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His Royal Highness - Part 1
A Fan-Fiction based on Anne Rice's "Beauty" Series

He was brought in, face rebellious, mouth gagged, arms bound from elbow to wrist in a long leather glove behind his back, a collar and leash on his neck, whipped forward on his knees. Lord Alexi sat uncomfortably in his finery, velvet and silk touching his skin, his auburn curls bound back with a ribbon, watching the Pages drive the Crown Prince Michele into the sitting room. Chest heaving, cheeks crimson, eyes flashing sparks of anger in the depths of the black, the Prince jerked his head at the Page to his right, as if he would launch himself bodily toward his tormentors. The Pages held him firmly, one with the leash drawn back, the other two each clasping a shoulder.

"Prince Michele, The Queen has asked me to explain to you what has happened, and why she has submitted you for training as a slave." Alexi kept his voice calm and even to disguise the rising emotions inside him. Michele struggled against his bonds. With a nod of his head, Alexi instructed the Page to attach the leash to a ring set in the floor just behind Michele. Before he could move or resist, a pair of leather cuffs were fastened around his ankles and also attached to the ring, so that he could only kneel. He screamed in rage behind his gag and fought until he was breathless and lying awkwardly on his side.

"Raise him," Alexi instructed, sitting back in his large upholstered chair to present an air of unconcern and waiting until the Pages had set Michele on his knees once again. He had to hide his excitement and unease. "Prince, I will explain this to you, and you will listen. You are a slave now, no longer a Lord. You will speak and act as a slave should, as befits what you know of proper behavior. You have no choice in this. If you insist upon rebellion, you will be punished." As if to remind him, the Page slapped Michele's bare bottom and thighs with the long leather paddle. Michele strained against his leashes until he was panting around the leather bit that distended his lips.

"Remove the gag." One of the Pages released the leather thongs and pulled the bit out of Michele's teeth, causing him to drool. "Now, leave us." Alexi gave orders smoothly. The Pages left, taking the gag with them and closing the door. Alexi shifted in his chair, staring at the slave bound to the floor.

Michele spat to clear his mouth. "So, you will explain, little Alexi, whom I had beaten until he bled? You will explain this outrage to me?" Michele's eyes glared defiantly. He leaned to the furthest extent of his leash.

Alexi pulled a long length of supple black leather across one open hand. "Yes, Prince, I shall, only you shall now address me as `my Lord' or suffer for disobedience."

"My Lord," Michele mimicked, his voice cold and a little ragged.

Alexi looked at him carefully. He was handsome, his mother's dark beauty given his father's masculine form, with all the promise he'd shown in his young manhood. What had once been a whip-steel agility had broadened into mature strength. Unfortunately, his physical excellence did not extend to other realms. He could not compare with a well-trained slave. His eyes were raised in defiance. His lip curled now in a sneer that marred his face. His cock hung flaccidly against his leg. Alexi thought idly of the sort of punishments assured for any Prince who let such a flagrant sign of disobedience and unreadiness appear before a Lord or Lady of the court. That would come later.

"Your mother, The Queen, has decreed this as the consequence of your inability to govern your own passions, Prince Michele. For a Lord or Lady to have less self-control than any slave here is unpardonable. She is regretful and sorrowful that you should prove so. She waited for so very long since you claimed your first slave to see if you would improve." Alexi caressed his own palm with the black leather strap, admiring its thickness. "But you did not, despite all her advice and all the examples set for you among the Lords and Ladies of this court. She has decided that spending time as the Tribute Princes and Princesses do would be the best remedy." The leather strap was very soft and supple. He considered how it felt when it struck some tender piece of flesh.

"No. She would not." Michele's tone was still angry, but it now held doubt about the words he spoke.

"Why not? More than one Lord and Lady of the court have served their term as a Tribute. Her Majesty had hoped that with such examples you would learn the art of mastery, have not. She has decided it is this training you lack." Alexi hooked his knee over the arm of the chair. "And I have been assigned the task of overseeing your training."

"You?" Michele was contemptuous, as if he sat in the chair addressing a slave bound to the floor.

"Yes, your Highness." Alexi waited a few seconds for the man to digest that piece of information. "Her Majesty could not bear the idea of you being put into the Training Hall at least, not quite yet. She felt it would be better for you to be in this little tower for a while, until you had become more accustomed to your new role." Alexi waved his empty hand at the room as if indicating a larger space.

"This is impossible," Michele protested, anger draining from his voice. "She would not."

Alexi smiled. "She had thought to send you to the Village. You'd have learned quickly there, but she could not bear to think of you suffering those trials and torments at the very beginning." The leather strap licked out from Alexi's hand, catching Michele across one nipple. "She thinks you are too sensitive, your skin too delicate."

Michele yelped and bit down on the cry. His eyes shot daggers at Alexi. "And why you, so especially? You're just a groveling, wheedling slave who kissed my boots. How long ago was it that I had you whipped around my bedchamber? How long ago was it that I raped you over and over at my pleasure?"

Alexi sat up. "Long enough ago, Michele, for you to have learned better by now. That is why the Queen gave you to me. She heard every detail of that episode from the Pages. She watched how you lost Beauty, your own slave. There have been other incidents. But that was the one that revealed the truth." He stared down into Michele's black eyes. "Finally, and much to her humiliation, she understood how completely you had been mastered by a slave."

"Mastered?" Confusion clouded Michele's dark eyes. "What are you talking about?"

"Yes, mastered." The belt leapt out again, leaving a red stinging welt across Michele's belly. He winced and gasped. "You will remember to call me `my Lord' when you speak to me, Michele." Alexi stood up and paced around as he talked. "Mastered completely, because your passion made you jealous of a slave. Jealous of a slave!" The belt found a landing place where Michele's buttocks rested against his heels, making him jump slightly. "Nothing you did to me that night mastered me as completely as your jealousy allowed me to master you. You wanted to conquer me, but you did not. Instead, my merest look could drive you into frenzy. "

"So now you have occasion for revenge?" The belt curled around Michele's arm, making a tiny red mark.

"Revenge? Why do I need revenge?" Alexi stayed behind Michele, the belt wound around his hand. "I am already your master. You are nothing but a disobedient, ill-trained, ill-behaved little slave." He accented each word with a leather slap, until Michele was all but bouncing on his heels, trying to escape. "Your jealousy is your great weakness, Michele, and such a weakness cannot be allowed in the Crown Prince of this kingdom."

Michele turned his head wildly, trying to see where Alexi stood.

"Keep your head forward," Alexi commanded, emphasizing it with several more licks from the belt. Michele locked his head forward, but his eyes swiveled as far as they could.

Alexi circled him. "You fail to appreciate the important aspects of slavery, Michele. You were raised in this court. You have seen these sights and been privileged with the gift of being a Master, but never were you truly appreciative of the slaves at your command. When you beat me that night in your chambers, my only thought was to please you. However, you did not appreciate what I suffered for your sake. You took no pleasure in what you did. Nothing satisfied you." He knelt so his face was even with Michele's. "You had no love for me. You know nothing of love, of the responsibilities of being a Lord in this kingdom. You beat me, not for the pleasure of witnessing my suffering, not because my being beaten would please you, but because you felt I had something you could not have. You felt that your chosen one the one who ran away from you had looked too long and with too much admiration at me. You felt that your own mother favored me too much. You were jealous."

Michele tried to stare back, his black eyes fixed on the brown ones that pinned him, and deny what was said. Alexi did not blink or flinch. Slowly, Michele lowered his eyes. His voice was softer, but still defiant. "So now you will beat me the same way, is that it?"

