Chapter Fifteen of Priestess by Rue Raven

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Priestess – Chapter 15: The Nature of Slavery
Lord Kevan strolled past the market stalls, glancing idly at the wares on display. But there was nothing at this end of the markets to interest him – the first booths were all dealing in Bred slaves. Breds were born into slavery, tattooed at birth with the mark of their owner, and the rules governing their treatment were strict. Kevan had no interest in slaves who had to be clothed, fed and cared for. There were strict controls about the punishments they could be given, and Breds couldn’t even be sold without their own agreement. When he’d inherited what was left of his family’s property, he’d sold the Breds as fast as he could. They’d all watched him grow up, they knew what he’d be like as a master – they’d all gladly agreed to be sold.

He wandered past the booths where the Breds proclaimed their own training and skills. Bred slaves had rights – a concept that disgusted Kevan. They could marry, and raise their own children to the age of fourteen – and those children had to be educated and trained, often sharing schoolrooms with the children of their masters. Some were house servants for noble families, many others lived as tenant farmers on the great estates, or worked in their owner’s businesses. A talented and determined Bred could be promoted to quite a high level – often outranking Freeborns who worked in the business. Some were offered freedom as a reward for years of faithful service, many refused it. Being a Bred was a special status of its own. Having Breds was a mark of respectability – old established families all had Breds and few others as their slaves, the owners and the Breds both tracing their family trees back for proud generations.

But sometimes Breds were sold – a family could simply have too many of them to support, or an ambitious young man or woman could request sale if they felt that they had more chance of success, or simply more excitement, if they were sold – many of the rising merchant families wanted to have Breds to show their new status, and a Bred slave was automatically the head of the household staff, or could take up powerful and rewarding positions in a wealthy merchant’s business. The slaves in the booths listed their skills and training, hoping to interest an owner who’d give them the right opportunity. Once they were sold they’d be tattooed with the mark of their new owner. But many Breds carried a single tattoo their whole lives, and were proud to belong to ‘their’ family.

No, Breds didn’t interest Kevan.

Further on were the stalls of Branded slaves. These were far less mannered than the Bred stalls. Branded slaves were freeborns who now carried the King’s brand, marking them as slaves. There were two kinds of Brandeds – petty criminals who’d been sentenced to slavery for repeated offences, and those who were brought in from countries defeated in war. The second group were mainly women and children – men were sent to the King’s mines. King Borlan’s policy in conquered territory was to leave most of the serfs working the land, and to let artisans and most businesses continue (with a few added levies and taxes for the privilege). Most of the royals would flee or take their own lives after defeat in battle, but often many members of the noble families were captured. They were given the King’s brand and sold into slavery, their estates taken over by Borlan’s agents as property of the conquering king, gifted to successful army commanders and to any others he wanted to reward, or given to the Goddess.

Brandeds weren’t terribly popular as slaves – the criminals often couldn’t be trusted, while the captured nobles had never done any work in their lives, and didn’t take easily to their new role. But they were far cheaper than Breds, and there were none of the restrictive rules for their treatment. They’d be branded with their new owner’s mark as soon as they were sold, and their lives would be lived out as slaves – Brandeds were generally slaves for life, freedom was rare for them and only came after some extremely brave and worthy service.

Kevan looked them over; the criminals tended to look resigned to their fate while some of those conquered in war tried to maintain dignity and others looked shattered at the disaster that had befallen them. Most of them stood silent, some sobbing, a few fighting their restraints as the traders touted their good points. Breds were keen to sell themselves, and relished their high value. Brandeds waited in trepidation to discover their fate, here it was the traders who tried to attract custom. None of them held Kevan’s interest, it was slim pickings today.

But further on, past the Brandeds, were the booths that interested Kevan. The new class of slaves that he and his like-minded friends found so appealing. Captives. It was a relatively new addition – less than ten years ago there’d been nothing but Breds and Brandeds, but now several ships plied the coasts of neighbouring kingdoms, seeking and harvesting only one thing. Young women.

