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Original Fiction

Part 4a

Written by Juxian Tang

He felt how Tsianni went limp under his blow, heard the boy's short, somehow surprised gasp. He knew he'd hit hard and precise, just as he had been trained; and he knew the cruel effects the blow would have afterwards. Partly it was satisfaction that filled Hellar - always wanted to do it, you son of a bitch - and partly he knew he'd just done what was necessary. Why did the kid have to choose exactly this moment to start fooling around? There was no time for it.

There was no time for lingering on these thoughts, too. He saw Tsianni being hoisted on the deck, his dreadlocked head falling back - a brief glimpse of his pale, almost greyish face - and then Hellar was grabbed, too, his arms twisted back - and the greasy surface of the flyer jumped towards him. He grunted pathetically at the impact reverberating through his body - and felt a hand dig in his hair, pressing him face down - but there was nothing else to see all the same - but the long pointers of the rifles directed at him.

"Don't... don't shoot," he wheezed hastily, panicking that they might not hear him under the noise of the flyer's engine. "I go with you willingly."

And when he already thought his words would be left without answer or any effect on his destiny, a voice came - muffled and ironic - and almost afterthought-like indifferent:

"I bet you do."

Hellar was held down, knees pressing on his arms and back, and he gritted his teeth in excruciating pain that breathing became for him. But he knew that the flyer moved - felt the trembling of the machine's huge body through his own. The stench seemed to get slightly less, either because his sense of smell had been stunned numb or because the wind brought the smell away. And deep in Hellar's head the distinct note that the convoy's shuttle had made in the cacophony of sounds started fading away.

"Well done."

He knew they were safe when he heard that - which was not said to him, of course. And at the next moment he couldn't help but whine in pain when someone's toe-cap stuck in his side, almost lifting him up and making roll on his back. The orange sky with the swirling spirals of hotter air slid above him - and the faces looking down at him seemed dark, almost black.

"Do you need to do it?" he muttered, not really hoping for his words to have any outcome but rather trying to resume a phantom of control over the situation. "You know without me you would have more trouble with the kid."

"Yeah, you gave us your companion?" the one with his face covered said. "And now we should thank you, huh?"

"He is not my companion," Hellar almost spat. Companion? Being on the damn desert scavengers' flyer, gagging with the stink at every breath - somehow it was all Tsianni's fault. Only his fault. If he'd let Hellar go, hadn't dragged him somewhere for last two days...

"Tsk, tsk," the man said - rather mocking than really disapproving. The narrow black eyes over the edge of the facecloth were unkind but not angry. Not until he turned towards Tsianni.

Involuntarily Hellar followed his gaze - recognizing in the man some presence of authority instinctively, even if he'd rather die that admitted that he saw authority in a rag-clad desert lowlife. Tsianni was still not conscious enough - for more than rolling his head slackly and making a moan or two as he was handled - stripped of any valuables. His rings and arm bands were gone and his boots followed - and watching the rude hands roaming over the other's body made Hellar both rejoice and gag in disgust.

He almost missed the moment when his own search started. Had been handled so many times during last weeks that could get used to it, he thought, being raised on his knees, his arms twisted up. A position making it virtually impossible to struggle - but he was not going to struggle, no matter what.

He was going to survive this. He had survived a lot - and his stamina was kicking in and out during last weeks. But now he wanted to live. It seemed he couldn't get any lower than he was now - and for some reason it was something that really made him want to live. Or rather made him very unwilling to die.

"He doesn't have anything," a disgusted voice, accompanied with a slap. He checked his jaw slightly; not broken... good.

"Did you search well?" they were laughing at him - knew it upon the man's voice.

"We did."

Hellar pulled away, glaring at them, trying to shake his clothes into comparative order, as much as he could. Still could feel their hands that searched him... really well.

"I am broke. The kid is the one who can make you rich. Rauni will pay for him."

"And you?"

"Me what?" he stood the gaze although feeling his stomach spasm.

"Who will pay for you?"

"I don't think anyone will," he made his voice sound relaxed - at least tried. It didn't help - but there was nothing else he could do. "I am a free lancer. An outcast. My people rejected me."

He said it for a reason - tried to find something that they might like to hear. Weren't they nothing more than outcasts, either? He knew how ridiculous his attempts were, though. He could detest these riff-raff with all his heart - but underestimate them would be a sore mistake. And yet what else could he do but talk...

He didn't see it coming - maybe, noticed the sign but didn't have time to interpret it - before he was raised and thrown forward in one motion. His belly hit the flyer - but his chest and his face didn't support on anything, were in the air beyond the edge of the flyer.

He couldn't breathe. The reeking here, from the net dragging behind, was thick, palpable, successfully making his windpipe close as he tried to capture some air with his open mouth. The uneven surface of the sand was skidding beneath him rapidly.

"Then you probably should give me at least one reason why I won't let you go now," he heard the muffled voice.

Part of Hellar's mind was bursting in horror - but part regarded the distance coolly, measured the speed. It was sand there, not stones.

"I probably won't die," he said with the last remnants of breath. The sand was getting black. A few more moments and he would pass out.

"Really?" the voice came from far away - mocking - but Hellar realized it only vaguely. "After getting through *that*?"

He saw it now - a little bit below - the great jaws mauling the carcasses of dead animals, a crude method to sort the loot. There was not blood on the jaws, just greenish liquid of decay. He even didn't see the hand that pushed his head down. A few strands of his hair caught in the jaws, pulling him. He thought he screamed - but, maybe, he didn't have breath for it. Although now he didn't hope he would lose consciousness before... before...

A flash of blade released him - cutting a part of his hair close to the scull - and Hellar fell back, held no more, gasping and staring wildly, struggling with himself for not trying to crawl away from the edge. The men that towered around him wouldn't let him do it, anyway - and he didn't want to provide them more entertainment.

"Enough," the face-covered man said at last, rising his hands... a gesture vaguely familiar but for now Hellar was too messed up to place it. "Rhys will decide what to do with them."

But even when they left, ascended the second level of the flyer, apparently, somewhere where the smell was not that bad, it took minutes for Hellar to stop nervous shudders. Later he pulled himself together enough to crawl into the shadow that another deck made - picking up a saggy waterskin someone must've forgotten.

They didn't tie him; he didn't know why - considered him too much a coward and a traitor to bother - but he didn't care. Or, at least, he told himself he didn't have to care - not what any of this scum thought about him. And he surely was not going to admit that somewhere inside him something still clenched at the thought of what happened.

Later, watching Tsianni's sun-abused face - and they had bothered to tie the kid - not knowing that Hellar's blow would keep him groggy for hours - he thought about moving him away, into the shadow - and in a fit of resentful anger decided against it. He didn't know who he felt this anger against. It must've been Tsianni - Tsianni who'd let it all happen.

Shouldn't have trusted me even that much, Hellar thought revengefully, spitting the foul water in disgust, shouldn't have trusted me at all.

* * *

It was dusk when the flyer reached the camp. Till then it kept moving non-stop and sometimes Hellar thought they would never get anywhere, that he was doomed to the eternity in the reeking hell and rocky motion. And if he had any ideas of making an attempt to get out when the flyer stopped, he had second thoughts at once - both due to his realization that he was too weak and shaky even to walk well - and to the shocking impression how big - and well-guarded - the camp of the scavengers was.

He didn't resist when being dragged from the flyer - more hoping beyond hope than anything else. He did look back at Tsianni - not out of guilt but exactly because he didn't want to look - and saw only that the kid was dragged somewhere else, hanging in the arms of the bandits, his head lolled awry. His hair was dusted almost grey.

After the dancing fires of the camp the darkness was sudden and complete, choking - as Hellar was pushed into a cell, the particular dampness of the air telling him that it had to be underground. Thrown to the wall, he had time to do nothing before his arms were raised and he felt the rings lock on them - fixing him in the sitting position with his arms above his head.

"Hey, the guy said that Rhys..." he started - and heard a chuckle. The men had to see in the darkness better than he did - because when the kick came, it aimed exactly in his groin. Perhaps more because he was in a too convenient position for that than out of hatred - but it was merciless - and Hellar writhed in pain, hanging of his wrists, while the men went up the stairs and the door slammed shut behind them.

He could breathe at last. The darkness was complete, not changing even when minutes passed - but the air was not filled with the reeking any more; except the one that permeated Hellar's clothes by now. He settled on the hard floor, trying to find a more comfortable position - and failed - pain continued to course through his body.

But at the same time - there was a sensation that he'd somehow missed on the flyer - he felt a familiar tingling going inside him, almost close to sexual excitement, as incredible as it sounded. The feeling of being through the danger and staying alive. Any Praetorian would recognize it. It was partly what made them hang on their destiny with such enthusiasm - and sometimes Hellar thought that it was addictive like a drug.

Convoy... Damn cybernetic bastards. Indistinguishably ruthless - and apparently invulnerable. Time alone could do something to them - but was doing it too slowly. Two hundred years... they existed long before the Legions were created. And even the Legions couldn't be any match to them. Tried and failed - failures that cost enough lives to make the High Command recommend to avoid the convoy as much as possible.

Hellar thought that no one could be so close to the convoy and stay alive. But the scavengers apparently did it all the time, didn't they?)

They'd rescued him - and now he was in their power. Nothing to be proud of. Nothing better than before. If anything, from the two of them only Tsianni could regard his position as somewhat stable. Successful or a complete sucker, he still was a chieftain's son. The ransom would be paid and he would be free.

The question was what would happen to Hellar. Would Amanar want his revenge enough to pay a ransom for him, too? He really, really hoped that not. And then... perhaps he could convince the bandits he would like to join them. They had to get new people from somewhere, right? He would lie, of course... he did not intended to spend all his life riding a flyer that was stinking like this... but he would lie convincingly, he promised it to himself.

Hellar didn't know whether these were hopeful thoughts or the extreme exhaustion that overpowered the painful position and his instinctive fear and lulled him into slumber. He dreamed about darkness, too - and about little creatures living there and nibbling on his feet. Or, maybe, it was not so much a dream.

He woke up abruptly; was shaken out of sleep - someone raised him up by his clothes and threw back on the floor as he blinked desperately, trying to figure out where the light that hit in his eyes was from.

He was not alone in the cell any more - and in the circle of light from the flashlights he saw three of the men; two frighteningly tall - and of the comparable width, the round faces that seemed to have too few features to fill them giving out their Kori-Khan origin. Far away from home, he thought. But, maybe, it felt like a right place for them.

The man between them was neither tall nor particularly strong looking. His yellow hair made a weird contrast with his black eyebrows and eyelashes - but his eyes were yellow, too. Not nice to look into. And even with all his slenderness and whip-like grace and the black coat wrapped around him as if he was cold, he looked imperious. Looked like he could decide Hellar's fate.


"You call me 'my lord', Praetorian," he couldn't place the accent. Not any of desert tribes, surely. Chilly bird-like quality, almost amiable - that still made Hellar shift uncomfortably. "Providing that you'll live long enough to call me in any way."

The man's hand holding the flaps of the coat was thin and white, the nails long and varnished carefully. Groomed. Cultured. Didn't stink. Who'd think his fortune was made by the net full of decaying corpses?

"So, what do you have to do with the little Rahuni prince? And tell me the truth, mind you, your companion already shared your secrets with us."

A lie; Hellar knew it. The kid couldn't be in the right state to talk yet. But he would talk later, of course.

"An accident. He is nothing, my lord, he matters nothing in my life. All there is between us is some bad blood."

"Bad blood between a Praetorian and a Rahuni?" the thought seemed to amuse the man. "I can believe it. But you don't answer my question. Fear to do it again."

Hellar had time to see the baton in one of the men's hand before it broke on his ribs. Just one blow - a small punishment for a small misdemeanor - that made him bite his lips desperately trying to stay silent and still crying out.

"What are you doing on the planet?"

"I am in disgrace," he said when he could talk. "My career is ruined. I am not a part of the Legion any more."

"What have you done?" an easy tone of a child fascinated with a new toy.

"Violation of the codex, 1st degree," and before he could be hit again, added hastily. "They accused me in the breakdown of the negotiations between Manos and Tergaron."

"And you were innocent, of course?"

He was not. He had been doing what the Organization wanted him to do. The influence the machine he'd set in the quarters of the Manoi ambassador whom they convoyed to the negotiations had to work... and he knew there was someone who was doing the same with the Tergaronian emissary.

But he couldn't explain that when he had been arrested. Would never try. He had been warned - if something happened, he would be left alone. He had been left alone.

Left alone to pay for being a Praetorian when he was not a Praetorian any more.

"I've never known how the Legion deals with those who wrong it," Rhys said thoughtfully.

"By de-chipping them," Hellar echoed - and for the first time yellow eyes directly met his.

"How do I know that it is true, Praetorian?"

"What sense would it make for me to lie?"

"Oh I dunno. There was no big conflict that would demand the interference of the Legion on the planet for almost two months. They could send you... to accuse the Rahuni for holding you captive - so that the Legion could punish them. Perhaps you are as hot as a grenade without a linchpin, Praetorian - if what was prepared for Rahuni would fall on us. Perhaps it's safer to kill you right away."

He flinched. He tried not to but could do nothing against it. Panic was overwhelming him, the words dropped in an easy voice seeming more menacing for him than even the moment when the sand had been sliding below his face. He wanted to say "no, my lord", to beg - and didn't find his voice.

Then the door opened - and although neither Rhys nor his escort turned back, it was all where Hellar could look. Just an old woman, grey and withered - and some strange device with thin wires in her hands.

"If you tell the truth, there is nothing for you to worry," Rhys said as the woman came up - and Hellar tried to back away when she reached her small hands to him. The little metal spikes on the incomplete hoop were aimed at his temples. A sign Rhys made to one of the man. No blow, just a grip. He tried to struggle - and as his head was slammed into the wall, the cell made a merry-go-round before his eyes. The spikes entered his temples - without pain, just piercing the skin.

"But if you lied - if you still have the chip in your brain - it'll surely kill you," Rhys added in satisfaction.

