Slaves of Love Ch. 01byAlexandraBourne©
Author's Note: This is a love story with BDSM and some reluctance/non-consent elements that takes place in an imaginary world. Please enjoy!
"This ridiculous pickiness has to stop! Preferably, before you are through with the last eligible man of noble birthright."
Dagon watched the scene unfold with a knowing smile. The Regent's midnight black eyes blazing with fury were a spectacle rarely to behold outside of her private chambers. Paternal pride made his chest swell as he watched his beloved daughter hold her ground.
"Noble birthright will not allow me to release any bounded of mine like a common maid, those were your words Aunt, not mine. I am only trying to follow your advice to chose carefully and wise."
The calmness of Selia's voice betrayed the rage she felt building inside.
Arianna shot a misgiving glance at the stubborn girl's father that instantly wiped the smile off his face. Leaving him without a Mistress for so many years did definitely not become the man's behavior. She would have to deal with that matter another time, for now much more pressing issues had to be resolved.
"Two weeks child. Two weeks and not another day longer. When the festivities of the full moon rise begin you will publicly announce your choice," the Regent declared leaving no room for discussion. "You better make sure she understands and lives up to her duties." She spat at Dagon, her eyes narrowing in a mute threat before she stormed out the door.
The silence that fell over the Princess's chambers was broken by her audible sigh of relief.
"Finally, I thought she would never leave!" Selia exclaimed, flopping down on her bed in a most unladylike manner.
"I wish she would at least try to understand me."
Her father had become her most trusted advisor over the years, another fact that the Regent often voiced her concerns about in the High Counsel. He would fill the child's head with foolish notions of equality and undermine her naturally powerful personality which was an essential characteristic of any future Empress. It was an opinion many of the matrons of high birthright residing in the Counsel shared, however, neither of them seemed to show much enthusiasm when it came to neglecting the late Empress' royal wishes.
"And I wish you would at least make an effort to understand your Aunt better" came her father's scolding reply.
The confused frown that appeared on the young woman's face made his eyes turn watery. There were moments, tiny gestures of his daughter even that reminded him so much at his beloved, that there was no way of ignoring the stabbing pain he felt inside. His melancholic smile lasted but a moment and turned soon thoughtful.
"Arianna had to face responsibilities she had never been prepared for when barely older than a child. She spent the past two decades with her duty being the single focus of her life. You were but a newborn heiress, but I do remember the days when her bright eyes started to darken, her smile faded under the burdens of royal duty. She had been living the life that was assigned for your mother, she held up the honor of the royal house of Astor when the times were most dangerous, ensuring thereby your inheritance and right to the throne, questioned by so many due to my influence on your upbringing."
Her arms were around him in an instant.
"Oh father, you must not blame yourself! You only followed mother's last wish and I shall be always grateful for your insight and support."
"I hope you will try to think of your Aunt and the sacrifices she has made with as much gratitude. She only wants what she considers to be best for you. What the royal law requires and your people expect of you. And I know, you will make all of us very proud when you announce your choice at the festivities" he added with an encouraging smile.
Selia released her tight hold on him and started pacing the room thoughtfully.
"My choice it is, isn't it? Yet have you seen the options I have? Man of noble birthright being paraded around by their greedy sisters and mothers like some breeding studs, their flattering words as false as the strained smiles on their lips. All they are after is the power bonding with the royal family means! Not a single one among them tonight wanted sincerely to be mine! The collar of the house of Astor is all their greedy hearts are set upon."
Dagon certainly sympathized with his daughter. Most bondings of the noble houses were driven by common interests, lust for power as much as flesh, very few had the opportunity of mating out of the choice of their hearts.
"Considering your social status, politics can be hardly helped my child" he offered weakly.
"That is not true! You should know that better than anyone else!" she accused hotly, her passionate outburst soon to be taken over by a longing desire she felt tugging at her heart. "I have resigned to my fate father. I will accept the throne and all the responsibilities that come along, but is it so wrong of me to wish ... to hope for the same kind of love you and mother shared?"
It was an argument that he couldn't fight, one he didn't even wish to. From the time on his beloved Selianna had passed away, the tiny newborn with his strawberry freckles scattered over her nose and cheeks had become his entire world. His nights were filled with grief and pain, barely to be soothed by the occasional dream in which he could hold his long gone Mistress once again. Yet with the first rays of sunshine came his only child's laughter into his world, ushering the inner darkness away with a single smile that graced her chubby little cheeks. There was nothing in this world he wished for more than Selia's happiness, praying to the shadows of the night to grant her a long, content and fulfilled life.
"There is still time left, sweetheart. Your love may just be waiting around the corner. Try to be patient."
