Be warned This story will contain: slash, twincest, threesome. If any or all of these squick you, I invite you to hit the back button.
A/NMy time line is not off. The events of the Prologue are basically the end of the story. So you've got small insight into what will happen, and now you're going back to see what led up to it. I apologize if this is confusing; it's how the story wrote.
The feeling washed over him like sweet water from the pond near the Western wall. It was cool and refreshing… and painless. Without the slightest trace of the pricks and stings from the magic residue that constantly polluted the air inside and outside the castle. He felt nothing.
Denton jerked to a stop just inside the large, gilt-framed doors that opened into the grand hall. An arm swung out, seeking a hold on something so that he might keep his balance and not fall over. It was a strange sensation, feeling nothing at all. He had been plagued by a thousand pains—stings and burns and stabbing pricks—from the moment of his birth. That he could feel nothing now was almost as painful, if only because the pains he was used to had been taken so abruptly away.
His hand found the thick material of a guard's tunic, and he grabbed at it hastily, without thought. Seconds later he felt another kind of pain, as the guard he had latched onto smacked first at his hand to loosen its grip, and then dealt a forceful backhand to his face. Denton stumbled backwards before he lost his balance and fell to the floor with a barely suppressed whimper.
Laughter, loud and jovial, ensued as he lay sprawled in a twisted heap in the center of the carpeted path that led to the dais and the king's throne. Slowly, carefully he untangled his cape from around his arms and legs, readjusted his hood so that it settled fully over his face, and started to lift himself back up off the floor.
Before he could do more than lift his torso from the rough carpet, however, he was consumed by bright, burning pain all through his body. He could not help the sharp cry that escaped as the guard continued to assault him, whatever spell he was using jolting through Denton's body with sharp, burning stabs. It would be a healing spell of some sort, no doubt. The court was ever amused by the irony of it.
More laughter filled his ears as he writhed, crying on the floor, until at last, through the haze of his pain and the roaring in his ears he heard Dalton call for a halt.
"Enough. I have important news to share with my brother, and I require he be clear-headed for it." He paused and shared a knowing, smug smile with those of the court who were in attendance—which always seemed to be all of them whenever Denton was called. "At least… as much as can be possible for little Denton."
Two pairs of hands grabbed him none too gently around the arms and hauled him roughly from the floor. The guards all but dragged him—unconcerned with Denton' stumbling attempts to find his footing and keep up with their quick steps—to the dais. They released Denton before he had time to re-orient himself with the world, and again he fell.
He could only be grateful that this time, at least, he had not cracked his head on the corner of the raised portion of the floor. Dalton had raised hell and delivered one of his most severe punishments for the blood that had stained his floor that day. Denton had tried ever since to avoid any similar contact with the floor again, and he marked this one small victory in his head as he lifted himself to kneel, head bowed before his brother and awaited whatever important news Dalton had chosen to bestow upon him.
"Good day, my Lord." Denton ducked his head lower, until his forehead was pressed into the floor. "Forgive my tardiness, Brother. I should not have kept you waiting."
"Mm, Yes. You will have much to answer for there. My time is very precious, little brother. People far more important than you have needs to which I must attend."
"Yes, my Lord."
"I cannot afford to while away my hours waiting on you. You cost this kingdom and this court much." There was the brush and swish of cloth, and Denton knew Dalton was standing. "But we shall let it go for the moment. Come, little brother, you have not yet greeted our guests."
He raised his head slightly, enough only that he might see his brother, standing sedately, though still threateningly, before him. "Guests, my Lord?"
Dalton smiled maliciously. "Have you not heard, little brother? The princes Usko and Toivo have traveled all the way from Ilmarinea to visit us."
Denton's head snapped up, eyes widening behind his hood. Eria and Ilmarinea had been on the fringes of war during their father's time. The only reason it had not erupted was that Ilmarinea's King Veli Tähtinen died before his plans could truly come to fruition, and his successor had not been inclined to continue them.
That and their own father had not liked the idea of large-scale violence. He was content to watch—sometimes participate in—the abuse dealt to his younger, worthless son, but he had not the stomach to wage war and send such good soldiers into battle. For Dalton, however, this would be the perfect way to prove his merit as a leader. To show himself as both a great king and a fierce warrior. A victory over the mages of the North would strengthen his reputation amongst his people tenfold.
But King Armo Tähtinen would not be provoked. Whatever ambition and bloodlust his predecessor had harbored had died with him. King Armo had been striving to reach some kind of accord with Eria. He was willing to let all past offenses be pardoned and forgotten. And if Dalton would not agree to an alliance, then he at least asked the hostilities be brought to a draw.
