WARNING: Sex! Fear! Pain! Enslavement! And oh,Teh Drama! Adults only.
ADDITIONAL WARNING: S/m. That means people get hurt. Not so much in this episode, to tell the truth, but there's really just tons of it usually.
FINAL WARNING: Objects in the mirror are most definitely closer than they appear.
Our story so far:
And So It Begins
Ariana's Scandal Part One: The Guidance
Ariana's Scandal Part Two: The Meeting
The House of Vera
in the line of the Queen
requests your presence
at the Twenty-First Birthday Gala of
daughter of Vera
on Saturday, April Twenty-Fifth
at four o'clock in the afternoon
Formal presentation ceremony
of the first male of the
House of Ariana
in the line of the Queen
The days moved rapidly toward Ariana's twenty-first birthday celebration.
The coming of age gala for any ruling class woman was huge; for Ariana, it would be immense. Every ruling class woman of the province, from the youngest age appropriate to the most elderly, would be present. Each woman would be personally attended by at least five slaves, with the rest of her household staff being lent to the preparations or gala. Carefully selected dignitaries from The Governing City were also invited. They'd be bringing their own entourages and their own special sort of diplomatic baggage, god love them. All told, well over a thousand guests would be need to be fed and entertained, and many fold more slaves accommodated.
Two weeks to go, Evander turned to Nolan to take over final details on a significant portion of the event planning. Nolan's background in food service and management was extensive but Evander was giving Nolan no small task. There wasn't a single kitchen or staff that could handle a feast so large. The preparation had to be made by many chefs, in many households, and then brought to the House of Vera at exactly the right moment. Supplies had been ordered to each cook's specifications, and were in transit.
"Your chance to show your stuff, my boy. And to make your leadership mark with the rest of the men in our province."
Nolan fell into the logistics planning easily. He lived for logistics. Each project was a puzzle with many parts that must be set just so for the whole picture to come together. The ruling class technology stymied Nolan, however. He'd spent many years in The City, using email and cell phones to accomplish complicated tasks efficiently. Now, to get a message from one house to another he had to use runners, men of long legs, endurance and a tolerance for weather no matter the condition. So many messages had been flying regarding the great event, these seasoned runners were exhausted well before nightfall.
At Evander's instruction, Nolan wrote his communications carefully on white parchment letterhead, engraved with the mark of Vera's house. Nolan signed each message with his own name and sealed the envelopes with with his own custom seal that Evander had had made for Nolan right around the time of Nolan's purchase. There was a new symbol for Nolan's name, and the new mark for the new house of Ariana.
The first envelope Nolan sealed, he waited carefully for the hot wax to cool, and then ran his fingertips over the crisp, detailed design. He marvelled for a moment at the intricacies of life with the ruling class -- symbolism in everything. Not much time to marvel, however; too much work to be done. Soon Nolan had runners flying this way and that with his own letters, as he tried to pull together all of the last minute details for the food and drink.
Some problems he had to bring to Evander.
"The cook, excuse me chef, he prefers to be called chef, of the House of Justine is incensed over the shipment of cheese we've received from the master cheese makers in the communities. The chef insists he cannot work with the delivered cheese, that he needs a summer cheese, made when the cows were eating fresh grass not hay, for just the right sharpness. This cheese is too dull. I've tested samples myself and while my palate doesn't know a fall cheese from a spring cheese, it seems quite fine and there's no time to get more. I'm unclear on my boundaries. If this were my staff, I'd insist the cheese be used with no further argument but...." Nolan broke off, looking much like a fish out of water. There was so much he didn't understand here.
Evander broke into a smile. "Every cook, I mean chef, in the entire province will make one quite mad. Why do you think I handed the food preparations off to you? The cooks are impossible. This one, that one, the other one. Every single one, impossible."
"Even here?" Nolan spoke in near wonder. "The chefs I managed in The City were notoriously difficult but I thought here they'd be less, I don't know, prideful."
Now Evander laughed outright, which made Nolan blush. Nolan did not like to be thought naive. Evander clapped Nolan on the back. "My boy, people are people wherever you go. Circumstances, rules and even punishment do not change who a person is at their core. It may modify a person's outward behavior, but modified only when someone is looking. And in the case of our cooks, not even then. Here's what you need to know to solve your problem."
