Beauty's Release (Page 30)

Beauty’s Release (Sleeping Beauty #3)(30)
Author: Anne Rice

Chapter 14


IT SEEMED an hour that we were in the garden. But it could not have been a quarter of that time. And, when we reached the doors of the palace again, I was astonished because no other slaves had been chosen. Of course, we were new to the palace. Perhaps it was inevitable that we be observed. I didn’t know. I was only relieved that it had happened.

And as we followed the Lord down the corridor, the canopy still over his head, a score of attendants coming behind, I felt the relief more profoundly than fear of what would now be asked of us.

My thighs were aching and the muscles twitching uncontrollably from the squatting position as we came into a large and grandly decorated bedchamber. And at once, the subdued moans of the slaves who decorated the room rose to greet the Master. They were in niches in the walls. And bound to the posts of the bed. And, in the distant bath, their bodies circled the stone jet of a high fountain.

We were made to stop and remain in the center of the room. Lexius moved to the far wall and stood with his hands behind his back and his head bowed.

The grooms of the Sultan removed his cloak and his slippers, and he visibly relaxed, sending his servants away with an off-hand gesture. He turned and walked about as though taking a deep breath after the weight of the ceremonial procession. And he took not the slightest notice of the slaves whose moans grew softer, more unobtrusive, as though there were an etiquette to it.

The bed behind him stood upon a dais and was draped in white and purple veils and covered with thickly tapestried covers. And those bound to the pillars were standing with arms tied high above them, some facing out, others facing in where obviously they might see the Master as he slept. In my dim vision, they looked as they had in the corridors–like statues. As I didn’t dare to turn my head or to look at any one particular thing, I could not even tell whether or not these slaves were men or women.

As for the bath, all I could see was an immense pool of water beyond a row of thin, enameled columns, and the circle of slaves standing in the pool, the water spurting upwards and coming down quietly over their shoulders and bellies. Men and women there were in that circle, I could see, their wet bodies reflecting the torchlight becomingly.

Beyond, the arched windows were open to the moon and to soft breezes and quiet night sounds.

I felt hot all over and taut as a bowstring. In fact, I gradually realized I was terrified. And I knew that all such intimate scenes as this had always terrified me. I preferred the garden, the cross, even the procession with its horrid scrutiny. Not this silence in the bedroom which precursed the rawest and most heartfelt disasters of the soul, the most thorough subjugation.

What if I did not understand the Lord’s commands, his obvious wishes? Waves of excitement passed over me, further heating me, and confusing me.

The Lord meantime spoke to Lexius. And his voice sounded familiar and pleasant. Lexius answered with obvious respect but the same air of pleasantness. He pointed to us, but which of us I couldn’t know, and seemed to be explaining something.

The Lord was amused and he drew near again, and put out his hands, touching our heads simultaneously. He rubbed my hair hard and affectionately, as if I was a good little animal that pleased him. The pain in my thighs worsened. And my heart seemed to open. I held steady, smelling the perfume that rose from his robes and knowing exquisitely that Lexius was pleased, Lexius was here, it was as he wanted. Our other games seemed embarrassingly insignificant. He was right about my destiny, right about destiny itself. And I was fortunate I had not ruined it.

Lexius had come round behind me, and at the Lord’s command he gripped my collar and lifted me until I was in a straight standing position. Lovely relief to my legs, though Tristan was left as he was, but I felt suddenly more vulnerable and visible.

I was turned around and I heard the Sultan laugh as he spoke, and I felt a hand touch my sore bottom. It played with the round rim of the wide phallus. And a sense of shame surprised me and inundated me. Lexius whipped the front of my knees as he bent my head down. I kept my legs ramrod straight and lowered my head and chest as far as I could. But having my arms bound to the phallus made it impossible for me to bend low. I was merely bent over.

The hands examined the welts. My sense of shame deepened. But it didn’t mean I had been disobedient, did it, the redness, the evidence of the whipping? Other slaves had been whipped just for pleasure. And it pleased him obviously.

Why else would he touch, comment? Nevertheless, I felt small and miserable, and my tears came again, and when I felt a little sob inside me, my chest tensed and all the straps pulled tight and my manacled arms pulled at the phallus. It made me sob a little harder, silently, feeling all of it, and his fingers dividing my bu**ocks as if to see my anus and then touching the hair there, smoothing it.

He talked rapidly and pleasantly still to Lexius. I realized that at the palace at least the slave would have known what was said. This foreign tongue utterly dismissed us. I might have been the subject of their discourse. Or maybe it was about something else altogether.

Whatever the case, Lexius whipped my chin teasingly with the thong. I straightened. He turned me by the hook in the phallus until I was facing the bath. I saw the Sultan to my right, though I didn’t look at him.

Lexius whipped my calves sharply and quickly with four or five strokes, and I started to march, hoping this was correct, and then I saw him point the thong to the far row of columns, and I marched quickly towards the columns, feeling again a weird mixture of dignity and humiliation due to the straps and manacles.

I heard the snap of his fingers when I had reached the columns, and I turned around, my face coloring, and I marched back, seeing the dim, blurred outline of the two robed figures watching me.

I stepped high and fast, and the whole little procedure had its predictable effect. I felt more the slave than I had even moments ago, more than I had on the path. Lexius whipped me and pointed for me to turn again and repeat the march.

And as I did so, weeping heavily and silently. I hoped that pleased them. It occurred to me as I came back across the room that it would be terrible if my tears were construed as impertinence, as a lack of submission. And this thought so frightened me that I was crying worse than before as I stopped before them. I stared forward, seeing nothing but the carvings on the far walls, the spirals, the leaves, tracery of pattern and color.

The Sultan’s hand went up to my face and felt the tears as it had on the path. My throat was moving under the high collar with repeated sobs. And I felt I could hardly endure the sweetness of it, the maddening increase of tension, as he touched my naked chest, as he moved his hand away from my stinging ni**les and down to touch my navel. If he touched my cock, I knew I might lose control. And this produced helpless moans.