Author's note: I write stories with a bondage slant, not bondage scenes spliced together with a little bit of story.  If you want nothing but descriptions of sex with whips and chains, then I am not the author for you.

Chapter Four: Return to Vegonyn City at Last

Author's note: I had to write this chapter with almost no bondage or sex.

Three more years went by.   They were very tough years for the Vegonyn Empire.  The rebellions in Lovant and along the North Coast intensified.  The Imperial Police became even stricter, and the kangaroo courts that supported those police handed down even sterner sentences; but when these policies were applied in the southeastern parts of the Empire, the flame of rebellion was ignited there too.

As the third of these three years began, the Imperial Administration finally quit pretending that the conflict was still an internal police matter.  In January the Emperor declared war on Danitz and ordered full mobilization.

It was too late. The Lovanters under Leonhard Berine were fighting in regular army units instead of guerilla bands.  The Royal Danitz Navy secured control of the Tureyan Channel and convoyed powerful Danitz Army forces across.  By the beginning of the very rainy month of November, the territory under Vegonesi Imperial control was reduced to several small fragments of the pre-rebellion Empire.  Powerful Danitzer and Lovanter armies were preparing to march on Vegonyn City as soon as the weather dried and the mud had hardened enough to allow military maneuvers.  The Empire was on the verge of collapse.   Parliament finally voted No Confidence in the prime minister, and the government fell.

Tollis deta Sia was no longer leading rebel bands.  He had become one of the youngest brigadier generals in the Royal Danitz Army, and he commanded a brigade deployed just to the east of the small town of Tshanna.  That town had become the effective boundary between Imperial and Danitzer control.

Tollis requested, and was granted, a leave of absence.  He bought some special supplies and put them in a backpack for Sindrie.  On a cloudy late autumn morning he took her into Tshanna, to the farthest building then occupied by Danitzer soldiers.  He unlocked her collar, put a cap over its locking mechanism, and slipped it into her backpack.  Then he kissed her farewell, very fondly, and said "Good luck.  I really hope you pull this off."

She moved slowly out into the space between the armies.  With soldiers from both sides pointing guns at her, she walked over to a bench by the Tshanna city hall, sat down, and took her backpack off.  Then she pulled out some of her special supplies and began to put them on.

The first item was a gray wrap skirt.  When it was buckled and buttoned, it covered her down to mid-calf, which was the correct length for a noblewoman's clothing.  The wrap skirt covered the slave-length mid-thigh skirt that she had been wearing.

The second and third items were sashes.  She slipped them through loops on the left side of her clothing, on her shoulder and at waist level in front and back. One sash was black, with fancy orange embroidery.  The second was a bit narrower, made of white rabbit fur.  It went on top of the first one.  Taken together, these constituted a Paired Honors Sash, the insignia of a senior noblewoman.

The fourth item was a doublet ring, placed on the third and fourth fingers of her right hand.  It was engraved with her family crest.

She stood up, picked up her backpack, and continued across to the first building occupied by Imperial soldiers.  A young officer confronted her with a questioning look on his face.  She read his insignia, gave him a dazzling smile, and said "Hello, lieutenant.  I am the Most Noble Lady Sindrelaine deta Lensering.  I have just been freed from slavery as a goodwill gesture.  Could you arrange transportation for me to Vegonyn City?"

* * *

The available transportation was a hospital train.  Sindrelaine spent the next six hours working hard, helping with the wounded.  Finally the nurse in charge of the ward car said "Most Noble Lady, four years as a slave have taught you a few things.  I can think of some useless so-called noble helpers we have had on this train, whom I would assign to four years of slavery if I could.  Let's take a break.  I don't know what sort of ceremonial welcome you will get in Vegonyn City.  You may not get another chance to eat some food yourself for a while."

As Sindrelaine ate some doughnuts and drank some coffee, the train reached downtown, entered Imperial Main Station, and eased to a stop.  She said "This is where I get off.  Thank you for the ride and the food."  She took her hospital apron off, picked up her backpack, and stepped out onto the station platform.  She hiked down the platform, went through the station building out onto Imperial Square, and continued across the square to the Imperial Palace.

In the meantime, a squad of the Imperial Elite Guard had been dispatched to the Empress's Clinic, the destination of that hospital train, to confirm that Sindrelaine really was riding it.  Nobody wanted to tell her father that she was safe, unless she really was.  Of course when the train arrived, Sindrelaine was gone.

She never realized that the train hadn't stopped to let her off.  It had stopped because it had to wait for a freight train to clear out of the way on the tracks between the station and the Empress's Clinic.  But the hospital train did stop by a platform of Imperial Main Station, and Sindrelaine had ridden trains to and from Imperial Main since her earliest childhood.   Nothing could have felt more natural than to get off a train there one more time.  She hadn't really expected a fancy welcome.  After all, she had never received one before.

When she reached the palace, she met another old acquaintance, whom she greeted "Hello, Sergeant Chones.  You are Master Sergeant Chones now, I see, still here at the old post.  How has life been treating you?"

The reply was "Oh my goodness, Noble Lady Sindrelaine!  You are Most Noble Lady now, I should remember.  What a pleasant surprise!  I left one foot on the battlefield of Tartras, so the Army isn't asking me to march any more.  The rest of me is back now at this old post, as top sergeant of the guard.  How did you get loose?"

"Goodwill gesture.  Tollis deta Sia isn't anywhere near the bastard that Imperial propaganda makes him out to be.  Can you escort me to my father's office?"

"Sure, no problem."  With the top sergeant at her side, Sindrelaine had no difficulties in passing any of the guard posts in the palace.   Sergeant Chones left her at the door to her father's new office suite.  The sign on the door proclaimed her father's new title: Imperial Prime Minister.

Sindrelaine walked in, found her father's old secretary still on the job, and said "Hello, Nanesh.  Is Dad in?"

