Gildhardt and Feran passed buckets of water between them then up to the head of the line. The fire at the stable raged, seeming to grow bigger and bigger despite their efforts and they could hear the horses screaming. The sound chilled Fera to the bone and before he knew it he was dumping a bucket over himself and running. He heard Gildhardt call him, but his feet carried him ever forward. He could save the animals, he knew he could. The flames licked at him, burning hot as he moved as quickly as he could toward the stalls. He reached for the first latch and screamed at how hot it was. The horse inside was bucking and rearing, panicking as it tried to escape. He pulled his shirt off and gripped the latch again, pulling on it as hard as he could, but it wouldn’t budge. He suddenly felt like he had made some sort of horrible mistake. Not only were the horses going to die, but so was he.
“Feran.” His voice startled him and relief came flooding in when he saw Gildhardt.
“Help me, please.” He said and Gildhardt moved him as he picked up one of the ferrier’s hammers and smashed the latch. He pulled the gate open and the horse ran out, heading for the exit. “The others.” They managed to get the other horses free and ran through smoke and flames for the exit.
“What in the hell do you think you were doing?” Gildhardt snapped as he turned, grabbing Feran by his shoulders.
“The horses, I couldn’t just let them die.”
“Are you insane? What if you had died?”
“Sorry? I thought my heart was going to explode.” He walked away before he said something he might regret. He knew this was like Feran, that he would take risks like that if it meant doing the right thing, but still, it would have killed him if Feran had died. He went back to the bucket line, Feran going over to the horses that had been rounded up and were being treated for burns. When the fire had been put out, he started over to Feran to apologize for yelling when one of the guards pulled him aside.
“Sir, may I speak with you please?”
He was sure he would never get used to be addressed like that. His people always called him by his name, but here, in his beloved’s kingdom, he was spoken to so formally. “What is it?”
“We were just told someone started that fire, sir.”
“Arson sir? As you know this isn’t the first accident that has happened since…”
“Uniting our people, I’m aware. Just make sure every ember is put out, Feran and I will discuss it with our fathers.”
Gildhardt groaned thinking of the thoughtless prick or pricks who were doing this. Killing animals and people in these fires for what, for their petulant tantrum because they didn’t like the kingdoms uniting as one. What was worse Feran had put himself in danger today because of these people and might do it again if this didn’t stop. His love had a huge heart and didn’t stop to think of himself when others were in danger. He hated him doing that but his huge heart was part of why Gildhardt loved Feran so much and it didn’t make sense to yell at your loved one for something you also loved about them.
He hugged Feran the second he got close enough to him “I’m sorry for yelling at you like that. That’s never okay”
“I scared you really bad, I knew that when you yelled. I’m not upset”
“well you deserve an apology anyways. I should never yell at you”
“well I love you too. Thanks for coming after me. I might not have come back unscathed if it weren’t for you” Gildhardt noticed warriors staring and cleared his throat “anyway, this is another case of arson apparently”
“I thought so, there’s no reason this should have happened”
“I think we need to have a serious talk with our father on the course of action we should take. This cannot keep happening, this is going to get out of hand fast. They could start setting worse fires and far more damage could be done”
“I agree, lets go now and talk to them”
“do you know where they are today? It’s hard to keep track of them with everything going on”
“Yeah, just let me guide love” Gildhardt took Ferans hand and let him show him the way to theirs fathers.
They found them in Feran’s father’s study arguing about where they would be building their sons’ new home. Both Gildhardt and Feran had insisted on one between the lands so they would be equal distances from their families. The two kings constantly battled over the exact location and at the rate they were going nothing was going to get done. Gildhardt had even thought about going out and starting the house himself. They both stopped and looked at their sons when the door opened, their looks questioning and from Feran’s father concern.
“There was another fire father.” Feran said, sounding exhausted.
“My god, are you okay?” His father asked.
“I’m fine, but if you hear the words prince and ran into, I would ignore them.”
“I’m fine, there are more important things to discuss.”
“Was it extinguished?” Gildhardt’s father asked.
“Yes and the horses rescued.” Gildhardt answered. “We were told it was started, that it was arson, again.”
