Reader request for a scene from Vell’s life as Hreidmar’s slave before he was rescued by Lonn.
Vell kept his eyes open. That was the only thing under his control, whether he opened his eyes or closed them. He was chained to a post outside the forge. Not even in the courtyard. Outside. Outside under the moonlight, the distant rocky mountains turned blue and black, the foothills in deep shadow that could hide any number of hungry creatures.
He had angered Hreidmar, that much was obvious. Some of those who endured this punishment did not come back alive. The giant and vicious creatures of Vaaladir rarely prowled so close to the forge, the ísbjörn and veru with their thick leather and ivory tusks were too valuable a prize and they had learned to stay away. Other, smaller creatures did not. Pack hunters, fast and hungry, would make short work of helpless prey like Vell, strung up naked for easy pickings.
It was freezing cold, the icy rain whipped across Vell’s bare flesh, stealing any shred of warmth he had. It was not the cold that would kill him, although that certainly added to his misery. It was the animals. His eyes scanned the horizon. It was empty, but the night was not even half over. If he lived through this night, he swore to himself, he would change. He would be obedient. He would not look for loopholes and ways to get around the restrictions of the collar. It was not worth it. The price was too high. This was not Otharn, where such foolishness would be met with a roll of his mother’s eyes and perhaps a slap on the wrist. This was Vaaladir, and Vell was no prince. He was a slave.
Barely two months since he had been sold. Sold. By Covl. By his family. He still could not believe it sometimes. The injustice of it burned in his belly. He woke up on cold floors, ate scraps, was forced into obedience by the cursed collar. He worked. Nothing like the work he had done as a prince, and oh, he had thought himself capable of hard work! He had cleaned out the straw for his own horse, he had cooked over a campfire with his brother, he had traveled for leagues on foot, he trained in the arena! But no, he had not known what hard work was. He had been exactly what Hreidmar had accused him of, when he first held the end of his leash. A spoiled, pampered child. But no longer. Now, his every waking moment he worked. He scrubbed floors, he washed dishes, he cleaned his master’s chambers, he fetched and carried until his feet bled. And even that was not the worst. He would do such work, if that was all. But his master used him in other ways. He did not even want to think about it. He had been a prince, and now he was supposed to be a slave and he was treated as a whore. And perhaps soon, he would be nothing but a tender morsel for a pack of wild hundur.
He hung in his chains. If he lived, he knew what would be required. He would beg for Hreidmar’s forgiveness, and thank him for his punishment. He had seen others do it. If they were not convincing they sometimes got a second round to try again. Vell could not let that happen. He would be convincing. He was sorry. Well, if not sorry, he was regretful. He had been stupid. He had been stupid and afraid, and he had allowed himself to forget where he was.
Hreidmar had ordered him to go to his chambers. And Vell had done so, but he had not been ordered to stay there, and so he did not. He had not been able to face another night of use, of pain and humiliation. He did not know what he was expecting to happen. Before he was even halfway to a hiding place, he was already cursing himself and turning around, running back to Hreidmar’s chambers, hoping to be back there before Hreidmar arrived in the mood for sport. But he had not been fast enough. When he had entered through the servant’s door Hreidmar was already in the room, furious. He had enough survival instinct at least to fall to his knees, to make some feeble excuse. He had not earned any forgiveness though, only this punishment, after being given to the guards for their fun until moonrise.
Vell opened his eyes. He didn’t realize he had shut them. He scanned the horizon. Nothing. Nothing yet. He didn’t think about the rest. About his body, used and torn, healing painfully, the frozen, icy rain agony on his tender flesh. He didn’t think about the laughter of the guards as they took their turns. Clearly a game they were used to, although not usually with an Otharnian like him. He was something different to their usual fare, and they made sure no one missed their turn with him.
He didn’t think about it.
He scanned the horizon.
He still was Vell. Despite this. He still was Vell. He had no other name now, he was no longer Covl’s son, and he didn’t want to be. Covl had betrayed him. He had cast him out, he had denied him. Vell twisted in his chains, the metal cutting into his wrists. The shackles held him up on his toes, his arms stretched out. He would have no defence if anything came for him in the night.
He kept his head up, and his eyes open, and scanned the horizon.
The moons hung in the sky, unmoving. Time seemed to have stopped. The only thing that moved was the wind and rain that stung and froze and burned him. A tear blurred his eye and he blinked it away, cursing himself. He was a fool. If he was going to survive this, to survive and maybe even to one day escape, he would need his strength. He would need to be learn how to behave, to avoid attention, to avoid punishments such as this one. He could work. He would. He would work hard and eat what meagre rations they gave him, and do what he was told. Yes, even do what Hreidmar wanted in his chambers. He was a fool. He could have laid down for Hreidmar and endured that indignity and slept on his chill stone floor, and probably awoken to more of the same. He had done it before, and he would have to do it again. Instead, he had been fucked by as many guards as could get their turn before the first moon came up, and he had been chained naked outside in the freezing rain to suffer and be left at the mercy of what wild animals may pass by.
Some part of Vell knew exactly what this punishment was intended to do. It was intended to make him realize how kindly Hreidmar treated him and how grateful he should be for his mercy. He knew what was happening to him. He was being trained like a dog. Even though he knew, he couldn’t stop it. It was working.
He kept his head up, and his eyes open, and scanned the horizon.
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Oh wow this was so great, he’s realizing he has to break if he wants to survive while hoping he can maintain some of who he is. It’s a cruel twist that he realizes he’ll have to do what he was trying to escape in the first place, but now he was used by all the guards on top of it.