"Oh My God!  Oh, My God!  Sindrelaine!  Yes, he's in, but he is in conference now --"

"He's probably getting some bad news.  I'll interrupt for a moment and give him the good news that I am back."  Before Nanesh could react, Sindrelaine walked on past, entered the inner private office, and said "Hi Dad."

It turned out that the conference involved just two people.  When Sindrelaine and her father backed off from the enthusiastic greeting hugs they gave each other, the other conferee said "I suppose that I should let the two of you have a reunion.  Prime Minister Rolant, we'll talk some more tomorrow."

Sindrelaine looked around and realized whom the Imperial Prime Minister might be having a conference with.  She immediately turned away from her father, dropped to one knee, and said "Please don't leave, Your Imperial Majesty.  You are the one that I was sent to talk to."

There was a moment of surprised silence.

Then the emperor said "About what?"

Sindrelaine answered "A peace proposal."  She had spent hours preparing this speech in her mind.  She had been given the incredible opportunity to deliver her speech less than an hour after arriving in Vegonyn City, instead of waiting for days or weeks for an appointment with the emperor.  She knew that she had to deliver her speech well:

"You have told your people that all Imperial territory will be retained, and that you will not tolerate any partitions.  But there is no way the Empire of my childhood years will ever be restored.  You have too many enemies who are unwilling to allow that to happen, and those enemies are both determined enough and strong enough to prevent it.  Since you will not give up territory, you must give up authority instead.  That is the essence of this peace proposal.  Here is a written summary."  And the Emperor read:

--  Each of the rebel groups, and the Kingdom of Danitz, will acknowledge His Imperial Majesty as emperor of the entire Vegonyn Empire, and will apologize for rebelling and for supporting rebellion.

--  His Imperial Majesty will accept their apologies, and will apologize himself for the excesses of the previous and discredited Imperial administration.  To ensure that similar excesses do not occur again and that each of the peoples of the Empire will have an appropriately recognized status, the Emperor will establish Imperial Free States for Lovant, Hitia, Fredjonyn, Lapim, and West Yeremin, granting them internal authority over taxation, regulation, policing, and such other aspects of government as may be negotiated.  They will have the authority to raise their own local military forces.

--  The King of Danitz will accept a grant of Imperial authority to administer those portions of the Vegonyn Empire where the predominant culture is Tureyan.  The resulting Administrative District shall be considered part of the Realm of Danitz, but not part of the Kingdom of Danitz.  This will put it in the same general category as the Kingdom of Tippin, which is of course still legally independent of Danitz even though they have a common monarch and legislature.

--  The boundaries of the Free States and of the Danitzer Administrative District will be set by a plebiscite across all of the Empire. All plebiscite ballots will include the option of continuing as Crown Lands under direct Imperial rule.

--  The Vegonesi language will be taught in all schools throughout the Empire, as a first or as a second language.  Where it is a first language, one of the other primary languages of the Empire will be taught as a second language.  Reasonable fluency in at least two languages will be required to receive high-school diplomas or college degrees.

--  All legally established residents of the Empire shall be citizens of the Empire. They shall be able to travel and conduct business throughout the Empire, whether they live in the Crown Lands, the Administrative District, or one of the Free States.

--  People who have been enslaved as a consequence of the rebellion shall be freed.  This shall apply both to former rebels held as slaves by Vegonesi loyalists, and to loyalist slaves held by former rebels."

The emperor asked "I'm not sure I could accept the part about establishing Imperial Free States.  Who supports this peace proposal?"

"So far, it's just me and Tollis deta Sia.  He is travelling to Duewos to present it at the Royal Court of Danitz.  He has been such an important leader of the North Coast Rebellion that I think they will listen to him.  I don't like the part about establishing Imperial Free States either, but there probably won't be an agreement without it.  And we have to face facts.  I'm desperately afraid that the only real alternative is the total collapse of the Empire."

"If I say no, what are you going to do?"

"Nothing right away, Your Majesty.  But I expect that some time within the next six months, I will be standing at a window of this palace.  I will watch Leonhard Berine and his Lovant Army parade into Imperial Square.  I will start crying, and I will lock my esdigie collar around my own neck, knowing perfectly well that it will never come off again.  That is one of the reasons why I brought that collar with me.  I have a secure place waiting for me with Tollis deta Sia, if it comes to that.  I don't know about other Vegonesi loyalist citizens and aristocrats.

"Please, Your Majesty.  It will come to that, unless something is done to stop it.  We don't have the troop strength to prevent that outcome any more.  Please try this idea, unless you can come up with something better."

The old Emperor paused for a moment, trying to align his mental image of the two-year-old girl that had once sat on his lap with the self-assured young woman on one knee in front of him.  He would probably have tossed anyone else who made such a peace proposal out of the room.  But another mental image made that impossible, an image of the same young woman locking a slave collar around her own neck while tears rolled down her cheeks.  Instead he turned to his prime minister and said "We'll think about it."

* * *

Several days later Tollis deta Sia was granted an audience with the King of Danitz and the Royal Cabinet and Court in Duewos.  Many of the VIPs wanted to meet the man who had contributed so much to the North Coast Rebellion.  Tollis made the same peace proposal that Sindrelaine had made to the Emperor in Vegonyn City.

The Prime Minister immediately asked "Do you really think that that old fool of an emperor would ever agree to such an oddball notion?"

The Rear Admiral Commanding, Fleet Signals Bureau, replied "He has already accepted."  With the entire court staring at him, the admiral added "We received a coded signal this morning, addressed to Tollis deta Sia personally, broadcast from the main Imperial Navy station but on the Danitz Navy frequency.  Tollis met with me earlier to explain what what such a message could mean, and he gave me the code.   I haven't told him that we received a code phrase, until right now.  It was the phrase for 'His Imperial Majesty accepts.'"

