Kylar tried not to show his revulsion as he shouldered his way through the crowd. Balam had flushed the bowels of the galaxy to come up with his guest list for this auction. He shied away from a Jamron trying to stroke his thigh with its slimy appendage. Apparently the vile creatures would copulate with anything.
Up ahead, he saw Haldor go head to head with a Zolexian who had delivered the blatant insult of flashing his naked ass after Haldor accidentally brushed against him. Zolexians were known throughout the galaxy for their hot tempers, perceiving even the slightest missteps by other beings as tantamount to acts of war.
“Swallow your pride,” he muttered, knowing Haldor couldn’t hear him. “We dare not draw attention to ourselves.” Haldor stiffened, then bent to plant a kiss on the man’s hairy ass. Mollified, the Zolexian pulled down his cloak, and moved on without giving Haldor another glance. Kylar knew that one way or another, the man would suffer Haldor’s revenge before the day was done.
He glanced around the Great Hall, spotting his other men. With so many bizarre creatures in the room, it was easy to blend into the crowd. His team of warriors all wore dark floor-length robes. Their hands were gloved to hide the warm tone of their skin. Each one carried a long sharp dagger tucked into a hidden pocket. Hoods drawn up, faces covered with elaborate carved demon masks like those worn by the Tridacians. Only their eyes, barely visible behind narrow slits in the masks, revealed their deception.
The din of the crowd died down as Balam strode into the room, resplendent in a full-length cloak of vibrant feathers of the eskasis, a creature thought to be extinct everywhere in the galaxy. No doubt he’d slaughtered the last one in existence just to provide himself with this garment. Around his neck he wore an elaborate necklace. Gold links decorated with fangs and claws—and other severed bits of living creatures, not all of them from the animal kingdom.
Balam took the opportunity to preen, making an elaborate welcoming speech in Gadolinean, a courtesy to the world hosting the auction, as custom decreed. His words were repeated in a babble of strange tongues, by interpreters brought from each of the other planets. Kylar spoke a few words of Naritean and he was amused to hear the garbled translation of Balam’s words by the alien creature next to him. If the other translators were equally incompetent, their host would have a full-scale interplanetary war on his hands by the end of the day.
Balam turned the proceedings over to the auctioneer, a two-headed being from Tranzery 6. A hermaphrodite, like all the beings from that planet, the auctioneer played up his/her unique physical composition to the hilt. One head sported a full beard and bushy moustache, while the other had flowing green hair, scarlet cheeks and mouth, and long purple eyelashes. The male head, the one with the booming voice, called out the bids in rapid fire while the female tossed her head and batted her eyes, flirting and teasing, baiting and coaxing.
Between them, they drove the crowd into a frenzy on the first lot, a tiny female said to be from a planet Kylar suspected did not exist. Stark naked. Skin dyed the color of a ripe melon. Nipples pierced, each adorned with a trio of gold rings in increasing size. The auctioneer’s male head bent, taking the largest ring between his teeth and giving it a sharp tug. The female squealed in pain. The feminine head raised her voice over the cry, pointing out how easily this slave could be controlled. Bidding was fast and furious after that and the male head declared the Zolexian Haldor had encountered earlier to be the winner.
Kylar caught Haldor’s eye and his friend gave him a curt nod. Clearly Haldor had decided the man wouldn’t survive long enough to enjoy his new purchase.
Balam brought his merchandise out one at a time, never allowing the audience to see the next female until the one on the block had fetched the highest possible price. As for the slaves, they all seemed suitably submissive. Two of them were so docile Kylar suspected they had been drugged into a stupor.
The crowd grew restless; arguments breaking out between creatures from vastly different worlds, insults shouted by unsuccessful bidders. Balam changed his strategy, calling for Leto and Sori to join him on the hastily constructed platform around King Sigrun’s throne. He raised a hand for silence, waiting until the noise of the crowd died away before attempting to speak.
“Honored guests, I bring you now a very special lot, the one that has led many of you to make the perilous journey here through multiple Portals. Four Gadolinean females.”
Sori escorted the first of them to center stage. A young girl, barely out of her teens. Kylar didn’t recognize her, but he was proud nevertheless to see that she stared defiantly at the crowd, despite her nakedness. A true Viking woman, strong and unbowed. Her lush body drew lewd hisses from the Jamrons crowded together at the edge of the platform.