To this end, he had volunteered to send his own sons as ambassadors to see to the drafting and signing of a treaty. It was an obvious sign of trust. Of which Dalton was hardly deserving.
It was also one Dalton had hardly seemed likely to accept. Yet it appeared he had, which could only mean he had some ill plans laid out for his visitors. Denton could only wonder what those plans had to do with him.
"Well, little brother?" Dalton sneered down at him, cold amusement flashing in the shadows of his eyes. "Aren't you going to greet our guests?" He stepped away then, turning slightly to address whoever stood behind him. "You'll forgive Denton's rudeness, my Lords. My brother can be a little slow sometimes." Dalton glared down at Denton once more, "Is that no so, little brother?"
Denton did not respond. Dalton's movement had offered him a clear glimpse of the princes Usko and Toivo, and his attention was completely caught. He understood his brother's intent now in calling him. Shame and humiliation.
They were stunning, with tall, lithe frames and just the hint of muscle showing through their relaxed, though guarded, stances. They wore the wraps traditional to Ilmarinea—one long piece of cloth, wrapped around the waist in a full skirt that fell just above the ankle then gathered and folded at the back to be brought over the left shoulder and across the chest to be clasped at the waist one the right side.
Dark hair—likely a deep brown, though Denton had no way of knowing for sure—shone in the sunlight peeking through the windows high in the walls. One wore his down, where it fell in shimmering cascades to just below his waist. Shorter locks dusted across his forehead and along the sides of his face, framing and softening his sharp features, and there were beads and jewels threaded into tiny plaits scattered throughout the shining mane.
The other had his hair pulled into a tight tail on the back of his head, where it arched high before falling back down to brush across the center of his back. It was woven into intricate knots at regular intervals along with beads and jewels hidden within just as his brother had. The hair around his face, left free to frame and flutter, was longer than his brother's, though not by any significant length.
Bracelets and bangles chimed at their wrists and ankles. A thick woven band circled the left forearm of one and the right of the other. The cuffs of their ears were decorated by three simple hoops, and they each had a small stone set in one nostril—one was pierced on the left, one on the right. There was a slightly larger stone centered on each of their foreheads, and they shone more brilliantly than all else in the light.
Dalton leaned over him, voice hissing loudly in his ear, "Quite beautiful, yes? Makes you only too aware, doesn't it?" Denton shut his eyes and turned away from them, back to face his brother, who smiled in a way that could only be called malicious. Dalton gave a brief wave of his hand, and Denton was once again assaulted by a burning pain all throughout. His breath hitched on a cry, and he crumpled back to the floor, barely catching himself on his arms to keep from hitting the dais.
There was a flurry of movement from the corner of his eye, and then Dalton's voice shouted. "Do not interfere, my Lords. It is no more than he deserves for his behavior this hour." There was another flash of pain, this one slightly less. "I believe you still owe our guests an apology, do you not, little brother?"
Feebly, body still shaking from the attack, Denton slowly pulled himself back to bow, forehead pressed into the rough carpet on the floor, before the two princes. "I beg you pardon, my Lords. I did not see you." He did not look up to see if his words were received or accepted. "You honor my Lord, Dalton's kingdom with your presence."
"Very well. Now then," Dalton swept away, back to his throne, voice sweeping across the hall, "I have a task for you, little brother. It is most gracious of me, this task I assign. You would do well not to deny me."
"Yes, my Lord. Whatever your pleasure."
"I am very busy these days. As we have already discussed," he leveled a knowing glare upon Denton, "my time is very precious. It will be your task, while our guests are here, to keep their company. Do not let me hear that you have been remiss, or that Prince Usko or Prince Toivo is wanting for entertainment. My displeasure will be great."
"Yes, my Lord." He kept his voice steady, low. Though inside he shook. Dalton had no concern about the princes' pleasure. He meant only to shame Denton by placing the two of them, in their exotic beauty, against him and his own hideous scars. He might not be allowed ever to reveal his face, but all present—but for two—knew what lay beneath. This task was but one more way for Dalton and his court to have their laughs. To play their games with him. "As you will it."
"As it should be. Now there is but one more matter to attend to. You were late to this audience, were you not?" Denton nodded mutely. "And as I recall, I was kind enough to hold off you punishment until later." Dalton gave another malicious smile and raised his hand. "Your reprieve is over, little brother. I hope that this time you learn your lesson." Denton shut his eyes and steeled himself for the first blast.
It came from both sides, and he doubled over in pain, falling to his side on the floor. He curled into a ball, seeking to burn out the flames coursing through him, knowing it was futile to try. He whimpered and moaned, the pain too much now for him to catch enough breath to cry.
