"I will cut your tongue out if you don't shut up," a familiar voice threatened as a hand fisted in Dara's short, dark hair, but Dara refused to be quietened. He didn't care if it was true. Or he did care, but he cared about his resistance more. As he struggled, the blows he landed on his aggressors reflected pain onto him, twice as hard, lashing deep within to land in a place private and raw. He'd learnt to fight back, though his efforts perverted him. They rotted out the core of him and left something bitter in its place. He could never be what he was before, never be what he could have been, what he should have been.
He screamed, too, though nobody had ever come to his rescue. Nobody had ever dared intervene in this game. He bit when they tried to gag him and pain strummed all around him, threatening to black out his vision.
The largest of the three guards easily weighed twice that of Dara's slender frame and was just as strong as he appeared. Even doing his best angry cat impression Dara had never escaped them, but the idea of going along with what they had planned willingly was unthinkable.
They were taking him down to the dungeons. They always did, because that was where the equipment was, the restraints and the tools they would use. Dara didn't understand how hurting someone else could be fun, but then he wasn't like other men. Hurting others hurt him. If he were normal, would he understand it better? Did everyone else appreciate how someone could find joy in the blood of another, even if they didn't share in the hobby?
They had reached the stairs before a voice interrupted them. "What the hell is going on?"
The holds of the guards loosened on him and Dara struggled with renewed vigour, but their grips quickly tightened again.
"Punishment, sir. This little rat was disrespecting his betters."
"No!" Dara shouted as he struck out. A hand clamped over his mouth and he bit it, hard.
"Disrespecting his betters... how?" the man asked. Dara tried to look over his shoulder to see the man, but the guards held him too firmly for him to turn.
There was a moment of hesitation in which the men struggled to come up with a viable answer and failed. "Does it matter, sir?"
"He's in my colours," the man said, and immediately Dara froze. Dara knew whose colours he wore. The man behind him was Prince Maric. The guards would strip him of those colours before they started so that he didn't ruin them with his blood, and then leave them for him to put back on afterwards.
The last thing Dara needed was for the prince to think he was rebellious, so he dared to speak. "I didn't do anything, highness. They just like to hurt me."
"Shut up," one of the men hissed and thumped Dara's head against the stone wall. Pain flooded out Dara's thoughts for a moment, but it was a minor injury and things quickly righted themselves.
"I could speak to you individually and see if your stories matched," the prince said. "If I find you're lying to me, though, things won't go pleasantly for you. Would you like to release him and let me get back to bed, or would you like to prove you're justified in your punishments?"
The guards exchanged looks, and a moment later Dara was released. He hit the stone floor with a strangled sound of pain.
"Good," the prince said. "Slave, come with me."
For a moment Dara froze. He couldn't move. Was he in trouble for disrupting the prince? The prince had just saved him from torture, but that didn't mean he wasn't looking to make someone pay for disturbing the peace.
"Slave," the prince repeated, more firmly this time, and Dara quickly scrabbled to his feet.
Dara had seen the prince before, but it had been many years ago and at a distance during public events. He was older now, and it was somewhat odd seeing him out of formal attire. He looked like any other twenty-something year old man — though handsomer than average, Dara couldn't help but note. The prince's hair was a common brown and military short, but his prominent cheekbones and stormy grey eyes leant him character. Dara followed the prince quickly so as not to anger him with further delays, glad to put space between himself and the guards who had attacked him.
A door was open further down the corridor, and the prince led him through it. The prince's rooms. Dara had never known they were here, though he'd been dragged down this corridor many times. They had been unoccupied for years, though, so Dara supposed their location had been of little meaning.
The room they had entered, a kind of greeting room, was nicely decorated, but perhaps not as elaborate as Dara would have expected. The furniture was nice, there were richly dyed silk cushions and billowing silk curtains, but all in all it was rather simplistic. It matched the man standing before him: nicely dressed, neatly groomed, but no more jewellery than the ring on his finger signifying his status.
When Dara started to kneel, the prince waved a hand to indicate he should remain standing. Dara's entire body was tense as he waited to find out what the prince wanted from him.
"Now, can you explain to me why three members of the castle guard decided they wanted to hurt you?" the prince asked, his tone unreadable.
Why. That was a tough question for someone who didn't understand violence at all. Surely the prince, who was a soldier, could comprehend it better than Dara.
"I don't know, your highness," Dara said eventually, his voice quiet. "I don't know why people want to hurt other people. Do you?"
