The room dark, the lamps long since extinguished, but a little light still came off the banked embers in the open-faced brazier. The slave moved cautiously and as quietly as she could. It wouldn't have mattered, the form snoring loudly on the bed didn't move, and wouldn't until he had slept off the wine from the party he'd attended that evening.
The slave's master, the honorable Blein deMongue, wasn't in the habit of over imbibing. If he got too drunk he wasn't able to "play" with his toys in the manner he so enjoyed. It was difficult to judge that fine line between maximum pain and mortality. He learned that after losing a few that way. They had had the audacity to die on him before he was ready for that final step.
This evening though he had been celebrating the successful signing of a very large contract for dry goods with the Safehaven shipyard. In his exuberance over the expected flow of wealth into House deMongue he had bought round after round for his fellow merchants gathered in the tavern. Of course as "host" he felt compelled to partake of each round he purchased. By the end of the evening he needed the help of both the tavernkeeper's sons to help him find his way back to the boarding house.
He could hardly make it up the stairs and into his rooms, but he did get there. Once safely in the room with the door locked behind him he took off his coat and threw it over the back of a chair next to the brazier. On wobbly legs he stumbled over to the bed and stared down at the floor where his latest "toy" was securely chained to the footboard naked. She was pretty, they all were, but he'd had her for half a season or so and now was getting bored with her. At first her sullen resistance was refreshing. Her previous owner had warned him she wasn't the most tractable of slaves. He thought he would have fun breaking her spirit before disposing of her, but she turned out to be more mulish and strong-willed than he anticipated. As a true testimony to his ego, Blein deMongue didn't consider this as failure on his part, but on hers for being such a poor slave.
Normally he would unchain her from the footboard and secure her elsewhere depending on what his plans were for the evening's fun. Strapped down over a chair back if it was a whip or cane; maybe spread-eagled on the bed if it were needles, ropes or knifes. It made little difference to him since he could use her for his pleasure either way once he was done "playing" and she had either passed out or screamed herself hoarse.
What he had planned for this particular evening remained a mystery. After unlocking her leg shackle he stood up and reached out to grab her by the hair. As he stood he was suddenly overcome by a wave of nausea and he pitched forward onto the bed where he passed out cold. He never even had time to secure his slave. It was the last mistake he ever made.
The slave sat on the floor panting for a moment; not realizing her master was dead to the world and wasn't going to complete his usual fun and games that evening. Hands still cuffed together she struggled to her feet and stared down at his motionless body. Slowly she took the small ring of keys he still held in his hand and carefully tried each one until the cuffs unlocked.
Moving quicker now she went to the closet and pulled out a set of her finest clothes. After getting dressed she again stared at him, debating with herself on what to do next. Her choices were fairly limited. She could run, but the chances of getting away for any length of time were next to nil. Safehaven was a small community on an island, and although they were known to be "slave friendly" she knew that wouldn't preclude an all-out search for a runaway slave. If, no... when, she was caught, she knew what she could expect from her master: a slow and painful death at best, maiming and continuous pain at worst. There was one option: the result as sure as the first, but at least the nightmare would be over. Decision made she nodded minutely to herself and moved slowly towards the brazier.
Picking up the poker leaning against the wall she held it firmly in both hands and made her way determinedly to the bed. Raising the poker over her head, she froze. If she did this the commitment would be final. Whether she killed him or not her life would be forfeit under the law. Jeevel law could be ambiguous and highly subject to interpretation in many cases, but not in the case of a slave striking her master. It was death. For a moment she wondered if his death would be worth hers. But she remembered the pain and cruelty suffered under this beast; she struck down hard.
Despair triggered that first blow; hate and fury fueled those that followed. Again she struck, and again. She never knew just how many times she attacked his head. She stopped when her exhausted arms could no longer lift the poker and what remained of his head was little more than a bloody pulp soaking into the silk pillows.
Dropping the poker she stepped back. Now her only thought was to flee. Looking down she was just barely cognitive enough to realize that getting dressed before she attacked him had probably not been such a good idea. The front of her dress was covered with spatters of blood, bone and pieces of brain. The euphoria of killing her tormentor drove all care of that from her mind. She giggled and with the calm disposition of the truly fey she unbolted the door and walked out of the boarding house.
