The Stake War: A Tale of Zhor

Most Zhorians believe that the Overlords, superior beings, perhaps immortal, imagined to be just below the gods, serve the deities above them and guide those below them, i.e. humankind. Like the Olympians of ancient Greece, the Overlords are held to favor those who win glory through heroic deeds. Individual prowess is celebrated on Zhor. Some cities have even erected shrines to their departed champions and, from generation to generation, have regarded the conquerors of yore as virtual demigods.

Despite this, the Overlords do not favor ruinous wars. They limit the weapons of war to such things as swords and bows, and keep political power disseminated widely across the face of Zhor. In this way, their world does not follow the regrettable path of empire-building, a trend that has brought such woe to the planet Earth.

As in most heroic societies, wars on Zhor are frequent but small. It is ambitious warlords, seeking to aggrandize themselves and to rule many cities, that cause the most damage. These despots tend to have quick, violent ends, undoubtedly because the Overlords do not favor them. Nor do the cities that tolerate such reckless leadership seem to prosper.

The statesmen of Zhor have found ways to allow their males to prove themselves before their people, even while limiting the carnage of battle. It is for that reason that the "Stake War" tournament came to be. It is a trial by combat in which individual excellence is maximized, but the damage to the polity of Zhor is minor. The disputes between two cities are now commonly settled by a duel of heroes.

If the contention is over a tract of land, or an outrageous affront to the dignity of a city, the polis whose defender has been defeated is duty-bound to make good the fair demands of the victorious. Land is transferred and compensation is paid. The tournament does not created lasting animosities, unlike wars. City-states that have been infuriated enemies oftentimes become allies within a few years of a Stake War.

In time, the Stake War changed. It not only served to settle disputes, but also became a contest of honor. A duel, or several duels, came to be held in a day, often gracing grand festivals, like the meeting of sports teams on the planet Earth.

On Zhor, the cycle of these festivals might be once per decade, once per five years, once per every three years, or even once each year. No important issues need be settled. Even friendly cities may compete, to publicly display of the martial skill of their sons. A victor in the Stake War is well rewarded, usually out of a settlement paid to his city by the defeated polis. But Zhorians spurn the inglorious idea of chasing after gold. They are a lusty people and prefer the rewards of honor above crass gain. There is a saying, "A beautiful woman is better than an estate."

Before the synthesis of Ruk's Serum, a single woman of the town represented each duelist. The higher her rank, the higher was the honor of winning against her champion. Whereas in Earth's Medieval Europe, a noblewoman would merely grant her warrior-champion a token to wear into battle, the woman herself of Zhor becomes the token, or the stake of battle.

Typically, the maid allows herself to be shackled to a wooden post where the duel is fought, her face exposed to view. Sometimes she is adorned in trim garments; the manner of her display is intended to boast of how beautiful are the women of her city, and how glorious and fertile in culture is the city itself. If a champion of the woman's town loses the duel, she is stripped by the exultant victor and taken to his home to be his vaecwei – his slave. Should she escape and return to her own city, her clan would be honor-bound to return her to her legal master. Great indeed is the honor of the warrior whose home is graced by more than one stake-token, collared-and-branded wenches whom he has won amid the lists of champions.

Many maidens have gone to the stakes confident that they are defended by the best of their men and by their city's gods. "Against the will of the gods," the saying goes, "no woman can be enslaved." It is also said, "If the gods deem that one should serve on her knees, no effort can alter her fate." But, alas, history has shown that it is often the gods' will that a woman shall become a captured token. Ironically, the “children of shame” that she may bear in bondage will grow up to be proud defenders of the very polis that the lady's city had challenged.

But for some considerable time now, with the availability of Ruk's Serum, the prize of choice in many of these stake wars has become not a natural-born woman, but a serum girl. This change makes good sense and is widely popular. Serum girls are transformed males of Zhor, and many of them were formerly warriors. To take home, enslaved, one who, in times past, has been a dauntless opponent of one's city is considered to be a triumph of special sweetness. If, in the past, the serum girl has slain some of the city's warriors as a former warrior herself, is it not proper that she replace those fallen heroes through the rigors she endures on the child bed?

Then, too, Zhorians feel that a born woman is a citizen of glorious worth. A serum girl is held in lower esteem, as one whom the gods have spurned in some way. Even nobles, transformed by Ruk's serum, feel the stigma. It is fortunate, therefore, that the customs of the Stake War have allowed serum girls a special dignity, permitting them to volunteer to be tokens of war. The status of a serum girl whose champion vanquishes his opponent usually lives in dignity forever after.

For the women whose champions lose the test, their fate is slavery. Custom forbids ransoming, for that would corrupt the proceedings with the greed for gold. Also, it would also be unfair for the less wealthy classes who cannot pay princely ransoms. Zhorians do not believe that honor should be for sale.

It must be said, however, that in some cities, more cities every year, the Stake War has taken a fascinating turn. Under the newer customs, the defeated warrior is himself is placed in at the feet of his conquer. Before his on-looking countrymen, he is given an injection of Ruk's Serum. The winning warrior, oftentimes, comes to the games with the exact vintage of the serum that he wants his defeated opponent to receive. The injection vial typically displays a small picture of the girl that the genetic cocktail will bring into being. Most victors wish to receive serum girls of great beauty into their beds. Moreover, the lusty zeal with which a champion subjects his new pleasure slave to vaec-pelda (the – traditionally -- unwilling initiation of a new slave or captive female into sex) consummates his victory.

When the subdued warrior has become a beautiful woman, "he" is customarily taken to the winner's city and paraded as the centerpiece of a procession. Afterwards, the stake-token (so the girl is called) is publicly collared and branded, oftentimes by the very man who has vanquished "her." Once a combat-prize becomes a slave, she is a slave true. A master may sell her outright, either privately or on a public block. In fact, stake-war tokens bring high bids in local markets; sometimes, pleasure houses and expensive taverns will offer extravagant sums, knowing that patrons will flock to be entertained by mortified fallen enemies. But the prestige of a man who has won his token by skill at arms is so lofty that most stake-war victors prefer to keep their slaves as status symbols for so long they can afford such an expensive self-indulgence.

