Nico lay upon a grassy hill outside of the palace, one that he had taken to calling his hill since he came there so often.
Nico had his arms folded behind his head, eyes upturned to the heavens, rather the city that the hill overlooked. Nico sighed, glad to be out of the stifling clothes that the masquerade had demanded. Contrary to the heat of the day, the night breeze was cool and refreshing.
Nico enjoyed his solitude for a moment, accompanied only by the gentle rustling of grass and the chirping of crickets to the night sky. Then, he heard footsteps approaching, each footfall seemingly light and hesitant. “Who goes there?” he said, not rising from where he lay stretched.
“A prince,” said a strange lilting voice that Nico did not recognize, but one that he found immediately alluring all the same. Warmth rose to his face at the thoughts. He had not even seen the owner of the voice, yet. Nine forbid it was a hideous creature approaching him to take his soul.
“A prince?” said Nico, raising an eyebrow to the night sky. “A prince would understand the solitude of another, and would know that to approach the other for reasons save urgency is a grave affront,” he said. As intrigued as he was by the other man’s voice, he wasn’t interested in entertaining potential suitors any more.
“I apologise, truly,” said the owner of the strange voice, one that now trembled with what Nico suspected was trepidation. “But this prince wanted to meet you only once, for this prince was too cowardly to approach the beauty hidden behind a mask of black and silver and gold.”
Nico smirked, though his heart skipped a beat. There was something about the earnest way that the other person spoke that called out to him. “What makes this prince think that the beauty would let a coward such as him near?”
Nico turned his eyes toward the city, catching a glimpse of wispy hair as he did. He watched the open windows of the many houses down below, each flickering with the light of candles or lamps or what have you, regardless of height of birth.
“The hope that the beauty would have a heart as kind as his face to offer a second chance to a boy that has never done such a thing before,” said the strange voice, drawing Nico further in with its intoxicating melody. “The hope that a soul looking for a friend would be willing to open to another.”
Nico was just thirteen, but he knew an awkward flirt when he heard one. His father had warned him about as much. Theirs was a wealthy kingdom, after all, and who better to go after for favour, as the sharp politician, than the supposed-to-be gullible young child of the king?
Yet, Nico knew, somehow, that this flirtation was genuinely awkward. A smile pulled at the corners of his lips as he thought to himself that yes, indeed, he would give stranger, claiming to be a prince, that had come to him in the dead of night, a second chance.
Nico turned to face his visitor, and nearly choked as all the breath in his body left him at once. Long, luscious hair that flew about in the slight breeze seemed to be made of wisps of gold under the light of the pale full moon that hung above them.
Nico’s eyes were then drawn lower, to a pair of sapphires as soft and brilliantly blue as the morning sky. Nico could get lost in those eyes rather happily, he imagined. The handsome features on the kind face that came into focus were simply sugar atop an already-sweet treat.
A moment of silence hung heavy between the two young men, the tension between them almost thick enough to stifle. Eventually, Nico broke the quiet. “I believe I did not see you at the banquet,” said Nico, unable to come up with anything wittier than that.
Nico raised his mask into the moonlight and tilted his head toward it, somewhat confused, now, as to why he had even brought it out with him onto the hill. “Mask or no,” said Nico, a blush creeping into his cheeks. “I think I would have noticed someone so pretty,” he said. Kore had taught him to be liberal in his praising.
Nico felt slightly dazed as he reached out with hesitant fingers to touch the other young man’s reddening cheeks. He could definitely get lost in those eyes, he immediately decided. The other young man raised a mask into the moonlight, and though it glittered like his hair, it was a plain and humble one.
If it weren’t for the rhinestones and the few short but luxurious feathers that dotted the perimeter of the mask, Nico would have said it was one of the masks given as courtesy to the palace livery.
It begged the question of who, exactly, the stranger claiming to be a prince was. Nico knew well each and every mask that had been at the banquet hall that night, and he was certain that this was not one of them.
Was the boy in front of him a child of one of the palace servants? Nico doubted it as Aides regularly held dinners for all the servants and their families and he would have seen the boy there. Suffice to say, Nico was intrigued, but he decided not to call out the boy for his lie.
“Apologies,” said Nico, reluctantly withdrawing his fingers from the other young man’s warm cheek. “I may have been mistaken. I did not mean to be so presumptive with my touch, but you are so pretty.” Nico blushed. “My stepmother taught me to not hold my tongue when I saw something beautiful. Would you be so kind as to honour me with your name?”
