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Short Story Saturday

This is another new feature I’ve decided to include, since I recently came across a number of short stories I wrote a while ago, and I’d love to share them. This will be a bi-weekly event. The first story does not involve any of the characters you may know, but I like it. I originally wrote it for a contest, where it got third place, I believe.

 

Poor Relations

The first thing Klin noticed about the house was its sweeping architecture. Even though he had been living in a near-castle all his life, it hadn’t been nearly as lovely as the house he and his father were about to move into.

“The house is far too large for me now,” the gray-haired owner was telling them as he showed them around. “With all of my children married and my wife gone, I’ve no use for such a large place.”

Klin’s father nodded. “My son and I wanted a place that would suit both us and his future family,” he explained.

Klin suppressed a snort and scanned the hall they were walking through with emerald eyes.

“Such a fine son will fetch a finer woman,” the owner said approvingly.

Klin ignored the comment.

“How, may I ask,” the owner questioned of Klin’s father, “did you come upon your wealth?”

“Breeding and dealing horses,” the other man replied proudly. “Farm horses, carriage horses, riding horses, children’s horses, sport horses – whatever you need, I can supply you.”

“Well, there’s plenty of land for your business around this house,” the old owner added. “Do you use slaves in your business?”

“If I didn’t pay my stable hands I fear they’d harm the horses,” the breeder replied. “I would never trust my prized horses to slaves.”

“I understand, a wise choice. Do you have slaves in your home?”

“Only a servant who shared in the pay of her husband and son who were two of my hands. She has recently retired, however.”

They entered the elaborate dining room then, and Klin caught sight of a youth his age wiping down the already polished table. He was beautiful, even at a distance. Dark, lavishly dark brown hair fell straight to his shoulders, flowing as he worked despite its slight tangles. Klin caught a glimpse, only briefly, of plum-colored eyes that fell quickly to the work he was doing. His clothes were more snug than they should have been, despite the youth’s thin frame.

“This slave comes with the house, as well,” the owner told them.

“What’s his name?” Klin asked, not taking his eyes from the slave.

The master snorted. “Why would he have a name? He’s my wife’s bastard child; I wouldn’t bother naming him.”

Klin took one more look at the boy. Nylen. It was the name that came to him, and that’s how Klin would think of him. Everyone deserved a name, especially a slave.

 

~*~

Soon Klin and his father were settled in the house and a large stable was being built behind it. Klin grew used to seeing Nylen regularly, but he couldn’t suppress the anguish he always felt at the young slave’s situation. Though Klin’s father wasn’t overly cruel, it was clear by Nylen’s almost constant silence and skittish movements that he was used to far more than harsh words and a rare rap on the shoulder.

One day, a few weeks after moving in, while his father was working with the stable builders, Klin found the slave in his chamber, cleaning.

“Would you like help?” Klin offered.

Nylen jumped and spun to face him. “It’s-it’s my work,” he stuttered.

“I used to help our old maid clean my own room,” Klin persisted. “Do you ever rest?”

The slave went back to work, shaking his head. “No, sir.”

“Don’t call me ‘sir’,” Klin told him as he closed the door.

“I’m sorry,” Nylen said quickly, dusting Klin’s desk faster.

Klin straightened the blankets on his bed. “Is my father being good to you?” he asked.

“He is much more kind than what I’ve come to expect,” the slave replied as he moved on to dust the bureau.

“He doesn’t hurt people unless they deserve it,” Klin explained. “Small mistakes don’t usually upset him too much, though he does have a temper. So, how old are you?”

Nylen shrugged and didn’t turn around. “I’ve never been told.”

“You look about my age – seventeen.”

The young man finally turned to him, a confused look in his plum eyes. “Why do you speak to me as if we are equals?” He bowed his head quickly. “Please, forgive me.”

“Forgive you for what?” Klin asked. “For asking a question? Nylen, I’m not your master. In truth, I want to be your friend. I hate seeing you so alone.”

The slave looked even more confused. “What did you call me?” he questioned without restraint.

Klin thought a moment and realized he’d used his personal name for the servant. “Nylen,” he replied. “I think it’s your name, or, it’s the one I gave you, at least.”

Nylen repeated the name several times, looking dumbfounded and speaking softly.

“Do you like it?” Klin ventured to ask.

The other young man nodded. “Yes. Thank you. I’ve never dreamed of having a name before.”

Klin smiled. “Everyone should have a name, especially someone as hard working as you. Now, let me help you. I have nothing better to do anyway.”

