For many generations the dwarves of the Tolek Kingdom have awaited the return of their king. None actually expected him to return, but they waited nonetheless. They kept to themselves, mainly, crafting their fine goods in the mountain fastnesses. When they had to, they would trade with men, and with even elves, if the need was great enough to drive them to it. However, they were mostly self-sufficient. They idolized tradition above all else, and one of those traditions was slavery.
Slavery to the dwarves was not this cruel institution that many human cultures turned it into, it was a system, and like all systems that work, it had rules. Slaves had to be paid a wage commiserate with their value as workers, and that wage was accounted against their cost as a slave. When they had worked long enough, they were freed. This process could take from one to twenty years, but it almost always resulted in the slaves becoming free men eventually.
The slaves, themselves, were not captives of war, nor the victims of kidnapping. They sold themselves into it. For many dwarves, whose debts had threatened to shame their clan, it was a way to pay those off and save face ultimately. A skilled worker could expect to make quite a large sum of money on their sale into indentured servitude, and even pay back most of it if their debt was small, thereby shortening their slavery period.
The rules for treatment of slaves were complicated and comprehensive. As most laws and rules around dwarven activities were. They could not be beaten except after proof of need, which required the assent of two elders, not of the same clan. Even then, the method of the beating and even the type of material the cane should be made of were clearly and concisely delineated. Dwarven slaves had to be fed well, and the dietary needs were listed on complex tables and charts that made sure there was no ambiguity in the interpretation of them. It was all very civilized and very well laid out. The dwarves, of course, loved it; it was tradition.
Non-dwarves dwelling within the borders of the Tolek Kingdom could, of course, partake of this fine and time-honored system if they felt their debts had become too much for them to bear.
Amelae felt just this way. She had come to the Tolek Kingdom from Windir. An elven lass, she had been overzealous in her wanderlust and wound up in these faraway mountains. Unfortunate circumstance and a few bouts of bad luck forced her to accrue debts. Not large ones, but sufficient, that she would have to spend many long years paying them back if she could not come into over five hundred marks in silver. The dwarves were hospitable toward her, if a bit distant. Elves and dwarves had never gotten along terribly well, and she did better than most elves at interacting with the 'second born' race. She was a journeyman smith, and had come to the Tolek Kingdom to learn the more advanced smithing techniques of the dwarves.
She quickly discovered that they were loath to teach their techniques to outsiders, especially elves. Not that they were really 'secrets' per se, but the general idea was rather upsetting to the stout, short men. Often they would stroke their beards and say, "I cannot fathom why an elven lass would wish to learn this, let me show you something more suited to the elven temperament." This condescension infuriated Amelae to no end. She was a damn smith, and a fine one, at that.
Her bad luck, however, started when she had run across some goblins in the mountains and been injured fighting the foul little things off. Her wounds were tended and then the bill for the services tendered by the friendly healers of the holding she had managed to get to before collapsing from blood loss. They, of course, had extended credit due to her current circumstances. Then there had been the bellows incident. She had finally convinced a lesser-known dwarven master smith to let her work for him a while. As she did so, one of the other apprentice dwarves, angry at her intrusion in his personal career path, had sabotaged the bellows she had been pumping, causing it to work backwards, and suck hot coals into it, destroying the finely wrought bellows. She had no proof, so was liable under dwarven law for the damages. Again, credit had gladly been extended to her, but the smith had been forced to let her go from his service.
She, sadly, came to the conclusion that there were two choices before her. Send word home and let her clan bail her out, by sending the money to her, something that would prove her unworthiness as an adult and professional. Or she could sell herself into slavery and gain back the money, and probably a bit more, she had been told repeatedly. The dwarves would happily employ her in their smithies as a slave, even if they would not hire her as an employee. This caused her to shake her head, but it was their way, and she could not really hope to change their minds on the matter.
Her decision made, she went to the Registrar of Slave Admissions in the holding she was at, a larger settlement called Duman's Holding. He looked at her oddly for but a moment before he pulled forth a pre-printed form and started filling in the blanks upon it with a metal quill.
She provided all the necessary information for the transaction, and it was registered, witnessed, then stamped with the Duman's Holding seal, and the crest of the Tolek Kingdom. "You will be auctioned off tomorrow at the third bell, please do not be late." He told her solemnly. Her being late would result in massive bureaucratic fallout. It would take weeks to get her refiled and ready to be sold again. She left with the traditional ten marks of silver that slaves earned simply for registering, a goodwill gesture that also helped truly desperate people at least eat and sleep in a warm bed their last night of freedom.
