“Here.” Keldra Dre stood up and strode away from Valran. He swallowed until his throat no longer felt too dry to speak again.
“Stay there.” She called it over her shoulder; if Valran hadn’t been so confused, if his legs hadn’t been falling asleep, he would have been grateful. As it was, he held still and hoped it was the right thing to do.
She left the room, closing the door behind her. Where was she going? She came back a moment later, carrying a pile of cloth. Borrowed from another apartment? And if so, why?
“The pants they sell you in are nice for being on the auction block, but that’s about it.” She dropped the pile of cloth next to Valran’s leg. “Can you stand without assistance?”
“I believe so, ma’am.” He hoped so.
“Good. Stand up, then, and put these on.” Something clicked, and his wrists were free.
“Yes, ma’am.” It turned out he could stand, although it took a little effort to balance on ankles that were asleep. Having hands again helped. “If you don’t mind me asking, ma’am…”
“You may ask anything, when we’re alone together.”
“Why are you having me get dressed?” He dropped the auction-block pants to his ankles and took a heartbeat to be naked in front of her. He stole a glance; her eyes were on his face. He looked hurriedly back at the floor and reached for the pants she’d given him. “I thought, well, considering where I was sold from…”
“Of course. But you were given to me as a gift; I didn’t go off buying a Servus for myself.”
A lump was forming in Valran’s throat. “Of course, ma’am. I’m sorry to presume.” The pants were opaque, comfortable, and very soft: probably not workman’s trousers, then, unless even that was different in the Inner Circle.
“You look nice in proper clothes.” She gave the leash a light tug, enough to remind Valran she still had him tethered. “Let’s show you the rest of my place, and then we can discuss plans.”
“Rest? Plans?” He followed the tug, although his ankles still felt numb and fat. What was he supposed to do with his hands? He tucked them back behind his back.
“Oh.” She turned to look at him, then looked around the sparse apartment. “I haven’t bought much furniture, but this is supposed to be the sitting room.”
Valran tried for a question and, in the end, just closed his mouth with a snap.
His… His owner, he should get used to the idea… His new Mistress glanced back at him, with a look that said she knew exactly what he was thinking.
“I just climbed the Ladder, remember?” Her voice shifted so suddenly. Now she sounded sympathetic and, more than that, she sounded like home. Like someone from the Seventh Circle. “I know what it’s like, down in the outer circles. I know this is a lot to take in.”
“You grew up here, though.” He gestured with his chin, meaning here, the Shadow Tower, here, the Inner Circle. “It’s got to be at least a little familiar to you.”
“At least a little. And if I could get used to the Tenth Circle, you can get used to the first. This way.” She tugged again on the leash, pulling him towards a door.
Valran followed, on her heels as much as his heavy feet would allow. “I will try, ma’am… what?” She had inexplicably started giggling. “What, ma’am? Mistress?”
“It’s just so absurd. The leash. The ma’am-ing and the mistress-ing. Like I know what to do with a Servus. Like I know what I’m supposed to have you do.” She leaned against the door and tugged hard on the leash, pulling Valran towards her.
He had a split second to decide what to do. He could fall into her, of course. Or he could catch himself.
He caught himself, one hand to either side of her shoulders, letting most of his weight land on his hands and his body press against hers. “If it’s any consolation, most honored Keldra Dre, I don’t have any clue what you’re supposed to do with a Servus, either.”
“It doesn’t come with a class?” Her hand was snaking up the leash towards his collar, and her other hand had landed on his hip.
“I’ve been told some houses teach their Servi. Teswarnen Eshmarn’s House does not, or, at least, they didn’t teach me.”
The hand on the leash reached his collar, and she dropped the leash entirely to grip the collar. Valran was both pleased and a bit worried to find that she was smiling. “Then I suppose we’ll have to learn the whole thing together.”
“It seems that way, ma’am. I will eagerly learn whatever you wish to teach me.” He tried a smile – enough to say “look, I’m not a servile worm,” but not enough to ever suggest he was making fun of her.
Facial expression nuances weren’t something he had the most experience with – if she’d asked him to build a wall, he’d have been on much firmer ground – but he had spent some time practicing non-harmful expressions when he’d found himself the skinniest and above all most far-too-human-looking of the workers on the outer wall.
