Captive Prince:Book One of the Captive Prince TrilogyBy: C. S. Pacat
"WE HEAR THAT your Prince,” said Lady Jokaste, “keeps his own harem. These slaves will please any traditionalist, but I have asked Adrastus to prepare something special in addition, a personal gift for your Prince from the King. A gem in the rough, as it were.”
“His Majesty has already been so generous,” said Councillor Guion, Ambassador of Vere.
They strolled the length of the viewing gallery. Guion had dined on mouth-watering spiced meats wrapped in grape leaves, the noonday heat fanned away from his reclining form by attentive slaves. He felt generously willing to admit that this barbaric country had its charms. The food was rustic, but the slaves were impeccable: faultlessly obedient and trained to efface and anticipate, nothing like the spoiled pets at the court of Vere.
The gallery was decorated by two dozen slaves on display. All were either naked or barely clad in transparent silks. Around their necks the slaves wore gold collars decorated with rubies and tanzanite, and on their wrists golden wrist-cuffs. These were purely ornamental. The slaves knelt in demonstration of their willing submissiveness.
They were to be a gift from the new King of Akielos to the Regent of Vere—a highly generous gift. The gold alone was worth a small fortune, while the slaves were surely some of the finest in Akielos. Privately, Guion had already earmarked one of the palace slaves for his personal use, a demure youth with a beautifully slender waist and heavily lashed dark eyes.
As they reached the far end of the gallery, Adrastus, the Keeper of the Royal Slaves, bowed sharply, the heels of his laced brown leather boots drawing together.
“Ah. Here we are,” said Lady Jokaste, smiling.
They proceeded into an antechamber, and Guion’s eyes widened.
Bound and under heavy guard was a male slave unlike any Guion had ever seen.
Powerfully muscled and physically imposing, he was not wearing the trinket-chains that adorned the other slaves in the gallery. His restraints were real. His wrists were lashed behind his back, and his legs and torso were bound with thick cords. Despite this, the force of his body looked only barely contained. His dark eyes flashed furiously above the gag, and if you looked closely at the expensive cords that bound his torso and legs, you could see the red weals where he had fought, hard, against his restraints.
Guion’s pulse sped up, an almost panicked reaction. A gem in the rough? This slave was more like a wild animal, nothing like the twenty-four tame kittens who lined the hall. The sheer power of his body was barely held in check.
Guion looked at Adrastus, who was hanging back, as though the slave’s presence made him nervous.
“Are all the new slaves bound?” asked Guion, trying to regain his composure.
“No, just him. He, that is—” Adrastus hesitated.
“He isn’t used to being handled,” said Adrastus, with an uneasy sideways look at Lady Jokaste. “He hasn’t been trained.”
“The Prince, we hear, enjoys a challenge,” said Lady Jokaste.
Guion tried to quell his reaction as he turned his gaze back to the slave. It was highly questionable whether this barbarous gift would appeal to the Prince, whose feelings towards the savage inhabitants of Akielos lacked warmth, to say the least.
“Does he have a name?” asked Guion.
“Your Prince is, of course, free to name him whatever he likes,” said Lady Jokaste. “But I believe it would greatly please the King if he were to call him ‘Damen.’” Her eyes glittered.
“Lady Jokaste,” said Adrastus, seemingly in objection, though of course that was impossible.
Guion looked from one to the other of them. He saw that he was expected to make some comment.
“That is certainly—an interesting choice of name,” said Guion. In fact he was appalled.
“The King thinks so,” said Lady Jokaste, stretching her lips slightly.
They killed his slave Lykaios with the quick slice of a sword across her throat. She was a palace slave, untrained in combat and so sweetly obedient that, had he commanded it of her, she would have knelt and bared her own throat for the stroke. She was not given a chance to obey or resist. She folded soundlessly, her pale limbs lying quite still on the white marble. Beneath her, blood began slowly to spread out over the marble floor.