The pilgrim rang the bell. She was a young woman, slender and tall, and wore the traditional red robe. She had long hair, a golden seal ring, and mud-stained walking boots.
It only took a few breaths for three attendants to come to her. The three naked men, wearing nothing but their collars and leashes, crawled on all fours, offering themselves to the newly arrived pilgrim on the Way of the One Goddess.
“Show me to the chapel”, she demanded, kicking the face of one of the men at random. He cried at the impact of her heavy boot and meekly thanked her for her kindness, as he crawled backwards in the direction of a small stone building. The other two men dared to turn their bodies, so they could crawl behind her kissing the ground everywhere she trod.
Soon they were inside a cool and dark room, covered in elaborate tapestries depicting scenes ranging from the most brutal torture to sophisticated and subtle humiliations, exquisitely executed in colourful and figurative styles. The pilgrim’s heavy steps on the immaculate mosaic covering the entire floor, tessellated in vivid blue and red, showing scenes from the One Goddess, her saints and their faithful pets, echoed through the room, making the timid men shiver and wince. She walked to a comfortable throne, close to an inset ground-level oval pool, filled with cool water.
As she sat, the three men opened a chest by her and showed her the chapel’s extensive collection of instruments: rope, twine, whips, canes, and other exotica for more specialised tastes. The man she had randomly chosen to kick approached her cautiously, blood and mud on his face, powerless to resist her draw or to overcome his fear and awe of her.
“Name?” she asked.
“Nosey, if it pleases the exalted lady”, he said.
“You may get the chance to earn that. What about those two?”
“Sweetie”, said the one on her left, in a childish and shaking voice.
“No-one has named this thing, exalted lady. This thing is sorry.”
“Time for the bidding, toys. I’m a pilgrim on the Way and I bring you pain, shame and submission. What will you trade for it?”
“I’ll receive thirty lashes with a smile on my face, if it pleases the exalted lady”, said Sweetie.
“This thing will stay still as it is cut and pierced”, said the nameless thing.
“I have nothing to trade, for I am nothing, but if the exalted lady condescends, she is free to use and abuse me as it may best entertain her, which she best knows for herself”, said Nosey.
“Come closer, Nosey. I can see you got education and training and maybe you even think you’re clever. Is that it?” she asked.
He went down on his belly and crawled until his forehead was almost touching the tip of her boot.
“I’m only a man. I was taught by my sister and I got the two marks of use, but I would never think myself clever, exalted lady”, he said.
“Good, because you aren’t. You’ve raised my curiosity now, and that is going to cost you. Let me see your ears”, she demanded.
On the left, he wore an ear-ring studded with a green gem, certifying his aptitude for service: massage, laundry, foot hygiene, and every male skill. On his right, a red gem noted he had passed the three tests of endurance: pain, denial, and alertness.
As he had risen back to his knees to show her, his face was at a perfect angle for her to kick him again, and again, and again. She had powerful leg muscles, with all the enhancements women had developed for aeons, and every strike left a big bruise. Tears fell from his eyes but he kept still and gave quiet but firm thanks after each kick.
“Interesting. I hadn’t seen a fully certified man in temple service before. Why did your sister set you aside?” she asked, as the other two kept wincing at her powerful kicks, knowing their turn to suffer would come soon.
“She started my training when she was a child. Some people thought she spoiled me, and that it was unseemly to keep around a childhood toy like me. She agreed, and sent me to serve on the Way, hoping someone would deign to acquire me.”
“Thing, get cleaning my left boot. Nosey, my right. Make sure not to leave any blood on it or I’ll cut off your toes.”
“And me? asked Sweetie.
“Come on my lap, little one”, she said. “I have been looking forward to making something as pretty and cute as you are desperately cry for mercy.”
Sweetie trembled, but he took his place on her lap, his small form lying across her as she grabbed him by the hair and began to rake her sharp, long fingernails over his defenceless, hairless, naked chest, leaving welts and scratches, as poor Sweetie whined and pouted from the pain.
She relaxed on her throne, as the two men got on their jobs. Thing, perhaps wanting to impress her or just lacking other training, was slobbering all over her boots and eating the mud, bits of grass, and other filth on them. Nosey had a lot more experience and was hurting himself by twisting his red ear-ring, so he could provide a strong flow of tears to give the boot an initial wash. Only after that was done, he began to scrape it with his long, dark hair. At last, with only a light cake of mud and other unidentifiable filth, he used his lower teeth, careful not to mark the leather, and his agile tongue to loosen the difficult or sticky bits, and then swallowed them. He started from the top, and least dirty, and finished by scraping the rubber treads from the sole, for which considerably more force was required from his lower jaw. Focused on his task, he couldn’t avoid hearing the increasingly hopeless cries of Sweetie, a silly and spoiled man, still plump from his previous owner’s indulgence, who had never been properly taught to offer his pain and would never wear a red gem.