Feran’s father sighed. “Damn, when will people put aside their anger. Uniting our kingdoms was supposed to bring peace.”
“It has father, but it’s also flushed out the extremists and if we don’t stop them, things will only get worse.”
“I know, you’re right. You two go up and bathe, I’ll have your brother start investigating. You can join him when you’re ready. I’ll have patrols increased.”
“I would like my best to join them.” Gildhardt’s father added.
“Any help is welcome.”
Gildhardt and Feran left the room to get cleaned up as Ferans father had instructed. “when this matter of arson is taken care of we really need to sit down with our parents and force them to decide where we are going to live. We get our privacy and all but I’m tired of waiting” Gildhardt expressed as they walked to their bathroom. “yeah, I don’t think they’ll ever sort it out on their own. They both just want us as close as they can get us so it’s pretty sweet actually”
“well no matter where they put us we’ll see them both as equally as possible so they should just pick a spot and put us there” They locked the bathroom door and stripped down before starting the water and stepping into the shower. “is there someone you would prefer out home Feran?” Gilhardt asked.
“You know I’m happy wherever you are.”
“That’s not what I asked.” Gildhardt picked up the soap and started washing him, being careful when he got to his face so he wouldn’t get any in his eyes.
Feran rinsed his face then said. “Well, there is this one place where I used to play as a boy before the war. I’ll show you on a map when we get out, I think you’ll like it. There’s plenty of space for you to act like a caveman.”
“I do not act like a caveman.”
“The many times you have thrown me over your shoulder say otherwise.” Feran teased as he took his turn washing Gildhardt.
“I only do it when you won’t listen or insist on taking risks. It’s the only way I can stop you.”
“And it’s completely unfair. It’s like being carried around by a grizzly bear, there’s just no getting away.”
“Good, you’re not allowed to escape. Maybe I should just carry you everywhere.”
“Better not, I bite.”
“I know.” Feran smiled and Gildhardt let out a sigh as he leaned down and pressed their foreheads together. “I came far too close to losing you today. I might be feeling a little overprotective.”
“I really am sorry I scared you.”
“Just warn me next time, seeing you run into a burning building nearly gave me a heart attack. I should check you for burns.”
“You just want to feel me up.”
Gildhardt chuckled. “That too.”
Checking Feran for burns turned into much needed shower sex for the couple. The arsons had caused them a tremendous amount of stress and though they should really have hurried up to help Ferans brother they’d be of more use now. They both felt astoundingly better and ready to track down the people doing this. When they found Arnold Feran was once again wrapped in a tight hug “father told me you were coming and about the insane thing you did. Are you feeling alright? I understand if you need to rest”
“I’m completely fine thanks to Gildhardt”
“alright but I’ll kick your ass if you don’t tell me you need to rest if you need it”
“I ran into a fire, I wasn’t burned, I didn’t get into some epic battle or anything like that, I’m fine”
“well first things first I need to talk to the guards who talked to the witness’s for us then I need to double check with the people who had been nearby”
“suspecting everyone is key. What if we blindly listened to what our staff said and they had something to do with it Feran”
“I didn’t think about that for a moment”
“because you carry too much trust in your heart but It’s not a bad thing”
“I don’t like doubting our people, but I understand that these attacks could be some of them lashing out.”
“It could also be people from another kingdom.” Gildhardt added.
“True, it could be anyone, but no matter who it is they will be brought to justice. They could have killed someone.”
Gildhardt bent down and kissed Feran, surprising him and causing his cheeks to redden. “You’re really the most amazing man I have ever known.”
“Oh shut up, you know you feel the same.”
“I do, but I can’t help but admire you.”
“Do you two need to head back to the castle?” Arnold teased.
“No, shut up, let’s do this. I want them caught before someone dies.” Feran replied, slightly embarrassed.
Gildhardt smiled, adoring when his love got embarrassed. That hadn’t been his intention when he kissed Feran though he had known it would be the result. Sometimes Gildhardt simply couldn’t resist a quick kiss in front of others. Feran was so passionate and when that fire burned in his eyes he was absolutely irresistible. They walked with Arnold and spoke with the witness’s along with their knights and guards who had already talked to them, the stories matched which means they had nothing to worry about from the people who worked for them. Feran felt relief that his brothers concern with them was proven false. He knew he was just taking precaution but sometimes he wanted his brother to learn to trust a little more.
