Coming of Age
Enslavement – Book 1
by I. Binder

For a long time Esme listened to the sounds of the three selected slaves pleasing the masters. She wondered what she would have done if she were selected. She did not think she could do the things she would be expected to do. She was still mortified just from being touched the night before when she was captured, not to mention the humiliation she felt over being made to kneel naked before these men. The night before – was it really just the night before? Had she really only been a slave for a day? She cried and then she slept.

Esme woke to sounds around her. She opened her eyes and squirmed to change her position sufficient to see what was happening. One of the slavers held girl number six by the chain attached to the front of her collar. He had made her kneel between the witch and the post that had been driven into the ground. Then he removed the chain that was anchored to the post in the ground from the back of the witch’s collar and instead fastened it to the back of the collar of girl number six. She sobbed as he did this. The chain from the front of her collar then was fastened to the back of the collar of the witch. Girl number six was not longer number six. She must have been displeasing. She had been moved to the end of the Chain. She was now girl number eleven.

Esme looked the other direction and saw that girl number three was returned to her old location, but girl number eight was now moved up to the number five position. This moved the old girl five down to six. Seven stayed in her original place because six had been moved to the end of the Chain. But the girls below eight, including Esme, now moved up one place. Esme was now girl nine. She found some pleasure in having moved up a position on the Chain, although she still looked at the girls above her with the knowledge that she was better than most and should clearly be in a higher position.

She did wonder what the girl had done to be moved to the end of the Chain. The old girl number six was not only now girl number eleven, she was in position below the Witch. How could that be? Esme realized that the Chain was dynamic. And she had learned the night before that higher position on the Chain came with privilege. She wanted to move up the Chain.

No!. She didn’t want to be on the Chain. She did not want to be a slave! She wanted her life back. She had moved up a position on the Chain, but she was still a naked chained slave, connected at the neck to the rest of the slaves, and locked in a canvas bag to sleep.

Esme’s dismay was enhanced when the slaver who had moved the former number six girl to the end of the Chain returned with a hood and fastened it over the girl’s head. She began to sob even louder through her muzzle as she saw him approach with the hated object. The rest of the Chain grew still and very quiet.

Only when the girl who had fallen from grace was hooded did the slavers begin to open the bags and release the slaves from their sleeping positions. Esme was happy to crawl out of the bag. The chain to the post now anchored to the new girl eleven was released and used to guide the slave girls to an area just off the road. Esme’s feet hurt and were still very swollen, but she was too afraid not to get on her feet and limp to the designated area. Once in place the slavers signaled the girls to perform their required bodily functions. Esme was horrified. She needed to go. She had been holding it that last hour or so, very afraid that she would soil the bag. What would be the punishment for that? She didn’t even want to think about it. As she watched the other girls squat and let go she was overcome with humiliation and shame. This could not be happening. This was just too much.

Esme looked to the end of the Chain. Even the new girl eleven, hooded, squatted and performed her duty. Esme looked at the hood going in and out with the girl’s breathing. She remembered the feel and the terror of the hood. She looked over at the wagon and saw the other hoods hanging there. She sobbed, but she squatted and forced herself to let go. As she felt, heard, and smelled the discharge from her body she closed her eyes. She was sure that all three slavers were looking at her. She was being treated like an animal, not a person.

When the girls had performed to the satisfaction of the slavers they were once again guided to the wagon. One by one, following the new order of the Chain, they crawled up into the bed, their hobble chain central ring fitted over the slave bar. The collar chain, attaching each girl to the next, was only released once the hobble chain was safely over the slave bar, and then the girl moved up to her position, sat with her back to the side and was once again fastened into place. The entire process was efficient and completely secure. There was never an opportunity for a girl to even try to run.

Esme now found herself on the left side of the wagon. She was in spot number nine. To her horror this placed the witch, now in spot number ten, directly across from her. That meant that there was no way for Esme to avoid having her feet touching the witch’s feet. It also meant that the face of the witch was directly in front of her. The girl’s eyes were sad. She was the only slave not muzzled, but Esme wished she were. The girl had trouble keeping her mouth closed. Today, the tongue was badly swollen and, with its two distinct parts, it looked like snakes were roiling around in her mouth. The sight was terrifying. They had said that the witch’s powers had been neutralized by splitting her tongue, but was that really true? Would the demon in the witch try to escape by jumping into Esme? If she was forced by the leg chains to be in physical contact with the witch could that provide an escape for the demon? Esme was so consumed with her fear of the witch that she lost track of the rest of her plight.

The newly demoted girl number eleven sat next to Esme on the left side of the wagon. She was sobbing softly under her hood. Esme tried not to look at her. Every slave in the wagon knew that this girl had failed to please a master and that she was now the lowest ranking slave, and tonight, when the wagon stopped, she would be punished. Esme shivered at the thought.

The wagon moved on slowly. The countryside looked pretty much the same. The view from port was not much different than it had been from starboard. The seat was no more comfortable than where Esme had been before. She was troubled by the knowledge that previous occupant of that position – the girl who was not in the eighth position – had almost certainly peed onto the metal grill just the day before. Esme had gone through the grill where the witch now sat. She had not seen them wash down the inside of the wagon. But, there was nothing she could do about it. She was sure she could smell the acrid smell, but it might be her imagination.

She tried to divert her attention to the area outside the wagon, the trees and hills. The weather was warm with only a slight breeze. She would have enjoyed the scene, if she were not a chained slave bouncing on a hard metal grill set in the bottom of a slaver’s wagon. She looked up the line of slaves. They all looked very sad. Even girls two and four, up at the top of the right side – the privileged slaves – did not now show the same attitude they had the night before in the camp. Esme wondered how much of their attitude was an act to try to impress the masters and preserve their position on the Chain.

Esme looked at the witch. She was looking off to the side, watching as the countryside slipped by. She looked so young, so innocent; she could not be more than a year or two older than Esme. She did not look hard, or even dangerous, at least until she opened her mouth. Esme wondered how she had become a witch. Was it something she sought out? Was it done to her? That thought was very frightening. What would it feel like to be a witch? What would it be like to have such power? But it was an evil thing and such a person was doomed. Just look at this creature sitting with her tongue split. What horrible things had she done? She had been married, Esme remembered talk of that, but her husband had died. Did the witch have a hand in that? Was her power really gone or just lying dormant below the surface? The witch turned her head back and made eye contact with Esme. Esme’s body shuddered and she quickly looked away.

Most of the day's travel was uneventful. Occasionally they would pass a farm; sometimes they would meet another traveler. Several times men walked over to the wagon to check out the merchandise. With her back held straight Esme’s breasts stuck out straight. They were a tremendous invitation to touch, and touched they were. She closed her eyes and pretended she was somewhere else, but she did not pull away or do anything to interfere with this until now unthinkable invasion of her person. One glance at the hoods hanging from the back of the driver’s seat and her memory of the day before was sufficient to cure any such thought or rebellion, no matter how slight.

At one farm the farmer brought out his three daughters. He made them stand by the wagon and look at what happened to disobedient girls. The oldest was perhaps sixteen, the youngest no more than eight. The older girl made eye contact with Esme then dropped her eyes and shuddered. The youngest girl could not take her eyes off the slaves. Certainly they had both seen plenty of slaves before, but they had probably not seen a slaver’s wagon with freshly enslaved women near their own age. The farmer looked like a cruel strict man. Esme decided that the older girl was counting herself lucky that her father was not in a bad mood. The girl’s eyes went to the empty twelfth position in the wagon. Only her father’s momentary good mood separated her from an ignominious fate. Would the girl be married off to a local or was she destined to end up as Esme now was? Esme decided she did not like the girl’s chances.

Esme expected that the wagon would stop before dusk so camp could be established while there was still light. Esme was surprised when they kept on even as the light started to fade. Moving in the twilight gave her an uneasy feeling. Would they be set upon by highwaymen? Then she laughed. Even through her muzzle it could be heard. Highwaymen indeed – the goods might be in danger of being stolen. Only she was the goods. The witch and girl eight looked up at Esme with a look of curiosity. She would have liked to share her thoughts, but the slaves could not share anything verbal. Esme realized just how much she missed just being able to talk to someone. She hated the slavers. Taking her was so wrong, but here and now there was nothing she could do about it other than obey and try to keep from being beaten.

There was just a glimmer of light left on the horizon when the wagon pulled up at a collection of buildings. It was not a town or a village, more like a farm or ranch. There was a large house, a barn, some outbuildings, and a stable. Two horses watched from the stable.

The slavers stopped the wagon near the barn, opened the tail gate and began to remove the Chain. One by one, as released from the wagon side, the girls slipped their leg shackles down the bar and were guided out onto the ground. As each girl exited the wagon she was locked into coffle from the back of her collar to the front of the collar of the girl who had just exited. From the back of the collar of the first slave removed, the new slave eleven, a chain held her locked to a ring in the back of the wagon. She was still hooded and now separated from the rest of the chain.

