It was midnight and their train had deposited the three Cubs in Rechtenberg's Bahnhof. Boro and his comrades gave them a restrained farewell before getting on the bus to join their unit, encamped somewhere in the vicinity of the city. They had been subdued and nervous around Toby in ways that even Vuk had noticed, despite not understanding a word the Rothenian soldiers were saying.
The three stood in the empty forecourt of the station somewhat at a loss as the distant cathedral bells chimed the hour. 'So here we are in Rothenia,' Kristijan eventually said. 'Amazing luck those guys knowing your cousins.'
'Wasn't it,' Toby observed drily.
'There're no more trains,' Vuk said. 'And we need somewhere to stay. I dozed on the way, but I could do with a bed. Got any cousins here, Tovyan?'
'None that I know of. We've still got our money. Boro got us through the barrier without anyone asking for a ticket.'
'There may be a hostel. This is a tourist place isn't it?' He led them to the local information board and they found the requisite symbol marked. The hostel was not far away, in a converted warehouse in the back streets behind the station. There was still a light on, and although the warden wasn't enthusiastic he admitted there was a room they could occupy. In the present circumstances, backpackers were rare in Rothenia.
There was only one bed, and when the three boys had stripped and washed in a basin, they nestled together, one on either side Toby, their warmth and silky flesh making him rapidly very excited.
Kristijan's hands strayed to Toby's groin and felt around. He giggled. 'Any chance of relief?' Then he blushed remembering that Vuk was there too.
Vuk got up on his elbow. 'It's alright, Kris. Tovyan told me what you two got up to. Yeah, I need it too. Are you sure you want to do this with us?'
Kristijan nodded, his excitement at the offer likewise obvious.
Vuk leaned back against the head of the bed, spread his legs and the others got to work on him, Toby on his nipples and Kris on his cock. Then, since it was just too tempting, Toby got behind Kris and pulled back the boy's thickening erection from between his legs and got busy on him.
In this position Kristijan's hole was exposed, so Toby followed his instincts and moved up, burying his face between the boy's pert and curved buttocks, working hard at the salty and pungent crack. Kris was so stunned at the new sensations that he let Vuk go, and knelt on all fours gasping and squirming as Toby licked around his entry. Vuk watched the two for a while, then got behind Toby and unceremoniously worked his way into his boyfriend as Toby continued to rim away at Kris.
Toby disengaged from Kris's hole as he felt himself penetrated. With Vuk pressing him forward, he moved up against Kris's back and rubbed his straining cock along the boy's wet channel. There were no words, but the pressure back against him gave consent. Toby found the spot and began pushing. It was easier than entering Vuk had been. A moment of resistance, and Kris was moaning as he lost his virginity to Toby's determined thrust. Then Toby found himself fucking away at Kris as he was being fucked in turn by Vuk. It took a lot of coordination but as both his friends held still Toby found himself the active partner between the two passive bodies. It was awesome. He was fucking and being fucked simultaneously. He just wished he could have kept going longer, but it took more effort than he could maintain.
He pulled out of Kris before he was anywhere near coming. Vuk left Toby and took his place on Kris's back, pounding him so hard he had the boy giving muffled yells into the pillow. After he had come, Toby remounted Kris and energetically added his own ejaculation to the wet, hot mess inside Kris, deeply excited at mixing his own seed with his lover's in another boy's hole.
The three lay exhausted, and it took a while till they could revisit the basin to clean up. Then without words, they got under the covers and drifted off, Kris spooned up around Toby, who was holding Vuk.
The clatter around the hostel woke them early. Vuk kissed Kristijan. 'You okay? We didn't plan last night, it just happened.'
Kristijan smiled. 'It's fine, Vukašin. I'm so happy it was Tovyan who took my cherry. It couldn't have been better. I want to be gay like you, and it was just right when you both came in me ... though my ass hurts like fuck this morning.'
'Then let me do this for you.' Vuk took Kris's cock in his mouth took him to an erection and brought him off, while Toby kissed and stroked Kris's body.
There was no shower, so they washed off what remained of the night's excesses and dressed. Untroubled by the necessity, Toby and Kristijan watched Vuk shave with a toilet pack he'd bought from the hostel. 'Gotta be smart today,' he observed as he wiped off the foam. 'I have a feeling things'll be happening. Gotta look as good as I can for your cousins, my baby.'
