Don't hold back. I can take criticism, as long as it's constructive - i.e. helping me make it better. I need not so much grammar, spelling and punctuation corrected (that comes much later), but rather content feedback. Am I telling a story, or are you bored to tears...?
The theme is Medieval/Fantasy.
„What do you think of this one, my lord?“ the servant accompanying the young knight asked diffidently.
Reynard de Lyon looked around the horse market and sniffed in annoyance. Fenced corrals on either side of the dusty, hard-packed road held anywhere from one to ten horses of different sizes and breeds. There were heavy plough-horses, wide as barn-doors, with hoofs the size of small bucklers and thick manes full of straw and hay. Then there were the dainty mares, slim of leg, with soft eyes and plaited manes, smooth lines and soft backs, meant for a lady’s pleasure. But nowhere did he see what he really wanted: a spirited, well built horse, meant for hunt and chase, but with good character and even disposition.
The horse that the servant had pointed out was spirited, yes. But his handler had his hands full, trying to keep the horse from shying and bucking. Nervous, then. Not the right character for a hunter. Reynard shook his head. There was nothing here so far that he could use.
They wandered on, immersed in a sea of noise and dust. Horse traders called out the virtues of their beasts at the top of their voices, the horses stamped and neighed, carts rumbled past with stacks of hay and straw perched high.
Reynard had wanted to look for a hunter ever since his bond-lord, Etienne de Longechamps had informed him that they would join the king for the High Hunt this coming fall. But duties kept him from wandering around the horse market until now. It was late in the summer, the heat making the horses irritable. Flies were everywhere, feeding on the droppings of various beasts, biting both humans and horses equally. It had not rained for weeks, so the dust was heavier than ever, gathering in the still air, like a thick mist. Both horses and men were covered liberally with the stuff.
The servant swept ahead, trying to clear the road for his lord, while keeping an eye out for possible horse-flesh that might interest his master. His tabard of blue and cream, quartered with the coat of arms of de Longechamps, had taken on an even shade of gray, covered as it was with dust. He could see the end of the market coming up. So far, nothing he had suggested, had met with the standards the young lord had set. The servant despaired slowly of ever finding something that his master would like.
But there were still a few corrals coming up. Those at the very end were often filled only at the last moment, always being kept open for late comers to the market. Sometimes, the traders came from far away and did not arrive at the beginning of the market fair, but rather more closely to the end. Those were given the farthest corrals, so as not to disturb the established marketers. Perhaps they would be lucky and find something there. Then he could spend the rest of the afternoon in the nearby tavern, indulging in some new ale that the inn-keeper had been brewing. It was his reward for joining his young lord at the fair. But only if they were successful.
Brushing more dust off his wine-red velvet tunic, Reynard desperately wished for a tankard of that ale himself. But he was determined to find a horse for himself. This was the last chance for this year, since there would be no more fairs after this one until next spring. He pulled at his sword belt, trying to lighten the weight pulling at his left hip. There was a band of sweat underneath the belt. It would soak into the fabric and ruin the velvet, if he was out here much longer.
Fine. He would only check two more corrals and then go back to the castle. Perhaps his bond-lord would know a reliable source for a hunter among his many acquaintances. He could always ask him when he returned from the outlying pastures with the yearlings.
On the other hand, Reynard hated having to ask anything of Etienne. It was bad enough, being his bond-mate. He had not asked to be bound to Etienne, but having no alternative, he’d given in to his father’s dying wish. The bond had joined two large and powerful estates, now being jointly governed by Reynard and Etienne. Though as bond-lord, Etienne’s word had precedence.
And Etienne had absolutely no hesitation where the weight of his word was concerned. Even if he occasionally asked Reynard’s opinion, in the end, all decisions were Etienne’s. Reynard hated it. He hated the whole situation. And even in bed, Etienne was no charmer. He took what he wanted, when he wanted. Oh, he made sure to pleasure Reynard and bring him to fulfillment. But most important in Etienne’s mind was his own pleasure. He loved to tease and torture Reynard, often chaining him to the bed and ravishing him for hours on end, not allowing him completion until he, himself had come several times already.
Sometimes, in the deep of the night, Reynard dreamed of a lover that shared the pleasure with him. That did not just take, but gave, too. That took his time and explored every part of Reynard’s body, rather than just using him.
And sometimes, Reynard dreamed of killing his lord and fleeing into far lands, to get away from the cruelty and abuse. But that was folly – he was more likely to be immediately discovered and killed himself, should he lay hand on his lord. Besides, Etienne was a much better swordsman and warrior than Reynard would ever be.
Lost in thought, Reynard had not noticed that they had reached the last corral until the servant called out to him.
