Tyra talks to Ketrick and discovers that he has plans for her. A unfortunate meeting brings the urges. How not to sell slaves. Tyra fights back. A encounter in the Institute brings her hope. A close call in the western market. Rani's inspiration provides a needed clue. The final test at the slave club brings out her deepest needs -- will it be salvation or disaster?
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The last gasp of twilight cast the white stone arch at the rear entrance of the estate in an orange hue. On the street outside, a handful of men and women in evening dress broke into laughter as they strolled to somewhere special. One of the women I'd known well before I'd abducted Angel, a giggly sort in flamboyant colors. I hadn't seen in more than a year. She smiled at us and raised her hand. I waved back, forgetting that she was Tisa's friend, too, and that the greeting hadn't been meant for me. The woman cocked her head curiously at me, having no idea who I was.
I let out a sigh when she passed on. I wasn't in the mood just then to reintroduce myself to a former lover.
“Ron didn’t give you a hint who our escort is?” I asked Tisa.
She shook her head. “Nothing. He said that he was going to ask for a volunteer.”
“Probably a good idea. Besides seeing his former commander in a dress, I’m every warrior's worst nightmare.”
“Well, you're not contagious. You aren't expecting trouble from the escort, are you? You look a little on edge to me.”
“It could be awkward. I'm a little nervous, but no more than that. I still have a place in Eagles. If a man I used to command is uncomfortable with Tyra l’Fay, then — then that’s too bad.”
“Good for you! Ah,” she said, a bit quieter, “you are going to behave yourself, aren’t you? If there ever was a time Mother would check up on you, it would be tonight.”
“If I get drunk, I’ll blame it on you.”
Tisa made a rude sound. “No one would believe it.” She nudged me in the side with her elbow and pointed towards the house. “Look, someone’s coming.”
The easy, efficient walk was unmistakable. I sighed. “That’s Ketrick, the Weapons Master.”
“You’re not pleased?”
“I don’t know; I was expecting one of the men from the barracks, not him.”
“You used to go out ‘drinking’ with him quite a bit.”
“Yes.” Watching him approach out of the shadows, he seemed much as I remembered, only enhanced, and I couldn’t get his smile out of my mind.
Tisa jabbed me in the ribs. “Goddess, you think he’s cute!” She giggled.
“Gods and Overlords, Tisa!” I hissed. “Will you be quiet? He’s almost here, and anyway, I like him; he was my friend. And if you don’t stop jabbing and kicking me, I swear…” But Ketrick was closing, and I had to break it off.
“Good evening, ladies. I’m Ketrick, your escort.”
Up close, he was taller than I remembered. I cleared my throat and spoke. “Good evening, Ketrick. I’m Tyra l’Fay and you've seen my little sister, Tisa. I thought we would go to the Cedars.”
“Good choice,” he said low and smooth. “What section?” He appraised me with a single sweep, normal enough for a man, but my skin grew warm, as if he had breathed across my body.
“The privacy section,” I answered with the smallest quaver. What in Hades is wrong with me?
“Excellent. Are you carrying weapons?”
“Ah, no.” My cheeks burned. Although his query was reasonable for an escort, I imagined a deeper question. I was a former warrior. Why wasn’t I wearing a weapon? What would he think of me? Then I scowled under my breath. As a woman, I shouldn’t be expected to carry one.
“Very well. Shall we go? I’ll watch your back for now. Don’t worry. It’s the way back where most women encounter risk.”
“Thank you for escorting us, Ketrick!” blurted my sister, smiling at him while nudging me from behind.
“Yes, thank you for escorting us,” I added.
When we were out of Ketrick’s earshot, Tisa asked quietly, “What’s going on? He's doing fine; you're the one acting like a girl out on her first match.”
I shot her a cold stare, likely wasted in the deepening shadows. “This isn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be. I think that Ketrick is judging me.”
“Of course. He’s probably looking at your nice round bottom right now. It’s what men do. So, judge him right back. He’s only the escort.”
“It’s not just the way he looks at me. Ketrick was my friend; we respected each other. I can’t dismiss him or pretend that what he thinks of me isn’t important.”
She looked up into the darkening sky. “Goddess of Mercy, I have trouble putting myself in your place sometimes. All the respect you earned doing manly things: wenching, fighting, and getting drunk together is likely as gone as your manhood.”
“You toss male bonds aside very easily, little sister.”
“Well -- maybe,” she replied, flustered, remembering for the moment that I was an expert in the field. “Does it really matter? You can’t be friends with him like that anymore, so why even try? Get his respect again, by all means, but as a woman.”
I gave Tisa a long look, but left it alone. Sometime, Ketrick and I would have to talk, and I would have a chance to show him how much I had changed and was the same, and hopefully some of our friendship would survive, but Tisa was half right: It could never be the same again.
“I’m Tyra l’Fay,” I said, taking a deep breath of the clean evening air, “and I’m not ashamed of who I am. If he doesn’t like it, then tough.”
“That’s right. There’s nothing wrong with you -- well, a gaping hole in your femininity, but nothing you can’t correct. Now, about Ketrick: Are you attracted to him or not?”
I didn’t have to think about it; it simply was. As odd as it was to admit it, it felt rather good. “Yes, I am.”
“It’s all right, Tis’. I’m only attracted to him. Besides, he doesn’t even like freewomen, only slaves.”
“That’s supposed to be reassuring? You’re going to have to tell me all about him.”
My sister was being a tad overprotective, I thought. “Fine, as long as you can keep it to yourself.”
By the time we had passed through the residential area, a region of small stone cottages and houses in neat rows, she could barely keep from turning around and staring. “A warrior over three hundred years old? He doesn’t act old. And he was the war leader of an entire city?”
“And don’t forget his skill and stamina in the silks,” I chuckled. “Ketrick is a very impressive man. Time to close your jaw. We’re almost here.”
The Cedars was huge. Founded over two hundred years ago by a woman, and now run by her son, the building had expanded twice over its lifetime, once to extend a wing and once to absorb two adjacent building, creating a patchwork effect of light and dark stones and varied ceilings.
It was built with four separate sections: a traditional siolat tavern to the left, a larger section in the middle with music and a dance floor, a small section for dinner and privacy to the right, and a large kitchen in the rear, which served all sections. A bright dance tune, sounds of movement, and a woman’s piercing laugh made it through the double doors. Ketrick caught up as we approached.
He said, “We have a choice. We could find two booths or tables with direct sight of each other. Or I could sit with you ladies.” He looked to me, his face not giving me a clue of what he preferred.
“What do you think is the safest way?”
Ketrick grinned, amused that I threw it back at him. I had escorted before. Although both methods were good, there was a “safest” way.
“I’ll watch from another table then. It will give me a place to judge who, if anyone, is interested in stealing you tonight. But don’t worry, Miss Tyra l’Fay, you should be quite safe. I’ve heard that nearly all abductions are planned days if not weeks in advance.”
“Yes, oddly enough, I’ve heard that, too,” I said dryly. “Then we’ll sit separately -- at least until you can determine if anyone here wishes me harm.”
He nodded down from his greater height, and we entered the Cedars together, but as two parties. An ornate door to the left carved in the shape of a cup and pitcher opened briefly as someone entered, and an alcove girl within pierced the air with screams of ecstasy, cut-off when the counter-weight pulled the door shut again. In this, the main section, the walls were cheerful red with a repeated gold pattern, and the raised dance floor in the center, surrounded by tables packed with men and women, seemed to be constructed of some polished light wood, almost sure to be cedar.
A band of three men and a woman played in the far corner, two strings driving a rowdy beat accompanied by light drums. A woman, her scarlet hair bound in a headband, made her tambourine shiver as she sang the tale of Sedha and Val, two lovers who defied their families to be together, her clear rich voice flinging their joy and love to the rafters.
Several couples danced. The men dressed in loose-sleeved finery and polished boots. The men, strong and athletic, dressed in loose-sleeved finery and polished boots, whirled and guided their partners through their paces. The women spun and stepped with natural grace, their cotton dresses twirling and wrapping around themselves, returning to their partners for a time, only to be hurled away again.
At first I followed the men, drinking them in with my new perception, but gradually I shifted to the feminine side, transfixed by a woman who danced like a dream. I imagined myself in the her place, in her blue and white dress, my own black hair replacing her blond as it whipped behind me, the dress spinning out from my own legs, and wondered if I could dance as well and be as happy as she looked.
I already knew part of the answer: the girl whose genes had been copied to make my body had been an exceptionally pleasing slave, else they would never have taken her DNA. Whoever she was, she must have danced superbly, and I already knew I had a fine voice, although I had dared to sing only once in the garden. What would it be like to dance again, this time being guided, matching my grace, my femininity to a man's strength? And how dangerous?
