Gerard/Frank, Mikey/Frank, NC-17, ~23,000
By escherzo and mwestbelle
Warnings: Mild dubcon, pillaging
The boy came to the monastery on a cart when he was hardly as tall as one of the wheels. He was obviously a wild boy, covered in dark markings curling and smearing over his face and arms, his dark eyes bright and defiant under unruly black hair. The traveler helped him off the cart, but it was clear he didn't like to be touched.
"Found him coming out of the woods, like a sprite," the traveler had said, nudging the boy forward with a foot to the back of his thigh. "Would have been unchristian to leave him like that, wouldn't it, brothers?" The monks had agreed certainly, and accepted the little feral child into the monastery, though he was covered in mud and the strange paintings, feet bare and clothed only in branch-torn rags. Their first act as guardians was to strip him of what passed for clothing and dump him into the stream that ran behind the edge of their stone walls. With soap made by their own hands with lard gifted to them by pious farmers, the monks scrubbed him until he was pink and raw, until the blue-back paint and considerable amount of dirt washed away to leave him pale, flushed, and clean. But, they found, there were marks that they could not remove from his young body--his belly was scarred, marked forever with the shape of two birds, burnt into the flesh near his hips. The monks traced the birds with curious fingers, though the boy snarled and tried to fold in on himself, even going so far as to make a run for the forest, naked as the day he was born.
They captured him, and carried him struggling back inside the monastery walls, where they named him Francis, for that saint who loved the birds and animals, adored them just as this little child must have been marked for.
As the monks soon found, though, it was not that he loved the birds and the animals, though he did--he was, in all respects past his shape, one of them. They tried to tame him, break him into the ways that their monastery was run (the routines, daily prayers, chores like all the other children that had been taken in had to do) but all he would do was try to run again. There were murmurings that the markings were a sign of some sort of demonic possession, because of course, a real child couldn't be that wild. It wasn't possible. But the rumors were quashed as soon as they were heard, because the last thing they wanted the child that was barely a part of them already to believe was that he was some sort of monster. The markings were simply something left over from his former life, and no matter what prayers were said, what whispers from strange books, or what soap, for that matter, they stayed on.
The boy grew to learn the holy languages the monks spoke and prayed in, as well as a bit of the more common tongues they used when conversing with local peasants. He grew to accept (albeit grudgingly) his role at the monastery, to have a certain fondness--if not the devotion the monks expected from him--for the soft-eyed man in the beautifully painted texts he was sometimes allowed to look at (and more often snuck peeks into while he was charged with moving them from place to place). What he never grew into was the name the monks had given him, "Francis." He answered to it, for he'd be switched if he didn't, but that name never settled in his mind. It was something the monks called him, not his true name. Since he couldn't remember the name his mother must have given him, he came to think of himself simply as Boy. He felt it suited him, and felt no need to distinguish himself further.
When not doing his chores--and, much of the time, when he supposed to be doing his chores--Boy liked to sit at the top of the stone walls and look out over the stream and forest. He knew that he had come from the forest, that he had once had people who loved him there, people who marked him with twin birds on his belly. He was often caught, and often switched for his disobedience, and he always jumped to the sound of the soft, padding footsteps of monks in sandals, no matter where he was and whether he was (currently) involved in any wrong doing. Luckily, he did have a few allies. Brother Joseph from the kitchens, whose mop of curly hair required what seemed to be weekly service in order to keep it to anything resembling the humbly shorn cut worn by his brothers. Brother Joseph could always be counted on to slip Boy a bit of whatever was meant to be dinner, a slice of bread that he could wrap in the hem of his smock and carry to wherever he intended to make mischief and eat it. Brother Uriah, who played the organ and sang the hymns and psalms in a soaring voice, even when not in Mass, had smiling eyes, and would offer Boy an exaggerated wink instead of a switching when he spotted him where he didn't belong.
"Francis, you have a distinct gift," Brother Uriah would say, leaning against the dusty stone and grinning over at Boy, "for causing trouble. I'd like to think I was just as mischievous as you as a boy." Then a shout would be heard from the kitchen, and Brother Joseph would emerge, covered from nose to toes in flour, and Brother Uriah would laugh just as loudly as his eyes promised. "Well, maybe not merely as a boy."
More often than not, Brother Uriah had help in his schemes from Brother Jon, who was placid as the small lake the stream led to (which was as far as Boy had ever gotten in his escape attempts), with an easy smile and a gift for working with his hands. He made the wooden things the monks used every day, pews and chairs and tables, and sometimes would let Boy hammer the last nail into whatever he'd been working on.
Boy spent a year there, in the company of those three, and between helping Brother Jon with his work and everything else he did, more mischief than actual work, admittedly, the year passed quickly. Until the day that he referred to in his mind only as That Day--the day he left, or rather, was taken from the monastery, for good.
That Day started off as the others all did, with a morning prayer. Boy was near the front, so he could listen to Brother Uriah sing and make faces at Brother Jon beside him, hoping the others wouldn't notice and he'd stay out of trouble. All eyes were closed when they heard the first sound--shouts of men from outside the monastery, strange voices that Boy had never heard before. He didn't even know the language. But some among the monks did, that much was clear. "Hide," he was told by one of the oldest monks. The man was aged enough that he had to carry a walking stick to support himself, and from what Boy knew he had been there for nearly fifty years. In short, he had seen things. Boy may have been skeptical of some of the monks, but he knew an order to follow when he found one. He hid.
The only place he could find was within one of the cupboards, curled up between the stacks of herbs and grain, pressing himself into the corner to try to make himself as small as possible. From outside he could hear shouts, both ones he recognized and ones he didn't. And the strange language again, yelling what he could only think of as war cries. He huddled further into the corner, wishing he could just disappear.
Then, the noises came inside. Before he knew it the cabinets were being opened, one by one, the sounds of food and supplies being dragged out and dumped into... he didn't know, exactly, something. They came closer and he held his breath, like if he wasn't breathing they wouldn't be able to find him. It was no use. The door swung open and he was face-to-face with a man, tall and strong-looking. Dangerous, even, and with longer hair and beard than he had seen in all of his time at the monastery. He didn't even get a chance to protest before he was lifted up, slung over one shoulder like he weighed nothing at all. He kicked at the man's back, beat at his chest in an effort to get loose, but nothing worked. He was trapped, really and truly. "Let me down" he insisted, but the man showed no sign of recognizing his language (or caring). He just gripped tighter, tight enough that it hurt Boy to try to breathe. He had to relent.