The young man smiled, the expression so sweet that Nico half-expected honey to drip out of the boy’s nostrils. He wanted to see it more: the twitch of the corners of the lips, the light that came on in the young man’s eyes, the widening of the smile until it was a lopsided grin. Yes, Nico definitely wanted to see more of that.
“My father named me Wylder,” said the boy, “but my friends know to call me Will, instead.”
An excitement unlike anything he had ever felt before began to bubble up in Nico’s gut. His stomach felt like it was filled with hundreds of butterflies. “And my friends know to call me Nico, instead of Nykos,” said Nico. He scooted over to sit closer to Will. “Perhaps you should regale me with stories about yourself so that we could be friends and so we could call each other by the names that we prefer, instead.”
Will had had quite the day. Ten long years, he’d spent training to become a knight worthy of prince Nykos’ hand in marriage, and it was all coming to a head, whether he was ready for it or not, come sunrise the next day.
Will truthfully had no idea why he was so hell-bent on being Nico’s champion, but he remembered, quite fondly, that he had felt something for the prince long before they even officially met.
Will remembered that he had begun pining after the young prince ever since his father was awarded the honour of being lorded and given a village to protect for curing Kore of some obscure disease when he had been young.
Still, Will had to wonder what, exactly, had driven him through ten gruelling years of training to be a knight. Nari’s father, who had been about as true-blooded a Tretallë as could be, who had trained to be a Deathrider in the heartland, who had been Will’s master until he had been deemed ready, had been anything but lenient. As far as Will was concerned, the old elf had been strict to the point of almost being cruel.
Will looked out his window and raised his eyes to the castle that loomed over the city like a dark and silent sentinel. He missed living there, to be honest, back when his father had just been a physician to the court of Aides, and not a lord with a hamlet of his own.
Will’s eyes drifted back down along the castle walls to the hill that he knew, by heart, was the one that he and Nico had first met at. He had to wonder, briefly, if it was the prospect of a promise going unfulfilled that drove him, instead of a deep love with someone that, if he was being honest, had never really been more than just a childhood infatuation.
Perhaps that was the case, thought Will. He definitely couldn’t say that he had remained steadfast, that he had not wavered once from his path. He had taken other men into his bed over the last ten years, too, and Nari’s father had been one of them.
The older elf had been quite receptive to the idea of not only instructing Will in the art of war and in the matters of knighthood, but also teaching him how to please and accept pleasure from another man.
In truth, Will didn’t expect that Nico had saved his virtue for whomever won the imminent tournament. It had been ten long years, since then, and he could not possibly blame Nico for turning to the warmth of others on lonely nights when he, himself, had done the very same thing.
Will even feared, deep down, that the prince had forgotten all about him and his promise. Will wondered how many times he’d sat down in front of his desk, quill in hand, parchment laid out in front of him. He had told himself to write to Nico, but he never seemed able to gather the courage to.
Will sighed. Whatever the case was with his past and his potential future, he doubted that he was doing himself any good by staying up past the time he should with only stray thoughts about the prince to accompany him. He had a big day tomorrow, and he needed whatever sleep he could get.
The only problem was that after a day of training, Will’s body was bone-tired but he still thrummed with residual energy from all the mock-jousting he had to do. The moment Phoebus had revealed that Nari had actually come along to be a sparring partner for him, Will had come alive with a renewed surge of energy.
Eventually, Will had managed to unhorse Nari nine tilts out of ten. They had called it a day, then, but it seemed that Will’s mind didn’t quite understand that the training was over. He really wanted to sleep, but he felt as though he wouldn’t be able to, even if he tried.
Will stared at his hand for a moment, pondering something that Nari’s father had told him. The older elf had said that at the end of the day, when the fighting was done, the best way to get rid of the bloodlust of the battle was to sate it with actual lust.
Will still found it hard to believe that the camps rang out with the sounds of sex when battles were done, but he supposed he wasn’t in any position to tell someone that had been to war and had partaken in whatever sexual debauchery that followed won battles, that it was impossible given the common knowledge about Tretalleri physiology.
Regardless, Will stared at his hand—his most trusty tool to get rid of bloodlust and satisfy his physical lust. Will palmed himself through his breeches and undid the ties of his tunic, feeling constricted in the cloth. His mind’s eye had already resorted to his fantasy of choice: the image of an older Nico, licking him through the coarse fabric of his pants.
“Êýla Nenn`na Nico`za1” Will groaned, soft cock pressing against the palm of his hand as it twitched and slowly came awake. He was half-tempted to tear off his breeches and stroke himself to an earth-shattering orgasm, but he knew it was more fulfilling the more slowly an orgasm was built up. Nari’s father had taught him that much.