Obviously, there are cases in which a warrior has conquered and tamed a former opponent, only to be himself defeated later, becoming another man's lovely trophy. In such a case, “he” will probably undergo the same type of treatment that his vanquished enemy had earlier received at his hands. Zhorians will invariably say that all that occurs on the face of Zhor is the will of the gods and they do not ponder the right or wrong of it. Their society admires winners and does not for long remember the names of the fallen.

The ultimate fates of trophy girls are various. But one renowned story is so unusual that it bears repeating here. It is recorded that a warrior named Lial, of the city of Sharsina, was bested in the lists and taken to his conqueror's city, having first been injected with Ruk's Serum – an event witnessed by the dismayed eyes of his fellow citizens. But the victor, whose name was Valdam of Cromaar, did not force “her” to ride in the parade that celebrated the humiliation of Lial's city; he found a similar-looking girl to perform as a substitute. The former swordsman, Lial, was, however, bound and subjected to branding. Valdam additionally put a silver collar upon the blonde girl's throat, but required her to wear the silver collar of her status only as far as the city gates of Cromaar, Valdam's city.

Lial was expecting vaec-pelda and a life of confinement in Valdam's pleasure stable (as the harems of Zhor are called), but what she learned at the city gate astonished her.

Valdam was offering to immediately send Lial back home, to Sharsina via caravan. She would, he said, be permitted to dwell half the year in her own city, and half the year in the city of Valdam, as long as she wished. Most interestingly, when she was with Valdam, she would not be treated as a pleasure slave, but as a guest. That is, she would be allowed to dress as she chose, be attended by servants, and have an allowance for her own use. Her free time was hers to use as she saw fit.

"What trick is this?" demanded the branded, collared wench.

“It is no trick. I am a man of my word,” Valdam told her.

Well might the serum girl be suspicious, for she knew that had the fight gone differently, had the gods favored her in the lists, Lial had been already decided to be harsh in his victory. The warrior of Sharsina would have subjected Valdam to the degradation of vaec-pelda, and put her to demeaning domestic tasks when he wasn't demanding her attendance upon him.

"No trick," the man of Cromaar insisted. "I am my city's champion. I am not so desperate to find a bed-warmer that I need to endure the grudging company of one who denies that she is either a woman or a slave. I have better things to do. Go where you will, and play at being a free serum girl for as long as you wish."

“Where is the spider in the scrip?” Lial asked, using the old saying.

"It is this. When you tire of a miserable existence, unable to live as either man nor woman, you may, of your own volition, kneel with crossed wrists before me. Then you will begin living the life of a true pleasure slave. From that moment on, for as long as you are my possession, you will be treated as the commonest sort of brolling wench, one whose only value shall lie in her silken body and her beauty. You will be wearing pleasure silk, slave-face, and scent. You shall work at chores suitable for one who is a owned girl. Disobey a free person's order after you have made your submission and you shall know the sting of the girl-whip."

Lial certainly did not wish to be treated as a slave, and wanted nothing better than to leave the despicable city of Cromaar, so she accepted the offer. She returned home to Sharsina with the caravan, but found herself unwelcome. A girl who is legally enslaved is considered dead under the law. She is not regarded as a person, but a kind of livestock. By returning and presuming to claim familial connections, Lial had unwittingly mortified her family.

Her own brother said to Lial, "You were a fool, sister. What good does your homecoming do? We already held your funeral. Words of praise were spoken over your grave for your patriotism and courage. By coming back as you are, all who pronounced your eulogies must now be choking on their words. Open your eyes, Lial, you are not the person you were; you are nothing at all. You walk among us as a ghost. No one is comfortable with a a ghost. Whenever you are seen, people either laugh or spurn you, and by spurning you, they also spurn our house.

"The gods willed your defeat and its consequences," he continued. “You should have thrown your master's leniency back into his face by kneeling and crossing your wrists at once. In that way, you would have done dignity to the man you once were and also to the unfree girl whom you shall be forevermore. What did you expect to find in Sharsina except ignominy? Don't you see what the rogue has done? He has used you as a weapon to twist the knife of his city's victory more deeply and cruelly into our own polis' guts."

Lial was amazed by this attitude, but soon realized that many of her relation shared the same opinion, though they seldom were so gentle in expressing it. Her parents soon sent their unwanted daughter to a secluded house that they owned, to live with but a few servants. She was instructed not to attend any family function. "Let our friends and kin remember you as the son who was slain in honorable combat. In time they will forget about you," they said.

Lial would have brooded for a long time over such treatment, but she was feeling sorely distracted, more so each day. Serum girls have sexual compulsions as strong as a man's, but the serum soon redirects their erotic orientation toward those of their own former sex. Also, the serum contains genes drawn from women for whom bondage was a inborn craving. Such women were known as "natural slaves." So Lial found herself experiencing "slave-need" and "man-need," instincts that were written into her very chromosomes.

It made her furious, but there was no cure. The physician Ruk had not merely wanted to create women from men, but also wanted to give them the qualities of both mind and body that would make pleasure slavery seem natural, even desireable. No serum existed to undo what had been done. This genetically-programmed outlook was impossible to ignore; the life of a free person often felt unnatural and unbearable to a serum girl.

Clutched in the grip of unnatural lust, Lial usually enjoyed only troubled sleep at night. To her mortification, she couldn't help fantasizing about being with a man, often doing scandalous things. To gain sexual relief, she tried to return to those places that had offered gratification to her as a young man. But the pursuit of a state of mind already lost was futile and the stress upon Lial was heavy. Sometimes her bodyguard had to carry her home, passed-out drunk. Indeed, the maid was wont to call for cup after cups while joylessly watching serving slaves move through this or that tavern, pouring wine and dancing. Sometimes she would even brol one of them using a false twyl, but such as much as she tried hard to pretend she was with a man, she was not able to.