He was carried out of the monastery without so much as a second thought, and he chanced a look around only to have to squeeze his eyes shut again. Around him were--he couldn't think people, or friends, because all they were were bodies on the ground. Whoever the group that had come were, they had taken few prisoners. He was one of the lucky ones.
And then, he passed two bodies, slumped over each other--one of them too-familiar from days working in the shop with him (he couldn't think the name) and he decided, right then, that there was no good luck involved.
The man carried him with as little care as Boy was used to carrying sacks of grain into the cellar--his long hair was much the same color as the wheat fields Boy could see past the forest when he perched at the top of the monastery walls, and Boy had never seen anything quite like it. A sparse few of the monks had light hair, but not quite this golden color and never so great an amount.
"Please," he tried again, kicking his legs. "Let me go, please, I haven't done anything." The man ignored him, only squeezed tighter at his waist as a warning against further struggles, and Boy was forced to assume that his language was entirely unknown to his captor.
He was hauled past everything he was familiar with, everything he'd grown up with, and the man passed a comrade, said something to him in a strange, guttural tongue, and Frank didn't know if that was from the way the man spoke or it was how his language was.
He was strong. Nothing Boy did, thrashing and kicking harder, seemed to even have an effect on him, and after a while he simply let himself go limp. There was no use fighting further, if it wouldn't make the man let go.
Boy went limp, half hoping he would slip through the barbarian's grip, but it was not to be. The man worked his way past other members of his band, moving into the woods that Boy used to run for so often. The trees teemed with barbarians in their rough leather garb, but the man only nodded in greeting, bypassing them as if in search of something.
Suddenly, he stopped, and Boy looked around, world tilted and confusing. The man spoke again in the guttural language, and this time another voice answered. Boy found himself being dropped bodily to ground, wincing as his hip connected with the hard earth. His captor stood behind me, and Boy looked at the new man sitting before him. He was not so tall as the light-haired man, broad but softer around the edges, with a headful of greasy black hair.
He smiled, and Boy thought that was the strangest thing about him. He wasn't supposed to smile, not like that, because it made Boy want to like him. But he did, and he helped Boy to his feet, helped him brush off. No languages were spoken between the two of them, they couldn't understand each other even if they did, but there was the sense of he's the one who gets to keep me.
Boy hadn't started off his life as a slave, had never been one at the monastery, as much as he'd complained that he was slaving his life away on the chores, and all he could do was stand there and pray his captor would be merciful.
Boy stood while the man who had captured him conversed with this new man. There seemed to be some kind of tension between them--the dark-haired barbarian crossed his arms, watching the blond man through guarded eyes. Boy noticed a word continually spoken by the dark-haired man with a small scowl on his round face: "Breithrson." Until he could be taught better, Boy assumed that to be the massive blond's name.
He felt a little better, having something he could call the man if only in his head--he'd always had a gift for languages, learned the Latin and bit of local tongue the monks spoke quickly, and perhaps he might someday learn to communicate with them.
He hoped so, because right now he was lost, the only thing he knew was the blond's name. He couldn't help but feel at a disadvantage there, even if he wasn't standing still while the other barbarians stared and the two talked. They--as best as he could figure out, they seemed to be working out some kind of deal. For who gets me.
He figured out another name, just as fast, the dark-haired man's name--Vraison. That probably wasn't his first name, but Boy couldn't figure out what that would be, lost in the complicated mess of foreign words.
Vraison said something that sounded harsh even compared to the usual hard sounds of their language, and he turned on Boy. While Breithrson watched through lidded, disinterested eyes, Vraison took Boy's face in hand, cupping his chin, and turned it to one side, then the other. Boy knew better than to resist, simply allowed the dark barbarian to move him, even though he felt his heart sink when his jaw was forced open and dirty fingers poked curiously into his mouth, feeling over his teeth and the inside of his cheeks. Boy had to fight not to gag, and finally, the fingers were removed, wiped against the already filthy leather of the barbarian's haphazard tunic.
Vraison glanced over his shoulder, made some remark to Breithrson, and then started inspecting Boy more thoroughly, squeezing and prodding at his arms and belly. He made a noise of irritation, and gripped the bottom of Boy's long robe--not quite one the cassocks the Brothers wore but close--and wrenched it upwards.
Boy made a sound close to a squeak, frowning as one of the barbarians standing nearby started laughing at it. The man said something to another, still laughing, pointing to him. His frown only deepened, only this time his blush did too, because Vraison was staring at him, and he was naked. Vraison kept prodding, checking, and Boy choked, tried to fight the urge to run away immediately.
Some part of him reminded him that he was just being inspected, there was nothing going to happen to him that was any different than being bathed by one of the brothers. It didn't matter, he still wanted to go hide himself before more of the barbarians saw his bare body.
He felt about the color of Communion wine as Vraison continued his inspection, paying special attention to the birds on his belly. He turned him around and, mortifyingly, pinched at his thighs and palmed over his bottom while the other barbarians continued to chuckle, a few calling out what sounded like mocking remarks. Boy was ready to wish for his soul to be commended to the Lord, immediately, but Vraison patted his hip solidly and pulled his robe back down, mercifully covering him.
Breithrson shifted, asked a question, and Vraison looked back at him, face splitting into a wide and oddly sweet smile. He nodded, and clasped Breithrson's arm with more warmth than Boy had seen between the two. Breithrson remained stoic, but he nodded back before wandering away. Vraison turned back to Boy and knelt. He pressed his hand against Boy's belly, fingers pressing in a little even though the coarse cloth. "Svala," he said, smiling and speaking slow and clearly.
"Svala?" Boy repeated, frowning, trying to figure out if that meant he was Svala or Vraison was Svala. He pointed to Vraison, raised his eyebrows as if to ask is that you? but Vraison shook his head, pointed to Boy instead. So, oh. Svala. That was his new name now, that was what he would answer to. He didn't think he would be able to get used to it, but then, he had never really been Francis, either. Or Frank, as some had called him.
He wanted to smile back, and he didn't know why. By all rights he should have been angry at Vraison, should hate him, because Vraison owned him, then, it seemed like, but he couldn't, not with how earnest Vraison's smile was. He couldn't hate anyone like that.
Satisfied that Boy understood what he would be called, Vraison took his hand and pressed it firmly against his own chest. "Geirvarr."
Boy paused for a moment to cement the word--name, he supposed--in his mind before carefully repeating, "Geirvarr." Vraison--Geirvarr beamed, eyes crinkling. He squeezed Boy's hand and returned to his feet. He spoke again, so rapidly that Boy would never have understood even if had any grasp of the language, but it ended in "Svala" and a beckoning gesture. Boy followed him, frightened to be following one of the men who had killed his friends but knowing that disobedience would only gain him an early grave to share with the brothers.
