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The Rules of Service

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I've received my gamma readers feedback on book three of my new series so I need to now focus on those edits before I send it to my literary agent. I will try to balance finishing this story, The Rules of Service, with the next book. Hopefully this will be finished in 2-3 more chapters. Thank you all for your patience and understanding. If you'd like to check out my published books, you can find them here:Eckhart Publications

Chapter Text

“There are rules in this household that you will learn and learn quickly,” the well-dressed man said as Darrin stood trembling, his eyes lowered but glancing around trying to determine the layout of the room he’d been escorted to upon his delivery to what had to be the largest house he’d seen in his entire life. The man in front of him was dressed in a formal servant’s uniform of the highest quality and he had taken charge of Darrin the moment he arrived just a few minutes ago. The man looked well cared for, graying hair cut very trim, of middle age with no obvious signs of abuse but then again his uniform might hide a good deal. The man fiddled with a pair of glasses as he looked over Darrin.

Darrin flinched as the thin switch the man carried whistled through the air and landed on his thin back. “The first rule is that you will learn and live by these rules or you will parish for your lack of ability or obedience. Neither of these is useful to the Shaynis Household. Do you understand?”

Darrin nodded slightly as he stored away the information about both the rules and who owned him now then gasped as the switch came down across his ill-padded buttocks. “Rule two is that when you are asked a question by any higher ranking member of this household or any freeborn person you will answer verbally and immediately. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Sir,” Darrin said tensing in case he’d made another error but the man merely came to stand in front of him.

“Rule three: Address each higher ranking member as they wish or per their position at the end of each sentence or at the beginning if you wish to gain their attention. You will call me Mister Gavin because I am Chief of Servants for Lady Mariette and Lord Davenport Shaynis. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Mister Gavin.”

“Excellent. Now as for your name,” the Chief consulted a piece of paper that contained the sales record that was delivered along with his body to this new household. “Darrin is an acceptable name here. We do not yet have a Darrin. Therefore you will continue to be addressed and commanded by this name. Of course our owners and freeborn people may call you other things but among we who serve, you have the right to be called Darrin. Is that acceptable to you?”

Darrin looked up slightly at the odd question. “Sir?” Then gasped as the switch came down across his thighs. “I’m sorry, Mister Gavin. I’m not sure I understand what you are asking me, Mister Gavin,” he added hoping he had actually understood the third rule.

“Do you wish to continue to be called Darrin or shall I find another name for you?”

“I’m not sure, I’m used to Darrin,” he caught himself and quickly added, “Mister Gavin.

“Rule number four is: Be brief in all your replies. No one wishes to hear your train of thoughts. I asked a simple yes or no question. Answer it appropriately.”

Darrin blinked and grappled with the confusing question silently for a moment. “Yes, Mister Gavin,” he offered.

The Chief marked something on the piece of paper then continued reading it. “Good, you do not require a visit to our staff physician, that will save time.”

Darrin wondered why the Chief was allowed to express his thoughts so freely but focused when the next rule was dictated.

“Rule number five is that you are placed in the lowest rank of this household which means you will obey any command and do any task that either I, Madame Theresa the head of household maintenance or Chef Bovy give you. When we have determined your skills and abilities, you will be assigned a particular role and then you will be guided by a unique set of rules. Right now, you are not high ranking enough to do more than to follow the rules I give you today and the commands of your betters. You need not think, merely obey. Do you understand?”

Darrin swallowed, a bit concerned, he was young, only turned sixteen, and thus able to be sold at auction, and so one might think that he could remember rules well but he had never been one for memorizing things easily and if this list continued he’d be doomed. Right now he could so he answered quickly, “Yes, Mister Gavin.”

“Rule six is that when you approached by any freeborn you will pause in your task, bow to them, then ask permission to continue your duties. If such permission is not given, then you comply with whatever orders you is given.” Darrin’s eyes widened at this horrible but not unexpected information. “You will not venture beyond this estate for some time so no freeborn will be here who does not have the right to command you in some fashion,” Mister Gavin explained.

“Rule seven is very important, thus it was given the sacred number,” Mister Gavin lowered his voice and stepped very close to Darrin. “If any member of the Shaynis family should enter a room or area where you are, you will immediately cease your tasks, bow to the floor and await further instructions or merely wait until they leave so you may continue your duties.” Darrin nodded as he listened, this too was not unexpected but it was certainly more formal than what he was used to. “You will obey to the best of your ability any task they give you. All of the ladies are to be addressed as “mistress” and the gentlemen as “master” regardless of their age.” The Chief stepped so close he was almost touching Darrin with his body. “Do you understand?”

“Yes, Mister Gain,” he replied instantly. The mention of ages meant that there must be children in the household and he was not fond of those. They tended to be quite demanding of a slave’s time, causing you to fall behind in your work.

“Excellent,” the Chief said after a moment’s pause to let the information sink in fully. He stepped back and motioned for Darrin to follow him. “Since I have mentioned them, I will show you their portrait so you are aware of who to look for.”

They walked into the formal entryway and stopped to look up at a large painting hanging almost directly in front of the door. Darrin had never seen the like but then he had been bred and raised on a slave farm, not fancy, simply business, and his time in the proper manor was almost none and never in the formal areas of the building.

“This is Lady Mariette and Lord Davenport Shaynis, he is the heir to the estate,” Mister Gavin pointed out the couple sitting at the center of the massive painting. “This is Lady Aubriana Shaynis, matron of the Shaynis family,” he motioned to the elderly woman who stood with one hand resting on the man’s shoulder. “These are Christoff, Gavriella, and Romario Shaynis, ages 18, 14, and 10 to be precise. Do not be surprised if they notice you and require your attention since you are about their age and new.”

Darrin nodded and swallowed as he looked over the six faces, trying to memorize them. All of them had sandy or white hair and blue eyes, their noses elegant and aristocratic, their skin pale and their heads held high.

In a few minutes Mister Gavin led him back to the office where they had been and continued with his long list of rules. “Rule number eight is that your body is not yours any longer.” Darrin had to work to keep his face blank because it was said as though it was supposed to shock him but how could it given where he’d come from and what he’d live with so far. The details of this rule though were a bit intense and unexpected. “This means that you will shower when told, eat when told, wear what you are given, and if you need to use the facilities at any other time you must ask permission. Don’t be a fool and think that you can just not use them when you given time in the slave quarters because if you show of pattern of needing to be excused, you will start to be denied that privilege and there will be dire consequences. Do you understand?”

Darrin swallowed again but answered quickly, “Yes, Mister Gavin.”

“Eight rules. That is all you need for now. Follow me and we’ll find you a space then take you to the kitchens. I’m sure Chef Bovy can find you a task or two and we can start to evaluate your true worth.”

Silently Darrin followed the Chief down to the basement where most of the slave quarters were located. He was given a small cell, not more than enough to hold a bed, a few shelves, and a few pegs on the walls. Mister Gavin took an item out of one of his pockets then wrote something on a placard hung outside the door. “That is your name, which means this is your room. Memorize it and how to get here as quickly as possible. I’ll get you some clothing and have it here in your cell by the time you are allowed to sleep tonight. Let me introduce you to Chef Bovy now.”

 

Darrin stopped dusting the table in the formal sitting room when he glanced over and saw the three Shaynis children, his young owners, enter the room five days later. For five days he had been employed in the kitchens under the strict guidance of the chef but now it was Madame Theresa’s turn to test his abilities. Every evening, after his chores, Mister Gavin took him in hand to teach him the finer points of following the rules as well as attempted to teach him to read and write, something that greatly surprised the new slave.

Immediately Darrin set the dusting cloth on the floor and knelt down, pressing his head to the floor toward the two younger masters and younger mistress. He had only seen the adult Shaynises briefly since they did not venture much into the kitchen and when they did they immediately gave orders for everyone to get back to work.

“There he is, the new one,” a masculine yet still young voice accompanied the stomping of feet as they approached.

“Is he a new playmate,” a younger male voice asked with an eager edge to his voice.

“You have Shem all ready, I doubt you need another slave to amuse you,” the older boy’s voice responded.

“I think one companion is enough for any of us,” a girlish voice added as Darrin felt something brush against his head where he bowed on the floor. “Are you sure he’s our age? He seems rather small,” she continued.

“Younger than me, older than you, much older than you,” the eldest told them with a hint of superiority to his voice than made Darrin swallow. The slave farmer’s son had a tone like that when he showed off the stock to his friends. That rarely ended with merely talk.

Whatever was brushing his head moved away and Darrin stood up as smoothly as he could when the eldest gave the order. He stood straight, his hands grasping each elbow behind his back as Mister Gavin had drilled him, his eyes focused on the floor on his younger owners’ shoes.

He didn’t move as the youngest reached out and poked him rather sharply in the stomach. “Why are they always so skinny when they first arrive?”

There was a silence then the young mistress spoke. “He is ten now, might as well start learning,” she commented.

“You, slave boy,” the eldest ordered so Darrin moved his head just slightly in that direction to indicate he heard and was paying attention as Mister Gavin had also drilled into him. “Where did you come from before you were purchased by our household?”

“Vennure Slave Farm via the Orgilla markets, Master,” Darrin said immediately. The one time the Shaynis Matron had met him she had inquired the same and he’d been switched for not knowing the full answer. They might not want to hear his thoughts but they wanted full answers it seemed.

“How many days ago were you purchased, boy?”

“Six days, Master.”

“See, Romario, the markets won’t have fed him, just a waste of money for the short amount of time he’s in custody plus it makes for easier display,” the eldest stated. Darrin swallowed quietly as he stood, trying to listen without reacting to being discussed so blatantly.

“I doubt the farm did much more than what was necessary to make sure he grew into a saleable form, again, profit is the issue at hand,” the young mistress added. “So we must do our best to make sure he is fed enough now to do his work.”

“Oh,” the youngest said with a sigh that sounded like he was either bored or simply not as impressed with the answer as he was hoping he’d be when he asked it.

“Oh, indeed,” the eldest chuckled and Darrin sucked in his breathe slightly when he heard a slapping sound but felt nothing. “Run along now and find Shem. Leave us to… interrogate the new boy.”

Darrin froze at the word and it’s implied threat but he held himself still. As little as he might have been fed on the farm or the market, he had been well fed here so if he felt faint it would have nothing to do with food.

After the younger master retreated the young mistress chuckled lightly. “Interrogate? Goodness, you make us sound like police or torturers,” she said as she crossed and sat on one of the nearby couches that Darrin had cleaned just a few minutes ago.

“I wanted to see what sort of reaction I might get,” the eldest replied as he moved closer and began to look over Darrin carefully, not touching him though his body was close enough that the slave could feel his body heat and the brush of his fine clothing. “Sadly I seem to have gotten none,” he said then reached out and took Darrin’s chin in his hand and forced his head up so that they eyes met briefly before the slave looked up and over his young master’s shoulder.

“Damn, he’s a natural,” the eldest said as he brushed his lips across the slave’s for a moment. Darrin’s mouth opened automatically just a bit and he sighed just slightly at the contact but the young owner’s hand on his chin held him still. “Very much a natural,” he whispered as he moved a bit closer.

“Don’t you have Leon for that, Christoff?” the young mistress’s voice cut in sharply.

“Ah, yes, but see, as you will learn as you get older, new experiences are priceless as is a natural bedslave.”

Darrin’s eyes fluttered at this news. It was both a hope and a horror to consider becoming a bedslave. They could be pampered but were often hated by the rest of the slaves in a household. Their time in the good graces of any one owner was also precarious and he had heard that slaves most often sold at auction were bedslaves who might cross dozens of hands in a lifetime. A good house slave or farm slave though might only be sold once or twice because their value increased as they grew more knowledgeable about where they worked. More and more estates were breeding their own he had heard the farmer complain about on several occasions. That meant that a good house slave or farm slave might live his entire life in one household.

“Oh, please, no one is any personal attention from him until Gavin has given him his full approval. You know that takes a year or two,” the young mistress countered as she stood up and placed one of her hands on Darrin’s arm while the young master gripped his other. “By which time I’ll be of age and you will be off at university with Leon in tow.”

They stood there, holding him hostage until the young master simply smiled and released him, which the young mistress also did within seconds. “I will still have him before you, little sister, and soon,” he added before turning and walking away.

Darrin didn’t move as he was left with the one remaining younger owner. She stepped in front of him and cupped his chin in her own slender, finer hand turning it so he was looking down at her, his eyes attempting to find another spot to focus on. “Look at me.”

Darrin did so immediately, his breath catching in his throat as he saw her shockingly blue eyes that her portrait did no justice to. “Call me Mistress Gavriella, slave. What is your name?”

“Darrin, Mistress Gavriella,” he whispered back softly.

“I will remember that,” she said before removing her hand then turned to leave. With a glance over her shoulder and a wave of her hand she added, “Get back to work, Darrin.”

 

Two weeks later the young master’s threat or perhaps his promise was fulfilled as Darrin laid very still against the silken bed comforter as his young owner spent himself in him with a shudder and a groan. It hadn’t been violent or ever harsh to serve the young master that evening, it was merely another duty that had to be done, and once done, Darrin hoped he could report to Mister Gavin’s office to continue his reading lessons. Darrin had a sharp mind and found he loved sitting at the great wooden desk while his taskmaster stood off to the side or over him evaluating his work. The Chief had seemed a bit displeased when the order came that Darrin was suppose to report to the young master’s suite after dinner. He had muttered something about his hopes that he might have found his replacement but the newest slave did not dare ask for further information.

Christoff pulled out and slapped Darrin’s ass, once, with a whisper for him to turn and clean him up. He did so, using his mouth to fully cleanse him without explicit command; they had taught him some things at the farm though it was not formal as his lessons here. “Damn, I’m going to miss the opportunity to see you fully trained,” the young master said with a sigh as he caressed the slave’s face with his fingertips.

Darrin blinked but only continued his task until he was finished and could just kneel and enjoy the caresses for a few moments.

The younger master snorted and stepped away, pulling up his trousers. “You never talk but to answer questions, do you Darrin?”

The slave swallowed and looked down at the floor. “No, Master,” he replied simply.

“Must be Gavin’s doing. Him and his rules,” Christoff mused. “Well, go on, get cleaned up, put on your clothes then clean the mess I’m sure you’ve made on the floor and bed, boy.”

Darrin rose silently and quickly did as he was bid, listening very carefully though not obviously as his young owner continued to speak. “You’re not nearly as good at this as Leon, but then he’s ill so I decided to give you a try,” Christoff explained though this repeated much of the information he had given Darrin when he reported to his room an hour ago. “Obviously you’ve served in some similar capacity though I can’t imagine it was very pleasant considering you are just now of legal age.”

Darrin blinked and brought out the cloth to wipe up the comforter and the rug on the floor. Pleasant would indeed not be the word he would chose to describe his sexual use at the Farm but he wasn’t foolish enough to say anything right now on the subject unless he was directly asked.

“Gavriella thinks I’m going to University,” the young master suddenly said and Darrin did pause, holding himself very still, waiting for more information. The heir to the Shaynis household seemed tense, his voice tired, so the slave looked up to catch him looking out the window to the courtyard below. “I agree that it best to let her think that for now but I’m going to tell you so when she learns the truth, she’ll have someone to share it with who isn’t that airhead Alice,” the young master added his sister’s slave’s name with a shake of his head.

“I’m going into the navy, tradition, you see, plus there are some international issues rearing up that a Shaynis must be aware of, you know.”

Darrin did not but he did know that every freeborn family was expected to put one of their children into the military service though usually they sent the youngest as the farmer was planning to do the old farm rumor mill had circulated.

The young master glanced over so Darrin scurried to finish the clean up before returning to kneel on the floor, unsure if he should stand or bow low but knowing he had not been dismissed. His young owner seemed content with him where he was since he continued to talk.

“Leon will go with me, of course. He’s been with me since we were lads, mere boys really. He’ll be a good servant to have on the field, reliable, steady, I can trust him at my back and in my bed. My sister will need someone strong to induct her into the ways of a young heir, someone who isn’t a ninny nor so old he might scare her. I will suggest to father that that someone be you, Darrin,” Christoff finished by stepping right up to the slave. “What say you to that idea?”

Darrin swallowed, thrown by what he should say but the rules clearly stated he must respond immediately and truthfully. “I do not know much of heirs, Master,” he managed to get out.

The young lord chuckled then laughed out loud for a few moments. Then clasping a hand on the slave’s shoulder he explained, “And that is why you will have trainers.”

Chapter Text

Trainers didn’t come for another good year. As much influence as the young master thought he had it wasn’t until he finished officer training himself that Lord Shaynis decided to look to his second child as his heir. Soldiers must be free of such family ties in order to put the State first.

Darrin was escorted from the normal slave cells one day without a word and then spirited off the estate for the first time in over a year. Terrified, he said nothing, clinging to the rules that he remain quiet and obedient to the freeborn who took him away with only Lord Shaynis and Mister Gavin to see him off.

The building he was taken to was fairly modern and in the city. He was left in a room with one chair, a chair too nice for him to sit in so he sank to his knees and tried to wait patiently. As he knelt he ran through the eight rules that had governed his life in the Shaynis household. He didn’t think he had disobeyed any of them regularly or purposely though he’d made mistakes his first few weeks. Ultimately it didn’t matter. While his life might be guided by rules he was certain his owners lives were not. If they wanted to get rid of him, so be it, he could only try to adapt and survive.

Unsure if the people who now walked into the room were his new owners, agents or simply other slaves, Darrin keep his eyes on the floor and remained silent. “I see self-discipline and self-control. It’s an excellent sign,” a feminine voice said.

“Especially since we have only five weeks,” a masculine voiced pointed out. The sound of something being dragged toward him made Darrin stiffen but he tried to hold still and consider the positive comments he had just heard. After a few more sounds, two set of boots, one pair masculine the other feminine yet both sensible but well shined, rested in his line of sight. “Look up, Darrin,” the man ordered.

When he did so he saw two people dressed in black, almost in matching uniforms, Darrin decided. The only real difference was that the woman’s showed some cleavage, her boots were smaller, and her hair was down. Neither wore makeup but both, to Darrin’s concern, had a riding crop hanging on their left hip. He swallowed just slightly and directed his gaze between them.

“I am Trainer Zebulon and this is Trainer Kaylana. That is what you will call us. I believe that corresponds with the third rule you learned at the Shaynis household?”

The rising of the man’s voice at the end indicated that it was a question so Darrin immediately replied, “Yes, Trainer Zebulon.”

“This will be fun,” Trainer Kaylana commented softly with a smile that the slave spied out of the corner of his eye.

Zebulon smiled back but looked at the folder he carried. “You’ve been with the Shaynis family for 56 weeks and they are pleased with your work but feel it is time for you to get further training in a more specific role.”

Darrin blinked a few times at the news, internally very pleased but concerned about what he might be trained for.

“They didn’t tell him,” Kaylana observed softly again.

“Not surprising but also not helpful. If you would?”

The female trainer stood up and came to stand over the slave. “Look at me. That is new rule you must learn. For now, while you are in our care you will look directly at us. When you are returned to the Shaynis family you will look directly at your Mistress but no other freeperson. Do you understand?”

Darrin had raised his head and gaze as soon as she commanded it and now he responded quickly in the affirmative with her appropriate title. He blushed just a touch when she smiled down at him.

“We are going to train you to be a suitable bed slave for a young lady, an heir, soon to reach adulthood and thus in need of having her person guarded as well as her desires tended to before she can make a good marriage.”

Darrin nodded slightly remembering that single night with young Master Christoff before he left for the navy. He had thought nothing of it but now that he was informed of his future he realized that in the past two months, young Mistress Gavriella had been where he was working far more often than she had been since he arrived in her family home.

“You will be trained not only new rules for this position but also the art of sexual pleasure and appropriate companionship. There will also be some physical changes but you need not worry about these. They will done and then you can simply live as directed,” Kaylana added at a word from her fellow trainer behind her.

He had heard that bed slaves were stripped of their ability to reproduce. That was odd, not because he wanted children himself, after all, a slave had no claim on his own offspring, but wouldn’t breeding bedslaves make better ones? Darrin had to stop thinking, it was one problem he had repeatedly at the Shaynis household though Mister Gavin’s insistence that he praise of his ability to learn to read and write hadn’t helped controlling his mind in that way.

Right now he needed to concentrate to learn the new rules. “Where your new rules differ, you will follow them, but many will be adjustments on previous rules. If you are ready, I will lay these out for you and then we’ll get you settled into your new home for the next five weeks. Are you ready to learn, Darrin?

A pause, a deep breath and then he nodded. “Yes, Trainer Kaylana.”

“Disobedience is not tolerated. If you are confused about anything, ask a question before you disobey through lack of information. A bedslave is more than merely a nighttime distraction. A bedslave is more accurately a companion for the years between a young person’s sexual maturity and her or his marriage. Some bedslaves even continue in their positions because they prove themselves to be valuable outside of the sheets.”

That was hopeful news to Darrin. He had heard at the farm that bedslaves were just animated sextoys, tossed about at auctions until they proved unattractive to anyone and then sent off to hard labor or to die in public brothels. Not that wanting more was useful for a slave but the thought that he might not be sold repeatedly was something Darrin felt was more survivable.

“I suspect this rule will be difficult for you given your previous position,” Kaylana continued. “When you are asked a question, give a full answer, even if you must pause for a few moments before replying. Automatic responses are the hallmark of household and outdoor slaves, not of a bed slave or higher-level staff. We realize this will be an ongoing process for you to learn.”

Darrin opened his mouth then shut it.

“Or not,” Zebulon noted as he watched.

“Do you have a question?” Kaylana asked with a soft tone to her voice.

“Yes, Trainer Kaylana,” Darrin said. He licked his upper lips as he pulled the question from his mind where he hid such things. “Mister Gavin taught me to refrain from unnecessary chatter. Is not my saying more than what is necessary chatter?”

“When you were peeling potatoes or dusting, no one cared about how you felt, that is true. But if your Mistress asks if you think it might be a good day for a picnic, she needs to hear that you have considered not only the current weather conditions but are aware and prepared should it rain or the temperature fall as well as the fact that her family has guests visiting later that afternoon for example. By explaining yourself more fully when you answering you demonstrate that she can trust you to do your best.”

Darrin thought for a moment then nodded.

“That leads to a farther clarification. Do not be afraid of speaking first, though always politely and with an eye to please your owner. If she seems stressed, suggest a distraction. If she seemed pleased, inquire about the cause. Your attention to her mood will encourage her to trust you but also give her practice in expressing herself, a necessary skill when looking for a spouse as well as running an estate or family.”

“Obedience, more on that,” Zebulon stated simply and Darrin was surprised to see the female trainer roll her eyes a bit.

“You have been raised to obey any Shaynis family member as well as any freeborn person, correct?”

“Yes, Trainer, Kaylana.”

“That ends now. From now on you will obey your owner fully and her family or agents, of which we are members, in her stead when she so commands. Otherwise you answer to no one other than her. Treat all freeborn politely but do not obey their orders. Should they attempt to command you, simply say that you are in the service of Lady Gavriella Shaynis and then ignore them should they persist.”

Darrin’s eyes had gotten increasingly wider as the female trainer continued. Never in his entire life had he thought to not obey or ignore a freeborn person. He started to tremble a bit so he let one hand fall to the floor to try and support himself.

“Finally, a break in his perfection,” Zebulon crowed with pleasure.

“Oh, shush,” Kaylana scolded as she knelt down and put her hands on Darrin’s arms, holding him solidly. “Look at me, boy.” When he lifted his gaze, unsure when he had disobeyed and looked down, she sighed then smiled slightly. “It’s a rule you’ve had your entire life, probably never taught in words but certainly beaten home in deeds I’m sure. I remember that feeling,” she added and then motioned to the chocker she wore. No, not a chocker, a collar, she was a slave.

Darrin looked over at Trainer Zebulon and he undid the top of his shirt and pulled it aside to reveal a collar as well. “We understand, boy, that’s why we are good at our jobs,” the male trainer explained.

“And our mistress would never let us be anything other than good at them,” Kaylana inserted with a glance back at her colleague who merely nodded and left his shirt unbuttoned.

“Let’s get you settled in and some food in you, then we’ll continue with the rules later,” Kaylana added as she stood, urging Darrin to his feet with her.

 

The next morning, after a night’s sleep on a simple cot, a decent breakfast, and then a brief shower, Darrin was kneeling again this time in black cotton pants and matching button down shirt with the training house logo on them. Kaylana and Zebulon were standing in front of him, their riding crops at their hips, and telling him the last few rules he’d need to live this next stage of his life.

That’s what he decided it was last night as he tried to get to sleep. Mister Gavin had always told him that when a role was found for him, he’d be given new rules to guide him, and this clearly was his new role for as long as the young mistress wished it. So far the rules required more thought that he was used to and that worried him, keeping him awake for a good hour fretting over ways he could fail.

To avoid that he looked directly at whichever trainer was speaking and let their words burrow into his mind. “Once she has signed the ownership papers, Gavriella Shaynis will be your only owner. When that happens she is the only one you will call “Mistress” or “Master” if she’s more inclined to that title,” Trainer Zebulon said with a slight smile. “Everyone else you should call according to their position and status which I hope you can figure out.”

“Yes, Trainer Zebulon,” Darrin offered. He’d decided to start practicing displays of interest and intellect as they told him yesterday but he was determined not to chatter away.

“Nice,” Trainer Kaylana said softly before she launched into the next rule. “Unlike before, you will shower every morning after attending to your owner, or perhaps with her should she desire. You will dress to please her but do not wait for her to tell you how to dress. She will be a busy young woman and does not have time to decide how you should dress. We’ll spend time examining how to dress for different social situations and part of your training program includes a wardrobe for you to take with you back to the Shaynis household.”

“Don’t be surprised if she wants to add to it but don’t expect it, be grateful for any attention or gift she gives you but not in a servile manner,” Trainer Zebulon added. He chuckled when Darrin’s left eyebrow shot up slightly at this idea. “You’re wondering how to do anything in a non-servile fashion. We’ll teach you. It’s a fine line, being her companion and being her slave at the same time.”

Darrin nodded and sighed. “I will do my best to learn, Trainer Zebulon.”

“That provides a good example,” Kaylana interrupted. “See, the way you stated that, a bit too slavish while at the same time focusing on you and thus being anything but slavish.”

After a silent moment, Darrin frowned. “I don’t understand, Trainer Kaylana.”

“Say this instead,” and she turned to her colleague. “Trainer Zebulon I’m sure your efforts will be rewarded.”

“Hear what she did?” Trainer Zebulon asked but was met by a blank look from the slave kneeling before them. “She turned it into a positive comment on my ability while promising that she would succeed without taking credit for it.”

“Yes, now I see, Trainer Zebulon. Thank you for your instruction, Trainer Kaylana, and for your excellent example.”

Both trainers chuckled briefly then looked at their lists. At a nod the male trainer finished it up. “Final rule. Your owner’s pleasure is paramount but you should demonstrate your pleasure as well. Part of your job is to help your owner prepare for marriage. That will be a give and take in terms of pleasure. So while she will always need to find completion she also needs to learn how to please a man. So be vocal when she does well, if she asks for tips on how to improve, give them gently, and if there should ever be a problem such as unwanted pain,” that comment made Darrin’s eyes widen just slightly, “speak up and let her know immediately.”

“We’ll work on all of this starting now,” Trainer Kaylana announced.

Chapter Text

Five weeks later he was holding onto the sides of a box he was crouching in as it was wheeled into a birthday party back at the Shaynis household. Headtrainer Violet, owner of the training school and both his trainers, had delivered him here along with his tools and wardrobe about an hour ago. After reviewing what he should do, she helped him into the box and as far as Darrin knew she would watch to make sure he did the program proud.

The new bed slave frowned down at his new black trousers, worried that they might wrinkle if he was in this box much longer. Air wasn’t an issue since there were several discreet holes in the box nor was his legs and back likely to be a big problem since he’d spent hours exercising and drilling in position after position after position of all types. But he did not want to make an appearance that was anything other than ideal.

All the sounds outside were muffled but he heard the young mistress squeal as the box came to a rest. Straining he heard her father tell her to sign something, her inquire into it’s nature and the crowd urge her rather loudly to simply sign. After a few moments her father announced it was done and Darrin put all thoughts of a young mistress out of his mind and replaced it with the fact that now she was his only owner.

When the top was removed, the sides of the box fell aside easily as he stood up, arms hanging at his side in a relaxed yet sexy fashion, his eyes, moving from the floor up her dark blue gown to her shocking blue eyes and he blinked. Just as he had changed, so had she because this was not the young teenage girl he’d seen five weeks ago when he was weeding one of the gardens but instead a noble lady who smiled back at him, her mouth opened just slightly.

Without a word, Darrin stepped out of the remains of the box, moved toward her and then knelt on one knee, taking her hand, placing it briefly on his bowed head before he brought it to his lips and kissed it as their eyes met. “Mistress, how may I entertain you?” he asked, making his voice low but the huskiness in it reflected his actual arousal though thank goodness it was only slight and did not present an unwanted display in this company.

“Oh, yes,” Gavriella said softly as she pulled him toward her with her hand. She smiled and titled her head and he kissed her briefly, enough for the partiers to applaud before following the motion of the hand that held his and stepping back to stand slightly behind her.

“I like this gift best of all,” Gavriella giggled as other young women came toward her. They all looked at Darrin, who lowered his eyes and said nothing, but did not touch him. Their comments though surprised him. Apparently he was “handsome” and “sexy” something part of him attributed to the outfit of black trousers, white button-down shirt and the matching black vest. A few he thought he might recognize from visits to the estate commented that he had “cleaned up well” and with that he could agree. He had never felt so alive and so sure of himself in his entire life.

After several minutes of this attention the young women were shooed away by a man in a uniform who approached. “Ladies, ladies, let me greet my sister before you overwhelm her and her bed slave with all your attention.”

“Christoff!” Gavriella practically screamed and when Darrin glanced up briefly he saw that it was indeed his former young master. The uniform meant nothing to him other than it looked military.

“Lieutenant, please, I did just earn that rank,” Christoff said with a smile as he caught her and whirled her around. Both stopped when their mother cleared her throat and Darrin caught his trainer’s eye from a distance so he approached carefully, speaking softly, and motioning toward a table off to the side.

Both nobles went to the table to sit so that Darrin could kneel down by his mistress’s chair smiling when her hand came to rest on his shoulder. “He did clean up well,” Christoff commented. “I’m glad to see that father took my advice.”

“Your advice?” Gavriella replied with a chuckle. “I told him a couple of months ago that I wanted Darrin.”

“Well, then we both had brilliant ideas it seems. That forwardness should do you well in the house of lords … and ladies I guess now,” Christoff added. He looked up as another man in a slightly different uniform joined them, bending down for a kiss before he stood behind his master’s chair. Darrin had never really interacted much with the young master’s bed slave, Leon, but he was certain this was the same man even though he now boasted a surprising scar on one cheek.

His owner had a similar thought because she nodded toward the newcomer. “What caused that? Surely not you?” her voice held a bit of crossness.

“No, no, not I. Some of the fellows on the first ship I was stationed were a bit too low-class to know how to behave. Needless to say we had to transfer after they were disciplined.” Behind him the other man straightened up but Darrin could tell he was uncomfortable.

“That’s horrible. Why did you ever go into the navy?” Gavriella asked with a pout.

“One of us had to go into the Service and I prefer the company of men, usually,” Christoff replied as he reached up to his shoulder and Leon took his hand, holding it there. “The very idea of getting married bored me as well as horrified me and this was one honorable way out of that.”

“Oh, I see,” Gavriella replied squeezing Darrin’s hand, making him look up at her and notice her crimson cheeks. Being homosexual was not usual though it was rare for eldest child Darrin had learned among thousands of other bits of sexual information over the past five weeks.

His training also helped inform him that she was uncomfortable now, which was unacceptable for her birthday so he turned and rested one arm on her lap as he gazed up at her. “Mistress, have you heard the folk saying that if you have a full moon on your eighteenth birthday it predicts a successful life?” While the bulk of his attention was on his owner, he was fully aware of how her brother and his bed slave were reacting to his suggestion hidden under a question as well. He’d improved the necessary slave skill of being fully aware of everything while seeming to be oblivious, it was amazing what one could sense of others if you had to. All three seemed relieved when the blush on her face lessened and she excused them to get some air.

“Thank you,” Gavriella said when they were leaning on the balcony railing looking up at the happily full moon in the night sky.

Darrin turned his head just slightly and smiled a bit. “See, a successful life is in the stars, Mistress,” he replied for acknowledging what he had done was certainly against all the rules he’d learned well in the past five weeks.

His smile broadened as she placed her arm around him and used her other hand to point out a few constellations. Slaves and peasants had other names for the same stellar pictures but he listened politely and attentively in case she might ask him questions later. They stood there for some time until her stomach made protest and she sighed then looked toward the doors back into the party.

“It’s a buffet, yes, Mistress? Shall I fetch you some food then or do you wish to rejoin your guests?”

“What I prefer to do is retire to my room with you but I should be polite and rejoin my guests,” Gavriella said with a husky edge to her voice. She slipped her arm through his as he stepped forward when she did. “I’ll find a table to hold court at,” she joked, “and you fetch us an ample plate or two but not dessert, I think I should wait for the official cake cutting for that.”

Darrin nodded as they walked and soon he had her escorted to a table where her mother and a few of her friends were sitting and talking. The Ladies made brief conversation and then his Mistress’s own friends called her to their table. The young women and men there all giggled and looked but didn’t touch Darrin as he stood behind his owner slightly and watched silently. None of them bothered to direct any statements or questions to him so he could avoid any words himself until he was dismissed to fetch the meal.

Buffet tables were set up with two sides. One, the one nearest the rest of the room was for the guests. The other side, nearest the walls and kitchens was for servants or slaves so Darrin got into a small line on the appropriate side, right behind Leon in fact. The older man looked back and smiled widely. “I should let you go first so as to not keep the Lady waiting,” the other slave offered.

“Thank you,” Darrin whispered back as the other stepped off to one side. For a moment he panicked. His training had included some information about what his owner liked to eat but there was a lot of variety here. He took a deep breath and thought about it. It was her birthday, surely Chef Bovay would only offer foods she liked, he reasoned. Now it was just a matter of figuring out what to get. He used a tray and got two plates. This side of the buffet was set up so that a tray could be rested against the top while a servant picked out food to place on trays just like he was doing. Thank the gods he’d paid attention when he was part of the clean up and set up crews for such events in the past year here.

Slowly and carefully he selected foods, placing things that seemed related in terms of tastes together, trying not to mixed odd flavors together. The Mistress liked a wide range of foods but he made sure he got a good amount on just two plates. As he turned, he noted that Leon behind him was dealing with three plates, one for sweet, one for sour, and one for spicy flavors but Darrin stopped his self-doubt and walked back to his owner’s table. There, silently, he laid out her two plates, napkin and silverware then took the tray back, snagging a goblet of wine and one of water on his way back.

He set these on the table as well then knelt at her side as the few other bedslaves at this table were doing. Once there, Darrin allowed himself to take a deep if quiet breathe and relax just a moment until a pair of well-shined black boots came into this line of sight.

“I hope, Lady Shaynis, that my house has served you well, Ma’am,” the voice of the headtrainer made Darrin straighten a bit more. Her boots though were still and he’d learned that if she were displeased her feet tended to move.

“I’m happy so far though to be honest, I can’t wait for the party to end,” Gavriella replied to some hoots from her friends.

Four weeks ago such behavior would have brought a blush to his cheeks, but now Darrin just smiled slightly, leaning toward her as she stroked his hair.

“I think you will appreciate the wait,” the headtrainer replied. “If you will excuse me, I have other matters to attend to. Please do not hesitate to contact me should he requite re-training or advanced training.” With that comment the boots turned and walked away.

The giggled “Advanced training” comments at the table belittled what Darrin was feeling inside. He’d had a two-day introduction to “advanced topics” that had him quaking that first night. Such training involved learning how to turn pain into pleasure and to give intense sensations in a safe fashion. There were a couple of tools he had for softer but similar practices such as basic bondage and sensory deprivation but that was the extent of his training.

He glanced up when his owner changed the topic, surprised but relieved at her slight blush. As they spoke about university classes they were all signed up to take once the semester began, Darrin watched her face and body language more. This removed any temptation to glance at the other bedslaves and guests and also let him eat easily as she feed him some of the finger food he’d placed on her plate. Unlike the care he’d taken with her food, she fed him a mixture of flavors and he had no liquids to wash anything down but it all tasted so much better than he was used to and he felt as though he were starving as he ate bite after bite.

Darrin knew they were finished when his Mistress rose and he smoothly stood and moved behind her. Gavriella took a few minutes to say goodbye to her friends then went back toward her parents’ table. He stayed behind her as the lights dimmed, smiling when the crowd began to sing “Blessed Birthday” to her, adding his baritone to the mix softly. With it dark he was able to glance up a bit more and see the cart wheeling in a cake, big though not nearly the size of the fake one he’d been hidden in coming their way, the tall candles burning brightly.

He did not get any of the cake nor did he want it because it as the evening wore on Darrin was getting nervous about the other activities he would soon be expected to perform. Kaylana had declared him ready in that area but the fact remained that she and her own owner were the only two women he’d ever had sex with. Not that he’d call his use at the hands of his old master’s sons, friends, and then in the Shaynis household sex so much as simply being used, but at least he knew what freemen of several types wanted and expected. Kaylana was just a slave and Headtrainer Violet was a professional, not a noble. What would a noble lady want?