Toby's heart sank. Their erotic play with Kristijan had taken his mind off what had to happen today.
They found that a few euros could buy a rudimentary breakfast downstairs in the hostel, and as they sampled some rather dry croissants and bottles of fruit juice, Toby caught the news playing on a radio from the kitchen. Vuk observed his distraction and raised an eyebrow. Toby responded by telling him that there was a report that the Horde had entered the Slovak Republic overnight, and that Bratislava was being shelled.
Kristijan grimaced. 'Can't escape the bastards, can we. The fuckers seem to follow us wherever we go. Let's just hope that the Red Elphberg can do his stuff.'
Despite his distraction, Toby registered yet once more this faith in the Prince of Elphberg amongst people who lived far away from Rothenia. 'Why are you so sure he can do it?'
Kristijan shrugged. 'Everyone says that if anyone is a match for Malik-rammu, it can only be Rudolf Elphberg. He's defeated terrorists and gangsters, and his army is the best in Europe. The Rothenians will beat the shit out of the Horde. We have to count on him, he's our last hope.'
Somehow this sort of desperate confidence in one man's ability's depressed Toby. And then he realised what had to be Atib's objective. To remove this last bastion of the West's self-confidence would lead to despair and its total collapse. That's why Malik had expended him. It would be a fair trade as far as Malik was concerned.
The fortress of Kaleczyk was like an anthill: teeming but nonetheless ordered and purposeful. Lance and his brother remained at their desks, Mike transcribing and passing on Horde signals while Lance analysed the material from Wendel.
'Officer!' Mike called out and shot up to stand rigidly at attention.
'Easy,' enjoined Major Terry O'Brien, which was just as well, since Lance hadn't even registered his arrival. 'So angel babes, what's new?'
Mike looked appalled at the inappropriate endearment from a senior officer. Lance just grinned. 'Hi, Uncle Terry! Brigade told me to try to work out what I could of the infiltrators' purposes before you go over to round them up. It's not easy but it's clear that they're not the only group of Horde fifth columnists in the country. Here's some bad news. They've discovered the state of Kaleczyk's defence and are transmitting the intelligence back to their general staff.'
'Crap. We'd hoped it would come as a nasty shock. Any more about the other groups in Rothenia?'
'Not really. But at least one of their units is supposed to rendezvous with another squad tomorrow at Luchau.'
'Now that's interesting. Your Uncle Justy's down in the camp with a detachment of disguised jäger commandos. I'll pass that news on.'
'Whatchu going to do about it, er ... sir?'
Terry grinned. 'Since yer ask, Private Atwood, my plan is to let those two units meet up at Luchau, and see where it leads us. Captain Peacher-White and his selected guys will shadow them. As soon as that bunch leave the camp, I have a company of the Sixteenth ready to round up the remainder and move them to a different sort of camp we're setting up in the basement of this mountain.'
'Cool. Uncle Terry, I got an idea.'
'Permission to think, private.'
'Cheers. We can transmit from here as much as monitor. Once you round up the Horde infiltrators in the camp there'll be a suspicious silence from Wendel. Mike and I can fill it. We can counterfeit their signals and maybe feed misleading info to the Horde's generals.'
Terry beamed. 'My boy, you make me proud. It's all that hanging round with Daimey. You're a regular little Satan.'
'It's in the blood, Uncle Terry.'
Convoys of military vehicles were clogging the streets of Rechtenberg under the granite outcrop of its fortress. Military police had taken over traffic control in the garrison city, and trains north were being cancelled, though the line to the capital was still open. Toby bought their tickets and then they found themselves struggling to reach the packed platform through dense crowds. There was no chance. The nine o'clock train went without them, and they had a long wait for the next.
When it arrived the train was late, and there was a near riot as people crammed on. The Cubs found themselves standing jammed into a corner next to the somewhat smelly loos on the old-fashioned Rot-Bahn commuter diesel. Eventually, shuddering and sluggish, the over-populated train headed for Zenden. It was not till it made its stop at that city that they found a seat on the wooden benches of their carriage.
It took three hours before they reached the outskirts of Strelzen. Kristijan was staring out the window. 'This is the furthest I've ever been from home,' he confessed. 'I never thought I'd get to see Rothenia. Are those towers the cathedral?'
'Yes. Up there's the Staramesten, the Old City.'