He didn't know where he was going, and the world was reduced to the few things he did know, over and over. The man who owned him was Geirvarr. He was Svala. They had come from somewhere he didn't know, somewhere strange, and they didn't speak his language. All he could do was follow and pray he was being led nowhere strange.
In the end, it was to the edge of the land, to a boat with a vast carved dragon at its front. Boy squinted, trying to figure out what the second lump was, almost crying out when he realized that it was a body, draped across the helm of the ship. He looked up at Geirvarr, horrified, and Geirvarr just shrugged, like it didn't bother him. Boy curled inwards on himself, arms wrapped around, and prayed there was some kindness to be had from these savages.
Boy did not do well on the ship. The roll of the waters, the salty spray on his face, the wind that howled in his ears until he heard it even when it did not ruffle his hair--it made him miserable. His stomach turned over and over, though he was the only one. The barbarians watched him with strange expressions somewhere between exasperation and amusement--although a few looked at him with something rather more like hunger. It unsettled him even further, though every time he got one of those darker looks, Geirvarr would grab him by the back of his robe, pulling him to sit closer.
Geirvarr was, despite his filthy appearance and obvious callousness, kind to him. Boy saw a few others who were being held captive, all with their heads ducked, angry bruises blooming over their bodies. Geirvarr had yet to strike him, and even stroked his hair when Boy would empty his stomach after a particularly rough patch of water.
He was almost attached, and the other captives looked at him with what was close to jealousy at the treatment he received. He was one of the slaves, now, but he wasn't mistreated, and he didn't know why. Maybe it just wasn't in Geirvarr's nature, he certainly saw no sign of it there.
The air started to grow quickly colder as they traveled, and the captives shivered, huddled further into themselves as they continued to go north. Boy, though, was given Geirvarr's cloak, wrapped tight to protect himself against the cold. He would have shared it if the other barbarians had let him, because there was more room underneath it for others. But he looked to Geirvarr, who shook his head, because it wasn't in his place to be making those offers.
It was during one of the nights, curled into a ball under Geirvarr's cloak that, though warmer than his own robe, was no match for the biting winds, that Boy heard soft piteous sounds. He poked his head up, ears immediately going chapped and red exposed to the winter air, and he could see...
His stomach seized up, because one of the barbarians was on top of one of the other captives, moving and grunting and Boy didn't know what was going on, but the barbarian's expression was tight and the captive was making high pained noises.
He didn't know what it was, but he knew it didn't look good, and he wanted to yell for the other captive to run, he'd hide him under his cloak, but then, he would be beaten for that for sure. But maybe it wasn't something that was bad? He didn't know.
"Geirvarr?" he asked, quietly enough that the two wouldn't be able to hear, trying to poke him into awareness. "Geirvarr!" Finally stirred, blinking and yawning, frowning at the look on Boy's face. Boy frowned and tried to gesture as subtly as he could to the pair.
Geirvarr blinked, bleary and clearly displeased at being awakened, but his eyes widened when he saw what Boy was pointing at. His cheeks turned pink, and he pulled Boy closer, pressing Boy's face into his chest and away from the pair. He made hushing noises, punctuated by short statements that sounded almost lilting in Geirvarr's soft voice, Boy picking out "Svala" once in a while.
Obviously it was something bad, something Geirvarr didn't want him to see, and Boy felt a sudden cold fear in his belly that it was what awaited him. He had been treated so much better than any other captive, and he was thankful, but now he was suspicious that his good treatment was only cover for pain that would be coming later.
He didn't know if it would be that. It looked like it hurt, like it was something terrible, and if Geirvarr was sheltering him from it then it had to be--he hoped Geirvarr wouldn't do anything like that, whatever it was. He didn't understand, and he wanted to ask. But he had no words that Geirvarr could understand, so he snuggled closer and hoped that he could figure it out, at some point.
He was still afraid, but Geirvarr was warm and his hand was stroking through Boy's hair and Boy managed to block out the sounds if he pressed close enough.
The rest of the voyage seemed long, but Geirvarr kept him close and warm. There was one fearful night, when Boy had awoken to a foreign hand grabbing onto his ankle, but Geirvarr was never sleeping more than a body length away and never seemed to actually sleep. He was on the intruder in a moment, usually soft and friendly face warped by a snarl. He looked like a barbarian, a true barbarian, and Boy had been afraid. After the other man had gone crawling back to his own sleeping place, Geirvarr had pulled Boy onto his lap and poked him questioningly, searching for wounds.
Boy had lost track of the days without the neat schedules of the monastery, but he felt as though he had been away from home for an eternity when they reached land again.
The land was nothing like what he had seen before, all dark trees and cold air and the ground was icy. Geirvarr had to lead him so he wouldn't slip. They move with the rest, past more trees and ice and bleak landscapes, until they reach a village. Geirvarr separates from the group then, leading Boy to one of the houses on the edge of the village.
There's another man waiting there, thinner but with the same sort of look as Geirvarr, eyeing Boy curiously. Boy tries not to think of the look as like a piece of meat and he fails.
Geirvarr let go of Boy, rushing forward to embrace the thin man. Boy had a brief thought of running, of getting away, but it was more than foolish--he was across the water, in a cold and frightening place he didn't know. There was nowhere for him to go. No matter what, staying with Geirvarr was his only choice besides frozen starvation.
The thin man came willingly, smiling indulgently while Geirvarr led him over, chattering excitedly. He went to his knees, and though Boy knew what to expect this time, he still was horrified (and cold) when Geirvarr pulled up his robe. "Svala," Geirvarr said, sounding excited, tracing Boy's birds with one icy cold finger. He tugged the robe back down and clasped Boy's shoulder, pointing at the thin man. "Mikjall, Svala."
Mikjall gave Geirvarr a look, tugging the robe back down, commenting rapid-fire about something that Boy suspected was along the lines of "it's freezing, you could have waited until he gets inside." Of course, Boy had no way of knowing it, but from Mikjall's expression it's what he's assuming.
He points to the two of them and tries to make the most questioning noise he can manage. What are you two? Mikjall wraps an arm around Geirvarr protectively and Boy's first thought is oh, lovers. Then he sees the similarities in their faces, in the way they stand, and amends, brothers.
