A Song of Silk and Shadows: Chapter 2

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A Song of Silk and Shadows
By Fakeminsk
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The old king is dead. The great houses of Sangriferia manoeuvre to claim the Garland Crown and Aubriella Malveil—once Duncan, Earl of the North, now adopted daughter to his hated rival—faces punishment for lashing out. With marriage and life-long subjugation looming, she is taught a lesson by her mistress, Lady Castigan.

Chapter Two
Three: You, But Not

How did it feel, Duncan?

Castigan knew what she was doing, didn’t she, that cruel bitch, when she had you bound in your first corset and from that point on you always felt its grip at your waist, leaving you always just very slightly breathless, on the edge of fainting, contained and that little bit easier to control. Month by month it grew tighter and did you even notice? As your body moulded itself to its new shape, flesh flowing to fill increasingly feminine dimensions?

The corset Edmund had your loyal handmaiden remove was not the same as the first corset you wore. Frankly, few born and bred women of the court could have worn it.

Lady Castigan could have, of course.

So I suppose it’s no wonder you reacted the way you did once all the feminine trappings she’d carefully wrapped you in over the past year were stripped away. It felt—good—didn’t it, to be free once again, even if naked? Naked and free, though with your dick pulled back between your legs and those great big, beautiful breasts hanging off your chest. Naked, in front of your enemy, in front of the very man who stole everything from you, your House, your authority, your might and manhood.

And you cast her off so easily: threw Aubriella aside the moment you had an axe in your hand and how did it feel—how did it feel?—to do what so few born women ever do? Shuck off—everything—not just the clothes but everything—like a snake slithering free of its old jewelled skin, leaving behind the fragile, too-tight husk—discarding every rule and obligation that restrains her, infuriates her, crushes her into subservience to a man, to filth like Edmund.

But you aren’t a woman, are you Duncan? Oh, there’s definitely some woman in you, now, how could there not be? But you feel the bonds of silk and lace so heavily because they’re still new and alien to you. You’ve only felt their ever-tightening grip for the past year; and what’s a year? Most women of the court were born into bondage, grew up in bondage, and live in bondage. They no longer need a man’s voice and a man’s hand guiding them anymore, because that man is always with them. Father, brother, husband, son, lover: always there in their head, watching them; they hear him, always. They don’t feel those bonds of silk and lace as you do because they’ve always worn them, because it’s part of who they are. Perhaps one day, you too will grow so fond of your pretty fetters that you no longer notice them.

But for now, you feel it. You feel the corset anew and the soft lace welt at your thighs and the straps tugging across your skin. You feel the heat, the burning yearning that has nowhere to go but inwards, waves of agonising bliss with every pinch of your breasts or slap of the ass or slobbering kiss. Perhaps most of all you feel the soft silk wound around feet and legs, wrists and arms, that hold you as tightly as any rope or chain. Tighter, in some ways. Not that they’re needed, of course. But if only you could see yourself right now, Duncan, as you kneel, tits out, bound and blindfolded, a decorated centrepiece for the table. It truly is a sight.

What else could you expect? This outcome was inevitable. The best possible outcome, considering; what better could you have hoped for, leaving Earl Edmund Malveil, your lord and father, standing humiliated in his own shit?

And so: Duncan, you have willing subsumed yourself into Aubriella once more. This time, in the full understanding of what it must entail: your final transformation; your eventual marriage; that inevitable moment in which you must spread your legs and receive a man’s seed—your brother’s seed—in your belly. Motherhood, even; surely you thought that far ahead. As you kneel there in suffering, these inevitabilities torment you and your mind curls around each painful possibility like a wounded animal coiled around a wound.

And to think you could have avoided it all, simply by doing what has always come so naturally to you: killing your enemy.

Why didn’t you do it, Duncan, once Earl of the Compass, Axe of the North?

You had your enemy at your mercy and a blade at his throat, at his manhood, ready to carve the fat and filth from his living carcass. The desire for revenge burned. In some inchoate form you felt the past year churn within you, a violent maelstrom of suffered humiliation. The kaleidoscope of indignities forced upon your flesh fuelled your rage, and your rage made you strong, as it always has, made you fast—you revelled, didn’t you, in that moment of manifest power in which weapon and body moved as one and your whirled across the stone floor of Edmund’s halls.

Did you relive the slaughters of the past in that moment? The Battle of Trath Hill, or perhaps your many campaigns against the barbarians of the North: you rode those memories of blood and carnage like a wave bringing your enemy to his knees.

Imagine if Edmund had followed Castigan’s instructions and left you corseted, pinioned in your dress, perched on those shoes! What would have done then, Duncan?

Nothing, of course.

But then, what did your little display of martial prowess actually achieve? Also nothing. And to listen to Edmund, that’s what you’ll receive, soon: your own nothing, a void between your legs.

It’s not a “nothing”, of course. Such idiocy. What you still perceive as a nothingness can be a cradle of life—a source of such pleasure as you’ve never known—yet you would dismiss it as a hollowness in need of filling. This is fear, Duncan—a male fear of nothing—and fear makes you stupid.

‘You shat yourself, Eddy.” A good line to be sure. I’m sure it felt good saying it. Witty, maybe. And a pleasure, humiliating Edmund like that, passing some of your own shame back to him. And seeing the fear in his eyes—yes, the fear; you took pleasure in his fear. Before, Edmund thought you soft and weak, an utterly defeated foe. Now he knows you remain a threat and the touch of your blade at his neck must stay with him always.

Not so great with a brain, Edmund said. He wasn’t wrong. Being totally at the mercy of an enemy is one thing; being at the mercy of an enemy who fears you—well. At some level you must’ve realised what would follow. That little tantrum, throwing those axes at his seat: were you raging against what was to come, or in protest at the life you willingly surrendered?

