Down in the Ovens, Morgan lounged in his slut garden, oiled maidens heaped up behind him in various sleeping positions. Torchlight flickered over his smoldering eyes. He'd gone through five girls that morning but never managed to finish, always with one eye for the new lieutenant standing guard outside his door.

Slaves bowed their heads as he strode into the war room, a flame-eyed shadow with the shoulders of a bull edged in sugar and cinder and blood. Jensen saluted crisply.

"You wanted to see me sir?"

Closing the door, Morgan withdrew a small stone box and placed it on the table. "Bring me the prince's heart, and your debt will be paid," he said, "You have until midnight."

"Yes, sir."

Morgan walked a slow circle around Jensen, taking the measure of him. In the glare of the lanterns his armor shone like black glass. "Take caution and avoid closed quarters, for he is your match in single combat. He will try to draw you in."

"Yes sir."

He reached for the box, but Morgan's hand closed around his wrist, hot breath burning the back of Jensen's neck. Jensen froze. "Even hostages may use my name in the company of men. You are always welcome here," he said, fingers pressing suggestively, "You have been a good and faithful servant. And when I take the throne..."

Jensen swallowed hard. It had been rumored that Morgan never cared for girls, that he only kept his brides so that, when he felt he really deserved it, he could savor a young soldier. He pictured himself in the dungeons, hands bound, riding Morgan while the old man pumped his pretty pink cock until he shot hot cream all over his breastplate.

The other soldiers parted ways for Jensen, leering in anticipation of his punishment should he fail. Passing the slut garden on his way out, a black-eyed slut peered up at him, her lips swollen. Morgan was champurrado, an unholy mix of dark chocolate and chipotle and cinnamon. He burned in your mouth.


Torchlight ascended the castle steps as the royal nurse paced back and forth, non-parriels glittering in her meringue hair. She twisted her fingers. "He smells you. He's coming for you."

"I saw him running the other way, I've had scouts sent to trail him." said Jared. He sagged between two coachmen, blood oozing from his right thigh and eyes bright from the hunt.

"Did you see his face?"

"It was too dark," he said, putting weight on his bad leg and grimacing, "But the night is young, he may catch up to us before long.

The bells tolled midnight. She knelt to examine his wound. "You won't last til morning."

At eighteen the prince looked nearly a man, white chocolate armor molded to his muscled body and cheeks like the first peach of summer. A coughing fit overtook him, and the coachmen recoiled as thick black smoke issued from his lips.

"Oh my poor sweet boy," she said, taking his face in her hands, "And tomorrow is Coronation Day."

Jared gently pushed her aside and stumbled to the bookshelf. "There's an antidote," he said, opening Alpha Thaumaturgy to the table of contents and then dropping it, "It's in here somewhere."

The nurse withdrew his sword from his scabbard. He did not look up from his books. "My lady?"

"There is no cure. In a few hours his mark will have burned you from the inside out, unless you do the right thing. Unless you find him and kill him," she said, stepping forward until the point of the blade was under his chin, "And then throw yourself from the highest tower."

He grasped her slender wrist in his scarred brown hand, crushing her bones until the sword clattered to the floor. It was only a moment, but in his anger she saw herself reflected in black eyes before he released his grip and turned away. A breeze lifted the pages of the discarded book, and stopped at a wood carving that made her skin prickle.

Few knew what the wolves of the Ovens looked like. Every portrait was only part of the beast, seen through the crack of a door or from under a bed. To see the whole was to invite madness.

"My Prince, please don't attempt this."

"There's a passage connecting the stable to the city gate. Take horses and get the others to safety."

"But what if we catch sight of him?!" she said, suddenly dropping her voice at the howls echoing nearby, "Wicked, wicked boy! You've cursed us all!"

He touched her cheek, and tugged at a pink ribbon until her bun came apart and tumbled in thick curtains on either side of her face. "Prepare my surcoat for tomorrow. I must be presentable for the queen."