Bidding was brisk and a stooped old man with a gray beard from Lextron won the right to take her back to his planet. No doubt he hoped her youth would reawaken the fire in his wizened manhood.
She was whisked away and Leto and Sori led two more naked women to the center of the platform. Kylar heard a harsh cry from somewhere behind him at the same time that he recognized one of them as Signe. He knew it was Gunnar, facing the reality of seeing his beloved wife there on the auction block. He could only imagine the combination of rage and helplessness Gunnar felt, listening to the crude reaction from the crowd. He wasn’t certain, but he thought the other woman might be the one Elwen called Irna, the tavern wench.
“These two will be sold together. They have been trained to put on a show for their master, guaranteed to heat even the blood flowing through the veins of an ice-dwelling Valan hermit.”
A sharp command from Sori had the women turn and face each other. The crowd went wild as they reached out, stroking each other’s breasts, running their hands up and down each other’s bodies.
Pandemonium broke out. Raucous cheers, lewd grunts, and moans. A dozen hands shot up, shouting bids. Kylar backed his way through the crowd to put a restraining hand on Gunnar’s arm, fearing that he’d jump into the fray. Gunnar shook him off but Kylar could feel the tension radiating from his body with the effort it took to stand and watch while the woman he loved was put on display as a shameless slut.
With all the noise, Kylar risked a single low word. “Drengr,” the ancient Norse word that encompassed all that a Viking warrior was or ever sought to be. Brave. Valiant. With the strength to do what is right, no matter what the cost. He knew Gunnar would understand. No matter how hard it was to stand and watch, they couldn’t risk showing their hand yet. Not until all the women had been brought out and the king stood in front of the assembled crowd.
The gavel banged. Signe and Irna were sold to the harem of a Valan monarch. Silence fell over the crowd. They all knew there was but one female left.
Talia panted for breath, chest heaving, but didn’t flinch when the auctioneer’s rough hand pinched her bare nipple, twisting it cruelly between two fingers. She’d learned by now not to cry out or resist in any way. It would only make things far worse.
“This one would make a particularly fine addition to any collection.” Balam’s voice seemed to come from far away. “High-spirited, still a little wild, ready for the right master to tame to fit his own—shall we say—unique needs and desires.”
She shuddered as Sori’s hand swept her hair off her shoulders while prodding her with a stiff knuckle in the middle of her back, reminding her to thrust her breasts forward as she’d been taught to do when being presented. She stood on the platform, naked save for an elaborate golden belt around her waist. It had been specially made for her, with a wide strap made of supple leather hanging from it that fit snugly between her legs, then narrowed and ran up between her bottom cheeks, leaving her ass bare. She’d endured several highly invasive and humiliating fittings for it over the last two days. Although at this point that seemed mild in comparison with the other torments she’d been subjected to.
“Note the golden mantle. It has been eons since we featured one of these at an auction. A sign that this female has not been used. Ever. Her trainers have examined her and guarantee it.” He waved a hand and Sori unfastened the belt, letting it drop to the floor with a dramatic thud. “You can be first to sample this fresh human pussy. A virgin.”
Balam might as well have dropped a live Iridian warhead into the middle of the crowd. Their reaction wouldn’t have been any less dramatic. Talia couldn’t help cringing in shame. Every eye in the room was now trained on her exposed pubic area.
Her eyes swept over the crowded hall, widening in horror. She’d never seen creatures such as these. Not in all her time with the InterStellar Federation. This world must contain Portals leading to other galaxies, populated by hideous creatures not spawned from the same DNA that seeded Earth.
Some had insect-like heads sticking up out of segmented bodies covered with an armor-like coating. Other beings shrouded their heads and bodies, leaving only their eyes exposed—their eyes and their penises, jutting arrogantly forward out of openings in their shrouds, like snakes. Writhing and twisting when they saw her, their ardor aroused. She lowered her gaze, afraid if she saw any more, she’d collapse on the floor, screaming.
“Turn around.” Though whispered, Sori’s command was still harsh.
She turned slowly and heard a roar of approval from the spectators. She flushed as she realized they were reacting to the red stripes still visible on her bottom from the strapping she’d received earlier. Sori held the mastodon penis high over her head. It whistled through the air, then landed on Talia’s bottom with a satisfying crack. The crowd cheered.
Something snapped inside her. Maybe it was the sight of all the hideous creatures who’d be bidding on the right to own her body, to use it in any depraved manner they chose. Maybe it was the knowledge that it was her last chance to seek revenge on Sori. Maybe it was the thought that dying right here and now seemed a far better fate.
