The spiral staircase leading to the bedchamber seemed to stretch on into the stars above as Jewel ascended the steps where her captor had carried her with such ease the night before. How foolish was I, she chided herself, fighting to restrain tears. How naive to think that a peasant, a rough girl from a village, could ever be worthy of the attention of a man who had his choice of women. Her feet felt as though they bore chains of lead as she opened -with considerable effort- the ironwood door to the bedchamber, the room where so many others, younger and more desirable than her, had given themselves to their captor. Given themselves, or been taken, she corrected herself, reflecting with shame upon her inaction as her Master availed Himself of so many other slave girls right before her eyes. The first of the tears she had been fighting back rolled down her face and she quickly whisked it away with the tip of her finger before reaching for the handle of the door and opening it. It took a second effort, as she had not realized how heavy the thick black wood was, and when she closed it behind her the click of the latch, so reminiscent of the clicking sound of the collar around her neck the previous night, seemed to mock her for her presumptions. She thought back on her words the night before. When I am finished, it will not matter how many concubines you have. You will not be interested in any of them, except me. I will not stop until I am the only woman you can think of. How easy it had been to speak that way when she had not seen his other women, with their bodies like sculptures and their faces like a painting in some emperor's palace, with their 'come hither' eyes and eyelashes that both invited and reproved. Why would he even want me, Jewel thought with a sob.
And yet, here I am.
The thought was not very much encouragement, but it was enough to stop a round of sobs. Here I am, because my Master ordered that it was to be me, rough village girl that I am, and not any of them, awaiting his pleasure tonight. With that thought as her anchor, Jewel wiped her eyes to make sure the last of the tears were gone, regretting it as soon as she had done so because she recalled the paint that Jasmine had put on her face to prepare her for the Master's pleasure and hoped she had not marred it. In the dim candlelight of the bedchamber, it was possible her Master wouldn't notice, so she put the worry out of her mind and focused on how to present herself. When her Master came through the door, weary and irritated from a long, hard day of training his warriors, she would be the first thing he saw. What did she want that sight to be? She tried lying down on the bed, propping her head in her hand and posing seductively, but she felt silly and pretentious. She tried lying back and thrusting her bosom forward, but it only reminded her of the other concubines whose bodies offered more than hers. She began to be nervous that she would not present a very pleasing sight for him. Finally, she recalled what it had been from the previous night (or rather, the morning) that had impressed her Master the most, what it had been that had won the remark 'you will be the finest prize in my harem,' the thing that had earned her the name she had come to love: 'Jewel.'
Without another thought, she began hastily untying the harem-silk. She folded it carefully and placed it on the bedside table, leaving her slender body completely uncovered, and knelt on the bed, facing the door, with her head lifted high, displaying the claim etched on her collar. Finally, she parted her knees as wide as she could without pain, and rested her hands on her thighs. My body may not be as exquisite as some of the others, she thought, but when He enters His bedchamber, let Him see that it is completely and utterly His.
She waited almost half an hour like that before she heard the strong, heavy footfalls of her Master's boot-shod feet coming up the stairway. The door, which had been so heavy for her, was flung open with ease and there in the doorway, his body gleaming with sweat, eyes both hard and weary, was Arturis. His eyes fell upon her with no change of expression and traced her body with casual appraisal as he closed the door behind him.
“Master,” Jewel started to speak, “I-” Before she could utter another word her Master had crossed the few meters from the door to the bed. With a single arm around her waist he lifted her up, pressing his mouth over hers and biting down on her lips. The light pain made Jewel's cheeks burn as her blood grew hot, and she wrapped her legs around his hips and her arms around his neck with unrestrained abandon.
As he held her with one arm, the other hand grasped her thigh and squeezed the flesh of her leg before sliding his hand underneath her and slipping his fingers into the cleft there, unabashedly toying with the bead of her womanhood as his mouth loosened its grip over her lips and his tongue entered her mouth, dancing with hers in a tantalizing preview of what it would do between her hips later. Without reservation, Jewel pressed her hips forward against the buckle of his pants, letting her body give voice to her plea.
