A Good Servant Ch. 13

 

By Laura S. Fox

 

Copyright 2018 Laura S. Fox

 

All Rights Reserved

 

Gay Erotica

 

Intended for Mature Audiences Only

 

This story contains graphic depictions of sexual intercourse, strong language and it is not meant for readers who are less than 18 years of age.

 

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Warning: Minor character's death.

~A Good Servant~

A soft humming sound was caressing his sense of hearing. He tried to open his eyes, but the eyelids felt heavy as lead. Just as the tongue inside his mouth; some unarticulated sounds came out, and he could barely register they were just half words he was trying to speak.

A warm hand came to rest on his forehead.

"Easy, you're safe here," he heard Lucas's voice, low as a whisper.

Something sweet and moist was pushed past his lips and he allowed the intrusion. It felt good, cool against his heavy tongue. Soon enough, he descended back into his slumber.

Lucas rose and sighed. Recovery was going to take a while. With proper care, the marks on Cory's back were going to heal. The ones in his heart were a different matter. And there was also the problem with the brand. The Head Trainer was not happy about it. He had clearly stated that letting a servant, damaged in such a manner, to continue to tend to a Master's needs in Drena, was undesirable.

He had examined the burned flesh, barely containing the hatred he felt within. He had to focus on Cory's recovery at the moment and on convincing the Head Trainer to leave the young man in his service. But the future, which he had always thought of as being set in stone, each day resembling the other, with no big surprises, no high hopes, now seemed muddy and a cause of unease.

There was a storm of emotions he was trying to cope with. Antoine escaping punishment without as little as a slap on the wrist, the Head Trainer's conviction that Lucas had to see about getting a different servant, and the raw intensity of the deep hatred he was nurturing inside was too much. He had to do something about it. But as much as he wanted to picture Antoine being tortured to death, each time Cory moved in his sleep, he had to place everything aside and tend to him immediately.

Now he had been summoned again. He had a distinct sensation he was not going to enjoy meeting the Head Trainer.

~A Good Servant~

"We fail to understand why you are so adamant about keeping a defective item in your household," the Head Trainer spoke slowly as if Lucas was a difficult child sitting at a school desk.

"I thought I was free to choose who I want to keep or not," Lucas answered sharply to the unspoken request.

"We would not normally deny such simple demands from our Rulers," the grey hood bent slightly, as in apology. "But there is also the issue of the brand burned on the servant's shoulder. It is still a mystery to us how the symbol emerged at such an inopportune time."

"I do not understand," Lucas murmured, for some reason feeling the chill in the room growing colder. "I have never seen the symbol, and I do not see what importance it has."

"Something from old times," the Head Trainer gestured like he wanted to protect himself from some pesky insects. "It is the so-called mark of a whore, and we find it simply distasteful. Keeping this servant inside the city walls will just remind everyone of a time when such barbaric acts were condoned. We believe punishment is love, and that it should be administered accordingly. Trying to shame someone is simply not done in a society like ours, and intimate acts are seen as natural for Masters and those who serve them to render the term `whore' simply obsolete."

Lucas frowned. The Head Trainer seemed to dance around the subject.

"He would be entirely covered by clothes in polite society. He is not a slave, so he would not be required to undress in public, either. The branded mark would not be visible."

"Yes, I understand, the only one exposed to its ugliness would be you, Lord Lucas," lifeless pools of darkness measured Lucas up and down like they were trying to uncover some secret the man did not want to share.

"And I do not mind," Lucas added quickly.

"It is not a matter whether you mind or not. We love all our children equally. Please do not see it like we want to deprive you of a preferred toy."

It took Lucas all the self-restraint he was capable of to avoid saying something he was certainly going to regret later. The Head Trainer continued.

"We want to offer you perfection ..."

"Perfection is boring," Lucas blurted out.

"Please do not be difficult," the grey form moved with something akin with uneasiness in his chair. "We will give you time to adjust. We understand that you developed quite an attachment to this servant, so we will not take him away from you. At least not until you see the errors of your ways and decide to be in accord with us."

"What do you plan to do with him?"

"The same thing we do with all the servants who complete their service. He will be sent to work the factories. Or the mines. Seeing his condition, he is probably going to be better working underground."

Lucas's heart skipped a few beats.

"I would like to leave Drena. Could I take my servant with me? There are no such rules in Aeria," he spoke, trying hard not to storm out of the room, grab Cory and leave right away.

