Ben'hamin Ch. 01byNymzanSusauren©
"What have you brought me? I am in need of cheering, my friend," Ben'hamin proclaimed with a grin. The warlord, Derix bowed to him in respect as he stood from the chair of state before the small congregation of warlords.
"My lord, I cannot show it to you here. If you would end this endless discussion and go to your chambers you will see it. Rescued from poachers to your territories, they have brought many like it and will doubtlessly keep doing so unless you order us to stop them," he petitioned softly.
Derix had never liked slavery. Ben'hamin studied him carefully as he spoke. "If it pleases you, the creature is a gift, for it would have served a much more despairing existence if we had not saved it. Free it if you will, or keep it as your own forever."
"I must admit you have made me curious," he stated with a wry chuckle. Then, he glanced at the warlords. "Am I so tiring that you must bribe me away from your presence? Am I to be given gifts to end discussions before they are finished?"
There was a great deal of amused bickering. Ben'hamin sighed. "Alright, my good generals...I will think on your words, and come to you again in the morning. If my new present does not eat me when I enter my room," he teased as he rose to leave the room. Many of the warlords sighed in relief, causing him to shake his head in mirth.
Little Avron came to take his robe as he entered the hall leading to his room. He placed a fond hand on the boy's shaggy brown locks and curls. "You may wish to stay outside, Avron; the generals have brought me a present without telling me exactly what it is. It could be very dangerous."
The boy's wide brown eyes grew even wider. "My lord, should you go either?"
His laughter rang out through the hall. "I hope it is dangerous, Avron! I go bored here..."
"Yes, my lord..." Ben'hamin studied the boy's miserable face and lifted his young chin to see his misty eyes.
"I would never grow bored with you, Avron. You have been good to me," he stated softly. A sweet smile lit his face causing Ben'hamin to chuckle. "Now, wait here so I know you are safe, pet."
The eightteen-year-old folded his robe anxiously holding it to his chest in fear as the doors of the master's chambers were breached. "Blast them," the War Chief snarled. "Am I to seek it out in darkness?"
There were only a few small flickering flames from raised candles across the room. "I can light the room, my lord," Avron offered eagerly.
"No, Avron...stay outside. I will light them myself tonight." He gave the boy a cocky smile; even though, he had to turn his back to the room to do it. "You go on to bed, pet."
He closed the doors behind him in case whatever was inside was left loose. He lit a taper from another beside the door and the room brightened a touch. A low, long growl warned him to keep his distance. He smiled at it. "Hush, pet...I will not cause you any harm."
He lit the other taper on the opposite side of the door. There was only a tiny change in the light. He needed to get across the room to the abundance of candles that usually kept the room well lit and warmed throughout the nights.
He carefully went towards the growl wanting to keep the creature in his sights in case it was not cowardly. The soft rattle of metal let him know it was not entirely free to do as it wished. Unarmed in his bedroom, a dangerous animal set loose would have been seen either as a challenge or a death threat.
He liked Derix; he was glad the gift wore chains. Still, that did not mean he was safe.
Just as he thought it, a white blur raced out to him and struck him in the face. The animal screamed in fury and retreated as he laughed. Its claws were wrapped in cloth padding it from any harm. His face stung only from the force of the hit!
"Very well, pet, you win! I knew you would attack. Gods, you are a fast little thing! Let me look at you..." He knelt down as the cat beast crouched irritably not far away. "You are a beauty. Derix did well to save you."
The animal was clearly male and pissed as he showed his gums in an angry snarl shaking his paws in an effort to get rid of the bindings. "Oh, you wish to harm me, do you?" He considered the anger in the beast's eyes.
Ben knew talking might help to calm the creature's instinctive fear. He spoke more for that reason than the words he spoke. "If I cannot eventually tame you, I may give you the chance. It would mean your death, precious, but better to die fighting than executed for madness...Or perhaps, I would set you free."
"Do you like that? Do you want me to give you freedom, pet?" The tiny beast was thin and short, but compact and muscular. Ben studied him imagining what he would be like in a fair fight. "What would you do if I let you go? Could you survive on your own?" It was so small, but black spots dotted its shiny white coat. That would aid it in hiding.