"Oh no, Michele!" Alexi lifted Michele's chin with his hand, the hand that was wound with the black leather strap. "I will be hard with you, have no doubt, because that is what you require. Were I weak, you would run from me as surely as Beauty has run from you. A good slave requires a good master, one who can govern himself and the slave with equal power. Do not doubt that you will feel the lash and the pain and the humiliation from my hands as keenly as ever I felt it from yours." The first beginnings of tears appeared in Michele's eyes. He bit his lip and tried to pull his chin from Alexi's fingers. Alexi did not let him turn away. "But the difference between us will be that I do it for love of you, not from jealousy. I will govern you until you learn to govern yourself."

Alexi tenderly stroked the man's cheek with his free hand. "Were I to cuddle you and pet you always, you would forget who is your master. Were I to lavish you with the kind of attention you have always received from slaves, you would remain spoiled and unfeeling. So, yes, I will punish you, but only to make you better." He ran a finger across Michele's forehead, along the hairline and between his black brows. "And I will appreciate every tear that you let fall. I will treasure every cry from your throat, every shudder, every blush, every welt and wince." He brushed the hair from Michele's face. "And when you lay beside me in my bed, spent and asleep, I will love you far more than you loved any slave."

A tear slipped down Michele's dark lashes and fell to his cheek. He blinked rapidly, denying that it existed. Alexi touched it, breaking the tension of the little clear globe and watching the wetness spread. He stood up. "Now do you understand, Prince? Even in just the smallest part?" Michele was frozen and silent, his eyes fixed somewhere beyond Alexi.

The belt licked at him, tonguing one of the welts already rising. "I am not sure, my Lord," he answered in a stricken voice.

Alexi stepped back, studying the picture before him. "It took me a long time to learn this, and I was not brought up as you were, with pleasure slaves to answer my every whim. For you, I feel, it will be a much harder lesson. But you are able to learn it, and I am able to teach it to you." Alexi rang a small bell on a table. "Your term of service is two years, Prince Michele. All in the castle know of your new role, but none will be allowed to see you until you are better trained. But, I warn you, persisting in disobedience will only hasten your introduction to the court, for your mother has decreed it." Michele shivered. "You are no longer the Crown Prince of this kingdom, Michele. You are a slave, a Prince like all the others."

Pages appeared. "Take Michele to his groom." When they were gone, Alexi collapsed in his chair, face in his hands. His heart pounded. As hard as it was to be a slave, it was harder yet to be a Master.

Michele lay on a narrow pallet, his ankles and wrists strapped down so that he could not move. Only that morning, his mother had entered his bedchamber, accompanied by several strong Pages, to inform him that he would spend a period of servitude. He had protested, and been born down by the Pages, stripped and bound and carried away. The morning seemed a very long time ago. He had protested in every way possible -- fighting, lashing out, yelling and screaming -- but no one heeded his commands. All his efforts met with blows from the hateful little paddles and tighter bindings. He had distinct memories of watching disobedient slaves being beaten as they hurried down the hallways on their knees, buttocks bright red, faces, tear-streaked. He had fought very hard not to show any tears, and he had succeeded until the end, when Alexi had touched his face. That moment brought up a welling misery. He would suffer as no slave had with Alexi as his master. He was certain of this.

He thought back to Beauty, his lovely slave, his first, his most beautiful. He had beaten her mercilessly more than once, until her lithe body had twisted and spun to escape the blows that found her anyway and her open mouthed cries echoed in his ears. Now that would be his lot. When he held the means of punishment, it had seemed only right and proper that he administer it whenever he liked, on whomever he liked, for whatever reason he liked or no reason at all. He'd never considered the pain and humiliation of the slaves he tormented. He'd only enjoyed the power he'd held over them.

Alexi flashed in his mind's eye. Tall, muscular, strong, dark, unreachable a perfect slave, his mother's favorite. Alexi's beauty was distinct in his mind. Even now it had the power to both anger him and arouse him. He felt his sex stir against his thigh, which made him too acutely aware of what was now required of him.

A little moan left his lips without his will. He was alone in this room, on his soft pallet. He felt completely abandoned.

After his interview with Alexi, the Pages had taken him to another section of the tower where he'd met his groom, a young man with golden hair named Leon. He was efficient and gentle, but the experience had still been humiliating. To be touched and prodded and examined with such ease and casualness he had been unable to endure it. His bath and grooming had taken place with his gag in his mouth and his arms bound behind him. Leon had scolded him and slapped him to make him obey, even while telling him that in the groom's care he was able to be his most relaxed, his most free. Then he'd refused to eat his meal because he was required to eat it without his hands, kneeling over a bowl on the floor. Leon had spanked him where he knelt before fastening him into his bed.

Now he was hungry and tired, but he could not sleep. Leon had told him that usually slaves were given a sleeping draught so that they would rest enough, but he was not permitted such a luxury tonight. He was left with his thoughts.

It was impossible! He struggled again to loosen the straps that bound him, but they gave no leniency. It was revenge, a strange revenge, one he had never even considered, so impossible it had been. But it was possible. Obviously it was possible. How had he been so casual about the many men and women he'd laid a strap or paddle to? How many had he taken roughly, with no thought except his own satisfaction? How many, like Alexi, had he actually hurt because he was angry or jealous? How often would these sins now be repeated upon him? What would Alexi do?

He shifted slightly on the bed, trying to ignore his gathering tears. He would not be mastered, he swore to himself, most especially not by Alexi. He would obey, but only enough. He would not give his soul. He would not acknowledge that anyone could be his Master. But something inside him quavered in response to the thought that, indeed, he had been mastered already. Beauty had mastered him, making him mad to own her completely. Alexi had mastered him by being utterly perfect.

Another moan came out of him and anger, despair, sadness and shame roiled through him, each in turn, until he was exhausted with thinking. In the darkness he felt the soreness of his buttocks and thighs against the soft covering of the pallet, and even though they hurt, he knew he had been treated most lightly. Should a slave have ever acted as he had, he thought, that slave would have lived a week in the Punishment Hall, if not longer. But there was no escaping punishment. He'd told slaves that fact often enough that it echoed back at him in his own voice.

He would run away. That was what he could do. He could escape. Then he laughed at himself. A naked slave would be caught before leaving the castle. Even if he did make it that far, the villagers or the soldiers would find him. The laugh tasted bitter. Every Prince and Princess here, every one of them, came from blood as royal as his own. He was no different, for all it mattered whom his mother was. Alexi, he recalled, was the second son of a very powerful king, one with whom his own mother had been trying to seal an alliance. Alexi had come here as a show of good will.

Alexi was his master. He groaned again, the sound drifting away in the darkness. His only hope was to do enough to satisfy that arrogant, impertinent slave who now held the lash. Impossible! He could not do it. For someone else for one of the Ladies of the court, perhaps he might have bent his will. But for Alexi? He hated Alexi, hated his beauty and his calm, his imperturbable demeanor, his perfection. He'd hated Alexi since he'd seen Beauty notice him. All the anger and jealousy of that long ago moment surged back to him. Even at the moment of abject torment and humiliation, Alexi had remained unreachable, unbreakable.

He heard Alexi's voice suddenly in his head and saw his deep brown eyes in the darkness. "My only thought was to please you. However, you did not appreciate what I suffered for your sake. You took no pleasure in what you did. Nothing satisfied you." The memory sent a bolt of fear through his body. What if Alexi would not be satisfied? What would it mean to satisfy him? His only hope of surviving this ordeal was in pleasing the contemptible, hateful, unreachable Alexi.

The door to the room opened, and a pair of Pages came in, holding the long glove and the ankle cuffs. The light hurt his eyes and he blinked as they pulled him free of one confinement and fastened him efficiently into another. He struggled a little, mostly in token, for he was too miserable and tired for much resistance. At least they had not gagged him.