He didn't know why he struggled; there was no point in it - and he didn't lie - and was it just panic of something going on that he didn't understand. He tried to reclaim some dignity - and would success in it, eventually. But was not given enough time. The old woman pushed the button - and the world exploded around him.

He didn't die. At least seconds after that, when pain continued to tear his brain apart he was sure in it. He didn't hear anything, didn't see anything except the white light - and then stopped seeing even that. But he was pretty sure he didn't lose consciousness. Not even when the convulsions stopped and he hanged on his hands, so exhausted that it was as close to death as possible.

"Hmm, weird," he heard Rhys' voice but had no strength to wonder. "You sure he's not chipped?"

The other voice was no more than a rustle. Reassuring. The old hag. All he wanted was to spit in her face, no matter what it would cost him - and it made him gather enough strength to tug himself up on his wrists. The left one hurt. Maybe, broken.

"You are lucky, Praetorian," Rhys' face still kept this amused expression. "Tarkh was right - you do entertain me. Your reaction at the wires alone was worth watching."

He felt something wetting his face and knew it was blood - but he couldn't say where it was from - from under the spikes or from his nose and ears. The yellow eyes kept watching him - sucking him in - with all his pain, despair and relief.

He realized that the device being pulled off of his head but his nerves seemed jarred - he barely felt anything. Rhys was looking down at him coldly.

"We didn't finish, Praetorian," and to his bodyguards. "Make sure he gets clean - and give him some clothes that don't stink this way. I'll be waiting for him at my place."

The fastenings snapped and his wrists were free - and he collapsed on the floor, looking at Rhys' slim figure as the man left the cell.

One of the Kori stayed, watching him through the process of washing and changing clothes - but there was so little expression in his eyes that Hellar stopped paying attention to him in a few minutes. There was not much water - and it was cold - but at least it was something; the chance for him to rub the stench off of his body - and even wash the sand out of his hair. He chose to plait it in a Praetorian braid - the way he hadn't been doing it since he'd been captured by Hebners. The shorn part of his hair didn't make it look all right - but it had to do for now.

It was the middle of the night, he guessed when coming out - bitterly cold - and even his new, less ragged clothes didn't help it. The camp was not asleep, though - the fire lit and the voices of the men reaching him.

He looked there - and even before he'd seen anything else, he met the eyes of the face-covered man. Straightening and looking at Hellar - with an unreadable expression - and yet somehow Hellar felt drawn to these eyes gazing at him over the cloth. Something made him look; and, maybe, he thought something made the man look, too.

He saw Tsianni right after that - and felt both surprise and a jolt of dark, malicious joy. He'd thought the kid was safe... well, perhaps he was. But not happy at all. Who would be - naked, kneeling and groped like this.

A sudden wave of sickness overcame Hellar as he recalled how it felt - to be put like this, touched and handled by so many hands. The desert bastards had done it to him... desert bastards like the kid was... another tribe - but he was sure could expect the same from the Rauni, too.

The kid deserved it; was exactly where he deserved to be all the way. And, anyway, nothing bad was supposed to happen to him. They should've raped him, should've stuffed him full... but they wouldn't. The clan-aga's son, huh... they knew that would be going too far if they wanted a ransom for him.

Could use his mouth, though...

For a brief moment, when their eyes met, Hellar thought Tsianni didn't recognize him - didn't see him at all. Nothing that these eyes, widened and black with pain and shock, could see. Then recognition made them almost light, with the reflection of fire dancing in the golden irises. Or was it hatred?

Well, could hate all he wanted, Hellar thought. He owed nothing to the kid. Two days spent together in the desert were nothing. They even didn't talk once... as people talk.

He stopped just long enough to spit on the ground - and exactly for the same long Tsianni could look at him before a cruel twist of his thin braids threw him face down on the ground. Hellar watched it until he was shoved - the curtain of the tent raised in front of him - and having no time even for the shortest prayer he knew, he was pushed inside Rhys' lair.

The End of Part 4a



Part 4b

Written by BlueGreen

Perhaps Hellar had endured the same, Tsianni thought fighting to keep his breathing regular. Scarface personally gagged him and now he could only swallow under pain.

Pray that Rhys will let you keep the gag.

With his wet hair in a misshapen hard twist, the Praetorian did look force-dunked and bruised and altogether non-happy sitting among the opulent cushions. Probably they keep him from drinking too much water - and Tsianni knew from experience that it tended to make him resentful. Or maybe he had already angered that man Rhys whose name alone was enough to bring order to a noisy crowd of horny bandits. But then the Praetorian had managed to get clothed and that was something Tsianni was missing sorely.

It came to him as he was kneeling naked on the thick carpet inside the tent. What was happening now - was just playtime. Cleaned, watered and then for a short time his body was there to amuse them. Any expectations of his about getting out of this camp unscathed or being ransomed seemed so much like childish dreams. The reality he'd already been shown in the mutilation of a man's face and the nettings of the bandits raider flyer dripping blood. He felt it now in Scarface hold tightening as the thin blond man entered.

"Did he trouble you?"

"No, my lord, no more than any other arrogant Rahuni bastard would."

The laugh held true amusement and Rhys was the only one laughing aloud. Not a youngish man as Tsianni had first thought. The dimness of the tent couldn't quite disguise his thinning skin's creases. Tsianni found himself staring at the pale-ish faked strands framing the hard face until Scarface's fingers began to hurt him. He bit down on the gag angrily, thinking that he didn't need any introduction to hate the bandit's chief on sight.

"Ah yes, who should know better than you? My faithful Tarkh. I expect you to curb your tongue tonight - you know I have guests."

The man behind him grew very still as if waiting for the baiting voice to continue but instead Rhys waved one of the big hulking guard through the curtain. Fully armored, the man had to turn sideways to enter. He went to one knee his weapons rattling.

"The yelling lowlife outside - go catch him and kick his balls in," he ordered swirling a cup of kyhf. And added with a sidelong glance to the Praetorian at his side. "My guest and I came to the conclusion that the man has something of a problem."

Then Rhys' eyes found his and Tsianni stiffened under his slow appreciating smile.

"Off with the gag. I want to see his mouth."

The leatherball was well soaked in his salvia. It looked as if polished as it left Tsianni's sore mouth. It was big enough to leave a deep abrading ache in his jaws and he only managed to make some coughing noises. The biting leather taste stayed, though. They allowed him bow over to draw some deep breaths through the mouth before he was forced up on his knees again. Gods, had the thing in him for a few hours only - he wouldn't imagine being forced to take it for a whole night.

"If I didn't knew better, Tarkh," Rhys said in a cutting voice, "I would say you already had been using him..."

"Come near me anywhere with your pitiful bandit cock..." outraged, Tsianni croaked into the silence, not recognizing his own voice. And didn't catch the man's signal or perhaps there had been none; only knew he was pushed face down to the floor and his injured shoulder blazed up in pain. His cries were short and choked and when they let him up again his whole body shook.

It took him a while to clear his tearing eyes and to focus on the man reclining like a sated snake in front of him.

"I enjoyed that - but I doubt you did, little Rahuni. My Kori-khan can twist the arm of you and impale you on it - and I will enjoy that too. "

He paused and, fixating his prisoner, let his fine hands slowly smooth the recamh's folds over his erection.

"I'll make sure you lessons don't go over your horizon."

Then broke off with a frown as he noticed Hellar surreptitiously wiping away a smear of blood from his nose.

Slightly smiling through his teeth Rhys said:

"Would be awfully crude of you puking on my carpets, Praetorian," and poured a new glass of kyhf. "Here, take that..."

Tsianni couldn't help but swallow at the thought of the smooth spicy brew soothing his aching throat. The taste of fear had risen in him dark and numbing, shaming him. He hadn't made a sound since.

Hellar muttered something uncharacteristically meek, like "thank you lord", and took a small sip. And then a longer one, lifting his eyes to Tsianni for a short moment.

Do not provoke him kid. Don't. Be that stupid.

They both jerked at a shrill scream from outside.

"Did he have a whore among the campfollowers," Rhys wondered out aloud blowing gently into his steaming glass; then his hard dark eyes sought the man behind Tsianni. "I fear you will have to pay compensation from your own share, Tarkh. I know my Kori and they are always - a little overeager in following orders. Don't make me think again you haven't had your men in hand."

"Of course not, sir."


It was this time of the early morning when the sky turned to that particular shade of blue and the air was still and cold that Rahuni raiders would strike. Desert wisdom told them to avoid the hours where the winds rose but then they had done so for every generation - so that it became a known thing and they still wouldn't change it.

And Amanar was pure Rahuni.

He brought with him a breeze of freezing air as he ripped the inner curtain aside and his eyes went wide seeing the naked Tsianni.

"I knew it... Gods, damn you, Rhys..." he roared. "Why is he still alive? And what is that fucking Praetorian doing here - are you selling me out?.."

He stepped aside with a growl as Tsianni and his guards nearly toppled over - Tsianni yelling mindlessly against the hand on his mouth until the tent grew dark and silent around him. Dimly felt the moist and cold leather being pushed against his teeth and that brought him back to the present like nothing else, head hanging down shaking. But he didn't feel anything. White-boiling hate gone as quickly as it came. He was just cold, but that wasn't anything new. Through the curtain of his hair he could make out Amanar's boots. His thoughts had gone slippery like eel-breed dipping around the boulders. Was back under the Praetorian's knife and saw it... That look on his cousin's face wanting him dead even then.

Rhys finally stopped laughing and was generously offering new kyhf all around. Which Tsianni's cousin didn't decline, sprawling back into the cushions like someone coming home after having had a nasty ride. And a nastier surprise.

"I thought you wanted to see the two sheep I found in the wasteland," Rhys smiled. "Oh, and my condolences on the demise of the young prince, your second casualty was it? We only found his clothes and weapons, and some machine fluids or do you need some parts? Death comes fast in the desert - who knows better then the Rahuni."

"Stop that." Amanar growled. "I'm not in the mood for your jokes. Where is the fucking flyer?"

"Rahuni, I thought you knew - "

"Knew what?"

Rhys took a delicate sip.

"We found them alone - the flyer is probably on the ground of the ocean, you know the storm's direction..."

Tsianni saw his cousin rise and take one step - didn't see the kick which lifted him and his guard nearly of the ground. Only when he tried to draw breath next the pain struck. His head was jerked up and to the side, fingers trying to rip the leather from his mouth.

"You lost a flyer? And you are still alive?"

He was let go just as sudden, like a piece of offal that offended. The strong arms of Tarkh's men gathered him up without resistance, presenting him anew. But Tsianni wished for the hot clean blade in his guts now.

"Just kill the boy and be done with it. I thought we had business to speak off."

"It is business," Rhys said. "He is my prisoner. And I for one do prefer to make a profit," added as if an afterthought. "Surely you don't fear his followers? "

Amanar wouldn't look at him and Tsianni finally understood.

"I took no chance with the little bastard. He never had any."

But Rhys could read his reaction as well; Amanar's hesitation was obvious.

"Ah, the young and dashing. What would they do without an older hand to curb? May I ask if the next clan-heir will be of calmer blood?

"She certainly will," Amanar gave a slow smile. "And the next heir will be of my blood."

Then spat in Tsianni direction:

"Try stud with that and you won't like the result - stubborn, arrogant and smallish," grinned. "Surely your whores can't be all diseased? What do you need a male whore when your campfollowers are plentiful and female?"

Rhys made a small motion with his hand and then reached out.

Tsianni knew better than to move as the rim of a glass touched his left nipple. When the man withdrew his hand his body gave a short involuntary spasmodic shutter, he wasn't hurt but sunburned bruised skin felt the soft touch like a burn. He didn't have to look down to know his nipples had come to attention in small hard nubs. They smelled of exquisite kyhf.

"Ask Hellar here - he certainly had a good look at what he's been trudging behind for the last days."

Hellar didn't move an eyelid. Lifting his glass of kyhf with a steady hand. Very careful. Like treading on quicksand all the time.

But Amanar just made a spitting noise.

"There's lots I want that Praetorian to question for - but not his standard in male flesh."

"Is that so?" Rhys grinned hardly trying to keep the glee out of this voice.

"But we are partners and as such I should be more sensitive towards your needs. Perhaps you will do the honors?"

"What do you think me? Bandit?"

At the tone of the Rahuni leader the big guards to Rhys' side tensed.

"Do you assume just because I have to make a hard decision for the good of the clan that I would lower myself to the likes of you? How about an exchange - the Praetorian goes with me and you can keep this talented young buck."

For a long moment the tent's occupants breathed collective tension and Tsianni found himself holding very still. He had the sudden vision of his cousin choking in the pool of his own blood. He closed his eyes and saw the redness. Tarkh put his hand on the nape of neck under the masses of the hair ready to punish.

Rhys' hands were shaking slightly - for that piece of Rahuni arrogance Tsianni knew he would pay.

"Do you think him so experienced, Rahuni?"

Rhys' hands were caressing a thing of metal and leather. Tsianni couldn't keep his eyes from it. Fear had taken hold in his guts now like a cold fist.

"Not very, bandit. Not as far as I know," Tsianni's cousin answered with a sidelong glance at Hellar.

With a short twist the thing snapped into form under Rhys hands. Tsianni's stomach turned.

Amanar grinned.

"But I am in mood of a wager - to make up last time's losses. How about it?" His eyes were bright as with fever as he put a daring hand on one of Rhys' guard's massive thighs. "Shall we see if he can take a Kori?"

Rhys thoughtfully rubbed over the gleaming leatherstraps.

"If you don't mind me saying so, dear Rahuni, my Kori-khan are feared among the whores in camp. Some of them were completely useless after a session with them. Methinks you are aware of that."

"Oh my dear Rhys," Amanar frowned. "If you don't mind me saying so, you are so obvious. You know I can't leave you here in possession of an intact Rahuni clan-heir. But who cares for a branded camp whore..."

Rhys threw the contraption over to Tsianni's guards. "Fix him up." He ordered.