In some ways you really are as tightly bound as any born woman, aren’t you Duncan, by your own intractable masculine delusion of self-importance, your Northern stubbornness, your honour, your oaths. Though now you’re bound in a very different way, a very tangible and physical way, of course. No need to speak in the abstract, in metaphors when you’ve got—well, everything’s Lady Castigan’s done to you following yesterday’s performance.

‘My name is Aubriella,’ you said. A reassertion of the identity they’d forced onto you this past year, indicating your willing submission to Edmund’s plans. But you didn’t speak truly. Not yet, anyway. There’s still too much of the warrior, the Earl of the North, of the man in you; too much of Duncan. After all, when he first stripped you naked it was Aubriella he took away, because she wasn’t you, not yet, despite everything they’d done and those superficial trappings peeled away so easily.

Oh, she’s part of you; how could she not be after a year under Castigan’s delicate tutelage? After a year dressed as her, talking as her, living as her in the shadowed halls of the Crimson Court. The torture of your transformation indelibly branded something female into you, beyond the breasts and curves and long hair; and the training that followed – there is no shame in losing some part of the man you once were following a week in a Petal Street brothel.

Yet all it took was an instant with a weapon in hand and all the old violent instincts returned.

No wonder then that Edmund was filled with rage, standing there with blood welling between fingers clutched to his neck, reeking of his own faeces. You humiliated him in his own seat of power. His fury threatened to overwhelm his reason. He staggered towards you with fists raised. Instinctively, he knew you remained the same threat as moments before. Everyone knows the stories steeped in blood that surround the Axe of the North: more than just a title, a weapon incarnated in flesh.

But he saw only Aubriella. He heard only her soft voice, and the rage and anger transferred from you—a man he dared not strike—to her—a woman who ought to know her place—who’d dared humiliate him. Such audacity could not go unpunished.

His meaty fist bearing its many heavy rings knocked you to the floor. You tasted blood. You went to rise; his fist took you again and again and—again. You dropped back to the floor with your nose streaming snot and blood and you breathed out bubbles and breathed in grit and dirt from the stone beneath your palms. Then he kicked you. More than once. You squeezed your eyes shut as pain exploded in your side. Something cracked or popped. You wheezed and wrapped yourself around the pain—but you did not cry out. Then he grabbed you by that luxurious mane of hair and hauled you to your feet and his fingers curled around your neck….

In his rage, Edmund would have strangled Aubriella to death or pummelled her to a bloody pulp. You would not have been the first girl, young and beautiful and dead, carried out of his hall.

But then, you aren’t just any pretty girl, are you? Even for Edmund, guards dragging the battered corpse of his own adopted daughter out of his hall would be scandalous. Especially one under the tutelage—which is the same as the protection—of Lady Castigan. All his pretty plans wrapped up in your marriage balanced against the bile of his anger: pride versus ambition. Fortunately for you—though it is a strange sort of fortune to be fair—Edmund has always been a very ambitious man.

You submitted to his fists and kicks. You neither cowered nor begged for mercy; nor did you lash out in self-defence. You could have still killed him, even then, naked and unarmed as you were, unmanned. But you didn’t, believing yourself ready to die at Edmund’s feet rather than be the catalyst for the chaos that must follow his death. This was yet another sacrifice, and how very noble of you, Duncan, how honourable of you to take the beating with barely a whimper.

You felt—manly—even with your tits flopping about as he shook your slight frame. Edmund squeezed his fingers tighter around your neck. Your hazel eyes met his without flinching. Even then you believed yourself stronger than him and in that moment he believed it as well.

You felt somewhat less manly afterwards, tied up and suffering in festive darkness. Now your mind whimpers and you wished you’d done differently. Regret undermined the nobility of your sacrifice. You regretted the fatalism that made you passive.

It was Maya who saved you, Maya the handmaiden who intervened with the brute clutching you by the throat.

“My lord,” she murmured and her quiet voice cut through the man’s rage.

“Go way, girl.” But he hesitated.

“She is Castigan’s,” she said. “Hers to train and hers to punish.”

Edmund scowled, but the brief pause cut like a sliver of bright light through the darkness of his anger and humiliation clouding his mind. Like you, he imagined the chaos that must follow the fulfilment of his rage. With your death, the collapse of any possible alliance with the North; without the North, the support of the West fades; and only a fool places their trust in the East. And there was also his vow, of course, sacred and stained with blood, made before the old king himself, an oath made to the oldest Gods in the oldest ways. Not that Edmund cared much for oaths and vows and blood, nor concerned himself much for the old ways and old powers. New Gods walked the Earth now and his faith was with them.

Still, there was no value in unnecessary risk.

So Edmund flung you to the ground. You hit the ground face first, tits squashed flat and bruised by the impact, skin scraping against the floor, and forehead cracking against the stone. He retreated. His rage dissipated, replaced almost instantly by a sullen lassitude and a return of the old boredom. He dropped heavily onto the stone steps below his throne.

“Take her,” he grunted, gesturing with one hand. His head hung heavily between his knees. “Get some clothes on the bitch and get her out of my sight.”

You were half-senseless from the beating and strangling. Exhaustion and pain overtook you. You did not struggle as your humble handmaiden lifted and dressed you. She took a simple shift and pinned it around your slender frame, and wrapped you in a heavy, fur-lined cloak. Supporting your walk, she led you out of Edmund’s hall. You clutched your side where Edmund’s boot had taken you, certain of a broken rib, possibly more. One eye was already swelled shut and the dimly lit passages a blur as you limped along with Maya. The speed of your progress was an irony not entirely lost on you, even then: battered and bruised, you still moved faster than when healthy and fully ensconced in Aubriella’s skirts and shoes.

The torturous walk to safety that night would forever remain dream-like. The handmaiden took you along unfamiliar ways, dimly-lit halls filled with dust and cobwebs. You met no one on the long walk that night. Occasionally she whispered and a door would open, or with a hidden touch of some concealed panel cause a passage to reveal itself. Traveling along these secret and shadowed ways, you glimpsed unfamiliar places deep within the labyrinthian depths of the ancient capitol. But then, the castle was an old one; much of it far older than the men who made it their home and seat of power.

