tagNovels and NovellasThe Harem Ch. 04

The Harem Ch. 04


"She spent the entire night in his bed."

"Yes, my lady." Ikthyer took a delicate sip from the fine china cup in his hand, setting it down with a gentle clink. One dark winged brow arched over pale yellow eyes. "The only lady to have ever done so."

Cyrenia sat sipping her own tea, deep in thought. She had suspected that the newest member of the harem would attract the High Lord's attention quickly, but this was unexpected. "Tell me your thoughts on this, Ikthyer. You know the High Lord as well as I do."

Ikthyer inclined his head at the subtle praise. For the last eight years he had served as chief eunuch of the High Lord's harem. He did, indeed, know the High Lord and his appetites quite well. The latest addition to his harem was a puzzle.

"He has not taken her yet." Ikthyer smiled at the slight gasp Cyrenia made. "When the sheets were changed this morning, there was no sign of virgin blood. He waits. He is patient with this one."

"Yes, yes, but what does it mean?" Impatiently, Cyrenia sat her china cup down with a clatter, rising to pace around the room. Her long black dress swirled around her legs. Turning, she pierced the eunuch with a stare. "Your thoughts, Ikthyer."

"He will make her the High Lady." Ikthyer saw by the look on Cyrenia's face that she had already reached the same conclusion. Taking another sip of tea, he murmured, "These next few weeks shall prove interesting, indeed."

"May Bewethria have mercy on us all."

* * * * *

"So the virgin remains among us." Helenia picked a grape from the bunch sitting on the wooden bowl on the end table, her green eyed gaze resting on Magdalyn. "She must have been remarkably boring to not even have held our Lord's interest for one night."

"Or perhaps she has piqued his interest enough that he wishes to take his time with her." Analyndia turned the pages of a book idly, her tone as bored as Helenia's. "After all, the High Lord kept her in his bed the entire night. Tell me, Helenia, when was the last time the High Lord afforded you such an honor?"

Helenia pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes. An uneasy silence settled over the room, broken by the gentle rasp of a thread being pulled through fabric. Magdalyn kept her head bent over her embroidery hoop, concentrating on her stitches. Her ears might have burned slightly at the topic being discussed, but she wisely kept her tongue.

After long moments, Helenia laughed low in a way that had Tansazia shifting into a defensive mode. "Tell me, little virgin, did he at least bring you to a release? We already know he hasn't breached the barrier, but there are other ways."

Magdalyn tucked her tongue in her cheek and sewed another neat stitch. She had no experience with this type of warfare, this subtle maliciousness, and knew she would never win a battle against it. It was best for her to keep silent, and wait for the viper, as she called Helenia, to finish spewing her venom.

"It is only the first step, you know." Helenia plucked another grape, rolling it between her fingers. Her eyes glowed with wickedness. "The High Lord is a most excellent lover. Soon, your body will crave the pleasure he can give you, and you will succumb, just like all the others. And like them, you will live day to day in groveling anticipation that he will come to you."

Standing, she stretched languorously, smiling like a cat that had just eaten the canary. "What becomes of your bravado then, little virgin?" Satisfied that she had ruined Magdalyn's afternoon, and most likely evening, Helenia waltzed from the room, humming under her breath.

Analyndia waited a beat, then laughed low. "One wonders if she includes herself among those groveling at the High Lord's feet." Moving to sit next to Magdalyn, she placed the needle that had fallen from the younger girl's fingers on the hoop. "Do not let her words bother you. She is only afraid that there will be someone who will be serious competition for the High Lord's affections. This is a good life, with no shame attached to it."

"In my world, there would be shame." Magdalyn picked the needle up with shaky fingers. "My mother and father would weep the rest of their days if I were to willingly go to such a fate."

"Don't be a fool. Anger the High Lord, and you will not have to worry about shame, only being sent to the pleasure district in the city." Tansazia made her voice sharp, to drive her point home. The only result was Magdalyn's chin lifting in defiance.