The Foreign Minister responded "The Kingdom of Saytsilene has been trying to stir up trouble on our northwestern borders.  Our ambassadors to the smaller states on those borders would have a much easier time of calming things down if their suggestions were backed by having the entire Army available."

The Chief of the Foreign Intelligence Service added "Two battle squadrons of the Saytsilene Navy have been shifted to Port Marsay.  If they were to combine with the Imperial Navy's forces, our control of the Tureyan Channel would be at risk."

And so the King said "General deta Sia, you are a friend of Leonhard Berine, aren't you?  Well then, you are hereby on extended leave from military duty.  Proceed to Shallach.  If you can sell this idea to Berine, we'll go with it."

Chapter Five.  Treaties and Pledges

Sindrelaine spent as much time as she could over the next two weeks on walking tours around Vegonyn City, carrying a camera.  She wanted to store up memories and images of her town as the Imperial Capital in case the Empire collapsed.  If that happened, nothing but memories would remain.

Then her father called her in and asked about a radio signal addressed to her.  "Ancient English.  Broadcast on Imperial Navy frequency by a Danitzer station.  'Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil.'  Do you have any idea what that means?"

"I'm afraid so.  That is my recall.  Tollis wants me to cross back over into Danitzer-controlled territory, where I will be returned to him."

"Do you want to go?"

"I hate to leave you here, but I am his woman.  I don't know if I will be his low slave, or his esdigie, or his mistress, or his wife.  In any case, I am his, and he is calling me, and I have to assume that he has a good reason."

"What reason could that be?"

"I don't know.  Our codes aren't detailed enough for him to send me an explanation.  Perhaps I could help him end the war.  If I could help end this war by going to him, then I could save some lives, both Vegonesi and Danitzer and I suppose also Lovanter.  I had better go.  Don't worry, I'll be safe.  Remember whose collar I will be wearing.  Nobody is going to mess with me."

And so she went, the next day.  She rode a troop train back to Tshanna.  She walked over to a bench by the Tshanna city hall, the same bench that she had used going the other way.  She sat down once again.  Then she took off her wrap skirt, her paired sash, and her doublet ring, and she stowed all of these items neatly in pockets in her backpack.  She pulled her esdigie collar out of that backpack, uncapped the locking mechanism, and locked the collar around her neck.  Then she continued across to the Danitz Army lines.

When she reached the Danitzer lines, a young junior-aristocrat officer named Challis tei Georrick confronted her with a questioning look on his face.  She read his insignia, gave him a dazzling smile, and said "Hello, Most Honorable Master Lieutenant.  I am Sindrie, Esdigie to Tollis deta Sia.  Could you arrange transportation for me to re-join my Master?"

* * *

The available transportation was a military supply train.  Lieutenant tei Georrick escorted Sindrie to the office of the colonel who was serving as transportation coordinator.  The colonel asked him "Do you have a good sergeant to command your platoon?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good.  Order him to take over for a few days.  Tollis deta Sia is in Shallach.  I will give you written orders to escort Sindrie there.  You will have to change trains with her at least once.  Enjoy your break from routine.  It isn't every lieutenant who gets assigned to go on a trip with a pretty esdigie.  But one thing has to change.  Put her in cuffs and a blindfold before you take her out of here.  I'll put that in your written orders too."

"Uh, yes, sir, cuffs and a blindfold.  May I ask why, sir?"

"General deta Sia has already sent her back to her father in Vegonyn City once.  He might do it again.  The recent rumors of a peace agreement might be so much hot air.  I don't want her providing any useful military intelligence to the Imperial authorities."

And so Sindrie took the next leg of her journey wearing cuffs behind her back, a strapped-on blindfold, and of course her slave dress and steel-and-gold esdigie collar.  She and Lieutenant tei Georrick enjoyed a strange sort of flirtation.  Both of them knew that no lieutenant in his right mind would seriously mess around with the esdigie of a famous brigadier general.  But it could certainly be considered within the strict line of duty for the lieutenant to strap her into her seat on the train, and feed her at mealtimes, and transfer her to the toilet when necessary.  He allowed just a bit of slack on the toilet breaks, undoing one of her handcuffs and allowing her to tend to her own needs.  Sindrie proved to be a pleasant conversationalist, always remembering to call him "Master Lieutenant."

Eventually Sindrie became tired, and she took a nap with her head on Lieutenant tei Georrick's shoulder.  He put his arm around her waist while she napped, strictly in order to make the general's esdigie more comfortable, of course.

They spent the night together, and yet apart, in the town where they had to change trains.  Lieutenant tei Georrick found a hotel room that contained a slave cage.  Such rooms are reasonably common on Ericpotsdam in places where slaveholding businessmen might be travelling. The slaves are normally used for pleasure during the night and kept in those cages during the day, while their owners are working.  However, Sindrie was left in her cage overnight, with steel bars and a vision-blocking blackout panel between her and the lieutenant.  Nothing improper could happen.  Sindrie heard some sounds that night, and smelled some odors, that indicated that her escort had a little bit of fun going solo.  She sympathized with his level of frustration and felt equally frustrated herself, but decided not to do anything about it.  She knew she would moan if she tried to find relief.  Lieutenant tei Georrick was having a tough enough time anyway.  Any moans from her would only make it worse.

The next day he took Sindrie onto a supply train en route to Shallach.  Their strange sort of flirtation continued until late in the afternoon, when the train arrived.  As soon as the lieutenant took Sindrie out onto the station platform, she was engulfed in the arms that she had missed so much during the preceding weeks, and her face was covered with her master's kisses.  Lieutenant tei Georrick had to be content with a very sincere "Thank you.  You did a great job" from Sindrie and a personal handshake from the famous Noble Lord Brigadier General Tollis deta Sia.