To attain true release, Lial went to the source of relief. At first hired oernads, lewd men who sold their bodies to rich women for money. When they made love to her, she would imagine that she had been taken captive and was being subjected to vaec-pelda. That fantasy was often on her mind. Lial therefore found an oernad known for creating intense fantasies for his customers, such as his being a slaver who has stripped on bound them, one who would rape them well, to fire them up with man-need and slave-need, before he sold them for profit on a public block. She found such games enjoyably wicked,but even an experienced oernad was capable of only one release, while a serum girl needed to experience several in order to achieve equal satisfaction. That was the curse of being a woman who had been lusty as a male.

By now Lial had entirely lost her desire for women's flesh. She no longer hired girls in taverns. After three months in the city, she had become oriented toward males alone. "You are superb, my wench," casual lovers would tell her. "May Goddess Haliaka bless you with pleasure slavery, so that every man can experience the joy you have bestowed upon me." This complement pleased Lial, but it angered her, too. She blamed herself for enjoying those things that should have made her ashamed. Also, as a promiscuous young male, Lial's lusty exploits had been admired. The same admiration was not extended to girls; those who were aware of her sensuality called her a slut. She began to intensely dislike the town where she had grown up, feeling it had abandoned and betrayed her. But when she considered going back to Cromaar Lial's she wanted to curse and break things.

So the months in Sharsina brought her little peace or sense of self worth. Tired of men who would want to leave her after just one climax, Lial swallowed her pride and became a frequent visitor to slave clubs. In such a place, women were helped by staffers to pretend to be actual slaves, wearing bonds and slave garments if they wished to. Men of the town were allowed to come in, also, and it was possible for a free woman to be intimate with several men she didn't know in a single night. Sometimes, to her shock, a male would come in who knew her. How they laughed as they brolled her as if she were the most common type of slave. And there were others whom she'd known as a male, but who didn't know her face as a girl. Rolling in the silks with the latter type was difficult at first, but with passing time she hardened in her wantonness, and found herself able to brol almost any anyone with gusto.

For a while, her intense slave-club activity allowed her to feel needed relief, but her six months at Sharsina were almost up. She didn't trust Valdam and didn't want to return to him. What if he broke his word and immediately put her under the whip, only common, nude pleasure wench wearing slave-face and a collar? But she had no place to go flee to. Women alone in the world often fell slave, and her fate would could easily be worse than what Valdam held in store for her. When the time was up, her master's servants came to escort Lial back to the city that had ruined her life. It was not so terrible a day as it might have been, since her own city, once so beloved, now held nothing for her. And she could not have stayed for much longer under any circumstances. Under the law, the magistrates would have had no choice but to compel her to go back to her legal master.

When Lial again reached Cromaar, Valdam continued to be as good as his word. He treated his technical slave as he would a guest. However, Lial was expected to attend the social functions that were held by her patron. The other guests regarded her -- a stake-war token who was not living as a slave -- as an oddity, a thing neither fish nor fowl. In fact, her situation was unusual even on Zhor, where life is enjoyed all its endless variations without much note being taken. Lial knew that some persons at these fetes were betting on how long it would be before she knelt with servility before her lord, accepting the ritual binding of her wrists, by her own consent putting herself under the discipline of the whip. But out of respect for their host, they treated the girl with punctilious correctness.

One thing that Lial hated most of all was that Valdam would not give her funds enough to go to the slave clubs. He said that if she would dishonor herself by such activity, he would not pay for it. Her allowance was used up on oernads early each month, and she was left sexually frustrated for weeks at a time. She occasionally had liaisons with Cromaar citizens who found her beautiful, but such rakes never took an uncollared serum girls seriously, and she rarely many love to any of them twice.

Valdam appeared to enjoy Lial's company even though she avoided calling him master and lord, something that he didn't insist upon. Sometimes he took his "guest" carousing. She usually drank too much, just as she had done in Sharsina. One night, in a tavern served by several beautiful cup slaves, Lial realized how much she envied these girls -- their blatant sensuality, their sultry, seductive carriage and, especially, the ease with which they could attain sexual relief. If they hated their lives in bondage, they at least didn't show it. She hated her own life and her face in the mirror told her so. Not for the first time she thought seriously about suicide.

Suddenly, Valdam stroked Lial's knee under the table. She felt the heat of his flesh through her thick winter hose. She glanced at the face of her putative master and frowned. She read desire in his eyes, but this time she was seeing more. This handsome man, she realized, was a better warrior than she had herself been. That made her respect him. The old and bitter resentment that she had nursed seemed to have ebbed away. Also, he was her master, her literal, legal master. She contemplated that word “master.” What did it mean to have a master? What did it mean to be a slave? She had played at being a slave many times, but it had so far only been an erotic game.

Valdam may have sensed the opening of a door into her psyche. If that were the case, he decided to step through it at once, before Lial had a chance to seal her feelings away again. He took her hand. When his supernal stake-prize did not pull it away, the man smiled. "My friend," he said, "would you like to go to a room? The joy that I am more than prepared to give you shall surpass any that you have ever yet discovered in any sordid slave club."

The girl looked at him, perplexed.

"But I caution you. Once I have you naked in my arms, I vow that I shall to do all that I can to ignite you. I think you may know what changes that will bring to your life."

Lial regarded him gravely for a full minute, but the need welling inside of her, that every torments and motivates a serum girl, gnawed at her tortuously. She realized that she had been carrying on like a fool. This was a handsome and courteous man, and their past lives had given them much in common. Instead of rejecting him all this time, she should have been trying to make him her lover. Then, instead of searching the street for lechers and rakes, she would have had a comfortable and convenient bedroom where they both could have enjoyed sexual recreation. Yes, he would always have tried to ignite her if he could, but she had been with many men and hadn't been ignited. She didn't believe that she could be. But the theoretical possibility thrilled her more than frightened her. It was a faint possibility that she could become a slave in her heart and mind as well as under the law added spice to the idea of an assignation. Also, if his performance didn't measure up to his boast, she would have the satisfaction of telling him so with sly and subtle glances.

"I will dare it," she whispered hoarsely.

