Nizana stepped off her personal shuttle into the bay area of her personal estate, deep in the volcanic foothills of her personal demanse on the edge of civilization. A middle-tier priestess, she still commanded several battalions worth of soldiers, and triple that number in slaves, mindless or not. As there were few markets on Heppet, Nizana would often visit larger worlds closer to Komodo, so she had demanded her temple have a skyport. It did. Grand arches wound around a broad courtyard, where several of her shuttles lined neatly up against the tall, stark basalt walls of her carved-in port. The doors to her domain stood open and her soldiers, nominally the Empire's but really just hangers-on to her success, lined up to meet her with quasi-religious alacrity.
In amongst them were several new purchases she had instructed on her way here. Most of them were sacrificial and she didn't pay a great deal of attention to them. Even a small border world like this had a slave market - in fact, the ones on the border tended to be more bustling, as industrious, lower-ranking officers or priests would make regular forrays into the Tai Pen shipping lanes, the Atraxian war lines, or the ever-warring states of Kowloon to try for wealth and prestige. Nizana had hired a few of those slavers herself, as any self-respecting priestess of her station would, but most of them were unimaginative and did not bother taking the slaves further inward. Near the center of the Empire, the slaves would have to compete, and most of them weren't broken yet. In Heppet, Nizana bought in bulk.
She strode forward, her rod of office dangling from her right hand, whipping her tail behind her disdainfully as she walked, already steeling herself for disappointment. Her entorage, lesser priests, trailed behind her, eager to jump to lashing, or tear apart the ones she found unpleasant; this wasn't a common occurance either. A non-Vekimen tread into their territory only at risk of harm, and Nizana could be counted as one of the crueler border-officers.
Stopping ahead of the line of slaves, she picked out her likely candidates, motioning one by one with the rod to the ones she wanted to keep. The rest would be sacrificed to restore her holy power, thrown into the brazier for the Sraralumee and their Gods, and forged into the little gems that adorned all of Nizana's jewelery. The ones she pointed to with her rod were the ones she thought might be more useful unburnt.
She performed this without a hint of concern or pause until she sensed something peculiar from the blonde half-elf, and gave him a second glance.
Damilis glared at the Vekimen woman with a particular level of hatred in his bright blue eyes. He was just barely a man by the standards of the elven people he might have been taken from but he was an adult by human standards. The solid build of his frame and his musculature hinted stongly of a lifetime of hard larbor- his arms, shoulders and legs were developed from what was likely years of carrying heavy loads and swinging a pick. He reminded Nizana of a someone that toiled in the mines. His hands were bound in chains and the red marks on his exposed skin showed him beligerant to the slavers efforts. He clenched his hands into fists and set his jaw as he glared at her.
Curious, thinking that she might have found someone to make an example of to the rest of them, she motioned him forward with the rod. When he didn't move, she motioned again and one of her soldiers shoved him forward in no uncertain terms.
The slave stood taller than Nizana by almost two full feet and seemed to outweigh her by a considerable margin. A descendant of Khelena, a little closer than some and a little further than she would have liked, Nizana had a slender form, narrow shoulders, waspish hips, and what height she had came mostly from her legs. She looked up at him without concern for their difference in body mass.
He lifted his hands, rattling the chains. "ломать." The sun caught the light in his eyes strangely as his legs tensed. The air around him got colder as he flexed his fingers and pulled the threads of reality that kept the chains in place.
As they fell down at his heels, a number of things happened at once. Several of the vekimen guards screeched in their chittering language and lurched forwards, a few of her sycophants stifled their gasps, or laughter, and Nizana caught the man's eyes. That wasn't hard; he had been staring at her the entire time.
Nizana drew from the armlet, focused, and then widened her eyes to ensure he got the full treatment.
- - - - -
He saw his mother. He saw her being dragged out from beneath the nearby terrace. He saw her thrown down. He felt hands around his arms, clawed feed dig into the backs of his legs as they bore him down to the cold basalt-stone floors, the black almost-marble that the entire tableau had been soaked in. He heard his mother screaming, saw the clothes being rent off and torn from her, saw the tongues lash out and...
They were hurting her. They were violating her. His blood ran cold and he felt rage and despair explode outward in a rushing wave. His building elemental spell responded to his distress and lashed out in a responding shockwave of ice around him. His eyes blazed with desperate blue fire. He had failed to save her.