The remaining slaves were then removed, each immediately locked into the coffle. As if escape was ever an option for a slave with her arms locked behind her and her legs in shackles. But even then no slave was ever free of a chain leash and/or connection to the coffle.

After the entire Chain had been removed from the wagon and placed in coffle, and the new girl eleven beaten, the slavers led them toward the barn like building. Esme did not think the beating was quite as bad as what she had received the night before. Esme’s buttocks were still sore from the beating, aggravated by the days ride. Her back and shoulders hurt and her legs were stiff. She wanted an opportunity to stretch her muscles, but restrained as she was it was hard to find any relief. At least she would be able to sleep out of the elements tonight.

Just inside the door of the building Esme saw what at first looked like a long narrow slave pen but what was really a line of low slave cages. One by one the girls were removed from the chain and guided into a cage. Each cage was about five feet wide, three feet tall and not more than four feet deep. The back was a brick wall. The sides and top were bars set about six inches apart. The side bar of one cage made up the side bar of the next cage in line. Thus, a girl in one of the cages would be able to actually press up against a girl in one of the cages next to her if that girl moved up against the bars. But that would not be necessary as each cage was designed to accommodate two slaves.

The front of the cage lifted straight up so that the entire front was open. All of the openings yawned open now. Only after two girls were maneuvered into a cage was the door closed. The chain from the front of each collar was then clipped to a ring in the front of the gate, evenly spaced apart. The ring was outside the cage. It could perhaps be manipulated by a person with free use of their arms, but was virtually impossible to reach for the chained slaves.

The gate of the cage locked with a bolt in the lower corner. The mesh of the cage door was close enough together in the region of the bolt to deny access to anyone inside, even if she had the use of her hands. The slaves were not going anywhere.

Esme and the witch were guided into a cage. Esme was in first. After entering and watching her chain locked into place she saw that there were head size openings in the gate and in the ceiling portion just next to the gate. A girl would be able to get her head out either hole, but they were both too small to allow any more of her body to escape the confines of the cage. The floor of the cage was old wood planking with a light cover of hay. Not much softer than the wagon, but it was not bouncing, and it seemed she could move around a bit. Esme did her best to explore her new domain. She could not stand. She could not even come to a full kneel position inside the cage. She would not be able to stretch out although she could lay down curled up. The witch had withdrawn to the farthest available corner and pressed herself back against the wall.

After the last girl had been caged the slavers ordered the girls to come forward and kneel at the front of the cage with their heads out the hole in the front of the gate. The crack of the whip emphasized the importance of doing as they were told.

The hole was about two feet off the ground. If she squatted down fully on her legs her back raised slightly Esme found she was able to align her head to the hole.

The wood floor was not comfortable on her knees. She wished her hands were allowed to be in front of her. At least she could then use them for some support. One of the slavers came down the line of slaves and moved a bar behind the necks of each girl. When it slid down it clicked into place. Her head, and the heads of the other ten slaves, were now held tightly in place. She was able to turn and see the clip on the bar, only a few inches from her head, which held the bar in place. It would take almost no effort to release it, but with her hands chained behind her back it was just as secure as a padlock. Esme sighed as best she could through her muzzle.

The slavers then folded up a board to create a narrow platform just below the faces of the slaves. Then, working down the line, each girl’s muzzle was removed and hung on a hook in the gate next to her head. As one slaver removed the muzzles a second placed a bowl of water in front of each girl.

As much as she hated being watered and feed like an animal Esme was terribly thirsty and very hungry. She welcomed the opportunity to push her face down into the cool water and suck large mouthfuls up. She had to rise up on her knees to get her face down, but with the change in angle it was easy to accomplish. Fearful that the water would be removed Esme drank as quickly as she could, but the slavers were now in no hurry. The girls were left for 15 or 20 minutes to enjoy the liquid.

Then, starting at the top of the Chain, a slaver walked down the line with a bag and poured a mixture of grain and dried fruit into each now empty bowl. Esme’s face was wet from the water and the food quickly stuck to her cheeks and chin, but she did not care. She was hungry and the food, although simple, tasted good. Besides, her head was locked forward just over the bowl and there was nothing she could do about that.

Esme thought about how degrading it was to have someone else control such normally personal aspects of your life, but realized that part of the lesson was that as a slave her body and her person were no longer hers. She was a thing to be owned by others and they, not her, would decide what she would do and when she would do it – this included when she would eat, what she would eat, and how much she would eat. If she didn’t eat all that was before her she would be punished. She had been punished enough. She did not need more. She especially did not need more for failing to do something she wanted to do. She ate.

Esme could hear the witch, her body almost touching Esme’s, groaning and yipping with pain as she tried to eat the food. She was making sounds that sounded almost like words. This was very frightening because splitting her tongue was supposed to have rendered her mute. How could this be? Did that mean she would soon be able to start casting spells? Esme assumed that the slavers would be the primary focus of any such effort. She pictured the three slavers turned into pigs running about the floor of the barn with their clothing hanging loosely off their now changed bodies. The image made her chortle. This drew a look from the number eight girl right next to her, and then from the witch. Esme froze when the witch looked at her. Esme pressed her face back into her food and did her best to act as if she did not see the witch looking at her. Being so close to a witch who seemed to be regaining her power was more than terrifying. The witch looked back into her bowl and returned to the task of eating, accompanied by an increasing cacophony of noises and sounds.

After a time, one of the slavers returned. He was accompanied by a slave girl with her wrists chained before her. She carried a bowl of liquid and a soft looking rag. Beginning with girl eleven she set the bowl of liquid down next to the now empty food bowl. On a signal from the slaver she moved the food bowl out of the way. The slaver than lifted the girl’s head by her hair and held it while the slave dipped the rag in the bowl of water and washed the girl’s face. When she had finished the slaver removed the muzzle from where it was hooked on the outside of the slave cage and reapplied it to the girl. She opened her mouth and received the hated plug with no word or movement of protest or reluctance.

Finished with that girl, they moved up the line, next the witch (still not muzzled), and then Esme. Esme knew better than resist and she was quickly cleaned and muzzled.

Esme looked over at the slave girl standing meekly to the side of the slaver. This girl seemed to move with efficiency and grace in spite of her chains. Clearly she was not new to her slavery. Esme wondered how she would adapt to this new life that seemed unavoidable. But just the thought made her stomach lurch and her throat swell.

After all of the girls were cleaned and once more safely muzzled the slave girl collected all of the empty bowls and left. Although she wore chains, at least she was not leashed and led around. Would Esme find enjoyment in such simple but restricted freedom? She hung her head. He back was now hurting from the enforced position. She desperately wanted to at least be able to straighten up and sit back. The three foot height of the cage would not allow more than sitting, but right now that would be heaven.

Esme’s hopes were elevated when the slaver lifted the bar from the neck of girl eleven. Then to Esme’s surprise he opened the front of the cage, unlocked the girls lead chain and guided her out onto the floor. Without saying a word he led the girl away leaving the remaining slaves locked by the neck in their cages. Esme shifted uncomfortably in her restrained position, once again finding herself darkened with the gloom of her situation.

After a time – there is no real sense of time for a chained slave – the slaver brought back girl eleven. Esme watched as they approached but turned her head away not daring to catch the eye of the slaver. She heard the pen next to her opened and sensed the girl climbing inside.

Another slaver appeared on the other end of the pens and the slavers released the bars holding the necks of the girls. This allowed the slaves to move back into the pens and lie down. The slaver who had taken girl eleven moved over in front of the pen Esme shared with the witch and opened it. Esme looked up at him in terror and slipped back to the rear of the pen, but he showed no interest in her. Instead, he released the chain anchoring the witch and withdrew her from the pen. When she was standing outside he closed the pen gate and latched it in place. Esme was now alone in her pen.

Esme wondered what they had done to girl eleven. The girl was now curled up in the back corner of her pen with her back to Esme and the other girls. Esme thought she detected a shiver run through the girl. What were they doing with the witch? Was Esme next?

She was. The slaver returned leading the witch. Her head was down and tears streaked her face. Esme’s eyes were drawn away from her face and instead to her loins. All the hair between the witch’s legs was gone but there was something else there. It was red and shiny, a stone of some sort, perhaps an inch in diameter. It dangled from a gold colored ring piercing the right labia of the witch. Esme could see carving in the stone. It was an amulet. She had been right to worry about the witch's remaining powers. It was clear that extra protection had been taken. It must have been very painful for the witch, but Esme did not care. She was happy that the slavers had taken this extra precaution. After all, Esme was the one now sharing a cage with the witch. Esme did not want this witch to have any ability to cast any spells.