As he finally parted his lips from hers and began to kiss underneath her chin and along the soft flesh of the front of her neck, she mouthed the words “oh, Master,” a few times before he slid his hands back around to grasp both sides of her waist and tossed her down onto the bed the same way he had done the night before, reached down to the belt around his waist and pulled it free with a single hand while unfastening his rough leather pants with the other. The smell of sweat mixed with the musk of his unmistakable arousal filled her nostrils, leaving her lost in the same mix of apprehension and desire as the night before. “Master,” her voice came out in a sultry whisper as she slid her legs to opposite sides of the bed, presenting her petals for him with helpless longing, “your concubine needs you... badly.”
“I know,” he answered gruffly as he seized her by the hips and flipped her over onto her stomach. Jewel was more than a bit surprised when his hands went not to her hips or thighs, but to her shoulders, and his broad palms and strong fingers, callused from grasping a weapon for most of his life, began kneading her flesh. A wave of restfulness came over her for an instant before she looked over her shoulder in confusion. “Master, shouldn't I be the one who gives a massage to you?”
In response, he straddled across her hips, continuing to work his fingers over her aching body as he lowered his lips to her ear. “Actually,” he whispered in low tones, “a concubine should keep quiet and obey her Master's desires.”
“Of course, Master,” she sighed.
“Besides,” He finished his thought, “A woman's body yields more pleasure when she's relaxed than when she's tense.”
The candor with which he spoke made her heart race. His hands continued their work, removing the tension from her muscles with ease. It was as if her body yielded to the command of not only His voice, but His hands as well. As His hands slid down the sides of her body to her ribs, and then her hips, she felt his breath on the back of her neck followed by his tongue slowly tracing a line down her spine, stopping at her shoulders to bite down a few times. The sensation was sharp, but the sense of release throughout her body was intoxicating. How did he know I was sore from practicing dancing all day? She wondered. How does he always know what I need? How does he know my body better than I do? The unwelcome answer came to her of its own accord. Because He has had so many others before me, and uses me as He used them.
That was when he shifted himself from straddling her waist to place his legs between hers, clutched her hips and lifted them. She had felt the steel-hard shaft rubbing against her as his body moved across hers, and even though the image of Lotus and Scarlet's tongues wrapped around Him was seared into her mind, she arched her back in anticipation, unable to resist presenting herself to him and beckoning him deeper within her. When he thrust within her, deeper than He had the previous night or morning, she drew in a gasping breath. Never in her life had she felt herself taken this deeply, nor had she known that it was possible. “Master,” she cried out in a moan, “Master, this... this is too... Oh, God...”
One of his massive hands wrapped itself around her neck ad the other clutched her hair and coiled it around His fist, pulling her head backward as he whispered “shh... quiet, little slave.”
His thrusts began to come in a faster rhythm, each one plunging within her flesh deeply enough that were it not for his comforting hand around her neck, she would have felt afraid. She could tell there would be pain later, but for the moment she was too lost in a whirlwind of helpless pre-coital frenzy. This feeling of being completely taken, completely subdued, was a level of pure and utter womanhood surpassing anything she had dreamed of. She knew her moment of completion would not be far off, but she willed it to wait, just so she could enjoy the feeling of her body being absolutely, unquestionably His for a bit longer. When the moment finally came, her body wracked with uncontrollable trembling. She reached her hands out to the headboard to try and steady herself only to find they were shaking. She opened her mouth to let out a scream of passion, but her breath was caught in her throat, leaving her suspended in a pose that could have been ecstasy or agony. Finally, her orgasm was complete, and she felt herself collapse.
He, however, was not finished with her. He held her hips tight against his own and, letting go now of her throat, grasped her waist with both hands to pull her more firmly against him with each thrust. Her eyes began to roll backward into her head as He continued plundering her body, squeezing her hips tighter as his moment of release came closer. When he finally shot his seed deep in her it was with an animal-like growl as he clutched her against him for a long moment before finally relaxing his grip on her.
