Orlando awoke clearly but unsure of how much time had passed. He forced his eyes open and looked around him. He recognized the view. The lord's bedroom, seen from the vantage point of his bed. And the lord, sitting on top of the covers at his side, with what looked to be parchment spread out in stacks all around him.
"Wha--" Orlando tried to speak, but his throat was too dry for sound to come out clearly.
"Here." The lord helped him sit up and held a goblet to his lips. Orlando tried to gulp it. "Slowly, not too much." The lord pulled the wine away from him. "You haven't eaten."
"How long?" Orlando asked.
The lord regarded him solemnly. "You've been asleep for almost a day. You were in a fever for three days before that."
Four days, lost. And a wound across his middle that he could feel as he moved.
The lord drained his goblet and left it on a side table. Orlando watched as he gathered together his stacks of parchment and stood by the bed. "I'll send in someone with food and water." The lord leaned down over him. "You disobeyed my orders," he said in a voice whose mildness was more frightening than a shout. "You'll be punished for that." His hand came out and brushed Orlando's curls away from his forehead. "When you're better," he said with more gentleness.
He left before Orlando could think of what answer to make. Orlando relaxed back against the bed and let his eyes close again. Four days.
A girl came in with a tray. She piled more pillows behind his back to help him sit up and insisted on feeding him. Soup and bread, and blessedly cool water.
"He's barely left your side," the girl told him.
"Who?" he asked between bites of bread soaked in broth.
"The lord. He's been at your side the whole time." She carefully spooned up more soup. "I don't think he slept more than a few hours until your fever broke."
Orlando ate silently, and the girl made no further attempts to engage him in conversation. She left, taking the tray with her, when he'd finished the bowl of soup.
He had nothing to do but think for nearly a week. The lord stayed mostly away, returning only to sleep at night. Slave girls came and went, bringing Orlando food and water, and directing a team of larger, male slaves to bring in a bathtub and heated water for Orlando to bathe in.
He worried about the crops back home, and how they were going to bring in the harvest without his help. He worried about what sort of punishment the lord would mete out. He worried about what he could offer his Goddess in thanks for sparing his life. And he worried about when the lord would demand that he return to his duties as a proper bedslave should.
On the fifth day after he awoke, the slave girl who brought him breakfast informed him that the lord and the healer had decided he could get out of bed and move freely about the castle. He was not, she said, to tire himself out.
Orlando accepted the girl's help in dressing and left the lord's bedroom for the first time in over a week. The castle seemed unchanged, but as he worked his way out of the keep and towards the walls, he noticed the tense and subdued air. There weren't as many people around, and those who were there looked grim.
One of the guards stopped him when he reached the gates. "I'm sorry, but you can't go out."
"I won't go far," Orlando promised.
The guard shook his head. "No one goes out without the lord's permission."
Orlando sighed and turned to walk along the inside of the walls. One of the other guards let him climb up one of the towers to pace on the top of the walls.
"You're looking better."
The voice startled Orlando out of his contemplation of the forest that lay beyond the plain outside the castle walls. He turned from the view to regard the man who had interrupted his solitude.
"I must say I'm glad to see you up and about. I thought Viggo was going to make himself sick with the way he worried about you." The man shook his head, his attitude and his casual use of the lord's given name marking him as a close friend as well as an employee. Then he seemed to remember that Orlando didn't know him. "Captain Sean Bean," he said, extending a hand.
Orlando took it gingerly without giving his own name.
The Captain snorted. "A quiet one then." He jerked his head toward the keep. "You'd better get down from here before Viggo finds you. He won't like you up here."
Orlando inclined his head in acknowledgement and made his way to one of the towers. When he got to the ground, he continued his circuit of the walls. There wasn't much else for him to do. When he made it back to the guard who'd told him he couldn't go out, he turned and made his way back to the keep.
With nothing better to do, he went down to the kitchens and let the kitchen slaves feed him hearty soup and wine. The warmth settling in his stomach, combined with his walk after over a week in bed, made him sleepy, and he dragged himself back up the stairs to the lord's bedroom.
