Found in Chains
Author's note: This story is a sequel to 'Found in Passing'. Reading it is not absolutely necessary to enjoy this tale. It will help to have some background, but the author hopes the current installment will stand on its own.
One – Invitation
From a shady spot on the steps of the city basilica Amicus kept an eye on the market square. Eventually he spotted what he was expecting, his friend Horace arriving for his daily work. Trailing along behind him was his slave, leashed and naked; the girl would have followed him willingly, but that would not have made any statement about the girl's status.
Amicus had noticed that since Horace bought the girl he did not arrive at the market so early. He had never mentioned this to his friend.
He took his time walking out into the open air marketplace, knowing that Horace would be talking to plenty of the farmers and stall operators; when he met up with the pair he hailed them. “Good morning, Horace.”
“Hello, Amicus. Nice to see you today.”
“Still looking for more suppliers?”
“Always. You never know what's going to show up in the market, and it pays if everyone knows me. Besides, your soldiers can't eat their boots.”
“You'd be appalled at what we'll eat after we've been in the field a while. But you're right – we're a lot happier with what you sell us.”
Horace smiled. “Believe me, so am I. And not just for my purse, although if you're seeking me out that usually means it will be heavier soon.”
“Not so much today, I'm afraid, though I'm sure we'll be eating more from you soon. No, this time I came looking for personal reasons. I'm not going to be around much for a few days and I thought you'd better know.”
“Yes. I think I mentioned that my uncle was trying to arrange a marriage for me, a while back. He's found a girl who he thinks will get along with me, or at least he's found someone who's trying to find her a husband.” Amicus grinned, and Horace chuckled.
“Anyhow, Fayne and I have been trading letters for a while and we're finally going to meet soon. Unless we find that we can't stand the sight of each other I'll probably be out of touch for a few days.”
“Sure. My wife and I knew each other for years before we married, but not everyone's so lucky. You'll have to spend some time together before you get to know each other.”
“It would only be fair to give her a chance to run away,” he joked.
“Look, she's going to want to do things other than sit around feeling awkward; why don't the two of you come over and have dinner at my house?”
“I'd like that. You'll want to meet her anyway, I'm sure. And it will be good for us to have something to keep us busy.”
“Send me a note when you know your schedule, then; we'll work out something.” He looked over his shoulder at the slave who was fidgeting on her leash. “Do you wish to speak, girl?”
“Yes, Master!”, she chirped, and told Amicus, “Congratulations, Master! I hope you like each other!”
“We'll see, Lita. I hope so too.”
Two - Dinner
“Put this on, my dear,” Horace said, handing Lita a small bundle of fabric.
Lita shook it out and cooed happily at the present. She wrapped the light dress around herself and adjusted the fit. It did not cover very much by most standards, but was more modest than her previous strict nudity. She fiddled with her hair and checked her reflection in the silver mirror, posing subtly for best effect.
“It's lovely, Master; thank you.” She looked up at him and asked, “You will let me wear clothes in the house?”
“For tonight. We are having a free woman over and she might not like to see a naked slave girl.” He put his arms around her and said, “You will remember your place anyway, won't you?”
“Always.” She leaned into his embrace. “If I forget my owner will remind me.”
“Of course I will, little slave.”
* * *
Horace met his guests at the door with a smile. “Come on in and make yourselves comfortable.” He showed them into the house and they got settled.
“Horace, let me introduce my fiancée Fayne. Fayne, my friend Horace.”
“It's nice to meet you,” she said warmly. “I've only started meeting people here in Heramia.”
“Yes, I heard you'd only arrived a few days ago. I hope you and Amicus have been getting along well.”
“We're working on it. Neither of us has pulled a knife on the other one yet.”
Both of the men laughed.
“I'm happy to hear it, of course,” Horace assured her. “I'm going to need him to buy my produce to feed the army.”
“Wouldn't you expect him to draw on me?”, she joked.
“It wouldn't be as inconvenient for me, but I don't think he'd do that. Not if you were unarmed, anyway.”
