Sanctuary: Finding Home 2 Ch. 02byjennyb2492©
Sorry for the delay, folks. I didn't mean to submit Chapter 1 until Chapter 2 was ready to go also, and somehow I pushed the submit button. Anyhow, here you go. Oh, Liz comes back in the next chapter. Hang on.
Michael tried not to spend the time until Daniel got home worrying about what they were going to do with Jenny. Eventually he wandered down to the slave house, where Ryan was putting one of the newer slaves through some exercises. He had been the trainer for about four years now, and he was good at it. He pushed them all hard, and rewarded them well for their effort.
Michael watched him as he called out the movement and the slave performed it -- or tried to. She was having a tough time and he was drilling her over and over, trying to help her move more gracefully as she struggled.
"You're in luck, Jessie; Master Michael is here. I'm going over to talk to him while you continue practicing." She looked grateful for the break from his unrelenting observation.
"Michael! I haven't seen you in a few days."
"I've been gone on errands for Daniel. This business with Palm means I'm spending a lot of time traveling quietly and being out of touch while we try to figure something out. I'm afraid I'm only back for a day or two and then we both leave again. Looks like you need Liz," and he nodded towards the struggling woman. No one moved as gracefully as Liz did and she had a gift for teaching.
"Yeah, I probably should. She was busy this afternoon so I was determined to help Jessie myself and I guess I should know better."
Michael smiled. "You have all these slaves to choose from to help mentor and you pick Liz every time."
"She's the best mentor I've ever had. My job would be a lot tougher without her. Any new occupants for the slave house in the near future? Been very quiet here lately."
Michael laughed. "Nope. Looks like no one wants to take Daniel up on his offer right now. Lean times for you, my boy."
"Yeah, good thing I have a day job," he joked. He was Michael's unofficial security assistant; he had a good BS detector and he and Michael worked well as a team.
"Speaking of your day job, do you have a meeting set up with....." and they wandered off into business-speak while Jessie patiently and frustratingly kept working towards the graceful movements of the different positions Ryan was drilling her in.
Jenny: I know I dozed for a while; sleeping in that burrow last night had not made for restful sleep. Sometime in mid-afternoon I heard the door open and Uncle Daniel came in.
"Jenny, oh my god, you're safe!" He grabbed me in a bear hug. "We never questioned the reports of everyone being gone until you contacted us the first time. It must have been awful for you." He led me over to the couch and we sat down. I saw Michael standing outside the door, being unobtrusive but aware.
"How did you manage to survive?" And so I told him the whole improbable story as much as I could without dissolving in grief. He told me of the near-miss to get me at the cabin and how agonizing it had been to hope I was still alive.
He also told what I had missed while on the run, though I had heard bits and pieces. Palm had taken the opportunity to push into Orre and now controlled about 2/3 of the province, including the area our home had been in. Uncle Daniel gently told me they were preventing any removal of the bodies from the house, probably to keep anyone from noticing that mine wasn't among them, because having a surviving Aldriss could make things messy for him. It hurt more than I could say to realize my father's body, and everyone else's, were just laying in the ashes with no one allowed to give them the burial they deserved.
The Orre militia was holding Palm off from further advances and there seemed to be a draw right now while everyone figured out what to do next. The militia was also running what was left of the day-to-day affairs of my province, since the government was dead and no civilian leader had yet emerged.
Daniel sighed. "We are six remaining Families who cannot agree that the sky is blue, and none of us are close to being strong enough to oppose him alone. Michael and I are working behind the scenes right now, trying to encourage a resistance in Orre, and getting the other Families to come to some kind of agreement -- but right now we have to look like we are appeasing him. He keeps declaring that the other six provinces have nothing to worry about -- he has no intentions to go any further than Orre. Some of the other Heads want to believe that so bad they would be willing to hand over Orre on a platter to him if they thought they would be safe."
He ran a hand through his wiry grey hair. "Jenny, we don't dare let out that you are alive -- I have no doubt that you are the focus of all of his wrath right now, and he would attack Alaine with ferocity to get you, and we are not strong enough to survive that.