A hand held his nose shut and he somehow opened his mouth like any good slave once the gag was out of him and let them fit him with the bit. It went in like being made for him. His jaws immediately began to hurt. And he lost control over his limbs. But you knew that - slaves never really resist, do they.

He gagged on Rhys searching fingers in his mouth more in horror than of them gaining depth, then lost all hearing over the roar in his head.

They brought him forward on all fours before the kneeling big guardsman and let him watch the man bare himself. Only then his body fought like any animal's. Not human his mind jabbered, not even smelling human thought it had all the outward appearance of an organ made for copulation. For a moment the tip of the cock rested heavy and pulsing on the root of his tongue then it went down his throat like a burning log. Vomit rose and choked him in an acid wave. The man withdrew just enough so Tsianni could take a wheezing breath around the flesh blocking his throat. His eyes had flown open instinctively and he wished he hadn't seen the organ's discolored size. The massive gleaming thing coming out of him could have easily ripped its way down to his stomach.

A thin hand fastened on the shaft growing into his mouth and jerked on the loosened skin once. Twice. The bloated head lodged at the entrance of his throat grew. In terror he fought for his next breath trying to swallow around it. Hands gripped his hair like stirrups and jerked him forwards and its helmet-like shape went like a hot poker through his closed flesh. The rest of the big shaft followed rasping into him until finally thinned hot juices clogged his nose and he lost any chance of breathing of his own.

They had to throw a pall of cold over him to wake him up completely and even then he couldn't make his eyes focus. He guessed it was Amanar hovering above him but somehow couldn't care less. And couldn't swallow without making noises like some dying thing.


Hellar yelped, which Rhys apparently found quite amusing.

"What? Are you afraid of some rays, foreigner?"

"Just point that thing somewhere else! "

The woman was old and held something blinking and metallic. With a snort she lowered into Tsianni's face. His questing hand got slapped away.

Then the fire in his throat was extinguished. He heard himself sobbing shamelessly over her cackling laugh.

"This bird won't sing out loud for a while."

If he blinked, Tsianni could see the fine firesparks rising into the updraft of the lightening sky. He was cold and had lost all sense of time. Only knew that he was held up on his knees again and his head was resting on someone's shoulder behind him. Sometimes he felt a warm breath like a touch on his frozen skin but lacked the energy to turn towards it. They wouldn't stop now.

So this it how it's done. But he had known... This is what you do to slaves who don't know their place.. This is what you do to an enemy before your men...


His legs didn't work as they dragged him out. He remembered being faintly surprised to find a cursing Hellar next to him in the cold morning light. Protesting under his breath and being ignored as his own sounds were thankfully overheard.

"I want distance..." Tarkh snapped out at a murmured question. "Whenever that Rahuni comes visiting Rhys is likely to go on a rampage."

As he was thrown like a slaughtered sheep over a deadwood log Tsianni's breath left him in a wuffh. They poured cold biting kyhf over his cut-up flank and before he even registered that as pain, hot metal touched him and his body tried to jump out of his skin. He would have cried out under the gag as a moist smelling package was put on the wound fast and professional but the pain never left him reverberating inside his head.

When their grip on him loosened Tsianni slid of the log. Someone's bony knees were in his way and he sprawled over them. For a crazy moment he was back inside the emergency tent's cocoon under the sandstorm's howls being pressed together with another body - someone alive and fighting like he was. Another mote in the storm's eye.

"Get off me! Stupid Rahuni kid, you can't go to sleep here!"

"Shut up! And stop that, Praetorian!" Tarkh barked out. "There's enough attention on us already, do you understand?"

One of his men kicked sand over the small fireside.

"Demir and his brother have been on the lookout for that Rahuni."

"He landed near the old courtyard, don't tell me - and he came alone. Damn him! Damn his arrogant soul! I want a look at that flyer."

"The shape the boy is in now - you can't put him among slaves..."

Tsianni felt Hellar groan more than he heard it.

"Forget about it..."

"It's your job, Praetorian. Keep out of sight and don't let him run around. Don't make me come looking for you. Stay! In that fucking tent! Oh, and the only cure for a kyhf hangover is more kyhf."

The End of Part 4b



Part 5a

Written by Juxian Tang

The choking tang of the burnt flesh seemed to poison every intake of the cold night air - and Hellar still heard the hissing sound of the iron touching the skin; the sound that made him sick and shaky despite his best intentions to stay detached. Remembered too well how it felt... hadn't been branded, though, the Hebners just entertained themselves...

He watched how, after a small fight that was rather like attempts of a blind kitten to crawl away, Tsianni stayed still on the ground, curled and limp - and how Tarkh reached his hand and raised the boy's eyelids. Only the whites showed and, apparently, it was what Tarkh wanted to see.

"He won't be much trouble for you tonight," his voice was harsh enough to make Hellar bit down a sarcastic question whether he really cared so much about his troubles. "Come on, pick him up."

He obeyed since it was the best he could do in the situation - and all the kyhf that had been a bad substitution for water somehow killed his rebellious streak. He felt in control of his body, maybe, better than he managed for last weeks - and he even couldn't say that his mind was cloudy. But he knew it was a delusion, however - or he wouldn't feel so distant from everything, almost aloof.

Wrong! He cursed himself. Be sharp on reality if you want to survive. Nothing was over yet... thankfully. Because when it was going to be over, it would be too late for him.

"Get to the tent," Tarkh snapped and, as they put Tsianni down, turned to face Hellar. "I hope you'll have enough skills to be able to light the fire?"

"I..." he started and saw a flash of a raised hand. He was not hit - just reminded.

"Stay in there. Take care of him. Take out his gag and give him some water," and probably reading in Hellar's face everything Hellar thought about the task, added. "Rhys won't be happy if his property doesn't get looked after nicely."

Fuck Rhys, he thought.

"You... what is your name..." Tarkh's hand pressing hard on his shoulder was warm, almost hot. "If it comes to your mind to have some fun... not up his ass, remember."

Hellar shrugged - a caustic answer that he would have to be really desperate to crawl on any of them desert sluts was on the tip of his tongue but he refrained. The curtain of the tent fell cutting off the blinking lights of fires and stars and enveloping him into dusty stuffiness - and he slid on the floor silently, suddenly aware of how tired he was. Tired and drunk.

But not tired and drunk enough not to try...

"Damir, watch around here," he heard a quiet voice of Tarkh and slammed his fist in the ground. Well, he should've expected it; the man was not that stupid at all.

It was stuffy inside the tent but not warm. He sat on his heels for a while, shivering, trying to pull himself together and snap his mind back where it had to be. How long did he spend in Rhys' tent? Sometimes it seemed hours. But the night was not over yet...

And his destiny was not sealed. Maybe, was being sealed now. He recalled the last words he'd heard before leaving the tent, Amanar turning to Rhys with a shadow of a contented smile that had played on his lips all the way since the Kori thrust his cock into Tsianni's mouth:

"And now let's talk about the Praetorian..."

He made a sharp inhale, too loud, hushing all the noises of the camp that were blaring but distant - hushing the short little breaths Tsianni was making. Still unconscious, Hellar thought and reached around, groping on the floor, until found the hearth with some fuel there and a flick. He had to make a fire; certainly not because Tarkh told him... and not because he had to take care of Tsianni. Oh really, the kid hadn't been cared of so far... they let him have a sunstroke... well, not to count Hellar hitting him first of all.

But looking at Tsianni's face in the first flashes of fire, he thought that a bit of cold would probably kill him - and, maybe, the kid would appreciate it. Only Hellar was not going to do any favors for him. If he wanted to die, he would have to do it - or not to do it - himself.

Shrugging, Hellar reached his hands to the dancing fire - first warming up his stiff fingers and then feeling how clear liquid on his split and puffy knuckles started to evaporate. It didn't hurt at first - then it did - but he didn't move. Pushed his hands closer to the licking tongues if anything.

And heard a small sound the boy made. Not something comprehensive, taking into account that the gag was still on its place. And yet Tsianni's eyes were open - staring wide and black from the dark outlines of the eye sockets on the sharpened face.

"What?" Hellar recognized the bitterness in his own voice - but wasn't the reason of it justified? When would he be free from the damned kid? "What do you want?"

As if he could get the answer without taking out the gag.

He ripped it off rudely, eliciting a little sound of pain from Tsianni but in a way enjoying it; at least he preferred to take this twisted knot of emotions inside him for enjoyment. Hellar's burnt fingers resounded with pain, too, and he winced.

"Why?" the kid's voice was like a rustle and Hellar needed a few moments to figure out what Tsianni said and only then tried to understand what it meant.

"Why what?"

"Burning yourself. Life's getting too good for you?"

He was not going to explain. The little brat wouldn't understand all the same... it was just the memories... no one would understand. The yearly - almost sacred - ordeal at the Legion school - the dancing flame and the trembling hands over it - for seconds and seconds, long after the chip stopped suppressing the pain. That was the greatest chic - to stand it when the chip didn't help any more. And the older kids patted affectionately the one who stayed the longest, the regenerator patching burnt skin quickly.

He didn't want to talk about it. Or he did. Only it was not a right time for it.

"Do you need something? Water? A blanket?"

He saw Tsianni's tongue, swollen, moving awkwardly between split lips and wondered what the kid would do. Beg for help? Reject it? Maybe, nothing. Too far gone for that?

He reached to the misshapen pile of quilts in the corner and pulled out one of them, looked down at Tsianni's body thoughtfully. He noticed how the kid shifted uneasily under his gaze - and shrugged. He was not looking... like that. He put the quilt away and found another one, which would be softer on the sunburns. He had to push Tsianni's hands away that flew up silly as if the kid tried to defend himself - and dropped the blanket on him. Stupid boy... making a fuss again; should stop it by now.

There was some water in the pitcher - enough for him not to spare it - and he trickled a little into Tsianni's mouth. The kid gulped and coughed making Hellar look at him in a kind of fascination. His throat must've hurt like hell... and yet the old woman with her damned device... she used it and apparently it didn't cause him this much pain at all.

Fuck, fuck... He didn't feel good; inside him everything protested against the situation, against being with Tsianni in this tent. A Praetorian taking care of someone - and even not of another Praetorian. But Praetorians don't have sickbeds, anyway.

Not true... The memory slammed so hard that he gasped - another unwanted memory, of the same kind as his burnt fingertips. The low cave lit by the yellow flame and the huddling, too-warm bodies around it, dirty faces and hollow, glazed eyes. The second survival exam - and the unknown virus that had killed almost all of them on that planet.

He was lucky; he hadn't died then. For years he believed it was because he was better than others... blessed in some way. Well, maybe, he should've changed his opinion now.


"What's wrong with you, you are in the mood to talk?" he snapped, more pissed off with his own memories than with whatever Tsianni could say - and really, the boy couldn't say much. Just trying - with his badly split lips, the little ripples of pain going over his face at these attempts.


"Shut up!" he wanted to cover the kid's mouth but just waved his hand.

"Did you hear them?"

"I am not deaf," he was surprised that the kid apparently heard it, too; must be tougher than he seemed. "So what? It might be a trap."

The flyer. In the darkness, without any knowledge of how the camp was built, he still was sure he would find it. He could feel it; even switched off, he could feel the signals of it resounding in his brain.

He saw the kid shake his head furiously, the thin sticky braids whipping against the floor and his face.

"Amanar... wouldn't let them use it for a trap. And I know how to make it move."

"Yeah, you do," he bared his teeth in a grin. "Only you don't get to it."

He saw pain in Tsianni's eyes, a flash of his teeth, already red, sinking deep in his torn lips as he looked at Hellar... and this look Hellar didn't like at all. Tsianni looked at him as if he, Hellar, was... hopeless.

"You think they will spare you? If you guard me... You think so..."

He didn't need to start arguing - it wasn't worth it, the kid wasn't worth his attention. Yet he stayed - for a little while, telling himself he needed this time to get rid of the last of kyhf effect. To finish the argument that had no point.

"I don't care shit for what you do. But you won't get to the flyer all the same. Not in your state. I'll do it myself."

"I'll go with you."

"No, you won't! You'll get me in trouble!" he raised his voice to the harsh whisper. "It's my flyer... my way out."

He almost couldn't believe it when he saw a sudden sparkle of the former arrogance in the kid's sunken eyes - and heard a whisper, almost desperate, so desperate that it didn't make him laugh:

"You need me."

"What for?"

"I won't let you go alone."

"Don't make me do it," he sighed and did it all the same - pressed his forearm to Tsianni's throat. Not hard; but even that was enough to feel the kid's clawed fingers sticking into his hand, trying to pull it away as little almost animal-like sounds were coming through his injured larynx. He slapped Tsianni, more out of duty that really feeling like doing it.

"Do you think I'll let you drag me back to your people? So that they could fuckin' rape me and torture me? I've had enough of that, thank you very much!"

"Help me and I won't let them harm you."

It was not even funny.

"Well, I don't know how you are going to get back to your people all the same," he couldn't resist to say it - and saw the kid's eyes burn steadily in reply. He continued slowly. "Not unless you are going to hide your little trademark for all your life."

He reached under the blanket and brushed his hand against Tsianni's thigh, pulling his hand away abruptly as he felt the surprisingly jagged lines of the strange symbol - and feeling how Tsianni tried to get away from him, too, he didn't know if it was in pain or in unwillingness to be touched. Oh now you know how it is, he thought, feeling a cruel smile twist his lips - but there was no joy in thinking that.

He took his hand away, still feeling the warmth of the kid's tensed thigh, hard muscle under the feverishly hot skin - something like tingling of the current through his palm.

They will touch you and won't ask you, he wanted to say. They will use you again - and you know it. They told me not up your ass - but it only means that your ass will be used by someone else. Someone more deserving.

He got up suddenly, the flap of his clothes nearly catching the fire - and saw Tsianni's knowing gaze; knowing - not contemptuous. Must've read it in Hellar's face - the determination... and he had to give the boy a credit - he knew when he didn't need to waste the words.

No farewell, then.