Tollis left Sindrie cuffed and blindfolded.  She was surprised by this, but he didn't explain why.  He guided her with one arm securely around her waist, through the station to a waiting taxi.

The taxi took them to Government House, where Tollis had been staying.  He arranged for a beef-stew dinner to be delivered to his room, a meal which he could both eat himself and easily feed to Sindrie.  After supper he took everything off of Sindrie's body except the collar, blindfold, and cuffs.  He re-rigged the cuffs to pin her on his bed in an inverted Y position.  And then he wore her out making up for lost time.  It was a marvelous reunion.

After five hours of passionate lovemaking, Sindrie fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.  The next morning she woke up late, feeling very drowsy, and tried to stretch against the grip of her bondage.  To her astonishment, there was no bondage.  She found that she was completely free.  Tollis had left the room, and she was alone.  Her hand went to her throat, to confirm that she was no longer collared.  What was going on?

Tollis had left her a note on the dresser: "Most Noble Lady Sindrelaine, you will probably be hungry when you wake up.  Breakfast will be served in the upstairs parlor, down the hall to the left when you leave this room.  We will await you there.  Much love, Your fiance Tollis deta Sia."  That was certainly a different tone than would be put in orders to slaves.

Her doublet ring and her paired sash were on the dresser alongside the note.  Three dresses, all with calf-length hemlines, were hanging on a nearby rack.  There were no slave garments available.  So she took a quick shower in the en suite bathroom, got dressed as a noblewoman, and went looking for food.

Tollis was in the upstairs parlor sitting and chatting with a distinguished-looking man who wore a uniform cut in Danitz Army style, but gray instead of Danitz Army green.   Tollis said "Most Noble Lady, you may not be aware that the war is over.  The peace treaty was signed yesterday in Tallsaadt and went into effect last midnight.  This is your former enemy Leonhard Berine, the High Commissioner of the Lovanter People.  Sir, this is my fiancee the Most Noble Lady Sindrelaine deta Lensering.  She was my slave up until yesterday midnight.  As you can see, I have freed her according to the terms of the peace agreement."

Leonhard stood up, smiled enthusiastically, and said "I am delighted to make your acquaintance, Most Noble Lady.  It is easy to see why my friend Tollis is so happy to have you."  Then he turned to Tollis and added "That peace-term provision does apply to all Lovanter women who are slaves to Imperial citizens, does it not?"

"If they were enslaved as a consequence of the rebellion, yes it does," Tollis answered.  "And also of course to all Vegonesi women who have been recently enslaved by Lovanter rebels.  As a matter of fact, I happen to have a list here, of Vegonesi noblewomen who are currently enslaved here in Shallach.  The name at the top of the list is the Right Noble Chalia ernz Torau, who was owned up till midnight by Tarl Siskin."

Leonhard immediately grinned wickedly.  Tarl Siskin had been one of Leonhard's most important rivals for the leadership of the Lovanter Rebellion.  The opportunity to annoy and embarrass him was too good to pass up.  He asked Tollis deta Sia "You will be returning to your brigade in Tshanna soon, won't you?"

"I will leave tomorrow, if everything works out well."

"Suppose I order a round-up of all of these slaves - that is, former slaves - today.  Will you be able to take them as far as Tshanna so that they can cross back into Imperial territory there?"

"No problem.  I have a private railroad car at my disposal that has more than enough room."

"Pass your list to Colonel Shatzmer here.  Colonel, organize the round-up.  Hit all the homes at the same time; we don't want any of the women taken away or hidden because their former owners were warned.  Put the women up in the Police Tower, where nobody will be able to reach them for a snatch-back.  Have them on the station platform tomorrow at - will 8 a.m. be suitable, General deta Sia?"

"Yes it will, High Commissioner."

"Then do it, Colonel."

Sindrelaine now understood how Tollis had justified recalling her, and why he had kept her in blindfold and cuffs the previous evening.  She had become an example for how Vegonesi women should be treated now that peace had come.  She could claim to have an important part in freeing all of the former slaves on Tollis's list.  The reunion and the hours of passionate sex the previous night had been only a secondary goal.

That afternoon Sindrelaine went shopping.  She looked for calf-length wrap skirts so that the newly-freed noblewomen would have something appropriate to wear for their journey to Vegonyn City.  The selection in the stores was very bad.  Sindrelaine finally found a seamstress who could make the skirts from blue denim-weave sea cotton and have them available at the train the next morning.  Tollis went along on the shopping trip to escort her.  He had never spent a more boring afternoon in his entire life.

It would not have been proper for the Most Noble Lady Sindrelaine deta Lensering and the Noble Lord Brigadier General Tollis deta Sia to sleep together when they were still just engaged. They slept apart that night.  They were serving as examples.   Proper behavior was very important just then.

* * *

The next morning the former slaves were brought to the railway station platform, all still in their short-skirted slave clothing, and most still wearing collars.  Their reactions ran the gamut from grim joy at being rescued to tears at being separated from beloved masters.  Sindrelaine was able to reassure all of them, mainly by example.  She was an important Imperial noblewoman who wasn't being arrested or enslaved by Lovanter authorities.  She was also the fiancee of a rebel nobleman, and she was not worried about becoming permanently separated from him.

The journey to Tshanna took about 24 hours.  The route was the same as Sindrelaine had taken going in the other direction, but Tollis deta Sia's private car was switched between trains with no layover en route.  The car had sufficient sleeping accomodations for Tollis and Sindrelaine (in separate bedrooms), for all of the former slave women, and also for Lieutenant tei Georrick.  Tollis brought a diamond-bladed jeweler's saw along, and used it to cut off the collars of the former slaves who still wore them.

Lieutenant tei Georrick picked out one of the former slaves who seemed nervous about going home, and spent much of his time talking with her.  That was the start of another story, which will be told in due time.  As a matter of fact, the stories of all of the freed slave women will be told, in due time.

