“Come on, bitch,” my owner growled, yanking on my collar. I stumbled forward, my heels clacking against the wooden dock. My dress, although pretty, made of silk and pearls, was not functional. I kept tripping on the hem, and it weighed me down. I nearly considered growling at the man, but the last time I did that, I had been punished.
He pulled me along, towards the ship that had been preparing to leave harbor these last few days. I was a gift, my owner said, for the lord that was heading whatever fool’s mission they were going on. I was his property now.
When we reached the hulking beast, I craned my neck upwards, the best I could, to get a better look at the ship. It had crimson sails, and was made of dark wood. She was beautiful, and misnamed. The paint on the hull read Saving Grace, but she didn’t look like a saving grace. More like a prison.
My owner hauled me up the gangplank, and then we were on the deck, surrounded by hoards of shiny and grimy men alike. The grimy ones were the slaves, scrubbing decks, climbing masts, rowing. The shiny ones were this lord’s soldiers, wearing red uniforms with black pants, and gold accents. It screamed rich.
There was a man standing behind the wheel, decorated with a gold uniform, talking to a grubby man with a short beard and tattered clothes. When the gold one noticed myself and my owner, he left the other man at the wheel and came down the stairs and towards us.
I stood straight, as my owner taught me. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t get supper.
When the gold man came to a stop in front of us, I wanted to throw up on his shiny black shoes. His pale, wrinkle free face spoke of a lifetime of indoor living, as did his hands and chubby waist. He probably got out occasionally, but I would bet my breakfast that he had no idea how to use the sword at his side.
“Joshua! Good to see you, man! How are you faring?” the gold man asked my owner.
“Well enough, Ash, well enough. Here, from the Archduke Marland. A gift,” Joshua said, pulling me slightly more forward.
Ash, or Lord Ash, came closer to me. “A collar, Joshua? Does the fair lady bite? Release her this instant,” Lord Ash ordered, staring down Joshua.
My owner pulled out the key and unlocked the collar without hesitating. The heavy metal bit caught my dress as it fell, lowering the neckline of the dress until one of my breasts nearly popped out. I froze, wanting to cover myself, but not knowing what my punishment would be if I did.
Lord Ash unhooked the collar and pulled my neckline back up. “Thank you, Joshua. I assure you, she will be safe.”
Joshua grinned. “I’m sure, m’lord.”
With one last leering glance, Joshua left the ship, taking the collar with him. I stood perfectly still, unsure of what to expect from this master.
“Come, sweetheart. You get to stay in my quarters, which are very private and very comfortable, I assure you,” Lord Ash said gently, offering me his arm. Out of instinct and training, I place my arm around his and let him guide me down towards his quarters.
Please let him be one of the ones that gets it done quickly.
When we reached his quarters, he opened the door, guided me in, and closed the door behind us.
I moved two steps into the plush room, staring in awe at the tapestries of naked women and men, a mahogany wardrobe, makeup table, and the bed, which was covered with red cushions.
I gulped silently, then turned to face Lord Ash.
“How would you like me to serve you, my lord?” I asked quietly, my voice trained to be sweet and shy.
He waved his hand. “That won’t be necessary, sweetheart. I’ve got my own lover, I’m not going to use you.”
The look on my face must’ve bordered on full-blown shock because he chuckled and pointed at the bed.
“Sit.” He commanded, taking a chair in the corner.
I sat, folding my hands neatly in my lap as I was taught.
“I’m not attracted to women, darling, so that’s not why you’re here,” he continued, glancing at a particularly virile young man in one of the tapestries. I relaxed slightly. At least he wasn’t going to pretend that I was a male slave instead of a female one. Those were painful.
“Can I know your name?” Lord Ash asked, crossing his legs.
“Ember,” I replied, keeping my head slightly bowed.
He nodded and reached forward to pull open the wardrobe. “You’ll find everything you need in this room. If any of the men give you trouble, let me know.”
“Yes sir,” I whispered, staring at the dresses and trousers in the wardrobe.
He stood and left, and as soon as the door closed, I slumped. The trembling I had been holding back came full force, and I fell back onto the cushions and curled into a ball. He didn’t want to use me because he was already pounding another ass. Why was I here, then, if not to please this man?
Maybe they were a convoy, and I was a gift to some foreign prince or king. Or maybe we would be intercepted by sea-kin on the seas, and I would be raped by the entire crew, and then killed and my body dumped into the ocean.
There were endless possibilities.
Forcing myself to sit up, I moved to the makeup table, looking at myself in the mirror.
My skin was a medium brown from the sun, and from the dye they rubbed into my skin to keep my skin tone even. Ebony hair fell over my shoulders as I released it from the bun, the relief of a relaxed scalp making me close my eyes in bliss. When I opened them again to look in the mirror, my grey eyes stared at me from my damned perfect face, surveying the skin that refused to show even a blemish, something that would make me undesirable.
The rest of me was just as feminine, from my time in the Flower Palace, which was not aptly named at all. That had been three years ago. I had been sixteen then, and still had fire left in my soul. That was also when I had been separated from my little sister.
I could still hear her screams as the men had pulled her away, talking about how much this lord would pay for a twelve-year-old virgin.
I had never seen her again, but I still held a faint hope that she was alive.
At one time, I would’ve teared up at the memory, but now, it was just a dull ache that never went away.
I shimmied out of the silk dress and kicked off the slippers, and walked over to the wardrobe, pulling out the trousers and a tunic. They were both made of coarse fabric, but I pulled them on eagerly, loving the feel of the roughness against my skin. How long had it been since I had worn trousers?
Finding a belt to match, I belted the white tunic, the fabric bagging around my frame. I smiled. For once, something that didn’t show every curve of my body.