Kevan smiled a little as he surveyed the wares. This was far more to his taste – a very nice selection. A new cargo had just been brought in – a lucky captain had struck further inland than usual and found some sort of temple that had its own school. The unfortunate students were acolytes in training one day, slaves the next. Kevan looked them over as they sobbed and tried to cover themselves – unlike other slaves, Captives were stripped naked for sale. He nodded to acquaintances who were also enjoying the selection process – running their hands over the merchandise, tweaking and poking as the girls squealed and begged for release, struggling against the bonds that held them on display.

Kevan wasn’t a serious shopper today, he was simply seeking diversion. Now that the Offering was over he’d soon be on his way to his new posting. The Offering was the beginning of a week of celebration, no serious business was done until it was over. At the end of the week the King would make a series of new decrees, usually granting favours to anyone he deemed worthy of reward. Kevan’s appointment as assistant to Prince Herion, the King’s brother, would be announced at that time. And then Kevan would be the right-hand man to Herion as he took control of the newly conquered territory. And he’d heard that Herion was ailing, it wouldn’t take much to keep him feeble, or even help him on his way to glory. A clever man could always find a way to administer just the right dose of some very special herbs.

Kevan smiled as he wandered on, imagining his rosy future. He’d be running a whole kingdom – his power would be immense. And no-one to answer to but a distant king who could be easily placated; so long as the tributes kept coming he wouldn’t care what was happening. And there’d be plenty of opportunities for Kevan’s special kind of training, the Brandeds on display today were a small percentage of the captured nobles – he’d find plenty of well-born young women to work on. He’d even heard that at least one of the princesses had been captured. He’d give very special attention to a princess.

He left the markets and headed back towards Lord Sieldro’s townhouse, taking a shortcut through the Temple courtyard – he enjoyed watching the young trainees, imagining the fun he could have training them. Tonight he might offer to show his host some special entertainment – he’d send one of his grooms out to collect nettles. A few of Sieldro’s slavegirls would be starring in Kevan’s demonstration, although they wouldn’t enjoy the role.

And as he strolled along, smiling, his eyes met a familiar gaze.

Aliera.

She smiled at him, and Kevan grinned like a happy shark. This day wouldn’t be so boring after all.

“My sweet, brave love, you look so pale. Have you recovered from your ordeal? You showed such courage.” And he’d thoroughly enjoyed watching her soldier boy reaming her, after a lovely long punishment – almost worthy of Kevan himself.

Aliera’s smile faded a little, “I’m well now, it was – it was hard to take, but I’m so glad I was worthy of the Goddess.” And at last here was someone who appreciated her, Goran could barely look at her. Kevan’s eyes shone with love and admiration.

“You were so small, but so dignified. The Goddess must have been very pleased. And I was incredibly proud of you.” He’d loved every minute of her pain. He only wished he’d been the one causing it.

“I tried to be brave. I – I’ve missed you.” She’d forgotten how handsome he was, how truly noble.

“I wish I could have helped you somehow. You’re so strong. And yet you seem so vulnerable.” Pity he couldn’t get her alone for an hour or two, he’d teach her a few things her soldier boy hadn’t heard of.

“I miss you so much, I miss the way we used to walk in the gardens and talk about things.” She felt so lonely now – Goran didn’t even look at her, and everyone else was in awe of the new High Priestess, and Tiarna was busy with her own new Consort. But Kevan, wonderful Kevan, still looked at her with love.

“Maybe we can meet again, and talk like we used to, before I go away.” He could see some possibilities here – if only he could get her alone, away from prying eyes, there was a chance for some fun before he left to take over his new kingdom. A secret meeting, a nice soundproof room perhaps… And his grooms were experienced in disposal – not all of his stock survived his training methods. Yes, the future was looking better all the time.