You saw much that confused you that night. An ornate stone statue in a wide circular room depicting a trio of cloaked and veiled women, lit from above by a brilliant shaft of white light. Their arms were raised high in supplication, water flowing from eyes, hands and mouth into the deep pool at their feet. A vaulting, torch-lined chamber, lined with racks of glittering weapons spaced between cold and empty barrack beds. A small square room in which dozens of candles flickered and danced around a twisting metal pedestal holding a singular tome, thick as your hand is long, barred shut and chained to its base. A body-length mirror set in a wide decorative wooden frame carved with intricate details: the glass was clouded yet it seemed you glimpsed—yourself? as a man? as a woman?—within its surface as your handmaiden pulled you hurriedly past.

These sights and others made their impression upon you as you limped these silent and secret paths. You stumbled often, breath burning ever hotter in your chest but at your handmaiden’s urging you kept placing one foot before the other. Her whispering voice sustained you, rhythmic, insistent, drawing you along.

(Now, as you squirm in your bondage, you still hear that same whispering voice and recall those half-remembered glimpses of forgotten places.)

At last, you emerged into a small earth-and-stone walled chamber, the floor covered in old straw smelling powerfully of damp. A cellar; a second strong pair of hands supported you as you stumbled up a pair of creaking wooden stairs.

Darkness took you, briefly. You blinked and when you woke found yourself sprawled naked—but for the sheath pinning your cock back between your legs, of course—in a comfortable chair in a warm room lit by a dancing fire.

Two figures stood by the fire, their silhouette casting long, flickering shadows in your direction.

The first, short and whip-thin, gleamed in a sleek dress made of strips of leather so thin as to be nearly transparent. The leather was stained black and oiled and polished until it shone like a wet veil of shadows stretched taut across her form. Woven into a spiral sheath accentuating the dramatic curves induced by fierce corseting, she projected a threatening energy, like a coiled whip the moment before it snaps. Her skin was very pale and very smooth, and a faint webwork of purpled veins reached up her neck and across the top of her long, narrow hands. Each slender finger was tipped in talon-like nails, long, painted and shaped; and her raven hair, streaked with grey, was wound in a single, heavy braid reaching nearly to her knees, the winding leather thong binding it tightly decorated with bright metal spikes.

Whereas the woman projected a compact, restrained energy, a terrifying robustness wrapped in leather and silk, the man suggested an almost comical frailty. He seemed impossibly tall and thin, as though his spine must snap under his own weight. His scalp was dotted with stray patches of white fuzz and brown age spots. Long, skeletal fingers of one hand lay lightly in the palm of the other, fingers heavy with chunky jewelled rings, and the nail of each index finger as long, shaped and painted as the woman’s. His eyes perched atop a hawkish nose over sunken cheeks; they were sunken, sockets bruised and very dark under eyebrows so thin and pale as to be nearly invisible. He wore a simple rough robe, the cowl thrown back, and his head inclined towards the woman as he listened intently to her whispered words.

Lady Castigan; and her presence snapped you to full wakefulness. Your instinctive fear would’ve been reserved entirely for her had it not been for the other figure: Master Tobrik, Flesh-shaper of House Melveil. You knew, better than most, that his weak and frail appearance belied a terrible capacity for pain.

Instantly aware of your waking, both turned towards you.

“Aubriella,” Lady Castigan said, her voice sharp.

“Lady,” you began, and instincts honed over the past year drove you to leap to your feet—or at least try before gasping in pain and collapsing back into the chair.

“Foolish girl,” she tutted, flowing towards you. Even in pain you marvelled at the ease and grace with which she moved, feeling—surely not envy?—at her approach. Beneath the long tight sheath, her feet were doubtlessly invisibly perched in shoes well beyond your ability to wear and navigate, yet she moved with a mannered sultriness that somehow bordered on the terrifying. More than anything, she made you think of the spider’s graceful glide along its web approaching trapped prey.

“I—” You swallowed as your voice failed you, but then you often found yourself voiceless around her. Strong emotion gripped you, and it took you a moment to realise you felt—ashamed, like a child who has disappointed its mother, as though you had somehow failed her. You blinked against a totally unexpected feeling of tears.

She pressed a solitary finger to your lips. “Quiet.” Her voice was a soft purr curling around your shame as she pursed thin lips painted blood red. Her fingers coiled around your chin, the edge of long fingernails sharp again the tender skin of your cheeks. You shivered at her touch, so gentle yet poignant, in both fear and with yearning, and despite everything—exhaustion and pain and shame—you felt your cock stir in its prison, and nearly whimpered with lust and the anticipation of pain.

Almost tenderly, she moved your head to one side, then the other, examining the damage to your face. “Disappointing.” The edge of her eyes creased, the corner of her lips turned very slightly downwards, and your bowels ran cold. “I taught you better than this, Aubriella.”

“He—hit me,” you protested weakly.

“You provoked him.” Her fingers tightened around your chin and you winced in pain.

“He stripped me—”

“You enticed him.” She shook her head slightly, and the shadow of her braid lashed the far wall. “Too strongly.” Her hand closed around your chin again, palm against your neck, and she shoved your head back into the chair, dismissively. “Though the foolish man should have known better.”

Injustice and outrage warred with your fear of this woman. “Edmund…”

“Lord Malveil to you!” Lady Castigan snapped, and her hand whipped out and caught you across the face. Already bruised and sore, pain flared anew and you saw stars and tasted blood once more. “Remember your place, Aubriella.” She towered over you now, a dark silhouette against the crimson flames behind. “I will not be embarrassed by—some silly, stupid little girl—by you; you will not waste a year of my time and effort. Did my training mean nothing to you?” One long, curved fingernail held you beneath the chin and the slightest press there raised your eyes to hers. “You are no good to anyone—to me—if you are dead; my gifts are not for the foolish who would see themselves killed.”