"Leave Drena?" the Head Trainer's voice seemed disappointed. "At this time, we are afraid it is not possible. We have no other as brilliant as you to fill your position. As for your request, we hate to disappoint you, but as a person born here, Cory the servant needs to remain close to home. Working the mines outside the city, or staying here, these are the only two possibilities to consider. And you know well which one we find desirable."

Small bits of thoughts whirled in Lucas's mind.

"Head Trainer," he spoke loud and clear, "I must say that I am disappointed with how this was handled. First, my property is damaged, and no retribution is exacted, and second, my simple wishes are condemned in your eyes. On top of everything, there is no investigation going on, searching for an explanation of how the symbol you are talking about fell into the hands of my servant's attackers."

"An investigation?" the Head Trainer seemed intrigued.

"Yes. At least I have the right to demand answers. If you have no intention to do so, I will ask the slave myself. Where did he get the iron branding cane from?"

The Head Trainer seemed to ponder. "In this respect, you are correct, Lord Lucas. We will see to finding answers. After all, it was an unfortunate event, and if Lord Arnaud had not been so attached to his slave, some punishment would have been in order."

Lucas knew when a meeting with the Head Trainer was over. He rose, bent rigidly and left. The uneasiness inside him was growing stronger. He was being pushed against his will. It was only a matter of time until they would take Cory away from him. Even if he was to beg, he knew the Head Trainer was not going to revise his position in that regard. For the first time in his life, Lucas was starting to question everything he believed in.

~A Good Servant~

Good relationships with traders were not only required of Rulers, but they were also useful. Carefully rolling the paper and placing it in a beautifully ornate stylus, Lucas waited for the merchant to appear. He was not particularly fond of Vacchiari, but, in time, he had learned he was a man to be trusted. Within reason. There was a little cipher locking the stylus so that the merchant could not find the content of the message.

He handed the middle-aged man the stylus and a small card. "Please see that Professor Edgar at the University in Aeria receives this. It is very important that you give him this gift directly," Lucas looked Vacchiari in the eyes. "No one else must know."

The trader nodded and palmed the stylus and the card on which some boring greeting like words were printed. Vacchiari had been in the trade for a long time to know when a good deal could be struck from keeping secrets.

***

A few days later, one Professor Edgar in Aeria, Lucas's old friend, and confidante was studying the card and the stylus with a frown on his face. He scratched his head and sniffed the stylus then played with it, rolling it between his bony fingers.

"A good game of hide-and-seek like back in the days, Lucas?" he spoke out loud, making his tomcat give him a seemingly condescending stare. It was just something the cat did whenever Edgar was talking to himself.

It had always been entertaining to play those games with Lucas. His leaving for Drena had not meant the end of their friendship, though. A click was all that was needed to make the stylus open. Edgar unrolled the small paper on his mahogany desk, way too overcrowded with documents of all shapes and sizes, filled with his little, tormented scribbles. He stared at the symbol while tapping his fingers against the wood.

"And what exactly is this supposed to mean?"

Lucas's message was clear. "Edgar, please tell me what this symbol is all about."

"Yes, Lucas, and that is easier said than done," Edgar straightened his back, making a few vertebrae pop. He was anxious for a new challenge. Working all day and all night on improving the new gate system had left him feeling a bit unsatisfied lately. Now he had something to play with.

~A Good Servant~

"It is a wonderful morning," Lucas spoke while helping Cory to get up and wake slowly to sit in a rocking chair in front of the window.

Cory didn't need words to let him know what his lover felt. His handsome face had become a little gaunt, and there was a deep frown on his forehead that Cory knew too well had not been there before.

"How are you, Lucas?" he spoke hoarsely. He was still getting adjusted to speaking again. It felt a bit unnatural.

"This is something I should ask you," Lucas said with tenderness while caressing Cory's hand as if it was made of some fragile material, bound to break at the slightest wrong move.

"That would be redundant," Cory said wistfully. "You've cared for me all this time, haven't you?"

Lucas's strong fingers curled with tenderness against Cory's smaller hand.

"What happened? You know, to ... them?" he asked with difficulty.

Lucas shook his head. Containing the rage and anger he felt within was taking its toll on his sanity as it was. Cory understood without words.

"Don't worry. It is as expected. When will they send me away?" he asked while staring out the window.

"They won't," Lucas's voice sounded hollow. "I won't let them!"

Cory moved his hand to grab Lucas's fingers tightly. "I knew it was not going to last. For what it's worth, it was a beautiful dream, Lucas. I will always have this, for the days to come."

"Don't talk like this!" Lucas almost shouted. "I'll do everything! They say I can still keep you!"