“I wish you didn’t have to go – just knowing you’re close helps me.” Poor Kevan, so dedicated to duty. He was everything a man of high rank should be.

By the time they parted they’d made arrangements to meet again.

Aliera stood beside Tiarna, both High Priestesses leading the evening worship. Aliera was pale but composed, in fact she was a little happier than she had for the last few days. Tiarna noticed that the girl seemed to be getting her sparkle back, but didn’t comment on it. She had other things on her mind. She’d find time tomorrow to chat with Aliera and see how things were going between her and Goran. Sometime soon, anyhow.

All through the ceremony Tiarna found it hard to concentrate, usually she lost herself in the observances but this evening she did it all mechanically. After the worship was over she’d be taking part in another ceremony. A very private ceremony, between herself and Brenn.

Brenn had settled in happily to his new life as Consort. He found there was plenty of work around the Temple for a man who was good with his hands – there were always things that needed fixing. And he’d been introduced to King Borlan, although the formal ceremonies to confirm him as Consort would be held after Offering week was over. Borlan had been impressed by his new uncle – he always appreciated plain speaking, and respected people who worked hard and knew their craft. Brenn had worked in the ‘free’ mines in the mountains, and Borlan had talked with him about mining and the difficulties involved. Borlan had mentioned a few problems they’d been having in the King’s mines – the ones that used slave labour, mostly captured soldiers from the defeated enemy. Free mines didn’t use slaves, but mining was mining, and Brenn had some suggestions that sounded promising to Borlan. He was considering putting Brenn in charge of the King’s mines – perhaps someone who actually knew about mines would be a good choice to run them. One more edict for his upcoming speech.

But right now Brenn was waiting in the quarters he shared with the First High Priestess.

After the ceremony the temple emptied. Trainees and many of the priestesses went to the refectory for the evening meal, while the married priestesses went to their quarters in the Temple, or homes outside it.

Aliera returned to her chambers, to find them empty. Goran was still busy at the Palace. She rang the bell for her attendants to bring her meal and dined alone, then went to her cold bed. She was asleep before Goran returned, miserable that he didn’t want to be near her. If only she’d been braver, or better, or had somehow done whatever she should have done to please him more, so that he’d want to be with her. At least Kevan still smiled at her. It was nice to know that she please someone, even if Goran didn’t want her.

Goran entered their chambers quietly. He’d stayed away as long as he could, knowing that she wasn’t ready yet to have him near her. Perhaps soon he could stay with her for longer, start to talk to her more, even court her properly. He settled into the chair beside the bed, watching her as she slept. He ached to hold her, but he knew that he had to show restraint until she was ready. He dozed beside his sleeping lady, dreaming of the future when he could hold her, and love her, and tell her all that was in his heart.

Tiarna and Brenn dined quietly. They spoke little through the meal; Brenn told her about his latest meeting with the King, Tiarna asking few questions and eating little as he spoke.

When the meal was over the attendants cleared the plates and left them alone and Tiarna sat at the table wishing she’d been able to chew slower, make the meal last longer.

Brenn left the table and went into their bedchamber. “Come here.”

Tiarna forced herself to rise and enter the room, her legs were trembling now.

“It’s time.” Brenn’s voice was calm and steady.

Tiarna stood before him, studying the floor.

“Look at me.” Slowly, unwillingly, she lifted her eyes to meet his. “Now, tell me.”

“I – ” Tiarna swallowed, her throat suddenly dry.

“Ask.” His voice was quiet but firm. Impossible to resist.

“Please, I – I made a mistake.” He waited, the silence loud with his determination and her trepidation. “I did something wrong.”

“Say it. Properly.”

She took a deep breath, “I disobeyed you. Last night I stayed very late in the Temple reviewing the progress of the novices with their supervisors. And this morning I was up early for a meeting with the City Council, about our new hospice. It was the third night in a row I’d worked late. So I didn’t get as much sleep as I need. As much as you told me I had to get. I disobeyed you and disregarded your concern for my health.” She relaxed a tiny bit, relieved that it was said.

