tagSci-Fi & FantasyWhat Price Power? Ch. 13

What Price Power? Ch. 13


Jessa smiled coyly at her partner. Tonight was the last night of the Harvest festival, the bonfire and dance were the highlight for those young and unmatched. Having only come of age a month before this was her first time being allowed to attend the dance. Only two nights a year were the usual rules relaxed and an anything goes attitude embraced. By the Flowering time she would probably be a wife and no longer free to do as she wished. She knew several had approached her parents about her. She danced with one of the prospects now. The blacksmiths son while handsome, tall and well muscled, was dull of mind and graceless. Maybe she would allow him to lead her into the forest to find if what lay beneath his belt made up for the lack of substance above his neck.

Then there was the merchant, a widower, nearly as old as her father. Still he was not given to lazy habits or fat. His wealth was an added benefit. Still a man his age was set in his way and would be a demanding husband and her life would be one of boredom. Taking a lover in this rural village would be difficult. No impossible she reminded herself. And then smiled again at her partner, running a hand down his chest. The boy blinked at her, reminding her of a startled calf unsure if it should bawl or run for its mother. No. Simply... no. She fluttered away and headed toward one of the stands to get a cider and see if she could find someone more... amendable to spend the night with.

The blond boy she liked was dancing with one of the girls she knew. A frown, the hussy was known to be readily available to any male who wanted her. So why this one night of freedom she had would that hussy be luring away the most desirable men. She caught a snippet about her hair and hid a smile. It was one of the older men who were supposedly there to supervise the festivities. Her black hair was long and slightly wavy, a year ago it was not fashionable. Blond or pale reds were all the rage. Now the local Lord had taken a black haired beauty as his apprentice, and rumor had it mistress. Now black hair was seen as alluring and exotic.

The first night of the festivities had been a formal feast, he had presided for the first time since becoming Lord. For the first time in a long time the feast had been hopeful of a return to normalcy. That the rumors of the monstrous mage lord were false, or were only jealous talk. He had been nothing more than was expected of their liege. Somewhat bored looking, but also doting on the miniature doll like woman beside him. Making sure she took no chill, had the best food available, did not exert herself or get crowded by too many people. Jessa wanted a man to dote on her like that, but the courtship of lords was not that of peasants. She would one day come home and her parents would tell her who she was to wed. No details of what goods had changed hands.

She was shaken from her musing when the wooden mug she held was taken from her hand and a gloved hand replaced it. She looked up at a complete stranger, a half mask hid his face. Many here were masked, but she hadn't bothered. After all her hair would have given her away. He wore gloves, a little worn and stained, but good cloth and make. His coat was heavy wool, and dyed a rusty black that told her it had been another color once. Maybe second hand? Again it was well made and fit him, also a heavy gold chain with a medallion lay against the white linen shirt under the coat.

She smiled sweetly, a house servant, and from the appearance one of the upper tier. This had a possibility, living at the estate, maybe working there. She could feel muscles beneath his coat sleeves, much taller than her. Yes, he could be a very good option. They danced for a time and she noticed the looks many were giving the two of them. His voice was silky and low as he bent to speak softly in her ear, "Go and fetch a bottle of decent wine from the tavern. Meet me back at the cider booth." A silver coin was pressed into her palm . She gasped, a copper or two was all she had ever had before, this would buy far more than a bottle of wine. She was grinning ear to ear as she moved away from him.

All the would be chaperones saw was Jessa smiling brightly and moving toward the tavern. The stranger in their midst returned to take a cider from the booth. Most had pegged him as a servant sent with a message or package for their Lord. Sneaking out for a little bit of fun before returning to his duties. Harmless as he drank quickly and started dancing with another of the village maids, showing no overt interest or intent in any as the night wore on. No one noticed Jessa did not return, nor thought much of it. Many a couple was curled up in makeshift beds in barns and forest tonight. Even morning brought no real alarm, the youths were still scattered about and Jessa had many friends in town. Only when evening came did the parents start asking questions. By then no one even knew where to start looking. The stranger was mentioned, but one of the elders said he had seen the servant heading off alone toward the south that morning. The tavern keep confirmed their suspicions, merely a messenger that was suppose to be abed at the tavern not dancing in the square.