"So you need to disappear for now. But I at a loss for how to accomplish it. Hiding you outside these walls is risky, and hiding you inside these walls would be tough without everyone finding out there is an 'mystery guest' hidden away somewhere."
I had had an idea, but it sounded preposterous even in my own mind.
He must have sensed it. "Jenny? What are you thinking?"
It took me a minute -- it sounded like such a lame idea - "Could I hide as one of your slaves?"
His eyes widened. "One of my slaves? What made you think of that idea? Honey, you know they have all come from prison and what they do here is in exchange for a lighter sentence. It's not an easy time, believe me. Especially at the beginning. Your father's slaves were primarily housekeeping staff, but the slaves here provide companionship and sex to guests. And the training for that is tough, because it's to help them to find their inner strength to get through difficult situations and focus on serving the needs of others instead of their own needs, so they hopefully make better choices next time."
I pressed ahead anyway, at a loss for any alternative. "You are telling me, though, that if I walk out of here I am dead. He almost got me as it was. Uncle, when that guy thought I had gone down the river, he told the other guy on the phone that he could have me until I screamed and all they had to do was make sure my holes were intact when they turned me over to Palm. I personally think being a slave would be a better alternative to being dismembered piece by piece until I was grateful to be dead."
His silence told me I was spot-on with that possibility.
He sat for a long time considering what I had said. Eventually I rose up and wandered out to the small fountain, perching on the edge and trailing my hands on the water.
Eventually I sensed him coming up behind me. He gathered me in his arms, my back to his chest, his brown arms crossing over my pale skin in his embrace.
"Jenny, I gave your father a promise a long time ago that if anything happened to him I would take care of you. This is not exactly what he had in mind, I think," he chuckled.
Then he sighed. "I think we could pull it off. You are so much more grown-up looking than even a year ago; I almost didn't recognize you. We would have to be careful if anyone who might recognize you came as a guest, but you've been out of the spotlight for so many years I don't think it would be a problem.
"But Jenny, to make this work, you would have to become a slave. Not live among them, not pretend to be one. The other slaves would spot it in a heartbeat. This means starting out with Master Ryan down in the slave house, with nothing, in a cage, with no clothes, until you earn those privileges. He has to think you're the real deal, too. It means training, and obeying without questioning, and making mistakes which lead to punishment, pretty often, at the beginning. It will mean serving in all ways, too -- providing sexual services to my guests. Master Ryan is in charge of that and you won't have a choice about who or when."
He paused, no doubt to let me absorb all that and change my mind.
"Go on," I said.
He took a deep breath. "You wouldn't see me very often except in passing, and you would never be able to speak to me or even look at me with familiarity. You would have to trust me that when it is safe for you I will release you, but Jenny, that could be a long time -- even several years, and you can't change your mind. Because if it comes out that I have been hiding you before we get all the pieces in place, then we here, at the estate, and in Alaine, are at grave risk. I am telling you this not because I don't want to do this, but just so you understand the the seriousness of your decision. Do you understand that?"
Now it was my turn to be silent. He sensed the turmoil in my mind. He took my hand in his and held it tight.
"I'm going to leave you to think about what we've talked about, to make sure this is what you want to do. Get some sleep and we'll talk again in the morning. If you are determined to do this, I want to talk with Michael about some details."
~ + + + + + + ~
I slept soundly; crying will do that to you. I finally let loose. Through all of the weeks of terror, of hiding, and running, and surviving, I had not had the luxury of succumbing to my grief until now. I began sobbing later on that evening, and sat on the floor for hours, pouring my insides out. I truly hoped I would die while I sat there. At some point Michael let himself in, helped me up, and gave me a cool washrag for my face. He led me over to the bed to sit on the edge, and then gathered me in his arms tightly for a few minutes. He held me and stroked my hair, then laid me down, and pulled the covers up to my chin.
"Figuring out how to stay alive means making tough choices sometimes, but choosing life over death is always the best choice. You've survived against all odds so far, and whatever you decide to do you will make it through."