Its fangs were long and sharp. Why hadn't it used those on him earlier when it surprised him? Had it been only a warning as before? "Yes, you are a fighter. I believe you could."
He chuckled as the beast eyed him warily. "You don't know what to think of me, huh, pet? That is okay, few do," he told it as he stood again and the growl rose cautiously. "I will not harm you. That is a promise, pet."
He moved away lighting only a dozen more candles as he passed them. "I guess I shouldn't have sent Avron to his room," he mused. "I could use a little thing to warm my bed," yet even as he spoke he saw a tiny form curled over the sheets through the gauze that hid it. "Perhaps I spoke too soon," he mumbled.
He couldn't see very much in the darkness, but the light golden silk sheets glittered in the candlelight showing a more mundane patch of cream and white amidst them. Chains moved as the cat rushed him stopping between the bed and the lord that owned it! The snarl was far more pronounced and angry!
The cat guarded the one in his bed. "Interesting...Mayhap I should give you your chance to attack me now, precious, because that is my bed and I am tired. Will you keep me from it? And where would the two of you be if my men had not taken you from your captors?"
The animal hissed and lay down challenging him no more, but clearly displeased. "You understand my words...How odd?" He looked at the animal more closely.
"Okay, I promise you this..." The intelligence in its bright black eyes made him curious. "Sight unseen, but I will be gentle with who ever you are protecting. If I am not...I will free you to challenge me as you see fitting, since you clearly won't be tamable if I treat your friend badly."
The cat's black tipped tail thumped once in wariness. "You won't get a better offer. I am trying to be friendly here." The cat snorted in disgust and moved out of his way.
He took only one step closer wondering what else they had given him. The fact that it lay on his bed docilely did not mean it was submissive or not a danger in itself. Avron had once been a gift from Petr, and he had nearly taken his head off the night he had been delivered. It was a fond memory.
He smiled, but stayed where he was trying to see past the gauze and candles. He decided that whatever it was, it must have golden skin for it blended with his sheets. It must also be dressed in fine creamy white linen unless that was the creature's hair draped over it so lavishly. Then, he caught the gleam of dark black eyes watching him.
"Ah, there you are. I thought you might be awake. The last time I made the mistake of simply pulling back the drapes to see what I had been sent, it tried to kill me. Are you going to try to kill me?"
"What happened to the other that tried, my lord?" The voice was soft and sweet. Youthful and steady, only a touch afraid, he thought in pleasure. "Mayhap, I will not like the consequences," it stated coolly. He grinned lowering his head and raising one hand to his mouth to hide some of his amusement. He didn't wish to insult it.
"It became my most treasured possession," he whispered as if he were conveying a secret. The cat growled irritably at him. "Do you believe me?"
"Does it matter what I think? What do you intend to do with me, my lord?" He really couldn't tell the gender. Was it a young boy to be Avron's friend, or an older girl that would fight him tooth and nail for her virtue?
"I haven't decided yet. I would have to see what I have been given."
"Can you not see from there? Does the lord of this place have the eyesight of an old man? Surely not," the creature breathed with a smile.
"Yes, well," he breathed dismissively, "that is why I have men to fight for me." The cat growled knowing just by looking at him that he lied.
Ben'hamin had never been compared to an old man. He was a Pand'werain War Chief and the leader of his race of terrifying clans. His rich skin was stretched taunt over smooth muscles shiny in the candlelight with the oil that was habitually applied after each and every bath and gleaming with the sunlight he frequently bared his skin to as he practiced with his swords.
Dark black hair was held back by only a thin brown band of leather from his face and his own black eyes. Braids of golden hair hung back to his waist among the black. A bright tattoo laced over one arm in the shape of a large lion raised on its back feet with wide wings spread behind it.
The soft white linen of his pants brushed his leg, the only warning that something in the room had moved. Then, he caught the white cat that bore down on him fangs aimed at his throat in silence! He was overturned to the floor by the strength of the attack, but when he rolled to a crouch the cat's own throat was clutched in his powerful hand strangling the raging beast until its eyes bulged in terror.
A sound from the bed caused his grip to lessen. "Will you have me spare your friend?"
"Please, he meant well," the one on the bed whispered. Ben'hamin studied the suddenly passive animal darkly. "You said yourself your last gift attacked you."