He slipped out of the tent, not surprised any more how much effort it demanded from him to control his body. Yet he managed - saw the broad back of the guard who didn't flinch until Hellar was right behind. His body thrashed only when Hellar's hands locked around his throat.

He could just knock him out cold, the position was convenient enough for it - but he didn't want to. The truth was that he wanted to do it this way - to feel the agonizing body struggle against his grip, hear the little wheezes the guard was making, not able to scream - right until his neck snapped and he hanged limply in Hellar's embrace.

He pulled the man off the way - and it was his luck. Because when he saw someone walking towards him, he still knew that his little meeting with the guard had been unnoticed.

It was not Tarkh, not one of Rhys' people - which might have been better - and he surely recognize the tall broad-shouldered figure, the round smooth head and a flash of white teeth.

"I guess I am right in time, Praetorian. I was about to lose you, wasn't I?"

Right in time, Hellar thought bitterly, looking around. Amanar was alone - unsheathing his blade snake-like smoothly. He was drunk, had to be - but it only gave more fluidness to his movements.

"Don't worry, I won't kill you right away. I'll spare it till the moment we'll get back home. After all, Tsianni's father would love to take his revenge on his son's murderer."

Hellar almost laughed. Whatever - but it was ridiculous.

"And you think I'll be silent about Tsianni's real destiny? I swear, Amanar, I won't."

The man did laugh. Throwing his head back and driving his blade away slightly.

"But do you think you will be able to talk without your tongue?"

He kicked Amanar's hand, knocking the blade out, and threw himself at the man, furiously enough for them both to roll on the ground. He thought that Amanar only had to cry out and everything would be over... for Hellar. But Amanar was silent. Out of pride or because he was sure he would get Hellar down himself... only this was not going to happen. He didn't know how he felt the hand slinking down to the belt for the dagger - but he caught Amanar's wrist, squeezing it until the fingers slackened. Amanar under him was like some sea creature - strong and slick, his shaven head glistening in the darkness, his black eyes furiously bright.

He missed a blow and was on his back, all Amanar's weight slamming down on him, hard armor pressing against his injured ribs and gashed skin. He gasped soundlessly, looking up in the underlined insane eyes - and suddenly felt how Amanar passed the back of his hand over his face slowly. The sharp gem in his ring sliced from his cheekbone to the corner of his mouth, the wetness of blood instant and warm.

He raised his knees abruptly, pushing the man away, throwing him on the ground so hard that he heard Amanar's little yelp - and it brought him more satisfaction than he expected. He stuck his fingers around the trembling column of the man's larynx, ready to tear it out.

Then pain flared in him - so hot and overwhelming that at first he thought it was a knife. Thrust in his side and turned and twisted there. But when another kick reached him, Hellar knew what exactly it was.

He fell, curling around the ball of pain, trying to stop himself from choking - and looked at Tarkh who towered over him, the feral coal-dark eyes blazing down at him with fury.

"I told you to stay in..."

He saw Tarkh raise his foot again - and heard Amanar's crispy voice behind:

"Play with my property, clansman, but don't injure it."

Clansman... suddenly it made sense. The little details that still stayed in Tarkh's clothes, manners - even in his speech. Damn these Rauni...

Tarkh didn't kick him any more. And somehow Hellar guessed that it was not Amanar's wish but exactly this word - clansman.

"He is not your property yet," the words slurred worse than ever - Tarkh still stood over him but looked only at Amanar. "You haven't agreed about the price."

"Oh we will," Hellar watched Amanar pick up his blade and wondered if Tarkh saw it, too. "And sooner than you can expect. I don't think Rhys lacks trash among his men."

Finely articulated words - the same much venom as in the previous phrases - and Hellar understood that it hardly surprised him when he heard another blade unsheathed.

Oh Goddess, these motherfuckers were really crazy. But maybe, maybe, it would give him a chance... He tried to force his body into obedience, make it forget pain and exhaustion - and knew that when he needed, he would do it. He would do it for sure.

He watched Tarkh raise his blade slowly, pulling his facecloth off with his other hand, baring the craved, seeming almost flat without the usual outline of the nose face.

It didn't come as a shock for him; he suspected something like that. And it didn't surprise Amanar. But they had to know each other almost too well. Hellar saw the first sparkles when the blades crossed and groped on the ground for a good rock. Let one of them kill the other - and then he'll kill the victor.

"Lovely, isn't it?" the voice jarred his nerves, with all its almost childish casualness - and as if hypnotized he raised his too-heavy head at approaching Rhys in the company of his bodyguards. Oh no... Not now, please... "My right hand man is trying to kill my good friend... while my slave tries to escape."

Said so lightly... and Hellar felt his heart about to stop - the terror choking him. How did Rhys know? Maybe, knew all the way... And he was doomed, was going to pay...

"Killing my people on the way," Rhys continued almost sweetly.

"My lord..."

"Thanks Gods, we managed to capture him."

Now Hellar noticed. Behind the Kori guards - hanging in the hands of some others - really hanging - strung up, his toes barely touching the ground - Tsianni.

The fuckin' kid got out! While he was stuck between the two Rauni bastards, the kid managed to get out of the tent and... did he try to reach the flyer?

"Rhys..." he heard Tarkh's voice, muffled behind the facecloth again - and saw how Rhys' thin hand flew up - an abrupt gesture that still was the same liquid music as all his movements were.

"Forget it, Tarkh. The problem is solved."

Yeah, the problem - the dirty bruised kid with his arms twisted back so cruelly that his shoulders stuck forward almost on the verge of dislocating. He saw Tsianni's ribs going up and down frantically, as if he was trying to get some air and couldn't.

He'd got some clothes, Hellar thought in surprise - at least some pants, hanging loosely on his thighs, not covering his hollow belly that trembled slightly at every breath. It was this trembling of his muscles that became worse when Rhys came up to him - probably the only thing that gave out Tsianni's fear. There was not much in his face, though... not the usual mask of self-control, however - rather all emotions wiped off with hatred.

"Well, almost solved," Rhys' hand raised Tsianni's face, a little more up, not to level their eyes but to make looking more difficult. "I don't like when my slaves misbehave."

Hellar saw the short movement of the braided head - Tsianni trying to get free - and then, Rhys' long-fingered and seemingly fleshless hand sliding slightly down, lying on the kid's throat.

"I'll take care of you," he said; he didn't do anything, didn't even squeeze - although Hellar knew Tsianni expected it, noticed how his throat rolled as he tried to swallowed and couldn't. "But there is no hurry. It's already been a long night."

Now Hellar noticed the sign - so minor and swift that one had to be trained extremely well to recognize it. The guards were trained well, apparently - taking the kid and dragging him away. Tsianni didn't look back - neither at Rhys nor at Amanar - nor at Hellar - and soon Hellar couldn't see him in the dimness.

He turned - and met Tarkh's eyes over the edge of the facecloth - and suddenly he couldn't doubt that the man knew who really had killed the guard, who really had tried to escape. Amanar didn't know - but Tarkh knew. And he didn't say it, Hellar thought, why didn't he say it?

The End of Part 5a



Part 5b

Written by BlueGreen

He almost slipped out of their fists as his ankle gave beneath him.

"Fuck you mothers!" he cursed the men holding him. Deliberately inviting their kicks he spat and twisted on his knees and yet hardly felt the blows - when he needed the pain to stop the thoughts from coming.

He should be dead - by rights he should have managed at least that.

A boot to his stomach threw him back against someone's bony knees, then his bruised arms were gripped and he was jerked up once more between them, his feet leaving the ground. Their yelling distorted faces blurred.

What are you waiting for? He cried out inside. He would rather face their revenge, fast and messy as it would be, Tarkh's troops being an undisciplined pack of lowlife, than taste Rhys hospitality anew.

Rhys who'd smiled at him as he glibly promised rest; his eyes and his touch though speaking of other, darker things that were be done to his runaway with a relish that let the small hair of Tsianni's neck rise with primordial fear.

He'd never really feared any man. But this unimposing aged bandit leader with slim hands that had never done manual labor nor held the calluses of a fighter - who made men like Hellar cower with a glance, had already shown him a glimpse of hell, simply on a whim. And this time he would have a reason.

Almost involuntarily Tsianni's knees locked; his panicky mind was telling him he wasn't even tied, for heavens' sake - they might yet lose patience with him. Anything was better - anything but getting delivered up willingly.

It was out of the corner of his eyes he thought he saw them again. Behemoths moving among their lesser brethen - a pair of creatures mimicking human features but Tsianni knew better. Might as well been hamstrung then - he sagged into the arms of his captors as if his blood had turned to water.

Only came out of it when the men grew tired of carrying his dead weight and let him slip to the ground like a punched sacking. He lay on stone steps which heated up slowly in the rising sun, all but insensible, gazing stupidly at a flock of the tiny red-crested lizards prattled in a their own abrupt pattern across sandy plates. Clansfolk swore on the effect their dried innards had on the sexual unwilling and had hunted them near to extinction. The lizards vanished into a crack, one by one, as the winds began to rise.


His mother's clan still held to migrating with the seasons.

The Rahuni of his fathers' did so only if it pleased them.

He had arrived during wet season when the green gardens of the string of desert islands were in bloom. Careful irrigation had extended their wealthy fields into much of what had been wasteland before, so Tsianni and his two veterans had been riding through humid green groves for hours before the first outer walls came in sight.

Ben hadn't stopped cursing under his breath for about that long.

So, lowland air was not like they sung in the songs, making their noses run and their heads ache. The last time the veterans had been so near the coast was the time of his birth. When his mother had fled this clan. Seventeen seasons would make a difference to any man's bones. Tsianni felt like yelling at them and wondered not for the first time why it did have to be these old constant nagging warriors who made up his honor guard for this journey.

Now and then through the trees they could get glimpses of their escort. Dark big clansmen on bullish steeds - following them silently on parallel paths. There had been no exchange - yet they hadn't been attacked or even held up so one could assume these knew who he was.

"I don't mind," he said to Sakr riding to his right. When he wanted nothing more than driving his nasty tempered war-steed into the other pack, spooking their mares and trampling over all the smelly greenstuff just to see whether they would go on ignoring him and his men after that.

"You should -" Sakr answered. "These are going to be your men."

Tsianni thought he would know his father - like blood should know blood. But he had always shied from imagining true welcome in his eyes. Rather thinking it a fair guess the man would look at him and then remember the grudge he had with his mother's clan. And the sad and fateful reason which forced him to send for this son he never knew. This was to be expected. One could hope, though, he'd notice that his son's looks weren't fully that of a deepdesert breed; some of his lowland Rahuni blood had made his eyes lighter and his skin darker. Though it was his obnoxious and rebellious nature which was purely his father's, at least as far as his mother was concerned.

"They want a blood test -" Sakr hissed beneath his facecloth as he came back from the wall of highbrowed young warriors guarding the inner courtyards. That's where they'd been stopped at last and in a manner that was barely civil anymore.

Tsianni frowned. He should have known his veterans would resent anything his father wanted from him, but it jolted him to realize that being a proven and blooded warrior counted for nothing in their eyes. They had trained him since childhood and still didn't think him good enough to hold up on his own. His own sworn men but who was he kidding everyone knew their true loyalty had always been to his mother. And his mother's hate had never slackened. He needed to show his father that he wasn't her creature and what better way was there then to test his mettle - he'd brave any of their clumsy fighters.

"Their shaman will perform it - to test your blood's purity."

Testing like they would a calf of dubious heritage. He was halfway across the yard before his veterans had scrambled up from their seats.


"Your education is seriously lacking or is it just me?" Rhys asked. "Even your cousin when he came to me the first time curbed his temper and made a try at being charming. He wanted something from me, you see. As you do now."

Rhys held his head between his hands and used his thumps to wipe Tsianni's crusty burning eyes free. Tsianni had no longer control over them. He only knew that closing them - was punished. He let it happen anyway.

"He was about your age or maybe a bit older. I never saw his body like I have seen yours and you desert breed always age fast in the face."

Nails delicately scratched the skin around his nipple and then traveled southwards. Old game that - one they had played before until he fainted. Yet his body couldn't help but stretch itself once again in its bonds to evade the touch of his tormentor's hands; his skin twitched like a horse shying when he failed.

The hand closing around his tight balls did so almost gently.

"Ask me to stop, my haughty Rahuni prince." Rhys taunted. "Can you do that? Or do we keep on playing?"

"Get fucked, lowlife!" It felt like he was swallowing on a mouth of ground glass; hardly making an impact on Rhys either. It strengthened Tsianni's apprehension that the man must have recognized something in him - something weak and deplorable - and it was the reason he would be dealt with in such a way - like one would disciple an unruly bed slave.

Rhys grinned as if he could see his thoughts.

"You are a slow learner, dear Rahuni." He let his nails prick the sensitive swollen skin just to renew the promise of pain, his black eyes drinking in Tsianni's angry flinch. "You had this lesson before. You will address me correctly."

He looked flushed and excited as his still fully clad body shifted possessively between Tsianni's thighs. He pressed hard on the juncture of clavicle shoulder until Tsianni had to move beneath him, writhing and snarling impotently under the bruising hand.

"That's it Rauni boy. Fight me!"

Tsianni stiffened enraged, feeling the man rub his erection against him.

When Rhys took his weight off, there was a short moment - a pause in their bodies' hateful dance - where only their harsh breathing could be heard over the sounds of the winds through the ruined courtyards. Rhys sat back, clutched both his fists, lifted them over his head and brought them down in a mighty hammer-like blow.

Reality shifted.

Part of Tsianni knew that the shoulder of his weapon arm was out of joint and that he was screaming voicelessly with the pain of it.

The rest of him was back among Rahuni raiders, at his first melee; speeding on the back of his war-steed and knowing Amanar wouldn't budge, not in front of all the clan and him thinking he would pay for this affront but needing their respect if he was ever to lead them. Then their steeds brutal impact and the almost comically slow tumble right to that moment where he felt his arm getting stuck. Sakr crashing into them did the rest. Amanar landed face first in the dust and the bones of Tsianni's wrist gave like deadwood - the next breath felt as if he was being encased in a block of glass; things rushed to the left and right of him but not a single sound to be heard except the beating of his heart.