He turned off the light, then vanished through the door. I tried to think about everything that had gone on, but my mind could not disobey my body, and my body needed sleep. This was the first safe bed I had been in for weeks, not to mention the only comfortable one. I slept hard.
~ + + + + + + ~
The morning was glorious -- it was early autumn and a bright blue sky and warm sun greeted me as I walked back outside. Breakfast had been laid out already -- I'm sure Uncle had ordered it done before I woke so I wasn't seen. When I had risen, a long, loose dress was hanging on the back to the bedroom door. It was wonderful to take a hot shower, wash my hair, and put on clean clothes. Someone had even laid out some soft, silky underwear for underneath, along with sandals. I felt very cared for, but I knew I could not stay here pretending I was a princess, and there was too much hate lying in wait outside these walls. It would surround me like a flash fire if I walked out the front gates.
I sat for a while, trailing my hands in the fountain, thinking of what becoming a slave would be like -- what it had been like for Callie, and Maia, and the others I had known at home. I thought about how I had taken those women for granted and not really given their circumstances a lot of thought. I felt some small measure of guilt now that I might be joining their ranks. Had anyone even notified their families that they had died in the fire?
Could I really learn to be a slave? One who served men's pleasures whenever and however they desired? I wasn't a total novice to sex, but neither was I very experienced. Exchanging sexual services for reimbursement of some kind was accepted in our country without any fuss as there was in other places. We had women ( and a few men) who would just hang out a shingle or place an ad -- they were usually known as prostitutes, as opposed to women who spent years perfecting and studying their craft and were generally considered more of a courtesan. There weren't many of either kind, but enough that it wasn't unusual. So having slaves offering services to guests wasn't shameful, nor was it coerced. All the women had the choice to serve their jail term or serve here (and my father's house).
Truthfully there was a small part of me that thrilled at the idea. There was a much bigger part of me that told me I was being an idiot and had no concept of what I was getting myself into.
I heard Uncle Daniel approach. "Good morning, my dear! You look absolutely lovely. I heard that you slept well eventually. I'm glad." He embraced me. "Come on, let's eat."
He pulled out the chair for me and I sat down, remembering how he had done that when I was a little girl and how grownup it made me feel. Michael had joined us and pulled up his chair silently.
I let go of my worries for a bit. We chatted; I managed to tell him a few lighthearted stories he hadn't heard without crying too much.
At the end of the meal, he wiped his chin with his napkin, and set it aside. "My dear, it pains me to rush you, but I can't keep your presence here a secret. We have to make a decision one way or the other. I'm willing to do this; in fact I think it is a good idea, but I have to say it again: once you decide to start, you cannot change your mind. You will fully and unconditionally become my slave, and if you resist at any point, I will have to force you and punish you just like my other slaves, in order to keep the secret."
"But when it is safe..."
"But when it is safe, when the time is right, I promise, that instant, to release you."
I sighed. "How can this be done? I can't just walk into the house and suddenly appear as a slave."
"Michael actually had a good idea. Normally, the women's prison in Newford brings the woman here, but with you, not only would that not be possible, but there is a chance that someone will realize you weren't actually there. It's been a few years, but other prisons have occasionally arranged to have a woman sent here. He'll make a trip to another prison and pick you up."
"What's my crime?" I asked. It felt uncomfortable knowing people would think I had been in prison for something illegal.
"I think we need to keep it simple. You got into debt, and stole a lot of money from the company you worked for, of course intending to pay it back. We don't really need to go further -- it's an unwritten rule that no one asks anyone else for details because everyone hopes this is a chance to start over. I think we need to set your "sentence" at four years, which is a bit longer than most women, just to give us room in case we can't get our act together." By "we" I knew he meant the six provinces. "By then, we'll have either dealt with him, god willing, and you'll be safe, or he'll have taken over the entire country." He gave a wry smile, but it was a glimpse into how serious this situation was and not for the first time did I notice how old he looked. His normally chestnut-brown skin color had an ashen tinge to it, and his eyes were tired. My eyes swelled up with tears; part of it was my fault, I knew, because he now had my secret to manage as well.