Brothers, though Mikjall is tall and sharp where Geirvarr is broader and softer. Geirvarr kissed Mikjall's cheek carefully, then beckoned for Boy to follow them into their dwelling. It was small to Boy, used to living in the great stone monastery, but cozy and obviously well-made. There was a fire burning lazily in the corner, and Geirvarr made a pleased exclamation and hurried over to it.
Mikjall, however, remained next to Boy, long fingers stroking over his forehead and looking at him with dark, speculative eyes.
Boy almost shivered under the gaze, Mikjall staring at him intently, not moving away, and he wanted to be wrapped up in warmth with Geirvarr again. He could mostly trust Geirvarr, because they spent the entire long trip together and nothing happened that was like what the other captives had--better, if anything.
But his brother--Boy didn't know if he could trust Geirvarr's brother just yet.
"Mikjall!" Both Boy and Mikjall looked up to the sound of Geirvarr's voice, sharper than Boy had ever heard it. Geirvarr frowned, and added something in their language. Mikjall shrugged languidly and responded, chin tilted up defiantly. As the brothers became embroiled in some sort of discussion that Boy couldn't help but think was about him, Boy slunk back to crouch next to the wall.
The monks, his family, were dead and far away. He was alone and afraid in a strange place where no one understood him and he could understand no one. Squeezing his eyes closed, he struggled to hold back tears from the frustration of it all. While on the boat, he had been able to take comfort under Geirvarr's cloak and against his side, for it was only a journey, but here. He knew that this was where he was expected to stay.
He didn't want to stay when he was at the monastery either. But he wasn't a captive there, wouldn't be most likely killed if he tried to run away, it was different. He missed it. He wanted to be back there, back where people understood him when he spoke and he didn't have to just point and make questioning noises. He ended up crying anyway, and he was allowed, he was young and lost and confused and the brothers were still arguing behind him, unaware of what he was doing.
Finally they stopped, and there was silence, save for Boy sniffling in the corner, and Geirvarr frowned at Mikjall and went over to him.
"Svala?" Boy buried his face in his knees, curled up as small as he could make himself, and he felt the warm weight of Geirvarr's hand on his back. "Svala." He made a rather ridiculous cooing sound and Boy tilted his head to peek out from behind his arm. Geirvarr rubbed soothingly at Boy's back with his thumb, speaking in the same lilting hushed tones he'd used on the boat.
Mikjall watched from the corner, but when Boy looked up at him, his face wasn't so dark, and he smiled a little when they made eye contact. Boy forced himself to smile back, but regretted it in an instant, for the moment he was distracted, Geirvarr tugged his robe up and over, stripping him. He waved it at Mikjall, saying something that Boy didn't even want to try to understand because he was naked in the barbarian's dwelling.
He huddled into himself more, knees to his chest, half-glad that the house wasn't as cold as the outside, but still feeling utterly, utterly exposed.
But then, Mikjall went into another corner of the house, and while Boy hated being exposed in front of Geirvarr he could handle it, if it was just him and not his brother too. Mikjall came back a moment later, carrying some sort of fabric in his arms--clothes, Boy figured out a moment later, and was able to relax at least a little, more so when Geirvarr handed him the stack of them and told him something in the strange tongue that he guessed was a "get dressed".
The garb didn't fit him well, and it smelled strange and sharp to Boy's nose, but at least he wasn't expected to remain bare. Geirvarr helped him when he struggled, and soon he was clad much like the barbarians were, if even more simply. Geirvarr looked pleased, and clapped Boy on the shoulder with a broad smile. Boy tried to return the smile, but it was weak. He knew that he belonged to the brothers, but had no idea what was expected of him.
As though sensing his thoughts, Mikjall gestured to catch his attention. "Svala!" He pointed to the dwindling stack of wood next to the fire, and then to the door. Boy's eyes widened. Surely he wasn't expected to go outside on his own? But Geirvarr, patted his hip with an encouraging smile, and Boy had no choice but to wander out into the barbarian village.
He didn't know what to expect, eyes darting around like he was expecting to be attacked at any second. There was a woodpile near his dwelling, but by the time he got there he saw he wasn't alone. There was another boy, about his age. He wasn't one of the barbarians. He was darker, like some of the wanderers that had come by the monastery, and he had markings too, all up and down his arms and his back. His ears, too, were lined with bright rings, something Boy had only seen once.
He made a questioning noise, and the boy looked up from his wood gathering, shrugged, said "Petr," as if it was the most normal thing in the world to be making introductions here, and gestured to Boy. Boy had to take a moment to not say the wrong name, Svala still awkward on his tongue. "Svala," he said finally.
Petr smiled, teeth brilliant white against the relative darkness of his skin and hair. He tilted his head in a friendly nod, and Boy saw a glint of gold in his nose. He asked something, in a language that was different from both the harsh tongue of the barbarians and any Boy was familiar with, the "Svala?" on the end sticking out against the more fluid string of sounds.
Boy frowned and shook his head. Petr licked his lips, obviously considering, and spoke again, this time in an entirely different language. It sounded almost familiar and Boy strained to pick out a word he recognized, but was forced to shake his head again. Petr shrugged, seemingly unconcerned with their lack of ability to understand each other, and selected another log before gesturing towards the house Boy had come from and making a questioning noise.
Boy frowned in thought for a moment before understanding. "Geirvarr. Mikjall." Petr nodded, and pressed a hand to his own chest.
Boy nodded, wishing they could understand each other more, that he could ask how long Petr had been here, what was going to happen to him, anything that occupied his whirring, frightened mind. But for now, he had to just be content with knowing that he wasn't alone. He nodded, and picked up the largest stack of wood he could handle, staggering under its weight.
Petr made a gesture of goodbye and Boy, still half-stumbling under the weight of the wood he was carrying, made his way back to the house.
Geirvarr seemed pleased when Boy came back, although Mikjall made a flat comment that Boy was pretty certain was less than complimentary. He took his load of wood to the corner, and Geirvarr helped him stack it neatly. Once the task was done, Boy went back to sit near the wall, curling back up into his protective ball.
Time passed, and he wondered if this would be how he would live for the rest of his days, huddling in on himself until one of the brothers needed him for labor. There was a soft tap on his arm, and Boy looked up cautiously to see Mikjall holding a steaming wooden bowl. He offered it to Boy, and when it was accepted carefully, he smiled down at him, the expression brightening the harsh lines of his face.
Boy had to smile back then. It was a peace offering, he could see that. A peace offering that smelled amazing, and he sniffed it curiously before bringing it cautiously to his lips. It was too hot, but he was grateful anyway, still huddled in the corner, curled around the bowl for more warmth.