The witch was very quiet. The moans and distorted groans that had become so familiar were not to be heard. Esme had been worried that the splitting of the witch's tongue had not seemed to mute her as advertised. But now she appeared to be mute. Had the amulet finished off what the tongue splitting had started? Perhaps! (The reality, of course, was much simpler. In the back room, where each girl was in turn taken, the witch had been strapped to a chair. Once her head had been secured and her mouth propped open, the doctor, using a modification of a surgical tool known as a tonsil guillotine had quickly and efficiently isolated and cut her vocal cords. It was an easy open-mouth operation that left no outward mark and only minimal bleeding. The witch was now completely and irreversibly mute and would remain so for the rest of her life, convincing all who saw her that her powers as a witch were under control.)

The cage was opened and the witch crawled back in. Esme moved to the side away from her. The slaver did not close the gate. Instead, he unfastened Esme’s chain and gestured for her to crawl out and follow. Bereft of any alternative she complied.

As Esme was led down the corridor she wished she had tried to take a better look at the first slave girl. Something must have been done to her because she had crawled into her cage and curled up with her back to Esme and the other slaves. Esme had not really even looked at the witch upon her return. Her full attention had been called to the area between her legs and the amulet fastened there. She was suddenly worried that she would be adorned in a similar manner, but that did not make any sense. Esme was not a witch so there was no reason for them to take any precautions with her.

Then Esme began to quake with fear. What Esme had that could draw attention was her virginity. Was that status about to change? She looked at the strong back of the man pulling her along by her lead chain. He was not ugly, even handsome in a rugged fashion. But this was not how she had perceived the departure of her maidenhead. She, like most young girls, had romantic visions of being swept off her feet. The suitor would be refined of speech and manner. He would display a fit body with finely chiseled features. He would be firm yet gentle. She would feel safe and protected in his arms and long to be carried into his bed.

That vision, the dream, was driven away by the now very real nightmare of her present existence. She was surely about to be deflowered, but it would of course be an ugly, even brutal affair, in which her feelings and pleasure would be nonexistent, even counterproductive to the lesson that it would be meant to instill. The lesson was that she was no longer a person, she no longer had control over her person or body, she was property, and she could, and she would, be treated as property.

Esme was led into a room, the center piece of which was a large sturdy chair. But it was no ordinary chair. Braces and straps were set at what seemed to be strange locations.

Esme was turned and pushed back into the chair. She did not resist, she had learned that was not allowed. The seat of the chair was curved so that her buttocks perched on a narrow shelf only about six inches wide. A brace supported her lower back and a belt from that brace was cinched around her waist pulling her back tightly. Another brace crossed her upper back allowing a strap across her chest just above her breasts. He arms fit through a space in the back of the chair allowing the two belts to hold her tightly.

Two protruding braces were moved and adjusted against the sides of her head. Another brace at the back of her neck when combined with a strap across her forehead held her head unmovable.

From the seat of the chair a metal brace was adjusted along the back of each leg and her leg was strapped at the upper thigh, knee and ankle. The leg braces held her legs and allowed them to be moved and positioned. Esme gave a small shriek when the back of the chair reclined slightly and her legs were pulled up and out. The result was that she was pushed up to expose her loins in what felt like a very provocative fashion. She would never have assumed such a demeaning and humiliating position, but fastened as she was there was nothing she could do about it.

When Esme was locked into place the slaver stepped aside and an older man that she had not seen before came forward. His face showed at least a day’s growth of beard. He had the rugged look that Esme liked, but he was at least twice her age and did not have the chiseled features she wanted. She wondered if this would be her assailant. We this be the man who took her maidenhead? If it was to be there was nothing she could do to prevent it.

His hands moved over her body. Thankfully they were soft and his touch was not harsh. She was encouraged. He lifted each breast. He examined the nipple and seemed to test the weight and firmness of her flesh. He ran his hands over her abdomen and down between her legs. He pushed through the hair at her loins and she felt his fingers enter her. No man’s hand had ever been there before. Esme blushed. There was nothing sexual about the way he was touching her. If he was going to deflower her couldn’t he at least make it somewhat romantic?

She wondered if his hand would push through her hymen. He did not. She could feel his fingers inspecting her virginity, but he did not push any further.

The man turned and said something to the corner of the room. Esme has been so caught up in the feel of his hands that she completely missed what he had said. Then she saw the slave girl come forward. She carried a small bowl which she sat down on a small stool between Esme’s legs.

Esme tried to look down but her head was pulled back by the strap across her forehead. She felt something warm and wet. The girl was doing something between Esme’s legs. Then she felt scraping and pulling. Esme looked down her nose as best she could. She was being shaved. She was humiliated at the thought of having the hair between her legs removed. It was the only protection in her nudity and it was being taken away. There was nothing she could do to prevent it so she looked up at the ceiling and sobbed into her muzzle.

When the girl had finished her task and dried Esme’s beauty lips and surrounding area with a soft towel she stepped away and then knelt. The man stepped forward and ran his hand over the freshly shaved flesh. Esme could hear the slave girl breathing heavily. Had she become excited by the task? Esme decided that was not the case, the girl was merely terrified that the man would find some fault with her work. It he did, it would likely mean a beating.

The man seemed satisfied. He said something else to the girl and she retreated to the corner once more returning with another bowl. The man turned his attention to Esme. He tested the straps that held her in place, pulling the thigh straps another notch.

The girl was holding a bowl and Esme could smell the strong smell of vinegar. Esme hoped they were not going to put vinegar on her freshly shaved womanhood. She expected that would burn like the blazes and the thought made her very afraid.

Esme’s muzzle could not hold back her gasp when she saw the man hold up a long thong of leather dripping vinegar back into the bowl. On the end held in his hand was a large awful looking needle. It looked more like an awl for working leather.

With his left hand he squeezed Esme’s beauty lips together and pushed the needle through near the top of her slit. Esme felt the needle push through first one lip and then through the other. She felt the leather being drawn through the wound. She felt the burn of the vinegar in the fresh wound. The pain was worse than the cane. It was worse than anything Esme had ever experienced. Her entire body stiffened and she screamed – although what came out was greatly muffled.

The man looked up into her face and smiled. “This is for your own protection. And the vinegar will protect and clean the wounds.” He looked back down at his work.

When he had pulled the thong to within about six inches of the end he tied a knot in the two ends and then treaded them under the stitch that now joined Esme’s beauty lips. Then he moved down about half an inch and repeated the process. When the needle emerged having once again pierced Esme’s most intimate parts the running end was looped back through the portion of the line that ran down from the stitch above thus pulling the line to the middle. There were now four burning holes in Esme’s body. The vinegar felt like liquid fire. Esme was now twisting and struggling with all her strength to try to escape the chair. The result of her struggles was almost nonexistent.

The man paid no attention to Esme or her screams. He proceeded down another half inch and repeated the process placing a stitch of leather into Esme’s body. Once again he fed the running end back through the line coming down from the strap above.

The man then picked up a small metal funnel. He inserted it into Esme’s body at the lower part of what was left of her opening. Then he returned to his stitching. Esme screamed and struggled but one stitch at a time her beauty lips were closed sealing the prize of her virginity behind the leather lacing. Esme was not to be raped. She was not to be deflowered. Instead this was a valuable asset that was to be sealed and protected. Esme wished the man had just raped her.

When her crotch was fully laced it looked like the seam on an expensive leather garment. The stitching was even and straight. This man had obviously performed this task before. The lips were held tightly together.

The two ends of the lacing extended from the bottom of the stitches. The man fed the back stitch back up over the bottom stitch. Then he pulled both ends of the thong through channels in the back of a brass medallion about an inch in diameter. After pressing it tightly against the bottom stitch he used a clamp to close it over the two ends of leather. He cut away the loose leather.

Esme’s beauty lips were now tightly stitched and the stitching sealed at the bottom to certify the treasure that was protected within. This treasure was protected from everyone, even Esme. Until the stitches were cut away nothing could get in. The end of the small funnel protruded from the sealed flesh just below the medallion. This would allow liquids to drain from her body.

Esme did not want anyone to see her like this. The fact that she had been fully shaved to allow for this indignity only made it worse. The man ran his hand over the tightly confined flesh and smiled. The slaver stepped forward. To Esme’s dismay his hand found her flesh and fingered the stitching. The touch hurt. The thong had been soaked in vinegar and any touching caused more of the awful liquid to seep out of the leather and into the fresh wounds. Esme wanted to touch her poor tortured flesh. She wanted to massage it and try to make it feel better, but she could do nothing. Her hands were chained and held behind her tightly strapped body.

The man now walked around and stood next to Esme’s head. She looked up into his eyes like a rabbit looking at a stout. She was frozen in place; her mind seemed to be blank.

The man signaled the slave girl forward again. Esme could not even imagine what horror may be about to descend upon her next. The man’s hands were on her face. She tried to turn away – she could not. She tried to pull back – she could not. She could only moan and groan into the muzzle.