The two constables strolling down the street that evening expected a quite night. In a previous life they had been marines in the service of the Putram of Malshall. The capture of their ship and subsequent refusal of their Putram to ransom either them or their fellows changed that. Normally they would have expected to be sold to the mines of Jeevel but their present commander, Warrior Dent, now the Governor of Safehaven, had saved them that fate. They considered that humiliating defeat to the luckiest thing that ever happened to them.
The town of Safehaven was growing rapidly under its new governor and with that growth came the need for constables and a justice system the small quiet town wasn't equipped to handle. As a temporary measure the governor "loaned" the use of his company guards, in essence a private army, to Safehaven until enough constables could be trained and placed in service. Used to a life of soldiers and bloody warfare the ex-marines actually enjoyed the duty. It gave them the chance to bust heads once in a while and still enjoy the favor of an appreciative citizenry. Given their no-nonsense methods of dealing with troublemakers it wasn't long before the town was almost as placid as it was before they arrived. Now quiet nights were the norm and trouble the exception.
So when they saw the obvious figure of a woman moving listlessly down the street toward them it was with curiosity but little anticipation. As luck would have it they met under the flickering light of one of the few lamps on that street. Two things were immediately apparent: first the woman was a slave and second, she was covered in blood and viscera.
"Hey!" one said immediately. "What's happened here?"
"He's dead," the slave said. She spoke as though she were far away, not really hearing or understanding what was going on around her.
"Who's dead?" the other constable asked.
"He is," she answered, then she looked at them and smiled. "That fucking pig is dead."
"Gods what a mess," one guard muttered. "A name, we need a name."
"Oh," she said waving her free hand like the answer to the question was obvious. "Mongue. Blein Mongue."
"DeMongue?" the first asked.
"You know him?" the second asked.
"Know of him," the first replied. Turning back to the slave he asked, "Where is he and what happened."
"I hit him," she said still smiling. "I hit him and he died."
"Shit!" they said simultaneously. Instantly two swords were drawn and ready.
"Where is he?" the first asked. "Show us where!"
"Sorry to wake you, Magistrate." The night watch's captain nodded at the deceptively frail looking old man who entered his office.
"I know you wouldn't have if it wasn't important, Trieger." Daniel yawned and plopped himself down in the seat across from the captain. "What's the problem?"
"Well," the captain started, "it seems simple enough, but enough of the story sounded, strange. In a nutshell: a slave killed her master."
"No doubt as to who did it?" Daniel asked.
"Oh, none at all," Captain Trieger nodded. "She admits it readily enough. But..."
"Let's walk down to the cell," Trieger said standing up. "It's easier to show you than tell you."
Moments later they were standing outside the small holding cell the watch used.
"She's in there," Trieger said. "We stripped her down, her clothes are on the table over there." Trieger motioned to the guard standing just outside the cell and the door was opened. They stepped inside and Trieger held up a lamp so the light shown on the form huddled on the bare cot.
"Gods!" Daniel exclaimed. "She was like this before you brought her in?"
"Absolutely!" Trieger declared. "She came along quietly, no need for rough handling on our part."
"Hmm, I don't know if this really makes any difference if what you say is true." Daniel said slowly.
"I know. If you want I can have one of the men take her out back and put her down."
Daniel thought for a moment. "No. I want the governor to handle this one."
"The governor?" Trieger asked. "Do you really think that's necessary? You know the law as well as I."
"I know," said Daniel. "But he's the governor and gets paid for this kind of crap."
The rattling of the key in the door woke Shasta from the horrible nightmare she had been having. She was naked, but that wasn't unusual. What was abnormal was the fact her hands weren't cuffed and there wasn't a shackle around her ankle. Sitting up she recognized where she was and all the memories of the night before flooded back. Far from being afraid, at first she was ecstatic remembering how Mongue's head split like a ripe melon, that now the beast would never torture or kill another girl. After the first flush of euphoria a kind of melancholy set in as she realized the opening door was probably the executioner coming for her. Still, she was ready for that. Sitting up proudly she waited with only a slight trembling as an outward sign of her nervousness.
The person who actually came through the door surprised her. Unless Safehaven utilized gray haired old grannies as executioners they weren't coming for her just yet. Right behind the old woman the guard did pop his head in.
