Glade and Ivory Ch. 09bybradley_stoke©
After her husband had at last swaggered back to his hut, Lady Demure reclined between her slaves lost in thought. She barely registered their presence, however much Quagga loyally cuddled up against her. It was an uneasy silence while the slaves also appraised the significance of Lord Valour's news. Although the death of the cruel and malevolent King was surely welcome, Glade was anxious of the consequences it might have for her. She had almost forgotten any other way of life than that of a slave. Mimosa was the only one whose face beamed unambiguously with triumph and delight.
Lady Demure stirred at last. She squeezed her eyes together and pinched her straight nose between her long fingers. She ran her tongue over her lips as if they had become dry.
"So, it is happening," she said at last.
None of the slaves dared reply.
"The King is dead and soon each and every village in the Kingdom of the Knights will fall to the rebellious hordes," Lady Demure continued, talking as much to herself as she was to her slaves.
She scanned the room around her and then gazed steadily into the face of each slave. It was Mimosa's face she studied the longest.
"It's foolish to believe that this village will be any different," she said. "Before long, the slaves will be emboldened or, if not the slaves of this village, the rebels from another. There will then be great slaughter." She paused for effect. "I'm sure you all believe this is for the good. You've been treated unkindly by our tribe and it will afford you no regret to see your masters and mistresses slain. However, I don't think you should be as complacent of the likelihood of escaping with your lives as I suspect you are. Especially you," she said to Mimosa, for whom she had no name. "You might believe that the demise of my tribe will automatically bring a brighter more prosperous future, but reflect on this. You are my slaves and I am the wife of the chief of the village. How can you be sure that when bloodlust overcomes the rebels that they will necessarily spare the property of the noblest woman of the village? You may very well be slaughtered along with the rest of us."
"I think not, my lady," said Mimosa slowly and carefully. "I am of noble blood and no one from my tribe would risk the spirits' wrath by allowing harm to come to me."
"Noble blood?" said Lady Demure, with a quizzical expression that hovered between derision and respect. "Do other tribes have such things?"
"They do indeed, my lady," said Mimosa without further embellishment.
"That may be so," continued Lady Demure after a measured pause, "but I have no wish to risk my life to the rebels' mercy. Tomorrow night, when it is at its darkest, I shall hazard the hyenas and lions of the savannah in preference to the rebels' retribution and flee to the hills. And I would be very grateful if you should all accompany me."
"To continue to be your slaves?" snorted Mimosa indignantly.
"Not at all," said Lady Demure with an unusually conciliatory smile. "When I abandon my village I also abandon my rights to property and status. This means that I shall then be equal to each of you, however much it galls me to admit it."
"Shouldn't you rather stay by your husband's side, my lady?" Mimosa challenged.
"My husband is nothing but a fool," said Lady Demure. "It is noble indeed to fight for a cause that may be won, but foolish to fight for one that is already lost."
"And why should we choose to follow you, my lady, rather than take our chances here?" asked Mimosa.
"It is your choice, but together we are strong and divided we are weak," said Lady Demure firmly. "I know the land about here whereas you don't. I know where the hyenas, leopards and wolves roam. I know where to find food to eat and water to drink. You may not be so fortunate."
Ivory mused on Glade's mistress's advice as recounted by the shaman. "Were you tempted by her offer?" she asked.
"After three or more years in which I knew nothing but captivity, I wasn't at all as confident in my ability to fend for myself as I was when I lived in the forest," Glade admitted. "I knew where to find food and shelter in the forest. I didn't know where to find it on the savannah. And, furthermore, Demure was right. Could we trust our fate on the kindness of bloodthirsty rebels? The slaves came from different tribes and although I could trust my people, I wasn't so sure of those from other tribes who spoke different languages, had different customs, worshipped different spirits and were often rather more warlike than my tribe. Perhaps my close association with Lady Demure, which after all included daily lovemaking, really would make me the object of a vengeful slave's anger."
Ivory's feelings were increasingly clouded by her anxiety about the imminent arrival of the Reindeer Herders and, above all, their chief. She gazed towards the horizon across the plain from the log on which she sat. Could she see the Reindeer Herders approach over the horizon or was it just another herd of horses?