On his knees he was lead down a hallway to another room. He moved gracelessly, feeling a little shame at the thought. He wondered what tower had been cordoned off for his special use. It was indeed a sign of his mother's love that he was not immediately assigned to the Training Hall, but kept apart for a while, until he should become accustomed. It was not a favor given to other Tributes, but then they often had a period of journey time to become accustomed to their fates. He had resolved within himself to obey and tried to remember what was required for slaves. His cock was disobediently limp nothing seemed to stir within him. He kept his eyes down, his back as straight as the long glove permitted, and tried to move quickly so that the little slaps of the Page's paddles did not catch him so hard. He was led into a room, this one carpeted and warmed with a fire, different from the one where he'd first been interviewed. From under lowered lids, he glanced around himself. It appeared to be a bedchamber. His heart thudded against his ribs.

Lord Alexi appeared, his rich clothing exchanged for a dressing gown and soft slippers. He looked every inch the Master, his auburn hair loose now about his shoulders, his face smooth, his eyes unreadable. Michele shuddered. To his surprise and disgust, he found he was shaking.

"Well, Michele, you seem to have quieted from yesterday." Alexi stood just in front of Michele, too close for the man to see his master's face without disobediently raising his own. "Have you thought about what I told you then?"

He swallowed. His mouth was suddenly very dry. "Yes, my Lord."

"And what are your thoughts, Michele?"

He bit his lip, trying to quell the rising anger in his breast. Obedient, he had to be obedient. What would Alexi want to hear?

"I have thought are correct. I cannot govern myself well." The anger pushed tears to his eyes that he should have to make this terrible admission. He blinked and tried to steady himself. He was just saying this to please Alexi. Why did the words shake him so? "I must try to make myself an obedient slave."

"Very pretty words, Michele." The coldness of Lord Alexi's voice was like water dashed into his face. Was he so transparent? "How much do you mean them?"

He remained silent, unable to think of a suitable response. Anything he said, he realized, was suspect. He was still trembling.

"I think you are lying." Behind him, a Page moved to strike him with a paddle, a furious flurry of sharp, stinging blows against his sides and thighs, awakening the pain from all the welts and bruises he'd received the night before. "I think you believe you can fool me, Michele. Stupid little slave." He waved a hand and the Page withdrew, leaving Michele gasping, bright spots of color dancing in his eyes.

"There is no pretending, Michele." Alexi grasped his chin and forced his face upwards. Again Michele found himself staring into those unreadable brown eyes. It was as if Alexi peered right into his mind. "You cannot do this by halves. You must either chose to become a slave truly a slave, a slave to your soul or you will be broken and remade as a slave. It is set. You have no control over it."

Michele swallowed. His entire body seemed suspended from the hand grasping his chin. All his thoughts splashed in his head, like a pool of water when a stone is thrown in with force. Alexi's thumb stroked his jaw, a motion too tender to be withstood.

"Do you feel yourself capable of submitting to the demands I make on you, Michele? Will you learn obedience?" Alexi's voice was so very soft and so very gentle.

Michele felt himself unraveling, the thread of his being tugged by those eyes. His voice trembled. "I do not know, my Lord. Truly, I do not know." His voice failed, choking him.

The stroking along his jaw went on. "You do not know what, Michele? You do not know what to do? You do not know how to do it? You will learn."

"My lord, I know...but I don't know..." He would not cry, he swore to himself. He would not let Alexi see his tears. He wished he dared pull free of those gentle strong fingers and tear his gaze away.

"You don't know if you have the strength, is that it?" Alexi withdrew his hand suddenly and Michele staggered. "It takes great strength to submit, Michele, and many are surprised to discover they have this strength." Michele felt unbearably, inexplicably bereft, now that the touch he did not want had been withdrawn. "You will find this strength, just as other slaves before you have. It can be learned. I will see to it that you learn. Your lessons will begin now." Alexi made some gesture to the Page, who stroked the paddle against Michele's back until he was scampering toward the bed. He was made to lie over the bed's side, his face muffled in the deep coverlet, and his legs were spread wide, the ankle cuffs fastened. He tried to close them, and could not. The long glove laced down over his hands, his fingers interlinked inside its leather embrace. His scrotum and his cock hung, pushed against the mattress. He felt dreadfully exposed, and recalled with sudden sharpness how many times he had similarly commanded a slave to be so displayed. He wondered in sudden panic where Alexi was.

Hands pried at his buttocks, spreading them wide. Fingers stroked his anus, teasing it, testing the soft, sensitive skin, making his entire body tense and jump. He caught a soft cry in his throat. The fingers probed on, prompting him to vain efforts at escape. Indignity suffused him, as well as a swelling, panicky terror. Despite his resolve, he whimpered, twisting in his bindings to move his body away from this terrible inspection.

"Ah, Michele, can it be? You are a virgin!" Alexi's voice behind him was curiously delighted. "Indeed, that is it. Why did I not suspect? Of course, with your pride, it would be so."

His face burned, pressed into the bedcovers, and he tried again to move his hips away from the hands, the probing fingers, the triumphant voice. There was nowhere to go. He heard footsteps. The hands left him then returned. Something creamy was rubbed into his anus, gently but steadily pressing into the opening. He tried to shut it out, but there was no way to accomplish that either. The fingers probed inward, gently but insistently. He bit down on the coverlet to prevent himself crying out. He would not, could not, submit to this. He would not satisfy Alexi by pleading or whimpering. He would control himself.

"Resistance is more painful, Michele," Alexi's voice advised him. "Obedience is a greater reward."

He could not take that advice. His panic overwhelmed him and he moaned, then felt angry humiliation inflame his cheeks, clenching his muscles down as hard as he could. "Stop it, don't, please..." The words escaped him, increasing his anger and the growing realization that it was happening.

He was answered with a series of sharp, hard slaps and the deepening probe of those fingers. "Do not speak, Michele, unless I bid you, or I will have you gagged again, and this lesson will continue anyway." Tears pushed from the corners of his eyes now and the fingers probed, pulled, opened him. As Alexi predicted, the more he resisted, the more painful it was, but it did not stop.

"You know well how this works, Michele. As many Princes as you raped, you certainly know." One finger had now worked itself well inside him. He could not fight it anymore, and so allowed his body to relax just a little. The pain changed and the friction created strange little jolts that shot through his pelvis. The pressure became just bearable and, more terribly, arousing. His member grew harder in its awkward downbent position pressed against the bed, adding more friction and pressure to the growing snarl of desire inside him. "Open yourself to it. Relax and accept it," Alexi murmured behind him. "You will learn to appreciate this pleasure."

His hips jerked as a second finger slipped into him and he gasped at the sensations. They thrust in and out, creating a delicious, maddening friction that sent shivers all over his body. Helplessly his hips rocked in rhythm with those thrusting fingers, his cock rubbing against the edge of the bed, becoming painfully engorged. Suddenly, the fingers were removed and a hail of lashing blows fell across his buttocks, shocking him, making him gulp and sob.

"Ah, no, Michele, I am not even begun with you. Tonight will be a sort of deflowering, I think. For you it will be easier than it was for me, but only because I understand the nature of your rebellion." A hand shaped his buttocks, rounded them, stroked them, pinched them. He squirmed. "Remember? You do not know what I suffered in the kitchens, but it taught me a great deal. If you are wise, you will listen to me. If you are not, well...I can recreate such experiences for you, that they may enrich you as mine enriched me." A blow landed hard on the back of one thigh, making Michele jump with the now familiar and distinct bite of the leather strap. He bit the coverlet to prevent himself from making an audible noise.

The hands were at him again, spreading his buttock cheeks, forcing his legs wider, stroking his scrotum where it hung between his legs. He felt something else press at his hidden orifice, something more solid, harder and wider than a finger. It penetrated him deeply, tearing at him, creating a pain that went through his stomach and tried to curl his body into a ball around it. He groaned and was answered with a series of stinging slaps.