 

~*~

Over the next several weeks Klin helped Nylen whenever he had the chance, whether it was simply by keeping his own room as clean as possible, or by working with the slave on his chores. He easily got to know the young man, and soon there was no hesitation or awkwardness in their conversations. Klin learned how Nylen had suffered at the service of the house’s previous owner, and saw the scars that were proof. He learned of Nylen’s hopelessness, how he knew he’d only be free when he died and so had tried to kill himself twice before. Each time he had been found, sent to a healer, and brought back to be punished severely.

Klin listened as a good friend would, and in turn told of his own life. He told him how his mother had died when was a toddler, of how his father occasionally lost his temper if things didn’t go his way, of how he’d grown up around horses. The day he first brought a smile to the unfortunate servant’s face was the day Klin felt his heart warmed by him for the first time. And the more Nylen smiled the more Klin felt drawn to him. If only he could get him away from his terrible life of service…

 

~*~

“I’ve noticed you’ve been with the slave often,” Klin’s father observed one afternoon as Klin helped with the finishing of the stable.

Klin just shrugged as he checked the hinges on a stall door. “I want to help him. It’s sad how alone he is.”

His father shook his head. “Don’t get attached to him, like I tell you with the horses. I can sell him any time I wish to.”

Klin stopped and looked at the older man. “Please,” he requested, “he’s been through enough.”

The breeder shrugged. “I don’t want to sell him now, I’m just warning you.”

Klin went back to work, but he was distracted by the thought of Nylen leaving. It would break his heart to see the young man leave, and Nylen would be thrust into a situation far worse than the one he was currently in, most likely.

He couldn’t let that happen.

 

~*~

A few days later his father left to secure some new breeding stock. Klin was left alone in the huge house, alone but for Nylen.

“What would you like for dinner?” Nylen asked that evening.

Klin leaned against the doorway to the kitchen. “You don’t need to cook anything,” he replied.

Nylen shook his head. “It’s part of my requirements to cook for the master’s family.”

Klin walked in, took part of a loaf of bread and a bit of cheese, and sat down on the swept floor. “This is perfect for me,” he told Nylen.

His friend sighed. “As you wish.”

As Nylen started to sit down next to him, Klin stopped him with the shake of his head. “Get yourself some food,” he told him.

“I’m not supposed to eat with you,” Nylen reminded him.

“Get yourself some food,” Klin repeated, this time more sternly. “I order you to.”

Nylen sighed and took another piece of the freshly-baked bread. He then sat down close to Klin. They ate silently and Klin felt so content beside Nylen that he smiled as he finished his small dinner. He didn’t want to think about his father possibly selling the slave or hurting him; he cared about him too much.

He jolted to reality when he felt a hand touch his. Only then did he realize that he’d rested a hand on Nylen’s thigh, and Nylen had rested his own hand on top of Klin’s. Klin looked at Nylen’s eyes, hoping to find out if the servant was taking this as friendship, or the deeper feelings it was meant to portray.

Nylen’s plum eyes had a gentle glitter that Klin wasn’t used to. And he was smiling that sweet smile that warmed Klin’s heart. Almost before he realized it, Klin lifted his free hand to caress Nylen’s cheek. The servant’s eyes almost seemed to mist and Klin felt an arm snake around him. He leaned closer, his heart soaring.

Their sweet, tender kiss sent his heart skipping. He slipped both his arms around Nylen, and kissed him like he’d never dreamed of kissing anyone before. When it ended it was too soon, but it stirred them both so that they looked at each other and laughed happily.

“I’ve been meaning to tell you since you first came here,” Nylen said, “that you’re one of the most beautiful men I’ve ever seen.”

“But you never leave,” Klin pointed out, laughing.

Nylen shrugged. “I’ve seen the boys who deliver the groceries, your father’s stable hands, and my old master’s friends.”

Klin smiled. “So, you like me just for my appearance?”

“Of course not,” Nylen assured him. “But it’s a bonus.”

“I see the same bonus in you,” Klin told him, then gave him another light kiss.

 

~*~

They kept their relationship to themselves, only expressing affection when they knew for sure that no one would catch them. Gradually they became more and more daring in their exchanges, until the night when Klin slipped silently from his room to the one in which Nylen slept. It would have been more comfortable in Klin’s soft bed than the pallet on the floor that the servant called a mattress, but neither of them thought of that.

Neither of them thought of breakfast either.

Klin’s only thought was of how much he loved the man he slept with. He was so happy to wake up in Nylen’s arms the next morning that nothing else mattered to him, until the one thing they hadn’t anticipated happened.