"Lucas," Cory spoke tenderly. "It is not like how we were taught. We break the rules. We pay for it. We knew it very well, both you and me."

"What are you talking about? No one tells a Master, a Ruler even, what to do," Lucas's voice vibrated with emotion. "There are no rules."

"But there are. Servants are nothing but a commodity to be moved around. My time here is done."

Lucas let go of his hand.

"Is this what you want, Cory? What you really want?"

"A servant's wish is not important."

"There is no one else but you and me here. Tell me what you want, and I will change the world," Lucas spoke passionately while pacing the room behind Cory.

Cory's heart grew smaller in his chest. "A good servant never questions his betters. A good servant never speaks out of turn. A good servant never falls in love with his master," words grew thinner, weaker in his mouth.

Lucas came to kneel next to his chair. Green eyes searched blues once serene as the summer sky.

"What are you speaking of, Cory? Tell me right now."

A thin hand caressed Lucas's face, imprinting every feature in its wake. "Is it that hard to understand? I love you, Lucas, and for this, I will have to leave. You cannot jeopardize your position for someone like me."

"Someone like you?" Lucas's hands closed over his. "There will never be someone like you. No one has ever made me feel as alive as you do. For a while, I thought I was simply infatuated, but not anymore. They had to hurt you to make me realize ..."

Thin fingers pressed against Lucas's lips to silence him. "Don't worry; I'll be fine. They dragged me here, to the inner city, and now they send me back. And you will be fine, too. Me staying here will only cause you pain and unhappiness. At least, outside of Drena, enemies come straight at you if they have something against you. They do not lurk in shadows. At least, that was what I knew."

"I will protect you," Lucas begged Cory with his eyes.

"And they will all laugh at you. They will wear you down, day after day. And will I be safe? By now, I suppose what happened is all over Drena. I doubt I would make any new friends."

He forced a small smile. "Not that I had many, to begin with. But that is not what I'm worried most."

"Then what is it?" Lucas's eyes were filled with worry and regret. "I should not have left that day, leave you alone ..."

"Lucas, it is not the slaves who are the most dangerous," Cory spoke softly. If it was one thing Lucas didn't know about was how he had laid so many hours on his suffering bed, thinking.

"Antoine," Lucas hissed.

"Not even him," Cory grimaced and closed his eyes tightly. "He did not do it because he hated me. Or, better said, not only because of that. They said something ... something strange. I remember well how he wavered when I tried to reach him. It was one split second, but it was like, if it were on his own accord, he would have just pushed me around at best. Not ..." he drew a deep breath, "not all this. They told him to `stick to the plan'. It was all staged. It was not just a random episode of violence. It was prepared. Do you see Antoine being capable of acting on more than mere impulse? You must not forget I have known him for a while."

His other hand traveled to his shoulder as if he was trying to feel the brand with his fingers through his shirt.

"And this," he added softly. "For Antoine and the rest, it would have been enough to beat me up. Why this?"

"It is something I am trying to find out," Lucas spoke.

"What do the Trainers say?" Cory questioned. "They hold the truth."

"Not this time, it seems."

"How ... how does it look like? I feel like my shoulder is getting better."

"You are going to heal."

"I know. I could not see it very well. I would like to see it," he said, staring into Lucas's eyes.

He was helped to his feet and moved slowly in front of a mirror. He drew a deep breath as Lucas gently unbuttoned his shirt and took the sleeve on his right arm off. He looked into the mirror.

"It looks like a flower of sorts. Why did they do it?"

"Apparently," Lucas helped him get the sleeve on again, "it is supposed to be shameful."

"What is the point? I do not know what it means."

"The Trainers say it is the main reason why I should consider sending you away. They say it is ... distasteful. A reminder of times past."

"Times past? I thought the world was always like this. I do not understand."

"Me neither. But I don't care. If there is something that someone is trying to keep from me, I will do my best to find out. Now, please, you must return to bed. You are yet to recover fully."

Cory turned and let his forehead rest on his master's shoulder. "Can I ask for a favor?" he spoke softly.

"Of course you can," Lucas caressed his head with infinite tenderness.

"Please stay with me at night."

It was a request so simply spoken, yet containing so many unsaid words, that Lucas felt his heart growing smaller. He took Cory's hand and guided him towards his bedroom. If Cory was to be sent away, at least he could do was keeping him close for the remaining time they had together.

~A Good Servant~

"Mister Whiskers," Edgar pointed his pencil towards his cat that was watching him from his vantage point on top of the cabinet, "I think we have something interesting to transmit to Lord Lucas in Drena. What do you say? Do you like a good story?"