Evander spoke with Nolan at some length about the House of Justine and how to best get the kitchen staff on Nolan's side. "Use your authority with your own staff and don't brook rebellion, but with the houses of others, we must use diplomacy. The very last resort would be to ever involve Vera or Ariana in a conversation with Justine about the behavior of her men. Think ten or even twenty times before you ever involve the women. You will lose respect of the men and, in the case of the women, most likely end up with a whip on your back for not being able to make problems vanish." Evander advised Nolan to seek counsel from Michael, the first male of Justine, asking him not to handle the problem but to give advice as to what Nolan should do. "I know Michael well. He will respond favorably. Your cheese problem will be no more."
Nolan thanked Evander and wondered to himself how he was ever going to learn enough to make his way in this land.
"Piqued. Yes, I am piqued. I'm most definitely piqued. I am very piqued!" Ariana threw a large sofa pillow across the room, hitting the wall with the softest of thuds. She was in the guest chamber of a neighboring household, where she had been banished (her words) to a await the time of her twenty-first gala.
Ariana had summoned her father to hear her complaint.
Evander spoke. "Ariana, it is barely two more weeks, not even that, and then all the freedom you want is in your hands. Your mother has asked you to stay here so that Nolan may move freely about the home and accomplish what he needs to accomplish in that time. He is a bright boy. He is doing well."
In spite of her dark mood, Ariana brightened. "He is? Doing well?"
"He's doing very well. He's one of the best I've seen, already."
Ariana smiled, or nearly, catching herself before the smile was in full bloom and pulling it back in. "Well, that's a fine affair. The woman is banished so the slave can move freely about. Yes, I am piqued!" She looked about for another pillow.
Evander held out his arms. "Come here." Reluctantly at first and then near gratefully, Ariana accepted her father's hug. She spent a moment in his embrace while Evander murmured soothingly. "It's almost over. Be a good daughter to your mother."
Ariana felt herself tear and sniffled. "I won't. But, I'll be a good daughter to you. Just this one time."
The first letter arrived to Nolan the next morning.
Nolan was sending and receiving so many communications, he barely looked up when a runner was before him with yet another. He motioned to the runner to throw the envelope on the top of a pile.
"You should take this one in your hand, sir." So odd to be called sir, but a common form of respect shown to first males of any house. Nolan reached for the letter the runner held. As he looked up, he met eyes with the runner, saw the strangest look returned to him, and then Nolan knew. The letter was from her.
Nolan quickly dismissed the runner and tore open the envelope, through Ariana's seal.
My Obedient Nolan,
I shouldn't be writing you so of course I am. They have me locked away in this horrible House of Penelope and I promised my father I would stay here. I don't know what got into me to make such a promise but I did, so, here I am.
I am piqued! The walls of this guest chamber are beige. I hate beige. Will you write that down that no room of my house will ever be beige? I like lots of color. I like orange, orange is a color. Beige is not a color. Beige is horrid. Write down, no beige, ever!
My father says you are doing good work. He says it is important work and that you are busy in all hours but the most wee. I confess I asked about you because I had to know how you were doing, if you were pleasing. Evander told me a story about cheese. I found the story confusing, but he thought you had done well, that you had saved the cheese and he was proud. Making my father proud is not easily accomplished. It is wise and will serve you well.
Listen to my words carefully now, I have something I require of you.
Before you go to sleep tonight, alone in your room, under the covers, I want you to draw out your cock. I command you to make your cock hard for me, as if I were in the very room with you, over you, demanding it hard. And then you will stroke your cock. You must think only about me when you stroke, up and down. Start slowly, up and down slowly. Imagine at first I am there, teasing your body, going more slowly than your body would call out for, drawing out your desire.
And then, I want you to stroke faster.
As you stroke faster, you must think of the night when you will hold your legs open for me and I mark your thighs with my crop. Think of the sting. Think of how hard it will be for you, untied, to hold your legs open as I hit your thighs time, after time, after time.