The private car had to stop in Tshanna.  The trackage between the Danitzer-controlled and Imperial-controlled parts of the town had been damaged in the fighting.  After fond farewells, General Tollis deta Sia and Lieutenant Challis tei Georrick stayed in Tshanna while Sindrelaine led the other former slaves across the border, onto another train, and back to Vegonyn City.

* * *

Soon afterwards the tracks in Tshanna were restored.  The Empire began to settle down to a new time of peace under the provisions of the treaty that Tollis and Sindrelaine had proposed to their governments.  It became safe for former rebels to visit Vegonyn City.  Tollis began calling on Sindrelaine at her home.

That spring the biggest social event of the season in Vegonyn City was their marriage, the marriage of the Prime Minister's daughter to one of the top leaders of the recent rebellion.  The city's newspapers included pages and pages of details on the design of Sindrelaine's dress, the names and titles of the wedding party, the floral arrangements at the subsequent banquet, and all of the other pieces of information so beloved of society editors.  But the only part worth remembering, and the only part worth telling here, is the vows that they took.

The conventional wording had changed remarkably little in more than two thousand years since the settlers of the planet arrived from Earth.  Sindrelaine was expected to say "lawful wedded husband" just like millions of other brides.  Instead she said "I, Sindrelaine, of the house and lineage of Lensering, do take you, Tollis, of the house and lineage of Sia, as my man.  If you need a low slave, I will kneel in chains at your feet, and you will be my master.  If you need an esdigie, I will kneel proudly beside you, and you will still be my master.  If you need a wife, I will stand by your side, and you will be my husband.  While you are faithful to me, I will be whatever woman you want, and need."

Sindrelaine had spoken loudly and clearly, and everyone in the sanctuary had heard her.  There was a long moment of silence in the room.  Tollis turned to the congregation and said "She gave me no warning.  I didn't expect this at all."  After a short pause, he turned back and commanded "Kneel, Sindrie.  Wrists."  Remembering another room and another moment of silence, he switched languages to Lovanter for one sentence: "Head down, slave girl."  With her head down and both of her wrists securely imprisoned in his right hand, Tollis said "Sindrie, you are my slave."

She answered "Yes, Master."

He released her wrists, and said "Head up, Sindrie.  Hands on your hips.  Sindrie, I grant you status as my esdigie."

She replied "Thank you, Master."

He held out one hand, and said "Sindrelaine deta Lensering, I pray you, please stand up."  She steadied herself on that hand and rose.  He began to use the conventional words, "I, Tollis, of the house and lineage of Sia, do take you, Sindrelaine, of the house and lineage of Lensering, as my lawful wedded wife, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.  I will always be faithful to you, so your full pledge to me will always be valid."  And the service continued.

Everybody agreed that it was a lovely wedding, even if the vows were unusual.

During the honeymoon afterwards, whenever they were in public Tollis's woman was always the Noble Lady Sindrelaine deta Sia.  In private, of course, it was a different story every night.  Tollis remembered that his woman had wanted to be helpless for her first sex as an esdigie.  She spent the first night of her marriage strapped to the bed in a secure spread eagle.

Chapter Six.   To Preserve Her Beauty

The following spring Tollis gave notice to Sindrelaine that her triple status was not just for the bedroom.  He told her that they would be visiting Vegonyn City, but he warned her to make no appointments for this visit because the two of them would be working on a special project.  Tollis wouldn't give her any details.

The special project began on a Sunday night, when they arrived in their hotel suite in Vegonyn City.  Tollis turned to Sindrelaine and held out his arms.  She came into them, and they kissed very gently.  With his arms still on her shoulders and a worried expression on his face, Tollis said "Sindrelaine, I am about to put you through a very rough time.  You will understand why I have done this when it is all over.  For now, I am not going to explain.  You will have to trust me.  I want you to remember that I love you.  I am not angry with you.  I am not punishing you for anything that you have done or not done.  This is not going to be your fault.  All will come out well in the end.  Never forget that I do love you more than anything else in the world.  But now we need to start.  Come with me, please."  He held out his hand, and she placed her hand trustingly in his.  With a gentle grip, he guided her into the next room of their suite.

It was a slave confinement room.  There was a small slave lounge to the right of the door, with thinly-upholstered chairs and large barred windows.  Kitchen facilities were along the far wall, facilities which slaves could use to prepare and serve meals for parties which their masters might wish to host in the sitting room of the suite.  The working space in front of the kitchen counters was relatively narrow.  Much of the area in the room was taken up by two slave cells, separated by bars from the kitchen area and the slave lounge.  The lounge would look like a very comfortable area to slaves confined in the cells.

Tollis led Sindrelaine into the slave lounge.  He undressed her, removing everything, even the Sia doublet ring that she wore on her left hand as a married woman, and also the Lensering doublet from her right hand.  He said "Kneel".  He showed her a collar; she saw that it was her old low-slave collar, made from gray steel with a hammerpunched inscription.  He locked that collar on her neck.  He ordered "Stand, Sindrie."  He took her hand again and led her into one of the slave cells.  Then he chained her by the waist to the back wall of the cell, and he fucked her on the narrow, hard slave cot.  He left her there, locking the cell door and the room door behind him.

The next morning he passed her a breakfast plate through a slot in her cell bars.  It was unseasoned cold oatmeal, and not much of it.  She had no utensils and had to eat by scooping the oatmeal up with her fingers.

Tollis unlocked her cell, unchained her from the wall, gave her a dress, and ordered her to put it on.  It was one of the dresses that she had worn as an esdigie, made from gray opaque sea-cotton fabric, sleeveless, with a mid-thigh hem line.  Sindrie said "Thank you, Master," and she was indeed happy to wear it.  Whatever Tollis was planning didn't involve making her wear a skimpy low-slave garment.

