Rock Hard pt. 3

Sir Gwyn has a conversation with his savior which leads to uncomfortable revelations, tears, and a rather satisfying, if sticky, end.

"I should like it if you didn’t try and undo all my hard work because of your knightly pride, Sir Gwyn," said Nathair, as he pressed down on Sir Gwyn’s chest. His touch was gentle, as was the smile on his face, but it belied the force with which he was pushing down. Sir Gwyn was certain that he couldn’t have gotten up if he wanted to—certainly not in his weakened state, anyway.

Sir Gwyn chuckled. "I do not mean to offend, Nathair," he said, holding his hands up in surrender. "I am simply unaccustomed to being an invalid."

Nathair rolled his eyes. "Be that as it may, Sir Gwyn, your body has sustained many injuries, physical and magical alike," he said, lightly drawing his fingers across the shallow crevice between Sir Gwyn’s pectoral muscles. "It would behoove you to give yourself a chance to rest before you start letting your honor think for you again."

Sir Gwyn looked askance at Nathair. It shouldn’t have been too surprising that someone living alone in or around the Fellmire knew something of the arcane arts, but the fact only raised more questions than it answered. "How is it that you can tell I’ve suffered from injurious sorcery? Are you a sorcerer, Nathair?"

A thoughtful expression crossed Nathair’s face for a moment. "If you mean sorcerer as someone who is versed in the arcane arts, as most people do, then the answer is yes. However, to be precise, I am not a sorcerer but a warlock."

Sir Gwyn had heard the term before but had always thought the two things to be interchangeable. "What’s the difference?" he said. If he was to be stuck in bed for some time, owing to his injuries, it was as good a time as any to learn about the arcane arts.

"Hm. Well, the difference is rather significant, but to the untrained eye it may well seem as if the two are one and the same," said Nathair, as he walked over to a shelf near the front of the room to retrieve what appeared to be a thick, rolled-up blanket.

Sir Gwyn watched Nathair as he returned to the bedside. He moved with a strange confidence and a sureness that Sir Gwyn wouldn’t have expected from a hermit. He’d seemed so shy at first, and yet there was a decisiveness to the way he moved that was rather attractive.

Nathair set the rolled-up blanket on the side of Sir Gwyn opposite him. Then, he slid his arm under Sir Gwyn’s shoulders. His skin was surprisingly warm, and the rather intimate way that Nathair leaned into him made his cock respond in kind.

"Would you mind holding onto me with your good arm, Sir Gwyn? If only so that I don’t accidentally drop you," said Nathair. Sir Gwyn did as he was told, bracing himself against Nathair as the warlock pulled him upright with a single heave.

Nathair’s natural strength continued to surprise Sir Gwyn, though he didn’t have long to ponder it as a sharp pain shot down his bad arm. The agony was eye-watering, but he gritted his teeth through it, refusing to cry out. He’d suffered worse, before, and he chose to bear it in silence until Nathair was able to slip the bundle under him.

Once that was done, Nathair lowered Sir Gwyn to the bed. With the rolled-up blanket supporting his upper back, Sir Gwyn was able to sit up, though he had to shift about a little bit until he was able to find a comfortable position to recline in.

"Thank you," said Sir Gwyn. He rolled his good shoulder to ensure that there was no tightness there and reached up to give his bad one a few exploratory squeezes. He grimaced at the pain that flared at his touch. The area was surprisingly tender.

"You’re welcome," said Nathair, with a laugh, as he pulled a stool up to the bedside. "I figured that you would like to at least sit up a little so that you might find something to do with your hands. You seem to be the kind of person who hates to be idle."

Sir Gwyn chuckled. That much was true. It was a habit he’d picked up when he was younger. Back then, having an idle mind meant having certain thoughts about Rafe. None of them were ever unpleasant, but they were almost always inappropriate and, therefore, unwelcome.

When he lowered his hand to his lap, Sir Gwyn discovered that the blankets had shifted down his body while Nathair was moving him. He’d long since lost his sense of modesty, living with the knights, but all the same, he pulled the covers back up to his waist out of consideration for his host.