He awoke to find the lord sipping wine in a chair drawn up to the edge of the bed. "Sean says you were out on the wall," the lord said casually when Orlando's eyes settled on him. The lord's fingers carded through Orlando's hair, the curls looping around them, holding them in place. He twisted his hand, tugging Orlando's hair just enough to hurt. "Stay off the walls."
"I would ask a favor, my lord," Orlando said with proper humility, proper submission.
The lord inclined his head. "You may ask. I may not grant it."
Orlando bowed his head in acknowledgement. "I wish to go into the forest to offer thanks to the Goddess."
The lord's eyes narrowed. "The forest is dangerous."
Orlando's lips thinned. "She saved my life. I must give Her thanks."
"You can do it within the walls."
"I cannot!" Orlando shrank back from the possible consequences of his outburst.
The lord tightened his grip on Orlando's hair. "The forest is too dangerous. I will not have you taken by raiders because you cannot bring yourself to pray within the walls."
"I must be out there, in the forest," Orlando insisted, disregarding the hand in his hair. "It doesn't have to be very far, just in among the trees. I have to give my thanks." Orlando hated the begging tone in his voice.
The lord stroked his thumb across Orlando's forehead. "You will have to go out with a team of guards." He sounded resigned. "I won't be able to arrange it until tomorrow. You may not leave their sight."
Orlando bowed his head. "Thank you, my lord."
The lord's hand cupped his chin and tipped his head back up. "You are a challenge," he murmured. He leaned down and brushed his lips over Orlando's. "Come," he said, taking Orlando's hand. "You will dine in the hall tonight."
"Yes, my lord." Orlando let the lord lead him down the stairs and seat him at his side. The lord's careful solicitousness made something in his stomach quiver, and it continued throughout supper, and even afterwards as the lord took him back to his room.
"I believe I promised you a punishment," the lord said when they were safely locked in his bedroom.
Orlando was unable to still the shudder that went through him.
The lord stroked his cheek. "You disobeyed me," he said. He knelt and lifted each of Orlando's feet in turn to remove his boots. This too made Orlando shiver. The lord pushed down Orlando's pants and drew his shirt over his head. "I told you not to tangle with the invaders and yet you did." The lord brushed his fingers over the healing scar on Orlando's stomach. "And you were injured." The lord bent and let his lips follow the path his fingers had taken, causing Orlando to shiver yet again. "I would not lose you," the lord admitted against his skin.
He straightened and touched Orlando's cheek. "You will not disobey me again," he said, the steel in his voice at odds with the gentleness of his touch. "Do not move."
Orlando stayed where the lord left him as the lord moved around the room and finally returned to his side. "I will not damage you, my little one." He looped soft cords around Orlando's wrists and tied them tightly. "The raiders have done enough of that." He pressed kisses against the inside of Orlando's wrists, just above the knots.
Orlando passively let the lord push him back onto the bed. His heart beat faster with fear when the lord secured his already bound wrists to the bedposts. "My lord--"
The lord stopped him with a hand against his mouth. "Hush, my little one." He slid the hand down Orlando's neck and over his chest. The hand came to rest over Orlando's heart, pressing down. "Do not speak. And do not move." The lord bent down and sealed his lips over Orlando's, stealing his breath and leaving them both gasping when he pulled away.
The lord made him sit up enough to run more of the soft cords under his body. The lord pushed him back down on top of them and began to tie knots in them, creating a web of cords that spread out over his chest. The lord used other cords to tie the harness to the cords holding his wrists to the bed.
Orlando nearly panicked when the lord looped cords around his ankles and pushed his legs up. The lord noticed his distress and stroked his large, warm hands up Orlando's legs and onto his stomach, again brushing them over the scar there.
"Do not struggle," he said. His lips lingered over Orlando's navel, the point that had once connected his body to his mother's. "Do not be afraid. I will do you no harm." His hands stroked back down Orlando's body to his ankles. He pushed Orlando's legs back until his thighs lay flush with his chest.
Orlando trembled with the effort of not fighting his imprisonment. The lord bound his legs bent double on themselves. He didn't have the balance to move. Most of his body was constrained, while the most vulnerable part of his body was on display for the lord. It was uncomfortable, and more than uncomfortable.