At the end of a lonely passage stood two hooded servants with a black candle in their upraised hands. A door stood open. Beside the lintel someone had drawn a pair of childish graffiti figures, one with a fork, the other on a torture rack. The air smelled of gingerbread and men working long hours with no ventilation.

Jensen struggled against his chains. Blacksmiths worked nearby, the hammering almost drowning out the screams of the other prisoners. Almost. "I couldn't do it."

Morgan dropped a newly forged sword into the water and watched it sizzle. Sweat rolled down his back and disappeared inside his leather apron, but he paid it no mind. He liked it hot. "I know."

Jensen formed a T on the rack, naked, ankles locked together at one end and his arms stretched between two posts. Jared's blood was dry on his chin. "I don't know what came over me, I was right on top of him in the forest and then..."

"It doesn't matter. You have his scent now, you will return to the castle."

"But he'll have every guard at their post, dozens...hundreds...how will I ever...?"

Morgan pulled off his gloves and set them beside a tray of knives still wet from the last prisoner. He passed one over a candle-flame to sterilize it. "I had hoped to defeat him with brute force, but the coronation draws near and I must now employ magic."

"What kind of magic?"

Morgan examined the knife. "A tracker spell."

Jensen twisted away. The bloodhounds of the Ovens never lost their quarry, but they were lurking horrors, all nose and mouth and devoid of human emotion. "Please not that..."

"It would be temporary. Until the next sunrise none would be able to look upon you, to be within armslength of you for fear of seeing your true face," said Morgan, slicing a red line across his palm, "None would stand in your path."

"I can't."

"You will. And once the Prince is gone, his armies will seek out a new power, and together," he said, fingers tracing Jensen's cock until it lept under his hand, "We will plunder the kingdom."

Jensen looked down and then up again, eyes burning with intent. "I thought you wanted to rule."

"What is one castle? The Prince has all the wealth at his disposal. With me in command and you as my general we can buy more soldiers and bring the neighboring lords under our wing until we have carved out an empire. We will make history. They will name cities after us," said Morgan, running the length of the boy in a hard, wet squeeze, "They will name stars after us."

Jensen fought against his touch, teeth sinking into his plush lower lip. "Let us away from here. I've failed you once, I could do it again. If the Prince should pierce my heart and lick the blood off his sword I want it to taste like you," he said, "I want him to know who claimed me."

His young body gleamed with sweat, cockhead rubbing along Morgan's belly, up and down until it got under his tunic and met with warm skin. Morgan leaned in, his voice low and dangerous.

"You won't fail me a second time," he said, enjoying the little noises Jensen made as he neared the end, need mingled with fear, "And I like you just the way you are."

Two thick ropes of vanilla icing shot across his chest, and Morgan licked a slow line up his body before sealing his mouth over Jensen's panting lips. Virgins always tasted best, and though Morgan longed to part Jensen's legs and pump his tight teenage ass full of hot buttercream and then suck it out of his cherry, the spices would ruin him. Better to leave the boy in tact.

Morgan stood straight and muttered ancient words, his head limned in purple light for a moment. The wound in his hand glowed. Jensen gasped for air, eyes sliding sideways as Morgan removed his apron to reveal his own aching cock, dark and veined with chocolate.

"You can have me. I'm not promised to anyone."

"Keep it," said Morgan, pumping his cock in his fist, "I'm up to here with promises."

He came on a sigh, so much that it slipped through the cracks of his fingers, and he spread it and the blood across Jensen's face like a warm mask. "It will hide your scent," he said, wiping his hand on his apron, "You won't be yourself while the spell is active, but remember that time is critical. Once I summon you, and you will come when I summon you, we will use the Prince's heart for the final strike in the battlefield."

Jensen began to sweat as his body transformed. A crucible poured forth green smoke in the corner, waiting for the final alchemical ingrediant. "What happens when the sun rises?"