She did need it and used it to rent a room for the night and a large supper with a bottle of very nice wine, imported from Costa Roja. She did not get drunk that night, but she did get pleasantly tipsy, even to the point where she danced for the bar patrons. As an inn that catered to humans and other 'big folk' her dance had been well received. Upon completion, she had received no less than ten invitations to share a bed that night, both veiled and quite bold. Amelae was no virgin, most elven lass' weren't by the age of majority, but she was also not terribly experienced, and the idea of bedding with a human, even one of the several quite handsome and charming ones she had met while she had been inebriated, frightened her.
Her friends had told her humans were larger than elven lads, in pretty much every way. They further added that elven lasses should be careful, as well, with humans, for their semen was more potent than that of elves, and a girl could get pregnant quite handily sleeping with one.
She awoke at the sound of the innkeeper pounding upon her door. "Miss Amelae, you asked to be awakened by the second bell." His gruff voice said. "It will be then soon, good morning." She heard his heavy footsteps down the hall. Then she heard him pounding on another door. "Mister Teldan, you asked to be awakened by the second bell." He repeated the routine. She dressed slowly, a certain sense of dread settling into her heart, as happens to most people about to undergo a major change in their lives. She was going to be owned by another person soon. The ignobility of it settled into her chest and she hung her head as she went out into the hall.
A door slamming from the adjacent room forced her to look that way. It was a young human man. She saw he was blue eyed; something that often brings a smile to many elven folk's faces. Her own were silver, and shone like disks of molten steel in her sockets, with hardly any white showing. Their eyes met for a moment, and she recognized the expression her own eyes wore. He was going to the slave auction today, as well. She gave him a tiny smile, and a very fleeting one. He returned it, and added a small nod of his head.
Amelae headed down the stairs, and as she crossed the common room toward the front door, she heard the young human coming down behind her.
A few minutes later she was standing in a queue with many other people, with the young man standing behind her. Most of the folk in the line were dwarves, grousing and cursing their rotten luck to have to be sold into slavery. There were two other humans, one male and one female, holding hands. Slaves who were wed could arrange to be sold together, and it looked like this pair was going to do just that. She watched them for a long moment, they were not young humans, but neither were they old. As she gazed upon them they looked at one another, and she saw a powerful locking of spirits in that look. They loved so strongly, her elven eyes could almost see it, she could definitely see the other effects it had upon them. The display of affection caused her heart to warm and almost made her weep. Those two people alone of the slaves to be sold were happy.
The auction began at the third bell, sharp. By the time the echoes of the tolling died down, the first slave was already being bid upon. A young, strong dwarf lad, who fetched six hundreds for six years service. The auction was not like she had heard humans tell of in Abia or on the Crystern Isles. Those were raucous things that degraded the people sold and the buyers alike. This was strictly business. The buyers were investing in a worker, and little else mattered.
The auction proceeded apace, twenty dwarves and the human couple were gone, and it was her turn. She mounted the steps and the auctioneer ran through her attributes and skills quickly. Many dwarves perked up their ears at the sound of 'journeyman smith.' She had committed to two years servitude.
Several dwarves turned away at the short service period, they were interested in longer-term investment. However, she was amazed at the speed that the bids increased. Within ten bids she would make enough to pay off her debts. The number kept climbing though, and reached eight hundreds. At nine hundreds, all but two of the bidders were eliminated. These two, however, seemed quite determined.
Finally, at eleven hundreds, she was sold. The losing bidder threw up his hands in annoyance and the winner beamed at him. She had gotten double what she needed. She walked down the platform stairs and to her new master. He looked her over with a casual eye. "You look a bit frail." He said. "But I wager your fingers are quite nimble and can do fine detail work."
"I can, master." Amelae said. "I can also wield hammer and bellows, if need be."
He nodded. "Good." He said. "I must concentrate, we speak later." He held up a hand.
She looked where he was looking. It was the young human from the inn. The dwarf was bidding on him. After some mutual glowering between him and the dwarf he had beaten out before, the lad was his. "Good, good." The dwarf said. "Now I have muscle to help with your dexterity."
Gurdaz went over to the kiosk for the auctioneer and paid out several large golden coins for the two slaves. He returned to the two waiting tall folk.
The human walked up to them. "What do I do now, master?" He asked.