Damilis was woke from this horrific vision by pain in his scalp as a clawed hand seized him by the hair and dragged his vision upright. He found that nobody had shoved him down, but he had collapsed onto his knees in sheer shock and horror anyway.
The reflection had faded from the bitch-priestess's lavender eyes, and yet for some reason they were no less horrifyingly uncaring. There was something about the Vekimen priests that made them worse to look at over-long than the slavers that had taken him. It was like being stared at by a thing already dead, or halfway between the realms. This Priestess had ghostly eyes and he could, now that he looked, see that something lurked within them. Another nightmare, waiting to take him.
"Stop," she ordered, and her voice sounded far too sweet.
He felt the shift in the energy around him, he had forgotten that the Vekimen brewed nightmares. The fire hadn't left his eyes. She was touching him. He might still have a chance. He placed a chilled hand on the wrist of the priestess and channeled the ice spell into her arm. She narrowed her eyes in response and, with a strength that didn't seem to match her slender form, she shook him back and forth by his hair.
When she got done with that, she threw him sprawling, the only apparent effect he had accomplished being a headache and a bruise.
Her taloned feet made little clicks as she crossed the yard towards him. Out of the corner of his blurred vision, he could see that a couple of the slavers had suffered the affect of his ice magic, but that the Priestess herself seemed quite unharmed, even amused.
Rapid fire, some of the slavers surrounding the others he had been bought and dragged in with launched into what he imagined had to be explaination. He couldn't keep up with all the clicks, chirps, and rattling noises of the Vekimen language, and even if he had, he wouldn't have been able to make sense of all of it at once. The Priestess, however, cut them off with a flick of the golden scepter that she happened to be carrying - maybe some sort of badge of office to go with all the rest of the gold jewelry - and soon he found himself face to face with the Priestess again, staring up a long muzzle into the strange eyes that he damn well knew by now he should be avoiding.
He attempted to regain his feet and pulled away from her, looking away from her gaze. There had to be another way, the ice didn't work on her. Was it an antimagic field? Was the spell not enough to get through it? His mind was reeling, the after image of his mother haunted him still. No amount of preparation could stop such a thing from affecting you... not if you still had a heart.
"I'll help you," said the Priestess, her voice again incongruant with her form. She barely opened her mouth to speak; the throat of these things could produce all sorts of sounds, complex and simple, and the common tongue weighed more towards the latter part of that scale. "If you serve me, you may get her back."
"You saw it then," Damilis broke his silence, his mouth felt dry and his head ached. "Why would you help me?" His eyes darted around the rest of the yard, as he attempted to locate a stronger thread of energy to manipulate. His glorious plan of mom-rescuing hadn't worked out properly. Now he was proper fucked. His temples throbbed as he ripped at the thread of reality that kept the ground solid and opened it into a gaping maw of jagged volcanic rock over the vein of lava far below the surface the feet of the slavers instead of Nizana.
This time the response came immediately and he felt the hand around his throat and the Priestess's claws dug into his flesh like vice grips. She didn't haul him up, but bore him down instead. Elsewhere there were screams, but just then, all he could focus on was the weight of the vekimen Priestess atop him, pinning his arms, and for some reason he couldn't quite look away from her eyes.
They were just the most interesting things in the world at that moment, and they caused his spine to want to get out and run away from the rest of him. He felt the chill straight down to his marrow, like he was being watched by a predator, a small rabbit caught by something much bigger and frozen in place.
What she said next almost sounded like the Song, except that it wasn't, he would have recognized it. He felt a blinding pain in his chest and, tearing his eyes from hers, he saw her pressing one of her detached body-jewels, he couldn't really see what type, into the center of his chest. It seemed like she might break his sternum, but instead the jewel sank in with excruciating pain and a small fountain of blood that quickly suffused itself into the faint, purplish glow that the magic gave off.
His blood rushed. His heart beat. His hands clenched and unclenched and his legs doubled up in agony as though he hadn't stretched them for days.
Then, suddenly, it ended. He felt the weight of the Priestess, saw the ash-covered crimson sky of the late Heppit afternoon. She had sat up on his abdomen, and seemed unconcerned either to be within reach of him or to be sitting straddling him. Like a bird, she ticked her head to the side, viewing him a little at an angle.