We should examine the area surrounding the rubble.” Feran said as they walked away.
“Do you think there will be any evidence left?” Arnold asked.
“Maybe not in the building, but around it.”
“Any panic may have covered the tracks of our culprit.”
“Maybe, but we have seen before how people like this work. They would have stuck around to see their work and even if they weren’t in the crowd, they may have had another vantage point. We should check any of the businesses close enough to see the fire, but far enough away they would not have been in any danger nor aroused suspicion.”
Arnold chuckled. “How I wish my mind was as clever as yours.”
“You and I both know I’ve spent my life being clever. It’s the curse of the youngest, always wanting to be better so their older siblings will be proud of them. I also liked being able to sneak off without you and father knowing, that takes cleverness.”
“And no self preservation.” Gildhardt added. “Sneaking into my encampment during the war wasn’t smart.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“You are right though, we’ll follow your lead brother and for the record, I have always been proud of you.” Arnold said as he tussled his brother’s hair, getting a glare in return.
They went to check the area surrounding the rubble first so there was less chance of someone ruining evidence but couldn’t manage to find much to tell them who had done this. Next Gildhardt, Feran and Arnold checked in with the business’s to see if anybody had been loitering awhile before the fire of had quickly come in moments before it started. They were glad when the owner in the very fist shop they walked in said there had been someone loitering “I thought it was weird myself how he came in so soon before the fire. He was obviously not shopping because he kept just looking that way. He stayed until a little bit before you showed up Feran”
“Do you remember what he looked like?” Arnold asked.
“Same height as Prince Gildhardt, but leaner, red hair. You wouldn’t miss him, he stuck out. He looked younger than our Prince Feran, maybe seventeen. I don’t know what such a young man is doing getting caught up in arson.”
“There are many reasons believe it or not.” GIldhardt replied. “Like if someone older told him to do.”
“For the glory of the people you mean.” Feran said. “It’s a form of brainwashing.”
“Do you remember which way he went?” Arnold asked.
“He turned right as soon as he left and that’s the last I saw of him.”
“Probably lost in the chaos, I’ll inform the patrol so they can keep a look out for him. He may be dangerous so I’ll have them tail him if they spot him.”
“I wish I could give you more.” The shop owner said.
“You did great, you gave us a good lead.” Feran said, giving him a smile that seemed to put him at ease.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Keep you ears and eyes open for us.”
It had been disheartening to not find anything around where the fire took place so they were all relieved to have something to work with. They quickly went to give the patrol the description before talking to the other nearby store front for good measure. That first owner was the only one with valuable information but it would have been foolish to not at least talk to the others who might know more. “I guess we’ll just have to go on that description for now. Hopefully we can find and interrogate him” Gildhardt said and Arnold suggested “maybe you two should take the time to let Feran rest. He may be okay but he still ran into a fire and inhaled all that nasty smoke”
“You know you can talk directly to me, I’m right here and perfectly fine.”
“But you never listen.”
“Yes I do and I’m really fine, my lungs feel great.”
“Gildhardt just do the thing.”
“What thing?” Feran asked and then Gildhardt lifted him over his shoulder and held tightly to him. “Hey put me down, this is embarrassing, everyone’s looking at us.”
“It’s for your own good little brother, you need to relax so stop fighting.”
“I hate both of you. Gildhardt you’re supposed to be my husband and you’re in cahoots with him, that’s unfair.” He tried shoving out of his grasp. “Why are you so strong?”
“Just send for us if you need us and if you happen to capture that guy, let us know.” Gildhardt said.
“Will do, just make sure he takes it easy.”
Feran struggled all the way home. He wanted to help and felt perfectly fine. “I wasn’t even in there that long Gildhardt”
“Better safe than sorry, especially with you my love. I need to know you’re okay. If I allowed you to needlessly push yourself and something happened I couldn’t bare it” They arrived in their room and only then did Gildhardt put him down. “if you try to leave without resting I’ll just pick you right back up and bring you back here. Please, just lay down, I’m going to lay with you” Feran could see Gildhardt was serious and he knew his lover could easily just bring him back if he left so he sighed and stripped down to his boxers so he could fully relax.
