Title:  Ha'penny Slave
Author: samsarapine
Rating: NC-17
Pairings: Sanzo/Goku (secondary Hakkai/Gojyo, but not explicit)

Disclaimer:  Saiyuki characters are the property of Minekura Kazuya.  I make no profit from this story.
Summary:  A hangman's noose looms before Symon de Wallingford as he's caught in a web of murder, politics and the fate of a mysterious escaped slave with golden eyes. (About 25,000 words)

Warnings:  Allusions to past abuse; some violence; quite a bit of swearing; explicit sex.  Secondary character death

A/N: Written for Pixie Blade for the 2009 7thNight Smut exchange.  Many thanks to the amazing Karuune, who beta'ed this fic.  I was the last to touch it, however, so any mistakes remaining are mine.Website:  http://samsarapine.livejournal.com

Email: samsarapine [at] yahoo [dot] com

 

This story is loosely based on events that took place in Oxford, c.1209 (which, not-so-coincidentally, are related to Cambridge University's 800th anniversary this year).  I modernised the dialogue, with glaring anachronisms eliminated where noticed. 

 

Characters:

 

Sanzo = Symon, Lord of Wallingford

Hakkai = Hereward, nicknamed 'Hawk' or 'Hawk Eye'

Goku = Guy

Gojyo = Gervase

Nii = Nicholaus

Kougaiji = Lord Konstantine

Dokugakuji = Dyonisius, nicknamed 'Denys'

Gyumaoh = Girardus, Earl of Richemon

Gyukumen = Sibyl

Jeep = Chienblanc, nicknamed 'Chien'

Zakuro = Spyrling

 

Ha'Penny Slave

Part One:  Of A Voice in the Darkness

 

Though nights were beginning to get cooler, the day had been warm and lovely, the golden-red sunset was striking and their meal had been fit for a duke, complete with dried figs, honey and pungent French cheese for afters.  Hawk breathed deeply.  Putting aside the earlier trials of his life, at the moment it was good to be nineteen, of sufficient means to eat well, of sufficient wit to argue with the good probability of winning and of sufficient luck to obtain all that he needed with a minimum of effort. 

 

Hearing a small commotion, he caught hold of his companion's arm and held him in place as a pig galloped across their path, followed closely by a band of small children waving sticks and shrieking in shrill voices.

 

"Tch."  Symon de Wallingford brushed at his cream-coloured schert.

 

"Children have such high spirits," Hawk said admiringly.  "If you'd put half that energy into your studies—"

 

"—You'd be paying me for lessons," Symon finished.  "Instead we end up giving my good pennies to idiots who don't have the fucking intelligence to copy manuscripts for a living."

 

"Ah haha.  Yes, that's so," said Hawk, unflustered.  "But I thought that John of Aberdeen's lecture about applying Aristotelian ethics to the Church's teachings on the philosophy of spiritual guidance was quite interesting."

 

"Bullshit," Symon said.  "William of Auvergne clearly demonstrates that Aristotle's work on ethics is in direct conflict with faith and is therefore false."

 

A woman hurrying by with a basket of laundry gave them a dirty look.  Hawk smiled at her and nodded, then turned back to Symon.

 

"But what if the Church would shift its focus from teaching people that Heaven is a reward for pious behaviour as ascertained by the Pope to a philosophy that every man is responsible for his own actions, and therefore his own entrance into Heaven?"

 

"If the Church did that, society would degenerate into chaos.  The masses aren't interested in doing good, they're interested in getting ahead.  People like that bastard Nicholaus would be more than happy to exploit that kind of greed."

 

"Nicholaus's a student of Divinity—"

 

"He's dangerous.  I don't trust him or his ideas.  Arguing that the universe is a void that consists of nothing but random acts of predation may be true, but it's shit as scholarship."

 

"I'm sure that if he'd been at tonight's dinner—"

 

"—Out fucking someone, I'll bet—"

 

Hawk smiled amiably, "—He would have pointed out that the pig that just crossed our path—Oh!"  He stumbled into Symon, who had halted abruptly.

 

"Did you hear that?"

 

"Hear what?"  Hawk peered into the alley, where darkness was quickly growing as the sun slipped further below the horizon.  "Another pig, perhaps?"  He glanced around, but the street was empty.

 

"No."  Symon frowned, his violet eyes dark with concentration.  "No, I heard someone…"

 

"I see no one." 

 

"There it is again!"  Showing no care for the clothes he'd been so concerned about earlier, Symon plunged into the dark alley.

 

Without hesitation, Hawk plunged in after him. 

 

The alley smelled of waste and corruption, ominous rustling sounds indicating that rats had already begun their nightly foraging.  The second and third stories of the surrounding houses loomed overhead, their outsized upper floors nearly meeting as the owners exploited every bit of available space.  They created an artificial midnight that made the flesh on Hawk's neck prick with foreboding.

 

As they went deeper into the alley, Hawk put a hand to his knife.  Whatever was back there was likely either prey or hunter, and either could be dangerous if cornered.  He began to wish that he had Gervase with him, or at least Gervase's sword, even if he still couldn't wield it as proficiently as an ex-soldier like Gervase could. 

 

Symon disappeared ahead of him. 

 

Hawk swore under his breath.  He didn't dare call out.  Even if there were no thieves or assailants in the alley, tensions had been running high in Oxford, and he didn't fancy the thought of two students being caught in a dark alley by some drunken sot of a townie and his friends, and only his knife and Symon's as defence. 

 

After stumbling over something that smelled disgusting and – judging by the wet spot he felt – had transferred part of its wealth of grime to his schert, Hawk paused.

 

The darkness was nearly complete, though his eyes had adjusted enough to allow him to see vague shapes in front of him.  Moving more cautiously, he continued further down the alley.

 

"Stop, or you'll step on me," a voice said just to his right.

 

"Symon."  Hawk couldn't keep the relief out of his voice.

 

"It's a kid.  He was conscious when I first got here, but he's passed out now."  Symon cursed. 

 

"Hey!  You!  You in the alley!  Stan' up so's I c'n see you!"

 

Hawk swore under his breath.  "I'll take care of this," he whispered.  He stood and held up his hands.

 

"Ah haha!  Sorry," Hawk called cheerfully.  "Too much wine with supper, I'm afraid!"  He carefully placed himself between Symon and the small crowd of men carrying torches who had already made their way halfway down the alley, hoping to block Symon and the child from view.  "As my childhood priest always said, a full bladder is a gift from God."

 

"No blood on 'im.  Well then, piss an' be done with it.  Damned students," the man grumbled.  "Here, you!" he added.  "If you see a slave, young, with light brown eyes and hair, hold 'im an' report to a constable right sharp-like."

 

"We'll be sure to do so!" Hawk promised.  "May I enquire as to the nature of the crime that the slave has committed?"

 

"Murder," the man replied with relish.  "The lady of Richemon, an' our own mayor's sister, she was.  That little bastard'll hang an' kick for sure, once we gets hold of 'im."

 

Hawk's blood ran cold, and he barely kept himself from glancing over his shoulder to make sure that Symon's throat hadn't been slashed while his back was turned.  "We'll be careful!"

 

"Aye.  Do that then."  The men hurried off, the alley darker than ever before with the light from the torches withdrawn.

 

"Did you hear?" Hawk turned, keeping his voice low so that it wouldn't carry.  "Murder!  Up at the castle!"

 

"This kid couldn't pinch a flea in his condition, let alone commit murder." Symon's voice drifted out of the darkness.  "He's been beaten within an inch of his life.  And he's naked."  He stood, a ghostly figure with his long blond hair, dressed only in his linen undertunic, his cream schert draped over the boy's semi-conscious form.  "Here, help me get him to the house."

 

Biting back his concern, Hawk waited for Symon to lift the boy's body and then he slipped under the child's other shoulder.  Together, they cautiously carried him to the street.

 

They kept to the shadows the entire way home, crouching in dark alleys whenever a group of men bearing torches passed by.  The townspeople were out in force, obviously hunting for the man who had murdered Lady Richemon.  Hawk breathed a silent sigh of relief when they rounded a corner and he saw the familiar half-timbered bulk of his house looming over the dark street.

 

"Gervase must still be at the tavern," Hawk said as they slipped inside and were met with a banked fire and darkness.  He heard a soft whine and felt a cold nose press against his hand.  "It's just us, Chien.  Good dog.  Symon, can you hold the boy while I light some candles?"

 

"Put the fenestrals over the windows while you're at it," Symon said, shifting to support the boy's weight as Hawk gently released him.  "I don't want anyone catching a glimpse of him."

 

"Aye, aye," Hawk said.   He lit a candle and hurriedly fit linen-covered lattices into the open windows, locking them in place before lighting several more candles.  "I'll stir up the fire and get some water heating."

 

Symon grunted and carefully lowered the boy to the hard-packed dirt floor.  Chien sniffed at the boy and then curled up beside him, watching.

 

"The dog seems to be okay with him.  Bolt the door while you're at it.  We don't need that drunken mercenary of a houseman of yours stumbling in and falling on top of the kid."

 

"Gervase isn't a mercenary, he's an ex-Crusader.  He can be trusted."

 

"But I doubt that ex-soldier drinking buddy of his can be."

 

"Denys is a honourable man, and loyal—Oh," Hawk said.  "I can't believe I didn't make the connection."

 

"Exactly.  He's loyal to the son whose mother was just murdered."  Symon took the basin of cold water that Hawk gave him, and then watched as Hawk pushed a pail of water close to the revived coals of the fire to heat.  He ripped the bottom of his undertunic before Hawk could find him a rag and began to bathe the boy.   "Damn.  Look at this."

 

Hawk examined the boy.  He was naked but for a fine chain around his neck, hung with what looked like some kind of small coin.  Welts overlapped in perfectly straight horizontal stripes down the boy's back, stretching from his shoulders all the way down the back of his thighs, vicious belt marks punctuated by buckle scrapes.  "Good God.  It's… obscene."

 

"Whoever did this wasn't doing it in a fit of rage," Symon said grimly.  "Too systematic, too straight.  This was torture.  Look," he pointed.  "He was tied up.  See those marks on his wrists?"

 

"Symon, he's not a child," Hawk said, gesturing to the man's shadowed groin.  "I'll make poultices for the wounds."  He left the clearly disconcerted Symon bathing the man. 

 

Not that he could blame Symon's mistake.  The man looked to be barely older than boyhood, slight and wiry, with pale, pale skin and brown hair shorn short to mark him as a slave, hairless elsewhere except for the patches under his arms and at his groin; even his face was free of the heavy beards worn by most slaves.  Hawk guessed that he was probably around fourteen years old, more than old enough to have been bought and sold several times already in his young life, and not much younger than he, Symon and Gervase.  He admitted to himself that he was relieved that Chien had accepted the stranger so easily; the dog had an uncanny knack for sensing danger, which had helped Hawk on numerous occasions.

 

Symon looked up as Hawk knelt next to him with the poultices.  "I've got him clean.  Help me move him to the hutch before we put those on him, will you?"

 

"You'd better strip out of your clothes, first.  They're bloody," Hawk replied. He took Symon's undertunic as he pulled it off over his head, then gathered up the stained schert and laid them both on a stool next to the fire.  "I'll have Gervase take these to be laundered tomorrow.  I'm sure he knows someone who will be discreet."

 

Symon grunted.  Together, they moved the man into Symon's bedroom, laying him on the pallet that topped Symon's storage hutch at the foot of his bed.  Hawk fetched blankets while Symon applied the poultices to the man's back, and then he held a lantern while Symon searched for any other wounds that he may have missed.

 

"It looks like you've taken care of his injuries," Hawk said.  "I think that he—"

 

There was a pounding at the door.

 

"Dammit, Hawk, open the fuckin' door!"

 

Hawk sighed and hung the lantern from a hook.  "I'll let him in."

 

"I'll stay here.  Shut the idiot up; he'll wake the fucking neighbours."  Symon pulled the bed hangings closed.

 

Hawk went to the door and opened it.  A tall, dark-haired man with a scar that crossed one eye and continued down his cheek, wearing a neatly trimmed beard and moustaches stood outside, supporting an equally tall, but slighter, clean-shaven man with flowing red hair. 

 

"Thank you, Denys," Hawk said, dismayed.  "What happened?"

 

"Sorry," Denys said, Gervase's long body hanging from one broad shoulder.    "I've got to get back to the castle.  Lord Konstantine needs me.  The whole town's up in arms about Lady Richemon's murder, and it's taken me forever to lug this bastard's drunken arse home."  He dragged Gervase into the house.  "Should I take him to his room?"

 

"Hey, Hawk!" Gervase slurred happily.  "I'm home!"

 

"Yes, you are."  Hawk nodded at Denys.  "I heard about the murder.  You need to get back.  Let me take him.  I can get Symon's help if I need it."  He slipped under Gervase's arm.  Denys carefully let go, and Hawk sagged as Gervase's full weight came to rest on his shoulder.

 

"Fuckin' golden-haired prick," Gervase said.  "Don't like 'im.  Like you, though," he said to Hawk with a sweet smile on his face.

 

Hawk couldn't help but smile back as he hitched Gervase into a more comfortable position, one arm around his waist.  "I like you, too, Gervase.  Now let me put you to bed.  Thank you," he said, turning to Denys.

 

"Thank you, and good night, my lord," Denys said, bowing and turning towards the door.

 

Gervase snickered.  "Time to rape Constantin—Constantinople-ople!"

 

Denys went red.  "Shut the fuck up, you half-witted half-breed," he muttered.

 

"Heh, heh.  Constantin—oh, fuck.  That place.  'Soldiers, crusaders, a rich sweet-arsed city; We stuck our cocks in and squeezed gold from her titty'," warbled Gervase.  "We met in Venice, you know!" he said in a loud voice, gesturing towards Denys.  "Pope made all the crusaders start from there.  Took care of me like a brother.  Would have had twenty cocks shoved up my arse without him.  I was jus' a stupid kid—"

 

"Gervase, be quiet!" Hawk said, trying to drag him away as Gervase tried to stumble back towards Denys.  "You're drunk."

 

"Yup," Gervase confirmed.  "I was twelve fuckin' years old an' a soldier."  He hiccupped and belched, giving Hawk an opportunity to turn him back towards the stairs.  Hawk glanced over his shoulder, hoping that Denys would let himself out, and caught his breath. 

 

Denys was staring at Symon's blood soaked clothing, still lying on the stool where Hawk had laid it.  Hawk dumped Gervase next to the fire, where he lolled with a smile on his face.

 

"My brother," Gervase announced happily.  "Brothers in arms, that's us."

 

"Hush," Hawk said, "just warm up." 

 

Denys was frowning in thought, and Hawk didn't want him thinking.  He walked over to the stool and looked down, too.  "A mess, isn't it?" he said, forcing his voice to sound rueful.  "Some fool decided to butcher a pig as we were walking home, and the bloody thing got away from him and ran straight into Symon.  He was furious.  He's washing up now."

 

"Sorry to hear that," Denys said slowly.  "I'm surprised you didn't get bloody as well."

 

"Ah haha!  I'm simply much better at dodging," Hawk replied.  "Symon tends to be the 'yield to no man' type.  Or pig, for that matter," he added with a smile.  Time to change the subject.  "Thanks so much for bringing Gervase home.  What set it off tonight?"

 

Denys started, then turned to Hawk and shrugged.  "Said he saw a woman who reminded him of his mum," he said.  "I got the feeling that the two of you may have quarrelled," he added.

 

Hawk sighed.  "He tried to talk me into leaving Oxford.  He's worried about how angry the townsfolk have been about student privilege lately."

 

"He's right.  It's dangerous right now.  And it'll be worse after tonight, mark my words.  The murderer was seen headed in this direction."  Denys crossed to the door.  "People seem to think he's someone with the university.  Lock up after me."  He left.

 

"Bloody hell," Hawk muttered as he bolted the door.  Behind him, Gervase muttered something and began to snore.  Hawk turned and regarded Gervase for a moment before picking him up and manoeuvring him so that he was sprawled across the top of the table, his long red hair glowing softly in the candlelight.  "Sleep there tonight, you bloody great arse," Hawk murmured.  "At least you're off the cold dirt."  He draped a cloth over Gervase and headed back to Symon's room, pausing to blow out the candles and pick up the bucket of warmed water from the fire.

 

"I've bed him down on the table," he whispered quietly to the closed bed curtains.  "The door is bolted.  Here's the water.  The fire should be good for the night.  Do you need any more help?"

 

"No."

 

"Right, then."  Hawk paused.  "Symon, are you sure—?"

 

"I'm sure.  Now get your bloody arse to bed.  We'll talk in the morning."

 

"All right."  Hawk reluctantly turned away and went to his own room.

 

For all of Symon's confidence, Hawk wasn't so sure that taking the slave in had been the right idea.  Who was to say that he hadn't received his injuries after having been caught with the dead body, and had escaped after that?  The little information that they had didn't preclude that from being the case.  What would keep the slave from murdering them all in their sleep?

 

Still, Chien had immediately accepted the man.  The white greyhound was extremely intelligent; there were times when Hawk felt like Chien and he communicated as well between beast and man as many men communicated between themselves.

 

In which case, how long could they hide a man wanted for murder?

 

Chien came into his room and jumped up on the bed, crossing to his normal sleeping place at the foot and curling up into a ball.  As Hawk slowly undressed and neatly folded his clothing, he began to make a mental list of issues that he needed to bring to Symon's attention in the morning.