The expression on the lord's face was hard to read, or maybe it was just that Orlando didn't want to read it. Anger, regret, tenderness. Fear? The lord couldn't be afraid, could he? And something else he couldn't read. He'd never seen it on the lord's face before.
The lord disappeared from his view and reappeared to bend over him for a deep, slow kiss. The lord's fingers, coated in oil, stroked Orlando's cock into hardness. Orlando hated how easily the lord could tease such a reaction from him.
The fingers trailed down his most sensitive skin, and one slipped into him. The cords kept him from moving either into or away from the touch. The lord's other hand cupped his cheek and stroked it gently even as another finger found its way into Orlando's body.
"Oh, my little one," the lord said, his voice nearly too low to be heard. He pressed his thumb between Orlando's lips, and Orlando had no choice but to let it in, just as he had no choice about the third finger pressing into him.
A fourth finger teased at the entrance to his body, but did not follow its brethren in. Orlando breathed a sigh of relief. He did not think his body would accept that.
The lord's hand stayed on his face, but the other left his body, and he felt empty, then angry that the lord had mastered his body so easily.
The lord let him lie there feeling empty, his hand on Orlando's face making him focus on the lord despite the emptiness. Eventually the lord tired of watching him, and Orlando was filled again, by the lord's cock this time.
He was made to wait again, full and achingly hard, as the lord merely rested his weight on Orlando's body. The pressure made his legs hurt. The cords cut into his skin, and he was sure he would have faint marks when the lord untied him. But the lord's cock in him, and the lord's hand, slick with oil, sliding down his body to grasp his cock, sent pulses of pleasure singing through his body.
He struggled to move, to make the lord move against him faster, but the cords and the lord's weight held him still. "My lord," he heard himself beg in a low moan.
The lord stilled. "You disobeyed my orders," he growled. He thrust hard into Orlando. "They would have killed you." He thrust again. "They would have *killed* you," he said angrily, his thrusts punctuating his words.
Orlando resisted the urge to apologize, to beg for forgiveness. He had done nothing wrong. The lord may command his body, but he could not rule his mind.
The lord's mouth settled onto his neck. Orlando couldn't keep in his moan when the lord's teeth and tongue worked at marking him.
"My lord--" The words escaped before Orlando could stop them.
The lord groaned. "My precious little one." His grip on Orlando's cock tightened, the oil making the friction pleasurable instead of uncomfortable.
Orlando's orgasm rushed through him suddenly enough that it surprised a loud, wordless shout out of him. He trembled in reaction as the lord reached his own orgasm accompanied by a loud groan.
The lord collapsed onto Orlando, stretching his legs even more. The lord pushed the sweat-soaked curls away from Orlando's forehead and placed a soft kiss against his lips.
The lord pulled back, leaving Orlando empty again. He untied the cords holding Orlando's legs back on themselves, letting Orlando stretch them back out. The lord's hands rubbed down his legs, working out the stiffness. He retied the cords around Orlando's ankles, not holding them to anything but keeping him enclosed.
The lord's hand traveled up Orlando's arms to rest around his wrists. "I'm going to leave you tied tonight." He reached out and found a cloth to wipe the stickiness off of Orlando's skin. He settled himself half on Orlando with his hand looped around Orlando's wrists. "Do not disobey me again."
The lord shifted closer to him and fell into his usual heavy sleep. Orlando worked to calm his nearly panicked breathing. The lord's warmth and weight helped calm him enough to fall into a deep, exhausted sleep.
He awoke later than he would have under normal circumstances and thought, with bitter humor, that he could hardly expect anything else after the beating his body had taken. The lord waited until his eyes opened before kissing him. The lord then silently untied the cords still binding Orlando's body.
Orlando hissed with relief and slowly stretched out his limbs. The lord helped to massage out the tension in his body. The warmth of his hands eased the cramps out of his arms, and the lord followed his touch with soft brushes of his lips against Orlando's skin. It was the closest Orlando had ever come to feeling worshipped.