"Did you do something to get on their bad side?"
Dara shook his head firmly. "It's not that, your highness. They simply enjoy the pain of others, and with me there are no consequences."
The prince's eyebrows shot up. "Because you're mine, and I haven't been here to object?"
Suddenly, Dara realised the gap in the prince's understanding. Of course he didn't know who Dara was, or, more importantly, what he was. What he had been and what he could still do. Dara still felt rubbed raw inside, and it was distracting him.
"I'm sorry; I was unclear. I don't mark. I can heal from any injury quickly and without scarring. There's little risk of loss, nor any damage anyone cares about."
"You have magic?"
The interest in the prince's voice made Dara squirm. "My nature is too pacifistic for me to be of use in battle, your highness. All my ability does is make me an ideal torture victim."
The prince rubbed idly at his jaw. "Hmm. I was going to ask if you were hurt, but I suppose the answer is no."
Dara nodded. The marks the guards' fingers had left on his pale skin had already faded. "Thank you, your highness. For making them let me go. I'm sorry I disturbed you. I know it's late. I didn't realise your rooms were down here."
The prince studied him silently for a moment before taking a step closer. "Why don't you stay a while? You've caught my curiosity. I must admit, I've always found magic rather fascinating."
Dara's pulse picked up and he averted his eyes. "Do you want to see it, your highness?"
"See it?" the prince asked. "How?"
Dara glanced up and gestured to the knife on the prince's belt, and then looked away again.
"No!" the prince said, and Dara looked up to see and expression of disgust on his face. "No, hurting other people does not please me."
"I didn't mean to suggest—" Dara started. "I mean, I suppose it's simply an interesting thing to see, and I am your property. It wouldn't be such a great pain compared to what you saved me from, your highness."
"They will do it again, won't they?" the prince asked quietly.
The prince let out a sigh and tapped his chin thoughtfully. He took a few steps towards Dara until they were close enough to touch, and then reached out a hand to stroke Dara's cheek. Dara's pulse raced at the feeling of the prince's rough, warm fingertips against his skin.
"You are very handsome. You have such delicate skin for a man, you know. Does even age not damage you?"
"I will grow old and die like any other, but I will live longer and age more slowly." It was several seconds before Dara noticed he'd forgotten to tack on the your highness, but the prince didn't even appear to have noticed, much less cared.
The prince's hand slipped down the side of Dara's neck, and he hummed contemplatively. "I think I could justify taking you with me, for certain purposes. Nobody would be permitted to lay a hand on you. Harming you would be treason."
Dara's chest squeezed tight, both out of fear and hope. The prince seemed kind, gentle. Maybe he could resist his deeply ingrained fear if it allowed him such safety. Dara nodded, his eyes aimed at the floor.
With two fingers under Dara's chin, the prince raised his face and pressed their lips together. Nobody had ever kissed Dara before, which meant that it wasn't scary but also that he was hopeless at it. He tried to copy the slow, teasing way the prince's lips moved against his, but only ended up feeling like he was getting in the way.
"Sorry," Dara said immediately after the prince pulled away. "I'm not... I'm not trained in this. Nobody's ever kissed me before."
The prince's hands trailed up underneath Dara's uniform shirt, his fingers kneading at Dara's skin. "Are you a virgin?"
The prince seemed to like the idea of that. Dara shook his head. He was starting to look like a disappointment all around.
Apparently the prince didn't find either his inexperience or his experience too off-putting, though, because his mouth sunk to Dara's neck. The prince sucked gently at Dara's skin, and with the prince holding Dara gently in his arms it actually felt nice. Dara let his eyes fall shut and tried to keep his breathing steady.
"I won't mark," Dara reminded the prince in case that was what he was attempting.
The prince let out a huff of laughter against Dara's ear. "I think I can deal with the loss. Come over here."
The prince tugged Dara over to a sofa by the hem of his uniform shirt and guided him down onto it before straddling Dara's hips. Dara's pulse sped up at the feeling of mild restraint. Dara had been pinned down many times, and it had never resulted in anything but pain. Don't panic. He's kind. Even if he hurts you, it will be so much less than what others will do to you if he leaves you behind.
The prince undid the buttons on Dara's shirt and lowered his mouth to Dara's collarbone, pressing kisses against his skin that started feather light and gentle but gradually increased in urgency. Slowly the prince edged back, off of Dara, his tongue trailing a warm, damp line down Dara's chest and to his stomach. Despite his fear Dara found his hips arching up, seaking friction against the heat that was quickly pooling between his legs.