The hostess arrived, a buxom brunette with a permanent smile, and brought us to the privacy area, bringing Tisa and me to a booth close to the back, while Ketrick took a table at the far wall, where he waited for someone to try to take me.
We ordered wine and a light snack from the kitchen. I started with the honey bread, slipping pieces under the veil. Distracted by thoughts of the dance, it split in half on the way to my mouth and tumbled into my bodice. I spent an awkward moment fishing it out, and then longer to clean the stickiness away with wine and a napkin.
“Damn this veil!”
Tisa leaned over the table and spoke very low. “If you take it off I won’t tell anyone. From where you’re sitting, the only person who can see you is Ketrick.”
I shook my head as I dabbed up the last of it. “I promised Father that I would wear the veil outside the house.”
“Come on, all women who wear veils take them off sometimes. You don’t wear it in the public bathroom, and you don’t need to wear it where no one can see. You wouldn’t be breaking your word to Father by adopting the commonsense approach of others who wear the veil outside their homes.”
“Well…” I considered, but Tisa had a fair argument, albeit a trifle legalistic -- and I hated the accursed thing. Shifting my eyes to the left, I asked, “What about Ketrick?”
She waved her glass towards our escort dismissively. “He already knows who you are, and I doubt that he’s planning to abduct you.”
“Good point.” I unhooked one side of the veil and tossed the other over my shoulder. Glancing towards Ketrick, I caught his eye and smiled, turning away finally in a burst of shyness, although I thought I’d concealed it well enough.
“Good. Now, I can see you smile.”
I leaned back in the tall bench of the booth and let the wine warm me. I closed my eyes, reliving the moment when I watched the woman in the blue and white dress. “Tisa, for the next lesson, I want to learn how to dance — like a woman.”
For this, what I thought was a revelation, she only gave me a knowing smile, as if the request was quite natural, and flicked her hand towards the dance hall. “I noticed you watching. Did you see any good-looking men?”
“Most men look pleasing to me.” At her blank stare, I added, “I don’t think that’s so unusual. I used to find most women pleasing to some extent.”
“Oh. I suppose that’s true. What I meant was, were you drawn to anyone in particular? You must have preferences.”
I toyed with my glass of wine, running my index finger up and down its length for a moment. “I like warriors. I understand them — and they are physically appealing.”
“So, with so many warriors like Ketrick at Eagles, I expect you’ll be blushing all over the estate, like you are now?”
“You expect wrong. The others were my men. Ketrick was more than that, and he defeated me with the spear. He’s the finest warrior I’ve ever seen.”
“He’s fairly good-looking and his history is impressive, but why would defeating you with the spear make him more attractive to you?”
I decided that I had come too far into areas I didn't want to look at too closely. “It's ... confusing, and it doesn't matter, and why all these questions? One would think you were interested in him.” I grinned. “Abandon that thought, little sister. He's far too old for you.”
“It doesn’t matter,” I repeated. “As I said, he likes slaves, and he’s never been married.”
“He sounds very boring.”
“That’s a word I’ve never heard used to describe him.”
She tilted her head for a second or two, as if remembering something. “I’ve been escorted before and the escort always sat with us. Why is Ketrick sitting over there?”
“Because I asked him to. I wanted to be alone with you.”
“That was very sweet of you. Are you avoiding him?”
“If he volunteered to be our escort, he probably had a reason. I think he wants to talk to you.”
“That occurred to me, too. He can join us later -- if you want.”
Tisa smiled. “It's not a problem for me! I’m going to the bathroom for about twenty minutes, but first I’ll tell Ketrick that he should guard you here. That will give you two some time to say whatever pleases you.” She slid out of the booth and stood, smoothing her dress.
“Surely big sister can talk with her escort for twenty minutes without losing her virginity?”
She was gone before I could formulate a reply. A moment later, Ketrick settled his powerful frame onto the opposite bench. He sat comfortably at a slight angle with one arm draped over the table, entirely self-assured, and waited patiently for me to speak.
I am Tyra l’Fay, a daughter of Eagles.
“Hello, Ketrick. We’ll be alone for twenty minutes.”
“Your sister’s idea, Miss Tyra l’Fay?”
“Yes. Call me Tyra, if you don’t mind. I still remember us as friends; I hope not all of that is gone.”
“Well, this change does put a crimp in any plans to go wenching with you.”
I laughed. That was flippant, even for a warrior.
He smiled the lopsided grin I’d seen at the practice field. “You’re taking this well.”
I shrugged. “Any sane person must accept reality.”
“I’m pleased. How far have the changes taken you?”
I couldn’t think of any reason not to tell him, or for this information not to be spread among my former command, for they would surely ask him how I was.
Looking him straight in the eye, I said, “All the way, except for the urges. I’m a woman. I’m not ashamed of the way I look, or of who I am. Of course, I wish it had never happened, and I still want to shove a knife into Met’s gut.”
“Remarkable. Too many serum girls try to remain the men they were, a hopeless fight, and in the end it damages them. A woman, yes, yet I see much of Tyr behind those beautiful eyes.”
Tisa had said much the same, but she was my sister; I reached out with my hand before I knew what I was doing. “Thank you. I hoped it would be that way.”
His hand was huge, and his forearm well muscled. With the touch, my attraction, which up to then had been restricted to admiring Ketrick from a safe distance, made its presence known in physical ways, and another smile from him made me blush and look away. I'd seen that look from him before, but never directed towards me.
By the Gods, he thinks I’m beautiful.
It wasn’t so much that places above and below my waist came to life. I'd known that feeling touching myself in the bath -- this was different. As Tyr, when I’d wanted a woman, I’d acted — it is undeniable that women prefer men who know what they want. Under Ketrick’s healthy appraisal, I softened, melted; I wanted his touch. It was so -- unmanly.
Well, you’re not a man anymore. Tyr had never felt this way, but for all of that, it was very real. I shifted in my seat, feeling a little like I’d peed on myself. This won’t be the last time you're attracted to someone! Get used to it!
“Ketrick, why did you volunteer to be my escort tonight?”
“I wanted to see how you were, and to give you some advice.”
“It would appear that you have already accomplished the first part.”
“So it would seem. You will, of course, fight the urges.”
“With everything I have,” I said, irritated that he would question my resolve.
“I expected no less.” He looked at me directly, a mannerism that always meant something important was to follow. “There may come a point when the urges prove too powerful. During that vulnerable time, a girl has a brief chance to decide her destiny. My advice is to be prepared and choose well.”
“You don’t think I’ll be able to stay free?”
“Does it really matter what I think? Will that lessen your determination?”
I glared at him. “No.”
“Tyra, I only wish you success.”
“And yet you recommend a strategy for failure.”
“It is advice, from a friend,” he said with a shrug. “If you like, forget I mentioned it.”
I snorted. “I think you might have another reason for offering me this ‘advice.’”
He lifted an eyebrow. “Indeed?”
“Your popularity with slaves is legendary. Siolat girls descend upon you, and fight for the privilege to serve you.”
“You exaggerate,” he said modestly.
“Such behavior is usually the sign of a superb master.”
He grinned. “I suppose that some people would agree.”
I laughed, not knowing what else to do. “You outrageous bastard. You’re suggesting that if I lose this battle with the urges that I should cross my wrists to you!”
Ketrick’s face fell, as if hurt or saddened. I knew him too well to believe it for an instant. “Clearly, my advice has upset you. Please, discard everything I've said.”
“It’s not going to happen,” I said, my cheeks burning with embarrassment.
“Then there is nothing to worry about,” he said reasonably. “All I wish is for you to be happy.”
Despite his “advice,” I believed that much, at least. “So, tell me, ‘friend’ Ketrick, how are the practices going?”
I listened as he spoke of my former command, how the new pleasure girls were working out, and some personal tales. During that time, I ignored my woman’s body. I saw Fash, Jed, Der, and the slash of steel. In my heart I knew they weren’t and could never be mine anymore. The dance of death wasn’t a part of the world I’d come to inhabit. I missed the comradery, the excitement, and probably would until I died. Someday, when I was better prepared, I determined, I would see them again, and come to terms with my past.
When Tisa returned, Ketrick told funny stories that he’d acquired over the centuries. We laughed, had some more siolat and wine, and walked home together. He left us at the entrance and Tisa and I parted to go to our separate quarters.
I went to bed that night, at first unable to sleep. My life as Tyr was gone, yet a single bridge remained with Ketrick. Part of our friendship still survived. It was just too bad that I was so attracted to him -- it complicated matters. I tossed and turned for a while before grabbing a pillow. I fell asleep dreaming of Ketrick’s arms.