At times like this, Darrin had learned to breath and think, run through his lessons and exercises in his mind. Ultimately he’d go with her direction or fall back on the simple techniques but until that time came, he found his stomach clenching a bit.

“Darrin?”

“Mistress?” he responded automatically, looking up at her face as he spoke. She was frowning slightly, her attention fully on him and he froze under her gaze.

“Are you feeling fine? You look a little pale,” Gavriella said.

He felt his eyes widen just a bit as he realized he must have let his feelings show but then the words of his trainers came back to him and he stepped just a bit closer and lowered his voice so only she could hear. “I am a bit anxious about entertaining you more privately, Mistress. Your birthday will be special in all ways as you deserve,” he added twisting things from worry to a promise as subtly as he could imagine.

She moved closer and put a hand on his chest, gathering the fabric of his shirt and vest into her hand. “I was just thinking of that myself,” Gavriella admitted. “Let me say my good byes. Do you know the way to my suite?”

“Yes, Mistress, unless you have moved since I went for training,” he added.

“No, same room. Go upstairs and wait for me, no,” her hand pulled more firmly on his shirt, “get it set up nice and yourself too. I’ll be up as soon as I can,” she added before tilting her head and brushing her lips against his earning some more hoots from her friends.

“Yes, Mistress,” Darrin whispered back, letting his hands whisper up her arms as he leaned in for another kiss. She didn’t push him away but captured his mouth with her own, parting his lips and dipping her tongue in briefly.

“I will be as quick a possible,” she growled before releasing him and turning back to her friends.

Darrin bowed then backed to the edge of the room before turning and walking up the stairs to her suite that he had helped clean a few times and delivered several meals to during his year plus in service to her family. Now though as he entered the entire space seemed new to him. The colors more bright, the rich blues and golds of the family colors where more intense, the fabrics softer under his hands as he laid back the comforter and sheets. The room even smelled like her he realized something he obviously had no reason to notice before his time by her side that night.

Set himself up nice… What did that mean? A master, even Lord Shaynis and Christoff here had been fairly blunt in their orders to slick up his passage or lay over the bed; back at the Farm the owner, his sons, and the higher ranking slaves and staff hadn’t bothered, they took him when they wanted him. What did a lady mean when she said that?

Darrin reasoned that since she’d coupled it with the room he should stop thinking about himself and start thinking about what she’d want to experience when she came up here. He bowed his head, putting the palms of his hands over his eyes as he thought. He’d have to go with the basics from training since he didn’t know her that well but perhaps he could consider the times he had seen her.

She was in the gardens often so she must like plants, flowers. She didn’t seem to have a problem getting dirty based on how often he saw her poking around said plants or heading out or coming back from the stables but she almost always looked clean and well-attired even when they weren’t expecting guests. Yet, as polite and pretty as she seemed when the estate had events, he recalled she always excused herself as early as possible and that he’d over heard the maids comment about readying her bath.

That stream of thought urged him to her huge bathroom. He turned on the water in the opulent tub and searched over the bath supplies on a nearby shelf. He chose a scent that was from an elegant bottle, only partly used, hoping that meant it was special and equally hoping that since this birthday was special it would be appropriate to use it. He read the directions on the label slowly and carefully. His bed slave training had continued his reading lessons and they agreed with Mr. Gavin that he was a quick student but he still doubted his ability and took every word slowly, thinking each phrase and sentence through.

After adding the required amount, he went back to the bed suite and looked for the closets since there was no robe in the bathroom itself. She might very well wish to be nude after a soak but a robe gave her options he was certain she’d appreciate. The closet was a walk-in and he took a deep breath when he stepped inside. Luckily a fluffy light yellow robe hung on a hook by the sliding doors so he didn’t have to look through more clothing than he could have imagined before. Turning he stopped and almost dropped the robe.

There in one small section were the clothes he’d acquired at training as well as his toolbox below them and his few pairs of sandals. Someone had put them away and wisely or not it was in his owner’s very closet. Nothing to do about it, so he shrugged and put the robe back on the hook so he could at least take off his vest and hang it up. There, now he looked like he’d done something to set himself up in some fashion.

He returned to lay her robe on the bed when he heard the door click. Turning, Darrin sank to his knees, his back straight, a slight smile on his face, and his eyes watching her as Gavriella entered. “Hello, Mistress, I trust you have enjoyed your birthday so far.”

She chuckled and stepped out of her shoes with a sigh. “People were happy to let me go, after a thorough round of rather rude innuendo and clapping.” She paused and moved her neck, her hands rubbing the back of it until her head turned to the bathroom. “Are you running me a bath?”

“Yes, Mistress, honeysuckle bath salts,” Darrin said as he stood up, glancing at the door.

“Wonderful, go ahead and check on it, I’ll call Alice to help me out of this dress.”

Darrin bit his lower lip and just bowed his head before going to the bathroom. She hadn’t even considered that he might be able to help her with that, he did have a bit of training in caring for his owner’s clothing, dressing and so forth. Not enough to launder them but please that was what the house slaves were for. He bit his lip again as he recognized an attitude he knew was the reason bedslaves were routinely disliked and distrusted by others. He was not better than any other slave here, he could be sold off just as easily if not more so, he’s be wise to stop any other such thoughts regardless of Zebulon and Kaylana had told him.

When the tub was full enough he turned off the water and caught some conversation from the room next door. Ease dropping might be considered rude by the freeborn but it was just another survival skill he’d learned years ago.

“He was looking at you, even I could see that,” a female voice said.

“I don’t care, I don’t like him and if I had been consulted, which I wasn’t, he would not have been invited,” that was Gavriella voice.

“Now that you are the heir, it isn’t like you have to marry him, Mistress, you’ll have a greater voice in the matter, won’t you?”

“I better have or I won’t get married at all.”

The other female voice clucked her tongue. “Right, right. How will you get your own heirs then?”

“You of all people should know that marriage isn’t required for children, Alice.”

“We can’t get married, we don’t have our own children,” the maid sounded bitter and this drove Darrin to stand up and peek around the door. Yes, it was her, the companion that Gavriella had had before he arrived wearing a nicer version of the house slave uniform. Clearly she had a new role as well and he scurried back to the tub lest he be seen. The last person who would welcome him here in this space would be the person he replaced.

“But legitimacy is very important for your new role as heir, head of family,” Alice finished.

“If I’m single the world can just cope with it. It isn’t unheard of, you know,” Gavriella retorted.

“As you say, Mistress.”

“Why are you the only slave I know who can make that response sound like a chide?”

“I’m not, I’m just the only one who will do it to you.”

There were no more words though other sounds came from the bedroom that almost made Darrin peek again but just as he built up the courage his owner in her robe stepped in. “You can hardly help me with my bath with all those clothes on. Come here and let me get you out of them,” she told him holding out her hands with a smile.

 

The world started to regain color, sound and space around him as her thighs fell open and she sighed. Darrin didn’t smile, didn’t really breath, he just looked up over her swollen lips, her heaving mound, up her stomach to her panting breasts to her chin which was all he could see of her face with her laying on the edge of the bed, her legs over his shoulders, his head between them. He licked his lips, tasting her musky essence and waited.

“Well, damn,” she whispered then giggled. “Yeah, I, yeah, can’t think,” she admitted and now he allowed himself one smile before kissing one of her thighs. “No, no, that was enough, that was, damn, I can’t remember how many that was.”

By his count eight orgasms but Darrin assumed the question wasn’t sincere so he just gently picked up her legs and helped her slide over so she could relax. “The cover is wet,” she giggled some more.

“Shall I clean you up or would you prefer another bath, Mistress?”

She turned her still pink face toward him, her otherwise lovely hair strewn around her head and shoulders, and frowned. “That’s how we got into this situation in the first place.”

“A shower then?” he replied just ducking a bit when one of her feet connected lightly with his leg as he stood looking down at her.

“Yes, a shower,” she agreed taking his hand and letting him help her stand. They were about the same height and she smiled at him, running a hand up his arm and down it again for a few seconds. “You clean up in here then join me.”

“Yes, Mistress, I will hurry,” he added taking her hand and kissing it. He waited until she was out of the room before running his palms over his face again. He’d used manual and oral techniques and she seemed pleased. Darrin hoped she wouldn’t want intercourse in the shower. Trainer Kaylana was smaller than his owner and he had struggled with that lesson repeatedly which was why he had an exercise routine he was supposed to follow to build up strength.

He pulled off the comforter, she hadn’t wanted to waste time getting properly into bed, and dumped them down the laundry shoot, catching the laughter from below. Someone was waiting down there which he supposed shouldn’t surprise him. Everyone in the household would have seen him delivered, would be talking about his new job and speculating on how well or poorly he’d do. They did that last year when his owner’s mother got a new bed slave though now that he paused to think about it, he didn’t remember her previously one really. Frankly he’d been too busy trying to find an appropriate niche for himself on the estate to participate in the rumor mill.

He’d seen such gossip ruin slaves back at the Farm, house slaves brought to the fields after a few carefully chosen whispers, pretty slaves beaten for errors in chores they had actually done perfectly until someone else knocked over a lamp or cuffed a shoe across a floor. Freeborn people assumed all slaves lied so in general everyone got punished but those who had been in good grace had much further to fall after such jealousies reared up. Better to try and get along with everyone Darrin hoped.

He stepped into the bathroom and stopped when he saw Gaveriella showering; it looked like she was almost finished and he winced inside wondering if he’d taken too long. She noticed him and smiled then yawned, one hand coming up to cover her mouth before she giggled. “I’m exhausted. Hop in here and take a quick one then to bed,” she instructed.

Darrin stepped in to the shower on the other side. This was a double shower really, two separate heads and when she motioned to the one on his side he just turned it on and washed off quickly. Giving oral sex wasn’t that tiring beyond your mouth and neck especially if you knew what you were doing. Fucking, that was tiring; being fucked, depended on how active your top wanted you to be, could be tiring. Orgasms though were always tiring no matter how much work you personally put into achieving them. Of course he hadn’t come.

That wasn’t new. Back at the Farm there had been rule about self-love they called it and he’d never really learned much beyond basic fumbles of his hand. During the previous five weeks it had all been focused on putting on a show or teaching his mistress what to do, again not really self-love. Darrin didn’t think he’d ever come from being fucked and certainly not from giving oral; that was a porn fantasy Trainer Zebulon confirmed. Oh, you could work yourself up mentally to spurt if your owner wanted but it wasn’t a real orgasm. Maybe if he was lucky he might have that one-day, though it was best not to count on it or wish for it.

Darrin stopped moving as he felt arms wrap around him and a wet, warm feminine body press up against him. It wasn’t as scary as when a master did this but still he froze, holding his breath. “You have a choice,” she whispered and he turned his head to one side, listening. “Sleep in my bed with me or on the floor at the foot of it.”

Ah, that choice, they’d talked about it in training. The answer set the precedence for his time with her. In bed allowed for greater intimacy and that could be a huge plus in terms of his own treatment and her learning about sex with a man. Intimacy also involved greater risks because if you weren’t careful you might start to forget what you were, she might start to blur the lines between bed slave and lover. Being on the floor kept it professional you might say but the resulting spouses were less caring for their mates and might sell you off much faster though since you weren’t as emotionally invested and therefore it theoretically shouldn’t matter as much.

Darrin had taken time in the past few days to think about it. He thought about how Gavriella behaved, how she interacted with others both free and slave, noble and peasant, during those moments when he got to see her when he just worked in the house. He’d been thinking about it in the back of his mind all evening, too, but without knowing more such as how well Alice was taking her displacement and why she was still working here instead of being sold as a bed slave, it was all speculation.

“Mistress, I would prefer to be in your bed, if it pleases you,” he answered when her hug tightened.

“It does. Dry us off and let’s sleep,” she said releasing him and turning off her own side of the shower.

 

By the fifth night Darrin fell asleep from pure exhaustion. Gavriella wasn’t harsh and with her brother home for a few days, her daytime and early evening was focused on her family. Thus other than accompanying her and nightly oral pleasuring, she hadn’t demanded much of him.

That didn’t help him sleep at night, next to her, either on one side as she held him as though he was a giant doll or on his back with her draped over him. The positions were fine, even the luxury of the bed was fine. His mind couldn’t stop thinking about his decision to be there in her bed. Once made though he could hardly ask to sleep on the floor.

The real problem was her treatment of him. While he waited for her in the hallway as her family ate he had fallen into a light doze. He had no way of knowing before, but the Shaynis family did not bring their bedslaves into the dinning room, unless there were guests, but allowed them to eat in the kitchen then wait for them to exit. The first evening he stayed awake, the second and third as well, but by that evening he had allowed his eyes to close and his head to rest on his knees as he at against a wall. Unlike the fourth evening he had not heard the door being opened so she found him like that and nudged him awake with her foot. He’d sprung to his knees immediately, head bowed, trembling as her parents and brothers and the other bedslaves chuckled around them.

“Wearing him out, are you, little sister,” Christoff joked.

“Only if he has the stamina of an old man,” Gavriella replied.

Darrin had tensed and braced for the kick that he knew he deserved but it never came. Instead she reached down and gripped his hair then forced his head back, her eyes searching his face. Her eyes slid to one side, looking at her still chuckling brother and his own bed slave who stood behind him with a smirk that even Darrin could see from his position. Her slap though wasn’t hard and her hand holding his hair protected his neck from being snapped to one side.

“Don’t embarrass me again,” she threatened out loud.

“Mistress, I’m sorry, it won’t happen again,” he quickly promised.

She’d hurried them back to her suite where again he fell to his knees certain that now in private she’d truly punish him as he’d earned but instead she just looked at him. “I was wondering what the problem was,” Gavriella began and her slave looked up, blinking a few times. “I mean, the first night you were great, amazing. Second was great too. But since then,” she blushed a bit. “I mean, I’m not an experience, you’re supposed to be.”

Darrin’s eyes opened up a bit wider at that idea. Did five weeks training make him an expert in sex? He doubted it and his stomach started to clench at where her train of thought was headed.

“I reached orgasm each time but you just seemed, less, you know, intense,” she ended with a sigh. “Are you feeling sick? I mean, I hope not, I have no time to get sick, next week father is taking me to the Noble House where I’ll start interning in a few weeks.”

Darrin shook his head and spoke up quickly. “No, no, Mistress, not ill. Just tired, but that’s my own stupid fault for thinking too much.” He didn’t elaborate beyond that and hoped she wouldn’t ask.

Gavriella frowned a bit then rolled her eyes. “Thinking is more tiring than a lot of people believe. Plan on my being exhausted myself once this internship starts.”

Excellent she was focused on her own future now and not on his error or his own problems. To push her along that line of thought further he asked, “Will you be moving to the capital then, Mistress? I do hope you are allowed to take all of your comforts with you if so.”

She smiled now and then chuckled. “Of course you’re coming with me, silly. Who else would I take? So,” she motioned to her shoes and he bent to take them off, “you best get your own thoughts under control so you can be a distraction for me or I might go insane or worse from the stress and the bureaucratic nightmares my father talks about.”

That was the end of it. A command issued, an expectation laid out, and then they continued where they’d left off, discoveries of what she enjoyed in terms of manual stimulation before retiring to bed.

Before his world turned to dreams, Darrin had a horrible realization. He was going to develop too much emotional attachment and he had made a very wrong choice of where to sleep.

Chapter Text

Darrin was standing quietly, his head bowed, his hands folded in front of him, more than a year later as Gavriella spoke with her father before they went into the family room for private family time during the big winter holiday season. It had been about four months since they’d last returned to the Shaynis Estate, missing the harvest festivals at home, forced to participate in the official state and capital celebrations. Lord Shaynis seemed pleased with reports from her internship and though no one asked, Darrin thought he well should. She’d earned a place in Lord Vangoras’s staff and he was head of one of the most powerful families in the realm. Many had been the 16-hour days at the Noble House in the Office of Importation, one of the most prestigious financial divisions of the government. Few were the nights or days when she beat him to relieve some frustrations, rare were the times he’d earned punishment, and almost non-existent were the times he feared he might be sold off at a moments notice though that was a worry no slave could truly be freed from.

The slave flicked his eyes slightly upward as he heard Lord Shaynis inquire as to his usefulness. “Darrin has been very entertaining to me, Father, and a great comfort as well,” his owner replied using euphemisms for his sexual and his domestic services.

“Excellent, remember if he requires more training merely tell me,” Lord Shaynis replied.

The corner of Darrin’s mouth turned up slightly. He had all ready gotten some advanced training at another school in the Capital that turned out to be only partly sexual in nature. It gave him something to do while his owner was busy with national affairs and since he despised the gossip in the waiting rooms for the politicians bed slaves he readily urged her to register him when she mentioned it. There he’d learned about erotic bondage and pain, surprised when he got hard from the activities when Gavriella took an interest. He also continued his intellectual training with more reading, learning to write and even some basics of bookkeeping that focused on household management. That puzzled him greatly but he wasn’t quite secure enough to ask her why he was receiving so much unusual training especially when he was in a class with five others, three men and two women. Maybe he was the one who thought it was usual.

“I’m taking care of all of that, Father, I do get a salary you know during this internship,” Gavriella whispered back just loud enough for the three of them to hear.

“That in an of itself was an impressive accomplishment, made me and your mother very proud, Gav. Come on, we best get in before your mother calls to us.”

With that Darrin followed them inside the formal dinning room with the central spark that signaled the hope that the warmth of spring would soon be on it’s way and the brightly wrapped gifts including dozens and dozens for the house slaves to be handed out by the heads of staff. At the Farm, which seemed like a lifetime ago, slaves were not given gifts for any of the holidays though most got time off from regular chores. Or maybe the house slaves also received gifts and the outdoor slaves didn’t, he couldn’t say since he’d only been in one category or the other on any given estate.

Darrin spent the evening kneeling or sitting at his mistress’s feet while her family talked and played games, exchanged gifts and then handed out boxes of gifts to Gavin, Bovay and Theresa to hand out to those slaves under them as well as a gaily wrapped bag for each of them. The four bedslaves in the room, Christoff was home again for a break, with a new title to crow about, ate the food and listened politely, occasionally chatting when addressed directly. Primarily they were there to be pretty and to encourage their owners to do their best at the silly games. Even young Romario had his companion with him, another young boy who mostly looked at the floor or flinched when the younger Shaynis touched him. Darrin said nothing but he caught the eyes of the other bedslaves as they noticed as well.

This was one of those moments of most distress for slaves. To see the clear signs of harsh treatment, behavior that had it been between free persons would be classified as abuse, and yet knowing there was no way to bring that to anyone’s attention. At one point while all the slaves were left on the floor while their owners went to the windows to look up at the fireworks outside, they all looked from the boy in question to Lady Shaynis’s boy Benon who shook his head but mouthed that he’d handle it.

Darrin shuddered inside. Handle it? Was he going to mention it to Lady Shaynis? Were they that close? She’d only had him since a few months before Gavriella’s 18th birthday and Lady Shaynis hadn’t had a bed slave for at least a year before that as far as Darrin knew. How could her boy feel safe enough to risk his own position?

 

“I think this has been going on for some time,” Lady Shaynis was saying. It was just over a year later, a few months after Lord Shaynis’s death and Gavriella was now tentatively taking the reins of the estate though both her grandmother and mother were acting as advisors. Darrin was standing, looking down at Shem who was laying in the household infirmary, his arm in a cast.

“What do you mean? Mother?” Gavriella had rushed them both to the clinic when Benon had come to her office with a summons from her mother. Darrin had hurried after her, leaving the files he had been attending to on his own much smaller desk. Bed slaves, it turned out, also functioned as personal assistants on all matters so his two years of advanced training in the Capital while she had her internship paid off well over the past year.

“It’s my fault, really,” Lady Shaynis was saying softly, causing her own slave to put his arms around her. “You told me, don’t deny it just to make me look good,” she added when he shook his head. “Benon told me, a few years ago, that Romario was playing too roughly with the boy,” she explained to her daughter who was looking at her with wide eyes.

“When was this?” Gavriella demanded of her mother’s bed slave. “When? Mother, tell him to answer me as head of this family.”

Lady Shaynis whispered a few words and Benon released her to stand at attention under her daughter’s gaze. “The first signs were more than two years ago, Ma’am. When the situation continued at the Winter Holiday, I mentioned to my mistress. Most of the time your younger brother though did not bring his boy out with him so I rarely saw them together.”

“But when you did?”

Benon swallowed. “Shem seemed afraid of your brother, Ma’am. He was not attentive as a noble’s companion should be, not happy and playful, and we agreed it was usual.”

“We?”

Darrin glanced up and took a deep breath. “All of the bedslaves, Mistress,” he jumped in to add, saving the other man the choice of protecting him or revealing him. She turned her sharp, blue eyes to him with a frown. “The Estate was not yet your task and then your brother went off to academy alone and you were focused on making things work smoothly…” he ended by bowing his head. It was a lame excuse but she, like all other free people could never understand the reasons for the secrets their slaves kept. The best you could hope for was them never discovering you had them.

“I’m sorry, Mistress, I should have told you,” Darrin confessed as he sank to his knees.

“Oh, damnit!” she slammed one hand down on another bedside table, causing everyone in the room to jump and the slave on the bed to whimper awake. “This explains so much, so much about complaints from the academy. Clearly he needs help,” Gavriella stated staring at her mother.

Lady Shaynis nodded slowly. “I’ll make the arrangements, I’ll find the best hospital I can.”

Darrin bit his tongue on that comment. Why was it when a free person’s harsh treatment of a slave came to light it was called a mental illness but should a slave behave in a similar fashion he’d be put to death or sold to the public works department? He blinked when his mistress insisted it be a facility that also got results because he would not be welcomed back home until he was cured.

Darrin reported to Gavin’s office a short time later with the note from his owner. The elder slave read it then nodded his head. “Ah, yes, that’s unfortunate but it leaves us with an important decision of where to place Shem.” He looked at Darrin seriously. “We could put him to work with the gardener, the boy often spent time there when the young master was away. Or he could aid Chef Bovy who reports a curiosity for how the meals are made. Which would you do?”

“Me?” Darrin’s mouth fell open slightly so the Chief of Servants reached over and lifted up his chin.

“Of course, she sent you with the message and she wants a decision when you return, thus it stands to reason that she wants you aware of the process of how this decision is made. What questions would you ask to make this decision?”

Darrin folded his arms over his chest and considered. “Well, he has an interest in both but has he actually done any gardening or cooking?”

“Let’s look,” Gavin said as he went to his filing cabinet. He took out a thin folder and came to stand by Darrin. “I keep files on every slave on this Estate. Every one because I know eventually I may have to make these decisions unless an owner decides to simply sell one of us off.”

Darrin glanced at the files, wondering what his file said but he didn’t speak.

“He has helped both the assistant garden and the under chef with their work. Both report he did his minor tasks well and asked a lot of questions. What other questions would you ask to make this decision?”

“Ah, um, well, if he stays here, how likely will he run into the young master? That could be a problem,” Darrin thought out loud.

“Indeed. In the kitchens he’d be less visible but he’d also have access to the young master’s food. Would that be a problem?”

Neither said what this implied. Slaves resisted in a number of fashions, the most deadly was with an owner’s food. Most free people were smart enough to realize that and thus kitchen staff were the most protected from an owner’s random tantrums or sexual use. “Shem’s not that type of boy. He’s a kind, gentle soul, frankly if it hadn’t been noticed by Lady Shaynis, he would have never gone to the infirmary. He would have tried to care for it on his own.”

“And ended up with a useless arm, I’d wager,” Gavin added. “Given those criteria then where should we assign Shem?”

“Kitchens, I think it will offer him security and work he can enjoy. If there is ever a question of his fixing the young master’s food, we can just excuse him from duty for those meals. Sorry, sir, I didn’t mean to sound like I know anything,” Darrin added quickly, lowering his arms and bowing his head.

“Really? Because I concur with your opinion,” Gavin said as he wrote out the reassignment form for the bed slave to return to the head of the estate.

 

Darrin was kneeling about two hours later before his owner as she sat on the couch at the foot of her bed and stared at him. She’d been staring for several minutes but she’d said nothing other than snap her fingers and point to the spot he was kneeling now. A few more minutes of silent staring and he followed one of the rules in a slightly different fashion than it was probably intended. “Shall I fetch your whip or crop or paddle perhaps, Mistress?”

Her blue eyes, dark from emotion, zeroed in on him and her voice was like a lash as Gavriella responded immediately. “I’m too upset to be in control of myself enough to punish you as you deserve for keeping secrets from me.” The slave opened his mouth then closed it as she continued. “Why the hell would you not tell me after father died? How am I supposed to a good head of estate if I don’t have all the information I need? Huh? Do you want this family to be the laughingstock of the realm?”

Darrin blinked, shocked by the accusation that came from, he just couldn’t follow that line of logic. “No, no, I want you to succeed, Mistress, I, I…”

“I, I, what?”

He dug his fingers into his pants and took a deep breath. “I was afraid of making you angry, afraid you might not believe me.”

“I’m angry now!” she said standing up, lifting up one of her hands balled into a fist. His reaction, dipping his head down low, hunching his shoulders to make himself smaller, made her sigh and lower her hand. “When the hell have I not believed what you told me?”

Darrin glanced put and saw a few tears in her eyes as she sat back down. Damn. Worse than being punished was seeing your owner cry especially from something you did or didn’t do. That was a surer way to the auction block. “Gods, please don’t cry, Mistress,” he said scurrying forward and clasping her calves. “I should have told you, trusted you to do what was right, I’m an idiot, please just, here, let me fetch the paddle,” he began as he started to rise but she put her hand on his as it touched her knee to help him stand.

Her fingernails dug into his hand a bit and his mouth fell open with a groan. “Yes, you should have. If you don’t trust me, if I can’t trust you, what good are you to me as my bed slave, my assistant or anything else?”

His second round of training, the advanced program in the Capital had said something similar. Bedslaves were in a unique position, not merely sex slaves but also assistants in all private matters and if your owner were head of an Estate, often in public matters as well. Bedslaves were never cast out for being too old or too ugly, the trainers claimed, but for breaking the trust required in such a relationship. He could cite the examples they’d given from history by rout but that didn’t mean he ever truly believed it. Life was too unpredictable for a slave, any slave, to trust masters fully. He had been a few years though and she’d never even shared him with other members of her own family, never gone back on her promises or threats, never lied to him as far as he could determine.

His heart sank as Darrin realized he could not say the same thing about himself in regard to her. He’d broken some of the rules through the years with her. Lied about how much some activity hurt, erred on the side of not mentioning something she might want to know, and he was constantly afraid that next statement she made might be a lie. He put his other hand on hers and squeezed down forcing her nails into his skin until he shuddered. “I’m sorry, Mistress.”

“That’s not good enough,” she said as she stood up so they were face to face. “New rule. From now on, you tell me anything, anything,” her voice rose on that second round of the word, “that you think I might even be slightly interested in knowing about immediately. No more waiting or expecting others to bring it up, you hear it, you see it, you tell me. You understand?”

Darrin nodded and kept his eyes on hers, knowing this was serious because it was the first new rule he’d had since his first bed slave training. “Yes, Mistress, I’ll tell you immediately anything that has anything to with your family, your estate, your property, yourself, me,” he added the additional information to demonstrate his full comprehension.

Gavriella waited then released his hand. “Get the paddle. You are going to be punished.”

Darrin bowed and went to fetch the instrument he hated most from his tool kit he’d brought back from the training with Kaylana and Zebulon. He returned and handed it to her then took his pants off and lay across her lap as she sat on the couch. She put one arm over his shoulders and asked him a question that he dreaded. “How many days since you knew Shem was being harmed?”

He wasn’t going to try and worm his way out with a debate on words either with her or in his own head. It had been about two years since that festival, no a bit more, which made it, he hate doing math in his head. “435, Mistress?”

“Then that’s how many you are getting,” she said and began with a soft swat. “Keep count.”

“One,” he said his voice all ready shaky as he tried to grasp such a thoroughly spanking with an instrument that he despised for it’s solidness and thus it’s unrelenting harshness. Keep relaxed, keep relaxed, he repeated silently knowing that any tensing of his muscles would only make it worse. Darrin knew however that this was going to be bad, very bad because he’d never been spanked or even flogged or cane so much as she’d just decreed he would be.

 

Darrin was frowning a bit after he said “231” because his owner was wiggling beneath him. “Get up, get up,” Gavriella ordered almost pushing him from her lap. “My legs are falling asleep, damnit,” she added as he stood up as quickly as he could. His butt was hot and it hurt a bit when he moved, he felt stiff but this hadn’t been as bad as he’d expected. Darrin was surprised frankly but as she hobbled around shaking her legs, he looked away silently, slightly pleased she’d hurt herself while hurting him.

She, however, looked annoyed so he just kept his eyes lowered. “Lean over the couch then,” she ordered. “You ass up, we aren’t done.”

Silently Darrin did as bid, trying to comply but thinking about how much more painful this would be with the muscles of his ass taut. He placed his hands on the couch and looked back as she stepped behind him. When the next hit, it was sharper but he counted, “232.”

The next hundred were more intense but at 332 she stopped again and cursed softly behind him, making Darrin bite his lip as he looked back. Gavriella was rubbing her right wrist and forearm a few times. He looked away when she glanced up hoping she hadn’t seen him watching her. Normally he knew that in this family, when a slave needed to be punished either Gavin did it or they called in the overseer Mr. Stenwale to administer it. Since his presentation to his mistress however she had administered every correction personally, commenting on a few occasions that if she couldn’t enforce the rules then how was she qualified to take over her father’s role as head of family.

Darrin felt her move to the other said and the next slap wasn’t as even as the others so he glanced back as he said “335” to find she was using her left hand. He shuddered realizing this next set might miss the mark and was grateful she had not commented when he’d placed his thigh close together when he took this position. That paddle on his balls would not be a good thing no matter how hard it struck.

By 400 Darrin was sobbing with each count and digging his fingers into the fabric of the couch, behind him, Gavriella was cursing softly. His ass felt like it was three times its normal size, it felt like it was literally in flames, and he felt something slipping down his skin. When the paddle landed next to his head on the couch with an extra vulgar word from his owner’s lips, he stopped weeping and just froze.

He didn’t move when she touched him either but he did notice that her normally soft and cool hands were damp and warm, almost hot. She trailed a hand over his bum and he was surprised at how much of a yelp he made when he was normally so in control of his reactions. Then she ran her hand up over his back and he could feel the sweat sticking his skin to his shirt as she applied slight pressure. She paused on his damp hair and he looked back and up at her, whispering, “I’m sorry, Mistress.”

“Good. I don’t want to have to do that again,” she replied quickly, taking her hand away and rubbing her wrists lightly. “We’ll call this the standard punishment for not telling me things I need to know. One for each day you don’t tell me. I don’t care what it is. You tell me, I decide if it’s worth my time or not. Understand?”

“Yes, Mistress.

“Lay down on the couch, I’ll be back,” she added putting one hand over her eyes before sighing and leaving her suite.

It hurt to move but in a few moments he was laying on his stomach on the couch, the paddle now at his end of the couch since she hadn’t said to remove it or put it away. He’d been in this position numerous times though never for such a punishment. Darrin picked up the instrument of his correction and looked at it. It looked the same as always, no blood and as the air currents in the room continued to flow the trickles he’d felt disappeared to be replaced by a tickling sensation everyone on his skin. Sweat. He’s been sweating from the experience and now he’d be covered with a light coating of itchy salt. He put the paddle down and reached back with both hands gasping when he touched his cheeks and found they felt hot, swollen and very, very tender. He was betting he’d have bruises for a few days if not a week but he didn’t feel any cuts.

He stopped and moved his hands back in front of him when the door opened and Benon walked in. Darrin propped himself up on his hands but the other bed slave just waved him down as he carried a tray inside. “I’ve been sent to look at you. I take you were punished for not telling her everything?”

“Yeah, I just assumed you told Lady Shaynis and she would tell my Mistress,” Darrin started to explain.

“Like they care,” Benon said as he set the tray on the bed and then stood off to one side for a few minutes. “That’s not nearly as bad as I thought it would be given what’s she going through downstairs.”

Darrin propped himself up again and looked back with a grimace as the muscles in his butt protested. “What are you talking about?”

Benon smiled and chuckled. “Seems our head of family has pulled or strained a few muscles in her arms and wrists.” He bent down to look more closely but continued to talk. “She should have called Stenwale if she was really looking to punish you. This is nothing.”

“Or Gavin even and thanks for the sympathy.”

“Not for you, Gavin would not punish you, not now,” Benon replied then waved his hand in dismissal at the other half of the sentence. “Give me break. You can’t tell me that this is worse you’ve ever been punished or I’m gonna start calling you a spoiled brat.”

Darrin chuckled and sucked in his breath when the laughter shook his body and rump too much. “No, no, of course now, but I feel, I feel terrible, you know, I really upset her. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her that upset before.”

“If this is the worst she can dish out when she’s upset, you got the cushiest job in the world, boy. Now, let’s get you up, get that all ready stinky shirt off you and you into a cold shower. Then maybe I can determine how much swelling is going to happen and how long you’ll want to stay off your ass.”

Darrin pushed himself up and stood with a few gasps and groans. He took Benon’s offered arm and let him help him out of this shirt and into the shower. The cold water against his inflamed butt hurt at first then it started to numb things as it cooled him off. All the while the other bed slave stood by and watched which stirred his curiosity. “Benon, did you, were you, punished?”

“Today? Over this? Nope, why would I be? I told my mistress as I promised I would. I have no idea why she didn’t tell her husband or Lady Gavriella. Not really my place to make her do anything.”

Darrin noted the other slaves as looking away as he spoke, his face a bit red. “It OK, I’m OK,” he replied to comfort them both.

“Is she?” Benon asked, the blush leaving his face as he looked directly at Darrin.

“You said she pulled some muscles, she’s probably still angry at me,” he started to answer.

“No, is she all right since her father died. I’m supposed to ask, discretely was the term used but I think concerns about discretion is part of what got us into this mess. My mistress says she hasn’t really seen much of her daughter since that night when he passed on,” Benon crossed his arms over his chest and tilted his head to one side. “That’s kind of odd considering they live in the same manor.”

Something about the question was picking at the edges of Darrin’s mind but his sense of duty made him shake his head and wave one hand dismissively. “She’s been very busy trying to manage things. You know, her father hadn’t finished showing her everything before he passed. She’s had a lot of learning on the go. I think she’s done very well considering everything.” The other slave just smiled slightly and nodded picking up a towel and ordering him out of the shower before he got too cold.

Standing in a loose silk robe to cover himself but not put too much pressure on his butt, Darrin laid back on the couch and propped himself up after Benon gave him a pill from the estate nurse. “She used that, from my training kit,” he answered when the other picked up the paddle.

“This?” Benon smacked his own ass with it a few times. “How did this do that?” he pointed with it toward Darrin’s silk covered rump.

“435, one for each day I didn’t tell her my suspicions about her brother’s behavior.”

The other bed slave winced as he sat it down. “Be grateful it didn’t have any holes or you’d have some deep tissue damage, maybe some cuts. What?” he said when Darrin cocked his head to one side. He never thought that Lady Shaynis would get a bed slave with such advanced training but then… “Oh right, yeah, I’m the new guy really, you don’t know me. I used to belong to an estate physician, I’ve seen stuff twenty, maybe fifty times worse than that ass of yours. A bullwhip once cut off part of an ear,” he began when the door opened and both slaves quieted immediately.

“You’re still here,” Gavriella said as she paused before coming to sit on the edge of her bed, not far from Darrin’s head.

Benon’s demeanor had changed the moment she walked in, Darrin noted. He was looking down, his hand folded in front of him, his shoulders slightly hunched. “Good evening, Lady Gavriella. If I have your leave, I will return to my mistress.”

“Take the tray back first,” she simply replied. She waited until they were alone to return Darrin’s gaze. She lifted up her hands and revealed her wrists wrapped in loose gauze, one hand clasping a bottle. “And this is my punishment for somehow neglecting you so much that you felt you shouldn’t tell me everything.”

“Mistress, that’s not true,” he said as he pushed himself up. He paused when he heard a sound that seemed so distance in his memory coming from her. He stood, biting his lip to keep silent as his butt ached and burned with each so he could come to her, to kneel up at her feet. That close he could see tears falling down her cheeks.

“I don’t think I can do this,” she whispered as he wrapped his arms around her and laid his head on her chest.

Then he realized that she hadn’t cried once since her father’s death and many things became perfectly clear in his mind as she sobbed so hard his hair was soon matted down again with salty water.

Chapter Text

There were some things Darrin could not help with that Gavriella needed to do as head of family. Some organizations didn’t welcome slaves through their doors or restricted where they could go once inside. Thus when Lady Shaynis’ attempts to get her youngest son help were ignored by the relevant government and hospital agencies because she was not head of family, Gavriella had to go. Darrin and Benon were shuffled off to wait for both women in a small room where bedslaves had standing room only as their owners went about official business. Perhaps he was a rarity but the more experience he got, the less Darrin believed his most important job was between his mistress’s thighs and he was a bit angry when she had to take the satchel with the proper documents from his hands and go to file them herself.

