Grateful for the leather and wood chair that had been provided for him during the surrender ceremony, Fighter Karr studied the Lapen prince who stood before the assembled warriors from the Lapen and Howi nations. Only a day ago, Karr hadn’t been certain this meeting would take place, or that his Howi warriors would be victorious. Thankfully the fighting was over. No more lives would be lost. He could finally rest.
The defeated-looking prince waiting to speak appeared to be in his early sixties. Karr wondered whether the man had the fire necessary to rule once the ancient king died. Since Karr was a Fighter, he would never be required to assume responsibility for an entire people.
Hardly, he reassured himself. His value lay in his willingness to put his people’s safety before his own life, a willingness that was about to be rewarded.
“The Lapen bow before the Howi’s superior strength,” the prince said. “They have defeated us in honest battle.” He paused. “As proof of our surrender, we turn our most valuable citizens over to the Howi as custom dictates. For as long as they intend to remain on what was once our land alone, ownership of those possessions belongs to the Howi.”
The prince’s voice had rung strong throughout the ceremony that had begun with the laying down of all Lapen weapons, but now the older man faltered. Even from this distance, Karr saw his eyes darken. He obviously hated what he was being forced to say. Even as tired as he was, Karr understood why the other man felt as he did.
“The Howi have three Fighters,” the prince continued. “They are truly worthy of the title. I now invite each of them to step forward and accept their reward.”
Although he’d known this moment would come, Karr wished he could remain seated. Instead, he positioned his battered body on weary legs and joined his fellow Fighters in the short walk to the platform where the prince stood. As befitted his station, he took his position to the right of the others, closest to the prince.
“As we were preparing for this part of the ceremony,” the prince continued, “the other Lapen leaders and I gave considerable thought to what we would say, but then we accepted that action speaks more firmly than words. Thus I will simply present your rewards to you.”
After briefly lowering his head, the prince clapped his hands. All talking stopped. Cognizant of the attention now focused on him, Karr threw back his shoulders and rested a hand on the knife at his side. No matter his reaction, and he wasn’t sure what it would be, he wouldn’t show any emotion. Still, in deference to the seriousness of what was happening, he turned in the direction everyone was looking.
Three young women were walking toward the platform. All wore loose, light garments that flowed over their bodies from neck to ankles. Despite the abundance of fabric, the pale yellow material did nearly nothing to hide the slender forms beneath. Their eyes were downcast, their steps slow, feet dragging over the dirt. When he’d first learned what was going to happen, he had assumed the women would be bound as symbolic of their humbled status, but they wore no restraints.
That would soon change.
Everything about their lives would. They’d have no choice but to accept their new status. His role too was preordained.
By turning his attention to the ache at the small of his back, he managed a disinterested air, but as the trio drew closer, he took careful note of them. He hadn’t seen a female for weeks, had pushed awareness of what made them so different from men to the back of his mind so he could fight. All three were in their prime with high breasts and taut thighs. As was true of all Lapen, they had dark, nearly black hair, but unlike the men who kept theirs close-cut, the females’ straight, thick masses were so long they nearly reached their waists. What would caressing those locks feel like?
Don’t think like that. Lust will weaken your resolve.
The women were slim but not scrawny, long-limbed although the tallest couldn’t be more than three inches over five feet. Flat, smooth bellies led him to conclude they hadn’t given birth. Could they be virgins? From what he’d learned about the Lapen, they were a lusty race. It was the norm for people to enjoy a variety of sex partners before the mate-claiming ceremony. He wasn’t sure how he felt knowing he wouldn’t be his gift’s first.
“This,” the prince pointed at the woman who’d led the way, “is my youngest daughter. My joy. Our governing body agreed that offering her would leave no doubt of our commitment to ending the hostilities between our people.”
The woman had clenched her fists as her father spoke. Although her arms remained at her sides, Karr sensed she was close to losing self-control. Although he didn’t want to, he understood how hard this was for her. If the prince hadn’t just said what he had, he would have thought she was the old man’s granddaughter. Whatever their relationship, they loved each other.
“Like her companions,” the prince continued, his voice rough, “she has benefited from an education and can both read and write. I had hoped she would show an affinity for the arts as our most feminine females do, but she has proven to be of an independent mind.” The prince cleared his throat. “I tell you this because I do not want any of you to take ownership of her believing she blindly embraces her new role in life.”