"You going to be all right, Miz Bilinde?" he asked. Then he looked directly at Shasta. "You don't cause no trouble, you hear! You ain't caused no trouble so far so we lets you rest without shackling ya. You just keep it that way."
"We'll be fine, Hubent," Bilinde said shooing him back out the door with an arm draped in clothes. In the other she held a pitcher of water and a large bowl. The guard nodded and backed out after telling nobody in particular he would be right outside the door. Bilinde turned around and for a few moments the two women just looked at each other.
"Well," Bilinde said finally. "The magistrate was right; we do need to clean you up a bit, dearie."
"Magistrate?" Shasta asked confused.
"Doubt you remember him last night," Bilinde said as she set the pitcher and bowl on the small table next to the cot. "He did say you were asleep when he looked in on you. Now here is some water and I have a towel in here somewhere. You're quite a dreadful sight, dearie. I'm sure getting at lest some of that, well, stuff, off will make you feel better."
"When will they kill me?" Shasta asked suddenly.
"Oh, I don't know anything about that, dearie," Bilinde answered as if Shasta had asked when the bed linens were changed. "All I know is the magistrate asked me to bring you some clean clothes and water to wash with. I know he is going to talk with the governor this morning. We'll probably know more after he gets back."
"Yes, the governor. Now do you need help here, dearie?"
"Ah..." Shasta felt like she was moving underwater, everything in slow motion. "No. No, thank you."
"Very well, dearie," Bilinde said placing the clothing down on the cot. "I'll be back in a wee bit with some food for you. I'd say it's for your morn meal, but it's closer to noon now."
"Why?" Shasta blurted as Bilinde turned to leave.
"Why what, dearie?" Bilinde asked looking over her shoulder.
"Why are you being nice to me?" Shasta asked, almost annoyed. "I killed my master and you're going to kill me anyway."
Bilinde hesitated for a moment. "I'll not be doing anything like that, youngster," she answered slowly. "I'm helping you because the magistrate asked me to. As for you killing your master... If he be the one that put those marks on your body, maybe he needed killing."
"That doesn't matter," Shasta said, realizing she was getting angry with the wrong person. "I knew what would happen when I did it. The law is crystal clear."
"Well," Bilinde said. "The law may be clear, but one thing I've found in the past few months: the governor isn't. I'll be back soon."
Shasta did her best to clean the blood and gore from her skin and hair before putting on the dress. It was one of hers so someone must have gone through Mongue's room since last night. True to her word Bilinde soon brought a bowl of fish stew, a half-loaf of bread and a bottle of watered wine.
She was still picking at it when the door opened again and a distinguished older man strode in before she could react.
"Hello, Shasta torMongue," he said. She couldn't say he was friendly, but then he wasn't unfriendly either. "I'm Magistrate Daniel. I've just been to see the governor. He's going to hear your case the day after tomorrow."
"I don't mean to seem ungrateful," Shasta started trying to keep the sarcasms out of her voice. "But why are we going through with this farce? We both know there's going to be only one end to this. Why can't we just get it over with?"
"Because he wants to hear the facts in your case," Daniel said with a shrug. "It might be best if you think about what you want to tell him."
"Like it would make a difference what a slave had to say," she snorted.
"Believe what you will," Daniel answered with another shrug. "My guess is the governor is different from anyone you've ever met. His dealing with slaves are... well... strange to say the least. Here in Safehaven we have always been rather liberal when it comes to slaves. He goes far beyond that. I won't offer you any false hope, but if anything can be done he would be the one to do it."
"I'll remember that as I'm choking on the end of a rope," Shasta said sarcastically.
"If he decides its death, and that very well may be the case," Daniel said gravely. "I can assure you it will be painless and instant. You won't feel a thing."
"I suppose that's the best I can hope for," Shasta said staring down at her hands folded in her lap. Then she looked up quickly, "But I wouldn't change a thing. That bastard deserved to die and if I have to follow him, well, it was worth it."
"I won't argue that," Daniel said nodding. "I'll be back to look in on you from time to time. If there's anything you need just ask the guard outside the door. Bilinde will be by with your supper later; you can also ask her if you need anything." Saying that he left, stopping only to speak a few words with the guard.