As his reading skills improved he was tackling more serious books and the last had been a collection of essays on the role of the personal slave, something that he felt he most resembled in his life at this time. What these slaves had been called had changed over the centuries but one thing was clear, they were the confidants of their owners and often intimate with them. The more he helped her with paperwork, helped her with family and household business, the more he merely sat and talked with her, the less and less he felt the title of bed slave was appropriate. He had no one though to discuss this with so he buried it deep in his heart.

The filing took longer than he expected and when the room guard called their names and they left, they found both ladies looking tired. Darrin took the satchel and leaned to whisper in her ear, as she took his arm for a moment. “Mistress, what happened?”

“The security force will be out to interview Shem before they arrest my brother. As soon as the bone was broken it crossed the line from mental distress to abuse because technically the family owns Shem since Romario at 15 is not a legal adult and therefore couldn’t own a slave. Do you have any idea what this does to our reputation?” she demanded pulling away to walk with her mother leaving the two slaves to follow behind in silence.

As the security officers led him away, the teenaged Shaynis attacked his family verbally while Darrin could only watch in shock. “I was supposed to go into the army, maybe a nice guard position, but no, that fucking Christoff had to ruin it all! You were supposed to be someone’s wife and mother, Gavi, not pretending to be father!”

When he asked about it later, his mistress merely directed him to a book he now sat trying to understand. It was a lot of legalese written and revised over the centuries since the Great Fall and the rise of the current Age of Balance as the aristocrats liked to claim, silently most of the peasants and slaves called it the Age of Imbalance but none could deny that words like Global Warming and Nuclear War and Pollution were nothing more than vague phrases that conjured up images of a land smoking and desolate. After an hour of struggling, Darrin lugged the book to Gavin’s office and asked for his clarification.

The older man refused and instead he insisted the younger slave attempt to explain it himself in his own words. “There seem to be rules about what each child in an elite family can do based on many children survive to adulthood.”

“Indeed, it’s rather convoluted but there reasons for it we must assume or the founding mothers and fathers of the current age would not have established them,” Gavin interrupted when Darrin sighed.

“Why do they love rules so much? I mean, if I could live without rules, if I could be free,” he let the sentence die there when the older slave frowned.

“You’d live by other rules. Life, unless you live in a cave in the middle of nowhere, is governed by rules. When we ignore them, we risk greater violence in our lives,” Gavin lectured. “What are these rules, Darrin?”

“Well, an only child must become head of family. They inherit all the material possessions but also all of the legal and social obligations, they basically run the rest of the family’s lives, determining who can marry whom, what jobs everything has, even whether or not goods are purchased. Though honestly I don’t recall Lord Shaynis being that involved.”

“That’s why he had me,” Gavin added with a tight smile. “And Madame Theresa, Chef Bovy, and of course, both elder Ladies Shaynis.”

Darrin nodded but continued at a wave of the older man’s hand. “If there is a second child, then that one must serve the security of the state in some fashion. Usually the eldest heads the family, and the second born heads into the military.” Which would have been Gavriella in service now except at three children things got complicated as he tried to explain at another nod from Gavin.

“If a noble family has a third child then they can now chose to also expand their political and economic power via a marriage alliance with another family. Normally such alliance marriages are arranged for daughters leaving second sons to serve in a branch of the military. However, families may choose future careers and alliances based on the skills of their offspring and not merely birth order.”

As soon as he said it, Darrin stopped and his eyes widened. Christoff had thrown off the expected order. His mistress had been raised until a few years ago to become a wife and mother, learning primarily from her own mother what that role demanded of her. “Is that why Lord Shaynis sent her to the Noble House? Because she hadn’t been raised for this job?” Darrin thought out loud.

“So he told me,” Gavin said then smiled when the other slave blinked. “My Master told me many, many things, even after so many years. The job never truly ends, it simply changes a bit.”

Darrin frowned just slightly wondering what that meant but was too focused on the connections he was making now. This meant that Romario had assumed he’d go into the army or the guard as he said earlier when he was taken away but instead now Gavriella might force him to marry in order to create an alliance. The entire household had been thrown into chaos with Christoff’s decision and they had struggled unsuccessfully to adjust. Had Lord Shaynis not died, they might have made the transition but now they seemed lost.

“That isn’t fair,” Darrin said softly.

“What isn’t fair?”

“She wasn’t supposed to have to have this much responsibility, she might have been married by now, I’d either have followed or been sold again. He was selfish,” Darrin declared.

The other slave thought for a moment. “Master Christoff? Yes, he was, but then that’s one of the problems with being free. You get to be selfish, you get to make choices, your families might actually listen to your choices, but when they do, it affects the entire family. If one of Theresa’s grunts decides to not dust, who suffers? She will when she’s beaten but the room will still get dusted. If one of Bovy’s aids decides to dice instead of slice potatoes, the family still eats and he gets beaten. If you decide to not give your best the next time your mistress requires your services in bed, she gets less pleasure and beats you, but the consequences end there. When a free person makes a decision, it can have a huge ripple effect.”

Darrin just sat silently. He’d never thought of it like that. He’d always assumed there was endless pleasure and power with freedom, he never imagined that every free person had a family, friends, business partners, who relied among him, children, parents, and slaves that looked to her for care and guidance. He was just an object, a tool, he followed the rules, simple rules usually, and did his job or he and he alone suffered for it. But a free born was a person, not an object, and she had to take full responsibility for everything she did, every decision she made, and how it impacted everything around her.

He couldn’t imagine having to think about all of that and when they didn’t, when they didn’t, then they lashed out, someone got hurt, usually a lot of some ones. Slaves never made history, they had no choices to make that would have an impact beyond their own lives or maybe if they were particularly violent the household that owned them. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t fair but even if that was true, and something was nagging the edge of his mind that it was all too convenient, that didn’t mean that freedom wasn’t better than servitude.

“Of course, that’s simplified. I’m sure there are free people who live such poor or lonely lives that they never impact anyone or very few. Those people don’t own us though. The Shaynis are an old family, their have power, so their lives affect this realm. Just like our decisions affect this household.”

Darrin chuckled as he shook his head. “I don’t affect…”

“You decided where to put Shem,” Gavin pointed out. “That’s given him strength to talk to security today which resulted in young master Romario being sent to a state rehabilitation center instead of just simply jail or a hospital. Your decision has affected this family and thus the realm.”

Darrin shook his head more firmly, the blood draining from his face. “No, no, I’m just a slave, I can’t have, I don’t have,”

“A slave doesn’t but the bed slave of the Head of Family does especially when he becomes Chief of Servants,” Gavin said.

Both slaves just looked at each other. No one had ever told Darrin, not in so many words, but he was included in so much, he was being taught to read, write and keep records, the training in the City had been focused on helping one’s owner make a good impression and easing their mundane burdens. Slowly he’d been trained to go beyond following rules and obeying into expressing his opinion even making decisions. He was so slow some times.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you sooner, Darrin. Until I saw that Mistress Gavriella was capable of handling the Family I wasn’t sure myself. I think now with this sentence she will have to rise to the task as will you.”

“But you have years of life ahead of you, Mr. Gavin.”

“I should hope so but I have less than four years here before by Master’s will I will be settled and can enjoy my retirement.”

Darrin frowned. Slaves did not retire. He’d seen slaves at the Farm worked until they died, old slaves always had tasks to do and when they couldn’t they were left out to die. “I don’t understand.”

“Not that I wanted it this way, I didn’t,” Gavin insisted as he leaned forward and rested his hands on his desk. “If any of the four heads of the servile staff in a household should survive their owner, they are traditional granted their freedom and a stipend to live on after a certain period of years to allow for their replacements. I believe that Alice is learning to take Theresa’s place and you need to learn my job. Unfortunately, there is the matter of marriage first.”

“Marriage?”

“Not yours, silly, Lady Gavriella’s. And soon so expect your life to get more confusing very quickly. If that is it, I have consultation with Bovy about the matter of his replacement before he goes to our new Mistress to discuss that issue with her.”

Darrin stood up and nodded automatically as he was dismissed but instead of returning to his owner’s office or suite he went for a walk in the gardens to think and wondered if this decision would impact him or others as he looked around the estate with newly opened eyes.

Darrin paused when he heard the voice off to his right. He turned, his eyes widening at the view. There was a cage with a roof and floor but sure enough metal bars and inside was a yardslave sitting on his knees reaching through the bars. “Sir, please do you have any food or drink?” the slave repeated.

Darrin clenched the book to his chest and stared as he shook his head. “No, I don’t, I just came out for a walk.” He was at a loss of what to say. He avoided running into the yardslaves since arriving at the Shaynis estate; they reminded him to much of his previous life on the Vennure Slave Farm though he knew things would be quite different here just as they would be on a functioning agricultural estate. The yardslaves here only did minor farming, enough to supply food for the entire estate, no real surplus and any was turned into preserves or gifts. He’d learned all that his first year when he also learned that being assigned to the yard was the least pleasant job one could get.

The reason, in good part, stepped around a nearby building and struck the top of the cage with his ever-present cane. “Boy, you want to add another day onto your sentence for daring to speak to a visitor?”

“No, Sir, Mr. Stenwale,” the caged slave said immediately as he slipped back and sat on his ass, glancing from Darrin to the Overseer.

Mr. Stenwale may have been a slave or he may have been free or freed, Darrin wasn’t sure, because the few times he had seen, then as now, he had a high collar shirt with a formal tie. He also had a wide-brimmed hat, a worn leather vest, demin slacks, and sturdy work boots that somehow shined enough though most of his days were outside, rain or sun or snow. He also had a knack for unnerving you. “What you doing here, Darrin? Shouldn’t you be inside with your Mistress?”

Darrin swallowed but shook his head. “She wanted me to understand some sections of this book, I thought taking a walk might help, Sir,” he added the honorific with a bow of his head.

Stenwale chuckled then brought his cane down on the top of the cage again, making both slaves jump at the sound. “This here boy was caught trying to steal extra rations. His sentence is three days here with only water and this was to be his finale day, I’d let him out in the morning. But he attempted to get you to help him cheat on his punishment. Tell me, Darrin, what do you think a fair punishment for such an action should be?”

Darrin blinked. Perhaps Mr. Stenwale knew that Darrin would be Head of Servants and he was testing him for Mr. Gavin. Or perhaps he was a sadistic bastard who liked to yank everyone’s chains. Regardless, Darrin knew he needed to give him an honest answer. “Well, Sir, since it would have only been a little food, I think a full day is bit too harsh but still we have rules we must obey and when we don’t there are punishments. I’d free him by lunch tomorrow myself, Sir, give him another meal to feel more grateful for what the Shaynises give him.”

Stenwale rapped the top of the cage again. “So it shall be! Hear that, boy? You just bought yourself another lost meal. Now shut up before I help you control yourself with a gag.”

Darrin grimaced at the idea of being trapped outside with a gag but he just followed mutely when Stenwale motioned for him join him a bit of a distance behind the building then inside of it. “This here is my office you might say,” Stenwale said as he took a seat behind a big desk that had several monitors lining it and the wall behind him. “From here I can see almost every part of the estate outside the manor, of course.”

Darrin looked at the monitors but controlled his face. Even the Farm did not have such security and it primarily raised slaves to sell, everything else was just a matter of self-efficiency and training. The monitors showed the barracks, both men’s and women’s though females were a minority outside the manor on this estate. The monitors showed the fields, barns, and stables, not every inch but the paths and doors. The monitor showed the mess hall where the yardslaves ate, the public restrooms where they did other matters, and their own laundry service. One monitor showed the cages he’d just seen.

Darrin frozen when he noticed Stenwale loosening his tie and shirt. Surely the overseer didn’t plan to attempt to touch him, did he? None of the indoor servants ever had though he’d expected his supervisor to avail themselves of his body. “Sir, I am in the service of Lady Gavriella Shaynis, I should be getting back to her,” he fell back on a phrase he’d learned years ago but had only had to use a few times when they lived in the Capital.

The overseer frowned then threw back his head to laugh as he removed his tie and undid the top two buttons of his shirt. As he laughed Darrin spotted the metal around his neck and blinked. “Boy, I ain’t that stupid. Old maybe but trust me I get my pick of booty out here, I don’t need no pale indoor thing. I just figured it was time you knew who I actually was.” Then Stenwale touched the collar and nodded when Darrin’s eyes widened. “Best to keep this thing under wraps out here so I have fewer problems. My predecessor taught me that.”

“Oh, I see, I’m sorry, Sir,” Darrin fumbled verbally unsure if the title was now appropriate.

“That’s it, keep it up until you take over Gavin’s post. Have a seat,” Stenwale added as he reached into his desk and retrieved a bottle of what turned out to be water and poured two glasses. “I have the best of both worlds here. Protection and power you might say. Though I’ve heard I might be losing that soon. Is that why you came out here? To check up on me?”

“No, Sir, just thinking,” the bed slave insisted putting the book on the desk as he sat down and took the offered glass.

They sat for a moment in silence then Stenwale looked at his monitors before nodding at the book. “That book tell you about the changes that are happening here since the master died?”

“It’s about the laws and traditions of inheritance for the aristocracy, yes, Sir,” Darrin confirmed setting the now empty glass on the desk.

“Let me tell you a story,” Stenwale began so Darrin nodded and relaxed his posture a bit so he could sit for a while.

“I was brought in after the master’s father died. I was taken to the manor and told that my new job was to be the overseer, I’d train for a few years with the current one then do the job on my own while he retired to an area over that way,” he motioned toward the west and then to a monitor that had not made much sense to Darrin before since it seemed to be looking at four tiny cottages where one old woman was weeding or planting something.

“They don’t last too long out there with all their freedom. Still dependent on the Shaynis family and this estate but now lacking any duties or authority for the most part aside from a couple of slaves assigned there. Only Mari is there now, I don’t want to end up like that. Do you think Mistress Gavriella has all ready found my replacement?”

Oh, that was interesting, Gavin appeared to want his freedom but Stenwale seemed to be dreading it. But then Darrin hadn’t realized that there were conditions to it and for a moment he wonder how boring it was to live in a tiny house so far away from everything. The question made him frown for a moment. “I don’t know, Sir, she hasn’t mentioned it and we haven’t gone to any auctions. Perhaps she wants you to recommend one of the slaves you currently supervise. That’s what is happening in the manor I think.”

Stenwale shook his head. “No, no, we need an outsider, someone who can pretend to be a freeman or woman I suppose they might manage with a long enough cane,” he chuckled at the thought. “I don’t know if it’s proper or not, but I imagine I’m supposed to go through you to get a meeting with her.”

Darrin nodded and took a small calendar he carried at all times for such matters from his back pocket. “That’s has indeed been one of my new duties, Sir. Let me consult her schedule as I know it.” After a few minutes he offered a couple of times in the current week and Stenwale picked on for the day after tomorrow so he could prepare he said.

Then with a nod, Darrin was dismissed and he returned to the manor, his mind buzzing with conflicting ideas about the changes happening at the Shaynis estate.

Chapter Text

Darrin locked his eyes onto his owner’s as she rode him hard a few weeks later. She had been trying some new techniques and this one was, if he had been able to speak or even think right now, perfected. His entire body and hers were covered in a sheen of sweat though all that was moving were her vaginal muscles and his fingertip on her clit. Or at least his finger should have been moving, he gave up caring when she milked him but kept on going pulling an erection from him though he wasn’t sure how.

Gavriella frowned a bit, now, he couldn’t seem to adjust his eyes, she was smirking down at him as she straddled him and then she was arching her back and gasping, her muscles moving erratically now from her own orgasm. The slave soon followed, arching up as he did so, and wrapping his arms around her automatically.

They sat there like that for a few moments until Darrin swallowed and pulled back one arm to brace himself. Then he started giggling slightly and she exploded into chuckles until she rolled off of him, making him bite his lip from the bending of his softening cock. “So how was it this time?” she demanded, poking his thigh.

Darin nodded and lowered himself to his side so he could look at her. He kept nodding making her laugh more until he could focus his thoughts better. “That was, amazing, that was, that was,” he said and then buried his face in one hand from embarrassment.

“Excellent,” she replied as she turned on her own side and pushed two of his fingers apart so she could look at one of his eyes. “What is wrong with you?”

“I didn’t do much to help your pleasure,” he whispered. “It isn’t right,” he began but was immediately hushed by her.

“It isn’t always about me, I will have to have a husband some day, remember?”

“Yes, Mistress,” Darrin replied thinking about the discussion with her mother just a few nights before. Then there was the issue with Stenwale and her unique solution that they’d spent hours in the archives finding examples of so that she could argue it before her mother. Though the elder Shaynis Ladies had no authority in the family, they still had a great deal of influence and his owner seemed determined to have every decision she made backed by precedent.

“In fact, that will be happening fairly soon,” she said as she got out of bed. Immediately Darrin made to get out as well but she waved him down with a smile. “Here just put these on,” she ordered tossing his pajama bottoms and top to him before putting on her own.

As he put them on he watched her retrieve a set of files from her small desk where she’d laid them earlier before taking him to bed. Three were in simply folders and he recognized those immediately as some they had been working on for Stenwale’s benefit but the other, a larger stack in between much finer papered folders he didn’t recognize at all.

She put the three common ones in his hands and told him to look them over again as she braided her hair. “Ah, our finalists then?” he half asked as he opened them and laid them out side by side. Each woman was a second or third daughter of a poor farm or city peasant family, actually only one of the three lived in a city and that was because her family had recently lost their land. Each would be expected to leave the family home and strike out on her own, only extra sons were expected to stay and obey the son who inherited the land or house and only the eldest daughter was legally required to be given any inheritance. “How patriarchal” had been his mistress’s only comments as they read up on peasant law and customs.

They had contacted these three and heard back from all of them, now tonight it seemed they were to narrow it down so Darrin arranged them in the order he thought might prove most useful to the Shaynis estate with his first choice closest to his owner’s side of the bed.

“Really? You liked her best?” Gavriella made a snort with the comment as she sat down.

“Given her family’s recent loss, I think that hers will be most willing to take the offer of a slave for a husband. Any land even if it won’t be in their family should prove tempting,” he explained. The sister who was married off has her own farm, and the eldest brother had gambled the family farm away leaving his two younger siblings both orphaned and living in state housing until they could find work or arrange marriages.

“I worry about her brother, a gambler is really not a man I want to deal with though I agree that Stenwale may like her given what we know about her.”

Darrin blinked and looked from the picture to his mistress and back again. He hadn’t given one thought to what the overseer wanted, only to what might be least taxing on the head of the Shaynis family.

She reached out and took his final choice’s folder off the bed. “I agree. She’s all ready looking after a family’s children on another farm, it would prove a difficulty for them to give her up but her ribbons at the village fairs were eye catching.” With that she closed the folder and tossed it on the floor on his side of the bed but he ignored it for now.

“I like this one best,” she continued. “She hasn’t had time yet to find a job, she’s technically still lives with her brother and his new wife which I’m sure is starting to wear on her nerves. She’s twenty-three and has a full basic education plus she’s known in the markets to be a shrewd but fair trader. Her mother lives in the village just an hour ride from her so she could visit her. The question is, is she too headstrong for Stenwale’s tastes?”

Darrin made an uncomfortable noise in his throat and pulled one leg up to rest his chin on it. “I hadn’t thought along those lines,” he confessed when she arched an eyebrow at him.

“We’re talking about them living together and raising a family for at least twenty years. I don’t want to marry someone I can’t stand and I can’t image he will either.”

What to say to that? It seemed ridiculous to even consider Stenwale’s feelings on the matter. He’d marry whom he was told, he’d produce a free born heir who could take his place and thus would begin a vassalageship to supply an overseer to the Shaynis estate for ten generations. It was all very legal and done in perhaps 12 or 13 percent of all aristocratic families. Though it was a risk, Darrin decided to be bold as well as snide with his next comment. “Why not ask him then, Mistress, let him chose his bride?”

There was silence for several moments broken only by Darrin’s pounding heart until she slapped him on the back making his breath catch in his chest. “Of course, that makes sense. If I have to go on this series of dates, so can he. Arrange it for next week, two luncheon meetings with the prospective bride, her agent and Stenwale. They can lunch in the sunroom then go for a walk on the farm so she can check things out. Then we’ll see who’s compatible.”

Darrin let his breath out and nodded. “I’ll see to it first thing in the morning, Mistress,” he agreed closing the folders and putting them on the stand next to his side of the bed.

Now she spread her own larger folders on the bed as well. “He’s lucky to only have to date two. I have to see all seven, mother and grandmother insist it’s what father would want,” Garviella added with a deep sigh. “There were ten two years ago before father got ill but three have been spoken for so they think I need to get a move on this before the cream is taken.”

Her blue eyes swept up his leg to his chest and face as Darrin leaned in to look at the nearest folder that had the picture of a handsome young man with light brown hair and light blue eyes looking regally at the viewer. Her gaze made him smile and move a bit closer, reaching for the next folder and brushing his hand against her leg. “I fear I have no more cream to offer you this evening, Mistress, unless I go to the kitchens,” he added with a caress of his lower lip with his tongue. For all her work earlier he was sure she was still sexually aroused by her look, dip in voice and the quickening of her heart as he moved over to reach the third folder. Part of being a good bed slave and assistant was being able to read and fuel her desires.

Truth was that they rarely now had an uninterrupted night of pleasure and if she truly didn’t want to deal with these seven for another few minutes or hour he felt they both deserved that. She was thinking about duty again, he could tell as she looked away and swallowed. “Of course, all my other talents are at your disposal, Mistress,” he whispered.

Her eyes shifted his way and she smiled. “Get the butterfly strap-on,” she commanded as she swept up the folders.

Darrin bowed and slipped off the bed, snagging the folder on the floor to drop it beneath the others on his side table as he went to his toy drawers. In previous times, a device like this would have had a battery but now it worked through friction only. The butterfly part fit over her mound and clit, slipping as she used the artificial cock to penetrate her partner. Thus she had to work for her pleasure. That she wanted it now signaled two things to him. She wanted to feel in charge and in control completely, making each decision and directing her own pleasure.

Once she had it on he rested on the side of the bed, his ass up at the perfect angle for her height, and he reached back to spread his ass wide so she could enter easily. She always used a lot of lubrication and for that he was grateful. With previous masters the sex was always painful or just bland, a helpful numbness that grew quickly as he thought about anything else during his use. While he doubted he’s come again tonight he knew she could make it pleasant just by the care she showed. He’d have to subtly learn if a potential husband might enjoy this because he knew she loved it and shouldn’t be denied the pleasures.

Once her cock was firmly inside him though, the push against his sweet spot telling him that she’d purposely angled the arch of it downward so he’d feel it and enjoy it, he forgot about future husbands and just smiled back at her, mewing for her to fuck him harder and deeper with each stroke. It always took her some time to come like this but as his world became his butt and his butt become afire and his cock grew against the bedcover, Darrin took a fistful of the blanket and groaned out his pleasure. Former users of his body wouldn’t have cared but his responses urged them both closer to the edge until they lay panting on the bed.

“That was just what I needed, opps,” Gavriella said as they both slipped to the floor and fell into laughter.

 

Darrin rolled his eyes as Stenwale adjusted his tie again. The woman in question knew he was a slave so why was he bothering to cover his collar up. It wasn’t like they had to go anywhere then down the hall to the office where the country judge would validate the contract and conduct the wedding. No one who didn’t know what was going on would be present. But still the overseer fussed until the body slave could take it no more.

“Let me do that, Sir. You don’t want to keep your bride waiting, I know,” Darrin said, earning a nod as the other man dropped his arms to his sides.

While his arms and hands may have been calm, the overseer started talking like his life depended on it. “You’re a body slave, Darrin, right?”

“Yes, Sir,” the slave in question replied slowly. He’s have to start all over again with this tie, it was a mess and he was drawing on training not active practice to tie it appropriately.

“Are women much different, in terms of sex, that is?”

Darrin’s hands paused on the overseer’s tie and he lifted his eyes to look at the man. They were about the same height though the older man was much broader, more muscular and darker in skin tone. His eyes looked so innocent that Darrin had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing.

“As you know, Sir, women are different in terms of their bodies but they also vary more in terms of what they find pleasurable. Of course you are aware of how that even changes from day to day if not more frequently.”

“Oh,” the word sounded shaky coming from the overseer’s mouth.
It sounded frightened so Darrin finished the tie and stepped back, folding his arms over his chest and just waiting. Technically the overseer was the same rank as Gavin, Theresa and Bovy but Darrin had never worked under him in any capacity. As the head of estate’s personal slave he often felt he outranked them all.

“I’ve, I mean, I have, you know, out there, but no with the female hands,” the overseer confessed. Darrin just blinked silently as the man continued his confession. “I didn’t want to create jealousies or encourage mixing outside of the appropriate seasons so I just, well, I didn’t have permission to mate myself, so, I just didn’t.”
Darrin’s hands twitched to rub his temples but he merely excused himself politely. Once outside the room set aside for the groom’s preparations he hurried as quickly as is decent to his Mistress’ office. Knocking once he entered after her word. “Darrin, is Stenwale ready yet?” his lady demanded. To her side stood Mr. Gavin and the judge.

“May I speak with you for a moment, Mistress?” Darrin said, darting his eyes off to the side then back to her gaze. This was a signal they’d developed back in the Capital when things weren’t going as planned at some formal function.

She narrowed her sharp blue eyes then smiled at the judge. “You know how grooms are, he’s getting cold feet. I’ll be back soon.”

“Ah, yes, yes, I imagine so, quite unusual,” the judge began before Mr. Gavin discretely shoved a plate of hors d’oeuvres under his nose.

“Gavin, send for the bride and her family and we’ll begin shortly,” Gavriella commanded as she took Darrin by his arm and they left quickly.

“He is not getting cold feet!” she stated firmly as she shoved him against the wall opposite her office.

“No, Mistress, not about the wedding,” Darrin began then continued as her frown deepened. “About the wedding night.”

She blinked then released him and marched down and into the groom’s room, Darrin at her heels and entering just in time to see the overseers on his knees trembling. “So you’re a virgin in terms of women, yes?”
Stenwale shot him a glare but nodded silently before lowering his eyes.

“And why is this a problem?” Both men looked at her but she continued. “When Beth Meader marries you, you will take on her surname but continue as my slave while she and her children for ten generations will be my vassals. Technically she will always outrank you since she maintains her legal personhood just with a sent of non-negotiable duties to my family as long as we provide as per our contract.”

“I, Mistress, I still,” Stenwale was hesitant in his reply but Darrin only nodded now that he could follow her train of logic.

“Ask her what she wants, follow her lead, if she asks, tell her the truth though given what little I know of the woman I suspect she’ll be quite pleased to be able to boss her husband around given her wretched family. Am I clear?”

“Yes, Mistress, I apologize,” Stenwale began but she was all ready turning around.

“One minute to report to my office and we’ll get this over with. There is an entire household waiting for an excuse to party you know,” she added glancing back with a bright smile.

Darrin bowed then braced himself for any attack the other slave might make but the overseer just stood up and looked at himself in the mirror. “I should be angry at you,” he commented softly. “I should have been smart enough to figure it out.”

“No, Sir, it’s all very unusual or so I’m told,” Darrin said as he stepped aside and motioned for the other to precede him out of the room with a wave of his hand.

The bride was dressed in what Darrin knew from his time in the Capital was considered a fancy dress by the standards of most of the population. The ceremony was part wedding and part formal declaration of service between the Meader and Shaynis family though only a lawyer represented the bride since even considering this contract had caused her eldest brother to cast her out. With her skills on their farm and her ribbons from the village fairs coupled with her good attitude, she’d won Stenwale over though as he watched Darrin didn’t doubt that the kindness in her face had also been a strong factor. The trader had proved too intense for any of their tastes and they had all been relieved the overseer expressed his preference for this woman.

The body slave worried for a moment when the bride blushed upon the declaration of their union but then when Stenwale paused and looked at her she smiled and turned up her face for a less than chaste kiss. Of course Gavriella had been correct in her assessment of the woman’s character he just wished she could assess her own potential husband as well or as quickly.

He walked with her as the wedding party moved outside in the gardens where every staff member, including the field and yard slaves, were waiting for hours of celebration. The Shaynis family that currently consisted of all three ladies but no lords, joined them though only Gavriella and he mingled with the staff. If only the next gala they had to attend would be so enjoyable, Darrin thought as he fetched his Mistress another cup of punch.

“Ever wish that could be us?”

Darrin looked up to find Alice, his Mistress’s former bed slave and now in training to become Head Housekeeper looking over at the newly weds. Did she mean him and her marry or simply slaves marrying in general. “Perhaps she might entertain the idea if you raised it, Alice,” he offered but left his name out of the equation.

Alice snorted and turned to give an order to Shem who was watching the events with a grin. “I think he might be out next chef,” she said to Darrin and he was content to smile before heading back with the drink. The less he talked with her, the less uncomfortable he felt in the household. It was something Mr. Gavin told him he’d need to get over or his time as Chief would be unhappy indeed.

First things first and that meant making sure Gavriella would choose a husband who would understand Darrin was not a threat no matter his position.

Chapter Text

She looked like a princess, no an empress, no the Chief Minister, Darrin decided as he stood by the wall and waited for this final dance to end. Since her time was precious with two brothers in the military and suitors stepping forward left and right, front and back, and any other direction it seemed for her hand, Gavriella had decided to hold a ball to meet and socialize with all seven of the finalists.

It was awkward to stand off on the sidelines, only stepping forward when she took her seat near him by the edge of the dance floor where they could both observe and chat very briefly between each suitor’s attentions. There was a formula here, Darrin quickly realized. Each man approached after two dances that Gavriella blacked out on this card that swung from her dress sash by a tie. That wasn’t anything new, he’d seen this at several formal parties now, but normally she blacked out all the slots or only accepted one or two dances. He could tell by her body language that all this courtship was wearing on her nerves.

After they approached, they were chat through the next dance, technically blacked out on her card, and then they would go out to join the dancers. Gavin had coordinated with the band so that every fourth dance as slow enough to engage some intimacy but still required a certain set of movements that kept the couple apart. Some of the other dances encouraged rather blunt displays of sexuality that made Darrin wonder if it was all in his head. Slaves, body slaves definitely, could be put on display, his Mistress did not but he’d others order their companions to perform with another or took a turn with their own slave to show off their most important assets. That she didn’t use him in this fashion both pleased him and worried him. At least none of her suitors had used or displayed their own body slaves in such a fashion this evening.

After the dance they escorted her back to her seat where Darrin was joined on the wall by the suitor’s own body slave. In six cases this had been a woman who merely smiled at him shyly then focused her attentions on their owners. Three suitors back the other body slave had been male, a man younger than Darrin who gave him a cold glance up and down then frowned as his lord fetched Gavriella a drink.

This left only one dance of time for Darrin to step forward and kneel by her side. However this final suitor didn’t rise when silence fell signally the end of the dance nor did he move when the next dance started. Darrin saw his Mistress’s head move back slightly and her shoulders straighten up. Time to play a more active role.

“Mistress, did you not tell me that your mother wished to speak with you after the last dance?” he said as he simply stepped forward two paces and looking calmly at the floor. He could feel the suitor’s eyes burrowing into him.

“Thank you for reminding me,” she said casually and made to stand up, forcing the suitor to stand as well. “It’s been a lovely time, Malachi. I’ll contact you soon, I promise.”

“Of course, I am sorry to have detained you but I was so enjoying our time together, Garviella,” Malachi added with a bow and a kiss on the back of her hand.

Darrin followed closely as they crossed the room to the balcony where Lady Mariette waited and watched with her own mother and their body slaves. “Oh, are finished all ready?” her grandmother asked as they joined the duo. Darrin knelt at his lady’s feet as the other two slaves were doing, but slightly behind so they could not disrupt the view of the ball.

“You know I hate dancing, Grandmother but I do realize the value at a time like this,” Garviella quickly added when both women frowned.

“Well, once you are wed and have an heir you won’t have to ever dance again if you don’t wish to do so,” her mother assured her which earned another frown and huff from the elder woman.

“In my day a young woman was grateful for the attention,” Lady Aubriana stated. “You could garner a lot more than suitors out on the dance floor if you knew how, provide your husband with value information about rivals or allies.”

“But then, Mother,” Lady Mariette added quickly, “Garviella is head of the family, her husband will be engaging in such matters.”

“Also a new fangled thing,” the elder woman commented and flipped open her fan to signal she would no longer discuss the matter. The use of such fans too was dated, Garviella hadn’t bothered to bring her own as most of her generation left such niceties aside to focus on more important matters.

“What did you think of them, dear?” Lady Mariette asked with a smile.

“I’ll have to think on it, make some notes while it all fresh in my mind but I don’t think it would draw the correct type of attention,” Darrin glanced up at the emphasis and noticed her grandmother’s eye twitch, “so I’ll just have to stay.”

They stayed there for another two dances and then Lady Mariette stood up, whispering, “Technically I am the hostess.”

One of the room slaves saw her stand and at her nod ran to ring the gong that was used to inform the guests of the formal affairs various components. At first there was a casual meet and greet with light oeuvres. Then a light dinner where all seven suitors sat with the Shaynis family at one table with the other tables organized by the rank of the guests, the majority of them members of the suitors’ families but also some of the Shaynis family’s long-standing allies and friends who had no son to offer. Then the dance proper began with a gong and now one signaled that the hostess wished to speak. Darrin wondered if Garviella’s husband would play this role at future gatherings as her mother always had.

Lady Mariette stepped forward and smiled at the room. “Thank you all for coming this evening and enjoying our home. I look forward to corresponding to each of you individually soon. Please do have a safe journey home.”

With that the evening was ended. Now they merely had to stay while each guest came to say “good evening” and each suitor and a representative from his family expressed his deep appreciation for the hospitality and the wish for a another opportunity to converse on matters they had only the briefest time to explore this evening. It was all the same, each conversation varying only slightly, and the Shaynis all told each potential husband and his parent the same thing with minor details added or left out. For example Kornelius, the suitor who had the male body slave, was told that they would be contacting his father as soon as possible and thanked for his time and skill on the dance floor while the others were told that they would be contacted personally. This was effectively telling him that he was out of the running, something that seemed to make him smile more but his father frown. Out of the corner of his eye, Darrin saw the father strike his son on the back of his head as they left.

Part of his duty had been to watch everything he could and he would have a lot to report later than evening.

 

Darrin's hand held his mistress's hips firmly as she arched up, her head tossed back, her golden hair darker as it stuck to her face, neck, and breasts. At one time it had been all neatly coiffed for the party but after a good hour in bed much of it had tumbled loose. It was a sign of just how little had been required of him this evening that the bed slave had barely broken a sweat while his owner rode him hard into another orgasm.

Holding her was easy, watching her breasts bounce, her skin flush, and her eyes sparkle down at him was all he needed to stay firm for her pleasure. For the first two orgasms she'd needed a good finger on two on her clit but by now it was all a matter of just continuing the ride, the orgasms dwindling but never completely disappearing as long as they kept up this pace. She squeaked this time when she came and Darrin narrowed his eyes for a moment at the odd sound but he could feel her channel strongly clench around him several dozen times before she lowered her head and looked down at him with normally blue eyes now almost black from passion.

"Mistress?" he asked but she tossed her head to the left and he helped her roll them over so she was on her back and he was between her legs, holding himself up from her body, just the tip of his cock resting inside her.

"One more but you need to work it. And come all ready, will you?" she asked with gasps. Her glance toward the folders on the bedside table told him all he needed to know after this time in her service.

She was putting off the task of reflecting on the evening's revelations as long as she had the strength to drown them both in sexual play. Of course once sated this way she might chose to bind or beat him for fun; rare but she had done so a few times to relieve stress. Aside from the brutal spanking she punished him with just that once she'd never come close to meeting the pain the training center had delivered on a regular basis.

He'd help her put off the husband culling a bit longer he decided as he lowered his head to her nipples and teased them with his tongue. As he worked them into taunt peeks again he very slowly entered her then pulled out, entered then pulled out a bit more. She sighed and he saw and felt her body relax a bit.

With a grin he used an elbow and his knees to hold himself up, lifting her hips a bit in the process, and the other free hand to dip back between her folds to caress her gently to keep her on the delightful edge of another orgasm for as long as possible.

Gavriella wasn't a woman to be kept waiting for long, an personality trait that could frustrate servants but had endeared her to her mentor at the Capital because she shocked older representatives into agreeing to their bills before they could pull the tried and true methods of delay under the guise of politeness.

While she could be somewhat patient in bed, once she set her mind to pleasure then it was soon to follow. After several minutes, Darrin felt her legs wrap around his and pull him closer, so close that her entire body was hovering over the bed. "Now," she whispered grinding against him, forcing his hand and mouth to speed up or risk a cramp.

Since she' given him permission, he came as well, spilling nothing, of course, since he had been fixed at the training center. It would never do for a lady's bed slave to be capable of siring her child or any child without her explicit order. For some reason, the fact that he'd never have children rose up in Darrin's mind as they finished and she pushed him gently off of her to lay side by side.

She gave them only a few minutes to rest then pulled him by one hand into the shower with her, a shower that turned out to be more efficient than sexy. He could tell by the look of her face and her quick motions that her mind was all ready turning to the true task for the evening: discussing the party.

