Steve spent the next hour or so learning the names of all the world's leaders, and their relative importance to Pacificana. Marcellus drilled him on the information, occasionally asking questions about things they'd already covered, like the name of a certain duke, or the ascension year of one of King Stephen's ancestors. Steve got all the answers right, and Marcellus praised him highly. "You have an excellent memory," he said. "I think we can begin your next set of lessons now."
"Yes. I believe you are well enough now to learn the physical skills a king is required to know. How many forms of combat are you familiar with?"
Steve couldn't suppress a laugh. "I'm sorry, sir," he said. "But I don't know any kind of formal combat. I've been in a few fist fights, some of which I actually won, but that's about it."
"You know nothing of sword handling or archery?"
"No, Your Highness."
Marcellus looked perplexed. "But how do you defend yourself against attack?"
"Well, usually, if someone attacks you without a weapon, you just fight back as best you can, or try to escape if they're stronger than you are. If they have a knife, you might still be able to fight, but it's usually better to just try to run away. And if they have a gun... well, you just do what they say and hope it's good enough."
Marcellus still looked confused. "What is a gun?" he asked.
Steve raised his eyebrows. "Oh. Duh. Um... a gun works sort of like a cannon, only it's much smaller." Steve stopped, noticing the blank look on Marcellus' face. "You don't have those either, do you?"
"We do not."
"Okay... You have crossbows?"
"Great! It's like that. But it's made out of metal, and it's small enough to fit in your hand." It was Marcellus' turn to raise his eyebrows. "The bullets are sort of like tiny arrowheads, and they're usually about this big," Steve said, holding his finger and thumb about an inch apart. "But they move so fast that they can go all the way through your body, and if they hit you in the right place, it's usually fatal. You can't really escape them, either, unless you're already running and doing a lot of dodging. If someone is threatening you with a gun and they're fairly close to you, it's pretty much impossible to do anything about it."
Marcellus shook his head. "Astounding."
"Yeah, no kidding."
"I am glad that we have no such weapons here. But you must learn to defend yourself with the weapons we do have. Especially now, when attempts have been made on your life. The most important skill will, of course, be swordsmanship. I believe we should begin now." Marcellus called an attendant and ordered that the gymnasium be cleared so that the king could use it. While that was being done, Marcellus led Steve to the sword case. "Can you name the parts of a sword?"
"Well, that's the blade, and that's the hilt, right?" Steve asked.
"Yes. And the parts of the hilt?" Steve shook his head. Marcellus pointed to the ball at the bottom of the hilt. "This is the pommel. This is the grip, and this is the crossguard," he said, pointing to the "handle" and the straight piece of metal just above it. "It is designed to keep you from cutting yourself on the blade."
"Ah," Steve said.
"This," he continued, pointing out the lower half of the sword, "is called the forte. It is the strongest part of a sword. The foible is the weaker part. This groove that runs along the length of the blade is called the fuller. It helps keep swords light, without compromising their strength. We will not, of course, be using real weapons for practice. We have wooden swords which have been fashioned to be nearly identical to a true blade in weight and balance." Marcellus took the sword out of its case and handed it to Steve. "Hold it for a while to acclimate yourself to the feel of it."
Steve turned the sword in his hand, and looked at it. It was really beautiful. The blade, which was about three feet long, was shiny and perfect looking. The crossguard was ornately designed, and the hilt had a comfortable grip to it. The pommel had a white gem in the center. "Would he ever use these to fight?" Steve asked.
"Generally, no. These swords are functional, and could be used effectively if for some reason the king was attacked while on a regular outing and the attackers got through his guards. But swords like these would not be used if the king were going into battle."