“He's right,” Amicus agreed. “If you didn't have a weapon it would be ungentlemanly to use one myself.”
“Of course not,” she giggled. “And you are an officer and a gentleman.”
“It's honorable, even if it doesn't pay as well as being a merchant.”
Horace chuckled. “Mm. If anyone tells you I'm rich, remind them I'm living in an ordinary house, with only a single slave.”
“Yes, and where is she? Amicus asked. "Wasn't she going to bring wine for us?”
“You ask a good question,” Horace admitted, looking toward the pantry curiously. “I wonder what's keeping her.”
“Is there a problem?” Fayne asked.
“I hope not.” He raised his voice and called, “Lita? We are ready for wine! Are you all right?”
“Y-yes, Master,” came the answer, weakly and uncertainly.
In a few moments the slave girl emerged with a tray and drinks, head down and looking nervous. She knelt before them and poured for the free people. When she settled back on the floor she was visibly trembling.
“I hope you both enjoy it,” Horace said. “It's nothing fancy but it – Fayne?”
She gave a high-pitched squeak and jerked her eyes away from Lita. “Oh! Yes, yes. I mean, wine is great. No problem.”
“Really, Fayne?,” Amicus asked, looking between the two women.
“Leave the wine, Lita,” Horace said, stroking Lita's hair. “Go back into the kitchen.”
“Yes, Master,” she whispered, and withdrew.
“Is that better, Fayne?”
“What? Um, fine...”
“I hope she didn't hurt the mood of the evening, Fayne,” Horace said.
“No, no, she was fine,” Fayne claimed, her face flushed red.
“She really is a nice girl,” Amicus told her.
“I... I'm sure she is.”
“Let's forget about her for now,” Horace suggested. “How was it that you and Amicus got introduced?”
They talked of nothing much for a while, and the tension lessened.
Over dinner the air improved a bit and they relaxed. It almost worked. Except that Fayne fell silent every time Lita came out to serve them, supposedly watching her plate but fooling nobody. The conversation died with Fayne's attention on the girl. Lita in turn served quietly and nervously, without the smiles and warm looks that her owner had come to expect at dinner.
The men traded curious glances, and shrugs.
When Amicus and Fayne were ready to go he said, “It's been a pleasure, Horace. Thank you for your hospitality.”
“Yes, thank you, Horace,” Fayne echoed.
“It's my honor to meet you, Fayne. I hope you have a good visit to our city.”
“Um, yes, Amicus has been a very good host. I've had a fine time in Heramia.”
They took their leave. Fayne giggled nervously as soon as they were outside.
“What was that all about?”
“Um, nothing really,” she said unconvincingly.
“You got tense every time the serving girl came out.”
“It isn't important.”
“You must have seen slaves before. And I'm sure I mentioned that Horace owned a girl. But you were nervous every time she came out of the kitchen.”
“No, I just... For all you said about her, she could have been some fat cooking wench.”
“You were surprised that she's pretty?”
“I suppose she's pretty,” Fayne said in a tone announcing that she'd noticed. “What does he have her do when she's not serving dinner?”
“Nothing out of the ordinary, I'd say. She's always following him around at work these days, with a tablet in her hands. He used to take notes himself. And I see her at his office, doing his accounts, most of the times I come by. He says that a girl who's good with numbers is a lot more valuable than one who can only cook. Not that she's bad at that, either.”
“And... other things?”
“He's a man. Does he use her for other things?”
Amicus laughed and answered, “Oh, that. Yes, of course he does.”
“Would you expect otherwise?”
“I was just curious,” she claimed.
“He'd tell you that's not why he bought her, and that's mostly true. But nobody's going to see a naked woman following him around and think he's not going to enjoy her.”
“Much of the time. Tonight was an exception; I don't think I've seen her allowed to wear clothes in the house before. Really, he's showing off.”
“Yes, I'm sure she's showing people a lot!”
Amicus laughed again and said, “That's not what I meant. He's trying to show everyone around him that he's not going to be soft on his slave. He takes her out on a leash for the same reason.”