The night was a soothing balm, dreams offered a welcome escape. Alabaster skin many maids would envy glowed softly in the dim candle light. Arianna's eyes were fixed on the mirror as a servant freed her magnificent hair from its confining crown. Jet black silk fell past the shoulders of the pale image starring back at her. With the shimmering powders and paint gone from her face, the heavy chains of jewelry removed from her delicate neck and wrists, she looked decidedly fragile, a far cry from the mighty Regent she represented during the day.
The years of intrigue and worry had taken their toil on the refreshingly natural beauty she once possessed. Delicate crow's feet had started building around her eyes. The smile of the woman in the mirror was strained, her posture tired, a broken spirit reflected in the empty depth of her black eyes.
After slipping on her nightgown she dismissed the maid as quickly as the advances of her pets.
Her anger had faded long ago, yet her determination only grew. She couldn't allow Selia to make her own mistake. A bonding was essential to ensure the continuity of the royal line of Astor and once she had claimed the throne, no man would be found worthy of being her mate. It was an ancient law, but one the enemies of their House surely hadn't forgotten. One established with good reason by the shadow's of old. She had suffered from the full burden of loneliness since the day she received news of her elder sister's misfortunate delivery and death. She had been so very young! An innocent child appointed as regent and caught up in the web of competing advisors and false friends. Learning her role quickly she balanced the thin line of power with success, watching her niece grow into a pretty and powerful young woman. Were it not for her father's influence and his foolish notions about love, Selia might have chosen a suitable mate long ago to give her the strength and support the lack of which had appointed the Regent to a slow yet inevitable decline.
Few understood the destruction the lack of bonding could bring even to the most powerful women, but Arianna had to discover over the years that her health as much as strength started gradually slipping away. Her status didn't allow any signs of weakness, yet neither time nor the stubborn child's pickiness was on her side.
She eased her body under the cool sheets with a sigh of relief just before the weakness overcame her again, her more and more fragile body paying its tribute to the torturing shadows of the night.
The more her power was dwindling, the more her heart seemed to return to happier times in her dreams. Those few hours of escapism when she found sweet relief. Swimming in the crystal lakes of Errata, climbing the windy hills at the feet of the northern mountains, memories of playing tag with the children of their servants at Astor Castle, the country estate of her family. Gorren had been so young too. His chestnut hair always tousled, freely toyed with by the breeze coming from the lakes. She remembered his smug grin, the air of confidence she found so irresistible, how he would tug at her braid shamelessly, seemingly unaware of her birth right, unafraid of any consequences. She never saw the farmer's son again after being called back to the Royal Palace at the tender age of fourteen, yet had often wondered what woman might have tamed his flaring temper, who had the privilege to enjoy his smile every day.
She had learned early on that as a regent one could only afford to have few secrets. Pleasures of the heart she couldn't have yet pleasure of the flesh she indulged in without shame. Man seeking her favor were numerous but even those she had collared were only there for enjoyment, lust and relief of stress. She had left her heart behind at the lakes of Errata, with a sense of duty taking its place.
Time was slipping away; she could feel it more and more with every day passing. The dark cloak of the night still shielded most of her weakness from the curious eyes of the court. But she knew the time when she would have to resign was drawing dangerously near.
I have decided to consider my decision far away from the influences of the court for the two weeks you have graciously provided. I hope you will trust your upbringing of the past twenty-two years and will consider me grown up enough to grant me this short break from my duties. I hereby give you my word to return in time for the festivities of the full moon rise for my bonding with my chosen one.
In the meantime, please worry not for I will be fine.
After ear dropping on a conversation between the regent's maids and learning that her aunt had already retired, Selia simply slipped the note under the door of her bedchamber and quietly tiptoed down the hallway.
She knew her aunt would be anything but pleased in the morning to find it there, but it still seemed a better solution than asking her father to do the delivery and letting her wrath pour down on him. After all, Selia would fulfill her responsibilities but on her own terms.
If her father was right and love might have been waiting just around the corner then she had much better things to do than sit around and suffer the flattery of men she didn't want and what was just as important, who didn't want to be hers. None of them would have paid attention to the girl with mousy brown curls and strawberry freckles were it not for her high birthright and her family's name. Putting on her oldest and most faded gown and securing a purse of gold around her waist, the young heiress slipped out into the dark streets of the town through one of the back doors only servants used. The yawning guard didn't even glance her way as she passed the gate.
The streets looked dark and mysterious. The chilly night air soon proved her gown and the soft cloak over it an ineffective shelter from the wind that blew out several of the torches passer-bys carried around. After an hour the idea started to dawn on her that she might had been better off by escaping after supper. Her rumbling stomach seemed to confirm the idea.