Despite his desire to learn more about the young female, Karr’s aching muscles made concentrating difficult. He’d have to rely on what he intended to learn during their time together. Right now he just wanted the surrender ceremony to be over.
“I am not certain how to handle this part,” the prince said, looking uncomfortable. “I suppose I could simply assign a possession to each of you, but perhaps you have your own preferences.”
“These creatures are destined to be pleasure givers?” Karr asked, his tone distant as befitted a conqueror. If nothing else, he knew his role. He was a conqueror. “Right now they are acting as if they are free. As such, they are in need of a great deal of work before they can be of service.”
“You disapprove?” the prince asked. “We, ah, we indeed have pleasure givers, but those creatures have been used by many men. Our intention was to gift you with unspoiled flesh, the finest the Lapen has.”
“Maybe unspoiled,” Karr muttered. That remains to be seen. “Have they at least been instructed to treat us as we are, their lords and owners?”
Clearing his throat, the prince looked over at the assembled Lapen officials. “They have. You need have no concern that they will object to, ah, whatever you want them to do.”
How can that be? They’re human. “It remains to be seen whether they know the consequences if they offer any opposition. Do they?”
Blinking rapidly, the prince worked at closing his mouth. Without looking at the other Lapen, Karr guessed they too had gotten his point. The Lapen had been crushed. The most important outcome of the Howi victory was that the Lapen had been forced to turn control of a vital waterway over to the Howi, but there were other considerations, such as what was taking place right now.
“I’m assuming by your silence,” Karr continued, “that the answer is yes.” He took a moment to plan the words he had no choice but to say. “However, I insist on a public display by these creatures that demonstrates their acceptance as pleasure givers.”
He’d said pleasure givers with an eye on the trio of women so he could judge their reaction. He was both pleased and disconcerted to note a mix of disbelief and resignation in their dark eyes. Shaking off the regret he felt over the abrupt change in the females’ lives, including the loss of their freedom, he planted himself in front of the prince’s daughter. Feeling like a giant next to her petite body, he noted her sweet, clean scent and gleaming hair. He hadn’t had sex for so long, hadn’t been close to someone capable of gentleness in seasons.
“What am I?” he asked her in a tone designed to carry but not give away his thoughts.
“A Howi warrior.” She kept her attention on the ground.
“Not just a warrior, a Fighter, bravest of the brave and strongest of the strong.” Although I’ve been sleeping on the ground too long and my back is in misery. “And your master. Say it. What am I to you?”
She was silent just long enough for him to wonder if he’d have to push the point.
“My master,” she finally muttered.
“And that makes you my what?”
“No!” he corrected. “Say it. What have you become?”
She sucked in a long breath. “Your pleasure giver.”
Her voice reminded him of something half forgotten, a light breeze whispering through spring leaves perhaps. And with that joke of a garment leaving little to the imagination, how could he not stare at those full breasts with their dark, erect nipples?
“That’s right,” he belatedly said. “And what does such a creature do when presented with her master’s body?”
Her fingers knotted, turning her knuckles white. He’d had pleasure givers before, submissive women who were passed among the warriors and then left behind when the army moved on. He didn’t think of them as his personal possessions, but then what did he want with a helpless woman when his role as Fighter was never-ending? This gift, however, was going to be different because the Howi would remain on Lapen land until winter. He’d experience things he never had before, perhaps experience emotions he didn’t understand.
“I asked you a question.” Taking hold of a handful of her hair, he made her look up at him. Her hair was even softer than he’d thought it would be. “What has your primary responsibility in life become?”
Tears he guessed were born of discomfort filmed her eyes and he relaxed his hold. “I am certain you will tell me, master.”
Ah, a woman with fire. He relished being around that fire—and her. “Indeed I will. From now on whenever you see me, you will sink to your knees and await my command.”
Instead of doing what he’d in essence ordered her to do, her tears died to be replaced by a blaze of fury.
“What is this—defiance?” He released her hair but remained in her space. Interesting. Intriguing. “Indeed,” he said to her father, “she has been allowed to run free. As a result, she hasn’t learned to respect her superiors. Never mind.” He waved off the older man’s attempt to speak. “I enjoy a challenge. And in preparation for that challenge—Namid, do you have the slave collars?”