He dried her then nodded as she gave him the passing order to get some wine and something else sent up as she left him still wet in the bathroom. Not even bothering to towel off, Darrin used the bell in that room to call down and quickly gave the order, focusing on protein for the “something else.” Then he toweled dry and stepped out just a she crossed in front of the door in simple trousers and a big shirt, the stack of folders in her hands.

They were now business not pleasure so he, too, pulled on simple clothes and joined her at the table near the window. He sat down across from her at her nod to the chair and took the first folder from her hands. “Honest appraisal would be very helpful to me this evening,” Gavriela told him without a smile.

With a nod he looked at the folder and told her everything he had observed about the master and his bed slave that evening. It wasn’t until they were on the third folder that the food and wine appeared via the servants’ entrance and gave them an excuse for a break. Darrin, of course, only sipped a bit of wine but then his Mistress didn’t drink as quickly or as much as he might have in her situation.

After an hour the seven suitors was narrowed down to five, the two she had not encouraged when they left. His views had only confirmed her own opinions and Darrin wanted to get some sleep since he felt particular useless at the moment even though she was staring at him. “Five, I can’t have five of them over again for a second round of all of this. I’ll go mad if I have to smile and dance before we can agree to a trio for luncheon,” she told him.

He’d heard her and her mother discuss the requirements for a consort husband, apparently a legal and social status separate from just a husband as befit the heir to an entire family estate, business, and titles. Now he tried to recall those requirements so he didn’t have to mention the one still toying with the edges of his mind. “Financially how do they stand, Mistress?” he asked after a few moments.

Her eyebrows rose for a second then she nodded and laid out a grid on a clear sheet of paper. “Good, good, give me another area we should consider.”

“Political connections, also land ownership. Business holdings or is that the same as financials,” he wondered softly.

“No, a dowry would be different from the financials of the family and a business might be included in that or not so we should list dowry also,” she said as she spoke aloud and wrote.

“Health?”

“Definitely both his and the family’s code. Don’t want any Lingerings to get into our tree,” she stated. Lingerings were the left over damage caused by the years of wars that had led to the collapse and then rebuilding of societies worldwide. Most common in the underclasses that lacked the facilities to protect themselves or the treatments to seek out and destroy any damaged genes, some Lingerings had proven to be impossible to weed out in any way other than selective breeding. That the nobles did this to themselves as well as their slaves didn’t surprise Darrin but he rarely heard it discussed openly so he just blinked once at her then nodded as well.

“That leads naturally to children,” Gavriela continued and he agreed softly glad he hadn’t needed to raise the issue himself. It was almost laughable that he cared, it was coming from nowhere. Well, perhaps not nowhere given that just that morning their newly acquired bride for Stenwale had announced her pregnancy at that morning’s daily briefings.

With another hour of reading and rereading as well as discussion, she had it down to three suitors who would be invited to luncheon in three days time to give them the opportunity to decline or accept. The other two were kept on a short list in case one of these trio decided to take his name out of the running at this point.

None of them did so in two days letters were sent to the other four thanking them for their time and praising their families for raising such fine second children who would no doubt soon find a much better bride than the Shaynis family could offer them. The letters took hours to write with the appropriate flattering to everyone concerned. Just because Gavriela did not wish to make a marriage with their families did not mean that her children or grandchildren generations might not and nobles kept track of such rejections more firmly than they tracked their finances or protected their family name from scandal.

By the time of the luncheon, Darrin was grateful he was only required to have lunch with the bed slaves of the three suitors in a nearby room so they could attend at a moment’s notice but also give the nobles some privacy. Of course he recognized immediately that the others were as interested as gleaming useful information as he was by their meal conversation. He gave as much detail as each was willing to give.

Chapter Text

One of the bed slaves, Bess, was clearly used to be in charge Darrin decided as she asked her third pointed question of the evening. "What is the cause of the youngest Shaynis behavioral issues? Is there a genetic cause?"

The other two women put down their spoons and looked directly at him as Darrin almost choked on his own food. He would never have asked about Lingerlings so directly. It was important but it was still impolite. She must have known this since she had asked in a much more scientific way. Darrin picked up his napkin and took the few moments to use it help craft an equally polite response.

"The Shaynis family takes great care of itself as well as the household and lands. We are all tested, we are all quite healthy as I'm sure all of your master's family, household, and lands are? Yes?"

The two more quiet women, Lida from the Brownhill estate and Nance from the Lakemore estate, nodded but at his pointed look also muttered that they, too, had been tested. Bess remained silent until Darrin turned to look directly at her. Sitting just four to a small table was proving taxing to his normal way of conversing or ignoring other slaves during meals.

"Since you are the one who asked," Darrin said with a smile.

"Master Glendon will provide all the necessary documents to confirm our purity. May we expect the same from the Shaynis family?"

Damn this woman was annoying! Who did she think she was? She was merely a companion not the head housekeeper yet. The mere thought of having to deal with her day in and day out for the rest of his life made Darrin cringe just a bit but he couldn't let his personal opinions interfere with gathering the appropriate information for his mistress. Or could he?

As he was thinking over that briefly, Lida interrupted his thought. "Brownhill will also provide the necessary documents along with records of the estate's breeding programs, all property not only that which Master Westcott will bring to the marriage."

"The same is true for Master Ezekiel's family," Nance added with a soft smile. "Master understands that this is a difficult and important decision for the Lady Gavriela to make. He wants to offer her anything she needs or desires to ease her burden as head of family."

Darrin sincerely smiled at Nance. Of the three she was the most quiet but when she did speak it was clear that her words were more than practiced lines, she seemed to care greatly for her master. Lida may have as well but Bess seemed so aggressive that he wondered exactly what type of man Master Glendon might be. Slaves if they wanted to do more than survive became what their owners needed so either he was a weak man who needed to be pushed and commanded or a very aggressive man whom she had to learn to stand up to or risk him seeing her as unworthy of his confidence.

Of course the three women might all be thinking the same thing as him. Did he come across as weak or too aggressive? Did he portray a capable companion who was learning to be head of staff in the near future? Did he seem distance and cold, too absorbed in his own roles to really evaluate theirs? He could never be certain other than his Mistress seemed pleased the majority of the time and that Mr. Gavin encouraged him to continue in his current attitude while pushing him to advance his knowledge further.

Now it was to cut off Bess before she got another question in and dictated the discussion. He would be chief of staff not any of these slaves. "Does your master like children? Does he have any experience with them?" he asked Nance first, focusing his attention on her.

"Master Ezekiel is the third child of five, he helped his mother can for the younger two his entire life. He's attended the finest schools and always earned the highest marks for domestic and childcare skills," she said and this did sound a bit rote.

Five children? Usually noble families stopped at three or even two if they didn't have an interest in bowing to other families by offering them their extra children as spouses.

"Does Master Ezekiel desire a large number of children then?" Darrin pressed even though he could see the other two slaves start to open their mouths to speak. They could wait until he focused his attention to them in turn. There had to be some advantage to being the companion for the head of household even during negotiations and he'd allowed that Bess to steer things far too much for his liking.

"Oh," Nance looked away for a moment then back at Darrin. "I'm trying to remember but I don't recall him ever saying a particular number only that he hopes he can be the supportive spouse that his mother always was. Did you know that their estate's value increased in part because of her domestic management?"

Ah so the quiet one was able to assert herself if she thought her answers might not be to his liking. That was good because he's also gleamed some extra knowledge about Master Ezekiel this way, the man was trying to measure up to his own family expectation which could be good or bad if his mother was widowed and needed a place to live in the future.

"May I ask if you found his mother to be a fair mistress, Nance?"

The woman blinked and nodded quickly, "Oh, yes, she ran a fair but strict household. The Housekeeper was a woman of great affection but also strict in her expectations. I believe the Head of Staff met more often with Lady Janelle than he did Lord Byrne who has been regional representative for many years as well as head of his family." She paused and then moved one hand across the table toward me but stopped well short of the distance. "Of course Master Ezekiel will follow Lady Gavriella's desires on how she wants her family organized."

Darrin nodded once, slowly, indicating that he understood what was being offered. From the Lakemore estate they would get a more than capable spouse but also one that realized he may have to do more should Gavriella’s political ambitions grow. Yet here was also a man who was comfortable in his role as supportive staff and not head of household himself. He wondered if the other masters were of a similar mindset.

"Is Master Westcott also fond of children and prepared to run this household as much as necessary?" he turned to Lida with a smile.

"Much like the Lady Gavriela, Master Westcott has had a wide range of education. There was a time when we thought his elder sister might have the constitution to serve in military and therefore his father thought it was wise for him to have martial training as well as domestic, a second skill set to offer a potential head of family," she said with a smile.

Ah yes, this showed that Lida and the Brownhills were aware of the arrangements for the youngest Shaynis family but didn't want to be so bold as to assume it was identical to their situation. Master Westcott didn't strike Darrin as so much of a fighting man when compared to either of the Shaynis men but then again what did he know about such matters.

"Has he by any chance mentioned a number of children he'd like to have?"

"Master Westcott has mentioned that he thinks it is wisest for female head of families to limit their number of children so they can focus on their other duties. He realizes there are certain things that only a mother should do and that a wet nurse can in no way be a true replacement."

Darrin tilted his head to one side. It was assumed that when the wife was pregnant, at least one of the female slaves in the domestic staff would be pregnant as well and then serve as wet nurse. He haven't been in the Shaynis household but over the years he'd figured out who had been wet nurses to each of their three children. The biggest shock had been that Mister Gavin and Madame Theresa had two children together and she had been the wet nurse to the two oldest, his Mistress included. The youngest though was nursed by one of the upstairs maids who had been sold a year or so after he arrived along with one of the gardeners. He often wondered if that was because of Romario had behavioral problems. How much did a wet nurse actually contribute to her charge?

That made him think as he looked at these three slaves, one of them might end up being his own mate in the future.

"Is everything all right? Did I offend you?" Lida asked and when Darrin's eyes focused on her he also noticed a touch on his hand where Nance was touching him.

Bess was glaring at him and shook her head. "And to think you'll get to be Head of Staff," she said with a disapproval frown.

 

Darrin waited along the edge of the dining room until his mistress made a signal with her hand, then he stepped forward to pull her chair back from the table. The three female companions also stepped forward and pulled back their masters’ chairs as well. “Did it go well?” she whispered, a smile still gracing her face.

“I believe so, Mistress. You?”

“We have a good deal to discuss,” she whispered back and then offered her hand to each of the potential husbands in return as they said their farewells.

One of the benefits of this position in comparison to the average slave was that each body slave was standing head high, observing everything even if her or his eyes were primarily on their owner. Of course as a slave, even a companion couldn’t look any freeborn person directly in the eyes except your owner. From his position Darrin could see that Bess was almost directing her master by picking up his jacket, taking his bags, and holding his hat while she angled her body toward the exit. She wanted to get out of here but why was unclear. For all of her aggressiveness, it wasn’t clear that she disliked him and by extension the Shaynis household or that she had merely been trying to see how far she could go before he pushed back. Yes, the Mayson family was not a clear=cut choice in his opinion.

Master Wescott motioned with his hand at almost the same moments that Lida started to pick up his jacket, hat, and bags. She was smiling slightly and clearly listening to his farewell, her body just held calmly with no expectation yet when he turned to leave, she turned with him. Darrin wondered if he looked as well trained as she did from the viewpoint of others. A Brownhill connection would be a good one though he wasn’t sure his mistress would be thrilled to have too many decisions handed over to the staff if Lida’s information was correct. She wasn’t bad to look at or spend time with either so Darrin could find pleasure in such a match.

Nance, too, gathered her master’s things as he contented himself with attempting to prolong the conversation with Lady Gavriela. It was slightly amusing to watch as Nance’s body relaxed and the two began talking again about the pros and cons of social functions for both family and government promotion. It was friendly banter and Darrin found he hoped this was a positive sign. If he were lucky, his mistress had all ready made a decision and his role would be only confirmation that the Lord was a good match in bed. Nance was a sweet but intelligence woman, she’d make a capable Housekeeper he was sure once she learned how things were done around here but she wasn’t as lovely as Lida or Bess.

After Gavin led the last lord from the dining hall, Darrin followed his mistress through the ballroom and onto the balcony. She blinked into the sun and held one hand up. “Has so much time passed?”

“It has been so much time, Mistress, I believe a good two hours or so.”

She turned and leaned back against the banister and smiled at him for a moment before that look faded into a more serious one. “I was hoping to have this narrowed down further, to at least two, but I really need to learn more about these three before I can make a choice. You do realize what that means?”

Darrin had swallowed when she started speaking. Now he nodded his head and smiled slightly with a little bow. “I shall bed all three of them and try to give you a report on the manner of men these might be in bed.”

Gavriela frowned and straightened up. “Just don’t be too pleased about it,” she whispered as she led them back into the house.

Darrin stood still for a second, shocked by her words and tone, then hurried after her silently. That evening she rode him hard and fast but they didn’t converse much and he was forced to admit he needed advice.

 

Mister Gavin knew everything about running a household, about a slave staff, about freeborn employees, the politics involved in a noble family, and many more things that he was trying to pass on to Darrin. Sex had never been a topic between them.

Thus when Darrin stood in front of his desk and asked him for advice on the marital trials, both men just looked at each other for a second.

“I’m sorry to have bothered with this matter, Mister Gavin,” Darrin said softly.

“No, no,” Gavin replied as he looked down at his desk and picked up a pen. “They didn’t discuss this with you at the further training you acquired in the city?”

“They did but it was all very technical, and I find myself having emotions I shouldn’t be having in regards to the duty.” Darrin felt his eyes slip to the side as he silently added that his Mistress’s behavior toward him had also changed.

Gavin tapped the pen a few times. “It has been some time since I performed this duty for the late master, if I recall correctly I was quite nervous since I hadn’t had sex before with a woman outside of training, of course.”

“No, I’m not nervous about that, all three of them are women, I’m experienced enough but still, their masters are men, my mistress is a woman, it is, I’m confused as to how exactly I behave as she would in the marital bed.”

“Ah, yes, you have that problem. It was so much simpler when the body slave anyone owned was the same sex as him or her. Rather easy to mimic the master, just do the things he would do with me and then she could report on it. Minus most of the rougher aspects, I hope you do realize that.”

Darrin nodded. He wasn’t stupid. Alice had been Gavriella’s first but then when she began the heir her father had agreed to her request to change body slaves, something he knew the current lady’s maid found hurtful. He hadn’t asked and she hadn’t offered an explanation. Was it odd though that all three of these men had female body slaves? Why would it make sense to have a body slave the same sex if part of their jobs was to help choose marriage partners? More complicated rules nobles had to live be.

He pushed that aside and focused on the question at hand, how to behave in this duty. He’d never in a million years tie up one of the women or spank them or other such things. Those were only things that Gavriela did to him because he was merely her tool. In theory he was supposed to have figure out what her core sexuality was by now and offer that to the bed slaves of her future husband.

“Except she is rather fond of being in control, I should show them that, shouldn’t I?” Darrin voiced the issue he had just thought of even though it was a new one for his list of concerns.

Gavin chuckled. “Yes, then like her father, I think. Not surprised really. Even though the children were moved around after the eldest made his choice to serve in the navy, I always suspected this was a more natural role for Lady Gavriela to be head of the family.”

Darrin nodded. The first time he’d interacted with the three Shaynis children he could tell that she was really the one making the decisions. Unafraid to speak her mind to her elder brother and quite willing to rein in the younger, she also was content to do her own thing. That memory made him smile softly.

“So yes, it seems logically to me that you should make that clear to your fellow bed slaves then. Have you a schedule for them yet?”

Darrin took it from his vest pocket since he was dressing a bit more formally when he trained with Mister Gavin to set him apart from the rest of the household staff. At first he’d followed the older slave around dressed as the companion he currently was but the staff seemed dismissive of him so he requested permission to dress up a bit more and Gavriela had agreed as long as he was still attractively attired. A vest over his other clothing, the silk shirts tucked in, seemed to be enough to rise him in the eyes of the staff and he could easily untuck the shirt and unbutton the vest when he attended her.

“We’ll meet in the middle of the afternoons with one day break between each meeting. At an inn now far from here, middle way between the estates, a bit further for me but Mistress is being very accommodating about this.”

“Who will attend her while you are away?”

Darrin paused and blinked. That. That was one of the things that was worrying to him. She hadn’t told him but he assumed it was Alice her would return to her older position. Why the bothered him he didn’t understand really. After the marriage, Gavriela would appoint him Head of Staff and at least until she was pregnant she wouldn’t use his sexual skills at all. It was too great a risk, she told him once, again that made no sense since he had the surgery that could only be reversed at her command. But then, he nodded as his thoughts traveled logically, it would be reversed because their owners would expect he and whomever the new Housekeeper would be to produce offspring so that a wet nurse was available. Maybe, again it wasn’t always the Housekeeper and it didn’t have to be the Head of Staff, right?

“Darrin?” Mister Gavin’s tone stirred him from his thinking. “Really at your age you should be beyond daydreams. Trust me there will be little time for those once this desk is yours. Now who will attend the Lady Gavriela while you are gone for a week preforming your duties in this fashion?”

“She has not told me,” Darrin said as he felt his face burning in shame at his inattentiveness. “I would guess Alice.”

“Don’t guess, boy! Part of your duty in this is to arrange for a replacement.”

Darrin’s eyes widened. No one had told him that.

“Inquire and if she has not considered the matter herself, be prepared to make a suggestion or two, preferably two so she can make a choice, yes?”

“Yes, Mister Gavin, you are correct,” Darrin agreed. Two suggestions? No, stay on task now he reminded himself.

“I was wondering if it might be appropriate to ask each of the women to encourage in more than one encounter,” he asked the question that was really bothering him.

Gavin blinked and then started to chuckle until he had to stand to help regain his composure.

Darrin frowned but remained silent as he waited for his mentor to address his question.

Gavin came around the desk and sat perched on the edge as he did when he was being friendlier toward his charges. “Of course you’ll have sex many times during your day together. Nobles obviously do not use identical positions or have the same tastes each time, do they?”

“No, that’s true,” Darrin admitted. Then he blinked and started to chuckle. “Oh, that’s why there’s a day break between. Because we’ve supposed to have sex multiple times.”

“What did you think that break was for?” Gavin chuckled in return.

Darrin just shook his head and shrugged, palms up lamely. “Writing a report? I wasn’t thinking clearly.”

“You better start thinking clearly. Your and the girls’ reports will have a big impact on this decision. Unhappy marriage bed leads to an unhappy household and that will come firmly down on your back,” Gavin stated pointing one finger directly at his charge.

“Things are so much more complicated now,” Darrin softly complained.

“Ha!” Gavin said as he stood up. “Wait until you wear this uniform and sit behind this desk. Were the old Lord still alive I could still be called to duty as his companion at a moment’s notice. You do not know if that could well happen to you, especially while you are still young.”

Darrin nodded and tried to keep the smile off his face. Truth be told, he had no interest in seeing Gavriela with another slave. Obviously he had no rights to her but a slave companion was quite different from a spouse, they both were needed, but beyond Alice he didn’t want other competition. In later years he might indeed be replaced as Gavriella’s mother had replaced her previous bed slave for another but he hoped that was years in the future after he was securely in his role as Head of Staff.

Chapter Text

Darrin walked into the inn to find Bess standing there looking at a landscape over the salon mantelpiece. He paused just one second and glanced at the clock on the wall; he was a couple of minutes early. Did this mean that the Mayson household ran on “be ready” time as Mr. Gavin said the Shaynis household did? He filed that thought away and stepped up as Bess turned around to face him. “I hope I haven’t kept you waiting?”

She looked passed his left shoulder to the same clock and then allowed herself a small smile. “No, no, we have a few minutes to spare even. I was trying to figure out if I dislike or like this painting,” she added softly as she turned back to the mantel.

Darrin stepped next to her and considered it. It was a competent version of what the area around the inn might be like in the late summer but nothing particularly special. The inn would not check body slaves in until their scheduled time so he tilted his head to one side then the other. “Feels soothing, doesn’t require me to think much,” he offered just as softly as she had spoken. It wouldn’t do to get the inn on their bad side especially since he had to come back twice more.

“True, sometimes it is a good thing not to have to think,” Bess replied as she glanced at him.

“Are you the Shaynis reservation?” a male voice interrupted them and both slaves turned to bow their heads toward the receptionist who had finally noticed them. Sure enough the clock was at their exact appointment time.

The receptionist checked them in efficiently and with no snide comments or rude looks. The Shaynis would never rent rooms from a place that didn’t recognized the need for this sort of affair regardless of the quality of one painting. They were escorted to a room on the top floor but near a stairway that led directly to the reception desk. This made them out of the way for free guests.

The boy who came with them was a slave and he placed their small bags on the drawers that lined on side of the room. He waved off Bess’s attempt to tip him saying that he was not allowed then went into a rehearsed speech that told them that they need to stay in the room until check out time and that they would get a snack delivered shortly, an evening meal, another snack, and then breakfast before they checked out the next morning.

“You’re getting more service that the free folks,” the boy added with a grin.

“Thank you,” Bess replied and Darrin just pressed his lips together with a bit of annoyance. He was supposed to be playing his Mistress’s role for this, she her Master; if they both expected to be in charge there would be problems.

Once the boy left and the door was locked from the outside both body slaves looked around the room for a few minutes. There were the drawers, no closet, a large bed though not as large as back in his Mistress’s suite, a table and two chairs near the window that looked out onto the driveway where several carts and horses could be seen along with a few guests entering. People tended to check in on time so that they got the most of their money.

Darrin checked out the bathroom first while Bess unpacked her bag. The bathroom was made up like a lower trier noble house with two basins, a deep tub, and a standing shower stall along with the toilet. There were a half dozen fluffy towels hanging up and two more on the shelves with extra supplies of soap, shampoo, and even dental hygiene products.

Darrin paused when he returned to find that Bess had laid out a set of toys on the top of the drawers where her bag had been and that there were three outfits on the right side of the bed. “Is this a problem?” she inquired glancing toward the toys and outfits then back at him.

“Depends on how often he likes using additional equipment,” he replied using the most stale of terms for what she’d laid out.

“Not all the time but since we are supposed to access their sexual compatibility I thought it wise to bring his favorites,” she assured him then asked her own question, “Did you bring anything?”

Darrin nodded and took out his own set of additional equipment including massage oils, simple cuffs, and condoms that were more precaution than anything else. He was fixed so that he could not father children until the Shaynis household desired it to be so but since that wouldn’t be the case with a husband he wanted to drive home the point that the Lady of the House was in charge and there would be no unwanted pregnancies.

Of course Bess went right to the condoms. “He hates these things.”

“That will be a problem,” Darrin stated firmly.

“He’ll wear them, he’ll just complain about it.”

Darrin frowned and stepped back. “A husband should not complain about such things to his Lady.”

Bess paled and nodded. “No, no, he won’t complain to her, but he’ll complain to anyone else who will listen.” She paused when he gave her an odd look. “We are supposed to be honest, completely honest this test run, yes?”

“Yes and we are supposed to be in role while here. Does he generally take the initiative in social interactions?”

Bess looked up and to the right as she thought. “Sorry about that. No, normally I have to be the one to interact with the public and I forgot. I thought we might just talk first, decide how we want to try things out.”

Darrin frowned again but she continued, “You’ve never done this before, have you?”

“Have you?” To think that the Mayson son might have been in the final running for Husband before was either troubling or promising.

“Twice before. My master gets several initial offers but so far has not closed the deal. Though once he went as far as the Lady’s suite before it was called off. I like your mistress, she seems capable yet fair. I don’t want to mislead you or her.”

At that moment Bess rose in his estimation of her value but her story suggested he wasn’t going to be thrilled with this evening.

Before he could speak there was a knock on the door then it swung up and another slave, female this time, came in, her head lowered, as she carried a basket into the suite, hurried by then silently to lay it on the table then rushed out with a blush on her cheeks to lock them in again.

Both body slaves watched her then burst out laughing. If poor girl was embarrassed by seeing them talking what might she do if they were in bed when she delivered their food.

Bess recovered first and went right to the basket. She squirreled away the contents in the drawers leaving out only the flask of water, two cups, two plates, and a several of cheese and crackers. “They have their schedule and they’ll just clear everything away when they come back. You’ll thank me later after round seven leaves you thirsty or starving.”

Darrin chuckled. “We have a ways to got until then. Now this talking about what we want to do, I’m not sure I understand.”

“Ah, well we can’t really just be each other’s owner, can we? I mean we don’t have the body for it first and secondly if we are gauge their compatibility we need to do it under more controlled conditions first. I recommend that we each agree to take on the appropriate role one at a time then react as we know our owners would.”

“That’s very logical,” Darrin replied. “Given that I didn’t get a lot of rules for how to do this, I’ll bow to your experience in this matter. Girls first?”

Bess nodded and took a deep breath. “I’ll treat you as I do my master for the most frequent sexual scenarios we have. You just react as you normally do and I’ll tell you if you do something he wouldn’t like.”

Darrin almost stepped back as she sank gracefully to her knees and rubbed her head against his groin through his pants. He was aware that he would be far more the receiver than normal, Gavriela had been working on the assumption that a Husband would need some help begging aroused from time to time so she had been practicing on him a bit; she would never kneel, however, only sit on the side of the bed or lean over him when he was on his back.

He was about to tell her this when she undid the buttons on his pants and released his cock. It was not surprising how gifted she was with her mouth, even he had been trained to pleasure men though the focus on been on a Lady, but soon his head was swimming and he found his hands stroking her hair. “Harder,” she said as she took a breathe then took his full length into his throat.

Darrin swallowed but forced himself to tighten his grip on her hair as she worked him over until he was holding on for fear of falling. He found that she had wrapped one arm around his thighs to help him stand while she continued to use her other hand to hold his pants open and lightly caress his balls.

After several moments she pulled off and glanced up at him. “Come any time, he does,” then she went back down.

Anytime? Without permission? Could he even do that? Darrin tried to relax but struggled instead until several more minutes had passed and Bess stopped. Darrin relaxed his grip on her hair and she sat back on her heels looking up at him. “Ah, trained to only come with permission I see. Will she want that level of control over a Husband?”

Darrin blinked then forced his mind to focus on her words with a shake of is head. “No, no, of course not. Recently we’ve been practicing something similar though she’ll never kneel, but I had permission really then so…” he trailed off.

Bess stood up. “He wouldn’t expect her to kneel and probably not to get him off this way though he can’t get it up without oral first.”

Darrin’ cock wilted at that news. “That could be a problem.”

 

The two bedslaves had tried out a variety of positions, techniques, and even scenarios trying to find something that might work in bed between their two owners. The simple fact was that a husband’s main job was to provide heirs for the Lady’s family just as a wife’s main duty was to provide heirs for the Lord’s family. While there were other ways to reach the same results, marriages tended to be more stable and household function more smoothly if the married couple at least enjoyed sexual companionship from time to time, the more frequent the better. By the time they were finished and had ignored the slave who delivered their breakfast both had reached the same conclusion.

Bess got up first and took a shower as Darrin checked out the basket and set out some of the food. He considered the stash they’d put aside from the previous deliveries and lined them up on the table as well. Perhaps she wouldn’t mind if he took the non-perishable with him and returned with them again. At least one of the candidates might prove to be a vigorous test in the physical sense. This had just been emotionally exhausting.

“I laid it all out, if you want to take anything with you,” he muttered as he brushed by her on the way to the bathroom. She herself was lovely, curves and lean aligned in a lovely package, and in those moments when she stopped being her master’s representative and left glimmers of herself through she was a decent sort. She might have made a good House Keeper but that wouldn’t have been her role in the Shaynis household given the limitations of her owner’s sexuality.

Darrin frowned as he soaped up in the shower. How could any one, male or female, slave or free, wealthy or not, be so particular in their arouse. Enjoying oral was great but needing it, always? Mistress was beautiful, oh not in the same way as Bess, but still he couldn’t imagine any man not feeling a draw to her. Goodness knows he had put the techniques he’d learned during bedslave training to use to keep his erections under control but not once had he needed to fake arousal with her.

How had Glendon Mayson become so needy, so childish, so sad? One part of him wanted to blame Bess because the woman went down on him like it was her favorite food but he also noted how tired her eyes looked after each encounter. She was an actor as they all were merely fulfilling a role and following the rule established for her by a master’s whims.

As he dried off he tossed about the idea of asking her but really was it his business when his report wasn’t going to be positive? Asking might give the impression that he would say that Mayson was a good match and frankly he wasn’t.

Turned out he didn’t need to ask when he walked out dressed because Bess was waiting for him, her clothes on and holding out a muffin toward him. “I’m fine on my knees,” she said simply.

Darrin tilted his head to one side but he took the offered food. “You deserve a promotion…” he began but she only barked out a chuckle. “It seems like we know how this would work out.”

Bess nodded and went to the table to sit down. “A lifetime as a bedslave wouldn’t be so bad, especially if it only takes a few minutes of my time, I could that even when I’m old, right?”

Darrin couldn’t look her in the eyes. That was a lie and they both knew it. Bedslaves had a short life and then they ended up in cheap brothels or breeding facilities until they finally found themselves as household labor or worse street vendors. Too pampered to ever become decent farm labor if you didn’t move up into the hierarchy of a household you moved down quickly generally soon after you turned 30, another decade perhaps in the breeding camps or brothels before you found yourself tied to some merchant who wanted your bedskills and waning looks to help push sells. After that… the workhouses took in the old and feeble until they saw you drop dead.

Every slave from the time they are old enough to walk knows the rules of their lives. Bedslave was luxury for a short period of time paid for with a lifetime of pain and want. Darrin didn’t answer her but also didn’t shake his head.

Bess’s eyes were rimmed red he noted as he reached out to take a few rounds of ham. He was too nice but the words spilled out before he could stop them, “Maybe household maid, you could still help your master out but stay on that way.”

She went pale at that thought and it riled Darrin up so that he stabbed the potatoes a bit too harshly before bringing a bite to his mouth. She thought housework was too beneath her when she was facing a decade on her back pumping out babes or taking in all payers? She thought learning to dust and scrub was filthy when she could face decades hawking fish in the market or running the looms in the workhouse?

“I could learn to do that,” Bess finally said glancing at his fist gripping his fork. “I’ll tell my master the truth about our meeting, I’ll say Lady Shaynis isn’t opposed to giving but she won’t do it all the time, I’ll make your suggestion about… maid’s work.”

Darrin stopped chewing and swallowed as he nodded. “I’ll be honest as well then,” he agreed.

He sent the perishable foods home with her to share with the staff in the hopes they might show her the basics of housework. Even if this marriage didn’t work out she could claim another skill and that might save her a decade on her back later on. The non-perishable he packed up to take in the hopes that the next two meetings might be more vigorous.

 

Darrin was surprised that his Mistress didn’t have him delivered to her immediately upon his arrival. He’d only been gone one afternoon, evening, and breakfast so he supposed she had managed but part of him had been hoping he’d be missed. Instead Mr. Gavin told him that he could use his office to make out his report so that the Lady would have a record as well as his word.

Darrin was frowning over a revision to his report when Gavin stepped into the room and watched him for a moment until the younger slave’s gaze rose up to meet his. “This is taking you some time. You’ve missed lunch,” the Chief said as he stepped aside and let in one of the younger maid’s to set a tray on the desk for him.

“Thank you,” Darrin sighed as he sat back. “I just want this to be honest but not brutal, give her as much information as I can so I’m not suggesting what her choice should be.”

“But you don’t think it should be the Mayson family,” Gavin stated as he took a seat and relaxed a condition the younger man rarely saw him in.

“He’s… he may be a bit too much work in every sense,” Darrin offered with a grimace. “Mistress is needed in the Capital as well as here, she’ll have babies of her own, she doesn’t really need a bit child in the form of her husband.”

Gavin’s eyebrows shot up in shock at the bluntness and Darrin felt his face grow hot. Gavin’s started to chuckled first, “Well, not do avoid being so brutal in your report at least,” he offered as he failed to maintain a strict expression and stated to laugh in earnest.

“Oh, I’m trying but that’s why I need so many rewrites,” Darrin replied as he broke down into giggles.

Both men let it out for a minute or so then regained their composure. “That bad, huh?” Gavin asked as he leaned forward to pour himself a cup of tea; the tray had contained an extra cup Darrin now noticed. His newest mentor had planned to have a conversation about the encounter then and he found that it reassured him that someone cared.

“Variety is good, you know?” Darrin offered vaguely as he took the plate of food and set it where his report had been. “I just don’t think a Head Housekeeper generally acts as bedslave in most households.”

“Head Housekeeper? Why would Alice be an issue for your encounter?”

“Alice?” Darrin frowned remembering his mistress’s previous companion who now was her secondary bedslave and also taking care of her wardrobe. Could Mayson use Bess to take care of his clothes perhaps? They hadn’t considered that because of Bess’s sex and he didn’t know if the nobleman had a secondary bedslave from his youth. Most noble’s first companion were the same sex as them, someone they grew up with and who took on a sexual role but wasn’t formally trained as a beslave. That two of the suitors for Mistress’s hand had had trained male bedslaves had been a good sign that their natures were more like her elder brother’s and not husband material.

“Of course, Alice. Who did you think would replace Theresa in a few years? An outsider? Not a chance, not in this household,” Gavin stated firmly with a sniff to emphasis the very idea was offensive.

“Then what would happen to Bess, Nance, Lida?”

“They’d stay on for a while, if they had other skills they might be kept on but honestly, you aren’t that naïve still, are you?”

Darrin shook his head but didn’t say anything further on that subject. He had known that Alice was being trained by Theresa and that Theresa had been the previous Lord Shaynis’ bedslave, but for some reason he… well, it was made clear now as was something else… there was an way out of the miserable future for a bedslave if they had more skills after all.

Chapter Text

The day was unusually warm so Darrin was waiting outside the Inn when Lida arrived.  She smiled when she hoped out of the carriage then turned back around to talk to the person inside. When Darrin casually moved and tilted his head up he could see the profile of Wescott Brownhill but he school his face to remain calm.  Masters did not drive their bedslaves to these meetings.  It must mean he was anxious and Darrin wondered if this was going to be another stressful encounter he’d have the displeasure of reporting.

His Mistress had been pleased by the thoroughness and honesty of his report on the evening with Bess but not happy with the content of it. She confessed to him that of all the suitors that Glendon Mayson was the most physically attractive to her but this report confirmed her fear that he simply not suited to run a household or keep a Lady satisfied both in and out of bed.  Both Ezekiel Lakemore and Wescott Brownhill were good men and not bad on her eyes but still she had hoped.

“Good afternoon,” Lida said with a beaming smile as she stopped in front of him. “Am I that late? We were held up a bit,” she explained and now that she was close Darrin could see a slight sheen on her skin, the rumpled nature of her skirt, and that her braid had come loose. He stopped himself from speculating and just opened the door with a mutter that she was right on time.

The receptionist checked them in and the same boy who lead him up the last time took them to the same room.  Perhaps it was their only room but there was also a door across the hall so Darrin thought not. There were at least three dozen landed families without a few hours drive so you’d think this place would have at least two rooms for these visits given it was the engagement season.

Lida looked around with her mouth just a tad open and Darrin chuckled.  “First time?” he asked as he closed the door behind them.

She turned around with a blush.  “Yes, this is master’s first season and we have three testing periods arranged but yours is the first and the next isn’t for ten days,” she added as she stepped toward him. The Brownhill’s wanted this match then and were giving them enough time to finish testing and make a decision without allowing the potential spouse to feel used though they must know why he put off other tests.  Aristocrats, even after so many rules and different positions in their household he couldn’t quite figure them out.

“That’s very considerate of the Brownhill,” Darrin assured her as he took her gently by the arm and led her to the bathroom.  He smiled again as she stepped in and looked around.  “Yes, we get a very fine suite but I assure you that normally the slave dorms in inns are nothing like this.”

Lida paused and looked back through the doorway.  “To be honest I really haven’t been in very many inns.  Master is a homebody, he likes the familiar with only the occasional venture out for specific reasons.”

“That’s not a bad quality for a spouse to have,” Darrin assured her with nod of his head. “Why don’t you take a shower then I’ll take one.  We have a lot to do but let’s also be relaxed about it so we can see things clearly.”

“Sounds perfect,” Lida agreed then went inside not bothering to close the door behind her so he went over and started to set things out.

He answered the door when the inn slave came to bring them their first basket of food and ask if they needed more of anything.  Darrin stepped into the bathroom and catch Lida’s eyes as she stood under the warm spray. “Just wondering if you needed anything,” he explained taking the opportunity to appreciate her curves and note with relief that she had no scars or marks that might show a mean streak in Brownhill.  Bess had been free of such marks too but it had become apparent that her attitude was a front for a lot of fear.  Lida just beamed at him and said she thought she was fine and would be out soon.

Darrin saw the inn slave out then felt himself blush when Lida came out a few minutes later dry but not covered in any way.  It wasn’t that he had a lot of modesty, that wasn’t really allowed for bedslaves, but that was for his mistress not for random others.  But then this wasn’t random and he’d been fine with it all once Bess and he began to have sex, aside from the annoyance at her master that is.

“I’ll go hop in then and you can set out anything you brought, have a snack,” he instructed as he scurried by her.

“Oh, food,” she cooed and gave him a good view of her rump as she went to the basket to investigate. “This is a lot,” she told him as she looked back at him.

“Not as much as you might think, we’ll probably save some for later because we’ll only get two more baskets,” Darrin began to explain but she practically continued his sentence.