'Is that where the king lives?'
'No, the royal palace is in the New City. It's called the Residenz. The Elphbergs have lived there since the sixteenth century.'
Kristijan smiled approvingly. 'You know such a lot, Tovyan. You're almost supernatural.'
'Aren't I just,' Toby sighed.
The train slowly pulled into the Kung-Rodolfs-Bahnhof, under its vast Victorian canopies of iron and glass. Kristijan stared up as they made their way to the barriers. There were a lot of police and military personnel in evidence. A column of reservists in battle dress and full packs marched down the opposite platform as they watched, boarding a troop train. Families were waving them off as they passed through the gates. There was no doubt the Cubs were in a country readying itself for war.
Out in the sunlight beyond the station concourse they stared round at the busy streets of Strelzen. Toby recalled that his friends were both country boys unused to an urban environment. It was up to him. He knew this city well enough, and led Vuk and Kristijan north along Königstrasse, with its wide pavements and tall Second Empire mansion blocks. The other two were gaping around at the red trams, the shops and the crammed streets.
They took the underpass to cross the busy Festungstrasse junction and Toby, with some resignation headed towards the Rodolferplaz. 'That's a Macdonalds!' called out Kristijan. 'I've never been in one. Is it time for lunch?'
Despite the urgency of their situation, Toby nonetheless led them in. He'd never been in one either, but it was simple enough to queue and order the Maxi-burger menu. The outlet took euros, fortunately. They sat with scores of Rothenian teenagers just out of school, who were clogging up the place, jabbering into handijs and shrieking at incomprehensible jokes.
Vuk caught Toby's eye and shared a grin. Odd how humans sometimes approached telepathy. He knew exactly what his lover was thinking. 'Annoying, aren't they,' he commented.
Vuk laughed. 'So how far is it to your cousins' place?'
'They live in the Sixth District, about a kilometre from here. We may as well look at some of the sights on the way.' Toby was willing to put off the inevitable confrontation for as long as he could. So, having finished their meal, he led his friends to the Plaz to look at the shops and the royal palace. He stared up at the many-windowed frontage and knew that beyond them was the One, whom he had betrayed. He took no joy from the sight. Almost reluctantly he took the Modenehem exit from the great square and led his friends out of the centre, across the ring road and up into the suburban streets of the Sixth.
As they reached Fridricsgasse, he paused as the slope took them above the roof level of the Nuevemesten and turned back to look across the spires and towers of the great city. Vuk and Kristijan contemplated the awe-inspiring sight alongside him.
It had to be done. 'Vukašin and Kristijan, can I just say something.' They looked questioningly at him. 'I want you to know that I love you both, that I owe you more than I can ever say, and whatever happens next, just remember that, please.'
Vuk frowned. 'Why are you saying this, Tovyašin? You know we love you. You're my chosen partner, my heart's mate. There's nothing anyone can do or say to change that.'
Without a further word, Toby led them to the top of the hill and down a side road.
Kristijan was very impressed at the size and gardens of the houses. 'These cousins of yours have serious money, Tovyan! You didn't say that.'
At last they came to their destination. Toby's heart sank down to his boots. It was the Atwood-Cornish residence. He pressed the external intercom button. Time to face the music at last.
Rudolf Elphberg gave his wife a quirky look as he belted on his pistol. She was giving off signals he recognised all too well, and reflected that all over the city, other partners were giving off just the same ones. 'Yes, I'll come back safe.'
She shook her head. 'How did you know I wasn't going to say, "come back with your shield or on it"?' Then she laughed and managed to cry simultaneously. He took her in his arms and held her tight.
'You know what to do, darling. If it goes seriously wrong, defend our land as best you may. Get the children to England. Maxxie must be saved if all else goes down. I know you won't leave Rothenia, so entrust them to someone of integrity. I would suggest Tommy Entwhistle. The man may be ... unusual ... but he's brave and true. Our children adore him. He'll save them from the wreck.'
She didn't argue against his last instructions. 'I'll fight to the last,' she assured him.
'That's my Harry. Now send for the boy.'
The queen pressed a button on the desk, and within minutes the little king was ushered in. He looked collected and solemn. His father indicated the sofa, where the boy settled.