 

Chien gave a great, doggy sigh, breaking Hawk's train of thought.  He glanced over at the dog, which looked at him with serious eyes.

 

"All right.  I trust your judgement," Hawk said.  He put aside his soiled schert to add to the pile of laundry and slipped into his bed, pulling the bed curtains shut behind him.  "And Symon's, too, of course," he added, though not as certainly.  "Wake me if anything should go wrong."  He stroked the dog's head then laid back.

 

He fell asleep as soon as his cheek hit the pillow.

 

 

Part Two:  Of Dreams and Decisions

 

 

Symon listened as Hawk retired to his room.  When all seemed silent, he opened the bed curtains and moved a chair so he could sit next to the boy, who seemed to be sleeping naturally, mumbling to himself occasionally.  Symon sighed.  With his luck, the brat would snore, too.

 

Hawk was right to be cautious.  But there was something about this boy – not an adult, for all of the hair on his body – that spoke to Symon, almost as if the boy's soul were talking to him.  He wasn't sure if he was being bewitched or not, but it didn't matter.  He trusted himself and his own instincts before he trusted the teachings of the Church, and every instinct in his soul told him that this boy needed him.

 

But now that they were here, now that the boy was lying on his hutch, swaddled in his blankets, hidden under his roof, he was having second thoughts.  Not like Hawk's – Symon was certain the boy wasn't a murderer – but about the implications of his own actions. 

 

He'd assumed responsibility for someone else.  Something that he'd sworn never to do. 

 

The closest he'd ever come was when he'd first met Hawk and the man had looked up at him, hands red with blood and eyes knowing full well what he'd done and waiting for punishment, and Symon had looked on a dead man's face and had seen the monster inside.  But that was different.  Hawk hadn't called to him, or asked for help.  He'd accepted responsibility, so Symon had given him his freedom, believing that Hawk would punish himself more thoroughly and to better consequence than the Church or Symon's father would have.  And he'd been proven correct.  The man was a brilliant scholar, eager to learn law and participate in the new reforms that had begun to surface, arguing passionately for participatory government structures independent of King John or the Church.

 

But this boy was a slave.  Symon couldn't simply set him free and say, 'go live your life.'  The boy would either be hanged for being a runaway or immediately exploited in even worse ways, by men who would know that they held the his life in their hands, and that no man would raise an eyebrow at their treatment of him.

 

Symon cursed.  Really, all he'd wanted to do when he'd heard the voice was to tell it to shut up and leave him alone.  Fuck, he was a fool.  He frowned at the boy.

 

Eyelids fluttered, and suddenly the boy's eyes popped open, wide and guileless. 

 

The brat looked like an idiot, staring at him like that.  And his eyes… the colour…  Ignoring a strange feeling of familiarity, Symon spoke.  "Oi.  What the fuck happened to you?"

 

The boy stared, honey-gold eyes disconcertingly bright.  "It's like the sun," he whispered.

 

Then he seized Symon's hair and yanked.

 

"OW!"  Symon slapped the kid's hand away and glared, though he remembered to drop his voice again so as not to wake up Hawk.  "What the fuck are you doing?"

 

"I wanted to see if it was hot," the brat said indignantly, though he kept his voice lowered, too.  "An' it's not."  He frowned ferociously, as if it were Symon's fault or something.

 

"Of course it's not hot, you stupid monkey," Symon said.  "It's hair."

 

"Oh."  The boy blinked a couple of times.  "I've never seen hair that colour before."

 

"Well, now you have.  And if you ever pull it again, I'll kill you."

 

The brat shrugged.  "I'm not the one with funny-coloured hair."  He squirmed a bit.

 

"Stop fidgeting."

 

"It itches!"

 

"It itches because I've put poultices on your wounds.  Though I could have sworn you were nearly dead before," Symon added to himself.  Perhaps the wounds and trauma weren't so bad as he'd thought.

 

The kid went still and looked around, fear in his eyes for the first time.  "Is he here?"

 

"Who?"

 

"Crow."

 

God grant him patience.  "Is he man who beat you?  Is he your master?"

 

The eyes were confused.  "Master?  No, he's the man who found me."

 

"Did you run away?"

 

"I don't know." 

 

"What do you mean, you don't know?  Look, I'm not going to turn you in, but I need to know so that I can figure out what the hell to do with you.  Did you run away from your master?"

 

"I don't know.  I don't remember anythin' before he found me."

 

The brat was clearly a moron.  "Tell me what you do remember, then."

 

The kid scrunched up his face.  "Well, it was cold an' dark and smelled really funny.  There wasn't any light until he came in.  He saw me an' started laughin' an' asked if I was a devil an' I told 'im that I didn't know, but I didn't think so.  So he told me to come with 'im and I've been with 'im ever since."  He chewed on his lower lip.  "Oh," he added, brightening.  "I remember something else, too.  My name."  He grinned, cocky and proud.

 

The kid was either lying or some accident or trauma had taken his memory in the past.  Somehow, Symon was more inclined to think the latter.  The boy's eyes were too clear. 

 

"So?  What is it?"

 

"I'm Guy." 

 

Symon grunted.  "Funny name."

 

"Well, what's yours, then?" Guy asked, belligerent.

 

"Symon."

 

"Heh, heh.  Sounds like 'pieman'."

 

"Shut up."

 

Guy shrugged.  A worried look crossed his face.  "Hey, are you gonna take me back t'him?"

 

Symon shook his head.  "I already told you I wouldn't.  Do you have family anywhere?"

 

Guy shook his head.  "I don't know.  I don't think so.  They'd have come for me if I had, right?"

 

Not necessarily, thought Symon.  "Maybe.  How's your back feel?"

 

"Like you said, itchy."  Guy tried reaching back, but Symon slapped his hand away before he could scratch.

 

"Itchy means it's healing," he said.  "I'll lend you a nightshirt, now that you're awake."

 

Yawning widely, Guy nodded.  "I'm sleepy."  He looked around.  "This your room?"

 

"Yes.  Get up."  Guy slid onto the bed and Symon opened the hutch and took out two nightshirts.  "Here, put this on," he said, tossing one to Guy.

 

The boy slipped it over his head.  "Thanks."

 

Symon started to undress.  "You can sleep on the hutch tonight.  We'll figure out what to do with you in the morning."

 

"'Kay."  Guy climbed back onto the hutch and watched Symon for a moment, then got down.  "I c'n help." 

 

Before Symon could push him away, Guy had taken off his shoes and was tugging at his hose.  "D'you wash before you go to bed?" he asked.

 

"Usually.  Are you trained as a man servant?"

 

Guy shrugged again.  "Crow told me what to do."  Symon stepped out of his braies when Guy pulled them down and watched as Guy took up soap and a cloth that was hanging over the pail of cooling water.  "It's hard," Guy said, examining the soap.  "I never saw hard soap before.  This smells nice."

 

"Then how do you know what it is?" Symon said.  He didn't resist as Guy took one of his arms and began to wash him.

 

"It smells like soap.  Nice soap."

 

Guy washed Symon efficiently.  The whole situation seemed unreal to Symon.  This boy, nearly dead of a severe beating just an hour before, chattering away and washing Symon's nude body as if he were healthy and whole and had been serving Symon all of his life.  Before he knew it, Guy was gently drying his body and had slipped the second nightshirt over Symon's head.

 

His grin was blinding in the dim light.  "Good, huh?"

 

And then he reached under the nightshirt, grabbed Symon's prick and started rubbing it.

 

Symon froze, shocked.  Guy's hand was warm and definitely arousing; he could feel his prick hardening under the boy's strokes.  "What are you doing?"

 

"Makin' you feel good." 

 

Good fucking God, that was an understatement.  Guy's grip was firm and practiced, and felt so good…  Symon knocked Guy's hand away.

 

"Stop it.  Where did you learn that?"

 

"Crow liked me to do it.  He said if you feel good, you sleep better at night.  I didn't like doing it for him, but I don't mind doing it for you."  He reached for Symon's prick again, but Symon pushed him away.

 

"I sleep fine," he said, frowning.

 

Guy frowned back.  "Don't blame me if you don't."  He crawled back on top of the hutch and burrowed into the blankets, turning his back on Symon. 

 

Cursing to himself, Symon slipped into his bed and pulled the bed curtains shut.  Inside them, he was intimately aware of Guy's presence at the foot of the bed, both of them enclosed together in the same space. 

 

When he'd been young, he'd always shared his bed with his tutor or one of the male servants in the winter, never thinking about it.  He remembered the stories that some of his bedmates had told him about having sex, but they'd stopped when Symon told them to shut up. 

 

Sex with anyone was more than distasteful, it was disgusting.   Why would anyone ever want to rut with someone else, covered in sweat and other disgusting fluids, when one could achieve the same effect quietly and cleanly on one's own?

 

He hadn't brought any servants with him when he'd come to university, so it had been ages since he'd shared his sleeping space with anyone.  When it was cold at night, he'd used a heated stone to warm the bed, and it had worked just fine.  Hawk had taught him that trick. 

 

He blinked in the darkness, a sudden thought occurring to him.  Gervase often slept in Hawk's bed, even though Hawk knew about the heated rock.  Did they have sex?

 

He cursed again and pulled his blankets over his head.  The whole fucking world was mad for sex.  Fuck 'em all.  Beds were for sleep.

 

Eventually, he did so.

 

She was dressed in blue and white, the colours of innocence and chastity.  But the blue hid only her hair and the white hid only her lower face and her creamy skin hid nothing. 

 

"Symon."

 

"Yes."  Sex was everywhere, in her eyes, in her voice, in her heavy breasts with their red-tipped nipples, in the aroused prick she sported between her legs. 

 

"The boy is yours."

 

"I don't want him."

 

"Tough.  He's yours.  Remember, never remove the necklace."

 

"Who are you?" Symon demanded.

 

"Would you believe I'm the Virgin Mary?"

 

He rolled his eyes. 

 

"I am virgin, and I am mother, and I am father and sister and brother to all."  He couldn't see her mouth, but he could hear her smile.  "The boy is yours.  Don't remove the necklace."

 

"What the fuck, you crazy—"  But she was gone, and Guy's hands felt warm on his prick and Symon rolled his hips a bit and no, he wasn't flaccid, he was rigid and ready to spill…

 

Symon shuddered awake, coming hard, prick twitching and his breath harsh and ragged.  He moaned into his pillow, biting down to silence any other sounds he might utter.  Gradually, he became aware of an incredible furnace of heat wrapped around him, a band of which surrounded his prick.  He felt a nose nuzzle into the nape of his neck.

 

He was nearly deafened by a loud rasping noise right next to his ear.  Dammit.  He'd been right.  The fucking brat snored. 

 

Cursing and burying his head in his pillow, Symon ignored Guy's wandering hands. 

 

Fucking sex.  It left a wet spot.

 

He fell asleep again almost immediately.

 

 

Part Three:  Of Gypsies, Demons and Murderers

 

 

Hawk moved the polished silver platter that he'd propped on the table and frowned into it before picking up his knife again.

 

"I can shave you, you know."

 

"With the way your hands are shaking this morning?" Hawk answered sceptically.  He carefully pulled the knife's sharp edge down his cheek and then rinsed it.

 

"Yeah, well," Gervase mumbled, rubbing his forehead.  "Bloody booze.  I probably wouldn't kill you.  Just nick you a bit.  A scar or two would add character."

 

Hawk chuckled.  "Amongst your drinking acquaintances, perhaps.  They may look out of place amongst students."

 

"I don't know.  Perhaps you could start a trend—" Gervase looked towards the stairs.  "Oi.  It looks like the high and mighty Lord Symon has decided to join the rest of us poor bastards."

 

"Shut up or I'll kill you," Symon replied.  "Did you remember to pick up any ale for us this morning?"

 

"On the table," Gervase said.  "So that's the brat you found in the trash, eh?"

 

The boy had followed Symon down the stairs.  He was rubbing his eyes.  "Who're you?"

 

"Didn't bother to introduce him around last night?"

 

"Pour the ale, bastard."

 

Gervase leaned against the table.  "You've met Lord Wallingford," Gervase said with heavy sarcasm, "an' that's Hawk Eye.  Call him Hawk.  I'm Gervase."

 

"Useless piece of shit would be more appropriate."  Symon poured a mug of ale and sat.  "And his name's not Hawk.  It's Hereward, idiot."

 

"Ah haha!  Symon is right, my name is Hereward, but you can call me Hawk if you like," Hawk said, smiling at Guy.

 

"I'm Guy.  Why do you call him Hawk if his name is Hereward?"

 

"Y'know how a hawk sometimes stares at a rabbit?  An' how the rabbit can't move an' then it falls over dead?"

 

Guy nodded, and Hawk punched Gervase. 

 

"I do NOT kill people with a look," he retorted.

 

Gervase winked broadly at Guy and tapped the side of his nose.  "Just don't get 'im mad at you."

 

Guy grinned back.  "Right."

 

Chien snuffled at Guy's hands. 

 

"Oh, an' that's Chienblanc.  'Chien', for short."

 

"He's pretty."  Guy's eyes glowed.

 

Hawk couldn't help drawing in his breath.  Golden eyes.  He'd never seen such a thing before.  He glanced at Symon, who shook his head slightly.

 

So.  Symon had noticed, too. 

 

The boy had the eyes of a demon.

 

Not that he could say anything, Hawk admitted to himself.  His eyes might be green, but the devil looked through them just the same.  He dropped his knife and looked down at his hands.

 

"Let me," a voice behind him said, and Gervase's big hand cupped his chin.  Hawk looked up at him for a moment and then closed his eyes.  He relaxed with a sigh as Gervase picked up his knife and carefully finished shaving him.

 

"Thank you."  Hawk put away the silver platter and sat next to Gervase, taking the bowl of pottage that he offered.  He wasn't hungry, but he knew Gervase worried when he didn't eat.

 

"Here, kid.  We don't have enough bowls, so you're getting a trencher, instead.  The bread's yesterday's, so it's still okay."

 

"I c'n do that, too," Guy offered, bits of food spraying as he scooped pottage into his mouth.  "Shave people."

 

Symon clouted him on the head.  "If you're going to eat with us, you'll learn not to talk with your mouth full, idiot."  He ignored the bowl of pottage Gervase set in front of him.

 

Guy struggled with his mouthful.  "Okay," he said once he'd swallowed.  He glared at Symon.  "You don't have to hit, y'know."  Suddenly he made a face.  "You all must be old, havin' to shave and stuff."

 

Symon rolled his eyes.  Gervase snorted. 

 

"We're all nineteen," Gervase said.  "What are you, twelve or something?"

 

"I'm seventeen!" Guy blinked at Gervase.  "You're really old."

 

"I'm also a soldier who fought in the Crusades," Gervase retorted.  "So watch your mouth, squirt."

 

"I thought you didn't remember anything," Symon said.

 

"I remember that.  Oh, an' somethin' else."  Guy reached into his shirt and drew out the necklace that Hawk had noticed the night before.  "This is important.  I can't take it off.  Ever."

 

"Why not?  Down, you greedy bastard," Gervase said as Chien made a grab for a bit of his ham.

 

"'Cause bad things'll happen."

 

"What kind of bad things?"  Hawk glanced at Symon, only to see a strange expression on his face.  "Symon?"

 

"Forget it.  Fine, monkey.  We won't take the fucking necklace off.  Happy?"

 

Guy nodded, his mouth full again.

 

"Guy, who hurt you?" Hawk asked quietly.

 

After a sharp glance from Symon, Guy swallowed his mouthful of food before answering.  "Crow did," he said, shrugging.  He looked up, eyes wide.  "Why?"

 

Hawk heard Gervase give a small gasp.  He'd noticed the eyes, too.  "It looked as if the beating was unusually cruel," Hawk said gently.  "I'm surprised you've recovered so quickly."

 

"I heal fast.  Crow noticed, too.  I haven't done something wrong, have I?"

 

"No."  Hawk looked at Gervase and Symon.  "I think we need more information, though."

 

Symon nodded.  "Who's this fucking 'Crow' guy?"

 

Guy shrugged.  "Dunno.  He's just Crow."

 

"Hmm."  Gervase pointed his chin at Guy.  "Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa."

 

Guy's face brightened.  "Ashen Devlesa, Romale!"

 

Hawk looked at Gervase.  "What?"

 

"It's Romani.  The kid was with gypsies, at least for a while," Gervase said.  "Gypsies practice magic, you know," he added, meeting Hawk's gaze and gesturing towards Guy with his head.  "Anyway, it's just a greeting.  I said, 'go with God and in good health,' an' he answered."

 

Symon grunted.  "And how do you know so much about gypsies?"

 

"One of the soldiers with Denys and me was Romani," Gervase said.  "Since pretty much everyone shunned him and me except for Denys, we watched each other's backs."

 

"Why would people stay away from you?" Guy asked.

 

"Because I'm a half-blood," Gervase said.  "Half French, half English.  Not too popular right now, considerin' the wars an' all.  But Romanis get it bad all the time."

 

Hawk unobtrusively motioned Symon and Gervase closer; they leaned towards him.  "So Guy heals quickly and has lived with or at least been exposed to gypsies at some point in his life," Hawk said, keeping his voice low and watching Guy eat.  "He wears a necklace with a strange coin that he must never take off.  He had a master who was unusually cruel.  Did he tell you anything else, Symon?"

 

Symon shook his head.  "Just that the man who beat him found him in some dark, smelly place and asked if he was the devil."

 

Hawk raised an eyebrow.  "And what was his response?"