He pushed his fingers up into her nostrils. It was invasive and humiliating. He pinched his fingers against her septum and wiggled them back and forth. Then he reached back and took a black metal tool from the slave girl. Esme could see that what looked like a pincher, but with a solid flat piece on one side and a half inch long punch on the other.

“Oh God. Please. No!” Esme tried to enunciate her fear and feelings, but nothing came out. It was not just the muzzle holding in the sounds, her vocal cords were frozen.

She felt the metal in her nose. She felt the two sides closing, the punch side pushing into the soft flesh and cartilage of her septum. She felt the pressure then she heard the pop as the punch drove through opening a hole. Esme closed her eyes. She could no longer watch. She did not want to see the eyes of this man. She had expected that he would remove her virginity. Instead he had stolen her pride and innocence. The loss of her virginity would have been so much less invasive.

Esme was not surprised when the man slipped a heavy ring through the new hole in her septum. She was not surprised when she felt it crimped closed. She was not surprised when she was removed from the chair and pushed down over an anvil as the ends of the ring were joined.

She knew that this was one more way that she could be controlled, but more importantly it was a visible mark of her status as a slave. Even if she could shed her chains, even if she could find clothing to hide her body, she could look no free person in the face without them immediately knowing that she was a slave.

The slaver led Esme back to her cage. She walked with her head down. She did not want anyone, even the other slave girls, to see the degradation and humiliation she felt over her now tightly stitched loins and the new ring hanging over the top of her muzzle.

The witch was in the back of the cage with her back turned. She did not turn back to look at Esme and the slaver. Esme crawled into the cage and turned briefly to watch the slaver fasten the chain from the front of her collar to the ring outside the cage and close and lock the cage door. He then moved on to the next cage and withdrew that girl.

Esme turned away from the other slaves and curled up against the bars. She pulled her legs up to her chest and sobbed into her muzzle. She had not even dreamed that life could be so horrible. How was she going to do this? How was she going to live a life of being a slave? It just wasn’t possible.

Esme did not move as the other girls were removed one by one and taken to their fate and then returned. Esme did not inspect them on their return. She did not know if their loins were stitched or adorned. She had seen the provocative gestures of most of the other girls. Certainly they were not virgins. She wished she had not been one. The stitching through her beauty lips burned from the vinegar. She hoped it would dry quickly, but she thought she could feel the leather starting to shrink as it dried. How tight would it get? It didn’t really matter, it was already too tight to get anything past, and there was not a thing she could do about it.

After all of the girls had made their visit up the hall and been returned to their cages the three slavers returned. The head slaver ordered “Present”. Esme felt her body tremble. She wanted to stay curled up on the floor of her cage, but even in the few days of her slavery she was too frightened to ignore an order.

She quickly rolled up on to her legs and crawled forward to the gate of the cage. The slaver directed that they should press their bodies against the cage front and extend their heads up through the hole in the top of the cage near the gate. As with the feeding hole the slave’s heads were locked in place by means of a sliding bar on the top of the cage that pushed up against each girl’s neck. It also had the effect of pushing her forward against the bars. The feel of the bars against her skin, her breasts pushing between the bars and her shaved and stitched loins held at the feeding hole made Esme feel even more vulnerable.

When all eleven girls were secured in place the slavers walked up and down the line. Esme dare not look from right to left, although she could see from her peripheral vision that the slavers were reaching out and touching the bodies of the girls. The youngest of the slavers stopped in front of her. He was sufficiently good looking that had they met under different circumstances she would have been interested in him.

But this was not courting. He did not need to worry about any niceties. He was a master and she was a slave and his hands explored her body in a very ungentlemanly fashion. She felt his fingers run over the stitching that held her labia closed and protected her maidenhead. The wounds were sensitive and they burned with his touch. The pain was not severe, but the humiliation of being touched so was more than Esme could bear.

He looked into her eyes and smiled. She wanted to turn away. She wanted to shout at him. She wanted to pull her body away from his touch. But she could not and she dare not. Her body was locked forward against the bars of her cage. He could touch her as much and as long as he desired and she could do nothing to prevent or even limit his access. She could turn her head slightly, but she dare not do this and the pressure of the top of the cage on his chin prevented her from even lowering her face.

The hands left her body. Some cages were being opened. Now Esme looked to her right and saw three slaves removed. They were slaves one, three, and six. Esme knew they would share the slavers' beds that night. She wondered if they would actually be in a bed. It would almost be worth being chosen just to be in a bed, but Esme knew with her loins closed she was not a logical choice.

After the three slaves were chosen and linked together by their neck chains the slavers released the neck bars and let the remaining slave girls descend into the cages. Esme only glanced at the other girls before curling up as best she could and trying to sleep. She was very tired. She needed to go to sleep, then maybe she could wake up and find this was only a nightmare.

The air was cold and getting colder. The slaves had been given no blanket. Esme almost missed the sleeping sack she had been locked into the night before. She wanted to wrap her arms around her body to try to get warmth, but they were fastened behind her back. She shivered.

Esme felt something behind her, something warm, something soft. The witch had come over and pushed her body up against Esme. Together they could share body heat. Together they would be warmer. One of the other girls Esme would have welcomed, but this was the witch. Esme felt her body stiffen with fear. If the witch noticed she did not react. Instead she pushed her body closer into Esme’s. It felt like the witch had molded her body to all the contours of Esme’s back.

But it felt good. There was warmth from the contact. The skin was soft. The contact was comforting. The girl may be a witch, but right now they were just sisters in misery. Esme’s body loosened and she responded by pressing back. Emse’s hands were between the legs of the witch. Esme felt the medallion pierced into the girls flesh. Esme opened her hands and began to caress the soft flesh of the witch.

The witch expelled air, but there was no moan or human sound to go with it. Esme felt unsettled by the lack of sound from the witch but decided that the actions of the slavers had rendered the girl mute. It was, of course, true, but not by any magical or supernatural means as believed by Esme. The simple cut of the specially designed blade helped to create the façade of the existence of a witch and the ability to control her.

Esme nodded off. She did not know how long she had slept. The barn was dark. There was a moon out, but it cast no light within. There were sounds. Someone was in the barn. The person did not move like one of the slavers. Instead, the movements were of one who was trying not to be detected, at least not by those outside the barn. All of the occupants of the cages were tightly muzzled – except for the witch, and she was mute. There was no danger of sound from inside the cages.

Someone was at the bars looking in on Esme and the witch. Esme felt the witch stir. She had heard – and felt – the presence of the person. Backlit by the light from the open barn door Esme could tell the figure was female.

The intruder moved up to the next cage and began to inspect the girls within. “Susan?” Esme heard a soft voice from the intruder.

A girl, two cages up moved; then she turned and pushed up to the bars. It was girl number five. She made humming sounds through her muzzle. Esme could still not believe how completely effective these humiliating muzzles were.

The intruder unlatched and opened he cage. She unclipped the chain to slave five, who crawled out and pushed against her.

“I found out what happened to you from Brandy. It took a while to find their trail.” As she spoke the intruder unbuckled and removed the girl’s muzzle.

“We need to get out of here before the slavers return. I don’t want to see you in an empty spot in their cages.” As she spoke girl five walked not toward the door, but over toward a table on the side of the room. “See that tool? Use it to open the link on the chain holding my hands behind me.” She turned and presented her hands.

The intruder picked up the tool and in only a minute freed the back chain from its link in the girl’s wrist chains. She was still chained and hobbled, but she was then able to step through her chains and bring them up in front.

As the intruder finished her work Esme felt the witch pull free of Esme’s body and move up to the front of the cage. She turned her back to the cage and pushed her chained hands back. She grabbed the cage and shook it.

The intruder looked at her.

“Careful, she is a witch,” girl number five said.

Esme followed the lead of the witch. She pushed her body up to the cage door and rattled it. She turned and looked pleadingly over her shoulder.

“Ok, but we can’t take you with us.” Girl five took the tool and moved forward to Esme. Quickly she unfastened the link and for the first time since her capture Esme was able to step through her chains and put her hands in front.

Esme shook the cage door again and pointed down toward the latch at the bottom. Even with her hands in front she could never reach the latch on the door. The girl nodded and released the bolt. The cage door sprung free and Esme pushed it up.

“How do we get the rest of these chains off you?” The intruder was examining the girl five's chains.

“We can’t do it here. We need to get out of here. It will be difficult, but I think I can sit on a horse.” The other girl nodded and they left.

The former slave five looked back and smiled at the others, chained and locked in their cages.

Esme pushed her way out of the cage before something happened and the door locked itself. The witch followed her, turned, and presented her chains. Esme used the tool to remove the link and free the chain from the wrists to the collar.

Then Esme tried to remove the muzzle that had kept her silent. The buckles were in the back and she was having trouble getting them. She felt hands on her shoulders and head. The witch, her hands now in front of her, reached up and unbuckled the muzzle. It came free with a popping sound and a sigh of relief from Esme. She really hated that thing.