You spoke around the taste of blood. “I am… sorry, my lady,” you said, and you meant it, you truly did it, looking up at her with swelling anguish.

“Yes, you are,” she said, and now her lips curved upwards in the slightest hint of a chilling smile. “And yes, you will be, Aubriella.”

You couldn’t help yourself; you trembled with fear. “Please, my Lady, it wasn’t my fault.”

“Yes, it was,” she said. “In a world of men, women are always at fault. I would have expected you more than anyone to understand this.” Sounding mildly disappointed, she stepped away from you, gliding back towards the fire. “Really, Aubriella. I had thought us beyond the need for punishment.”

You went to protest, remembered yourself, and fighting back tears answered, “Yes, my Lady.”

She paused by the fire. Looking at you over her shoulder, she stood like a statue of polished ebony cast against the leaping flames. Her voice—softened is perhaps too strong a word; she remained coldly disappointed in you, underscored by an unexpectedly passionate warmth. “The Sister visited her blessing on you,” she said. “Yet you squandered it. You will learn to submit, as all women must.” She sighed. “A moment of freedom, and what did you do with it?”

“I—” Throat dry, you swallowed. “I forgot myself, my lady.”

Her smile is heard than seen. “Indeed,” she said. “But whom did you forget: Aubriella or Duncan?”

You had no response to this, especially as Master Tobrik shuffled forward at this point. You flinched back in your seat. Ostensibly, this skeletal man—this monster—is a doctor, appointed by the College to House Malveil; you knew him only as a harbinger of pain, as the Flesh-shaper that stripped your strength away, visited agony upon you and moulded you into your current shape.

So when he reached out for you with his bony hand, you recoiled into the chair with an intake of breath.

“Sit still, girl,” Lady Castigan snapped.

A deep breath, and you stilled yourself, though you couldn’t suppress a final shudder as the horrible man’s fingers caressed your cheek.

“Yes. Yes, you remember the pain, yes?” His voice was whispery and wheezy as his fingers slid over the damage he found: the black-and-yellow bruises, the split skin, the swelling. His touch was dry and cool. “Pain for beauty, yes?” He grinned, a too-familiar rictus smile that stabbed fear into your belly. The pads of his fingers swept across your nose. “Broken.” He sounds disappointed, even slightly cross. “A waste. Really, Aubriella, after all my hard work, yes? My artistry? You must take better care of yourself.”

You swallowed against bitter indignation and swore—not for the first time—that some day Master Tobrik would come to know your own artistry: the art of violence synonymous with the Axe of the North.

“Stand, girl,” he ordered, fingers curled into your shoulders. With eyes on Lady Castigan standing by the fire and observing in silence, you stood. His touch swept across your body and you shivered as he paddled your breasts, your sides and buttocks and finally, with a groan and creak, knelt and examined you thighs, calves and feet. You flushed with indignation at this man’s exploration of your body but under your mistress’s baleful gaze, submitted to his study.

Finally, with a sigh and another creak and groan, he stood. “Sit,” he said. Still watching your mistress, you lowered yourself into the seat, back straight, chest out, primly sitting as you’ve been taught despite the pain burning in your side.

Master Tobrik nodded in approval. “Such damage to my work,” he said, speaking over his shoulder to Lady Castigan. “Her nose is broken. Contusion across her face. Broken ribs. Two, yes? And punctured lung. Possible concussion.” His eyes glitter deep in their sockets as he looks over you, briefly touching each damaged feature. He signalled his displeasure with a click of the tongue.

“She’s lucky to be alive,” Lady Castigan said. “Can you fix her—quickly? I need her whole; to punish and to prepare, as per Lord Malveil’s orders.” Though you quailed silently at the thought of punishment, you also wondered at the disdain that dripped from her voice as she spoke Edmund’s name. “Time is of the essence.”

“Fix, yes?” His smile chilled you. “Quickly, yes?” Deft fingers danced across the rings adorning his finger before stopping at the middle finger: the ring was a thick band of white gold topped by a multi-faceted ruby. A twist and the heavy gem flipped back and from beneath poured a thin stream of yellow-whitish powder that he collected in the palm of his hand. He spat into his palm and rubbed the mixture into a paste and reached for you again.

You flinched, again, in memory of past pains.

“Ah, you remember, do you, little one? Yes?” He shook his head. “Good. But not today.”

And when he touched you this time it was different. First, an intensifying warmth as he held his palm to your cheek. His eyes were open but distant. From somewhere deep in his throat his voice rumbled; a familiar, sonorous rhythm you associate with pain but there is something to its character unlike before—the timbre, deeper—and then, unexpectedly—cooling relief.

The pain faded beneath his palm and then you watched in shock as a bruise formed on the man’s face in the same place as yours had been. The skin purpled and swelled—and broke and bled. He seemed oblivious to the wound as his hand moved to cover your nose and then you heard a sharp crack. The hawkish bridge of Tobrik’s nose collapsed. Your breathing eased.

Master Tobrik neither grunted nor flinched. His hand continued to slide over the damages inflicted by Edmund’s violence. Where his touch travelled, pain numbed, faded and disappeared; exhaustion lifted. He touched your side. He pressed down, harder. You felt your rib, shift; a brief conflagration of pain beneath the skin. Just as you were about to cry out or pull away—a loud crack, and another; this time, he flinched, his side spasming beneath the loose folds of his robes; and he gritted his teeth and his nostrils flared, though only for a moment, before the same placid distant look overtook him.

Bony fingers played with the rings at his fingers once more, opening a particularly chunky, pale green peridot-encrusted band, and added a stone-grey powder to what remained of the salve glistening his palms. Once again, his hands roamed across your body, at first brushing across the surface but then with gentle pressure, eventually kneading your flesh, the warmth of his touch deeply penetrating. Then he was with you again. He smiled, and there was unexpected warmth to his smile. “Better, yes?” His face was battered and bruised, the lip split, the nose crooked, a patchwork of purple and yellow reaching from the left temple across his nose to his wrinkled neck.

