If you haven’t, I suggest reading the Introduction before reading this.
First, the obligatory legal shit:
This is fiction, y’all. Any similarities to any person/place/thing/whatever is purely coincidental. Also, it’s fiction. Don’t try this shit at home.
Trigger warnings: this is pretty heavy in the consensual nonconsent category, as well as straight-up nonconsent. Themes of rape and assault are common.
Also, I live in Nevada. The legal age of consent in my state is 16, and there is the mention of an adult having sex with a minor in this story. By continuing to read this, you acknowledge that it is legal where you live to read stories that involve sex with 16- or 17-year-olds.
M’kay, cool? Cool. So once upon a time….
Kieran shifted again, trying unsuccessfully to rotate his hip. His leg had gone numb a long time ago, as well as both his arms.
Sighing, he switched his focus to his mouth, using his tongue to try and adjust the gag. He knew that his jaw would be agonizingly stiff tomorrow. He also knew that, when he was finally released from the position he was kept in, the blood rushing back to his limbs would be excruciatingly painful.
Still, he preferred that, and every minute spent tied up and gagged on the floor of the basement was a minute he didn’t have to spend with the man who owned him.
He would deal with the pain, and the stiffness, and the soreness, all night if he had to, if it meant that he would be left locked in the basement, would be left alone.
But he knew he wasn’t that lucky. His owner, Dryas Roubanis, had spent quite a long time that afternoon scrubbing him, grooming him, and cleaning him inside and out. And the more time he’d spent doing it, the more Kieran’s heart had sunk.
“On your knees,” he hissed, shoving Kieran roughly to the floor of the bathroom. Anticipating the move, Kieran caught himself and was able to keep from cracking his knees on the tile. He immediately straightened up, locking his hands behind his back, waiting for what Dryas would do to him.
He wanted to watch, to see what his owner was doing, but obediently kept his eyes glued to the floor. But he could hear Dryas moving around the room. He groaned inwardly when he heard the faucet turn, and water began filling up the tub.
If he was meant to service and bathe Dryas, he would have been the one to draw the bath. The fact that his owner chose to do it, himself, meant that Kieran was going to be prepared for something. The “something” he was being prepared for wasn’t going to be pleasant.
A rough hand unhooked the clasp on his shoulder, and his tunic fell to the floor. In the next instant, a hand grabbed him by the hair and yanked him up to his feet. Grimacing, he did his best to follow the movements, trying to lessen the pain.
“Get in,” Dryas spat, shoving him toward the tub. Finally free from the hand holding his hair, Kieran stumbled forward, quick to obey. The slightest hesitation, he knew, would bring pain.
Obey, he thought to himself, shutting all other thoughts out of his mind. Just obey.
He stepped into the tub, into the warm water, but the warmth brought him no comfort. He tried not to think about what was about to happen to him, tried not to remember what happened whenever Dryas wanted to bathe him, tried not to remember what such preparation meant.
There was no gentleness in Dryas’ touch as he washed the dirt from Kieran’s body. And it took everything Kieran possessed within him to keep from cringing. The last thing he wanted in the world was his owner’s hands on him, but that was yet another thought shut out of his mind. He refused to acknowledge it.
Slaves didn’t have the luxury of deciding who touched them, who used them.
At least Dryas enjoyed Kieran’s reluctance, and he didn’t have to feign enthusiasm like he did when made to entertain his owner’s guests.
That thought momentarily broke through his forced blankness and shattered his focus. This kind of preparation meant he would be used to entertain guests for the evening. He would be used, hard and often, perhaps beaten, for the enjoyment of Dryas’ friends.
When he felt Dryas’ big, rough hands on him, pushing him to bend at the waist, he closed his eyes, bracing himself on the edge of the tub, his chest tight, his breath trembling and shallow. He couldn’t stop the whimper from escaping him when he felt Dryas behind him, spreading his cheeks and exposing his hole, still sore and raw.
“What’s the matter, little bitch?” Dryas demanded, roughly massaging the tender hole with his thumb. “You want my cock inside you?”
“Please, Dominus,” Kieran begged. They both knew he wasn’t begging for his owner to fuck him, but for his owner to stop hurting him.
