Contract of Leather: Ch.1byLadyTabitha©
I need only look around my room to set the sadness burning in my chest once more. The walls of my chambers are bare, and the closet stands open and devoid of clothing. Everything I own is neatly packed away somewhere in the house, in preparation of tomorrow's journey. The only remaining articles are the bedclothes and the gown I am to wear in the morning. It is the last night I will ever spend in my family home, and I can't seem to stop the tears from welling in my eyes at the thought. In the middle of my contemplations, a knock sounds from the door. Before she even opens the wood panel, I know it is my mother, coming to see her daughter one last time. She enters my quarters, and I see she is bearing a small black box in her hand.
"My daughter, you bring your family great honor tomorrow," she says. As we sit together on the edge of the bed, I know this to be true. In our homeland, men have all the power and control, and a woman's fate is determined by what men take interest in her. As the youngest of a family of six sisters, normally I would have been exchanged to a farmer or peasant, given away in trade for livestock or some other necessity of the household. Two of my elder sisters had already fallen into this fate. Luckily for me, I have caught the eye of the young Prince Ajan.
The king had given my family a sizable chunk of valuable farmland in exchange for taking me as the Prince's first concubine. I know that I am fortunate; palace life is much easier than being a farmer's wife, and when Ajan tires of me I will be married to a wealthy household. But knowing this cannot ease the fear in my heart, or the trembling of my limbs. My mother opens the box in her lap, and I see there are several pieces of elegant jewelry lying on the red velvet lining inside.
"I was like you," she tells me. "The youngest in my family, when your father made the deal with my parents. And the night I was to leave, my mother came to my room. She knew I was frightened, and that I didn't want to leave my home. So she gave me these, the only articles of jewelry she had. She told me whenever I got lonely or homesick in my new home, I was to put these on, and I would remember her and all the good times I had at home."
She smiles at me, and I see a light sheen of tears in her eyes. "I would like for you to choose one, and take it with you. That way, when you are in the palace and you are feeling alone, you will always remember tonight and know that I understand." I take the box in my hands, and look at the things my mother offers me. There is a necklace, a delicate pendant of coral on a silver wire.
Two pairs of earrings lie on the red velvet, one made of pearl and the other of onyx. And then I spot the one I know I will take. It is a bracelet made of green jade and silver, shaped to look like twining ivy leaves snaking around your wrist. It is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, and my fingers tremble slightly as I reach to take it. My mother smiles when she sees my choice, and takes the delicate rope from my hand and fastens it around my left wrist.
You must sleep now. The palace guards will arrive early in the morning to escort you." The tears are running down her face now freely, and she leans forward to plant a kiss on my forehead. "You are a good daughter," she murmurs. "I will remember you. Be well, my child." The last thing I ever see of my mother is her back, and her image fleeing through the door to my room is blurry because I start to cry.
The guards arrive early in the household. Dawn has just crept over the horizon when the maid comes to wake me. I dress quickly, and am led out to meet the caravan in front of my house. Despite the fear of leaving my household for the first time, I am a little excited. I've never seen anything so fine as the guardsmen that have come to take me safely to Prince Ajan.
They are all well muscled men, eight of them. They wear outfits of the finest black silk, loose fitting pants and open black vests that show off their strong chests. Their skin is tanned from the sun and every now and again I detect a faded scar barely marring the perfection of their bodies. Four of them bear a palanquin, a beautiful traveling cart for me to ride in, which they lower enough for me to board. The other four flank the front and back of the cart, and I see they are the ones that bear wicked-looking scimitars at their side. I pull back the curtains of the palanquin, and step inside. The tiny space is adorned with plush silk curtains for me to sit upon during the journey, and there is a small carafe of wine and a goblet for my use.
There is a moment's jostling as the palanquin is hoisted onto the shoulders of the men, and then we start to proceed. I pour myself a glass of wine, and sip on it slowly, watching out of the back curtain as my house gets smaller and smaller behind us with ever step. It is a long journey, but I barely notice. The countryside is beautiful to look at as we progress forward, and I am too nervous about meeting the prince to even think about time. Around three in the afternoon, I get my first glimpse of the city and the palace beyond, and I am as much in awe as I am scared. It is an imposing sight even on the horizon, a huge white-walled building with towers that reach high in the sky. The turrets and towers are capped with golden bulbs that glisten in the sun, and it is so perfect it doesn't seem real.