"Would you like to elaborate on the difference?" said Sir Gwyn. He brought his good hand up to his face and looked at it. "I find myself strangely curious about this sorcery nonsense after what I’ve had to go through. I suppose some part of me thinks that if I understood it better, I might be able to save more people if it happens again…"

Nathair had a small smile playing on his lips when Sir Gwyn turned to look at him. "The general term for the products of the arcane arts is magic. In any case, the fundamental difference is where we draw our powers from," said Nathair. "Sorcerers are born with the innate spark to mold the magical forces that permeate the world, while warlocks, generally speaking, are not."

Puzzling. "How are you able to use sorc—magic, then?" said Sir Gwyn, "if you have no innate talent to do so?"

Nathair laughed. "How does one use a sword? No bairn is born with the ability to wield a blade," he said. He locked eyes with Sir Gwyn. "Lack of talent is by no means a barrier to mastery. Hard work and a helping hand go a long way to learning how to wield magic just as well as any sorcerer."

"A helping hand?" said Sir Gwyn, raising an eyebrow. It sounded innocent, but it was vague enough to be suspicious. "For some reason that sounds strangely ominous," he said.

The corner of Nathair’s lips curled into a little smirk. "Very perceptive, Sir Gwyn," he said, "but before we continue perhaps you would like some soup?"

Sir Gwyn would have denied it, but the loud rumble of his stomach gave away just how famished he felt. He hadn’t even realized it until Nathair had asked the question, so taken was he by the other man’s appearance and manner. "I think I would," he said.

Nathair reached over to the tray that he’d brought in with him and picked up the wooden bowl of steaming hot soup. Sir Gwyn held out a hand, expecting that the bowl would be handed to him, but Nathair instead looked at him as though he’d grown a second head. "How do you propose eating by yourself with only one good arm, Sir Gwyn?" said Nathair, with a small smirk.

It was embarrassing. Sir Gwyn had not thought that far ahead. He was about to insist but he got the sense that doing so would not be the wisest idea. "Apologies," he said. "I am perhaps much too accustomed to being self-sufficient."

"One need not endeavor to take on all things on their own," said Nathair, scooping up and holding a spoonful of soup to Sir Gwyn’s lips.

Sir Gwyn was amazed that he hadn’t picked up on the smell of the soup earlier. It was amazing. The aroma was mellow, but there was a particular richness to it, along with a refreshingly sharp undertone. He gratefully accepted the food and had to suppress a moan at the wonderfully earthy flavors that coated his tongue.

The warmth spread from Sir Gwyn’s mouth and across his face. His nose tingled from it, and every breath felt slightly hot as it filled his lungs. The unease in his stomach settled as the comfortable heat of the soup spread from his middle. Even that one spoonful felt so satisfying that Sir Gwyn felt somewhat lost in a pleasant haze.

The sound of Nathair clearing his throat pulled Sir Gwyn back to reality. "Shall I answer your question now?" said Nathair. Sir Gwyn nodded, accepting another spoonful of soup from his caretaker.

"As I said, there is no need to take on all things alone," said Nathair. "While it is possible to learn how to use apparatuses to work the forces of magic through years of intensive study, as wizards do, us warlocks instead choose to contract with powerful Creatures of Magic to borrow knowledge, wisdom, and power."

Sir Gwyn gulped down another spoonful of soup. It was so good he could almost forget that he was injured and that it hurt to move his shoulder. Almost. "So, the fundamental difference is your locus of power? Sorcerers have external loci of power while warlocks and… wizards? They have internal loci of power?"

Nathair nodded. Sir Gwyn was relieved if he was being honest. He’d never been the sharpest sword in the armory, and magic being as esoteric as it was, to begin with, he’d been afraid he was misapprehending everything. "And wizards can use magic because they taught themselves how to do so through instruments and apparatuses?"

Once again, Nathair nodded. It was fascinating. Magic seemed so nebulous and impenetrable for an outsider. To think that there had been such structure lying underneath the whole time boggled Sir Gwyn’s mind. "While warlocks such as yourself can use magic directly like sorcerers are able to, but only with the aid of a magical beast?"

Nathair laughed. Sir Gwyn thought he could get used to the sound. It was rather pretty. "Not magical beasts, no," said Nathair. "Creatures of Magic. They are either creatures who represent some aspect of magic as a whole, or creatures possessed of formidable magical power. To be fair to you, some Creatures of Magic are magical beasts, though."

Sir Gwyn grinned. "So I was at least partially right on that count," he said.

"Am I to understand that I should be keeping score, Sir Gwyn?" said Nathair, raising an eyebrow. He seemed serious, but the tone of his voice was playful. "I should be more than happy to if that is what you wish."