“And we’re going to be working up an appetite.”

“Right, exactly,” he agreed before hopping into the bathroom and closing the door slightly behind him.

He looked in the mirror and then down at his tight pants.  “Great, I’m attracted to her,” he hissed at his reflection. “Focus on the task, don’t do anything stupid.”  He decided a cold shower was in order.

 

Lida was talented, there was no doubt about that, Darrin admitted as he tried to slow his breathing after the third orgasm that afternoon.  Thank god for the training he’d received or he’d had been a dead man by now the thought.  While Bess had been content to bring him to the edge and then back off when he told her it was like Lida couldn’t hear him once they got going.

She had to be faking, he told himself as she looked up at him from where she was laying on his chest.  He knew that female bedslaves received instructions in that and that it was much easier to fake as a woman than as a man if your owner cared either way.  Then she started to lift off of him and he could tell from the amount of liquid she left behind that she probably hadn’t faked… lucky… then he pushed that thought down.

“We should eat, drink something,” he mumbled as he sat up and she nodded with a grin. “You wear him out this much?”

Lida’s laugh increased as she shook his head.  “He’s a goer. Not that he often goes for a long, long time, but he can,” she expanded as she bounced off the bed to fetch the basket. “He’s studied the techniques,” she made little air quotes with her fingers, “of pleasure.” She brought out two water bottles and handed one to Darrin.

“He has?”

Lida nodded as she finished a few swallows.  “Oh, yeah. Hired a few instructors from the training houses for us as well as a few experts for free people.   I actually learned a lot with him. There is only so much time we get in those facilities you know.  I have a lot more to show you like the butterfly turn…”

“We need a break,” Darrin interrupted as he pulled the basket to him and started to look through it. “Oh, good lots of proteins, carbs, oh, chocolate,” he bought out the small box of squares that must have been special ordered for them because they hadn’t been in the previous baskets.

“Oh!” she squealed and took the box from his hands.  “Isn’t he the best?  He said he was going make this fun for me.  I’ll share,” she promised as she opened the box and two out two of the squares.  “Open up,” she prompted and popped one of the squares into Darrin’s mouth when he complied.

The two bedslaves let the pieces melt in their mouths, both making very pleased noises as their eyes fluttered.  With a sigh Darrin laid he head back.  “So why’d he bother with all learning all these thing?”

Lida took out the sandwiches next and divided them up between them then settled back against the headboard as she thought through the question.  “We’re supposed to be completely honest here, right? We won’t get into trouble if a match isn’t made?”

He wanted to reassure her that she’d be fine.  He had been told by Mr. Gavin that those were the rules but he also knew that owners broke rules when it suited their desires.  Not that Gavriella did that, that wasn’t the Shaynis way, but he knew that Bess had been terrified of failing again so punishment must be awaiting her when Mayson wasn’t chosen which he wouldn’t be.  His mistress had not been pleased by his report but she also had thanked him for suffering for her benefit.  Sometimes it was best to lie.

“That’s what I’m told. This is my first time doing this as well, hopefully the first and only,” he added with a grin.

Lida nodded and then took a deep breath.  “Master says that if he is pleasant enough in bed, then the Lady he marries won’t mind when they only have two children,” she stated in a rush of words before sipping from her water and looking at Darrin with her large brown eyes.

“Two children?”

“Yes, he says that he can’t support the military and that it would kill him to see one of his children die in an unnecessary war,” Lida hurried to explain in a soft voice that was immediately cut off with a bite of sandwich.

Darrin took a bite of his own sandwich and thought for a few moments.  It was most common for the nobility to have three children — heir, connection, service — but that easy when the head of estate was male and thus not all that necessary for ten cycles of reproduction and then the strain of birth and weaning the following year.  Not that noble fathers ignored their children, Master Shaynis has been very interested in his children’s lives but his duties to the state required that he make trips often and was needed out in his realm to manage and oversee the population under his care.  Would Mistress want or even be able to have three children?

“I’ll have to mention it but it may not be a deal breaker,” Darrin confessed. “Look, this is the sort of thing you have to be honest about,” he continued when Lida sighed and turned her attention to the floor.  “That sort of expectation could ruin a match and once it’s made it can be difficult for the entire estate. Guess who’d get the blame?”

“Me,” Lida said as she turned back to him.

They finished more of the food and another bottle of water each between storing the extras away. “Let’s shower and change the sheets then I want to learn about what this butterfly turn thing has you doing,” Darrin declared about half an hour later.

Lida giggled and got up to gather the crumbs and trash off the bed.  “No men, this is a lot about you and this position where you’re on your back but you’re not.”

“Great,” Darrin said as he waved her to the shower and started to remove the bed sheets. This was going to be a workout.

 

Darrin stood up and stretched after finishing his report then gasped and bent over forward as he took shallow breathes for a few moments before straitening up again. He glanced up as a feminine giggle hit his ears.

It was Alice brining in a dinner tray for him.  “Getting worn out by this nasty testing,” she taunted him as she placed the tray on the end of the desk and set about getting the food out.

“You shouldn’t laugh, it could have easily been you in my place,” he retorted then hummed at the stew, bread, and water she set out for him.

Alice made a show of thinking about it, cocking her head to one side, looking up with her eyes then shook her head.  “No, even if Christoff has done his duty I doubt I’d have much to report and I doubt I would have stayed in this house anyway.”

That was bold of Alice, normally she was quite flippant with her statements but this one almost sounded like a complaint about her station edged with serenity. Her training with Ms. Theresa must be affecting her but Darrin let it go.

She didn’t glance at his report even though he knew that she too was being taught to read, write, and do basic maths.  She just looked around the room, seemed to note a few things as her eyes lingered and then turned back to him.  “I’ll Shem later to collect it.  I just happened to be passing by and thought I’d help out.”

“Thank you, that was very thoughtful.”

“Of course. One must thing of the estate after all,” she replied with a tight smile before leaving.

Not all of her personality had changed them Darrin decided as he dug into the stew and reread what he’d written.

His Mistress required he demonstrate some of these techniques after reading the report so the next morning he got permission from Mr. Gavin for workout time and extra protein from Chef Bovy so that he could keep it up and be ready for the next test with Nance from the Lakemore estate.

Chapter Text

Darrin was surprised when he arrived at the Inn and the receptionist called him over. “You're the Shaynis bedslave who has been here twice before, correct?”

“Yes, Sir, I am,” Darrin simply replied. Had there been a cancellation then?

“The other one has been here for some time,” the receptionist told him so Darrin glanced at the clock in the lobby. He was a good five minutes early as always so why would Ezekiel Lakemore send his girl over earlier? “Here,” the receptionist continued as the same slave who saw to him every time Darrin visited stepped forward, “you go up to your room and when she’d done she’ll be escorted to you. Most unusual,” the receptionist commented as he shook his head and made some notes on the register.

Once they were out of the lobby and on the private stairs that slaves used, Darrin spoke to his escort for the first time, earning a surprised look but no slow down in movement. “Do you know why Nance is here so early by any chance?”

“Yes, she’s making the food for you both. Her master made arrangements for it all, even paid extra though she ain’t using better ingredients mind you,” the other slave replied.

Darrin blinked but kept pace with his escort. Was the Lakemore candidate a food snob then? Was he paranoid about poisoning? He didn’t recall the man refusing to eat at the meetings with his mistress nor using Nance as a taster for him. Darrin made a mental note to ask the other bedslave about it once she joined him.

Nance was not in the room, the other one on that floor confirming his earlier thoughts that there were at least two slave suites in the Inn. Darrin thanked his escort then put his bag on a chair, noting that there was another bag on the bed already. It was a little odd to see the same layout in reverse and it made him curious as to why they chose this one but he just took a deep breath and went to the bathroom to clean up.

Darrin had been sitting look at the notebook, jotting down the strange turn of events when the Inn’s slave and Nance entered, the man carrying a basket like always but Nance had a tray with a metal lid over whatever she was holding. “Hello,” she called out brightly. Her face was flushed and there was… was that flour on her cheeks and dress? “I made us some really good food,” she told him as she set the tray on the table.

“I didn’t know you could cook,” Darrin replied.

“I’ve been training to be a cook for a while now, have to have a back up plan, right?” she said with a less brilliant smile before she turned to the slave escort who sat the basket also on the table. “You remember to share those cookies I made you, right?”

The other slave blushed but nodded before hurrying from the room.

“You made the inn’s slave cookies?” Darrin asked as he just looked from basket to tray to bedslave.

“Not just him, I made a lot of them and gave him a dozen to share with the porters and cleaning staff here. Great way to get good service is to try the staff well,” she said as she stepped out of her shoes and started to undo her dress. “I’ll take a shower and then we can get started.”

Darrin blinked feeling at a loss of what to say until she was in the bathroom and behind the shower doors. He followed her and then leaned against the wall as he checked her out. She was a bit thick in the waist probably from training as a cook, he knew that Chef Bovy was the fattest of the slave staff in part because she “needed” to try everything before it went out to the family or into another slave’s mouths. Nance was also not ashamed of her body and actually turned and made a few poses for him until she got him to chuckle by sticking out her tongue.

This just might be fun.

 

Or it might kill him Darrin thought as he lay back on the bed next to Nance and gave her a look when she just poked him once with a “we’re not done yet” comment. Four times in a row, no slowing down for him even though he’d stupidly come twice early on. She’d told him that Master Ezekiel was an “all night sort of man” but this was insane.

Darrin glanced at the clock next to the bed. They’d been at this for nearly two hours now and he just simply shook his head and rolled onto his back. Nance sat up to just lean over him and study his face before nodding and laying back down. “Actually I’m glad,” she sighed. “It can get a bit dry if you just keep going and going.”

He hadn’t even thought of that so he looked over at her with a frown. “Did I hurt you, does he hurt you then, does he like to just keep at it until it hurts?”

“No, no, I’m fine,” she replied turning to face him. “If I say ouch then he stops, he does, he’s not into that… is your mistress into hurting?”

Darrin paused because in the other two sessions he hadn’t really been asked much about his mistress’ preferences since Lady Shaynis would be the one making the offer while a good spouse was expected to change to meet the family head’s needs. A good family head would choose a spouse aligned closely in as many ways as possible even lingering on the decision for a few seasons thought that was impossible given the current state of affairs at the estate. How to explain this so that Nance would understand… “She can like it a bit rough from time to time, she is not above corporal punishment for example, but normally she is focused on fun and pleasure. Though once she has to travel to the capital to put in her service time that might change a bit.”

Nance was looking at him without much of an expression so he continued. “We haven’t talked about her finding another bedslave, for example, so I imagine she’d be interested in regular intimacies with her husband.”

That got a little frown from Nance but then she nodded. “So probably not a long haul in the evenings but a few evenings a week then?”

“That’s one way to think of it,” Darrin agreed with a chuckle.

“He can do that. He’s just always said he saves up for a big show but he knows he’ll need to adjust a bit.”

“Big show? Is Master Ezekiel not interested much in intimacies?”

Nance shrugged and sat up holding the sheet to her cover herself, scooting back to rest against the headboard so Darrin followed her example. “He enjoys sex he’d just more focused on helping his mother run the household, he’s very interested in children, and, of course, he loves his fashion.”

The last bit made a lot of sense given how well dressed the Lakemore candidate always seemed. Marriage contract would include budgeting items and that wasn’t really his concern so Darrin went back to another part of her statement. “How many children does he imagine having?”

Nance looked down at her hands, sighed, and tried to get out of bed but Darrin grabbed her arm and pulled her back. This could be a serious problem.

“How many, Nance? This is the most important thing, you know. They can have bedslaves if they just don’t match well in bed but they have to make heirs.”

“Two, he only wants two,” she said and then hurried on when Darrin’s mouth fell open, “because he doesn’t really like the military, doesn’t want to see a child sent off like that. He was beside himself when the third brother was injured two years back in a skirmish at the borderlands.”

Darrin released her and leaned back against the headboard but Nance stayed where she was. “It is traditional for three children but it isn’t a requirement and given that both of the mistress’ brothers are in service, it might be fine,” he offered after a few moments of thought.

“I hope so. Master Ezekiel told me that he does like Mistress Gavriella a lot, thinks so highly of her ability to step up with all of the upheavals at the estate over these past few years.” Nance sighed then looked toward the tray on the table. “I made a special dish that would be good even after it cooled down… would you like to try it now?”
“I’d be delighted,” Darrin replied with a huge smile.

Nance smiled and scurried off the bed, grabbing the robe she’d left on the hook on the wall as she moved. No real reason to be modest but the bedslaves always put on robes if they left the bed for anything other than another position to try out. “This is Master Ezekiel’s favorite post sex meal,” Nance explained as she lifted off the cover.
Darrin pulled himself out of bed and put on his own robe, tying it tightly before taking a few shaky steps toward the table. His ass, his thighs, heck, his entire body was aching so he hope whatever it was had a lot of calories and took some time to eat before they got into anything else in bed.

The uncovered tray held a lovely array of crackers, quartered slices of breads, a selection of cheeses, and five types of thickly sliced meats. In the center of all of these were three little bowls of sauces that ranged from an almost clear liquid to a dark thick one. “Think of this as the post coital snack,” Nance explained. “It's a lot of energy but also will take a while to eat. I’ll make us a nice breakfast in the morning.”

Darrin was about to sit down when he stopped at that announcement. “You’re cooking again? The Inn is allowing that?”

“Sure, less work for them. Actually they inquired last year if Master Ekeziel might consider selling me since apparently the chef here was impressed. He said no,” she finished with a chuckle as she sat down and urged Darrin to do likewise.

“Oh, how may years have you been doing this?” The question was necessary but a bit difficult to ask so he took the opening to ask.

“This is my second year. Master Ekeziel actually had an offer last season but he said that family was… too… formal for him,” she faltered and Darrin guessed she wasn’t quoting but trying to make it sound more appealing.

“The Shaynis household runs like a well-oiled machine,” he replied using one of Mr. Gavin’s phrases. “We have rules we expect to be followed for the good everyone.”

“Of course, how else could you get such a large estate to function,” Nance replied as she took some of the sauces and spread them on several pieces of bread. When Darrin reached for some she shooed his hands away and continued to talk and work at the same time. “But you also have art and a well-kept garden without just edibles and your food was beautiful not simply tasty and filling.”

Now her comment made sense. Some great families were more utilitarian in their operations, often the ones who dealt in more rough labor but even though the Shaynis were primarily agricultural and thus the backbone of civilization they also lived very near to town and threw several parties each year. Unlike many families that did the minimum service at the capital, the Shaynis head had always spend a good deal of his time there and Lady Gavriella was following in her father’s footsteps in that regard. Even now she was on a three-day weekend visit to the capital with Alice functioning as her bedslave again when Darrin did this job.

“Try these,” Nance told him as she set the small sandwiches she’d constructed before him on a plate that the Inn had set up as well. Her master must have paid them a lot to get such nice service and Darrin certainly wasn’t going to complain about it.

He took a bite and found that even for the heartiness of the ingredients and its thickness it seemed to melt in his mouth. He moaned and this made Nance nod sharply before she set to making her own plate. If her breakfast was half this good he was definitely putting her culinary skills in his report, he’d make it fit because his mistress needed to taste these before making up her mind about a spousal proposal.

The rest of the evening was spent showing Nance what he meant by Mistress Gavriella liking a bit of roughness. After a session of light spanking that had the girl gasping in pleasure and cursing him in turn, they laid back in the bed again and stared at the ceiling. “I’m sorry,” Nance began but Darrin just waved her off. “No, I really am. I clearly enjoyed some of it, most of it, but it went on a bit long. It’s nothing close to what I had to do in training though just been a very long time.”

“Master Ekeziel never does anything of this?” Darrin was still trying to wrap his mind around that idea because it seemed so foreign to him. Even the handful of times he’d been with Christoff when he was still heir always involved a bit of hair pulling or light slapping at least and the young master had been very orgasm focused during those encounters.

“Nope just simply, long lasting marathon sex,” Nance replied.

Both bedslaves turned to face each other and broke down in laughter. “Basically they both tend to go on a bit too long,” Nance summarized once they stopped chuckling.
Darrin nodded but frowned. “Maybe if she pulled his hair or smacked his ass he’d stop a bit sooner. They’d both get what they wanted them just a bit less of it.”

“I can try something back home if you want,” Nance offered. “Just a few little things to gauge how he feels, I don't want them to suffer just to make an allegiance. I want them both happy.”

It was true that Darrin was deeply concerned about his mistress’ happiness though why was unclear when he worked so hard to keep an emotional distance, and failed at that Mr. Gavin told him repeatedly. Happy owners meant a happier household so thinking about the master’s happiness was really protecting yourself he reasoned. But he left all of this unsaid as he frowned at Nance. “You could get into big trouble if you tried something rough. I don't want you to get into trouble.”

The other bedslave just snorted and sat up. “You mean to tell me that you and your mistress won’t be trying out some of the things we do here this weekend? Seriously? I’ve tried some other weird things, much weirder than a little pain. My master would be very angry if he later found out that his wife’s pulling his hair wasn’t just a show of her passion but an actual sexual preference.”

Darrin closed his eyes for a second. Actually Lady Gavriella hadn’t been all that interested in trying out a lot of hands-on information he’d gathered but the way Nance talked it felt like he needed to keep that information close so he just sat up with a shake of his head. “Oh, yes, yes, during the demonstration, of course, I thought you meant just during some normal service.”

“I’m not crazy, of course I’d never try anything new if I wasn’t reporting on what we’ve done. I happen to like my current role very much.”

Darrin nodded and the felt the chill in the air now that he was uncovered from the waist up and their talk died down. After a few minutes he simply got out of bed to fetch the basket with bottles of water and snacks. They ate in silence then simply went to sleep. It was the most rest he’d gotten during this entire season but it felt like he’d made a grave error.

Whatever error he made last night didn’t affect Nance’s cooking in the slightest or if it did then he couldn’t imagine what she might have done with less care and passion. The pastries were freshly made, the juice tasted just squeezed, the breakfast meats, potatoes, and cheeses were spiced just perfectly. This was a far cry from the quality of food in the previous visits even though he could indeed see she had used the exact same ingredients just in different ways.

After a few silent moments of just enjoying the food, Nance spoke up. “I was thinking maybe instead of sex today we could instead talk about how your household runs and what sort of exceptions there are for Mistress Gavriella’s spouse. I mean, I don’t have anything else to show you and while sex can be fun, ultimately that won’t be the deciding factor for a marriage.”

Again she surprised Darrin by making such a bold suggestion to go off of script as it were. Quickly he went through the rules for these testing periods but didn’t find where such an idea was out of bounds, indeed discussion about such expectations was one of the items they were supposed to cover but Mr. Gavin has said it was polite to do it subtly. Lady Gavriella was going to choose one of these three suitors and it would affect everyone’s lives. Subtly might be polite but it might not give her the best information.

“I think that’s an excellent idea but not until after this amazing breakfast,” Darrin agreed as he pointed one of the sausage links at her before popping it into his mouth.

 

Mistress Gavriella sat reading his report within an hour of her arrival back from the Capital and Darrin just knelt at her feet relaxing into her caressing of his hair. The entire day he’d been back to the estate while she was still away had been a plague of worry about her and he discovered a bit of jealousy about Alice being with her. To occupy his mind and time he’d begged Mr. Gavin to let him shadow him again on his rounds and even went out to the fields to check on the Mr. Stenwale’s wife who was happy to report that she was indeed pregnant already. For right now though Darrin just enjoyed not having those estate responsibilities for a little more time.

He looked up when his owner’s fingers in his hair tugged slightly. She was looking down at him with a strange look as she held the report in her other hand. “I had been thinking about what to do with Chef given that retirement should include all three heads of staff. Do you think that this Nance would fit in? Do you think Ekeziel would welcome the chance to bring in some family recipes, as you put it, or did you simply really like the girl?”

Darrin schooled his face to not reveal the fact that her question hurt him. Of course he’d liked Nance, it turned out that he’d liked all three of the other bedslaves, even Bess once he got to see the reasons behind her hardness. Of the three his personal favorite had been Lida but Nance and by extension her master seemed like the best choice to him. “Mistress, I’m sorry if my report was too emotional but I don’t have a particular preference for Nance other than for her cooking,” he added with a grin that he hoped would be seen as charming not uppity.

After a moment Lady Gavriella nodded her head. “Then let’s see if you can show much what you mean by a longer loving making session than previously required.”
Darrin stood up and offered his hand to help her stand and she let the report fall to the seat of the chair she’d been sitting in. The bed was only a few feet away and the fact that she’d read the report here in her bed suite should have made her order seem logically yet Darrin was a bit taken a back after no interest at all in the previous sexual encounters. Did this mean that she was seriously considering the Lakemore candidate and would be using the sex as the deciding factor?

“Mistress do you wish for me to only perform as I believe Master Ekeziel has up to this point,” he emphasized, “or wait for you specific order to transition?”

Gavriella frowned as she took her hand from his. “Obviously await my order which is to start right now,” she said with a grin.

Darrin had been bowing his head but at her word he looked up directly into her eyes. Keeping his eyes on hers he simply started to remove his clothing until he was naked, his cock slightly erect from the odd excitement taking such an active lead was giving him. He reached out and started to unbutton her dress and she arched an eyebrow at him but let him continue.

Only when he had her shirt off did he stop to lean in and kiss her arm, trailing upward to her neck and finally a quick kiss before he returned to removing her garments. “How very… functional,” Gavriella muttered as she stepped out of her underclothing until she was also nude. “Let’s do this then, exactly as you did with the girl, or until I say stop.”

“Yes, Mistress, of course,” Darrin states before returning to kiss her limbs, her neck, her torso, working his way down to the vee between her legs; he avoids her mouth entirely, not having kissed Nance once when it was her turn to run the encounters. He works efficiently and within moments of sucking, licking, and finger work he is getting enough moisture that it is time to stop.

“Already?” Gavriella says as she picks her up in his arms.

“Master Ekeziel is rather efficient it seems plus he’s a once a week man though since he likes less formality in his home I had to wonder why,” Darrin confessed as he picked her up and carried her to the bed to seat her on the edge.

“Maybe to be freed up to have more fun or more family time,” Gavriella offers as he returns to working between her legs, gently moving her back and her legs up as he does so.

“Perhaps,” Darrin agrees as he lines himself up with her opening and then glances at her. “Are you sure, Mistress?”

She lies still for a moment then nods. Gavriella arches back a bit with a grimace as he pushes in with one stroke; she’s wet just not as much as she normally likes. When he pauses she glares at him, “Do it!”

Darrin sets up a steady pace then, keeping one hand over her mouth, stroking her clit as he pumps. They keep to this one position until she asks if he has others. They switch to the more traditional man on top and start again, each time the bedslave must remind himself to just do as he experienced not as he knows she prefers. This might be so bad that there is no way she’ll choose the Lakemore suitor.

His owner doesn’t come as easily, orgasming only twice, and after an hour of intercourse in a handful of positions she tells him to stop and motions him away. “Mistress, may I do anything?” he asks as he sinks to his knees while she pulls herself up to a seated position.

“You did this for almost two hours, twice?”

“In a variety of position, yes, Mistress,” Darrin tells her. “Yes, Mistress, Nance came multiple times during each position. Apparently her master doesn’t like to move on until she has.”

“Good god!” Gavriella exclaimed as she scooted to the side of the bed to fetch her filled water glass. Darrin just sat still, his cock already going limp from her obvious displeasure. He hadn’t orgasmed once, not presuming to do that no matter what her original orders had been. “Get yourself some water, boy,” she told him and he finally moved to comply kneeling on the floor along side her as they drank together, her hand caressing his hair now and again. At least she didn’t seem angry with him.

“Do you think he’s teachable? Flexible?” she asked hopefully.

Darrin nodded as he considered all of the conversations. “I believe so, Mistress. If you think him a good match in other ways then I believe that Master Ekeziel is open to trying new things. Plus you can always have another bedslave once you have a few children, right?”

Gavriella looked directly at him and pouted as she handed him her empty glass. “Oh, that's right, you’ll be taking on Gavin’s position, I guess I won’t be able to call you for such service,” she stopped and looked away.

Was she sad at that thought? Darrin put down both glasses and after a second reached over to take her nearest hand in his. He placed a kiss on her hand and she turned back to him. “Mistress, I am your slave, you may use me as you desire, that will never change. I believe your father took pleasure from both Mr. Gavin and Ms. Teresa from time to time, even in the past few years.”

“Is that so?”

“I have been told this, Mistress.”

“Oh, I don’t how I feel about that,” Gavriella said as she looked away but continued to let him hold her hand.

Chapter Text

Darrin was following Mr. Gavin around the estate to check on all of the preparations. In thirteen days there would be a wedding and then a new spouse in residence. Lady Mariette and Lady Aubriana were in charge but primarily they had tasked the household staff with carrying out their wishes. However, either lady might appear without warning to check up so the two slaves were making the rounds for the second time that day.

Lady Gavriella was busy with the legal documents and thus her lawyer was in residence until after the ceremony which left little daytime hours for Darrin to serve her personally before he’d be taking over his new role. The trio of household heads were retiring to the slave quarters the week after the wedding, giving the new trio of Darrin, Alice, and Nance only a week to transition. If Darrin hadn’t been concerned about his own failures he might have worried about more about Nance trying to learn everything in just one short week.

“Do you consider that acceptable progress?” Darrin flinched at Mr. Gavin’s question to the maid they’d encountered in the reopened guest wing of the house.

The poor girl was fairly new to the household, purchased merely a month before in preparation for the ceremony and the surrounding days of guests and celebrations. She bobbed a bow but didn’t reply so Darrin wasn’t surprised when Mr. Gavin’s hand flew and slapped her.

“When you are asked a question by any higher ranking member of this household or any freeborn person you will answer verbally and immediately,” Mr. Gavin repeated the second household rule after a few seconds to allow the ringing that was likely in the maid’s head to silence.

“Sorry, Mr. Gavin, but I don’t know how you want me to reply, sir,” the maid said as she took a step back.

Darrin shook his head at her as Mr. Gavin stepped forward and then stepped up to join him when the older man demanded he recite rule four. “Be brief in all your replies.”

“I shall repeat my question,” Mr. Gavin said then took a breath. “Do you consider that acceptable progress?”

The maid nodded and said simply, “Yes, Mr. Gavin.”

Darrin almost smiled as the head of staff’s mouth fell open for a fraction of a moment. “You’re still in the same room you were five hours ago, girl. How is that acceptable?”

The maid hesitated then said, “Ms. Alice told me to clean this room thoroughly today, Mr. Gavin.”

“Is there a problem, Mr. Gavin?” All three turned to see Alice at the doorway, her uniform was a bit soiled but she was not carrying her cleaning supplies. Ms. Theresa has assigned her trainee to the reopened wing to over see a staff of two others and Alice had confided in Darrin two days ago that she intended to lead by example more than Ms. Theresa tended to do.

“Did you assign this girl to clean only this room today?” Mr. Gavin asked as he took two steps toward Alice with Darrin a step behind him.

“I did, Mr. Gavin.”

“Why such a lazy amount of work for the day?”

Darrin noted that Alice’s face turned red but she closed her eyes before losing her temper. “Mr. Gavin, there are twenty-one rooms in this wing that Ms. Theresa assigned to myself and a staff of two. If we each take one room we can get this done in one week giving us a week to air out each room and newly decorate it before the guests arrive. This wing has not been opened in over a decade, there is much to do.”

That last statement came close to breaking rule four but Mr. Gavin simply straightened up with a shake of his head. “And what if Ms. Theresa or one of the family should need you elsewhere?”

“We’ll have plenty of time then according to my scheduling especially if we do it correctly the first time through, Mr. Gavin,” Alice offered.

Darrin flinches as his mentor turned to face him asking, “Does this make sense to you?”

“I think the theory is sound, Mr. Gavin. Only time will tell if the plan succeeds,” Darrin pointed out earning a nod from Alice.

“Pray it works then, Alice,” Mr. Gavin replied as he turned away. “Come, Darrin, we have the rest of the wing to inspect before heading to the farm.”

The two future heads of household staff managed to exchange winks before they were pulled apart to their tasks again.

**********

Outside Mr. Stenwell and his wife Ms. Beth were in charge of setting up the gardens and assuring that the farm didn’t offend any of the guests. “Rarely anything needs correcting but we must put in the effort nonetheless,” Mr. Gavin explained as they stopped by every station on their list making the garden and field slave pause and look nervously around.

Unlike the reopened wing, outdoors required constant work. Darrin grimaced a bit whenever he saw the cuts and bruises on the slaves’ bodies. He could have easily ended up outdoors when he first came to the Shaynis estate only Mr. Gavin’s decision of his position had saved him. Of course fieldhands and gardeners rarely had to service the family or their guests but it could happen. Even when Darrin felt a twinge of desire that he couldn’t voice to his mistress or a pang of sorrow when he had to sleep elsewhere than her bed he believed his lot had been about as good as any slave’s could be.

“Are these going to be bloom in time?” Mr. Gavin’s voice jerked Darrin from his thoughts. The gardener in question was nodding and the bodyslave grimaced before the slap made contact. “For the love of all that is holy, can no one remember the basic rules of this estate!” Mr. Gavin’s voice was raised above any tone that Darrin had heard him use before.

The gardener was shrinking back as Ms. Beth’s voice cut through the air. “Here now! What’s all this?” The overseer’s freeborn wife came bustling around a hedge, her stomach showing the signs of late mid-pregnancy but that wasn’t slowing her down. “Mr. Gavin, I must insist that you tell me what Arn could have done to deserve your yelling at him,” Mr. Beth said as she took the gardener by the arm and turned him toward him. “And hitting him! Arn is good boy, never any call to be rough. Stenwale!” she called out turning her head left and right until she caught the eye of a fieldhand that had been brought up to move heavy items. “You there, Lloyd, you go fetch Mr. Stenwale this instant!”

The woman was like a force of nature and didn’t stop yelling until her eyes fell on Mr. Gavin’s firm stare. “Are you going to answer me?”

“Indeed,” Mr. Gavin replied causing the overseer’s wife to step back at his stern tone. “I asked a question and was not responded to immediately as per our rules.”

“Damned rules,” Ms. Beth muttered with a shake of her head. If rumor was correct, the rules were the one area of life on the estate that the freeborn woman was struggling most with. Surely the lower classes had their own rules that they lived by but perhaps a dearth of rules was one cause for their lower status. It was a question Darrin had thought about before but wasn’t sure whom to ask.

“The estate’s rules, Madame,” Mr. Gavin was being hyper polite but his tone indicated deep displeasure that would have had a slave cowering yet while the slapped gardener bowed his head and shoulders more deeply, Ms. Beth only straightened up more as the Chief of Servants continued, “keep this complex system running smoothly. It is a waste of time to now answer directly and honestly.”

The two stared at each other until Ms. Beth took a deep breath and motioned with a hand for the gardener to step closer. “Ask your question again, Mr. Gavin, Arn will answer.”

“Are these going to bloom in time?” Mr. Gavin motioned to the bushes in question.

“Yes, Sir,” Arn replied glancing up. Ms. Beth nodded once and crossed her arms over her chest.

“Excellent,” Mr. Gavin simply said then bowed and led Darrin along their path. “Is this why the freeborn make the worst servants,” the older man said softly once they were a few yards away.

“Yes, Sir,” Darrin agreed with a quick glance back to find Ms. Beth walking toward Mr. Stenwale who was jogging up to the house.

“Eyes on your own work, boy,” Mr. Gavin told him firmly as they watched the pool’s new shade system being adjusted by a team of three slaves.

Darrin didn’t say anything but focused his attention to the canopy that the wind was trying to swipe away after two attachments points had been secured. It was the dry season now, just a month out from harvest but rain could still come and the winds were always unpredictable. In the capital, Darrin had seen more permanent shelters over swimming pools. As he watched the slaves lose one edge of the canopy and scramble for it he made a mental note to bring that up at his first meeting with his mistress once he was in his new position.

**********
Darrin sat up straight in the chair he was perched on just behind and to the right of Mr. Gavin. This was not his first staff meeting but it was certainly his most stressful. Six days until the wedding and there was a problem in the kitchen. Chef Bovy was sitting with his arms crossed and refusing to look at Nance who had been delivered to the estate the evening before.

Nance was frowning as well, though she seemed more amused if the little wave she’d given to Darrin when she entered the room was an indication. Where Chef Bovy’s uniform was white, already stained from the morning’s meals, Nance’s was cream colored and had no marks on it since the Chef refused to allow her into his kitchen.

“Nance needs to be in the kitchen, learning about the staff, over seeing at least one dish for every meal,” Mr. Gavin stated flatly as he looked directly at Chef Bovy.

“No woman is taking over my kitchen,” Chef Bovy insisted.

Mr. Gavin sighed and turned his head to look at the newcomer. “Nance, would you please state your training again?”

“I’ve been trained Chef Montray on the Lakemore Estate since I was four. Even after my training as a bodyslave at the age of 16, I continued to work in the kitchens every week. For the past four months I’ve been taking on more and more responsibility in the Lakemore kitchen. I’ve brought my master’s favorites that he will expect to be incorporated into the family menu,” she added tapping the book she’d earlier put on the table.

“Ha! Training as a child then occasional work between fucks,” Chef Bovy snorted and this earned a shocked look from Alice and Ms. Theresa as well as Nance. “I trained in the capital under the chef of some of the finest household.”

“When this family was on vacation and you had the time to spare,” Ms. Theresa said. “You think I or Mr. Gavin don’t remember you coming to this household with Lady Mariette? We know what you were before you put on that puffy hat!”

Chef Bovy was red faced now, his lips trembling. Frankly Darrin couldn’t imagine the fat chef being anyone’s bodyslave but it was very common for the supporting spouse to bring in a new chef or housekeeper. When the plan had been for Darrin to accompany Mistress Gavriella to another family, he’d figured he’d end up as housekeeper given his earlier work while Alice would stay on at the estate. Master Christoff’s relinquishing his birth order had thrown many things into disarray. Given his limited experience in other elite household’s, Darrin couldn’t assess the truthfulness of Chef’s Bovy’s next statement.

“Women cannot be chef in estate such as this one.” He held up a hand as Nance started to say something, “I’m sure that in a less noble house such as the Lakemore it might be acceptable but here the risks are too great.”

“What risks?” Alice spoke up for the first time in these meetings since she, too, was sitting just behind and to the side of Ms. Theresa. Instead of hushing her, as Darrin was sure Mr. Gavin would do to an outburst from him, the Housekeeper just nodded her head at the chef.

“We all know the risks,” Chef Bovy tried to just say but Mr. Gavin folded his arms over his chest and even though he couldn’t see his mentor’s face he knew what it must be given how the Chef’s face reddened more and he sputtered, “Getting with child, obviously. As a former bodyslave she’ll still be available to her master after the first heir is born plus…”

“That’s not happening,” Nance interrupted, drawing everyone’s gaze to her. “Master Ezekiel has had me sterilized.”

“Fertility blocks are not always effective,” Chef Bovy pointed out but Nance interrupted again.

“Sterilized.”

Now Chef Bovy finally looked at the newcomer and Darrin felt the blood rush from his face. Part of being a bodyslave, any slave, was knowing that you didn’t have a right to yourself even at the most basic level but sterilization was rare especially for well-trained bodyslaves. No one said anything until Chef Bovy shook his head a few times as he muttered, “Behavioral or genetic problems are an even stronger reason…”

“He had a few of my eggs frozen,” Nance interrupted and every one around the table felt their mouths fall open. “If he and Lady Shaynis decide to breed me, they can use a surrogate. He wants me in the kitchen and Lady Shaynis has agreed. I’ve seen the documents,” Nance ended piercing the Chief of Servants with her gaze.

“Quite true,” Mr. Gavin agreed. “What our Lady wishes, it is our duty to fulfill. Chef Bovy, you will accept Nance into the Shaynis,” the head slave emphasized the family name, “kitchen and you will allow her to observe and supervise. If I hear of any problems I will be forced to submit them to our owner. Something I’m sure we all wish to avoid,” he ended with a look at each person except for Darrin.

“Yes, Mr. Gavin,” the Chef agreed with a heavy sigh.

“Yes, Mr. Gavin,” Nance replied but her eyes were shining with happiness when she met Darrin’s gaze.

“To the larder then,” Mr. Gavin went to the next item on his order of business so Darrin looked at his own copy after placing a check mark next to “Integrate Nance into Kitchens.”

**********
Two evenings before the wedding, Darrin and Nance found time to share a quick meal together while the family was eating. “You sure this fine?” Darrin asked as he glanced back toward the bustling kitchen from their place in the servants dining hall where they were currently the only people.

“I am on schedule, the entire kitchen is on schedule, Mr. Darrin,” Nance teased him before taking a bit of her chicken leg.

“Please don’t call me that,” Darrin blushed with a shake of his head.

“Ever? Well, what would Mr. Gavin say if he heard you even suggest that we were not on formal terms?” Nance chuckled but quickly grew serious when she saw how weak Darrin’s smile was. “What’s wrong?”
“Tonight will be the last night with mistress as her bodyslave,” Darrin said as he poked his own chicken thigh but didn’t pick it up.

Nance studied him quietly for a moment then tsked at him as she reached out and put her hand over his. “Have you gone and done something foolish, boy, like fall in love?”