The lord pressed his lips against Orlando's neck, the pressure causing a twinge of pain in the already bruised skin. "Captain Bean will take you out to the forest after breakfast," he said. He opened the door to the room and sent one of the waiting slaves to fetch breakfast. "You won't be allowed to go far, and you'll be under Captain Bean's eye the whole time." The lord looked down at Orlando, stern despite his nakedness. "Do not try to escape. Do not disobey me."
"No, my lord." Orlando hesitated. "Thank you, my lord."
The lord's hand cupped his cheek. "If your Goddess did indeed save your life, then She deserves both our thanks." The lord gathered his own clothes and tossed Orlando his. They dressed in silence and sat together at the table for breakfast. Their breakfast was equally silent, punctuated only by the sounds of their eating.
Captain Bean arrived just as they were finishing. "Viggo." He greeted the lord with a strong handclasp. "We're ready whenever the boy is."
"How many men are you taking with you?"
"Seven of my best men and myself. He'll be safe." Captain Bean nodded at Orlando. "Are you ready?"
Orlando flicked a glance at the lord. "Yes."
"Orlando." The lord's use of his name stopped him. "Come here."
Orlando willed his feet not to drag as he moved across the room. "Yes, my lord?"
The lord stepped forward and, placing his hands on either side of Orlando's face, kissed him deeply. "Return safe to me, my little one."
Orlando stepped back and attempted to school his features into impassivity. "Yes, my lord."
Captain Bean laid a hand on the lord's shoulder. "I'll bring him back safe, Viggo."
The lord put his hand over Captain Bean's. "I trust you, Sean."
Captain Bean bowed his head. "Your trust will not be misplaced." He led Orlando through the door and out of the keep. His men surrounded Orlando, and Captain Bean moved to the outside of the group.
"There's a glade not very far into the forest." Captain Bean glanced back at Orlando. "Will that do?"
"Yes, thank you."
Captain Bean led the small party out of the castle walls and across the plain around the walls into the forest. He led Orlando into a small clearing. The grass was soft under their feet, and light filtered through the trees to make a bright, sunny circle surrounded by leaf-cast shadows.
"Will this suit you?" Captain Bean asked.
"Yes." Orlando smiled at him. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." Captain Bean directed his men to spread out around the edges of the clearing.
Orlando waited for the guards to move out of the way before he calmed his breathing in preparation to pray.
He knelt first to the East. "Maiden, I give thanks for your hand in my healing and ask for your blessing upon this union." He hadn't meant to ask for that, but the words slipped out, and it was too late to take it back now. He bent his forehead to the ground to seal his prayer. He stood and bowed once more to the East.
He turned to the South and knelt again. "Mother, I give thanks for your hand in my healing and ask that you keep and preserve my family." He touched his forehead to the ground, then stood and bowed before turning to the West.
He knelt a third time. "Warrior, I give thanks for your hand in my healing and ask that you give me strength." He pressed his forehead to the ground. He stood and faced the North.
He knelt a fourth time. "Crone, I give thanks for your hand in my healing and ask that you grant me wisdom." He bent his forehead to the ground.
He stood and stared into a gap between the guards. Strength, he decided, and wisdom. He knelt to the North-West and settled himself comfortably. He sank into a prayer trance, reaching deep inside himself for his sense of connection to the Goddess. It took longer than it ever had before.
When he finally found it, he reached out toward the Goddess. Strength and wisdom, he thought.
When he came out of his trance, the sun had moved halfway across the sky. He remained on his knees for a few moments more, letting his eyes readjust to the light. He stood slowly, carefully stretching out his legs.
"Thank you, Goddess," he said softly, dipping his body in a bow. Choosing one of the guards at random, he said, "I'm done."
That guard signaled to the others and they circled in around him again. Captain Bean threw him a small smile, which he tried to return. At Captain Bean's signal, they left the glade behind and returned to the castle.
The lord was waiting for them. "Thank you," he said to Captain Bean.
Captain Bean bowed to him. "At your service, my lord."
The lord dismissed the guards, leaving Orlando to face him alone. "I trust you have made your thanks to your Goddess."
"Yes, my lord."
The lord ran his fingers along Orlando's jaw. "You will attend me at supper."
"Yes, my lord."