His eyes cracked open, and for a brief moment, he met twin pairs of light eyes. He thought he saw anger in them, rage hot enough to rival the fire burning him from the inside, but then he thought not. Surely not. For who had ever cared?
And then he lost consciousness.
The feeling was still there when Denton awoke an hour or so later. Refreshing and comforting and painless. He could feel nothing. Not the slightest prick or stab against his skin, nor the aching burn beneath his flesh. He had never felt nothing. He felt safe and comfortable in a way he never had before. It was… to good to be real…
He was surrounded on both sides by a solid, warm weight, but he was far from being alarmed. It felt more as if he were wrapped in a cocoon, thick and secure, protecting him from the magic floating in the air around him. Denton sighed and shifted, seeking more of the warmth. It made him drowsy, eager to stay in this dream where nothing could harm him.
His left hand was caressed, the soft pad of a thumb smoothing over the knuckles and the burn scars that puckered the skin of the palm. Fingers combed through his hair. Still others petted his stomach, traced small patterns across his skin through the thin material of his shirt.
Words drifted over him, low and rumbly. It was impossible for him to make them out—though whether for the soft tones or unfamiliarity with the language in which they were spoken, Denton could not determine.
Something warm and moist pressed against one corner of his mouth, and then there was a mirroring touch on the other. A singled finger tracked a feather-light trail along his cheek, down to brush across his lips. And the rumbly words got louder, clearer.
"You are awake."
Yes, he was. And the touches and the warmth were not going away. Eyes snapping open, Denton bolted upright, realizing his mistake only after a wave of dizziness washed over him and the world started to tilt awkwardly. Black spots dotted his vision, and Denton raised a shaking hand to his head, willing the room to stop spinning.
He should have known better, should have been more careful. Dalton's punishments always left him weakened. Sometimes it was days before he was strong enough to stand up again. Today had not been so bad, but he still would not be fully recovered until tomorrow morning at best. Fast or sudden movements were not the way to improve that probability.
The mattress shifted around him, and two hands appeared at his back, gently supporting him. "You should lie down; you are not well." The hand that had been at his stomach now pressed firmly, though gently at his chest, urging him back down.
His mind screamed at him that he needed to get up. Lying here would surely earn him Dalton's displeasure. He had a task to perform, guests to entertain. Denton tried to resist, but he was just too tired, his body too weak to offer much of a fight. So, he allowed himself to be guided back down, to be swallowed by the warmth once again.
But his mind would not let him rest for wondering who could possibly be so bold and daring as to offer him comfort. It was not something Dalton normally allowed, nor was it a task the servants were particularly inclined to defy his brother to perform. In fact, they more often went out of their way to avoid having to attend to his needs. Denton knew for a certainty that they reserved the chore of bringing him his meals and drawing his bath for those who garnered the most ill favor with the head staff—a punishment, as it were.
No one wanted anything to do with the disgraced prince.
Opening his eyes, Denton peered through the fingers splayed over his face, finding and meeting twin pairs of light-colored eyes. He felt a brief twinge of regret that he could not know the precise color before realization set in. Denton's breath hitched on a gasp, and he bolted upright again, though this time he vacated the bed entirely.
Another wave of dizziness washed over him, but Denton tamped it down, stepping away from the bed and the two men sitting in it. He did not stop until he felt the wall at his back, the ledge of an open window beneath one hand. His vision wavered, and more spots appeared. Denton shuffled along the wall until he could grip the ledge with both hands, struggling to remain upright on shaky limbs.
Denton ducked his head in the best semblance of a bow that he could muster. "Forgive me, my lords. I should not have imposed upon you so." He raised an unsteady hand to his face, desperate to block out the swirling motions of the room around him.
There was a rustle of cloth, and when his vision had cleared, Denton looked up to see the two princes were now standing. The one with the bound hair was in fact taking cautious steps towards him. "Come back and lie down, Prince Denton."
"I—Denton. I am not—it is just Denton." He was not worthy of the title 'prince'.
"Then, dear Denton, please come back and lie down. You should not be standing; you are not well."
From outside came the ringing of the bell in the chapel on the South Wall. "The late meal will be called soon; I can show you to the hall if you require it."
"We have already requested that our meal be brought to us." The one had finally reached him. Denton stared, mesmerized by they tiny stone shining in the center of the prince's forehead, as one large, warm hand reached out to him, gently cupping his cheek, long fingers softly caressing the skin. "For you as well."