Darrin’s face burned at the accusation, he tried to dismiss the idea but found himself unable to speak.
“Oh, you stupid, dear,” Nance said with a huff. “Didn’t your training tell you to guard your feelings? To not fall in love with a freeperson?”

Darrin thought back over the ten rules he’d learned from Zebulon, Kaylana, and their owner Headtrainer Violet. He was supposed to focus on his owner and her image in society, in that way he was supposed to watch his emotions but they’d never discussed preventing himself from falling in love. To even think of that seemed ridiculous and yet… Darrin shook his head then.

Nance pushed her chair back and came to him, kneeling down and wrapping her arms around him when Darrin pushed back from the table to give her room. She held him for a while then stood up and pulled her chair closer, moving her plates and utensils as well. Darrin just sat perfectly still as she put her hand over his again. “My mother was a bodyslave, too. My father was probably another bodyslave that the Lakemores contracted with. Even though I was in the kitchens, I knew that as long as I looked good enough, I’d be just like her. The Lakemores let me room with her until she died a few years back. She told me that I had to guard my heart because it is so very easy to forget what you are if your owner is kind.”

Darrin frowned as he thought back over his time with Lady Gavriella. She was kind by many standards among slaves but she’d never for a moment forgot what he was nor let him forget it. He could still feel the ghost pain from the massive beating she’d given him when he’d kept information about her younger brother from her. “That’s when,” he whispered.

Nance tilted her head and squeezed his hand so he continued, “I did something very wrong and Lady Gavriella beat me quite soundly, took me some time to recover,” he added sad that Nance’s face grew a bit pale. “I deserved it, I broke her trust,” Darrin insisted. “But she didn’t sell me, send me to the fields, and she never mentioned it again. That must be when I fell in love with her.”

Nance screwed her eyes tightly shut and shook her head. “You can’t let her know how you feel. You must do everything you can to push those thoughts aside, Darrin. You know you must.”

Darrin nodded but inside he was uncertain. When Mr. Gavin spoke of the late Lord Shaynis it was clear the older servant had deep feelings for his old master. The Chief of Servants’ eyes twinkled when they discussed how to keep limber and ready should the Lady Shaynis order him to pleasure her at any time. It wasn’t the old man’s thoughts of the lady but his memories of his service to the former Lord that was making his eyes shine. Darrin was certain of that. Clearly it could work but Nance was looking very worried so he said, “Of course, I’ll be so busy after Mr. Gavin retires that I’m sure this foolishness will pass.”

“I pray so,” Nance replied before giving his hand a final squeeze before she returned her attentions to her food.

Darrin ate as well but his mind was already turning to his final night in his mistress’ bedchamber before her wedding.

Chapter Text

Darrin sat perfectly still for a moment just looking at the lovely wrapped gift box his owner had set on his lap after he took a seat at the end of her bed upon her command. It wasn’t unusual for him to be seated in her presence in this room since she found it easier to talk with him when they could see eye to eye. It wasn’t unheard of for her to give him a gift during the major holidays but those were never wrapped this luxuriously. When she bought him new clothing or supplies simply because she wanted him in something else or there was an event, these were simply placed in his small closet or on his shelf in the bathroom for him to discover by one of the maids.

“It won’t bite you, silly,” his mistress teased but he knew the tone of her voice was a bit stressed so he smiled and shook his head.

“Oh, really, and here I’d been hoping,” he teased back as only he could in the privacy of her suite.

“Oh, no, nothing else is biting you but me,” Gavriella chuckled for a moment and then her smile faltered. “Open it up,” she ordered with a serious look on her face.

Darrin undid the velvety, gold bow letting it slip apart so he could hook a finger under the lid and lift up the slick, green paper lid and sat it next to him on the bed. He unfolded the green and gold paper beneath to reveal black silk with gold trim pajama top. Underneath it were matching pajama bottoms and pair of black and gold slippers with gold treads. Every item had the family crest on it in gold, too. He looked at them and her and smiled as he said, “Thank you, Mistress. I’ve never had something so fine simply to sleep in.”

“Once you are Chief of Servants you’ll need to look well put together at any time, day or night,” Gavriella explained as she bent over and picked up a larger but matching box. “This is in case it isn’t warm,” she said thrusting it into his hands.

Darrin nodded with a grin as he opened up the second box and found a thick, fluffy robe in black and gold with the family crest. Mr. Gavin had a similar set but in an older style and not in as fine of fabric. Part of his training with the Chief had been to take care of the older slave’s rooms and things so he’d had plenty of time to consider what he might be expected to wear and use once the retirement happened and he received the keys to the estate. “Thank you very much, Mistress. I wasn’t expecting you to give me anything this evening.”

His mistress tilted her head to one side and then smiled weakly as she said, “No, you never really do expect me to do anything, do you?”

“Only what you desire or what your stations requires of you, Mistress,” Darrin replied with a puzzled frown.

When his mistress stood up, he sat the boxes aside and stood as well. He turned toward her as she paced a few steps but otherwise remained by the bed. He’d run her a bath, joined her in that bath, and pleasured her as well as bathed her already tonight. Instead of retiring to her bed, she’d had him dress in his simplest pajamas and he’d assumed that she was sending him to his small bed so that she could sleep alone. It was disappointing but then when she had him sit on her bed he knew she’d explain. Now he just watched her for a few moments before she turned to face him.

“This may not be proper but given that my father hasn’t been around to really teach me what is proper for the head of family I’ve just to do a lot of reading, ask a lot of subtle questions, and try to observe.” She paused and took a step toward him so Darrin nodded silently and kept his focus on her.

“I know that tonight will be the last night I can have a bodyslave spend the entire night with me until after my heirs are produced.” Gavriella wrinkled her nose when she said this but pushed on. “During that early parenting phase of my life, I should not have a male bodyslave at all unless…” she let the option they both knew dangle in the silence for a moment until Darrin smiled and looked down at the floor for a moment.
He brought his gaze up and nodded once before saying, “That would be a decision for you and Master Ezekiel to discuss, wouldn’t it, Mistress?”

“We have, you see,” she told him as she took a few steps closer to him then stopped. “I know that slaves gossip,” she paused at his arched eyebrows then said, “don’t deny it. Do you know what he did to Nance so that she could become Chef and still be attentive to him when he desires her?”

Now Darrin tilted his head. He’d thought it was merely out of consideration for her new position not for the new husband’s pleasure. Darrin frowned as he thought of the other noble indulging in base pleasures when he should be focused on his new wife but soon Darrin calmed himself and nodded, adding, “She informed the heads of the staff of her sterilization at our meeting today.”

“Were you all shocked?”

Darrin’s eyes went wide at the idea that the Lady Shaynis was curious about her slaves reactions to a decision she and her soon to be husband had made. But then again, Mr. Gavin had confided in him that sometimes Lord Shaynis had inquired into the emotional health of the staff for the purpose of lessening tensions that could disrupt the family. “I, um, I was surprised, Mistress. I believe that the rest of the senior staff was as well.”

Gavriella nodded a few times and then sighed, “He also had her eggs frozen because he believes children from her would be solid. It takes a few days for the procedure with a female but only about a day with a male…” again she trailed off but she was looking pointedly at him.

“Ah, if you wish to do this to me as well, Mistress, it is your right,” he said simply.

They looked at each other for a few more moment then Gavriella frowned and crossed her arms over her chest. “That’s it? That’s all you’re going to say? Have you been thinking of anyone on staff that you might want to have children by? Have you been thinking about your retirement years and a companion for that?”

“What?” Darrin blurted out and then frowned himself. “Mistress, I don’t understand. Why would I be thinking about any of those things? My place is where you deem it best, my future is at your disposal.”

“I know, I know, it’s just that some times slaves do have ambitions and given what Gavin has told me…” she stopped when Darrin took a step back, hit the edge of the bed, and sat down suddenly. “No, no, stay there,” Gavriella ordered as she came to sit with him, taking his hands into hers.

When she didn’t speak more, Darrin licked his lips and ventured, “What has Mr. Gavin told you about my ambitions, Mistress?”

“He wouldn’t use that word, apparently neither would you,” she said more to herself it seemed from the roll of her eyes and the tone of her voice. “He tell me that you really liked Nance, that you were a very quick learner, that you were invested in improving the work of the others, and that seemed to a more pleasant approach to leadership than him. He also said that you were very good with the children and that Stenwale’s wife mentioned to him that you’d make a good father.”

Darrin’s eyes had been grower wider with each sentence but now he just looked away. “I haven’t made any plans with Nance, I wouldn’t, Mistress.”

“But the rest? Do you think that a fair assessment of your feelings about the new position and the slaves on this estate?”

Darrin considered for a moment then replied, “It is a fair assessment of my service goals. I didn’t realize I was being so obvious. I should apologize…”

“No, I think it is more a fact of how observant Gavin is. Father once told me that Gavin was a very strict Chief but he also cared deeply for the slaves both directly under his supervision and out in the fields. Father also told me that he regretted now breeding him because it meant we were losing those qualities on the estate. I don’t want to lose your qualities but I also do not want you to have to undertake raising a child if you do not believe you’d have time.”

“I thought you were… nothing, Mistress.”

“No, tell me. If I cannot count on your completely honesty, Darrin, how can I entrust this estate into your care?”

That was an interesting way of considering the Chief of Servants. The spouse of the Head of Family was generally seen as supervising the household in her, or in this case his, lady’s stead so that the head might focus on public matters. But in reality the heads of each staff division generally had a good deal of leeway in terms of how the estate functioned.

“I’ve never thought of raising a child of my own, Mistress. And I had thought when you began this conversation that you were considering sterilizing me as was done to Nance. I would, since you wish me to be completely honest, I would very much like to remain in service to you in this bedchamber but I will also focus on being the best Chief of Servants that I can.”

Gavriella as smiling now and squeezing his hands. “Good, good, that means we are in agreement about this. The physician will come right after the wedding then, so that Gavin is still here to run things while you recover.

“Shall I arrange that tomorrow or now…” Darrin asked but was cut off as she leaned forward and captured his mouth with her lips.

His mistress pulled back and trailed a fingertip along his lips as she did so. “It’s already been arranged. Gavin has the details,” she informed him.

Darrin just smiled; it was one less thing for him to do though it was a bit annoying to have such a surgery interfere with the transfer of authority from Mr. Gavin to himself. His thoughts didn’t have long to travel down that path as his owner started to undo the buttons on his top, letting her fingers gently travel down his skin to the next one until he was bare chested.

Darrin leaned a bit closer as she ran her hands over his stomach and chest, tossing his head back and sighing when she tweaked his nipples or used a fingernail over a patch of skin. He’d never completely faked it with his owner but he did often exaggerate his reactions until they were natural. It was all part of his training and observation of what she needed, what helped turn her on and build her own passion. It was easiest to add a bit more oomph to his performance with his eyes closed so no he narrowed them to slits, fluttering his lashes as she twisted one nipple.

Darrin felt her move closer to him so he moved his arms behind him to lean back on and adjusted his legs to give her a wide space between his thighs in which to move. This angled his body so that his torso was pushed toward her and let him focus on breathing and balance without the ability of her to gaze directly into his eyes. He wasn’t faking anything when her mouth enclosed one nipple and she bit down on it just hard enough to make him hiss and jerk his head back.

Gavriella’s hand was over his groin now and his slight erection grew from the warmth and thoughts of how she would taste on his tongue running through his mind. “There it is,” she whispered so Darrin moaned and arched his hips toward her just enough to give him an excuse to slip down to his elbows thus giving his body a firmer foundation to lean against.

Early on he had to consciously think about the movements and verbal responses but now they just happened automatically to however she touched him. When did the exaggerating begin and end? It never truly could end because remembering his place was fundamental. Darrin realized he was starting to think too much so he groaned and whispered, “Please, Mistress, yes,” as she slipped his bottoms down enough to release his cock.

She slipped her warm, smooth hand up and down his shaft a few times until he was trembling, his fingers curled in the bed cover, his breathing audible and turning to a pant. “There we go, nice and ready, aren’t you?”
“For anything, Mistress,” he replied as she dragged her nails along his balls pushing the fabric from his bottoms down further.

“I’m going to fuck you for a long, long time,” she taunted as she ran her nails back up his balls and along his shaft.

That was expected. She didn’t always fuck him, often she had him pleasure her with is mouth or rode him, occasionally she laid back and let him do most of the work amused by how much his arms and torso would tremble as he made sure to only touch her where and how she wanted. But while Ekekiel Lakemore might be adventuresome in the bedroom, fucking him wouldn’t be their task over the next several years.

As Darrin raised his hips so she could pull off his bottoms and then flipped over to present her with his ass along the edge of the bed on his elbows and knees, it occurred to him that this would be the activity she’d most likely use him for during that initial marriage years. Her husband would go down on her and manually satisfy her so that when they mated their chances for success were increased. Plus according to Nance, Ekeziel loved to make sure any partner of his orgasmed repeatedly. This would be what she was missing out on and that was fine with him unless she were in a bad mood.

Darrin moaned as she worked him open with lube and her fingers but his head lifted up in shock when he felt something different. No, she couldn’t have kissed him there… but it sure felt like her soft lips and wet, hot tongue covering his cheeks as she thrust with several fingers inside of her. “Oh, yes, feels so good, Mistress,” Darrin hummed to let her know this new thing was affecting him positively.

“Just a little thing I wanted to try,” Gavriella said softly before she continued to kiss her way him to the small of his back, still working her fingers inside of him. “Idea for something to try out later,” she muttered before kissing her way back down.

Darrin’s eyes opened and he huffed a bit at the idea that this might be a plan of hers to introduce her husband to more than just the standard mating routine. Her pause made him freeze for a moment before he tossed his head and huffed again, this time trying to make it seem like he was anxious for more than just fingers.

“Eager?” she teased him but he felt the bed bounce up as she got off of it.

“Always for you, Mistress,” he whined as he looked around his shoulder to try and see her. He could see very well, only the edge of her back as she faced away from him but he could see that she’d take off her robe and was stripped down to her short sleeping gown.

Darrin used her position to take he opportunity to edge bit closer to the bed. “Knees up or feet on the floor, Mistress,” he asked softly.

“Floor so you have better balance,” she replied and now he could see the black straps of her harness over the green of her nightgown around her hips.

Darrin slipped gently down to let each foot rest on the floor, bending his knees as well for extra leverage and to make the angle she would hit as pleasurable as possible for them both. While you couldn’t tell your owner to not hurt you, you should always try to minimize your own discomfort so that you wouldn’t distract from their activity with an unattractive pained reaction. If an owner wanted to hurt you, they’d change your position but otherwise a smart bodyslave took care of these things on his own. That this position also let his cock brush against the bedcover was a mixed blessing — he’d feel more aroused but might have to counter release until she gave permission.

“That’s a good position,” Gavriella said as she slapped one of his cheeks and stepped between his legs.

His eyes met hers for a moment and then he relaxed to let her push the dildo into him in a smooth steady motion. Breathing out he fluttered his eyes again and then lowered his head as she waited for a second, the leather of her harness pressed against his cheeks, her thighs pressing his balls to the bed. “Ah,” Darrin gasped as she pulled out but didn't exit before pushing back in a bit faster.

Gavriella was a good lover, Darrin mused as she built up the pace over a good dozen thrusts until her hands were gripping his hips and using them to help her work into him deep and hard. She’d picked a tool that brushed against that particular spot inside but didn’t jab it almost painfully. The lube she’d chosen was the highest quality and it wasn’t drying out even after he lost count of her strokes. She was even pausing to rub her hands over his ass, his lower back, and his thighs, dipping down a few times to caress his balls or slid her finger alongside his shaft making him whine in desire.

“You can come whenever you want,” she whispered to him as she paused fully inside of him and peppered his back with kisses again. “Anytime, however many times you can tonight.”

Darrin gasped as she pulled out and then resumed a vigorous pace. Anytime? Many times? She had never… the permission itself seemed to propel him over the edge as he felt his cock try to jerk and then moisture spread under him. “Thank you, Mistress, thank you,” he grunted as his entire body clenched then relaxed.

“I can go all night like this, can you?” she teased as she paused again and this time trailed her tongue over his back and nipped at him with the edges of her teeth.

“As long as you want, as long as you want, Mistress,” Darrin moaned. He pressed his thighs against the edge of the bed to help him maintain the position. It would be a while before his cock awakened but as long as the lube stayed slick, he could let her pound into him.

True to her word, they went all night long though not in one position. When his cock stirred again and she switched to a different tool that had a slight vibration to it, Darrin screamed his way through another orgasm quickly, his arms faltering and letting him slip down to the bed and a bit further toward the floor. A few words and he was flipped to his back, her shoulders or arms holding out his legs as she leaned down to fondle his cock back up, letting the vibrations focus on the spot inside until he came over her hand.

Once they were cleaned up, she had him kneel on the floor and bring her to orgasm repeatedly with his mouth and fingers until she waved one shaky hand at him moments before the alarm sounded the rising of the sun. Darrin crawled up to lay next to her as her breathing calmed. They were both covered in sweat, come, and lube, their pajamas somewhere on the floor perhaps, perhaps torn from passion, but Darrin didn’t care. He just sighed as she rolled toward him and pulled his head down to her breast to rest.

Chapter Text

Darrin stood with the rest of the staff watching the ceremony on the screens placed around the kitchen. Later that night there would be vows for the staff and again next week when he, Alice, and Nance took over their new positions.

Lady Gavriella looked lovely though given her position as the head of the family and a member of the government she was in a simple green, black, and gold gown with straight lines, long sleeves, and no veil or low neckline. Darrin had found a box with ideas for her wedding from when she was younger and the difference was stark. He never mentioned it and she never told him about it but a few days after her family starting accepting proposals for a husband the box disappeared.

The future Lord Ezekiel was in a suit with his own family colors — red, black, and silver coat over simple black trousers and shirt. His silver veil was covering his face and most of his hair but it was still easy to see the huge smile on his face. Ezekiel had a sash of flowers over his chest, flowers from this estate and his own woven together by his family’s Housekeeper. Mr. Gavin had explained some of what would happen but watching it was nearly shocking, so much ritual, so many rites.

The Bishop from the nearby town had come all this way and was dressed in richly colored robes of browns, greens, and blues, the tone of the world that healed itself and allowed humanity to live after the wars and eco-disasters that had returned them to this nearly feudal state. The Bishop arrived very early that morning and strolled around the grounds and the house, chanting and flicking a rod with a metal bulb on the end that contained pure spring water that his attendant carried in a large vessel while another attendant carried another container on a chain from a rod that he waved so that the smoke raising from it could spread around. Then the Bishop had stood at the end of a long carpet of green, reciting a blessing for the entire house once more and calling on everyone to be a witness.

First Lady Gavriella came down the green carpet followed by her mother, grandmother, and both of her brothers, Christoff and Romario both returning from the military for the service. Leon, Christoff’s slave, was standing a bit away from Darrin and watching the proceeding with little interest; as the bodyslave of a man in military service who would never marry or manage an estate this had little practical use to him. Shem, who had been terrorized by Romario, was near Nance who was standing next to Chef Bovy just a bit down the front line where Darrin stood with Mr. Gavin. Romario’s wife was not here, the King declaring that he couldn’t give up all three officers for a wedding no matter how valuable the Shaynis family was to him.

The Bishop blessed the Shaynis family and then four of them knelt down and swore alliance to Lady Gavriella who urged them to their feet, helping her grandmother rise as soon as it was allowed by the rules of the ceremony. Last night the free people had practiced the ceremony three times with Mr. Gavin reading the lines for the Bishop but the rest of the servants had been locked out of the ballroom. Mr. Gavin would only tell Darrin that it would go well unless the Bishop decided to preach for longer than necessary.

Lord and Lady Lakemore next walked down the carpet and bowed to Lady Gavriella who bowed back. The Bishop introduced them and gave a brief history of each family and their roles in reestablishing civilization in the region. Had it only been 15 generations since the Unraveling of the First World? That was probably generations of aristocrats not commoners or slaves who tended to breed a bit earlier in their teens while the aristocrats waited until their mid twenties but still if half the stories he’d heard were turn about the devastation it was a miracle that they had so much and had lost so little. Darrin tilted his head up as the future Lord Ezekiel now walked down the carpet and accepted Gavriella’s outstretched hand in his. Now would be the most important vows.

“Do you, Lady Gavriella Shaynis, Head of House Shaynis, agree to support your husband with all of your estate and all of your connections so that he may live a life befitting the husband of such a noble family and the father of your legitimate children?” the Bishop began.

“I do,” Lady Gavriella stated firmly.

“Do you, Lady Gavriella Shaynis, agree to keep yourself only to your husband until such time as you produce three heirs?”

Lady Gavriella stiffened a bit but then nodded saying, “I do.” Ezekiel’s shoulders relaxed a bit at this response and Darrin noted he reached over with his free hand and added it to their grasp. After a moment, Lady Gavriells turned to him and added her second hand and those in the ballroom all let out a collective sigh or chuckle while the slaves in the kitchen hooted until Mr. Gavin called them to attention. Darrin glanced over and exchanged a silent smile with Nance then turned back to the screen.

“Do you, Lady Gavriella Shaynis, agree to respect your husband’s birth family, allowing him to see them and for them to see your children by him at agreed upon times?”

Darrin frowned at the idea that his dear mistress would ever imprison her husband or her children and keep them from their other grandparents so he was not surprised when she glanced at them and said “I do” very loudly and with a smile.

“Do you, Lady Gavriella Shaynis, agree to care for and love your husband and the father of your legitimate children until his death or unless he dishonor your estate?”

Lady Gavriella looked at Ezekiel who only mouthed something to her until she moved his hands in hers and agreed.

“Do you, Ezekiel Lakemore, agree to manage your new family’s estate and staff in a manner to increase production and standing on behalf of your new lady?” the Bishop now turned the vows to the groom.

“I do,” Ezekiel said with a firm now.

“Do you, Ezekiel Lakemore, agree to keep yourself only to your wife until such time as you produce three heirs?”

“I do.”

“Do you, Ezekiel Lakemore, agree to adopt the customs of your new family, never betraying them private matters even unto your birth family, and honoring the Shaynis family before all others?”

With a glance back at his parent, Ezekiel waited and the entire group of slave seemed to hold their breathes until Lord Lakemore raised his head and then gave one firm now. “I do,” Ezekiel agreed as he turned back to the Bishop.

“Do you, Ezekiel, now agree that you are now the husband of the Shaynis Family, that you will honor and obey Lady Gavriella Shaynis for your entire life, and that should she depart this world before you, that you will obey the heir that she shall name to follow her?”

“I do,” Ezekiel said looking directly at Lady Gavriella.

“Lord and Lady Lakemore, remove your colors from your son,” the Bishop ordered.

Ezekiel released Gavriella’s hands and turned to face his parents. Lady Lakemore took the flower sash and handed it to an attendant who disappeared behind the Bishop to reappear next to Lady Gavriella. Lord Lakemore took his coat with their family colors leaving him in shirt, pants, shoes, and the veil. Then with a determined look, the lord put an arm around his wife and made her turn away from their son together and take a few steps away to join the rest of the gathered nobles.

“Lady Gavriella Shaynis, cloth your husband in your family colors,” the Bishop ordered.

Lady Gavriella took a coat with gold and green where the black and silver had been and held it out for Ezekiel to slip into. She let her hands smooth over the fabric when he turned, giving him a smile but he merely bowed his head.

Darrin swallowed, he hadn’t realized just how much power the head of the family had over their own spouse before. He’d only seen Lord and Lady Shaynis act as partners, lovers, and caring parents. No one among the staff would ever think to not obey Aubriana Shaynis. This ceremony really drove home the fact that joining a family meant giving up so very much for a noble. A glance toward Nance, showed Darrin that he wasn’t the only one a bit upset by what he’d just seen but neither made a sound so he turned back to the screens to see the flower sash laid over Ezekiel’s chest… no, wait, the red and silver was gone, this wasn’t the same sash.

“Lady Gavriella, recognize your husband,” the Bishop commanded and then stepped back just a bit.

Ezekiel stepped forward and knelt down on one knee, the flowers just touching the carpet. Lady Gavriella stepped up and lifted up the veil, tossing it behind her to the cheers of the noble and the applauds of the slaves. “Arise, Lord Ezekiel Shaynis!” their mistress stated.

After kissing both of her hands, the new lord of the estate rose to kiss her lips and the watchers grow louder until the Bishop stepped around them and motioned them to follow him to the center of the room. The nobles gathered around them in a circle but the camera transmitting it all merely adjusted to show the view from a bit higher up.

“Everyone please bow to Lady and Lord Gavriella Shaynis!” the Bishop stated.

Everyone in the ballroom and everyone in the kitchens stepped back and then bowed, the slaves holding their position until Mr. Gavin gave them permission to stand with a clap of his hands and a command of, “Everyone to their assigned tasks now! We have a feast to serve!”

**********
Darrin leaned over the balcony off the main ballroom and looked down on the yardslaves clearing away the decorations and debris from the day’s celebrations. This was the second night in nearly two years that he wasn’t in his owner’s bedroom at least helping her settle in or pleasuring her. Tomorrow the doctor would come and do the procedure so that he could focus on his new position as Head of Staff. Surgery, a day off, then final preparations with Mr. Gavin before he became Mr. Darrin… how far he’d come since he first saw this grand house many years ago.

“Not worried about the surgery are you?”

Darrin stood up straight at his owner’s voice, swallowed, and then turned around with a deep bow. “Mistress, how may I serve?” he asked but stayed bent over.

“You may rise,” she told him so he did, taking in a sharp breath when he saw her in pajamas, robe, and slippers, her hair loosely pulled back. “I told Ezekiel that I needed to do rounds one more time before we continued. Gavin said he’d given you the rest of the night off and one of the others said they saw you out here.”

She took a step toward him and Darrin stepped back making her stop and frown. “What’s wrong?” Lady Gavriella asked him.

“You’re married, Mistress. This is your first night with your husband…” Darrin paused and glanced around but saw no one though slaves could easily hide when they wanted to; he’d done it hundreds of times himself. “Should you even be here?”

Her frown deepened and she marched up to him as he back up until his back was against the railing. “I am the head of this family, of this estate, I go wherever I wish, whenever I wish, or have you forgotten that?”

“No, Mistress, forgive me,” Darrin replied as he glanced down and away from her. He flinched when she put her hands on his arms, her grip tight for a moment then relaxing.

“Damnit! This isn’t how… Look! I want to just tell you a few things now that Ezekiel and I have talked,” she stated but she released him and took a couple of steps back.

“Talked?” Darrin repeated as he looked up at her.

“Ezekiel cares about Nance, he has no desire to be without her comfort. That works out well because I… care about you and I have no desire to be without your skills,” she said a bit awkwardly.

Darrin blinked. Mr. Gavin had told him that the previous lord of the family had continued to call upon his personal service from time to time but he’d never been explicit about how often or when. Was the way Lady Gavriella and Lord Ezekiel were planning to live different or the norm? It wasn’t a question he should ask so instead he offered, “I’m here for you always, Mistress, but I saw the ceremony, I heard your vows.”

“Oh, please, that’s tradition, as long as I can’t get pregnant from anyone else and Ezekiel doesn’t plant it elsewhere who cares. Not that I’m going to parade you around like before, you’ll have a lot to oversee and our relationship must change with your new duties, but find myself not wanting to give up all of your previous duties.”

The both stared at each other, blushes rising on both faces until Darrin smiled and looked down at her slippers. “I would be honored to continue my previous duties, Mistress, whenever you have need,” he looked up and met her gaze as he continued, “or desire for me.”

Lady Gavriella was grinning now as well, her face flushed, her hands rising to cover her chest as she started to chuckle. “I’m glad to hear that.”

She stepped forward and stood looking down at the slaves below, Mr. Stenwale and his wife overseeing their work. Darrin stepped next to her as they had stood for many nights and just watched silently until she reached out to pat his hand then said “goodnight” and left him again.

After bowing Darrin didn’t glance back but headed toward his small bed in Mr. Gavin’s office to await the sleep. His mind had been turning over the surgery but now he turned over images of his mistress, trying not to feel jealous of the man who was sharing her bed.

**********
The surgery took little time and was performed in the clinic outside the house where any slave could be treated by a slave nurses, Li and Gronw, or the doctor that visited once a month unless otherwise summoned. Doctor Roggeveen was an older woman who did rounds on the estates without a hundred miles radius of the county capital. For a fee she’d train slaves to take care of normal injuries or illnesses and the Shaynis family had negotiated two such trainings in the past when well-behaved slaves were getting a bit too old for regular service.

Darrin smiled weakly at Li as the older woman checked on him before calling the doctor in to give him final instructions. “Well, now, that went just fine, “ the doctor told him with a nod. “Stay in bed and get a lot of sleep for the next 24 hours. After that if you can walk from here back to the chief of staff office at a reasonable pace, you should have light duties for the reminder of the day then be back in full service in 48 hours. Any questions?”

“No, Doctor, thank you for your time and care,” Darrin replied with a dip of his head but the movement of the bed beneath him made him grimace.

“Yes, take it easy, take it easy,” the doctor warned him then turned her attention to the slave nurse who was waiting nearby.

Darrin slept, only waking when Li or Gronw awoke him to eat, drink, or piss, but he never left the bed that day. By the time the sun went down and Gronw was signing off to let Li do her second round that day, Darrin was feeling restless. “Li, do you think I could sit up more, maybe you have something I could keep my hands busy with?” Darrin asked hopefully when she checked on him.

The older woman put her hands on her hips and studied him for a second then chuckled. “Let me get a few more pillows, surprisingly no big injuries after the party yesterday so we have extras,” she told him as she snagged a few off of nearby cots. Men were kept in one room, women in another, and children in yet another. Compared to the farm where he was born and trained, Darrin had always thought that the Shaynis slave clinic was a bit extravagate and today he was the only man in residence though he could hear a child in another room and had hear other patients throughout the day.

Li helped him sit up, stopping when he hissed and only letting him sit up that far. “You know, most of the patients just want to rest,” she teased him.

“I’ve never really just rested,” Darrin replied.

“Well, then let me see if I can find something that won’t move you around too much. How much can you read and write?”

“A fair amount now.”

“Excellent then you can help me with this report to our Lady then about today’s visit from the doctor,” Li told him as she walked out of the room. Soon she returned with a set of forms and a clipboard and pen that she handed him. “All our Lady needs is the check list for each so I’ll read the records and you fill them out.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Darrin said as he settled down to help out.

In an hour they were done and Darrin felt like he knew more about the clinic than he’d learned from Mr. Gavin during there couple of visits over the past few months. Few slaves were suffering from normal slave complaints because the Shaynis family made sure to consider nutrition in their daily and weekly rations. Nance had commented upon the wisdom of that system during their last staff meeting. Not that the Lakemore family ill-treated their slaves but they certainly didn’t take the time same amount of time consider the menu. Doctor Roggeveen charged per visit not per patient but lost hours of work or poorly done work was a waste of resources and ate into production. Better to be considered a bit too kind than to fall onto financial troubles or need to replace slaves every year.

Still the party had a few victims mostly from over indulgent guests or slaves taking leftovers when their bodies couldn’t handle it. Bruises and scraps, a few headaches and tummy aches, was all very minor. When the hour was over Darrin felt restless again but Li only shrugged at him and went to fetch him some more water.

“Enjoying your lazy day?” Nance’s voice made Darrin try to sit up further, causing him to wince and Li to scold them both when she returned with the water. “Whoa, there, don’t need to sit up,” Nance told him. “I can hold the glass for him,” she said to the nurse who just shrugged and pointed to his piss bottle as well. “I’ve done much worse,” Nance called after the retreating figure.

Darrin took a few sips then shook his head at Nance. “I imagine you had a rough couple of days, why aren’t you sound asleep?”

“A bit wound up, wanted to talk to someone, figured you were best.” Darrin quirked one eyebrow but didn’t say anything so she continued. “Master Ezekiel came to see me this evening after dinner. He wanted to tell the kitchen staff we’d done a good job and set up a meeting with Chef Bovy and myself for tomorrow.”

“That’s good,” Darrin said with a smile.

“Yeah except,” she moved toward him and whispered, “he also said he wanted to see me alone in a few minutes.” Darrin nodded and she continued. “I met him in his parlor and he told me that he might be calling me to bed with him in the near future, maybe even he and Lady Gavriella together. It was very strange.”

Darrin frowned for a moment. His Mistress hadn’t said anything about sharing but maybe that was the condition that the new husband had to agree and she, as head of family, had more freedoms. Nance looked very worried, so Darrin whispered, “Lady Gavriella told me something similar last night.”

“Oh, so they agreed to this?” Nance whispered back with a glance toward the door. “I never heard of such a thing.”

“Nobles,” Darrin shrugged happy that it didn’t hurt too much to do so, “Even all of my studies probably haven’t revealed half the rules they live by.”

“Rules?” Nance chuckled and sat down back from him, sitting his glass on the bedside stand.

“Oh, we all have rules, Mr. Gavin’s been teaching me that.”

“I know that we have rules in the kitchen, rules as a bodyslave, I guess I never thought much about them… figured they do what they like,” Nance confessed.

“Well, certainly more than us,” Darrin agreed.

“I have a few minutes, why don’t you tell me a bit about this noble rules then,” Nance suggested with a grin.

For the next hour he told her some basic legality and answered her questions as best he could. Darrin was pleased that he seemed to understand things better after talking with her than he had before. He was going to need that understanding in just a few more days.

Chapter Text

Darrin took a deep breath then looked up at his reflection in the full-length mirror in his new bedroom right next to his new office. The last five days of Mr. Gavin’s service had been spent with the older slave turning over more and more tasks to him. The final task the former Head of Staff had was when Lady Gavriella and Lord Ezekiel and the new heads of the household walked the three retiring slaves to their new homes. The retirement community of the Shaynis estate was out by a lovely pond and meadow, the north lined with trees to curb the winter winds and snow, with a well kept road that was traveled weekly by Mr. Stenwale delivering supplies and bringing visitors.

Slaves were retired for a handful of reasons. Good, long years of faithful service as was the case with the current three placed them in the position of greatest power among the small number of inhabitants who came out and all bowed best they could to their Lady. Slaves might also be retired if a husband or wife died but allowed for retirement in their will, Grace had been the Lord Davenport’s last bodyslave and Lady Gavriella had her transferred per her father’s request. Slave might be retired if they have done good work but were injured through no fault of their own and made unable to continue the same profession though these lived in a separate building and were expected to help the others lives as best they could. Currently there were two such injured slaves in residence. A man who had a tree fall on him after a very wet spring a few years back leaving him with only one fully functioning leg but who could mend things around the place and a girl who was born blind and sent immediately to the settlement to see if she’d survive and who now helped with cleaning and other chores as taught by the others. Other slaves might come here simply when they got too old to do much productive work but generally a slave died while still on the main part of the estate, often in their sleep, in the clinic from an illness or injury, or while working. In total only six slaves were out here before the new trio arrived.

The oldest retired slave was Jada, the former housekeeper who was nearly blind did smile when Madame Theresa ran to her, calling out her name. Chef Bovy and Mr. Gavin’s previous mentors had died years ago and Darrin suspected they’d be putting the place in to order as soon as the nobles left. Once the greetings were over, Lady Gavriella addressed the settlement now one third larger than merely a minute ago.

“In gratitude for your years of service I hope that you will find some comfort here. I ask only that you take care of each other and that should any of the heads of staff have need of your wisdom, that you allow them to visit from time to time.”

“Of course, Mistress,” Mr. Gavin said as he stepped forward and bowed initiating another round of bows from the retired slaves in response.

Lady Gavriella nodded and then motioned for Mr. Stenwale and two of his fieldhands to carry the supplies and belonging of the retiring slaves into their individual cottages. After this began she turned around and motioned for the three new heads to follow her and Lord Ezekiel. Without a word their group returned to the main house a good half hour walk away.

Back at the estate, Lady Gavriella had said, “We will meet with you three tomorrow right after breakfast. Good evening.”

Darrin and Nance had exchanged looks but both merely went to their new bedrooms. Darrin had spent a good deal of time unable to sleep so he went over the list of rules for the household and for himself. The most difficult were the rather vague list for his new role.

#1: Rise before all the other servants and prepare yourself for the day.

#2: Check in on the heads of staff and make sure they are awake and ready for the day.

#3: Deliver your daily report to the master’s private message box.

#4: Stay within speaking and viewing distance of the master unless told otherwise.

#5: Deliver lunch to the master and review your delivered report whenever the master is in residence. When the master is not in residence, meet with his spouse during the appointed times.

#6: Attend the family dinner to oversee service.

#7: After the Lord is retired for the evening, check in with the Overseer, the Housekeeper, and the Chef and collect their oral reports.

#8: Review the schedule for tomorrow, the week, and the upcoming month.

#9: Construct a household report from the oral reports and your own observations.

#10: Bath and prepare your clothing for the next day before going to sleep.

In between all of this he would have to deal with crises, new arrivals, the demands of the family, the needs of the staff, the weather, changes in plans, and unexpected guests. Add into that the proclaimed desire of his Mistress to continue using him for her pleasure and Darrin was unsure how much sleep he’d actually get. Perhaps Mr. Gavin had been strict because his lack of sleep made him grumpy.

