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Henric and Alex Part V (v1.5)

Feb 1st, 2014
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  1. Tags: Villainous male knight/virtuous female squire, reverse-trap, EXPOSITION
  2.  
  3.  
  4. Henric let Alex walk the next day instead of making her ride Ian. She was sore from the night before but still preferred to stretch her legs even if she had to do it at Henric’s side.
  5.  
  6. Aziz came up on her left side and stared at her with a very calculating expression, and she realized he was regarding the dragon on her tunic. Finally he said, “So, just how noble are you? I know that symbol and I know the name, but where do you fall in the family?”
  7.  
  8. “What kind of question is that?” Alex asked, confused by his wording. “I don’t even know how to answer.”
  9.  
  10. “He means rank, relative status to the king versus the peasants,” Henric said, clearly unhappy that Alex was getting attention for her birthright. There was the beginning of a snarl starting to curl at his lip.
  11.  
  12. “Oh,” Alex said, looking back to Aziz. From his clothes and his skin tone she had already assumed that he was foreign, but with his perfect mastery of her language she thought that he must have been in her country long enough to learn about the important families as she had when she had been a young boy. “I’m the firstborn son, and my father is a lord, so I will be a lord someday.”
  13.  
  14. “There’s a lot of gold in that, yeah?” Aziz asked. His black eyes sparkled with daydream.
  15.  
  16. “Well, yes and no. I’ll be a knight too, so there’s that salary. There’s gold in my family inheritance, but plenty of property and businesses and investments too that make up the bulk of the wealth,” Alex had a basic grasp of the economy of the country that was beyond the level of trading of gold, but didn’t think she’d be able to explain it well.
  17.  
  18. “And the women?” he asked. “You get plenty of those?”
  19.  
  20. “Uh,” Alex stammered. “Well, just one. After I marry her, I guess. Our dads worked it out in advance.”
  21.  
  22. Henric chuckled to himself and smirked, looking down at his squire. “And who is the lucky, lucky lady who will strip you down in your bedchambers on your wedding night, hm? I’m sure you’ll be everything she ever dreamed of.”
  23.  
  24. Alex went pink and gave Henric a quick glare. “I won’t say. It’s up to her family to announce officially.”
  25.  
  26. “She must be important,” Aziz said with a grin, and he smacked Alex on the back. “She must be rich too. Just tell me one thing: What are her tits like? Well, two things; what are her tits and ass like?”
  27.  
  28. “She’s pretty,” Alex admitted, though she had never seen her betrothed in a sexual light. “Younger than me, but only by a couple years so neither of us are old enough to marry, but already she’s really, she’s really uh...”
  29.  
  30. Her words failed her, and the squire used her hands to trace the torso and hips of an already-buxom girl slightly shorter than her with a slim waist that fanned out for her thighs. “At least, like that when I saw her last. It’s been about half a year.”
  31.  
  32. “A childhood friend?” Aziz asked, smirking. He elbowed Alex playfully. “You need to get a move on, kid! By your age you should have fucked all the girls you grew up with, need to get them ready for the men they’ll go on to marry! Don’t you want them crooning your name to their new husbands on their wedding night?”
  33.  
  34. Alex winced at that. “No, that never really occurred to me.”
  35.  
  36. Henric looked down at Aziz to interrupt the conversation again. “Aziz, how many of the girls you grew up knowing did you fuck by sixteen?”
  37.  
  38. “The whole town’s worth,” he said. Alex had never seen a prouder smile. “And I never let any of them know about any of the others. It wasn’t easy but I did it!”
  39.  
  40. “And how many of them did you coax to bed with magic?” Henric asked.
  41.  
  42. Aziz was scandalized. “Oh, Sir Henric, you wound me! Not one of them did I have to enchant! They saw my good looks, they saw my many skills, and they all fell for me.” He tossed a small flame from nowhere between his hands like it was a plaything, demonstrating for Alex his skills. While impressed to an extent, she couldn’t ever imagine falling in love with a man because he was a sorcerer.
  43.  
  44. Ssazra stopped them before they crested a hill. Yorick was at his side and they were speaking quietly. Henric left Alex with Aziz and Ian to speak with them and plan.
  45.  
  46. “Does he usually leave you out of things?” she asked Aziz.
  47.  
  48. The man shrugged. “He tells me everything I ever need to know before we go to work on missions like this. He’s a lot of things but he’s no idiot, you’ll know what you need to.”
  49.  
  50. That didn’t make her feel better. Neither did the fact that the eight men following them were pulling out weapons and cleaning them, checking them. Alex saw longswords, crossbows, axes, maces among them, and they were putting on crude armor.
  51.  