Esme walked down the line of cages. “Does anyone else want to be freed?”

Girls two, four, seven, and eight all backed away from the cage door as if it suddenly become red hot. Girl eleven however turned and presented her hands. Esme stepped toward her and released the chain link. Then she stooped and released the cage door.

When Esme, eleven, and the witch slipped out the door of the barn the intruder and five were gone. The light of the moon now made everything seem bright. Esme choked in fear of being spotted.

Esme stood at the door of the barn looking up and down the road, but eleven started walking in the other direction, away from the road. It was a narrow road or trail. The witch followed. Esme looked back at the road then back at the two girls now almost 30 yards away. Esme did not want to be on her own. She quickly shuffled behind the others trying to catch up.

The rattle of her leg chains sounded like alarm bells ringing in the quiet of the night. Esme thought she was going to throw up. She looked back at the large house, but all was still. She expected to see a slaver run from the house at any moment. She was officially escaping right now. What would the punishment be for that? It would certainly be harsh.

Esme was so focused on looking back at the house that she missed a small branch sticking up out of the ground. Her ankle chain caught and she fell to the ground. Once again, the sounds of her chains rattling, now legs and wrists as well as the loose chain behind her could certainly be heard for a long distance.

Esme froze on the ground. She looked back at the two girls moving up the path away from her. Neither one looked back. Maybe it had not been so loud. There was still no movement from the house.

Esme regained her feet, untangled her ankle chain and once again hurried forward trying to catch her compatriots.

Soon the house and barn could no longer be seen. The trail ended at the edge of a small river, too wide to be a stream but not wide enough to support any substantial water traffic. The trail intersected a somewhat more traveled trail that followed the bank of the river.

Girl eleven turned to her left. Then she stopped and turned toward the witch and Esme. “It is best if we split up. They will be looking for us in the morning. Together we attract too much attention.”

The witch nodded and turned to the right.

Girl eleven turned back and started down the trail. The witch started shuffling up the trail. Esme stood looking from one to the other. Where could she go? She was not going back toward the barn. She did not think she could cross the river wearing her chains. It may be narrow, but it looked deep enough to be a challenge.

Girl eleven seemed sure of herself. But her look when she said ‘split up’ seemed to make company unwelcome. Esme did not want to be alone. She did not really want to be with the witch, but she knew the witch had lived only a day’s ride from here. She probably knew the terrain. She had not complained about going up the trail. Maybe she knew something.

Esme turned to the right and started to follow the Witch. For a long time she shuffled along about 50 yards back behind the witch. Once or twice the witch looked back at her, but she never stopped and waited for her to catch up. Instead, the witch moved forward with what seemed to be a purpose.

For several hours Esme followed the witch. The moon which had been high and bright had disappeared over the horizon and there was not yet a glint of morning. The trail was dark and foreboding. Esme thought about the five girls who had rejected a bid for freedom and stayed chained in their cages. Certainly they did not want to be slaves. Where they just so broken that they could not take a chance for freedom? Did they know that the chances were so terrible that it was not worth the try? Had they been the smart ones? Esme looked down at her chained wrists. She rattled the chain. What chance did they have?

Esme looked ahead. The witch was not there. Esme felt a surge of panic. She did not want to be alone. Where was the witch? She picked up the pace and tried to hurry forward.

Esme felt her eyes moisten. She was crying. Why was she so afraid? She had been afraid of the witch when she was chained across from her in the wagon. Now the witch was free, at least partially free. Why was her disappearance more frightening than being near her?

Esme was about to call out when she saw movement to her left. It was the witch. She was at the edge of the river. She was using her hand to scoop up and drink water. Esme sighed in relief. Cautiously Esme moved down next to the witch. The witch turned her head and looked at Esme. Esme froze and looked at her. The witch’s face did not change as she returned to drinking.

Esme aped her actions. The water tasted cool and refreshing. The best part was that she was drinking on her own volition, from her own hand. It was the most free she had felt since her capture back at the inn.

The witch finished drinking then sat back on her haunches. She seemed to be studying Esme. When Esme was done she sat back and looked at the witch. Their faces were only about 18 inches apart.

“I am sorry.” Esme said. The Witch looked confused. Esme didn’t explain what she meant. She was not even sure what she meant. She just smiled. The witch smiled back. Then the witch pointed up the trail. Then she pointed her fingers at her own eyes and back at the trail. Then she held her finger up in front of her mouth.

Esme understood. They needed to keep a careful look and be very quiet. Esme nodded.

The witch stood up, moved back to the trail and then waited for Esme to catch up. Now the two girls walked side by side up the trail. Esme was happy to have company. She was happy that she was with the witch. She hoped the witch could get some of her powers back. Maybe there was a chance for them after all.

As dawn began to brighten the horizon Esme heard sounds up ahead. The witch stopped and tapped Esme on the shoulder; then she signaled off to the reeds between the river and the trail. With the witch leading the way the two girls moved into the reeds and settled down.

It was several minutes later that a wagon driven by a young man moved down the trail. Esme looked to the witch. She shook her head and pushed Esme’s head down. They were not going to reveal themselves to this young man. Esme trusted the witch’s appraisal.

When the wagon was out of sight behind them the two girls resumed their walk. After a time Esme saw the witch stiffen. She tapped Esme on the arm hard enough to almost propel her into the reeds once more. Esme caught her balance and the two girls crouched again in the reeds. Esme huddled up against the witch. She could feel her tremble and this made Esme afraid.

She had cause to be afraid. Coming from the direction Esme and the witch had taken two horses appeared. The riders were two of the slavers. Esme wanted to watch them, but the witch pushed her head down into the reeds. She complied.

Esme tried to control her breathing. It sounded so loud to her. How could the slavers not hear? They were about to be caught. They would be punished. Esme felt her bladder release. The liquid was warm on her legs. She could smell the urine. She wanted to look over at the witch, but the witch’s hand was still on her head and held her down. Esme considered jumping up and trying to run. But, she was chained. She would stand no chance of escaping. She thought about the river only a few yards away. Should she jump into the river? Again, the chains made that impossible. She could not hope to escape the slavers in the water, at best she would be pulled under and drown. Somehow she managed to hold her position.

Esme felt the pressure from the witch’s hand ease. She raised her head and looked around. The trail was empty. The slavers had ridden on. They had not seen the girls. They had not heard them. They had not smelled them. Somehow they had evaded capture.

Esme could not help herself. She lifted her chained arms over the witch and then pulled her to her. The witch could not reciprocate because her hands were held in front by her own chains, but after a moment of resistance she relaxed and melted into Esme’s embrace. Then Esme felt the witch’s head on her shoulder. Nothing but the sounds of labored breathing came from the mouth of the witch, but tears were now streaming down her face. Esme held her tight. Esme knew that the witch had saved her. Esme had never felt so frightened. She had almost panicked, but the witch had somehow remained in control.

For a long time the two girls remained in the reeds clutching each other. With their heads on each other’s shoulders it was the most comforted Esme had felt in a very long time. She could feel the witch’s naked breasts pushed into her own. The combined flesh was hot. Esme felt strange sensations coursing through her body. Finally, the witch eased back. She smiled at Esme and pointed with the fingers of both hands up the trail. Esme nodded. She lifted her chained arms back over the Witch’s head and the two girls carefully rose and started up the trail. The sun was well up now and the surroundings were bright.

Almost immediately the trail left the woods and entered cultivated land. The witch stopped and crouched as she studied the area within view. Some farm buildings could be seen off to their right but there was no activity in the field.

The girls moved on carefully. Soon they came to a fenced-in pasture that contained a small herd of cows. But beyond the pasture the trail opened into what looked like a small village. That did not seem like the smart destination for two chained escaped slaves. And, it was the direction the slavers had gone earlier. The witch seemed to think the same thing. She guided Esme off the trail and along the outside perimeter of the pasture.

Esme could see a barn up ahead and it seemed the likely place to go. It would provide some cover. It may also have tools that they could use to get out of the chains. If they could escape the chains and find some clothing they would be a lot less conspicuous. As Esme thought that her hand went to the ring in her nose. How were they going to get that off?

Esme and the witch moved up the side of the barn carefully watching for any movement. Everything was quiet. They slipped inside and welcomed the darkness provided by the large building. On one side hay and animal feed was stacked. It was late in the season and the farmer was accumulating reserves for the winter ahead.

On the other side there was a wall of bars. In the middle was an open door of the same barred structure. Inside the pen were about a dozen sleeping pallets. Above each pallet, set firmly in the wall, was an iron ring. A large bucket in one corner was a third filled with brackish water. It was a slave pen for the farm, but it did not appear to be in present use. Did the farm not have any slaves or where they now kept in other quarters? They could be out working the fields, but there was a feel to the place that said it had not been recently occupied.