 

"That he didn't think so."

 

"That's reassuring," Hawk said, but his sarcasm was half-hearted.  "I know that it's not rational of me, but I can't find it in me to believe he's the one they're looking for. Although, that's not to say that I don't think that he's dangerous," he added, mainly to himself.

 

"It's not your problem," Symon said abruptly.  "I brought him here.  I'll take him somewhere else."

 

"Where?  The whole town is looking for him."

 

Symon glared at Gervase, but was interrupted as Guy held out his trencher.  "C'n I have some more?"

 

"Where is all that food goin'?"  Gervase frowned and pushed Symon's untouched bowl over to Guy.  "You're too skinny for it to be goin' into your stomach."

 

"I get hungry," Guy said defensively.  "I've never had this much before," he admitted a moment later.  "It's good."  He started tearing his trencher into chunks and dipping it into the pottage before stuffing it in his mouth.

 

"I'll ask Thomas's old lady to double our meals," Gervase said.

 

"There's extra money in the jar," Hawk said vaguely.  "Or in my purse, perhaps."

 

Gervase sighed.  "You're hopeless.  I'll dig some up somewhere.  D'you have enough for yourself?"

 

"Tch.  That idiot couldn't keep a penny if you glued it to his forehead," Symon said.  "I've got money."

 

"Who's everybody after?"

 

"The kid's got good hearing, too," Gervase muttered.  "Shit."

 

"Someone who murdered a lady," Symon said abruptly.  "They think it might have been you."

 

Guy stopped eating.  "Me?"  He dropped his spoon in his pottage.  "I didn't hurt anybody!"

 

"Nobody in this room said you did," Symon pointed out.  "But if someone finds you here, they might not believe you.  Do you know anybody at the castle?"

 

Guy shook his head.  "I only know Crow.  He never let me meet anybody."

 

"How long have you been with him?"

 

Guy looked longingly at his breakfast.  "It was cold outside when he found me.  There was snow on the ground."

 

"About six months, then," Hawk said.  He put his hand on Guy's shoulder.  "Don't worry.  We won't send you back to him.  You're safe here.  Why don't you finish your breakfast?"

 

"Okay," Guy said.  However, Hawk noticed that he was eating more slowly, and his golden eyes darted from one of them to another as they spoke.

 

"My estate."

 

"What?" Gervase said. 

 

"We can hide him there."

 

"That could work," Hawk said, crossing his arms and staring into space.  "It's quite large and remote."

"Your estate?  You've got a fuckin' estate?" Gervase asked.  Symon glared at Gervase, who pushed away his empty bowl and pulled his ale closer.  "Pretentious dick."

 

"We'd need a carriage," Hawk said.  "Something enclosed so no one can see him.  And it would be better to leave at night."  He looked apologetically at Symon.  "I'm afraid that Guy will need to be accompanied.  Will you go or shall I?"

 

"You both should go."  They turned to look at Gervase.  "Look, I'm serious.  It's ugly out there.  You haven't heard the talk.  I can stay behind and watch the house, but it's better for both of you to take a break from the university and head out of town until things calm down."

 

"If it's that dangerous, you should go, too," Hawk retorted.  "If you don't, I don't see why we should.  We can take care of ourselves."

 

"Yeah, well, the kid changes things," Gervase said, tilting his head towards Guy, who was listening with wide eyes.

"I c'n take care of myself, too," Guy said.  "An' I'm not a kid."

 

"No.  You're a bottomless pit," Gervase said.  "Damn, you can eat."

 

Guy curled protectively around his mostly empty bowl.  

 

"We need more information," Hawk repeated.  "It's foolish to take any action until we know what's actually happening.  I'm not about to interrupt my studies for a few tensions that may blow over quickly once they find the real murderer."

 

Gervase sighed.  "I'll go out to the tavern later," he said.  "They don't mind me so much.  Until then, we'd better lay low."

 

Hawk looked at Symon, who shrugged.  "Anyone for chess?" Hawk asked lightly.

 

Dice skittered across the table.  "Nah," Gervase said.  "How about knucklebones instead.  I think I've got a Venus or two in me.  Canis and Senios out."  He grinned and put his hands behind his head.  "Quarter-mark a point."

 

"Asshole."  Symon scooped up the dice.  "You're on."

 

 

Part Four:  Of Rumours and Homicidal Mobs

 

 

Symon moved the candle closer to the manuscript and took up his quill.

 

One of the many advantages to living with Hawk was the man's thirst for knowledge, which he pursued with a single-minded passion that Symon grudgingly admired.  He wasn't sure where Hawk found the money to buy all of the codices and manuscripts that littered the house, but it was easily the best collection that Symon had seen outside of Canterbury.  Hawk seemed to use whatever mysterious source of money he owned to bribe copyists to sell him complete manuscripts instead of renting quartos like most of their fellow students.

 

Symon thought it best not to learn too much about how Hawk accomplished that.

 

"I'm hungry."  Guy sat across from Symon and leaned over the table.  "Really hungry."

 

"Chew on the table, then."  The brat's whinging was getting on Symon's nerves. 

 

Guy eyed the table.  "I don't think I can eat it."

 

"Tch." 

 

"Gervase will be bringing something when he comes back from the tavern," Hawk said, his cheerful voice as annoying as Guy's whine.

 

Symon did his best to ignore them both, but Guy leaned closer.

 

"I'm hun—  Ow!"

 

"Ah haha," Hawk said.  "Perhaps that's not the best use of a manuscript, Symon."

 

"It worked."  Symon met Guy's glare.  "Shut up, you damned monkey."

 

"Don't call me monkey!"  Guy rubbed his head.  "Anyway, I wasn't talkin' with my mouth full, so why'dya hit me?"

 

"Because you're annoying."  Symon rubbed his eyes, which ached after an evening of reading by candlelight.  "When's the damned mercenary getting back?"

 

"He's not a mercenary," Hawk started to reply, then he stopped and looked at the door.  Shouts were coming from the street.  "Oh dear.  It's rather loud out there, isn't it?"  He stood, leaving his own books on the table.

 

The idiot.  "Stop!"

 

Hawk looked back over his shoulder, a hand on the latch.  "What?"

 

"It's dangerous.  Stay inside."

 

"But Gervase's out there—"

 

"That moron can take care of himself." Symon tilted his head at Guy.  "We've got him."

 

Hawk turned to the door again, clearly torn.  His hand dropped from the latch.  "Of course," he murmured, returning to the table. 

 

Suddenly the door burst open.  Gervase slipped in, slammed the door and barred it.  "The fucking town is full of assholes," he said.  "They're pissed, and they're going after anyone they see from the university."

 

"Gervase!"

 

"Don't worry, I'm fine," Gervase said, brushing away Hawk's hand.  "It's not blood.  Well, not mine, anyway."  It was only then that Symon noticed that Gervase had a smear of blood down one side of his face.  "Asshole bled like a sonofabitch when I punched him in the nose."

 

"Did someone attack you?"

 

"No.  I caught the bastard using loaded dice."  Gervase set a cloth-wrapped bundle on the table and started scrubbing at his face with the sleeve of his schert.  "That's when the prick suddenly remembered that I live with a couple of university students, and he started shouting.  I hadda get out.  Had a good streak goin', too," he said with disgust.  "That's dinner.  Thomas's old lady made extra."  He turned to Symon and leered.  "Says she'll do anythin' to put meat on your skinny bones."

 

"Was this before or after you punched out someone in her tavern?" Symon asked, disgusted.  Guy was already tearing at the wrappings, Chien waiting at his feet with an expectant look.

 

"Before," Gervase admitted.  "She likes me, though.  I'll talk her 'round in a few days."  He frowned.  "But honestly, it's not good out there.  On the way back I ran into a couple of groups of pissed off drunks with clubs, lookin' for a student to pound.  The last group decided I was good enough an' came after me."

 

Symon glanced at the door.  "And you led them straight here, I suppose."

 

"I lost 'em a few streets away, you prick," Gervase said.  "Give me some credit."

 

"Tch."

 

"Stew!"  Guy looked up eagerly.  "C'n I have some?"

 

Hawk smiled.  "You can use my bowl.  I'll use a trencher tonight."  He turned to Symon and Gervase.  "Perhaps we can talk about this after we've eaten.  Guy has been quite patient."

 

Symon snorted.

 

"Fine.  Eat first, homicidal mob after."  Gervase swung his legs over the bench and sat, pulling Hawk down next to him.  "Don't blame me if they burn the fucking house down around our heads.  An' no trenchers tonight, I brought some white bread home.  You an' me can share a bowl.  C'mon, get your arse over here, Symon."

 

Silence fell as the four men ate. 

 

"Is there a reason you're not eating any bread?" Symon asked after Guy had helped himself a third time to the stew pot.

 

Though he'd just taken an enormous bite, the boy's mouth automatically popped open to speak, but he caught himself at Symon's glare.  Swallowing, he said, "I'm not supposed to eat it."

 

"Why not?"

 

"'Cause it's too good for the likes of me."

 

"The mercenary's eating it."

 

"Hey!"

 

"Now, now."  Hawk smiled.  "I'm sure Symon didn't mean anything by it, Gervase."

 

"Yes, I did.  Look, if he can eat it, you can eat it.  Got it?"

 

Guy's eyes went wide.  "I can?"

 

"If there's any left," Gervase said, glaring at Symon and reaching for the last piece of bread.

 

Guy was quicker. 

 

Symon snorted.  "What's the matter, Frenchie?  Losing your reflexes?"

 

"Hey, this is good!"  Guy looked from Gervase to Symon and back.  "You sure?"

 

"Tch.  Yeah, we're sure," Gervase said.  "Stupid monkey.  We all share here, you just gotta be fast.  Got it?"

 

"Got it."

 

"Oh, and Guy?" Hawk said, standing and starting to clear up the dishes, "please don't call Gervase 'Frenchie' where anyone else can hear you, all right?"

 

"Please don't call Gervase 'Frenchie' ever," Gervase said.  He took Symon's bowl.  "Huh.  Decided to eat tonight, did you?  I swear you're like some kind of shitty monk or something, the way you starve yourself."

 

"It was great!" Guy said, eyeing the food being put away with longing.

 

"Leave some for breakfast," Symon said.

 

"Hey, Guy," Gervase said, a crafty glint in his eye.  "Wanna eat some really good food?"

 

Symon glanced sharply at him, but remained silent.

 

Guy's face lit up.  "Yeah!"  He looked around.  "Where is it?"

 

"You have to travel a bit."  Gervase sat down at the table.  "But it's at Symon's home.  Right, Symon?"

 

Symon thought of pheasant and fish and fresh fruits and vegetables and grunted. 

 

"I set it up before I went to the tavern.  The carriage will be here tomorrow at sundown," Gervase said.  "No arguing this time.  All three of you are going."  He looked at Hawk, who looked back at him with a pleasant expression but said nothing.

 

"Why?  Just because a group of idiots chased you with clubs?" Symon asked.  "They've gone after the university before and it blew over."

 

Hawk nodded.  "This is a large town.  There've been murders before now.  Though no one as important as Lady Richemon," he admitted.

 

Gervase ran a hand through his hair and sighed.  "The murder just gave them the excuse that they've been looking for.  It's been building for a while.  Rumour has it that there's some kind of plot by the scholars to annex land for the university, and it pisses the townies off."

 

"Where's the rumour coming from?" 

 

Gervase shrugged.  "Don't know.  But they held a tribunal this afternoon and found a student guilty of murdering Lady Richemon.  Thing is, they don't know who.  An' I don't think they're gonna be picky about finding someone.  There weren't any lectures today.  Everybody connected to the university is keeping his head down."

 

"They can't do anything," Hawk said.  "I've been reading my law manuscripts.  If they want to take any action against a member of the university, they have to have permission to do so from the archbishop of each diocese.  We happen to be under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury."

 

That was interesting.  "He's been set aside by King John," Symon said. 

 

"So he has no authority," Hawk said with a smile.  "And therefore, he can't grant permission for the town to take action against the university."

 

"That's assumin' that the town is gonna wait for permission," Gervase said.  "I'm dead serious, here.  There's a mob mentality out there.  Someone is gonna be hanged."

 

"We have until tomorrow night to decide," Hawk said.  "Let's see what happens."

 

"Damned fool," Gervase muttered.  He was watching Hawk with a speculative look in his eyes. 

 

Symon shook his head; the idiot was probably busy thinking of ways to subdue Hawk and put him in the carriage whether he wanted to go or not.  He doesn't have a chance in hell.  He poured more ale.

 

"Give me some, too?"  Gervase held out his mug, but Symon just shoved the pitcher at him.  Gervase made a rude gesture.  "Thanks, asshole.  Hey, I picked up some good gossip," he said, his voice suddenly brighter.

 

"It's not nice to gossip," Hawk said.  He sat next to Gervase, looking expectant.  Gervase poured ale into another mug and passed it to Hawk. 

 

Symon snorted in disgust.  Hawk had Gervase trained.  "What is it?"

 

"Apparently our Nicholaus has been sleeping around with a pretty busy lady," Gervase said.  "Very busy.  As in, busy doing Lord Richemon, too.  Name's Sybil, Saxon, pretty hot from all accounts.  And ambitious."

 

"An affair."  Hawk looked thoughtful.  "Could Lord Richemon have killed his wife himself?"

 

Gervase shook his head.  "That's the first thing I thought, too.  But he was negotiating with the Millers' Guild all day.  Never left the meeting."

 

"In other words, he was out drinking with his brother-in-law," Symon said in disgust.

 

"Yeah, he was pretty out of it last night," Gervase said.  "Thomas said there was a huge uproar at the castle when they couldn't find him.  His son had a hell of a time keeping the servants from panicking and running off, jabbering something about an assassin or something."

 

"Richemon's not important enough to be assassinated," Symon said.  "He's an asshole."

 

"He's also quite a rich man," Hawk said.  "No pun intended, of course."

 

"Well, if this is all you have to tell us, I'm heading for bed."  Symon stood.  "C'mon, brat."

 

Guy had slipped off the bench to sit next to the fire while the others had been talking.  Chien was half-draped over him.  Both looked sleepy and comfortable, Guy blinking and squinting up at Symon, his golden eyes reflecting the flames.

 

My God, he's got beautiful eyes.  So clear... 

 

Beautiful, golden, demon eyes. 

 

He was suddenly furious with himself.  Bullshit.  He hated when lecturers talked about demons as if they were foreign to humanity. 

 

Demons were curled around every person's heart. 

 

"Okay."  Guy crawled out from under Chien and headed for their bedroom, rubbing his eyes.  "You're right, I'm pretty tired."

 

Tired or not, Guy was waiting with hot water, soap and a cloth when Symon took off his schert.  Symon submitted to the bathing, but drew away when Guy's hand wandered towards his groin.

 

"I said no," Symon muttered.  "Stupid idiot.  Can't you get it through your head?"

 

Guy just looked at him.  "You need it."

 

"No, I don't."  Symon slipped into his bed.  "Shut up and sleep."

 

Shrugging, Guy washed himself and within a few moments he was curled up in his blankets on the hutch.  Symon blew out the candle by the bed and drew the curtains shut.

 

He'd barely settled his head on his pillow when Guy spoke out of the darkness.

 

"They're doin' it, you know."

 

"Who's doing what?"

 

"Hawk and Gervase.  I can hear them.  They're makin' each other feel good."

 

Symon cursed.  He listened hard.  "I don't hear anything."

 

"It sounds like maybe Gervase is on the bot—"

 

"Shut up!  If you say another word, I'll kill you.  Got that?"

 

Guy remained silent for all of five heartbeats.  "You know, you're pretty cranky.  It wouldn't hurt you to feel good, too."

 

"I said shut up."

 

"You could do me any way you wanted to, I don't mind.  Hands, mouth, arse.  I know how to make you feel good with any of 'em."

 

"Shut the fuck up!"

 

"You are, though," Guy pointed out, his voice reasonable.  "You're pretty, but you'd be prettier if you weren't so cranky."

 

"Shut the fuck up, or I swear to God I'll kill you, you little shit!"

 

He heard a heavy sigh.  "Fine.  G'night."

 

Listening to the sound of Guy getting comfortable in his blankets, Symon cursed under his breath.  Guy's offer had gone straight to his prick; he was harder now than he had been last night in his dream.  He waited until Guy was snoring, then began to stroke himself, trying to finish as quickly as possible in case the kid woke up. 

 

His climax was harsh and intense.

 

Symon panted into his pillow.  The situation was ridiculous.  Hawk and Gervase couldn't be… He shuddered as the image of a dark-haired man moving firmly over a muscular body with blood-red hair, both men touched by the light from the fire, arose in his mind before he managed to expel it from his thoughts. 

 

Assholes.  He didn't give a fuck what those two bastards did when he wasn't around, he just didn't want to know about it.

 

Guy, on the other hand, was impossible to stop thinking about.  The boy was beautiful, not slutty-pretty like Gervase or refined pretty like Hawk, but smooth and young and full of life, with eyes that burned with the flames of the sun.

 

He fell asleep thinking of the sun and golden eyes.  Later, when he woke to find that he was once again wrapped tight within Guy's grasp, he just sighed and slipped back into sleep.

 

 

Part Five:  Of Fire and Water

 

 

The mornings after the nights when Gervase shared his bed, Hawk always awoke early in order to manage the logistics of keeping Symon ignorant of their… well, relationship, Hawk supposed.  It had long ago stopped being a matter of convenience.