Morgan eyed him possessively, like a ransom he'd yet to take, and turned away. "An even greater magic," he said, "Now go and hunt. War is a hungry business."


The castle was protected by a high blackberry wall, and three kitchen girls huddled in the dark, listening to Jensen slice through venomous thorns and the serpents who nested there. The oldest girl stood up.

"Where are you going Honey?" asked the youngest girl. All girls are 'honey', as all soldiers are 'brother'.

She put a finger to her lips. "It's too dark, there's a box of matches on the shelf."

"He'll see us!"

"We'll be lost in the woods without light," she hissed back, "I'll be right back."

The remaining two cuddled together against flour sacks, counting their breaths as Jensen's sword went silent outside. When they got to a hundred, the middle girl stood up. "I think he's gone."

"Oh please don't leave me," said the youngest, clutching her arm, "He'll eat me up!"

"Maybe the matches are wet and she can't light them. Stay here."

The youngest balled her fist in her mouth, too afraid to call after her. In a high window a gummi serpent wrapped itself around the iron bars to taste the air with little tongue flicks, and steeling herself she began to crawl on hands and knees toward the door. Something moved past her.

"Honey?" she whispered, "Are you still here?"

Rhythmic breathing sounded from the corner, quick intakes followed by a pause and then exhaling again, as one drawing oars in a storm. Her hand fell on the box of matches, and she scratched one to life.

"Honey?"

The room was quiet again, the girl kneeling a puddle of light with one side of her face cast in shadow. The door creaked on its' hinges. Soon the flame burned down to her fingertips, and she was plunged once more into darkness. She took out another match.

"I think he's gone." she said, when a hand closed around her ankle.

Her mouth opened like a red fire bucket as she was dragged screaming into his iron embrace, the match rolling across the floor. In the light her face shown thin and sharp as a mouse, and when she reached for the door someone else beat her to it, the lock turning with a decisive click. Then the flame guttered and the darkness swallowed her feet-first.

The serpent waited, and, out of respect from one predator to another, it slithered away.


The door closed, and when the nurses's footsteps died Jared touch the thin gold chain around his neck that he wore under his armor and kept on the pillow beside him at night. Another casualty in Morgan's war.

Soldiers gathered outside, awaiting his orders. A portrait hung on the wall, and he carefully removed it and pulled the chain over his head and opened the cameo locket at the end of it. He studied the face inside it for a long time and squeezed it shut between his palms. You can only mourn the dead for so long.

"Look away my love," he said, hanging the locket on the nail and then replacing the portrait, "Just for tonight."


The banquet hall was carpeted with bodies as he fucked his way from one end of the castle to the other, thick cock dripping girl honey with a knot at the end like a softball. A cool breeze brought Jared's scent, and he pulled out of the kitchen girl and did not answer when she asked his name. He had no name. He had no words. There was only the hunger.

Up a rung ladder and through a grate he emerged, sword drawn and peppermint dotted along his hard candy platemail. Jensen turned his head back and forth, listening. Horses whinnied far away, and he waited until they passed before moving again.

It was only when he ventured outside to the cherry orchard that he found soldiers along a parapet with Jared at the far end, framed against the stars in white chocolate armor and helm that made him glow in the moonlight.

Jared flexed his fingers over the swordhilt. The newcomer's scent reeked of magic. "Is that you Morgan?"

Jensen did not recognize that name in the red mist of bloodlust. The soldiers held their swords close to their bodies to hide the glare of steel, and thin curtains billowed from a stone archway nearby, the only light remaining in the castle.

"Up with you!" said Jared, swords bristling at his command, "And bring him to me alive!"

Jensen licked honey from his fingers and unsheathed his sword, playfully tossing it from hand to hand as the first soldier bounded over the rail. As outnumbered as he was, the magic lent him unnatural strength, and he lifted the man by the ankle, whipped him in a circle, and flung him into the others like a stone at the end of a sock.

