And now for something completely different… Here’s the first scene from my latest WIP, as yet untitled. It has yet to go though final edits so might be a little rough, but I thought it was about time I introduced Tam to the world 😀
TRIGGER WARNING: The scene itself is PG13 but we’re talking slaveworld here, so it’s dark, with short flashbacks alluding to rape/violence. Ye have been warned!
I stand silently in the farthest corner of the dark room when I’m finally admitted, head bowed, hands clamped tight behind my back, left wrist clasped in a death-grip by my right fist, shoulders straight, stomach flat, unconsciously presenting. It’s a default gesture, ingrained through years of habit and punishment if I fail to comply immediately to my Master’s wishes. The men talking in low voices soon forget I’m there, once their initially-curious assessment of me is over. My collar marks me clearly for what I am.
The cloying sweet scent of smoke wafts over me from the bubbling pipe that a small group share, reclined on sumptuous fabrics, swaddled in mute light. An undercurrent of anticipation hums in the air, making it shimmer. Everything has a mirage-like quality, or perhaps that’s just my own discomfort. My palms are slick and I swipe a bead of moisture from my upper lip with my tongue. On the other side of these very walls, the lots are right now undergoing their final preparations, primped and primed for sale.
Fifteen years ago, I was one of them. I was still a boy, little more than a child. Twelve summers had passed since my mother brought me forth, birthed me on the dirt floor of our simple Bedouin tent. We were nomads, a small tribe that claimed allegiance to no flag but roamed the wastes of the Samatari desert. We knew nothing of the wars that raged around us, the political intrigues and power struggles of the nations which bordered our uncharted home.
The soldiers were rebel forces, I later learned, traitors to the King of Granthia to the East. They were moving West to join the lawless warriors of the barbarian Thirsk, Overlord of all the lands which lay beyond. All we knew was that they were strangers, strangers in bright armour that shone and winked in the light of our two suns. They killed my father, my mother, my elder brothers. They took my younger sister and didn’t even bother waiting in turn, too greedy for their own pound of female flesh. One held me by my hair and forced me to watch as they abused her until her terrified heart gave out. Even then, they weren’t done.
They left the broken corpses of my family for the birds to peck at.
A bell rang, slicing through my memories and bringing a whole host of others to the fore. The men around me began standing, brushing creases and crumbs from their robes with impatient hands. My head bowed, I watched the procession of their feet as they left the room. I followed as my position dictated, careful to keep my balance and not trip as the long cloth of my robes swished around my ankles. At my Master’s compound I was expected to wear only the bare minimum of clothing. He claimed he liked to admire the blue dots and swirls which adorned my body, the old inkstains of a culture those monsters erased that day in the desert. My tattoos were a novelty to him, they made me exotic in this land of dark, unmarked flesh. For this trip, however, he insisted I cover not only my pale, patterned skin, but also my long white-blond hair.
We were shown into the next room, where chairs were arranged in a crescent around the Cage. I shivered a little, even in the oppressive heat of the building. Outside, the two suns beat down on this little outpost of the Thirskan Empire. Inside, without the respite of windows it was stiflingly warm. The room was in total darkness, save the bright spotlights all focused on the centre of the Cage. I shuddered, remembering how it felt to stand there, naked and scared, on display for who knows how many pairs of eyes, hiding behind the blinding lights. The Cage’s bars were buried in the ceiling and in the floor of the raised platform on which it stood, the only way in or out a barred tunnel leading back to the pens below. Escape was impossible.
A few of the men took out fans, lazily wafting their faces as they settled into their chairs and waited for the auction to commence. I hung back, knowing a seat would not be permitted to me. Instead, I positioned myself behind my Master’s chair, usually vacant because he rarely purchased new slaves, having seemingly lost the taste for them since my Mistress removed much of the household to their mountain home, abandoning him here in the desert.