 

Though he hoped Symon would never find out, he also knew that if Symon ever did, he'd prefer Hawk to do whatever possible to make it seem as if he hadn't.

 

But today Gervase's arms were so warm and the breath against the back of his neck so trusting and gentle…

 

Hawk jolted awake.  "Smoke."

 

Suddenly, Chien started barking.

 

Hawk sprang from the bed.  "Get up, Gervase!" he shouted, pulling on his braies and tying them around his waist.  He rushed out of his room to collide with Symon, who was pulling an undertunic over his head, Guy following right behind him, wrapped in a blanket, his eyes wide.  "Smoke," Hawk said as pushed past them to run down the stairs and through the main room to the door.  He could hear the rest of the household pounding down the stairs behind him.

 

Chien was barking and growling at the door.  "Hold him back!" Hawk said. 

 

Guy grabbed Chien and held him tightly as Hawk threw the door open.

 

The outside of the door was ablaze, flames eating eagerly at the wood, long black char marks leaping upwards above them.  Hawk looked around desperately, yanked the cloth from the table and started to beat at the flames.

 

"Holy fuck!"  Gervase appeared beside him, naked, a bucket full of water in his hand.  "Pass me more!" he shouted at Symon.

 

Through the smoke, Hawk could see Symon grimly dipping a bucket into the tub of water that they kept nearby the fire.  Guy sprang to help and Chien darted past Hawk and disappeared into the crowd that was gathering to watch.

 

"No!  Chien!" Hawk shouted.  He kept beating at the flames while Gervase splashed more water on the door, Symon and Guy forming a bucket chain to bring him more.

 

Somehow they managed to extinguish it before it set the straw in the daub that plastered the house afire.  Hawk stood, panting and covered with soot.  He looked past the crowd to see if he could see Chien, but the dog had vanished.

 

"Chien."  He could only hope that no one would remember whom Chien's owner was if they came across the dog. 

 

Something wet and cold and heavy suddenly hit him on his shoulder.  He put a hand to it. 

 

"Get inside.  Now!"  Gervase yanked him inside and stepped in front of the charred door.  "Which of you bastards threw that?  Was it you, William?"

 

Standing in the main room of the house, Hawk looked at his hand.  It was covered with manure.

 

"Let me."  Guy appeared beside him and carefully wiped the dung from his hand and shoulder with a rag.  "Sorry," he said.  "No more water."

 

"Thank you," Hawk said.  He glanced around at the toppled bench and stools and the trail of mud that stretched across the dirt floor from the water tub to the door, and then picked up two of the buckets.  "I'll go out for more."

 

"Idiot," Symon said.  "Let the mercenary handle it.

"It goes faster if there are two of us."  Hawk crossed to the door.  "Excuse me, please," he said to Gervase, who stood in his way.  "You might want to take a moment to put on some clothing."

 

"I don't have anythin' they've never seen before," Gervase said.  "Here, give me those." 

 

Hawk shook his head.  "There are more buckets in the house.  I'll see you at the well."  He stepped around Gervase and walked towards the crowd. 

 

Their jeers faded as he passed, until two men stepped in front of him. 

 

"Pardon me," Hawk said.

 

"Fuckin' university cunt," one of them said.  He spat on the ground at Hawk's bare feet.  The crowd laughed.

 

Hawk smiled pleasantly, then kneed him in the bollocks an instant before he sent a bucket into the second man's midriff.  In an instant, both men were on the ground, groaning.

 

The smile never left Hawk's face.  He turned to the crowd.  "This is my home, those are my friends and I'm prepared to fight for both."

 

Gervase appeared by his side, braies tied clumsily around his waist and his sword hanging by his side.  He carried two buckets.  "An' if you don't clear the hell out, I'll fuckin' cut you in half," he yelled at the crowd.  "Got it?  Good.  Then go the fuck home unless you wanna help us clean up."

 

The crowd broke up, though there was still an undercurrent of angry muttering.  Hawk and Gervase ignored it and made their way to the well.

 

"D'ya think anyone saw Guy?" Gervase asked quietly.

 

"I honestly don't see how they could have avoided doing so," Hawk replied, his voice equally quiet.  "He was holding Chien, and like a fool I called out when Chien escaped.  People were bound to look then.  Even if they didn't, they must have noticed him when he was handing you buckets of water."

 

"Yeah."

 

They filled the buckets in silence and headed back.  Just before they got to the house, Hawk murmured, "I'm sorry I didn't listen to you when you told me how bad it was."

 

"Don't sweat it.  I was hopin' to be proved wrong."

 

Hawk smiled and glanced at the house.  "Oh dear."

 

"What?"  Gervase looked, too, and cursed.

 

Symon stood in front of the house looking like thundercloud, his arms crossed and his golden hair glowing against the soot that covered his face and clothing. 

 

In front of him stood Denys and another man, slim and slight next to Denys's tall frame, his deep red hair tied with a black ribbon.  Hawk suspected that the man's size and the refinement of his features was deceptive; he held himself like a warrior and carried a sword at his hip, half-hidden beneath his cloak.  Two palfreys bedecked in fine trappings were tethered by the door.

 

Lord Konstantine. 

 

Hawk and Gervase hurried forward.

 

Konstantine's anger was plain.  "I demand that you turn him over."

 

Gervase lowered his buckets of water.  "What's goin' on?"

 

"Nothing."  Symon continued to stare down Lord Konstantine.  "This idiot's got his facts wrong, that's all."

 

Lord Konstantine paled, though he didn't raise his voice.  "My facts are correct.  You're harbouring my mother's murderer."

 

Hawk saw a look pass between Gervase and Denys.  The coolness with which they assessed each other alarmed him, as did Gervase's casual movement of hand to sword.  Keeping his eyes on them, Hawk said, "Symon's correct, my lord.  We harbour no murderer."

 

Konstantine turned.  His gaze swept over Hawk coldly.  "I have received reports that you house a slave under your roof, one with light brown hair and eyes.  Other reports I have received connect that slave directly with the death of my mother."

 

"Then the reports are wrong."  Symon's glare would kill a lesser man, Hawk thought.  "Yes, we have a man living here who fits that description.  But we found him nearly dead, beaten so badly that he couldn't walk, much less kill someone."

 

"If he was so close to death the night before last, how is it that he was helping you to extinguish the fire that nearly consumed your home?"

 

"He heals extremely quickly, my lord," Hawk said quietly.  He set his buckets on the rutted street, too.  "I was with Symon when he found him, and can vouch for his condition.  We weren't sure if he would make it, but he's proven to be remarkably resilient."

 

"Suspiciously resilient, I think you mean."  Konstantine's eyes narrowed.  "Perhaps you're lying.  Or perhaps you harbour the devil himself."

 

"My lord--!"

 

"What the fuck?!"

 

Denys and Gervase shouted at the same time, but Konstantine held up his hand and they fell silent. 

 

"You're wrong, asshole," Symon said.  "I don't know where the hell you got your information, but my guess is that person's lying to you."

 

"Dyonisius saw bloody clothing."

 

"The clothes were mine.  The blood was from carrying the wounded man."

 

"He'd been tortured," Hawk said.  "The wounds that he received weren't like any I've ever seen."

 

"His master told me that he had to discipline the slave harshly to keep the devil at bay," Konstantine replied.

 

"Who's the sonofabitch who did that to Guy?" Symon demanded.  "I'll kill the bastard!"

 

"And I'll help," Hawk said.  "The only devil in this situation is that man."

 

"Hey man, look," Gervase said to Denys.  "I didn't see the brat's wounds, but I can tell you straight out, he's not a devil."

 

Denys glanced at Konstantine.  "My lord, perhaps Gervase has been deceived, but I've never known him to lie, and his judgement of other men has always been sound."

 

Konstantine frowned in thought, looking from one of them to the other, the initial anger in his face fading to a cool appraisal.  "I won't betray the name of his owner," he finally said.  "But I'll look into this further.  If I find you're mistaken about the slave's identity, I'll return and claim justice."

 

"Then bring a fucking army with you, because we're not turning him over," Symon said.

 

Hawk watched as Gervase pulled Denys aside and murmured something Hawk couldn't catch.  Denys glanced sharply at Gervase, shock written on his face, before nodding abruptly and glancing at Hawk and Symon.

 

"You should know that you weren't the only ones who were attacked," Denys said.  "One house was burned to the ground and several others were heavily damaged.  You were lucky you responded as quickly as you did."

 

"Damn."  Gervase stared at the blackened door.

 

"Scholars are leaving town," Denys added.  "Last night, I saw dozens of torches on the road leading to London."

 

"The townspeople decided that a student killed your mother," Symon said.  "Why aren't you following the official verdict?  Did Guy's master tell you that Guy was guilty?"

 

Konstantine remained silent, his face betraying nothing.

 

Symon's eyes narrowed.  "Maybe that master has something to hide."

 

"I'll investigate," Konstantine repeated.  He turned his gaze on each of them in turn.  "But know this, Wallingford.  I'm still not satisfied with your answers.  If I find that you've been deceiving me, I'll have you hanged."

 

"Tch."

 

Konstantine ignored Symon and mounted his horse, taking up the reins with a firm hand as the palfrey danced and threw its head.  He turned to Denys.  "We'll go back to the castle and look into this further."

 

"My lord."  Denys bowed slightly to Konstantine and then mounted the other horse.  They rode away, neither looking back.

 

Hawk picked up his buckets, staring after them.

 

"C'mon in," Gervase said, nudging him.  "We need to get you washed up.  I'll finish filling the water tub later."

 

Hawk followed him inside, each pouring their buckets into the tub, but leaving one out by the fire to warm. 

 

"I'll clean up upstairs," Gervase said in a low voice.  "Make it look—you know."

 

"Thank you."  Hawk had completely forgotten about their night together and the clothing strewn across his bedroom. 

 

Gervase disappeared upstairs.

 

Symon came inside a moment after.  "Idiots," he muttered.  "I'm surrounded by them."  He glared at Hawk.  "I'm washing up and going back to bed.  If anyone bothers me, I'll kill him."

 

"I'll help," Guy offered.  "You're pretty dirty, you know."

 

Symon glared at him, too, but didn't say no, Hawk noted. 

 

Gervase came down the stairs, his arms full of clothing.

 

Symon turned to him.  "What did you say to Konstantine's man?"

 

"I told him about the bitch who's sleeping with Konstantine's dad."  Gervase frowned.  "Why?"

 

Symon shook his head.  "Idiots.  Tch."  He pushed past Gervase and went up the stairs, Guy following after throwing wide-eyed glances at Hawk and Gervase.

 

Hawk sighed.  He couldn't answer Guy's unspoken worry.  Instead, he began to sluice the worst of the soot and grime from his body, exhausted.  He knew he should start planning, but the excitement of the morning had left him drained. 

 

Gervase stripped Hawk of his braies and began to watch his back with water that was still colder than was entirely comfortable.  Hawk shivered.  Gervase rinsed the soapy water from his back and started on an arm. 

 

"I told Denys to look closer to home for the murderer," Gervase said quietly.

 

"Who could Guy's former owner be, I wonder?"

 

"Beats me."  Gervase frowned.  "From what you an' Symon said, it has to be some kind of pervert.  Who'd torture a kid like that?  Beat 'im, yeah, sure, if he screws up.  But tie him up an' whip him with a strap?"  He moved in front of Hawk, washing his chest.  "The only person I could see doing that would be that asshole Nicholaus, but he couldn't afford to keep a slave, let alone hide one for six months."

 

The thought of Nicholaus owning a slave made Hawk shiver.  "He's not the only twisted person in the world," he said.  "But I agree.  His name is the first that leaps to mind."

 

Gervase paused, holding one of Hawk's arms and slowly moving the soapy cloth over it.  "It's none of my business," he said slowly, "but what do you plan to do if Lord Konstantine comes back an' tries to take Guy?"

 

"Oppose him, of course."

 

"What if that means drawin' weapons?"

 

"It wouldn't matter.  Guy didn't murder Lady Richemon.  I won't see him condemned for something he didn't do."  Hawk caught Gervase's hand as it travelled down his arm.  "Would you truly want me to step aside or hide?"

 

Gervase hesitated, clearly wanting to say, 'yes', but finally he shook his head and sighed.  Hawk released his hand and Gervase continued to wash him, but his strokes were much slower.

 

"If it comes to fightin', Lord Konstantine will go straight for Guy, which means he'll leave you an' me to face Denys," Gervase said quietly.  "No one knows it but me, but Denys is almost blind on the side of his face with the scar.  If you manoeuvre him into a corner that traps his good side…"

 

Hawk listened with half an ear, knowing that if Denys attacked him, his biggest advantage would simply be that he was fighting for his life, while Denys would most likely be fighting to subdue him.  Hawk was fairly sure that he'd be reasonably creative in a life or death scenario, and if not, there were worse ways to die than to be killed by an expert swordsman.

 

Like hanging.

 

After Gervase finished drying him, Hawk began to dress.  He had quite a bit to plan, including how to make sure that when they left Oxford, Gervase didn't stay behind.

 

"I'd better clean up, too.  Then I need to get someone to fix the damned door."  Gervase stood and dropped his braies.  "Get my back for me?"

 

"Of course."  First things first, and it was a task he was happy to reciprocate.  For a brief time, Hawk put aside his plans in favour of enjoying the simple pleasure of bathing his lover's body.

 

Then he left to find Chien, only to find the Chien had already returned home and was waiting for him outside, holding up a bloodied paw and stinking of pigs.  He held something clutched between his teeth.

 

Chien's tail wagged madly.

 

 

Part Six:  Of Rain and Revelations

 

 

Symon stormed down the stairs.  That fucking asshole of an oversexed brat had better stay put, or Symon would kill him.  

 

A drink would be good.  Several would be better. 

 

Two exhausted, soaking men, neatly tied bundles of manuscripts and one very smug-looking and suspiciously clean white dog with a bandaged paw looked up.  The fire blazed high; the room felt warm and deceptively safe.

 

"What the fuck is going on here?" Symon demanded.

 

Hawk had ink smeared across his forehead.  "We're packing."

 

Symon glared.  "Obviously.  I meant, why the fuck are you soaked?  And where'd you find the mutt?"

 

Gervase grinned.  "Waitin' for us on the doorstep.  He had this in his mouth."  He threw a piece of fabric at Symon, who caught it automatically.  "It took us forever to scrub him clean, the little rat."

 

Chien barked once, but his tail moved in lazy swipes across his blanket.

 

Frowning, Symon turned the fabric over in his hand.  It was muddy, but the dark wool was unmistakable.  "This is from a scholar's robes."

 

"Yes."  Hawk sat back and pushed the hair from his face.  "Interesting, isn't it?"

 

"Can townspeople get hold of this kind of wool?"

 

Gervase shrugged.  "You guys get your robes made special, so it wouldn't be easy.  But not impossible, either.  The material's probably for sale in London.  Or a student could have taken his robe to someone to get it washed, like we do."

 

"So what's the significance?"  Symon tossed the scrap back to Gervase and pulled a stool close to the fire, pouring himself some ale.

 

"Do you think that someone from town would wear robes like ours while there are mobs out there hunting for students?  It could happen, I suppose," Hawk mused, "but if it did, I think it would have to be either someone who felt that he'd be recognised by the other townspeople so he'd be safe, or someone very sure that he would be able to defend himself."

 

"Most of the people in this town are merchants."  Symon drained the cup, thinking furiously.  "Not too prone to fighting or defence."

 

"Which leaves a student or someone prominent enough to be recognised, but common enough to have access to a student's robes," Hawk agreed.  "We only wear them for formal occasions, so they're not that easily come by."

 

"But easily missed," Symon replied.  "I couldn't tell you where my robes are right now."

 

"In your hutch, underneath your azure cloak," Hawk said.  "Or so I would imagine," he added with a demure smile as Symon shot him a sharp glance.

 

"Stop messing with my things."

 

"Yes, yes," Hawk said.  "Perhaps in future you'd like me to leave them for you to have laundered and put away?"

 

"Where's the brat, by the way?" Gervase asked hastily.

 

Symon stopped glaring at Hawk and turned to Gervase.  "Sleeping."

 

"Wore him out, did you?" Gervase leered.

 

"Fuck you!"  Symon stood abruptly and stalked to the door.

 

"Where are you going?" Hawk asked.

 

"Away from you assholes." 

 

"Wait!"  Symon snarled as Hawk grabbed his arm.  Hawk let go of him, but continued.  "I don't think any of us should be out there alone right now."

 

"I've got a knife," Symon replied.  He opened the door; the stink of wet, burned wood flooded the house anew.  "Tch."

 

Hawk grabbed the door and held it.  "At least give us an idea of where you might be going and when we can expect you back.  Guy will worry," he added, looking innocent.

 

Treacherous, manipulative bastard.  "I'm going out for a drink.  I'll be back in a couple of hours.  Satisfied?"  Without waiting for an answer, Symon yanked the door out of Hawk's grip and left the house.

 

The day had turned cold, and the air hung heavy as if it were going to rain at any time.  Symon pulled his cloak around him more tightly, fuming.

 

The brat.  The fucking brat.  He'd told the idiot not to touch him, but the moron had grabbed his prick and babbled about making him feel good and fuck! it had been good, so good that Symon had come hard, then forgot himself and kissed Guy and fisted the boy's prick until the brat had spilled, too, and then they'd fallen asleep, entangled together as if born to it.