Will cracked his eyes open and slid out of his tunic. He made sure he tossed it to a side of the room where it had absolutely no chance of catching fire and burning the house down.
The memory of the one time that he did manage to do that made Will cringe. Thankfully, he had only burned down a small hut in some corner of his father’s lordly estate at their village. He had been going through a phase when he wanted to be ‘alone’ but was too afraid to try and strike out on his own. Needless to say, burning his cottage down had been a lesson in the flammable nature of clothing.
No sooner had he managed to squeeze his cock through his breeches did Will forget all about that embarrassing memory. He palmed himself, stroking up and down his growing length despite the fabric that separated his manhood from his hand. He imagined Nico mouthing at the head of his cock, a warm breath ghosting through the threads of his woollen breeches.
Will was so lost in his fantasy that he never noticed the creak of his door opening until he felt a very real mouth teasing the shaft of his cock. Will jerked away, for a moment, until his eyes met Nari’s grey ones in the moonlight.
“Sh, sh,” said the Tretallë, briefly sitting up to wink at Will. “D’Denë idë`re Csindë veývissë fitë nara s’teýna idë`re2 “ said Nari, before leaning back down to trace his tongue over one of Will’s balls.
Will didn’t know how well he was going to be able to imagine that it was Nico instead of Nari sucking him off, but as soon as Nari’s lips closed around the cloth-clad head of his cock, all distinction between the two began to blur.
The festivities did not, as Nico had expected, end after that first night and the masquerade that came with it. There had been another feast—another banquet held in honour of his coming of age. Just as the day before, as the visiting lords and ladies filed back to whatever accommodations they had found or been given, Nico made his way to his hill.
As Nico watched the stars twinkling high above him, he heard a familiar pair of feet walking toward him. This time, he didn’t have to wonder—nor did Will have to ask for the chance to speak. Will just sat beside him, knees pulled up to his chest.
This time, though, as Nico looked over at his new friend, there was something markedly different about Will. There was something in the way that Will looked at him, when it seemed as though he wasn’t looking, that made his heart beat fast. “Do you think you will find your destined in there?” said Will.
Nico scoffed, though he felt somewhat bad for insulting the genuine naiveté in Will’s voice. He thought that the whole idea of a ‘destined’ was nonsense. There was nothing in the Pale Grimoire about promised partners. If anything, the idea was a holdover from when the Sanctum still ruled over the kingdoms of man.
Even if it were true, Nico wanted to say that he didn’t want to be destined to any of the princes that had come at the behest of his father. As far as he was aware, they just wanted the riches and political clout that would come from being associated with Aides and his family.
“There are so many of them there, though,” said Will, with a wistful and hopeful tone to his voice. “So many of them are pretty… So many are handsome…” Will sighed, and Nico couldn’t quite grasp why. “How would you even begin to choose, Nico?”
Nico thought it odd, that Will knew of the numbers present at the festivities despite the fact that for the second night in a row, Nico had not seen Will present. He was sure, this time, because he’d spent every moment of his free time looking for Will. Ultimately, the effort had proven fruitless. “I wouldn’t,” said Nico.
For some reason, one certainly unknown to Nico, he felt like he owed Will the truth. “Certainly,” he said, “there are some of them that are more comely and pleasing to the eye than the others.” He almost wanted to say ‘ but none more than you ’ but he quickly decided against it.
“There are some that actually come to me with genuine interest in me, too,” said Nico. He remembered a boy that had approached him, one that was a few years older but no less enthusiastic. Jason had been the boy’s name, as blond and bright-blue-eyed as Will that Nico had almost been fooled for a moment. “And yet, I feel nothing for any of them.”
Nico caught a brief smile on Will’s face, one that quickly vanished when he turned to look at it closer. Silence descended upon the two of them; Will broke it. “The stars look so pretty from this hill,” said Will, looking up at the heavens as though the previous conversation had not even occurred.
“They are,” said Nico, laying his head back on the soft grass that carpeted the gentle slope of the hill. He set his eyes back upon the glittering, twinkling lights set upon the canvas of the night sky. “They say my sister is up there, the ones that still believe in the Sanctum,” said Nico, sadness slipping into his voice.
“But I think I’d rather believe that she’s in the Stranger’s embrace than all alone so far up there…“
1 Êýla Nenn`na Nico`za — [sensual] Oh Nine, Nico!
2 D’Denë idë`re Csindë veývissë fitë nara s’teýna idë`re — Sun of mine. Pretend that I am him.