Steve tested the sword for a few more minutes, holding it in different positions, and swinging it carefully when he was sure he wouldn't slice any curtains or anything. Soon, an attendant came to tell them that the gymnasium had been cleared, and the king could go whenever he was ready. Guards escorted them to yet another downstairs room Steve had never been in. This room was quite large, and looked just like what it was. A giant gym. There were rings and double bars, and primitive looking dumbbells and barbells. There were also things he'd never seen in a gym before. There were bows on special racks, with several quivers full of arrows hanging on pegs nearby. There were tall wooden poles which Steve assumed were used for staff fighting, and there were several racks holding wooden swords of different varieties, as well as several shields.
Marcellus asked the guards to wait outside the door and see that they were not disturbed under any circumstances. Then he led Steve to the far wall, where there were several screens sectioning off a fairly large portion of the room. Behind them were a few benches and several plain wardrobes with words etched on each door, labeling their contents. "All right," Marcellus said. "Time to dress for practice." He went through the proper "lockers" and pulled out a pair of knee pads, leg guards (shin and thigh), upper and lower arm guards, chest padding and head guards for each of them. Steve's eyes widened at all the body armor, and he started to get nervous. What on earth are we about to do? Marcellus began putting on the protective gear, and Steve followed his example. When they were suited up, Marcellus flexed a little, and suggested that Steve do so as well. "Make sure that you can move freely. If you feel any constraints, we may need to adjust your gear." Steve did as he was told, and when they had both warmed up for a few minutes, Marcellus led Steve back to the swords. "Choose the one that feels most comfortable," he said.
Steve tested several of the swords, trying to find one that felt right. Finally, he found one that was just right. The leather grip fit his hand perfectly, and the balance was very similar to the one he'd tried out in his bedroom. "Okay," he said. "I like this one." Marcellus didn't answer, and when Steve looked at him, he was staring from Steve to the sword with wide eyes. "What is it?" Steve asked. "Did I choose yours?"
Marcellus shook his head. "Not mine. His. Stephen always practices with that sword."
"Really?" Steve looked down at the sword, wondering if the real King Stephen was off doing something he'd always done. "This is bizarre."
"Indeed it is." Marcellus shook his head. "We should begin." He picked out a sword quickly, leading Steve to believe that he favored one sword for practice as well. Then they each picked out shields, and Marcellus showed Steve how to put it on properly. Then they began the lesson.
Marcellus showed Steve how to stand properly, and how to hold the sword in the "en guarde" position. He went through several different attacks, showing Steve how to defend himself against each one, then how to perform the attacks himself. "You told me you had never studied swordsmanship before," Marcellus said after Steve did the first series of attacks on his own.
"I haven't," Steve said.
Marcellus seemed impressed. "Then you are a natural talent. You performed those attacks with the grace and skill of one who has studied for some time."
Steve smiled, pleased by the high praise. "Thank you."
"You are welcome. I believe we can try some more advanced techniques."
With that, Marcellus began showing Steve some trickier moves. Steve had to practice most of them a few times before he got them right, but Marcellus still seemed to be impressed by how quickly he picked everything up. He taught him progressively more difficult attacks and defenses, then drilled him on precision techniques. After a few hours of practicing, they stopped for lunch. Marcellus told the attendants that they would serve themselves, so that he could discuss some of the finer points of Steve's techniques. After they ate, Marcellus decided they could give swordplay a rest, and try the staff.
Steve was not a natural at the staff. The big, unwieldy stick dropped from his hands on the slightest provocation. He had his feet swept from under him at least twice, and he'd been tapped on the arms, chest and legs more times than he could count. When, for what seemed like the hundredth time, he'd been forced to show throat and surrender, Marcellus sighed and helped him up yet again. "Perhaps we should retire for the evening and start again tomorrow."
Steve sighed and rubbed a kink in his back. "Thank you," he said. "I'm sorry I'm so awful at this. You must be disappointed."
"Of course not," Marcellus said. "You have never touched the staff in your life before today. I do not expect you to wield it perfectly right away. Besides, I think it may be that you are still too weak from your injury to have endured so much physical activity in one day."