"No, no, Michele. This is part of your training. Resisting is disobedient." Alexi's voice revealed no anger, no note of displeasure, but was steady and gentle. "I want you to learn to do this well. Push back instead of pulling away. Open yourself." No longer able to resist, Michele found himself trying to obey, pushing back against whatever now impaled him, feeling it widening him, invading him, as he tried to invite it within. It was pulled out almost completely, and the exercise began again. The moans and sobs he'd struggled so hard to contain broke free and accented his every movement.

"That's it," Alexi encouraged him. "Push back. Take it inside you. Take it." Back and forth it went, stirring such a mixture of sensation, such a blending of pleasure and stinging, choking pain that it made him shiver and jump. He wanted to control himself, refuse to move, refuse to allow this invasion, but whenever he slowed, it only drove deeper, spurring him, relentless. His cock was now hard and throbbing, and he knew he would spend himself against the bedcovers very soon. Devilishly, Alexi seemed to know this as well. The object was removed and he was pulled up from the bed so suddenly that he gasped. His ankles were unshackled and he was forced to his knees.

"A very good first lesson, Michele. Perhaps not as good as I would like, but it is a beginning." Anger that had fled when he was tied to the bedposts rose up again in Michele, heating his face as he knelt next to Alexi's slippered foot. That he had responded at all infuriated him, although he had no idea how to prevent it. Now, his anus felt strange and empty, as if it had become accustomed to being filled with alien objects. His throbbing sex twitched on his thigh, as if it, too, missed the new exercise. It was a biting thing to be so betrayed by his own body.

What galled him most was that nothing had been asked of him that he had not asked of so many slaves. In fact, it seemed that Alexi was only toying with him. Perplexingly, that angered him, too. He felt a nudge against his leg, followed by a lazy smack from a leather paddle as a Page guided him forward. He crawled across the carpet and was stopped nest to a chair. Alexi sat, very much at his ease. In his hands was a wooden box, ornately carved. Michele was stopped just short of the chair.

"I thought you might like to see what I have planned for you," Alexi said, his voice almost bored in its languidness. The lid of the box was opened and Alexi turned it so Michele could see. On a red velvet cloth were laid out a selection of leather phalluses, ranging from one slightly thicker and longer than a man's thumb to a frighteningly large one fitted with a studded brass collar halfway along its thick length.

Michele felt faint, but stayed upright, wanting to deny any sign of fear. Alexi picked up the smallest one. "This one is slightly larger than the one I used on you just now. Inconsequential, really, but a beginning." He picked up one of the middle ones. It gleamed darkly and Michele could see a number of ridges in the leather. "This one is possibly the most useful for you, as it is slightly flexible." To demonstrate, Alexi showed him how the phallus would bend just a little in any direction. Michele's legs trembled but he kept his face controlled, biting on the inside of his lip, his eyes still raised with some air of defiance.

Alexi put the phallus back in the box. "Oh, my Prince, I know your rebellion is not yet quieted. Was I not the most rebellious slave? Do you think I do not know what goes through your mind?" He closed the lid of the box. "You will be trained, Michele, until you crave them. You will learn your true nature."

Michele could not restrain himself any longer. "My true nature? Being fitted for toys?"

Alexi raised a finger to halt the Page that came near, gag in hand. "Michele, of course not. You are being fitted for my pleasure...for me." Michele quailed at the hard look in Alexi's sparkling eyes. "Let me tell you something else you should know. This tower has only one exit. Not even the windows open. The single door out is watched by four of your mother's most trusted guards, guards who know you well, who have orders to capture you should you appear at that door without my accompaniment." A Page took the box away and Alexi sat forward. There was something electric about him that made Michele watch him closely. "Your mother does not wish you harmed, do you understand? I have spoken with her this morning, to tell her how you behaved. She is even more determined to have you serve thus."

Michele's anger drained. He could not stop flexing the muscles around his anus. He could not ignore the tiny thread of -- was it desire? -- that drew itself through his hips like a string drawing closed a bag. At that moment, he wished Alexi would touch him again, just to stroke his face. His thoughts were scattered and the trembling now seemed enough to shake him apart.

Alexi paused, studying him for a moment, then continued. "How your training is done is, in great part, up to you. If you are obedient and pliant, you will remain here some weeks with me before taking your place in court. If you continue in your rebellion, she told me she has chosen a house in the Village where you and I will live, and where there will be any number of Villagers eager to show you the errors of your ways. And if even that does not bring self-control to you, then you will be turned over to the soldiers garrisoned in the town."

The list of possible futures came as blows to Michele and he felt weak throughout his body. His vision swam. Alexi leaned forward in his chair, his eyes once again pinning Michele where he knelt, riveting him in place. "There is no escape from this, Michele. I will repeat that to you, because you, of all here, know it to be true. You know what choices await you. Escape to another kingdom will exile you from your mother and all you have known forever. Failure to learn will simply push you to more extreme lessons. Do you understand?"

Michele realized then that, despite all logic, he'd held a secret hope that his mother would relent, that he would be freed before this madness could continue. Now that thin hope was gone. He knew her too well. Swallowing this last bitterness, he nodded, new tears now scalding his face.

"Answer when I bid you, Michele."

He could not see through his tears, and he no longer cared if Alexi saw them. "Yes, my Lord."

"Very good." Alexi stood up. "Well, I think you have been coddled long enough. Remove the glove." A Page began pulling at the lacing and Michele's shoulders ached with release. "Hands behind your neck, Michele. Eyes down. Cock at attention." The erect organ was slapped, causing Michele to jerk and jump. "Exercise control, Michele," Alexi counseled him. "You know perfectly well what is expected of you, don't you?"

It was hard for Michele to push his voice through his constricted throat. "Yes, my Lord."

"Very good." Alexi seemed to be thinking, pacing around Michele in a way that caused new fear to rise. "You know that I use fetters for you out of over-kindness, don't you, Michele?"

"Yes, my Lord." Michele could hardly restrain the spasms that racked his chest. Part of him cried in protest that he was not so easily broken, not so easily made compliant, but another part answered that being obedient, compliant, subservient, was the only goal he need strive to attain. It was confusing. He remembered perfectly well how he had treated Alexi, and that he had expected perfect compliance from the slave. He'd been taught that such obedience was admirable and had desired it from all slaves, but secretly he had felt contempt that they would behave so. Now he understood hat defiance brought nothing but pain, and it would be worn down in time. It was not a sign of strength. Obedience was the true strength. He felt a sudden rising admiration for Alexi.

"Fetters are for the weak, Michele, and you cannot be weak." Alexi stood again before him. "To fail in this, Michele, will shame us both, and your mother the Queen, and the entire court. Neither of us can be weak." With that, Alexi produced the leather belt and brought it down across Michele's exposed chest. He flinched but resisted the impulse to move his arms to cover himself. Alexi was right. The fetters had made it easier.

Again and again the leather belt licked at him, stung him, cut him, burned him. He could not remain still despite all he tried, but moved and flinched and undulated to try to avoid the lash. Alexi circled him constantly, so that he never knew where the blows would land. If he gave in to panic and searched around, a Page would catch his head and hold it still and the blows would land more furiously. His tears fell freely, unheeded, and his voice rose and fell with moans and cries. He knew he could not endure it, but he must endure it. Finally, Alexi seemed to tire, or grow bored. He did not even look at Michele as he dismissed him to the Pages. They pushed Michele to his hands and knees and made him crawl out of the room, down the stone hall and to his own cell, raining blows from their paddles and teasing him.

Once he was released to his groom, he was suffused with gratitude as Leon petted him, making him lay on a padded table and examining his new welts and bruises with little sympathetic noises. He closed his eyes and listened to the sound of bath water being poured into the tub. Leon wiped his face with a soft cloth

"Come, Prince Michele." Leon guided him into the tub. As the water rose up over his hips, he yelped at the fresh shock of stinging around his anus. Leon patted him. "Shh, settle down now." The sting eased and he relaxed as the warm water sluiced over him.