“I don't get it. Why does he care?”
“It was an idea he had. Before he even bought her he was worried that his neighbors would think he'd been smitten by some pretty young thing and was being indulgent and foolish. So he makes a point of keeping her under firm discipline, especially when other people are around. Sometimes he won't even call her by name.”
“Is he... very hard on her?”
“Sometimes. Not really. But he keeps up the appearance of being hard on her.”
“So it's all just for show?”
“No, don't think that, either. He's really her master. She's a slave and he's going to keep her. The rules he makes her follow are very real, not just pretense. I've seen her shivering because he's stripped her just to take her through the streets, I've seen whip marks on her back...” He paused a moment and added, “And I've seen the way they look at each other. Especially when they think nobody else is looking. He hasn't been this happy since he lost his wife years ago.”
“He really cares for her?”
“Just don't say that in front of him. He's worked hard to make sure everybody knows she's just a slave to him, not important at all. So his friends don't tell him that he's not fooling anyone.”
* * *
As soon as his guests had departed Horace went into the kitchen. Lita looked up at him pitifully, her chin quivering. He opened his arms, and she hurried over to slide into his embrace.
“What is all the fuss about, girl?”
“I, I used to know her, Master. The free woman.”
“I figured that out. Tell me the rest of it, dear.”
“We knew each other in Bethel, Master; we grew up together. Her father is a respected historian, so she may be a good match for Master Amicus. But...”
“Master, I'm scared! What if she tells people in Bethel where I am? What if someone tries to take me back? What if there's trouble?”
“Enough fretting, girl,” he assured her. “You were bound to met another Bethelite eventually. And you're lucky that she's your friend.”
“I hope so, Master. But I worry because she knows me.”
“Does that make you more or less hopeful that she will marry Amicus?”
“I, I don't know, Master; I haven't decided yet. Either way, I think. They're both good people. It would be nice if she lived here in Heramia... but, at the same time, she would be living here in Heramia and we would be seeing each other all the time and, and...”
“I think I follow, yes.”
“We knew each other when we were both free, Master. I always thought we'd still be friends when we were older and married... but I'm never going to be married. Not now! It's... awkward. It would be different if she had fallen into slavery too, but if she's a free woman...”
“Does she treat slaves well?”
“I, I think so, Master.”
“Good. Amicus will make his own decisions, but if she has a good heart I am not worried about her.”
“Master? Should I talk to him about her?”
“What would you say?”
“Um, probably that she's a decent person. Not all that deep, but she's honest and kind, and from a good family. And anything he asked me about, I think.”
“You think she will make a good wife for him?”
“I don't think I know very much about wives, Master. I used to, but now I'm beginning to understand how little I knew then. Maybe I don't really know anything about marriage. I've surely learned a lot about slavery, though.”
“Would you tell Amicus something different if he found her on the auction block?”
Lita tittered, her hands bunching up his tunic. “Yes, Master; I could tell him to buy her.”
Horace laughed a little and stroked his girl's back. “That would be good, too. No man can count on making as good a purchase as I did, but he'd enjoy hearing that.”
“I probably shouldn't say that, though, Master.”
“Not where she could hear it, I'd think. Amicus might be amused.”
“She would be, if we were alone. But I should probably be whipped if I said it in front of a man. She's still a free woman.”
“No, it wouldn't do to confuse free women with slaves.” He leaned down to kiss her neck where hard metal encircled soft skin. “You are very different.”
“Mm. Yes, we are. I hope she can be as lucky with her husband as I am with my master.”
Instead of replying he slipped the tiny dress off her shoulder. “Now that the free woman is gone, you do not need this.”
“Not any more.” She loosed the ties keeping it on her and let the dress fall off of her onto the floor. She smiled up at him. “Thank you for letting me wear it for a while, Master. And... thank you for letting me be naked for you.”
He kissed her, and for a while they spoke no more.
Three - Marketplace
The next morning Amicus visited Horace at his office.
“Good morning, Horace,” he said. “And Lita.”
“Hello. I hope you had a good evening,” Horace said. Lita smiled at him.