Rhys' hand cupped the deformed joint.

"See how easy it is. You want something from me - now try again. Ask me nicely, slave."

Tsianni tried to focus willing his shuddering body to stillness.

"Do you want to end like a three-legged cur?" Rhys wondered as his fingers ran small burning circles over the unnatural stretched skin of Tsianni's joint. "You'd amuse your cousin to no end, flopping around like that. The arm will die off if I don't put it back soon."

"Rhys -" he gasped. Gods -

"Master," Rhys corrected him with a slight slap to the face. Looking very pleased. "Sir - if you are feeling daring and we are alone. Now you may ask me again."

He did. Felt a part of his soul die and did it again until Rhys was satisfied and wrenched the shoulder back in.

Then Rhys reached to the side for the glass of water Tsianni knew he had put there, when he had directed the slaves who'd cleaned and tied him up, a bluish massive trinket with a straw and with water which would be from the underground well and not quite cool anymore. He started to shake in his bonds.

Rhys took his sweet time moistening his hands and drawing them slowly over his captive's heated face and again; laughing softly as Tsianni's tongue tried to catch the liquid from his fingers. He didn't care, only knew it wasn't enough. Needed it too desperately and was completely shamed because of it.

"This is not punishment for killing your guard, boy. Or for stealing trousers. You'll get that when you're stronger."

Then let Tsianni lap warmed water out of his folded hand like a cub. Crooning to the sounds Tsianni couldn't help but make, his parched cramping body crying out for more. Hadn't needed much to make him grovel -

Did he have the notion that Rhys would treat him like a hostage once Amanar was gone - that Rhys might want him whole and sane after he'd tried to run away? What an abject fool he'd been.

Surely Rhys knew what Amanar did and acted upon - this Rahuni clan-heir wasn't just young and inexperienced but flawed by heritage. Failing even now and easy, so disgusting easy to break to one's will. Tsianni knew he couldn't take the pain again. Not so soon.

Rhys wore a thin smile as he looked up again.

"I realize it's probably your primitive blood - your Praetorian was much quicker in learning his lesson. Maybe, this will get your attention better."

A polished cancerous looking lump of metal the size of a fist was dropped on his belly; the cold thin chain attached to it ran over to his side. Whatever it was Tsianni wanted nothing off it - not if it was something that Rhys found amusing. Only when he tried to shrug it off, some of its true nature became evident - sticking to his flesh as if clued, slowly beginning to flatten out. His arms and legs stiffened in horror as he watched the silver thing morphing into sandstar shape. One of its tiny protrusions prodded his bunched up belly-muscles like a small eyeless animal would test the terrain. Before it pooled into his belly button. Filling the small space.

Noo... he moaned as the skin began to stretch.

The bandit placed both his hands on the hip trembling under him, his steady eyes meeting Tsianni's frantic ones. Already Tsianni's body wore a sheen of sweat and he had to shake his head to make out the shape on his belly - warm like blood and live flesh and oh gods slithering now like a leg-less thing over his lower belly.

Rhys eyes followed its path.

"It likes you - and it seems eager to taste you," he exclaimed delighted. "My last experience didn't take - I always thought his fear killed him."

With one hand he roughly jerked Tsianni's legs higher, spreading them and shifted his own thighs beneath. The thing clung throughout.

Tsianni's body cramped; the muscles of his inner thighs flexed uncontrollably leaving him open and vulnerable. He bared his teeth as Rhys leaned forwards. Rhys wouldn't have it; a hand to the mass of his locks jerked his head back .

"Me or the grub- " Rhys whispered. "Your choice, boy."

Surely the man was learning to read him like a spoor across virginal sands, half a day and he had Tsianni laid out like a dissected animal carcass - twisted and ugly. And not hurting nearly enough for the failure he saw revealed.

Of course, he would get both no matter what - he wasn't sure whether he wanted to survive the thing, though.

"W-Won't fuck you, bastard. Not on your life."

Rhys ignored that. Without much ado the chain was fastened snugly around his hips.

"Just that you wont loose it, Rahuni."


After a while the caressing strokes to his throat felt good. Rhys let his hand stay there gently rubbing. The kyhf in Tsianni's belly was spreading its warm glow as he knew it would, no fare for a man near shock but Rhys had simple held his nose shut forcing him to ingest the dose. Maybe, something had happened after that - the thing began to move on him but he couldn't remember it. Only when he found the strength to twist away Rhys withdrew and let his fingers trail leisurely over his captive's breast instead, testing the bruised nipples. Tsianni's cock, which lay swollen and throbbing needfully on his belly like this was something his body craved, received a sharp slap. Rhys met his low snarl with a grin, rigorously lifting his prisoners hips enough to push a pillow under the small of his back.

Realizing he was settled for the bandit's pleasure made Tsianni's whole body clench in abnegation. He couldn't be taken like this - among cushions on his back as if he were someone's prized concubine.

Covered with a kyhf slicked leather glove, Rhys' digits were so much cooler than Tsianni's body inside that he imagined himself fevered and sickened already. He did welcome the pain, though.

The man tore him some - not at the first try when only one finger breached the small muscle ring but later, as Rhys was getting impatient at his slowly yielding flesh. Tender inner tissue clung to the drying leather until spittle and the small trickle of blood made the passage easier - but Tsianni's muscles locked nonetheless when Rhys introduced him to three fingers punching into him with a squelching sound.

"Am I your first real man, boy? "

When he was first breached with a short brutal thrust he couldn't believe the pain. It ripped him out of the fog easily.

This was what slaves did - it couldn't hurt so much. Not if slaves stood it. Waves of nausea ran through his guts as his body instinctively tried to reject the big invader.

He heard the man curse and felt the other's miniscule shift through the connection the broad cock's head lodged in his guts provided - and even a movement that small was enough to make him gasp out.

Rhys drew out abruptly, leaving the body under him arched with the pain. Widened, the cramped small muscle of his opening was slow to close, and Rhys took advantage of that to jam his thumb in instead. Grunting he let an additional finger test the loosened sore fleshring. As muscle spasms from Tsianni's lower belly struck, tightening the small passage and Tsianni furiously bit down on a whimper.

"My little whore - you want me in you so bad, I know," Rhys exclaimed breathlessly.

The next thrust went in smoother and deeper and made him groan. Not planned at all. The cock pulled out slowly, strained innards clinging to its length until Rhys hips drove forward and rammed in once more. Not gaining any depth. Ripping out again. All haze of kyhf was gone. Small animal sounds escaped Tsianni as the fleshy lance strained to cram him full. And then a place inside him was touched and he jerked on the sensation that was not pain but excruciating nonetheless. Just a glimpse of a pleasure so deep that even the ghost of it made him shudder. It stayed with him with each shove of Rhys hips; frightening him with the unknown possibilities his betraying body might yet possess.

Grunting, Rhys drove in to the hilt.

"Relax, bitch... You're too fucking tight!"

Fluid rose too hot and acid for the tissue of his abused throat and Tsianni gagged on it in time with Rhys withdrawing and then impaling him anew. Not much trickled out of his swollen lips- hadn't had much ingested to bring up but the smell was offending. Rhys hit him contemptuously flat-handed. Everything Tsianni's body did afterwards seemed to belong to a rhythm not his own. Even his moans came to the aggressive grunts of the man rutting into him.

"Shush now, you astonish me," Rhys whispered near him. "Amanar's deepdesert cousin - I never realized he had so much reason to fear you. He would not be able do it - bend so much just to stay alive a moment longer - you can't imagine how I treasure that in men. It makes you almost civilized."


He was near enough to block the light coming through the sunsail above them and Tsianni knew by the cooling moisture on his face that he was inhaling the man odorless breath. A moist cloth cleaned his bitten lips and he gulped the offered cool kyhf. Praying for the oblivion it might bring.

"You enjoyed that, didn't you?" Rhys asked.

Weirdly he knew himself resting in the other's arms like an exhausted lover; his head placed right next to Rhys' heart and when the beat changed he knew what a whore's answer would have been.

Well done Rahuni, clan's heir - your first fucked bandit, seems you have found your calling...

A memory insinuated itself slyly and unbitten of Hellar pushing his nose and mouth through the layers of his cloth to escape the dust impregnated air in their tiny tent. And the moment the other's dry lips first brushed his revealed flesh. Moaned into the mouth pressing on his, arousal and disgust clashing in his mind in a sickening mixture as the slick tongue invaded.

All thoughts of deception vanished.

With a hand on his mangled throat Rhys knew the moment he would bite - and avoided it masterfully.

"Your training begins today."


He had woken up on his own, disoriented and naked in his slack bonds, on his belly, limbs spread heedlessly to the sides like some stranded water-creature. Still among the cushions under the courtyards sunsails then, the shadows proclaiming near dusk. And for a long moment memory wouldn't come, and he couldn't seem to distinguish between pain new and old and thinking oh gods - that the thing was already in him.

A shadow fell on him and his guts went cramping with more than just the instinct to flee.

Not Rhys - Tsianni saw the collar on the shorn men and let his head fall back, body going limp all of a sudden. He knew he was drifting away with each painful forced-up breath but couldn't find the strength to mind. He tried not to swallow anymore. After a time he felt Rhys' toy nesting in the small of his back where it had congealed to a flat warm oval; inert. The chain around his hips held it in place.

A harmless exotic ornament until Rhys would have it come alive.

The need to touch it, to make sure it was lifeless, was imperative to him all of a sudden but the ropes still held his arms apart. He pulled himself up to his elbows. Muscles forced to long into one position cried out but at least they followed his will; he stretched his neck to bring his mouth over to the sturdy leather cuff.

Rough hands grabbed him and rolled him over to his back stripping him of the twisted fine sheets clinging to his wet flesh.

Wait, he wanted to say, stupid - I have to know...

The men cleaning him up were slaves and they worked on him in silence, ignoring his croaks, handling him fast and ruthless.

A breeze had begun to make the sails flap excitedly above him; as if only in an afterthought his body started to shiver in the cooling air, each bruise and cut adding its own complaint to his misery. The swollen flesh between his legs felt like he had to hold in a fat poisoned burr.

It was a minor pain and part of him knew that and despised himself for even dwelling on it; yet he couldn't but lie there among the opulence of soft silken cushions listening to his sluggish tenacious heartbeat and waiting for the thing in his back to move.

You can promise me nothing, kid - for you do not have anything left.

He fought down the memory of his marked flesh flaring up under that rough hand and destroying whatever his fevered mind had wanted him to believe in.

He'd been so easy - thinking Hellar would choose a used and branded captive over someone like Tarkh. Someone, gods, who'd let his men dress in the cloth of Rahuni dead - knowing that Anamar would understand the message. But not Rhys.

That almost made him smile. Hellar and Rhys both assumed the kinslayer being a man they could deal with.

A blanket was thrown over him. A slave was lightening up the alcove.

Should have told Hellar about the scars - his near delirious mind making him hum the rhyme he learned as child. One slash - kill your sister. Two slash - kill your brother. Tarkh must have special to earn such unusual mutilation - Clan-Betrayer and kin-killer in one person. What an ally to choose, Praetorian.

As if wasn't me you owe your life to...

Curiously he felt ashamed of the thought.

Later, clipped to a short chain to the wall for what seemed like hours, he felt a dull anger spread through him that everything around him would continue on its nightly drudge skirting him like he was nothing but some smallish bolder in their way, nothing to get excited about.

Shivering in the darkness he observed his first male whore on his way over to some client. At least he assumed it was male.

The end of Part 5b



Part 6a

Written by Juxian Tang

The fire almost died away, with just an odd streak of red flitting between the grey stones - but Hellar didn't feel like feeding it any more. The stones would keep the tent warm through the night - and he didn't think he needed light; there was nothing to look at, anyway. When Tsianni had moved to the whore marquee, three nights ago, this tent was left at Hellar's sole disposal; a temporary acquisition, he thought grimly. Just as about everything was temporary for him here. He owned nothing - and the truth was that he had to admit that it was going to become a normal state for him. He would just have to learn to live with it - no matter how little he liked it.

Well, who would like it? Certainly Tsianni would share his feelings regarding it. From the chieftain's son to the camp whore... that was the fastest turn of fate Hellar had ever witnessed, including his own one. Good, the kid deserved a lesson. Maybe, now he'd get it how easy it was to end up in the bottom; now he'd stop thinking something was wrong with Hellar that he'd wound up as Hebners' whore.

But as much revengeful pleasure as these thoughts might content, Hellar knew at the same time that they were pointless. Being at the bottom never taught any lessons. Being at the bottom hardly made Tsianni think about him at all.

He turned on his back and stared at the grey ceiling of the tent, compensating the lack of treat for his eyes with concentrating on the sounds outside. The nightlife of the camp was active - voices, shrieks and laughter. And a distant sound of the flyer's engine flaring up and choking into silence again and again.

They prepared it for the tomorrow raid; couldn't make it work.

He didn't hear the conversation between the men - and it told him that it probably was not his ears that heard the stalling engine. The faint sound in his head was much more definite. Switch the engine on, a few turns - then this desperate screeching sound - and nothing.

Tarkh would hate it; if they didn't fix it till the morning, he would tear them another asshole. Not that Hellar cared. Especially if they were so dumb that couldn't figure out what the problem was...

Hmm, that was interesting. When did he become such a specialist in flyers? But he could make it work; suddenly he knew it. Switch on, turning... turning... going! He pushed it in his mind and was not surprised when the annoying cycle of working/stopping was broken. The engine didn't balk.

It hurt; the pain was not splitting - not worse than a moderate kyhf hangover - and something told him that this pain he would learn to control soon. Not this time, though - maybe, during the other one. He exhaled full lungs, letting the engine go. And this time the curses of the men deadly disappointed in the engine that had died again reached him very clearly.

He wondered if he could fix it permanently, not just drag it into going with the effort of his mind. But, maybe, later... if he did feel like helping them... of, rather, did feel like testing his abilities even more. He just needed to do it slowly... it had already made him dizzy and wanting to curl and take some rest.