Darrin checked his watch and left his office to make his first rounds. It turned out that rule #2 wasn’t so difficult since the heads of staff all met in the kitchen to eat before the rest of the staff made an appearance. Darrin took this time to read his report outloud so that any last minute corrections might be made but on his first attempt he seemed to have done well, earning a “Well done, lad, er, I mean, Mr. Darrin,” from Mr. Stenwale. The use of honorific among the heads was something they were continuing, figuring it would ease them all into their roles.

Darrin was on his way to the mistress’s office when the rest of the staff scurried by him in the servants’ hallways heading toward their own first meal of the day. After the initial crowd, one of the maids came hurrying around the corner, her eyes widened when she nearly bumped into Darrin. There were two ways he could play this but Darrin was determined to be a kind role model so he put his hands on the maid’s shoulders and turned them around so she was on the correct side of the hallway. “No running, Fara. Walk with your head high. Chef Nance will not let you go hungry, girl,” he said with a smile. The other slave smiled at him, bowed, and then turned with her head up and walked toward the kitchen.

Darrin slipped his report into the private message box and then went unlock the main doors of the house and collect the news and mail that was delivered overnight to the estate’s computer, downloading it all onto several pads depending on whom the addressee was. He put all of these pads on a well-carved wooden tray. Then he stood with his back against the wall outside of Lady Gavriella’s bedroom until he heard her ring the bell that she’d rung every morning since her father died.

Darrin took a deep breath, opened the doors, made a quick note of whom was in the room and then called out, “Good morning, Lady and Lord Shaynis! I have today’s news and mail for you both. Here you go, My Lady,” he said with a bow as he handed her the correct pad. “Here you go, My Lord,” he said also with a bow as he handed her husband his own pad. Both nobles were already sitting up with robes, and slippers on and seated at the small table they had moved into the room the day after their first night of marriage.

“Are you settling in then alright, Darrin,” Lord Ezekiel called out a bit too cheery but Darrin merely inclined his head as he moved to the windows and drew back the curtains.

“I am, Sir, thank you for inquiring,” Darrin replied when he turned around. The new lord had a mark on his neck that hadn’t been there the night before and the lady was grinning a bit too much but Darrin swallowed and voiced the next appropriate inquiry. “Chef has made omelets, ham, crisps, and fruit tart if it pleases you?”

“That sounds lovely,” Lord Ezekiel agreed after a nod from Lady Gavriella. “Juice and tea as well, Darrin.”

“Of course, Sir, with your leave?” It was going to not get on his nerves, Darrin decided after the new lord used his name again. The man was probably trying to be friendly, personable, feeling his way as the main noble who would be dealing with the staff on a regular basis. “Did you get that?” Darrin asked the kitchen boy who was waiting by the door to follow him to the next room.

“Yes, Mr. Darrin, I called it in,” came the reply with a shake of the small walkie-talkies that they had all gotten just a few days before as a gift from the Lakemore Family. Whether it would improve service or not still remained to be seen but the boy fell in step behind him as they went to wake Lady Mariette and Lady Aubriana.

**********
Once Alice and Nance were seated, Darrin smiled at them both. “How were your first days as the head of your departments?”

“Mine was great, not much to do compared to the wedding,” Alice pointed out.

“Good, good,” Nance said but she bit her lower lip so Darrin tilted his head, looking pointedly at her until she added, “Better actually now that all the guests are gone.”

“Lad still nervous when the young master is home?” Stenwale guessed and received a nod from Nance as well as Alice.

“Did his presence cause any problems that I should be aware of?” Darrin asked with a direct look at each of the others.

“I told Madame Theresa and she took care of what he did to one of the maids,” Alice replied with a shrug. “I don’t know what exactly that was because she never brought it up in our last meetings with you all.”

“What happened?” Nance asked and Stenwale both pressed after a moment of silence.

Alice looked at Darrin so he nodded and told them. “Theresa,” he purposely choose to not use the honorific concerned that the use of it might show a problem with them all fully accepting their position, “told Gavin and myself that Lieutenant Shaynis had cornered one of the maids and insisted she relieve him of stress. After she did so he sent her away with a few words of warning. Gavin told our Lady and she informed us both yesterday after her brother left that he would not be back for the Solstice this year.”

“Good, good,” Alice said as the other two nodded.

“It’s good that our Lady is proactive in these matters,” Stenwale added.

Darrin nodded once. He wasn’t surprised by Lady Gavriella’s response but it wasn’t a reaction her father would have had to a similar situation they all knew. They could expect some changes but how much was yet unclear so it was best to tell the other slaves to just keep doing as they had been for generations on the estate. “Any other problems with him? I’m supposed to report any problems at all with anyone on the estate,” Darrin emphasized.

Nance shook her head then smiled, “No, Shem is doing real well now. I'm sure Bovy was correct to make him his apprentice and he seems to not resent me at all. He just has to stop with this nervousness around the Family.”

“I like my staff a bit nervous around the Family,” Stenwale admitted. “Keeps them on their toes and I’ve only got two to help me with nearly five dozen of them. The brothers came out to ride a few times, got into a scuffle at one point but it was just them two.”

“Do you know what it was about? Who started it?” Darrin pressed as he made a note of that.

“An insult to Leon that Captain Shaynis didn’t like too much from what the stablehands told me and from what I heard,” Stenwale replied.

Everyone fell silent none of them brave enough even around their table in the privacy of the office to voice their thoughts on the wayward Shaynis brother. After a moment Darrin focused on another topic. “Have you all had a meeting with Lord Ezekiel then today? I had one right after dinner.”

“He came in before lunch to chat with me, set a few expectations, but that was his mother’s role, so I expected it,” Nance tossed out with a shrug.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Alice humphed, crossing her arms over her chest. “He came into the laundry looking for me and one of the scrubboys had to fetch me. I mean, he didn’t anything unusual,” Alice added when Nance arched an eyebrow at her, “but usually Lady Mariette summoned Mad… Theresa,” Alice corrected herself, “to her parlor for meetings.”

“Same for me,” Stenwale said. “Lord Ezekiel came out to the east fields where we’re putting in the second crop. Surprised me, though maybe one of the stableboys had acted up but that wouldn’t be like them.”

“He went all the way out to the east fields?” Darrin repeated. “On horseback, no?” he said when Stenwale shook his head.

“He walked out, that’s a good 40 to 45 minute hike,” Stenwale pronounced with a pointed look toward Nance. “Told me that he liked to take walks. He do that back at his old home?”

Nance was truing hard not to laugh but now she let a gasp escape as she nodded. “Oh, dear, Lakemore was more hands on than you all are here, I fear. He’s going to check into every little area you oversee, mark my words. He won’t find fault, I’m sure, but he liked to be hands on.”

“Well, then we,” Darrin emphasized that by looking at them all again, “will need to adjust to our Lord’s expectations unless Lady Shaynis says otherwise. She however is leaving for the capital in three days so we must all do everything we can to make his lordship feel at home. Understood?”

“Yes, Mr. Darrin,” they all said making him wince a bit and give them a roll of his eyes.

“So fill me in on the entire day then starting with you, Mr. Stenwale,” Darrin said as he readied his pen.

**********
Darrin oversaw the slaves putting Lady Gavriella’s luggage into her carriage and then blinked when a hand fell on his shoulder. Turning his head, he smiled and inclined his head toward his mistress. “Yes, My Lady?”

“I wish you were coming with me, but then who would take care of my home?” she told him softly.

“I believe that Lord Ezekiel is technically caring for your home, My Lady, but I am honored you consider my worthy of assisting him.”

She shook her head and slapped lightly at his arm, making Darrin smile but bow his head nonetheless. “You must let me know if anything goes wrong while I’m gone. I know that Mother has been concerned about my husband’s level of attentiveness to the estate so they might get into it once I’m gone.”

Darrin just looked up but said nothing to this information that had already worked its way down the rumor mill of the staff.

“When I say that I want you to tell me everything, I mean about my husband as well,” she emphasized then stepped back as the man in question came out of the house with his arms spread wide. “There you are!” she said as she slipped away and into her husband’s arms leaving Darrin to shoo off the slaves and check in with the driver, trying not to overhear their goodbyes.

Darrin stood with the rest of the staff and family as they saw off their Lady and then he dismissed the others. And waited for Lord Ezekiel to head back inside but the man only moved to stand next to him as he watched until Gavriella was no longer visible. “Darrin, I wish you were going with her,” the nobleman confessed.

“Sir?” Darrin replied then swallowed down other words that wanted to come out at this odd statement.

“I know that you accompanied her on all of her trips to the capital until right before the wedding. I realize that that is no longer appropriate and that the King has an escort waiting for her as well as a handmaid but,” Lord Ezekiel sighed and just nodded at Darrin for a second before continuing, “Women in Court aren’t as numerous men, oh not rare anymore, but still… husband’s prerogative to worry, right?”

“As you say, Sir,” Darrin simply replied. That seemed to satisfy the man who nodded and then headed down the path out to the back gardens probably to check on the work there and make Stenwale or his wife nervous again.

Truth was that Darrin was reassured by his lord’s concern because it reflected his own. As much as he didn’t want to think about it, Lady Gavriella really did need a new bodyslave as soon as it was socially acceptable. He had a bit of time to spare so he headed back to his office to send out an inquiry to his old trainers back in the capital.

**********
Four evenings later, Darrin was standing back watching the other slaves pull out the chairs for the family who had just finished dinner when Lady Aubriana, his owner’s grandmother motion him toward her. He waited until her daughter-in-law and new grandson-in-law were out of the room then approached with a bow. “How may I serve, Lady Aubriana?”

“I wish to go outside,” she said simply with a glance toward the private door onto the back balcony.

“I will summon someone to take you…” Darrin began but she cut him off with frown and a firm, “No, you will do,” as she held out her hand for him to offer his arm to. Darrin escorted the elderly noble to the balcony with only one sharp shake of his head toward one of the maids who came back in to help clear the table.

They walked in silence for several minutes until they were at the far end of the balcony overlooking the fish pools that were reflecting the light of the moon overhead. “I like him, he’s a firecracker!” the old lady declared as they stood looking at the multi-colored fish.

“Ma’am?” Darrin asked though he had an idea of whom she might be referring to.

“My new grandson,” Lady Aubriana said with a chuckle, “as I’m sure you know. You wouldn’t be Head of Staff if you were stupid, now would you?”

“I suppose not, ma’am,” Darrin replied with his own smile. He’d never interacted much with the oldest Family member but she’d always been kind to him whenever he had encountered her.

“He’s driving Mari up the wall with his approach but I think it’s a good idea,” the older lady stated with a smile at him. “Unless it is causing problems with the slaves?”

“Ah, no, ma’am, not problems other than initial surprise at his approach as you call it,” Darrin reassured her. He couldn’t be sure if she was asking for herself or Lady Marietta so it was best to be truthful but careful.

“I figured as much. The Lakemores are a newer Noble Family, one of the immigrant brought in back in 164 before I was even born,” she told him with a gentle tug on his arm indicating that she wanted to walk a bit more.

As they walked one of Stenwale’s assistants came around a hedge and pedaled backward so fast he nearly fell down. “I'm so sorry, Ma’am, Mr. Darrin, so sorry. Just doing my rounds,” he mumbled as he bobbed up and down a few times in a maniac bow that had Darrin glaring at him as he steadied the older Shaynis lady.

“Goodness, get more light up around here, boy!” Lady Aubriana ordered and Darrin nodded sending the other slave scurrying off toward Stenwale’s office at the edge of the lawn. “Now as I was saying before we were almost run over, I do like my new grandson but between him and Gavi, we may have some children here soon who are a bit too inquisitive, if you know what I mean.”

“I'm not sure, ma’am, would you expand upon that?” Darrin asked eager to keep her talking and walking in the hopes she wouldn’t insist on the assistant overseer being punished simply because she wanted a night’s walk.

Chapter Text

Darrin looked down at the letter from his mistress that was addressed to her husband and paused. Of course she was writing to him, why wouldn’t she? She spoke to Lord Ezekiel on the phone every other evening for about twenty minutes, an expense that was nothing between husband and wife among the nobility. Darrin sent her a full report each week via the computer but his daily reports when to Lord Ezekiel now during the just over five weeks she’d been in the Capital.

The paper of the letter was thick, security design, and heavy. What could she be sending her husband that required such measures? Why was he standing here instead of putting it with the other pieces of mail to deliver on his way to breakfast? With a chide and a shake of his head, Darrin slipped it between two other pieces of mail and delivered it to the office box for Lord Ezekiel to examine after breakfast.

“Did you hear?” one of the kitchen staff was whispering to another household slave when Darrin came to check on the lunch preparations.

Both stopped and resumed their work just as Nance tossed out, “You know I can hear everything in this kitchen!”

Darrin narrowed his eyes but when to Nance with a calm smile on his face. “Is lunch ready for the Family?” he asked earning a nod from her. He lowered his voice and leaned in to whisper, “Any gossip I should know about?”

“The scullery boy came in with the breakfast plates saying that he’d heard an whoop of joy from the main office,” she told him with a pointed look toward the lad who was cleaning something in the corner.

“Ready, Chef,” Shem broke in with a grin at Darrin. Around the slave, the boy was at ease and confidant. Darrin stepped out of the way knowing what was coming and stepping to the doors into the dining room where the family had been waiting for his return.

“Plating now!” Nance called out as Shem and another cook helped her serve the food onto the three plates the maids, now in mid-day serving uniforms, brought to the island then carried these in the direction that Darrin had disappeared moments before; Nance following right behind them.

The three nobles waited until their plates were in front of them and then for Lord Ezekiel to take the first bite of everything. Nodding he glanced up at Nance and simply said, “Very good, Chef. If the weather holds Lady Aubriana and I will have afternoon tea on the balcony.

Nance bowed then went back into the kitchen while Darrin stood to the said to observe the service and attend to anything the trio might need but as usually, they merely chatted, Lady Aburiana steering the conversation away from anything that might cause friction until Lady Marietta casually asked, “Will you tell them or wait for her to return?”

Darrin couldn’t help but notice Lord Ezekiel’s gaze turn to him but he remained still until summoned. “Darrin, there’s a good man,” the use of the term man for him almost made Darrin pause but he merely smiled and tilted his head to the side as he paused just a foot from the spouse’s chair. “I would like to call a staff meeting soon. How much time would that require?”

“If it is urgent, My Lord, I can summon the household in ten minutes, the entire estate in an hour or so.”

“No, no, not urgent really, just…” the nobleman paused and Lady Aubriana interrupted.

“Would everyone be presentable this evening after dinner?”

Darrin glanced at the older woman but knew it was improper to give her authority to make such decisions in the home so he merely said, “That would be plenty of time to alert the yard and field slaves, Ma’am.”

“That’s a good idea, Grandmother,” Lord Ezekiel said as he relaxed then he turned to his mother-in-law, “Would that fit in your schedule, Mother?”

“I do have a meeting in town so I’ll tea there but I should be home for dinner so, yes,” Lady Marietta said with a slight nod of her head.

“That settles it then. Darrin, summon all of the slaves on the estate to meet us outside the main balcony about half an hour after dinner. That will give the kitchen staff time to clean up themselves as well,” Lord Ezekiel declared.

It really wouldn’t be enough time for the kitchen slaves but Darrin just smiled and stepped back to his waiting position.
During the post lunch break, Nance and he were enjoying a tea themselves when she asked, “So what is this summons all about? We only had things like this at the Lakemore estate when the news was very, very good or very, very bad.”

“I do not know. Lord Ezekiel has not told me and Lady Marietta left for town right after lunch,” Darrin told her.

“And the grandlady herself?” Nance pushed.

“The grandlady herself merely gave me a wink when I escorted her on her current rounds of the gardens,” Darrin confessed.

“So probably something very, very good then. Oh! Maybe her Ladyship has been promoted? Or one of the brothers? Maybe we’ll have a party… more work for us but I would love to do more with this bumper crop of berries than jars about jars of jams, jellies, and liquors.”

Darrin chuckled and the chef gave him a light punch on the arm that he pretended hurt.

“What’s so funny, you dressed up stick in the mud?” Nance teased him.

“You so were not what I was expecting when I learned I was going to become a body slave. You’re so alive in this kitchen, it’s like your queen here.”

“I am!” Nance said as she lifted her head high. For a moment then sat still until they break until laughter. A couple of the servants scurrying about the kitchen glanced in their direction but neither paid much mind to that and the others went on with their work. “You know, these changes you’ve made have paid off in high productivity,” Nance said in all seriousness once they stopped laughing.

“Thank you,” Darrin said as he picked up his cup and took the final sips. “As long as it all gets done to the highest standard, I don’t see why we have to make life more difficult for anyone in this house,” Darrin declared as he stood up and gave her a small bow.

“Don’t forget that,” Nance said as she stood as well.

“Don’t let me forget,” Darrin told her before heading out on his next rounds.
***********
Darrin stood off to the side but still on the front line of the slaves that were gathered below in the gardens, squeezing in where the bushes, flowers, water features, and furniture would allow. Next to him was the small staff he immediately oversaw of butler and three footmen. Next to them were Alice and her amble staff of a dozen maids of various types. On the other side was the kitchen staff of five while the retired slaves were all off to their side, some seated because of age but most standing. In the back to watch over the entire yard and field slaves were Stenwale, his two assistants, and his wife only a month away from delivery but determined to be here.

Lord Ezekiel stepped forward and raised one hand; his other held a letter. Darrin had helped him test out the microphone as slaves were arriving. The Head of Staff hadn’t even thought to suggest the man just use his voice when he was asked about it. Lakemore estate was more tech friendly than the Shaynis but it didn’t seem unreasonable given that they had the thing, just needed to make sure it worked and one of the footmen turned out to be the resident household tech and helped as well. The entire group had been relatively quiet but now a hush took over the entire gardens.

After a glance back at the two Shaynis noblewomen, Lord Ezekiel spoke. “Lady Gavriella Shaynis sent me a formal notice today that I wanted to share with you all because it affect each and every one of us. My blessed Lady-Wife is expecting our first child in 34 weeks!”

The entire gardens erupted in to cheers and clapping yet Darrin just stood still for a moment until he realized what he was doing and joined in.

After a minute or so, Lord Ezekiel raised his hand again and soon the noise quieted down. “Sadly she must do her duty to the Kind and to our own people here in Shaynis by continuing to go to the Capital. However, she should be back in four weeks for a two-month break before returning. Whenever she is here, I want each and every one of you,” he looked around the gardens, meeting the gaze of several slaves who just glanced down, some blushing, before he continued, “to help me make sure she is as stress-free and as healthy as possible. I will meet with your head of departments tomorrow morning to create a plan to make this estate ready for our new little lady or lord. Thank you all for coming. You are dismissed.”

Darrin stood still as he watched the yard and field slaves linger a bit longer than necessary but then it was a long walk back for some of them. The retired staff welcomed Lord Ezekiel as he stepped down to greet them and the household staff went back inside leaving only Alice to slide to his side. “Formal announcement, huh? World save us from the formality of noble, eh?”

Darrin didn’t say anything, just gave her a tight smile and headed in to check on his staff and set up for the head of department meeting later that night. Inside he was feeling unusually agitated so he stopped by his bathroom to splash cold water on his face.

“I felt the same way when I heard that Lady Marietta was pregnant,” a familiar voice nearly made Darrin bump into the mirror over his sink.

“Gavin, damn!” Darrin growled as he turned around.

“You left your door unlocked,” the older steward pointed out but he came inside and sat down on the closed toilet.

They were silent before a moment before Darrin frowned and asked, “Was I that obvious? Do you think Lord Ezekiel or the ladies…”

“They were too busy being congratulated by the staff to notice,” Gavin assured him. “It’s natural to feel confused about it.”

“It should have been trained out of me,” Darrin bitterly declared as he leaned back against the wall and looked at his mentor. The older man was dressed casually, not at all like himself, his face and hands were a bit tanned, the lines on his face seemed clearer, and oddly his eyes were softer. “Doesn’t it easier with the next child?”

“Yes, but this isn’t the hardest part.”

“What’s the hardest part?”

Gavin stood up and placed a hand on Darrin’s shoulder. “When you see her, when you see them together now. And I suspect it will be worse for you.”

“Why?”

“When I heard her screams during delivery, I could feel a bit of joy in that,” Gavin confessed making Darrin pull back from him. “But you might find it hurts you to know the pains she’s in and that there is nothing you can do about it.”

“Why would you tell me this? I have to serve the man, I have to treat him as functional head of family while she’s away. I can’t be angry at him!”

“Keep your voice now,” Gavin hissed as he pushed Darrin back against the wall with his body. As old as he was, he was still strong and well built and Darrin felt his face flush until the older servant backed off. “You’ll just have to find a way to keep it under control, maybe find a playmate among the staff.”

“I don’t have time.”

“Well, make time… like I did,” Gavin added with a chuckle. “Yeah, hard to imagine old me fucking someone or getting fucked, huh, but it happens among the slaves. As long as it’s quick, it doesn’t interfere with work, just use it to fill that gap, to curb that yearning.”

“Who did you?”

“The butler and the footmen know what to do,” Gavin offered with a grin.

“I prefer…”

“Ask Nance and Alice for a recommendation then just not them… not the other heads of staff,” Gavin cautioned. The two looked at each other and then the older servant sighed and stated, “You aren’t angry with him; you’re jealous.”

“Jealous?” Darrin repeated but Gavin merely nodded and then left him to go back to the sink. After more water this time to drink, Darrin looked at his reflection. “What do I do with jealousy?”

**********
The next three weeks saw the household react with hidden amusement to Lord Ezekiel’s fusing about the approaching birth. While it was his first child, it was certainly not the first on the estate and even if Darrin hadn’t been around for the birth, all of the retired slaves were eager to help out with advice. Not to mention Miss Beth who was soon to deliver herself and might also benefit from changes in what was being planted in the fields.

In fact, Miss Beth was so much help, that Stenwale brought his freeborn wife to the next heads of staff meeting much to the shock of the others. Darrin glanced at Alice and Nance who pulled out a chair for the woman who was merely a couple of weeks from delivery and then looked pointedly at him. “Mr. Stenwale, may I speak with you a moment?” Darrin asked as a matter of course then turned to go back into his office knowing the other slave would follow him.

“I know you are going to ask why I’d ever consider bringing her,” Stenwale began as soon as the door shut. “Beth is a powerful woman, she may not have been born with much but she’s smart, she’s helped me increase productivity in the fields and gardens, and she really wants to do more than just crank out babies the contract lays down.”

Darrin put two fingers on the bridge of his nose, a gesture he’d picked up from Gavin but since he lacked glasses, it made him look tired rather than annoyed. “I understand she’s been quite motivational outside but this is something you should had discussed with me and then presented to all four of us before bringing her. Her mere presence as a freeborn woman will make us hesitate to speak our minds.”

Stenwale nodded but shrugged. “I told her that, all of that. She just reminds me that her children will be slaves, only her grandchildren will be free so folks best get used to her being in slave places.”

“Will you see if she will agree to come here and meet with you and I in private right now?”

Stenwale nodded and went back to the next room soon returning with his wife. Darrin stood up straight, not bowing to her or even inclining his head as he normally did, but his words were still respectful. “Miss Beth, I am grateful for all of the hard work you give to this estate but while your children may be slaves, you are not. We know this, it will cause us to react differently, limiting our ability to have the discussions we need to have here every evening. I hope you can understand.”

She had come in prepared to speak but he’d cut her off and now she just looked at Stenwale who nodded in agreement with Darrin but said nothing. After a moment, the woman nodded as well, reaching out to her husband to use his arm to steady herself. “I wanted to bring up the issue of wet nurse, to see if one has been purchased or if I might help out. None of the slaves are pregnant which is poor planning, really,” she said a bit softer.

“I’m sorry,” Darrin interrupted again. “A what nurse?”

Miss Beth looked from the Head of Staff to her husband and back. “A wet nurse. The person who will feed the baby after Lady Shaynis delivers it.”

Darrin frowned slightly as he said, “She’ll feed; that is one of the loving duties of a mother.”

Now the woman’s mouth fell open. “She’ll feed it? But I thought, well, I mean, we say in the village, among common people… she won’t use a slave to feed the baby?”

“Not until it is much older and has been weaned but I’m told that most noblewomen prefer to oversee the rearing of their children though I guess Lady Shaynis may turn that duty over to Lord Ezekiel given her government work,” Darrin added.
Stenwale was giving his wife an “I told you so” look but again he said nothing.

“Oh, well, then that’s different, too,” Miss Beth remarked.

Ah, suddenly Darrin understood what was going on. “Yes, ma’am, I’m sure you’ve found that not everything you may have heard about when you were growing up is completely true. I’ve learned many ideas that I had before I came to this estate were incorrect myself over the years.”

“Then I don’t feel so foolish… oh! Another kick,” she gasped and moved Stenwale’s hand to her stomach. After a moment the overseer grinned and put an arm around her hugging her close.

“If you would be so kind to escort your wife to the kitchen and have one of the staff there fix her anything she’d like, we could go on with our meeting,” Darrin suggested in a tone that implied it was command than request.

“I understand,” Miss Beth said, “though I do want to meet with you about some other ideas.”

“At the earliest convenience,” Darrin agreed as he saw them out to the conference room and through the doors toward the kitchen.

Returning to sit down, he merely said, “She has ideas,” to the two women who took their seats and exchanged a frustrated look. As long as it stayed outside the house, it wouldn’t interfere too much with their departments.

Convenience turned out to be right after the staff meeting before Stenwale escorted his wife back home. They three of them sat in Darrin’s office as Miss Beth spoke up and then handed over the paper she’d brought along with her. What she was suggesting was logical and could be financially beneficial but it was also unusual so Darrin sat back in his chair, tenting his fingers under his chin, and was silent for a moment before speaking.

“There are breeding farms, facilities focused on slave production. I don’t know of many estates that actively breed.”

“I imagine not and I’m not saying to force them, just offer it and see what happens. I’ve heard several female slaves mention how nice having a baby around would be, how they feel less than. Up until the contractions and a few days after, they should be able to work. Common women rarely got more than a day off before returning to the family business or work the small farm,” Miss Beth pointed out

“Is that so?” Darrin had never met his mother, didn’t know who his father was. Back on the breeding farm the babies were turned over to others, he guessed they’d be wet nurses though he’d never heard that term, and then reared by the staff and older slaves. The few girls he’d known before he was sold dreaded not being sold and being forced into the breeding barracks. It hadn’t occurred to him that any female slave would want to breed.

“The farms also check for lingerings and other health problems, we don’t have the facilities for that,” Darrin pointed out as he picked up her proposal again. She may not have been elite trained but it was clear she’d had some education and that she’d been thinking about this for some time.

“All of slaves here are genetically sound. The Shaynis Family would still need to buy externally from time to time but over the generations, you’d get a more invested group of workers.” Miss Beth blushed a bit when his eyes widened at her use of these technical sounding words. “I studied a bit with a breeder who lived a few hours walk from my parents’ place. I thought it might be a good career before this,” she said taking her husband’s hand and squeezing it.

“I believe this training may be one of the reasons that Lady Shaynis picked Beth,” Stenwale offered. “Our Lady is always forward thinking, the Family has been for many generations now. Look at the retirement community. You don’t see that on every estate, now do you?”

Darrin nodded slowly. This was true. The Shaynis Family embraced some progressive management ideas such as the transfer of staff positions and the joining of two noble families by including at least one of their slaves, had become routine among nobility. “Would you be willing to meet with Lady Shaynis if she is open to these ideas?”

“Oh, yes, of course, though,” Miss Beth put her hand on her stomach, “Maybe after the baby comes? That should be 10 days or so.”

“Of course, of course. That will give you time to recover and for her to settle down again before she has to leave for the capital,” Darrin agreed.

“Is there anything I can do, anything at all?” Miss Beth insisted.

“We have it all under control,” Darrin assured her. And they would as soon as Lady Gavriella returned home and calmed her husband down.
**********
That Ekekiel Lakemore Shaynis was not a spouse who wished to be merely a father and accessory became clear at the dinner the second night after Lady Gavriella’s return. “Does the King wish for you to give birth away from your estate? From me?” he demanded. He hadn’t even picked at his third course before the question burst forth.

From his position behind and off to one side of his Mistress’s chair, Darrin remained still even if his eyes shifted to look between the two nobles. Lady Gavriella set her silverware down before resting her hands on the table. Darrin couldn’t see her face but he could tell by her husband’s slight flinch back that she wasn’t pleased. “The King considers my health and our baby’s to be of utmost importance. However, my expertise in this matter and my ability to negotiate should the borderlords disagree about the King’s decision is also important to the health of the realm. I will be gone no more than two months and I am almost 30 weeks from the due date. Surely your mother didn’t simply lay about the house for the full 40 weeks. My mother was quite engaged in running the household and at times the estate up until her due date for all three of our births.”

Lord Ezekiel sighed and put a hand to his forehead. “My mother did the same but you’re traveling back and forth to the capital and now this further trip. It might not take you more than two months from start to finish but half of that will be traveling. Even the most luxurious carriage will have problems. And it is our first, your first,” he emphasized. “I do believe those are the most difficult.”

Darrin glanced now at the fears this conversation was stirring up in him. He’d been so concerned with being particularly attentive to Lord Ezekiel and preparing for his owner’s return that he hadn’t considered health issues. Her husband though had time to read about or talk about such matters with his mother and Lady Gavriella’s mother while she was in the capital.

“I’m going to be fine. In fact, the King is sending his wife’s own physicians with me on this mission to take care of me. The Queen sent me a letter assuring me of her skill.”

“Her skill?”

“Her Majesty’s physician is female.”

“Well I’ll be damned,” Lord Ezekiel replied. “You’d think I’d be more open minded given that my Lady is one of the best on the King’s Council as well as a woman but it still surprises me the changes in our society.”

“You knew you’d married to a higher status wife. What did you imagine she’d do?” Lady Gavriella pointed out as she took up her silverware again.

Lord Ezekiel now also began to eat as he considered the question for a second. “I thought she’d be running a family business or a large farm; a minor noble at best, more likely a wealthy commoner.”

“Then why even accept my mother’s invitations? I must seem quite outlandish compared to those prospects,” Lady Gavriella teased.

“Amazing is a far more appropriate word, my dear,” her husband replied.

At that moment Darrin had to look down again or risk scowling at the other man. It was utterly inappropriate but with each new course and each round of loving teasing, his anger grew.

Alice found Darrin walking around angrily through the gardens later that evening after the owners had all retired for the night. “What are you doing out here? We’ve been waiting outside your office for a good time now!”

Darrin whirled around and glared at her for a moment until she put her hands on her hips and squared her shoulders as though preparing for a fight. Her reaction made him grimace and he bit his cheek to chastise himself. “I’ve let my thoughts get the better of me. Mr. Gavin warned me about this but I thought I could manage. I will apologize to you all but for now, I am sorry, Alice, for my lack of professionalism.” Darrin gave her a small bow that had her chuckling and returning it with one of her own.

“You do know that beyond the nightly check-in, we’re all here to help you run things smoothly,” Alice told him as she fell into step with him.

“Do all do a wonderful job in your departments,” Darrin replied as they headed back into the house. He frowned as she grabbed his arm and pulled him to a stop. “I have made us late already.”

“And I’ll bring your snit out here up at the meeting unless you let me finish.” Darrin nodded and she took a deep breath before continuing, “As I was about to add, we should also all be each other’s support systems for all things not just the technical matters related to the house or estate.”

Darrin blinked but didn’t interrupt her. “Stenwale has his wife but the rest of us are basically alone. If we can’t talk to each other, we’ll become like rooms shut up and unused for too long. When they finally are opened, just the nastiest surprises can be found inside.”

“I’m not a unused guest room,” Darrin pointed out.

“No, you aren’t, I’m not, none of are. The nasty surprises we might hold could hurt the house, the estate, the family, or worst, ourselves. That’s why I have the maids clear every room on a rotation, that’s why I hold weekly meetings with my staff beyond the daily assignments.”

“You do?” Darrin was shocked. He should know everything that was going on under this roof yet he didn’t know that Alice was having extra meetings. “When did you start that?”

“I’ve always done it. Theresa taught me to do that. Didn’t Gavin instruct you to meet with the footmen weekly?”

“Of course though honestly it seems like a waste of time,” Darrin stated. Then he paused, now that he thought about it, the men directly under him in the household hierarchy always seemed a bit surprised or perhaps disappointed by their short business meetings. If he put that together with the suggestion from Mr. Gavin that he enlist their sexual skills it suggested something that made him a bit uncomfortable. “Do you have sex with your maids during these meetings, Alice?”

“What?” she replied in a too loud voice that she quickly dampened down by stepping closer to him and putting a hand over her mouth. She paused for a moment then shook her head. “No, no, we discuss such desires however along with any other feelings that may have been stirred up during the week. You really none of that with Gavin?”

“Mr. Gavin, met privately with each of his staff after the weekly meeting but I haven’t seen the need to do so.” Yes, he had discussed feelings with his mentor as he had with the trainers but these had always been focused on serving the family. “The footmen all seem to be doing well, I assume they would come to me if there was a problem.”

Alice let his arm go and shook her head. “Let me guess, the rules Gavin gave you don’t specifically describe what you should be discussing and he didn’t instruct you further.”

“I have my twelve Chief of Servants rules that I follow to the letter,” Darrin stated.

“Those damned rules of yours,” Alice said before she started walking back toward the house.

“Our life is about rules, I won’t have rule breakers on this estate,” Darrin informed her firmly as he caught up with her.

“No one is breaking any rules but you clearly haven’t been informed of them all,” Alice simply stated.

Darrin followed her back to find Stenwale and Nance waiting in the hallway outside his office. He had just shut the door behind them when Alice said, “Darrin needs all of the rules for how this place runs. Not the formal ones that the family know about, the other ones,” she added before Darrin could regain control of the situation.

“Alice, that is not appropriate,” Darrin began when Nance interrupted him.

“Oh, those are tricky. Your rules here, some slight difference between the Lakemore estate and here that I had to learn about. Caused a few dishes that had to be started over… I hate wasting food.”

“Wasting food?” Darrin asked but then Stenwale began talking.

“I know that your staff in here is all proper but I couldn’t keep the lad and lasses out there under control if we didn’t have our rules to operate by.”

“Exactly yet Gavin didn't bother to tell him everything he needed to know…”

“You will not speak poorly of Mr. Gavin,” Darrin interrupted Alice. He emphasized the formal title for the former chief of servants. Everyone in the room was giving him their full attention now so he straightened his vest and jacket. He motioned to the chairs and waited until they had each sat down before hesitating by his own chair. After a moment he pulled it around to the other side of the desk so he could sit closer to them.

“Mr. Gavin did tell me that sexual contact was allowed between servants but not specifics. Alice informed me that there are also some discussions of feelings at some of your department meetings as well… something Mr. Gavin did not explicitly tell me to do. I would like to learn a bit more about these informal meetings and rules,” he paused, it didn’t seem right to use that particular word but they had already done so and there had been enough confusions for one night so he bowed to their usage.

All three of the other head servants looked at each other then Stenwale leaned forward to ask, “Will you be wanting those in writing, too, or just a verbal tally of them?”

“It seems like you are resistant to the idea of a written list given a comment Alice made about the family not knowing about them so a verbal recounting should suffice.”

“It will take quite a while,” Nance stated. “I think I may still be learning all of them myself.”

“Plus you do need to make adjustments,” Alice added.

“Ain’t it the truth?” Stenwale agreed. “Always something new coming up you have to deal with.”

Darrin was looking to each of them as they continued to joke a bit until they all noticed him and fell quiet. “I am understanding you correctly in that you do not have steadfast rules that you run your departments with?”

“No, no, sir,” Stenwale replied with the two women shook their heads. “We have specific rules but we’re all just people after all. Things happen, you have to make adjustments, take into account so many things, or you’d have rebellions on your hands.”
Darrin thought for a second. He did make adjustments such as one a footman might fall ill or there was a problem with a uniform wearing out, things of that nature. He just didn't think of them as rules. Mr. Stenwale had been here the longest so Darrin turned to him first. “I hadn’t thought of it that way before but I see now that you are correct, Stenwale. Would you please share some of these... informal rules that you work with?”

“You sure you don't want to start with Alice? Her department is more like yours than my yard and field slaves.”

“I’m sure there is a good deal of overlap in issues we have to confront,” Alice pointed out. “For example, determining the validity of illness.”

“Oh, that’s a big one out there,” Stenwale agreed. “Now I do remember being on my knees or bending over for hours and how bone tired that makes you but there is a difference between that and being sick.”

Darrin sat back and nodded for his colleague to continue. After several minutes his fingers were itching to write these things down but he just noted the similarities and differences between each department. The slaves outside were more inclined to fake illnesses to get out of work but also more likely to push to accomplish a daily task quicker. Once the tasks in the gardens or the fields were dealt with, an outdoor slave had time he or she could use to tend to their small plots of land or even socialize while they did tasks such as caring for their barracks, clothing, or tools. Household slaves could socialize while they worked since their work didn’t require such intense physical labor and even though it was more cooperative. Each field slave had number of row or trees or weight to achieve each day but household tasks were room or meal focused.

Darrin had always assumed that slaves would be too terrified of lying to pretend to be ill or to go slow but all three of the other department heads agreed that it happened. “You’re just a particularly trustworthy boy,” Stenwale offered at one point. “That’s probably why you’ve gotten all that training and promotions over the years.”