“Some of it. I can't fault your hospitality. But I hadn't expected things that night would be so... prickly.”
Horace chuckled wryly, and Lita winced in embarrassment. He reached over and petted the girl.
“No, none of us saw that coming. Was your walk home difficult?”
“Not as bad as it might have been. But Fayne had some things to say.”
Lita gave a tiny squeak, but under her master's touch settled down again in a few moments. She crossed her arms over her chest and kept silent.
“I can well imagine,” Horace said. “Was it anything you'd like to share?”
“On that I'll have to think a while. She did seem very interested in how you treated Lita.”
“I treat her as my slave, nothing more or less. I hope you told her that.”
“Pretty much, yes. She's thriving in your collar, so it's obvious that you're a responsible master – and that she's suitable for slavery.”
“She certainly is, yes.” Lita tittered softly and stroked her master's leg.
“I think it's for the best, too. Fayne didn't say so outright, but I think she was at least in part judging me by my friends. If you had been cruel or abusive to your slave that would tell her something about how you treat others, and about me for putting up with you. I think we came off pretty well there.”
“I hope so.” He asked, “Do you think I am too cruel, girl?”
“No, Master, I think you are just as strict with me as you should be. I know I will be disciplined, not abused.”
“Do you fear the whip?”
“Of course, Master,” she said warmly, with a smile. “A slave has to fear her owner's whip. I will have to try very hard to keep my master happy.”
Amicus glanced past Horace to the peg on the wall that he'd added a few days before they went to the auction where he'd bought Lita. A slave whip had hung here ever since their return, for everyone to see and ready to discipline the girl mercilessly at a moment's notice. The leather was smooth and new looking.
“And I'm sure you do, Lita,” he put in. “That was another thing Fayne asked about.”
“Yes; she seemed very interested in Lita herself, not just as a test for your character.”
“I suppose I shouldn't be surprised,” Horace prevaricated.
Amicus looked over Lita, who was now resting her head against her master's thigh, one hand around his leg. “I can see why a man would be,” he said, and if Lita smiled at that he could not see it for the hair fallen loose over her face. “But most women would have been happier not bringing up a slave girl.”
“I suspect it varies by the slave girl as well,” Horace said, stroking his girl's hair. “She did not say anything else?”
“Should she have?”
“Perhaps. I have another perspective on the problem, and a dilemma. Girl, what do you think?”
“I have information which is not necessarily mine to share. Fayne did not talk to Amicus herself. What do you think?”
“I... I think slaves don't get to choose, Master. It's a question between free people, right? You and they are free; I'm... not.”
“I didn't say you would get to decide anything, girl. But I do want to hear your opinion.”
“Oh. Sorry, Master. Um.” She fidgeted on the ground at his feet, and in a moment continued, “It depends on if you think he needs to know, Master. Fayne could have told him and she didn't, so she probably wouldn't, at least until it got really obvious something was up and Master Amicus started asking questions or figuring it out on his own.
“And he'd probably ask me, and I don't know what I'd do then because I'd really like to obey him and I don't want him to be mad at me, but Fayne never gave me permission to talk about it and, um, might not want him to know.” She fell silent, clinging to her owner's leg, under the eyes of the men.
“All right,” Amicus said, “now I really want to know.”
“Yes, I think you should,” Horace agreed. “In fact, I think we should get something to drink while we discuss it. I'm buying.”
“Your negotiating skills have overwhelmed me, Horace. I accept your offer.”
Horace chuckled and said, “Good, good. Lita, present your leg.”
Lita obeyed and Horace produced an iron cuff connected by a length of chain to a ring in the floor beneath his desk. He locked the cuff around her ankle and took a rolled-up dress from a drawer and handed it to her.
“We will not be too long, girl. You know what I expect of you.”
“Yes, my master,” she agreed. “I, I hope you, um...”
“We'll be fine, girl. And we'll be back soon.”
Horace kissed her and stroked her lightly, and the men departed.