"This is much better than yesterday," Leon remarked as he rubbed soap over Michele's shoulders and back. "Yes, I'd say much improved." He began washing Michele's hair as he talked. "I know all this is very difficult for you, Michele. Every slave finds it difficult, but perhaps it is more so for you. Or perhaps it is easier, because of all you know. But I will take care of you and help you as much as I can." Strong fingers massaged Michele's scalp and neck. "Things are the same here as they are in the Slave's Hall, Prince. You know that everyone is a Lord or a Lady to you and you must address them as such." Michele nodded. "You may speak here when I give you permission, and you may ask questions. Do you have any questions now?"

"No, my Lord." The water stung but felt good at the same time. He was rinsed, guided from the tub, and dried. Michele was long used to such treatment, for servants and slaves had bathed him and dried him and dressed him from childhood, yet this was different. Leon was very strong, and in the light from the lamps he was lit as if he were made of gold. He was returned to the table where Leon began to massage him with scented oil, working it deep into the muscles of his shoulders and legs. When he paused to pull Michele's buttocks open, Michele tensed and started to pull away. Leon's restraining hand fell on his arm.

"I must examine you, Michele. Lie still." Michele's heart thudded, but he acquiesced, and Leon probed him very lightly, smoothing oil into the little orifice before moving on. He was turned over and the massaging continued. Leon made him bend his knees and spread his legs for another examination, and his cock, still holding the memory of its earlier excitement, moved and began to grow. Leon laughed a little, very softly, and oiled his cock until it was erect, then moved away. The combination of delicious sensation and growing ache for satisfaction made Michele rock his hips and move his hands toward them. Again, Leon restrained him.

"Stop that, Michele. You are no longer the master of your own pleasure. Lord Alexi will decide when you will be rewarded." Michele resisted for only a moment. "There now." He sat up when commanded and Leon combed his hair neatly. A servant came in with a bowl of stew that was set on the floor. Michele paled.

"You must eat, Michele," Leon admonished him. "Not eating will just make everything else that much harder to endure."

Michele eyed the bowl on the floor and smelled the aroma of the meaty stew. His stomach growled, and Leon stroked his shoulder encouragingly. Michele put his hands behind his neck and knelt down to eat.

Alexi looked at the damask curtain hung across the boarded window. He had been in the tower for four days now and he missed the sight of sunlight. While he was free to come and go as he pleased, he did not wish to be far from his charge and stayed in the tower except for his daily reports to the Queen.

He sighed. Michele was actually progressing along, but not quite as he should. Alexi knew it, knew it in his bones. The fault was his. He was too easy, too kind. Michele would soon lose respect for him and become rebellious again.

Lord Gregory entered the room. "You wished to speak to me, Alexi?" he said, his voice cold. Alexi controlled the familiar response to flinch, to fall and kiss this man's boots, and made himself be calm as he turned around.

"Yes, Lord Gregory. I need your advice." Alexi leaned against the desk, offering Gregory a chair with a gesture. "You, of course, know what has happened to the Crown Prince."

Gregory accepted the seat and nodded in response to the question. "I know somewhat of it."

Alexi felt himself blushing under Gregory's cool gaze. "I realize that I have only recently been raised to a Lord, by her Majesty's order. I know what is expected of me. But...I need to be reminded of what I am doing. Too much of the past is still fresh in my mind."

Gregory nodded again, his hands on the arms of the chair. "Then I will speak plainly to you. As a slave, you were named an exemplar, which I could never believe. I always felt there was something within you that held everything in contempt, which manipulated those who were supposed to master you. I could not tolerate that. Yet nothing I could do would strip that pride from you. No one could completely master you."

"No!" Alexi interrupted, his voice rising. "Lord Gregory, you are wrong! I was completely mastered! By everyone! By the stable boys and the kitchen drudges, by every Lord or Lady who commanded me, by the you, whom I feared above all else because I could never please you." Alexi recovered himself, rubbing his face and sitting back awkwardly in his chair. "Just as Juliana will not wear her hair unbound, I cannot easily speak with you as an equal because I remember too clearly when we were not."

Gregory was silent for a few minutes, which agitated Alexi greatly. "If what you say is true..." He eyed Alexi as if to read his thoughts, "... and I think you are sincere since you have nothing to gain by may be that I have simply never seen such compliance before." He smiled, the hard look in his grey eyes softening. "It is a daunting thing, such compliance. Every member of the court was in love with you." Alexi relaxed slightly. Gregory held no paddle to torment his flesh. They sat as equals now.

"I hope that is true, Lord Gregory." He let out a breath he had not realized he was holding. "Now, about Michele. I do, very much, need your advice."

"He is still rebellious?"

Alexi shook his head. "He is as compliant as I might reasonably expect him to be so soon. The shock of it all has done much to him." He shook his head. "But he does not act from desire. Rather, he evinces little emotion, simply enduring. I cannot push him through that." He met Gregory's eyes. "What is a slave without his passion? I fear that I am too much in sympathy with him, and I let him go when he ceases to respond. Tell me how I might find the strength to keep my mastery of him. Tell me how to awaken his desire to serve."

Gregory smiled again, this time wryly. "It is difficult, is it not?"

Alexi stared, not comprehending at first, then his eyes widened. "You?"

"Yes, Lord Alexi," Gregory nodded. "I, too, have served for a while in the Slave's Hall. I was only a third son, and not of much value at home, so I remained here when my term of service ended. I was raised to a Lord and eventually the Queen's Master of Tributes. So I, too, understand."

Alexi drank this knowledge in. "But every slave fears you so completely!"

"And I remember what it is that makes them feel fear, Lord Alexi. That is what you must do. You must remember how you thought you could not endure, but yet you did. What was it that made you endure? You must remember what it was that brought your soul to its lowest point and how you struggled through. What guided you through?" There was a flagon of wine and goblets on a small serving table, and Gregory poured for them both. "With the Crown Prince, of course, there are added complications. You do not have the benefits of the court and the halls. Because he has walked through them as a Lord, crawling through them as a slave would shake the very foundations of his being and, I think, he would more quickly be shaped. However, to make up for these lacks, you must work him constantly. Tell me, does he still require fetters?"

Alexi nodded, sipping his wine. "Not constantly, but often enough. I was surprised to learn that he was a complete virgin to a man's touch, despite his use of the Princes. I've been training him to accept the phallus most particularly. It seems to frighten him the most he cannot be indifferent to it. He must be fettered for that."

"Have you permitted him any release, or made him pleasure you in any way?"

Alexi's eyes dropped. "He has released accidentally on two occasions, and both times I punished him for his lack of control. But no, I have not touched him more than necessary. I have held off with that."

"You must make him desire you, you know. He will never be completely mastered unless he loves you." Gregory refilled the wine glasses. "So he fears to be taken an understandable fear. What else does he show?"

"He is long used to the idea of display, but he cannot easily tolerate it when he is subjected to it. Of course, here, there is no one but the Pages and me to see it, so it lacks impact. I think displaying him will be the first thing to do when we leave the Tower."

Gregory ran his finger along the stem of the wineglass. "Her Majesty is reluctant to witness that, I think. However, in two weeks time she will begin her tour of the kingdom. She will travel for about a month. I believe she has planned it this way. That is when you must have Michele ready to leave here, I think."

"What if I cannot? Gregory, what if I fail him?" Alexi bit his lip and fidgeted with his glass.

"You will not, Alexi. You know completely what it is he needs what he wants, what he requires." Gregory's voice hardened slightly. "Use all that exemplary control you exhibited. Use that part of you that made you bend, that made you want to please, that made you suffer so beautifully. Know what it is you want of him, and make him do it for you."

Alexi closed his eyes. "Yes."

"More importantly, make yourself the center of his world. Remember how the Queen dealt with you. What made you devote yourself to her?" Gregory stood up. "I would like to talk with you again, but now I must go. New Tributes are due."