 

Then they'd awoke and Guy's face had borne such a self-satisfied smirk that Symon had clouted him on the ear and threatened to kill him if Guy showed his face downstairs until after dark, before escaping down the stairs in search of strong drink. 

 

I wish I'd never listened to that fucking voice…

 

The heavens opened and a sodden, heavy rain began to fall.

 

Cursing, Symon looked around.  He'd left the university area of the town behind him and was well beyond the tavern that he occasionally visited.  In fact, he'd left Oxford proper altogether.  Beyond the haze of rain lay nothing but fields, while next to him was the open maw of one of the peasant hovels that littered the edge of the town, ripe and putrid with the stench of pig shit, rotted food, sour peat ash and human waste. 

 

He pulled the hood of his cloak up – for all the good it would do him, since he was already soaked to the skin – and turned to go back towards town.

 

A man stood in his way.  Symon cursed again.

 

The man was tall and clean-shaven; though attractive, his face was cruel and intelligent.  His black cloak billowed in the wind that had sprung up with the storm.  Underneath it he wore torn and ragged scholar's robes and a mocking grin.

 

"Lord Symon de Wallingford," he said.  "Fancy meeting you here.  Alone.  In the rain."  He tilted his head.  "Dangerous in these times, don't you think?"

 

"Nicholaus," Symon said.  "Get out of my way."

 

"I hear that you're in trouble," Nicholaus said, as relaxed and sociable as though they were in a tavern or attending a lecture, not standing in the rain surrounded by mud and rain-soaked fields, next to a dripping, stinking cess pit.  "I hear that you've taken in a demon."

 

"You've heard wrong."  Symon walked past Nicholaus, only to be stopped by a hand gripping his arm.  "Let go of me."

 

Nicholaus pulled closer.  "A demon with golden eyes," he said softly in Symon's ear.  "I hear that there are those in Oxford who think you and your demon killed Lady Richemon."

 

Symon tried to yank his arm away, but Nicholaus held it in an iron clasp.  "And I hear you're fucking Lord Richemon's whore," Symon hissed.  "Who do you think has the better motive to get rid of the only person standing between that bitch and Richemon's fortune?"

 

"Oh ho."  Nicholaus's smile faded for a moment as he gazed at Symon, his eyes calculating.  Then it returned.  "What a sophisticated imagination you have," he said mockingly.  "This isn't some court intrigue, though.  It's a close-knit community, full of plain people.  People who think that strangers are dangerous." 

 

"You're a stranger yourself," Symon retorted.  "And greed isn't a particularly sophisticated motive.  Lord Konstantine knows about his father and the whore," he added, watching Nicholaus closely.

 

Again, Nicholaus seemed to be startled, though when he recovered his smile, this time he seemed genuinely amused.  "You mean my student?"  Symon started, and Nicholaus's grin widened.  "Didn't you know?  I was raised in Oxford.  I'm well known by the clergy in town.  And I've been tutoring little Lord Red-hair since Lent."  He made a dismissive gesture with his hand.  "Lord Konstantine is hardly likely to believe you over me."

 

He knows Konstantine.  Symon's mind raced.  Did Nicholaus have a role in this charade apart from being cuckolded by his mistress?  When he'd accused Nicholaus of benefiting from Lady Richemon's death, he'd simply been trying to get back at the man for his arrogance.  But what if his blind shot was actually the truth? 

 

Nicholaus was ambitious as hell and believed in an eat-or-be-eaten world.  Nicholaus was a sadistic bastard.  Nicholaus had mentioned golden eyes.  Nicholaus owned a scholar's gown.  Nicholaus's black cape, sharp tongue, glittering, calculating eyes…

 

"Crow."

 

Nicholaus raised an eyebrow but kept smiling.

 

"You're Crow.  You bloody bastard."  It all fit, except… "How the hell did you afford him?" Symon asked abruptly.  "Did your mistress buy Guy for you?"

 

Nicholaus threw back his head and began to laugh.  "Sharp as ever, aren't you, Wallingford?"  He wiped his eyes, still chuckling.  "I didn't buy him with money.  I bought him with the currency commonly used to buy a demon."

 

"Your soul," Symon said, his eyes narrowed.  He clutched his hands into fists.  "You bastard.  You're the one who beat him, aren't you?"

 

"One must keep a demon in line," Nicholaus said with a smile. 

 

"He's not a demon!"

 

"Have you removed his necklace yet?"

 

Symon's heart pounded.  The damned necklace.  What the hell was it? 

 

"I did.  Once."  Nicholaus's smile turned lascivious.  "He was bound well, of course.  Chains, a muzzle, stocks."  His voice quieted in an obscene parody of an intimate secret amongst friends as he leaned closer once again.  "I stripped him naked."  He touched the side of his nose.  "He's a demon."

 

"Bastard!"  His blood roaring in his ears, Symon leapt at Nicholaus, but Nicholaus wasn't there.  Whirling and slipping in the mud, Symon barely had time to raise his arm to ward off a blow from the cudgel that was suddenly in Nicholaus's hand.  The impact unbalanced him; his feet slid out from under him and he tumbled down a slope until he was lying in a ditch full of icy water, his hands scrabbling at the muddy verge in a vain effort to get to his feet, Nicholaus kneeling astride him with both hands around his throat, the cudgel tossed to the side.

 

Symon's vision swam.  He stopped trying to stand and tried to pry Nicholaus's hands from his throat instead. 

 

"How convenient," Nicholaus whispered. "Once you're dead, everyone will hear about how you tried to attack me, how you housed evil in your home and your heart.  They'll draw their own conclusions about who murdered Lady Richemon.  They'll chop your head from your body and tar it and impale it on a spike at the town's gates as a warning to other murderers.  They'll hang your companions as accessories.  A nice, neat little package."

 

"You killed her!" Symon rasped. 

 

Nicholaus's grip tightened.  "And what if I did?"

 

No more air.  Symon felt his body convulse with the desperate need to breathe, but the mud was too damned slippery and Nicholaus held him down, was forcing his face into the water: even if Symon could take a breath, he'd drown.  He could feel his struggles growing weaker, so he redoubled his efforts, but it was too late—

 

Symon began to drift into the darkness.

 

The hands disappeared.

 

Symon's body arched as his face broke the surface of the water.  He dragged in a deep breath, only to start coughing as rain poured into his open mouth.  He fumbled until he was sitting upright and then looked around.

 

Guy had Nicholaus's cudgel.  The two were circling each other warily, each apparently watching for an opportunity to strike.  Nicholaus held one arm pressed awkwardly to his side.

 

"Guy!" Symon choked.

 

Guy glanced at him, and in a heartbeat, Nicholaus disappeared.  Guy looked around, then ran to Symon.

 

"Symon!"  He put an arm around Symon to steady him.

 

"Fuck."  Symon's body shook, the tremors so strong that he couldn't hold himself upright.  "Watch out for him."

 

"He's gone.  C'mon.  You need to get warm."

 

Cursing, Symon reluctantly accepted Guy's shoulder.  He balked at Guy's intended destination, however.  "I'm not going in there."

 

Guy continued to drag him forward.  "Nobody's in there, just some chickens and pigs on the other side of the wall," he said, pulling him into the hovel.  "I'll start a fire."

 

"You'll burn the place down around our heads."  Symon covered his nose and mouth with his hands.  "Fuck!  The stench!"

 

"You'll get used to it."  Guy pushed him onto the dirt floor and fanned the embers of the fire the owner had carefully protected earlier in the day, and then piled peat bricks over the coals.  Once the bricks were stacked, he turned back to Symon and began to rub Symon's arms and legs to warm him. 

 

Within moments, the peat began to glow and Symon could feel the fire's warmth growing, though his body continued to shake uncontrollably.

 

"That was him, wasn't it?  Your master?"

 

"Yeah, that's Crow."  Guy turned away and looked out the door of the hovel.  "It's gonna keep rainin' for a while.  We should stay here 'til you're warm."

 

Symon shook his head.  "Can't wait."  He clenched his jaw to keep his teeth from chattering.  "Nicholaus will be back, and he'll bring the townspeople with him.  And they'll go to the house, too.  We've got to warn Hawk and Gervase."  He tried to pull himself to his feet, but Guy held him down without effort.

 

"Uh uh."  Guy bit his lip, his face scrunched up in concentration. 

 

"Don't argue—"

 

"I'm not arguin', I'm thinkin'!"  Guy glared at Symon.  "I heard ya!  We've gotta get home fast.  That means you gotta warm up fast."

 

"Put some of those coals in a pot or something," Symon said.  "I can hold it while we walk."

 

Guy rolled his eyes.  "Yeah, that would work, if you could walk.  But you're shakin' too hard."  His expression brightened.  "I got it!"

 

Symon didn't trust the happy look on Guy's face.  "What?"

 

Guy started tugging at Symon's clothes.  "Strip.  We gotta get your body warm first."

 

"Fuck that!"

 

Infuriatingly, Guy was stronger.  Within moments, Symon's wrung-out clothing was hanging from rafters over the fire, a few remaining drips hissing on the hot coals.  He pulled his knees to his chest and shivered in the damp air. 

 

"How's this supposed to make me warmer?" he muttered through chattering teeth.

 

"Lean back on that pallet."  Guy pushed Symon down on a pallet that was probably crawling with lice, but Symon was shaking too hard to put up any sort of struggle.  "Right."  He lay down beside Symon and grinned.  "I've been wanting to do this for ages."

 

"You haven't known me for ages, you stupid monk—Ah!"

 

Guy's mouth felt as hot as a fire on Symon's cold-shrunk flesh.  He groaned, half in pain but mostly in pleasure as his prick began to grow in Guy's mouth.  Blood rushed to Symon's groin and blossomed into a flush of heat that he could feel burning in his face and across his chest. 

 

"Fuck!" 

 

He'd heard of this, but had never experienced it, had never even had the curiosity to pursue it.  Now that it was happening, Symon couldn't stop himself; he bucked into the wet heat and groaned as Guy's tongue slid under his foreskin to brush against the sensitive head of his cock.  He could feel himself swell larger.

 

Guy moaned, sounding happy.  He would be, Symon thought as he began to move his hips, easing himself deeper into Guy's eager mouth.  He's eating, the little shit.

 

Guy looked up at him, his golden eyes shining.  He let Symon's prick fall from his mouth, but gathered him in his fist, pumping him steadily.  "I thought you'd like this," he said with a grin.

 

"Don't be smug," Symon said.  He pulled Guy up and kissed him, his tongue sliding into Guy's mouth.  Oh, God, he could taste himself on Guy's lips.  He groaned again.

 

Guy grinned some more.  He licked his lips and slid back down, taking Symon's prick back into his mouth. Symon was fully erect, the cold a distant memory as Guy began sucking in earnest.

 

The thought of a man's prick in his mouth had always disgusted Symon before, but this wasn't a man, this was Guy.  Symon found himself wanting to taste Guy, to wrap his tongue around Guy's prick and run it under Guy's foreskin.  He lightly slapped Guy's head.

 

"Move."  He tried to slide around towards the bulge distending Guy's braies.

 

Guy's eyes widened and he made room for Symon to slide around.  When Symon reached for the ties to his braies, though, he hesitated.  "You don't have to."

 

"Has anyone ever done this for you?"

 

Guy shook his head.

 

"Good," Symon said.  He loosened the ties and reached for Guy's prick, pulling it out of the cloth and weighing its heavy heat in his hand.  He dipped his head and drew in a deep breath.  Guy smelled like musk and fresh sweat, but clean, much cleaner than the hovel they sheltered in.  Symon's mouth watered.

 

He swiped his tongue across the tip of Guy's prick.  Guy's flavour burst over his tongue, salty and bitter.  "Fucking rain," he muttered, then took Guy's prick into his mouth and began to suck.

 

Symon's tongue seemed to have a mind of its own, pushing back the foreskin, circling along the velvet shaft, tracing the veins that ran along Guy's hard cock, dipping into the small slit to savour the drops of precome that formed within.  He felt Guy do the same to him, pleasure flooding his veins.  It almost made up for the ache that settled into his jaw; to ease it, he stopped sucking Guy's prick and ran his tongue up the sides of it, mouthing the head and the base until the cramping eased and he could take Guy into his mouth once more.

 

Damn.  This was good.  He could feel his climax build as Guy's mouth worked his sensitive glans, alternately sucking and laving.  Heart pounding, breathing heavily through his nose, he did the same to Guy.

 

The mouth on his prick tightened, and Symon felt Guy's tongue spear into his slit as his clever fingers massaged Symon's bollocks.  Symon's climax ambushed him, intense and ferocious.  He tried to keep himself from driving his prick deep into Guy's slick throat as he came, wave upon wave of pleasure rolling through him. 

 

Guy swallowed around him.  Oh, fuck, so fucking good—

 

Guy's prick swelled against his tongue.  Before Symon could take his mouth away, a burst of thick, bitter fluid flooded out of Guy's prick and down Symon's throat, followed immediately by another, and another.  There was nothing Symon could do but swallow or choke, so he swallowed the bitter stuff down as the last shocks of pleasure from his own orgasm trickled through him.  He released Guy's prick only when it started to soften and shrink in his mouth.

 

They lay panting, draped across each other, the sound of the rain and the stench of the hovel surrounding them once more.  Symon groaned and pushed himself up from the pallet.  He wiped his mouth and glared down at the traces of come on his hand.

 

Nothing remotely sexy about cold semen.  With a grunt, he wiped his hand on the pallet.  Sex.  What a fucking messy business it was.

 

But worth it, a voice whispered in his head.

 

"You're not shaking anymore," Guy pointed out. 

 

"Stop grinning."

 

"Gervase told me that you're natur'ly pissy.  He said t' ignore you.  I think he's right."

 

Symon clouted Guy on the ear hard enough to make his own hand sting. 

 

Guy rubbed his ear, glaring.  "What's that for?  I got you warm, for cripes sake."

 

Symon clouted him again.  "That's for saying 'cripes'.  And the other was for listening to the fucking mercenary."

 

"Jerk."  Guy rubbed his ear some more, but his glare disappeared.  "We gotta get back, right?"

 

"Right."  Symon pulled down his still-wet undertunic and held it to the fire.  He slipped it on as soon as it seemed a bit less clammy and then yanked his cloak down to do the same.  "What the hell were you doing out here, anyway?  I thought I told you to stay put, idiot."

 

Guy squirmed.  "Yeah, well, I got bored," he said.  "Besides," he frowned, "I hadda bad feelin'."

 

"A bad feeling?  About what?"

 

"You.  So I climbed out the window an' followed you."  He scratched his head. 

 

"Shit.  You've got fleas now, don't you?"  Symon growled; the cloak was never going to dry, but at least it was temporarily warm.  His body heat could do the rest.  He wrapped it around himself.  "Leave it," he said as Guy started to gather the rest of his clothing.  "It's too muddy and torn to wear again.  Just give me the shoes."

 

They made their way back to the house via back ways, slipping through alleys and creeping across livestock pens to avoid being seen.  Few people were out in the rain, which made their journey much easier.

 

Once they safely reached the house, Symon had barely lifted the latch when the door flew open.

 

"Where the hell have you been?"  Gervase stepped back, surprised.  "You're in your fuckin' underwear!  Where're your clothes?"

 

Symon pushed past Gervase and dropped his cloak to the floor.  "Are we all packed?"

 

"Nearly," Hawk said.

 

"Finish.  We leave now."

 

"What?  Wait, you bastard!  I thought we'd agreed—"

 

"Nicholaus killed Lady Richemon.  He tried to kill me.  He's also the bastard who owns Guy.  He'll be coming after us, along with half the town."

 

Gervase frowned.  "But if he's the murderer, we just tell everyone he did it.  End of story, everything goes back to normal."

 

"We don't have any proof that he killed her, just my word against his.  He's tutoring Richemon's son.  Who do you think Richemon or the townspeople are going to believe, idiot?"  Symon crossed to the fire, took off his undertunic and began to wash the mud from his body.  "Guy, get clean clothes, ones that we can travel in."

 

Guy bounded up the stairs.

 

"Symon's right, Gervase," Hawk said, keeping his voice low and watching the stairs.  "They won't believe us."

 

"Because we've got the kid."  Gervase sighed.  "I get it."

 

"I'll wait for the carriage and then take Guy to my estate.  You two leave now."  Symon finished drying himself just as Guy came bounding back down the stairs, dressed in dry clothing and carrying an armful of clothes for Symon.

 

"No," Hawk said.  Beside him, Gervase shook his head vehemently.  "We go together."

 

"Listen, idiot—"

 

"Hawk's right, asshole," Gervase said.  "We're in this together.  Besides, we've got a better chance of getting out alive if there are four of us."

 

"You said that Nicholaus tried to kill you."  Hawk separated some hose from the pile of clothing and handed it to Symon, who dressed himself quickly.  "How did you get away?"

 

"Guy." 

 

"Heh," said Gervase.  "I guess the kid really can take care of himself."  He rubbed Guy's hair with his knuckles.  "Nice work, monkey."

 

"Don't call me monkey," Guy retorted, but he grinned.

 

"I've been thinking," Hawk said.  "Remember the night when Lady Richemon was killed?  We attended the lecture.  Nicholaus was supposed to be there, too, but he never showed up.  Perhaps we can build a case from that if we need to buy some time."

 

"I wouldn't count on it," Symon said, lacing his shoes.  "No witnesses.  The scholars are getting the hell out of Oxford.  Besides, the townspeople wouldn't believe anyone from the university.  There.  What's left to pack?"