Two days later:
Tisa had been sure she could teach me to dance. I knew how as a man, of course, and could lead well enough, and she could follow. Reversing everything confused us both and was often hilarious, and Tisa was laughing as we gave up trying for the morning, entering the house from the garden.
Ron was there. In that flush of happiness, Tisa grew rash, took his hand as he walked by, and steered him in front of me.
“Ron, I’d like to introduce your sister, Tyra.”
It wasn’t how I would have planned it, but if forcing us together broke this maddening freeze between us, I wasn’t going to complain. “Hello, Ron,” I said, and held out my hand, as freewomen sometimes do to men for formal introductions.
“Stop!” he roared, as furious as I’d ever seen him.
I looked up in shock. Ron wasn’t quite violent, but he wasn’t far from it either. He grabbed my arms in hands much stronger than mine and held me immobile, controlling me for a long moment. I strained to break free, but couldn’t budge him. Helpless in his hands, something from deep inside, always there but suppressed, with roots buried all the way to my core, took control and luxuriated in my submissive role. Instead of my brother, my best friend before I’d changed, the man holding me swelled to an irresistible male, dominant and powerful. My breath quickened and grew shallow, my skin tingled with need to be touched and handled.
Fascinated, I looked up to my brother’s captivating face, and wondered how his lips would feel pressed down against my own. My nipples hardened with incredible swiftness and demanded attention. Desire spread like a hot wave through my body from breasts to saer and, to my utter consternation, wetness trickled down my leg. My heart pounded; my knees weakened. By the Gods, I wanted my own brother to take me!
“I suppose you are my sister,” he said, dripping bitterness, “but I don’t know you. You aren’t Tyr t’Pol. You’re only a serum girl!” He pushed me away as if I were filth, turned sharply, and started off.
Tisa overcame her paralysis and ran after him. “You rhadus!” she screamed. “How dare you treat her that way!” She cracked a nasty kick to his shin before he could hold her off.
Sick with arousal, I knew what I had to do. “Wait, Tisa, he might be right.” She stopped struggling and stared at me.
“Ron,” I pleaded, “I’ll try as hard as I can to stay free. Before I disgrace Eagles, I’ll leave Batuk. I swear this to you.”
“You haven’t seen our new serum girls lately,” he said, looking uncomfortable and very unhappy. “After two weeks with the men, they are the happiest three slave sluts on Zhor. I don’t see a chance for you. The serum is too strong, and I can’t stand the thought of you being like them.”
I could barely stand to hear his rejection. As brothers we had been close. Tears ran down my face and my hands reached towards him in open appeal. “I’m a freewoman, Ron! Some have resisted the serum successfully. I have to think I can do the same!”
The cry in my voice halted his departure. Deep lines in his young face were only a hint of what must have been a divide in his heart. “I can’t take the chance,” he said more gently than before. “Please, stay away from me as much as you can, and continue to keep your veil on in my presence. Truly, I wish you well, Tyra.” He turned abruptly and left.
I collapsed against the wall and cried. Tisa gave me her shoulder. When Ron had rejected me, it had hurt, but she didn’t know half the reason why, and I was afraid to tell her.
When we returned to her room, she smoothed my hair back and looked at me carefully. “You cried for a long time. Are you going to be alright?”
I nodded. I was unlucky to get the urges so fast, but I wasn’t unprepared. “Yes,” I sighed, “I’ll be fine.”
“I could kill Ron for saying what he did!”
“It’s all right. Really. I understand how he feels.”
“Then you understand more than I do. You shouldn’t sleep alone, not after that. Please, stay in my room tonight.”
The rest of the day, I managed to keep the thoughts about Ron from my mind, mostly, but there was nothing to distract me under the covers, and my urges found me. Relentless images of my brother’s strong hands and hard lean body made sleep impossible. I moved on the sheets and held a pillow to my breasts to gain tactile satisfaction, but its effects were minor, and left me awake and frustrated. Clenching the sheets in my hands, I stared at the ceiling and considered what to do.
Tisa had long since fallen asleep. I left the bed, walked quietly to the bathroom, and stared at myself in the mirror in the yellow lamplight. My eyes shone large and wild. I recognized the look of a girl ready to be taken!
As if in a dream, I pulled off the shift and stood naked before the mirror. Like a vision, my hands rose to the perfectly curved mounds of my breasts, touching the smooth underside, holding them, feeling their warm weight. I sighed, making a womanly sound. My hands lifted to tease and circle my dark, swollen nipples. I moaned, and didn’t have to check to know that I was very wet. My skin was hot. The face was a girl in desperate arousal.
I practically ran to the bed and lay on my back in the same position I had forced Angel and Wanda to assume so many times. I imagined myself in their place, hating the necessity, yet loving the submissive pose; my legs spread wide, open for an imagined man above me.
My hand slid softly over full and receptive breasts, fingertips gliding over soft skin, down the expanse of my stomach, reaching over the mound and under to the hot wet slit that defined me as a woman. I found what I needed between the folds and cried out in joy, throwing my head backwards. My body was a wonderful teacher and I, an enthusiastic student. My need became intolerable, and I twisted and arched, crying soft gasps. At the last moment, before it happened, I managed a coherent thought and stuffed part of a pillow into my mouth, barely managing to muffle a scream that would have certainly awoken Tisa and a fair part of the house. Then I started again.
It wasn’t enough to completely satisfy me; a great emptiness inside needed to be filled; I wanted strong hands to hold me, to control me, but what I had done was enough for now. Turning over, I sobbed into the pillow. Gods, what is to become of me?
I slipped back to the bathroom and washed, appalled to find how much I smelled of arousal. I put my nightgown back on and tiptoed past Tisa, who snored peacefully, remarkably having slept through the whole event. Back in bed, I entered a fitful sleep.
I woke up before Tisa; my needs bringing me around, fortunately not as badly as before. When I finished, I put on a robe and slippers in the cold morning air, and went to the window. I watched Tisa sleep, breathing the breaths of the weary, stirring occasionally. Asleep, she looked younger than her years. Her entire life, if fate was kind, centuries, stretched out before her. She would marry, have children, fulfill dreams yet unknown, and be disappointed, the life of a normal freewoman. A scant two weeks before, I would have scoffed at the idea, but at that moment I would have given much to be her.
I turned away and faced the garden, glistening from a shower earlier that morning. The sky was clear and the eternal Fortress stood tall and proud. Through my tears, I took strength from its black rock face, its towers challenging the sky. My sister’s destiny was not my own -- it couldn’t be -- I would have to find my own way.
Tisa awoke with a start. She looked at the morning light and groaned, rolled out of bed, stretched and yawned, and came to my side. She looked me over, still concerned about the previous day. I smiled, finding it to be a relief to be with her, a woman and therefore not a potential brolling partner. “Morning, Tisa. You slept well.”
There was something in my voice or on my face because I didn’t fool her. “Has it started?” she whispered.
“Oh, Tyra!” She took me in her arms.
I explained what happened with Ron and what I did earlier that night, speaking calmly, as not to alarm her.
“You know,” she said after a time, “I’ve pleasured myself, too, sometimes.”
“If that was all it was, then I'd count myself lucky. Unfortunately, this will only get worse. I’ll do this until I can’t stand it anymore, and then I’ll have to try something new.” I cracked a smile. “I’m glad I can talk to you about it. I can’t imagine what Mother or Father would say.”
She looked at me seriously. “I think that Father understands. He’s probably seen it before, and he did give you free rein to do what you have to do. Mother is Mother.”
“And what’s your limit? How far are you prepared to go with me?”
“You’re my sister. As long as you don’t cross your wrists, I’ll be with you.”
“I will fight this, Tisa!”
She nodded. “I know you will. What are you going to do?”
“Right now? I’m going to take a bath, get some breakfast, and sell some slaves. It’s past time, and I can’t delay it any longer. I’m thinking of Ketrick. He would be a good master for them, probably better than me.”
“I’ll record a bill of sale for you if you come to an agreement. I’ll be here after breakfast with the accounts.”
Arriving at Ketrick’s room, I knocked at the door. I heard stirring and Ketrick’s voice: “Who is it?”
The door opened. His face grew thoughtful at the veil.
“May I enter, former War Leader of Gerras?” When he opened the door further I went inside and removed the veil. There was strength in his presence, more so than our night out together. I believe I managed not to show my feelings, although it wasn’t easy; the urges made me feel like a slut.
“What can I do for you?”
“I have two fine slaves to sell. Do you want to buy them?”
He rubbed his chin. “I’d have to examine them first.”
“Naturally. I had them sent to my quarters. When would you like to see them?”
He grinned. “They are pretty little things. There’s no time like the present.”
“Excellent.” I stood and reattached the veil.