"Yes, of course." Alexi stood and accompanied Gregory to the door. "Thank you for your advice, Lord Gregory." At the doorway, Gregory extended his hand and, after a second's hesitation, Alexi grasped it. "Thank you, sir."

When Gregory was gone, Alexi signaled to a Page. "Have Michele prepared for me in my bedchamber. No fetters. Serve my dinner there."

Michele was escorted into the room, his buttock cheeks already beginning to blush from the energetic paddling from the Pages. He was driven into the center of the room and made to kneel there, hands on the back of his neck, nervous but resigned. Alexi sat at a table, eating and studying him, which was unusual. From beneath his lowered lashes he watched his lord sipping wine, shivering at the expressionless mahogany eyes, dreading what ever was planned for him and trying to school himself into indifference. He'd found ways to ignore as much as he could the pain from paddles, straps, canes and crops. Sometimes the pain would threaten to change, to lift him out of himself and make of him something else, something throbbing and needing and demonstrative, but he resisted that and was proud of his resistance. Only when he was fettered to the bedposts did he lose all control. Only when Alexi touched him did he weep and sigh and beg. He hated that, but hating it did not seem to change it.

He knelt for an impossibly long time, seemingly ignored. His cock was already hard, as it was required to be, kept that way from the constant tantalizing it received from Leon and the occasional Page. It ached with need, but he refused to concentrate on it. He felt cold and small, kneeling by the bed, awaiting his master's will, prepared to obey.

At Alexi's gesture, the box of phalluses was placed on the floor in front of Michele and opened. This was only the second time Michele had seen the instruments of delicious, terrifying torment, the items he most dreaded yet that aroused him the most deeply. He hated them, hated the confusion and desire and humiliation they caused him.

"Tell me, Michele, which do you think is the largest one I have used on you?" Alexi asked in a very casual voice, holding a forkful of food near his mouth. "Go ahead. Pick up the one you think is it."

Michele felt a tremor course through him. This was some manner of trick, and a clever one. He studied the seven leather-covered phalluses, his anus contracting at the mere thought of their touch, remembering all too clearly being stretched between the posts of the bed, his hips swinging free, being commanded to lower himself onto something that seemed to stretch him and open him painfully wide. He recalled too clearly being commanded to release it and then impale himself upon it again and again, then having it left deep inside him while Alexi worked him with the leather strap that was his favorite. He had danced and writhed, his buttocks clenching the phallus, his organ growing painful and hard, moaning and crying behind clenched teeth. He tried to picture which one it was. He selected the fifth, picking it up in his hand and holding it before him. It was roughly the thickness of four of his fingers and somewhat longer, rounded at the point and widening toward the base. The leather was slightly roughened. Alexi laughed.

"Did you really think that one? Oh no. Put that one down again. Pick up the third one from the left." Michele did as he was told. The third phallus was not nearly as wide as the fifth one, and it was rather shorter, but it had a ball shaped head. Michele picked it up as he was bidden, and held it out, his face reddening, his eyes still downcast.

"Yes, my dear Michele, it was only that one. That was the one that made you dance and sway so much. Only that." Alexi put down his fork. "That is as far as you have progressed, Michele, and even that small progress has been disappointing. You pretend that you cannot bear to be penetrated if you are not bound. But I know better, and soon you will also know." Alexi pushed himself away from the table. "Now, pick up the fourth one and bring it to me in your teeth." Michele bent to replace the one he held and to lift up the fourth one in his mouth. It was covered in ridged leather. A Page smacked at his legs, the shock of the pain making him scurry toward Alexi. He dropped the phallus into Alexi's open hand.

"Good. Now, listen to my instructions very carefully." Michele nodded, his heart beating fast inside his ribs, tears already beginning to form in his eyes despite his blinking. Alexi picked up a jar from the table and twisted open the lid. Inside was the familiar cream, cloudy and faintly sweet smelling. "You will take this and go to the center of the room. You will kneel with your back to me and your legs spread well wide. You will apply this to your anus, reaching over your own back." Alexi handed him the phallus. "You will then place this between your feet, pointed up. And you will sit back upon it until it is inside you. Then you will ride it. Your hands will remain on the back of your neck once the phallus is positioned. You will do this until I command you to stop." Alexi dropped the jar also into Michele's trembling hand. His voice was very quiet. "You will do this for my pleasure. Do you understand, Michele?"

It was hard to bring up his voice. "Yes, my Lord." Michele crawled back to the place he had been. Every inch of him was trembling. His stomach constricted and his heart beat rapidly. How could he possibly do this? He was sure to fail. Perhaps he could beg, perhaps he could somehow persuade Alexi not to require this. The built up desire in his loins seemed like a hot poker, another instrument of torture that was kept inside of him. He laid the jar and the phallus on the floor. His whole body seemed to convulse in refusal, fear and tension pushing sobs from his mouth. He could not, he could not!

There was a sound over his head, hands reaching for him. He tried to hide his face, but his chin was pulled up from his chest. Alexi knelt in front of him. Michele braced himself for the sting of a paddle or belt, but instead he felt the warmth of a kiss on his lips. It melted him, sending long ripples of warmth through his chest and thighs, unbending his clenched fists, slowing the rapid hammering of his heart. He opened his eyes. Alexi's gaze met his.

"Do this, Michele, because I command you. Do this because it will please me." The tingling thrill of the kiss still echoed in Michele's head, calming him, as Alexi returned to his seat. To please his master, he would do this thing that frightened him so. For the reward of that touch, that kiss, he would do it. It was a comforting thought, that he had now an opportunity to please his master. Still, his eyes were clouded and he had to grope for the jar.

It felt strange to be commanded to touch himself this way. He was timid at first, but he had somehow learned to do it without discomfort. His fingers slipped in and out of his anus easily. The sensation sent tingles down his inner thigh to the bottoms of his feet, making the muscles of his pelvis tighten pleasantly. Remembering how Alexi had done it, he inserted a second finger. He could see the phallus on the floor, and the sight of it made his insides quiver with anticipated pain. Still, running his hand over his own buttocks, feeling his body respond to the sensations he caused himself -- that held comfort and pleasure he'd not felt in many days. Carefully, he placed the phallus between his feet, making sure it was anchored firmly. Then he knelt up and sat down so that it nudged at his anus. Slowly, so very slowly, he eased himself down, struggling to relax, wincing at the pain of being so widely stretched, at the sting and the bite of it. He kept his hands on the back of his neck. His tears spilled down his cheeks and fell to his chest, ignored in his concentration. Finally his buttocks rested on his heels. He felt weak all over. It was a relief to pull himself away, letting the phallus leave him. He had to pause, tall on his knees, dragging in a ragged breath.

"Very good, Michele. Now, again." Alexi's voice was still soft, but firm.

Still moving slowly, he repeated the exercise, feeling himself once again stretched and widened and exposed. He could picture it in his head, could imagine how it might look to Alexi sitting in the chair behind him, a Lord and master. He wondered if Alexi were watching at all. Perhaps Alexi was distracted. Perhaps he was not pleasing his master. He ground his hips down onto the phallus, so much that a gasp pushed out of him He pulled up just far enough to prevent the phallus from completely leaving his body, then down again. Each time it cost him in tears, but inside the pain was another sensation, the same one that had made him writhe and twist when Alexi had driven the phallus into him. His cock bounced against his leg, reminding him suddenly what that sensation meant. Inside the pain was pleasure, a tiny kernel of it. He could control his own movements on the phallus, and he tried varying the way he rode it, clenching and unclenching his muscles around it, testing the sensations. He abandoned himself to it. Heat rose inside him.

"Stop, Michele." The command came almost as a surprise. He froze. "You may sit away from the phallus." He did so with relief and a surprising little drop of regret, letting it fall from between his feet. His knees and back ached. Pages came at an unseen gesture to retrieve the jar and the phallus.