Brenn nodded, “I told you to start delegating to your niece. You have someone else to share the burden now, let the girl take her share. Could she have done either of those tasks?”

“Yes.”

“So you disobeyed me twice, in keeping too many tasks for yourself, and in spending too long working and too little time getting your rest. What do you deserve?”

Gulp. “I deserve to be punished.” She met his level gaze. She knew she’d have to say it. The First High Priestess was the most powerful woman in the Kingdom. But she was still a woman, with a husband to answer to. And she had to say the words that set her trembling, “Please punish me as I deserve.” Gulp again, throat very dry now. “Please help me remember to obey you. Please – please spank me.” She glanced at him again. “Please spank my b-bare bottom hard. To remind me. To obey you.” He nodded slightly. Thank the Goddess she’d managed to say the words.

Brenn sat on the end of the bed, and beckoned her to him. Tiarna scurried to his side, then bent forward over his lap – she just wanted this over.

She felt her robe being lifted, exposing her bare cheeks. There was that long, tense moment as she waited – and then his hand slapped down hard on the centre of her left cheek. There wasn’t going to be a warm-up this time. She was still yelping as his hand crashed down on her right cheek. She could feel the handprints burning as his hand fell again, on the same stinging places. And again. Tiarna’s feet kicked out as his hand fell relentlessly, until the two handprints glowed an angry red.

Then he moved his attentions lower, to the underside of her cheeks. Again he slapped hard and repeatedly until Tiarna’s hands pounded on the floor and the tears gathered in her eyes.

Then it was the top of her thighs, causing shrill cries of protest. By the end of the first minute her bottom was an angry red. Then he started raining slaps all over the target area, high and low, side to side, fast and hard. Tiarna’s feet were kicking furiously now, as she squirmed and twisted trying to evade that relentless hand. He slapped even faster – a rain of fire that set her gasping and crying out, then promising eternal good behaviour if only he’d stop. Tears started falling as she thrashed about, arms flailing and legs kicking wildly.

His hand stilled for a moment, then gave a resounding slap, deliberate and searingly hard, to the crown of her left cheek. Her wails rose as he continued, the next one on her right cheek, then back to the left and a fraction lower. Relentlessly he worked down her cheeks to the top of her thighs, as Tiarna’s tears fell faster, her wails rising ever more shrill. Ten smacks that left her limp and sobbing.

Then she was in his arms, held tight against him as she sobbed out the tension and pain. Her tears continued for a long time, until she’d cried herself out. Then she rested, loving the feel of his strong arms around her. She felt a peace within herself that she hadn’t known for a long time.

“Thank you.”

Brenn smiled, “Better now?”

“Much better. Thank you. I needed that release.”

Brenn rubbed her back gently, “I know. But if you push yourself too hard again, I’ll take your hairbrush to your backside.”

Tiarna shuddered, “I’ll remember. I will, I promise.”

“Good girl.” She had three children and eleven grandchildren. And she loved it when he called her ‘girl’ – just for a moment she felt like a girl again, young and desired and cherished. “Now, let’s see if I can comfort you properly.”

They stretched out together on the bed, lying on their sides, and their hands explored each other. Then eager lips and tongues followed their questing hands, then they moved closer and the soreness was forgotten as he moved over her and entered her smoothly, gently, whispering his love as they moved in the wonderful rhythm that took them faster and faster until the waves of sensation lifted them to the heavens.

Tiarna fell asleep curled up in her Consort’s arms, her last thought a hope that Aliera was as happy with her own Consort as Tiarna was with hers. She’d have to find time to talk to the girl soon, to make sure she and Goran were happy together.

Goran dozed in the chair beside the bed, hoping that the time would soon be right to hold his love in his arms and tell her how much he adored her.

Aliera slept alone in her cold bed. And dreamed of Kevan.

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