The second man was braver, but the war-cry died on his lips once he got close enough to see Jensen's face, and he ran in the opposite direction. A search party found him three days later, mad and dribbling down the front of his shirt beneath a hollow tree.

Swords clashed in the dark, and slowly Jensen made his way upwards, stepping over moaning bodies with the Prince remaining by the archway like something carved in stone.

One man rebounded and Jensen's sword struck a cherry tree, wood chips spraying the side of his face as the soldiers wheeled away to form a defensive stance, a little bit warier, a little bit closer to the stone archway. What was it someone had said about close quarters?

Then he was surrounded, metal hemming him in on all sides and yet never managing to land a killing blow, until the remaining men lay in a circle at his feet and he stood triumphant, chest heaving and bloody up to the elbows.

Jared set one foot behind him, an thought of the cameo locket hanging in his room when Jensen lunged at him, screaming, black-eyed. Strike, parry, counter-strike, ignoring the deathwish he'd harbored these many months, until Jared did a three-hundred and sixty degree turn that knocked the sword out of Jensen's hand. The hilt went one way. The blade, or the top two-thirds of it at least, went the other.

Jared breathed out slowly. He would not die today. "Surrender."

The curtains wafted behind him. Jensen sneered, and with a lusty cry pushed Jared through the stone archway and across the room until his back was to the wall, and sank his teeth into the Prince's arm right as he felt the bite of steel against his throat. Jared's helm bounced across the floor and stopped beneath the portrait.

Jensen held his breath. A pink ribbon had been tied around Jared's eyes to act as a blindfold, but nonetheless the rest of him, the powerful jaw, the feline curve of his cheek, provoked memories.

Cherry blossoms floated over the strange tableau, the two men braced against one another in assured mutual destruction. The discarded book of magic flipped open in the breeze, where a beauty arched beneath two clawed hands and slanted glowing eyes.

The venom had nearly reached Jared's heart, and it was only this that stayed his hand. Blood ran down the gutter of Jared's sword, and his lip curled as he formed the words:

"Claim. Me."

Jensen growled. A thin line of blood trickled from the corner of his mouth, teeth bared over Jared's left arm, the Prince's sword pressed into the soft flesh beneath his jaw. He was all hound. All he heard was "kill".

Jared coughed once, and a thin wisp of black smoke escaped. His brow was beaded with sweat, clusters of thick wet locks plastered to the side of his head.

"I'll die if you don't."

The more Jensen listened, the more familiar the voice became, his swollen cock bobbing like a compass needle. A reward awaited him back in the Ovens, though with Jared this close it was hard to recall exactly what that was. His bite slackened and Jared inhaled in shaky relief.

"I heard you with the serving girls," he said, removing his arm and letting his hand fall on Jensen's hip, "You're still...hungry, aren't you."

It wasn't a question. Jared reached across his shoulder to twist a leather cord until his breast plate came free and placed Jensen's hand on it.

"You know I could smell you from miles away."

His fingers curled around the armor and wrenched it away, where scratch marks from their earlier tussle showed a livid red across Jared's muscled chest. They couldn't possibly make him ugly.

"It burns inside. I can feel it growing," he said, touching the bitemark on his thigh, "And according to the lore, only the wolf who bit me can extinguish it."

He dragged his nails from the bite, over his hip and up the hard chiseled lines of his belly, watching Jensen's mouth water at the invitation.

"Will you aid me?"

Jensen wiped fresh blood off his mouth with the back of his hand and stared at it. Nothing smelled like that down in the Ovens, it was like spring. Like home. He tongued the red stain, and Jared fell slowly to his knees, face tilted upward as Jensen peered down through long drooping eyelashes.

"If you should kill me tomorrow, if I should die a king without a kingdom, let it at least be on the battlefield with a sword in my hand and a horse between my legs. Only this I ask," he said, lips parted, "Only let me live."