Do not stop. You must continue to stroke yourself. Imagine then that I make you ask for each mark of the crop. Understand that I now own your thighs, they are bought and paid for. They belong to me, as do you, wholly and completely. I will delight in making you open your legs for me so I may do what I will. Think how how wet this will make me. I will mark your thighs in red welts and then draw myself across the stripes, marking them again with my wetness.
Keep stroking and thinking as long as need be, up until the point you would, if I were there, beg me to let you come.
But do not come. I say "no".
Then go to sleep, thinking only of me.
(I am doing the same, in this house, thinking the same thought in my bed, touching myself. Only it is true, I am letting myself come many times at the thought of you with your legs held open wide. I am very wet right now as I write and shall make myself come again momentarily.)
p.s. Don't fear for our secrecy. The runner has a debt to me, a great secret of his I have never told. I didn't hold his secret because I am kind, you know that I am not kind, I held it because I knew one day I could need his secrecy in return. Write a hasty reply, seal it, and send back to me. The runner waits for you outside.
Nolan wrote back quickly in return:
There will never be beige in your house.
Everything else will be done as you require, exactly as you say.
Your Obedient Nolan
p.s. Your father is too generous. He saved the cheese, not me.
Nolan folded and sealed the envelope quickly, giving the reply to the runner who was indeed waiting outside. Then Nolan sat and stared at the stacks of paper on his desk, wondering how many hours until he could retire.
The work was endless. There were moments of the day Nolan wondered if he had finally met more than he could handle.
A wine crisis developed to match the cheese crisis which would have been pleasingly ironic if Nolan had not had to clean up the mess. The entire last minute shipment from the wine country community had been ruined when the horse drawn cart transporting it was overturned. "Have these people not heard of motor trucks with proper cargo packaging?", Nolan muttered to himself, trying to figure how he would get enough wine in such a limited time frame. "Perhaps I should send runners to bring it bottle by bottle by bottle. That would fit here." After a few long hours of having no answer, a brainstorm struck. Nolan wrote messages furiously and was able to, in a day's time, coordinate a very elaborate trade and borrowing of wine from and between more than two dozen households. After acquiring enough bottles to fill the hole the lost shipment had created, Nolan enjoyed the rush of small victory that came along.
Each day, a fresh message from Ariana arrived.
My Obedient Nolan,
....It is not just the walls that are beige in the House of Penelope, it is the people, too. My god, they are unbearable. Write down that no members of the House of Penelope will ever be invited to dinner or parties in my house, lest they turn both you and me beige as well. Write it twice, to be sure, no Penelope, no Penelope, and remember, I beg you, no beige anywhere.....
....When you touch your cock tonight, you will think of my whip. I won't whip you often, but one day I will whip you either because you have displeased me or because I feel the strong urge to see you struggle. Your hands will be tied above your head with leather straps, your back exposed to me. I have felt how strong your back is and I hunger to see it naked, open, waiting for me. I won't have anyone else whip you. I will only whip you myself, each stroke will come from my hands. I will feel the strokes come from me and touch you as if I strike you with fire. You will call out but I will be merciless...
And every day, Nolan replied.
I have made the notes you ordered. Never will your house have seafood stew as was served at Penelope's house last night, never shall your ears have to sit through a dreadful harp concert again, and your butter will always be sweetened properly, not with a heavy hand that makes you queasy.
....Also, I have touched myself as you require, following each command. I thought of you whipping me, with my hands stretched above my head, bound in leather. It has been hard. Not just my cock, which has been very hard because you told it so, but hard for me to come so close to orgasm and not let myself go. It is painful, my testicles strain. I write that because I think it will please you there has been pain. I feel the pain right now....
Letters continued back and forth every day and Nolan's torment continued every night.
The days were closing. The food and drink was well assembled. Many tents were erected on the grounds, covered in greens and flowers, each flower more exotic than the last. There were flowers everywhere, breathtaking arrangements by the most skilled in the province, exploding in height and breadth, filling the air for households around with their aroma.
Floors and carpets were laid. Tables and chairs were set out. Lighting was strung, endless numbers of paper lanterns, intricately crafted by artisans of the communities in the most vivid of colors. There was noise, confusion, problems, solutions.
More of this, less of that, too much of this, take it all away!