To demonstrate his total disinterest in his master's intellectual tribulations, the tomcat closed his eyes and stretched lazily.

Edgar pushed his thin-rimmed glasses back on his nose. He carefully rolled the small map together with the text he had written for Lucas. An unfamiliar ticklish sensation was making him excited and nervous at the same time; it was not like him to do something against the rules. But as he and Lucas often said, knowledge was always worth breaking the rules.

~A Good Servant~

Lucas waited patiently for the door to close after Vacchiari. He unlocked the stylus and took out the two papers.

"La Fleur de Lys," Lucas murmured, looking thoughtfully over the text written in Edgar's chaotic handwriting.

He took a seat. As he was reading, a play of emotions animated his face. Surprise, disbelief, worry, and finally, determination lit his face. The Trainers were not going to send Cory to the mines outside of Drena. He was going to do that.

He looked at the old map and traced the barely visible lines. He then returned to the symbol and pressed the tip of his fingers against the three petals.

"For those who work, those who fight, and those who pray," he repeated the words written by Edgar right under the symbol.

~A Good Servant~

An appreciative whistle made Xavier turned with an affronted look in his beautiful grey eyes. He probably missed a few things from Drena. Such as his privacy when taking a shower. He could not say he minded, although the playful slap across his buttocks that followed made him grind his teeth a little.

"You could knock," he murmured and turned back to see about washing his body while trying to ignore Ayn's radiating heat.

"And miss having you in a hissy fit again?" Ayn grabbed his waist and pressed his naked body against Xavier's. "I love it when you're angry. It makes the sex so much better," he drawled the words into the other's ear while biting it.

"You are so full of yourself," Xavier rolled his eyes, a bit miffed at how his cock stirred to life, as Ayn's rough hand brushed over it, with seemingly no intention to grab it and give it a good rub.

"I learned from the best," Ayn whispered seductively in his ear, letting his hands roam over Xavier's perfect torso until they found purchase on erect nipples that grew instantly harder when pinched.

"You are developing quite an obsession," Xavier's breathing grew ragged, as Ayn began twisting his nipples between his fingers, sending jolts of electricity straight to his cock.

"Just admit it. You're into this big time," Ayn teased while placing a trace of small kisses on the man's right shoulder.

"No," Xavier denied a bit too quickly.

"Xav, baby, you're absolutely fucking lying," Ayn rubbed his growing erection against Xavier's flawless buttocks.

Xavier pushed back to encourage the intrusion. It was, after all, what he truly wanted. No matter how much he hated to admit, and he would have been caught dead rather than do that, Ayn had proved to be a skillful considerate lover. The fact that the man had learned everything from wooing girls was not sitting well with him, but he had to swallow it. At least, he had been the first man in Ayn's life, and that had to count for something.

"Xa-vi-er," he spelled stubbornly, as Ayn used his fingers, coated with something slick and wet to open him and then push inside slowly. "And don't call me `baby'. It's cheesy."

Ayn grunted with satisfaction, as he buried himself deep inside Xavier's compliant body. It didn't matter than the man was still running his mouth about not wanting it.

"How should I call you, then? My darling? My love?" Ayn punctured each one of his words with slow, torturous thrusts.

Love? The word sent a small jolt of pleasure up his spine. Yet, the taste in his mouth was bitter. It was not the word bothering him, but the fact that Ayn was saying it so casually.

"No," he said again. "Xavier would suffice."

"That won't do," Ayn said simply. "You're Xav to me because no one else has ever called you that. And no one else should dare unless they want to piss me off."

Naming was taking into possession, Xavier thought as one of Ayn's hands descended on his neglected cock and started jerking it, while its owner continued his pounding. It made him feel so incredibly aroused to be manipulated, taken like that as if Ayn didn't give a damn who Xavier was or who he pretended to be.

Their moans mingled, bouncing against the walls of the small bathroom. All the riches in the world meant nothing, Xavier thought, as he was fucked by Ayn so totally, so thoroughly, that he could not even start to think what it meant.

He came first, spewing his load on the wall in front of him, and he felt Ayn stilling himself and shouting his release. It always felt like a victory for Ayn and as some sweet surrender on his part.

What mattered most was that every time, Ayn was making him turn to kiss him some more even if both were spent and satiated. Xavier felt like this was counting for Ayn, and he was more than happy to oblige, during their moments of bliss.

"You're an amazing kisser," Ayn praised, as they eventually broke the contact so they could breathe. "Even back in that city of assholes, I still loved your kisses."