In the back of the barn, well beyond the reach of the slave pen, was a work bench. On the bench there was an array of tools. They were not neatly ordered and did not look to be in good repair. Esme did not care. She quickly moved forward to the bench. The witch meanwhile was inspecting the other surroundings.

When Esme got to the bench she first lifted her wrists and inspected the cuffs locked thereon. Most of her time as a slave her arms had been held behind her and she had had little opportunity to inspect her restraints. The cuffs were solid and heavy. They could not be broken. In order to remove them she would need to remove the pin that had been crimped into the locking rings. She looked at the bottom and saw that there was a very small hole. Its diameter was smaller than most nails. It would require a small and strong rod to push up through that hole.

She inspected the head of the pin. The head of the pin was concave from the tool that had compressed and flattened it. A seal of sorts had been created in the top of the pin in the form of an owl imbedded in the soft metal.

The top of the pin had been expanded into a flange. Before the pin could be pushed up it would be necessary to remove the top of the pin. Esme looked around the bench for a tool that might work. She found a chisel, but the blade was about an inch wide, much too wide to fit into the head of the shackle. She tried using the corner of the chisel. She was able to dig into the lead and peel away the middle, but she could not get to the sides where she needed to reach and remove the flange.

She scratched away the owl in both wrist cuffs, but the pins looked as solidly set as ever. I really did not matter, as she could not find anything small enough to fit the holes in the bottom. Without something pushing up after the lead seal was removed the pin would not release.

Esme found a hammer. Maybe she could at least break the chains. She sat on the floor, placed the chisel over a link in her ankle chains and struck it as best she could with the hammer. Chained as she was she was only able to get a short swing, but the sound of metal on metal was loud and reverberated through the barn. Esme looked up to see the witch coming her direction with a look of terror on her face.

“We need to get these chains off,” she said authoritatively.

As the Witch got to her she examined the link she had just struck. There as a line in the metal of the link where the chisel had bitten, but it was little more than a scratch. On the other hand the blade of the chisel had a half moon indent where the chain had overcome the tool. This was clearly a chisel made for wood and would never cut through the steel of the chains.

Esme threw the chisel on the floor with disgust. She got back up and returned to the bench looking for a better tool. It was not here.

A change in the light made both Esme and the Witch suddenly turn to the door of the barn. There was a girl standing there. Now it was the Witch who looked close to panic.

Esme took a step forward. The girl, whose eyes were now very large, took a step back.

“Please,” Esme said. “Will you help us?”

“You are escaped slaves.” Esme could not be sure if it was a statement or a question.

“We were taken by slavers but have not been registered so we are not legally slaves. The slavers are very cruel, we need to escape them. Please help us.” Esme didn’t know if what she had said gave her any legal claim to freedom, but it sounded good. She took another step forward. This time the girl had not backed up. The witch stayed rooted to the ground.

The girls face changed. Esme could tell she was thinking hard. “I will bring you some food and something to wear, but you have to stay out of sight until I decide what is to be done.”

Esme didn’t like the ‘decide what is to be done’ part, but she was very hungry and the prospect of something to wear was most inviting.

The girl backed out of the barn and then disappeared. Esme turned back to the witch. “I guess we might as well get comfortable.” She said as she looked for a place to sit down. She looked through the open gate into the slave pen. The logical place to rest was on one of the sleeping benches, but Esme could not bring herself to go in there. It appeared that the witch was of the same mind because she crawled up onto a bale of hay and stretched out as best she could in her chains. Esme climbed up next to her.

Esme was not sure if she had fallen asleep. She was very tired. But she awoke to the smell of food. The girl had returned with two plates. Piled on the plates were cooked meat, freshly boiled eggs, and a large quarter of bread.

The food tasted as good as it looked. It was so superior to what Esme had been eating the last few days as a slave. It clearly reminded her of her strong desire to be free.

While Esme and the witch ate, the girl patiently stood by. When they had finished eating, she handed each a cotton garment. Esme’s face fell as she held it up. It was a slave tunic. Two wide panels that clipped to the slaves collar in the front and the back held together midway down by a narrow strap of cloth leaving a six inch separation on each side.

“It is illegal for a slave to wear regular clothing. It is illegal to give them to you. So long as you wear chains and collars this is what you must wear.”

Esme did not like the way the girl had said that, but accepted the logic of wearing something that matched their current state of restraint. Esme shook out the garment and pulled it on. She had never worn such a thing before but found that it was very easy to put on once she realized it needed to be brought up so that her arms extended through the spaces in the upper part.

“Do you have any tools we can use to get out of these chains?” Esme felt refreshed from the meal and let her focus go back to the restraints.

“I don’t have such things.” The girl answered a little too quickly for Esme’s liking. “There is a blacksmith in the village, but I doubt he would be willing to help you.”

“Maybe we can sneak in after dark and use his tools.” As Esme spoke the girls face briefly showed a look of horror.

“Maybe, but for now you need to keep out of sight. I can’t have anyone know I have helped you. I don’t think anyone will come into the barn, but please stay away from the door.” The logic made perfect sense to Esme.

The girl collected the plates and left. Esme looked back at the bale of hay that she and the witch had rested on. It was not particularly comfortable. She walked around the inside of the barn. She had inspected it before looking for tools, now she was looking for a place to curl up. There was really not a good place.

Esme came around to the barred wall and the gate to the slave quarters. She swung the door back and forth. It was heavy but it moved easily on well oiled hinges. She closed it to see if it would automatically latch. It did not. In order to lock it in place a heavy bolt set in a plate in the wall next to the gate had to be slide into place.

The witch was watching Esme. Esme pushed the gate open all the way. It stayed in place. Then she stepped through the doorway. Her stomach rolled as she passed behind the barred wall. The sleeping benches were crude wooden platforms raised only about 18 inches off the ground. Each had a rolled up mat that apart from being dusty on the top of the rolled part looked reasonably clean. Esme unrolled a mat and pushed up and down on it with her hands. Compared to how she had slept the last few nights this was quite soft. She lay down on the mat. It felt good.

Esme heard the sound of the mat on the bench next to her being unrolled. It appeared that the witch had chosen to join her. Esme did not realize how very tired she was.

* * *

Esme opened her eyes. The barn was dark. It was very dark. She looked back toward the door of the barn. She could not see it from inside the slave quarters, but she could tell that no light was coming in from outside. The sun was down. She must have been very tired. She could hear the witch breathing slowly. She was on the next bench sound asleep.

Esme wondered where the girl was. Would she show them where the blacksmith's was? Would they be able to get in? Would they be able to utilize the tools to escape without being caught? She didn’t know, but she needed to try.

Esme swung her legs around and stood up. Her head felt light. That was surprising. She was surprised to see that the gate to the slave quarters was closed. Esme did not like that. She walked over and gave it a push to swing it open. It held tight. Had it been locked? Esme grabbed the bars of the gate and pushed hard. It still did not move. She shook it back and forth. It held firm. It was locked.

Esme looked at the edge of the gate and the barred wall where she remembered the latch to be. She could not see anything from the inside except the back of the solid plate on which the latch was mounted. She tried to push a hand through the bars at the edge of the plate so she could pull back the latch. The bars at this point were too closely spaced to allow a hand to be inserted. Naturally, this cage was designed to hold its occupants. What good would it do if one could reach through the bars and open the gate? Esme shook and pushed at the gate. She wanted to scream.

Esme felt the presence of someone at her side. It was the witch. The witch reached out and touched the heavy metal gate. Then she put her other hand on Esme’s shoulder.

The girl must have locked them in after they fell asleep. How did she know they would not wake up and catch her? Esme’s head was still groggy. Had she put something in their food? Wait until she got her hands on her, Esme thought.

It was pretty clear the gate was not going to open and they were stuck. Just inside the door there were two plates of food. Again it was cooked meats, but now with some vegetables. Esme touched to meat. It was not warm. Esme was not sure she could eat. Her stomach hurt. She picked up a piece of meat and took a bite. It tasted good.

Esme went back to her sleeping bench and lay down. The witch came over and joined her. Esme did not complain. She wrapped her arms around the witch and tried to rest. What would morning bring?

Esme woke to light and also the sound of the bolt in the gate being pulled back. Esme felt the witch move as well. They unwrapped from each other and sat up. The gate was now open and a young man stood just inside. He pointed to the witch and signaled for her to come to him. Slowly she responded. Esme considered trying to rush past him, or even better rush at him. With the efforts of both herself and the witch they might be able to overpower him and escape.

As Esme slipped up to her feet and considered the best angle to move from, the witch reached the young man. The young man grabbed the chain at the back of the Witch’s collar and used it to guide her out the door. Esme decided that rushing him was the right thing to do, but as she started to move forward he swung the gate shut. There was the clang of its closing and the thunk of the bolt setting into place just as Esme arrived at the gate.