Valdam led Lial up the stairs. By now the former warrior had been with many different bravos, but something -- she didn't know what -- felt different, more dangerous, this time. It was like something warning her not to step through the door of this particular brolling room. The quandary flashed through her mind. If she went home without fulfillment, she would lay awake all night, gripped by restless sexual need. In a flash, she decided to take the chance instead of the alternative. When they were inside the room together, Valdam immediately left her alone and went downstairs again, leaving her there wondering. He had, in fact, gone to the office of the tavern master to pay the rent of the room for a full night. He also asked the master of the house to send maids up to the chamber to prepare his fetching companion for a night of passion. "She wishes to do it as if she were a slave," he told the man, “and that is what I want also. Have your women prepare her to look like one of the lowly cup girls who so diligently serve your own customers."

The wine-seller nodded thoughtfully. "So it shall be! Brol her well, my friend! Hopefully, some man will collar the fetching wench soon. How pleasing that one would look in pleasure silks!"

Valdam agreed. "All serum girls should become pleasure slaves," said the warrior, "particularly every one who is equally as beautiful."

The taverner went to fetch a pair of his girls and told them what they must do. When he rejoined Valdam, the two men discussed business. The warrior laid down a proposition, and the businessman reactly quite agreeably to it. They shook hands to seal the bargain.

Valdam lingered in the barroom downstairs until the maids informed him that Lial was ready. Upon returning to the brolling room, he saw her, on the floor pillows, nude and with her face painted, a true vision of delight. The warrior saw neither fear nor shame in his favorite's intense expression, only the gnawing hunger of wantonness barely constrained. When he stepped closer, Lial blushed, but when he did not touch her, she became impatient and herself reached out. Valdam was pleased to find Lial so eager to begin their second duel. Taking her by the shoulders, He brought her sweetly painted mouth against his. He took in the perfume of lilacs, and he felt like he was at the gate of paradise. He wished that he could inhale her whole body and make her goddess-like essence part of him.

Lial was gripping him like a famished woman seizing food. Her body, pressing against his, told Valdam that she would allow anything. Ruk's serum had remade Lial into a slut and a seductress, and he thanked Haliaka with all his being that it had done so. Deftly, the warrior lowered his companion down and pinned her against the red silk sheet. Making free play with his hands, he savored the feel of her soft body. He felt like he had just climbed the tallest mountain; he had had been waiting for this moment ever since the girl had returned to Cromaar. The merest sight of her since then, even in unsuitable page-boy-type garments, had punished him with the pangs of desire. He had been fighting down that desire almost every day. How he had wanted her! But he had wanted her his way and his way only.

Meanwhile, Lial had her arms locked around him, kissing his neck and shoulders. Then, with a sudden impulse, she shifted and wrapped her legs around him also. Valdam responded with delight and their love play gained in gusto. He used his one free hand to free his twyl from his hose. The girl gasped and paused to regard it. She was no stranger to the sight or feel of the male scepter, and so she braced herself. Valdam then penetrated her, applying a slow and steady pressure. The girl, made a plaything by her Ruk-inspired instincts, thrust her hips against his, desperate to take in as much of his masculine hardness as possible.

Valdam exulted. The one he held – this sublimely lovely girl -- was actually giving herself over to him as if she truly was a surrendered slave. After treating her as a guest for so long, it took an effort to remind himself that she actually was his legal chattel. He no longer wanted a guest, he wanted a pleasure slave -- and what a pleasure slave his stake-trophy would make! She had been with many other men, he knew, so he did not hold back from being vigorous with her, and bold. Her wild responses informed him that she had already already acquired the most talents that a brolling slave needed to know. Her techniques were those of a free women, but they were more than satisfying at the present moment.

As, truly, Lial was giving of herself without restraint. This was female-style lovemaking such as she had found with no other. It was like she was no longer on solid ground, but lost in the clouds. The maid of Sharsina was at last brought her back to earth by the feel of her master's copious release. His heated balm flooded her womanly cup; neither could Lial hold herself back and she, too, came uncontrollably in his arms, a dissolute woman yielding in absolute surrender to the primordial male.

At the instant of climax, her moaning rose almost to shouting. The wild sensations of their copulation made her think of fire. The rush of her orgasm was the most overwhelming experience she had ever known. In the madness of the moment, she didn't realize that she was surrendering to her slave nature; something was overwhelming her self-control on a genetic level. In that instant, Lial ceased to be whoever, whatever, she had been before, and seamlessly transformed into a mere female animal, a thing lost, body and soul, to the irresistible dictates of Ruk's serum.

As the ultimate change came upon her, the serum girl screamed and dug her nails into her master's back. Then all was still. Both had spent themselves, and magnificently. They still clutched one another, but neither of them moved; a euphoric calm had descended. Lial, the well-brolled wench, the conquered slave, found herself hovering somewhere on high, wafting on a volcanic cloud of caressing heat. This precious sensation, gradually dissipating, made the girl felt as if she was drifting down into a warm and soothing sea of gladness.

Bodies still tightly wrapped together, they slept the sleep of exhausted lovers. The small window eventually filled the room with a subdued light. Valdam blinked away his drowsiness first and sat up. When Lial felt his movement, she opened her eyes. Her master was looking down at her. Something in his stare chilled her. He whispered, "I felt you change last night, sweet one. Do you sense that something is different about yourself?"

Lial frowned thoughtfully. "Yes. But I -- I don't know what it may be, Lord."

He grinned broadly. She had called him lord without having been ordered to do so.

Valdam smiled and touched his captive between the thighs. Lial lurched at the contact. "What you have felt, precious one, is ignition," he told her. "I know, for I have brought other wenches into the glow of slave heat. The best of them reacted just as you have. You are now an ignited pleasure slave, and an ignited pleasure slave you shall remain for all the rest of days."

Lial squirmed away. "No! It's not ignition! I'm not a pleasure slave!" she exclaimed.

Her thoughts whirled. Though she had often fantasized about becoming an ignited vaecwei, one who was helpless in her needs, but the male part of her nature had always rejected the idea. She had told herself that she was too strong to ever succumb to ignition.

Then it dawned on her. What had happened couldn't have happened to a man or a free woman. Somehow, by a journey of tiny steps, she had become both a true woman and a true slave. When all her defenses had been overcome, her master had kindled a blaze of slave-fire inside her.