"I jest, Nathair," said Sir Gwyn, with a laugh. "Tell me, how do these ‘contracts’ work?"

Nathair tapped his lips twice as he considered the question. "It is different from one warlock to the next. Even warlocks contracted with the same patron can have entirely different terms in their agreements. One thing that is shared among us, however, is that if we were to ever break our covenants or fall out of patrons’ favor for one reason or another, us warlocks become just as powerless as the common man."

Sir Gwyn had to suppress a moan as he slurped down another spoonful of Nathair’s soup. The warmth had spread from his stomach up to his chest and over his shoulders. His skin tingled, and the sensation wasn’t unpleasant. It was strange, really, but he rather liked it.

"I believe I have the gist of it," said Sir Gwyn. "To put it in terms that I am more familiar with, would I be right to say that warlocks are to their patrons as knights are to their liege lords?"

Nathair tilted his head at Sir Gwyn for a moment. He seemed amused, and perhaps, a little bit thoughtful. "I confess I have never thought of it in that way, but I think that you might be right, Sir Gwyn," he said.

"I suppose, like knights, we warlocks are called to the service of our patrons, to further their causes, and to enact their will," said Nathair. "Furthermore, our patrons grant us armor and weapons, only these aren’t cast in steel for warlocks. Rather, the armor they grant us is their wisdom and experience, while the sole weapon they bestow is knowledge."

"Would you look at that?" said Sir Gwyn, with a quiet laugh. "This old knight has something to teach even a warlock such as yourself."

"One should be careful not to dismiss anyone as a source of wisdom," said Nathair. "Be they from noble birth, or a nameless house with nary a penny to its name, everyone has something valuable to say. It is rather often merely a matter of finding that wisdom in the haystack that is experience."

Nathair and Sir Gwyn were silent for a short while as Sir Gwyn worked through the hot soup. Though they spoke of nothing, Sir Gwyn found the quiet rather comfortable. He had thought it would be awkward, but something about Nathair just set him at ease.

Sir Gwyn blinked when he heard the scrape of the spoon on the bottom of the bowl. Only dregs of the delicious soup remained, and Nathair was kind enough to hand him the bowl so that he could slurp up the last few drops. He had been enjoying the meal so much that he’d completely lost awareness of how much he’d already consumed.

"Is there any more of that?" said Sir Gwyn, licking his lips as he handed the bowl back to Nathair. "I do not mean to be rude, nor wish to seem ungrateful, but I would really rather like more," he said.

Nathair laughed. "I shall take it as compliments to the highest degree that you should savor my cooking so much as to ask for seconds," he said. He patted Sir Gwyn on the shoulder and continued, "There is more in my kitchen, but I do not think it would be wise to give you more at this moment."

"That is disappointing," said Sir Gwyn, scratching the back of his head. "However, I suppose that is all the more reason to get better posthaste so that I might get some for myself now that you have told me where to find it."

The corner of Nathair’s mouth twitched. "Then perhaps it was an even wiser decision to withhold more of my soup than I initially intended," he said. "Now, would you mind answering a few questions of mine, Sir Gwyn?"

Sir Gwyn shrugged. "It is not as if I could escape them even if I wanted to," he said, with a laugh. "However, you were rather gracious in answering my questions about your person so I suppose it is only fair that I answer whatever questions you might have about mine."

"Don’t worry, Sir Gwyn, it won’t be anything particularly personal or vulgar," said Nathair. "I was merely wondering if, given your curiosity, you were interested in becoming a student of the arcane arts. You certainly seem to have the requisite sharpness of mind, even if a lifetime of beating other men with sticks has rather hidden your potential."

It spoke volumes to how much Sir Gwyn’s dedication to Rafe had shaped his life that the thought had never even crossed his mind. "I think, perhaps, I might be too old and too set in my ways for such a thing, Nathair," he said. "I was merely interested to know more about magic, considering how dramatically it has changed my world in so short a span of time."

Nathair smiled. "It is never too late for one to learn new tricks," he said. "The greatest masters are the lifelong students, but if you judge yourself to be too old and too weary, then I shall take your word for it."

The two settled into yet another comfortable silence until Sir Gwyn spoke up. "You mentioned that I had suffered magical injury," he said. "However, apart from my shoulder, dull aches all over my body, and a bit of an unsettled stomach, which your soup rather handily cured, I feel no different."