"Thanks," Steve said, smiling. "It's nice of you to give me the benefit of the doubt." Marcellus smiled back and led Steve to the "locker room" to take off their padding. Steve winced at the soreness in his limbs and back. "Man, I haven't been knocked on my ass this much since Junior High."
Marcellus chuckled. "I will have an attendant give you a massage when you return to your quarters, and you shall have a hot bath after that. It should help with the aches."
"Sounds great." They returned to the upstairs quarters and Steve received his promised massage, while Marcellus went off to his room to enjoy some pampering of his own. Steve nearly fell asleep during the massage, and it was all he could do not to just crawl into bed as soon as the attendant announced he was finished. He got back into the tub after a slight hesitation, wherein he had to remind himself that it was just water this time. He did fall asleep in the tub, waking up when he started to slip down into the water. He washed off quickly and got up, before I sit here and drown, he thought. He let the attendants dress him in his night clothes, then got into bed.
Sometime in the middle of the night, Steve awoke startled, with the intense feeling that someone was watching him. He sat up and looked around the room, body tense and heart pounding. He could see the silhouette of a male figure standing in the shadows near the door. His heart began to pound even faster. He wasn't anywhere near a sword, and he really didn't want to have to put this protection spell to the test. He was considering yelling for help, when the figure raised his hand. "Please don't be afraid."
"Marcellus?!" Steve put a hand to his chest and sighed. "Jesus, you almost gave me a heart attack!"
"It's okay," Steve said, trying to calm down. "I'm sorry I snapped at you. I guess I'm a little strung out right now."
Steve frowned. Something about Marcellus' voice didn't sound right. He usually sounded confident and upbeat. Now, he sounded almost depressed. He stayed in the shadows and said nothing for several moments. Steve cleared his throat. "Are... are you all right, your Highness?"
There was a sigh from the doorway. Marcellus came to stand near the bed. The moonlight fell on his face, and Steve was surprised to see that his eyes were red. "I miss Stephen," he said.
"Oh," Steve said. He tugged at the sheets nervously, uncomfortable under Marcellus' keen gaze. "Um... I'm sorry. Do you want to talk about it?"
"You are so like him," Marcellus said, his voice husky.
Steve swallowed. He recognized that tone immediately. His assumption was confirmed when Marcellus pulled off his robe and let it fall to the floor. He wore only the simple underpants, and Steve got an excellent look at his smooth, perfect chest and strong arms. Marcellus suddenly yanked back the covers and climbed into the bed. Startled, Steve scooted away, but Marcellus just grabbed his arm and pulled him closer. Steve started to breathe faster, noticing the desperate, hungry look in Marcellus' eyes. Whatever he was about to do, Steve didn't think he would be able to stop it. He didn't think he wanted to, either.
Marcellus reached down and pulled Steve's gown up and over his head, tossing it behind him. He reached for Steve's underwear next, pulling them off roughly and tossing them after the gown. Never taking his eyes off Steve, Marcellus removed his own underwear and tossed them behind him as well. Steve scooted away again, unnerved by the ravenous look on Marcellus' face. Marcellus grabbed his legs and yanked him back down to the bed with a growl. He grabbed Steve's arms and pinned them to the bed above his head. Instinctively, Steve struggled, but Marcellus gripped his wrists more tightly, and pressed harder. Steve saw the dangerous gleam in Marcellus' eyes, and started to whimper. "Don't fight," Marcellus said hoarsely. "I won't hurt you."
Steve nodded, breaths coming faster, heart pounding. Marcellus released one of Steve's arms, and gently removed the bandage from Steve's neck. He took hold of Steve's arm again, then bent his head. Steve could feel a breath of air on his neck just before Marcellus started licking. Steve whimpered again, this time for a different reason. He raised his head to expose more of his neck to Marcellus. The prince took full advantage of that, avoiding the wound, but striving to lick and suck every inch of Steve's neck that he could. Eventually, he moved up, drawing his tongue across Steve's jawline, and nibbling at his ear. He paused for a moment to study Steve's face, drinking in his features. He started to lightly lick Steve's lips, eliciting more whimpering and a few shudders. Finally, he kissed Steve, deeply and passionately. Steve moaned, wishing he had a hand free so he could grab his hair and yank him closer. Not that a dime could have been squeezed between them. Marcellus let the kiss linger, but instead of getting calmer, he grew more frantic. The kiss got deeper and deeper, sending shivers through Steve. He responded eagerly, swirling his tongue around Marcellus', exploring his mouth and trying to reach as deep as he could. When the kiss finally broke, Marcellus went immediately back to licking Steve's neck.