Lovey black haired and sweet faced Jessa was gone. No trace could be found of her. Her parents grieved the loss of their child just as she was on the verge of going on to her own life. It would be questioned for years to come. But no answers to be found.


Furball leaped about and chased the hem of her dress as she walked toward the workroom. The kitten was her constant companion and she suspected the only reason she hadn't gone insane during her recovery. Spending a month not even allowed to walk more than a few feet. Mina had been kept to strict bed rest and fed frequent diminutive meals, with treats always at hand to tempt her. At least the little ball of fur had entertained her. And she had found herself enchanted and in love with having something that adored her.

The Lord was already in the room, a flicker of the old fear and distaste coming to her. No Jenyse to sooth his temper tonight. Barely half a year ago it would have been required of her to walk over to him and ask him what he wished of her. She sometimes missed the old deal at least then she had known what to expect. He used her body, she used his training. Now she rarely knew what he wanted of her and it terrified her. He hadn't harmed her since the night he returned unexpectedly and choked her with her own hair.

Now he treated her with concern and care. And that terrified her even more. She knew he had something planned. She knew he was cruel and calculating. He delighted in games and could be patient beyond belief in his cruelty. She glanced at a design on the floor, her memories of the night still bright and clear. What choice had she been given? Become his private whore and toy to do with as he pleased, or die slowly and painfully. A year, two at most and she could be free. Would be a mage with her full abilities, never having to endure another unwanted touch.

Now however, she felt as if everyone around her were plotting something. And she wouldn't find out what till it was too late. Jenyse was teaching her, manipulating her toward some unknown goal. She still was unsure how she felt about being drugged the first night in the House of Sinra. Someone was hiding booklets and other information among her study materials. She was learning a second history about the mage war than the one that the Lord told her. She understood that mages had been mistreated but since their return they had waged a war that had left the country on the verge of ruin.

Mina was confused and uncertain and that made her miserable. She had started to question if she would even be able to be truly free. There would always be someone more powerful, more cruel than her, someone who would bend her to his... or her whim. She also still wondered about the assassin. One of the secret lessons had come to mind, if there were no female magi when this prince was of age... the pact was broken. She wasn't sure what that would entail, who would benefit from it. But that there were some out there that wanted it to break.

The Lord cleared his throat breaking her thoughts, motioned toward the empty chair on the other side of the table, "Another hand full of days I think and we can begin regular lessons." He took the cover off a platter, bits of herbs, fruit, as well as some cups lay on it. "Even when your core no longer feeds directly off you. Occasionally you will become exhausted. More so when you are young. Now rest, meditation and ceasing spells will rebuild you eventually. But there are a few tricks that may or may not work. Even I like an herbal tea occasionally. Mage Flower, " He picked up a dainty branch with tiny bright pink and purple clusters of flowers, "The bark is a mild pain killer, fresh or dried a few pinches to a simple cup. Boiling water and wait till the water turns a reddish brown. The leaves are useless, but add the flowers and buds to the tea you have brewed and you will find it has a strange effect on many with mage cores."

He had been picking up bits of dried bark adding it to two cups and pouring boiling water over it. "Let that cool for a bit. This is Golden Fruit, not common here, but something all magi prize. This is one of the juices I was forcing you to drink. Not so much use to a full fledged Magi, but to students. It seems to strengthen the body and help it heal against the drain of the core. I am going to have you eat a bit of one every time we have a lesson from now on. " He had broken it open revealing an inside that was purest yellow gold, tiny globes within it contained the sweet juice, they popped on her tongue as she nibbled at it. While she was still leery of taking food and drink from him, she obeyed. The taste was familiar to her now, it was like tasting sunshine after a long winter night.