Jared had imagined a different kind of wedding night in his mind, recalling a summer's afternoon where his sweetheart had woven flowers in his hair. "Wait, let me gather the fairest one." he'd said, bending down to gather a blossom in his mouth and press it to Jared's cheek in a chaste kiss.

Jared had made some joke, and when they laughed the wind carried the flower over the trees and into the river. Jared had mourned its' loss, but his sweetheart took his hand and said, "You still have the kiss. No one can take that away."

Back in the castle, girl honey glistened on Jensen's cock, with a single bead of buttercream at the tip as Jared pressed his tongue to taste it. Instantly he cooled, peppermint and vanilla dissolving in his mouth as he drew on his cock and moaned in relief until his arms thoughtlessly wound around Jensen's hips and the cockhead hit Jared's backteeth. Jensen hissed in pain, but Jared kept him close.

"No. Let me get you ready for me."

Jensen trembled. He had been saving himself for someone back in the Ovens but...his fingers laced through Jared's hair, watching the Prince's cheeks hollow as he took the length of him, plump pink lips sealed around his thick dripping cock, thirsty for any little drop he could spare.

Jared idly wondered if all men tasted alike. He'd offered himself several times, climbing into his lover's bed or pulling him behind the stables, but he'd always been rebuffed. War was no time for hasty marriages. He pulled off of Jensen, sucked clean of previous conquests. "I want more."

He lay back on the bed, chocolate velvet spread across blonde brownie cushions. Jensen was electric with hunger, carelessly picking the remainder of Jared's armor apart, prying the candy shell off the golden, ripe body within with only a loincloth of strawberry leather covering the Prince's ample cock. Jared shivered, but removed neither his blindfold nor his sword. He would need both.

Jensen stood frozen. The simple order echoed in his head, kill, kill, kill, and it all went soft around the edges as he held his cock in both hands like a misery between his legs. Loneliness won out.

His nose hovered over the sheets, following the scent that has hung in the air like expensive perfume since he'd first approached the castle. Teeth closing around the loincloth, the leather tore in a long strip like taffy before he snapped it up in one bite.

Jared shaped his hand to the back of Jensen's head and urged him on, nose pressed to Jared's ass with both hands flat against the inside of his thighs. He longed to remove the blindfold, sure that the wood carvings must be exaggerated, as Jensen sucked at him greedily.

"Quickly, villain!" said Jared, sword held fast, "My patience is wearing!"

Jared was not completely innocent, serving girls were ever eager to trade favors, but he had yet to have his first true manly orgasm, and when Jensen dipped his tongue inside it was the maiden nectar of the honeysuckle vine.

The sun would be up soon. Jared clutched the headboard as he soaked the mattress with his arousal, fearing he would shame the memory of the beloved dead, but told himself it didn't matter. His heart was spoken for, even if his body was to be cheapened in the name of war.

He yanked Jensen upward by his hair and wound his legs around him, thighs hardened by years of riding. "You knew it would come to this," he said, taking Jensen's hand, "When you fucked all those girls. You knew they would never be enough."

He took one of his Jensen's fingers in his mouth and sucked it wet. "Were you thinking about this when you rolled on top of me in the forest?" asked Jared, leading Jensen's finger down, "Would you have taken me then?"

Jensen flushed. The sword was inches away, if he could knock it out of Jared's hand...

"You're not like the rest. They are dishwater, you are champagne. And an uncommon vintage," he whispered, sliding Jensen's finger inside of him, "Deserves an uncommon vessel."

Their cocks slid together and Jared opened his throat to accept Jensen's kisses. He ran his thumb over Jensen's slit as buttercream leaked out. "Go ahead. You're close," he said, placing it against his ass, "It would be a shame to waste it."

Jensen spread him wide and looked down, watching Jared stretch around his cockhead. Jared sucked in a breath, one hand cupping Jensen's ass and the other clutching his sword, and pushed him in until their hips touched and he bit back a dead man's name.