“Better than better?” He leaned in very slightly closer. “A gift, yes?” his whispered, for you to hear alone. He stood—soundlessly—and gazed down on you fondly. “But also a punishment.”

You looked up at him in wonder. He stepped away—sagged—and Lady Castigan was there, supporting him. “Easy, Aster,” she murmured, and you’d never heard her sound so—caring; soft, even.

“I’m fine.” He gently pushed her away. “She is yours, yes? Whole. Physically, at least. I have done as you asked. Punish her as you must. I….” He swayed, and with Lady Castigan’s help sank into a chair near the fire. “I will rest. Yes? And heal.”

When Lady Castigan turned to you, her gaze was cold and angry. “He suffers for your stupidity,” she said. “Stand.”

You jumped to your feet. You marvelled at the vigour you felt, the energy. You felt strong and powerful and… rested. Yes, you felt rested in a way you could hardly remember, as though the exhaustion of the past year had been taken from you. Seeing Tobrik in his chair, eyes closed, you supposed it had been. Your wounds, your tiredness, transferred to him.

But there was no time to consider this new version of Master Tobrik: the compassionate healer as opposed to the bringer of pain, the monstrous flesh-shaper. (There would be time to contemplate this later, of course, during your punishment; but by then your view of him had understandably soured once more.) However, for now, Lady Castigan descended on you.

“Move, you stupid girl,” she ordered, ushering you into an antechamber. It was a lady’s closet, well-appointed and decorated with mirrors, cabinets and vanities, nearly overflowing with clothes appropriate for court—and many that were not.

“Prepare her,” she instructed your handmaiden, and so she did. A visit to a chamber pot to void bowels and bladder, and then she bathed you, sloughing away the dirt and dried blood. Your hair was washed and combed and oiled. Your handmaiden’s touch was, as always, challenging: at times roughly utilitarian as she vigorously scrubbed you clean; other times, frustratingly sensual, as she took wicked pleasure in gently stroking and rubbing your breasts and buttocks and thighs with scented oils. It’d been so very long since you’ve enjoyed any release, and your cock strained painfully and you hissed with desire before the silksteel restraints reminded you of the impossibility of relief.

Food came during your preparations: a few light dried fruits, some nuts—you wanted more but knew better than to ask. There was a warming drink that brought a calming numbness. Seren tea: sweet and mildly narcotic, and commonly enough served to women to keep them docile, and again you knew better than to protest. Besides, your body still thrummed with Tobrik’s healing; already you began to feel warm and felt as though you could shake off the effects of the drink at will.

Then your loyal handmaiden brought you back to Lady Castigan. You understood that under your mistress’s instructions you would take on the apparel of Aubriella once more. Layer by layer, you would feel this other self, the female identity forced upon you over the past year, reassert herself.

It was the corset that nearly undid you. You balked as Lady Castigan approached with the hateful undergarment open and unlaced. She saw the fear in your eyes, the resentment.

“You hate it, don’t you?” she asked, holding up the corset. It shimmered in the light, stormy grey and inlaid with metallic thread in a dizzying pattern. Metals clasps at the end of silk strips dangled from its bottom edge, and the metal busk shone. Even unlaced, you could see the alluring curves the hidden boning promised.

You hesitated, unsure how to respond.

“Speak,” she commanded. “Truthfully, always, when speaking to me in private.”

And you nodded, and mouthed ‘yes’ because—it was true, of course, you despised everything the hateful item represented. More than anything, more than the dresses or skirts, shoes or jewellery, the cosmetics, nails, hair… the corset was everything you hated about this forced existence. Tight, restrictive, heavy, strangling, undeniably feminine in the pretty patina of its surface yet beneath that delicate outer layer, relentless in its control. Without it, you were—free; squeezed in its intractable grip, a prisoner to a life you loathed.

“Of course you do,” she said, drawing nearer. Lady Castigan’s own corsetry was visible beneath the nearly transparent, midnight sheen of her dress. She seemed unbothered by her severely narrowed waist. A raised eyebrow invited you to step forward and into the grip of the corset she held open. She pulled it about you, and you felt its cotton grip against your skin. You shivered despite the warmth of the garment. It started at your hips and rose to just beneath your breasts, leaving them uncovered and free. Something inside immediately yearned to break away and flee, for the moment those metals clasps were closed you knew the trap was sprung once again.

Lady Castigan saw the desire in your eyes. She smiled, thin painted lips curling in a mocking smile. “Well, Aubriella?” she said, raising an eyebrow. “Decide, girl. But quickly.”

The moment came, and then it went. You submitted; though you despised and feared the future that lay ahead, you sensed a trap. Strong and vital as you felt, could you really have escaped, then?

No; even then, she was toying with you. Hook met eye; and you were once again secured within that feminine prison. You turned within its grasp and surrendered the laces to her.

“You think of this item as just another form of control wielded against you,” she said, as she began the laborious process of lacing you into the corset. “You hate it for the perceived frivolity of it, a self-inflicted torture by flighty women obsessed with superficialities of fashion and appearance—just another variation on the cosmetics we wear, or the dresses we choose.” You felt her fingers spider along the laces, working from top to middle, bottom to middle. Quickly, inexorably, the corset drew tighter.

“Too much of the man remains in you, Aubriella,” Lady Castigan continued. “But you will learn.” She finished another pass and began anew. The corset felt almost—comfortable—at this stage, more a firm embrace than a squeeze. You felt her pause, and she held you by the waist. Her fingers traced the boning that began to delineate your shape. “Do you know what these bones are made of?”

“Steel,” you answered.

“And before?”

You shrugged.

“Reeds,” she said. “Or actual bone.” She returns to drawing the laces tighter. “I still remember my first corset as a young girl. The boning was made of Orix bone; the ribs were slender, pliable but firm.” Her fingers paused for a moment. “One day I fell. The rib cracked, pierced the inner lining and into my side. I nearly died. Master Tobrik saved my life that day.”