Her mind focused on food she walked down the street with delight after spotting a tavern at the far end of the main square.
She never noticed the two shadows that had joined her, remaining ever only a few steps behind.
"She looks nothing fancy" the younger of the two shadows pointed out in a whisper to his companion, his concerned face hidden by the darkness around.
The taller figure merely shrugged his shoulders.
"The hour is getting late. She will have to do" he decided, pulling out a big, rough sack from under his cloak. The irritation in his voice was obvious when he still saw hesitation on his companion's part. "Go now, or I'll do it myself!" he barked impatiently, making the other figure wince before they both disappeared into a dark alley.
Driven by hunger and drawn by the inviting lights of the tavern, which promised a full stomach as much as warmth, Selia barely noticed bumping into the stranger. Disoriented for a moment, she fought and succeeded to keep her balance by bracing herself on the stranger's arm.
"Watch your way," a decidedly male voice barked, before the shadowy figure moved on.
A frown still on her face and hands on her hips she turned to see him disappear into a nearby alley. Perhaps her aunt had been right, common folk had hardly any manners!
"What a brute! Someone ought to teach him manners." She murmured angrily, insult making her cheeks flush as much as the cold air. Suddenly her mouth fell wide open. The purse was gone!
She made a run for the alley in an instant when understanding finally downed on her. Since the narrow little street was lacking any torches her eyes could hardly make out the entrance. Realizing there was no point in pursuing a thief in the darkness, she was about to turn back to the square, when a tall dark figure with surprisingly broad shoulders blocked her way.
Ignoring him with her best grace she tried to maneuver her way around him. However, every time she tried to move he would always step in her way. Congratulations Your Highness! Robbed and trapped within an hour of having left the royal palace. Taking a deep breath to suppress her heartbeat that had started to flutter with nerves, she finally cleared her throat.
"Let me pass this instant and no harm will come to you." She offered in her most authoritive voice.
"Why should I?" the taller figure demanded in a deep baritone voice that made her shudder.
"Because ..." she hated the insecurity creeping into her voice, "because robbery and stalking are both to be punished by the laws of this country."
The hearty laughter her threat elicited from the man felt oddly humiliating.
"Let me pass this instant, or you shall regret it dearly!"
Panic. The shrill tone her voice was taking on, the fidgeting, her breathing growing shallower with every breath taken didn't escape the man's attention. It had become a sweet melody to his ears, almost as pleasant as the cries and pleading, the begging for mercy that would soon follow from the little mouse's luscious lips. He could practically smell her fear rising by the moment, the scent triggering the hunter's instinct inside his veins.
Selia saw the tall man take a step sideways, his eyes glittering for a moment in the pale moonlight.
"Why of course, a lady's wish always comes first."
The girl stared at him without making a move, her breathing audible in the cool night air. Taking another few steps aside he leaned lazily against the wall of a house, his bemused eyes never leaving her worried face.
"How is it my lady, don't want to leave me yet?" he inquired cynically. "Maybe you'd like to stay and play. I for one could use some company, had been lonely for way too long." He added winking at her playfully.
The blood drained from Selia's face, this was no game for sure! She would have to distract him and make a run for it, she couldn't think of any other way out.
"Sure." She offered plastering a strained smile on her face and inching her way towards the entrance of the alley. "You must forgive me for I mistook your advances for harm. If you'd like to play, let's go to my home and have some fun."
The coquettish smile vanished from her face as she felt another pair of arms grip her tightly from behind. The tall man stepped forward, lowering his face just inches above hers, basking in the fear reflected on her pretty face as she took in his devilish grin and scarred lines.
"I am certainly up for it sweetheart. You won't mind it being our place though, do you?"
The cruel sound of his laughter had echoed in her ears long after she had been gagged and bound despite her every effort to kick and scream. Tears of shame and fury ran down her cheeks underneath the dark hood that was placed over her head. She felt the man carrying her move around fast, his hand coming down sharply on her bottom whenever she started to squirm.
"Feisty little thing, I dare hope we will make our point unmistakably clear by taming this one!"
"I could carry her for a while" a softer male voice strange to her ears volunteered.
The familiar laughter of the tall man rang out into the cold night.
"Oh, you will get your turn my friend, don't worry. In fact, once she has been tamed and presented you may as well keep her if you wish. It is high time you get a pet of your own."
A pet? How do these ... these men dare insult a woman as such? Just what are they talking about?
She moaned her frustration into the rough gag that had been stuffed into the mouth, earning another stinging blow on her backside.
"I think she likes the idea," her captor's voice rang out again as he unceremoniously dumped her on what could only be the back of a horse and rode away with his newest trophy into the dark night.
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