 

Gervase strapped on his sword and took his cloak from the hook.  "We don't have much time.  I'll go get the horses and the carriage."

 

"Take Chien with you."

 

Gervase nodded and beckoned the dog, then opened the door and peered up and down the street, Chien at his side.  He looked back at them one last time and then he and Chien disappeared.

 

Hawk closed the door, but left the bolt unset for Gervase's return.  "I'll finish packing up the manuscripts.  Your hutch is packed and waiting just inside your bedroom."

 

Symon grunted and yanked Guy's collar.  "Get up there, stupid monkey."  He followed Guy up the stairs.

 

Guy was uncharacteristically quiet as they gathered up the few things that Hawk had missed.  Symon grew more annoyed with each passing moment of silence.  "What the hell is it now?"

 

Guy glanced at him uncertainly.  "You're all in trouble because of me," he said.  "Maybe if I—"

 

"Shut up."  Symon grabbed the front of Guy's schert and pulled him face to face.  "Just shut up."

 

Then he kissed him. 

 

Guy's mouth still faintly tasted of Symon, so he chased the flavour through every corner of Guy's mouth, burying his fingers in Guy's coarse hair.  Guy moaned and pressed closer.

 

The fucking little prick.  Symon couldn't believe how the brat had got under his skin.  He kissed Guy more deeply, wanting to devour the heat and passion and keep it deep inside him.  Guy responded with a growl that sent shivers down Symon's spine.

 

He's a demon, Nicholaus's voice whispered in his mind.   I stripped him naked.

 

There was a pounding at the door.  Symon and Guy jumped apart as they heard it crash open, followed by a sharp cry from Hawk, abruptly cut off.  Pushing Guy behind him, Symon went to the top of the stairs and looked down.

 

Half a dozen soldiers stood at the bottom of the stairs, swords drawn.  More filled the room behind them.  Hawk was on the floor, motionless; Symon couldn't tell if he was alive or dead.

 

"Symon de Wallingford, you're under arrest for the murder of Lady Richemon and crimes against the Church."

 

"Tch," Symon said.

 

 

Part Seven:  Of Trials and the Hangman's Noose

 

 

Hawk groaned.  He was cold and his head hurt and his eyes seemed to be crusted shut.  He felt dirt under his fingers and someone pressed tight against him, but when he tried to push the person away, he couldn't move.

 

"Wha--?"

 

"Shut up and don't move."

 

A frisson of both relief and apprehension ran down Hawk's spine.  Symon was there, which was good, since he had someone he knew and trusted with him.  On the other hand, if Symon was in the same situation as he was, it meant that both of them were essentially helpless. He flexed his muscles and found that his hands were bound tightly behind his back.

 

Hawk opened his eyes and blinked several times.  Things seemed out of focus at first, but gradually his head cleared and his eyes adapted to the darkness.

 

Not that it helped, since Symon's body blocked his view.  What light there was seemed to come from a distance away, somewhere above him, and it flickered.  Torchlight.  Either darkness had fallen or they were in a windowless structure of some kind.  He could hear several men talking not too far away.

 

"Where are we?" he whispered.

 

"The castle, in the dungeons," Symon breathed.

 

"Just us?"

 

"No.  They arrested Guy, too.  But they put him in a separate cell.  I could hear them hitting him and telling him to shut up.  He's been quiet for a while, now."

 

"Oh, God."  They hadn't escaped in time.  At least Gervase isn't here.

 

"I overheard them saying that we'll be put on trial in the morning.  We're to be hanged at dawn the day after that."

 

"Why even bother with a trial?"

 

"It sounds like one of the King's men is here to see justice done.  Otherwise I doubt we'd still be alive."

 

Hawk was silent. 

 

"Do you think he'll advocate for us?" he finally asked.

 

Symon snorted.

 

Oh well.  Hawk hadn't really expected anything different.  "Are you all right?"

 

"Yeah.  Your head?"

 

"I'm fine.  Do you think there's a way out?"

 

Symon was silent.

 

"You've always been a pessimist," Hawk said, but the humour fell flat.

 

"We're tied up.  I haven't had any luck trying to get loose.  Even if we did, we're both shackled to the wall by our ankles.  Locked cell, guards outside, Guy in a separate locked cell, bound and shackled, too, I imagine." 

 

Hawk could hear Symon's unspoken refusal to abandon Guy.  He agreed, of course, but anger still welled up regardless.  They had so little time left.  "Too bad one of us isn't a legendary knight with a magic sword."  He couldn't keep the bitterness from his voice.

 

Symon grunted.  "I don't believe in magic," he said.

 

"Perhaps they'll allow us to advocate for ourselves."

 

"Maybe."

 

"I'll think about it," Hawk said.  "Technically, the King doesn't have direct jurisdiction over us."

 

"Technically, we didn't commit a crime in the first place."

 

"Yes," Hawk agreed softly.  "I won't give up without trying."

 

"Shut up and get some sleep, Aristotle."

 

Perhaps it was the head injury, but Hawk thought it sounded like good advice.  He closed his eyes and let the world fade away.

 

He awoke to a rough prod in the ribs and a man saying, "Gerrup, ya murderin' bastards.  His Lordship's waitin'."

 

There was the sound of a key in a lock and the rattle of chains, and then Hawk was hauled to his feet.  He fell backwards into a wall and closed his eyes, willing the room to stop spinning.  Before it fully stopped, though, he was yanked forward and pushed across the room.  He opened his eyes.  Symon was being pushed through the doorway but had his head turned, looking back at him, so Hawk nodded.  Symon nodded back and then they were both being marched down a long hallway, surrounded by soldiers carrying spears.

 

The only bright spot that Hawk could see in the situation was that his head didn't hurt quite so abominably.

 

They were escorted into a great hall, filled with morning light.

 

The soldiers halted Hawk and Symon in front several people sitting at the middle of a long table.  Lord Richemon sat at the middle, Lord Konstantine at his right and a man whom Hawk had never seen before on his left, next to a man dressed in the robes of an abbot.  The mayor of Oxford sat next to Lord Konstantine.  Beyond him sat a woman with golden hair who watched them from hooded eyes. 

 

It was plain by their expressions that a verdict had already been reached.

 

"Speak your names," Lord Konstantine said.

 

Hawk exchanged glances with Symon and nodded.

 

"My name is Symon, Lord Wallingford.  This man is my vassal."

 

Lord Richemon grunted.  "Wallingford.  A pissant seat run by a pissant family."

 

Symon's sharp gaze settled on the cleric.  "Would you agree, Abbot Godwin?"

 

The abbot cleared his throat, face flaming.  "My lord, this boy's uncle is John of Wallingford, the Abbot of St Albans.  The estates date back to early Saxon times."

 

"Saxons."  Richemon snorted.  "Bloody barbaric land thieves."

 

"Funny.  That's what we say about the Normans," Symon said.  "Didn't this castle belong to the D'Orlys until just recently?"

 

Richemon's face flushed.  "You little bastard, how dare you—!"

 

"My lord," said the man to Richemon's left.  "I think it's plain to see that the boy bears a grudge against your family."

 

Hawk frowned.  The man had pale hair, with a purplish cast to it that reminded Hawk of wine stains, and pale hazel eyes.  There was a quality to his voice that urged one to agree with him; glancing around, Hawk could see its affect on the others at the table.  The man's arrogance and cruelty were palpable.

 

"I beg your pardon," Hawk said, "but I'm afraid that I don't know who you are."

 

"My name is Lord Spyrling."  The man smiled.  "I am King John's trusted emissary, and speak with his authority."

 

"I see," said Hawk.  "I was unaware that His Majesty had authority over matters pertaining to the university.  And should not the university's magister scolarum be present?"

 

"He fled from Oxford last night," Lord Konstantine said.

 

Hawk didn't flinch.  He'd expected that the man had either fled or been imprisoned.  "Then I believe that this case would be more properly heard by a tribunal appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, wouldn't it?  The university is under His Eminence's jurisdiction."

 

"The Archbishop is forbidden to act under the edict from His Holiness, the Pope," Spyrling said.  "Therefore, by default, it becomes the King's matter within the laws established in the 1164 Constitutions of Clarendon."

 

Hawk kept his voice steady.  "The Church denied the Constitutions of Clarendon, so I respectfully submit that they aren't applicable to this situation."

 

"Perhaps you'd like to resurrect the Archbishop Thomas Becket to hear your plea." 

 

Startled, Hawk looked at the woman at the end of the table. She smiled at him and uneasy laughter rippled down the table.

 

Hawk bowed to her.  "I would be happy to do so if given the opportunity." 

 

The smile disappeared and her cold eyes sparked.  "Blasphemer!"

 

Hawk clenched his jaw.  They hadn't had a chance in hell even before they'd entered the room, so a little matter of blasphemy hardly concerned him at the moment.

 

"You have quite the command of life and death, don't you?" Spyrling said.  "It doesn't matter, however, since my word is the only law here."  He sat back in his chair and smirked.  "The King himself commanded your deaths.  The only question before this tribunal is how they are to be carried out."

 

"Bloody politics," Symon muttered to Hawk. 

 

"We've committed no crime.  Are there any witnesses against us?" Hawk demanded.

 

Spyrling smiled, his eyes glinting with amusement.  "Why yes, there is one."

 

There was movement within the darkness at the far side of the room, and then Nicholaus stepped forward, smirking unpleasantly.  He fell to a knee before Richemon.

 

"My lord."

 

"You bear witness against these men?" rumbled Richemon.

 

"Not as such, my lord," Nicholaus said.  "I bear witness as to the nature of a creature that they harbour under their roof."

 

Hawk could feel Symon grow tense.

 

"And what is the manner of that creature?" Spyrling asked.

 

"The creature is a demon, my lord."

 

Hands fluttered around the table, making the sign against evil.

 

"Bullshit!" Symon said.  "That man is your murderer."  A soldier hit him with the shaft of his spear, and Symon fell to his knees.

 

"Silence!"  Richemon glared at Symon.  "If you speak again without my leave, you will be punished."  He turned to Nicholaus.  "A demon, you say?  And how would you know that?"

 

"Because he was under my holy supervision.  The story is a long one, my lord."

 

"Get on with it."

 

Nicholaus stood, graceful as a rearing snake.

 

"Last winter I set out to London to celebrate the festival of Candlemas with my brethren at St Giles Cripplegate."  Nicholaus dipped his head.  "I do this every year, my lord, to give thanks to the patron saint who watches over my poor, crippled mother.  This year I expressed interest in the lazar house, and was generously given leave to visit the afflicted souls who lived there.

 

"One such soul was an old gypsy woman.  She so old that one would find it impossible to guess at her age, though she claimed to have lived for one hundred and fifteen years.  She was hideous, her face half-eaten by the foul corruption of her diseased soul, but her pleas to speak with me were so pitiful that I could not turn away.

 

"My lord, she told me that she was a witch."

 

The abbot erupted into prayer while the rest of the table remained silent.  But not shocked, Hawk noticed.  This wasn't news to them.

 

Symon stumbled to his feet, glaring at Nicholaus. 

 

"Pray my good man, confirm that she was disposed of in accordance with the Church's teachings," the abbot said, making the sign of the cross.

 

"She was," Nicholaus said.  "But before I sent her to be purified at the stake, I heard her confession.  Her tale was hard to believe, and I admit to thinking at first that perhaps she was merely mad and not possessed by Satan. 

 

"She said when she was young, her father had brought a demon into the gypsy tribe, a demon in the guise of a boy.  The demon had great claws and teeth, but she said her father managed to tame the beast.  Once tamed, he became a boy, eager to please and a strong and tireless worker.  Bound by magic, the boy lived with the tribe for several years.

 

"Bloody gypsies," Richemon muttered.  "They're in league with the Devil.  I want any that approach my lands to be slaughtered."

 

"Indeed, my lord, that seems a wise course of action," Spyrling said.  "Pray, continue with your story, sir."

 

"My lord," Nicholaus said, bowing his head.  "The woman told me that upon her fifteenth birthday, the demon emerged.  He ran amuck, slaying everyone, until she, as the sole survivor of his rampage, once again was able to bind him.

 

"A few days later, she lured the boy onto holy ground and sealed him in the crypt beneath St Giles." 

 

"A fantastic story."

 

"My thoughts exactly, my lord.  I didn't believe her, so I went to the crypts myself to prove her wrong.

 

"I found a boy there, in the darkness."

 

Hands flew again in a fresh flurry of warding signs. 

 

"I asked the boy if he was a devil.  He replied vaguely, so I prayed to the Blessed Virgin for guidance.  To my humble amazement, she appeared before me."

 

"Bullshit," Symon said under his breath, his eyes narrowed. 

 

Hawk looked at him speculatively.  Strange, but it had seemed like Symon's whisper had contained certain knowledge, not outraged scepticism.   

 

"She told me that the boy was to atone for his many sins and that, through that atonement, the demon within him might be driven from his body," Nicholaus continued.  "She bade me release him from his imprisonment and to help him atone until I received a sign as to who would ultimately be the boy's master."

 

"What the hell?" Symon said.  A soldier backhanded him.

 

"The next time either of you speak, I'll have your tongue," Richemon said. 

 

Hawk's mind raced.  What was Nicholaus trying to do?  The man was a master manipulator.  Did he think that there was some way to profit from Guy?

 

"Since then, I've endeavoured in my humble fashion to carry out Our Blessed Mother's directives.  However, the boy rejected his atonement and escaped."

 

"Have you received a sign yet?" Spyrling asked.

 

Nicholaus bowed his head.  "Not while the demon remained with me, my lord.  But I have prayed deeply since then, and the Virgin has responded."

 

The abbot crossed himself.  "And what did she say, man?"

 

"She told me that under my guidance the boy might yet be able to atone for his sins.  A man of great power will soon reveal himself to be my master and thus the demon's as well."

 

Spyrling placed his chin on interlocked fingers.  "Intriguing.  The Blessed Virgin's blessings will be on that man?"

 

"Without a doubt," Nicholaus said.  "But while the Blessed Virgin gives me the power to control the monster, it hasn't been mastered yet.  The boy rejected the atonement rituals.  He escaped from my care and was taken in by these men."  Nicholaus gestured to Hawk and Symon with false piety on his face.

 

"If they harbour an unmastered demon, by extension it's logical to conclude that they are cohorts with the Devil," Spyrling said.

 

"Guy is not a demon!" Hawk protested.

 

"He's a fucking brat, not a devil!" Symon snapped at the same moment.

 

"Enough!" Richemon roared.  "There is no doubt that you harboured this demon in your home, unhindered by the prayers of the pious or the blessings of the Virgin and therefore dangerous.  My beloved wife fell prey to you and to that creature!"  He glared at them, his chest heaving with anger.  "Neither of you will have a swift death.  You'll be hanged on the short drop.  Take them back to the cell!  Sentence will be carried out at dawn."

 

Hawk's stomach twisted and he closed his eyes.  The short drop.  A long, slow strangulation instead of the mercy of a snapped neck.

 

"Hang me and be damned!" Symon said. 

 

Lord Konstantine stood.  "This matter appears to be completed," he said, bowing to his father and Spyrling and nodding his head to the abbot.  "If you'll excuse me."  As he turned to leave, he looked directly at Hawk.

 

And nodded almost imperceptibly.

 

Frowning, Hawk stared after him.  A farewell?  An indication of respect?  An approbation of the sentence meted out?

 

A soldier grabbed Hawk's shoulder and thrust him towards the door.  "Get goin', you bloody bastard.  I'm lookin' for'ard to pissin' on your corpse."

 

Hawk heard a blow and Symon's grunt, then stumbling steps following behind him as Symon was herded back to the cell, too.

 

After they'd been shackled to the wall again, Hawk waited a few moments, until the guards had locked them in the cell.

 

"That went well."

 

"That must have been the bitch who's sleeping with Nicholaus and Richemon," Symon said. "Her eyes never left that crow the entire time he spoke, like she was pleased with how a pet dog might perform."

 

"I don't think that we can underestimate Nicholaus, even if she regards him as an amusement," Hawk said.  "Do you think that they'll keep Guy alive?"

 

Hawk felt Symon strain at his bonds.  "It sounded like it.  Damn that fucker!"

 

"Would you be talking about me, by any chance?"  Their cell door opened and Nicholaus entered.  He leaned against the wall next to the door and smirked.  "What a rude thing to say about someone who has been kind enough to sent the guards away so that he could hear your confessions and offer you the last rites."

 

"You bastard."  Hawk had never heard Symon's voice sound so dark and deadly.  "I'll fucking kill you if you touch Guy again."

 

"Given the verdict, I have my doubts."

 

"What verdict?  It's just the stupidity of a fucking king who hates a fucking archbishop and a creepy, manipulative bastard with an oily voice who's looking for power."

 

"You still don't believe he's a demon, do you?"  Nicholaus sounded amused.

 

"Guy's as normal as Hawk or I."

 

"Hmm."  Tilting his head, Nicholaus seemed to be weighing Symon's words.  "Perhaps you're right.  If I recall, you once challenged one of our lecturers with your theory that demons live within all of us."  He smiled.  "I've never seen a reason to argue with that, actually.  Too bad no one else sees it that way."

 

"What do you intend to do with Guy?" Hawk asked quietly.

 

"Consolidate power, of course."  Nicholaus straightened and began to walk around the cell with a self-satisfied air.  "With a pet demon to take care of my enemies and my dearest Sybil to entice secrets from my allies, I imagine that I should be at the King's side by the end of the year."

 

"I notice that you didn't mention the necklace."

