This story takes place before the events of the book Prince for Sale, when Vell was still a prince of Otharn. It was inspired by Vell’s telling of his past with the mysterious ranger in the forests of Otharn:
Vell lay back and stretched out on the bed, damp hair spread out on the pillow. “When I was younger, I often explored the forests of Otharn alone, looking for herbs and springs, ancient trees and secret places. I met a forest ranger, much older than I, he found me bathing in a pool. He looked at me as the hunter looks at the deer, and we came to an understanding. I ran from him, naked on my bare feet. He hunted me through the forest, and brought me down, bound me and kept me at his camp. He had me as he wished, and called me Vatnsandur, which means water spirit.”
Vell crushed his excitement as he teleported to the forest clearing where he had last seen the ranger. He did not want to hope he may still be there, or that if he was there, he would be happy to see Vell again. It had been a year since their eyes had met across the river where Vell was bathing, and all that had followed. That had been a moment in time. Four days of amnesia, of deliberate incuriosity about names, ranks, obligations. Just a wild chase through the forest followed by days and nights of exploration. Vell should not have returned. He should simply have enjoyed the memory and let it fade away.
But here he was. Every burden and lesson of court life was already streaming from his shoulders like water, like the water from the river where the ranger had found him and named him Vatsandur. Water spirit. He had hunted him and kept him as his pet, his lover, his obedient servant. Vell wanted more. He wanted more and he had nowhere to get it, save here.
It was not that he was forbidden from taking lovers, of course. He was a grown man, and King Covl was willing to look the other way while his sons charmed ladies and visited courtesans. But Covl certainly was not willing to allow them to form any attachments, or worse, to bring their name into scorn, brand themselves as anything less than men. Lonn bedded men and women both, but he never lay beneath any of them and there was no doubt as to his preferences. As usual, his golden light shone bright enough to blind all to his faults. Vell had no such luxury. He was already suspect, lean rather than muscular, studious rather than combative. He preferred a dagger to a spear, and magic to any melee. It would do nothing but incur the king’s wrath and the realm’s scorn for it to be known that his preference was the exact opposite of his brother in bedsport as well.
Vell flushed even at the thought of his father finding out such a thing. His four days with the ranger had been an awakening, but a closely hidden secret. The ranger, who never spoke his name, seemed to know at once Vell’s desire, and he met it perfectly with desires of his own. To conquer where Vell wished to yield, to order where Vell wished to obey, to praise and train and teach, where Vell wished only to learn. They both pretended they had no names, and the ranger ignored Vell’s rich clothing, his pale skin, his jewel handled blades.
Vell appeared in the clearing and looked around. It was empty. Of course it was. The ranger was long gone, moving through the forest as he pleased, watching over everything that moved within it. That was his role. A ranger did not stay in one place. Vell scuffed his foot on the grassy ground. He was glad to be gone from palace anyway, he decided. He could still enjoy his time in the forest, collect what herbs he needed and breathe the fresh air. It was rare enough to get a break from court duties and training that was not taken up with one of his brother’s expeditions. He should make the most of it.
Vell set up his small camp, a tent and a circle of stones for a fire, and when he was done he already felt better. The clean air rustling through the trees, the cool scent of pine, the grass under his feet cleared his head and he could feel peace settling on him. He had bought a few supplies, but he would have to hunt or forage for food if he wished to stay longer than a day. With that in mind, he idly strolled around the edge of the clearing, looking for a straight branch he could craft into a spear for fishing. He was on the far side of the clearing when the branches parted on the opposite side by his tent. Vell’s heart jumped in his chest when the ranger stepped through, as tall and broad and strong as he remembered. His hair was cropped shorter and his beard a little greyer, but Vell had little care for such details. He stepped out from the shadows, and the ranger’s face broke into a smile, his eyes sparkling.
“Vatnsandur,” he said, hs deep voice vibrating in Vell’s bones, “Vatnsandur, my water spirit, it is good to see you walking in my forest again.”
His possessive words did something to Vell, his knees were weak, his cheeks heating. Some rebellious part of his brain was thrilled and delighted that the ranger would claim Otharn’s royal forest as his own, as easily as he would claim its Prince. Vell had no doubt the ranger knew who he was. But it was no matter, not to Vatnsandur, not here, in this peaceful place.
Vell walked across the clearing, his throat dry.Did he need to explain himself, to tell why he had come, and ask for the ranger to indulge him once more? He had not explained anything the first time, that one look had been enough. A shared understanding that had him fleeing through the forest on bare feet, the ranger close behind him, his leather bola in his hand. Vell shook his head, clearing away such memories. He had lived on those memories for the past year, but he did not want them to cloud his thoughts now.
The ranger did not make him explain himself. He knew why Vell had returned. He pulled him by the shoulder as soon as he was close enough, running his hand through his hair, loosening the locks and letting them tumble about his chin. He kissed his cheek, surprisingly chaste, his beard tickling, and pulled him into a warm embrace. “Vatnsandur,” he rumbled in his ear. Vell found his hands clutched tight in the ranger’s jerkin, his breath already short. “You do not need those clothes here, or those weapons. I have everything you need. I will take care of you, little one.”