"Magical injury rarely presents itself as something noticeable for someone untrained unless it is extremely severe," said Nathair. "You might not feel particularly different at this juncture, but the meridians of energy in your body are in a terrible way."

Sir Gwyn looked down at his body and traced his hand along his side. This was the irritating part about magic, he supposed. So much of it was invisible unless one knew where to look and what to look for—both things that Sir Gwyn hadn’t the faintest idea about.

Nathair cleared his throat. "To put it simply, life force, energy, whatever you wish to call it, flows through your body like a stream. We practitioners of the arcane arts like to call it mana. This stream follows certain pathways which we call meridians. Whatever it was that brought you half-dead to my doorstep has twisted and knotted the meridians in your body, causing the energy to overflood the banks and run rampant."

"Is that such a bad thing?" said Sir Gwyn. It explained why his body felt lighter despite his injuries, and it certainly went some way to explaining why he’d been feeling a strange buzzing under the tips of his fingers. "Isn’t more energy in your body a good thing?"

Nathair sighed. "It can be. There are some practitioners I know who regularly overflood the banks of their meridians for combat and recreation purposes. It is exceedingly dangerous, however. The energy that flows through your body drains through your meridians as well."

Sir Gwyn didn’t like the tone of Nathair’s voice, and he liked the implications of what Nathair was saying even less. "So you mean to say this mana is building up in my body and can’t properly drain out?" he said.

"That would be correct. Furthermore, obstructed energy flow interferes with the body’s natural healing ability, if it doesn’t outright work against the body," said Nathair. He reached down and traced a finger along the side of Sir Gwyn’s good arm. "This meridian was pretty bad, so although this arm suffered the least physical damage, I had to straighten out the meridian to prevent any further physical damage."

Sir Gwyn felt a lump in his throat. He could scarce imagine what would have happened to him if he had survived and Nathair had not been there to treat him. "What happens if the energy continues to build up?"

Nathair’s expression was rather grim. He looked Sir Gwyn in the eye. "The energy will have to get out somehow. In most people, that means literally burning up from the inside out. There is no turning back once that point has been reached. The merciful thing to do would be to kill them."

Sir Gwyn felt a cold sweat trickle down the back of his neck. He certainly didn’t want that. It seemed a horrible way to die. An extremely painful one, at that. "Will I be alright?" he said, throat tight. Once again, he felt himself quailing at the prospect of imminent death.

For a moment, Nathair said nothing. In the silence, Sir Gwyn could hear his pulse pounding in his ear. "Most likely," said Nathair. "You are fortunate in that meridians and healing are my areas of expertise, Sir Gwyn. You are in capable hands."

Nathair’s words were comforting, but his inability to provide a guarantee did little to assuage the unease that had coiled in Sir Gwyn’s stomach. "Most likely?" Sir Gwyn repeated as if to make sure that he hadn’t just misheard the reassurance. "Not for certain?"

Shaking his head, Nathair reached over to squeeze Sir Gwyn’s hand. "I will be doing my utmost to ensure that you recover to your full strength, Sir Gwyn. However, one quickly learns that there are no guarantees when it comes to the treatment of magical injuries. Such things are complex and wont to be unpredictable," he said.

Fear weighed like lead on Sir Gwyn’s limbs, but he had no use for it. His imaginings could only be worse than what he would have to face in the coming days. He looked at Nathair. "Is there anything I can do to make things easier for you?"

"Rest," said Nathair. His tone was surprisingly serious, and that one word sounded more like a command than a request. "One’s meridians can influence his body, but all the same one’s body can influence his meridians. If you are able to recover, physically, then it would be easier to fix what is broken."

Sir Gwyn nodded. The idleness was likely to drive him up the wall, but if it was what he had to do to survive, the alternative didn’t even bear thinking about. "Will you have enough time to sort things out?" he said.

The hesitation in Nathair’s eyes before he answered told Sir Gwyn everything he wanted to know. "It takes time to straighten tangled meridians, and even more when they are knotted as yours are," said Nathair. "As things stand, your situation is critical. I do not know how much time it will take, only that I have very little."

Sir Gwyn clenched his fist. "Surely there must be some other way to do this apart from meticulously picking apart knots and straightening the meridians," he said.