But that didn’t bother Dryas in the slightest. He only laughed, pushing his thumb further in to Kieran. “You’re lucky I already have plans for this hole tonight. But there’s no reason I can’t use your other one.”
He pulled out of Kieran and grabbed him by his hair once more, pushing him own farther, until he was eye-level to Dryas’ groin. The young slave waited, watching as Dryas pulled his chiton up, revealing his cock, already half hard.
Dryas didn’t say a word, just coarsely pulled Kieran forward, shoving his cock deep into the helot’s mouth.
Kieran tightened his throat, bracing for the pounding of his owner’s cock. But this was heaven compared to the other option. Given the choice between sucking his owner’s cock and being fucked, he’d choose sucking ten times out of ten.
Sucking cock was something he was used to. Something he could handle. And thankfully, he was very good at it, which made his mouth attractive. Attractive enough to make Dryas choose it over his ass often enough to keep the pain at a manageable level.
Dryas was never gentle with him, and he wasn’t gentle now. His cock forced its way down his throat, past his gag reflex, threatening to choke him, but he quickly learned the rhythm and adjusted his breathing.
It wasn’t comfortable, but it was far preferable to when Dryas fucked him. And thankfully, his owner never lasted all that long in his mouth. Less than ten minutes later, Dryas’ thrusts became more frenzied, more brutal, and with a low, snarling, animalistic grunt, he pumped Kieran’s mouth full of his seed.
Kieran sighed with relief, swallowing his owner’s cum. It was over. And Dryas was always less interested in causing pain after he came.
“Turn around,” Dryas said almost immediately. “I’m not done with you yet. You’ve got a big night ahead of you.”
His owner only took that kind of time with him when he was expecting company, which meant Kieran would be the evening’s entertainment. Dryas liked to show off, and since Kieran had the bad fortune of being exceptionally beautiful and looking much younger than his 19 years, he was brought out often to entertain his owner’s friends.
But even then, his owner had never spent this much time making him presentable. Whoever he was expecting was someone he was obviously eager to impress. Which meant that if Kieran made even the smallest mistake, he would pay dearly for it.
Kieran half-heartedly wondered who it could be. Some wealthy nobleman, most likely. Dryas was past the typical marrying age, and was keen to find a wife. It was entirely likely that this evening was an attempt to garner the favor of a pretty Spartan or her father.
Maybe he would marry a kind woman. Maybe she would be gentle with Kieran.
Or maybe she would be just as cruel as Dryas.
Kieran sighed softly. It didn’t matter. He would serve whoever his owner told him to serve. Such was his punishment for the unforgivable crime of being born a helot.
He was nearing his 20th birthday. That meant he had 15 more years. Then, he would either be euthanized, or sold to the State.
Or, if the gods had any kind of compassion, maybe sold to a breeder as a sire.
With any luck, he’d gain value as a sire once he lost his value as a pleasure slave. He’d been raised by a breeder, and came from a long line of solid genetics and beautiful, obedient slaves. His dam’s lineage could be traced back a dozen generations, and his sire had always been exceptionally obedient, and had looked remarkably young for his age.
His sire had been valuable, sure, but it was his dam that made Kieran’s own value skyrocket. She was the breeder’s prized possession, and his pet. He always made sure she was comfortable, he always went out of his way to keep her healthy, and even waited six months in between breeding her, when most dams were bred within six weeks of giving birth.
Kieran thought back, his mind wandering through his memories of her. She’d been graceful, and she’d had a quiet dignity about her. It was as if she’d been born for breeding. She conceived easily, her body kept its shape and its beauty even when she was in the later stages of pregnancy, and every birth had been smooth and without complications.
From what Kieran remembered, all her offspring fetched high prices. No matter who she was bred to, she created strong, healthy, beautiful children. All quiet and obedient. All smart enough to know how to serve, including those little nuances that couldn’t be taught, like when to be attentive, and when to disappear.
But he looked the most like her, he had the same big, dark brown eyes, the same brown hair, tinged with red in the right lighting, the same attractive, soft features. Aside from that, he’d also inherited his sire’s tendency to look much younger than his age. Kieran was the easily most beautiful of all her offspring.
So it didn’t really surprise him when Dryas paid the hefty fee to keep him whole, rather than sterilize him, as was done with most slaves. If Kieran behaved himself and kept his youthful appearance for the next 15 years, he could potentially be sold to a breeder, and live the next couple of decades in relative comfort.