“Don’t be upset with me”
“come hold me and I’ll consider not being mad” Gildhardt smiled, stripped down to his boxers aswell and joined Feran, kissing him as soon as he was laying down. “You’re lucky you’re so handsome, makes it easier to forgive you going cave man like that” Gildhardt chuckled at his husbands remark “It’s out of love. I need to know you’re okay” Feran kissed him then cuddled up a little closer. Feran felt that same comfort and bliss that always washed over him in waves when they laid together like this and was soon sleeping, his body was more worn out than he realized. With how fast Feran passed out Gildhardt was glad he had carried him home to make him rest.
Gildhardt gently caressed Ferans cheek, enjoying how soft he was. He was incredibly happy they could really be together and grateful both their fathers were happy for them. He knew not all nobles were as lucky and free to love who they wanted like they were. Gildhardt would have been with Feran no matter who or what was against him but it was much nicer that everyone was so accepting. Gildhardt only stayed up admiring his husband a few minuets longer before closing his eyes to try and rest with him, he may aswell since they were laying down and Feran wasn’t awake to talk to.
It was the sound of banging on their bedroom door that had them both waking and before they were even able to get up, the door opened and Arnold stepped in, looking furious. “What’s wrong?” Feran asked as he slipped out of bed and grabbed his pants. Gildhardt did the same then tugged his boots on and grabbed his sword.
“Another fire, minor and he was there. He ran off as soon as he realized he had been made. One of your father’s men managed to wing him with an arrow. I’m getting to dogs ready and wondered if you two would like to accompany me.”
“Of course, do you think I’d just let you ride off by yourself.” Feran said as he finished buttoning his shirt. “And next time don’t just walk in, you could have seen something that would haunt you for the rest of your life.”
“I’m sure I’ve seen worse.”
Feran rolled his eyes as he grabbed his bow and quiver full of arrows. They followed Arnold downstairs and out where horses were waiting for them as well their hunting dogs. Their handler had a piece of cloth stained with blood and was letting the dogs get the scent off of it. Arnold nodded to him and he released the dogs, commanding them to get it and the three men followed them. ”
The dogs easily tracked the man down and they recognized him from the description and his wound right away. Gildhardt was off his horse first, his anger intensifying since this was the man who started the fire Feran ran into. He grabbed the man roughly “you’re coming back to the castle with us” The boy seemed terrified and offered no resistance as Gildhardt climbed back up on his horse while holding him. They took him back and inside to treat and then question him. Feran took the opportunity to take his husband aside and talk to him “calm down, he’s just brainwashed”
“I’ll try to remain calm. Hopefully he just cooperates”
“just dont go medieval on him okay” Gildhardt kissed him, taking Feran off guard again. Feran almost chuckled knowing he should be used to random kisses at this point. Gildhardt seemed to be overcome with need to press their lips together a lot.
Feran opted to be the one to talk to the young man who stared straight ahead, still looking scared out of his mind. The shop owner had been right when he said he was young, not that he himself was much older, but he had better things to do at seventeen than star fires. Feran sat down in front of the young man so they were eye to eye and gave him a gentle smile. “How is your wound?” The young man looked away. “It’s like that huh? Well I’m Feran, this is my husband Gildhardt and that’s my brother Arnold.”
“I know who you are.” He replied softly.
“Well that’s unfair, we don’t know you. What’s your name? Even a nickname will do.”
“I’m not supposed to say.”
“Why not? Did someone threaten you?” The young man shrugged. “Okay, then I’ll have to make up a name for you. What about Red. I kind of like Red, it’s like those fires you seem to fond of starting.”
“That’s a pretty name.”
“My parents wanted a girl.”
“But they kept the name. It’s still nice, I like it. So, who told you to start those fires?” He shrugged again and Gildhardt gave a irritated sigh. Feran looked up at him, giving him a smile that had be patient written all over it before turning his attention back to Ailios. “I know it’s not your fault, you’re young and you don’t seem like the fire starter type.”