I think he sensed it, because he abruptly stood up and came over to me and embraced me from behind.
"Jenny, I don't care what difficulties or complications we have to figure out. I want you to know I am so glad you are alive, no matter what we have to do to keep you safe."
He held me for a moment more, then added, "I'll be looking forward to the time when you can sit next to me again and you can gossip about who is the cutest guy you know, or complain that you have 'nothing to wear'."
I laughed. "Now, I've never done that, Uncle, and you know it!"
"No, but I hope there is a time coming when you can."
After a moment he gave me a squeeze and straightened up.
"Ready." I was going to throw up.
"I'm going to make this a little formal, to mark the moment of change for you, and for us. Stand up." As I rose it occurred to me that this was the first of many orders I was going to obey. A strange feeling went through my stomach.
"When I'm done, you'll kneel in front of me."
I nodded. "And then?"
"And then, you will simply obey. That's all you need to know."
I took a deep breath.
"I ask you one more time. Do you do this of your free will?"
"Because I have no other choice, yes." I don't know why I felt I had to state that, but I did.
"Do you agree that I will become your Master? I will own your body, and I will train you, discipline you, and punish you if necessary."
"I agree," I said softly.
"Do you understand that you will obey any other Master within these walls as if he was me?"
"Yes, I do." Softly again.
"And that you will remain my slave until it's safe for me to release you, no matter how long that may be?"
I opened my mouth but nothing would come out. He waited patiently. I had to trust him.... I had to trust him.....
"Jenny..." He put his hand under my chin gently. "If you can't, the time to say so is now, and we'll find another way."
There was no other way. "Yes."
I looked at him as he silently stared at me. I realized after a moment that he was waiting for me to kneel. That actually wasn't a problem, as I wasn't sure my legs would have held me upright much longer anyway. I sank to the ground on my knees, and bent my head down, terrified to look up. To my surprise, his feet suddenly turned and walked away. I knew I should remain where I was, and so I stayed very still. The birds were still singing, the fountain still gurgling; all the sounds around me were the same as when I had walked out onto the patio an hour ago as a free woman, and yet now everything was suddenly very different.
~ + + + + + + ~
I am not sure how long I stayed there -- I remember the sensation of my nose itching and then some rather comical twisting of my face to relieve it... for I didn't dare move.... I heard someone approaching and saw a pair of shoes come into my vision. It was Michael.
"Stand up." I scrambled to my feet, keeping my eyes down.
"You will not talk unless asked a direct question. If I do permit you to talk, you will address me as Master or Sir. Do you understand?" Gone was the tender caring man of less than twelve hours ago.
"Yes, Master." The word sounded very strange in my mouth.
He reached to me and untied the soft belt around my waist and let it fall. He then reached up to the shoulders, and to my surprise unhooked something on the left and then the right side that let the shoulders fall apart. The gown fell to the ground. I stood before him in my rather thin underwear. He reached behind me and deftly unhooked the bra, then gently pushed the underwear off my hips, letting it all fall onto the soft puddle of my dress. I was now completely naked and the subject of his unflinching gaze. I was trembling, but I was not sure if it was with fear or cold, or both, perhaps.
He produced a set of faded green scrubs. My "prison uniform."
"Put these on." It took only a moment but I felt my freedom slipping further away.
He pointed behind me. "Go over to that rug and lay down near the edge so that your head is near but not over the top." I glanced behind and saw a large Persian rug laid out on the patio stones, then looked back at him in confusion.
I turned around and walked over to the rug. It was easily ten feet in width. I looked back at Michael (Master Michael, I reminded myself) and he was still pointing to the rug, so I laid down upon it as instructed.
"Cross your arms in front of you." I did. "It is going to be a little stuffy in here and I want you to be able to breathe, but any sound out of you -- ANY -- and I will gag you. Do you understand?"
I nodded. He stared at me. "I expect an answer to a direct question. Do you understand?"