She fell to the bed, still trembling, and turned over on her back. Instinctively she reached her arms out toward him, but it was unnecessary. He had already swept her into his, pulling her shuddering body against him with one arm behind her hips and another cradling her head against his chest. As her cheek pressed against his skin, the smell of sweat came back to her mind again. Without even realizing she was doing it, she began to slowly, languorously lick the salty sweat from him just as she had seen Lotus do some hours before, causing him to sigh and grasp her hair as he squeezed her tighter still.
Neither Master nor concubine made a sound for nearly a quarter hour except to sigh. When she finally felt she could move again, she lifted her eyes tentatively toward his face. His eyes had already closed, but from the tautness of his muscles and the firmness of his embrace, she knew He was still awake. “Master?” she whispered.
He sighed once, not letting too much annoyance show but clearly having hoped to hold her in silence for a while longer. She thought for a moment he would tell her 'hush, little concubine,' in that voice that could command unquestioning obedience even without needing to be stern. Instead, he opened his eyes and regarded her with affection for a moment (though she noted that even when his eyes were soft, he did not smile). “Yes, little jewel?”
Hearing her name, the name He had given her, caused a lump in her throat and she had to force herself not to sob as she began. “Why me, Master?”
Arturis's brow furrowed. “What do you mean by that?”
Jewel pressed every inch of her body against his as tightly as she could. She resisted an urge to bury her face in his shoulder, as she felt a need to look her captor in the eye as she asked this. “Look at me, Master,” she whimpered. “I'm plain. When I was young, the emperor's eunuchs came through my village and chose virgins to be the emperor's concubines. I wasn't even considered. When I turned 16, the provincial governor sent envoys through my village to choose women for his harem. I wasn't even considered. I've seen your other women. Master, they...” she struggled for the right word and could not find it before her voice cracked with a sob she had finally lost the ability to hold in. “You could have any woman you want. What can I even offer you compared to these... these-”
Arturis silenced her lips with a kiss. She struggled to pull her mouth away, but he held her face to his until her protests fell silent. Even after he pulled her face away from his, she was crying. “No,” he said, kissing her face where one tear was falling. “No tears. I won't allow it.” As his gaze met hers, she felt her vision grow misty from the buildup of the tears he had forbidden her to have. He swept her into his arms for one more long, passionate kiss that lasted until her tears had dried in the hot summer air blowing in through the window and her sobs had been quenched.
But still, she had not gotten her answer. “What do you see in me, Master?”
He didn't answer. Instead, he rose from the bed and walked to the curtain separating the bedroom from the balcony. Jewel felt the color return to her cheeks at the sight of his still-naked body standing in the light of the full moon as he stepped to the railing. “Come,” he commanded, gesturing to his side. She rose from the bed and obeyed, and for a absurd moment she felt not like a woman running to her lover but like a young girl running to her father's embrace, until she clutched his arm and hid herself in the crook of his elbow. “Look out there,” he gestured to the expanse before them. The window faced south, toward her home. To the East was a mountain range where the Chugo-tai people, a nation of raiders like the Gaels, made their home. To the West, there was only he Steppe and beyond that the Kurgis, vassals of the White Empire to the North. “What do you see?” his words echoed Jewel's earlier question.
Jewel surveyed everything before her. “I see the Central Plains, Master.”
Arturis shook his head. “No, I mean everywhere. All around you. What do you see?”
Jewel looked around obediently, seeking whatever detail she was expected to notice, but it escaped her. “I don't know, Master,” she confessed.
“My domain,” He answered.
Jewel turned her eyes toward Him in shock. “But Master, there are three other kingdoms out there, maybe more.”
He let out a chuckle and shrugged. “Closer to three hundred, actually, but it matters not one bit. It's my domain. Do you see, little Jewel, my men and I ride where we choose, and every where we set our feet or our horses' hooves, we are feared. And rightly so. We bow to no one, acknowledge the suzerain of no king.”