“There’s a type?”
“Oh yeah, they go on and on about how cleansing fire is and how beautiful it is when it consumes something, they’re fanatical about it. They act like it’s a living, breathing thing, but you’re not like that. You did it because someone told you too.”
“I…I don’t want to talk anymore.”
Feran nodded. “That’s okay, I can’t force you.” He stood and turned to one of the guards. “Could you get him some food and water. I’ll be back later. Treat him like he’s a guest, a prisoner, but still a guest.”
“yes sir” His brother and Gildhardt followed him out ‘Thats a good tactic you’re using brother” Arnold praised when they were out of Ailios’s earshot. “I hope being patient and kind works out. I know you never know what’s in a persons soul but I don’t think he has a bad heart. I really think he’s just been brainwashed or he’s being bullied into doing what he’s doing.”
“when do you plan to talk to him again Feran?”
“I don’t know, I’ll give him an hour or two to eat and think for a bit”
“You’re far more patient than me my love.” Gildhardt said as he took Feran’s hand. “If he had been caught in my homeland, he would be black and blue by now. He’s lucky you were there or I may have paid him back for what he nearly did.”
“He didn’t make me run into that fire, Gildhardt, that was my choice.”
“But he set it and it in turn caused you to make such a dangerous decision.”
“And you came after me. It all worked out.”
“I wish I was as forgiving.”
“I know you were just scared and I understand, but please don’t hurt him or I’ll be very disappointed. I’d have to punish you.”
Gildhardt huffed. “I won’t do anything, I promise.”
“And Arnold, please don’t let him be harmed.”
“I’m giving you full control of the situation so unless he suddenly decides to hurt you, you can rest assured he will be treated with respect and decency.”
“Thank you, I’ll go talk to our fathers too just to be completely sure he isn’t abused in any way. They talked to their fathers and in a few hours time they returned to their prisoner. Feran was glad to see he was laying down comfortably and nothing visible had happened to him while they gave him time to think and see reason. “so, how’re you feeling? Have you been well taken care of?”
“do the other two have to be with you?”
“No” “yes” Feran and Gildhardt answered at the same time. Feran turned to him “No, they don’t. Please leave guys. I’ll be okay” Gildhardt wasn’t happy about it but he left anyway, knowing he might ruin what Feran was trying to do. While the two men did leave they stayed close so that if Feran so much as whimpered they would hear and be able to come running. “Now that they are gone will you answer how you are doing and if you were taken care of”
“the food was so good..I’ve never had food that good’
“Have you reconsidered talking to us. We aren’t terrible people no matter what whomever has been telling you. All we wanted with this union was to bring peace” Silence filled the chamber so Feran pleasded “please, animals and people alike are getting hurt in these fires. Innocent people Ailios, you seem to have a good heart. Do you really want to support who is hurting innocents just because they are angry?”
“You don’t understand.”
“I would if you told me, I’m a pretty good listener.”
Ailios’s eyes met his and there was real fear there. “He’s dangerous. It’s not just anger, it blind rage. He called your union a betrayal of country and kinsmen and he won’t stop, he doesn’t care what happens. He’s smart and he’ll kill me, blood or not.”
“Who is he to you?”
“My uncle. He raised me like his own, he taught me everything I know. He was devoted to Prince Gildhardt’s father, he even served with him, but now he’s angry, so angry that he will hurt anyone who gets in his way. I’m useless to him now, he’ll toss me out just like my parents did when I was a kid.” Feran could see the thought hurt Ailios and he reached over and patted his head. His brother and father used to do the same when he was upset and it always helped.
“What’s his name?”
“I can’t…he’s family…he’s blood.”
“But he’s hurting people and he’s using you Ailios, he’s using your trust. Tell me so we can stop him.”
“You’ll just kill him.”
“We won’t, I swear on my life. If he dies, you can take mine as payment.”
“Then tell me.”
“His name….” Alios sighed then finally said “His name is Thanh Menzel” Arnold saw Gildhardts face shift from serious to disbelief and he took off to warn his father. Someone he trusted implicitly was against him and the choices they had made and his father needed to know before this went from fires to something worse. Feran was in shock too “truly?”