And then, the last hammer fell on the last nail. Construction was complete. Linens of gold, purple and red covered the tables for the guests. The silver was polished, the fine china stacked openly, waiting to be laid. At the end of the chaos, there fell a pleasant, breezy evening and an eerie calm.
Tomorrow would be Ariana's party, tomorrow Nolan would be presented to her.
For a steady man, Nolan suddenly found himself quite terrified.
As Nolan sat in his temporary office, too late on the eve of the gala, it occurred to him to run.
It wasn't unheard of slaves to run, although close to physically impossible to run from the ruling class. Still, for a good ten minutes, Nolan played the logistics of running. He decided that if he hadn't waited until the eve of the ceremony, he might have had a chance, concealing himself in outward transport. There were so many carts coming and going in and out of the province, there had been dozens of opportunities, right under his nose. He'd missed them all, so caught up in waiting for the next message from Ariana to arrive. Why had he spent so much time thinking about her messages when he should have been planning to run. How obvious was it now!
"You should be off to bed, boy." Evander's voice broke though Nolan's thoughts. Nolan started and blushed, fearful for a moment that he had spoken any of his treacherous escape thoughts aloud.
Evander had entered the room carrying a bottle of amber liquor and two glasses, managed deftly in one hand. He sat instead of giving Nolan an opportunity to rise. "How about one drink before you do?"
Nolan nodded and Evander poured. In silence, Nolan took a long, long drink, until the glass was drained. The alcohol burned Nolan's throat. The burn felt good.
Evander quietly filled Nolan's glass again. Evander began to speak.
"It's a big day tomorrow, yes it is. The details are well in hand, congratulations." Evander coughed. "I imagine you've not given yourself much chance to think about the other details of tomorrow. They can be overwhelming to consider."
Nolan's stomach turned, afraid that Evander could see him a coward. Nolan's answer was brusque as he took another big drink from his glass. "It's a day like any other day. A day where I do my duty."
Evander drank from his own glass. "The ceremony is ancient. When you study the symbolism, it is beautiful. But, when you are on the eve of being the object of the ceremony, it is best case uncomfortable and worst case terrifying. Myself, I was scared out of my ever lovin' mind."
In spite of himself, Nolan smiled. "It's hard to imagine you terrified of anything."
"Have you seen Vera when she's mad?"
The men chuckled together. Nolan felt himself relax.
"Me as the object. That's one way of putting it. " Nolan shrugged. "The ceremony is what it is. It is one day. Does it intimidate me, yes. Does it scare me, no. I've been afraid of little in my life. Life also is what it is." Nolan's glass was empty again. "If you pour me one more drink, perhaps I will tell you what does scare me. If you really want to hear."
Evander poured in silence and waited for Nolan to speak. A few minutes passed, and then Nolan began.
"I have never been owned before. I've been a slave my adult life, but I've never been really owned. My broker, who held my title before Vera, she didn't care for me. I mean, she never cared what I was doing. She demanded my sexual service on occasion, but she had many men and there was never focus on me. Rarely she would cuff me about when she was drunk, saying that I was nothing but a money pit who would never bring her profit, but mostly she left me alone to study and took her amusements elsewhere.
"Mind, I have studied how to be owned. I have practiced how to be owned. I have been trained under a whip and a crop, by women paid to train me. But own me? No one has ever owned me. It never occurred to me, and here you must laugh at me, never occurred to me it was possible. I knew that this, " And here Nolan made a slightly drunken motion to the world directly around them, "would be a challenge to my abilities, and I craved the challenge but I . . . " Nolan smiled into the bottom of his again empty glass, "missed that it came with being owned." Nolan emphasized the word "owned" a mite too loudly, in accordance with the amount of alcohol which was making its way through his body.
"Are you reluctant to be owned by anyone or is it Ariana you fear?"
Nolan laughed. "Fear Ariana? Fear Ariana. I'm afraid not to be owned by Ariana. And I'm afraid to be owned by Ariana. And I'm afraid that I will be owned by Ariana and she'll bore with me quickly with fifty men to choose for her bed. I'm afraid she wants too much from me and equally afraid that she soon might want too little. I'm afraid that she needs too much for me to guide her and afraid that she'll never listen to me at all. I'm afraid to be an object to her and afraid to look up, too closely, and find that I'm not an object at all.