'Maxim, I'm going to war, and this is the first time we've had this conversation. Pray God it'll be the last. I entrust you to your mother. Obey her in everything, and remember above all else that you are an Elphberg, a descendant of Henry the Lion. Conduct yourself in all things as a king, with honour and justice. When all is said and done there's no more to it than that. Now my son, being rightful and anointed king of this land, I ask you for the kungliche pozechnen before I leave.'
And so saying Rudolf went to his knees before his elder son, his wife kneeling beside him. Hand-in-hand, they heard the words of the blessing pronounced over them in the clear voice of their child. Then the boy jumped down and hung round their necks as they kissed him.
Rudolf stood. 'Time to be off. I'll keep in touch one way or another.' A knock on the door announced Benedikt, his aide, also now in battledress.
He bowed to the king and queen and saluted his commander. 'The transport's ready, sir. Ma'am, your servant.'
Rudolf saluted the king, turned on his heel and departed. It was as he was descending the second flight of the palace stairs that he heard his son shouting behind him. 'Daddy! Daddy! Come back! Something's happening at Lance's house! You've got to go there!'
The intercom crackled and a voice said in English, 'Er ... hello?'
Toby took a deep breath. 'Can I speak to Lance Atwood please.'
'Then is Henry Atwood or General Cornish present?'
'Who is this please?'
'My name is Tobias.'
The intercom hissed and then was cut off. Toby looked around at his expectant friends. He shrugged. He was pushing the button again when he was aware of two angry faces staring out at him through the bars of the security gate.
'You two, I might have guessed.'
'Fuck off, you treacherous son of a bitch. There's nothing for you here. Our dad'll be back soon, and he'll see to you.'
Toby folded his arms. 'Let me guess, the lack of verbal sophistication tends to indicate Raphael.'
The other twin snarled, 'I could say it with more words, but I doubt that I could improve on the sentiment. Clear off, you bastard.'
'I wish I had time for this, but I don't. I'm here with important information. I need to talk to Mendamero or the Satan, there's more at stake here than you two can understand.'
Gabe gave him the finger through the gate. 'I find that in human form one gesture is worth a thousand words. There's nothing anyone of any decency would care to say to a piece of cosmic shit like you, Tobias.'
'Look, the pair of you. You've got to listen to me. There's a lot at stake, not least your own lives. Never mind what I've done in the past, I'm here to help now.'
'How can anyone trust a word you say, Tobias? We know exactly what you did. Go back to your fancy boy, the mass-murderer. Traitor!'
It was getting all too much. Toby was not only at a loss, he was coming to realise the full enormity of his present situation: cursed, reviled and distrusted, all with complete justice. Yet he had it in his hands to redeem the situation. He was aware of Vuk at his shoulder.
'Are these twins your cousins? I can understand enough to make out they're being pretty objectionable.' He switched to English, of a sort. 'Hey ... kids ... be cool, yes? We help. Yes? Get father.'
Rafe looked Vuk up and down disdainfully. 'New pet monkey, Toby? What happened to Attila the Cunt? Too good for you?'
Toby glared at him. 'Look you imbecilic fly-boys. If you won't get your big brother, at least tell me how to contact Mendamero, or one of the other grown-ups.'
Gabe sneered. 'Go fuck yourself. No one else would want to.'
Toby beat his fists against the gate. 'You stupid .... kids! You've got to realise how important this is. There's a plot ... in the Elphberg family. The Horde's already in Rothenia, and they're going to take out the ...'
Toby spun around. There were sirens erupting and the roar of engines. Police squad cars were screaming around the corner into the cul-de-sac. Above their heads came the chatter of a helicopter. Gunmen in body armour with rifles took station behind the open car doors.
'What the fuck! Tovyan! What's going on?' Vuk and Kristijan were dragging Toby back from the gate.
A police commander shouted in Rothenian, 'Get away from the blond! Do it now! Get down on your knees, hands on your head! All of you!'
Vuk couldn't understand a word being shouted at him, but he saw his Tovyan was under threat. He looked around momentarily confused, then made a grab for Kristijan's pack. What his plan might have been they never knew. As he pulled out a pistol, three shots took him in the abdomen, hurling him backward. Toby screamed and flung himself on his lover's body. He stared into the dimming eyes and saw the bubbles of blood appearing in the corner of Vuk's mouth. Finally he understood mortality in all its despair and tragedy. And he had plotted to inflict it on the whole world. So this was God's vengeance, and it was more dreadful than he could endure.
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