Whatever his face was doing, it seemed to work for Keldra Dre. Her smile broadened. A squeeze of his ass came at the same time as another tug on the collar. He almost stumbled but followed the pull without resistance – directly into her, into her waiting lips and the spread of her legs.
His new pants were thicker than the old ones, but still not heavy enough to conceal his sudden interest. No matter; pushed up against her the way he was, she would have known anyway.
Her lips were sweet, and kissing, at least, was something they both knew how to do. She gave him no escape, holding him against her with both hands, until he moaned, the sound sliding muffled and unasked-for from his lips.
Then, and only then, she loosened her grip on his collar and his ass. “I like that noise.”
“I am…” He turned his head and coughed until his voice no longer sounded like a pubescent boy’s squeak. “I am pleased to have pleased my Mistress.”
“Would you like to please your Mistress… this is a bit silly… would you like to please me more?”
His breath caught. “Yes. Yes, I would. I don’t know if anyone’s told you this recently, but you’re beau…” not enough, and not what he wanted to say anyway. “Uh. Enchanting. Beautiful, and your voice, and your scent…”
“You are a poet, Valran.”
“I’d love to be.” He nuzzled her shoulder. “You don’t know how to do this? How to be an owner of a Servus?”
“No. But I imagine we’ll come up with something.” She opened the door behind her, freeing his ass to do so, and tugged as she fell backwards, pulling him with her. “I do, on the other hand, have some idea about sex.”
“Sex.” He hadn’t meant it to come out like a prayer, but it did. “Yes. Me, too, I mean… I mean, yes, I know how… fountains. Damnit.”
She was chuckling. Was that a good thing? “Sex.” Her lips found his neck, just above his collar. “With women?”
“Uh.” He peeked up at her. “Sometimes? Not many women work the outer wall…”
“Mmm, indeed. I recall. I was quite popular for a while there.”
“You…” No, those weren’t the thoughts he needed right now. Valran swallowed, and then swallowed again. He was thirsty, he realized, although this need was a far second to the topic actually at hand. “That is not sex, not really.”
“Not properly, no.” She was breathing against his neck, and then she was biting, small bites, just enough to make him twitch. “Come here, Valran.”
He couldn’t get any closer to her with clothes on, what… oh. The tug on the leash led him further into the room, and Valran finally got a look around.
“Is that…” His voice failed him. “Is that a bed? For how many people?”
“At the moment, it’s for me. Although I would like to share it with you, as it’s far too big for one person.” She patted the springy surface. “It came with the apartment. It might have been built into the Tower; I think there’s spells in it.”
“Spells.” Valran swallowed. “There’s spells on the bed?” If you could call that thing a bed.
Keldra Dre tilted her head and studied his face. He tried to drop his eyes but found he couldn’t until she looked away, down his body. Her hands, so hungry a moment ago, were still on his hip and his waist. “Valran, I believe you’re going to have to explain something to me.”
Shit. “Yes, Mistress? What can this one explain to you?” When in doubt, grovel.
He tried not to think about where he’d first heard that advice. Thinking about it wasn’t helpful right now. He needed to think about groveling, and about Keldra Dre, in front of him, her eyes on his face again.
“You are afraid of magic.”
“No, ma’am. Mistress, I am not afraid of the flow.”
He said it levelly, with no quaver in his voice. Valran was a bit proud of that.
“But you are afraid.”
“Do not lie to me.” She had not yet raised her voice, but that was clearly both a reprimand and an order.
Valran bowed his head. “I’m sorry, ma’am. I’m not afraid so much as I’m cautious.”
“You’re barely changed. You’re not…” She stopped as an unbidden sigh escaped his lips. “I imagine, with those ears, you get asked that a lot.”
“I’m not a Purist. I’m really not. I just don’t want to become a Fountain, either.”
“There’s a broad swath of difference between being a Purist and turning into a Fountain, you know.”
“If you’re properly educated and cautious. Mistress.” He kept his eyes on the edge of that ridiculous bed. How soft was it? How many people could she fit in it… would she fit in it?
“Aaaah.” She brushed the back of her hand over his cheek. “I begin to understand.”