"We will all go to my hearth forge and we will talk a bit." The dwarf said. "I would meet my new holdings, while I have them." The dwarf led them down several passages then into a narrow way. After almost a mile of walking the claustrophobic tunnel, they emerged into a sizeable room. It was a smithy, as most others looked. One sullen dwarf sat upon a low stool, apparently awaiting their return. "Hargrum, get up, you lazy slack, I still have your hide for three more years, get working." He said. The sullen dwarf stood slowly and went to work cleaning out the old dust from the fire pit.
"What are your names?" The dwarf asked the two new purchases.
"I am Amelae, master." She said.
The human said. "My name is Mattew, master." He looked at Amelae. "That's a lovely name." He said to her.
She glanced at him, and a very slight tinge of pink entered her cheeks. "Thank you", she whispered, with the barest trace of smile.
"I am Gurdaz, but you will call me master for the next two years each." The dwarf said. You will find me a fair master, despite what Hargrum says."
He immediately put them to work around the smithy, having Mattew tote coal from the storage room, downstairs into a barrel near the forge. Amelae was tasked with purifying some steel rods.
After four hours of work, Gurdaz took them to their rooms, they were across the hall from each other, being the two rooms closest to the smithy, and having high ceilings.
Hargrum groused about their presence and that they had shorter periods of servitude than he did.
As Amelae settled into her room, there was a knock upon her door. Gurdaz opened it and peered in. "I also wished to tell you, you will be serving in my private chambers, Amelae." He said. "Come to me after supper."
She blinked after him as he shut the door. She had not known that slavery would include that sort of intimate servitude. She blinked a few more times, then sniffed back a tear and shrugged. She had committed to it, so she would do what was her duty. That it was her duty was not in doubt, as no normal dwarf would violate the rules around slavery.
The three slaves ate in the kitchen and Mattew said. "It's not so bad as I thought it would be." He picked up his mug of beer. "You?" He was looking at Amelae.
"I suppose not, Mattew." She said, though her eyes had a faraway look. "It is not quite what I expected, though."
The human nodded and drank his beer down. "Well, I have to consider myself lucky, at least I have someone beautiful to look at." He said as he set down the mug.
Amelae blushed again, more brightly than before. "Are all humans so complimentary?" She asked, tilting her head a little, and stroking her rich golden hair.
"When faced with someone so lovely, yes." Mattew said. His eyes were alight as he said it. The look, more than the words, caused her to blush still deeper red. Elves always had a way to cool down human ardor, and she used it, but gently.
"Mattew, do you know how old I am?" She asked.
He shrugged. "Twenty or so?" He guessed.
Amelae gave him a level and even look. "I am sixty four years old." She said. She did not bother telling him that her age was, in human terms, almost what he guessed.
His eyes grew wide with surprise. "Wow." Mattew said. "My father is only fifty." Then he looked down at the table. "I get it. I'm only twenty, myself." His face showed a rather endearing moroseness at those words. He realized their differences now and it hit him hard. If, in time, she felt more close to him, she would explain further, but for now, she had managed to curb his enthusiasm for flirting with her.
For one thing, she had matters of immediate import to think on. In a short while, her new master would bed her. Understandably, this took pride of place in her thoughts as they finished their meals and gave their dishes to the scullery servants. She had already decided that this was an inevitable thing, now to cope with it in her mind.
She went to her room for a moment to gather her thoughts. She said a quick prayer to the spirits, and opened her mind. Standing in the middle of the room she tilted her head back and began to breathe quite slowly and deeply. Her thoughts cleared and her mind expanded for a moment. In that moment the spirits gave her guidance and helped her decide her will. She had promised to be a good slave, and she would be. Her mind ran through the things that would make this task less odious. Her master was a good dwarf, she knew that much already, from his treatment of them so far. He seemed to be intelligent, as well, something she always found attractive in men. She had not heard much regarding dwarven men's privates, but she had heard a few times, in taverns around the Kingdom, that they were as well endowed as human men. This balked her a little, but also gave her a small amount of thrill. Was that enough? She wondered. Lifting her skirt, she felt between her smooth thighs. The moisture there was above normal, but not very much so. They also reputedly had great endurance and could love a woman for many hours non-stop. This idea gave her even more of a thrill, and far less pause than the size issue. Yes, she decided, feeling herself grow quite wet, that will help nicely.
Having gotten herself mentally ready for her next chore, she went toward the master's chambers. When she entered, she heard him puttering around another room. This first room was a sitting room, and had several large chairs about it. The ceiling was lower than usual, but she could still stand in the room, though she had to duck through doors. "I am here, as you asked, master." She called out.