Damilis glared up at her and wanted with all of his being to throw this vile thing from him. He felt his hatred bubble up but he could not do more than clench his fist at his side or grind his teeth. "What have you done to me?" His voice was far softer than he felt, it was almost calm despite the hate he felt towards her.
"Bought you at too high a price," replied his Mistress. "You will make this up to me. First you killed your captors, and that makes me laugh, because selling me a magical warmblood for the cost of a normal warmblood is a great loss on their part, but then I had to bind you and that is more expensive than a dozen. You will make up the difference."
The Vekimen unfolded languidly from atop him, perfectly confident in her mastery of him. In fact, he couldn't argue with her. Something seemed to be meddling with his thoughts of her, like a woolen blanket, or a cloud before the sun of his true thinking. She touched where the gem had been torn from its place on her own chest, examining her scale to ensure it hadn't been damaged or rent, and then she looked out across the courtyard.
Automatically he followed her gaze to the other slaves.
"Kosey," she said, and he felt his heart jump at the name that wasn't his. It felt like it was his. It felt like the heart of a dog must feel, when it is summoned by its master, and the image made him sick.
".. my name is Damilis..Mistress," the answer to her earlier question finally rattled free. He felt disgusted as the word, the admission that he was trapped in her service spilled from his lips without bidding. "What do you wish me to do, Mistress?"
"Take the other slaves to the main hall, the guards will show you." The Priestess retrieved her rod, examinining it in the dim light of the glow that had opened behind Kose-- Damilis. He had to remind himself. He had managed to open the pit near the other slaves, and throw a few more slavers to their deaths in a lava flow that seemed to be steadily bubbling up.
"And clean up this mess."
Slaves, he noticed, received relatively little water and were cared for rather poorly. Something about this seemed off to him until he realized that he got a little more of a water ration and enjoyed a great deal more freedom than the other shambling masses. Male, or female, didn’t seem to matter much to the vekimen except that some of the other priests and priestesses, obviously his Mistress’s lessers, occasionally picked favorites. Those few had haunted looks. His imagination could only touch on that thought lightly, however; the image of his mother had been too real and too visceral to dwell overlong on what sort of bedmates the vekimen were. That had been too close to his mind, and too horrible for his heart, but he had realized the phantasm for his own imagination after he had calmed down enough to do so. Whatever magic Nizana had used on him, his wild imagination had provided some of the fuel for it.
He had the run of the Temple complex, and complex described it aptly. The ceilings were so far up that sometimes he could barely see the arch of the ceiling, the halls were long and cavernous, held up by pillars of black basalt that seemed to have been formed up from the ground beneath and polished until they glittered like onyx, while the red-hued walls bore marbling like veins of blood on a cadaver. If the heat were not so unbearable, if his situation were not so horrifying, he might have enjoyed the artistry.
Vekimen in various styles of jewelry - they didn’t wear clothing - would mull about in the antechamber, in the great halls, talking business or conducting what he imagined to be governance at all hours. They did not seem to care that the system's twin sun had set, and they did not bother to see the other species scurrying around placing small, pale-glowing orbs into the braziers that shed ghastly light on their evening ministries.
His first day passed in surprising serenity as he aimlessly milled about. It wasn’t until the evening that he met trouble.
Then he found that the heat had increased on him and he came out of his aimless daze to find that his feet had taken him somewhere else, somewhere deeper in the Temple, and the screaming and sobs were what woke him up from his dreamlike wandering. The stairs had narrowed downwards and at the very foot of the narrow stairwell shadows danced in a light that looked as though it had come from hell. The stairs seemed hot on his bare feet and the air seemed particularly oppressive.
And, it seemed pregnant with magic.
Damilis realized after some hours of listless drifting that he had showed his hand too soon. He also knew it would take him time to build up enough energy to make another radical attempt with how badly the heat was taxing and dehydrating him- he wasn't an endless fount of energy and he'd need more food and water to draw from himself again.
His thoughts drifted to his mother again, and his heart sank. The Mistress had said that she could help him. Did she mean it? Was his mother possibly somewhere in this hellish place? He had searched for her in his wanderings to no avail but his fragmented nightmare. The sounds of desperation and agony struck a chord in him. Didn't his parents teach him to avenge wrongs, to rescue those that couldn't rescue themselves? Could he save them? Dare he even try?