There were voices outside the tent. Not his guards - he was not guarded any more; curiously Tsianni's attempt to escape took off a part of suspicion of him; like he'd proved that he could be trusted. Well, at least it was what Rhys apparently took for granted - and who knew what was going on in this man's head.

Anyway, Hellar knew that someone still kept his eye on him - but it was rather a conventional measure than anything that was really considered necessary.

"...I tell you he just strangled him! I saw his neck, it was black and blue - and can you imagine how you can strangle someone like Eli, without him making even a peep?" and, before Hellar went rigid in tension, the man added. "The kid is full of tricks, never mind that he looks like a child."

Great! Oh Goddess... He couldn't help laughing, even though the sound of his dry laughter was kind of unpleasant in the empty tent. They still thought it was Tsianni who'd killed the guard. Well, it was what Rhys had assumed... but why didn't Tsianni do everything to reassure him?

Well, surely the kid did - he was just not believed.

It could be useful, Hellar thought. If they considered Tsianni so dangerous... and him, Hellar, harmless... He felt a sudden twitch of jealousy: they feared Tsianni for something he, Hellar, had done! It was silly, of course, to feel this jealousy. It was better if they thought this way.

Better for him - in case if he wanted to survive.

Survive... everything for that, huh? It was a bitter thought but he let himself finish it. What was so good in his life that he wanted to survive so desperately? He hadn't ever been clinging to life so much when he was in the Legion. Death was a normalcy there.

Yeah, death for the glory of the Legion; death for his comrades. It would be easy to die this way. And now he had nothing to die for; so, he tried to live. No matter what it cost.

He almost reached for the fuel to resurrect the fire - the near darkness brought too many thoughts to him that he didn't enjoy regarding - when the flap of the tent was pulled away letting in some of the orange illumination of the camp. Shadowed immediately by the dark figure at the entrance.

"Did I wake you?"

"No, Tarkh."

Well-well, here is someone who can appreciate your skills in killing his people. The thought was tart but strangely amusing, making Hellar suppress a chuckle.


The flap fell, cutting off the light, leaving them enfolded in almost complete darkness - and close enough for Hellar to almost be able to brush his fingers against Tarkh's clothes. He could feel the man but couldn't see him well enough. Frustrated, he reached for the flick - trying to change his position as well: sitting on the floor while Tarkh was towering over him made him strangely uncomfortable.

He rather guessed than saw Tarkh's boot pushing the flick out of his reach.

"Do you need light?"

The voice was tight, implying something more than the question contained. It was not that Hellar couldn't figure out what it implied. Yet he needed to be careful. He was too dependent to allow a slip.

"I wouldn't mind seeing something," he spoke casually yet didn't make another movement to light the fire again.

"You wouldn't mind seeing these?" in the dimness Tarkh's hand was like a pale shape floating towards his face, pulling away the cloth. A deliberate gesture - words articulated deliberately clear; nothing that would leave Hellar any doubts of what it meant, even if he had doubts before.

He knew it would happen; when Tarkh hadn't betrayed him to Rhys - he knew he would have to pay for it. And he suspected in what way, too. He just hoped it wouldn't be... too bad. Minimal losses - that was all he wanted.

He kept looking up. Tarkh's skin was blurring white, with black of his eyes and dark fringe of his hair falling to his eyebrows; a wrong looking face, even in the shadows. The scars that could have been fixed with a good regenerator became indelible on it.

Hellar shrugged. He was not sure Tarkh would see it but he didn't care.

"I suppose you mind me seeing them. But I know they are there, whether it is light or dark. And it doesn't matter."

Of course, how could it matter? Tarkh had as much power over him as Rhys had - or, maybe, even more. He could do anything he wanted - and Hellar could only comply.

Well, maybe, he just had to admit that he didn't comply totally unwillingly.

He didn't move towards Tarkh - but the man didn't reach for him either; keeping the same position as before, both of them.

"And you don't want to ask me how I got them?" Tarkh's voice was low, careful, making Hellar shrug again. Tarkh asked all these questions... when he could just take what he wanted - no resistance from Hellar was guaranteed.

"Frankly speaking, I don't care. I think everyone has the right to keep his past to himself."

"That's what you would prefer to do?" Now there was some irony in this question that brushed over Hellar's nerves. Like he had any choice about it. He looked away biting his lip slightly.

"You are bleeding, do you know that?" Tarkh's voice reached him again - not mocking any more. "Are you ill?"

"What?" he didn't realize it - there was some blood trickling from his nose; must have been since he'd played with the flyer's engine. "No... How did you see?.."

So, Tarkh was the one who didn't need light at all.

He started wiping his face with the back of his palm and that was when Tarkh touched him. Just a brief tap on his shoulder, more like a mute order that he interpreted correctly, getting up on his feet.

And suddenly Tarkh's deformed face was very close to his - the wide mouth almost touching his - and the tongue sliding over his upper lip. Licking blood away.

Hellar didn't hesitate - his hands dived into the man's smooth heavy hair, bringing his face closer - until their mouths locked, Tarkh's tongue receding and Hellar's thrusting into his mouth. But more shocking than the feeling of the scarred mouth for Hellar was the sudden realization with how much pleasure he was doing it, kissing Tarkh.

He had wanted to do it; as absurd as it could sound - he - a Praetorian, even if a former one - wanted to do it with one of the desert riff-raff living on carrion? Wanted to do it when his time at Hebners had to put him off of sex for a long, long time?

But it was the truth - he wanted to do it. From the very moment on the flyer when he'd read something in the man's eyes that told him they were similar in some way. Now he knew exactly how similar they were. Two outcasts who'd lost everything. Two freaks - only Tarkh carried the mark of it on his face while Hellar was reminded about his deformity only now and then.

He heard Tarkh's long sigh as he let Hellar's mouth go - and suddenly Hellar tensed with fear that something could be wrong, that he'd assumed wrong - that Tarkh would decide now that all he wanted was just a quick, rough fuck... that there was really nothing similar between them - nothing between them at all. Hellar didn't know why it would be so difficult to accept for him - but he desperately didn't want it to happen.

Now he will say that I am a natural born whore, he thought. Tarkh surely had felt him getting hard, there was enough contact between their bodies for it. Then Tarkh said:


The word could be an order but the tone didn't make it such. Too breathless for that.

Hellar thought suddenly that he was glad there was no light. Somehow it made things easier - different - from all these times when he had been forced to strip by day or at the light of fires, under the merciless stares of others. He let his clothes slip on the floor.

"And you."

It could be too audacious - but he didn't care. He knew Tarkh smiled - couldn't see it but felt it all the same - and relief flooded him. These desert clothes had one good - or bad - feature about them - could be taken off in seconds. There was a moment when he saw Tarkh's naked body, the same pale as his face but without any mutilation - and then the man stepped towards him, putting his arms around Hellar's shoulders.

The touch of skin against skin was electrifying. Smoothness of chest against his chest - and lower, the heat of the other's erect cock against his own. Hellar thought he should have remembered every nasty thing that it could mean, every time he'd have a cock up his ass during last weeks - but he understood that it didn't bother him at all. He even was hardly afraid of pain - he still hurt there and knew that would hurt more after this night - but it was dispensable. He wanted it to happen.

Tarkh's palms slid over his shoulders, inward, to his chest, the roughness of them making Hellar wince involuntarily as they touched the healing welts. He tried to stay still but he knew Tarkh noticed - the tips of his fingers checked the same places again, now lighter - tracing down to Hellar's badly healed nipple and to the ribs that had been broken and still reminded about themselves from time to time.

Didn't Tsianni bind them in the desert, a sudden thought visited him - and he got rid of it as soon as possible. Tsianni didn't matter. The kid had lost his game... while Hellar still was playing his.

"They didn't treat you well - my people."

"It was not your people," he felt necessary to say. "I was lucky not to know them for long enough."

"Well, for long enough, however, for Amanar to hate you," there was an echo of his own chuckle in Tarkh's voice - and suddenly Hellar felt the man's palms cup his face, bringing it closer - so that they almost touched. No kiss this time - just closeness. "Amanar will be back for you, you know."

"I know," Hellar said. "Later about it."

He waited for Tarkh to guide him, to tell him what to do - to lie down or any other thing - but instead of it the man slid down on his knees. One moment they faced each other - and at the next moment Tarkh's very hot mouth was enveloping Hellar's shaft.

He would think it would be impossible for Tarkh to do it, with his lips scarred that badly - even if he ever supposed that the man would like to do it. But to his surprise the mouth around his cock was tight and wet and sliding smoothly up and down.

So good... He'd almost forgotten how it felt - the softness, the heat, the slight teasing graze of teeth... and down all the way, to the very root of his cock. He moaned and gripped Tarkh's hair, not to pull him but mostly to hold on something while the enjoyment was so sweeping he felt unsteady on his feet. Tarkh's breath was hot and wet on his pubis when he slid his mouth down, intensifying the tingling sensation in Hellar's bottom belly, building it up to climax swiftly. A part of Hellar's mind wanted to delay it, to make it continue for a while longer - but his body already couldn't resist.

He shivered coming, feeling Tarkh's mouth lock on his shaft tighter - until the pulsing stopped. He knew the man swallowed - was amazed and strangely pleased with it, his hands touched Tarkh's hair in an awkward gesture of gratitude.

He still felt Tarkh's tongue slide over his cock, even when it was getting soft - and only later the man let it go - tracing with his tongue a wet path over Hellar's belly up to his navel.

Hellar still found it difficult to breathe evenly - was too tired to keep standing - and leaned against Tarkh almost in relief when the man rose on his feet and reached for him. He groped with his hand blindly, finding Tarkh's cock, very hard and wet-tipped, closing his hand around it tightly.

"How do you want me to do it?"

"How do you want to do it?"

Hellar knew he shouldn't have paid so much attention to this question; it didn't mean so much that he was asked. But he couldn't help it - suddenly he realized it did mean much for him. So much that he was almost ready to believe that Tarkh really cared.

How did he want it? He thought that doing it with his mouth was certainly less painful but he was not sure he could make himself swallow; he had to do it with Hebners, just hadn't had any choice - but it certainly didn't mean that he liked it.

"Like this," he turned his back to Tarkh, pressing his palms against the bearing of the tent for support.

He felt the hand gathering his hair, pushing them away to bare his neck - and the warmth of the mouth, not touching, on his nape - a little more warmth as Tarkh chuckled.

"Kneel. If you don't want to stand on your fours."

Hellar didn't. An undignified position; the same as face-to-face one. He could be forced to take it but if he had choice... He knelt with his knees put apart wide enough to let Tarkh settle there and heard the slight sound of the other kneeling behind him. The fingers that penetrated him were wet, stretching him carefully, probing the limits before his old tearing would bleed again. Hellar felt his muscles tighten involuntarily at the feeling of the blunt tip against his opening.

Then Tarkh pushed and he hissed in pain that was thankfully short enough. He felt Tarkh's face rubbing against the back of his neck, smoothness of unmarred skin and roughness of the scars contrasting sharply - while Tarkh's hand circled over his chest, barely touching his nipples, light enough not to hurt - teasing.

Hellar felt the man to pull out and then slam back and heard a small low groan Tarkh made - repeated at every thrust. The first few thrusts just got him used to accommodating the cock inside him - and then Tarkh changed the angle, apparently looking for the right one. Hellar gasped when it was found - as much in pleasure as to show Tarkh that he'd succeeded. It took a few more strokes for him to be fully hard again. Then Tarkh's palm enveloped around his cock - slack, not moving. It was the push of his body that sent Hellar forward, making Tarkh's hand slide around his shaft.

It was perfect... the sensation shooting through his body from Tarkh's cock hitting his prostate - and the hard palm around his cock. And it was tormenting, too, because he wanted more of it - more of both - feeling like pushing towards every Tarkh's thrust, as shameful as it could be.

"Shh, quiet, quiet," he heard Tarkh's mildly mocking voice - almost cooing, like he was talking to a child. "All in its time."

But time didn't have meaning any more - nothing was left but the man's presence behind him and the overwhelming sensations. He felt Tarkh stop moving - and at the next moment Tarkh's hand rubbed against his cock several times roughly. But the grip was tight enough to bring him on the edge almost immediately. And as he spilled over Tarkh's hand, he knew the man was coming inside him, too.

They stayed linked for a little while more - until Tarkh disengaged himself carefully, his hand running over Hellar's thigh as if trying to soothe any pain his withdrawing cock could cause.

"You'll need a bath tomorrow. Tell that I ordered to give you water."

Most generous. But Hellar didn't feel like finding it funny at the moment. Too tired for that - too sleepy.

"Will you stay?" he thought suddenly that he wanted it - the tent would be cozier with Tarkh there. Warmer, too - in a different way than the heated stones could make it.

"For a while," Tarkh settled near to him on the bedding, pulling the cover up on them both. "I have to talk to you. Rhys wants you to find some kind of job for yourself."

Couldn't it be left till tomorrow? No, apparently it couldn't. Hellar shifted slightly indicating that he listened.

"You need to do something for the camp. No one is going to get food and water for nothing here."

"I can go on the raids with you," he said softly. He didn't have time to think that going on the raids he could get a chance to escape... great sex with Tarkh or not, he was not going to stay in the camp, no matter what.

"You are not trusted enough for that."

Hellar paid attention to the form - not trusted by whom? By Rhys - or by Tarkh, too?

"Then what will I do?"

"I don't know. I really don't know."

Well, Hellar thought, I know. The flyer... But only... only if there is no other choice.

* * *

The camp was quiet. The most part of its population led nightlife, sleeping all through the morning till after noon. Not counting the raiders, of course - who'd fixed the flyer eventually and started at the dawn.

And Hellar was neither sleepy nor occupied with anything now. He'd had his bath and it was good - except the thought that he couldn't earn the little pleasures this way any more. If Tarkh was interested... if he kept being interested... it might provide him his supply at the camp.

Only it made him a whore, didn't it? Just like Tsianni.