"You are most assuredly ignited, lovely pet,” Valdam laughed, “and there is no cure for it. The goddess Haliaka blesses her children when they are ready for blessing. She has remade you into the very image of the daughter that she has always intended for you to become." His smile became a broad grin. "You're eyes smolder even when you don't intend them to. You have become exactly the token-prize that I have asked Haliaka to give to me every night since your womanhood began."

Lial rolled over and stared at the wall. She knew about the ignition of serum girls; young men endlessly made jokes about the subject. Lial, as a wild youth and as a warrior, had brolled many of that despised kind -- all of them wanton, compliant creatures tamed by means of brolling and slave discipline. They were pretty animals in heat, unworthy of the slightest respect. They were fit for nothing except harlotry, and it was right that men should reduce them to harlotry. She refused see herself as one of that debased order. Not knowing what to say or do, she reached for her pageboy clothing on the floor.

Valdam nodded. "Go ahead, dress the way that pleases you. You have not knelt before me with crossed wrists, therefore, our agreement continues. Nothing need change between us, not unless you wish it to change. But, lovely one, it will be much harder for an ignited wench to carry on as she had carried on as a free woman – much less as a man. Will your slave fire not consume you if you do not feed it through endless submission to men? Why go back to that terrible place that you have just come from? Doesn't every atom of your spirit cry out for a new and different life? Is it not is high time that the warrior Lial puts away the dead past and become a fully awakened slave girl? Your name is Lial, but you may become my sweet Liala, my property and my delight. All you need to is give your consent by the crossing of your wrists."

She stared up at him. He had called her by a woman's name. As her legal master, he of course had the right to decide what she would be called, but he had never coined a name for her until this moment.

"You are one of the ignited sisterhood," the warrior continued. "No act of a slave's will, no medical treatment, can ever change that. But many new doors shall be opening ahead of you from this day forth. Will you not choose the one of them? Will you not be reborn and begin to live life to the fullest?"

Liala's mind reeled. Her loins were already aching with renewed need. It was so much more intense than ever before. She felt like she would scream; she wanted to leap upon him and -- what? Kill him? No, she yearned to demand that he should brol her all over again. Had she fallen so low? Could she have been so absolutely conquered. Think! She had to think. But how could she think while aching with the pangs of desire. An agony of yearning had her in its grips; the desire to once more please this male -- particularly this male – and also herself – was an almost physical pain. If she gave in to that yearning, how could she ever again pretend that she was anything but a slave. If she even once gave consent to be a slave, a she would be. Nothing she might ever do after that would restore the freedom that she yearned to throw away. What might her life as a stable girl of Valdam be like? Could it be as amazing as something inside her was telling her it could be?

At the Stake War, Liala recalled, Valdam had conquered her as a man. Now she had fallen into another of his traps. He had conquered her again, but this timeb as a woman. She had never anticipated that she could have been so deftly brought down, and so he had been able to take her unawares. Could she deny him what his wiles had won?

One moment she wished to undo the entire night, to make it so that it never had happened. But in the next she wanted to plunge back into the night before and make it happen all over again.

What should she do? The warrior of Cromaar seemed to be holding open before her the door to a new life. He obviously wanted her to enter it. But as tempting the lure was, Liala recognized the danger. Part of her -- intesely -- wanted to know what true slavery was like. But that was a door from which there would be no escape. She would be locking herself into a prison and giving the key to another. On this side of the door, she had some freedom of action. On the other side, that freedom would have been willfully cast away. Would he be merciful to a domestic pet who was so vulnerable, so helpless? Would he be kind?

Liala almost didn't care. She was utterly and absolutely sick of the way in which she had been living. She wanted a change, almost any kind of a change. Even if Valdam deigned to be severe in his mastery of her, it might be exciting. The girl wondered whether she dared to put her fate into the hands of a Zhorian master, like countless serum girls had done before. Like herself, Valdam would have been trained from boyhood how to be courteous to free women and dominating with slaves. She remembered how she -- how Lial -- had treated slaves, slaves whose beauty had inflamed his blood with uncontrollable lust? Would Valdam treat her that way?

She almost hoped so.

What was it that suddenly brought Liala up to her knees? Suddenly, without hardly any volition in on her part, her wrists were moving toward a crossed position. But at the last instant her courage failed.

The ignited girl cursed herself. She had never felt like a coward before, but fear was hot and cold inside her at the same time. Was it such a disgrace to surrender? Every cell of her body was screaming for her to do exactly that? Where was the disgrace? Did she not wear the brand? Did that brand not give her the liberty to express her the need and passion, need and passion that were written with beautiful artistry into her every chromosome, chromosomes that had translated her into a beauty that every man would long to have and to hold? Her own brother had rebuked her for not kneeling with crossed wrists the very day of her lost contest, and her kinfolk had rudely concurred. Did they understand something, some terrible truth, that had not at all been apparent to Liala herself? Why had it taken her so long to understand?

The slave's large eyes, now dewy, timorously met her lord's imperious gaze. She was seeing the stare of a master who understood that he absolutely owned the thing he was looking upon. If she did the right thing, she would pass under the reality of that absolute ownership. So far she had not crossed her wrists. Part of her was ruled by panic, a panic that told her to flee back into the world of yesterday. Why did she hesitate? Was it because she knew yesterday very well and it appalled her. But she did not know what tomorrow held if she found the courage to go in that direction. It might be better; it could hardly be worse.

Oh, why didn't he command her to cross her wrists, to make her say, "I am your slave"? Anything he ordered, she knew, she would instantly perform. Oh, yes, she had been well mastered. Ye gods! It was true; she had been mastered. Her Ruk genes had, at last, imposed the stamp of “slave” upon her mind, her heart, her soul. Resisting them had made her svelte, smooth body an envelope of torment, a container of lust that screamed for satisfaction. It was like an alien spirit had entered her being and it made her want to obey, to submit. What, even now, could Valdam demand for her to do that she would not perform instantly? She longed to hear him say, "Declare youself a pleasure slave!" But the infuriating man only stayed in place, kneeling across from her, exuding calmness He was too strong and too certain of his victory to doubt the outcome of his brazen challenge to a weak creature who was only a natural slave and nothing more. Lial, the girl knew only too well, had suffered his second defeat.