He studied the pattern of the magic that was bound to this place. If he ever hoped of surviving, he would have to count on Tiwaz's tenents of wisdom rather than Saule's burning passion, though he wished for Perkons to bring him some needed relief from this damned heat. He stared at the steps with deepening curiousity, if he hoped to rescue anyone, he wouldneed to understand the barriers. He had not been forbidden and there was little hope that it would be cooler in the bowels of this complex.
He could see people milling. When he came down to the lowest stairs, he paused to take in the scene.
The room could only be described as a crucible; lava flowed in a river from a scarred, gated hole in one wall down a ditch that had been carved, crafted, and embellished, and it pooled in roiling flame around something that resembled a brazier. Great, black metal held the lava in check and directed it down through something that in his homeland he would have called a blacksmith's forge; it oozed downwards into a moat of lava around the smith's central platform. Standing in the middle of it, some magic kept the Priestess - his Mistress - from erupting into flame herself. She stood upon that platform, the firelight glistening off of dark scales and turning her white ones angry crimson as she hammered at something upon a small jeweler's anvil. Nearby her, the forge belched unbearable heat. The sound seemed drowned by the lava, the screaming, and the strange chanting.
She had helpers. Vekimen stood nearby her, waiting and watching, apparently only there in case she needed them. It did not appear she did. They stood in ceremonial silence, each standing around the crucible in what seemed to be a roughly symmetrical form. If there were a purpose beyond that, he couldn't guess it.
His eyes traveled up to a priest, wearing signifigantly less jewelry, chanting something in the vekimen tongue. In his arms was a young woman who struggled with every fiber of her strength to get away from him, but even from this distance he could see the vekimen's rippling muscle beneath the scales.
His heart twisted as he watched the vekimen throw her bodily into the brazier. She screamed and had an impossible moment where she was buoyant. Her flesh blackened. Only then did he notice the smell; this room didn't just smell like fire, it smelled like bacon that had been left in the pan until it became charcoal.
She died, and as she died, Nizana Kir'Ladaran struck a single blow on whatever it was she worked, and held it into the lava flow.
Damilis could practically feel the power radiating from this room as he watched the Vekimen he served distilling the life essence of slaves that, not two days ago, he had been encouraging and promising hope to. He was going to save them. He was going to save himself. He had known that he was going to be a hero, that he was going to stop all of this, and even with all his stored magical energy it had been like spitting into wind.
Another person was dragged towards the brazier as Nizana pulled the item from the fire and returned it to the anvil, working with her small hammer and tongs. This one was huge, he remembered him as a captured Kishargal who had been, for some stupid reason, traveling the worlds. The Vekimen had just taken him right off of a market street. He had been expecting some sort of civilized trial. It seemed like his pride bore him up well, but he looked haggard. Who could watch this for so long, waiting their turn to die in this horrific fashion, and really keep their courage?
"Stop!" He forced his revulsion down and moved towards the brazier. He felt the thumming of the threads, that grew stronger as it ripped the life from the slaves. It was vile, it was evil, he felt his hate bubble up again, You... "MISTRESS!" He grimaced as the wrong word eripted from his lips.
He suddenly found himself the object of too much attention. The lava continued to flow, the slaves continued to mill like frightened animals caught in a pen, hemmed in by Nizana's soldiers and lesser priests and priestesses, the complicated keening chanting continued like some revelry of demons or Aphotics. In point of actual fact, nobody heard him over the chanting, the fire, the hammering, and the only attention he garnered was the ghostly Vekimen priestess looking up from her work. But, that attention changed the room.
She was like the hub of a wheel with many spokes, and it seemed that the wheel had stopped turning for a moment.
He heard her across the gap when she ordered, "Come here."
"...yes, Mistress." Damilis did not want to go to her but he found himself making the trek across the chamber. He felt the pull of the energy from the lava, he speculated that he could draw from it. He would need to learn how to control it if he hoped to save anyone. It was far too destructive but it was raw, untapped power. He did not understand why the Mistress didn't draw her magic from that, there was far more of it than slaves.
She motioned dismissively to one of the vekimen who had gathered around her. The flash of offense that painted itself across the lesser priestess's features translated into any language, but she stepped back and Damilis felt a shift that had nothing to do with the Priestess's offended pride.
He knew what he had to do almost after he did it. Somehow, Nizana moved him, and he joined the circle.