“Such beauty should remain free to be seen,” he said.
I glared, sure he knew I was attracted to him. Flattered, despite myself, it was still something one might say to a cherished slave girl, not a freewoman.
“I’m sure you’ll like Angel and Wanda even better.”
He smiled. This was infuriating. I didn’t want to play this game! My quarters were only a few doors down. I led the way and felt his eyes on me, watching me move, as I would have a pretty woman a span of days before.
Angel and Wanda had heard us approach and were on the floor. I lifted my veil. “Rise, Angel, Wanda.” They rose almost as one.
“They are well trained, Tyra.”
“Yes.” My slaves already glanced at Ketrick with surreptitious interest, ignoring me, their mistress. They were such sluts. “Angel, Wanda, Ketrick is a potential buyer.” Speaking to Ketrick, I said, “Take whatever time you need. I’ll wait outside.”
“That’s not necessary,” he replied.
It didn’t matter, I told myself; they were just slaves. Calmly at first, I watched as he checked their teeth, hair, and muscle tone. I had to admit that he was doing a thorough job of it. He moved on to responses and, as I expected, they both displayed superbly, each moving in delightfully feminine ways to his touch. Proceeding to more intimate places, he soon had Angel and Wanda moaning helplessly in harmony, something I had never tried. I was warm, my breasts pushed against my halter and a trickle of moisture ran down my leg. I couldn’t believe what incredible sluts they were.
I found my mouth to be unaccountably dry. “Ketrick, I see you would like some privacy. I will leave.”
He shrugged. “If you wish, but I’m almost finished. He gave Angel a master’s kiss and she responded completely, as if she were a trained passion slave. I licked my lips. I could see that Wanda was eager to be so tested as well. I closed my eyes, and a tear rolled down my face. I wanted to hate them for being disgusting sluts, but I was the problem. I wanted to be in their place being dominated and given the master’s kiss. I was as least as big a slut as either of them and already thinking dangerous thoughts of submission. Fortunately, it was Ketrick’s last test.
“They are both satisfactory. You’ve kept them in fine form. I’ll give you a gold for each.”
It was a fair price. I sighed in helpless regret. I’d loved Angel. It had been over between us as soon as I had ingested Ruk’s serum, of course, but this sealed it. I remembered the time I had crept into her room to abduct the haughty, insolent, beautiful woman from Ademar. Angel had fought me, screaming and kicking the entire way. Her brother’s arrow had grazed my leg, and I had barely made it past the city walls. The moments when she had ignited in my arms and when she had crossed her wrists to me, begging to make her a complete woman, were the finest, most pleasurable of my life.
She stood now, beaming at Ketrick, already in heat. Both my slaves would be very happy in Ketrick’s care, and I had no doubt that he could keep Angel completely dominated and satisfied. The pair eagerly awaited my decision. “Done,” I said, and it was over. I moved unsteadily to the door. My former slaves ignored me completely, having eyes only for their new master.
“Let’s go to my sister’s room,” I said listlessly. “She can draw us a bill of sale.”
He smiled. I acutely felt his presence in the corridor and down the stairs. When we arrived, Tisa had already drawn up three duplicate contracts, leaving only the price and name blank. I mumbled congratulations, and Ketrick departed after shaking my hand, eager to train his new slaves to his needs.
Aroused and miserable, I sagged onto the bed.
“What’s wrong?” she asked me.
I explained the erotic nightmare testing Angel and Wanda had been for me, leaving out the parts about wanting to submit, which would have frightened her. I pounded the bed with my fist. “Damn him. I think the rhadus knew what he was doing to me.”
“I’m sure he did. He looked too pleased with himself.”
My black eyes bore into her blue. “The only way to smear that bastard’s self-satisfied expression is to win.”
It took a lot of willpower, but I managed not to touch myself for the rest of the day. When I returned to my own quarters, though, it was impossible to go to sleep. I pleasured myself again that night, but slept less.
The next day was horrible, a constant fight with myself, and before I went to bed, I looked at myself in the mirror. I saw a frazzled, shaky woman in the battle of her life without the resources to fight on. If I kept fighting like this I was going to lose. I slumped over the counter and cried, bitterly disappointed. After only two days with the urges I would have to adopt a new strategy.
My goal was to stay free. I fought on two fronts: fighting to avoid men, the slut-urge; and fighting the urge to submit, the slave-urge. I couldn’t fight both any longer. I took a deep breath and faced myself, the raven-haired serum girl with feral black eyes. It was step I dreaded taking, but a warrior has to know when to retreat to a defensible position.
“You are a slut, Tyra l’Fay,” I said to my reflection. “You want a man’s twill inside you. You want to feel his strong arms holding you, dominating you, feeling your breasts and forcing you to pleasure him....”
By the Gods, what am I saying? It was as if a part of me had died, and I cried out. I waited until the panic passed, then recalled the old sage, 'Let reason rule your passions, not the reverse.' I only state what is true, facing what must be faced — unambiguously. Calmer now, I repeated the words until I could say them without fear or pain.
“You are a slut, Tyra l'Fay, but you are not a slave. You are a freewoman.”
There were serum girl clubs in Batuk for women like me. If I was a slut then, so be it, but I was no slave. In the meantime, my slut-urge needed attention. I smiled; this might even be fun.
Preferring to clothe his new slaves to his taste, Ketrick had left behind several slave tunics. I drew on one of Angel's, imaging myself hot and wet for my Master, which took practically no effort. I imagined his eyes upon me, and removed the brief silky garment in a way I thought seductive, blushing from the brazenness of it, then lay down in the pelts where I'd had Angel and Wanda so many times. There, I pleasured myself shamelessly. At one point I wanted to scream “Ketrick!” but I held my tongue. It wasn’t necessary; I was in charge, and the world contained many attractive men to satisfy me. Activities like this, if known, could have had me branded and in a collar. But it brought me through the night. Before I slept, I squirmed in the furs, pleased with myself. I was a slut, and my needs would have to be met to stay sane, but perhaps I was not a slave. In the morning I had less wish than the night before to submit. I even had a wonderful appetite.
But when I told Tisa in her room after breakfast, she wasn’t as pleased with my “progress.”
“I hope this works,” she said worriedly after I finally made her understand. “This could become a scandal that even Father can't forgive, but if it keeps you from being a slave, I’m for it.” She furrowed her brow in thought. “Aren’t you forgetting something? If you took up an occupation, wouldn’t you be distracted from these ... recreations?”
“That’s ... that's not bad, Tis’. I want to be a normal freewoman — at least as much as possible.”
She placed her hand upon my shoulder. “And I want nothing less for you. What would you be interested in?”
What could I do where I wouldn’t be around men very much? I was a slut, but I didn’t want to be a slut all day long.
“Maybe a scholar,” I said, not too enthusiastic about the idea. I had always wanted to be a warrior; to me there had been no second best.
She clapped her hands in relief. “Any particular field?”
“I'll go to the Institute and find out what they have -- and I need to find some clothing of my own. I can’t keep borrowing yours.”
“After lunch then, we'll visit the Institute and the market.”
“All right.” I felt better immediately. It was action, something I could do to improve my chances.
I went back to my apartments and found my supply of slave-bitters, what I had given Angel and Wanda each month. It was a disconcerting thought that I could soon be carrying a child if I wasn't careful. I ripped off a piece with my teeth and swallowed the astringent substance.
I managed to get through lunch without touching a man. I found that if I imagined a man with gooey horse dung on his head, it partially controlled the urge to mate with him.
That afternoon, I left with Tisa to walk to the Batuk Scholars Institute. This time I was glad to wear the veil; there were fewer interested looks from the men. Mainly, I followed in Tisa’s footsteps, not taking my eyes off the back of her head. The walk wasn’t pleasant, but I managed to avoid fresh slut-urges.
The scholar at the visitor’s desk was handsomer. I imagined horse dung and week-old fish dripping from his hair. I paid him a few coppers, leaving it on the desk to avoid the touch of his hand, and Tisa and I walked to the Histories Chamber where Hana l'Lina was supposed to be working.
I found her sitting at a table with four open books spread out on it. There were no men in the area, so I removed the veil.
“Scholar Hana l’Lina, we talked several weeks ago,” I said.
She peered up at me critically. “I think you’re mistaken.”
“My name is Tyra l’Fay. I was a warrior at the time named Tyr t’Pol. I asked you about a war leader named Ketrick of Gerras. You took the history of Gerras from another room where a woman named Jara told you it was on the second shelf. A couple of weeks ago I was unfortunate, and became what you see. I’m here to look for a new career.”
“Is the Ketrick you know tall, handsome and a mighty warrior as I said?”
“You said he was ‘rugged’ not handsome, and he’s Eagles’ Weapons Master.”