I clasped my hands before me, chin up and looking straight forward as I waited. My index finger brushed the back of his seat, rubbed the warm, textured velvet as though seeking comfort from something that was at least his, if I couldn’t have him. He rarely sent me far from his sight. In small outposts like this one, the slave markets are slow. The best one could usually hope for was some unexpected treasure plucked from the desert, some creature like me, young and scared enough to be docile.
He was an Underlord of some sort, my Master, and when some difficulty in a neighbouring village called him away, he ordered me to attend the auction in his stead. “You know what I like, Tam.” I had smiled a little, proud I was being trusted with this responsibility, even as I was consumed with sadness that he wanted another slave at all. Couldn’t I have been enough?
I swallowed down the lump in my throat as he caressed me. I knew he needed more slaves—the Mistress had taken so many his compound could barely function, and if he were to host any official engagements he needed a full complement of staff. I chose instead to be proud of his trust in me—not that I wouldn’t run away, for I had nowhere to go even if I wanted to. His collar marked me as his property, and a runaway slave is not treated kindly by those who capture him. But he was trusting me with a big decision, with spending large sums of his money. The last time I had been here, I hadn’t even known what money was.
Boys were valuable, that’s what I’d heard the soldiers say. That’s why they kept me, why they didn’t harm me. I’d be worth more. More what, though? My family had taken what they needed from the desert, and even that inhospitable environment provided enough for us to live by. There is only nothing when you don’t know where to look.
A metallic door clanged open and from somewhere within the bowels of the building a thin wail rose, bare moments before the first lot was prodded into the Cage. He stood petrified, blinking in the strong lights, blind to the men around me, who all sat a little straighter and began taking notice. They were wealthy men: only the highest owned pleasureslaves. Governors, Underlords, maybe even a Prince or two. Some were younger than my Master, most considerably older. They were of all shapes and sizes beneath their robes. Some were no doubt cruel; sadists who would delight in humiliating and hurting their new acquisition, breaking his mind as surely as they would break his body. Some were cruel; some merely looked it.
Lot One was probably in his early teens: his colouring marked him as a son of one of the Northern kingdoms, probably a trader’s child sold to pay a debt. Stubborn vestiges of puppy fat clung obstinately to his stomach, thighs and buttocks. His hair was shorn, his genitals shrivelled up towards his pelvis. He was trembling fiercely, hands cupped before his crotch. Tear tracks streaked his cheeks. Crude comments reach my ears from the other men and I winced inwardly for the boy, knowing his immediate future looked bleak.
The bidding began, apathetic as he was only the first lot, nothing special at that. I kept my hands clasped firmly before me. He would not please my Master.
The boy was sold for a paltry sum to an older Underlord, obscenely fat. I hoped he’d be lucky, that his new Master lacked the will or the capacity to do anything other than spoil and pet him. I doubted it.
The next lots came and went: boys of all nations, some sickeningly young, as I had been; some almost men. These would be harder to train, accustomed too long to their freedom. The bidding began to heat up, competition breaking out between the members. Still I had seen nothing that would please my Master.
Raised voices and the smart crack of a whip caused us all to pause, staring at the entrance to the Cage with renewed interest. There was a long wait, and then the lot walked in. The men around me tittered, their fans flapping faster as they looked at the offering. He was older than the others, I judged at most only five years younger than myself, probably less. He was Granthian, no question, no other race had their peculiar combination of jet black hair and emerald eyes. Eyes that now gazed haughtily forward, uncowed, unflinching. The tight muscles packed over his lean frame marked him as a soldier, and a fit one at that. As he turned I saw the long red lash of the whip striping his back.
The man beside me nudged his neighbour, sniggering unpleasantly. The lot’s head jerked towards the sound, green eyes narrowing. His fingers flexed at his sides, arms loose but ready, I was sure, to fight tooth and nail to defend himself. I was amazed he was here, that he was considered suitable slave material by anyone. But then I listened closer to what the men around me were saying, and the hairs on the back of my neck rose in horror at what they wanted to do to him. He wasn’t a slave, he was a trophy—something beautiful they wanted to possess only to see how much he could endure before he shattered.