"So I did," the powerful war chieftain sighed. "I was hoping for a challenge. I didn't expect to have to tame two tonight. For the first time, Ben'hamin noticed the chains the cat wore were tied wrist-to-wrist. It wasn't the usual way to chain a captive animal. "Did Derix chain you, or your previous captors?"
"I have no idea who brought us to this room." Ben'hamin looked up at the creature in his bed noting that it had not moved a single inch in all of this time. "Previous, my lord...Your man did not think to remove them, or replace them with his own. He did pad Ushas claws, though..."
"Did he? I am grateful. Dangerous little beast, isn't he?" With his free hand he ran a hand over the cat's fur rhythmically. He curled the cats back along his body holding him perfectly by the throat alone as he made the animal very aware of who was bigger and stronger. It trembled against him growing afraid and still. "You are shape-shifters, the both of you. Ushas, is he a friend or a relative?"
The animal made a sound of dismay. No one answered his question. "Very well...Ushas will be left out of tonight's entertainment." He hauled the animal away to a loop set in the stone floor and snapped a lock into the wrist chains to anchor it together. The cat lay there defeated and looked up at him pleading with him to let them go in silence.
"I like wild things," he whispered to them softly, "but never would I release it unless I knew it would survive on its own. The two of you are too young, yet I will consider allowing you your freedom...in time. Not now, or soon, and not if you piss me off," he warned them both staring down at that cat firmly. The young male lowered his eyes.
Ben'hamin walked toward the bed stopping as he did before just shy of reach from anything on it. "I will ask you again. Do you intend to kill me?"
"If Ushas cannot, I cannot, my lord," came the reply. Still, it was soft-spoken and as gentle as a lamb. He didn't believe a word of it. The creature had yet to rise up from where it lay looking so docile and sweet, small enough to lay below the pillows and not manage to reach the foot of the bed.
"What is your name, pet?"
"Madhya, my lord...from Car'haven," was his answer.
"I have never heard of it." A hand drew the gauze back carefully near the youth's feet to see more clearly. It was definitely white linen and it looked like a dress. He studied the long, golden hair that blended so well with his sheets that it couldn't be seen past the barrier of flimsy gauze. The eyes were brown, not the black that he had thought, wide and shiny with a trace of fear and tears. "Madhya, do you have any idea where you are?"
"Locked in the chamber of a very terrifying male who takes children as slaves," it stated.
Ben'hamin laughed softly as he studied tiny golden feet with black painted nails. "Now, pet, you were already taken as slaves. I did no such thing. As a gift from one of my men, your place here is valued much more highly to me than a mere slave. I do not keep slaves. I have few treasures, though."
"Is that what you call them? They are retained without the leave to go. Hence, the term 'slave' applies to them, does it not?"
"I will not have this discussion tonight. You are mine until the morning and that is because you were a gift. If you then wish to leave, it will be discussed, but as I have mentioned...I will not release you to simply die or be retaken into slavery. If that means I have to keep you against your will, so be it. You have one choice, however..."
"What is that, my lord?"
"I believe it is one you have already answered as you lay in my bed and not Ushas." There was silence. Those dark eyes glittered up at him.
"Could you not simply sleep and pretend that you had enjoyed your gift, my lord?"
"No, for you see...We are shape-shifters also. They would smell the lie." The chains across the room rattled. He backed up a step to turn and look, releasing the gauze as he did to warn him if the other attacked.
A boy lay there, bared to the flesh and as pale as a ghost. His black eyes matched the black spots in his white hair. "My lord, please... leave her and take me." He was of a mind to take him up on the offer. The boy was exquisite! Yet he kept his tongue waiting to see if the girl would counter his request.
"No, Ushas! You would be ruined! I will allow it," she whispered as Ben'hamin smiled wickedly. It was done.
They had both offered to be the one to save the other...and succeeded in condemning them both; it was their law. Now even though he had excluded Ushas from tonight, and thereby saved the boy's reputation, he would be allowed to have him later. When before, he would have gone free the second the sun rose to its height, he mused in satisfaction. No need to explain their mistake just yet; they would learn soon enough.
Ben'hamin turned back to the bed without haste. The two children were completely his now, by their own admission, and he had plenty of time to savor it. "So Madhya, you will lay there without trying to stop me. Is this what you are offering, because I can rescind my offer to let Ushas stay over there all alone," Ben'hamin asked quietly. "Or you must give me your word of honor you will not fight me tonight?"
