Saturday, September 15, 2012

Charles the Younger Pt. 2

This is another story set in the Tanners and the Brute universe. For Charles' first appearance, read Tanners and the Bankers Boy on Read part one of Charles' story here.
Charles broke the surface of the pond with a loud gasp, flinging water from his hair and eyes. Springtime had warmed the water just enough to be tolerable, but as he swam towards the muddy shore Charles was ever more conscious of his chattering teeth and icy toes.

"It's cold as a witch's sagging teats!" he grumbled, stumbling over to his pile of clothes. "My family jewels have shrunk to grains of sand."

"Aye, you'd do well to lay out and soak up some sun before you deliver those ribbons to your waiting wife," Wolfgang agreed. He was stretched out on the grass, his pale freckled skin almost glowing in the midday sun. The waterlogged knickers clung to his frame and revealed the enticing bulge of his manhood.

Charles groaned internally. How badly he ached to drift his fingertips over the smooth ridges of muscle, around the dip of his friend’s navel, and follow the thin line of strawberry blond hair up to Wolfgang’s chest. Charles flopped down beside his friend and pulled a long blade of grass from the ground. He used it to trace Wolfgang’s strong brow and sloped nose, and ran the blade around the firm Cupid’s bow lips once, twice, before the other man stirred enough to knock it away.

"I'll toss you back in," Wolfgang threatened, opening one emerald eye with a laziness that belied his tone.

Charles grinned in reply. "Liar."


The moon was visible in the clear sky, full and low on the horizon. Elanor would soon visit her family in the countryside to avoid the bustle of the brute squad’s arrival. She is the most beautiful, graceful idiot I’ve met, Charles thought bitterly. Even rough men from the brute squad knew better than to disrespect a woman of such high birth as his wife. However, her idiocy would leave Charles free for the better part of the spring and summer. Tanners had found his love among the battered and tough lot. How could I ever contrive a way to meet those men, not to mention find one who is willing to risk his life and livelihood in order to fuck me?

“You were right about the tanner’s boy. We’ve an odd rapport.” Charles said suddenly. He glanced at his friend to gauge his reaction. Wolfgang merely gazed back, waiting for Charles to explain. “It’s not so much that I’ve ridden him like a charger…”

"As I suspected," his friend joked.

Charles squirmed and cursed that outburst of honesty, no doubt borne from years of complete disclosure with his oldest friend.

"It’s that I am the mount to his…erm, I suppose you could say he’s my paramour. Well, that sounds as though we are in love, and I am certainly not, and certain he is not—perhaps whore is a better term, save that I don’t reward him with coin.” He was babbling now. "That is to say the man is obedient. He comes when I call and the goatherd doesn't seem to mind."

No matter how Charles honey-coated his phrases, Wolfgang would hear the truth underneath. He sat up. “You jest, Charles. Surely, surely you’re making sport with me.”

Charles shook his head slowly.

“You fucked the simpleton?” The man’s tone was incredulous.

“It sounds very crude when you say it in that manner,” Charles replied lightly in spite of his swift heartbeat. “His simplicity is the product of his upbringing, I’m inclined to believe. There's some intelligence under all that dark unruly hair. Moreover, I didn’t fuck him so much as I provoked him into fucking me.”

Wolfgang was no fool. “The day when you went after him and then returned much later with the claim that you had wrestled. Was it then?”

“That was the first time, yes.”

“The first time,” Wolfgang muttered to himself in disbelief. “Why?”

Charles opened his mouth, but there was only so much truth he should reveal at once. He paused to rephrase his thoughts. “At first, I don't rightly know. I was curious, I suppose, about what two men together. The opportunity presented itself. He’s a beautiful creature. Tanners is convinced that his devil’s eye makes him do it.”

Wolfgang shook his head. “You tricked him into it? Anything for your amusement, Charles.”

"He had already fallen in love with some brawny member of the brute squad," Charles argued. "Really, we just filled some sort of need for each other. I suppose we're both lonely souls."

"Lonely souls?" Wolfgang scoffed. "You've a wife and the tanner's get has filled the goatherd's belly with yet another child."

“I love—I do not love my wife, you know that, and she has made it clear that although she does not love me she expects to bear me heirs.” Charles ran his hands through his hair. “Lying with her, Wolf, it feels like nothing; little different from my own fist. It’s too soft. I do all the work. That tanner’s boy is stupid but strong. It’s…restful. He's—"

"The entire town is convinced that he is possessed, Charles," Wolfgang bit out, strawberry brows furrowed fiercely. "I've seen that change come over him, enough to be half-convinced that talk of a devil within may not be far from the truth. What if he hurt you?"

"It only hurt the first time, though even that was satisfying. I was less prepared than I thought," Charles admitted, aware that he was revealing far more information than Wolfgang would ever wish to know.

"So you enjoy the pain?" Wolfgang's expression was entirely nonplussed.

"That isn't it, Wolf. Yes, Tanners may be easily manipulated and there is a dark and angry force within him. Yet the tanner's son and I, we have some similarities. His first love is out clubbing gypsies in the forests, and mine—" Be careful, Charles. "—is certainly not the woman to whom I am shackled for the rest of our sad privileged lives."

"Why, Charles?" Wolfgang demanded.

"I told you. He's willing, available, and very comely. Those odd eyes are beautiful up close." Had he not already answered that question? Charles was beginning to suspect that there was something else Wolfgang was angry about, but the terror of losing his best friend had paralyzed him into flippancy.

Indeed, Wolfgang rose to his feet with a noise of exasperation and began to tug his clothes on. Charles rolled to his back to watch the young man, a stone of anxiety and regret weighing down his stomach.

"Wolfgang," he began, hating his own cajoling tone, but a sharp gesture from his friend silenced him.

"I don't understand you, Charles," Wolfgang said tightly as he pulled his waistcoat on. "You've always been a self-centered creature, but I thought it was a combination of our status and age. This dalliance...I cannot decide who deserves more sympathy: those of us who've been deceived about your character, the peasant for being drawn into your web, or you."

"I beg pardon?" Amazing that such words could sting so ferociously, even though Charles could not fathom their true origin.

"I've heard as much as I can today," Wolfgang said. His angry stride to his horse was stiff. "Good day, Charles."

"Wolf, wait!" Why does he avoid my gaze? Charles' heart had turned to needles and thorns; it pricked with every breath.

The redhead swung into the saddle without another glance at his friend. "Good day."

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