The bidding commenced and I found my hand raising before I even considered the folly of what I was doing, earning me some evil looks from the Underlords, displeased that a slave would challenge them, even in a situation such as this. I squared my shoulders, mindful that it was not I, Tamelik, slave, who was outbidding them; but my Master.
The price rose steeply, the other men encouraged both by the sight of the soldier, now prowling around the edge of the Cage, glaring furiously out into the darkness before him; and by me, the slave audacious enough to compete with them, even if it was only as my Master’s proxy. I began to fear I would reach the generous limit he had set before the others dropped out, but to my overwhelming relief my last opponent caved as I bid my final chit on the future of the man before me.
Sale made, I stood through the remaining three lots, my head bowed, trying hard not to tremble as I realised the enormity of what I had done.
I waited until the others had exited the auction room before I followed them to the holding pens. Each man, having completed his agreed transactions, was taking possession of his new property. Steaming heat rose as metalworkers stamped each collar with the owner’s motif and affixed it around the slave’s neck. The collars were requisite: strong, thick steel that, once fastened, could only be cut off. Since my capture, I’d had my own collar changed five times as I had grown: it wouldn’t be necessary again.
I reached to it instinctively, remembering how, as a bewildered, just-sold child, I had screamed and writhed against it. How Master had taken me on his knee and patted me while the metalworker completed his task and Mistress rolled her eyes at us. I had been bought for her, a pet, but from the first I’d always been my Master’s slave. The five times it had come off, I’d felt bereft.
“Bought yourself a whole heap of trouble with that one.” The slaver nodded to where my new companion was thrashing in the metalworkers’ strong arms, determined not to be collared. “Hope your Master knows how to break him.”
I nodded stiffly, took possession of the slave’s papers, and went to see if I could ease his distress.
“It’s necessary,” I said in Granthian.
His eyes widened a fraction at my ability to speak his language. One of the metalworkers took advantage of the distraction and clapped the collar around his neck. He roared his displeasure, throwing off two of the men who held him as he fought like a madman against it being sealed. More metalworkers piled in, suppressing him by dint of brute strength and numbers.
“It’s necessary,” I repeated, squatting to meet his eye where he lay, held down by many hands. He squeezed his lids shut as they began welding the collar closed.
“Who says this is necessary?”
“The law requires it.”
“I don’t care about your stinking laws. This isn’t happening to you.” He glared at me, green eyes blazing.
I drew the neck of my robe aside. “It did once.”
That stilled him long enough for the men to do their work and they released him, retreating hastily. He tried to spring to his feet, the movement abruptly halted by a short, stout chain linking his collar to the floor. It must have hurt when it jolted him back down, but he made no sound. On his hands and knees, head down, he began to tremble ever so slightly–had I not been kneeling at his side I would not have noticed. I judged he was on the very cusp of losing control and breaking down completely.
Unsure what to do for the best, I dithered. I wanted to touch him: every instinct I had was screaming at me to place a hand on his shoulder, offer him some sort of solidarity, but I had no way of knowing if that would be welcome, or even if it would make him worse. I made my decision, and with regret I rose and walked back over to the slaver.
“I need a transport.”
The man raised an eyebrow, silently mocking me. “We can distribute your purchase this evening, for a fee.”
“No, now. Privately.” I’d heard stories of the mass transports, I wasn’t confining my new companion to one. I only hoped Master would forgive me for going over his allowance.
“There is no transport leaving now.” The man returned to shuffling papers.
“You know who my Master is,” I reminded him. “Money is no object, and he will not be happy if you refuse his request.”
The trader glanced over at my soldier. “He was causing us trouble…”
Orders were given and I returned to crouch at my companion’s side. “We’re leaving now. Don’t fight them, it will be easier.”
“Why not?” He glowered at me, green eyes venomous.
“They will kill you. You’ve come this far, don’t let it end here.”
The look he gave me was so bleak my heart bled for him.
“Our Master is a good man—”
“I have no Master! I’m a free man.” He thumped the stone floor with his fist.
I shook my head sadly. “Not anymore.”