She was locked in. She had moved too slowly and any chance for that plan to work was now gone. Esme watched as the young man guided the witch out the door or the barn. Esme missed the witch. She did not like being alone. She was sure it would not be for long, but she didn’t like it.

It was only minutes later that the young man returned for her. She did not want to go with him. But she did not want to stay locked in the slave pen either. Maybe she would have a chance for escape. She needed to be alert and look for an opportunity. Esme walked forward and stepped through the doorway. She felt the pressure on her neck as he grasped the chain from the back of her collar and guided her forward.

Outside the door of the barn there was a wagon. The witch was seated on the right side with her back to the outboard supports. The young man guided Esme onto the left side. He never let go of the chain at the back of her collar as he guided her up to a position directly across from the witch. When he had her positioned with her back to the sideboard she heard the sound of her chain being fed through an iron ring in the sideboard. He tensioned the chain pulling her back against the side and fastened it somewhere below on the outside of the wagon. Esme was able to twist just a little, but realized that there was no way that she would be able to reach the fastener. She was now chained within the wagon. Her stomach started to do flips.

The young man climbed up into the wagon. Esme could see that the witch was holding her hands down in front of her between her knees. The man took the chain between Esme’s wrists and fed the center ring and then the chain through the ring in the middle of her ankle chain. The ankle ring was larger than the ring between the wrists so he was able to pull the first chain through the ring in the second.

Esme looked over at the Witch and saw that she was similarly fastened. In the center of the wagon bed was a metal peg with a diameter just smaller than the ring in the wrist chains. The man pulled the wrist chains forward and pushed the ring over the peg. Esme saw what he intended before he managed to complete the action but with her wrist chain already fed through the ankle chain she had no leverage to prevent the man from pushing the ring over the peg.

As the ring seated a clip at the top of the peg allowed the ring to go down but then expanded to prevent it from coming back up. “Please don’t do this.” The man had not spoken to the girls and Esme had not spoken to him up until that moment.

She pulled back on her hands and tried to free them. She could do nothing. Her arms were held forward between her knees with her hands pulled down to her feet. She tried to lean forward to get some leverage, but the chain at the back of her collar pulled taut and she was unable to do anything. It was simple but effective.

Esme saw that there were three other pegs down the middle of the wagon. There were holes on both sides at the top of the sideboard for each of the pegs. The wagon could easily transport eight chained slaves. The man turned a handle on the back board of the wagon just behind the driver’s seat. As he did additional flanges expanded from each of the pegs. Unless the handle was turned back down there was no way to remove the chains. The handle was only about two feet from Esme’s knees, but it might as well have been in the next county. There was no way she could reach it.

“You two tried to get my sister into trouble. I have no sympathy for you. I am taking you to the magistrate. You can make your case to him.” The man had gotten out of the wagon and come around to Esme’s side. She looked at him and saw that he had a slave muzzle in his hand.

“No. Please. I will be quiet. I hate those things.” She stopped talking only because he had held the gag portion up in front of her face. She crimped her lips together and shook her head.

“Looks like you have not had much training.” He kept the gag in front of her face while he reached inside Esme’s tunic with the other hand. She felt his fingers find a nipple. She tried to shake her body to shake him loose, but it did not work. Instead his fingers closed and twisted – fire spread through her breast.

“Ow. Please . . . don’t. That hurts.” He continued to twist.

Esme sighed and opened her mouth. She felt and tasted the leather plug on the inside of the muzzle as it slipped behind her teeth. With that, his fingers left her breast and instead set to tightening the straps of the muzzle. Esme could see a tear form and run from one of the witch’s eyes.

The young man climbed into the wagon and with a jerk it started to move forward. Esme wondered where they were going when it turned away from the village. Esme could not believe that once again she found herself chained in the back of a wagon. At least this time her hands were in front of her and she was dressed, even if it was only a slave tunic.

The wagon moved slowly for about an hour. They drove into a town with a proper town square. There as a two story building near the square and it was there that the man stopped the wagon. Almost as soon as the wagon had stopped two men emerged from a large door in the center front of the building. They had matching tunics of semi-military design.

Esme watched as the young man turned the handle at the back of his seat that released the pin holding their wrist chains down over the peg in the middle of the wagon. He lifted the chains from the peg and guided Esme and the witch toward the back of the wagon where the two men now waited.

Esme untangled her wrist restraints from her leg restraints and slid down to the end of the wagon. As she slipped her legs out and onto the ground one of the men grabbed her arm. He signaled for her to step through her wrist chain. Using a tool he quickly connected her wrist chain to her neck chain. Then he guided her toward the door through which he had emerged only moments before. His grip was strong and Esme followed his lead.

Inside the door they were in an open entrance way that extended through to the back of the building. Four doors, two on each side, were all closed. A stairway led up to the upper floor.

Esme and the witch were guided to the first door on the right. Inside was a large room. A large desk sat at the far end. It was raised on a dais of about 18 inches. That allowed the large man seated behind the desk to look into the eyes of the girls who were brought to stand before him.

“You wear the chains of slaves but not registration numbers.” Esme tried to maintain eye contact with him but found she was unable to do so. She lowered her eyes. She wanted to protest her innocence and the unfairness of her situation but she was still muzzled.

“We don’t tolerate runaways here.” The brow furrowed and the eyes grew dark and threatening. “Why is that one not muzzled?” he said to one of the guards.

The guard grabbed the face of the witch and turned it toward him. He squeezed her cheeks and she opened her mouth. The guard jumped back. “It be a witch me lord!”

“So, ye be a pair of witches.” The man shook his head. “Muzzle it too.”

Esme could not believe that she was not even allowed to say anything in her own defense. The fact that she wore chains – and perhaps this awful slave tunic – seemed to settle any issue of her identity. Esme shook her head back and forth. She tried to speak through the muzzle, but it was effective and nothing at all distinguishable came out.

“Silence girl!” His face turned red. “I have no need to hear ye lies. Or maybe ye thinks to cast a spell. I think not.”

Esme stopped trying to speak. It was clearly of no help to her. Not only had this man decided they were slaves, but witches as well. She suddenly feared that they would be burned at the stake.

“Take them to the square. They will dance the dance of the disobedient slave until full sundown. Meanwhile we will see to their proper ownership and further disposition.”

Esme didn’t like the idea of being made to dance all day, but it didn’t sound that bad. The reaction of the witch, however, worried her. The witch was shaking her head back and forth and wildly trying to pull away from the man who held her.

The man led the witch struggling from the door out to the entry way and out the front of the building. He had grabbed the chain from her neck to her wrists and was pulling and pushing her forward. Esme felt her legs weaken as she watched the struggling, she did not resist as the other man guided her behind her much panicked partner.

There was a platform in the middle of the square, with a tall wooden columns in its center. Esme was not surprised that she and the witch were taken to the platform. The man released his hold on Esme’s arm, but not before he clipped a chain from a ring of a column to the back of her collar. He then left her standing there as he moved over to help the other man with the witch.

Esme looked up at the chain holding her firmly to the column. She hated how easy it was to restrain her. The clip was fastened high enough up to place it beyond her reach so long as her hands were held behind her.

The witch was pulled over to another column and similarly fastened in place. She hung her head and cried. Esme found it eerie that the witch could cry with such a large flow of tears but accompanied by no sounds other than her labored breathing.

The slave tunics were unfastened from the girls’ necks and dropped to the ground. The simple construction of the tunics allowed them to be removed from a girl even when her arms were helplessly bound. Esme found it humiliating that she could be stripped so easily with no ability to protect herself. She had almost gotten use to being naked over the last few days, but just a short time of wearing clothing, even the simple covering of a slave, had made her resent her now forced nakedness.

After she was stripped the man wrapped a belt around her waist and the column. The men opened a large wooden cabinet under the platform. From it they withdrew two strange looking metal devices. Each device was about two and a half feet long with two large holes near the center. As the man approached Esme she could see where the holes were going. Suddenly she didn’t like the idea of this “dance”.

Esme tried to squirm away, but she was held tight to the pole by the belt around her waist. The man pushed the device to Esme’s chest and pulled her breasts through the holes. Once he had worked her breasts fully through, he began to tighten a knob on the front of the device.

Esme watched in horror as the circles surrounding her breasts tightened. He continued to turn and tighten the knob until the device was tight around the root of each breast. Esme’s breasts began to swell as they engorged with blood. It had only been a few minutes and already it was becoming very uncomfortable. Esme wanted this thing off her breasts. She wanted it off right now. The man let go of the device and Esme felt the weight of it pulling down on her tightly confined breasts. She tried to shake her upper body to rid herself of the hateful thing, but it was way too tight to come loose. She was not going to like this at all.

Esme looked over and watched as the process was completed with the Witch. The Witch did not try to shake the thing loose. It seemed she knew that such was not possible.