Four - Visitor
Lita worked at Horace's accounts with her head down over the desk and paid little attention to the people coming and going through the marketplace. The inventories and orders, the abacus, and the slate were enough to keep her busy while her master was away. Most of her master's business partners would rather wait and speak to him directly, and everyone knew they'd find him sooner or later.
She didn't even notice anyone in front of the desk until she was addressed.
“So... here you are.”
Lita looked up and froze. She stayed motionless for several heartbeats, a stunned expression on her face. Fayne looked back.
“Hello?” Fayne ventured.
“Um. Hi? It's been a while. And, um, yeah, here I am.”
“It was easy, you know. Finding you. I just asked around for Horace the produce merchant.”
“A lot of people know him,” Lita agreed. “He's here almost every day, talking to people.”
“Right. And here you are, too.”
“Yeah...” They were both silent for a few moments. ”Um, you could sit down if you wanted to.”
Fayne nodded absently and sat down in Horace's chair rather than the smaller one he usually used for visitors; Lita said nothing about it. Fayne fiddled with the material of her dress. Neither of them spoke.
“We all guessed, you know,” Fayne blurted suddenly. “When you disappeared everyone knew the Cordovan army or bandits or somebody must have got you.”
“We figured it would be. Lots of things can happen around soldiers. You didn't come back, and nobody found your body, so you were either dead or... or not.” Fayne shifted uncomfortably. “Some of us thought dead would be better, but, you know, they're bitches.”
Lita gave a tiny smile.
“I'm glad you're not dead, Thea.”
“Thanks.” She smiled weakly, but a little more openly than before. “Me, too. But, um, you probably shouldn't call me Thea any more...”
“Oh, I guess not... I don't remember if I heard – what does he call you now?”
“Lita. He named me Lita.”
“Lita,” Fayne repeated.
Lita blushed, not meeting the other girl's eyes.
Fayne leaned forward and whispered, “You told him. You told him to name you Lita, didn't you?”
“I had to. He's my master. He asked.”
Fayne whispered intensely, “You can't ever tell him more. You can't!”
“He never asked about anything else. I can't lie to my master, but he's never asked about my life before we met and I don't think he ever will.”
“You're really loyal to him?”
“I have to be, he's my master.”
“I had to ask. Because, you know, there are a lot of men out there. And a lot of things that could have happened.” Fayne shifted nervously in the chair, and glanced out at the bustling marketplace. Lita looked down shyly. She would have looked like a humble obedient slave from a distance.
“So... what happened, anyway? How did you get here?”
“I was in a supply depot too close to the front when the Cordovans raided it. I hardly knew they were there before they were all around me. Some men grabbed me and threw me over a saddle. I was out of the camp before anyone could do anything, maybe before anyone knew I was gone. The man who had me rode hard for a long way, and got away clean. Once the Cordovans had me, there wasn't anything anyone could do.”
She crossed her arms over her chest. “It happened so fast. I was talking to the supply officers after breakfast, like any day. By lunchtime I was tied up to a tree, naked, on my way to being sold.”
“How awful.” Fayne breathed, and gave a visible shudder. Lita wondered how much was real and how much Fayne thought was expected of her. “Did they...”
“Sell me? Yes. The Cordovan army sold me to slave traders. Then they sold me. When I went up on the auction block, my master bought me.” Lita touched her collar and added, “I was very lucky.”
“Oh, yes,” she said. “I was sold at a public auction, I could have been bought by anyone, for anything. I was bought by a very nice man... by a good master.”
“You like him?”
“Yes, I do. I love him.” She met Fayne's eyes and smiled. “You don't have to understand, but I really do. He's... well, he's my master. I'm so happy he was the one to buy me.”
“You really do...” Fayne breathed.
“But, isn't he old? Is that bad?”
“He's six years younger than my father. And it turns out it doesn't matter a bit. He's not just the man who bought me, he's...” She fiddled with her collar. “He's my master. It's not easy to describe it, but...”
“Let me see it?”
“What? The collar?”