His manner changed in an instant and He seized her by the chains that connected her collar to her wrists, pulling her helplessly toward Him with such force she let out a cry, fearing He would strike her, a fear that increased as He held up a fist the size of a warhammer halfway between His face and hers. Instead, He continued to speak, less calmly now. “With this alone I have beaten forty-two men to their deaths as their women watched. I have ridden into villages, cities, and garrisons and put men to the sword by the hundreds. I have killed kings, who with their dying breaths have watched their queens moan like whores as they were ravaged by my men. The daughters and slave girls of those kings I have taken as plunder, making no distinction between the two. Those who pleased me, I kept. The rest, I left to my men. What I see and desire, I take. Any man who opposes me dies by my hand, and the lamentations of his women turn into cries of pleasure when I carry them to my bed.”
Jewel shrank into his embrace at the ferocity in his words. She knew of his prowess in battle, having only been carried away as his trophy the day before while her coward of a husband hid and the dying wails of the village's frontier garrison mingled with the screams of women being carried away as she was both pierced the air, and hearing him speak this way frightened her.
“So, little Jewel, do you think I took you just because your 'emperor,' ” he spat the title like a curse, “or your 'provincial governor,' had already taken all the choicest women and I was picking whatever was left?” He put his hand around her throat and lifted her face toward his with such swiftness that she gasped and brought her hands reflexively to her neck. Though he was not choking her, his grip was inescapable. “Know this, xiǎo qiè pú. You are right when you say I could have any woman I want. If I had wanted any of the emperor's painted and pampered jades, or one of those useless trollops belonging to some petty governor, I would have ridden right into his seraglio and taken the ones I wanted, leaving a trail of slain guards in my wake. There is no man anywhere who could have stopped me. You are here, because I chose you. I wanted you, so I took you. 'Why,' is nothing you need to fret over. All you need to focus on is your Owner's pleasure.”
His grip on her neck did not relax as he kissed her deeply and passionately. When he released both his grip and the kiss, she found herself slowly sliding to her knees, her arms wrapped around his leg as she pressed her cheek against his thigh. “Forgive me, Master,” she whispered as she knelt.
“For what,” he asked with a shrug.
“For questioning you,” she answered. “It was a foolish thing to ask.”
“No,” he replied calmly. “You weren't foolish. You were curious. It's a woman's trait, and you were right to seek an answer.” He ran the fingers of one hand through her hair as he continued “your thoughts are Mine, just as your body and your heart are. I have no patience with secrets being kept from me, and I command honesty from you every moment. This is not the Central Plains where you hide your thoughts for fear that they might not be what I want to hear. The truth, the real truth, is always the right answer.” He locked eyes with her for a moment, a moment in which Jewel felt certain she could not hide a thought from Him even if she wanted to. “Do you fear me?”
Jewel trembled, unsure of how to answer for a moment, but the command her Master had just given her made the decision for her. “Yes Master,” she answered breathlessly. “I do.”
“Then for that, you are foolish,” He answered, letting go of her chains and turning His gaze back out toward the plains. “I take no pleasure from violence toward my women. Women are outlets for lust, not anger. For anger, there are plenty of men left to slay out there.” As Arturis said 'out there,' He gave a dismissive hand wave at the expanse before Him. “Do you understand me, little Jewel?”
Jewel clutched his leg more tightly and nodded before answering with a long sigh, “yes, Master.” Then, pressing her forehead to his thigh, she corrected herself. “No, Master, I don't understand, but it doesn't matter. I don't care about anything except pleasing you.”
He clutched her hair and pulled just enough to show her he wanted her to stand. When she did, he slid an arm back around her waist and the other tilted her chin up in contrasting gentleness to the roughness of his earlier acts. “Good. Now come to bed and please me, little concubine.”
Before she could answer, she was in his arms again with his lips over hers for a deep and robust kiss before His hand seized her slender neck and tossed her back onto the bed. She scarcely had time to part her legs before He was on top of her again, and He took her, exactly as He had taken her so many times in the single day and night of her captivity: without hesitation, reservation or apology. The moon had already begun to set below the horizon before her overwhelmed cries of passion stopped echoing across the plains from the balcony window.