The men returned to the cabinet. This time they each removed two other metal pieces. The man smiled as he set the two pieces down on the ground next to Esme. He knelt down and lifted one of her feet. Then he slipped one of the metal pieces over her foot. Her toes and foot pushed down straight into a V shaped piece of metal. A curved piece of flat metal ran from her toes up her arch to her heel. It then curved over the heel and fastened around the ankle just below her ankle chain. The effect was to keep her foot pointed straight down. She could not lift her toes.

He grabbed her other foot and started to install the matching piece. As he did Esme realized that the only way to take her weight on her feet was on the tip of the metal device which extended several inches beyond the end of her toes. But as she put weight on the end of the shoe device a bar across the top of her toes was tightened over her foot pushing her toes back against the metal below. Within seconds it was too painful to endure and Esme lifted her weight letting the strap around her waist hold her.

When the second shoe was installed the man released the belt around Esme’s waist and unhooked the chain to her collar. She took her weight for only a few seconds on the horrid shoes and then let her legs fold up as she groaned with pain.

“Looks like she doesn’t like her new footwear,” the man laughed to his companion.

“I suspect by nightfall they will be willing to do anything to get these off,” replied the other man.

Esme was already willing to do almost anything to get them off. They didn’t hurt too badly so long as they had to bear no weight, but it would be impossible to wear them for long.

The other man did not release the witch, but instead had joined Esme’s tormentor. Each of them grabbed one side of the device attached to her breasts and lifted her up. Now her weight was being taken by the horrid steel device connected to her breasts.

As they walked her up the stairs to the platform she tried to use her feet to take some pressure off her breasts, but that only succeeded in punishing her feet.

Once they had her on the platform they each connected a chain to a ring at each end of her breast device. They adjusted the tension so that if she pushed down with her toes in the awful shoes she could raise herself to about three inches of slack in the breast chains. Her breasts hurt so badly from being dragged up the platform that Esme pushed down to take the pressure off. She tried to grit her way through the pain in her toes and feet.

It seemed like forever but it was probably less than a minute. She couldn’t take it anymore. She bent her knees and took the weight off her feet. She tried to lower slowly into the device holding her by her breasts. But as she did she realized that the rings at the ends of the device, the rings to which the chains were attached, were not fully stable. As weight was placed on each ring, it pushed a lever which in turn tightened the constrictions on her breasts.

Now Esme understood the “dance”. She could take the weight of her body on her toes, painfully crushing her feet. Or she could take the weight from her breasts. The pain from either was unendurable. The amount of time she could stand either was not measured even in minutes. Instead she moved back and forth from one to the other.

Esme looked at the sky. The sun was not even a third the way up into the sky. “Sundown?” That was not even remotely possible. She could not be expected to endure this until sundown. She needed out. She needed out right now. She twisted and pulled at her chained hands. All that did was make her bob up and down on the restraints holding her breasts. It felt like her breasts were being torn from her chest. Her eyes filled with tears. She pushed her toes into the platform to raise herself up. Her legs were wobbling. They were starting to cramp.

She looked around for anyone who might help her. People stopped in front of the platform, they stood and watched as she twitch and dance. There were two expressions. Some looked at her with what she could only describe as scorn. She was a slave being punished for a serious indiscretion. Others smiled. Nobody moved to assist her in any way. Nobody was coming to her aid. And she could do nothing to help herself.

Esme realized that if she were not muzzled she would be pleading and begging. She was only minutes into this horrid ritual and already she was willing to promise anything. She was willing to do anything. She had never experienced anything like this before. How long would she be left like this?

The minutes dragged. The hours seemed endless. This was not something that you could adjust to. Her body did not become numb. Her mind gave her no sanctuary. There was only the constant pain and the never ending dilemma of the selection of the means of torment.

The sun was finally low in the sky. Esme did not know how she had survived this day. She was sure that her breasts were ruined and that she would never be able to walk on her feet again. The tear-streaked face of the witch communicated the same story.

Esme saw the wagon pulling into the square. She saw the slaver sitting at the front, a wide grin across his face. She watched as the tall slaver rode his horse up to just in front of the platform. For a time he just sat in the saddle and watched the dance of pain before him. “Pull up the wagon so the others can see.” Then he turned his horse to clear a space for the wagon.

The slaver on the wagon maneuvered it in a semi circle so that the slaves in the back could turn their heads and see Esme and the witch. The tall slaver talked to the guard that had been watching over Esme and the witch. Then he and the other slaver walked away leaving Esme and the witch to their torment with the rest of the wagon as mute witnesses.

Esme could see the horror in the eyes of the other slaves as they watched their former slave mates in the throes of their agony.

Esme’s mind was not focusing on anything outside her own pain, so it took time before she realized that there were nine slaves in the wagon. With four having escaped there should only be seven. Although the sun was now getting low in the sky the wagon was still well lit. Esme studied girls eight and nine. They were the former girl five and the intruder who had released her and the others. Esme did not feel sorry for these girls. If that interloper had not come alone Esme and the witch would never have been released. They would be safely sitting in the wagon, not dancing in pain in this horrible place.

Clearly escape was impossible. Even with outside help girl five was still in her chains and back in the wagon. The intruder had had a horse, but she too was now naked and chained, only a slave with her comrade. Rather than freeing her friend she now joined her in the misery of slavery.

It was only as she saw the slavers returning that Esme realized that girl eleven was not in the wagon. At least one of them had escaped. It certainly did not help Esme right now, but it did make her feel somewhat better about her situation.

The tall slaver handed a small coin to the guard. The guard and the slavers climbed up onto the platform and began to release the tortured slaves from their position. Esme and the witch were lowered from the hanging position. Just the removal of the pressure on her breasts was a huge relief. Esme noticed that her breasts were a very dark red, almost purple from having been so tightly confined for the entire day. As the slaver turned the knob on the breast device and it released its grip Esme’s breasts erupted in fire. She knew it was only the blood rushing back reacting to the pain receptors, but the pain was terrible.

On the other hand, the removal of the awful boots left her feet feeling a sense of relief. They hurt. They hurt a lot. She was convinced that she had sustained permanent damage but having the boots removed was heaven.

The slavers wasted no time. As soon as Esme and the witch were free of their punishment devices they were pulled to their feet and guided toward the wagon. Esme was sure her feet would not hold her, but somehow they did. Fortunately it was only a few steps to the back of the wagon. Esme was happy to sit on the bed of the wagon as her ankle chain was threaded over the center bar. Seconds later she was chained in place as slave number ten. The witch was again slave number eleven.

Esme looked into the eyes of the intruder – now slave number nine. Esme blamed her for the pain she had suffered all day and for her current demotion to near the end of the chain. The girl was, of course, muzzled, so she could say nothing. Her eyes were red and puffy. She had clearly been crying. Esme did not feel sorry for her. Esme turned away.

The wagon rumbled slowly for several hours. It was well beyond sunset when they stopped and camped in a clearing near a stream. As the Chain was removed and staked out in a line on the soft ground Esme resented her position as girl ten. She was clearly better than that. Her escape had been wrong, but she should certainly be placed higher on the Chain than the intruder and the former girl five.

It felt very good to stretch out on the soft ground. Esme’s breasts and feet still hurt terribly. She was happy when she was not selected to make the meal, or to attend to the masters. She was even happy when the sleeping sack was laid out before her. She moaned and protested as best she could when the center ring in her leg hobble was connected to the center ring of her wrist chain creating an easy hogtie, but she squirmed into the sack without any protest.

There were sounds in the camp. The sun was already coming across the horizon. Esme could not believe she had slept so soundly. Her legs felt stiff. She desperately wanted to stretch them out, but knew that she had to patiently wait until she was allowed from her sleeping sack and the hogtie released. She was becoming accustomed to the life of a slave – dependent upon the actions of others, her needs and wants of no consequence.

Morning came, the slaves were once again loaded in the wagon and they were back on the road. Esme stopped paying attention to her surroundings.

The walls of the city loomed on the horizon even before they arrived at the gate. Esme did not remember anything so imposing. The convent had been walled, but it was only a small estate and the walls barely 15 feet high. These walls were well over 30 feet high and extended as far as the eye could see. Even the gate tower was intimidating. The opening was at least 20 feet high with a strong portcullis hanging above the entrance. Uniformed guards checked all traffic that came through the gate. Esme wondered how a wagon full of new slaves would be treated. Would there be an opportunity for her to protest her enslavement?

She considered again the unfairness of her uncle’s action. His greed and crimes disguised through her enslavement. She could see herself a free woman presenting herself to the solicitor, collecting her inheritance and then seeing her uncle led away in chains. But, that was not the truth. She was the one in chains, and as the paperwork of the slavers was checked and reviewed the wagon and its load of enslaved women finally entered the city headed for one of the most well known slave markets in the world.

The End

Esme’s tale to be continued in the next book, The Slave Markets of Bacau.

Copyright© 2014 by I. Binder. All rights reserved.