After several minutes, when Steve thought he would scream from all the attention, Marcellus moved down. He started licking Steve's chest and greedily sucking at his nipples. Marcellus kept at it, moving from one to the other in quick succession. Steve had to bite his lip to keep from screaming. When he'd apparently had his fill, Marcellus moved even further down, pulling Steve's arms with him, so he could keep his hold on them. Steve's breath grew even faster, and he moaned in anticipation. Marcellus made his way down, licking and nibbling every available inch of Steve's torso, as if he wanted to devour him. By the time he reached his goal, Steve was in a tizzy, moaning and rocking frantically. At last, Marcellus took Steve into his mouth, and he couldn't hold back any longer. He screamed, no doubt waking up the entire second floor of the castle. He couldn't bring himself to care. Marcellus groaned appreciatively and sucked harder. Steve let himself go, thinking about nothing else but the sensations. He bucked and writhed, trying to push as much of himself into Marcellus' mouth as he could. Marcellus responded favorably, alternately sucking and swirling his tongue over Steve in maddeningly delicious circles.
Just before Steve reached the edge, Marcellus stopped sucking him and moved back up, laying on top of Steve and pumping his hips against him. The feel of Marcellus' body against his own sent violent shudders through him. He wrapped his legs around Marcellus and held him tight, wanting him as close as possible. They continued to pump in rhythm with one another, bodies moving faster and faster in their excitement. Finally, when the anticipation reached a fever pitch, Marcellus lifted up suddenly. Marcellus went back to kissing Steve's neck, moving more calmly this time. The glorious tingling sensation on top of everything else was almost too much for Steve to handle. He pressed himself even harder against Marcellus, but the prince just drew further away, until Steve couldn't reach him. Steve whimpered plaintively, but Marcellus only shushed him, adding a tickling breath of air to the already super-sensitive skin on Steve's neck.
Slowly, Marcellus moved Steve's arms up over his head, so that he could hold them both with one hand. Then, with his free hand, he gently turned Steve over onto his stomach. Steve's breaths started to come in swift gasps and he began to tremble, part nervousness, part anticipation. Marcellus slowly lowered himself onto Steve, gently pushing inside him. Steve groaned and gripped the sheets, pushing back to meet him. When Marcellus was fully covered, he pressed just a little harder, then began to move. He pumped, slowly and rhythmically, making Steve hunger for more. He rocked in time with Marcellus, body quaking, his skin sensitive to every touch. Still pumping, Marcellus started to kiss Steve's back, warm, moist lips sending shivers through his spine. Steve cried out, and started to pump faster. Marcellus met his pace, the kisses getting more frantic as well. They moved faster and faster, and Marcellus pushed harder and harder, until, finally, he pushed in as deep as he could go, and then some. He pressed deeper and deeper, until Steve thought he would cry from the pain/pleasure. Then, Marcellus screamed, and at the same time, Steve could feel something warm and wet flowing inside him. It was more than Steve could stand. Back arched completely, body quaking, and with a scream to rival Marcellus', Steve came. As a unit, Steve and Marcellus collapsed onto the bed.
Several minutes passed before either of them was able to move. When he could, Marcellus pulled away and rolled onto the bed. He pulled Steve closer and spooned him. Steve snuggled into Marcellus' arms, finding his embrace, and the touch of his body extremely comforting. They lay together and just breathed for several minutes, until the adrenaline finally wore off, and they fell asleep.