“Tonight one of you will warm my bed. If I’m pleased, I may even let him press and wriggle his face on my smelly soles while I sleep.”
The three men, long deprived from the service they were bred and trained to need, couldn’t help feeling excited, and also resentful against each other that they may not be the one. Each one in their own way knew themselves broken and undeserving, as all men are: thing was not even worthy of a name, and lacked the skills of service a pilgrim would demand; Sweetie was biddable and endearing, but lacked the resilience and devotion the other two had been broken into like a comfortable worn slipper; Nosey wasn’t cute and soft like Sweetie, nor as strong and self-loathing as thing, and the exalted lady, knowing his skills, would be easy to disappoint and hard to impress. They couldn’t avoid hoping they would be chosen and seeing each other as obstacles, though it would never occur to them to resent the pilgrim. After all, men were objects and would always try to undermine each other, though always making sure not to affect the service they owed people.
“No-one interested?” she asked. “Maybe I should just get washed and fed and you can go back to your manholes.”
“Please, exalted lady”, they all cried.
“Please what?” she teased.
“Please give us the chance”, said Nosey.
“Very well. I’m tired from walking and need full foot service and later a bath. Sweetie will be my foot stool and bathmat. Nosey will haul water. That thing will do my feet and wash me.”
They were all surprised they seemed to have been chosen for the tasks they were least suited to, but they didn’t dare to make any comment and just set to it.
“You didn’t think I would make it easy, did you? If you want a reward you’ll have to work and suffer for it, and I don’t care how little training or what body shape you have. You will serve me every way I require.”, she said, as she saw their expressions of surprise.
Sweetie uncurled from her lap, still weeping and bleeding from his chest, and crept pushing his thighs under the throne, for which a slot had been provided. On all fours, he gasped as he felt a heavy pair of boots stomp on his back, nearly making him lose his balance. As the pilgrim adjusted some knobs on the throne’s armrests, a lid came down trapping Sweetie’s thighs in. He felt chains winding tightly around them until he couldn’t move them at all.
Meanwhile, Nosey had immediately set to filling and carrying of water: hot, warm and cool. Opposite the throne there were buckets and pumps to fill them with. The heating system was run on manpower: men in their holes straining their little bodies to keep the place running. When they slacked off other men made sure to bring them back to work with the sting of nettles, wasps and ants.
Thing set to removing the pilgrim’s boots. He bit on the laces to undo the knots, wedged the back of the boot against his jaw and carefully removed it from the foot, while leaving tread marks and friction burns on Sweetie’s back.
“Make Sweetie clean the insides”, she said. “It will give his mouth something useful to do instead of whining.”
As the lady’s thick, warm socks rested on Sweetie’s back, thing placed one of the boots under Sweetie’s face and pushed it in until his nose was touching the insole. Then he used the laces to tie his collar so he could move only as much as he needed to run his tongue all over the insides of the hot, damp, and musky boot, which he did with pleasure, lapping up the foot sweat, sock fuzz, and grime that had built up.
“I’m on my 8th day on the Way, and as you know we forego all foot washing during the first week. It stands for the beginnings, when we had not yet broken and conquered men, and reminds us to keep vigilant in our rule; but I always thought it also gives a few the chance for a delicious treat. So enjoy the stale gunk from a week’s hard walking under the sun, Sweetie. A sweet dish for a sweet toy like you. How lucky you are to feast on such powerful flavours”, she said, giggling.
The smell was so strong Sweetie could hardly stand it, and without the collar he may have drawn away, but since he had no choice about it, he felt it penetrate his nose, like a fog, rendering him docile, reaching deep inside him and stirring an irresistible feeling of boundless devotion, teaching him how he was lower than the filth he was eating, and lucky to be permitted and forced into such service. It was a contradictory feeling, like an itch you want to scratch that only gets worse and worse, an unquenchable thirst to be brought low, grinded down and used.
“Attend to my socks, thing. You’ll also get a tasty warm meal out of them.”
Thing began to sniff and rub his face on top of her socks, still resting on Sweetie’s back, slurping little bits of lint, dust, and balls of stale sweat into his mouth.
“Good. You’re not the best sockboy I used, but you know your place and try hard. You can start doing the bottoms now.”
He felt like the world had suddenly turned brighter. The exalted lady approved of him. He had pleased her, in however insignificant a way. He felt a tingle of pleasure go from the nape of his neck down his spine.
“Thank you, exalted lady, for letting this thing be fed by your precious sweat-soaked socks’ fuzz.”
She gave him a kick, poking her toes in his eye, to remind him he was there to serve, not make speeches, and he got the message.
He lifted her left foot, cupping it with his large hands, and pressed it over his face, his jaw resting on Sweetie’s back. He squeezed the wet fabric with his fingers, and made sure to catch in his mouth every drop of sweat wrung out of the sock’s sole.