"I'm afraid that I am far emptier and colder and less able than I had ever imagined because I am afraid." His voice nearly broke. "These women, this woman, requires everything and yet needs nothing."
Evander examined an imaginary spot on the wall. "The ways of the women are not our own. It is better to be above them or below them than to ever be beside them."
"You quote The Sons."
Now Evander laughed as he drank. "Yes, I quote The Sons. Everybody quotes The Sons. Some quote more discreetly than others."
More silence, eventually broken by Evander.
"What can one woman really do to you, even Ariana? The woman controls your body. Your body is bought and paid for. No part belongs to you. You hold it forth for labor, for pleasure, for punishment. All that is their due. The mind, though -- who can buy a mind? You can win a mind, but you cannot buy one. As with a heart, a heart is won, not bought." Evander put his head low, as if to tell a secret. "They all know it, too. Every one of them knows that only the body they can own."
"And what if Ariana has already won my heart?"
"Then you, my boy, are truly fucked." Evander smiled. "But not necessarily in a bad way. Time will tell. Give your body over willingly, it is her due. And see what happens next." Evander stood, gathering his bottle with him. "Now off to bed with you. I won't be delivering my daughter's first male full of black circles around his eyes. This is the last evening I can boss you around. Obey me tonight and tomorrow, we will be colleagues." Evander clapped Nolan's back sharply, standing next to him until Nolan rose.
Nolan went to bed. Willfully, with a stubborness that came from who knows where, Nolan disobeyed the nighttime ritual orders Ariana had commanded him and didn't touch himself at all.
His sleep came fitfully.
The rites of the presentation ceremony are rooted in either history or legend, not too fine a point being placed on the difference between the two in the land.
It is said that before the time of voluntary service, before the time of communities and The City and brokers and commerce, the men were captured wild by the women and subdued. The Sons laughed openly at capture as a fact. "A fanciful tale," they called it. The driest of The Sons wrote long essays, "proving" that the enslavement of men had always been social and economic and never by force. Few read the dry Sons, however, even few of the other Sons. "Legend has more power and truth than truth alone will ever have," was a saying of The Sons to which all, except the driest Sons, nodded in agreement. So even The Sons wrote tales of the wild men and the women who subdued them, back in the days of yore.
The wild men were on Nolan's mind as the ceremony preparations for his person began. He imagined that he was one of the wild men, having spent his entire life free, hunting, killing, living by skill, only to be caught up and captured at a moment unexpected and forced into slavery. Forced into kneeling before women and accepting their will, a man owning everything and then, owning nothing, not even his own cock or his own ass.
The modern day presentation ceremony for first males was harsh. In the days of the wild men, each man was beaten and used, bound and subjugated until finally, finally his enslavement was complete. The harshness of the first male ceremony drove home that, despite the polite veneer of current times, there was only one way, now and forever. And that way belonged to the women.
In the dawn's light, Nolan settled into the ritual preparation bath with no outward complaints or struggle, unlike the mythical wild men before him. As the waters washed around Nolan he wondered if, inside, he was any less tormented than the freshly captured wild men had been long ago.
Slaves stood to the left and right of the bath, holding the brushes and cloths that would scrub Nolan roughly, cleansing every part of him to be ready to be received by Ariana.
Nolan nodded his head that he was ready for them to begin.
I break here because the hour is late and my eyes are tired. This part of Ariana's story is only halfway done. There is much to tell regarding her twenty-first birthday, and Nolan's presentation to her. No one but Ariana, Nolan, and the mysterious runner ever knew of the forbidden communication in the weeks before Ariana held the title to Nolan. Ariana never spoke of the runner's own secret and never, to her credit, used his secret against him again. Both secrets would have been terrible scandals had they been brought to light.
Neither, of course, could hold a candle to the scandal to come, Ariana's Scandal, illuminated in the bright noon sun for all to see.
No one but Ariana, Nolan, and the mysterious runner ever knew of the forbidden communication in the weeks before Ariana held the title to Nolan. Ariana never spoke of the runner's own secret and never, to her credit, used his secret against him again. Both secrets would have been terrible scandals had they been brought to light.