“Well, you seem to be handling the changes well. You even wear a flattering necklace.”
“Ah -- thank you. Scholar…”
“Did you have a low libido before you were transformed?” she asked abruptly.
I thought that was rather direct, but I answered anyway. “No.”
“Do you have the urges?”
Blood rushed to my face. “Yes, but I’m managing. Scholar, tell me about your classes. I might be interested in studying here.”
She shook her head rapidly. “I’m sorry, the Guild would never allow a serum girl into a classroom — too distracting — but this is a first; I’ve never heard of one asking before. I'm sympathetic, and. I think what you are trying to do is admirable.” She showed me a small smile and patted the chair beside her. I settled in to it. “You could simply accept your lot in life and submit. You serum girls are natural slaves, after all. You’d be happy with a strong master.”
I shot a glance towards Tisa to see how she was taking it. She shrugged, making a face. Tisa had heard it before. So had I. Tough. “I've chosen to fight. Some serum girls are freewomen.”
“Truth — for the serum girls who had low libidos as men. Some men do, you know, although few would admit it,” she said, amused. “I’ve never heard of anyone with a normal libido who has managed to hang on longer than a year or so.” She studied me closer, as a physician might analyze an unusual condition. “May I ask you a few questions? There are indicators that determine how efficacious the serum is on a serum girl.”
I was dubious. In some areas where serum girls are concerned, masters, and men in particular, are the experts, and I told her so.
“Really! I’ve studied this field for some time, I assure you, and I know what I’m talking about.”
I shrugged. “Ask your questions, Scholar.”
Her “few questions” became a detailed examination ranging from how often and long I’d brolled women to how I managed as one.
My body and voice didn’t match the words anymore. Telling the scholar how I’d brolled my slaves made me feel like an idiot, and I burned in embarrassment. I told her everything else: what happened with Ron, Ketrick, and my decision to visit the serum girl clubs. When it was over, she had narrowed her eyes too often for the verdict to be anything except bad news.
“Tyra l'Fay,” she began ominously, “to show those signs this quickly is conclusive. Despite your outward appearance, Ruk's serum has turned you quite effectively. You’ve also had some bad luck: these men you mentioned served as catalysts, speeding the process.” She regarded me with one eye higher than the other. “How on Zhor did you come here without becoming incredibly aroused on the way?”
I told her about the horse dung.
She gave me a look of some respect. “Clever. It shows determination and imagination.” She pressed her hands together under her chin and considered. “As a man, you had a significantly higher than average libido, and normally I would give you no chance at all. Satisfying your urges in the clubs will only work for months -- a year at best. Eventually the slave-play will fail, and you will succumb, likely serving in a siolat tavern or otherwise 'entertaining' large groups of men,” she said, finishing with a distasteful mien. “That is the usual pattern; however, for you, something else might suffice.”
She paused then to look inward and compose herself before continuing. It was maddening.
“Scholar, whatever it is, tell me!”
“The problem with slave-play is that the serum girl knows that it's play. Her slut-urges may be exercised completely, but her slave-urges are not. However, if the girl believed that she was a slave, both her slut-urges and slave-urges would be satisfied, and she could continue on, fully appeased until her needs brought her back to the slave club.” Hana winced, conceding a mental point. “It's theoretical, but it’s a reasonable assumption based on what we know about serum girls.”
She touched my forehead with her finger. “Imagination and will, properly trained, can temporarily make a person believe almost anything.”
“What? Like an actor in a play?”
The scholar shook her head briskly. “No. Think of the berserkers of Dast. They create a place in their minds and fill it with a picture of themselves as invincible warriors. It might work for you. Instead of the invincible warrior, you would believe yourself to be a slave.”
“By the Gods, how?”
“Two hundred years ago, a roving scholar followed the high passes of the Resting Mountains to Dast, and learned their language and culture. He recorded the way they trained berserkers. I caution you, this is no sure thing. For the men of Dast who attempted it, it was hit and miss. It’s an obscure method thought useless to anyone besides berserkers; I offer it as a possibility.”
“I’ll take it!”
It took a few minutes to find the old report and bring it to the table. She pulled a paper and ink from a drawer and copied a portion of a yellowed page. She blew the paper dry and handed it to me. “I can’t emphasize too strongly that this will require enormous willpower. As far as I know, these techniques have never been used to counter Ruk’s Serum.”
I scanned the scholar's spidery script. It called for unusual mental exercises in clear, concise terms, written by someone more interested in communicating the process than impressing others. I carefully folded the paper, and deposited it in my purse as if it were gold.
“Scholar, I don't know how to thank you.”
She smiled, took my hand, and came to her feet. “May Ashtar guide you, Tyra l'Fay — and let me know if it works.”
As we were leaving the chamber, Tisa hauled me off to a pillar close to the door..
“What does she mean,” she hissed, “and what did she give you?”
“Honestly, I don't know. Maybe nothing, and maybe everything I need.”
From her face, she wanted to believe, but she wasn't stupid. “Tyra, it can't be that easy.”
I laughed. “'Easy' is the last thing I expect it to be. I take heart with the words of the sage, 'A man is measured, not by the length of his twyll, but by the challenges he meets and overcomes.'”
“Goddess of Mercy, I wish you would stop quoting that man!” She sighed like I was an affront to all women. I grinned. She shook her head but smiled back. “Well, at least you're in a good mood.”
I was more than in a good mood, making it difficult to drop manure on heads. Fortunately, it wasn't far to the women's section of the market, where few men dared tread. Tisa brought me to a packed cul de sac. It was the busiest time of day. There, women in colorful dresses and skirts swirled, chattered and bargained amidst outdoor stands, their agile hands and slender fingers handling clothing, shoes, and all manner of feminine accoutrements. Tisa led me through the shuffling crowd, past displays with decorative shade canopies and women hawking wares, some directly to me, as I seemed more interested than most.
They were right. For the first time, I was buying women's clothing for myself. I would choose what I liked, buy and wear what I wanted and would call my own, a heady thought for me, now with a chance to be normal. Tisa pointed out a store that she favored. We went inside the place where no man would have reason to be, and I dropped the veil.
For the next three wonderful hours, I almost forgot that I was a serum girl. I wanted to believe that we were two ordinary women out shopping, and that the world outside was as friendly for me as it was for everyone else.
While Tisa prodded and made exasperated noises when she didn't like what I selected, I tried on dresses, blouses, and skirts in front of the mirror that I thought would look good on me, a side I 'd never allowed to show openly before. My sister, as always, accepted these new signs of femininity, not as the revelations they were to me, but as long overdue traits I should have shown much earlier — if only I had not been so stubborn. I didn't correct her: what would it have mattered?
While I was admiring myself, Tisa returned with an armload of clothes. They were all of the daring variety, the deep necklines, sheer cotton and silk that covered while revealing much. Before I said a word in protest, she grabbed my arm, and looked at me seriously.
“It's time. Learn to enjoy it, or at least humor me,” she said.
Why not? “All right, I will.”
If this was a prelude of things to come, I thought, as I looked at myself in the mirror, covered in a dress with a bodice that plunged dangerously, it wasn't bad. I looked good in it, although I still doubted I would wear such a thing comfortably. My breasts weren't bountiful, for which I was grateful, but they were ample enough. In that moment, though, the urges, briefly dormant behind a wall of women and feminine clothing, found me again.
“Is something wrong?”
I turned away from the mirror and began to get undressed. “Let's go home. This is enough for one day.”
Tisa didn't try to talk me out of it, and I made arrangements to deliver what I'd bought to Eagles.
The streets were packed when we left the store. Once away from the women's section of the market, the flow moved against us and I couldn’t avoid the men as I’d done earlier. Tisa led the way, holding my hand, and pressed forward while I concentrated on the blonde tail bobbing behind her head, making myself an island in the flood, but there were too many. Men and women jostled us from the side, and twice we had to move to get out of the way of a wagon. In some distress, now, it wasn't as easy to pay attention. Every man couldn’t be covered in horse dung, nor was the effect as powerful as it once was. Men caught my eye, many handsome and pleasing, and my mind drifted.
A man or woman bumped another in front of me. Off-balance, she broke my hand free from Tisa. In two beats of the heart we were separated. Men lurched into me, or I ran into them; their firm bodies pressing against my breasts like twin jolts of lightning. I grew light-headed; I wanted to touch them. I saw an especially attractive man and reached for him as he went by, drawing back at the last moment. Another passed before me, and I had to force myself around him. Another followed, and another; wetness leaked from between my legs; my breath quickened.