  52. Alex had nothing.
  53.  
  54. Henric beckoned her over, so she gave Ian to Aziz and jogged to his side. “What?”
  55.  
  56. “Yorick has your armor and sword,” he said. Yorick held a chain shirt and some leather pieces under one arm and a sword under the other.
  57.  
  58. “Sir, I can’t just attack innocent--” she tried again to protest, something that she’d put off doing since the inn because she had known how it would end. Henric interrupted her sentence by cuffing her on the side of the head with a gauntleted hand. The impact made her bite her tongue, and that pain made her go quiet as she reeled.
  59.  
  60. “Get the armor on, and get ready to do exactly as I tell you,” he told her.
  61.  
  62. Alex didn’t nod, but her silence signaled her grudging assent. Yorick didn’t waste time helping get her into armor when Henric jogged back to the mercenaries. “Alexander, have you worn armor before?” Yorick asked.
  63.  
  64. “Uh, no,” she said, sliding her arms through the chain sleeves. She was at first nervous that Yorick might touch her in ways Henric would have, but those fears were assuaged--Yorick was respectful and quick. “They don’t make it for squires our age, the knights just have us carry backpacks of rocks to get used to the weight.”
  65.  
  66. “Then you’ll be fine, this is relatively light armor,” Yorick said. “Just stay out of everyone’s way, only fight a goblin if you have to. Here’s your sword. Here’s a knife for your off-hand. Here’s a knife for your boot.”
  67.  
  68. “My boot?”
  69.  
  70. “For after the battle, for any other time you might need to pull a knife. Just remember that it's only a secret until you use it.”
  71.  
  72. “O-oh.” She took his gifts but forgot any thankyous. The sword was simple and balanced similarly to the wooden ones she was used to training with. But she didn’t want to use it.
  73.  
  74. The men jogged past her. None spoke, but their clanking metal spoke for them. She was tense, frightened, disgusted by what Henric wanted her to do. And when he walked back over to where she was standing mutely, she looked very sick indeed.
  75.  
  76. Henric said, “I sent them first to get through any traps the goblins set. In a few minutes we’ll go. Did you get a helmet yet?”
  77.  
  78. She shook her head, and he plopped one on her head. It was too big, but he’d put some kind of cloth inside to hug her head and keep it on. “I… thanks,” she muttered. At least in giving her a way to protect herself he was doing what he was supposed to as her teacher… sort of. She lifted the visor and looked at him. There were too many emotions swirling in her gut for her face to choose just one.
  79.  
  80. Henric said, “Don’t disappoint me. Come on, let’s go.”
  81.  
  82. He drew his sword. Alex had only seen it a few times since he never had to use it, but she did admire the weapon for its craftsmanship. It was rather enormous, with Henric almost always holding it with both of his hands and forgoing a shield just as he chose not to wear a breastplate. Alex still thought he was an idiot for that.
  83.  
  84. Maybe he would die today. Maybe she would be free. She followed him at a distance and crested the hill, seeing a cave below them, and the bodies of three of the mercenaries caught in bear traps with arrows through them. She gasped in horror.
  85.  
  86. “You see why we send them first?” Henric said to her so only she heard. “Expendable. There are always a thousand men who will be soldiers for you if you promise them gold. But almost every time, they are fools who don’t watch their step. So you never have to pay them. Come on.”
  87.  
  88. “That’s--” She started to speak but her knight was fast.
  89.  
  90. Grimly he said, “It’s exactly what low-ranking soldiers are for. When you’re a knight you’ll see it.”
  91.  
  92. Alex lowered her visor because she thought she might cry, but didn’t. Stiffly she kept following Henric down to the cave, Yorick and Aziz and Ssazra with them. The sounds of fighting came echoing out to reach them. An arrow whizzed past them and out into the sky from the cave.
  93.  
  94. It was a brawl. There was nothing in the way of order, or even combat that Alex would have called skillful. It was just hitting randomly, no dodging or blocking from either goblins or mercenaries. Blood was everywhere. Ssazra threw acid with one hand and held a machete in the other. Aziz threw fire. By the time they got to the cave entrance at least half the goblins were dead. There were two mercenaries left. She didn’t see Yorick anywhere.
  95.  
  96. Henric, however, was devastating. He was controlled, fast, and at every step he was predicting attacks that came his way. The squire watched her knight cut through three goblins with as many movements of his blade. She couldn’t see his face because of his helmet, but he was smiling. She was certain of it.
  97.  
  98. He was all she could look at as she stood outside the cave. Even as Aziz and Ssazra joined him to hack at and burn the few remaining goblins that only stood as tall as their waists, Alex only saw Henric and she only felt fear.