She nodded. Lita moved closer and lifted her chin, and brushed her hair back out of the way. The free woman leaned in and touched Lita's throat, feeling the metal band encircling it. Fayne made a small admiring noise. Lita flushed a little at the proximity and the contact.
“It's a real collar. I mean, of course it's real, but, you know...”
“I know. I feel it every day. It's not just a piece of metal, it's a real collar with a real lock...”
Fayne ran her fingers over the metal ring, and felt the lock her friend mentioned. “It says you're his property. Does he keep it on you all the time?”
“Yes. Always. Ever since he bought me,” she breathed. She trembled, blushing furiously.
“Should I stop?”
“N-no. I mean...” She swallowed. “What I should say is, 'No, Mistress.' You should be able to touch me, and to read my collar; that's what it's for, to show the name of my owner. And... and I'm a slave now, and free people can touch me when they want to.”
“He touches you, doesn't he? Horace?”
“Oh, yes! All the time. Even before he bought me he touched me, and, yeah, I don't just mean touch.”
“Thea!” Fayne gasped.
“He's allowed! He's my master and I'm his and, and...” Her voice broke but she composed herself and went on, “Fayne, we were friends for years, but I'm not Theodosia anymore. I really liked being free, but I'm not any more and he can do that. I can't stop free people from touching me, and... and I don't want to. I want my master to touch me, any time he wants to.”
“Men really do... touch you?”
“Oh, yes! You have no idea how much! I learned very quickly that men could touch me, and they do. Once a woman is enslaved they don't have any reason to pretend she's free. I know we always wondered, but... the reality is so much more than we ever imagined. It's not just one thing, it's everything, all of the time, like the difference between being naked at home alone and being naked out on the street surrounded by fully dressed free people and knowing you're only an animal on a leash, the property of the man leading you.”
Lita blushed brightly at the confession, and Fayne's rapt attention, though she was also smiling happily. “It's not really something I can tell about. It's not something anyone can just talk about. The world completely changes when you're enslaved; all of the people you'd see as just ordinary people are now free, special people, and you're not. Men are completely different when you're a slave girl! And I can't begin to tell you what it's like to be touched or commanded or even just talked to by your master, the man who bought you, and know that he totally owns you and you aren't anything but his property.”
“Wow,” Fayne breathed, wide-eyed.
“I know. I didn't really understand slavery until I was enslaved.”
“We never really thought any of us would be slaves, you know.”
“Yeah, I know. Lucky me,” she said, and shrugged. “But... am I the only one? None of the other girls got caught, did they?”
“No, nobody else got collared. Not even Bodicia, the cow, and I'd love to see her chained up and whipped.”
“And sold somewhere far away?” They both giggled.
“I'm not selling Lita!”
The women both gasped in surprise, not having paid any attention to who might be approaching – or listening. Neither had noticed the men returning.
“Master!”, cried Lita, and quickly turned to kneel to him with a clattering of chain. She bowed her head to the ground. “Welcome back, my master!”
“Good morning, Fayne,” he said. “I see you've come to see my girl Lita.”
“Uh, yes...” She glanced at Lita on the mat.
“It seems you're getting along better this morning,” Amicus observed.
“Maybe,” Fayne allowed, awkwardly.
“No doubt about it,” Amicus said. “I'm glad to see you here, Fayne. I thought I was going to have to go looking for you. I only found out today that you needed to have a conversation with Lita. And now I find that you already have.”
“Among other things,” Horace said. “I've filled him in on what my slave told me, you see, and that cleared up several questions he had. And it raised a few more.”
“I guess it would,” Fayne admitted.
“I think you and Amicus have some things to discuss as well.” Horace and Amicus came behind the desk and sat down, with Lita curled up at her owner's feet.
“Would you like to tell me about it?”
“You already heard, didn't you?”
“Yes,” Amicus agreed. “But I'd like to hear your side.”
So Fayne talked. She told about life in Bethel, and growing up with Lita – who she kept calling Thea – and their lives and adventures with other girls unknown to either of the men. It went on for a while, Fayne's stories wandering farther from any subject of interest to the men; once she got started they let her talk.