But even that initial contact soothed Jared, the peppermint cooling him, and he dug his fingers into Jensen's flesh. He buried his sword in the bed. "Get on with it and spare me your tender mercies, soldier!"

Military habit kicked in. "Yes sir."

Jared was not prepared for the man's strength, and arched against the cushions as Jensen hammered into him with powerful, rhythmic strokes, hips snapping, muscles ridged along his forearms as he fought to keep Jared in place.

The headboard slapped against the wall. Jared pressed the side of his face into the pillow, wishing this honor had gone to someone else as the knot bulged inside of him, aching to plunge deeper, to fill the hidden pockets of him with thick cream until it extended to his very roots.

"Dont...stop..."

Jared held onto his sword, weak from the venom but prepared to kill the moment his enemy finished.

"Hurry," he croaked, looking toward the window, "My doom is upon me."

The sky pinked in the east, and some memory lurched in Jensen's brain. He had been saving himself though not for Morgan, for some worthy creature in which to spill his love until they mingled so that one man tasted like the other. He remembered flowers by the river...

"My king, my king..." he whispered between kisses, pounding dutifully into him, some instinct driving him to perform his best so that no other could outmatch him for his lover's affection, the sword and the blood and his duty forgotten.

Jared took his voice for a fever dream, wishful thinking on the edge of death. "Say that again you bastard, you murderer," said Jared, kissing back, sucking on Jensen's mouth, "Whom do you serve?"

"I serve you my lord, only you..." said Jensen, lost in Jared's body as he pumped harder. Jared had never begged for anything in his life but he begged now, and Jensen clutched his cock in his sweaty hand and steered him through the pain and with a howl that cleared two octaves the Prince was ushered into manhood.

The locket bounced against the wall once and swung off the nail, skittering across the floor. Bars of sunlight crept through the curtains, and Jensen recognized the picture within. One final thrust, a second that stretched into several sunlit days, and his eyes flashed from black to green as he lost his innocence.

Look at me. he thought.

Jared lay with his arms flung across his face, inconsolable with grief. Jensen tenderly pried them apart. He remembered everything.

He pulled at the blindfold with thumb and forefinger, and it slid away easily, Jared's eyes shut tight. The last of Morgan's magic evaporated, and Jensen held Jared's face in his hands.

"Look at me."

Magicians were known to mimic dead men's voices. Convinced it was a trick, he lashed out blindly with his sword. "Vile dog!"

Jensen lept off the bed, hands raised. "It's not what you think."

The sword sang, inches from Jensen's chest. "Come closer so I may bury you tonight!"

A voice rang in Jensen's ears to return at once, and he backed toward through the stone archway, Morgan's magic pulling on him like an invisible leash. "Open your eyes!"

Jared was on him, sword raised, when Jensen suddenly stepped on empty air. Only then did Jared look, his voice cracking.

"...you're alive."

He reached out to touch him, too late. And together they tumbled from out the tower, the pink ribbon fluttering long, long after to the unforgiving stones below.


Jared stared at his reflection the next day, white robes gathered up in cloth-of-gold sashes, as the nurse stood on a chair to set the cherry wreath on his head. His hair hid most of the bruises.

She put both hands on his shoulders. "You look every inch a king."

Her eyes flicked to the golden chain on the side table. "Do you have...everything you need?"

He removed her hands. Jensen had disappeared after the fall, and none of his men dared invade the Ovens in search of him. "Yes, thank you, that is all."

A knock at the door, and men in ceremonial black entered. "The queen has been announced."

Jared nodded, and smoothed his robes needlessly. They had been made expressly for this day, and he itched for the solid weight of plate mail. Later.

"Let's not keep her waiting."


LONDON: 1953

The Queen turned a fugitive smile for the gentry that she did not feel, and let her valet lead her down the stairs to dinner.

"Many happy congratulations, your grace," said the seventeenth Earl of...somewhere, "And may I express my condolences for your father, he was a credit to his race."