Vell nodded, already moving to pull off his leather coat, desperate to please, to be obedient. Even as he did it he knew what foolishness it was to strip and drop his weapons in the depths of the forests with this man whose name he did not even know. But foolishness aside, he did it. He stood again on his bare feet in the grass, his skin prickling with cold and with the eyes of the ranger on him. He was Vatnsandur, a water spirit, an elemental creature made flesh. He was a creature of this forest. As the ranger claimed the forest, he claimed all the creatures within it, and Vatnsandur was his creature.
The ranger ran his hands over Vell’s flesh, turned him around, rubbed and examined and eventually he grunted his approval of what he saw. Such treatment did something to Vell, and when he was turned back to face the ranger, his knowing smile showed he was well aware of the effect he had.
“Down, Vatnsandur,” he ordered, his voice gruff but gentle. Vell did as he was told, down on the soft grass, on his knees, his head resting on his folded arms, as he knew the ranger liked.
A hand gripped the back of his neck, holding him in place. “You’re a good little spirit,” the ranger said, hypnotic, “I have missed your soft flesh. Let us see if it is as I remember. Make yourself ready.”
Vell performed the useful little spell the ranger had taught him to prepare his body for use. He flushed with shame and excitement to even think of it. That his body could be used in such a way, that a prince of Otharn could strip and kneel and be ordered to submit. But he did it. He hid his flushed face in his arms, but there was no hiding his excitement from the ranger’s keen eyes, or from his calloused hand, reaching between Vell’s legs to stroke his hard cock. Vell groaned at the touch although he knew the ranger would not let him find his pleasure so easily.
“There you go,” the ranger said, satisfied, and Vell was dizzy with it. That after a year the man could again have him so easily in the palm of his hand. He arched his back, raised his hips, longing for more. The ranger chuckled, “So eager, Vatnsandur, are there none in the spirit world to take care of you? No hungry nymphs or eager dryads to make good use of you?”
Vell shook his head. He rarely spoke to the ranger. He did not need to. The ranger commanded his tongue and he had other uses for it than to hear Vell’s words. It was a relief, not to have to talk, not to have to do anything but present his body the way the ranger liked and do as he was told. To have all responsibility gone and let himself fall into this haze. To be Vatnsandur.
The ranger did not wait any longer. He knelt between Vell’s spread knees and took a firm grip on his hips. Vell wriggled his ass a little, and earned another soft chuckle, “Peace, Vatnsandur, you’ll get what you need.” With that, he pulled Vell back onto his cock, all the way, sliding home, a long groan as Vell’s flesh was pierced and yielded to him, making way for him. Vell’s mouth gaped and his eyes widened as he was taken. It had been a year, a year since he had done this, but he had prepared himself well enough that the stretch and burn of it soon gave way to a warm fullness. More than that, his mind hazed with his submission, to be used like this, for the ranger after a full year to order him to his knees and take him so easily, as though it was his right, as though Vell’s body served only for his pleasure. Vell was dizzy with it, and he gasped as the Ranger pulled out and thrust back in. Warm hands on his hips steadied him, a low voice behind him told him how good he was, how beautifully he submitted, how perfectly he took it. Vell pushed back into the rangers thrusts, desperate for more, more praise, more sensation, more pleasure, he did not know. He only wanted more.
True to his word, the ranger gave him what he needed, his calloused hand stroked Vell to completion just as he finished inside him. Vell trembled all over as he came, the ranger buried deep, one hand on the back of his neck, the other on his cock. Vell trembled and his eyes filled, the crest of his pleasure pushing him over the edge of his control, and suddenly everything was too much. Too much, he had let go of too much of himself and if he did not hold on to something, he would never want to come back.
The ranger soothed him, after. He spread out his furs and laid him down, let him rest his head on his broad shoulder and kissed him gently. He didn’t ask him any questions or make him explain himself, merely fed him a handful of dried fruits and waited for him to stop shaking, wrapped in his embrace.
“You are well?” He asked, and Vell nodded. The ranger propped himself on one elbow and looked down on him, the late afternoon sun casting deep shadows through the trees. He traced his fingers around Vell’s eye, over his cheekbone, around his jaw, his eyes seeing far more just Vell’s face.
“This can be a hard world, for a water spirit,” he said eventually, and Vell nodded again, his eyes filling with tears again, that he could not stop or explain. The ranger wiped them away with his thumb. “I know all that passes in his forest. Any spirits that seek shelter or comfort here will always be welcome. Especially you, Vatnsandur.”
He smiled down at him, held the final dried apple to his lips. Vell ate it, and smiled back up at him. He knew not what power the ranger held, or how he had known Vell was in the clearing, but for now, he welcomed the feeling of safety, of peace, of being enough, in this place.
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