The prince's fingers working open the buttons of Dara's pants sent a jolt of alarm through him, but the calm, gentle caress reassured him. This was different. The prince was simply enjoying Dara's pleasure. For now.
The prince tugged off Dara's pants entirely, leaving his lower half completely bared. Dara let out a cry of surprise when the prince's mouth lowered to engulf him.
For a moment the shock of it enveloped Dara. The prince pleasured slaves with his mouth? It was such an odd concept. But pleasure it certainly was, and the prince knew quite well what he was doing as he moved his head slowly up and down, exploring Dara's straining erection with his lips and mouth. Dara dug his fingers into a cushion as he forced himself to resist the urge to thrust up into the hot embrace of the prince's mouth.
The prince pulled back. "One moment," he said, before standing and heading into one of his other rooms. Dara stared down at his erection, the normally pale flesh flushed an angry red where he stood tall against his belly, and wondered if the prince would be cross if he touched himself. He didn't have long to wonder, though, because a few seconds later the prince returned holding a jar of something. Grease.
Dara forced himself to stay still, not tense up too much. This was a good thing. The prince cared for his pleasure and would be gentle. Dara had known what was coming, hadn't he? An experienced man like the prince who could have whatever and whoever he wanted would hardly settle for anything less than everything. And if Dara wanted an escape from pain, he would have to allow it without resistance. He would have to welcome it.
The return of the prince's mouth helped to relax him again, but when the prince spread his knees and pushed them up to his chest, Dara started to panic. He tensed, but only for a moment, and then forced himself to relax, to become pliant. He heard the jar open and felt greased fingers slide gently over his opening. Not yet making an entrance, just teasing.
Dara flopped an arm over his face. If the prince looked up, Dara doubted he would have found the expression on Dara's face pleasing, and Dara could no longer control it. He focussed his energy on staying still. A finger carefully probed him. Though the prince's mouth was sliding slowly up and down his length, Dara wasn't as hard as he had been. The finger pressed deeper, then slid out, then pressed deeper again.
Dara was shaking. Tears stung his eyes. No. Stay still. Stay quiet. He forced himself not to pull away from the contact. He needed this! The prince's mouth withdrew. The finger was taken out of him. Reflexively, Dara pulled away. He didn't realise he was curling into a ball until it was too late and his rejection was clear. It was over. He'd failed. The prince stood and left the room.
Was that a dismissal? Dara couldn't bring himself to uncurl his body and find his pants. He was too scared, too ashamed to move. He heard the prince return but didn't dare look up.
Something was draped over him. A blanket. It was wrapped around him, covering his nudity, before the prince sat down beside him. The prince pulled Dara against his chest and lay down, one hand going to stroke Dara's hair. Dara felt like a child in his mother's arms.
Dara wasn't sure what was going on, but it was oddly soothing. Stranger still, he was fairly sure that was the intention. He had just, in effect, rejected the prince, and now the prince was comforting him? It didn't make sense.
It was comfort, though, and it had been so long since anyone had bothered to offer Dara any. For just a while, he decided to relax into it and accept it. He buried his face against the prince's collarbone and quietly cried.
"I'm sorry," Dara whispered after he eventually managed to pull himself together a little. His voice cracked.
The prince hushed him and stoked up and down his back. Dara relaxed a little more.
"Why did you let me do that?" the prince asked when Dara was finally breathing slowly and smoothly. He didn't sound demanding or annoyed. Curious. Imploring.
Dara frowned. He thought the answer was obvious. "You said you'd take me with you if I did. I was just hoping I'd be able to control myself until it was over."
The prince's arms tightened around him slightly and then relaxed. "You can come with me anyway. Nothing wrong with having a bit of ornamentation around, even if you can't touch it. I suppose I could find use for an attendant."
What Dara really wanted to know was why, but he didn't dare ask. The prince's attendant! If anything, he'd just acquired a role of higher status by proving himself unsuitable for the prince's sheets. "Thank you, your highness."
The prince was silent for a moment, and then, "You didn't seem to mind things before... before the grease. Did I misread that?"
Dara was glad the prince couldn't see his face, because he could feel himself going red. "No, I... That was all new to me, so it didn't scare me. I'm sorry, I know it's selfish to take pleasure in things and then deny you anything in turn."
"Did those guards ruin you?"