He pushed one of the cups toward her, taking one himself. "Sagat leaves are also sometimes brewed into a tea. Calms the stomach and increases appetite, useful if you have a picky student that isn't eating enough." He was sipping the tea and she looked at hers, the scent was both floral and some sort of spice, a sip revealed a slight bitterness. But a globe from the gold fruit erased it. "Smart girl, honey is also useful, and an added boost to your energy." He picked up what looked like a ragged half dried root, "Rampka bulb, this you should be leery of, the scent is distinct, and can't be easily hidden." He offered it to her, she sniffed it, dirt and something sharp stinging to her nose. "This interrupts your ability to draw on your core. This makes you helpless. I will at some point have you drink a tea of it. You need to know the scent and flavor. Your trick of always sipping your drinks is excellent. If you are in uncertain company do not drink anything with strong flavors and scents. "

She glanced again at the tea cup, she had drank less than half of it but was feeling something, a warmth and calmness. She frowned as he looked at her with hazy eyes, he also looked oddly relaxed. "I think the tea works for two reasons, any mild aches are soothed. But also it helps calm and relax the mind allowing you to fully relax. Doing so allows your Core to re energize faster. It is mild, and will wear off soon enough."

If it wasn't for the fact that he had finished his cup while hers was half full still, she might have been more fearful. But he leaned back in his chair. Rambling on about how herb craft could be used to help or hinder. How to use it against enemies. She felt her eyes getting heavy and she stifled a yawn. Then a sigh and fell into a deep sleep to the soft drown of his voice.


Jessa awoke confused, her head ached. Then the memory came back to her, being grabbed, a bitter liquid poured into her mouth and having to drink it down. Gagging... then dizzy and disoriented, the world had vanished to her. She could almost dismiss it as a nightmare. But this was not her bed, nor one of the tavern beds. It wasn't uncomfortable really, very narrow.

Sitting up she frowned, the room was cramped, the bed took up a third of the room. a tiny table with chair in one corner. On it was a wooden bowl and a square of toweling hung off the back of the chair. She blinked seeing the door for the first time. Not a solid doorway one would expect. But bars, black iron ones that gave no illusion of privacy, nor hope of leaving the room. She stumbled to it desperate hope that it would open.

She could see a hall, at least one other door like hers, maybe two more. She could see in neither room and it was silent and dark. Only one lantern was lit and that cast the light into her room. She could see no trace of a window, in fact it felt like she was in her parents root cellar.

She called out weakly. But there was no answer. She screamed as loud as she could, only echos greeted her ears. She grabbed the bars and frantically pulled and pushed. Nothing even wiggled. She moved about the too close room and tried to find any weakness, any weapon. Anything...

Even her garment was nearly useless. The cloth so thin it was see through and only falling to her thighs. She blushed brightly realizing that she didn't even have an undergarment. More the raven curls that had lain thick across her nether region were gone,her skin had been made bare from the neck down. It felt odd. Then alarming that someone had done this to her, stripped her, seen her nude, removed every stray strand of hair.

She curled up on the bed, not even a pillow or sheet to hide behind. Where was she and why?


He chuckled, the tea was indeed as he explained and at the moment he felt quiet good. What her wariness had missed was a slightly too glossy film in the tea cup he had offered her. She was curled in the chair making an adorable picture. Only in sleep did she relax fully, only then did the wall come down. Occasionally he had seen through that barrier she kept up and was intrigued. It still infuriated him also. How dare she think to keep any part of her from him. She was his after all.

He lifted her up and laid her out on a table.Stroking her hair and cheeks, unwrapping a present came to mind as he unfasten the buttons, loosened a ribbon here, tiny hook and eyes the gown for all it looked so simple was a puzzle. And he could have just ripped it open, but this was rather fun he thought. A thin shift lay beneath, silky soft, it barely hid her from view. The triangle of lace that hid her nether lips from his gaze was black, for a second an illusion that she had regrown her hair. Smooth, soft, faint scent of the lotion still lingered as his fingers caressed between her legs. He had not allowed himself to use her since the attack. She had become far to delicate to satiate his appetite on. Jenyse had been taking the brunt of it, along with Rosie and a few nameless peasants, if the concubine had any clue about those she mentioned nothing. Then again of late she seemed intent on sheltering his apprentice. Perhaps she thought an unknown was better than the girl she was becoming fond of.