"Then that is a choice I shall take."

Analyndia rolled her eyes dramatically. "May Bewethria have mercy on us."

* * * * *

Magdalyn waited nervously in the small dining room they had eaten in the night before, her heart beating rapidly. Once again, the servants were silently setting the table for dinner, almost invisible in their efficiency. It was eerie, that silent efficiency.

With a brisk knock, the High Lord entered the room, dismissing the servants with a wave of his hand. One glance told him that something was amiss, but decided to wait until after they had dined. With another wave of his hand, he gestured her towards the table, torn between amusement and annoyance at the moment of hesitation she showed before sitting down at the table.

Throughout dinner, he questioned her gently, hoping to draw her out of her shell. Her only answers were short, monosyllabic. If Nictolanus hadn't known better, he would have believed that she did so solely to annoy him. At the end of the meal, he was no closer to understanding her than he had been at the start.

Rising, he gestured that she should precede him up the stairs. His annoyance grew when she again hesitated, this time much more obviously. When they reached his bedchamber, he turned her around, attempting to draw her into his arms. His annoyance turned to shock when she slipped out of his reach.

"What game is this, then, Magdalyn? Would you pretend reluctance with me now?"

"Not pretend." Magdalyn drew a deep breath, raising her eyes to his. The darkening of his eyes had her breath clogging her throat briefly. Swallowing, she continued. "I will not play the whore for you, no matter how much it would benefit me. Send me back to the kitchens, or to the stillroom, or to the village. But I will not be your whore."

Nictolanus stood stock still for a moment, stunned into silence. After a moment, he whispered, "You dare to say such a thing to me?"

Magdalyn started to take a half-step back, thought it cowardly, and planted her feet. "I will not be your whore."

"You foolish, backwards, child! There are no whores in this household!" Nictolanus threw an arm out, striking a vase and sending it toppling to the floor with a crash. Magdalyn jumped, but otherwise made no movement. "Do you have any idea the honor I do you, choosing you to be a member of my harem?"

"No honor to me. You know my people. There is no honor in this." Magdalyn's eyes widened when Nictolanus strode towards her, his eyes dark and furious. "Do not--."

"Do not dare to tell me what to do." Nictolanus grabbed her roughly, ignoring the small cry she made. Roughly, he crushed his mouth to hers, swallowing the outburst she made.

It was like being battered by a small, furious storm. Despite her best intentions, she grabbed onto him, more to keep her balance than out of emotion. Vaguely, she thought that Tansazia was right--it was best not to anger the High Lord.

Cruelly, Nictolanus forced her back on the bed, pinning her wrists above her head with one hand. With the other, he tore the delicate silk shift down the torso, ignoring the low moan of distress she made. Ignoring, but not entirely. Guilt was already creeping in, an uninvited guest.

Raising his head, he looked down at her tear-stained face, her eyes watery and frightened. Her lips quivered, opening on a whisper. "Please. Don't."

Sitting back on his heels, he released her hands, guilt growing at the bruises already forming on her delicate skin. Rolling off the bed, he strode towards the window, fisting his hands in his hair and yanking sharply to clear his head. When he turned around, she was huddled on the bed, wide eyes watching him in a way that reminded him of a caged animal.

Abruptly, he walked towards the stairs, pulling on a heavy coat that was laid across a chair. Turning at the stairs, he said in a quiet voice, "You will belong to me. Make no mistake of that, Magdalyn." With a whisper of sound, he strode down the stairs. The sound of a heavy door crashing shut echoed from below.

Magdalyn pulled the ruined silk from her body with trembling hands, dropping it on the floor. Opening a drawer, she pulled on a long sleeved shirt, large enough to swallow her. Climbing beneath the heavy covers, she turned her face into the lavender scented pillow and cried herself to sleep.

When she woke in the morning, Ikthyer greeted her with the news that the High Lord was gone for a week.

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