After giving Karr a quick smile, senior warrior Namid dug into the pouch he carried and pulled out three leather straps. More than two inches wide with a lock and a D ring imbedded in it, they’d long been seen as the essential and sometimes only adornment for a pleasure giver.
Karr held up the collars for everyone to see. “Ceremony and symbolism is a vital part of what today is about,” he said. “I want everyone to see and understand.” He waited until his possession was looking at him. Good. She was on edge but not terrified. “Now, slave, kneel.”
Instead, she became so tense he thought she might shatter. He wished he knew what she was thinking and how much fear warred with her anger. She was a little thing, maybe weighing half what he did, and yet he didn’t anticipate her immediately surrendering to him. Wondering about the reservoir of strength in that slight body distracted him from what tradition said he should be doing. He pondered what her body against his would feel like, her soft skin contrasting with his rough flesh. Was her pussy large enough to accommodate his cock, and how long it would take him to teach her to accept it? He was, after all, her people’s enemy.
“Kneel,” he repeated in a tone designed for just her ears. “Before I make you regret it.”
Something, maybe a nod, disturbed her sleek hair. Then, graceful beyond graceful, she lowered herself to the ground with her hands on her thighs. She didn’t look up at him and yet he was aware of everything about her. His cock stirred.
Mindful of the audience and determined to distract himself from what her body was whispering to his, he selected one of the collars and slipped the leather over the back of her neck. Wishing he wasn’t doing this, he paused a moment before bringing the two ends together at the base of her throat.
“Listen to the sound,” he reluctantly told her. “And when you hear the click, understand that proof of your status will remain in place for as long as I have use for you. I can control you with the ring. Rope or chain, maybe more leather, the means won’t matter. You are my pet, my dog, my slave.”
Ah, yes, her fingers were digging into her thighs, and her breathing had quickened. Studying her, he remembered the day he’d come across the abandoned puppy that had eventually become the first bitch for his dog pack. She’d been so helpless and trusting, sleeping pressed against his warmth and making him fall in love with her.
Not bothering to further explain what he was doing, he pushed the metal together. A quick snap and it claimed her. She immediately straightened, her body looking as if it would break if he tried to bend it. Her nails were caught on the worthless garment, and her shadowed nipples looked harder than before. A wave of power crashed into him to erase all awareness of his aching body. His cock came to life, but because it was hidden beneath his thick, knee-length garment, only he knew.
He turned the collar around so the D ring was in front. He considered looping a finger through it and pulling her to her feet, but he’d just informed her that her usual position was on her knees.
“Are you finished?” Namid asked. “Perhaps you want—”
“Yes, I do,” he interrupted so he wouldn’t have to hear the words. He wished he was somewhere else, alone or with the woman. “These people need to truly understand what it means to be defeated.”
Namid again rummaged in his pouch and pulled out more leather straps. These were narrower and more pliable with an adjustable buckle. Karr held up the one he’d chosen. The prince’s mouth thinned, but he said nothing. Then Karr dangled the strap in front of his new slave. Her breath rasped.
“I do not trust you,” he informed her. “Granted, so far you have obeyed, but you are unaccustomed to being dominated. A wild animal often bolts. This is to ensure that won’t happen.”
Leaving her to consider what he’d just said, he stepped behind her. He draped the leather over his shoulder before taking hold of her wrists and slowly drawing her arms back. She was more flexible than he’d expected, and he didn’t let up until her elbows nearly touched. She gave no indication that he was stressing her tendons or muscles. His intention had been to bind her wrists together, but seeing her elbows kiss gave him another idea. Taking hold of both wrists in a single hand, he held them in place. Not giving her time to react or for him to change his mind, he looped the strap over her elbows. After securing the buckle, he stepped back and walked around in front of her.
She was staring up at him, glaring really, with her breasts thrusting toward him and her arms behind her. He hadn’t just handcuffed her, he’d imprisoned her from shoulders to wrists. She was beautiful, mysterious, and unpredictable… his.
“Get used to this,” he said, relying on his public voice again. “Slavery is a matter of restraint in whatever form your master desires. Just as the Howi are taking control of the river, I, Fighter Karr, have taken control of you.”
Something that might be fear entered her eyes. Then the expression slipped away to be replaced by anger. Yes, she would fight if she could.
And in the fighting, she would learn.
Learn to worship him.