Ayn caressed Xavier's cheek, his eyes glued to the man's lips. "And a great cocksucker, too," he added, as he bent and stole another kiss.

"Just great?" Xavier pushed him back a little, casting his eyes down.

"No, the best," Ayn smiled and embraced Xavier, pressing their bodies close together. "My very best in all the ways."

~A Good Servant~

The slave moved around slowly, circling his victim. The other man sat on his knees, his eyes closed, waiting for the final act of humiliation. Antoine got closer and, as everyone cheered, he pumped his cock and grunted his release, painting the man's face with his jizz. Victories seemed hollow lately. But he was playing his part, just like every time; it was the surest way to keep to Arnaud's good graces. Sooner or later, he was going to be too old, so being on top of everyone proved that he was still good enough to keep. Many slaves around him didn't know this simple truth. They were kept in Drena for one year or two, then sent to serve the brothels destined for tourists or sold up north. What happened to those, nobody knew. There were whispers, rumors, and gossip, but Antoine cared for none of them. Keeping his head on his shoulders was what mattered most.

He rubbed his cock a few more times against the other's lips, then turned on his heels and left the arena. Arnaud gave him a nod; the Master was pleased. So Antoine had to be, as well.

He went straight for the slaves' quarters, feeling in terrible need of a shower. He was too lost in his thoughts, so he barely avoided bumping into someone who seemed to have appeared in front of him out of nowhere.

With a frown, he looked up. He blinked, barely hiding his surprise.

"Lord Lucas," he said thinly. Cory's Master. Out of all people, he had to bump into this one, now, when he was alone, and the hallways seemed suddenly very empty.

"I will tell you just this one time," the man spoke rarely, and Antoine could taste the threat wrapped in every word. "You made a powerful enemy. Don't think this is the end. For what you did, you are going to pay."

He opened his mouth, wanting to say something, to laugh the menace off, but Lord Lucas moved past him, without sparing him a glance. What the hell was that supposed to mean?

He pushed the doors to the slaves' quarters.

"Towel," he barked to one of the servants, and the guy hurried to help him.

"Great performance, Antoine," one of the other slaves spoke to him, and he just nodded.

"Lord Lucas was here," another spoke. "He started asking questions. You know ... about that day."

Antoine shrugged, although he could feel unease starting to gnaw at him.

"And?"

"And nothing. We said nothing," the slave said defensively. "But he says that we will be punished. You said no one would do that."

"Lord Lucas is just pissed about not having any power over us," Antoine straightened his back, while a servant was gently wiping the sweat off his back. "He's an outsider, so the Trainers don't give a shit about him. He won't do anything."

"But ..." the other slave tried to speak.

"Zip it now, I'm tired," Antoine headed for the showers. He was in no mood to hear them complaining about that episode.

Not that he wasn't thinking about it. There were very few things he wanted in his life without getting them. Cory slipping through his fingers had made him mad behind all reason. He could not explain the attraction. But he could still remember eyes blue like cornflowers staring at him with hate and disgust. That still haunted him at night.

It was of no consequence. It had been an order from above. The kind no one dared question. He had a distinct impression or feeling it was related to Cory and Lucas's connection being seen as undesirable by the higher powers. He could not agree more. No one belonged just to one person. It was an unspoken rule Lucas, and Cory broke. They were paying for it.

Later that day, he was summoned for a regular medical checkup. His Master seemed a bit displeased with being deprived of his favorite slave, especially after such a great victory. Arnaud loved being dominated in bed, but that was something he was not supposed to share. Although it had always boosted his pride to let others know a few details now and then, about how he had his Master wrapped around his fingers.

The grey form moved around him, touching him everywhere. For some reason, medical checkups were very unpleasant for Antoine. Probably because the Trainers' hands were always cold. The physical examination was giving him the shivers. A small needle prickled his arm.

"Have you talked to Lord Lucas lately?" he heard the Head Trainer speaking.

He had no idea when the leader of the Trainers had entered the room.

"Today. He threatened me," he said simply. He had been trained to keep no secrets from the Trainers.

"What did he say?"

"That I was going to pay."

"Did he ask you anything in particular?" the Head Trainer moved around.

"No. He just wanted to show off his anger."

"He will start asking you questions."

"I know my part. I won't say anything," Antoine felt a chill creeping down his spine.

"We know," the Head Trainer spoke.

Antoine tried to move, feeling uneasiness washing over him. He could not move his arms and legs.

"What is going on?" he started breathing hard.