Tollis's next orders were "Slip into these shoes  Turn around.  Hands behind your back."  He cuffed Sindrie's wrists and hooded her.  The close-fitting hood had breathing holes but no eye holes.  Then he took her firmly by the arm and led her out of the suite.  Sindrie was happy to be hooded, because that was less embarrassing than showing her face as a slave in Vegonyn City.  She had always been a free woman there.

After a ten-minute taxi ride, Tollis left Sindrie for a few minutes.  The taxi ride resumed, and Sindrie began to notice the smell of cinnamon in the air inside the horse-drawn cab.  Her mouth watered.  After another ten minutes, they arrived someplace.  Tollis helped Sindrie out of the cab, and into a building, and up two flights of stairs, and down a hall.  He knocked on a door.

Tollis used a very respectful tone of voice in greeting the person who answered his knock.  Tollis guided Sindrie through the opened door and took her hood and her handcuffs off. He said "This is the model for the statue that I am commissioning.  Her name is Sindrie."

Sindrie looked around.  She was in an artist's studio, well-lit by large windows and skylights, with walls painted white and workbenches around all of the walls.  In one corner a worker was passing lumps of clay through a pair of rollers, presumably to soften that clay for modeling.

The person who had answered the door was a middle-aged workingman, a bit overweight, not much taller than she was herself, with a fringe of gray hair around a bald head.  Tollis had called him "Right Noble Mister tei Rhihall" when greeting him, but he wasn't wearing a doublet ring or an honors sash.  He wore blue denim work pants and shirt and a gray canvas apron, hardly an outfit which a nobleman would be expected to wear when expecting a visit from the Noble Lord Tollis deta Sia.  This person would apparently be working on the statue that she had just learned she would be modeling for.

And then it hit her.  This must be the Right Noble Tammasch tei Rhihall, who had already produced several highly acclaimed works of art.  He had been born a commoner, who was elevated to the nobility and then promoted Right Noble before his fiftieth birthday.  That was a remarkable achievement, for an artist or for anyone else.  And now he would be doing a statue of her.

Tammasch's eyes did a very thorough job of checking her out.  He made her blush, even though she had been checked out by male eyes many times before, especially during her slavery.  He turned to Tollis and said "I am very favorably impressed.  Are you sure you don't want me to do a nude statue?"

Tollis looked at Sindrie's blush and at the expression on her face.  He said "Not this time.  I expect that my wife, the Noble Lady Sindrelaine deta Sia, will be here with me in a few weeks, maybe sooner.  I will talk it over with her.  If she thinks that Sindrie should pose nude, and if you are willing to give her a good price for another statue, then we could probably arrange something."

Tammasch answered "Oh.  Well, I'll take on the challenge of making her look really good while she's wearing a slave dress.  Didn't you write that you have some very specific ideas about how she should be posed?"

"Yes, I do.  We need something to pose her on, about 25 or 30 centimeters tall.  The finished statue will have a pedestal or column or something, I'll trust you to come up with something appropriate.  But for posing, any sort of low stool or bench should do."

"How about this little turntable?"

"Excellent!  We can see what she looks like from any angle while she holds a pose.  Sindrie, climb on."  When she had followed that order, he added "Kneel.  Head up.  Knees apart.  Hands on hips.  Now comes the tricky part.

"Sindrie, you have been having a rough time over about the last twelve hours.  Would you like better treatment?"  While he said this, Tollis walked directly in front of her and took a cinnamon roll out of a paper bag that he was carrying.  He took a bite, and began chewing with obvious enjoyment. She looked up at him and said "Yes, please, Master.  You know that I like cinnamon."  After a moment with no reaction, she added "Please, Master.  I am begging you."

Tollis responded "That's it!  Right Noble Tammasch, did you see that expression?  Sindrie pleads so very effectively that it is very hard to turn her down.  That is the expression that I want on the statue."  He held the cinnamon roll in front of her face and told her "You have permission to take a bite."

Sindrie's hands stayed on her hips as she took that bite and began to chew.  Tammasch asked "Can she hold that expression for long enough that I can capture it?"

Tollis said "She can certainly do it again and again.  Once more, Sindrie."

"Yes, Master.  Another bite, please, Master?"  And her pleading expression was back on her face again.

Tammasch said "I agree.  With that expression, this is going to be a lovely statue.  I'll make some small adjustments."  He turned the posing table so that the line between Sindrie's shoulders was diagonal to his intended line of sight.  He adjusted her dress to get the best possible draping around her thighs.  He said "Look toward me, Sindrie.  Head just a little bit higher.  Ask your master for another bite.  That's it.  You can relax just a little.  I have to build a framework first.  Charrlo, let's get working."

An assistant, apparently named Charrlo, brought over a collection of 2 x 4 boards, steel rods, and connecting hardware.  Working together, Tammasch and Charrlo began to build a skeleton for a life-sized clay statue of Sindrie.  They set it up on another small turntable, very similar to the one that Sindrie was kneeling on.

As he worked, Tammasch said "Noble Lord deta Sia, I do my best art when I don't have an audience.  If you turn right as you leave this building and walk three blocks, you will be in a commercial district which should keep you occupied all day.  There is a gallery which sells my art and that of other excellent artists, and a bookstore where you can browse, and a library where you can work, and several restaurants.  Could you please come back at about 5:00 this evening?"

Tollis answered "I thought that I would be supervising my slave for you."

Tammasch paused, and turned toward Tollis.  He smiled and said "I have tended to one or two slaves and slave models before now.  Besides, you have already said that you have a hard time turning her down when she uses her pleading expression.  She will have to plead extra-hard to get what she wants from me.  That should make the final statue even more beautiful."

Tollis said "In that case, I should be able to help you make a beautiful statue without staying and watching you work.  I may not always be able to resist her pleading look, but I can push her hard.  Until we are done, this studio will be the only place that she will see without looking through bars.  She can get feisty at times.  Living behind bars will help keep her in the proper mood for this statue.  Will you be keeping her in the studio non-stop?  If not, then you should blindfold her thoroughly before taking her out."