There was a slight pause as she heard him splashing in water. He was bathing. She added that to the tally of good things about him, he chose to bathe before making love. "Very good, please wait in the bedroom, Amelae." He said.
She went into the next room. It was spartanly furnished, with only a bed and a large desk, covered in papers. At the foot of the bed was a large, heavy-looking chest. She looked at the bed, unmade, but quite comfortable-looking if a bit short.
Her short top slipped up and over her head as she lifted it, then untied her skirt, letting it fall to the floor. Both of these she picked up and placed upon the corner of the desk.
When Gurdaz entered the room his eyes grew wide at the sight of her sitting on the heavy chest, quite nude and looking nervously at him. "I am ready, master." She murmured, her entire body blushing slightly. "I beg you to go slowly, I am not very experienced, and have only known elven men." Her large silver eyes regarded him levelly. "But, as the master, it will be your choice, I suppose."
The towel Gurdaz was wearing tented outward with his growing erection. "Um." He said. "Well, yes." The dwarf was at a loss for what to say. He simply stared at her nude form, and her unashamed revealing of herself. Her legs were parted very slightly, and he could clearly see her entrance, and the smooth mound above it. Her pert, but smallish breasts were displayed openly, as well.
Amelae glanced down at his growing organ, and the cloth covering it. "Am I to service you while you stand?" She asked, standing up and walking toward him.
"Ah. Well. No, not really." He stammered. "I shall sit upon the bed with you." He finally managed to say. His voice was still grating, but she detected his nervousness.
She gave him a tiny fraction of a smile. "Is something wrong, master?" She asked, her voice sounding actually concerned, not just passing words.
"Well, actually, yes." Gurdaz said, and wanted to kick himself even as he spoke the words. He sat upon the bed and patted the bed, not right beside him but a couple of feet away. "Sit down, please, Amelae." He said.
She sat down in the indicated spot and looked at him. "Yes, master." She said, turning partially toward him and resting one leg up on the bed opening herself to him more widely.
With a mighty swallow, and following much internal debate, he said. "Look. Sweet Amelae. Your duties do not include what you seem ready to do."
The elven maiden blinked at him. "Master?" She asked.
"It's, well, not permitted to require a slave to perform sexual activities with the owner or anyone else, for that matter." He said as he ran his fingers through his thick beard, combing it after a fashion. "I mean, you cannot be commanded to provide quite this intimate a service. I simply wished you to straighten my chambers up, and maybe dust a little."
Amelae's eyes filled with tears, and her face fell. "Spirits curse me." She muttered. "I feel like an idiot."
"Amelae. No." He said, his voice as soothing as he could make it. "You could not have known. And now that I think back on what I said, I guess I can see where you misunderstood me."
The elf had risen and was wrapping her dress about her waist. "I beg your forgiveness, master, for shaming you, and myself." She said, pulling the cords that tied it tight and knotting them. "I was a fool."
Gurdaz tried to provide a smile. "Actually, I was quite honored there for a long moment, when I thought you were interested in me." He said. "I wish I could have known what you were offering me, but I would not have it by deception."
Turning to face him, she said. "I had convinced myself to want to, actually." a wan smile playing on her thin lips. "I even was looking forward to it. You are a man of great skill and sensibilities, and a fine lover I deem."
The dwarf grimaced. "Don't tell me such things, lass." He said, his eyes twinkling over his thick beard. "Else I will kick myself in the butt all the harder for passing the chance."
Something in Amelae's eyes changed, the set, even the color. They were tinged now with blue, and she walked toward him. "Why say you the chance is gone?" She asked, her voice now lower in tone and much breathier. "I have yet to flee your bedchamber."
"You would really take me into you?" Gurdaz said, his eyes again wide. "Even knowing that I cannot command you to do so?"
She nodded and reached for the knot holding up her skirt. "I would, Gurdaz." She said. Her eyes held his, and he could see little else, just the motion on the edge of his vision of the skirt falling to the floor. She stood just before him now, and reached down and took his hands from his lap. "You may take me, by my own free will."
She guided his hands to her slim hips, then sat upon the newly vacated lap. His skin felt rough to her and she found it excited her more for that. Under his hands, he felt softness to rival silks and satins, or even the smooth side of a well-polished sword.
Gurdaz sighed as she curled up to him and ran her slender fingers through his beard. "I really do find you appealing." She said, kissing his cheek above his beard.
Her warm lips were very soft, and he relished their touch. His powerful hands moved over her skin again, sliding up to her back and pulling her to him for a real kiss.