Beauty's Release (Page 45)

Beauty’s Release (Sleeping Beauty #3)(45)
Author: Anne Rice

He gave me a good slap under the chin, snapping my head up. Tristan had already lifted his head properly.

The boy went round us again in a circle. My c**k was pumping more madly than ever. A new form of debasement was being visited upon us. No Court and villagers to watch now. We were in the charge of this rough-hewn young servant, and even glancing at his high brown boots and his powerful hands, still on his hips, excited me.

But a shadow suddenly fell over the stable, and I realized that my old friend, the Captain of the Guard, had come in.

"Good afternoon, Captain," said the boy. "Congratulations on the mission. The whole village is afire with the gossip." "Gareth, I’m glad you’re here," said the Captain. "I want these two to be your special charge. You’re the best groom in the village."

"You flatter me, Captain." The boy laughed. "But I don’t think you’ll find anyone here who loves his work more than I do. And these two, gorgeous steeds! Look at the way they stand. They have pony blood. I can see it already."

"Harness them together whenever it’s possible," said the Captain. I saw his hand go up to stroke Tristan’s head. He took the white handkerchief from the boy and wiped Tristan’s face again.

"You know, this is the best punishment you could have drawn, Tristan," the Captain said under his breath. "You know you need it."

"Yes, Captain," Tristan whispered. "But I’m frightened."

"Don’t be. You and Laurent will be the pride of the stables in no time. There’ll be a list on the door out there of the villagers who want to hire you."

Tristan shuddered. "I need courage, Captain," he said.

"No, Tristan," he said seriously, "you need the harness and the bit and stern discipline, as you needed it before. You must understand something about being a pony. It is not merely another part of your slavery. It is a way of life unto itself."

A way of life unto itself.

He stepped over to me, and I felt my c**k stiffen as if it were possible for it to get any stiffer. The stable boy stood back with his arms folded, watching all this, his yellow hair falling down on his forehead a little, freckles very pretty in the sunshine. Such nice white teeth.

"And you, Laurent? Tears from you?" the Captain said soothingly to me. He wiped my face again. "Don’t tell me you’re frightened?"

"I don’t know, Captain," I said. I wanted to say that I wouldn’t know until the bit and harness and the phallus were in place. But that would have been asking for it. I didn’t have the courage to ask for it. It would come soon enough.

"Chances are," he said, "that this is where you would have been placed if the Sultan’s soldiers hadn’t raided the village." He put his arm around my shoulder, and it seemed suddenly real, the time we had spent at sea, when we had both whipped and played with Lexius and Tristan. "It’s the perfect thing for you," he assured me. "You have more will and strength pumping in your veins than most slaves. That is what Gareth calls pony blood. And the pony life will simplify everything for you; it will quite literally and symbolically harness your strength."

"Yes, Captain," I said. I stared in a daze at the long row of stalls, the backsides of the pony slaves, their horseshoed boots on the hay-strewn earth. "But will you … will you…?"

"Yes, Laurent?"

"Will you let me know now and then how it goes with Lexius?" My dear and elegant Lexius, who would soon enough be gathered into the Queen’s arms. "And Princess Beauty … if you hear any word."

"We don’t speak of those who leave the Kingdom," he said. "But I’ll let you know if there is any gossip." I could see the sadness, the longing for Beauty, in his face. "As for Lexius, I’ll tell you how he fares. And you can be sure, both of you, that I’ll see you often. If I don’t see you trotting every day in the streets, I’ll come looking for you."

He turned my face towards him and kissed me, rather hard, on the mouth. Then he kissed Tristan in the same fashion, and I studied the two rough-shaven faces together, the mingling of the blond hair, the half-lidded eyes. Men kissing. Such a lovely sight. "Be strict with them, Gareth," he said as he let go of Tristan. "Train them well. When in doubt, whip." And then he was gone. And we were alone with this robust young stable-boy Master who was already making my heart trip.

"All right, my young steeds," he said in the same cheerful voice as before. "Keep your chins high and move down the row to the last stall. And do it as ponies always do, at a brisk march, arms tightly folded against your backs, knees high. I don’t want to have to remind you of this ever again. You march with spirit at all times, whether shoed or not, whether in the streets or in the stables, with pride in the strength of your bodies."

We obeyed, moving down the long line of stalls, and came to the last one, which was empty. I saw the feeding trough beneath the window, with its bowls of clean water and of meal, and the two broad, flat beams crossing the stall, over which we had to bend at the waist, one beam to support our chests, the other our bellies. Gareth pushed us to the far sides of the stall so that he could stand between us, and he ordered us to bend over and we obeyed, resting our torsos on the beams, our heads right above the feeding bowls.

"Now lap that water, and do it with enthusiasm," lie said. "I won’t have any vanity here, any holding back. You’re ponies now."

No soft, silken fingers here; no perfumed ointments; no tender voices talking in that impenetrable Arabic tongue that seemed so suited to sensuality.

The wet scrub brush hit my backside and started its vigorous work immediately, the water trickling down my naked legs. I felt a rush of shame as I lapped the water, hating the wetness against my face, but I was thirsty and I did as he said, amazingly eager to please him, liking the smell of his rawhide jerkin, his suntanned skin.

He scrubbed me well, ducking under the beams and coming up between them or in front of them when he had to, his movements firm and brusque, as he did his chores, his voice reassuring. And then he turned to Tristan, just as our food was brought to us, a good serving of thick meat soup, which he told us to finish off completely.

But I had taken only a few morsels when he stopped me.

"No. I can see we need some training immediately. I told you to eat it, and I mean for you to devour it and fast. I’ll have none of those dainty manners here. Now let me see you go at it."

Again, I was blushing with shame to have to pick up the meat and vegetables with my tongue, to have the stew on my face, but I didn’t dare disobey him. I felt an extraordinary affection for him.