This man, she realized, need only wait in order to receive her abject surrender.

The dog! He could have ended her anguish by a few words, words she could not disobey. But he would not say them. He wanted her, as her last act of free will, to accept the age-old contract of the master and the slave.

Why could she not do that. Was it the tiny piece inside her that was still a man? 'Oh, fool!' she thought. 'That is not what you are!'

Was it a vestige of her pride?

To one side, Liala saw her reflection in the long mirror that hung upon the door. It shocked her. It reflected a slave girl, one who could have made Lial ache with physical need. The girl's face-paint, though, she now observed was smeared. Yet how beautiful and sexual that creature appeared, how sensuous and desirable. She looked like no man's lover, no man's wife. What she looked like was a whore -- and such a whore! What man would not wish to throw such a one down on her back and brol her frantically, filling her with virile balm until he had no more balm to give. She was in Valdam's power; her could treat her that way, but was waiting for something from her. Did he not want make her his branded she-beast and lock her in his stable? Was there something about her that disgusted him?

Liala sobbed. No, that was not it.

Valdam, she knew, wanted her surrender. He would not deign to glorify her by making her his slave unless she begged for the privilege.

But what did she want? She could put on those boyish clothes again and walk away. That was the sensible thing to do, wasn't it? Today could be like yesterday. Why had she not done that already?

It was like someone was whispering into her secret mind. It was saying that she was an ignited girl and that an ignited girl needed a lover. It was saying that yesterday had been no great day. It was saying that all her yesterdays had been, in fact, terrible. Behind her was -- nothing. It was saying that there was only the bare chance of a better future in the possibility of a totally new life, a life that was hers to choose.

Valdam read turmoil in the girl's face, the face that had for so long filled his thoughts and obsessed him. He stood up, went to his pack, and drew a silver slave collar from it. He said over his shoulder, "I had this neckband inscribed while you were in still the throes of your transformation. You wore it once. It names you Liala and declares you my property. From that first day I knew that you would be Liala, and that we two would share a moment like this one. I've kept near at hand, hoping for the day when you would finally understand what is destiny truly was, and that you would consent for me to place it around your throat."

Liala regarded the gleaming object. The invading spirit inside her, that slave girl spirit, had suddenly become riotously powerful. Her stronger self was telling her that she should beg to wear that collar.

Then Valdam placed the silver choker at her knees and took a pair black leather submission cuffs from his gear. These, too, he offered to the pretty wench. She closed her eyes. Liala's body language conveyed her consent so profoundly that it could have echoed from the walls just like an audible shout. The slave insider her was yearning for him to do his will. He read her desires only too well and, accordingly, placed one pair on her wrists, and then brought out another pair, with which to encircle her ankles. Liala was keeping her eyes closed as he adorned her, afraid to see what she wore, lest they make her wavering resolution weaker still. This moment seemed familiar, because she had fantasized exactly this many times before. Were all her fantasies about to come true? Oh, what a wretch she would be if she let that happen.

Save me, Lial!

Where was Lial? Liala couldn't feel him. Instead she felt the slave spirit, that lascivious little minx that had caused her to lift her cuffed wrists and had tried to make her cross them. She was trying to make her do that again. But once more the lovely nude girl hesitated.

“Master, please. Force me. Don't make me accept slavery by my own will.”

He shook his head. "No. Slavery must be your own heart's desire. So, how is it? Does my slave cross her wrists?"

A blonde wench sobbed. This man so well understood the natural slavery that had taken possession of her, that lived in every fiber of her being. He knew she was striving against the clawing need of a pleasure slave, a compulsion so intense that she wanted to cry out under the press of it. Suddenly, with a burst of courage, like one who will dare sea to escape the fire comsuming her vessel, Liala, called forward the irresistable spirit of the slave inside her and let her say the fateful words: "She -- she does -- cross her wrists."

And so Liala, slave of Cromaar, once a warrior of Sharsina, granted her master permission to enslave her. The moment that she did so, she saw her master's face change. The change was so profound that she gasped. His face was no longer that of a man she knew, but the face of an absolute monarch.

She shivered, for the words could not be taken back. She was a domestic beast because she had declared it so herself. She, Liala, was Valdam's self-declared pleasure slave. There would be no more choices for her. Her master would make the choices for her from this point forward.

And, despite all her feel about her transformation, if she could have taken her words back, she didn't want to.

Valdam calmly took a cord from his pocket and bound her crossed wrists together; he didn't draw tight the knot; it wasn't necessary for the ritual. Then he picked up the collar, opened it by its hinge, and placed it about her slender throat. Liala heard as well as felt, the snap of its lock. She felt faint; slavery, true slavery, had become her undeniable reality.

"Say it, pretty wench," the male commanded.

"I...I am a slave girl -- and y-you are my master!" she stammered.

Valdam stood there, savoring – or perhaps marveling at – the attainment of his most fondly-held dream. He now held absolute mastery -- possession, ownership -- of this beautiful, beautiful woman.

Liala trembled, trying to appreciate the thing that she had done to herself. She was no longer a legal human being. Society would regard her as no more than a pretty animal, a pet, livestock. She was no longer a male warrior, but a female object of sensual desire. She looked again at the mirror. What she saw now was a slave girl who had a master. What she saw was a pleasure slave who was named Liala.

The slave girl touched her neckband like a free woman might touch a diamond necklace, continuing to watch her reflection as she did so. What was it about the object on her throat that made her appear so much prettier than she had a few moments before? On impulse, she glanced down at her left flank, at her brand. It was not like a livestock brand; her flesh had been prepared to receive the iron by an ointment that would allow no scarring. The iron had placed a clean mark, like a very shallow stamp into sealing wax. If men liked this precious brand so very much, how could she herself dislike it? This mark declared to the world what she was. Some of the garments she would be wearing from now on would be so brief that men would be able to see her defining mark as she walked by them, as they smelled the sweetness of her perfume, as they admired her face, made striking with delicately-applied paint. Such thoughts, as she stared at the perfectly-made slave-brand, brought a smile to her lips.

You are such a hopeless slut, she thought.