That's when he felt the weight. It was like being crushed beneath a mountain, or taking the sky onto his shoulders. He had been sweating; now, he felt like nothing in the world would end the heat.
His soul felt like it was on fire as he was opened to the flow of the magical energy, forced to be a party to the vile thing that he was trying to save everyone from. The current reverberated through him and his hands felt numb. His eyes and hands started to blaze with purple fire.
"Can you feel it?" his Mistress asked, turning her ghostly lavender eyes back to the bit of jewelry she was working on. It seemed to be a ring, with a band of pure black stone, of some metal he wasn't familiar with - if it were metal at all. It didn't seem to reflect the lava's fell light.
Somewhere above, though he didn't seem able to do anything more than lift his head, he could sense that the kishargal had died. It had changed the energy in the room somehow - it flowed through him in a strange way, as though he were a part of the forge himself. He hadn't even heard a scream, but he sensed it.
"Yes, Mistress. Why not take it from the mountain? It's everywhere here," he responded distantly, trying to understand the energy that was channeling through him.
He heard a faint noise of disgust from the Priest on his left. If Nizana heard it, and she must have, she didn't correct it.
At the strike of her hammer, he felt his soul flash suddenly cold. All the heat that he had felt drained out of him in an instant and he realized that the hammer, which did look a bit odd anyway, seemed to be mostly ceremonial and had several strange symbols on it. So did the forge. Nizana placed the ring beneath the lava flow and, slowly, warmth returned to Damilis's limbs.
He was connected to the item somehow. All this power was going somewhere. Into the ring? No. It wasn't a ring.
When she pulled it out, the ring seemed a bit thicker, a band that had started to curve a little bit inwards as though it were the joint in a ball valve, with only a little hole for some liquid or other to pass through. When she set it back in the crucible's forging anvil, he started to feel warm again. The others went through similar strain, though they bore it up much better, suffering their life essence being linked into whatever was happening here with stoic determination that he thought must border on maniac pride. This was probably some sort of prestigious position he was interrupting.
No, that he had interrupted with his stupidity. He'd made enemies here.
"The soul is more powerful than a mountain."
Another man died above him. This one didn't go quietly. There was screaming, and an agonizing weight. At the height of the power, when it felt like he couldn't bear to stay standing any longer, Nizana struck the item, his blood ran suddenly as cold as ice, and then she placed it beneath the lava flow to soak up another soul.
It had been only twice now that she had struck this thing, and it felt like he had run a marathon. It felt like he might die the next time she drew upon him. The warm soul didn't feel so bad as life seemed to flow back into him, as slow as the lava river.
"Would you prefer to be killing them?"
It was a question he did not want to answer. It sank in that this was what she had meant by the cost. "No, mistress. I've already done enough to them." He set his jaw. He wanted to kill her but couldn't bring himself to do more than stand there.
He heard her make a strange chittering noise deep in her throat. After a moment, he recognized that she must be laughing at him. Could she read his thoughts? It turned to a motherly chortle, almost like a bird over her young, as she pulled the now-more-circular item out of the fire. The black thing had been growing like a kernel with every soul added to it, and now he recognized what it reminded him of.
It reminded him of the deep purple gem embedded in his chest.
So these weren't cut, they were forged. He became suddenly conscious of just how much jewelery Nizana wore. He became conscious of how much jewelery they all wore.
When Nizana struck the little kernel of souls again, he felt a sudden guilty relief, almost like he had been plunged into cold ashes after burning far too hot for far too long. Three strikes. Four strikes? Five strikes? How much longer would this go on? How many more of these would she make?
Warmth. Cold. The strike. Nizana didn't ask him any more questions, she just let him suffer there, standing helplessly as the weight of souls passed through him into the gem, over and over again, until he couldn't stand any longer and the edges of his vision began to go black.
He found himself bracing for the next blow unconsciously, but that blow did not come.
As he came back into the world around him, he realized that it was quieter, with less screaming. The heat he felt seemed to be real heat, though something seemed to be shielding him from the brunt of it, and one by one the priests left their places. He could barely hold his head up, so he saw the symbols on the ground and realized that they all led to the central anvil where Nizana had been doing her work.