“What is it?” Reynard squinted through the dust at the horses gathered at the far side of the corral.
“I think we may have found what you were seeking,” the servant replied, waving a hand in the direction of the milling horses.
“Hn,” Reynard replied skeptically. But he stepped closer to the corral, trying to get a good look at the horses inside. Leaning up against the wooden fence, he studied the animals on the far side. Though covered in dust, like all the other horses in the market, their clean strong lines were unmistakable. Here was what he had been looking for!
Excited, he looked around for the attending trader, but there was no one around. Unable to contain his curiosity, he wandered along the side of the corral, until he reached the horses, all the while watching their movements, their interaction with each other. These were all hunters, just like he had hoped. As he watched them mingle, one in particular caught his eye. Underneath all the dust, the horse’s colour looked to be a dark even gray, the mane a lighter cream. There were no patches of any kind, that he could see. The muscles moved smoothly underneath the skin, bunching and relaxing easily. The legs were long, tapering into strong fetlocks, the hoofs even and well-shod. The eyes were clear and full of intelligence.
When Reynard tentatively stretched out his bare hand towards the horse, murmuring low nonsense words, it did not shy, but rather approached slowly. Sniffing at his sweaty hand, it brushed its soft lips over his palm, searching for some treat.
“I’m sorry, I have nothing with me to give to you,” Reynard said to the horse, regret coloring his voice. The horse’s ears swiveled forward at the sound of his voice and it stepped even closer, so that the young knight could stroke along the hard cheek and long neck. The gray whuffled softly into his blond hair as he continued to murmur into its ear and scratch lightly underneath its mane.
“Lovely, isn’t he?” a low voice said behind him, startling both man and horse. The gray threw up its head and whickered in recognition. Then it moved back, leaving Reynard to turn around to the owner of that voice.
The first thing he saw was green eyes, the green of a meadow after a spring rain. They were set in a strong, pleasant square face, clean-shaven, surmounted by short russet hair. The skin was faintly reddened from the sun, lightly sprinkled with freckles across the nose. The lips were full and curved in a slight smile. Dark green leathers molded along a well-shaped body, strong, muscular legs ended in thigh high black riding boots. The sword at his left was tucked away in a plain, well used scabbard, but the hilt was crowned with a large emerald.
Not a trader, then, nor a servant.
Reynard turned back to the gray horse that had come back to the fence; curious as to what these humans were doing so close to the corral. Letting the horse lip at his hand again he answered, “He’s certainly curious.”
“Yes, he is,” the other man replied, stepping up to the gray’s other side and running a gloved hand up and down the horse’s neck. “Are you looking for a hunter?”
“I am. These are the first that I have seen at the market,” Reynard answered, not looking at the disconcertingly handsome young man.
“There is not much call for hunters these days. War horses are more in demand,” the other replied. “But we have a long tradition of breeding hunters. They are the finest to be had.”
The young man was certainly earnest enough, his words had the ring of truth to them. But still, it would not do to give in too soon.
Reynard studied the other man out of the corner of his eye. He moved as smoothly and easily as his horses. His face was open and friendly, and altogether very handsome to look at. Reynard studied how the muscles moved underneath the leather, the way the hands were sure on the horse’s neck and head. Handsome, indeed.
Deep inside, Reynard felt something stir that he had not felt in a long time. Lust. Lust and Desire. It swept through him like a wave of heat, coloring his cheeks with a faint blush. How he wanted to reach over and brush his hands through the russet curls, to draw a finger over the lips to see if they were as soft as they looked. He wanted to follow the curve of the spine and the swell of the buttocks, to feel them clench underneath his hand. Reynard looked down, tearing his eyes away with difficulty. He hoped that the other had not noticed.
“Would you be willing to show them?” Reynard asked the ground. If he did not decided today, but rather asked the trader to come to him, perhaps he would be able to find some reason to spend more time with the man.
“Certainly. Where do you wish to have them shown, and when?”
“Tomorrow, after the noon bell, in the castle courtyard. Ask for me, Reynard de Lyon.”
“It will be my pleasure,” the other man replied. Then he stretched his hand forward. “I am Mathew de Bois.”
“De Bois? But I thought…”
“Yes, usually it is my father that brings the horses to the fair, together with the trader. But my father had other obligations this season, and the trader fell ill, so I chose to come instead. Will I do?”
If ever there had been a question full of double meanings, this one certainly qualified. Oh yes, he would do very nicely, Reynard thought. Very nicely in my bed. But then he remembered that he was bonded to another. He quickly chased the errant thoughts away. At least for the moment.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, de Bois. I look forward to seeing your merchandise on the morrow,” Reynard replied, joining his hand to de Bois’ in a firm grip. Oh yes, he was looking forward to the next day, indeed!