the walls while we patrol.”
“We need to make plans for training the younger men of the vicus for guards as well,” Arthur waved a hand. “The men who are retiring from the Legion aren’t young.”
“No, they aren’t. But they can train,” Gawain agreed. “Will you tell the Bishop what you are planning?”
Arthur looked out over the length of the table and Tristan met his eye when his fellow Sentinel reached him. “I’ll support you in whatever you chose, Arthur,” Tristan told him, voice pitched so only their fellow sentinels knew what he was saying.
“No. If Rome isn’t going to give us a new Legion to strengthen the garrison, we will have to do it ourselves,” Arthur declared. “While we are a force to be reckoned with, we are not a battalion of legionnaires. So we’re going to have to work around the limits they place on us and succeed despite them.”
Galahad cleared his throat and Tristan glanced at his Guide as he stared at their commander. “I am normally not one to bring this up, but money. Will Rome keep paying everyone? Because we have eighteen years left on our time here and I’m not sure there will be enough to pay for troops.”
“I have some leeway in how I can garrison my fort, Galahad,” Arthur told him after several moments silence. “And from what the legion’s commander has told me, there’s more than enough money in the strongboxes to last at least a year.”
“Will the Bishop be bringing any coins?” Bors asked. “Because I don’t think he has enough troops if he is.”
“Maybe. We’ll find out soon,” Arthur reminded him.
“Well, if they are like any other normal troops, they’ll head to the vicus for the shops, the whores, and drink. We should tell our people to fleece them for all they are worth,” Tristan offered, his inner pragmatism breaking through.
“And that adds more coin to the economy here too,” Gawain observed.
“Are there any other questions?” Arthur asked.
“If there are fights?” Tor asked from his spot at the table.
“No killing, no maiming and try not to shed too much blood,” Lancelot laid down the law. “We want this visit to go smoothly and for the lot of them to leave with as little information on all of us as possible.”
“Agreed. We have too many secrets and the Church isn’t fond of those,” Arthur concurred. “I will try to keep the bishops attention on me, but it will move to the rest of you as well.”
“We know. We’ll keep it to a dull roar.” Dagonet promised.
Arthur shrugged before looking around. “That’s all we can hope for.”
“Bishop Germanius, welcome,” Arthur called as the Bishop rode into the fort at the head of his party.
“Antonius Castus! You have grown since I last saw you!” the bishop called back with a broad smile on his face.
“It’s been almost ten years since you’ve seen me, your Excellency,” Arthur reminded as he bowed. “Every child who survives must grow.”
“True, true. So much time has passed, Arthur,” Germanius acknowledged before he dismounted from his horse and held out one hand. Tristan saw Arthur bow and kiss the ring he was wearing without hesitation. Listening in he heard the priest murmur what sounded like a blessing. He couldn’t see what there was to the religion, but if it gave Arthur comfort, he wasn’t going to speak against it.
When Arthur stood up, the bishop looked around. “So you are in command of a troop of Sarmatian knights?”
“Yes. I have been their commander for the last two years,” Arthur confirmed. “We have been part of the active forces of this fort for the past year.”
“Good, good,” Germanius looked them over and Tristan kept his face straight with effort. The man stank of greed and corruption. He had no idea how Arthur stood it, being so close to him.
“Come, your Grace, Let us get you to your quarters so you can rest and refresh yourself after your travels,” Arthur waved a hand at the building his quarters were in.
Jols and his people had done a fantastic job of repurposing Arthur’s suite. Everything that showed the true character of the previous occupants had been removed. What was left was so neutral it made the rooms look lived in.
“Yes, please,” Germanius said and gave the Knights a sharp glance. The smell of lust reached Tristan’s nose and he ground his teeth together.
“I’ll have my servants bring you water for a bath,” Arthur told the bishop before waving a hand at Jols.
“It will be available in the next hour, your milord,” Jols confirmed.
Arthur directed the bishop towards his quarters and the man followed with one servant trailing behind. Tristan had no idea what the servant did, but he smelled like he was in close contact with the bishop on a daily basis. Very close contact.
The rest of the bishop’s routine was taken in hand by Jols’ second. They would be housed in a separate building that had been repurposed from storage to housing. They would be fed there as well and none of the servants assigned to them were female.
Bors waited until it was just them in the courtyard before he drew in a deep breath. “I’m going to warn the whores in the vicus they’re here. I don’t trust them.”