It was later in the day that the long-awaited visitors arrived. The first sign was a small group of reindeer emerging from between the distant hills herded by almost as many people as there were animals. From the distance they seemed no different from the Mammoth Hunters. They were clad in fur and carried staffs and, over their shoulders, leather sacks filled with provisions. They were a miscellaneous group that included women and children and domesticated wolves yapping and barking beside their masters.
Ivory had encountered Reindeer Herders before during the long winter treks when all the tribes of the mammoth steppes followed the game to the snow-free pastures of the south. They were people of Ivory's tribe who spoke the same language, but so differently that it sometimes sounded as alien as the languages of the southern tribes. Unlike most people from her tribe, the Reindeer Herders would never settled in a village. Instead, they followed the reindeer herds that normally roamed the northern grasslands where there were fewer predators, but where it was also much colder. It was rumoured that their range took them to the ocean glaciers where there were large white bears and very few mammoths.
When the Reindeer Herders processed into the village they were greeted by ululations and whoops from the women and presented with small gifts of nuts and berries by the children, who then ran excitedly about with their new friends while their parents headed towards the Chief's tepee where Chief Cave Lion was standing in attendance. Leading them was a tall, heavily bearded man in the thickest furs that Ivory had every seen and who carried a staff taller than himself on the crest of which was the skull of a cave bear adorned with eagle feathers.
This must be the chief of the Reindeer Herders, Ivory reflected. She was pleased to see that he was a young man compared to Chief Cave Lion, but still somewhat older than she was. From what little she could see through the fur he wore and the beard that covered his face, he was a handsome man. This gave her the hope that the ordeal she would soon endure might not be so terrible after all.
As the shaman's apprentice, Ivory was soon occupied in rather more pressing matters for the rest of the day. Intoxicants were prepared which included strong alcoholic drinks fermented from honey. There were leaves and mushrooms of potent mind-bending qualities to be chewed and swallowed. Some Reindeer Herders had ailments for which they hoped the shaman could provide relief. There were fortunes to be told, incantations to be chanted and pungent potions to be imbibed. Although Ivory's role was only as Glade's assistant, she took great pride in her duties. This was most especially so since they were received so gratefully.
The visitors were animated in excitement and enthusiasm. They had walked for many days and rested with their herd only at night. Only a few of the reindeer accompanied them to the village. The majority were still in the care of a handful of Reindeer Herders, including the chief's brother and uncle. It wouldn't have been practical for several hundred reindeer to descend on the village. Nor would it have been wise to leave them untended with so many predators about. Reindeer made welcome prey for the many lions, hyenas and wolves that roamed in the game-rich mammoth steppes.
As the shadows lengthened and evening approached, the villagers brought out the meals they'd prepared during the last few days. The carcasses of elk, great antlered deer, aurochs and even a mammoth calf were roasted on spits over blazing fires. All the while, the village musicians played an incessant rhythm of music that encouraged the younger Reindeer Herders and villagers to dance. If Ivory didn't have so many duties to observe, she would gladly have joined the dancers in their light deer furs in sheer abandon to the insistent rhythm.
When the Reindeer Herders and villagers gathered around the blistering flames of the ceremonial fires and before the feasting began, both chiefs addressed the eager assembly. The two chiefs' speeches vied with one another for humour and wisdom. They were sprinkled with homilies to the great spirits, praise to both the hosts and guests, and a series of funny and sometimes obscene anecdotes that invited appreciative laughter. As was the tradition, only men were allowed to give speeches although Ivory knew that the shaman could very easily have given a much more entertaining speech. However, Glade's time to perform came after the most prominent people had spoken and the Reindeer Herder women had sung a few songs about reindeers and hunting. As Ivory knew she would be, the shaman was totally mesmerising.
Only Ivory was privy to the fact that the saga Glade sang over the accompaniment of a piped reed and a slow rhythmic drumbeat was wholly improvised apart from the chorus. Glade's tale was of a brave hunter who went forth in pursuit of a great mammoth and on the way encountered some heroic Reindeer Herders who accompanied him from thenceforth. On his quest, the hunters dispatched rhinoceros, feasted on a deer with antlers so large that from the distance it looked like a tree, fought off bears and cave lions, and eventually battled for nearly a day with a mammoth twice the size of even the largest bull mammoth that anyone had ever seen. The climax of the saga was that the hunter returned triumphantly home with the mammoth's tusks slung over his shoulder.