Sitting in the shadow of the tent, he drew on the sand thoughtfully, the formulae stuffed in his head during the training that he still remembered. For some reason thinking about the kid put him into even worse mood than his other troubles. It was not that he felt remorseful - what for, it was not his fault that Tsianni ended up like this; he, Hellar, just did what he had to in order to survive.

Yet it would be easier for him if he could stop dwelling on the thought that the kid was still there, in the same camp. Make him disappear in some miraculous way... or escape himself, huh?

"Do I see someone who has too much time on his hands to start having stupid thoughts?"

The voice yanked him out of reverie, made him turn abruptly - and tense despite himself. The old hag. Shuffling towards him through the sand with a bag of her hellish devices.

"Get away from me," he was more pissed off with himself for his absurd fear than with her. She was just an old woman, for Goddess' sake! Fearing her would be... too much.

"Someone is not working and apparently going to starve to death once Rhys runs out of his good mood?"

He didn't know what startled him more - that she talked to him or the brash, mocking tone of her voice. One would think she was kept in the camp just out of mercy... somehow he didn't see any more old people there.

Only her words were dead on target.

"None of your business, right?"

"Or is this someone going to join the whore marquee, just as his friend did?"

Oh well. That was really enough. He rose on his feet abruptly and felt a cool hand touching his wrist.

"Sit down, Captain. I just want to help."

"I am not a Captain any more," he started, more surprised with the way she addressed him than with anything else - and at that moment saw her raise her long yellowish-grey hair baring her nape. The tattoo was pale blue, almost lost on the withered skin - but he still could see it clearly enough.

"You don't stop being a Captain just because you left the Legion. Neither I stop being a Lieutenant Colonel."

She hardly needed to finish the phrase. His body reacted by itself, making him stand at attention, staring straight ahead. He looked over her head, she was so small - but it didn't matter, it was according to the regulations.

"No need, Captain. I told you to sit down."

"Yes, sir," he was almost shocked with how much pleasure it caused him - to answer this way. He missed the army so badly - the required obedience, the feeling of belonging, of knowing what to do in any situation. He missed it more than he could expect; maybe, if he'd known how much he would miss it, he would never risk his position...

"Captain, I don't want you call me that. My name is Alora Novitsky. You can call me Alora. And I am going to call you by your given name - which is..."


There was exactly only person in the world that had called him by his given name and it was Ursula. But if the Praetorian commander wanted...

It was almost unbelievable how quickly everything changed; a few minutes ago Hellar had hated this woman more than anyone else in the world - and now he was ready - was happy - to obey her.

"I don't want anyone to know that our past is still valid for us. They know it cannot be crossed out - but it's better not attract anyone's attention to it."

"Yes..." he started. "Yes, Alora."

"Good," she smiled. It was not a pretty smile; her old age was not pretty at all - and suddenly Hellar thought that the same as he hadn't seen old people among the bandits - he had never seen any Praetorian of such an old age - except the High Command, that is. "I think we'll work it out."

There was so much he wanted to ask her. What was she doing here, why did Rhys allow her to be here, what did she want... He hoped he would have a permission to ask. But meanwhile he just listened as she talked, settling on the sand at his side, putting her bag down carefully.

"You look like a good officer to me. It's a pity they had to de-chip you. Although taking into account your crime, I wonder why they didn't execute you. Not to mention that I don't quite understand what made you interfere these negotiations in the first place."

She knew a lot; no wonder - she was possibly always near Rhys.

"And you?" he hesitated but decided to ask. "What did they de-chip you for?"

"I am not de-chipped. I am here on my own accord."

For a moment he couldn't believe what she'd said.

"Is it your assignment?" he thought she wouldn't tell him even if it was - so, he was not surprised when she shook her head.

"I myself chose this place to be."

"How long time ago?"

"Twenty years."

Twenty years ago she had been at her prime... which made sense - a Lieutenant Colonel, a rank not too easy to achieve. And twenty years with Rhys?

"I had made myself necessary here," she seemed to guess the course of his thoughts. "And, speaking about you - seeing you in dire straits made me think that I could help to make you useful, too."

He nodded; her voice was slightly amused as if she hinted at his apparent hatred he'd met her with.

"I mean the instruments, Carlos. I am the only one here who can use them - and, as you can see, I am not getting younger. I think Rhys would be delighted if I prepared someone who could replace me."

Instruments. He hated to think about them, somehow instinctively - but he thought he would be able to get used. And he'd like to take her words for what they seemed - especially taking into account how she smiled, almost nicely; that she just wanted to help him - a Praetorian to a Praetorian. But he also knew how few people he could trust in this world. Not Alora, for sure, not even Tarkh. Only he, Hellar himself - and even that not certainly.

"You want me to replace you?"

"Actually... I would be stupid to prepare someone who can replace me, thus outliving my necessity, right?" her voice sounded pleasant - cynical but sincere at least. "But I can pretend I am doing it. It will give you some time here. It will look like you are necessary."

"And if..."

"You have any other opportunity?" she cut him off, just like a commanding officer would - and he knew she was right even before she said that. "They won't give you any weapon so far - and you can't do anything else."

"What shall I do?"

"Hanging around," he knew she was pleased with his compliance. "Watching what I do. Bringing this and that if I need it."

Not the most comfortable position - but she was right, he didn't have a choice.

"And don't fancy much - you wouldn't be able to use the instruments even if you wanted."

He put two and two together while she enjoyed the impression her last words made.

"Because you are not de-chipped and I am?"

The device would have killed him if he'd had the chip... but to use it one had to have something wielded in one's brain.

"Smart," for a moment her voice was cold and then she smiled again. "Exactly because of that."

"And what will be if Rhys wants to know how well I've learned? Or if you... die?"

"You can pray it not to happen as long as possible. Or pray to be as far from here as you can."

She knew; he was not able to deceive her. She who stayed here on her own accord knew that he wouldn't ever want to stay here, would use any opportunity to leave.

"Thank you for your help, Alora," he said - and she nodded. But even then her eyes didn't leave his face - tenacious, way too attentive.

Well, she could have thought she knew everything about him. But she didn't know one thing, Hellar thought, one crucial thing. He would be able to use her instruments. There was no chip in his brain any more - but there was something else. He knew it.

The End of Part 6a



Part 6b

Written by BlueGreen

The man on top of Tsianni was of a build Rahuni would always associate with peasant stock; short-legged, thick-chested, the head large and bullish. His cock was just wide enough for Tsianni to feel the ripped corners of his mouth on each brutish thrust. In his mind Tsianni knew the man as Pig. And then there were Pig's friends.

"I am gone what - a week? And already my Second thinks he can fuck on my table." At the drawling cultured voice at the room's entrance Pig jumped about a foot high.

"Boss - really!"

For an awful moment his moist belly covered Tsianni's face completely until he pushed himself off to tuck his diminished manhood away.

"It's not what it looks like..." With a sheepish grin he patted a greasy lock over the bump on his forehead, then unclipped Tsianni from the table-top he'd been spread upon for some after dinner playtime. Pulled down next to his sweating keeper to stand on legs that wouldn't stop shaking, Tsianni faced the office's true owner.

For a moment his heart missed a beat.

He knew that careless insolent stance - but it wasn't Hellar leaning against the pillar in the sun. Without the sun visor the man didn't even look like him. Ah gods, what did he expect... He took one deep breath and then another and still felt like he'd just had a fist to his belly.

No matter. It was just that he didn't want anyone to see him like this, he told himself. Least of all a grinning Praetorian who somehow always landed on his feet, always being that little bit more ruthless or just a tad luckier. He had no doubt that Hellar felt right at home among the cutthroats.

Gods, he wished Pig's boss wouldn't stare at him so intently. He knew he looked like some squinting worn-out whore-boy who couldn't close his mouth anymore. Who hadn't been out of his restraints for days and, therefore, couldn't stop shaking as the spasms hit him. An obviously unwilling and quite pathetic specimen Pig had pimped most successfully once this state was reached. Perhaps he and his boss shared tastes. Tsianni hated his guts already.

A short vicious backhand from Pig reminded him to lower his eyes. He did but only after taking a good long stare at Pig's reddened face. This was laughable, he thought. So far Pig's attempts at discipline had been token at least.

Pig's grip on him tightened to the point Tsianni thought the nails would draw blood; so, Pig was expecting some kind of trouble from his charge which he, Pig, wouldn't allow in front of his own master. Maybe he was supposed to have hand-broken him, Tsianni thought amused. One good thing was that Pig proved to be not especially clever - he probably was still expecting Tsianni to roll over and show his belly if he was just taken hard enough. Or maybe he just didn't care - as long as he could get off. Tsianni could feel his flesh swelling under the construct of plastic and steel that kept his mouth open and stretched for Pig's games - it didn't hurt. Nor having Pig's greasy fingers on him to extract the gag. At the moist unwilling slurp though the thing made on its exit he nearly lost it.

Don't - don't let them see... All the time fearing to hear the command to have it reinserted. Despite himself Tsianni looked up again meeting the hard pale eyes from across the floor.

With the return of sensation and the consequent aches some measure of control came back to him - he spat out the lingering sourly residue of their tryst between Pig's boots and wished the room would stop spinning so he might have aimed better.

"Ugh, boss. That's the kid who killed Tarkh's man -"

"What did he do, bite his balls off? Do you think I care for your fucking reasons? Next time you want teach little ripper here a lesson - don't. Not in my fucking office!"

Tsianni had missed the man advancing; that or the bandit was more silent of his feet - that he gave him credit for. A hand lifted his chin up and he swallowed on broken glass; blinking against the sunlight which was too bright for his eyes. His clients did prefer the nightly hours and his body already had adjusted. Instinctively he jerked away from the tightening fingers and was let go - for the moment it wasn't him who had to bear the man's temper.

Pig behind him nervously scuffled his feet.

After days under the man's quirt Tsianni's interest perked up.

His superior was around Hellar's age and height but there the similarities ended. Light haired and lanky, he had nothing of the brooding menace Tsianni had come to expect from Hellar. And he couldn't recall Hellar ever wearing that look, a mix of disgust and cold appraisal like he had to make up his mind whether the young clansman even was worth being bothered with.

No, he thought nastily, Hellar hadn't had that privilege. Not out there in the desert under my care.

"You are Rhys' slave." A tone as if the other couldn't trust his eyes.

I am no one's fucking slave -

The bit had been in his mouth longer than he cared to remember - he broke off humiliated as he was unable to produce the words.

"I far as I know none of the clans take back damaged goods." Pig's returned master, the major-domo of the camp, told him slowly as if speaking to a child, having gotten something of his meaning after all or more likely, Tsianni thought angrily, would utter that phrase to any new slave pleading with him. Knowing how Rhys broke in his captives.

* * *

Rhys hadn't returned that night.

Tsianni must have drowsed away the few undisturbed hours among the cushions, still arrogant enough to not see it as a privilege seldom given. Not like he slept now when they let him rest, like a wild thing, never fully oblivious of his surroundings, ready to jerk up at the slightest noise near him.

Whatever orders Rhys had given then must have been merely to the care necessary for a well used bed slave. Truly he had no idea about such things. Just as he'd hardly ever remembered his own quick nightly fucks with the clan's slaves.

He couldn't stop thinking that Rhys, an offworlder and jaded in his pleasures - might well have no whish for a repeat of his captive's pathetic performance. When every strained muscle, every nagging scrape reminded Tsianni how well he'd jumped to the other's pleasure. He, a prince of the Rahuni, had done that - jumped high and wide to a man's sexual gratification. Like a two-bit whore. He wanted to rip those memories out of his head.

Daybreak came. Tsianni had been cleaned and oiled and dressed after a fashion. Still waiting and with every sound from outside getting more jitterish. There were guards at the door, Tarkh's men, and he could have asked them. But what? Am I Rhys' exclusively? Are the Kori next? He decided to spare himself their laughter.

Once no longer the exclusive amusement of Rhys, the rabble would have him - he didn't need no mangy bandit to tell him that.

His bare belly and ribs were showing spectacular bruises - more than he could consciously remember receiving but those rising around his hips he knew and hated deeply. His hands stole over his belly to hold off the griping pain that had taken residence there. But the taste of bile was already in his mouth as he imagined the look in the men's staring slack faces.

Something brushed caressingly over his skin and the short hairs on his legs stood. He glanced down.

The slave bastard dared!

"Don't you fuckin' touch me -" Tsianni spat out viciously. "Lowlife!"

Wide-eyed and fearful the man who knelt before him stared up, hand still lifted to smooth the cloth. He took the cruel impact of Tsianni's knee against his jaw like any good slave would, with hardly a grunt.

Shaking in every limb Tsianni watched the sour smelling crouched body at his feet, who wouldn't make a sound or even a move to guard itself and it made him even more furious. He wasn't like that - he wouldn't become like that -

The guard jerked him away before he could smash into the cowering slave once again, out of control and snarling, and called for his comrades. Together they pushed him against the wall, one choking him while the other hobbled his feet. Tsianni went limp in their grip, the sudden rage gone as if it had never been.

Rhys wants me to stay here, he wanted to reason with them, the fear like a sickness within, sapping his strength. He'll come back and then I have to be here. Gods - he hated himself for wanting to believe in that lie. But he couldn't let them drag him through camp - not when everyone knew Rhys had stuck it to him.

His handlers overcame his uncoordinated struggles with ease. The one with the bad teeth carried a stick, thin and flexible like a cane, and Tsianni tasted its awful bite for the first time. They would no longer see the well fucked slave in him now, not some young and limp captive easily overcome but would recall that he'd supposedly slaughtered on of their own and treat him accordingly. And it had been none other than himself who'd just willfully sabotaged a perfectly good chance to give these bandits the slip.

* * *

Pig's master seized on the young clansman's hair and drew his face forth into the light; searching it with a frown. Tsianni stared back and found himself reminded of his mother's uncle examining a newly acquired calf when he thought himself being had. A fine breeder of racing stock that one had been and he'd known what signs of weakness to look for.

Under the detached merciless eyes taking stock he flushed.