Shaking his head, Sir Gwyn laughed. "It’s strange. When I was younger, I was ready to die for my king. Now, I feel desperate to cling to what I have left."

"It is understandable," said Nathair. "To be frank, Sir Gwyn, I had always thought the knights’ willingness to die for their liege to be rather unnatural. It is perfectly reasonable for one to be afraid of death. Such is the truth of mortality."

Nathair took a deep breath. "If you were learned in the ways of magic you would be able to expel the excess mana from your body to give us more time. Such a thing would be dangerous under the best of circumstances, though."

Shaking his head, Nathair continued, "In any case, we don’t have time to teach you even the fundamentals that you would require to do that." He opened his mouth briefly, and then closed it again.

Sir Gwyn looked at Nathair. "You were going to say something," he said. "Hold nothing back. Not at this juncture," he pleaded.

"I hesitate only because the alternative can be deeply unpleasant," said Nathair. Sir Gwyn said nothing, waiting for an explanation. Nathair sighed and continued. "Your body contains four ‘essential fluids’ that maintain the balance of energy inside of you: bile, blood, vitreum, and seed."

Sir Gwyn knew the first two and the last rather well, though he had never heard of the third. "Vitreum?" he said. "What is that?"

"Vitreum is a glassy fluid that is contained in your spine and skull. It is from vitreum that consciousness arises. Without it, we would be as good as animals," said Nathair.

"Does that mean that we would be able to release some of the mana flooding my body by bleeding those fluids out of me?" said Sir Gwyn. If he was right, then he could see why Nathair was hesitant to bring it up. He couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would take to draw the vitreum out of his body.

"You’re sharper than you look," said Nathair, with a quiet laugh. "That is correct, Sir Gwyn. The vitreum carries the most mana in it but is the most dangerous to release. It would be very easy to lose too much, and to do so would be a fate almost as terrible as death."

Sir Gwyn couldn’t help but laugh. "To be honest, Nathair, that is something of a relief," he said. "I was not looking forward to finding out how, exactly, one extracts the vitreum."

Nathair smiled at Sir Gwyn. "Better that you pray you never have to, Sir Gwyn. It is a laborious process, and extremely painful," he said. For a moment, Nathair was silent, and his expression was thoughtful. "Bile is another option, and certainly the least unpleasant to extract," he said.

"I sense that there is a rather big ‘but’ as regards the bile," said Sir Gwyn. Vomiting, he imagined, was the way to extract the bile. If it was indeed the least unpleasant essential fluid to extract, he shuddered to imagine how bad the others would be.

"Well, in most cases, the forceful expulsion of bile solves the overabundance of mana in a body," said Nathair. Sir Gwyn had a pretty good idea of what Nathair was going to say before even hearing it, and it was disappointing. "In your case, however, bile would do little to help as it is the fluid that carries the least mana."

"So, that leaves blood and semen," said Sir Gwyn. "I shall hazard a guess and say that blood would be a good choice if not for my physical condition."

"In my professional opinion, Sir Gwyn, I believe that to be the case," said Nathair. The corners of his mouth twitched as his eyes drifted down from Sir Gwyn’s face over his exposed stomach. "Which leaves seed, or, as you said, ‘semen,’ as the only option."

"Gods above," said Sir Gwyn, a chill running down his spine. "How will you get it out of me, I wonder? Will you make an incision in my stones and extract it that way?"

Nathair winced. Sir Gwyn couldn’t blame him. He’d instinctively squeezed his thighs together as he’d said the words. "N-No!" said Nathair, cheeks taking on a bright red tinge. "It can be extracted in the… uh… traditional, way."

For a moment, Sir Gwyn seriously considered reminding Nathair that he hadn’t the faintest idea what the word ‘traditional’ meant with regard to the arcane arts. It took him a short while to realize what Nathair had truly meant with those words. For all the absurdity of the situation, his cock responded rather positively to the idea.

"If that is all that needs be done…" said Sir Gwyn, reaching under the covers with his good arm. It was a pity that his dominant arm was injured, but he could make do with the other one. It was embarrassing how hard he already was when he’d just learned that he was on the brink of a very unpleasant death.

"No!" said Nathair, laughing as he reached out to stop Sir Gwyn. "You should not be exerting yourself."