He didn't know what was in store for him there, or why Mikjall kept eyeing him strangely, or why Geirvarr kept glaring at Mikjall for it. He'd find out in time, of course. But for now he huddled in his corner and basked in the warmth, almost feeling at home for the first time since he was taken onto the boat.
He ended up falling asleep there, curled in on himself in the corner. He woke up sore--the monk's cots were hardly featherbeds, but it wasn't like sleeping on the hard floor either--and made a small pained sound when he stretched.
"Svala?" The voice sounded a little blurred, and Boy looked over to see Geirvarr sitting halfway up in bed, Mikjall snoring next to him. Boy waved a little shyly and Geirvarr smiled in return, crawling out of bed. He added wood back to the fire, bringing it up from the embers it had turned to during the night, and set more food cooking.
Boy's stomach grumbled loudly and he blushed when Geirvarr laughed. He rose somewhat unsteadily and wandered over, eyeing the cooking meal carefully. This was a word he had to learn, and he pointed at it, then mimed eating, hoping Geirvarr would offer up the appropriate word.
He did, and though it took Boy a few tries, he was soon able to say "food," in the barbarian's tongue, stumbling only a little over the sharp consonants.
He smiled at himself, proud, though it was still the only word he knew. But Geirvarr smiled back, resting one hand on Boy's shoulder and squeezing in an affectionate gesture. He said something else, too rapid for Boy to even be able to try to understand it, only that it had "Svala" in it somewhere.
Boy wanted to ask, what did you say? or teach me, please, or something, anything so he could understand, but had none of the words for any of that.
His stomach growled again, louder this time, and he pointed to the meal, managing a clumsy "food?" again. Geirvarr just smiled and shook his head, making a motion that Boy didn't understand at first, one arm raised and curled inward, his head resting on it. He studied it for a moment longer, and then oh. It was a gesture of go to sleep.
The corner where he was before was cold and uncomfortable, so instead, he stretched out by the fire, letting the smells of the cooking food and the warmth lull him into sleep.
He woke again when the smell of food gets stronger and he can feel heat blaze stronger against his face. He opened his eyes blearily to find a wooden bowl--rougher than what the monks had, but clearly carefully carved--filled with steaming meat in front of his nose. He looked up to find Mikjall smiling down at him, softening the sharp angles of his face.
Boy picked up a morsel, careful between his thumb and forefinger for it was hot, and licked at it, making a surprised noise at how flavorful it was--spicier and a touch gamier than at the monastery, but savory. Mikjall laughed and ruffled his hair before rising from his crouch.
After about half of the bowl's contents were warming his belly, Boy looked around the room. He and Mikjall were alone in it, and he frowned, and took a deep breath before attempting, "Geirvarr?"
Mikjall just shook his head, and Boy frowned. It was only his second day, he was unaccustomed to changes like this, to not just having both of them there. He knew that Geirvarr couldn't always be around, of course. In the monastery people came and went as they pleased, but he didn't know to expect that here.
"Where?" he asked, even though he knew Mikjall didn't understand him. Mikjall just gave him a quizzical look and shrugged, and Boy was never more frustrated with the language barrier between them.
He wanted to learn more, at least. He wanted to be able to understand everything. But for now, he's still their slave, and he has things he has to do, has to learn how to do.
He nudged at his empty bowl and sighed. It was a confusing life here, and he had little hope that it would get better any time in the near future.
"Svala." He looked up to see Mikjall beckoning. Boy rose and walked over obediently, wondering if he was to be sent outdoors again. Instead, Mikjall smiled at him, eyes dark. He reached out and smoothed a hand over Boy's hair, making a soft sound in the back of his throat, and murmuring something else.
Boy blinked at him, confused, as Mikjall used the hand on his head to guide him closer, other hand reaching down towards where his birds marked his belly.
He tried not to feel frightened, but it reminded him of what he'd seen on the long journey to this place, the slave boy he saw in the middle of the night. It scared him, because the boy looked like he was in pain, and Geirvarr sheltered him from that.
But Geirvarr wasn't around. Was his brother different? Did his brother think that that was alright? The thought of that scared him even more, because if he thought that--then he didn't know what else Mikjall might do.
Mikjall wasn't talking anymore, just petting at Frank's belly and reaching down slow, as though afraid of startling him, to pull at his tunic. It made the insides of his belly feel strange and twisted, and he watched Mikjall with wide eyes.
Mikjall murmured something else to him, ending, as always, with "Svala" in a low, soft tone. Boy shuddered when Mikjall reached a hand up under his tunic to press cold against his side.
It felt strange. Strange and cold, and part of him liked it, but he knew that that couldn't be right. It would just lead to the things that hurt. He couldn't pull away, though, because Mikjall didn't want him to, so he just held still, not responding.
Mikjall said something to him again, not that it mattered, because he still couldn't understand it. His fingers spidered down Boy's sides and Boy's eyes widened, even more confused.
"Mikjall!" The sound of Geirvarr's voice. Boy couldn't help but be relieved.
Mikjall looked up sharply, and Boy followed his gaze. Geirvarr had snow on his boots and a horrified expression. "Mikjall," he said again, and continued, words coming fast and sharp.
Boy looked at Mikjall who was frowning slightly, hand not entirely drawn out of his shirt. "Geirvarr." He sounded deeply unimpressed, and nodded towards Boy whilst going off on a long stream of harsh words Boy couldn't understand. Geirvarr just shook his head with a scowl.
Geirvarr folded his arms and spat back a response, and Boy was lost. They were arguing at too fast a pace to be able to pick much of anything out, but then he heard "Svala," unmistakably, and knew it was about him. He didn't know what else to do.
The only place he knew was the woodpile so he took off for there, as fast as his legs could carry him. Mikjall and Gerard didn't start after him so he just kept going, head down, sprinting there as fast as he could. It was only when he got there that he let himself collapse, sitting down heavily on the logs stacked there.
He sat there a few moments, just breathing, afraid. If the brothers were arguing over him, what if they decided not to keep him? What if they left him out in the cold alone, or worse, sent him to die in the forest? He was afraid he might cry, thinking of such things, when he heard a cry.
"Svala!" He looked up to see the dark boy from last night, Petr, waving his arm for attention. He wasn't alone--hanging back from him several paces, as though shy, was a boy younger than Peter, closer to Boy's age. His face was round and his hair orange, and he was swathed in a cloak trimmed with silver fur, much finer than what Geirvarr owned. Petr was grinning, waving more. "Patrekr, Svala, Patrekr."