He wasn't very familiar with ritual magic, but he could sort of gather the purpose. They had been drained, over and over again, and then restored. He didn't quite understand it. Somehow, draining them seemed to create a vacume or... something... that the dying soul rushed to fill. They had, over and over, been host to the soul of every slave here, and it had worn him almost to dirt. No wonder the Priestess in front of him looked like a specter.
Nizana touched him. Her hand was as chill as the ice he had felt when she had struck the jewel. She carried three of them now; one of them black, one of them blue, another one of them the deep violet of her eyes, the same as he had pressed into his chest.
"Is my poor pet tired?" It didn't seem fond in the least bit, but it didn't seem mocking either.
"I've never been tied to someone dying before, Mistress," he hadn't wanted to concede the information but it still came. "The Song doesn't work this way." The chill was almost a relief from all the heat, he was horrorifed that he was grateful to be blessed by her touch. It tugged at the corners of his resolve, he didn't want to displease her.. but oh how he hated her.
She offered him one of the small gems. "Don't drop it."
That settled into his being like a universal law. Birds can fly, but flies can't bird; it was something similar to that. Just like that, he would have died before dropping it, or winked out of existence. His Mistress didn't order him, typically, or at least she hadn't in the short time he'd thought of her as Mistress. She had ordered him to fix the courtyard, and he had done it somehow, through great magical effort. She had told him to stay generally out of trouble. And he had, more or less, and something about the gem muddled his thinking when it came to her, but this?
He accepted the gem into his hand. Despite himself, he smiled gratefully. "So many souls for this one, Mistress." His free hand touched the gem embedded into his own chest as he wondered how many now muddled him and bound him to the Mistress. His thoughts went to what he knew about Embers from his mother and the research done on them, he wondered grimly, how many gems would one tied into the life of the universe would create. "Apologies, Mistress."
She pressed her hand on his chest again, near where he had put it, as though she were taking the temperature of his skin. The lava still roiled around them, but the Priestess remained cold as death, cold as ice despite that. He had not been near her before, but he could vaguely recall that she had felt this way before, too, in the courtyard..
"You will not let this gem away from yourself. You may use it for me. You may not draw from it otherwise." Then she added, "Clean the ash off of yourself. You are mine this evening."
He clutched it still, pondering how to keep hold of it to use it properly for her. A bit of pride swelled up, she had given him something and claimed him. He felt a wave of nausea again. "You wear these as jewelry, Mistress? How do you wish me to wear this?" He kept his hand closed around the other gem as he looked up to meet her ghostly eyes.
She ticked her head to the side slightly, as she had done before, and the diminutive priestess looked up at him.
"Find a jeweler. Have it mounted."
He considered it again, the answer was direct enough. He supposed he would be able to find the jeweler by asking the other slaves or the guards. And they would do it since he bore the mark of the Mistress. "Yes, mistress." He was not allowed to drop it and he was given orders to keep it with him. His options in his sparse clothing were abyssal.
His eyes glowed dimly once more as he focused on his forearm and opened the hand holding the gem. He slid the gem up and stared intently as small droplets of blood swelled up as he pushed the gem into his flesh and smoothed it over again. He grunted at the discomfort and was satisifed by the temporary measure. "So it does not get away from me in the meantime, Mistress."
She cocked her head at him, watching him curiously. The lavender eyes didn't waver. When she blinked, it seemed almost too quick, and she looked away from him as quickly.
"Three hours," she said.
"I don't understand, Mistress." He replied, suddenly feeling lost as her gaze moved from him. He felt a trickle of dejection that gnawed at the back of his mind.
"In three hours," the spectral Vekimen patiently explained, "I will need you in my sleeping chamber. I am cold. You will warm me."
Nizana lived in what passed for splendor for the Vekimen. The temple complex stretched upwards and also downwards, and the lower that Kosey went, the warmer that it got. Down near the bottom, a little above where he had undergone his ordeal and felt all those dozens of other slaves dying, Nizana had her pit.
The Vekimen slept communally. The room where Nizana slept actually had five warm indentations in the floor, filled with various cushions, though few blankets, and those blankets were used by slaves. While he thought that he and his Mistress might be alone, while some part of his deep imagination had wished for that to be so, to the disgust of the rest of him, this wasn't true. Instead, a dozen slaves milled about a handful of other, lesser clergy and Vekimen, some of whom were already sleeping. A couple in one of the further pits were making love, loudly. The male participant was the muscular Vekimen that Kosey had seen before, throwing the other slaves into the laval bowl; the female seemed pink-skinned and humanoid, though he couldn't be sure whether she were human, one of the Tai Pan species, or had elven blood like he did. It sounded pretty damn consensual.