"I'll do that, no problem.  I'll see you at about 5:00."  Seeing that he was holding up work on the statue, Tollis left.  Tammasch and Charrlo resumed making the skeleton.  Sindrie had to keep posing.

Tammasch had worked with many models before, and he was aware that maintaining one pose continuously can be very tiring.  After about an hour he said "Break time, Sindrie.  Stand up.  Stretch.  Walk around the room.  Go over to that corner.  Stand right in front of the built-in workbenches there.  Face the corner, and do not look around.  Okay, Charrlo.  No contact, demonstration only."

A sharp crack! sounded from only a few centimeters behind her head.  Sindrie jumped.  Tammasch continued "Charrlo is a real expert with that bullwhip.  If he sees you turning your head in any direction except toward that corner, he has my permission to tag you with it.  He probably won't be watching you continuously, but you will never know when he is standing there with his whip ready.  Keep your eyes on that corner."  For the next five minutes, Sindrie's view of the world was limited to two white walls, the corner where they met, and the top of the workbench in that corner.  Then Tammasch called her back to her posing pedestal and re-positioned her, and the work on the statue resumed.

She ate lunch standing in the same corner, without daring to look around.  Somebody put a plateful of sandwiches and a glass of soda on the workbench in front of her.  When she finished the meal, somebody with gentle feminine hands blindfolded her, locked the blindfold on, and guided her to a restroom.  Ten minutes later, her guide took Sindrie back to her pedestal again, and the blindfold came off for some more posing.

The routine continued all afternoon: 55 minutes of posing in each hour, and five minutes of walking around, then standing in a corner staring at the walls.  At five o'clock there was a knock on the door.  Tammasch threw a canvas tarpaulin over the statue-in-progress and admitted Tollis to the room.  Tollis put Sindrie back into cuffs and hood and took her back to the slave quarters in their hotel suite.

Before he could chain and lock her into a slave cell, Sindrie dropped to her knees, tilted her head back, and said "Please, Master, use me properly!"  She couldn't aim her pleading look at him while she was hooded, so she had to put her appeal into her posture and her tone of voice.

"Aren't you hungry, Sindrie?"

"I'm more hungry for you than I am for food.  Please, Master?"  So Tollis removed Sindrie's dress, but left her cuffs and hood on.  He took her to the bed in the master bedroom and enjoyed her for about an hour.  She enjoyed him too, of course.

He took her back to her slave cell, chained her to the wall, removed her hood and cuffs, and locked the cell door.  Half an hour later he passed her a room-service meal through the slot in the cage bars.  He ate at a small table in the slave lounge area so that they could be together for supper.  Then he kissed her through the cell bars and left her for the night.

* * *

The next few days had very similar schedules.  A routine had been established.  Tollis began carrying a briefcase and using the time to catch up on some correspondence.  The most important letter was to Sindrie's father: "Most Noble Prime Minister, My companion in town at this time is my slave girl Sindrie.  I expect that my wife, your daughter Sindrelaine, will be with me soon.  I will be happy to accept your invitation for a visit then."  The opportunity came sooner than Tollis expected.

On Friday, after five days of posing,Tollis found Sindrie standing in her corner of the studio.  He had found her there before, but this time she was nude.  Tammasch explained "I needed her dress to add texture to the statue's clothing.  I soaked it in soapy water so that it would not stick, placed it on the statue's clothing, and rubbed the statue through it.  The trick is in knowing how hard to rub.  If it's done right, the surface of the statue will look like cloth, including all of the seams and other stitching.  What do you think?"  For the first time, the clay statue was not under a tarpaulin when Tollis entered the studio.

Tollis looked the statue over.  A clay version of his Sindrie was kneeling with her hands on her hips, looking to the right and upward with an expression of desperate appeal on her face.  He said "It's magnificent!  What happens next?"

Tammasch answered "I'll make gel coat negatives from this positive image.  They will be chunks of clay that add up to a hollow the exact size and shape of the clay statue with gel coatings on the inside of the hollow to capture the fine details.  Then there will be a wax positive from the gel coat negatives, and a fireclay negative from the wax, and finally an aluminum bronze statue from the fireclay negative.  It will take a while, but the posing is done.  I don't need Sindrie any more."

"So where is her dress?"

"It will be here in a moment, but she won't be able to wear it back to your hotel.  It is still damp from the rinsing to get rid of the soap."  Tammasch turned away from Tollis and demanded "Chalassa, where is that camisk?"

The camisk that Tammasch's slave Chalassa brought was rather narrow, but it was the only wearable garment available for Sindrie.  She put it on and turned her pleading expression toward Tollis: "Please, Master, hood me."  Slaves aren't allowed to be embarrassed by skimpy clothing, but her tone of voice added "I really don't want to show my face in Vegonyn City wearing nothing but this camisk."

Tollis hooded and cuffed her and took her back to their hotel.  He told her that "Slaves who have been good deserve to be rewarded.  For your excellent posing, you get to stay in my bed in the master bedroom tonight."  Her only confinement that night was a chain from her collar to the head of the bed.  Tollis and Sindrie fell asleep in each other's arms.

The next morning they took a shower together.  Then Tollis dressed his woman, beginning with her doublet rings, and then underwear, a noblewoman-length dress, and a paired sash of the nobility. That afternoon the Noble Lady Sindrelaine deta Sia, and her husband the Noble Lord Tollis deta Sia, had tea and pastries while visiting her father the Prime Minister.

Chapter Seven.  The Rest of the Stories

We can now tell how things worked out for some of the people involved in this tale.