"Turn around, Michele. Look at me." Hands on his neck, Michele turned so he could see Alexi. The box of phalluses sat on the floor by his feet, its lid open. Alexi held a cup of wine. Michele could not read his expression, and he felt a sudden fear that he had, after all, failed to please.

"I see some sign of improvement, Michele. You see, obedience is the best path." Michele's quavering subsided a little, until it was reawakened by the smack of a paddle across his buttocks. The Pages had moved up behind him. The slap tingled without much pain, as there had been little force behind it, but it reminded him to lower his eyes, to keep his hands behind his neck, to keep his knees apart. His cock throbbed painfully, purple and red. "Now, Michele, I will expect you to repeat this performance tomorrow evening and each evening afterwards, until you are able to use the largest phallus." The thought of having to accept the large phallus sent a shudder through Michele.

"Yes, my Lord," he answered obediently.

Lord Gregory entered after a short knock on the door. Alexi looked up from the book he was reading and smiled. "It is good to see you, Lord Gregory."

"And you, Lord Alexi." Gregory took a seat nearby. "And how goes Michele's training?"

Alexi smiled quickly. "It is difficult to control myself with him sometimes." He closed the book. "He is trying very hard. He fights with himself constantly, and that struggle is far more painful to him than anything I can devise."

"But you expect a sort of culmination tonight?"

Alexi gave a short laugh. "Yes, I do. Tonight I give in to my own passion, in some small ways." He leaned back in his chair. "Perhaps you have noted that, up to now, his only interactions have been with toys and objects. Except for his groom, I have allowed him only a minimum of physical contact. He craves it now. If I stroke his hair, he blushes. If I kiss him, he swoons. If I raise my voice to him, he trembles. If I raise a belt to strike him, he leans toward the blow."

"Really?" Gregory leaned a little forward, deeply interested. "You think he has conquered himself, then?"

"Oh, no, not at all. He has only begun to think of me as his master, and I have not required a great deal of him." Alexi smiled again, as much to himself as at Gregory.

"Now I wish to start a cycle of craving within him. His appetite has not been answered in several days. You know he is accustomed to instantly satisfying his appetites. He is not used to such long suffering and he responds to it beautifully. Once he is in the state of craving, and he realizes I am his only source of satisfaction...then he will have truly begun his training." Alexi's smile became a little wistful. "I had not thought, when I began, that this would be the key to him. You gave me that key when we last spoke."

Gregory responded with a short laugh. "Ah, but every slave is a collection of surprises." His eyes sharpened with shrewdness. "You have not been working him as hard, perhaps, as your reason says you should?"

Alexi shrugged. "I have not truly pushed him to his limits there. Forcing him to face his fears is softening him, and that is how I proceed. As he conquers them, he conquers himself."

"And why does he conquer these fears?"

"For me, Lord Gregory." Alexi's smile spread warmly. "He does it for me."

Michele entered the now familiar bedchamber, driven forward by the skillful blows of the Pages who attended him, stopping in his accustomed place in the center of the room. Just kneeling there made his knees weak. Only the evening before, he had been forced to accept the largest phallus. He could remember clearly the horrible pressure of it, the coldness of the brass studs, his own cries and the protesting shivers of his body. Yet he had done it, done it for the kiss Alexi gave him when he was finally allowed to remove the phallus, when he had almost fallen down for relief. Those kisses...he would never have thought something so small would become so important. They removed any hope of indifference. The thought that pleasing Alexi might bring him a touch or a kiss or even a kind word made every torment a new experience to which he could not harden himself.

Sometimes Alexi had him whipped by the Pages simply to watch him writhe. Sometimes he was set in awkward, exposing postures and made to endure having his cock teased and tormented with no hope of satisfaction. Alexi was very clever at everything he did. Michele felt he would do anything to avoid his master's displeasure, just as he would do anything to gain his master's approval.

The room was very quiet. He suddenly wished he were back with Leon. He'd learned a great appreciation for his groom and looked forward to those short, luxurious moments of care. Leon seemed to know every trick for easing discomfort, for loosening tightened muscles, for soothing abraded skin, for quieting tightly strung nerves. For Leon, too, he'd bent himself to obedience, but Leon asked so little of him that it was no hardship.

The door of the room opened. He knew Alexi's step on the carpet. The Pages were dismissed with a word. They were alone.

"Ah, Michele." Alexi stood beside him. He could see that the soft, supple leather strap his master favored was coiled around his hand, and inside he shrank from the thought of it striking his skin. He'd felt it so often that he didn't understand why he feared it still, but he did. He kept motionless. "Tonight, Michele, we shall test all that you have learned."

"Yes, my Lord," Michele answered, fighting to keep his voice calm. The room was vaguely cool, and Alexi seemed to exude warmth.

Alexi's fingers were in his hair, stroking the dark locks. "Yes, tonight is the test." He moved away. "When I served the Queen, Michele, my duties included helping her dress and undress. You recall, I'm sure?" Michele did remember, although it seemed like something he'd heard in a story rather than lived, dim and broken. "I will now have you do the same for me." Michele's skin flinched like a horse as the tip of the leather belt accidentally grazed his shoulder. "You will use your teeth and lips for everything, your hands only when you must. And you must be perfect, do you understand? You must be graceful. You must be beautiful."

"Yes, my Lord." He turned his head slightly to see Alexi settling in his favorite chair. He crawled forward at his gesture. The impulse took him suddenly to kiss the soft leather of Alexi's boot, and the thought stunned him. Slaves had kissed his boots often enough, and he'd thought it just a ploy, a thing they did to beg for release, to be spared from whatever was commanded them to do or to endure. Now he understood that it was an expression of love as well as a manner of pleading. He was slow to bend to it, but he rested his lips on the smooth brown leather at the toe of the boot and kissed it fervently. He did not raise his eyes to his master's face, instead regarding the heavy gold buttons of his jacket.

It was difficult, loosening buttons, pulling at cloth, but Alexi had a knack for moving ever-so-slightly to ease the process that, after several exhausting, frustrating minutes, Michele had the jacket and the shirt removed. The boots were even more challenging. When he bent his face down to unfasten the buttons of Alexi's pants, he saw the bulge of his sex hidden beneath the fabric. At one time his face reddened with a rush of blood, his heart thudded inside him, and he was confused, overcome with a mixture of feelings. The leather belt flicked at him, caught him along his back, and jerked him into himself again. Shaking, he tugged the buttons open one by one and began pulling the pants open, then off.

Alexi smelled of something spicy and warm, like a sun heated pine forest. His skin was smooth, darker than Michele's, his muscles rippling smoothly beneath it. Now naked, Michele could not believe he had ever seen this body before, much less ever abused it. It was too beautiful, too lush. Respectfully, he lowered his eyes.

"Bring me my robe, Michele." He brought that next, and then sat on his heels, tense with expectation. Alexi watched him for a moment, the robe across his lap. "You are not the most skilled, Michele. No, you are clumsy, in fact. You need much more practice." The condemnation struck harder than Michele would have ever imagined. Tears formed in his eyes, and he blinked to hold them back. "Ah, don't be ashamed, my dear Prince. I shall arrange for you to have all the practice you require until you are perfect." It took Michele a whole minute to understand what Alexi had said, and the meaning drove away tears of shame and replaced them with thudding expectation.

Another light snap of the belt drew his attention back again, more from the noise than any real pain. "Now, Michele, your next test. You should thank your mother, the Queen, for this one. She taught me the value of it." Alexi stood, wrapping the robe loosely about, half tying the belt, then sat again, well forward. "Come here," he commanded. Without ceremony, Michele found himself hoisted up and across Alexi's knees. The robe hardly covered them, and the bare flesh of his thighs pressed against Michele's belly. His hips were hoisted high, his hard cock dangling ignominiously down. "Place your hands behind you, Michele, at the small of your back. Under no circumstances are you to move them, do you understand?"