Whatever the cause, it galvanized her into action. Talia twisted and threw her bound hands into the air, catching the penis in mid-swing as Sori prepared to deliver another stroke. Along with her greater muscle mass, she had the element of surprise in her favor. She yanked hard, sending Sori crashing to the floor. In one smooth move, she twirled and swung the mastodon strap, whacking the hermaphrodite auctioneer. One head roared while the other squealed in agony. The creature scurried away, leaving her face to face with Lord Balam.
He took a step toward her. She wielded the strap with all her might, lashing out at him, catching him across the face. He reached up and casually swiped away a trickle of blood from the cut she’d opened over one eye, then gave her that cold smile. From somewhere out in the crowd, she heard a low sound, growing and building until it reverberated through the room. A single note blown on an enormous horn.
He took another menacing step forward, even as she brought the whip down again. His arm shot out, grabbing her wrist. He twisted it cruelly, wrenching the strap out of her hand.
Before he could swing it at her, it was torn from his grasp. A tall figure in a hooded cloak batted him aside with one blow. Talia looked up. Another horrible creature from an alien world, wearing a wooden mask carved to look like a hideous demon. She raised her bound hands to strike at it, then stopped. The eyes behind the mask. Warm blue eyes. Had one of them just winked at her?
The creature reached for her hands and pulled her off the platform, past battling creatures from every part of the galaxy. It was as though the sound of the horn had shattered the thin veneer of politeness surrounding all the creatures, letting loose the worst of their aggressive natures. Mayhem reigned. She caught sight of Signe and Irna huddling in a corner and tried to head toward them. But her rescuer bent down, picked her up, and tossed her over his shoulder. Holding her firmly right at the curve where her naked bottom met her thighs with one arm, he slashed at anything that came near with a lethal-looking dagger in the other hand.
Over the din she heard a cry. “Gunnar!”
She raised her head enough to catch a glimpse of Signe being confronted by another huge figure in a cloak and wooden mask. Tossing the mask aside, he ripped off the cloak and wrapped it around Signe. Then the huge blonde picked Signe up as easily as if she were a babe and strode away carrying her in his arms, while two other cloaked figures cleared a path for him.
The man carrying her fought his way through the crowd. He bore her weight easily, as though her curvy six-foot frame was the lightest burden he’d hefted in a long while. Her head bumped against his back as he jumped over a fallen figure and ran through the Great Hall. Behind them, two other cloaked figures wearing similar demon masks carried Irna and Freya.
Despite the chaos all around her, Talia felt a flash of purely feminine irritation. Obviously their rescuers were Gadolinean warriors and she was grateful they’d jumped in when they did. But all the other women were being cradled in the men’s arms, rather than being in the ignominious position of having their naked bottoms in full view, bouncing up and down with every step toward freedom.
After all that happened, she hadn’t known she was still capable of feeling embarrassment. Why hadn’t she been fortunate enough to have a rescuer who was gentleman enough to at least cover her, as Signe’s husband did? Instead, she’d apparently gotten the ill-mannered oaf in the pack.
He ran through the courtyard to the palace gates, with the others on his heels.
“Fall back! Back to the fortress!”
The shouted command from the man holding her came as a shock. She knew that voice. She’d heard it the night she arrived on Gadolinium. Imagined it over and over in the fantasies that kept her sane while locked in her dark cell or tormented by Leto and Sori.
But this second meeting was nothing like the one she’d replayed over and over in her head. In that, they’d been formally introduced at a reception in the palace, with her resplendent in her burgundy ambassadorial robes. He’d taken one look at her and dropped to one knee, honoring her status as visiting dignitary from another world. Then he apologized for his rough treatment the night he’d grabbed her in the alley and begged her pardon. That was the kind of behavior she’d come to expect back on Earth. Polite. Genteel. Respectful.
She was jerked out of her fantasy when he unceremoniously dumped her to her feet in the middle of a street several blocks from the palace.
“Whew!” He pulled off the mask and swiped the back of his hand across his forehead, dripping with sweat. “Those curves must be packed with solid muscle. You weigh nearly as much as the lad I hauled off the battlefield in Osberg.”
She glared at him, furious. He pulled off his cloak and flashed her that grin she remembered so well. She reached for the cloak but before she could draw it over her to hide her nakedness, he tore it in two.