I felt it then, a sensation I'd seen in my slaves when they were close to their true selves, awareness of men so acute a girl’s body moved on its own to touch an arm or caress a leg. I looked for something to hold onto to take me from this delicious madness. When Tisa found her way back to me, I was swaying in a dance, touching men when they walked by. She rushed back and slapped me, then dragged me to the shadow of a stationary cart.
“Tyra, are you all right?”
Hades no! My chest heaved, my breasts tightened in my halter, and I ached to be touched. I wanted a man’s strong hands on my body. I wanted a man inside me!
“Tisa, I need, I need,” I panted, grabbing her arms. “I have to touch myself. I’m so sorry! I can’t wait any longer.”
“Oh, Goddess! Hold on!” She dragged me into an alley a half block away, behind a crate, out of sight of the street as long as she stood to the side. “Go ahead, it’s safe,” she whispered.
I lifted my dress, thanking the Gods that there was nothing under the shift to slow me down, and did what I had to do. It didn’t satisfy me completely, but it returned my sanity. When I finished, I leaned back against the wall, exhausted.
“Tyra, is it over? Are you all right again?”
“That should hold me for several hours, at least. It was all those men around me, rubbing against me … You did well, little sister. I’m proud of you.”
My praise had no effect on her. She looked as if tears would roll any second. “It almost happened, didn’t it?”
I shrugged. “It was close, but I wasn’t really in danger as long you were with me.”
“Don't try to minimize this!”
I threw up my hands. “All right; you win. I lost control over my own body. I was in heat, for Gods’ sake! When I have the time to think about it, maybe I’ll be terrified, but not now. What I did just now cut the fear right out of me.”
She looked at me for a moment without expression. “I suppose it is hard to be afraid when you’re -- enjoying yourself so thoroughly.”
“Yes.” Now that I could think again, I blushed furiously. Tisa had seen far too much of her big sister. “It doesn't matter! Despite what happened, overall, it’s been a good day.”
She looked away, biting her lip. “Tyra ... about what Hana gave you….”
“Let me guess. You think that she gave me the instructions to make me feel better. You don’t think she was serious.”
“Well…” she replied, unable to meet my eyes.
“You're probably right, but I still might be able to make it work.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“I’m not sure, but I’m not just making noises. Most people know that warriors are taught mental exercises to ease their fear before a battle, catch sleep when they can, endure pain, and so forth. What isn’t so well known is that many warriors can’t do it at all, and the majority does it indifferently. I mastered the techniques within a few hours. Hana didn't know it, but she passed on the directions to the right serum girl.”
We waited until the crowd thinned, then returned home without further incident. I hung the picture of the eagle in my room, and then made it through dinner without alarming Mother.
I hadn’t told Tisa everything. It wasn’t anything I wanted to discuss with her, or think about. That moment in the crowd when I’d lost myself I hadn’t merely desired to have my clothes ripped away, legs spread, and body penetrated, I had needed to be taken, dominated -- and overcome.
I retired early that night, telling Tisa that I needed to get some sleep. When I locked the door to my apartments, I freed my hair, took off my clothes, and put on one of Angel’s slave tunics. I looked like a slave in the mirror, except that slaves were proud of what they were: shameless, submissive, and the most attractive women. I’d had a taste of what slavery was like that afternoon in the streets, but I couldn’t know — not really -- I was still a virgin. It might have meant something to Tisa or any other normal young woman growing up, but serum girls like me didn't have the luxury to dwell on romantic notions, or to allow what was left of the man inside me to ponder too closely what it would mean to be penetrated.
“What would make you believe that you’re a slave?” I asked my reflection.
I pleased myself again that night, to sleep, and dreamed of men and mastery, finishing with me on my knees crossing my wrists.
We began after breakfast. I lay down on the bed in my room, gave my sister a reassuring smile, and closed my eyes. The patterns I’d practiced for years relaxed me, and, after a struggle, I took on the attitude described, and entered the impression of a familiar place of peace and calm, the garden.
There was no one else there, nor would there be unless I willed it. I wore a shift so light I couldn’t feel it. I created a breeze, then freed my hair. The wall of bushes to the left and right solidified, and its leaves danced and whispered in the same wind. The sky formed high and blue, and the centerpiece, the tree with the bench surrounding it, took its final shape, then provided shade against the sun, and grass teased my toes under my bare feet.
It was enough to begin.
Here, I departed from the text: Instead of a crazed killer with no fear, I formed her in my image: olive skin, shiny black hair, eyes, and the rest of my face. Her breasts filled; I added musculature to legs, arms, and shoulders. I flared her hips properly, and constructed a saer between her legs. I walked behind her, shaped her bottom and the curve of her back. She became real to me for a split second, and I nearly lost her in my excitement, bringing her back with a supreme effort of will.
Not so fast, Tyra! Slowly, slowly, add each piece, one at a time.
I held her until she was real again, then went on. She breathed. Her eyes beheld the garden and saw me. The shock was too much and she faded, but I stayed, persevered, and I built her again. This time, I was better prepared. I strained to hold her, held on, and gave her substance. She was a girl I might have been had I been born female, a young woman unlearned in the dance of death, someone Tisa could have wanted as her sister, a daughter Mother would have been proud of -- a clear-eyed woman with dreams of a decent man, children, and the fulfilling life of a freewoman of Batuk.
Slowly now, for I was near the limit of what I could hold, I added the mark to her thigh. She became a slave, the vision of my greatest fear. I gave her a name: Resa.
I fought for her, nearly lost her again, and took her in my arms. She is real! Real! My heart slowed and settled into a steady beat. I looked at the girl, and with my last gasp of concentration, I stepped forward, willing us to join, to become her. For an instant, I felt her, a new personality…
The girl flew apart, my carefully built garden vanished, and I snapped out of the trance. My brain felt sautéed. I had nothing left. I pushed myself up and sat on the edge of the bed, put my reeling head in my hands, and wept.
Tisa nearly leaped to my side and slipped her arm around my waist. “It’s all right,” she soothed. “We’ll try again later. Honestly, I thought that you were being optimistic earlier.”
“Tisa....” I said, too tired to explain.
“Even the berserkers sometimes took years to learn it properly.”
Oh, that helps. I don’t have years, Tisa! She was trying, though. I couldn’t be annoyed with her.
“I already have years of experience. The berserker methods aren’t so different than what I'm used to — with an added twist or two.” I glared at her. “Damn it, Tis', I could feel it!”
She nodded confidently. “You will find a way. After we return from the club, we can try again. Say tomorrow morning?”
That afternoon, men I didn’t know would force me to submit and pleasure them. My natural slave side couldn’t wait, but there was plenty inside that detested the idea. There was nothing for it, though; the urges were too close. “We'll try again tomorrow morning.”
When she left, I heated water for a bath. After I slid into its steamy embrace, I considered why I'd failed. It wasn't my technique, I reasoned. I hadn't believed in the woman I'd created enough, a problem not of the will, but of the mind. There was no one to guide me, no example of success to follow. As far as I knew, it might not be possible at all to create a person, a creature of such complexity that I could fool myself -- dangerous thoughts. I needed to believe.
I leaned back and willed the stress from my body. The picture of the eagle on the wall hung within easy sight. It's twin themes of freedom and defiance tolled for me still. I would, I resolved, find a way to overcome the mental block. I had to. I closed my eyes. Thinking too much, and frustration, had brought on the beginnings of a headache.
Wonderful. That’s all I need, to be raped with a headache.
I was about to get dressed to go to the infirmary when I had a thought: The name of the drug Rani smoked was normally used for headaches, afkal.
I'd thought of the painter as a talented eccentric. He was that — and possibly more. Rani had made the outlandish claim that he painted from the inside out. He'd said that his secret was “innovation.” A drug?
All I knew was that he smoked a leaf usually boiled for tea, he perceived his art differently than anything I’d ever heard of, and he had more imagination than I possessed. It wasn’t enough to draw any conclusions, but enough to make me curious. I dressed and left for the infirmary. They didn’t have afkal, but the head cook did.
I had no expectations. If I failed this time, I could, I reasoned, blame the failure on the drug and try something else without too much harm to my confidence. I ground the afkal into a pipe I was given years ago but never used, ignited the leaves, and drew a breath, coughing like my lungs were strangling each other. I took hope where I could find it: no one with a brain larger than a rat could possibly enjoy the acrid smoke; it had to give the user something. I managed to inhale a few more times, then lay back on the bed and waited for what may.
It didn’t take long. At first, it relaxed me without making me sleepy. I entered the garden again. It wasn't quite the same — the garden seemed vivid, alive, and blurred the line between what was real and what was not. I still had to concentrate to create, but not so much to hold it together, and, if a piece faded, a touch would bring it back. Elated, I created my twin and filled her with the personality I’d chosen in half the time. Once again, I willed her to be real. I expected it to work; I believed! Gods, there she was! She breathed, moved, opened her eyes, lived!