The feasting began when Glade finished her tale. This was interspersed all the while with dance and song from the two clans' rich oral traditions. Ivory shared handfuls of venison with women more accustomed to the tough meat of reindeer.
For the first time in her life, Ivory believed that she was sincerely valued. The Reindeer Herders venerated her as the shaman's apprentice and believed her to be blessed with the spirits of the trees, the wolf and the moon. Whatever veneration they showed towards the apprentice was expressed many times more towards the shaman. The Reindeer Herders didn't recognise Glade as a foreign woman. They believed that her strange skin colour was a blessing from the spirits.
The various smoked herbs and mead Ivory imbibed had its desired effect and soon she was living in an eternal present where her concerns and fears were wholly forgotten. So, when Glade tapped her on the shoulder and led her off to the Chief's tepee Ivory felt no trepidation at all. She relished being stripped of her clothes and having Glade's hands massage the musk of small animals onto her skin. She dressed in scanty clothes that failed to completely cover her breasts and continued to jiggle to the rhythm of the drums that echoed throughout the village, muffled as they were by the thick hides cladding the chief's tent. And while she waited for the Reindeer Herder chief to arrive, Ivory felt excitement rather than foreboding at the prospect of a strange cock penetrating her.
The shaman and her apprentice didn't have to wait long until the Reindeer Herder chief appeared, dressed in only loose deer hide and with his penis already erect and ready. Chief Cave Lion stood to one side, happy for once not to be partaking of Ivory's flesh. Perhaps the Reindeer Herders had made a similar offer of a woman or two of their tribe so he would have no need for more mundane carnal pleasure.
The Reindeer Herder chief was indeed a handsome man. He had two fingers missing from one hand and slash of scars across his chest that might have been inflicted by a leopard or lion. Otherwise he was a man in full possession of his manhood, most especially so between his legs. He had both Ivory and Glade at his disposal and fucked them with abandon for rather longer than Chief Cave Lion had ever managed. There was little that could be seen of the Reindeer Herder chief's face in the thick beard that rose well over his cheeks. Only his snow-scarred nose and bright eyes could be seen peeking through. His hair was long and knotted with bone and ivory. His chest was hairier than even Chief Cave Lion's. And his thrusts into her came with an urgency and passion that told of vigour and youth. It was far more expert than the lovemaking Ivory had enjoyed with her own chief, but it lacked the subtlety and technique of which Glade was a mistress.
And very soon it was into the Reindeer Herder chief's arms, with Glade beside her, that Ivory finally collapsed. She now knew what she'd missed in the sex she'd so far enjoyed and she also knew that she now had a hunger for more, much more, of the same.
Glade's last lovemaking in the Knights' village with the less selfish lover that her mistress had become was an oddly fretful affair. Although she knew well from listening to Lady Demure's words that her mistress was unlikely ever to do anything unless there was a way in which she thought she could benefit from it, the lovemaking was of a kind that made her want more. And this was so even though she was sure that, like Mimosa, she would abandon her mistress as readily as Lady Demure proposed to abandon her village. She wondered whether Lady Demure's more reciprocal lovemaking might be her way of tempting Glade to join her. Her mistress knew full well exactly what the young girl's greatest weakness happened to be. And that, of course, was her desire for carnal pleasure.
When Glade spoke to Mimosa the following morning her fellow slave's disdain for her mistress was no less vehement than before.
"The cunt might think she can buy my loyalty with her pledge of equality and respect in the savannah beyond this village," she said, "but it is she who should bow down to me. My people will arise and slaughter each and every one of these arse-fucking cocksuckers. If she expects mercy after the shitty way she's treated me in the many years I've twiddled her clitoris and cleaned her arse with my tongue, well, she must be as much a fucking fool as her shithead of a husband."
Glade wasn't convinced that Lady Demure was quite so foolish. And she wasn't sure either that she wanted to entrust her fate to Mimosa any more than she did her mistress. However, there was a palpable air of excitement in the village now that news of the King's death had become common knowledge. Glade was convinced that it would only be a matter of days until the slave rebellion would spread to the village.