The Vekimen caught him staring and flashed his teeth, mockingly, until he noticed the gem in his chest and lost interest in either tormenting or taking him. He went back to who he was doing.
So the vekimen had few personal boundaries. Duly noted.
He shifted his attention to the central sleeping area, and this was the one he took most account of because, without really thinking why he knew it, it belonged to his Mistress. She had fewer slaves, but they seemed somehow different than the listless ones elsewhere. They were talking. He looked closer at them.
One of them was a younger woman, perhaps in her late teens, very beautiful with pale skin that seemed more than a little flushed from the heat, dressed no more than he was in his skirted loincloth. Her jewel had been pressed in down near her navel, though it seemed to be the same color as his. The redhead chatted with a Tai Pan, who seemed more demure, dark-haired and dark skinned, with a pair of golden horns and a few scales of the same color marking her as one of the ruling class - if a lesser one, for being here. She had red eyes, slatted, and seemed used to the other one.
The last slave was male, but a Gartagen, and he had shaved off most of his thick-tendriled hair except for a queue that lay down his back from the base of his skull. He hadn't been listening to the two women talking, or really paying attention to the room around him, until he noticed that Kosey had come to stand near the end of the pit.
He arched a bald eyebrow. "Oh, you're him."
The two women glanced up with him. He felt three sets of eyes roam him over, though not maliciously.
"...I guess I am," Damilis replied uncertain of what that meant. "How long have you been here?" His eyes scanned over them as he appreciated them, and their mutual enslavement. He appreciated the beauty of the women and the build of the Gartman.
It was the demure Tai Pan who answered. Her voice rang soft and quiet. "That is Corvis, he has been here for four years. She," said the pale raven-haired dragoness, motioning to the redhead, "Has been here for two. Her name is Allison. I am Bu Qui. I've been with the Priestess for around ten or eleven."
The noble Tai Pan inclined her head and, just as she had indicated Allison, she gently motioned for him to sit. The three of them had roughly arranged themselves around the pit, and Allison and Corvis made room for him so that the four of them were relatively equal distance.
"Damilis," he offered the others a friendly smile. He rolled the idea of being bound to the Mistress for 10 years with both admiration and horror. He moved to where Bu Qui had instructed him to sit. "There is no excape from this then?"
Corvis and Allison glanced at each other. Bu Qui watched him with her strange, slatted eyes, then she shook her head. It barely displaced the lovely way her dark hair spilled over her shoulders, shadowing her breasts.
Across from him, Corvis said, "No. Even if you did escape, and some people do, there are worse than her. Allison and I got pretty far when I got here. She was fucking livid. But she didn't feed us to anyone."
Allison added, leaning towards him, "I thought he'd kill us."
"Wish you wouldn't do that," Corvis answered her, folding his arms across a scarred, but otherwise well-muscled chest. He seemed the picture of sullen, irate discontentment, hard jaw, cool blue skin, and a tail that whipped briefly in disdain.
"It is easier to say 'she," Bu Qui chided, giving Allison a signifigant look. Damilis got the feeling this was an old argument, well worn, from the way the three of them fit into it like they were putting on old socks in need of darning. "And her preference, in any case."
Again, all three sets of eyes were on him, and he got the feeling there was some sort of judgement being made about him.
Allison blurted, "What's your story?"
"I am trying to find my mother. She was taken from our colony a few months ago and I thought I might find her if I let myself get taken by.. them... I thought I sensed her nearby but.. I don't understand how the Song interacts with this... place," he stared down at his hand and flexed it, letting it glow dimly as he gathered a fragment of a thread there. He glanced back up and froned. "I blew it. I didn't scratch her magnificant scales. I did, however kill the ones that took me."
Corvis snorted, Allison's mouth had formed a little 'o', and Bu Qui watched him impassively. She hadn't smiled or frowned at him the entire time. She seemed to be the listener of the group.
"Good on you for killing the bastards," Corvis said. "Wish I could have got my hands round the ones took me, I'd have fucked them up something serious."
"I failed. I meant to hurt her," Damilis frowned. "My magic didn't work on her."