The nearer we draw to it, the more detail I notice. I see that the white walls bear exquisite designs of gold and silver, and the doorways are huge almond-shaped portals with sturdy wooden doors and thick golden borders. We pass through the city, and the streets are crowded with people who are curious to watch the procession. Somewhere in the crowd, I'm sure at least one of my sisters is there with the rest of them, watching me being born towards the royal palace. I avoid their staring eyes and gaping mouths and instead turn my attention onto our destination ahead. My stomach starts fluttering when we get close enough to the front gate to see the two huge golden tiger statues that rested there, and the guards who rush over to meet us. There are a few barked orders from the head of the guards in my caravan, then the doors of the palace are opened and we are let inside. I've never seen anything like the interior of this great, sparkling fortress.
Once past the fortifications of the front, the courtyard is a veritable playground for the senses. There are gorgeous fountains everywhere, spraying clean water nearly as high as the castle walls themselves, and lush and beautiful flowers bloom from carefully sculpted garden beds. There are people in the courtyard, other servants perhaps, who glance up with minimal interest at my palanquin. The clothing they wear is beautiful, silk gowns and garments, often embroidered with delicate silver threads.
I feel less than adequate, riding in this elegant curtained cart wearing nothing but the rough cotton dress stitched by my mother's own hands. My fingers instinctively go for the bracelet at my wrist, for it is the nicest thing I wear, the tips tracing the intricate design. The palanquin is lowered, and the curtain is pulled back. It is time for me to dismount, as I get to my feet I see someone is waiting for me. The man's robes and sash let me know he is an advisor to the court. I can almost read the sneer of distaste on his lips when he sees my poor attire, but I hold my head high.
"Well, so you are the young prince's first concubine," the man drawls, looking at me. "I am Quar, advisor to the royal family. Also I have been appointed inspector of the royal harem. I have personally overseen all of the king's women, and now that the young prince is of age, I will do so with his." He claps his hands loudly, and two young men step forward to his bidding. "Take the girl to the bathhouse. See that she is properly groomed and attired, and I will be by to inspect her later. Hopefully she cleans up nicely, for Ajan's sake."
My body burns with anger; this man is deliberately cruel to me simply because I am a woman who comes from "low stock" in his opinion. I open my mouth to speak, but am surprised when Quar reaches out and grabs my jaw hard and squeezes. "Don't even speak," he hisses. "The first rule of a concubine is that your mouth must always be silent unless the royal family or I request you to speak. At home, you may have been able to break the rules, but here you will obey, or you will be punished." He smiles and lets go of my face. I reach a hand up and massage my aching cheeks.
"You would do well to heed my commands, young lady. The king is often generous enough to let me have the concubines who disobey for a few nights, to properly break them back in. I don't really think a scrap of a girl like you is ready for a night's punishment at my hand." He nods to the servant boys, and then walks away, leaving them to show me to the bathing hall. My fear of the distasteful Advisor Quar is soon forgotten as we walk, for I am truly overcome by the beauty of the palace. The harem has its own wing of the palace, and it is to this area I am taken.
In this area, the bathhouse and preparation chambers are the two central rooms, and then there are several smaller hallways with the private quarters for the concubines. The halls and walls of this wing are elegantly painted, bearing portraits of beautiful women. Some of the pictures show women lounging, or riding horses, or bathing. A few show several women serving one man. I am led to the bathhouse first, a massive bathing room with one main pool and several tubs and tables situated around the room. It is empty at this hour, the water of the pool still and quiet. One of the young men smiles at me comfortingly, but the other is stone-faced when he turns to me.
"Disrobe, please," he orders. I hesitate for a moment, my face flooded with heat. No one save for my sisters had ever seen me in a state of undress, and I am self-conscious at letting these men see my naked body. They stand there, waiting for me to remove my gown, and it occurs to me that these men have probably done this to every concubine that has passed through the doors of the place. Trembling, my fingers come up to undo the laces of my gown.