The smear Pig's sweat had left on his naked skin was still itching and surely his stench told the rest - that it hadn't been Pig's first round with him... And that Pig had been less than pleased with his compliance. The sleeping grub stirred slightly in the small of his back and he shuddered. Gods please not now. The last thing he needed was to lose all control in front of this man. And the thing active as it had been under Rhys hands was more than he thought he could bear. He bit his lips not to make a sound.

"The brand is on his butt, Sir," his former tormentor piped up.

Only the slight tightening of sky-blue eyes spoke of his superior's frayed temper.

"Which clan?" he demanded.

Tsianni's throat was closed. He wheezed:

"I - I'm -Rahuni." Something feeling awfully like hope rose at the question. That his time under Pig's care might be over.

"Fuck you Rhys -" so softly Tsianni had to strain to hear it over his breathing. "Are we poaching near home or what."

Pushed into the space between the rough-hewn desk and the wall, Tsianni simply had to ignore the rotating room on his way to the doorway. No one was preventing him from leaving. No big task any tottering three-years-old would've been able to avoid the table's edge. It reached out and hit him a glancing blow and spun him around so that when he found himself on the floor in a heap he was facing the duo again. Pig's boss held his elegant head at a slight angle observing him.

"Basil, tell me you didn't put him in the public stocks."

Pig cleared his throat trying to match the other's reasonable voice:

"Rhys has some restrictions on his use, after he had him go down on that Kori of his. Anyway I wouldn't have put him there - you know me."

In the silence that followed Tsianni estimated that he didn't have much chance to reach the next defensible corner. Preliminaries were over. They would put the bit back in and then have him both and there was nothing he could do about it. He cursed his weakness flopping around like a girl on his back as his muscles locked up. Couldn't even use his hands which were awkwardly fastened to the chain around his hips to get to his knees. Then Pig trudged out with a face like thunder looking down on him. And somehow he missed the next move on the part of his new master and yelped in spite of himself at the man's touch.

* * *

At a thump near him Tsianni looked up. He'd spent a few hours clipped to one of the table's sturdy legs while Rhys' camp master had Pig running to and fro as he took repossession of his office. The man gave the plastic flask near him a little kick so it rolled in Tsianni's direction. Who jerked forwards forgetting that his hands were still tied to his sides and barely avoided falling on his face.

"Lay down," the man ordered. "Do you know how to open it?"

Does he think me dumb, Tsianni wondered. It would be just like Pig to let his boss believe he had a complete barbarian in front of him.

"I know," he croaked fuming. Thinking he'd sound worse than ever. But he wouldn't crawl before the man to get to drink; only then thought that the offer might yet be withdrawn and before he knew it had curled around the bottle protectively. The cap yielded to his teeth and allowed him to suck out the content, something faintly salty and cool, a broth most likely, and so delicious not even his aching throat could stop him from uttering sounds of pure bliss. He drank it up much too fast and curled up tighter to stop his belly from bringing it up again.

When the slaves came to clean him up with bottles of mist and soapy cloths he frightened them, grasping for the towels.

"Untie me!" he rasped. Bad enough sitting buck-naked in the slaver's main room. There was no need to treat him like an overgrown babe when they only had to lengthen his bonds some. Pig was halfway over to him before he was called away sharply by his grinning boss.

He watched the man after that from under his brows, saw him linger fiddling with some mechanical devices as his captive on the floor was handled intimately. Pig had volunteered probably wanting to demonstrate what a intractable creature his boss was showing leniency to.

And was denied.

"I trust you cleaned him out before you put him on my table." Pig had the grace to blush.

Later, as he dismissed his Second, Tsianni caught the man's name. He waited with his eyes lowered politely until the other settled with a bottle of cooled kyhf in the revolving chair right next to him.

"Preston-shidi," he addressed him boldly like he would a trader's captain. And careful not to make his voice sound like he wasn't proposing a deal between equals. Pig wouldn't get his hands on him anymore if he just did this right.

"Don't." The answer came sharply, "You pretty ones always are more trouble that you are worth. I don't care if you're one of the Rauni princes. Don't think you can make me do anything -"

The man set down his bottle and jerked Tsianni up between his knees, scowling when he felt resistance.

"Basil wants more time with you and then there is Tarkh who just wants you- and something tells me I should let him."

Not much of a threat, Tsianni thought when he felt the man's hard cock between them. He scowled back. Then the bottle's edge, still moist and fragrant, touched his lower lip teasingly and he couldn't resist to open his mouth. The hand on the back of his neck relaxed and as the kyhf made him hiccup the camp-master gave a low laugh.

"Such a tough one you are, Pretty. What a pity nobody told you not to try your charms on Kori."

He took the bottle away and wiped Tsianni's lips with his thump. And then again making the flesh tingle. His forefinger pressed the swollen tissue to the teeth behind until the sensation became almost pain then released it - to brush over the skin once more with a suddenly maddeningly rough thumb. Just a stupid little gesture and it was all Tsianni needed to grow painfully hard. Confused and angry he looked up.

"Pretty. But not good enough. "

Smile gone from his eyes Preston ran his finger over the mark on Tsianni's cheek the straps of the bit had left behind.

"Unless you want to become Kori meat. The way every one of Rhys' pretty boys went in the end because they thought themselves to good for work."

He smoothed the flinching skin with an almost caressing touch.

"And I don't think you're stupid enough to hope that Rhys will lift a finger for you - once the novelty of being your rider is gone."

It was his second time in one day he sat on the dark polished table-top.

Only this time he was drunk, desperate and already erect.

"Use your lips, wet them and make them soft for me." Tsianni let himself be instructed with his neck firmly gripped by the man's hand and unable to stop the involuntary shudders that the touch caused him. But it didn't keep him from rubbing his head in the man's musk and over the slightly furred flat belly and down to the root of his erection. He could do this. His tongue sought the salty flesh beneath the thickening shaft in long hungry strokes all of a sudden wanting the taste of the man and the tiny shivers that ran along the insides of his tights.

He discovered a piece of metal artfully embedded into the skin and brushed his lips over it curious and fascinated by the reaction that caused. Heard the man's groan then and was urgently guided on the other's weeping cock.

"Softly! I told you, boy! "

The smooth head hit the raw flesh at the back of his throat and it was Pig and his friends all over again. Preston's grip turned steely keeping him impaled.

Bad idea, Tsianni though nastily, responding with a reflexive snarl. Next he knew the large member slid back a fraction so he could swallow again.

"Just suck," the man sighed. "And be careful about your teeth."

Whore, Tsianni added cynically for himself as the shooting pains from his stretched jaws started to diminish. And then, better not let Amanar's men get wind of what life is like for Rahuni prisoners - bunch of cocksuckers would start raiding right away. Still hard and Preston's hand on him, tight and possessive, groping his cock and balls, was more than he could stand.

Taking a deep wet breath, Tsianni sheathed his teeth once more and drew on the sensitive swollen flesh hard enough to elicit a serious gasp. Pushed himself deeper on the spit-slicked shaft and found he'd lost the gagging reflex, or rather that he had it ruthlessly trained out of him. The stinging cuts on his mouth where Pig had forced his girth in protested nonetheless. Preston's cock was big - easily the largest he'd taken so far and but to his relief his girth didn't come up to Pig's so he hadn't had to strain. Hard fingers closed on his aching flesh like an iron trap and he squirmed under the grip - needing the friction.

Preston's breath hitched.


His hips thrust up once and Tsianni's throat felt as if he'd swallowed a searing iron. He pulled up moaning in real distress. The sudden release gushing over his tongue surprised him, and he spat out in reflex.

Half naked as he was he'd begun to shiver on the exposed flat surface by the time Preston was finished. He'd been left hard and aching and needing to piss and once he was pushed away he curled up miserably. At the growl of his belly Preston laughed and leisurely stretched himself.

"Next time better swallow. And look like you enjoy it, Pretty."

Next time you bastard, you better remember to use the bit, he wanted to retort angrily but it was as if his voice had died completely. At his frightened look Preston put a palm on the side of his neck and gave an annoyed sigh.

A voiceless whore was apparently nothing to get excited about, maybe he'd just been lucky so far and it was bound to happen to him anyway. Come to think, he hadn't heard that many slaves talking. Gone was the kyhf short-lived high but not the illusion of bodily attraction for the man next to him - his face flooded with heat as Preston pinched his nipples playfully. He scuttled back and rolled his body off the table to clumsily land on his knees, his full bladder sending spikes of pain to his sides. Preston slipped off more gracefully. With a faint grimace on his face he wiped himself off using some disposable thin cloth and then drew a pair of dark baggy trousers over his slim hips.

"Not that I don't enjoy a mouth as hot as yours, but how long are you running that fever?" He asked with his back to Tsianni. "I'd thought Alora had fixed that already."

Tsianni looked around for something sharp, as the rage in him rose. Something to wipe that superior grin of Preston's face and would make him feel less like a - used thing. He watched suspiciously as Preston scooped up a bottle with water and a small leather satchel from his heap of clothes on the floor and returned looking exasperated when Tsianni showed his teeth.

"Oh no, I won't have that - you're not freaking out on me about some little medicine."

With a quick movement his hand sneaked out to pick something flimsy and dry off from behind Tsianni's ear. Then he stepped back and started cursing, crumpling the grayish membrane between his fingertips as Tsianni sacked bonelessly at his feet gasping like a fish out of the water.

"You've been drugged, my Pretty."

He heard the man over the roaring inside his head - and saw him fit a tiny metallic spike to his index finger. A smear of moisture to the side of his throat - innocent until Tsianni felt a pleasant tingle running through his limbs. Oh he still hurt, but that cloud blurring his thoughts that that constant low drone of pain impulses which had become so much part of his days and nights that he hadn't questioned its origin anymore was gone. His eyes were flooded with shameful tears he wasn't able to repress as he took one deep breath after the other.

"I don't want -" Gods, even his voice was back.

"Someone put an enhance trip on you - and I just put things back to normal. As far a native blood can get, I guess." Preston sounded almost angry as he rubbed glistening remains like grains of finest sand off his hands. "You'll get a thrashing you won't forget if I ever catch you at taking this stuff. You run to me when a client wants to use them on you. Hear that?"

"I- I won't whore for you."

He gasped at the wave of bliss hitting him out of nowhere.

"Everyone works around here - do you think it's easy for me to suffer a second like Basil? "

He squirmed under the unnatural heat of Preston's hand on his belly. Basil wasn't Preston's by choice. Which meant - he had to force his thoughts though the mush his brain had become.


Preston laughed.

"Right, little Rauni. Our beloved leader likes to keep me occupied. And watched. Come on, wake up a bit more!"

He pulled the unresisting Tsianni up by the arm and navigated them over to the small bathing cubicle.

"Such messy things, this new stuff of Rhys is," Preston murmured into his ear and unclipped Tsianni's left wrist from the chain so that he could relieve himself. "They make you feel the weirdest things. Ever wonder why we collect so much of your ugly poisonous fauna? I believe that's one more thing you have Tarkh to thank for - or maybe it was your Rahuni leader himself? Any more enemies I should know of?"

Preston had to hold him upright during the piss. And he was laughing at him. Tsianni knew but he also couldn't shake the feeling that as much as he wanted to hate Preston he was probably the only one in camp not after his hide. Even Pig had looked ready to kill him.

* * *

Preston's handler let him get to his feet again as they closed ranks moving through a group of women. Campfollowers rather, but even for mercenary creatures these seemed uncommonly silent, and he felt their hostile eyes following him.

Too back desert Tsianni was slow to figure out the big tent's gaudy wimples and merry lamps; but he wasn't deaf. Humiliated, he registered the jeers of the men lounging near the entrance as they sighted him.

Gods, of course he had been amusing to Preston, dumb virgin Rahuni prisoner who thought he was special enough not to be used like any other slave. He got carried gasping and twisting through the packed main-chamber - upside down the bodies and lights all ran together into a miasma of heat and noise and his body flopped in the grips of the men like a caught fish much to the glee of the occupants inside the packed main-chamber.

A corridor led into the honeycombed interior. They threw him inside a tiny compartment and he rolled up kicking against a raised platform that was its only furniture. In the dim lights he frantically tried to discern how many of them were crowding into the small space. Amused eyes over a facecloth met his. Tarkh. Tarkh and his men next-

In desperation Tsianni began to work at his wrists clipped to his back.

Tarkh growled over his shoulder:

"Get out - and get that damn flyer going!"

The men left grumbling and with backward glances which left no doubt that they would return once their leader was otherwise occupied. Tarkh himself never stopped watching them him as he gave orders for food and drink to be brought in.

And then when they were alone he wandered over and squatted in safe distance from the entrance.

"You look like you had a hard night," he said, the hardly repressed glee clear in his voice. He gripped Tsianni's jaw and turned his face towards him. "Or maybe I should say, last time I saw Rhys he looked especially pleased with himself."

"Old news," Tsianni whispered. "He's leading you on - as you do him..." There was a light snick as Tarkh withdrew his dagger from the sheath at his hip and Tsianni had only time to think that for his last words it had been an especially stupid thing to utter. The blade was warm and his neck was stroked with it's flat side until he had to clench his teeth together waiting for it's bite. And suddenly with Tarkh so near and him breathing too fast - it hit him right between the eyes. And of course he had to blurt it out. " You fucked the Praetorian!"

The blade was angled and he hissed at a sharp burn from jaw to collarbone. First cut and by its easy knew the knife would go through his skin like it was melted fat.

"He asked me politely, how could I resist?"

As the facecloth fell, Tsianni evaded the others stare.

"I've been thinking, boy. These last few day when you couldn't been found. Do you know what I wondered?"

"What? That you missed me already?" He became aware of the second cut and Tarkh tsked at him like he should have known better. Eyes dark and amused.

"Don't interrupt your betters. I had these - crazy ideas that Amanar and you didn't seem so surprised seeing each other in Rhys' tent. And you... When two Rahuni meet, what do they talk about? Answer me that, my young friend."

The End of Part 6b

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