"Patrekr?" Boy said, the name clumsy on his tongue. Patrekr was--oh. He made the connection then, between the orange-haired boy and the name, and pointed. "Patrekr."
Petr nodded and Boy grinned triumphantly, glad to have figured it out. He couldn't understand what they were saying, and he was afraid to go back, but he had what he thought he could call a friend.
Patrekr smiled shyly and his voice was soft but friendly when he spoke to Boy. He had to know that Boy wouldn't understand, but he spoke like he knew that, just a musical string of sounds to be friendly, and Boy smiled back. He noticed the way Petr's hand had snuck to curl around Patrekr's wrist, dark fingers in sharp relief against the boy's pale skin. Boy wasn't sure what it meant, but he knew that it was important.
They were connected somehow, the two of them. Patrekr's soft smile as Petr's fingers curled around his wrist made that even more clear, and Boy wished more than anything that he could ask, ask and have them understand what he meant. What are you two to each other?
He knew that Patrekr had some kind of ownership over Petr, the same way that Geirvarr and Mikjall did him, but these two seemed like something more. Boy missed the chance to try to get a firmer grasp of their relationship in his mind, however, because he heard Mikjall's voice, sharp and carrying over the distance.
"Svala!" Boy winced, recalling his given duty to return with wood.
He stood up, glancing back in Mikjall's direction, then to Petr and Patrekr. "I have to go," he said, knowing he wouldn't be understood but hoping that they would get the meaning. He smiled and turned away, gathering up wood in his arms to take back to Mikjall.
Mikjall had his arm folded, leaning in the entryway to the brother's home (my home, Boy thought with a little lurch) looking long and sharp and displeased. Boy ducked his head, biting his lip out of some combination of nerves and shame, but when he looked back up Mikjall was smiling in the same way the monks used to when they knew they should be upset with him, but were amused instead. He smiled hopefully in response, holding out his armload.
Mikjall nodded and smiled, gesturing to a stack near the fire where there were still a few logs resting. All Boy could think was that he was grateful, knowing that Mikjall could have punished him any way he chose for him taking so long at the woodpile. He could have been whipped, as one especially troublesome boy at the monastery had been.
Or maybe that other thing, the one that he saw on the boat, that Geirvarr shielded his face from. He hoped he would never earn such punishment as to find out what it was. He was careful when he stacked the wood next to the fire, keeping the little pile neat and even for easy use. Once done, he wiped his hands against his tunic to rid them of fragments of bark and turned back to Mikjall for another task.
But Mikjall just smiled and shrugged, like he didn't know what to make Boy do next. Boy just wished Geirvarr was around; surely he would know what to do, and just his presence made Boy more comfortable. Not with Mikjall, younger and less predictable. He didn't know what Mikjall's intentions even were.
He remembered the way Mikjall's hands had felt on him before Geirvarr had come home, and he didn't want that again; it was too strange, and it made his stomach flutter in a way he didn't understand. With nothing set before him, Boy sat next to the fire, where it was warm, pressing his cheek against his knees and thinking about Brother Uriah and all his friends.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew that he couldn't have been the only one taken from the monastery unharmed, and while he didn't recognize any familiar faces on the boat--surely there had to be someone. He smiled a little at the thought of that, finding someone who knew his language, someone he could really talk to.
It would make this cold place feel so much more like a home. He looked over at Mikjall, careful as could, just peeking so as not to be noticed. He wondered if there was a way he could ask if any of his fellows were around, if there was some kind of favor he could do to earn that.
He could draw the monastery in the dirt outside, maybe, or on the floor of the house somehow. But he knew he was never an artist at the monastery, teased for his clumsy drawings, and he'd be lucky to even have a chance of getting his message across.
If he could only ask, Mikjall could tell him what he should do, or if there was even anything to be earned. But he couldn't speak, there was no one who understood him. His insides were cold again, knowing that he was stranded. "Svala?" He looked up to see Mikjall peering over from where he had been whittling something, looking concerned.
"Mikjall?" The name was still clumsy on Boy's tongue, and he looked up, frowning a little. He didn't know why Mikjall was looking at him like that, and part of him wondered if it would mean Mikjall would have his hands on him again, the feeling that both excited and terrified him. He didn't want that, not now, not without Geirvarr who would keep him safe.
Mikjall frowned back at Boy. He held out a hand, beckoning Boy closer. "Svala." Boy shrunk away from his outstretched hand, not thinking about being reprimanded, merely afraid. He wished Geirvarr would appear, as he had before, this was strange. Mikjall's frown deepened and he set the wood he had been working on aside, but not his knife.
Boy couldn't help but be afraid then, not when Mikjall was frowning at him, telling him to come nearer, but not putting down his knife. He didn't know what would happen, but every instinct in him said run, run far away and not look back.
Mikjall stood, knife still held in one fist, and strode the few feet across the room. Boy curled in on himself, trying to become as small as possible in defense. "Svala." Mikjall dropped to one knee and the way he grabbed Boy under the chin made his next words clear as if he'd spoken them in Boy's own language. Look at me.
Boy shook his head fiercely, but Mikjall wasn't letting go of him, and what else could he do? He raised his head, trying not to let his eyes well up no matter how terrified he was. He couldn't read Mikjall's expression at all.
He flinched when Mikjall ran his rough thumb along his jaw, and Mikjall huffed out a sound that didn't quite sound angry. Boy felt his lower lip wobble in his fear, and saw Mikjall's eyes go straight to his mouth, with a kind of intensity that frightened him even more. But Mikjall didn't make to use the knife on him, just held his hand against Boy's face.
Boy just watched him, trying not to pay attention to the way Mikjall's eyes kept darting down to his lips, but in the end, that was impossible. Something in his stomach twisted at it, and he wasn't sure if it was fear or something else, something that made him feel dizzy and a little sick but not something bad.
He swallowed hard and tried the foreign sound again, "Mikjall?" The sound of his name seemed to snap Mikjall out of whatever it was that captivated him, and he sat back on his haunches with a thoughtful expression. He studied Boy's face for another moment before shaking his head and patting Boy's cheek. He muttered something that Boy wasn't sure he could have understood even if he did speak the language, and stood.
Boy breathed out a sigh of relief, tension leaving his body. Unless this meant something else was going to happen to him by Mikjall standing, whatever Mikjall had intended to do he was no longer planning to. Boy tried not to think about the possibilities--to cut his face with the knife, perhaps, that or kiss him.