The skin still had a golden tone to it that looked sun-kissed, smooth, soft, flawless. He ran fingers up her stomach, the drugged sleep making her bodies reactions sluggish. The rose bud of a nipple hardened but relaxed the moment he removed his fingers. Her body's reactions were honest in sleep. He could make it react, but not genuinely arose her. He face was tranquil, only in deepest sleep did the barrier she kept wrapped about her fall away. Only now could he see the truth of her. So young and yet so wary. She understood that life was compromise and pain. That anything she wanted came with a cost. And sometimes it was to give into the desires of others. She had so boldly made their pact and he could not fault her for the steadfastness of her keeping it. She gave into any demand he made of her. She learned everything he taught her swiftly. She was not lazy. But she was selfish, she never let him touch her heart or soul. But the bargain had been for her body, and she had given him that. Now he wanted more and would have to convince her to give him the rest.

He finished undressing her, then took a thick blanket and made a nest on the floor to lay her on. He reflected that there had been no such care the first time. Stripping her of the gown she had worn as she had trembled. Pulling her to the hard stone floor, he had in a way tried to be merciful to her. But terror had kept her body tight and unresponsive. He again took to stroking and caressing the warm flesh, parting her legs and lowering his head between them. She still tasted clean, sweet, her body tried to react, this time sweet honey formed. He could take her, slowly, carefully. That night he hadn't he had brutally taken her, angered that she had not been more responsive to his attempt at arousing her. However watching her after as she lay on the floor after he had risen, shock, pain, her breathing hard and her body shaking. His cum streaked with her blood dripping on to the floor. As soon as he had walked over to the table for his wine she had curled up onto her side. That was one of the few rare times he had been able to affect her honestly. None of the polite empty eyes, the obedience, the quietness, the waiting, enduring.

He had to stop himself from driving into her, leaving her battered again on the floor. No... now she needed to be cosseted. And he had something to help him keep his temper. In fact it should be delivered in a few moments. He bundled her back into the blanket and carried her up to his bedroom, now one of the most heavily protected areas in the manor. Dressing her in one of his nightshirts he tucked her in. She looked almost like a child in the oversized garment. Sweet and innocent, not the whore he was training to be a magi and a lady.

He caressed her cheek, she sighed and nuzzled against him in her sleep. He lifted an eyebrow, surprised at the reaction.


A clanging of a door startled Jessa from her miserable thoughts. She raced toward the barred door and called out. She looked confused, the man that appeared looked like the Lord. But why would he be here? And she blushed, the thin cloth she wore hid little. He thrust a bundle of cloth through the bars. "Dress."

Yes it was... but what? Her baffled mind finally comprehended he was telling her to put it on. But he was watching. she turned her back to him and put the garment on, thankful to have a real dress. Blood red and thick cloth, clinging to her like a second skin, a finer dress than she had ever worn before. "Braid your hair. Single strand coming over right shoulder."

She did as told wanting to ask questions. A glance at him and she fell mute. It was the Lord and she had always been told one had to obey. Even if you didn't like what was being asked. And so far all he had done was tell her to dress and fix her hair. But had he been the one to order her to this jail? Or was he releasing her from it? Her heart clung to the latter, he was releasing her, making her fit to return to her family. A creak of the door and it opened, he motioned for her to come out and she did eagerly. He grabbed hold of the braid and lead her off as if it were a leash. She had no choice but follow. The hall was short, four barred doors and two solid ones on either end. He led her to one that opened to stairs. She stumbled up them trying to keep up. A small house, but nothing special, it was night time and she could make out little.

A darkened garden? Or hedge mage? A heavy door that made no sound when opened... then a wide open lawn surrounding a magnificent house. Every person in her village could live there and not be crowded she thought. He continued to drag her along, into a small back door and up winding halls and cramped stairs. Servants halls she had heard about. Out of the way and out of sight.

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