Sure, he wouldn’t be treasured and kept as comfortable as the dams were. Sires were almost always former pleasure slaves, almost always purchased at 35, while good dams were extremely valuable and bred as soon as they hit 16. And, because so many pregnancies and childbirths are hard on the body, they were always kept healthy, well-fed, and given much more than the average helot in terms of luxuries and creature comforts.
The demand for decent pleasure slaves was always increasing, and the demand for quality dams who could birth multiple offspring was equally high. Even mediocre female helots fetched much higher prices for their ability to breed slaves than were affordable for the average Spartan.
His dam was far from mediocre. A particularly fetching descendant of one of the most well-known helot bloodlines, she was robust and strong, born for breeding, and found a way to have dignity in her role. When she spoke, which wasn’t often, people listened. When she preferred a particular sire, her opinions were given weight. She never formed strong attachments to her offspring, but she was given the opportunity to say goodbye when they were sold.
She was even given her own room, with a queen-sized bed, with the expensive bamboo sheets she’d fallen in love with when the breeder had loaned her out to a friend for a weekend. She had a very strict diet, but she was fed three full meals a day, along with two snacks, and was even given coffee and chocolate twice a week for the first month after every birth. She was allowed to watch TV in the evenings with the breeder, and she loved to read, so was given any book she could think to ask for. Even among dams, that kind of treatment was unheard of.
Kieran’s sire had been purchased at 35, and the two were paired together for the first time when she was 17. The breeder liked their offspring so much, he bred them together almost every time she was ready to conceive.
Kieran’s sire had been beautiful, and had a decent genetic line, as well. Nothing amazing, nothing even remotely on the same level as the dam he’d been bred to, but solid and respectable, all the same. It was more his temperament and his physical appearance that made him valuable.
Kieran knew he would never be treated as well as a dam, no matter what his genetic line or what his offspring turned out to be. But still, being sold as a sire was significantly more appealing than being sold to the State or put down.
At least he wouldn’t be used for anyone else’s sick pleasure. And at least he’d be away from Dryas.
He lowered his gaze, unable to keep from noticing the dark bruises on his thighs, feeling the ones that littered his torso, and his stomach turned as he thought of how he’d gotten them.
Dryas liked to cause pain. Everything he did was painful, and the dark satisfaction on his face whenever he’d succeeded in making Kieran scream, or beg, or cry, made it clear how much he loved it.
His most recent bruises, he’d gotten just the day before, when Dryas had pulled him across his lap while he watched TV. He’d spent the next hour spanking him, slapping him, punching him, yanking painfully on his hair, and roughly fingering him dry.
When Kieran had finally begged him, tearfully, to stop, he’d shoved the boy onto the floor, slapping him hard across the face before rising to his feet, unbuckling his belt.
The beating had actually been relatively mild by Dryas’ standards. Still, Kieran had been relieved when Dryas had tossed the belt aside, grabbed a fistful of his hair, and shoved his cock in his mouth, violently fucking his face until he came.
But Kieran always preferred Dryas using his mouth to his ass. His owner’s love of causing pain and his dislike of lube made being fucked by him brutal.
He sighed again, and closed his eyes. All he had to do was get through the next 15 years. Starting with tonight.
The door at the top of the stairs opened, and Kieran felt his heart seize with dread as his owner descended the stairs. There was no telling what Dryas would do to him tonight, or how he would be made to entertain the man’s guests.
Dryas walked up to him without a word and roughly grabbed him by his collar, hauling him to his feet. Kieran let out a choked gasp as he struggled desperately to get his feet underneath him, to take the tension off his neck. His muscles burned as he tried to force them to cooperate. He’d been kept in that position so long, and his whole body protested the sudden movement.
He couldn’t stop the soft whimper from escaping him.
“Shut up,” Dryas snapped, slapping him hard across the face. Kieran had expected it and set his jaw a fraction of a second before the blow landed. He’d heard horror stories of slaves having their jaws dislocated from a particularly hard hit to the face with a gag in their mouth.
But even without a dislocation, the slap hurt, and Kieran grimaced.
Oh gods, he was already in a bad mood.