  99.  
  100. Goblins thinned. They stopped coming out from the back of the cave. There was only one left, and this one Henric did not kill. He grabbed it by the neck and lifted it, choking it so it dropped its spear. He carried the struggling grey male at arms’ length as though it were something filthy, something contagious, and carried it out to Alex.
  101.  
  102. “You’ve been useless this far, boy,” Henric said, and held the goblin, pleading in its own language, out to her. “Kill it and show me you aren’t worthless.”
  103.  
  104. “No,” she pleaded. “No, none of them did anything wrong they were just in the cave!”
  105.  
  106. Henric hurled the goblin to the ground, and pinned it with a boot. “Kill it, Alex.”
  107.  
  108. “No,” she said again. “I won’t do it.”
  109.  
  110. The knight lifted his foot and slammed his heel down to crush the goblin’s skull while a look of fury raked his lips back from his teeth. He tore Alex’ helmet from her head and hurled it to the side, then backhanded her once, twice. She sank to her knees in the grass and the goblins’ blood as her head rang with pain again from Henric’s gauntlet. He kicked her to her back and smeared the leather with warm goblin blood. She got up in a daze, and by the time she looked, Henric had left her.
  111.  
  112. The other mercenaries were dead. Aziz and Ssazra were looking around and picking through the last few bodies nearest the camp for anything worth keeping. Yorick had returned, and he was holding a bloody knife.
  113.  
  114. Alex got up to join the group, she didn’t want to be left alone with the bodies, but when she got close Henric spun and held his sword out at her, the point a few inches from her neck. His eyes were wide and he was still baring his teeth at her. “Oh no. No. You are not coming one step closer. Go wait with Ian and the other animals. Wait for me there.”
  115.  
  116. She was frozen until he flinched at her and she stumbled back. With his scowl melting into a snarl he abandoned her outside and set off with his three remaining men. She heard him speaking with them about looking for goblin gold.
  117.  
  118. Even though she’d known almost from the beginning that he was evil, this frightened her so much more. She sprinted back to Ian where he had been tethered to a tree.
  119.  
  120. There was a bag, with a very tiny note. “Alex, hide this with your things. Yellow goo is for smearing in wounds. White pills take away pain. The clear liquid will make him tell you the truth. -Y”
  121.  
  122. Alex looked in the bag and found what the note had promised. She looked at them only briefly before hiding them at the bottom of her backpack, sitting under the lone tree with her head in her hands, crying and shuddering and thinking of the death and the dead.
  123.  
  124.  
  125. All the gold and precious gems they found in the small cave network did not make Sir Henric any less furious. He knew his men were being quiet intentionally, trying not to arouse his anger further. In a way he appreciated it, wanted to cling to his very pure rage so he could save it all for Alex.
  126.  
  127. That stupid noble girl. He should have known better than to be fooled by her ability to spar. He should have known that she would fall to pieces at the sight of blood. Spoiled, worthless brat.
  128.  
  129. Even though on this trip he had made what most knights hoped to make in a year, Sir Henric was disappointed. It was a deep and stinging sensation around his heart, so powerful that it almost felt like betrayal. Alex had disappointed him, and that was more criminal than the murder of the goblins.
  130.  
  131. He left Aziz and Ssazra to the loot. Aziz might be tempted to steal, but he trusted Ssazra to keep him honest. Ssazra was nothing if not fair and reasonable. Yorick was tasked with the bitter work of dragging the bodies of all deep into the caves to rot out of sight of prying eyes. Yorick had never seemed to mind the work of corpse disposal, and indeed he often volunteered for the work by wordlessly starting the job. And Henric had never questioned it nor worried about where he made the bodies go.
  132.  
  133. He found the girl sitting with her knees to her chest, weeping.
  134.  
  135. “Never,” he began to lie, “Have I had a man, be him mercenary or soldier, act like you did.”
  136.  
  137. Henric wanted her to respond to him, to say something smart like she usually did. He wanted her to try to insult him, but she gave him nothing.
  138.  
  139. “Do you hear me you piece of shit?”
  140.  
  141. She nodded, but only barely. Her hands clutched handfuls of her own hair haphazardly as she cradled her head.
  142.  
  143. “You sleep outside tonight. You walk the whole way home. Do you remember when I caught you? Do you? You promised to me that you would be an excellent squire. Yet you’re a useless failure and I am truly ashamed of you.”
  144.  
  145. Finally she managed to look his way, and he glowered down at her wide eyes and open mouth.
  146.  
  147. “If I could, I’d kick you to the streets. Unfortunately for me I’m stuck with your pathetic ass. I will come up with a punishment for you when we return to the barracks. Don’t even think of trying to talk to me until then, because I do not wish to hear your voice.”