"We know you will not talk because we will make sure of it," the Head Trainer's voice was growing colder.

His jaw was growing slack, and he felt his examiner pushing something metallic through his lips. At his point, all he could do was blink. Some unarticulated sounds came out, but he could no longer speak.

A sudden sharp pain made his mind go blank. He wasn't sure whether he was screaming or he just imagined it. His mouth filled with blood, and he tried to fight the urge just to swallow and swallow so that he could breathe.

He lay there, completely rigid, conscious of the life draining away from his body, as he was suffocating in his blood. Anger was nothing; it served nothing, and regret and blue eyes staring at him were the last memory fading from his mind. His eyes remained open, void of all emotions. A cold hand closed his eyelids.

"And the others?" the Head Trainer questioned.

"A public execution would be distasteful. But we need to make our position known. Punishment is love," the grey hood bent slightly.

"Punishment is love," the Head Trainer replied and left the room. His brothers were going to take care of everything. Lucas was going to receive the satisfaction of knowing his servant's assailants punished, but without knowing anything that might hurt him. It was probably needed for him to get rid of that broken toy he still cared for in his household.

~A Good Servant~

Lord Arnaud's plea was tearful. Lucas would have been a liar saying that he didn't feel moved at all.

"I want everyone involved in this dead," Arnaud spoke with tears in his eyes, while the Trainers were seated in their chairs. "Why did they do it? Why?"

"Apparently, they were afraid Antoine would tell on them, although we solved the issue with Lord Lucas's servant in a peaceful manner," the Head Trainer spoke. "Your loss is regrettable, Lord Arnaud."

"And why is he here?" Arnaud pointed an accusatory finger towards Lucas. "So he could rejoice over my beloved slave's death?"

"I assure you, Arnaud," Lucas spoke softly, "that I feel no such thing. I wanted him punished, not maimed and killed."

"You said you wanted him dead!" Arnaud turned towards Lucas, with madness and hurt in his eyes.

"I was mad with grief, like you are now," Lucas shook his head gently.

"You must take into consideration, Lord Arnaud," the Head Trainer spoke again, "that all the Masters whose slaves were involved in this incident will feel the same pain as you. Your request will be granted. We have no interest in allowing this unfortunate event to cause any more distress. The ones involved in this incident will be punished by death. Lord Lucas, it is regrettable that we could not question the slave properly about the provenience of the branding cane. The rest seem to know nothing. By dawn, they will all be obliterated from Drena's life, and we will all be able to return to ours. Lord Arnaud, a new generation of slaves, is expected to graduate from the Pleasure Academy. You will be allowed to pick first."

"No one will ever replace Antoine!" Arnaud buried his head in his hands and stormed out of the room.

Lucas had never liked Arnaud, but he could understand his pain. He wanted to add something, though.

"Can I see the slaves who killed Antoine? Maybe they are not saying something."

"This is unnecessary, Lord Lucas. We will take care of everything. And, although this is not the manner we like to use for solving things here, in Drena, we believe that obliterating them will solve the situation for good. To some degree, we think that you should be pleased with this, as well."

Lucas seemed to ponder for a second. Dark eyes stared at him, waiting. He bowed politely.

"Thank you, Fathers," he said, and the Head Trainer nodded.

Lord Lucas was at peace again, the Head Trainer thought. The danger was averted.

~A Good Servant~

"How are you feeling today?" Lucas embraced Cory from behind, kissing one of his ears gently.

"Much better," the blond leaned on the hard body pressing against him. "What happened?"

"Something rather strange ..." Lucas mused and took Cory with him, to place him in his lap. "Antoine was killed."

There was a small gasp from Cory. If the servant thought anything about it, Lucas was not going to press it.

"By whom?"

"By the other slaves involved in ..." Lucas's words trailed off.

Cory touched his lover's lips. "I don't want to see you hurt anymore," he spoke softly.

Lucas's green eyes were shining. "I want to protect you," he squeezed Cory a bit harder in his arms.

"I know. But it was my fault, too, for being too trustful. Drena is beautiful, but its roots are dark," he spoke thoughtfully.

"What do you mean, Cory?" Lucas questioned, caressing the servant's back.

"Outside of Drena, everyone disappears once they hit a certain age. They are still whole, men in their prime, but it is like they are not needed anymore. Have you ever seen anyone growing old, like in the books, Lucas?"

"In Aeria, yes, some," Lucas nodded. "Here ... no. I haven't seen anyone in Drena over 40 years of age, except for a few merchants. Beside the Trainers. But they are eternal."