 

Nicholaus blinked innocently.  "You're quite right.  I must have overlooked that."  The familiar smirk reappeared.  "Too bad you're in no position to pass the information along, isn't it?"

 

"You want us dead because we know about it, too," Hawk said.

 

"I don't want you dead.  I simply don't want you alive."

 

"You murdered Lady Richemon to get that bitch into the castle, didn't you?" The contempt in Symon's voice could have frozen Hell, Hawk thought.

 

"Sybil has a talent for ingratiating herself with those in power," Nicholaus said reflectively.  "It's simply hard to use that talent when you live in a town the size of Oxford.  London will suit us far better."  He strolled back to the door.  "It's been lovely talking to you, but I think it's time for me to take my leave.  Oh!" he said, false solicitation written all over his face.  "Unless you'd like to be shriven, of course?  No?  Then I really must be going.  I have a date with a very sweet boy."

 

"You fucking bastard!"  Symon struggled so hard that Hawk was afraid that he'd dislocate a shoulder.

 

"Surely that's between the demon and me, don't you think?"  Nicholaus closed the door behind him.  "Oh, and in case you're still hoping to be rescued, I should tell you that the red-haired soldier is likely providing a nice meal for the town's crows by now.  You'll be joining him soon enough.  As will the young lord." 

 

Gervase.  Hawk closed his eyes as Nicholaus shouted for the soldiers to return to guarding the prisoners.

 

"So now he's after Konstantine," Symon said.  "He'll have to be careful with that murder.  He's running out of university people to pin it on."  He struggled more.  "Fuck.  We've got to get out of this."

 

"Er," Hawk said, confused, "yesterday you seemed to be a bit more resigned to our fate.  Has something changed?"

 

"I thought they'd be killing Guy, too," Symon said.  "Damn it!  Look, can you find some slack in these ropes?"

 

"I'll try."  Hawk let his fingers wander over Symon's bound wrists.  "So it was fine if we died along with Guy, but now that Guy isn't dying, we can't, either.  Would that be about right?"

 

"Shut up, you bastard."

 

A bit of the rope actually seemed as if it were loosening as Hawk worked on it.  "If I had said the same thing about Gervase, I doubt you'd be quite so understanding."

 

"It's two entirely different situations."  Symon froze.  "Wait.  I think you've got it."

 

Hawk tugged, and the ropes fell from Symon's hands.  "My point is, we could have done this yesterday," he said, keeping his voice reasonable as Symon began to work on his bonds.  "And I don't see that the situations are all that different, personally."

 

"They are, so drop it.  There." 

 

Hawk felt the ropes around his wrists loosen and Symon pull them off.

 

"Now what?" Hawk asked as he rubbed his wrists to get the blood circulating.

 

"We wait.  When they come to get us, we jump the bastards and then go find Guy."

 

"Ah."  Hawk paused.  "I admire the simplicity of the plan, of course, but I think you've left out a few details concerning its execution."

 

"Take it or leave it."  Symon settled back more comfortably against the wall, hiding the ropes and his hands behind his back.  "The bastards could have left us some water."

 

"I imagine that they want us to suffer," Hawk replied mildly.

 

Symon flashed him a sour look.  "It might have been better to have been locked up with the fucking mercenary."

 

Hawk smiled sweetly and settled back to wait.  "Perhaps I'll spend my time trying to flesh out your plan a bit.  So it's effective, you understand, not because it's lacking in any way."

 

"Bastard."

 

Hawk closed his eyes, a smile still playing over his lips.  The banter felt normal; his spirits lightened and a measure of optimism returned.  Perhaps they would yet get out of this mess.  And if they didn't, at least the possibility now existed that he'd die without his hands tied behind his back, which was a definite improvement over the alternative…

 

A sharp jab to the ribs woke him up.

 

"Get ready.  I hear some activity out there."

 

Hawk shook his head.  "I'm sorry.  How long was I asleep?"

 

"A few hours."  Symon watched the door intently.

 

"Oh."  The blow to the head must still be affecting him. 

 

"You got that plan worked out?"

 

"Er… When they come to get us, we jump them and then go find Guy?"

 

"Brilliant."

 

There was a noise directly outside their cell door, a sort of thud and some rustling.  Hawk leaned forward, muscles tense, holding his breath, his hands behind his back to keep the illusion of being tied until the last moment.

 

"Hawk?" 

 

There was a sharp bark.

 

Hawk blinked.  He and Symon exchanged glances.

 

"Hawk?  You in there?"

 

"Gervase!"

 

"Thank fuck!"  There was the sound of keys rattling and the door swung open.  Chien bounded in and began to lick Hawk's face.

 

"About fucking time, you moron."  Symon rattled the shackles.  "Find the damned key for these, would you?"

 

"I hear and obey, Lord Prick," Gervase said, but he unlocked Hawk first and pulled Chien off of him while Symon cursed.  Gervase had a bundle slung over his shoulder and his sword hung at his hip.  Hawk wondered if this was how he'd looked as a soldier, and was unprepared for the heat that flowed through him at the thought.

 

"Where's Guy?"  Symon pushed past Gervase as soon as his shackles were released.  He opened the door a bit further and cautiously looked up and down the hallway.

 

"Don't know." Gervase slapped Hawk on the shoulder.  "Come on, lazy."

 

Hawk got up and followed Gervase to the door.  "Nicholaus said you were dead."

 

"Yeah, well, the bastard was wrong about that," Gervase said.  "Not for want of tryin', though."

 

"How'd you get in?"

 

"Not now."  Gervase drew his sword.  "It looks like they had the kid in a cell just down the hall for a while, but he's gone now."  He took the bundle from his shoulder and unrolled it.  "Here.  Put these on."

 

"Priest's robes?" Hawk slipped the robe over his head.

 

Symon's robes pooled on the dirt floor, clearly much too big for him.  "Heh, heh.  Yeah."  He turned to Symon.  "They suit you, asshole," Gervase said.

 

Hawk slipped back into the cell and brought out some of the rope so that Symon could tie his robes up.  

 

Knotting the rope, Symon froze.  "Did you hear that?"

 

Shouts and the sound of clashing swords came from down the corridor.  Symon bolted towards the sounds, Hawk, Gervase and Chien at his heels.  Twists and turns made the sounds grow and fade, until suddenly they rounded a corner and slid to a halt.

 

"Bloody fool," Gervase panted, pushing past Symon and bringing his sword to bear.  "It's the fuckin' guardroom!"

 

Hawk tried to take in the situation, but the room was in a chaos: men fighting and furniture scattered around, overturned benches and a table, a three-legged cauldron rolling on its side, pottage spilled on the floor around it, several still bodies scattered across the floor.  He saw Denys in the far doorway, face blood-covered and grim, fighting several soldiers at once.

 

Chien dashed across the room and disappeared past Denys.

 

"Chien!"

 

"Grab a sword!" Gervase shouted.  Then he was wading into the battle, his sword flashing bright and deadly.  Blood sprayed as he sliced through one man's shoulder and deep into the man's chest, lodging the sword in bone and yanking it back out through brute force as the man screamed and fell to the floor, obviously dying.  But even as the man fell, Gervase was slashing, parrying, and thrusting, making his way to Denys's side.

 

Hawk looked around and saw a rack of weapons against the wall.  Dragging Symon with him, he ran towards it.  A man staggered into his path; Hawk elbowed him in the throat and rushed by, getting to the weapons just as two more men came at him and Symon.

 

"Here!"  He threw a sword at Symon, grabbed one for himself, and just managed to bring his blade up quickly enough to parry what would have been a killing blow.  He pushed the soldier's blade up and away and spun as Gervase had taught him, catching the soldier under the left arm with his upswing and driving in deep.  The man screamed and fell, wrenching the sword out of Hawk's hands, so he grabbed another one from the rack and attacked the man who had Symon pinned to the ground, stabbing him in the back.  He rolled the body off Symon and looked around, panting.

 

"Didn't know you could do that," Symon said, getting to his feet and raising his sword.

 

"Actually, neither did I," Hawk admitted.  "Gervase's training seems to have paid off."

 

Bodies were strewn across the room, the screams and moans enough to make Hawk's stomach turn.  Only one small knot of men remained, all of them focused on Denys and Gervase.  One man towards the back glanced over his shoulder at the door behind Hawk and Symon, then whirled and made a dash for it.

 

"Don't let him get away!" Denys roared.  Hawk leapt into the man's path but stumbled as the first soldier he'd fought grabbed his leg.  Crashing to the ground, he glimpsed Symon intercepting the man and heard the ring of steel as Symon engaged.  Then Hawk was kicking madly at the dagger in the fallen soldier's hand; the man was slashing at his ankles, clearly intending to sever his Achilles tendon.  He managed to bring down the pommel of his sword on the man's hand.  With a cry, the man released the dagger and Hawk caught it up, plunging it into the man's chest.  He rolled away and climbed to his feet, to find Symon standing over the body of the man who had tried to escape, blood splattered across his face.

 

"Don't look so surprised, asshole," Symon said.

 

"Ah haha!  It's just that I often forget that you're a noble's son," Hawk replied.

 

Symon glared at him.  "Fuck off."

 

There was a choked-off scream, and then suddenly the sounds of fighting fell silent.  Hawk looked for Gervase and saw him supporting Denys.

 

"Kon-, Konstantine," Denys panted.  "Nicholaus—"

 

"You gonna be okay, big guy?" Gervase asked.  Denys nodded, and Hawk and Symon sprang forward as Gervase lowered Denys to the floor.

 

"Breath knocked-  Go!"  Denys shoved Gervase away.

 

"The kid!" Symon demanded.  "Is he with them?"

 

Denys nodded and Symon ran past him. Hawk paused.

 

"'M fine!  Go!"

 

Hawk grabbed Gervase's arm and pulled him after Symon.

 

Symon seemed to know which twists and turns to take, though Hawk was sure that he'd never been in Oxford Castle before.  He plunged forward without hesitation, running so fast that Hawk and Gervase had a difficult time keeping him in sight.  Then he disappeared around a corner of the corridor and Hawk heard a sharp cry and laughter.

 

Rounding the corner, Hawk saw Symon poised in a doorway, his face pale and grim.  They ran up to him and looked inside the torch-lit room.

 

The room was large; it housed racks of huge barrels along one wall and the unmistakable smell of sour ale and burning pitch permeated the air.  The three people inside paused, looking towards them.

 

Nicholaus laughed.  "Monastic robes!  That's rich!"  He stepped back as if inviting them inside, manoeuvring so that he had a wall at his back and plenty of room to move, Hawk noted.

 

Beyond him, Lord Konstantine was pressed tight against the far wall.  He held his left arm crooked against his body, blood staining the tattered sleeve; he held a sword in his right hand, angled towards Guy, who stood over him threateningly.  Chien crouched in front of him, growling at Guy.

 

Hawk blinked.  It was Guy, but…

 

"Stupid kid!"  Gervase elbowed past Hawk and Symon and stalked towards Guy.  "Stop it, Konstantine's tryin' to help—"

 

Guy seemed to disappear and reappear directly in front of Gervase.  Hawk gasped as Gervase suddenly flew through the air and hit the stone hard wall, sliding down to the floor, unconscious. 

 

"No!" Hawk shouted.  He sprang forward, dimly aware of Nicholaus's laughter and Symon's shouted, "Don't—!" and then Hawk was face to face with Guy.

 

But it couldn't be Guy.  This creature radiated menace and power.  Pointed ears emerged gracefully from long, wild hair like a hind's antlers, and talons sharp as daggers and sticky with drying blood belied delicate-seeming fingers.  Hawk stared into its slit-pupil eyes and saw death staring back at him.  He froze as the creature smiled.

 

Though he didn't see it move, Hawk reeled backwards, pain exploding through his head.  He staggered, then his feet slipped and he fell.  Before he could draw a breath the creature was on his chest, a wide-stretched grin exposing great fangs, its talons raised and pointed at his face.  He wondered if it would hurt when the creature ripped out his throat, or if his mind would simply shut down, unable to deal with the horror of a violent death at a demon's claws and teeth.

 

"Stop it, you fucking monkey!" Symon bellowed.

 

The creature paused and looked at Symon.  Hawk watched as the deadly grin changed into a lascivious smile and held his breath.

 

"Not wise to draw attention to yourself," Nicholaus murmured.  "You should at least try to run away."  He leaned against the wall and crossed his arms, smirking.

 

Hawk watched, heart pounding, as the creature and Symon stared at one another. 

 

"Get off him," Symon said.  The creature tilted its head and licked its lips, not taking its eyes from Symon.  It slowly straightened and stepped off Hawk's chest.

 

"Don't move," Konstantine said.  He grabbed Chien's collar.

 

As the creature crept closer to Symon, Hawk released his pent-up breath and slowly felt around for his sword.  His hand encountered a fine chain instead.

 

The necklace.

 

Moving slowly so as not to break the creature's concentration, Hawk propped himself on one elbow and pulled the necklace to him.  The tiny coin caught his attention.  It was made of copper and stamped with a king's insignia.  Hawk looked at it closely and frowned. 

 

Chien barked and Hawk looked up to see Nicholaus pull a dagger from his belt.

 

"Symon, look out!"

 

Symon broke eye contact with the creature.  For an instant, everyone in the room was frozen in place.  Then Nicholaus cursed and threw the dagger.  It flashed through the air towards Symon's chest.

 

The creature exploded into action, roaring as it leapt at Nicholaus.  Nicholaus screamed and went down under its onslaught.

 

The dagger buried itself in the doorframe where Symon had been standing a moment earlier.

 

Hawk sprang to his feet and raced to Symon's side.  He thrust the necklace at him.  "Symon!"

 

Symon looked at the necklace and then snatched it from Hawk's hand.  Before Hawk could stop him, he ran to the creature and grabbed its shoulder, yanking it away from Nicholaus's bloody body until it was facing him.

 

"You goddam fucking idiot," Symon said, and threw the necklace over the creature's head.

 

The creature blinked in surprise, and suddenly Guy stood before them.  "Symon?" he asked, then fell to the floor, unconscious.

 

"Guy," Hawk whispered.

 

Symon whirled.  He grabbed Konstantine's robes and pulled him forward until Konstantine was face to face with him.  "Tell no one," he said through clenched teeth.  "Do you understand?  No one!"

 

Konstantine hesitated, but finally nodded.  Symon released him and returned to Guy, kneeling beside him.

 

"You need to get out of the castle," Konstantine said quietly.

 

"Denys—" Hawk began to say, but he was interrupted.

 

"I'm here."  Denys filled the doorway.  "What the hell happened?  I was only a few moments behind you!"

 

Hawk glanced at Guy, asleep in Symon's arms.  Had it really been that short a time?  It had seemed as if he'd been in the room facing the demon forever…

 

A groan caught his attention. 

 

"Gervase!"  He hurried to Gervase's side and knelt. 

"My fuckin' head."  Gervase rubbed it.  "Shit."  He peered up into Hawk's face.  "What happened?"

 

"Nicholaus attacked us," Symon said.

 

Hawk looked at him; his eyes fell beneath Symon's intense glare. 

"Hawk?"

 

"You'll be fine," Hawk said, helping Gervase to his feet and avoiding the question in his eyes.  "We have to leave.  Quickly."

 

Konstantine knelt at Nicholaus's side.  "He's alive."

 

"Leave him," Symon said, picking up Guy.  "Let's get going."

 

Their escape through the castle was ridiculously easy.  They met no soldiers, no servants, not even any of the upper class residents of the castle.  Once outside, Denys led them to a wagon hitched to two oxen and helped them in, then climbed up on the seat and took the reins.

 

"What're you doin'?" Gervase asked with a frown.

 

"We're going to escort you to the inn at the crossroad to Cambridge," Konstantine said.  "I've had my men take your horses and carriage there to meet us."

 

"Why are you helping us?" Hawk asked.

 

"You told the truth," he said quietly.  "It was more than my honour was worth to allow you to be executed for my mother's death if you were innocent.  When Denys came across Gervase in the castle, we decided to help him in his rescue efforts."

 

"But what about your mother's murder?"

 

"If Nicholaus is still alive and hasn't escaped by the time I get back, I'll put him on trial."

 

"What about your father?"  Symon demanded.  He held Guy close.

 

"He's dead.  The bitch he'd been sleeping with killed him.  My men found her with the knife in her hand," Konstantine said.  "She'll end on the gallows beside Nicholaus."

 

Hawk slid closer to Gervase.  Chien paced restlessly at his feet, whining.  Frowning, Hawk looked back towards Oxford. 

 

"My God!"

 

They all fell silent, watching.

 

The city burned below them.  Hawk could hear the roar of the flames and watched, horrified, as the wind eddied in fiery swirls, leaping from one house to the next.  It looked as if the entire area of the city where the university had once been housed was aflame. 

 

The wagon jerked into motion.  Konstantine mounted his horse without a word and fell in behind them.

 

The horizon glowed until the flaming city was finally hidden amongst the hills and the stars.

 

Part Eight:  Of Journeys

 

 

At dawn, Lord Konstantine and Denys dropped them off at an inn on a crossroads, where their carriage and horses were waiting.  Denys gently moved Guy from the wagon to the carriage.  Symon made sure that Guy was wrapped in blankets and made as comfortable as possible. 

 

Guy never stirred.  Symon was impatient to get going while he still slept.

 

"One of my men will drive the carriage," Konstantine said.  "He can bring it back once you've reached your destination."