For a while Shasta could think of nothing except her upcoming trial and execution, but after a while she became numb to that and cast around for something else to occupy her mind. Not surprisingly, there was nothing else in the cell. She had been captured when she was thirteen and had been able to read a little by then. Of course after her enslavement there wasn't even a thought of further schooling. Her good looks ensured she was used for only one purpose and education wasn't a requirement for a sex toy.
Out of nervousness she paced the small cell but after a while even that became boring. Wandering over to the cell door she looked out through the bars of the small window. She could just barely see the top of the guard's head as he lounged on a stool next to the door.
"Hey you," she called out.
"What you want, bitch?" came the answer. "Ya can't be needing nothing yet."
"I'm just curious about this governor everyone keeps talking about." She could see him move slightly as he settled back in his seat.
"What you want to know about him?" The answer was a little less gruff.
"I don't know. Who is he? What is he like? I've only been here for a few weeks and I don't know anything about him." She continued, "Which House is he from? What did he do to get posted here? He must have really pissed off someone to get sent to this rathole."
"Hey there!" came the reply. "Ain't no reason to be saying that about Safehaven. Lived here all my life I have, and it's a pretty nice place if I say so meself.
"As for the governor, well, can't say as I know much about him myself. Just what I've heard ya understand. What I do know is he used to be a Guild Warrior, guess he still is since he works out with them every day and all that. Building himself a big house up on the ridge. Big fancy place, but then he's needing it with all them women and servants he keeps with him."
"Keeps a lot of women does he?" Shasta gave a nasty little chuckle. "I guess he's not much different than any other noble I've seen."
"You best not be badmouthing His Excellency," came the disembodied warning. "Or his ladies, neither. His pet soldiers hear that and they be getting right pissed off they will, and them you don't want to have angry with you; that much I can say."
"Why would they care?" she asked puzzled. "He's just a noble to them, isn't he?"
"Part demon and part god more like," came the answering chuckle. "Don't know the whole story meself. Them in the company guard don't do much talking with us local riff-raff, but what I heard is he took the ship they was on -- regular Malshall navy I hear -- and when their Putram wouldn't pay their ransom he saved them from the mines. All I know is they worship the ground he walks on and if they hear one word against him, well, a boxed ear is the best ya can expect. And that goes for his ladies, too. Aye, they be slaves and all that. Witch's collars on the three of them and everything, but they might as well be his wives for all he treats them. All his other household slaves got them collars too; even the guards, but them three, they're special. Just my advice: be careful what ya say about them.
"As for him pissing someone off to get sent here... That story I heard well enough. Not only did he ask for it, he demanded it. Some payoff under the Warrior's Code, or something like that. Has the appointment for life, or for at least as long as he wants it.
"He's young enough too. Ain't much of a looker if ya ask me. Though you'd think he's a God's gift by the way the women around here swoon over him. Don't see it meself.
"Not that I got any complaints about him, ya hear? It's him that started the shipyard, and the new warehouses. Wouldn't need no jail guard if it weren't for all the new folks coming into town, so I guess you can say he got me my job. Beats the hell out of fishing, that's for sure. No, no complaints from me."
"So everybody just loves him," Shasta said with a huff.
"Hell no! Not everybody, that's for sure." The guard again started chuckling. "Should have seen some of them old officials snort and steam. He don't allow no graft or payoff for them that's in office, and that's where they scratch most their money. Course after what he did to Boraic, ya didn't hear too much out of them. Not out loud anyway."
"What did he do to this Boraic?" Shasta asked.
"Ah, yes, that was a bad business it was." There was a momentary pause and the guard continued. "Boraic always was a bit of a no-account, if ya know what I mean. One night he up and kills his wife and two little young 'ons. Of course that was before the governor got here. We didn't know what to do with him and all that. Doesn't happen around here, ya see. Anyway we had him locked away see, knowed we was going to get a new governor so we waits for him. Soon as the governor gets here he quick-like has a trial and, snip! Fast as a hungry fish hitting the bait he cuts his head off! Ain't one to waste time or words is our governor."
"So, that's what I have to look forward to?" Shasta asked quietly.
"Oh, yeah... maybe," came the slow reply. "Look I ain't here to hurt you or nothing, just here to make sure ya don't get away. I ain't going to lie to ya and say it won't happen, but if he do, it'll be quick. I know he ain't the kind that's going to hurt someone for no reason."
"Thank you," Shasta said quietly and she returned to her cot.