  148.  
  149. He swept away from her. Ssazra was already setting up his tent while Aziz counted goblin coins into four equal piles. The knight found a shovel among the discarded possessions of the foolish men they had taken with them, and he began to dig a hole to be their firepit.
  150.  
  151. He spoke first. “Ssazra. What do your people do in the swamps when you’re disappointed with your followers?”
  152.  
  153. The lizardman stopped and mulled that over. His eyes gazed into the distance for a while and then he responded. “If it was a minor indiscretion, a fistfight perhaps. If it was a more serious issue, I would take a weapon to him.”
  154.  
  155. “What if it were your wife?” Henric asked. Beatings and knives were too good for Alex.
  156.  
  157. “If I had a mate,” Ssazra said, “Her life would be her own. If she hurt me I would leave her, that should be punishment enough for anyone who loved me.
  158.  
  159. “I never knew you were such a romantic, Ssazra,” Aziz spoke up. “Where I come from you can beat your sons, but if you have a soldier who disobeys, then you have the right to kill him. If you have a wife who disobeys, it depends, doesn’t it?”
  160.  
  161. Henric felt immense distaste for both of their cultures. “Depends on what?”
  162.  
  163. “On whether her father and brothers find out,” Aziz said. “Whether she’ll tell or stay inside and hide the bruises, mostly. Don’t get married, Henric.”
  164.  
  165. For the first time since the skirmish, Henric actually smiled. “I know better than to ever marry, Aziz.”
  166.  
  167. “No shame in having proper sons instead of bastards,” Yorick said as he appeared up the hill, wiping his bloody hands on his bloody pants. His grey mask surveyed them all neutrally.
  168.  
  169. “Who wants either?”
  170.  
  171.  
  172. They were faster getting home than they had been on the way to the goblins. Fewer people meant fewer stops. Alex was exhausted being the only one walking other than the tireless Ssazra, but it was a feeling she was used to. Henric’s friends parted ways with them in the town, and the rest of the way back to the barracks was silent under the stars.
  173.  
  174. Everyone at the barracks was sleeping except a lone soldier--James was his name perhaps?--standing on the wall in quiet thought. He waved to Henric and got a wave back, but there was little else standing between Alex and her pile of furs. She could sleep, and tomorrow, she could train. Unless Henric had something foul in mind for her. But she couldn’t tell.
  175.  
  176. She felt his tired eyes on her when she took Ian’s saddle and bridle off and put him in his stall. She heard Henric sigh heavily as they climbed the steps to their quarters. Alex was the first up, and she opened the door for him. He slipped in and demanded, “Take my armor off.”
  177.  
  178. The squire fulfilled his request and put his armor away, then turned back to look at him. He observed her with his black eyebrows knitted together with anger, and reached up to scratch his dark beard, which had grown just to the stage of being prickly now. He wandered back to the dresser where he kept his clothes.
  179.  
  180. “I got a few things from Ssazra,” he said finally, pulling off his tabard at a leisurely pace. As tense as she was, Alex couldn’t help but look at his chest, his compact muscles. Henric noticed where her eyes had wandered and he smiled and started taking off his pants. “Some drugs with a variety of effects. Would you like to know what they do?”
  181.  
  182. She shook her head. She really didn't.
  183.  
  184. “Then I’ll keep my secrets to myself I suppose, if you’re so against hearing them.” He stepped out of his pants, completely naked now. Something seemed to occur to him and he demanded, “Take off your shirt.”
  185.  
  186. She shook her head. This time her eyes were wider.
  187.  
  188. “You idiot,” he said, stepping over to her and rubbing at his temple. “I need to look at the cut on your back. You haven’t whined about it, so it can’t be too bad.”
  189.  
  190. “Oh,” she said, and shyly she lifted her shirt and turned with her back to him. She looked over her shoulder to see if she could view her back in the mirror. It wasn’t that it didn’t hurt her, it was just that there were always other things on her mind to distract her from this particular injury. It looked like it was healing, and for that she was grateful.
  191.  
  192. Henric ran a fingertip over the scab on her pale back. “You’ll be okay, young one. Now sleep. I’m taking tomorrow off, so go hang out with your disgusting friends. I don’t care.”
  193.  
  194. Alex responded with a baffled nod and pulled her shirt down again. Henric climbed up to his bed and she heard him flop to his mattress, heard his snores follow. The girl lay in her pile of furs and thought hopefully about spending time with her friends tomorrow. She needed them very dearly after what she’d seen.
  195.  
  196. Maybe she’d get to spend some alone time with Ellis?
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