 

The last thing that Symon wanted was to be beholden to Konstantine.  "Thank you," he said through clenched teeth.

 

"You're welcome," Konstantine replied, a small smile on his lips.  "I must return to the castle.  Perhaps we'll meet again some day."

 

"In Hell," Symon muttered as he watched Konstantine and his men ride off.

 

Hawk led his and Symon's horses to the carriage and tied Symon's palfrey to the back.  "Gervase will get our horses saddled, then we can be off," he said.  "Why don't you ride in the carriage with Guy and Chien?"

 

Symon grunted.

 

Gervase came out of the stables carrying a bridle and saddle, leading the charger he'd brought back with him from the Crusades.  The warhorse was already tacked up.  Gervase wrapped the reins around the carriage's door handle and started to saddle Hawk's palfrey.

 

"I overheard someone talkin'," Gervase said quietly as he worked.  "They say that three students were hanged in Oxford last night, a couple of hours before dawn."

 

Hawk looked stricken.  "Do you think that they hanged three other students?"

 

Symon shook his head.  "Who knows?  It could just be rumours about us.  A messenger would have had to ridden hard to have brought the news of new hangings.  We made good time last night."

 

Hawk nodded, though he didn't look convinced. 

 

"They also said that there isn't a student left in Oxford," Gervase continued.  He tightened the girth with a grunt, then elbowed the palfrey so it would blow out.  He yanked the girth tighter and tried the saddle.  "Looks good.  She's ready for you, Hawk.  Sure you want to ride after you got hit in the head?"

 

"I'll be more comfortable riding my horse than trying to sleep in the carriage."  Hawk looked towards the inn.  "Perhaps if I mingled a bit—"

 

Symon sighed.  "Fuck.  Fine.  See what you can hear, but we leave before the sun clears the horizon."

 

Hawk nodded and hurried towards the inn.

 

Symon climbed into the carriage, Chien at his heels.  The dog curled up on the floor under the bench on which Guy was sleeping while Symon arranged blankets and bundles of clothes on the opposite bench for himself.  The benches were deep, with plenty of storage beneath even with all of Hawk's bundled manuscripts stowed under them.  Symon was glad – carriage rides were notoriously rough, little more than a covered cart, and the more room there was too move, the easier the long ride would be on him and Guy. 

 

He'd just finished padding his bench when he heard a knock on the window frame.  He stuck his head out and Hawk passed him a pot and a loaf of bread.

 

"There's stew in the pot," Hawk said.  "Could you please hold this mug for me a moment?"

 

Symon took the mug and watched as Hawk mounted his palfrey.  "Where did you get the money to pay for all of this?"

 

"Oh, it's Gervase's."  Hawk said as Gervase mounted up.  He took the mug back and blew softly on it to cool the contents.  "You can start, driver."

 

Symon cursed as he nearly hit his head when the carriage lurched into motion.  "You don't get that kind of money hustling peasants at knucklebones." 

 

Gervase smirked.  "Why not?  I'm damned good at dice and knucklebones, asshole."

 

"Oh dear," Hawk said, frowning at the mug.  "The inns-keeper's wife said this would make my head feel better."

 

Symon snorted.  "Your funeral.  Now, where did the fucking money come from?"

 

"From the sack of Constantinople," Hawk said.  He sipped and made a face.

 

Gervase pulled hard on his reins; his charger shied to the side.  "What the fuck?  You weren't supposed to know that!  How the fuck did you find out?"

 

Hawk smiled innocently as Gervase fell back in beside him; he poured the contents of the mug onto the road.  "Did you think I was a fool?  Money kept appearing in the jar or in my purse, and it wasn't all pennies.  Really, Gervase, marks?  Did you think I wouldn't notice?" 

 

"You never said anything!" 

 

"Well, how could I?  It would mean admitting that I was a kept man.  Besides, I needed it.  If you were going to give it to me, I thought I might as well save you the embarrassment of having to make up stories about it.  It was easier all around for me to just not notice it." 

 

"What would you have done if I'd have run out?" 

 

Hawk blinked, a blank look on his face.  "I hadn't thought of that, actually.  Why would you give it to me if you didn't have quite a bit to begin with?  And we live frugally.  For the most part." 

 

Symon frowned.  "So does that mean the house was Gervase's, too?"

 

"Oh no, that's – that was - mine."  Hawk smiled ruefully.  "I suppose I shouldn't be too heartbroken over leaving, since I won it."

 

"You won a house."

 

"You shoudda seen him," Gervase said, grinning.  "It was just after I met him, when he first came to Oxford.  I was pissin' my pants wonderin' how I was gonna get him out of the tavern alive without spendin' all of my money to keep his neck out of a noose.  Roughest group of blacksmiths I've ever seen."

 

"The one who owned the house was a fool and a cheat," Hawk retorted.  "They all hated him."

 

"They were guild members!"

 

"They were competitors."  Hawk looked demure.  "Besides, I happened to know that the former owner of my house was sleeping with the wife of one of the city council members, who just happened to also be one of the founding member of the Oxford Blacksmiths Guild."

 

"You cheated!" Gervase said, his eyes wide.  "You fuckin' cheated, didn't you?"

 

"Since the dice were destroyed during the melee afterwards, we'll never know, will we?"

 

"An' that's why it's been so damned cheap boardin' our horses with the bastard," Gervase muttered.  "All this time, you could have been earnin' an honest keep swindlin' merchants.  Instead, you've been livin' off me."

 

"I never asked for the money you gave me," Hawk pointed out reasonably.

 

"No, you didn't," Gervase admitted.  "Damned manuscripts.  I've spent more money on 'em than I ever spent on wine or women." 

 

Hawk smiled, and Gervase blushed red, the stupid lovesick bastard.  Symon rolled his eyes. 

 

Hawk turned to Symon.  "Is Guy still asleep?"

 

Symon nodded.

 

"What happened last night?"  Gervase shivered.  "I could have sworn that Guy's ears were pointed."

 

Symon remembered Guy's slit-pupil eyes, the deadly amusement in their depths.  The talons on Guy's fingers had been black with blood.  "You've got an active imagination, asshole.  It was just the kid.  Afraid of shadows?"

 

"Fuck you!" Gervase said, but Symon saw Hawk shoot a glance at him.  He kept his face blank.

 

"I took a look at the coin on Guy's necklace last night," Hawk said.  "It was a ha'penny, like the ones you sometimes find in London, from the royal treasury."

 

Symon snorted.  "Vanity coins," he said dismissively.  "Kings have them made with their portraits, then the next one melts them down and makes new ones with his face on them."

 

"That's just it," Hawk said.  "It wasn't King John's portrait, or even King Richard's.  It was Henry I."

 

Shit.  Symon stayed silent.

 

"But that was a hundred years ago," Gervase said.  "Where would he get a coin from back then?"

 

Hawk shook his head.  "Nothing from before the Anarchy exists anymore.  I've never seen Henry I coins, not even in cathedral collections."  He paused.  "Nicholaus said that the gypsy told him that Guy had been sealed for a hundred years."

 

"What?"  Gervase reined in closer.  "What gypsy?"

 

"A figment of his fucking imagination," Symon said.

 

"Nicholaus said he met a gypsy, an old woman, who was dying.  She begged him to release a demon held in the crypt of St Giles in London," Hawk said, frowning at Symon. 

 

"I told you!" Gervase grinned.  "The kid knew gypsies, and gypsies do magic."

 

"And Nicholaus tells lies."  Symon kept his voice disgusted in order to hide his concern.  They needed to keep Guy's secret, and Gervase was notorious for talking while drunk.  "I don't believe in fairy tales and magic."

 

"What are miracles, if not magic?" demanded Hawk.

 

"No!  You're not going off on some fuckin' philosophical tangent and leavin' a story this good behind," Gervase said.  "Let's hear the rest of it."

 

"Shut up," Symon said.  "There is no 'rest of it'.  You've already heard it before from the kid." 

 

"Huh.  Should be more to it.  Maybe a hot Saxon wench – er, maybe not," Gervase amended after looking at Hawk.   "Makes a damned good story, though.  Travelin' with a demon oughta buy me a few rounds at the next inn."

 

"You're not talking about it to strangers!"

 

"Why the hell not?"

 

"Because," Hawk said quietly, "when people fear something or someone, it never ends well." 

 

"So I don't tell 'em it's the kid—" Gervase argued.

 

"Tch.  I'll fucking kill you if you tell anyone, asshole."  Symon sat back and pulled the curtains shut against the dust coming from the road.  He heard Gervase continuing his argument with Hawk, their voices growing fainter as they allowed their horses to pull away from the carriage.  His worry had diminished greatly, though.  Hawk understood the need for secrecy and would keep Gervase in line.  Konstantine – no, Lord Richemon, now that his father was dead – and Denys wouldn't talk, and they'd make sure that the abbot and Spyrling didn't, either.  With Guy far away from Oxford, the local story would take on the air of legend, and should never be associated with the young squire that Symon was determined to make of Guy.

 

He turned in his seat and came face to face with a pair of golden eyes.

 

"Is it over?"

 

Symon nodded.  "Do you remember anything?"

 

Guy shook his head.  "Did I hurt anyone?"

 

"No one important.  We're safe.  We should reach the estate sometime late tomorrow."

 

Guy squirmed until he was sitting up, still bundled in the blankets.  "Symon?"

 

Symon grunted.  Guy was so fucking beautiful like this, soft-eyed and sleepy, trust radiating from every pore, whether Symon deserved it or not. 

 

"Fuck me.  Please?"

 

"What?"

 

"Please?  I wanna feel good.  Really good.  Please?"

 

"There are other ways to feel good, Guy."  Symon ran a hand through his hair and steeled his will as visions of Guy's face twisted in ecstasy ran through his mind.

 

"Not after I take off the necklace," Guy whispered.

 

Damn.  Bloody fucking damn.  "Fine.  Then get your fucking arse over here," Symon said, his voice fierce.  "And bring the damned blankets, too."

 

Guy's face lit up and he scrambled over.  They made a nest with the blankets, but once they were comfortable, Symon suddenly stopped.

 

Shit.  He didn't have a clue as to how to fuck Guy. 

 

As if Guy could read his mind, the brat created chaos from one of Hawk's neat bundles before emerging with a grin and a jar of ointment.  "Okay, I'm ready!"

 

"Shut up and stay quiet.  We don't want the others to hear, idiot."

 

Guy obediently lowered his voice.  "Put some of this stuff in my arsehole and then push in your prick."

 

"How is that going to make you feel good?"

 

"It will.  I promise."

 

Symon frowned and took the jar from Guy, watching as Guy stripped off his braies and turned over to lie on his stomach.

 

"Well?"  Guy looked over his shoulder. 

 

"I don't want to stick my fingers in your arse."

 

Guy snorted.  "Are you afraid of a little shit?"

 

"Asshole."

 

Guy wiggled his arse.  "Get a cloth for your fingers, then."

 

Symon looked around, frowning as he spotted Chien, who wagged his tail.  "The dog's watching us."

 

"Are you gonna fuck me or not?  Please?"

 

Glaring at Chien, Symon yanked some braies out of what looked like Gervase's bundle and tore off a strip of cloth.  Since the dog didn't seem inclined to do anything other than watch, Symon finally turned away and instead scowled at the jar of ointment, finally dipping a finger in and scooping up some of the balm.  "Fucking mess," he muttered.

 

He bent over Guy's back and gently pressed his finger against Guy's hole.

 

"It's okay.  You can push harder."

 

Symon grunted and pressed a bit harder.  The pucker yielded and his finger slid to the first knuckle in at the same moment as Guy gasped.  Symon froze.

 

"More.  Please, Symon.  Feels so good…"

 

God, it was fucking tight.  And hot.  Symon pressed in further, his disgust forgotten as he watched his finger disappear into Guy's body.   He shivered at the thought of sticking his prick in there.  It would never fit, but if it did… He shivered again. 

 

So fucking hot and tight.

 

"Move it around," Guy said.

 

Symon explored the depths of Guy's body, fascinated as he followed Guy's directions, feeling how Guy's body responded to two fingers, then three, until Guy was whimpering and Symon's prick felt like it would explode.  Breathing hard, he gingerly slathered ointment over his cock and gave a quick tug to his bollocks, afraid he'd come before he even got inside Guy's arse.

 

He knelt over Guy and pulled the brat's arse up until Guy was half-crouched, his knees spread around Symon's legs and his face buried in the blanket to muffle any noise he might make.  Symon held his prick tightly as he pressed forward and the head breached Guy's hole.

 

"Holy fucking shit.  Guy!" he gasped.  Guy's tight heat seemed to pull him in and he sank forward until his hips were pressed into Guy's arse.  He leaned his forehead against Guy's back.

 

"Symon," Guy sighed.  He wriggled a bit.  "You c'n move."

 

For a moment, Symon thought that Guy meant that he should withdraw, but Guy pressed his arse back against Symon's groin and Symon was lost.  He began to fuck Guy with long, slow strokes, trying to balance against the carriage's jolting as they travelled the rough road.  Gaining confidence, he gradually picked up the pace, until he was sliding smoothly in and out of Guy's arse, his prick encased by hot, grasping muscles.

 

Symon shifted to get more leverage and Guy grunted. 

 

"What?"

 

"Do that again," Guy whispered.  He grunted again.  "Yeah.  Right there.  Harder."

 

Symon could feel a slight bump pressing against the head of his prick where it was sunk deep into Guy's tight channel.  He withdrew a bit and snapped his hips forward, hitting the bump and making Guy grunt and moan.  With a wicked smile, Symon set out to batter the spot with his prick as Guy's moans turned into a constant whine of pleasure. 

 

Guy reached back and began to jerk his cock.  "'M gonna come, Symon," he gasped.  "Don't stop!"

 

Symon could feel his own orgasm building as he redoubled his efforts, pounding his prick into Guy's heat.  Suddenly, the muscles in Guy's arse began to clutch his prick in hard spasms and he cried out.  Symon could smell Guy's come; he snapped his hips forward and felt his orgasm rush through him like wildfire, the soles of his feet burning and the flames spreading up into his gut before they centred in his bollocks and exploded out his cock.  He couldn't stop his hips from driving forward with each burst of come, emptying himself deep inside of Guy.

 

Even after he had nothing left to give, his hips kept moving until his prick softened and he slipped out of Guy's arse, collapsing on top of him and gasping for breath as if he'd just run all the way from Oxford.

 

Dimly, he was aware of Guy slipping out from under him and using the strip of cloth to clean them.  Then Guy pressed against him and pulled a blanket over them both.  Symon melted into the warmth of Guy's body, the smell of their coupling surrounding him and the slowly cooling wet spot sticking to his leg.

 

He vaguely wondered why he didn't mind the mess all that much now.

 

"Hey, Symon?"

 

"Hmm?"

 

"Can I have white bread at your house?"

 

"Hmm."

 

"Good… Symon?"

 

"What?"

 

"I'm hungry."

 

"Eat the blanket."

 

"I can't."

 

"Then you aren't really hungry, are you?"

 

"… Yeah.  I am.  Really hungry."

 

"Shut up."  Symon pulled Guy closer and closed his eyes, breathing in Guy's scent.  Whether a voice from the devil or a voice from God, he'd been led to this fucking beautiful, immensely annoying brat.

 

Hawk would say their fates were bound together.

 

Well, fuck fate.

 

Symon fell asleep with his head pillowed on Guy's chest, the sound of Guy's heart whispering to him.

 

 

fin

 

 

Part Nine:  Of Appetizers and Afters [a.k.a. Notes]

 

Requested Pairing/Prompt:  Sanzo x Goku.  Oh! I'd love to see something in a medieval setting.  No character death or non-con, it really squicks me.

 

This story was based on the following excerpt from Roger of Wendover's Flores Historiarum:

 

…Per idem tempus clericus quidam, apud Oxoniam liberalibus vacans disciplinis, mulierem quandam casu interfecit, quam cum mortuam deprehendisset, per fugam sibi consuluit.  Praefectus autem urbis et multi alii accurrentes, cum mulierem exanimem invenerunt, coeperunt quaerere homicidam illum in hospitio suo, quod cum tribus sociis suis clericis locaverat; et facti reum non invenientes ceperunt tres socios ejus clericos memoratos et de homicidio penitus nescios, et eos in carcerem retruserunt; deinde post dies paucos, rege Anglorum jubente, in contemptum ecclesiasticae libertatis extra villam educti suspendio perierunt.  Quod cum factum fuisset, recesserunt ab Oxonia ad tria millia clericorum, tam magistri quam discipuli, ita quod nec unus ex omni universitate remansit; quorum quidam apud Cantabregge, quidam vero apud Radigum, liberalibus studiis vacantes villam Oxoniae vacuam reliquerunt.

 

roughly translated:… At the same time there was a student who, contrary to the teachings of Oxford, by intent or accident killed a townswoman and fled the dead body for fear of being caught.  When the city leaders discovered the woman's lifeless body, they began to search for the murderer, who hid in the university.  The townsfolk held a tribunal and found the student guilty.  The townsfolk arrested three students for the murder and imprisoned them, though the students protested that they were innocent.  The king, in accordance with his enmity with the Church, gave his permission for the students to be hanged.  The townspeople, being angry at the freedoms and privileges enjoyed by the university, hanged the three prisoners.  The university disbanded and closed its doors, and all three thousand scholars fled the farms and estates of Oxford.

 

Roger of Wendover, Flores Historiarum, Volume 3, "Events of 1209:  Students Driven out of Oxford," c. 1235. 

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