Tammasch tei Rhihall cast two copies of the statue "Sindrie Imploring".  Today one of them is in the front hall of the old Sia family residence.  It wears Sindrie's old esdigie collar, the one lettered "Owned by - loved by - protected by Tollis deta Sia".  The other statue is now in the Imperial Museum of Art in Vegonyn City.  It now wears Sindrie's old hammerpunched low-slave collar.

About a month after Sindrie's posing was completed, Tollis and Sindrelaine stayed in the same hotel room again for another week .  At the next National Art Show, Tammasch tei Rhihall showed a life-size nude statue, titled "Poled Slave".  The slave was kneeling up, knees at right angles and hips straight, with her thighs and back against a pole.  Her ankles were cuffed together behind the pole.  Her arms reached up above her head, with her elbows bent back and her wrists also cuffed behind the pole.  The head and face of this statue were modeled by another woman.  The letters between Tammasch and Tollis, confirming that Sindrie/Sindrelaine was the body model, did not become public until years after they were all dead.

After the statues were completed, Tollis began to give speeches in both High Tureyan and Vegonesi throughout the Danitzer Administrative District.  He pointed out the ways that the Tureyan and Vegonesi cultures were interacting to create something unique, and he called the District the Land of the Two Cultures.  He appealed to the people of both cultures to respect their neighbors.

He was a hero of the successful North Coast Rebellion, but he had proposed the peace terms that had ended that rebellion without destroying the Empire.  As a result, nobody could legitimately call him an enemy, although some people had to be convinced of that at first.  He and Sindrelaine were fluent in both of the languages of the two cultures.  He refused high political appointments from both the Emperor and the King of Danitz, preferring to remain in the middle.  He claimed the title of Conflict Resolution Negotiator, and he helped to settle many misunderstandings between former enemies.  Eventually he earned the trust of both sides, and he helped the two peoples of the Admin District learn to trust each other.

His woman spent most of her public time as the Noble Lady Sindrelaine.  At night, in the privacy of their bedroom, she was usually just Sindrie.  She said more than once that she slept better when she was chained.   For about six weeks each year, usually in July and August, Tollis took her on vacation to the Tureyan Riviera, and her esdigie collar stayed on.  She bought a new collar for this purpose, engraved "Sindrie gives herself as esdigie to Tollis deta Sia".  She enjoyed wearing mid-thigh-length sleeveless slave dresses during that hot season of the year, while aristocratic women around her sweltered in their heavier dresses with mid-calf-length skirts.

The plebicites that were part of the peace agreements left only fragments of the old Empire as Crown lands under direct Imperial rule.  Vegonesi-culture refugees who had fled the advancing Danitzer and rebel armies were not allowed to go back to their old homes to vote in those plebicites.  Instead they voted in the places where they were staying.  As a result, Tshanna became a permanent border town.  You can still cross from Imperial Crown territory to the Danitzer Administrative District by walking across the central square of the town.

The bench by the Tshanna city hall is still there.  A brass plaque was installed on it just a few years later, calling it "Sindrie/Sindrelaine's bench" and telling what she had done while sitting on it.  You can still sit on it and rest, if you happen to be tired while in downtown Tshanna.  That makes the bench an unusually practical historical monument.

The emperor had made some big mistakes while ruling his empire.  But after the treaty, he made no important mistakes in reigning over the new political system.  He succeeded in pulling most of the Empire's territory into an integrated economic whole.  The people of the Free States prospered, and saw the value of staying together.  Under the terms of the treaty, the old Empire defined a new free trade zone, where citizens of any of the Free States - and also Vegonesi commoners - could find opportunities that had once been restricted to the Imperial nobility.  High ranks in the nobility could no longer be inherited; they had to be earned.  With their cultures protected and so many opportunities available, most residents of the Imperial Free States were happy with the way the Empire had been reorganized.

But there was an important exception to this.  Leonhard Berine, the High Commissioner of Lovant, was a man of immense personal ambition.  He wanted to replace the old Empire with a new one, under himself of course.

Five years after the treaty was signed, the Emperor and Leonhard disagreed about who would be the next king of one of the Free States.  The emperor was old enough to understand the value of patience and of timing in politics.  He saw that the time was finally right to act against Leonhard Berine, so he expelled Lovant from the Empire and declared war.  This time the other Free States backed the emperor, not Leonhard, while the King of Danitz acted as a pro-Imperial neutral.  Lovant lost the war.  Leonhard Berine was overthrown, and ended his life in impoverished exile.  Generous chunks of former Lovanter territory were transferred to two of the Free States and to the Imperial Crown lands.  Lovant became nominally independent, no longer part of the Empire, but the economy of Lovant was soon tied to the Imperial Economic Community by several treaty agreements.

The emperor outlived his son, who died at age 54 of cirrhosis of the liver.  This was very fortunate for Imperial unity, since the son was a drunkard who never could have held the Empire together.  The emperor's grandson was five years old when the Treaty of Tallsaadt was signed and the rebellion ended.  He was 25 years old when the emperor finally died at the age of 90.  By that point, the grandson was the very model of a noble Imperial prince.  He continued his grandfather's policies with equal skill.  He reigned for another sixty-one successful years.

Sindrelaine and Tollis had three children and a very successful marriage.  During their golden wedding anniversary party, Tollis finally told the world that he hadn't invented the way the Empire had been reorganized.  He had been discussing the way the war was going with his woman when she was his esdigie Sindrie.  She was chained naked to the bed alongside him when she proposed the peace terms that all parties eventually accepted.  By that golden wedding anniversary, the Treaty of Tallsaadt had been the fundamental document of the prosperous Vegonyn Empire for a bit more than fifty years.  The system of Empire, Free States, independent Lovant, Danitzer Administrative District, and Imperial Economic Community was accepted by just about everybody as the way things should be run.  Tollis concluded his speech with the line "Men should be in charge, of course, but all men should listen to what their women have to say."

The End

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