Barely restraining my excitement, I tried the final step, “walking” into her, as the berserker directions said to think of it. She wavered like the mist. I backed away until she reformed, and tried again with no more success. I let her stay there, living, breathing, and considered her.
I wasn't discouraged; this was far closer than I'd been. Resa stood patiently, waiting. In most respects she was me, more girlish than I, but still recognizable. Was it possible that I was blocking myself?
I granted her speech.
Hello, Tyra. She smiled exactly the way I imagined she would smile.
Hello, Resa. I’d like to become you for a while.
I know. You’ve tried and failed to become me three times.
I knew her like myself, knew almost before she said a word what she would say. It seemed ridiculous to have a conversation with my own creation, but here, she was real. Resa was a nice girl, more feminine than I, but the base, all that I hadn’t defined, was me. If there was a block, I was doing it to myself. I turned it around. How would I feel if some arrogant woman tried to borrow my body? I’d want a damn good reason, and so would she.
Resa, may I borrow you for a while?
It’s the only way I know how to be free. You know I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t absolutely necessary.
And what of me; where would I go afterwards?
I don't know, but I created you. It’s likely that you would become a part of me again. This would happen regardless of whether I become a slave or not. If I were you, I’d want to become part of a freewoman.
Your argument is compelling. You may have my use.
Thank you, Resa. For now, I need you for a few seconds.
I stepped forward. She smiled, a glimpse, perhaps, of myself if the wheel had turned another way, and welcomed me with arms spread wide. I embraced her. Resa folded her arms around me, drawing me into herself. I saw the garden through her eyes. I was Resa l’Tina with a different set of parents, an older sister, a different brother, in a garden in a world where I had grown up a girl and had never swung a sword. As I had planned, I wasn't there long. With a sigh, I slid backwards, and, like before, Resa stood in front of me — but with a difference. Having been her, the connection was made; I knew I could become her again with a thought. Following the berserker directions, I set up mnemonics, key words that would bring me back to her.
I departed the garden, leaving Resa behind. I cried again, but this time with tears of joy.
I waited until after lunch to tell Tisa, downplaying it just in case it didn’t work. I wrote down the key words for her, one to start the “fantasy” as I’d come to call it, and one to end it.
Early that afternoon, we left the estate by the rear entrance. The infamous East Side wasn’t very dangerous during that time of the day. Normally the fun started in the evening. The Slave’s Dream, one of two clubs in the city that specialized in serum girls, was only two miles away. I’d been there as Tyr years before. This time, however, would be much different.
The fitted stone of the streets turned gradually dirtier, with broken places that needed repair. Shop fronts became ragged and seedy. Tisa, like me, had donned a veil. About half the free women in the area wore one, few decent women wanting their faces known in that part of town. The Slave’s Dream stood on a corner, one of the better-kept establishments. The dark gray stones of its exterior were cut and polished, and the sidewalk outside was maintained. Barred windows of red and gold ringed both floors, all equipped with shutters that could be drawn if the weather was too cold — or if the participants inside grew too boisterous.
I entered first, under a carved relief of a naked spread-eagled woman, her head thrown back in what could have been ecstasy. Just inside were two doors. I chose the one marked “Women.” The weighted door closed behind us. A woman in black leather looked up as we entered. She was taller than average, with arms that, while smooth and feminine, were strong, and she had the thick wrists of one prepared to handle chains and to tie slavers knots. The eyes watching me approach were black flint, and she kept her hair pulled back tightly, descending behind in a sable ponytail. For all her forbidding appearance, she radiated health, and was handsome enough. A silver emblem of a stylized pleasure rack and chain marked her as a bondage mistress in the Guild of the Slave Trainers.
I removed my veil. She regarded me, recognizing me for what I was instantly. I might have been mildly interesting to one who had seen countless serum girls under her whip.
“Good morning, Bondage Mistress,” I said, keeping my tone as relaxed as possible. “I wish to be a slave today.”
She nodded as if this were perfectly normal. For that place, it was. “Have you had any experience in the slave clubs, serum girl?”
I shook my head. “None.”
Her gaze shifted to Tisa, who was still veiled. “Are you also a serum girl? Do you wish to be a slave today?”
Tisa shook her head rapidly. “No! I'll wait for her to return.”
“As you wish. We have a waiting room prepared to the side,” she said, indicating a small door. “There is no need to be concerned. We are a reputable business. Most serum girls who use our services feel safe coming and going alone.” She paid her no more attention.
“Is this your first time as a serum girl?” she asked me.
The bondage mistress made a notation in a book. I was a virgin, a novelty that would bring a high price for a client who wished to experience drin. I didn’t care at that point, my urges had grown with each step. I heard a woman moaning and the sound of a whip. A small part of my mind screamed that I was about to be penetrated, but the consensus in my head wasn't at all sure if that was a bad thing. My body had no doubts, certainly.
“How many hours will you be with us today? You may leave at any time, but I caution you, if you do not stay the full time of your agreement, you will not be permitted to return here for a month.”
“Three hours,” I said, hoping that it would be long enough satisfy me for a few days, and short enough, hopefully, not to wear out the fantasy. I didn’t want to become “myself” somewhere in the middle of a brolling.
“Do you wish the slave marking? It’s temporary, of course, and we will remove it when you leave, but the application is quite realistic; it will make your stay more effective.”
All natural slaves were psychologically affected by branding, but there wasn’t any choice. Resa, as I pictured her, would expect to see a slave mark on her thigh.
“Yes, I would.”
The bondage mistress checked the time and made another notation in her book. She pointed to a red door behind the counter and off to the side. “Remove your clothing in that room and put it in a basket. Return here with it. I will apply the mark. Then you will pass through the black door.” She waved in its direction. “There you will be a slave for three hours.” She inclined her head graciously. “Enjoy the experience.”
As I walked to the door, Tisa tried to go with me. The bondage mistress frowned, and blocked her way. “I regret that we don’t allow visitors in the slave areas.”
“May I speak to her before she enters the last door? I assure you it will only be a second or two.”
She thought for a moment, then shrugged. “I don’t see why not, as long as it doesn’t take too long.”
In the meantime, I smiled like a flower in spring. My needs were finally about to be fulfilled. “I’ll be right back,” I said to Tisa, then passed through the red door. I already felt overdressed.
I stripped and folded my clothes in the basket. It was so, close I could barely hold back! I left the room and handed the basket to the bondage mistress, who put it under the counter.
“Your number is fifteen. Remember it,” she said. She pulled a stamp from a pocket, stamped it in a dark substance from a pad on the table and applied it to my left thigh. I stared at the first letter of the word ‘vaecwi,’ or slave girl. I was marked! In some places, I could now legally be sold at public auction. The natural slave side of me exalted at the wonderful possibility!
Tisa approached, and I had the oddest urge to bow my head to her, my freewoman superior. I stood silently, reeling with this new perception, before she whispered in my ear, “Good luck, Tyra. Aleph one.” She pushed me through the black door.
It closed behind me with the sound of a sliding bolt. I looked around, dazed.
Where am I? What am I doing here? I remembered bandits attacking our caravan on the road to Teshruk where I was visiting my cousin. Brutes in leather and mismatched armor killed our guards. They separated me from the other girls for reasons I never knew, hauling me away screaming. They branded me! Naked and in chains, I joined a line of girls in slave tunics in a slave wagon, on the way to be sold in a distant market. I looked over my hip. The brand was still there. Although it wasn’t painful anymore, it wasn’t a dream!
A door opened to reveal a man.
He was ugly in a way some men like to be, bald pated and sloe-eyed under brooding eyebrows, an unyielding face made to haunt women in dreams. It fit him, this man in black from the Guild of the Slave Trainers.
I was naked and branded. Even though it was useless, I couldn't help myself, and used my hands to cover myself.
“M... Master,” I said, knowing better than try to pretend anything else. Rumor was they never released a girl if she cried, but maybe they could be reasoned with. I cleared my throat. “My name is Resa l'Tina. Someone made a mistake. I should have been ransomed, but was taken from a caravan. Why am I here?”
He chuckled, and toyed with the whip in the leather thong at his side. I had hoped for better. “I will call you Diane,” he said. “You will be used well by many men today.” He took a step forward.
“No! This is wrong!” I would have run, but there was no place to go. I screamed. His forearms were bigger than my calves. One huge hand reached for me and took my arm. I beat him on the chest with the other and tried to kick him, but it was like hitting a wall for all the good it did. He snatched my other hand, and spun me around so fast my hair whipped in front of my face. “No, please!” I wailed. By the Goddess, it was humiliating: it took him only a few seconds to tied my hands behind my back and, as I wriggled, he snapped a collar around my neck. “No!” I cried in fury, and managed a half-turn. He used the opportunity to lock the end of chain to the collar like he'd planned it that way.
