But the thong quickly pushed me to the side. I was directed to squat again, and now Tristan was made to rise, to bend over.
And I was slightly amazed to realize I might look right at the Sultan without his noticing it. I couldn’t lower my head because of the collar. And there he was, standing to my left and quite absorbed with Tristan. I decided, or rather couldn’t resist the temptation, to study him.
I saw a youthful face, just as I had suspected I would, and one that was nothing as formidable or mysterious as that of Lexius. His power did not represent itself in obvious pride or haughtiness. This was for lesser men. Rather, he exuded an extraordinary presence, a radiance. He was smiling as he kneaded Tristan’s bu**ocks and played with the bronze phallus, obviously rocking it with the hook as Tristan bent over.
Then Tristan was made to stand up, and the Sultan’s face took on a charming air of appreciation of Tristan’s beauty. In sum, he seemed a pleasant, handsome man, quick-witted, and enjoying his slaves casually. His short, full hair was beautiful, more lustrous than that of most of the men here, and it grew back from his temples in thick, lovely waves. His eyes were brown and, for all their quickness, just a tittle thoughtful.
He was a being I might have liked instantly in some harmless place. But now, this cheerfulness, this obvious good nature, made me feel weaker, more abandoned. I didn’t fully understand it. But I knew it had to do with his expression, that he so thoroughly enjoyed us, and it seemed so natural.
At the castle, there had been a deliberate quality to everything that was done. We were royalty. We were to be enhanced by our service. Here, we were nameless and nothing.
The Sultan’s face brightened as Tristan was made to march, and it seemed that Tristan did so infinitely better than I did. He had more dignity, more spirit. His shoulders were more cruelly bent back, it seemed, because his arms were a little shorter than mine and laced more tightly to the phallus.
I tried not to see. He was doing it all too well. And my desire rose and fell in awesome and tormenting rhythm.
Tristan was soon enough made to squat beside And now we were turned to face the distant row of columns and the bath and then made to kneel together.
My heart shrank when Lexius showed us a gilded ball. I understood the game. But how would we ever manage to retrieve it when we could not use our hands? I shuddered at the thought of our awkwardness. The game was precisely the kind of intimacy I had dreaded when we entered the bedchamber. It was bad enough to be scrutinized; now we must strive to give amusement.
Instantly, Lexius sent the ball rolling across the floor, and, an our knees, Tristan and I struggled after it. Tristan pulled ahead of me and dipped to catch it in his teeth. He managed it without failing. And I realized suddenly that I had failed. Tristan had won. There was nothing to do but struggle back to our Masters, where Lexius was already taking the ball from Tristan’s mouth as he stroked Tristan’s hair approvingly.
He glared at me, and his thong whipped my bare belly as I knelt before him. I could hear the Sultan’s laughter, though I looked down and saw nothing but the floor gleaming before me. Lexius whipped my chest, my legs. I winced, the tears spilling again. He forced us around, in position to compete with each other again, and once more the ball was thrown. And this time I really went after it.
Tristan and I struggled against each other, trying to push each other to the side as the ball came to rest before us. I managed to get hold of it, but he confounded me by snatching it right from my mouth and turning at once to take it back to the Master.
I was in a silent rage. Both of us had been commanded to please the Sultan, and now we had to fight each other to do so, and one would win and one would lose. It seemed beastly unfair.
But all I could do was return to our Lords and be whipped again by that hated little thong, the thing finding the sore flesh in back this time as I knelt still, weeping.
The third time I got the ball and shoved Tristan over when he tried to take it. And the fourth time Tristan got it again, and I was frantic. By the fifth race, we were both out of breath and had forgotten all about grace of any sort, and I could hear the Sultan laughing lightly as he watched Tristan steal the ball from me, and me stumble after him. I dreaded the thong this time as it cut at my welts, and I wept miserably as it came whistling down through the air, the strokes long and hard and fast as Tristan knelt receiving approval.
But the Sultan shocked me suddenly because he drew near and he touched my face again. The thong stopped. And, in a moment of exquisite stillness, his silken fingers wiped my tears once more, as if he liked the feel of them. And there came the lovely warm feeling of my heart opening again, as it had on the garden path, the feeling that I belonged to him. I felt I had tried to please. I was simply slower, less agile, than Tristan. His fingers lingered. And when his voice rose, speaking rapidly to Lexius, I felt that it was touching me too, stroking me, possessing me and tormenting me with perfect authority. In a blur I saw Lexius’s thong tapping Tristan, directing him to turn and approach the bed on his knees. I was ordered to follow, but the Sultan walked along beside me, and I felt his hand playing with my hair still, lifting it above the collar. I was in a low ache of desire. My faculties were drowning in it. I saw the bodies tethered to the four posts of the bed–beauties all, women turned in to face the Lord as he slept, men turned out, and all of them moving under their bonds as if to acknowledge the Master’s approach–and my vision seemed to dim even more, so that the bed looked not like a bed but rather like an altar. The tapestried covers blazed with tiny configurations.
We knelt at the foot of the dais. And Lexius and the Sultan were behind us. There was the soft sound of cloth falling, of fabric untied, bits of metal unclasped.
Then the naked figure of the Sultan moved into my vision. He stepped up on the dais, his body shimmering in its cleanliness and smoothness, its lack of any mark, and he sat down on the side of the bed, facing us.
I tried not to look into his face. But I could see he was smiling. His organ was erect, and it seemed a momentous thing to see it, in this world where so many underlings were naked. The thong tapped Tristan, directed him to stand and to go up on the dais, and then to stretch out on the bed. The Sultan turned to watch him, and I burned with envy, with terror. But, immediately, the thong summoned me too, and I rose from my knees and made the step and then looked down on the covers where Tristan lay, still manacled, as if he were a gorgeous victim to be slaughtered in blood offering. My heart was beating hard and loud in my ears. I looked at his c**k and let my eyes move timidly to the right until I could see the naked lap of the Master, and his organ rising from its shadow of black hair, a fine enough endowment.