Dara let out a humourless huff of laughter. Ruin him. That was more accurate than the prince could have realised. "No, they just like to wound me, though that leaves its own scars on my soul." He paused as his mind wandered back to memories it usually preferred to shy away from. Memories of the day he'd lost everything. "I was out training in Daviston. Do you remember what happened in Daviston? You would have been sixteen. I was fourteen and very pretty. Anyone else would have died. Many others did die. Is it cowardly to think that I would have preferred to?"
"No," the prince said almost absent mindedly. "I suppose after that it was decided that you were no longer suitable for the likes of a prince?"
The prince was clearly getting the wrong idea, but Dara decided not to correct him. He didn't need to open that old wound again. He could never be what he once was. "They tried to re-train me, but they had no success."
The prince sat up a bit and turned Dara towards him. He smiled. "I don't think you're quite so beyond repair." He leant forwards and pecked Dara on the lips.
It was so chaste that Dara couldn't help but smile back. Maybe the prince was right. Well, right about it being possible to rehabilitate him into a bed slave. That had never been the goal, but it would put his good looks to use.
The prince leant forward and kissed him again, but this time he didn't pull back. Dara hesitantly returned the kiss. He was fairly sure the prince wouldn't simply resume things where they'd left off. Would he? Kissing, though... Dara had decided he liked kissing.
The prince pulled back and studied Dara for a moment. "You don't seem to have any objections to that. There were a few other things you didn't object to either, if I recall."
"What are you going to do?" Dara asked cautiously. Not that he had any right to question the prince, but the prince hadn't seemed to appreciate Dara allowing himself to be drawn into things he didn't want last time.
"I was thinking the same thing as before, minus the part you didn't like, and for longer," the prince said. He seemed surprisingly enthused with the idea. "Objections?"
Dara wanted to ask if that was truly absolutely all, because that sounded rather unbalanced in terms of mutual pleasure. He'd already questioned the prince enough, though, so he just shook his head.
The prince unwrapped Dara from the blanket, baring his mostly naked body, and leant over him as he had last time. He pressed a kiss so light it almost tickled to Dara's neck, then made a trail of them down his chest and belly. As they got lower the kisses grew firmer, more sensual, and by the time the prince's lips brushed Dara's cock it was straining with need.
Dara bit the back of his hand as the prince drew him into his mouth, doing his best to stay still and quiet, but he soon realised the prince didn't want him to. Every sound, every movement, resulted in the prince sucking him with greater determination. Dara surrendered himself to it, and it wasn't long before he was on the edge of release.
"Stop!" Dara gasped. "I'm going to..."
The prince's eyes slid up to Dara's face, and his lips curved into a smile as best they could when they were occupied as they were. Dara eyes squeezed shut again and his hips jerked as he spilled himself in the prince's mouth.
Dara was surprised how safe he felt as he lay panting and sated. The prince had a way about him that Dara found quite reassuring now that they understood one another better. Dara didn't doubt that he was a good man.
It was kind of funny, really. This would have been considered a perversion of his purpose if there were anything left of him to pervert. Dara didn't think something like this ever would have harmed him, though. It wasn't sex that was the danger but rather the selfish way in which slaves were often treated when it came to sex. When it came to anything, really.
Once Dara had properly come down from his release, he sat up and pulled his legs to his chest to conceal his nudity. Arousal had temporarily banished his modesty, but now that he had spent himself he was beginning to feel too exposed. "I don't think I can do the same for you. I could try, but... you didn't seem to find my reaction pleasing last time."
"I think it would be best if we left it at that this time," the prince said, though there was still a noticeable bulge stretching the fabric of his pants. Dara decided not to question the prince's decision.
"Before you leave, I think I should give you something," the prince said. He disappeared through the same door he had earlier and returned holding a medallion with his crest on it. He handed it to Dara. "To keep you safe until we leave. Anyone who dares touch you while you're wearing that would have to be a madman."
Dara wasn't sure those who took up torture as a hobby were entirely sane, but he hoped the medallion would deter them all the same. He slipped it around his neck and the gold pendant rested against his bare chest.
The prince grinned, his gaze lingering on the medallion for a moment before wandering down further. "It looks good on you. We will have to get you a new uniform, too. It pleases me to see you in my colours, but the one you have now is old and poorly fitted."
Dara felt irrationally ashamed of his shabby clothing all of a sudden. It wasn't his fault they didn't fit him too well or that the years had left them in poor condition. He wanted to please the prince so very badly, though, and he was well aware of the many ways he hadn't.