Mikjall looked down at Boy for another few moments before returning to his previous place, going back to work on his whittling. They remained like that, sitting a careful distance apart, until Geirvarr returned home. Boy leapt to his feet when Geirvarr came in, shaking snow from his long hair, and nearly ran to him before realizing his over exuberance and looking down at his feet.
But Geirvarr just smiled down at him, like he didn't even notice that Boy looked overexcited, hugging him before going over to hug his brother. Boy wondered at Geirvarr's treatment of him, so much gentler than the stories he'd heard about slaves, but then he remembered Patrekr and Petr--there was something there, too, and maybe it just meant that was the way slaves were treated in the village.
Of course, no matter how kind Geirvarr was to him, it didn't excuse him from usual tasks. Boy was handed a bucket, and Geirvarr retrieved a cloak from the pile of fabric on the bed that Geirvarr and Mikjall huddled under at night and wrapped it around Boy's shoulders. He took him by the arm and led him out of the house, down a path past the woodpile to the river.
Gathering water was something Boy was used to, something that at the monastery he'd had to do more than once as one of his usual chores, so it didn't bother him terribly. And he was with Geirvarr, which meant he was safe at least this first time, should someone try to steal him away on his way to the water.
Geirvarr did seem to be standing guard in a way, and Boy tugged on his sleeve when he has a good grip on the bucket, earning a smile. On the way back, Boy spotted Petr and Patrekr standing close near the woodpile. He raised his hand in greeting, but Geirvarr grabbed it, guiding it back down towards his side. Still, Patrekr must have sensed their presence; he looked over, and Geirvarr inclined his head respectfully to the young man.
Boy just smiled at Petr and Patrekr, hoping that even though he wasn't allowed to greet them they would still notice it. He took a good look at them, though, watching the way they stood close together, intimate even, and he couldn't help but be reminded of how he had been earlier, with Mikjall.
Patrekr said something to Geirvarr, and it sounded friendly if a bit stiff to Boy's ears. The two conversed shortly, during which Petr clicked his tongue to get Boy's attention, grinning wide and waggling his fingers in a joking greeting. Boy smiled back, happy to have Geirvarr inside the house and Petr outside to watch over him.
He knew he couldn't stay with Petr too long, not without being scolded or punished for taking too long, but he couldn't help smiling, not when he'd found a friend. They couldn't talk, not exactly, but even someone who was a slave like him, a friendly face, was enough.
He waved goodbye to Petr and hurried to catch up with Geirvarr, though not much of a hurry so as not to spill any of the water. Inside, Geirvarr was adding more logs onto the fire while Mikjall chatted animatedly, carving a little more aggressively as he spoke.
They both looked up at him when he entered, Geirvarr glancing over to Mikjall and frowning, and Boy swallowed hard. He couldn't take that as anything besides the two of them talking about him.
He carried the bucket over to Geirvarr, and offered it to him, eyes wide and hopeful. Please don't be angry with me, whatever it is I've done. Geirvarr took the water and, after a moment's hesitation, reached out to ruffle Boy's hair with a little smile. Mikjall scoffed, and Geirvarr shot him a warning look.
Boy looked over to Mikjall with confused eyes, wishing he knew what had gone on between the two of them. He didn't understand--why Geirvarr hesitated, why Mikjall scoffed at it, and all he wanted to do was just go hide in the corner and not have to deal with not understanding.
And since neither of the brothers seemed forthcoming with a task for him, he did just that, going to sit next to the wall where he could feel cold air seeping in from the outside. He watched the fire flicker, the changing colors on the walls, and wished he was back at the monastery, where they would have bread and fresh vegetables from the garden this time of year. Still, when Geirvarr called his new name and waved a steaming bowl in his direction, he wasn't about to turn it down.
He was hungry, and he came forward, taking the bowl from Geirvarr with grateful eyes. Regardless of whatever had happened with Geirvarr and Mikjall, he couldn't help but like Geirvarr, not when he was this kind. He just wished there was some way to get Geirvarr to explain things to him, some way of keeping him around always so he wouldn't have to deal with how he responded to Mikjall looking at him when they were alone.
He did scoot close, almost sitting pressed against Geirvarr's side while he ate; despite having only a bit of labor during the day, he was still hungry. Geirvarr smiled fondly over at him until Mikjall made what had to be a derisive comment and Geirvarr's attention was redirected.
Boy couldn't understand anything they were saying, past that they were arguing, speaking to each other in angry tones, and he knew he heard 'Svala' among the other words. He shrank back, wanting to retreat to the corner again.
Mikjall set his still-full bowl down with enough force that some of the stew splashed out onto the ground. He stood and pulled a cloak off of the bed, and Boy picked out "Petr" from his parting comment. And then it was only Geirvarr and himself. Geirvarr looked a bit lost, and Boy moved closer, looking up at him. "Geirvarr?"
Geirvarr didn't meet his eyes, but his face was flushed, and he seemed stiff as Boy moved closer. "Geirvarr?" he asked again, scooting just a little closer. He stopped himself before he reached out, knowing he shouldn't try to hug Geirvarr without having permission to.
But Geirvarr didn't look at him, and Boy bit his lip before reaching out to tentatively rest his fingers on Geirvarr's arm. He knew that Geirvarr couldn't understand him, but that had never stopped Geirvarr from speaking to him, had it? "Are you alright? What's wrong? I'm afraid."
Geirvarr finally turned to face him, face pink and ashamed, and Boy didn't hesitate this time. He didn't care if he was punished for it, and he reached out, pulling Geirvarr into a hug. He wasn't alright, he didn't look alright, that was obvious enough to Boy.
It wasn't like hugging Brother Uriah, or Brother Jon--Geirvarr was broader than they were, and he smelled far worse, and he was stiff in Boy's arms. It was hardly like a hug at all, but he wasn't pushing away, so Boy held on, pressing his face into Geirvarr's chest even though it smelled like sweat and animal and something sour.
Geirvarr finally tentatively moved to return the hug, Boy clutching him tight, and Boy could feel the shuddery breaths he was taking. He wanted to know why, wanted to know what Mikjall had said but there was nothing to do except do that through touch, by holding him tight like this.
"Geirvarr," Boy murmured, allowing himself a small smile. He felt safe like this, safer than he'd felt since he was taken. He wished he knew more than a handful of names and "food." Hopefully Geirvarr would teach him, so he could at least communicate brokenly.
Even just simple phrases like, "are you alright?" would help him now, because that's all he wants to ask. He wants to be able to hear Geirvarr and Mikjall fighting and understand why they're doing it, and he's starting to grasp some things, words they say every day to each other ('good morning', 'brother') but it's not enough, not yet.