“I’m being honest”
“Thank you” he turned to a guard “put him in a proper room and two of you stay to protect him. He set those fires, I know that but in telling us who he did it for I see it fit to pardon him but he isn’t to leave this castle’
“You’d give me a room?”
“You have a room here as long as you need it. I wont see you cast into the street by yourself. I’m serious, don’t blow this chance. Stay in your room” Feran left first “where is Gildhardt?”
“he went to quickly warn his father”
“good, let us join them”
“I heard you pardon Ailios. I agree with the call, I know dad will too”
“I believe he’s a victim too, a victim of loyalty to a man who he fears would kill or get rid of him. What kind of person does that to family. He has a lot of life ahead of him and I want to see him live it. Maybe we can be friends.”
Arnold tussled his hair and Feran glared at him. “Don’t look at me like that, you’re still my baby brother.”
“Who is Thanh Menzel?”
Feran looked surprised. “I’m shocked brother and you were even present at every one of father’s meetings. I am truly amazed.”
“He was one of Gildhardt’s father’s generals, well what we would call a general. Some called him the Grizzly of the North.”
Arnold’s eyes widened. Now that was a name he knew. There had been stories about if you met him on the battlefield, you should flee or prepare to die. “Seriously?”
“We never came face to face with him since he was back in Gildhardt’s homeland, but even at his age, he’s dangerous.”
“It’s a shame age hasn’t given him the wisdom to see the good in ending the war and bringing harmony”
“Older doesn’t always mean wiser” In one of the largest man hunts Feran had ever seen everyone at the kingdoms disposal was sent to look for Thanh Menzel. He was found and brought back before the sun rose the next day. “How could you?” Gildhardts father asked. His voice was heavy with hurt and anger. “How could you?” Thanh returned the question “I can’t stand behind this decision”
“It isn’t your choice Thanh. Everyone seems to be relieved aside from you”
“They just don’t know any better’
“Thanh, I’ve always thought of us as a friend. Please, reconsider your stance”
“I thought you were my friend until you pulled this” Gildhardts father sighed “Put him in a cell and make sure it’s heavily guarded”
“yes sir” Thanh was taken away and Ferans father said “I’ll continue to let you have full say over what happens. I’d wish the same if it were someone I was close to”
Feran left with Gildhardt, feeling a little tired after all of this. He had to inform Ailios that his uncle was being imprisoned downstairs, the young man deserved to know. “Are you alright?” Gildhardt asked.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but now I actually want you to carry me around, that was tiring and stressful. I’m glad I won’t be taking over when father steps down. I also feel bad for your father.”
“I never expected Thanh to betray us. I knew he had certain views, but I thought he would go along with father’s choice even if he hated it. A lot of people were unsure at first.”
“He isn’t unsure, he hates us.”
They walked hand in hand up to Ailios’s room and knocked on his door. Ailios pulled it open, looking worried. “Oh, did something happen?”
“We managed to catch your uncle.” Feran replied.
“Is he alright?”
“Do you think I could see him? Do you think he’d see me?”
“You can go down if you wish, but please take your guards. I want to trust you, but you have to understand that others may not be ready.”
“I understand, thank you.”
Feran hoped his Uncle wouldn’t be cruel to him or at least would eventually come around. As soon as Ailios was on his way with guards Gildhardt swept Feran off his feet and took him back to their room to rest. Once they were comfortably in bed Gildhardt said “I still want to push our fathers into settling where our home is soon but I think we should give them a day or two more after what my father has just been through”
“yeah, I hate this”
“at least the kingdom is safe once more. I’m sure Ailios would have told us if there were others responsible”
“yeah” They gave their fathers the space they needed for a few days then sat down with them and made them stay in one room until a place was settled on so building could commence. It took hours but they did decide and that very day started getting things going. Feran was over the moon with excitement and he could tell from Gildhardts smile how happy he was about it aswell. Things should finally be peaceful now and soon they would have their own space. Feran didn’t think things could get better but then again Gildhardt had a way of surprising him.
~ The End