"Why did the slaves kill Antoine now?" Cory asked, letting his head rest on Lucas's shoulder.

"So you find it strange, too?"

"Yes. No one would dare lay a finger on him in all Drena. Why now?"

"I have no answers, unfortunately. But I am hoping to get some. The Trainers are silent about everything. But ... I need you protected. I need you out of here."

Cory straightened up. "And where should I go? The Trainers won't allow me to leave Drena. The only other place to go is outside the city gates."

"I have a plan. I plan on sending you to Aeria."

"Your hometown? Would they let us go there together?" Cory got excited and smiled at Lucas, making green eyes lit up again with happiness.

"I ..." Lucas drew a deep breath. It was a leap of faith, a gamble he was taking, but Arnaud's desperation had kindled his, as well. Nothing could guarantee Cory would not suffer the same fate as Antoine, at some point. Apparently, the Trainers did not take well to embarrassing incidents or people. "I don't trust them anymore. Not as I used to."

"Them?"

"The Trainers. They may be our Fathers, and they may want the best for the world, but there is so much they keep from us. I need you to be strong for what will follow."

Cory rose and sat in front of Lucas. "I am ready. And ... I need to tell you something, too."

Lucas gestured for him to continue.

"The Trainers ... they punished us all the time. I didn't want to be taken from where I lived and be made into a servant. At a move of their fingers, people's lives take a turn or another. I ... I am sorry to say this, but I have always felt like I hated them."

Cory waited for Lucas's reaction, his heart small in his chest. That was something they had never talked about.

"They are our Fathers," Lucas murmured.

"Punishment is love, that's their motto," Cory spoke passionately. "But what is what I feel when I am in your arms, Lucas? If they are right, this is not love. It's a word I have never heard about."

"Your truth is above else," Lucas spoke with tenderness. "It is because of you I am questioning myself and my faith in them now. That is why I don't want to leave things to chance. There is a world of unknown out there, and I don't know whether it is good or bad, but what I know is that here, in Drena, right under our Fathers' close supervision, the person I hold dearest was hurt. And they did nothing about it, letting fate decide for those who attacked you to play its part. This is against everything I was taught."

"The rest ..." Cory's question floated in the air.

"They were put to death. If there was something they could tell, it's gone forever. But I want answers, and I want to live with you, without fear. For this, I need you to be strong. I cannot keep you safe here. The Trainers may think that they are doing the right thing, but I no longer understand their ways anymore. I must show you something," he rose from his chair, and Cory followed.

Apprehension was buried deep in his gut, as his hands searched for the small papers in his drawer, kept under lock and key.

"This is ... the symbol," Cory's hand traveled on its own accord to the right shoulder.

"Yes. The Trainers said it was something shameful. They said it was considered the mark of a whore. But it is not what it means," he shook his head energetically.

Cory's eyes lit with curiosity. "What does it mean?"

"This is what my friend from Aeria, the one I will be sending you to, tells me."

Cory bent slightly to read the words. "I don't understand," he murmured. "What does the mark of a whore has to do with ... this?"

"Exactly," Lucas took the other paper and placed it above. "This is a small map of the mines outside of Drena. If you observe, there is an exit ... here," Lucas pointed out.

"And this?" Cory pointed at a small red square.

"I don't know. Edgar does not know it, either. But do you know what we are looking at?" Lucas caressed Cory's hand affectionately. "This is your way to freedom. I will tell the Trainers I want to send you away."

Cory's eyes became sad. "And leave you here?"

"For now," Lucas answered. "I am going to miss you, but I will make sure you are fine, and things will not be like this forever. Are you willing to give it a try? I know it's dangerous, but keeping you here seems dangerous anyway."

"I am more than willing," Cory squeezed Lucas's hand in answer. "I want to go to Aeria. But I want you to come with me."

Lucas shook his head. "They won't let me leave. I must wait. In the meantime, I will know you are well, through Edgar. He will take care of you, for me. I trust him with my life. He can be a bit strange at times. His head is up in the clouds most of the time, but, when it matters, I know I can count on him. As we have corresponded, I know he continues his research. I have a strange feeling, like never in my life, that we are about to find out something ... something that is bigger than us. Even bigger than Drena. I cannot say what this feeling is. I do not usually believe in fairytales. But this time," Lucas's eyes shone as he looked at Cory, "this time, I want to believe that there is a time and space when and where I can be with you. With you, as an equal, not as master and servant."

Lucas caressed Cory's cheek briefly, afraid that he would touch too much.