And as it happened, it was sooner than even that.
However solid and secure the way of life that held together the Knights' community seemed to be, there was a fracture already so deep that it would take the smallest provocation to rent the village apart.
When Lady Demure returned to the hut rather earlier than usual in the evening, she instructed Glade to work alongside Mimosa and Quagga to pack food and hunting tools into the zebra-hide sacks that their mistress provided. She made a point for the first time in the years they'd been together in helping the three slaves with their duties. She did so completely silently. It was clear that she didn't relish the prospect of leaving, but Glade still admired her stoical dignity in the face of danger.
"Will you be joining us?" Lady Demure asked Mimosa as kindly as she could. She was clearly uncomfortable in having to ask rather than demand something of her slaves.
"And what choices have I got?" asked Mimosa, pointedly not appending the honorific 'my lady'.
"You have every choice in the world," said Lady Demure diplomatically. "You can come with us and hope to survive in the savannah where there is plenty of game. Or you can stay here and risk being slaughtered by my husband when he discovers me gone and only you left behind. I don't believe he is likely to temper his anger by any consideration at all that the village may soon be a bloodbath of revolution in which he is the one least likely to survive. I would very much not want to be you when that happens. The dismal fate of Baron Glory's slave will be as nothing compared to what you would suffer."
Lady Demure made no more comment and continued to stuff fire-making tools into the zebra hide she clutched. She hesitated over putting her shaving flints and oils into the sack. She held them up to her face and turned them around with an almost loving gaze.
"Do other tribes shave themselves as my tribe does?" she asked at last.
"My people never knew of shaving before we were captured, my lady," said Glade.
"My tribe also, my lady," said Quagga, "except in ceremonies and religious rites."
"It would be a fool indeed who would shear themselves as do the despised Knights when their last corpse is devoured by vultures," said Mimosa with a sniff.
Lady Demure bit her lower lip. Her instinct was to lash out but she recognised that this was not the time for her to remind her slaves of their role in her life thus far. Lady Demure's relationship with them had already changed irrevocably. She set down the shaving implements without a word and gathered together the furs from the bed.
"It may be necessary to carry these over our shoulders. We may have need of them if the nights be cool."
"Why not wear them as clothes?" Mimosa challenged. "Or are you so tied to the perverse customs of your tribe that you wouldn't contemplate even that?"
This was the first time that Glade had ever heard of the notion of 'clothes'. Indeed, the word, which was rarely used by the Knights, had no real meaning for her. For the Knights it was a religious principle to be forever naked. For her it was nothing more than a matter of knowing nothing else. The very idea seemed somehow odd and unnecessary however much in later years it became as natural to her as total hairlessness in the Knights' village had become.
"I just hope my idiot husband doesn't choose this night to observe his conjugal duties," said Lady Demure when all the sacks were full and the four women were sat together in a hut strangely denuded. "I told him that I was ill and didn't wish to be disturbed, but he isn't a man who necessarily respects my wishes."
"And when he sees that you've prepared to leave, what will you tell him?" Mimosa asked with a sneer. "Will he be any more pleased to see you about to leave than he would be if you had already gone?"
Lady Demure picked up a small flint knife and held it in her hand. "I may be a mere woman but I am more practised in the art of combat and surprise than you may imagine," she said with a sternness of purpose that astonished Mimosa and alarmed Quagga and Glade. "If he wishes to hinder me, he may discover the extent to which when I have determined on a course of action I shall not be deflected."
There was an uneasy silence in the hut as the four women sat together. Quagga and Lady Demure on those furs on their mistress's bed she'd decided to leave behind; Glade cross-legged by the fire; and Mimosa hidden in the shadows on the other side of the hut. Each woman was lost in her own thoughts and as wary of one another as she was of the dangers she faced. Glade was still uncertain whether she should side with Lady Demure in the plain beyond or risk the wrath of Lord Valour. Although Mimosa had made clear her intention to Glade that she wouldn't accompany Lady Demure in the dark savannah, she was no doubt silently weighing up her limited options.