A wanton little pleasure slave exhaled and then filled her lungs again. Hers was like the deep breath that one takes before launching on a new adventure. Lial had always owned an adventurous spirit, but where did this new adventure begin for Liala? The answer now seemed so simple. Forward! Always forward. No longer would she have to find the way herself. Her master would find it for her. One door had closed behind her, but she would not, could not, trace her steps. Her master would not allow it.

The slave from Sharsina settled forward onto her belly, sighed, and tried to place into order all that had happen, tried to reason out who and what she was, and how she would fit into a new and unknown way of life.

Her own family didn't want her, that was painfully true. They had told her that her old life was over, that she was dead to them.

Her brother had told her she should cross her wrists and submit. Now she had done so.

Already the memory of the family of her old life seemed to grow faint and distant.

But with Valdam it was different. He was here, as solid as a mighty statue of bronze. He looked down on her as one who was more than merely human. Her adoration of him lifted him beyond the bounds of mere humanity. In her mind she asked, Haliaka, grant me a satisfying life kneeling at his feet.

The champion of Cromaar could not miss that small smile on his wench's lips. At this moment, their whole world consisted only of the two of them. No witness had been required to make Liala his pleasure slave. She had been publicly marked with his brand long before this moment. To make her his chattel in the most satisfying way possible, he had waited. He had waited, although at any time he could have reduced the slim and light-bodied creature to obedience by force. That had always been unacceptable, because she had been like a goddess to him, not a mere woman. His dream had been to be wanted by her as much as he had wanted her. So, instead, he had waited until her femaleness and her slave nature had overwhelmed her. Now his joy was complete.
It had been important to him that his girl should make the right choice -- right not so much for him as for herself. What he saw in her eyes he recognized as the look a freed prisoner, of one who was stepping out of a dark cell and into a life renewed.

The warrior knelt by his stake prize, took her satiny cheeks between his palms, and kissed her mouth, hard. For Liala, being kissed as a slave for the first time by her acknowledged master was as profound has having been her branding -- but the kiss carried the heat of passion, not the heat of a charcoal burner. Liala, like a puppet moved her slave-girl spirit, fell in against him. Her murmurs of pleasure turned into mews and into sobs as joy surged through her. She threw her slender arms around his shoulders and wept breathlessly.

Valdam let her weep out of herself all the tears she had. Then, at length, when Liala quieted, the warrior smiled the smile of one who had attained his heart's desire. It had only been one girl's folly that had delayed this moment for so long. For this moment, at lealst, Liala was wise.

But folly was not a thing a person could easily put away for long, he knew. It would return again, if he allowed it. He must not allow anything of the kind. It could ruin what could be a shared life of joy.

His voice, gentle up to now, grew stern. "You must learn to be a good thrall."

His blunt statement startled Liala, but she responded quickly. "I shall be the best of thralls -- master!"

"Your name is now Liala. Lial is dead," Valdam told her.

"I thank my master. Liala is a fine name for a...slave."

The warrior chuckled. "It is an especially fine name for a pleasure slave."

She blushed, charmed. "Yes, master, especially for a pleasure slave!"

"You attitude to life must change. It must change absolutely."

The girl in his arms nodded. "A slave wishes to change, absolutely."

He suddenly released her and stood up. She started to rise likewise, but he held her down with a hand on her shoulder. "No, sit where you are," he said. "I cannot yet take you home with me."

"Lord?" she asked.

"It will take time and hard work for one who has lived a misguided life to become a person who deserves to be loved."

She frowned. What was he saying?

"You have been proud, my pretty Liala. You have been contrary in almost every particular. Though you have pleased me greatly since last night, you are by nature willful and your defiant ways will certainly steal back upon you.”

“No, master!”

He shook his head. “You so little understand yourself. You are a raw slave with history of bad behavior.”

“It's true. Forgive me master!”

“I could say 'I forgive you,' but lenience would only encourage a wench to misbehave. What then? I do not wish to punish one who means my whole life to me, or tell any servant of mine to do the cruel task for me. A trainer, a stranger, should be the guiding hand that teaches a slave that she is truly a slave. You shall be trained, and training will be good for you. It will make you pleasant company and teach you well how to please a man. Once you are refined as a pleasure slave, we may be happy together. Not before.”

Liala was looking up into his face, aghast, wondering what he intended. Who would train her?

"I have arranged matters with the master of this tavern,” he said. “He is a friend of mine; he will board you. You shall perform under his sway as a cup girl. Your work shall pay for your food and lodging while you learn obedience, etiquette, and useful skills. I have asked him to treat you like a common wench, as if you were purchased raw at some public marketplace. In six months, when you know yourself to be a slave in every particle of your lovely body, I shall come back for you.

Liala knelt there speechless. Her master loomed, regarding her. At last he said, "I am not jealous of your virginity, because you have none. You have been shameless, carrying on like a harlot for months. So be it! If harlotry is congenial with the sort of girl you are, you shall learn harlotry well. In fact, ex-harlots make the most treasured of pleasure slaves. You will learn about cooking, cleaning, mending, housekeeping. You will be trained in dance, and learn how to dress, to move sensuously, and how to beautify a body as perfect as yours. Your natural wantonness shall serve you well, for every cup girl is required to be absolutely shameless. Does my pet understand all that I have said?"

Liala's head swam at the horrifying thought of all that lay in store for her. But as terrible as her fate was to be, she couldn't refuse, couldn't defy her master in any way. If she did, he might stop loving her. Dazed, the blonde wench nodded slowly. "Y-Yes, Master."

Valdam kissed the girl on the top of her head and then left the room. He was determined not to return for many a day. It would help his stake-prize learn more easily if she lived as a cup slave in every way, with no one to complain to. Many slave girls, many of them serum girls, were so trained in taverns and pleasure houses. They almost always came out as excellent and strongly motivated slaves.

Liala did not remain alone for very long; a lash-slave of the house came for her. She was a tall, strong, attractive woman, but her expression was severe. The new cup girl's instruction was to begin immediately. At first, the wench from Sharsina was willing to cooperate in order to please Valdam, but the mortifying way she was treated soon turned Liala's mood to defiance. Despite her good sense, there were too many things to be revolted at. The staffers took her rebellion in stride. They had trained many Ruk wenches before, even those who had been hardened soldiers previously. Though not professional slavers, tavern staffs knew well how to create the best of cup girls out of even the most unpromising material.