Kieran finally managed to right himself and stood on his own two feet, facing his owner. He took a deep, shaky breath, trying to steady his racing heart.
It would be alright. He would get through whatever was going to be done to him. It would just be for one night.
And then 15 more years, said that bitter voice inside him. But he willed himself to ignore that.
Just get through tonight. Do what he says. Please his guests. Don’t give him reason to beat you. Maybe the gods will have mercy.
Dryas was muttering under his breath as he unlocked the gag and removed it. “Don’t speak unless spoken to,” he growled.
“That mothax bitch, Charis Athanasiadi, and her self-righteous neodamode pet are here,” he said.
And Kieran’s heart plummeted. So much for the gods and their mercy.
He knew that name well, and he knew exactly what it meant.
His hopes of getting through the night without being beaten were immediately smashed.
Of course he knew of Charis Athanasiadi. Everyone in Laconia, Spartan and helot, knew who she was.
Charis Athanasiadi was born a mothax, a child of a Spartan and perioeci coupling. Her father, a Spartan nobleman, had petitioned the kings to allow her to study at the agoge, and she quickly rose to the top of the class. When she graduated, she was given trophimi status and the right to take her Spartan father’s name.
But, while that’s not entirely common, it’s not unheard of, either. She was hardly the only trophimi around.
No, what had been truly scandalous was when she’d used her inheritance from her father’s death to buy a small symposium. No non-Spartan had ever been a symposiarch before. Everyone expected her to fail, and most of the current members of the symposium left, preferring the stigma of not belonging to a symposium than to belong to one owned by a trophimi.
That had been eight years ago. Since then, her symposium had become by far the most popular, the most desirable, and the most exclusive in all of Sparta, if not all of Laconia. Membership provided a level of social status that was not easily attained through other avenues. Everyone wanted to join it.
Kieran’s owner was no exception. But until now, all his requests had been denied. Kieran decided not to voice the opinion that calling her a mothax bitch might be part of the reason for the continued rejections.
Although he highly doubted his owner had the balls to call her a bitch or a mothax to her face. She had earned trophimi status, and calling her a mothax would be just as insulting as calling a true Spartan a mothax. And in fact, it was a common insult among Spartans, similar to the way perioikoi used the insult, “bastard.”
No, Dryas didn’t have the courage to say that to her face. Not to Charis Athanasiadi.
So however he’d managed it, he’d finally gotten a private audience with the owner of the most prestigious symposium in Sparta. Which meant that whatever was planned for the evening would involve something torturous, painful, and dehumanizing.
Kieran had heard enough stories about what went on in symposia, about the cruelty and torture that went on in those places, to know that whatever was going to be done to him tonight wouldn’t be pleasant.
Dread filled him as Dryas untied his hands and ankles, and he tried not to whimper as the blood rushing back to his numb limbs burned away every other thought in his mind.
He wasn’t successful in his attempt to keep quiet, and Dryas slapped him again, hard enough to send him reeling. Kieran tried to catch himself, to keep from falling, but his limbs felt heavy and clumsy. He fell back, hitting his head hard enough on the concrete floor to make him see stars.
“Get up, you little shit,” Dryas sneered, yanking him to his feet and shoving him toward the stairs. “I expect you to be on your best behavior.”
He struggled to get up the stairs, willing his legs to obey him.
Obey, the voice inside him said.
His hip ached with the effort, and his shoulders and arms felt completely numb. Wordlessly, he followed Dryas through the house and into the parlor, where the guests were waiting for them.
Kieran immediately adopted the proper posture, standing to the side and slightly behind his owner, with his head and eyes lowered, his legs slightly spread, and his hands clasped behind his back. His fingers tingled and burned so badly, he couldn’t even feel the pressure as he held his hands behind him.
“I apologize for the delay,” Dryas said gruffly.
“It’s not a problem,” a smooth, feminine voice replied.
Kieran ached to see the owner of that voice. It wasn’t at all like he’d imagined Charis Athanasiadi would sound. He’d expected the owner of the most popular symposium in Sparta to sound harsh, and cruel, and cold. But her voice was warm and inviting, authoritative without being oppressive.
He wondered what she looked like, but he didn’t dare lift his eyes. Many Spartans were offended when a helot made eye contact. He didn’t dare risk offending her.