"Oh… my Lord, I cannot—"
"Toivo," the prince corrected, fingers continuing to play across Denton's skin.
"Prince Toivo, it would not be—"
A single finger pressed against his lips, "Just Toivo, dear Denton. And he," Toivo tilted his head to indicate his brother, who was slowly making his own way towards them, "is just Usko." The finger slowly withdrew from Denton's lips as Toivo's other hand slid farther back along his face. "You should come lie down."
"No, I canno—" A thought struck Denton as Toivo's fingers sank into his hair. "Where is my cape?" His fingers clenched tightly against the ledge behind him, the cold stone pressing against his palms reminding him of the warm caress it had replaced, "And my gloves?"
"We removed them." Usko approached them, then, adding his own touch, the fingers of one hand running gently up and down Denton's arm, the other hand finding his stomach, petting it. "They hindered your sleep."
"You should not have. It is not…"
"I do not understand," Usko brushed a stray hair from Denton's face. "You would not have been comfortable."
Denton ducked his head, loosing the hand tangled in his hair. "I am not meant to be looked upon. I… it is not permitted." It was wrong, to subject others to his disgrace. Was that not what his father and brother had always told him? What every guard and servant reminded him of whenever he stepped out of his room?
He was what mages liked to call an Intolerant—a mage who was allergic to magic. Cast magic left behind traces of itself—a residue—that lingered wherever it touched. The points of origin and destination always bore the heaviest concentration, but it also polluted the air and any object that may have posed as a medium for its casting.
This was one of the reasons Denton wore his gloves. Residue saturated almost every surface in the castle. Placing a hand upon a door to open it, holding a book, even just walking through the castle caused him pain. When a guard or his brother smacked him, he felt not only the strike of skin-to-skin contact, he also felt the burn of the residue that remained embedded in their hands.
As a child, he had struggled in his lessons and practice sessions. The act of casting even a simple spell had caused him great pain, especially in his hands. However, his parents had refused to acknowledge what was the most obvious explanation. He was a prince, descended from a long line of great mages. None in the Cabreia line were in Intolerant. They had marked it to shear laziness on his part and encouraged his tutor to pursue their lessons with more intensity.
Not until he was near twelve summers did they finally admit the truth. But by then the damage had already been done. In casting, Denton's hands had suffered the greatest assault, and as the intensity of the lessons had increased, they had stopped being able to keep up with, or even withstand, the abuse. His palms and fingertips were burned and scarred beyond repair. That was the other reason Denton wore his gloves.
It was not his hands alone that had suffered, though. His lessons had required him both to cast magic and receive it, and in the latter lesson especially, his tutor had taken great pleasure. Day after day, Denton would be hit with a near constant barrage of spells. Expected to repel or dispel them as he was able.
Except that he never was able. Even if the spells did not directly hit him, he still felt the affects of the residue they left behind in the air and on the walls. And the contact was significantly more concentrated in the confines of the practice room.
His body became poisoned by it. His skin was abnormally pale, given to severe redness if he came into too close contact with magic. His hair had once been fair and blonde, just like his brother's, but it had darkened considerably, to almost black, burned by close contact to magic residue.
The poison had completely damaged his eyes. He did not know what color they had once been, but he assumed it must have been a piercing blue such as how ladies of the court described Dalton's. Denton's were now a solid black; the whites were only shades lighter than that. The pupils were a stark white. He could not see color.
He was an atrocity. A disgrace to the royal line. That was why he wore his cape, hid his face. So that others would not have to suffer his failure.
"Dear Denton," Usko pried one of Denton's hands free from the ledge and brought it to his lips. "You have nice hands, soft." He released Denton's hand and leaned forward, pressed his lips ever so lightly over Denton's. "You taste of magic," whispered against his mouth.
A knock at the door prevented Denton from formulating a response, though he was not quite certain what he would have—could have—said. Toivo drew his hand back, giving his cheek one last caress before he pulled away and turned to answer the door.
Two servants entered, each pushing a cart bearing covered trays. The larger one would be Usko and Toivo's plates, filled with all the same delicacies of which those in the great hall would be partaking. The second cart, the smaller cart, would be Denton's with some form of grain, perhaps some steamed vegetables or a stew, and whatever leftover scraps the servants had not wanted for themselves.
They moved quietly about the room, arranging the trays just so on the table at the opposite end of the room, filling the goblets with sweet wine—in Denton's case, cool water—placing a second pitcher of water by the basin near the commode for use in freshening up after the meal.