You weren’t sure what to say, and so remained silent. She gave a strong tug and you felt the insistent pressure growing at your own ribs. “The steel boning in your corset comes from Kitari workshops in the West. Much finer steel; far more precise smiths than those of Sangriferia, who favour the horseshoe and the sword than a refined, flattened coil.” Her fingers pause to sweep across the increasingly hourglass shape of your torso. “Coutil from the Yeoten Mills to the east, using the finest cotton imported from across the Stardrop Sea. Silk from the singers of the South. Dyes from—everywhere, Oorla shells from Lake Ab, crush stones from the quarries of the north, extracts from jungle flowers of the west. All brought together here, in Sangriferia, for guild artisans to craft into these gorgeous items you so revile.” Her touch at your flank was sensuously loving as she stroked the surface wrapped around your skin. “Hundreds of hours, Aubriella—more, even; to craft a single corset of this quality.”

Her voice turned derisive, the tone of a teacher speaking to an idiot child. “Yet in your male ignorance, you see only frivolity. A silly contrivance for shallow girls to achieve a desired shape due to an obsession with their looks, yearning for inconsequential approval, slaves to the transient demands of the time.” An angry tug at the lace, and your whole body jerked.

“But where you focus only on the surface, I see within this corset the embodiment of the old King’s dream. Peace, Aubriella, and prosperity. Only in peace, through trade, through the myriad compromises and negotiations and talks Orlando inspired could this—this beautifully crafted artefact—exist for you to wear. Lord Edmund intends to extend that dream, to maintain peace and prosperity—through any means necessary.

“And by wearing this corset, Aubriella, you too embody that dream of peace and control, the old King and the new’s belief in a better way than the constant warring and death that preceded them. The warring and death that most certainly would have followed had the North not compromised with the Centre, I might add.” Her voice was gently mocking, her breath hot on your ear.

“Self-control, girl. Yielding and compromise. Those are your female virtues, now. Do you understand?”

“Yes, milady,” you answered.

Lady Castigan paused. She sighed, perceiving the sullen stubbornness of your acquiescence. “Aubriella, what is the purpose of the boning in your corset?”

“Shape,” you said, and grimaced. “And control. It holds my torso in the desired shape.”

“No!” she said, sharply, and her hand smacked you across the bare bottom. You jerked in surprise. “The fabric shapes you, and the boning supports the fabric. The bones prevent the fabric’s deformation under strain.” She gave another sharp tug at the laces. “Arms above
you head,” she ordered. “Eyes down. Study the surface.”

And even as she drew the corset further—tighter, again, ever tighter—and your shoulders strained with keeping your arms raised—you looked down at the impossible swell of your own bare breasts. Below your jutting tits, pink flesh and protruding nipples, the firm fabric enclosed your torso in a decorative fist. The outer layer was dyed the deep portentous grey of a night sky over northern seas. Embroidered silk threads of silver and gold glimmered and drew the eyes along complex lines that twisted and twined, dancing between ornate sweeps of intricate silk and metallic lace. Tiny gems placed where lines intersected glittered like constellations, and the effect was one of leaves and blossoms in silhouette against darkness, framing the stars of strange and unknown skies.

Endless hours of tedium and harsh instruction had taught you something of needlecraft and cross-stitching, of embroidery and other feminine crafts, of Seren tea dulling the task of keeping girls’ fingers and minds busy and distracted and occupied with trivialities. Sitting by windows under watery midday light, as much an ornament for beautifying the Court as the needlepoint in your lap, your fingers had become nimble and capable and knew something of the skill required to craft what lay beneath your touch. You appreciated the artistry and effort of the embroidery of the corset you now wore, even as you resented its beauty and clutch. A year ago, you were blind to such things.

“Imagine this corset as our world,” Castigan continued. “Our people, our culture and society. Our history and values and beliefs. This fabric,” she said, and stroked your flanks, “is ours, and beyond value. A sleeve we wear, some more tightly than others. Whether conscious of its grip or not, it shapes us, all of us. It is strong, yet easily deformed and torn under too great pressure. And so to protect it from being stretched: boning. Slender, pliable and firm, like the ribs of an Orix, or foreign steel hammered and threaded and shaped into slender rods.” Her hands reached up to your elbow and gently brought them back to your side, and you stifled a groan as your body tried and failed to settle comfortably back into its previous position. “Do you understand?”

She began, again, to tighten.

You shook your head.

“Do men support our world?” You could hear the sneer in her voice. “Pliable? Men would tear the fabric of our society in their self-importance, their need to stand strong, stand tall. Their vaunted “honour” would undo us all. No. They shatter and break when they need to bend and flex; or remain inflexible and force the world to distend and warp to their desires. No, Abriella. Men do not support our world.

“Mothers and daughters, sisters, and girls, Aubriella—girls like you. Women. We are the boning that support the fabric of society. Without us, it warps and deforms, tears and breaks.” A final, sharp tug, and you felt her begin to tie off and tuck away the laces. “We are pliable; we bend as we must. We flex and we remain strong.

“We do not break.”

You felt her cover the laces away, and heard the light click of the cotton panel being locked into place. Your ever loyal handmaiden at your side accepted the key once again and you understood, then, that you might never move freely and unhindered again—that the stifling grip at your waist was likely permanent. You felt light-headed, and the panic of the past year began to resurface.

“A heavy burden; a serious responsibility,” your mistress continued. “Worth a little discomfort, would you not agree?”

And though you do not yet believe or agree with what she said, you know better than to voice discontent. You struggled to speak through the sudden dizziness you felt. “Yes, Lady Castigan.”

You heard her sigh. Her touch at your hips turned you to face her. You remained naked but for the cage at your cock and the corset around your waist, and from her imperiously high-heeled perch she glared down at you. One talon touched you beneath the chin and raised your eyes to meet hers. “So long as you remain under my tutelage,” she said, “you will never be free of this bondage, do you understand?” They are hard, her eyes, like glittering stones set in ice. “I treat you as I would any woman under my care,” she said.