“I don't know any of those people but I like hearing about your life,” Amicus said eventually.
“Oh, sorry. No, of course you wouldn't.”
“It sounds as if you and Lita got along well back then.”
Fayne smiled shyly and looked over at the other girl. “I think we're all right now.”
“No more problems like last night?”, Horace asked.
“Sorry about that. I was pretty surprised to see her again, you know.”
“We noticed. Not that we can blame you, now that we know why.” He idly stroked Lita, who nuzzled his thigh. “I just hope the two of you can get along.”
Lita looked up hopefully at her friend.
“Yes,” Fayne said. “I think we can. I'd like to try dining together again, Horace; I'm sure it can be better than last time.”
Five – Nighttime
That night Lita turned restlessly in her master's bed. After a while she spoke. “Master?”, she whispered softly.
“Are you awake, Master?”
“What is it, girl?”
“I... I keep thinking about what happened today. Is this a good time to talk about it?”
“You might as well. You haven't been sleeping, so you might as well talk if you can't sleep.”
“Thank you, Master. Maybe it's nothing, but meeting Fayne again made me think about how much has changed since the Cordovans caught me.”
“Almost everything, I'd think.”
“Yes, Master. Being a slave is very different from being free. But... the obvious parts are the easiest things in some ways. My clothes were taken away, and I was chained, and collared. If I don't obey you will whip me. That's simple.
“Here in Heramia I've always been a slave. I am Lita, the property of Horace the produce merchant. Nobody thinks of me as anything else, and I never had to, either. Learning to be a good slave girl for you was all I had to think about, and I could forget my past and try hard to serve you and make you happy.”
Horace shifted and put his arms around Lita, drawing her close to him. She snuggled up to her master.
“You've done well in your new life.”
“I'm glad my master thinks so. I wish it were so easy for me.”
“I knew you were a slave when I bought you. Being enslaved was hard when it happened, but I thought you had accepted your new place. Is it troubling you now?”
“Sort of. Not that I'm a slave, Master. But now I remember being a free woman, and I know just how different my life is now.”
“You wouldn't be here with me now, for one thing.”
“No! We would never have met, so I'm lucky. If I was back in Bethel I wouldn't be with any man tonight.”
“You didn't have a young man there?”
“Boys,” she admitted, but with a tone of dismissal. “Maybe I'd be betrothed by now, like Fayne, maybe not. But I know what I wouldn't have. I wouldn't have a man who kept me as his property. I wouldn't have his collar on my neck. I wouldn't have men looking at me naked in the streets and knowing what I was. And I would never have known what it was to be owned.”
She stroked his chest and asked, “Master? Does it make sense that I sometimes hate slavery but I love being owned?”
“I think so. They're not the same thing. How does my girl feel about them?”
“Sometimes slavery is hard, Master. Sometimes it's so scary I want to scream and run away and hide from everybody. I get terrified knowing I'm just a thing you own. Sometimes just thinking about it makes me want to cry. But other times I get to make you happy, or serve other nice free people, or maybe I'm just heeling you on your leash – and it's all so wonderful and I'm so happy that I'm here, wearing your collar, and... and not free any more.”
“I'm glad you're here, too, Lita.” He kissed her lightly. “Did you tell Fayne that?”
“Something like that, Master. I don't know what she thinks. But it got me remembering living in Bethel with her.”
“Will seeing your friend make your slavery harder on you now?”
“I don't know, Master. Having her around reminds me of a person that I'm not any more. I think I will be better soon. I love her, but it will be easier to be a slave when I'm not reminded that I used to be free.”
'Transitions can be hard. Especially if you lose something important. Take that from someone who's experienced a few losses.”
They lay silently in the dark for a time, their limbs intertwined and unmoving.
“Master? Whatever happens with the marriage, I'll try to remember that I'm yours now.”
He squeezed her soft body in his arms and told her, “Yes, you are. You are mine, you are a valuable slave girl, and I will not let you go.”
Six – Farewells
Fayne came to see them again a few days later. She arrived unannounced at Horace's office space in the basilica. “Hello, Horace.”