True to his word Daniel returned a few times to check up on her, but he had very little to say. Bilinde was in at least twice that day: bringing her food and water, and back again to change out the chamber pot. The guard was changed three times a day but she didn't feeling like talking to anyone after that first conversation.
She awoke on the third day as Bilinde arrived with breakfast and a change of clothes.
"Got to look your best in front of the governor," she said. "You're a pretty thing and who knows but that it may help. Couldn't hurt now, could it, dearie? I tell you what, child, the whole town knows about that monster deMongue by now. You got us women hoping for the best for you."
"Thank you," Shasta said as she changed out of her rumpled clothes of two days and into the clean set provided. "But the past ten seasons of my life have been spent pleasing men to stay alive. I think I'd rather be dead then do so again."
"Oh, dearie," Bilinde said with a snort, "I don't think you have to worry about being in his bed; much too crowded if you know what I mean. You'd have to fight through them to get there. You may be scrappy my dear, but I wouldn't want to be up against any of those three alone, let alone all three!"
"I heard they were slaves," she scoffed. "I can just see a slave fighting to keep another woman from her master's bed! Fighting to keep him from mounting her, maybe, but never the other!"
"Well, I'm sure you know best, dearie," Bilinde said placidly. "You finished there? Good, they're here to get you now."
In through the door walked two soldiers in the uniform of the governor's guard. She could understand why the jailer wouldn't want them mad at him. They were big and obviously battle hardened. They paid little more attention to her then they would have a side of beef they were assigned to move. Quickly they cuffed her wrists and led her out of the cell, through the jail and into the street.
Neither one spoke a word as they walked her through the narrow street of the town up to what looked like a large house. Without pause they entered the front door and there stopped in the entrance hall. Directly in front of them was the entrance to a much larger room. She could see the walls were lined with people, mostly women. Come for the show, she thought bitterly. And of course the execution afterwards. The room became quiet and she heard someone speaking.
"I'm ready, Magistrate. You may proceed."
"Certainly, Your Excellency," She recognized Daniel's voice "Bring in the prisoner." Each one of the soldiers grabbed an arm and moved with her into the room and up onto a small platform at it's center. Once she was on the platform they released her and took a step back. In front of her she could see her judge, and most likely, executioner.
All's she could see was the white blonde hair, broad shoulders and a rather unhandsome face. If she was of a mind to be kind she would have described it as "rugged." By the gods, she thought as she glared at this latest torment in her life, I'll be damned if I'll crawl for this bastard. They can only kill me once!
"Your Excellency," the magistrate began, "before you stands Shasta torMongue, accused in the murder of her rightful master, Blein deMongue."
"You have heard the charge, Shasta torMongue," the blonde man said with a nod. "What do you say about them? Is this true?"
"Yes it's true!" she said, and this time she did snarl. "I killed the bastard! I took the poker and beat him until his brains spilled out on his fancy pillows."
"You realize that by admitting this you condemn yourself to death?"
"I was already dead and in hell," she said with a snort. "All you can do to me is to kill this body. He needed to die, deserved to die. At least now he won't be able to hurt anyone else."
"Tell me why you believed he deserved to die," the man said as he settled back into his chair. Shasta could almost swear she saw a ghost of a smile on his lips.
For a moment she was stunned. She hadn't expected this. She thought it would have been a simple process. She admitted to the crime and he would have had her dragged out and executed. She didn't expect him to question her as to why she did it.
"I am Shasta from Gorinth, a small island near Salas. When I was thirteen seasons old my village was raided..." She started her tale of how she was first captured by slavers, the murder of her father and brothers, the subsequent rape of her and her mother, her sale in the slave market of Harv'el and her various masters over the last ten seasons.
"I have had a number of masters, some better than others but each of them used me as they would a piece of furniture. I know this is accepted and expected by you barbarians."
"Hold your tongue slave," Daniel growled. "Show His Excellency the Governor the respect he is due."
"Ha, the respect he is due?" Shasta barked. "I am giving him the respect he's due!"