"You are too kind." she said, as a chair was pushed beneath her for the first course. She tapped a spoon against her water glass. "As I have many onerous matters of state ahead of me, I have requested to begin with the dessert plate. The war was difficult enough with sugar rationing, and I aim to correct that, starting tonight."

A white cake layered in cherry blossom petals and candied peaches was presented to her, and a liveried footman cut the first slice for her to sample. It showed golden within, and the scent reminded her of happier days when Father would walk her through the royal gardens. She took a dainty bite.

"My queen," said the footman, bending to whisper confidentially, "Whatever is the matter?"

She covered her mouth. Everyone leaned in, tense with worry for their dear lady. Soft, slow tears fell down her cheek.

"It tastes like heartache."


Morgan locked Jensen's collar to the wall and rose to leave. The chains were so heavy that four men would have had to carry Jensen out of the dungeon.

"Please, the battle is upon us, let me fight and atone for my crime!"

"I've told the men that you died in the field. It's the least I could do," he said, bolting the door, "They would never tolerate a traitor."

"But I am yours! I was always yours!"

Morgan pressed his forehead to the door, jaw working at the boy's betrayal, then pushed off. "I want to believe that."

Jensen slumped against against the wall, shaking with silent sobs as Morgan's torch faded and he was left in the dark.


The battle was short. Soon the sky was black with vultures, his banner trampled in the mud, and Morgan knelt with Jared's sword pointed at his face.

"Do you yield?"

Morgan looked round at his men. He could not in good conscience sentence them to die. "What would you ransom for my body?"

The blade slid past his throat until Jared was up close and breathing on his mouth. He bared his teeth. "I believe you have a hostage."


Life was suspended down in the Ovens, but its' magic took the edge off of Jensen's despair. He stared at the floor, forgetting his name, his failures, why he should be angry. It was a mercy.

"Jensen?"

He looked up. A long, long pink ribbon hung from the grate, just long enough for him to reach if he extended his hand.

"I can't get to it."

"Yes you can. It will set you free."

Jensen tested the chains, and sure enough he found he had the strength to take hold of the ribbon, the one act of charity capable of cancelling out Morgan's magic, and lifted himself to a standing position.

"Now come to me."

Voices muttered outside his door, curious prisoners who recognized the stink of white magic. He shook off his chains as if they were rags and began to climb hand over hand.

The face in the grate began to take shape. "That's it, can you see me now?"

A greasy hand latched onto Jensen's leg, then another, then a whole host of the damned began fighting for Jensen until they swarmed about him. He kicked but not too hard, for fear he would tear the ribbon and be dropped to the stone floor below.

"Take my hand!"

More prisoners joined the melee and he heard a rip beside his ear. Climbing despite the snarling horde, he managed a few more feet and curled his fingers around the grate. It was locked.

"I can't get out!"

Jared levered his sword under the hinge as Jensen twisted his head around to look below, the prisoners steadily closing the gap. "Quickly now!"

Jared loosed the grate and thrust his arm in, snaking around Jensen's wrist right as the ribbon snapped and the prisoners vanished in a rotten tangle of limbs. One hard breath and they rolled in the grass with Jensen on top, gasping for air.

"How did you find me?"

"I have the magician, though I doubt he suffer captivity for long. I must hurry back before he gets an ideas," said Jared, cupping Jensen's cheek, "Oh my love I thought I had lost you."

"I remember now, it was the battle last year in these very woods..." he said, though details were unclear, "I must have been left for dead and discovered behind enemy lines."

"No matter," said Jared, lifting them to their feet, "I have a gift for you."

Jared drew a newly forged sword from his saddle, encrusted with jewels and ebony, and passed it to him. Jensen admired it and noted the hilt, where's a cameo of Jared's profile had been set. "I don't deserve this."

"You don't. But my general does. Now come, there are still many dangers ahead," he said, pulling him in for a kiss, "And I dare not seek them alone."