"No, Madhya! Don't do it! I will not let you do this," Ushas begged.
"Too late," Ben'hamin stated bluntly, "too late for both of you."
He pulled back the gauze and the girl rose up clutching her torn dress over her breasts. It was gaping to her stomach and there were scratches like claw marks down the center of her stomach from where it had been shredded away from her flesh.
He frowned at it. There were no healers in his city. This was a warrior race; they had no need of superficial healing, but the girl's wounds disturbed him. He did not want to see them scar her skin.
"Who marked you, pet? The men who stole you from your home..." She nodded. "Did they also hurt you in other places? You can tell me; I will see for myself shortly."
She shook her head looking far too afraid to be telling him the complete truth. "Take that gown off, my pet. I will get you a brand new one, much prettier. We can throw that one away unless you wish for it to be repaired," he offered generously. "It may be the only thing you have left of your home." She hesitated stirring him more than he would admit with her sweet shyness. "Answer me one more thing, pet. How old are you and the boy?"
"I am nineteen, and Ushas is seventeen," she whispered sadly. She was so tiny he almost couldn't believe it.
"She was to be married! That is her wedding dress!" He looked back at Ushas in shock. That was all it took, deep furrows were torn down his back as the girl pitched herself on him digging deep. His breath hissed inwards in pain!
"Oh, Gods," he growled as he turned and snatched up her chained wrists in his own. "Never bleed a Warlord unless you wish to die! Is that what you want?" He was holding her tight enough to bruise and he shook her in his grasp. "Is it," he snapped.
"No," she finally sighed. He let her go after he finished ripping the gown down its seams in retaliation. She made a soft protest.
"This will be burned for your insolence! Anything else," Ben'hamin snarled. He strode to the door and pitched it outside irritably. There he stood so angry he wasn't certain he should stay in the room. They were his. He should go to Avron until his temper cooled.
He took several deep breaths laying his head on the partially open door with his eyes closed. Patience is a virtue. How many times had he admonished his men for this very thing? No, Derix would tease him in the morning about his gift. If anyone knew he had fled, they would all speculate about the reason. He sighed.
"I should just kill you and keep Ushas for that," he stated sullenly. "He would make Avron a good friend and perhaps, eventually, learn to like it here."
"Never," the boy growled desperately, "not if you kill her!" Ben'hamin groaned silently at his pleas. Obviously they were close. "Please, my lord, forgive her and take me. You said one of us, one night, and it was over!"
"Did I? I am afraid that is no longer an option. You are both mine, until I release you. Not just for tonight, but for as long as I want." The boy moaned in despair.
"Please, my lord, don't do this to us," he whispered.
Ben'hamin turned slowly around letting the door shut and lock behind him. "What have I done? By our laws, you have done this to yourself. So tell me, Ushas, what have I done?" The boy stared at him solemnly. Then, he turned away.
"Don't make me watch," he requested softly with tears in his eyes.
"Was she to marry you when she was stolen, Ushas?" That was the only thing he would forgive. If she was his mate, he would understand everything. The boy's face pinched.
"No, my lord...She was to marry someone else," he hissed just before his tears fell.
"Then, you can stay where I put you." The tiny creature flickered with magic as he turned back into the cat he had first been to curl up miserably over his chained wrists. He looked so broken that Ben'hamin could not resist comforting him.
He went to the cat kneeling to pet his fur as gently as he could. "I made you one promise I intend to keep, Ushas. I will be gentle with her, even if she is not gentle to me." The cat closed its eyes trying to ignore him. "I will gentle with you, as well, I promise."
The animal shivered in his arms as he held and stroked it rubbing his face into the exquisitely soft fur with a pleased sigh. "Avron will be jealous of you, I fear. You are so beautiful." The cat's breathing escalated in fear and he knew he should leave Ushas alone. He was afraid, angry and hurting. The boy would not welcome his attention.
He stood and went back to the bed. He let his white linen pants fall revealing a short white loincloth of the same material that had kept the pants from being entirely see-through. This time when he pulled the gauze back he knelt on the silk sheets, his brown skin offset by the gold.