The realization of it all took Michele's voice, and he croaked, "Yes, my Lord."

The first slap was actually very light, Alexi's hand merely conforming to the outline of his buttock cheek, almost caressing. The second one was a sharp flash of sting and pain that made Michele want to squirm, but he held still. One after another the blows came, sometimes in this place, sometimes in that, sometimes punctuated by a caress or a pinch, then coming down faster and faster. Michele's eyes flooded and his breath came in ragged gasps. What had he done? Was this for his clumsiness? His body bent under each explosion. Perspiration formed on his chest and forehead, and he felt its stickiness where his body touched Alexi's. Was it simply for Alexi's pleasure? Did Alexi want to hear his cries, to see his tears? He felt weak and lightheaded. He contorted and wriggled under each blow, each loud noise of flesh against flesh coursing through his blood. He fought to obey, to not push himself away. His fingers clenched and unclenched themselves and he moaned, at first softly, then more pleadingly, his mouth falling open without his knowledge. His cock banged painfully against Alexi's legs, his hips riding up and down to follow each stroke, shuddering with each fresh explosion. He understood it was a test of his endurance, but he could endure no more, he was certain he could not. His cries rose, his body shook, almost without his will he tried to roll himself away. Alexi caught him, pinioned him.

"You must never do that, Michele," he ordered in a voice husky and breathless from exertion. Michele could only sob in reply. Alexi's arm was under his shoulders and he was cradled for a moment, both of them lying back in the embrace of the armchair. Alexi stroked his face. His body throbbed and he felt inexplicably small and vulnerable.

"Shhh, it is over now." Alexi's voice pierced the roaring in Michele's ears as the soft stroking pierced the haze of pain and wretchedness. Warm lips touched his forehead, amazing him with the comfort such a touch could bring, then they caressed his eyelids and the bridge of his nose. He pressed his face against Alexi's neck, grateful for respite. He did not know how long he rested there, but when his breathing had slowed and his tears lessened, Alexi shifted, taking his weight and putting him on his feet. Immediately he dropped to his knees, hands at the back of his neck.

"Very good, Michele." Alexi's voice was a salve to all his wounds. He could feel the stings and torments newly inflicted. "Now...go to the bed."

Michele dropped to all fours to crawl to the bed and assumed the position he was accustomed to take, at the foot between the tall posts. There were no Pages to bind him. Nervousness overcame him. He'd learned to accept the phalluses unbound when he controlled them himself, but when wielded by another, he could not restrain himself and always needed the bindings to writhe and pull against. Uncertain, he leaned forward, bracing himself on the mattress, legs wide. He prayed silently that he would not have to endure the brass-trimmed phallus again. He did not think he would be able to endure, not now with his whole body one giant throb from the spanking. But Alexi was behind him; his master's hand was soft in the small of his back. "No, dearest one. Get onto the bed. Lie down."

Amazed, surprised, apprehensive, Michele did as commanded. The coverlet was soft beneath him as he stretched his full length upon it. He ached everywhere, so tense that relaxing hurt and made him moan very softly, muffling it against the pillow. The bed moved and he realized Alexi was lying beside him. A hand under his shoulder pushed him to roll over. He looked up. Alexi's face was above his.

"Now, my beautiful prince, your final test." Alexi's lips were soft against his, filling him with new shudders, delicious ones. Without thought, without will, Michele's arms wrapped around his master's slender, muscular torso and embraced it. He was a raw source of desire now, engulfed so completely as he could never remember having been. It went on forever. Alexi's hand caressed his sore and burning buttocks, slipping between them, gently touching his anus. The touch was like adding fuel to the fire that burned him. He moaned open-mouthed against Alexi's lips. His eyes closed. In a moment he felt the familiar texture of the lubricating cream as it was applied gently, carefully, and he relaxed to it, opened to it.

"Roll up to your knees, Michele." Alexi's voice was still gentle, calm, but it held a note of passion that sent a thrill through Michele. He obeyed, spreading his legs wide, feeling Alexi fit his own in between. Hands rested on his hips, guiding him. He felt the nudge of Alexi's cock against his buttock cheeks and fear washed over him. He nearly fell forward, but Alexi held him. "No, Michele, take me in. Do as I have trained you."

Michele breathed a long, shuddering sigh and pressed back, feeling the first small penetration, feeling himself opened impossibly wide. Alexi responded with a pleasured moan, and this encouraged him. He rose up and pressed down again, feeling as if he would be torn apart. Alexi's hands guided him, caressed him through the still throbbing pain. It was hard to breathe, hard to make himself move. He felt a kiss between his shoulder blades, and Alexi's hands stroked his hips and thighs, tugging his pubic hair, touching his cock and making it leap spasmodically. He pressed back, groaning, and something inside gave way, relaxed, opened. Thrills ran along his inner thighs, over his chest, through his hands and feet. His sore buttocks rested on Alexi's thighs, drawing more murmurs of pleasure and encouragement. The idea that he was giving such pleasure to his master was transforming. He abandoned himself to the sensations, feeling his hips rise and gyrate between Alexi's body and Alexi's hands.

Alexi's weight shifted, throwing Michele forward, so that he took over control of the motion, thrusting his sex deep into Michele's now willing body, leaving Michele only to respond. Warmth suffused him, rolled through him in wave after delicious wave. His own passion, so long denied, was too quickly satisfied, but as he spent himself, he felt the shudders and sighs that meant Alexi, too, had climaxed. Together, they tumbled onto the mattress, arms and legs entwined.

But it was only moments before his cock was rising again, and he felt Alexi moving behind him.

"Oh, most beautiful, my love," Alexi kissed him, his lips and forehead and eyelids and neck, chest. Each luscious kiss seemed to pierce his soul. But Alexi's kisses did not stop there. Soon they were touching his scrotum, his cock, the insides of his legs. Hungrily, he opened to this, too.

It was as if he had never felt pleasure before, never commanded suffering slaves to perform these acts of passion. Alexi's tongue and lips were indescribable, seemingly able to command every nerve in his body. That Alexi even wanted to suckle and caress him with lips and tongue seemed incredible. Was this not a service forced on slaves? He could remember the avidity he'd witnessed in slaves brought to service him so, and how he'd thought that yet another display, a game played to cover loathing and make the necessities of servility appear to be joys. He could not feel any loathing in Alexi now. He was pinned firmly by the man's warm body, the hot, wet mouth teasing and tonguing his cock giving no hint of reluctance. Alexi slipped one finger into his anus it felt so small and yet was still capable of making him jump and squirm helplessly and worked him mercilessly until he came again, and then to that further point where pleasure became pain and he whimpered softly for his master's mercy. Only then did Alexi rise up, lift the coverlet and sheets, and instruct him to slide beneath them. His master then lay next to him in the warm hollow of the bed, his larger body somehow cradled within the curve of Alexi's, his back pressed into Alexi's chest.

They caressed drowsily until the candle had gone out. He roused himself after a while to the insistent nudge of Alexi's sex against his thigh and pushed himself to a lingering exploration of the organ with his fingers, his lips and tongue, just as Alexi had done to him. He wanted to do this service, the desire drifting up from some place inside he'd never explored before. He felt uncertain and a little shy, but Alexi encouraged him with a hand in his hair and soft words. The perfect smoothness of silky skin on his lips was a pleasure in itself. Feeling anew the strange power he had in serving, being able to make his master moan with pleasure, was intoxicating. Inexperience gave way to the desire to please, to the overwhelming love he felt for his master, and he was not satisfied until Alexi, too, had spent himself again. Alexi drew him up and rewarded him further with yet another melting kiss. They both fell asleep, Michele's head cradled on Alexi's shoulder.