“Oh, hello, Fayne. Nice to see you again. I hope you and Amicus have been doing well.”
At his feet Lita looked up from her accounts and smiled brightly. She straightened up and stroked her master's leg.
“Yes, I think so. I've enjoyed meeting him. It was good to see his city and meet his friends.” She glanced down at Lita and tittered nervously. “And, um...”
She nodded. “Horace, I really wanted to see you before I left. The caravan back to Bethel is leaving at noon, and I didn't want to go before saying goodbye.”
“I would be flattered if I thought you were coming just for me.”
“For you, too! But, you know, her too...”
“Lita, say goodbye to your friend.”
Now that she had been addressed and should speak she said, “Of course, Master!”
She rose, looked at Fayne, and said, “Um.”
Fayne smiled and agreed, “Yeah.”
“It was kind of scary to meet you like this, but... it was good to see you again. I'm glad you're safe back in Bethel.”
“You're happy here, aren't you?”
“You know, Amicus told me Horace kept you naked. I wasn't sure I believed it before.”
“Oh!” Lita blushed and fidgeted, a naked slave between two fully clothed free people. “Yes...”
“I give her clothing when I think she needs it; I don't think a slave should be allowed modesty for her own sake, or to expect that she will be given clothing just because she wants it.”
“That makes sense,” Fayne said. Lita blushed more.
“Would it make you more comfortable if she was dressed?”
“No, it's all right... I mean, you know, I've seen Thea naked before.” She looked at her friend. “He really is keeping you well, isn't he?”
“Could I ask...?”
“We haven't heard yet... have you decided anything about the betrothal?”
“Not yet! I might marry him, I might not... We like each other, but we're still talking it over.” Fayne paused for thought and asked, “I never got to ask when we were alone. What is Amicus like to you?”
“Oh! Um.” She smiled, and glanced at her master, and shrugged. “I don't know him as a husband, or even as a free man. Only as a master.”
“What's he like as a master?”
“He...” Lita fiddled with her hair. “He was there when I was for sale. I first saw him from the auction block. I came to Heramia with them. He's a good master, firm and strong with slaves, but he doesn't punish us if we don't deserve it, and he's quick to discipline us and move on if we do. I like being allowed to serve him. I'm glad he's my master's friend.”
“I suppose that's good,” Fayne said softly. “I wouldn't want him to be cruel to slaves, or, you know, be someone you didn't like.”
“No. It's not that I get a choice, of course, but I'm always happy when my master has him over or sends me to do something for him. You've got a good man, Fayne.”
“If you were still free, would you marry him?”
“No,” Lita answered instantly. “I couldn't marry him. I don't mean you shouldn't, but I could never be his wife, and I wouldn't want to be. I think not ever – and definitely not now that he's known me as a slave and I've served him as a master. He's seen me naked on an auction block. He's leashed me, and chained me, he knows I cry when I'm whipped, I've groveled at his feet and begged to please him. I admire him as a master, but I couldn't love him as a husband.”
Fayne listened wide-eyed, and nodded. She moved forward and hesitated. “Horace? Would it be okay if I hugged her?”
“Her use is yours,” he said generously, nodding. His face wore a wide grin.
Fayne hugged her friend and Lita returned it warmly.
“You love him?”, she whispered.
“Very much!”, Lita answered equally quietly.
“I think you're lucky, Thea, even if you are a slave now.”
“Yeah... Fayne, could I ask you, um...”
“Please, when you get back to Bethel... please don't tell anyone how you found me.”
“Not even if somebody came to free you?”
“How could I go back now? Even if I were for sale, who would free me?”
“Maybe your father?”
“Maybe him. But... please, Fayne? I don't want the people I knew to see me like this, naked and collared. Better they never know!”
“You make a wonderful slave girl, Thea.” She kissed her friend lovingly. “But I won't tell. I'll keep your secret. Just... be happy with your master.”
Copyright© 2012 by Wyvern. All rights reserved. I welcome your comments. Email me at wyvern.parabola[at]gmail.com