The first real lesson Liala learned was about how punishment came quickly to any slave girl who was not pleasing. The commonest discipline was switching. For more grave offenses, there was the strap. For a wench who continued to be troublesome, there was the girl-whip. The tool was amazingly painful, even though it was crafted as to not break the skin and create scars. The earliest weeks of a cup girl's training were always the harshest, and this was certainly true with Liala. To avoid more punishment, the raw cup girl learned to put away her free-citizen ideas about rights and respect. She had to discipline her mind to not only act like a slave, but to internalize the fact that she actually was one. "Breaking a girl to the collar," was what slavers called this initial process.

The punishment that the tavern slave came to dread the most was being "chaste bound." In constraint, a wench was given a strong dose of the aphrodisiac vaid and put into chains, to languish in chastity for hours, or even days. In the grip of the herb, suffering an induced arousal that made even worse her already extreme libido, Liala would lay sleepless, so much in in man-need that it could drive her to tears. Once released, Liala would swear to herself that she would never again do anything that could lead more chaste binding. Alas, Liala was by nature hot tempered and an impulsive bit of sass would result in more punishment.

All the cup girls in this particular tavern were Ruk-maids. Other establishments used all born-women. In general, homogeneity worked best, for the two varieties of women tended to not get along. All the lash slaves were women born because tavern masters wanted the trainers to be emotionally estranged from the serum girl they taught to be cup slaves. Most bon-women slaves had entered bondage by dangerous men, and when they punished a serum girl, remade her into a creature of perfect manners and obedience, it made t hem feel like they were getting revenge.

The usual term of a training contract was three months, but Valdam had arranged for Liala to stay a cup girl for six. He had wanted her thoroughly and expertly trained in every particular. He wanted her mind to become the mind of a true slave girl. But there was no such thing as a typical pleasure slave. As the months passed, Liala discovered within herself a strength and self-discipline that went beyond even that required by a warrior. Her desire to be back with Valdam and to see nothing but satisfaction in his eyes became the anchor that allowed her to remain a person of her own. Liala was punished more and more seldom as she became more even-tempered and obedient. After only three months, there was a blonde wench who would have seemed to almost any customer to be absolutely indistinguishable from any of the other girls pouring wine. But Laila was required to stay for another three months beyond that.

After a while it became hard for Liala to remember that she had ever lived any other type of life, or that she could ever hope to be anything other than a harlot and a cup girl. By she had progressively been integrating with the other cup girls, becoming one of them in every particular. Her thoughts were like theirs and she acquired similar instincts. Her hopes and dreams were like theirs – except that she still held on to the idea that Valdam would truly come back for her. Sometimes she worried that becoming no more than an ordinary cup girl would make Valdam love her less.

There were days when she realized that she no longer knew herself. Where once Liala had once dreaded the entire idea of giving teur, Liala the cup girl came prefer offering the pleasure of her lips and tongue to full-on brolling. The latter was very taxing, for it was usual for a cup girl to entertain in private over two dozen different men each day. Rather than be taxed to hard physically, Liala found herself offering teur in preference to any other delight.

Valdam had wanted his stable girl to learn to dance, and so had seen to it that she would be taught to do so, including the Dance of Slow Revealing. Liala showed a talent that surprised even herself, drawing in larger crowds than the other dancers. So acclimated had the supernally beautiful wench come to dancing and seduction that it pleased her to draw attention as she passed through the serving room followed by so many hot, lustful eyes. The sensuous, swaying walk that had become instinctive was exceptionally alluring.

Liala was counting the days, but when Valdam finally returned his arrival was a surprise, because he had come a full week before he had promised to. The man's glance fell upon an astonishingly lovely blonde, a half-clad wench with long, alluring legs and undulating hips. He went to her, took the tray from her hands, set it on a table, and crushed her lips against his. They were home an hour later. That night, wrapped in her master's warm arms, Liala, like her master, had much to rejoice about.

In time, Lial's family in Sharsina only remembered a son who had died honorably. They did not care to see again Valdam's slave girl again. Nor would Liala think about them. She had had no family since the day that she had received Ruk's Serum. Alas, Zhorians are not a sentimental people and their way of life requires the emotional discipline they needed to deal with loss. Such inner strength helps sufferers rise above their pain, and by rising above it with strong minds and courageous hearts, they spare themselves much sorrow.

Meanwhile, Liala, became one of three girls who made up the stable of Valdam. The other two had been there before, but as Lial she had paid them little attention and treated them merely as servants. But now they were her equals and she had to compete with them for their master's favor. As it turned out, she competed very well. Valdam had ceased to fight in the stake wars and for this Liala was grateful, so much did she fear losing him. And, she feared just as much his victory, for Valdam's favorite certainly did not want him to bring home some new stake-trophy, one who might potentially win him away from her.

Liala enjoyed a good life in Cromaar. As Valdam's favorite, she often danced for her master. Valdam did not make exuberant avowals of love for his pretty wench, for slaves are easily made vain by praise, and he had no use for vanity. In his heart, though, Liala surpassed his every imagining of what he prized in a love-slave. He remembered to honor the goddess Haliaki, as much as a free male might do in a seemly manner. She had worked her magic very well on the lovely, but unpromising, captive he had taken from Sharsina. It was like she was his every treasure rolled up into one. He intended to never sell the wench, and for her part, Liala served her lord with a zeal. It thrilled her that Valdam allowed her to call him her love-master, and she sought to anticipate all his wishes. She learned to polish his manly pride in his absolute ownership of her until it beamed like the sun. She never tired of recounting to him his many wonderful qualities, and a man never tires in basking in the admiration of a perfect woman, one he would not want to live without. In such moment, he would especially please Liala by referring to her as his love slave. When he did, the joy of his vaecwei seemed to know no bounds.

Life continued like this with Liala for a long while, until the day when --

But we should say no more. That is another story.


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