Geirvarr's arms were warm around him and Boy didn't want to let go. It still wasn't like hugging the monks, though in a different way: he always knew when to pull back, when Brother Uriah would tweak his nose and laugh and tell him to get back to his chores. He didn't want to pull away from Geirvarr, he felt warm all the way through. He made a pleased little noise and curled into Geirvarr a little more, head against his chest. Geirvarr wasn't protesting just yet, so he didn't see a point to pull away.
It seemed to be a long time that they sat like that, Boy was almost drifting out to sleep when there was a draft of cold air and Mikjall reentered. Boy felt Geirvarr go stiff and felt a rush of unhappiness, picking up his head to see better. "Mikjall," Geirvarr sounded almost pleading, but Mikjall ignored him, stripping off his cloak and boots and climbing into their bed without a word.
Boy watched Mikjall, frowning, and gave Geirvarr another squeeze, trying to reassure him. He felt lost again, now that Mikjall was back, unsure of what had come between the brothers and knowing he was in the middle of it. How, he didn't know, but there was something.
Geirvarr only held onto him for another moment before pulling away. All the parts of Boy that had been touching Geirvarr felt suddenly freezing cold. Geirvarr seemed like he wanted to say something, then realized it would do no good, and just shook his head and offered a sad "Svala" before he went to climb into bed behind Mikjall.
Boy bit his lip, hard, trying to use that as a distraction from how miserable he suddenly was. It wasn't fair, for Geirvarr to leave him like this, with so many questions unanswered, but there was nothing he could do.
This time, at least, he felt brave enough to curl up next to the fire where it was hot and comfortable, though neither so much as Geirvarr's arms had been. The night seemed long, and Boy knew he dreamt, even if he couldn't quite remember what they contained.
When he finally awoke, Geirvarr was gone again, and he couldn't help but curl in on himself protectively, not wanting to think about being alone with Mikjall again. Not after the fight he'd seen the day before.
He didn't want to think about why they were arguing, when he knew it had to be about him. Maybe if he kept his eyes closed he could fall asleep again, and Mikjall wouldn't be unhappy with him, and he could pretend he wasn't here at all.
He couldn't sleep, though, not when he had all of those thoughts again, so he just curled in on himself as much as he could like he could curl up and disappear. He could hear Mikjall moving around, and he squeezed his eyes closed tight. Things clanked and he felt the flare of heat on his face when Mikjall threw another log onto the fire. Mikjall didn't wake him up, though, not like he was expecting him to. He just laid there, trying not to cry. He just wanted Geirvarr to get back.
It was a long while before he felt the nudge of Mikjall's foot on the small of his back. "Svala." Boy bit his lip and rolled over, looking up at him with frightened eyes. But Mikjall only looked tired. He pointed to the bucket and Boy nodded as quickly as he could, scrambling to his feet to go fetch the water--perhaps he'd see Petr.
He could see if Petr could help him. Surely Petr went through the same sorts of things, at some point, and Patrekr fought about him with... who? He didn't know, and he wasn't sure what the feeling that went through him was when he thought about being like... that to the brothers. That close, that oddly intimate.
He hadn't seen a relationship like that before--farmers usually came with their sons and, on a rare occasion, their daughters--but Boy had a feeling that it was like marriage. After all, the look on Petr's face when he was holding Patrekr's arm certainly resembled the rapture that Abbot Andrew had always spoken of in his homilies.
But something like that--he didn't know. It couldn't be like that to Geirvarr and Mikey, with him, it just couldn't. They fought over him but that didn't mean anything, even when Mikjall kept him close and stared at his lips and Geirvarr held him and--he couldn't think about that, not now.
He didn't see anyone on his way to the stream--the sun wasn't too high, it was still early in the day. The water splashed cold over his hand when he filled the bucket, and he peered thoughtfully into the forest, part out of genuine curiosity and part from a desire to go as slowly as acceptable.
He wanted to be able to explore, but knew it wasn't allowed of him, and maybe it was because so many rules had been drilled into him at the monastery that he felt he couldn't break them. So he simply looked, staring into the forest.
He almost thought that he saw some kind of movement but--no, it had to have been just the darkness of leaves and branches. He pulled his bucket up close to his chest, eyeing the trees warily. He knew he needed to leave, in case there was something there, something that would hurt him. Geirvarr wasn't there to protect him, but he couldn't stop staring into the forest.
And then, yes, there was a flash of color, and then there was a man standing on the other side of the stream. Boy knew that he ought to run, but he could squeeze his bucket and stare. The man was tall, taller than anyone Boy had seen, and clad in a garish shade of violet so different from the simple brown of the monks and the animal skins of the barbarians.
Boy couldn't stop watching him, couldn't take his eyes off him even though he knew he should run away now, before it was too late. The man could be dangerous, if he was lurking in the woods like this. "Who are you?" Boy managed, knowing the man wouldn't know what he was saying.
The man watched him with an almost sinister gaze for another moment before his face split into a huge smile. He turned, a multitude of things strapped around his waist clanked and Boy could see gold glinting in his ears and nose, and called something over his shoulder. As if by magic, four other people materialized out of the woods--three more men and a darkly beautiful woman.
Boy couldn't stop staring now, the bucket of water in his hands forgotten as he watched them. His mind was racing--what if they were strange? What if they wanted to hurt him, or eat him, like he'd heard horrible tales of at the monastery, ones to frighten the children into staying in at night?
The original man said something to his fellows, and then started to walk straight across the stream, water splashing at his long legs. Boy took a horrified step backwards, but the man laughed and was on the same bank in a moment, grinning manically down at him.
Boy shrank back, the man staring down at him. The grin didn't help anything, just made him all that much more nervous. He took another step back and the man just took another step forwards him. He was trapped.
The others had crossed the stream by now too, the shortest was barely more than Boy's height and looked disgruntled to have gotten so wet. One of the other men, tall like the one in violet, said something that made the rest laugh. Boy wanted to turn and run, but perhaps running would be more dangerous.
They could easily catch him and hold him where he was, but he couldn't understand a word they were saying to each other, just like with Geirvarr and Mikjall, and it was even more frustrating because he didn't know who they were or what they wanted.
The violet one was reaching for him, and Boy considered crying out, though he didn't know if a slave's calls would be answered. But before he could open his mouth, there was a shout from behind him, and all attention turned to Petr, who, to Boy's surprise, was striding forward, grinning. The violet one asked a question, and Petr answered in the same language, holding out his hand and finishing with a firm, "Familia."