"You know nothing of him, or what he had done for us..." someone shouted from behind the blonde man. Jumping up from her chair was an extremely pretty young woman. She had long dark hair, an oval face, curvy body and eyes that blazed like she was the one that wanted to slit Shasta's throat right that minute. Shasta noted the girl had a beautiful golden chocker around her neck. A Witch's collar, a slave collar. Shasta also noticed that the girl was one of three women sitting behind the governor. Another dark haired beauty sat there; older that the first but at least as pretty, and enough alike the first to be her sister. Next to her sat a golden haired woman, probably close to Shasta's own age. She was as fair as the other two were dark, but equally as beautiful. The younger dark-haired girl cut off her exclamation when Dent raised his hand and gently waved her down.
"Or he'll do what? Have me put to death?" Shasta laughed. "Oh I know who you are, one of his trained bitches, collared and cowed. I may be about to die but at least I'll do so as a real woman."
"That's enough," Dent said softly. "Please continue. I believe you were going to tell us why this man deserved to die?"
Again Shasta stopped short and swallowed the next insult she was about to hurl. She looked at the governor again seemingly puzzled, as if seeing him for the first time. When she continued again it was with a slower, more moderate tone.
"About half a season ago my former master sold me to Mongue. I'd thought I'd lived in hell before but that was nothing to what I was now in. He enjoyed pain and hurting others. I have been beaten every day, tied up and, well, you wouldn't believe to what uses he put me. I could show you the bruises, the cuts and the scars, but what does that matter? I know the law and what will be done to me, and I accept it. There were three girls with me during my time with that monster and each of them was killed, slowly and horribly. I won't beg for mercy, but I will ask for the mercy of a quick death." As she stood there all expression left her face and her shoulders slumped in resignation.
The governor turned as if hearing some comment behind him. He spoke briefly with the three women. Shasta expected to find triumph and spite in their eyes as they looked at her but found none. Instead she found each one had a pained and imploring expression. The governor nodded and turned back to the table. He quickly looked through an old book lying in front of him. Seemingly finding what he wanted he turned back and said something, this time directly to the older dark-haired woman. The woman glanced at Shasta and answered him slowly. The governor nodded and stood up to address the room.
"I have reached my decision," he said loudly. "My personal views on slavery are well know and I have never tried to keep them secret. However in a case such as this the law is very clear and as Jeevel's representative I have no choice but to follow that law to the letter."
There were groans from the audience and a muffled sob or two from behind him; the sympathy in the room definitely wasn't for the late Mongue.
"The facts in this matter are clear, the slave Shasta did indeed kill her master. The punishment for this crime is unambiguous and irrefutable: the slave Shasta is hereby condemned to death." The groaning in the room was even louder inter-dispersed with some soft crying. The governor cleared his throat and spoke even louder. "The law is also very clear that the sentence is to be carried out at a time and place to be determined by the officer presiding. As such I will hold the execution in abeyance until such time as I determine it to be appropriate. The prisoner shall be remanded to the Governor's household immediately to await my pleasure in the matter."
At first Shasta could hear nothing except "condemned to death." It took a few minutes before it entered her mind that he had said something more. "Execution in abeyance," and "remanded to the Governor's household." Slowly Shasta's mind began to chew on these words, understanding came quickly afterward. He was allowing her to live! Her body froze while her mind raced to catch up with this new concept: that she just might live another day!
The blonde man remained standing and then started coming around the table to the center of the room. Although Shasta's mind still wasn't functioning perfectly she noticed he was well built, heavily muscled and moved with the fluid grace of a cat. He wasn't particularly handsome; his face far too rugged and although he was right at this moment smiling it look sort of out of place, like he wasn't used to doing so very often.
He was moving toward her as she still stood on the platform when he was, attacked was the only word that came to mind, by the golden-haired woman who had been sitting behind him. She practically climbed on him finally reaching his face where she kissed him repeatedly. Following shortly was the younger dark haired girl who accosted him from the other side. Somewhere in Shasta's befuddled mind came the thought that the younger one had been slightly slower only due to her obvious pregnancy. The older woman joined them and although she didn't join in the feminine attack, gave the governor a smoldering look that probably would have resulted in ripped clothing and sweaty bodies if they hadn't been in public.
After a few minutes the young governor halted the lavish display of affection by gently grabbing each woman around the waist and hugging them in close to his side. Calmly he turned and looked at Shasta. For a moment she understood how a mouse would feel seeing the hawk plummeting down at her. His was a look of appraisal, but also one of complete and utter confidence and competency. He had total control of the situation and knew it.
"Can I trust you to come with us without any trouble or do we need to keep the manacles on?" he finally said.