“I know you can run like the wind, but I doubt you could do it barefoot,” he said, kneeling at her feet.
Talia looked down at the tangled head of auburn hair, bent before her. Her fantasy had come true. But it took a turn when he lifted one of her feet and wrapped half the cloak around it, padding her from toes to mid-calf, then tying it securely with another strip he ripped from the cloth. He did the same to her other foot, then rose and met her eyes.
“You’ll be cold but at least your feet won’t be cut and bleeding.” He gave her another of those insolent head-to-toe appraisals. “We’ve got a long way to go but you’re well-padded. The exercise will warm your blood in no time.” Lifting the dagger, he slit through the rope binding her hands. “Come on.”
He turned and took a few steps, then stopped when she simply stood there in the street, staring at him angrily. “Oh, all right,” he snapped, sounding annoyed. He pulled off his thick wool shirt and tossed it to her. “Now can we go?” He jerked his head, pointing out a horde of creatures in the distance bringing their battle out into the road.
She yanked his shirt over her head. He was a good head taller than she was and it hung down to mid-thigh. The fabric felt rough against her skin and the sleeves were long enough to flap around below her fingertips. But for the first time in days she wasn’t stark naked, cringing in shame.
She wrapped her arms around herself, ran her hands down over the shirt. It carried a trace of the warmth from his body. And his scent—impossible to describe but instantly recognizable. She remembered that scent from the first night, when he’d pressed his body tight against hers. A trace of herb-infused soap overlaid with raw testosterone.
She breathed it in, then lifted her head and nodded. He grabbed her hand again and took off at a dead run, winding his way through the streets, heading for the distant mountains. Talia pushed herself hard to keep up with him, concentrating on the sight of his bare chest and back to divert her mind from the cold.
She’d never been in such close proximity to a half-naked man, let alone one who had starred in all her erotic fantasies. He’d already given her his cloak and shirt and all he wore were leather boots and loose trousers, made from the same thick dark wool as his shirt. The cold air didn’t seem to bother him. Judging from his sun-bronzed skin, he often went bare-chested. The sight of the smooth muscles in his back rippling as he moved fascinated her. His shoulder-length hair, held back by a braided leather thong tied around his forehead, whipped behind him in the wind, brushing against the broad shoulders that had borne her weight effortlessly at a full-out run.
He ran at a steady pace, breathing easily as though he could continue for hours. Finally, when the city streets were far behind them, she dropped to her knees, gasping for breath. Exhausted, half-starved for days, she had no strength left.
He stopped and bent to lift her head, searching her face. “Are you all right?”
She nodded once, unwilling to waste the air she was gulping by trying to talk. He gave her a quick smile. “You’ve done as well as any warrior today. The gods themselves would declare you a true Viking.” He looked up at the sky. “It will be dark soon. I dare not risk heading up into the mountains. If one of us slips on the path through the pass and breaks a leg, the journey could take days instead of hours more. Stay here. Rest. I’m going to look for shelter. And food, if fortune will smile on us.”
Without another word, he vanished behind a large outcropping of boulders into the growing dusk. As her breathing gradually returned to normal, Talia took a good look around her. It was the first time she’d had an opportunity to take stock of her surroundings.
The planet seemed to be moving out of its cold cycle. No longer blanketed with snow, the ground sported patches here and there where tiny green shoots pushed their way to the surface through the dead brown grass mat. Silence reigned, save for tree branches bare of leaves rattling in the wind. She looked closer at the nearest one and saw swelling here and there at the tips, a promise of green leaves soon to unfurl.
The only spot of color came from the deep blue-green of a pine forest in the distance, covering the side of the mountain. She shivered and pulled her knees up to her chest, drawing the rough wool shirt over her bare legs.
Time passed. The warmth generated by strenuous exercise seeped out of her body, replaced by the chill in the air. Overhead, Gadolinium’s blue-white moon rose, casting enough light to throw shadow on the ground. A rustling noise nearby drew her attention. She froze, then let out a sigh of relief when her rescuer appeared.
“Come on. I found a small hollow below an outcropping of rock, like a cave. There’s a spring that flows not far away, coming straight out of the side of the mountain. I remember it from past journeys through here.”
He took her hand once again, pulling her to her feet. She swayed.
“Shall I carry you?”
She shook her head, horrified at the thought of being slung over his shoulder again, and pulled her hand away. “No. I’m all right. Just give me a moment to get the feeling back in my legs.”
