Written in response to a LiveJournal "Timestamp" meme, when Alice Montrose suggested: How about 2 years after "Ravens, Owls and a Nightingale"? So, here we go: a moment in time.
- Written in February 2007. Rating M.
In the Bathhouse
After the dusty warmth lingering on the courtyard, the soft air of the bathhouse ĘC even mingled with the heady smell of sweat ĘC tasted wonderful. Schean inhaled it greedily, fingers already busy with the clasp at the neck of his tunic.
A maid was sorting through the clothes left on the benches. When she noticed the minstrel, she dropped a little curtsey.
"I'll bring the ale soon," she said readily. Schean nodded.
"There's no rush."
He stripped off his clothes, feeling how sweat began to rise on his upper lip, then entered the washing room. As expected, there were no maids around; they knew well enough that this lot didn't require their presence or help.
"You were holding back," Bengor insisted, chin jutting in challenge.
Schean grinned to himself. It was fascinating how the scrawny, too rapidly grown youngster could stand stark naked in the middle of three powerful, grown men and yet pack so much authority in his body language
"I wasn't," countered Karos, almost in unison with Sorel's "no he wasn't", and the two exchanged a little smirk.
"Of course he was," Count Daynar snorted, "as he well knows he should. And so did and should you, Master Bengor. How many times do you want me to say it? This is training, not war, and that means you don't need to put all your might behind every blow."
"I didn't mean it like that," Bengor grumbled. "Oh, Heliet, you're here as well!"
The others acknowledged Schean's presence with a little nod, but Count Daynar's attention turned immediately back to Bengor. He wasn't going to be diverted so easily.
"Maybe you didn't mean it like that, but I did," he said. "Why is it that we need to have this talk over and over again? You and Master Karos are different, always will be. No matter how hard you train, he'll always be bigger and stronger than you, and that's why he must hold back."
Bengor opened his mouth to protest but the Count shot him a stern glance and went on. "Asking him to hit harder is not the solution, you simply need to adapt your fighting style accordingly! Or do you perhaps mean to say that you don't trust my judgment in this matter?"
"Just look at me and Sir Count here, Master Bengor," Sorel put in, unruffled as ever. "We're quite a lot like you and Master Karos. He'll always be the taller and heavier and stronger, and yet that doesn't mean I never get the better of him when we train in earnest."
Bengor combed strands of wet hair away from his face and granted the blond man a mischievous smirk.
"Even if you don't play dirty, huh, Sorel?"
"I don't need to," Sorel said matter-of-factly. "I can beat him fair and square."
"He can, too," grunted Count Daynar, just a touch reluctantly.
"I should like to see that sometimes," Bengor mused, his tone cheeky. Schean bit his lip not to laugh out loud.
"I'm not sure that I want you to see it, though." Count Daynar stood up and emptied a bucket of water over himself. "You'll just have to take Sorel's word for it."
Karos tossed a washcloth to Schean. "Hey, wash my back, will you?"
Schean caught the coarse cloth and began to rub Karos' shoulders with somewhat exaggerated zeal. There were times when he wished that the Revnashi men were a little bit more modest about their bodies, and these moments definitely counted among those. Of course it wasn't as if Count Daynar had any reason to be modest, but then that was exactly the problem.
Ever since they'd returned from their visit to Castle Eregal, Karos had been spending hours every day training. All the hard work had done interesting things to his big frame, and nowadays when he took off his clothes, the likeness between him and the hardy Count was striking. As a consequence, Schean had found a wholly new appreciation for Count Daynar's manly charms as well, and was duly embarrassed. Not that he was in the least dissatisfied with his own partner, definitely not. Sometimes it just was embarrassingly difficult not to look.
So Schean focused on Karos' broad back and just about managed to avoid seeing how the Count's hand glided down his belly and made those black hairs curl. He also didn't watch when the man grabbed a towel and sat on a bench by the wall, leisurely rubbing himself dry.
"How's father?" Bengor asked.
"Grouchy," Schean sighed. "But at least the swelling has now clearly gone down, I saw it. The Wizard came to change the poultice as I was there."
"Thank goodness," Daynar said. "I hope that knee will still heal, though, and not go stiff."
"I hope so too," Karos said, taking the offered washcloth from Schean. "Father sure wouldn't take it too well if he remained a cripple."
"At least it's healing," Sorel pointed out. "I've seen a man die from an injury like that."
"Die?" Bengor frowned in alarm. "But there's no wound."
"Well, there was no wound back then, either, it was crushed between a horse and a tree trunk. Anyway, first it swelled horribly and then his leg started rotting from inside. He died of the fever."
The youngster bit his lip, then drew a sharp breath and stood up.
"Well, father hasn't had a fever all this while!" He splashed himself with water and stood up, his mouth set in a decisive line. "All right, I'm ready. We must go inside and keep him company, since he wasn't able to come and watch us out there."
Sorel and Schean rinsed themselves off as well, Schean trying to steal glances at the two dark men sitting side by side on the bench. He had the feeling that the corner of Sorel's mouth quirked a little, but decided to ignore it. Behind him he heard Bengor's satisfied hum, then hinges squealed and there was a soft thud as the door closed again.
"Sorel, you bastard, you didn't need to tell him that."
The blond man glanced at the Count over his shoulder and shrugged. "It's a true story."
"I know, but ĘC well." Daynar sighed. "At least the Lord is definitely getting better, and that's the main thing."
"He is," Schean confirmed. "A dying man does not have the strength to be so grumpy."
Both Daynar and Karos laughed.
"Indeed!" The Count pulled the towel around his neck and stood up. "All right, come on now, pretties. You're clean enough to go entertain Lord Rhodan."