“But I am not a woman,” you answered, hot and uncomfortable in your own skin, the words jumping free unbidden. You immediately winced in anticipation of her displeasure.

Lady Castigan smiled, a predator’s grin, and her thin tongue ran slowly along her upper lip. “No, you are not,” she said. “Not yet.” She circled you slowly as she spoke, her glittering talons trailing along your corseted torso. “But once Master Tobrik has completed your transformation and eradicated the final, useless remnants of the Axe of the North—then perhaps?” Her hand brushed across your trapped penis and your knees went weak. “Or perhaps once you’ve properly born the weight of a man, lay with him between your legs—then, perhaps?” One long nail grazed along the shaft, flicking in and out as it passed over the wire frame. Her deliriously threatening touch nearly made you cum despite the cage, but the contact was torturously fleeting, too brief to allow release.

Next, her sharp nails sensuously raked the firm curve of your buttocks. “Maybe once your husband has planted his seed in your belly and you grow round and heavy with potential and feel the life growing within—then, perhaps?” Her touch swept walked spider-like the length of the corset’s boning and then her fingers curled around your naked breasts and squeezed. Caught between forefinger and thumb, she pinched and then rolled your swollen nipple and you gasped in pain and pleasure. “Or when you hold that child to your heavy dug and feel it draw sustenance from you and finally see the Sisters’ gifts made manifest in flesh—surely, then, you’ll accept you place, your role, your woman-ness?”

A final brutal tug and she released you and you gasped with the release. “Daughter, bride, wife and mother, Duncan,” she said and Lady Castigan stood before you once again and her grin was gone and her eyes burned with solemnity. “Will you submit and be the woman your Lord Edmund demands?”

And because she bid you only speak truth to her when alone (your humble handmaiden’s presence being irrelevant, of course), and though your cheeks burned—with shame, with desire—you shook you head in denial, long auburn curls tickling bare shoulders. “No,” you whispered, and tears nearly dotted your eyes as you accepted the learned, aching hollowness that came from disappointing your mistress. “Never.” You squeezed your eyes shut in anticipation of her reprisal. “I’ll never be what you and Edmund demand.”

You anticipated pain. Instead, her touch was gentle. You opened your eyes and saw a smile flit across Lady Castigan’s lips, an almost—pleased?—look to sharp features before the usual disdainful countenance slid back into place. “Perhaps,” she murmured and leaned close. Something passionate gleamed in her eyes.

“My Aubriella,” she said and then her mouth found yours. Her talons curled around your narrowed waist and held you near as her tongue thrust between your lips and danced with yours. Her breath and scent and presence overwhelmed you as she kissed you, once and deeply, your tits squeezing up against her leather-bound frame, and you felt so small and weak compared to her towering form, her firm painted lips leaving their mark against your soft and full ones—and then she thrust you away with a sneer.

“Sit!” She indicated a simple wooden stool and bid you sit down. Staggering slightly, breathless and confused, you did as she commanded. You went to sit and nearly missed the stool, and with your handmaiden’s gentle hands guiding you, dropped heavily onto the cushioned seat.

You became aware of a strange lethargy overtaking you. There was a tingling in your extremities. You realised that something was wrong and that as Lady Castigan had been speaking a gentle lassitude was overtaking you, and that her kiss somehow amplified it. It was stronger than the mild effects of the Seren tea and you looked up at Lady Castigan, a question forming but found your tongue suddenly thick and unwieldy in your mouth.

“For now, however,” she said, standing over you, “there is the matter of your punishment.”

A heavy dread settled, muted somewhat by the cloying fuzziness filling your head.

“Lord Edmund demands it,” she continued, “for your foolish audacity.” Standing over you, she laid her palm on your bare shoulder. You felt her touch vividly. Even as you began to feel somehow—disconnected—from your own body, trapped in a shell of your own flesh, your skin felt increasingly sensitive. Her grip was gentle yet the pressure penetrated beyond muscle to a hot, secret place deep within. “I require it, for your failure and for the hurt your stupidity forced upon my friend.” She brushed the swell of your breasts with the pad of her fingers and that ember flared and burned brighter deep in your chest.

You felt a moan on your lips and an ache in your balls. “What—” you tried to speak, but your words slurred. “Did—?” You weren’t tired; your body still buzzed with the vital energy following Tobrik’s healing; and you felt increasingly hyper-aware and sensitive to your surrounding—but there was nothing to do with this vigour as your body grew stiff and unresponsive. Trapped and contained, your desire sublimed into heat; your skin felt flushed and a terrible desire—awful because there could be no release—swelled in your belly and your tits and your cock. Your nipples felt like tight, fiery points of light and your lips burned.

Lady Castiagn flicked your nipple and you moaned and shuddered—or would have, if your body allowed it—and instead sound and sensation echoed inside and fed the flame that burned at your core.

“Punishment without purpose serves no one and nothing,” Lady Castigan mused. She passed out of your sight, and you could hear the light footfall of people approaching. “But what punishment for the girl who attacked her father? Forgot her training? Hurt her master?” Despite the gentleness of their touch, you felt the soft grip of female hands lifting you as pleasurable agony.

“What was it you said, Aubriella, to your Lord?” Once again, she stood before you. You heard sounds of preparation and saw glimpses of young girls moving at the edge of vision. “That you were ‘more than goods to trade’?” She shook her head in mock dismay. Though your body remained frozen, your mind did not; did you wonder, then, how Lady Castigan knew the precise words spoken in Edmund’s hall? “Such stupidity,” she continued. “Did I teach you nothing? Of course you are goods for trade, Aubriella. Part of an agreement that was offered and accepted long ago. A gift, to Earl Angus of the North, delivered with a full dowry on promise of an alliance that with maintain peace and prosperity for a generation.”