“Come.” He walked down the corridor without looking back. I followed, of course, the chain dragging me forward like a dog. Never in my life had I been handled so! I was angry, but didn't think to resist, so startled was I. I'd known that men were stronger, but not like this. I was not accounted a weak woman, but where my muscles were strong for a girl, his were corded oak. But I wasn't supposed to be strong! I was a pretty girl — men were supposed to be nice to me!
We passed doors, behind which men growled and grunted and women moaned, in fear, I thought at first — or not, blushing when I heard the wails of a slut. I'm in a house of joy? Impossible! Not me!
The slave trainer stopped at a door, opened it, and pushed me through, tripping me in a way that put me on my knees. I looked up at him, snarling.
“Head down!” he roared.
I did what he said before I could catch myself.
I heard the tread of boots — someone new. The slave trainer spoke. “You’re fortunate, Regis. Here is a new slave, not yet broken to the collar.” My chain was passed on. I dared not look up until the slave trainer left the room and the door closed. I seethed at my treatment. I looked up in fury. Regis was a strong, good-looking man who seemed reasonable.
“Master, my family would pay much to get me back...” I began.
He just smiled. “Slave, what is your name?”
“I ...” Something in his voice put me on alert. “Diane, Master,” I said sullenly. It was a slave name. He put his hand on my face and lifted my chin so I had to look at him.
“Your name,” he said in a cold, clear voice, “is whatever I want it to be. Diane will do for now.”
“I ... I ....” I said, my mouth open like a fool. The man had no compromise in him; he seemed utterly sure of himself.
He smiled. “You are very beautiful.”
Thank the Goddess. He was someone I could handle. I smiled back and lowered my eyes, bringing them up slowly while breathing deeply, making my breasts move just enough to tease. “Master, my family would pay a great deal. If you return me, you might buy several...”
“You are too beautiful to be free, Diane,” he said, as if I'd said nothing at all.
I stared at him. What kind of man is this?
“Stand,” he ordered like he owned me. I was just beginning to understand what kind of man he was, and who he thought I was. I stood — in a hurry.
“M ... Master, what do you intend to do with me?”
“I intend to rape you.”
“You animal!” I wept. “Oh, Master, please let me go!”
He grinned again, as I had apparently pleased him. “No.”
He took my chain and led me to a device in the middle of the room. I recognized it as a variation of a pleasure rack. “No! Master, do not do this!”
He growled. “Are you telling me what to do, slave?”
A master could kill a slave for any reason. At the very least, I could be beaten. “No, Master!”
“It really doesn’t matter what you say.” He thrust his chin towards the rack. “Regard your destiny. Here is where you learn what you are.”
The pleasure rack had two large wheels mounted horizontally, each over five feet high. The wheels had tracks inside, enabling connecting bars to be cranked as close or far apart as one might wish. The bars had wrist and leg restraints that were also adjustable. A slave, once secured on the bars, could be forced to assume any position.
Before I could comprehend that he was really going to do it, he threw the chain of my collar over the top bar and pulled. Suddenly forced to stand on my toes, he snapped the foot bands around my feet. I had to stand carefully to avoid falling. Lowering the top bar, he untied the leather cords on my wrists and reconnected them to the wrist restraints on the upper bar. I squirmed in my bonds, but it was useless. I was just a girl, held fast — helpless!
“Master, please, please release me!” I cried.
“Hah! What a mistake that would be. You were made to be enslaved.”
I struggled again against the restraints, but they were far too strong.
“Master, I don’t want to be a slave!” He paid no attention. I was powerless in the rack. My skin tingled all over, aware of my bonds, my nakedness. He could do anything he wanted to me! He was strong. If he wanted, he could rape me. What would it feel like, to be raped by such a man, unaffected by pleas, sure of what he wanted?
And he wanted me! Terrified of the thought, I shut my eyes and turned away from him.
“Open your eyes, Diane. They are too beautiful to be hidden,” he said, as I were an object to be treasured, a valuable piece of property. The brand pulsed on my thigh, and I obeyed without thinking. He moved closer and began to strip, removing his boots, his shirt, his pants until there was nothing left. He was well-muscled, and endowed, I thought, although I was no judge. I could barely take my eyes away. Where I was soft and neatly gapped, he was equipped -- mightily.
He approached me until he was very close. I felt his heat. If I leaned forward a small amount, I could have touched him with my breasts. The tiny traitors hardened with dismaying swiftness. I threw my head back so I wouldn't have to look. What is happening to me? I struggled one last time, but I couldn't move. I groaned.
“You feel it, Diane,” he informed me. “You are a true slave.”
“Beast! I am not! I’m really a freewoman, wrongly branded!”
He placed his hand between my legs and tested me. I cried out at the invasion, but to my horror, I was wet and slick as a clam.
“Yes. There is no doubt.” The indignities did not end there. He took my breasts in his hands, cupping them, stroking gently over skin suddenly sensitive and eager. I bit my tongue, but I couldn't stop myself and moved under his touch. His hands were strong, unlike mine, masculine, like nothing I'd ever felt there before. I moaned. I wept. I hated him! I didn’t want him to stop.
“I don’t want to be a slave!”
“It doesn’t matter. Your body tells me you are.” He slid his hand between my legs, found the most intimate part of me, making me gasp. “It’s useless to deny what is obvious to us both. Do not lie to me,” he commanded. “What do you feel?”
I wailed! By Ashtar, it felt incredible! He wasn’t going to release me. I would be a slave forever, owned. I looked down again and saw what I expected between his own legs. My Master told me that I was beautiful. He desired me — like this -- and I could no longer lie to myself. My body sang for his. “I’m a slut, Master! I want you.”
I couldn’t take it back. My owner, my Master — Gods, what a word! -- powerful, strong, uncompromising. I wept, for I could never go back to my family, but I understood now: there had been no mistake.
He released my feet and hands and dragged me by the chain to a bed of pelts. He threw me to the furs and tied my hands to a post at the top of the bed. In full heat now, I panted and my breasts heaved. I wriggled my bottom in the pelts, begging him to take me. He watched me squirm for a time, making me wait.
“You are an incredible slut,” he said in amazement.
He took me exactly as he wanted, forcing me into the position he desired. With my legs high and wide, my saer dripping, he entered me. The flimsy barrier within proved to be no hindrance to a man who wanted me, and burst with a touch of pain. I was a maid no more. When I couldn't contain myself anymore, I squeezed muscles I never knew I had around my Master, making him gasp and fill me with his seed. The slave orgasm that followed shot through my body like fire, and pressed me back against the pelts. By the Goddess, so this is what it means to be a slave! I tightened my legs around my Master and tested my bonds, pleased to find myself helpless. The natural slave at the center of my being melted like wax over an open fire. I lay back as my Master assaulted my saer, utterly satisfied for the first time in my life.
My Master took me again, forcing me to pleasure him. I couldn't have been happier. When he left me, my body still quivered in hunger.
“Master!” I pleaded when he put on his clothes.
He shook his head. “An incredible slut,” he said again. He untied my hands and left me, still in desperate need.
Three more men arrived and left before I was reasonably sated. I loved this body that could keep producing orgasms and please men. If this was life as a slave, I wanted it, not that I would be given any choice in the matter. The last man stared at me before he left the room and muttered “serum girls.” I wondered at that. I wasn’t a serum girl, not that it made any difference. I couldn’t wait for my next master.
I was disappointed when the man from the Guild of Slave Trainers dragged me away.
When he pushed me through the door at the end of the corridor, I saw a free woman in a veil. Not wishing to offend her, I bowed. She approached me. “Tyra,” she whispered.
“Mistress?” I replied in confusion. My name was Diane until a master wished to change it.
“Tertius two,” she said quietly.
The last three hours came back to me in a rush. As I stood, stunned, the bondage mistress wiped away my temporary slave mark with a chemical remover.
She smiled. “Thank you for visiting The Slave’s Dream. Come back soon.”
“Thank you,” I replied automatically. By the Gods, the urges... “I ... I had a wonderful time,” I said to myself in disbelief, touching my lips and a well-fondled breast.
“Yes, I heard. That was number fifteen, wasn’t it?”
“That's right.” She handed me the basket of clothes and I changed in the changing room after taking a quick shower to wash away the scent of brolling, the produce of four men, and a trace of blood from my broken ymlu.
Except for some soreness between my legs, and a part of me that reeled in shock that I'd been penetrated, I felt fantastic.
Thanks for the comments. They mean a lot to me. ~Aardvark
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