"Lucas," Cory breathed out and moved to embrace his lover. "Do you want to ...?"

His question remained suspended in the air. Lucas pushed him away gently, and their eyes met.

"No, not yet."

"I am fully recovered," Cory protested, barely refraining the chill coursing down his spine, as memories of strangers' hands keeping him down came to mind.

"I'm not," Lucas's low whisper was the answer. "I hold myself responsible for what happened. We will be together again, someday. That day will be everything I will think of; I will do everything in my power to reach that day, to be with you. Until then, this is the only thing I allow myself," he added and gently kissed Cory's lips, embracing him tightly. "My desires are no longer important. Your life is."

~A Good Servant~

"We are more than happy with your decision, Lord Lucas," the Head Trainer bowed politely. "Please allow an old man a curiosity. Why now?"

"I thought I could bear the sight of him around. But he is, as you say, defective and beyond repair. I guess I was just deluding myself into thinking that I could make him whole."

"His appearance was not affected to such a high degree, although the mark ..." the Head Trainer spoke.

Lucas interrupted him. "I am not talking about his appearance. I found myself simply incapable of touching something that was touched by others in such a foul manner. I suppose I overestimated my ability to cope with such a ... personal challenge."

"Don't beat yourself over it. You are educated to deserve only what is best. It is ingrained in your intellect, and it is your conditioning responding as it is supposed to do. You will be offered many other servants and slaves to choose from."

"With all due respect, Head Trainer," Lucas cast his eyes down, "I would rather focus on my work for a while. Such distractions are seemingly taking a toll on my ability to deliver the best results, as one of the Rulers in Drena."

The Head Trainer seemed to ponder for a while. "As you wish, Lord Lucas. You please us. You have always pleased us. We will let time take care of washing the marks left by the recent incidents. Drena is at peace, again."

"Will he be sent to the mines?" he tried to sound as casual as possible. His psychological training was of good use during such moments.

"Yes, it is for the best. He will continue to serve, even if in another form."

"Thank you, Father," Lucas bowed and left the room, letting the Head Trainer behind, failing to see dark pools watching his retreating back, with a faint sign of unease in them.

~A Good Servant~

"Lord Lucas, you seem to be in need of my services quite often lately," Vacchiari smiled, fighting his urge to rub his fat hands, adorned with jewelry on every finger, in satisfaction.

"I have a rather difficult request this time. Do you think you are up to it?" Lucas sat at the wooden table and linked his fingers together.

"I won't be able to answer your question, my lord until you tell me what is that you want of me. As you well now, I am your humble servant."

Instead of answering, Lucas took a small leather bag from his pocket and placed on the table. He encouraged Vacchiari with his eyes. The merchant hesitated just the right amount of time to avoid showing off as greedy. The beautiful stone made his eyes bulge out of their sockets.

"Is this? ... This is ... priceless!" he barely muttered.

"Everything has a price," Lucas said simply. "My task for you is not an easy one."

"Just say what it is," Vacchiari said abruptly. This was no longer about getting richer than any other merchant on the continent. It was about getting the reputation he deserved.

"I need you to do ... a bit of smuggling," Lucas eventually said, his eyes glued to the merchant.

Vacchiari snorted. "Smuggling? I can smuggle anything in and out of Drena," he said with pride.

"We are talking about a bigger cargo, this time," Lucas measured his words. If the merchant was going to step back, he was going to need more time, a time he didn't have.

"How big?" Vacchiari bent over the table, curiosity sparkling in his eyes.

"As big as a person in flesh and blood."

Vacchiari opened and closed his mouth a few times. "That's dangerous," he eventually spoke.

"I know," Lucas caressed the stone on the table, making a small move as if he was going to push it back into its leather bag.

Vacchiari's greasy paw closed over Lucas's as if he was trying to stop the Ruler from taking back what was rightfully his.

"Where am I supposed to deliver this ... delicate cargo?" he asked, and his eyes looked as big as saucers as he was trying to maintain eye contact with Lucas.

"Aeria."

"It's done," Vacchiari nodded energetically, and Lucas's hand withdrew, letting the merchant's paw snatch the precious stone from the table.

"I will give you all the instructions. No one is to know," Lucas added.

"No need to tell me that. As always, a pleasure doing business with you, Lord Lucas," the merchant laid back and started listening carefully to Lucas's instructions on the task.

~A Good Servant~

On his way out of Drena, heading for the mines, Cory was conscious of only one thing: the sigil and the small map hidden in his boot, designed to show him a new way. A way to freedom.

TBC

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