"No trouble," she whispered. "I... I... thank you, Your Excellency."
"Good," he said with a nod. Turning to her guards he continued, "Take off the chains; they won't be needed now."
"Are you sure, Your Excellency," one asked. "She may still try to run."
"Run where?" the governor answered. "We're on an island. Where could she run to?"
They unlocked the manacles and as soon as she was free Shasta stepped down off of the platform and dropped to her knees in front of him. Shasta had never felt the urge to kneel in front of any of her masters before, unless forced to, of course. But for this man it felt right somehow.
"Oh get up," he said with exasperation.
"Our master doesn't require his bitches to kneel for him," the young girl said snidely.
"I'll kneel for you, Master," Shasta heard the blonde whispered as she reached up to nip his earlobe with her teeth. The governor grimaced slightly but otherwise did nothing.
"I am so sorry," Shasta said. "I thought... I mean... I thought I knew... Oh please forgive me!"
"Humph," the young girl grunted. "We'll see, after you get fitted. Maybe you'll find you enjoy being his collared bitch."
"Sosho," the older woman said with the tone of an exasperated parent to a willful child. "That will be enough of that. What's done is done. Given the circumstances I think we can forget words said in anger and fear."
"Yes, I suppose you're right," Sosho said with a sigh, but then added quickly with a little glint in her eyes, "but she still may like it."
Ignoring the younger girl the woman moved over next to Shasta. "Hmm, you are a pretty little thing. Have you ever tended babies?"
"N-no, I was never used for that," then Shasta did a double take. "Ah, mistress... ?"
"Nesho, call me Nesho. I am Master Dent's senior wife and these two little arm fobs are Sosho, who also happens to be my daughter, and Clarise, Master Dent's junior wives."
"Wives," Shasta blurted out, "but you're all..."
"Slaves?" Nesho interjected. "True, but wives are what he calls us and that's what we will be until he says otherwise. So you don't know anything about babies. Pity, we'll need a couple of good nannies pretty soon as you might have noticed. Well no matter, we'll find something for you to do."
"You mean I won't be servicing the Master?" Shasta said with surprise.
"Not hardly," huffed Clarise with a snort from Sosho. "That's our privilege and I dare say between the three of us we keep him well occupied. Isn't that right Master?" To emphasize her point Clarise jabbed Dent in the side with a finger and was rewarded with a sharp grunt and nod. In retaliation he began tickling her under the arm until she was helplessly giggling and begging for mercy. With a girl under each arm Dent started for the door while Nesho beckoned with her hand that Shasta should walk with her a few steps behind them.
"So how does it feel being brought back from the brink of death?" Nesho asked casually as they walked along.
"I don't know," Shasta answered truthfully. "I feel dazed, sort of in a fog, like nothing is real. Does he really own me now?"
"Good question," Nesho said pondering. "My guess is we'll probably hear from your late master's relatives about your 'punishment' and maybe a demand for compensation. That we can take care of easily enough," she added brushing off the potential problem as inconsequential with a wave of her hand. "Or maybe not. Mongue was from Harv'el wasn't he? People there have learned to walk softly around our master, if they know what's good for them, that is. We may never hear anything."
"I just don't understand," Shasta whispered after a moment's hesitation. "Why would he do this for me? No noble I have ever met would do such a thing."
"Well Dent is like no noble you have ever met," Nesho said giving the girl a big smile. "Someday I'll tell you our tale. It will answer most of the questions you probably have. Come to think about it, it would make a fine story: one with pirates, warriors, scantily clad slave girls..."
"It is almost impossible to keep clothes on these three wenches," the governor said looking back over his shoulder. His remark earned him more pokes from his two arm leeches and tickles in retaliation.
"As I was saying before being rudely interrupted," Nesho continued. "Once you have been bonded and have a chance to settle in I'll tell you everything. It really is quite fascinating, if I do say so myself."
"Can I ask?" Shasta tentatively inquired. "Does this bonding hurt? I've heard of the slave collar before, but I've never met anyone that actually had one."
"Only if you're stupid and fight it," the blonde said looking back over her own shoulder. "And that comes from personal experience. I could tell you it's the best thing that has ever happened to me but you'll have to experience it for yourself."
"And that you will shortly," Nesho said decisively.
Edited by Morgan