When Klin heard his father coming his first instinct was to hide, but there was nothing in the bare room to hide behind or in. Nylen was up with him, trying frantically to help.

But the door swung open with Klin’s father demanding, “Where is breakfast you lazy servant?”

He froze as soon as he saw the couple, cowering, heads bowed, naked. Klin didn’t dare look up, because he knew his father’s temper was close to breaking. It had to be.

“Get up,” the older man demanded.

Both youths scrambled to obey, but he had moved closer and pushed Nylen back to the floor. “You stay,” he growled, then grabbed his son by the arm. “Get your pants on!” he ordered.

Klin obeyed and let himself be dragged from the room. He glanced back at Nylen, who was cowering on the floor, his head covered by his hands. Klin’s heart broke with the fear of what was to come as he was dragged down the hall to his own room and thrown inside.

“What compelled you to do something so horrible?” his father demanded of him.

Klin shook as he glared at the older man. “It wasn’t horrible.”

His father slapped him across the face. “It was! Klin, you slept with a servant – a slave! And as if that wasn’t terrible enough, it was a male slave!”

Klin ignored the pain in his cheek. “I love him!”

Another slap landed on him so heavily that it made him stagger. “He’s bewitched you, and he’ll be whipped to death for it!”

“Don’t hurt him!” Klin yelled as his father turned away.

The only response was the slamming of his door.

Klin ground his teeth and made the only choice available to him worth making. He took the pouch of money from beneath his mattress and slipped it into his pocket, laced his boots, and grabbed his small knife just in case.

Everything was silent as he slipped from his room only minutes after his father left. He moved as quietly as possible out of the house, easily avoiding anyone. Outside, he stealthily made his way to the stable, but he wasn’t seen anyway, since all the stable hands were gathered about to watch – from a distance – Nylen’s brutal punishment.

Klin slipped a bridle onto his mare and led her from her stall. He swung easily onto her bare back and headed out of the stable. He kicked her into a full gallop toward the crowd, which broke out of his way as he rode in.

His father was already cutting bloody gashes into Nylen’s back and only looked up when Klin’s mare reared over him. “What are you doing?” he demanded, stumbling back away from the thrashing hooves.

Klin just maneuvered his mount between his father and his lover, who was tied with his arms at each of two fence posts. He knew his father would never harm a horse for any reason, and he also knew that his personal mare would only respond to his commands, not his father’s. Klin hopped from her back, pulled his knife, and cut the ropes binding Nylen.

The slave was shaking and his back was bloody and raw. Klin could tell he was in shock and he guided him to the horse. “Hold on,” he commanded, slipped his knife back into his belt, and boosted Nylen onto the mare’s back.

It was the moment Klin’s father had waited for. Immediately, he tried pulling Nylen off, but the boy clung to the mare’s mane. Klin easily swung up behind his lover and kicked his father’s arms away. Enraged, the man raised his whip, but Klin drove his mare into a wild gallop. Klin held Nylen firmly with one arm around his waist and steered his steed away with the other hand. He hardly noticed the blood from Nylen’s back smearing onto his bare chest.

They didn’t speak until the horse tired and they finally dropped to a walk after what seemed like hours. Klin unstuck himself from Nylen and winced when he saw the wounds.

“It hurts,” Nylen told him when he asked how he felt.

“Let’s rest,” Klin suggested, stopping the mare beside a stream. They had followed a game trail into a patch of woods, and were now in a clearing. Klin helped Nylen dismount and embraced him gently. “I’m sorry I wasn’t fast enough to stop him before he started.”

Nylen shook his head. “Thank you,” he whispered. “I was so afraid of dying alone.”

Klin kissed him gently. “I could never let that happen to you.”

“Now what?” Nylen asked.

“You’re free,” Klin replied. “You can make your own life, stay with me, work for someone else – whatever you wish.”

“It would be foolish of me not to stay with you,” Nylen told him. “I don’t know how to survive alone, and I don’t want to be away from you. I love you.”

Klin smiled and ran a hand through his lover’s tangled hair. “Then let’s find a village for some food and a healer. After that we can find a place to live. Together. And you won’t be my slave.”

Nylen smiled. “It’ll be hard to break the habit of cleaning and cooking.”

“I can’t cook, so you can still do that,” Klin told him. “Now, maybe we should keep riding. I don’t think my father will follow us, but you need a healer.”

Nylen agreed and allowed Klin to help him mount once more. They continued on at an easy trot, away from their past and into their future.

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February 26, 2011 - Posted by | Short Story Saturday

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