“Is this your slave?” she asked.
“Yes,” Dryas answered. “This is Kieran.”
“May I see his body?”
A shudder ran through Kieran, and for just a second, a brief, illogical hope that Dryas would deny her request flashed through his mind. Whatever she wanted with him, requiring the removal of his clothes right away couldn’t be a good sign.
Dryas unhooked the pin at Kieran’s shoulder and roughly yanked his tunic off of him. Kieran gasped, blushing madly, staggering with the force of Dryas’ touch. He still couldn’t get his arms and legs to work quite right, and it took a moment for him to regain his balance and fall back into the proper position.
He was aware of Charis rising to her feet. His heart raced as she approached him, slowly circling him. It was as if he could feel her eyes on him, and his skin dimpled under her gaze.
“He’s the favored offspring of Glenna, prized dam of the Talm bloodline, from Aktaion Euphemis,” Dryas explained. “The most beautiful of all the helots she birthed, the most obedient, with the most talented mouth and the tightest ass.”
“That’s an impressive lineage,” the woman with the kind voice said. Kieran detected a note of dismissive neutrality in her voice, as if she either didn’t believe the claim, or didn’t care.
“He lives up to it,” Dryas insisted, somewhat defensively. “Try him for yourself. Feel his holes, and tell me if they aren’t better than any you could offer in your symposium.”
Kieran’s face flushed hot. A comment like that, made to a symposiarch, meant an almost certain beating. Spartans did not enjoy having their pride attacked, and a symposiarch was fiercely proud of the quality of their symposium. Implying that Kieran was of higher quality than the slaves she offered her members was an insult that would not be taken lightly.
He flinched when he felt a hand on his face, but the touch was much gentler than he expected.
Her fingers lingered on his lips. “They’re soft,” she said approvingly, more to him than to his owner. “Open.”
Kieran obediently opened his mouth, and the symposiarch tenderly pushed a finger inside. With her other hand, she lightly caressed his face and neck, reassuring him.
Still too afraid to dare looking up, he focused instead on the pale, calming, impossibly soft blue of her peplos. Despite himself, he imagined what that flowing, light material would feel like against his skin.
He wondered if it would feel like the strangely soft fingers on his face and in his mouth.
Her skin was soft, and smooth, and clean. Her touch was gentle. She didn’t force her way into him the way Dryas and his friends did. Her presence was calm, and confident, and quiet. He imagined her being gentle with him, just as she was gentle with his mouth now.
“His ass is exemplary, too,” Dryas told her.
“I have no doubt,” she replied in that same, neutral tone, pulling her hands from Kieran’s face.
“Feel it,” Dryas insisted, grabbing Kieran by the shoulders and turning him around. “Your members would gladly pay double their fee for a taste of his ass.”
“Are you offering to sell him to me?” Charis asked.
Dryas scoffed. “I’m simply pointing out that true quality doesn’t exist in symposiums. Not even yours, Lady Athanasiadi.”
“I don’t doubt the quality of his body,” Charis replied smoothly. “I can see such for myself.”
Kieran sucked his breath in as she stepped forward, her chest brushing against his back. He felt her hands on him, moving slowly across his hips and up to his chest. A moment later, her lips brushed his ear.
“Bend over, darling,” she whispered.
She stepped back, removing her hands from his waist and putting one on his back, between his shoulder blades. With gentle, gradual pressure, she pushed him to bend at the waist. Trembling, Kieran did as she wanted, and spread his legs, gripping the backs of his knees and arching his back to give her better access. He prayed she would continue to be gentle. His ass still hurt from the preparation Dryas had put him through.
Sure enough, the finger that grazed his entrance was soft and light. Yet, even the light touch brought pain. Luckily, his face was hidden from her view, and he didn’t have to feign a pleasing expression. The body language was easy enough to fake.
He let out a soft, eager moan and pushed back against the finger at his entrance, pretending to want her to enter him. He didn’t have to hide the grimace as the pressure of him pushing back against her sent more pain rolling through his body. It would be even worse when she entered him.
Obey. Just obey.
But she surprised him by pulling her hand away. “Stand up,” she told him. “Turn around.”