“You’re probably wondering why I’m not on horseback,” he said as she stamped her feet a few times. “We left our horses tied up on the other side of the pass. Whoever gets there first will feed and water them, have them waiting patiently for the rest of us to arrive. We didn’t dare ride anywhere near Trondheim. Our Gadolinean steeds are too easily spotted, with their thick white coats. If Balam’s men caught sight of one of them, they’d have been expecting us.”
He glanced at the moon, hanging low in the sky, then back at her. “Ready?”
Without waiting for her response, he reached for her hand again, wrapping his warm fingers around her icy cold ones. “It’s not far. And I have surprises waiting for you,” he said, leading her further into the foothills. They walked in silence for a quarter mile or so, then he rounded an outcropping of boulders and waved a hand at a flickering light ahead. “A fire.”
She took a few more steps and came face to face with a tiny limp carcass lying on the ground in front of the flames.
“And a fresh-killed hare,” he announced with pride, “waiting for you to skin and dress it and roast it for us while I go fetch more wood for the night.”
Horrified, she snatched her hand away from his and backed up. “No! I won’t do it!”
“Look, I know you’ve been through a rough time. But be reasonable. We need food and enough wood to last us through the night. If we each do our part, we can have both and still get some rest. So I’ll ask you nicely. Will you please cook the hare?”
“I’m not touching that thing. I’d sooner starve!”
“That’s it!” He grabbed her around the middle and sank down on a waist-high boulder, pulling her over his lap. “I’ve had enough of your stubborn, willful ways.”
He slid his hand up her thigh, pulling the tail of his shirt up and baring her to the waist. “You may choose to starve,” he declared, “but I’ll be damned if I’m going to go hungry because you’re too proud to do your fair share of what needs to be done to keep us alive.”
The sharp smack of his broad palm connecting with her bare bottom echoed off the rocky chamber.
“You’ve been nothing but trouble since the moment I laid eyes on you,” he growled, spanking her first on one cheek, then the other.
Shocked, she laid there for a moment, then began kicking and bucking. He responded by shifting her body to trap her legs between his, and gave her two more firm whacks.
“I’ve been aching to spank this naughty ass since I caught you disobeying orders, wandering around alone in the city like some poor addled creature without a brain in your head.” His voice rose and he punctuated his words with more smacks. “You put both of us in danger that night. I had to give up my scouting to rescue you. I’ll wager the only thing that kept Balam from killing you outright was the sight of this saucy backside.”
She squealed as his hand came down harder. “Then you ruined our mission to free the king with your rebellion on the auction platform. In order to save this obstinate ass of yours, I had to abandon my own father, leave him there, locked away in a dank cell.”
His voice broke at that and he spanked her even harder, as if to punish her for causing him to give way to emotion.
Talia barely heard his rant through the riot of feelings going on inside her. The spanking hurt, yet it was so different from the punishments she’d endured back in the palace. She’d been paddled with a wooden board by Balam, forced to kneel at Sori’s feet for whippings from a mastodon penis as thick and hard as an alligator hide. But she’d never been draped over a man’s lap before, with the heat of his body warming her in front while his bare hand lit a fire on her bare bottom. This punishment was so intimate.
Unable to get away, she wiggled around on his lap as he spanked her steadily, reciting a list of her misdeeds all the while. Suddenly she became aware of a growing bulge beneath her. He was becoming aroused. It seemed that every time his body came in contact with hers, his base animalistic urges awakened. Would he now subject her to more of the humiliating acts she’d been enduring ever since she arrived on this cursed planet?
As though reading her thoughts, he gave her an especially hard whack. “Don’t think you can deter me by wiggling against my crotch! If ever a wench was in need of a good spanking, it’s you. And I plan to deliver what your father and brothers never did. Then after I’m finished, you’ll clean that damned hare and cook our dinner—or I’ll keep spanking you until you do!”
She broke down then. After days of holding it in, biting her lip till it bled rather than give her captors the satisfaction of seeing her cry when they punished her, she couldn’t do it any longer. Couldn’t stay strong and stoic. She began sobbing as though her heart would break.
“I’m… I’m hungry too,” she wailed, “but I don’t know how to clean a rabbit. I’ve never eaten one. I’ve never even touched one before… and the poor thing is so… so dead. I hate this place! I hate the cold, the bad smells, everyone touching me but never allowing me gratification. I wish I’d never come to your miserable planet!”
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