When they were finished, they remained where they stood, heads bowed and hands clasped before them. Denton had only a few seconds to register what this meant before he pushed hastily away from the window ledge and Usko's hold on him. He managed to move closer to the center of the room, putting some distance between himself and the twins—and barely suppressed a wave of dizziness as he did so—before Dalton entered the room.
Denton ducked his head down, staring resolutely at the patterned rug filling up the space of the floor and carefully folded his hands behind his back.
Dalton's heavy footsteps thudded mutely along the rug as he came to stand directly before Denton. "My Lords, I trust that all is well."
"Indeed, Highness," Toivo answered from the doorway, sketching a simple bow, "your hospitality could not be greater. We are simply tired from our journey and desired only a simple meal in our own company. We mean not to offend."
"Of course, of course; naturally I expect as much," Dalton waved his words away, turning his attention to Denton. "I was informed you would be dining with my Lords, Usko and Toivo."
"Yes, my Lord." Denton stared unblinking at the harlequin pattern of the rug beneath his feet, concentrating hard to keep his breathing steady, to stay standing. His vision was growing blurry again, his legs threatening to collapse beneath him.
"I am surprised. I would expect you still to be abed," there was no mistaking the sneer in Dalton's voice. "You are not usually so resilient."
The exertion to stand there was too much, and for a horrifying second, Denton though he might actually fall over. "I…" His voice wavered; Denton took a deep breath and clenched his hands tightly behind his back. "I have duties to which I must attend. My comforts may come once Princes Usko and Toivo's are met."
"Very good, little brother. You listen well. But watch you do not get carried away with your new responsibilities. I would not want you to become a burden to my Lords." Though his tone indicated he would like only too well to have another excuse to discipline and shame his little brother.
"Of course, Brother. I would not overstep myself."
"See that you do not. And Denton."
Denton knew what was coming, could hear it in Dalton's voice, see it in the subtle change of his stance. "Yes, my Lor—" he was cut off, sent reeling by sharp, hard smack to his face.
"I have warned you before about covering yourself; you will not shame me before my guests."
He should have fallen, the force of the blow—minor though it might have been compared to other punishments he had received—was more than enough to unsettle his already shaky balance. He could only blame it on the wall the suddenly appeared behind him, the hands that settled on the small of his back and against his shoulder. "Forgive me, my Lord. I meant no—"
"The fault lies with us, Highness," Usko's voice sounded softly, though forcefully behind him, so different from the light tones with which he had spoken earlier. "My brother and I, we are not accustomed to speaking to faces we cannot see."
Dalton was silent for several long moments, gazing passing steadily from one twin to the other, before they at last settled once again on his brother. "Be that as it may, my Lords, you must understand I have my rules, and I have them for a reason. Denton knows this very well."
"Our apologies, Lord Dalton. We will not be so thoughtless next time."
"Do no worry yourself, Prince Usko; I have no doubt the blame lies ultimately with my brother." Dalton's stance changed again, relaxing slightly before he stepped back, affecting a slight bow, "I take my leave of you my Lords. I bid you good eve." He straightened, turned a sharp glare on Denton. "You have been warned, little brother. Do not cross me again."
"Yes, my Lord," Denton's voice was hardly audible anymore. He was so tired. Just… so tired.
"Very good." Dalton pivoted on his heel, stalking purposefully from the room, the two servants following sedately behind him. Denton shrank back, his legs finally and completely giving out on him now, but Usko was still there, One strong arm wrapping around his waist, hauling him up against the prince. The other hand came up to stroke at his hair, brush it back from his face so that he might place a feather-light kiss upon Denton's cheek.
"Now, dear Denton," Toivo approached them, his own hands reaching out to join Usko's in petting and touching, "I think it is time for you to lie down." He leaned forward, brushed his lips against Denton's, just as Usko had done before.
Denton attempted to push Toivo away, but it was a vain effort. He was simply too tired; they were too big. He was practically lost, trapped as he was between the two of them. "I… I… need my cape." The words were spoken against Toivo's lips, muffled and all but swallowed into the kiss.
"You need not worry about that now, dear Denton," Toivo caught Denton's hands, pulled them away from his shoulders, thumbs brushing lightly over the puckered scars of Denton's palms.
He was silenced by another kiss, a tongue peaking out to lick his lips. "Hush, dear Dalton. Now is not the time for such worries." Teeth nibbled at his ear, along his jaw; long fingers petted his stomach. "Come to bed." And then the world was moving, and suddenly he was on the bed again, the twins filling up the space on either side of him.
Denton could feel his eyes drifting shut, the weariness at last taking hold of him. Usko leaned over him and claimed his mouth in another kiss. "Rest, dear Denton. We will watch over you." And that was the last he felt.