Their eyes follow the movements of my hands, eyeing the strip of skin that is exposed from my neck to my waist as I work the ties. When I am unlaced, they step forward and each grab a flap of the dress, pulling it from my body and leaving me naked save for my bracelet. I feel scared, my hands coming up to cup over my breasts, my legs like jelly. They each take an elbow and gently lead me to the steps of the pool. The water that laps at my feet is cool, and as I make my way down into the water I hear the rustle of cloth at my back.
Waist-deep in the water, I turn to find that the servants too are undressing. I have never seen a man without clothing before, and as the young pages undress I can't tear my eyes away. The kind one who smiled at me was very feminine, slender and nearly hairless. The nipples of his chest are baby pink in color, and I admire the way his pale chest tapers down into a flat stomach, with only a smattering of dark hair the same shade of the hair on his head circling his bellybutton. But the real shock comes when his hands unlace and drop his loose trousers, and I see for the first time the sex of a man.
My sisters had giggled about it when we were children, had told each other stories they had heard about the "erect monsters" all men bore between their thighs. We had come up with a thousand different ideas of what it might look like, but nothing could have prepared me for this first sight. Whether from looking at my naked body or from the slight chill of the bathhouse air, his penis is erect, and it is both magnificent and frightening at the same time. I gape at the sight of the thick veined shaft, the same rosy pink as the nipples on his chest, and the way the head is swollen and wet with his juices. I estimate him to be around the length from my wrist to the tip of my middle finger, and his thickness seems impossibly large.
My eyes wander over to the other man, who is already naked and starting to join me in the water. He is different, built more like the guards who escorted me this morning, hard and muscled all over. His sex is not fully erect yet, but even soft he appears to be long and skinny, and most of his chest and legs and stomach are covered in brown hair. My body burns with embarrassment when I look up and see the kind one's smile, and know that he understands exactly what I am measuring.
They lead me to the left side of the pool, where there is a small shelf filled with hard soaps and unlabeled bottles. I reach for the soap, but they stop me, and I realize they not just here to supervise me but bathe me as well. The stern one soaps up his big hands into a nice lather while the other coaxes my head back to wet my hair. It was a strange thing to have these two men bathing me, nothing like bathing myself at home. I close my eyes and feel the hands scrubbing my hair, a gentle pulling and tugging on the dark strands. At the same time, I feel another set of hands soaping my face and my neck and shoulders, the strong fingers kneading and washing. I can feel the bump of their bodies against mine every now and again, though on purpose or by accident I can't tell. The stern one lifts my breasts in his palms, lathering up the pale globes.
Against his callused palms, my nipples pucker and rise, embarrassing me. The washing of my body and the way their hands and bodies brushed over my skin is having a strange effect on my body. I'd never experienced these sensations, the way every hair on my body stands on end, and the strange and sudden heaviness in my lower belly. My nipples and sex start to throb with every beat of my heart. My lower body is beneath the water, and the kind one asks me to sit on the edge of the bathing pool so they can finish bathing me. I lie back on the cool tile edge, as each of them grabs an ankle and pull my legs apart, exposing me.
Then their hands are on me again, their fingers trailing up my calves and inner thighs, tracing the curve of my buttocks and the crease where my legs join my abdomen. The first time one of them touches my exposed folds, I bolt upright, my eyes flying open. It is like electricity, that touch, and the throbbing intensifies. But the kind one is coaxing me to lie back again, and I feel his hands keeping me held down while the stern one reaches for my sex once more. His soapy fingers rub down the thick outer lips, and I hear him mutter something to the other and they both laugh.
No one has ever touched me like this, and I cry out when he carefully pulls open the slit and pushes two fingers inside, moving them in a pistoning motion. I notice he is careful not to plunge them too deeply, and I know he is taking such care to preserve the untainted inner barrier. One of the reasons I was chosen to be the prince's first concubine is because my virginity is intact, and the only person who will have the honor of deflowering me is the great Prince Ajan himself. Still, this bathing is arousing in me things I never knew existed, and I am whimpering quietly. It is strange to be invaded like this, and yet, the slow thrusting of this man's hand is so pleasant that I have to keep my hips from rising to his motions.