Drawing in a discreet, shaky breath, Kieran straightened up, his face contorted with pain as the lingering soreness made his movements agonizing. He stumbled forward before regaining his balance, forcing his legs to obey him.
Dryas, who stood in front of him, saw his expression and shot him a fierce warning look. Kieran quickly and carefully arranged his features into an expression of neutral submissiveness and turned back to face the symposiarch.
“Look at me, Kieran,” she said softly. The sound of his name on her tongue made his heart jump. Nervously, his eyes flitted to hers, and he was stunned by the depth and compassion and beauty there.
No, she was nothing like he thought she’d be.
She was young, younger than 30, with long blonde hair and the most stunning gray eyes he’d ever seen. She looked kind, and gentle.
As his eyes met hers, she gave him a warm, reassuring smile. “That’s a good boy,” she said.
His blush deepened, and he lowered his eyes, unable to hold her gaze.
“You’re right, he is quite beautiful,” she said to Dryas, running a gentle hand down his chest, and across his ribs. Her touch sent chills down his spine. He steeled himself, expecting her to fondle him, but surprisingly, she kept her hand above his waist. “But he’s so thin. Why is he so thin?”
“He’s always been thin,” Dryas replied shortly. Kieran flinched, recognizing the hostility in his tone. No doubt he took offense to Charis’ question. Dryas was not a pleasant man when he was pushed to the defensive.
There was a tense pause, then Charis removed her hand and stepped back. “I’m thirsty,” she declared. “Would you happen to have any tea, Dryas?”
And Kieran flinched again. Her voice had been light, and friendly, but he heard the insult underneath it, the same as his owner did.
Charis was trophimi, the daughter of a Spartan lord, and had earned the right to take her father’s name, but she was not a Spartan. Dryas was Spartan nobility. Even other Spartans wouldn’t dare to use a nobleman’s first name without being given permission to do so.
“Kieran, get the tea,” Dryas snapped through clenched teeth. Charis resumed her seat on the couch, beside her companion, while Kieran hurried to obey his owner, not even taking the time to redress. The evening certainly wasn’t boding well for him. It would take a miracle to get him through it without being severely beaten.
His hands still trembled, from fear and from the lingering numbness, but he forced them to obey his will as he arranged the cups and the pot of tea on the large silver tray. Somehow, he managed to lift it up and hold it steady as he walked to where his owner sat on the couch.
“No!” Dryas practically shouted, startling Kieran. “Serve my guests first. What is wrong with you?”
“I’m sorry, Dominus,” Kieran murmured, straightening up. But as he turned, he lost his balance again, and this time, he couldn’t correct in time. He watched in horror as the tray, and everything on it, crashed loudly to the floor.
Panic took hold, and Kieran immediately dropped to his knees, shaking violently. His first instinct was to crawl to his owner’s feet in a desperate attempt to appease him and avoid the beating he knew was coming.
But the logical part of him knew better. In the next instant, he heard the thunder in his owner’s voice. Pain exploded in his ribs as Dryas kicked him, still shouting.
He wasn’t even capable of registering what his owner was saying. It was all clouded and muted by the panic in his mind, the deafening sound of his racing heart, and the blood pumping furiously in his ears.
Another kick landed in his stomach, knocking the wind from him and making him try desperately to squirm away, gasping for air. But Dryas stopped him by grabbing a handful of his hair and throwing him brutally back down to the floor. All Kieran could do was cover his face and pray that the beating would end soon.
Both Kieran and Dryas were stunned by the sheer strength and volume of the voice, the voice that managed to cut through the fog of panic and pain in his mind. They both looked up to see that both Charis and her companion had risen to their feet. The man was tall, much taller than Kieran had expected, with blond hair, a firm build, and an angry scowl on his face. But it was Charis that pulled his attention. There was fire in her eyes, and she looked every bit the cruel, heartless symposiarch Kieran had expected her to be.
But to his surprise, her anger wasn’t directed at him. It was directed at his owner.
“You are going to sell that boy to me,” she snarled. The warmth was gone from her voice. It cut Kieran to the bone, and despite himself, he curled closer to his owner, preferring the violence of the man to the knife of her voice, and the full brunt of her anger.
But then, almost a full second after registering the tone of her voice, his still-panicked mind finally registered what she said.