How you wanted to speak, then. Even as paralysis took you, your jaw clenched and nose flared with the desire to speak. But as one girl began to wind the first swaths of silk around your arms, the whispering touch of the cool fabric clouded your brain with ever-amplifying want. Another girl rolled first one gossamer stocking, then the next, up your legs. You felt the softness of the stockings as a hot wind breathing up your ankle and calf and thigh. The girl clipped them to the dangling corset tabs and the taut straps laying across your skin cut fiery strips that drove you to thrash, wail, struggle or cry—if you could. Trapped within your own skin you did none of these, but each instinct fed the relentless inferno growing inside of you.

“You will learn this lesson and you will learn it well. You are a thing, Aubriella, nothing more. A commodity—a most valuable and beautifully crafted and desirable commodity to be sure—but an object nonetheless.” Lady Castigan’s smile was cold and thin. “As so tonight, you will serve as an object: a decorative piece for the long-planned celebration of the union between the South and the North.” She cradled your chin in her palm, and her touch burned. “Tobrik’s touch may have healed you, but at my request he has also shaped your flesh for tonight: a shell, malleable but firm. A doll, an adornment for my hall, Aubriella—a thing, unmoving and silent.”

Her touch across your flesh trailed fire, even as the servant girls, unseen, continued to prepare you for the evening. Your arms were pulled behind your back and bound together, high and tight. A tall leather collar was affixed to your neck; you felt your feet slide into shoes that held them to an impossible point. How you strained and struggled to move or find your voice, but your every effort simply reverberated inwards, trapped and fuel for the heat that burned you from the inside.

“Fortunately for you, others have—disappointed—me recently. You will join two others deserving of punishment tonight. Your anonymity is assured; you are the daughter of Lord Malveil, after all. But as just another girl, masked, placed and posed, you will serve as—a conversation piece; as decoration; or as furniture, a seat or table or stool or footrest, as needed. Later, perhaps, for our most privileged guests, as warm, wet and welcoming holes for their needs.”

Lady Castigan leaned in closer and spoke for you only. “And through it all you will feel that impossible desire already burning inside of you, growing with every touch, whisper and breath. That is my punishment, Aubriella, for failing me.” Her lips brushed against yours and the inferno grew. “Perhaps, in the end, I will grant you release.” She pulled away and smiled. “Then again, perhaps not.”

She left you then, and the serving girls descended to complete their task. They bound you in silk and lace and ribbons that held you as unbreakably as any chain or rope. A blindfold brought darkness. Subtle and pleasurably painful touches pushed and prodded you into position: kneeling, shoulders back, bared breasts thrust forward. Then strong arms carried you into another room.

At first, silence, though there was a roar of heat, the crackling of large fires somewhere nearby and the softness of a pillow beneath your stockinged, silk-bound knees. You were left there in darkness and silence for some time. And how did it feel, Aubriella—or Duncan, really, for as you sat there your thoughts spiralled in on themselves, twisted and squirmed around the shame and rage you felt at Lady Castigan’s punishment. The heat subsided somewhat in this moment, in the calm before the tempest you knew was brewing beyond your senses.

Then you heard the unmistakable sound of guests arriving for the party. Footsteps, some loud and heavy and others dainty and careful. Voices raised in cheer, in surprise, in mocking pleasure and amazement. The smell of perfumes and leather and the fragrant, spicy tang of the first foods of the evening. The air shifted and swirled and tickled your skin and reignited the coals of passion Lady Castigan and Tobrik had placed inside of you. You grew hot once again. You heard the first approach of steps, voices raised in glee at your predicament, felt the humiliation—felt the first touch of unknown hands against your firm, bare breasts, first a graze, a giggle, a spoken dare and then a firm pinch of the nipple, a squeeze and twist and pull, laughs, scorn, footsteps retreating and in their wake… fear; a terrible, aching horror that rivalled—nearly—the mind-ravening, incandescent craving you had for release. You wanted nothing more than to be left alone yet simultaneously hoped—and would have wept with shame for your desire, if possible—that others would come, and touch, and use you, and possibly bring the relief you knew—rationally—remained beyond the pale.

But you were beyond rationality, straining against your own implacable flesh, when you felt a presence at your side, a breath in your ear. You smelled rich wine and the rich grease of meat on wet lips and scented beard oil.

“Hello, brother,” said Angus McAlasdair, Earl of the North, your brother and husband to be. “Enjoying the party?”

To be continued…

Author's Notes:

Initially a semi-commissioned piece for a patron, Silk and Shadow has grown a bit. It was meant to be a lean ten or twenty thousand and has already surpassed that. On the other hand, I’ve had great fun writing it. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed reading it! In the next chapter, we’ll see how Duncan got himself into this predicament, and learn about his transformation and training. I reckon there’s another three or four chapters to go.

If you’ve enjoyed the story and would like to follow its further development, why not check out my patreon: patreon.com/fakeminsk? You can keep up to date with the other story I’m working on, Constant in All Other Things, and join in the conversation!

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How she grew

Wendy Jean's picture

Such large breasts is of some interest to this story. It has already been completed when this chapter was written.

Chapter 3....

... will fill in the backstory, including how he was transformed.

Endings Matter

terrynaut's picture

This is very dark for me, but the story keeps me reading. I don't often read stories like this so please pat yourself on the back for excellent storytelling.

I'll keep reading because I'd like to see how this ends. I just hope it ends at least somewhat well for Duncan. I don't know if I could take anything less than a bittersweet ending after all that's been happening to him.

I do have to wonder if his brother is actually on his side. I'd like to see the brother being secretive about his true intentions to help Duncan. That would be a pleasant surprise. I've read too many stories about jealous, envious brothers with no moral compass. It's your story though. Of course. I'll try to be a good girl.

Thanks and kudos (number 20).

- Terry

Bittersweet ending

Thanks for sticking with it, even if it's not your usual preference--and I'm glad you enjoy it enough to do so! For what it's worth, I'm not into overly-dark, cruel stories either; I like my protagonists to have a certain defiance, to struggle and find their own ways through, rather than be relentlessly ground down by the plots against them.