His thumb comes up once, rubbing some hidden pleasure spot resting just above the mouth of my sex, and it has the effect of a fire raging in a dry field. I cry out, and he laughs. "Rinse and oil her," the stern one tells my kind companion. "I will go fetch clothing and a brush, and inform Prince Ajan that she will soon be ready for Advisor Quar's inspection."
His hands leave my body abruptly, and I am left alone with the slender one that is ordering me back in the water. I am grateful to rinse off in the cool water once more, hoping to ease the unfamiliar burning in my loins. It doesn't, and so I am left feeling aching and open when I leave the water. Now that I am clean, the kind one orders me to rest on one of the tables while he fetches some of the unlabeled bottles. Inside are several sweet-smelling oils, extracts of nuts and flowers that are meant to perfume and soften the skin.
He rubs me down, pouring the cool liquid over my skin and working into my pores, until my white skin seems to glow. He starts on my back, working down my shoulders and back, paying close attention to the plump globes of my bottom and my upper thighs. Then I roll over, and I am treated to the same attentions over my breasts, stomach and abdomen. The crests of my nipples scream out under the fingers as he tweaks them, makes sure the blood is making them a dusky pink and glistening with the oil.
"You are beautiful," he croons. "The prince will be smitten with you. And you are a virgin, and already you respond to caresses easily. You will be a delight." My stomach muscles clench as he works even lower. His greased fingers bypass my hungry and leaking nether mouth, instead working on my legs and feet before moving back up. When the slick tips of his nimble hands brushes my pubic curls, he laughs because my abdomen clenches in and I cry out.
"You don't even know why your body is burning so, do you?" He purrs, and he looks around for a long moment to make sure no one is coming. "Let me give you a taste of things to come, pet," he says, and my eyes open, searching his face. He never leaves my gaze as he parts my thighs, lowering his face towards the very center of my womanhood. He blows lightly against the oiled folds, making me shudder, and then I feel his full lips brush the lips.
When he closes over my sex, his tongue slipping out to swipe over the entrance of my slit, I can't control myself. I cry out softly, as he suckles me. The devil knows what he's doing, his eyes watching me carefully, alternating between lapping at the tiny bud of pleasure and sucking the salty essence from my flower. Something in my stomach is building, and I am hardly aware when his hands come under my buttocks, lifting me to a better angle. He plunges his tongue inside me, tasting my inner walls, and the tight coil of sensation is cresting to a feverish pitch.
"Let it go," he says, and in a moment of roughness seizes my clit between his lips and suckles hard. I am washed over, transported by the feelings exploding in my stomach, and my sex is pulsing without control as I arrive at my first climax. He lets me ride the waves until they are little throbs, and I come to my senses. Gently cleaning me with a rag, he smiles, and his lips and chin are flooded with my wetness. "I have been told that I am to be your personal bather from now on," he tells me.
"The prince may have his way with you, but when no one is around, I will show you things you have never thought possible." He kisses me, and I taste myself on his mouth and tongue, my body still trembling with the aftershocks of my first taste of sex. He breaks away to clean himself, and it was not a moment too soon, for the other man returns with his bundle. They dress me in a gown ten times more delicate than the one I arrived in, a white cloud of soft transparent silk. The gown can be seen right through, and I blush when I see the arrogant circles of my nipples beneath the diaphanous fabric, and the dark black triangle of my pubic hair pointing the way to my inner walls like a beacon. They started to take my bracelet from my wrist, but the look that I give them gives them pause and they decide against it.
The two of them brush my hair and braid it, weaving white flowers into the dark thick rope. They adorn my lips with the stain of crushed berries, and then call for Advisor Quar. I almost smirk when I see the look on the man's face, as if he can't really believe that I am the poor country girl he insulted just hours before. He checks to make sure I am perfumed and ready, then sniffs in disdain. "All right," he admits. "I'll go announce your readiness to your new master. Wait here."