The King’s Lover, by Nan Hawthorne

Last night in the king’s chamber they had both known this would be the last time.

Níall watched the king as he walked stiffly to the ornately carved and raised chair that was his throne. He noticed how much older the man looked in just these past few weeks. “Ah, Murragh, Murragh, what shall become of you?” he grieved inwardly.

He wanted to avert his eyes when his love turned to face the people arranged in a semi-circle in his royal chamber. He thought he could not bear to see the pain in Murragh’s face, but he lifted his chin instead and saw the pride and defiance in the king’s eyes. He may have been beaten, but he was not down.

The Norman lords stood three in a row before Murragh, declining to do more than nod respectfully. They were big men, all three, in layers of chain mail and plate armor. The one in the middle was the tallest. He had greasy black hair cut as if he wore an iron bowl on his head. He stepped forward with a parchment in his gloved hand.

“My lord, our King has sent us to treat with you,” he said in Norman French.

Murragh’s eyes flashed. He lifted his chin and glared down his nose at the man. “Treat?” he replied in Gaelic, forcing the three Normans to listen to the rushed translation by their priestly interpreter as he went on. “You do me an injustice by pretending I have anything to say in this—” He paused, and then went on bitterly, “In this agreement.”

Níall felt his heart become a lead weight in his breast. Last night in the king’s chamber they had both known this would be the last time. Murragh was to be imprisoned somewhere in England. They made love that was bittersweet, desperate at times. Níall used every seductive trick he had learned in his long affair with the king, the tanist before that when they were but young men. He had used his mouth and hands to harden his love’s cock, and then submitted gladly to being fucked. The urgency made the act poignant and intense. His heart had broken at the end, when, after spurting his seed into him, Murragh had begun to weep. He collapsed on his back. Níall wished he had been able to turn over and hold the man while he wept.

Níall realized his gaze had fallen from his lover’s face with his mind’s eye distracted. He looked up quickly to find Murragh staring at him. The Normans and their priest continued to talk, but the only two people in the chamber were Níall and the man he would never see again, their gazes now locked as if the bond could never be severed.