Sir Gwyn raised an eyebrow. "Then how do you propose that we do this? I can’t very well come just by imagining it," he said, though he’d damn well tried, once, when he was younger. It had been on a hot summer day, during a diplomatic mission to a neighboring kingdom, and Rafe had managed to goad him into it after a day of deliberate teasing.

As incredibly arousing as it had been for Sir Gwyn to watch Rafe languidly stroking off while his arms were tied behind his back, ultimately no squeezing of his muscles could bring him over the edge. In the end, he’d spilled all over Rafe’s hand after a few strokes.

Sir Gwyn’s cock, the traitorous thing, throbbed. It was harder than a steel rod already and tenting the covers draped over his legs. Though the linen was smooth to the touch of his fingers, it felt rather coarse against his cock-head. He couldn’t help but flex his erection, rubbing it against the fabric enough that a small wet spot began to form at the tip.

"Well, if you must know, I am committed to my duties as your physician. Though it may be a rather vulgar duty, I can promise that I will accomplish it with the utmost professionalism," said Nathair.

Out of the corner of his eye, Sir Gwyn watched as Nathair’s gaze drifted down along his naked body to the tent between his legs. The faint pink tinge in the warlock’s cheeks deepened to a richer scarlet as he pointedly turned away. "Do you truly think it so detestable?" said Sir Gwyn, as he looked at Nathair.

Nathair turned back to him. "You ask a dangerous question to answer, given I know nothing of your sensibilities, Sir Gwyn," said Nathair.

Sir Gwyn chuckled. Once upon a time, he would have felt that he was committing infidelity against Rafe, but no longer. The pleasures of the flesh were what they were and he’d learned over the decades to take it where it was offered. He still loved Rafe, but he didn’t mind fooling around now and again.

"If you must know, Nathair, I have felt neither shame nor discomfort, being naked as I am, in your presence. Not for a moment," said Sir Gwyn. Truth be told, some bestial part of him desired Nathair, not least of all because the warlock and Rafe looked alike. "And to make things clear, that is not merely because I am a knight and therefore accustomed to being naked in the company of others, and for treatment."

Nathair turned back to Sir Gwyn, something strangely hopeful in his eyes. "Do you mean that truly, Sir Gwyn?" he said.

Sir Gwyn nodded, for he’d never been more truthful about his predilections in his life. There was much beating around the bush in court and in town because the church remained a strong influence in Altenritter. If there was anywhere he could be true to himself, it was the Fellmire woods, where most things had worse things to worry about.

"One can never be too sure about these things, around folk from civilized places," said Nathair. "As much as they claim to enlightenment, their beliefs about love that is different from the ordinary can be downright barbaric."

A quiet laugh escaped Sir Gwyn. "I should know. I hail from Altenritter. To hear the priests there talk of men like me, one would think that I am wont to turn red and grow horns and a spade-tipped tail on the full moon," he said.

"The Fellmire woods have no such preoccupations," said Nathair. He leaned over the side of the bed and placed a hand flat on Sir Gwyn’s chest. He lightly traced his fingers over the ridge between the two slabs of firm muscle. "I-If you must know… I find you rather attractive and would much prefer to help you expel your mana in a less-than-professional fashion."

A tingle ran down the length of Sir Gwyn’s cock as Nathair’s fingers sojourned down along his flat stomach. He hadn’t been touched like so in a while. The warlock’s fingertips felt like hot pokers raking across his skin and they were good.

"Is that so, Nathair?" said Sir Gwyn, lowering his voice to a gravelly rumble that made Nathair stop and shiver. He smirked, pleased at the effect that he seemed to have on the other. "Because I feel much the same way, and would not object to being treated… unprofessionally."

Nathair shook his head and laughed. He looked at Sir Gwyn, bright green eyes shimmering with something inscrutable. "You really must watch your words, Sir Gwyn," he said. He looked down, and Sir Gwyn’s gaze followed, as Nathair leaned back and spread his legs to reveal the lump in his breeches. "They have an effect beyond what you might intend."

Sir Gwyn reached down the side of the bed with his good arm. Nathair’s straining cock was just within reach. He brushed along the underside of it with the side of his index finger, feeling it pulse through the linen of Nathair’s breeches, and grinned. "This is precisely the effect I intend," he said.

Nathair moaned and chewed on his lower lip. He leaned forward, pressing a kiss to the side of Sir Gwyn’s chest. "All the same, Sir Gwyn, you play a very dangerous game," he said, face flushed.