Sell him? To her?
“What?” Dryas cried, incredulous. His reaction very closely matched Kieran’s own.
“You should never be allowed to own slaves, if that’s how you treat them.”
“Who are you to tell me how I treat my slave?”
“He’s not yours anymore. You’re selling him to me.”
“The hell I am!”
It seemed as if all the anger suddenly melted off of Charis. She flashed him a friendly smile, and when she spoke, her voice had regained that warm, sweet timbre. The change was so sudden, so complete, it left Kieran stunned, confused, and terrified.
Who had that kind of emotional control?
“If you ever want a chance at membership, you’re going to sell him to me,” she said quietly. “Or if you don’t, I will publicly denounce you and have you banned from every respectable symposium in the State.”
“You wouldn’t dare,” Dryas exclaimed. But Charis pulled her checkbook from her purse.
“You said you paid fifty thousand drachmae for him? I’ll give you forty. That should more than cover your loss.”
Kieran’s heart raced. He had no idea what to think as he watched the two of them face off. He didn’t know which he should be more afraid of.
Charis gestured to her companion, a tall, muscular, blond man who very literally shook with anger as he stood quietly beside her. He saw her gesture and nodded his understanding, walking toward Kieran, rage etched into the lines of his face.
Fear gripped Kieran and he hid his face as the tall man bent down beside him. But the hands that touched him were gentle, and lifted him up as if he weighed nothing.
“It’s alright,” the man whispered, loud enough only for Kieran to hear. “The lights are on.”
His fear momentarily forgotten, Kieran jerked his head up to meet the man’s gaze, confused by his words.
Oh, he knew what the words meant. Every slave did. It was part of the hidden language of helots, one of the ways they communicated to each other without their owners knowing.
The lights are on was a verbal phrase that meant, “There’s no danger, you’re safe.”
But how did this man know those words? And was he telling the truth?
Was he a slave? But he’d been sitting on the couch beside Charis, not on the floor at her feet. And Dryas had referred to him as one of his guests.
Wait, hadn’t Dryas called him a neodamode? Kieran had simply brushed that off as another insult, but was it true? Was this man a helot? And had Charis Athanasiadi freed him?
It was possible, but extremely rare. This man was over 35, but only just, and he was strong, healthy, and attractive. If he was still whole, he could’ve been sold to a breeder. Or if not, he could’ve been sold to the State.
After years of paying to feed, clothe, and house slaves, owners were often eager to get whatever money they could. Even the owners that valued their slaves and refused to sell them once they hit 35 still kept them as slaves, making them pets.
To free a slave meant to lose any kind of control over him. Any owner can beat a slave. But beating a free citizen, even a neodamode, was assault.
Had this woman really freed this man?
Kieran was so stunned, he didn’t even notice Dryas bickering with Charis about the price. The man holding him adjusted him and rested his head against his chest.
“I know you’re scared,” he told him. “Try to relax. We won’t hurt you.”
Kieran took a deep, shaky breath, trying to obey, but Dryas suddenly raised his voice, startling both him and the tall man holding him. The man whirled around to face them, and Kieran gasped when he saw Dryas’ hulking form towering over Charis, mere inches from her, screaming in her face, flailing his arms.
Kieran flinched, the panic rising once again, knowing all too well the mood his owner was in. And if he was being sold to Charis, he could only imagine what kind of mood she’d be in after having her dignity attacked like that. Which didn’t bode well for his first night under her ownership.
He’d heard stories about the beatings symposiarchs will dole out when they’re in good moods. He didn’t want to imagine the beating she would give him after being yelled at and humiliated by his former owner.
“It’s alright,” the man told him quietly. Kieran only then realized he’d been cowering against the taller man’s chest. “He doesn’t matter enough to get under her skin.”
Kieran wanted to believe him, but that bitter voice inside him kept telling him all about the brutal night he had ahead of him.
He was terrified, but he tried to keep his mind in the present. In this moment, he felt safe in the strong arms of the tall man who held him. It felt good, being held like that. He felt protected, cared for, even cherished.
He couldn’t control what would happen to him once he left with his new owners. But he could control what he chose to focus on. And no matter what happened to him once they left Dryas’ house, he would enjoy the way it felt to be held so tightly.
Like he mattered.