As the prince had suggested it was time for Dara to leave, Dara pulled his pants back on and began doing up the buttons on his shirt. The prince watched him appreciatively, making Dara feel self conscious but at the same time flush with pride. If nothing else, the prince found him pleasing to the eye.
Despite the pleasure the prince had brought him, Dara felt better once his clothing was back in place. However kind of the prince had been to him, Dara was well aware that he belonged to this man and that kindness of any sort was always optional for him.
Before Dara left the prince embraced him and kissed him gently on the mouth, chaste but lingering. "Take care, sweet one."
Prince Maric didn't generally keep slaves and he'd never seen the need for a personal attendant. He could take care of his own needs. He certainly found the idea of keeping Dara around pleasing, though, if only for ornamentation and occasional mild exploration. The image of Dara's face flushing as he came was firmly imprinted in Maric's mind, and now that he was alone he recalled it while he took care of his arousal.
Dara's pale skin and dark hair were characteristic of the Enth, but with his gentle features and flawless complexion the contrast was even more stunning. Dara's uniform had brought out the blue of his eyes, but somehow they'd stood out even brighter once Maric had stripped him of his clothing. Wider, perhaps, his pupils blown as he'd watched Maric's mouth tend to his erection until he had been unable to keep his eyes open any longer against the force of his pleasure.
How had such a treasure been hidden away from Maric for so long? Even with all of his limitations, the very fact that Dara had magic of any kind increased his value. Even amongst the Enth, the only race that possessed magic, magical abilities were uncommon.
Maric was used to harem slaves in palaces he visited, aristocrats, and fellow soldiers, but nobody quite like Dara. He was an interesting novelty. In truth, though, guilt had also been a motivating factor in taking Dara with him. In his extended absence he had allowed Dara, who was his property, to be hurt, and in his carelessness had then hurt Dara more. He took pride in dealing with the carnal needs of those he bedded, but emotional needs were an area he lacked experience in. He would have to learn to be more careful. Disappointing a sexual partner was a blow to his pride, but hurting one was unthinkable.
And yet, while his guilt at Dara's pain had saddened him, comforting Dara had still felt good in its own way. Maric was a prince with no children or long term romantic partners; he wasn't expected to comfort anyone. He was assumed to be above it.
Whatever happened with Dara, Maric was certain it would be an interesting learning experience.
When Dara stepped out of the palace, he wasn't surprised to find the three guards who made his life a living hell waiting for him. For a moment he was tempted to turn around and run back inside, back to the prince's protection, but that would have been cowardly and he didn't want the prince to think him a coward. Besides, the prince had given him something to ensure his safety. Dara only hoped that it would work.
He fished the medallion out from under his shirt and held it up for them to see. "I'm under the protection of Prince Maric now. He would be very upset if I were to be harmed."
One of them let out a derisive snort of laughter. "What did you do to earn that, kid? You bending for the prince now?"
It was supposed to be an insult, but Dara didn't see how. His status had been so low before that sharing a bed with the prince was a huge step up.
When Dara didn't respond, another said, "You couldn't prove we did anything anyway. It'd be your word against ours, and nobody'd believe a slave over three members of the king's guard."
"Or maybe we'll just kill you, once and for all," the third said. "Throw your body in the river. Nobody'll ever find you."
"I think after what he saw he would very much believe you would hurt me again, and if anything were to happen to me he would know exactly where to look." Dara shrugged and started walking away. "Or you can try it and find out just how much he values a warm body between his sheets."
It was a gamble, but then anything he did at that point was. He wanted to run, but he made himself pass by them at a normal pace. He was sure that if he ran their predatory instincts would kick in.
If he were honest, he didn't know how much the prince would care if he were harmed, especially if it left no marks. The prince would be annoyed, certainly, as he seemed to care for Dara's safety, but Dara wasn't sure his response would involve giving the perpetrators anything more than a light slap on the wrist. Then again, he had given Dara his medallion. The prince would be expected to respond to the insult of someone laying hands on what he had claimed as his own.
The guards didn't follow, and once Dara rounded a corner he let out a sigh of relief. He still had a couple of days remaining before he would leave with the prince, but for just then it seemed he was safe.
Dara had a room in the barracks which he shared with the other slaves who kept the barracks in order and saw to the needs of the guards, and that was where he returned to now. It was quite late and he was exhausted, but when he lay down on his cot near the fire to sleep he couldn't stop the buzzing in his mind. So much had happened. So much was going to happen. Finally, hopefully, things might just be starting to go his way.