Sir Gwyn bit back a groan as Nathair’s lips closed around his nipple. The warlock was hesitant, uncertain, but he was good. Cool air wafted across the hot skin of Sir Gwyn’s cock as Nathair flung the covers off of him. The groan he’d been fighting back spilled out as soon as Nathair’s fingers wrapped around him.

Nathair’s grip was tight, his fingers strangely hot. Sir Gwyn couldn’t help but moan as they moved along his length. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back, tangling his fingers in the sheets. It was all he could do not to fuck his cock into Nathair’s hand, his ass tensing under him with every stroke.

All the same, Sir Gwyn could not help it. He bucked his hips upward, but only managed it once before the bed shifted beside him, and Nathair’s other hand pushed him back down. "We cannot have you exerting yourself, Sir Gwyn. Let me," he said.

"Please," said Sir Gwyn, managing a breathless moan as Nathair squeezed him. The words spilled out before he could stop himself, tears prickling at the corners of his eyes despite the pleasure surging through his veins. "You have your hand around my cock already, Nathair. I am at your mercy. My king is dead. You might as well call me Gwyn."

The heat pooling in Gwyn’s stomach burned away the strange numbness that had settled into him. Nathair’s hand pumping his hardness was strangely familiar and oddly comforting, his technique incredibly similar to Rafe’s. Vulgar as it was, it brought back memories, feelings, and emotions that he’d long since buried for the sake of his sanity.

Tears, unbidden, streamed down Gwyn’s face. It wasn’t long before Nathair took notice. He stopped. "What’s wrong?" he said.

"My—My king is dead" Gwyn took a single tremulous breath. He didn’t even know if by that he meant the one that had died in a rain of flame or his beautiful Rafe. Grief and pleasure warred in him, pulling him apart at the seams and Nathair’s fingers, loosely ringed around his cock, were exquisite torture.

A sob wracked Gwyn’s frame. "M-My nation, v-vulnerable. E-Everything I l-lived for, a-at risk… E-Everyone I ever loved o-or cared for… dead!" It was a strange time to be so emotional, but Gwyn could not help it. He was startled when he felt lips hot against his, and the rest of what he’d wanted to say died in his throat.

"You are a very loyal man," said Nathair, when they finally pulled apart for breath. He smiled, his bright green eyes twinkling as they filled Gwyn’s view. "And a very good one, I can tell."

The words made Gwyn feel warm inside, but at the same time, he struggled to believe them. "You’ve done all that you can. It’s in the gods’ hands, now. Let it all out. It’s time that you got to rest," Nathair continued, denying Gwyn the opportunity to cut in.

Gwyn whimpered as he felt Nathair’s fingers tightened around his hardness once again. Despite the way he felt inside, his cock had not flagged for even a moment. A moan ripped itself out of him, even as the tears fell, as Nathair rubbed his thumb in circles around the sensitive head of his cock.

Each stroke of Nathair’s hand elicited a quiet and breathless gasp from Gwyn. It was strange, the way that the pleasure and the grief mingled together into an odd sort of catharsis. He moaned, looking deeply into Nathair’s eyes, as the warlock said, "try not to think too much and just let it all spill out."

Gwyn wept. He didn’t know for how long, but the tears came freely. He grieved for what could have been, had Rafe not passed so early, had the two of them met in different circumstances.

The pleasure eased the pain, making it easier to accept. He shuddered, biting down on the knuckle of his index finger as the tension in his groin built. As he neared the edge of orgasm he felt as if a heavy burden had been lifted from his shoulders, and all his body tingled at the freedom that came with it.

Nathair leaned forward and whispered something in Gwyn’s ear, but Gwyn could not understand him through the sound of blood thundering in his veins. Gwyn tensed, his ass cheeks clenching, his toes curling, as his back arched off the bed and the climax slammed into him.

With a long, low moan, Gwyn spilled in Nathair’s hand. The heat that had been building inside of him, strange tingling he’d felt at his fingertips, seemed to rush out of his cock as spurt after spurt of thick white seed shot from him.

When the pleasure subsided, all that was left of the strange energy Gwyn had felt inside of him was a faint buzzing. Spent, both physically and emotionally, he tried to keep his eyes but failed. "Rest now, Gwyn," said Nathair, stroking the side of his face. "Rest."

For once, Gwyn was powerless to resist as he drifted into darkness.

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