Darrin nodded but inside he was starting to wonder just how much his small direct staff might be getting away with. He made a mental list to check further into their tasks and to change their weekly meetings to address more personal issues.

After a good two hours and Nance’s stifled yawn, Darrin called for an end to the meeting. The girls left but Stenwale lingered for a moment. “Is there something else? How is Miss Beth doing?” Darrin inquired.

“Oh, no, no, nothing for her or me, just… well, we didn’t quite get to everything tonight and I thought some topics might be more appropriate to discuss between us men.”

Darrin swallowed, his face felt warm, and Stenwale just coughed politely. “I think given that these other issues might require a sharing between departments, it might be best to discuss them next time.”

“Right, yes, true, very true, though I can give you a few names of girls who would be an assets to you in various ways if you were to take a walk,” Stenwale said.

Darrin frowned then forced out a chuckle. “I shall keep that in mind. Good night, Stenwale. Please give my best to Miss Beth.”
“Will do, sir,” Stenwale said before he left.

Darrin sat back down in his chair. He really needed to finish his tasks before he could collapse but right now the mere suggestion that he’d take sexual pleasure from another slave was giving him a headache.

Chapter Text

“Ezekiel says that you were respectful and attentive to him while I was gone,” Lady Gavriella said at the end of the week when Darrin met with her to deliver a weekly report. She rarely had questions about the daily reports though her husband certainly wanted to talk about them. She was sitting behind her desk in her office that looked much like it had when her father was alive, the changes were minor here and everywhere else on the estate.

Darrin simply bowed his head at the compliment but said nothing. He was avoiding looking at her whenever he could. She wasn't showing much yet but just knowing she was pregnant was challenging and if he could lessen his stress but not looking at her it seemed like a reasonable precaution to make.

“Ezekiel also says that you’ve been very polite to his mother when she visited. He tells me that the new chef, what is her name again?”

“Nance, Mistress,” Darrin replied.

“Yes, Nance. He says that she is loving her new position. I find nothing to complain about in terms of food or service. Do you think the servants are adjusting to her well enough?”

Darrin blinked then nodded his head. “I have heard of no problems in the kitchen other than those you might expect with a new chef.”

“I recall from your reports that she has promoted Shem in the kitchen as well. I assume that means he is doing well.”
Normally Darrin would have smiled at this concern for a slave but now he just nodded his head.

There was silence for a few moments then his owner said, “My husband does have one concern. He believes that you do not like him.”

Darrin stopped the automatic nod in response and frozen. He clenched his fist behind his back where both hands were held in position. “Mistress? Would you please explain? I thought Lord Ezekiel thought my work was respectful and attentive to both him and Lady Lakemore. If I have done anything to offend him, I shall amend my behavior immediately.”

“Yes,” she said after another moment of silence. “I do see what he means.”

Darrin stiffened at the comment. He ran a survey of his position through his mine; all seemed in order. He recalled the report he’d handed to her and every one since the day she’d been married; they all seemed in order, too. Next he cataloged his clothing and personal hygiene but couldn’t find an area that needed attention.

“You do everything that you need to do perfectly but not one thing more,” Lady Gavriella continued. “You do not make suggestions for improvements, you do not ask for specific clarifications, you do make inquiries into anything unless it is routine. Please look at me, Darrin.”

He looked up then to find that she had stood up and come to the side of her desk. She was leaning against it and it thrusts out her belly just enough to cause the fabric in her everyday gown to show a very small bump. Darrin looked down and away then, swallowing.

“Oh,” his owner sighed. “I think I understand now. Mother and mother Lakemore did mention this might happened, I thought we were closer than that.”

Darrin looked back at her, ignoring her body to focus on her face. She had tears at the corner of her eyes and they made him want to fall to his knees. Only his formal position kept him standing. “Mistress,” he simply pleaded.

She stood up straight and he couldn’t move as she took the few steps to join him. He leaned into her touch as she placed a hand on his cheek. “I’ve been so busy, both here and in the capital. I haven’t had time to call you to my room or do more than these meetings. I haven’t replaced you, Darrin, I haven’t. I just… right now, I need you to be my main hand here on the estate.”

“I do my best to fulfill Mr. Gavin’s role, Mistress.”

“I know but I don’t want Gavin running my household. I want Darrin running it. Am I making any sense?”

Darrin slipped a hand over the one on his cheek and caressed it, closing his eyes for a moment. “I believe that you are saying that while I may be the Chief of Servants that I am still your body slave, yes?”

“Yes, yes, even if my body is changing right now.”

“Your body is beautify, Mistress. It glows so that I can barely look at it,” he lied but with a chuckle. Her eyes showed that she knew he was partly lying but right now she also wanted to believe. A body slave could lie to their owner to protect her; a chief of servants could lie to save her household’s honor. These weren’t formal rules so much as an understanding, much like the ones he’d been learning about around the estate since the discussion with the three department heads.

“Well, it can glow now. Later it will be come more challenging I’m told,” Lady Gavriella chuckled. “Are you… lonely? Is that why you’ve been distant? Or is it Ezekiel? Has he done something? Or one of the others? You need to tell me or resentments will build up.”

“Mistress, Lord Ezekiel is merely a worried young husband and future father. We are all adjusting to our new roles and I confess I have been too concerned with my own behavior and that of my staff to be as friendly toward your husband as you might like me to be.”

Lady Gavriella lowered her hand but captured his with hers so she was holding it as she tilted her head to one side and considered him for a moment. “As I would like you to be? All right. Then please just make a few more inquiries into how his day is going, his health, even my own. Ask a few specific questions simply to please me when you and he talk.”

“As you wish, Mistress,” Darrin agreed. He lifted her hand and when she did not stop him he brought it to his lips and kissed the back. He leaned his forehead against her hand for a second then let their hands fall naturally between them.

In a moment she had pushed him so he was against her desk while her hands worked on the buttons of his vest and shirt. Darrin took off his jacket and tossed it to the floor before bracing his hands on the desk as she exposed his chest. He groaned as his owner lowered her head to flick her tongue over his skin, pulling small sections of it into her mouth to nibble on before kissing and moving on to the next section. She pulled his nipple taunt and twilled her tongue around them as Darrin’s fingers gripped the desk edge hard. “Mistress, allow me to please you.”

“You are,” Lady Gavriella growled softly as she pulled his shirt free and pushed it and his vest back on his shoulders. Darrin started to work the clothes off his arms but she only grabbed one of his hands and placed it back on the edge of the desk. “Just react, don’t help unless I command you to.”

Darrin nodded as she next unbuckled his belt and opened his trousers to find him bare beneath as she had required when he principally served as her body slave. “Good boy,” she cooed before she pulled his erect cock from the fabric. A few strokes and he was fully ready for the order to lower his pants to the floor. As he did so she stepped back and hiked up her gown, removing her undergarments and touching herself. “I’m ready,” she laughed before coming back to him.

“Help me mount,” she commanded so Darrin used both hands to assist her in climbing atop of him. He braced himself with one hand, leaving back onto the desk, brushing aside the items on it as he did so. “One second,” Lady Gavriella paused. She lowered herself and then slowly took him inside. She was wet and hot as though he’d been pleasuring her with his mouth for many minutes.

“Ah, yes,” she hissed as she slipped to full seat him. This brought their faces very close and she captured his mouth with her own as she started to move her hips, rising just a small amount to slip up and down his shaft as they kissed.

Darrin felt his supportive arm start to shake so he went down to an elbow, using his free hand to help guide his owner to adjust to the new angle. In a few more strokes he was making pained sound when the edge of the desk scraped against his ass. “Mistress, if it pleases you, may we move further onto the desk?” he ventured to ask.

Gavriella sighed but nodded, she rose up and let him fall out of her so she could lift one leg and let him scoot up onto the desk more. Thank goodness for the monstrosity that was this desk, as long as his elbow would support him, he’d do fine. As soon as his ass and thighs were flat she mounted him again.

Darrin found the dress both annoying and arousing from this angle. He couldn’t see much of her at all but the blushing flesh peeking out, her breasts pushing against her bodice, the heat under her skirt, all of it was making it hard for him to contain his own pleasure. He started reciting the rules he’d learned over the years at the Shaynis estate until she was grinding down hard and ordering him to come with her.

Their screams were contained as she kissed him at the climax, their grasps for breath mingling until they felt dizzy. Lady Gavriella let him slip from her before she dismounted but lay by his side, curled against him. She played with his chest and his neck then ran her fingers over his lips as he just lay still watching her, feeling everything more intensely. “That’s a first time for this office, at least with me,” she chuckled.

“Thank you, Mistress,” Darrin whispered. He kissed the tips of her fingers before she removed them. He sat up when she did, helped her off of the desk, watched her out of the corner of his eyes as she retrieved her undergarments and got redressed. He smiled when she turned to find him just leaning against the desk as she’d left him when she first spun him around except his clothing was still hanging off and open.

“Get dressed. What would the others house slaves think if you weren’t properly attired.”

Darrin just smiled as he readjusted his uniform and tried to slick his hair down. “Will you need anything else this evening, Mistress?” he asked once he was on his side of the desk and she was seated on her side.

“Have chef send two calming teas and a snack to my suite in about two hours. You have the rest of the evening free, Darrin,” Lady Gavriella replied without looking up from replacing everything on her desk. Then she looked at him and gave him a nod that he returned with a deep bow before leaving her office.

**********
The memory of pleasuring his owner fueled Darrin for the rest of the day. Since it was the end of the week and a few weeks since certain subjects had been raised in the department heads meeting, he knew it was time to address matters with the three men working directly under him. Since taking charge none of the three other men had ever confronted Darrin but simply did their jobs though given what he’d learned about the informal rules it explained their looks of confusion and lingering in his office for the first few weeks.

Menno had been in service to the Shaynis estate since before Darrin arrived. He suspected that the older man was disappointed to be overlooked by Gavin because the other slave grew considerable colder toward him one he was apprenticing for his new role. The coolness hadn’t disappeared once Darrin took over but Menno had also quickly left once dismissed from any meeting. The chances were high that Menno had an outlet for any sexual urges though it might be good to know a few details in case there was ever a conflict that Darrin would be called to mediate.

Torst has just been promoted to footman when Darrin arrived. The gossip that Darrin never participated in but couldn’t help overhearing said that the other had started where Darrin had but for some reason he just never caught the attention of any of the Shaynis family as Darrin had. Torst was good at following directions and procedures but not good at think creativity if anything unusual happened. Even if Darrin had not been kept on after the marriage, he doubted that Torst would have chosen for the next Chief of Servants. That title would have likely fallen to Alice for it was very common for the Head of Housekeeper to also function as Chief of Servants with the man in Darrin place as senior butler.

The other footman, Arsen, arrived not more than a month before Darrin was brought into the house. Both of them had circulated through all three house departments and Arsen had even spent a good deal of time in the gardens. While he didn’t have serious lingerings, his body over reacted to some outdoor stimulus particularly in the spring and fall. In other households, such a slave might have been put down, retrained as a body slave (Arsen was not attractive enough), or resold likely to a brothel. Shaynis family had merely reassigned him to footman and confined him to the innermost parts of the house and for fetching and delivery services to the family’s private quarters.

Darrin put away his notes about the three slaves beneath him as their soft knock signaling they were all outside met his ears. “Come in!”

Since taking over Darrin had changed a few things, the most major was that the chair he used with the department heads were set up for each of the service staff to take advantaged. Darrin, however, did not join them as he would the heads of departments but stayed seated behind his desk. Darrin made notes while each dully laid out their weeks. Lord Ezekiel seemed to be a fair master; all three men had a token of service from him to add to their tally. Menno had one as well from Alice since he’s spent time upstairs with the maids one afternoon when he wasn’t needed in the public spaces of the house.

These tokens had always confused Darrin. Gavin had said that they represented special services provided by the staff. As a body slave Darrin had never received one nor had he gotten one when he worked under Theresa in housekeeping. Yet when he’d taken to keeping the records under Gavin’s eyes he’s seen his name listed along with three tokens. “Most tokens are merely reported by the heads of departments, not physical marks given to the staff. Though you can do that,” Gavin had informed him. These tokens were kept in the upper left hand drawer of the desk and part of Darrin’s weekly duties with the heads of departments was to mark down the tally from each for the slaves under them. Since the wedding both Alice and Nance had a few each week to report but Stenwale rarely had any. The tokens could be used to earn time-off, an upgrade in clothing, even exchanged for goods when a traveling vendor made the rounds out the country estates a few times a year. There were one of the informal rules of the estate that helped things run smoothly by giving slaves a reason to go above behind their daily chores.

The tokens were the first topic Darrin wanted to address with his staff when they finished their reports. “Do stay seated,” he instructed as they made movements to rise. Darrin leaned forward and played with one of the tokens, every man’s eyes were on it as he did so. “I want to make something clear that I haven’t before. I accept full responsibility for not being as explicit on these matters. I understand that you each of particular personal, um, ways of coping with the stresses of service that I have not, um, allowed a space in our weekly discussions for. Looking over the record of tokens, I see that the number you’ve earned has decreased since I took Mr. Gavin’s place. We all want this house to run smoothly and if anything is interfering with your ability to give better service, I want you to know that I’m here to, um, discuss this matters with.”

The other three men exchanged looks before the two younger prodded the oldest to speak with nods. Menno took a breath and then stood up, forcing Darrin to look up at him. “If I may be so bold, sir, we have earned tokens at the same rate from family, guests, and staff with the exception of you. You have not yet required any special services from any of us as far as I know. Mr. Gavin, had daily services we attended to.”

“Usually on rotation,” Torst added but he stayed seated.

Darrin sat back for a moment and thought then he felt his face heat up as everything started to connect in his mind. “Oh, my god, special services are sexual services,” he whispered as he buried his face in his hands.

Through his fingers Darrin saw the three men exchanged confused looks. Suddenly Arsen chuckled until Menno barked at him to be quiet. “Well, it is funny, right? I mean, Mr. Darrin was a sex slave after all, yet he’s gone all blushing on the issue.”

“Body slave,” Darrin corrected with a bit of a growl. Sex slaves worked in brothels or were kept in locked rooms; they didn’t function as escorts, companions, and secretaries as body slaves did.

“Sorry, sir, body slave,” Arsen repeated with a dip of his head.

“Were you truly unaware that every slave is available sexual to family, guests, and staff?” Menno demanded with an amused tone.

“I know that it happens,” Darrin replied. He was feeling more foolish by the moment. How many years of his life had he been owned by the Shaynis family? How could he have not seen it or experienced… oh, the three tokens in his own column of the ledger now made sense. “I was just never really required to serve in that capacity before I was trained for Lady Shaynis.”

“That would be because the previous Lord Shaynis saw your potential and made you off limits, sir,” Menno explained.

Actually that had been Master Chirstoff but Darrin wasn’t about to correct the assumption that the previous head of family had exclusively tried him and determined his best way to serve. “So each of these,” Darrin began to ask as he picked up the token again, “represent sexual activity between you and a family member or guest?”

“Not always but most commonly, yes,” Menno replied.

“Not always?” Darrin pushed.

“Sometimes a staff member will want a bit of fun and if you aren’t of equal status, the senior member is supposed to give a token in exchange for service,” Torst spoke up. Menno sat down now and looked content to have the junior servers explain the system.

“Or you might be asked to escort them around the gardens or watch a child or even just listen to them talk for a few hours. Lord Ezekiel’s mother sure loves to talk, I got two of my token last week from her just for staying with her while she had tea in her room alone,” Arsen explained.

Darrin looked at the ledger and frowned. “You had three token last week. What was the third for? I mean, who, is this something Mr. Gavin expected you to tell him?”

Menno was sneering at him now, Darrin was sure of it, but he ignored it for the moment and looked pointedly at Arsen. “I have a few names next to some of the tokens but not for that one. So who did you service last week in the more common fashion?”

“Sir, please, if he didn't tell you, then perhaps he doesn't want you to know,” Arsen pleaded.

“Or he just assumed you’d say when you handed over the token,” Torst added.

“Not helping,” Arsen hissed.

“So it was a he. Since it has to be a senior staff member or family or guest, and we had no male guests last week that leaves me, Menno, or Stenwale. I’d be shocked if it as Stenwale given your problems with the outdoors and I know I didn’t require such attention last week or any week.” Darrin looked at Menno who snorted.

“It wasn’t me, I don't dally with the service staff unless you or Gavin would require it. I prefer to seek pleasure with my peers in other departments,” Menno said with an annoyed sigh.

Darrin thought again and then he got angry. “He used you?” he asked as he stood up suddenly.

“Lord Ezekiel was a gentle with me, sir. Didn’t take much time at all, it was between tasks, and he was missing his wife,” Arsen started to say.

“His wife is Lady Gavriella Shaynis, one of the King’s most useful council members. She was in the capital doing her duty while he, he…” Darrin threw up a hand in disgust. He a few moments he realized what he’s said as the other three slaves stared at him. Darrin pulled down his vest and tried to collect his thoughts. “He has a body slave for such needs.”

“I don’t think so, sir,” Menno chuckled until Darrin rounded the desk to glare at him. “Not that I know of, sir.”

“Nance. Nance is his body slave. She came into the house with him,” Darrin explained as though he were talking to children.
“Chef Nance?” Menno emphasized her household title when he replied.

“The master is fucking the chef?” Torst sounded horrified at the idea while Arsen just shook his head and tried not to laugh.

“What’s so amusing about that idea? She is a well trained body slave,” Darrin stated.

“Who is the Chef now,” Menno replied. The older slave shook his head. “I have tried to be understanding about why the old man picked you, but right now, your naivety is making it very difficult.”

Darrin had never felt so much anger, it was bubbling under his skin and he had to take as step back and lean against his desk or risk punching the other slave’s arrogant face. “Then explain it in small words so that even I can understand it, Menno.”

“Household and service staff exchange sexual flavors. Family and guests will require sexual services form household and service staff. No one requires it from the kitchens. First, because no chef in his, excuse me, her right mind wants the rest of us in her domain. Second, they are busy nearly non-stop in there and rarely get out into other parts of the house. Finally, they are all so very… well, not dirty exactly, but who wants to touch someone covered in flour or grease or who knows what? So kitchen staff stick with themselves unless someone as a weird fetish or something,” Menno finished.

Darrin digested the information then frowned. Why hadn’t Nance said anything to him? She seemed so happy. How was that possible? Had their entire hotel stay and conversations been an act? Was Lord Ezekiel not a caring lover, not a good lover? Darrin pushed those thoughts aside and focused on the matter at hand. “Has he used any of the rest of you?”

Torst raised his head but Menno shook his head. “I think he also has been with a few of the housekeeping and yard or field slaves, sir,” Arsen offered.

So the man wasn’t just getting to know the estate but the slaves as well. The idea really annoyed Darrin but he pushed it down again. “If you hear or experience any problems such as unnecessary roughness from Lord Ezekiel, I need you three to promise that you will tell me.”

“And what exactly would that accomplish?” Menno demanded.

“If the new master has particular needs then I can make suggestions for better body slaves. There is no reason that any of you need to deal with noble desires of that caliber. That’s why we’re here,” Darrin said then blushed as he reconsidered the words. “That’s why body slaves are here,” he amended but Menno was looking at him in calculating ways.

“I need to consider the operations of the entire estate and that means knowing that slaves are being treated in a fair fashion. Misuse can cause rebellions. Lady Shaynis had no time for that,” Darrin declared. “I need to know that I can trust each of you to report back to me about any problems, even if one of you is the problem. I trust that each of you behaves with some kindness with other slaves.”

All three men nodded and then agreed. Darrin watched Menno closely as he and Arsen left but Torst stayed behind. “Is there something I can help you with?” Darrin asked in a level voice once the door closed on the two of them.

Torst stepped forward and then sank to his knees in front of Darrin. “Sir, Mr. Gavin used me most often because he said I was a good boy, flexible is the word he used. Is there something I can help you with?”

Darrin wanted to sink into the floor. He’d been with men, serviced them, but never by choice. He seemed most aroused by the female sex though with Torst at groin level and looking up at him with sincere brown eyes, he felt his own cock twitch.

“Mr. Gavin taught me that a mouth is a mouth, an ass an ass, a hand a hand, if you need to pretend I’m someone else, I don’t mind. I do it myself. Enjoy it when you’re able, right?” Torst was grinning.

He might not be wise in terms of managing a household but he seemed to be where Darrin had only gotten after weeks of training in the city. He knew he was on his knees in life no matter what he did and he was determined to not let it ruin his life. Plus it might be a way to make it clear to Menno that he might not be safely ensconced as butler if Darrin took services from the footmen. With that thought Darrin made short work of his trousers and enjoyed the next benefits of his role as Chief of Servants. After the other slave left, Darrin entered a token in his column.

**********
Darrin took a few days to consider the token system as well as observe the staff and family interactions. Thus three nights later he brought up this matter for the heads of departments. “Before we conclude, we need to talk about tokens and special services.”

The other three slaves were not shocked by the topic and just nodded and waited for him to continue so he tried to balance decorum with directness. “I’ve been looking back at the ledger of tokens and I’ve noticed a few trends. For example, I notice that Alice’s staff who earn the most token also tend to take longer to do their tasks and that yardslaves who work closer to the house in the gardens, stables, or the carriage house, earn tokens while very few of the fieldhands do. I’m concerned about, um, making the best staff available to the family and it’s guests. I need to know why you think certain slaves are being chosen while others are not.”

Nance had been frowning and now she laughed a bit until Darrin continued his serious gaze. “Well, not many come to the kitchens for sexual service which you are getting at, yes?” At his nod, the chef continued, “We get requests for special meals or dishes and whichever boys or girls do that work, I mark for a token. We’re fairly busy so such a request can cause challenges. You’re not taking the tokens from the kitchen are you?”

“No, no, in fact I’m hoping that the tokens are not only used for sexual services in our departments but if they are, I need to know. Stenwale, why are these token given out for your staff?”

“To be blunt, I used to give them out for some sexual service but not since Beth came into my life. That would disrespectful not to mention unnecessary. I never only gave them for a fuck and suck, oh, pardon me,” the overseer quickly amended when Alice snorted and Nance chuckled. “Sorry, Mr. Darrin, we aren’t known for our, ah, skills outside in those ways.”

“That’s another issue I want to address but please do continue, Stenwale,” Darrin directed.

“Oh, oh,” Stenwale paused and thought silently for a second. “You said you note that those who work closer to the house get more tokens. That’s just a reflection of them being closer to the family and guests. I pick gardeners, drivers, mechanics, and stablehands based on personality and skills. Their tasks are probably not so strictly timed as here in the house but when a guest or a family member requires a bit something more, it does interfere with finishing the work. I’ve had a few slaves complain about it but the tokens they help because they know eventually they’ll get enough to get some time off or something else. Do you want more specific information… like what they’re asked to do?”

Darrin felt his face heat up so he cleared his throat to buy a moment to keep focused on the topics he needed to address. “Probably later but for now let me ask you something else. You say you chose the work based on skills and personality but do you ever consider attractiveness, physical looks?”

Stenwale scratched at his chin for a second then he shook his head. “No, not really. Not even when I was giving out tokens for those reasons myself. I was most interested in who was around when the urges hit.”

“Yet, as I looked through the ledger it seems that proximity is not all that family and guests are interested in. It might be wise to consider their desires when picking staff,” Darrin pointed out.

This had Stenwale shaking his head and gruffly stating, “I might lose some of my best field hands if I went with the best bodies and that could affect production. Not to mention that muscles don't translate into mental skills with animals or plants.”

“If you don’t mind,” Alice said with a look to Darrin before she continued. “I think what Darrin is asking about isn’t muscle so much as facial and general body shape. There may be nobles and upper class commoners who like a strong buck, but most of them are either into quick pleasure or something pretty to look at. I can see which of my girls and boys are routinely chosen. The most submissive with a mousy face, she’s not taken often nor is the stunning lad with a an attitude I can’t seem to beat out of him.”

“Most staff assignment take place when we are young. Perhaps we need to reassess positions, move slaves around, find a better fit,” Darrin suggested which moved him on to the next item on his list.

“You can’t just move someone from dusting into pastries. That takes not just talent but time to develop,” Nance replied.

“Normally I don't have discipline problems that being assigned to scrub every damned dish yourself can’t fix. I’d rather keep the staff in the kitchen as it is.”

“I don’t want to move staff around merely to move them but to improve service and our lives,” Darrin emphasized.

“There are a few older gardeners I could move to barracks care and a few more attractive and adaptable fieldhands that would like the chance to serve closer to the house,” Stenwale stated. “There are limited jobs.”

“Why is that?” Darrin asked which made the other three give him odd looks. “I’ve been going over the household records for decades. We have never had a deficient of supplies for family, guests, or slaves, always a surplus and we end up either overstocking storerooms or simply wasting food particularly. I do not believe that we are crowded either inside or outside in terms of sleeping arrangements. I think we could expand our staff, not just as Miss Beth suggested with a native birthrate, but also through purchase.”

“What would we do with all those extra people? I mean, yes, it can get very busy but that isn’t year round,” Alice pointed out.

“Let’s go back to the token for sexual service and something Stenwale said: specific requests for activities. None of the staff save for us three,” Darrin pointed out with a nod toward Nance and Alice, “have ever been trained to be sexual pleasing. Yet they are being required to serve in that capacity. Some may enjoy it but others may not. If we were to create a tier of slaves who were more visible to the family and guests who were trained sexually and to do the required jobs, it would lessen the burdens of for all of the slaves for all types of service they may be called to do.”

“That’s a fair amount of change to the way things work here, Darrin,” Alice stated.

“It is but given what I’ve been observing and uncovering in the records, I think it could benefit the Shaynis family and everyone on this estate. And I’m willing to approach Lord Ezekiel and Lady Shaynis about this idea if you three are agreeable to it. I cannot do it without your experience,” Darrin added.

Each of the heads of departments thought for a moment then Stenwale spoke up. “Beth says that if we want to have a native birthrate then slaves will need time to create bonds and rise children unless we want to follow the breeder models. Lady Shaynis didn’t seem keen on that, Beth told me, but she did seem very open to the other idea. Getting more fieldhands, retiring some workers to take care of the barracks and such before they are formally retired, that could go a long way to creating that time.”

“I have a related issue you’ve opened the door to,” Alice now said. “Why are only male slaves on the service staff? I have both boys and girls with me, doing all the cleaning and maintaince but your lads are the ones bringing in the food, answering the doors, taking the coats, serving at meals. I have some girls who I think could do it as well and they enjoy interacting with guests more, too.”

Darrin smiled and turned his list around for them all to see. “That was a point I wanted to get to. In the past, the service staff has been both male and female on the Shaynis estate but that changed two generations ago. I think it reflected more the desires of Mr. Gavin and his predecessor Ms. Rose.”

“I vaguely remember a woman head,” Stenwal replied. “I was just a wee lad then, only seen her a handful of time directing the gardeners.”

“Normally the one in my position is the former bodyslave for the current head of family. For some reason the previous master had Mr. Gavin for that position but most often the head of your department, Alice, was head of staff,” Darrin informed them all.

They all soaked in that information then Alice nodded her head once as she sat up straight. “I think changes along these lines would be beneficial, Mr. Darrin. I and my staff will support it.”

“Mine as well as long as I can also see about adding one or two new staff in the kitchens,” Nance agreed.

“Can’t hurt much to try, can it? I have your back,” Stenwale stated.

“Wonderful. I’ll raise the issue with Lord Ezekiel then during our next meeting,” Darrin explained. “Thank you all for staying longer to discuss this. Please do not mention it to the rest of your staff until we know whether or not the family is agreeable to it.”

“Nance, may I have a private word,” Darrin said more softly as they all started to rise. Stenwale and Alice paused then hurried away.

Nance looked at him with an arched eyebrow as he got up and fetched two glasses of cool water for them. She took hers then sipped it as he moved to a closer chair. She smiled at him as he put a hand on her knee. “Nance, I apologize for the question I’m about to ask, but has Lord Ezekiel required your services outside of the kitchen since the wedding?”

Nance’s face fell and she shook her head before shrugging. “I wasn’t expecting him to, no one bothers the kitchen staff like that. He does have me bring in special dishes sometimes, just chats a bit before sending me off. I imagine he’s quite busy with his wife. Baby didn’t get made by herself.”

“No, it didn’t,” Darrin agreed. He patted her knee and leaned closer. “Mr. Gavin told me that relationships between heads of departments is unwise but you seemed to enjoy our time together and I want you to know that if you need or want anything, I’m here.”

Nance patted his hand back as she shook her head. “While no one else requires it from the kitchen and I wouldn’t demand it from any of those under me, we do make time for certain fun. You don’t need to worry about me. I’m pretty happy where I am. But Darrin, are you?”

He sat back at the question and looked down. “Oh, Darrin,” Nance slid to the floor and put her arms around him as he just sat there for several minutes. “If you need or want, I think we can be heads of our staffs and still help each other,” Nance began but Darrin just urged her to take her seat again.

Once she was seated he said, “I’ve found other outlets and Lady Shaynis is not ignoring all of my skill. I’m struggling to adapt and a bit of ashamed of that fact…”

“Ah, no, it isn’t anything to be ashamed of,” Nance cooed.

“I doubt my trainers would feel that way but it is how it is. I’m care of myself.”

Nance paused then smiled and nodded her head. “Which is where this taking care of everyone else is coming from. I don’t think you have to worry about being a good Chief of Servants, Mr. Darrin. I think you’re going to be a great Chief of Servants.”

“Thank you,” Darrin replied. They held hands for a few more moments before Nance left.

Chapter Text

Darrin spent three days preparing to make a case for moving slaves around and for buying more of them. Initially he planned only taking two days but early birth of Stenwale and Miss Beth’s baby had the entire estate in a state of high alert. The Lady and Lord each spent time at Stenwale’s small house. The yard and field slaves had been used to expand the building so it had a bedroom proper with enough space for a crib. If they continued to have the required children, they would be allowed to expand again so that the children could have a separate room. It was a generous measure and signaled that Lady Shaynis respected Miss Beth’s free status.

Initially Miss Beth was tended to by Li and Gronw but after several hours a messenger was sent to the doctor. “She’s early,” Lady Gavriella told Darrin when she came to his office unexpectedly to inform him about what was happening. “A good month early. Is she not getting enough to eat? Enough rest? Have we not made her a part of our weekly prayers?”

Darrin just stood as his mistress spoke, walking back and forth across his office floor. She raised a few more points of speculation then ended with “What have we failed to provide?”

“You’ve provided as much as the contract required and beyond that, Mistress,” Darrin pointed out.

“I know,” Lady Gavriella agreed as she stopped pacing. “Ezekiel is even more worried about my mission than he was before. I’ll never hear the end of it if Beth should lose the baby or worse, die herself.

Darrin wanted to go to his owner and offer her comfort but unless she made that decision, his office needed to stay a place of business even if he was indulging with a few pleasures afterhours with Torst. Instead, Darrin said, “The doctor will be here soon. Would it not be wise to wait for her report?” Doctors for the lower classes were often female, unlike what Lord Ezekiel seemed to believe though Darrin knew that the doctor who took care of the Shaynis family was a man.

“Always the one to help me keep my head straight,” Lady Gavriella replied.

Darrin bowed his head, “I did not mean to criticize your concerns, Mistress…”

“God, if I have to hear you behave like a mewling slave I shall go crazy! I could tolerate it when you were my bedslave, I shall not tolerate it in my Chief of Servants.”

Darrin closed his mouth and thought for a few seconds. “Very well, Mistress. Then I advise you to attend to your own duties for now. I will inform you when the doctor arrives. While I know that you and Lord Ezekiel do care about all the slaves, going out to worry over the birth may not send a appropriate message to them.”

Now Lady Gavriella put her hands on her hips, her mouth slightly open until she shook her head and chuckled. “Definitely not mewling now. That’s the sort of thing I could hear Gavin say. Like him, you’re likely correct on this matters. You do interact with the entire household more than I do. But that’s an issue I’d like to discuss later.”

“As you wish, Mistress. There is,” Darrin spoke up as she started to turn toward the doorway, “a matter I am planning on bringing to Lord Ezekiel’s attention but when we need your final approval. I will not approach the master until after this birth is successfully concluded.”

“I’ll let him know. Thank you, Darrin, for remembering my husband,” Lady Gavriella added before she left his office.

The evening Stenwale was not at their departments meeting and both Alice and Nance were distracted so Darrin tried out his proposal to get their feedback. Alice thought it sounded fine by Nance was a bit more skeptical. “Lord Ezekiel will resist if he thinks you are referring to his own use of the staff. Make sure you state repeated that this is the first of several ways you’d like to improve the entire estate. Appeal to his duties as host more directly. With Lady Gavriella away at the capital so often, he is the one really entertaining. Let’s be honest, a quick suck or fuck…”

“Goodness!” Alice teased.

“is considered entertainment for the free, particularly of the status to visit here,” Nance concluded.

“Right, let me make a few changes then,” Darrin said before putting pen to paper. He was on his third run through when one of the two messengers on the estate barely knocked before walking through his office door. “Here, boy, you can’t just…”

“Sorry, Mister Darrin, but the mistress has sent for you. Come quick to the Overseer’s place,” the lad ordered with that assuredness that his role gave him even in the presence of family members.

Nance and Alice were immediately on their feet. Soon they were following alongside Darrin and the messenger. Several of the household staff paused to watch them hurry but none even muttered a word though all crossed their bodies against the evil eye or made a prayerful gesture.

There was a well-kept brick path from the gardens out to Stenwale’s abode. It was wide easily allow all three staff heads to march side by side behind the messenger until they spotted the hut and the field and yard slaves gathered outside. There were no tears, no wailing, just small groups chatting until they noticed their betters and stepped back to give the trio room to go to the front door. Nance and Alice each had a hold of one of Darrin’s hand so he gave them each a look before allowing them to go in first.

As soon as the two female heads went inside, Lord Ezekiel stepped out, his eyes looking directly into Darrin’s until the chief bowed his head and whispered, “Master.” Behind him Darrin heard the rustle as all of the yard and field slaves got down on the ground.

“It is best for the women to be inside at this time,” Lord Ezekiel simply said. “Please do go about your chores and if you have none, retire to your barracks,” he ordered the gathered slaves. Once the rest of the slaves were gone, the master said, “Darrin, my lady wife tells me that you have a household matter to discuss with me. Depending on the outcome we may need to delay such a meeting but I do look forward to talking with you.”

“At your convenience, Master,” Darrin replied.

Both men tensed as a scream pierced the air. “Times like this made me wish I smoked,” Lord Ezekiel said.

“I could send for anything you wish, Master,” Darrin replied. The messenger standing nearby looked at Darrin.

“No, no, we need to be strong and focus on what the women need not my own childish fears,” Lord Ezekiel stated.

Darrin bowed his head but smiled. He was still not comfortable around his owner’s husband but he could see how much the man cared about her and her entire estate.

“Beth, please, you can’t give up, I’m begging you,” Stenwale’s plea met Darrin’s ears, making him grimace.

There was another scream then a moment of silence before a shrill tiny wail came from the building. Darrin and Lord Ezekiel exchanged a glance but the creek of the door had them turning toward it just as Lady Gavriella stepped out. “It’s a boy,” she said. “There is a bit more to do but the doctor says Beth will be fine. But would you?” she looked to her husband who came to her and took her hands, kissing each.

“I will, we will,” Lord Ezekiel amended as he looked toward Darrin.

Now his mistress glanced at him and smiled. “I’ll leave it to you both then.”

“Master?” Darrin asked as Lord Ezekiel started walking back up the brick path with a wave of his had for Darrin to follow him.
“We didn't want to assume so Gavriella had three baskets sent aside. We are going to fetch the appropriate one.”

Baskets? Darrin didn’t know anything about baskets and he used his annoyance at not being informed urge his feet to follow closely behind his master. Once inside, he followed Lord Ezekiel to the master suite where there indeed three baskets waiting along with one of the maids.

“That one and that one can be unpacked, the materials saved,” Lord Ezekiel ordered as he went to the first basket. Inside were baby items as well as a new dress for Miss Beth and a new shirt for Stenwale. The other two baskets were more consolatory in color with only baby items in one and only adult items in another. The Shaynis had been prepared to offer aid however the birth turned out. If both baby and mother had died, Darrin noted there had been no basket, what good would such a thing do for Stenwale then?

“Call one of your footmen to carry this and meet us in the kitchens,” Lord Ezekiel ordered before leaving the room.
“Mister Darrin? Everything went well then?” the maid asked.

“Indeed, now do as you were bid. There will be celebrations later,” Darrin said. He took the basket himself, adjusting it slightly since it weighed more than he was expecting, and carried it out into the hall. He came across Arsen first and handed it off to the footman. “Follow me.”

They found the master in the kitchen ordering another basket from Shem who had the staff scurrying about to fulfill the order. “We’ll need another to carry this,” Lord Ezekiel instructed as soon as he finished speaking.

Darrin paused then went to the staff bells and pulled a cord for a member of the housekeeping. In a few minutes the girl directly under Alice was in the kitchen and trying to get down on the floor when Lord Ezekiel growled at her to be quick about it. “Please fetch Prud for me, Mala,” Darrin instructed.

Lord Ezekiel paused at the name. So he did remember the names of those he was taking pleasure from. “We need another footman to carry this basket, Darrin. Not a… housemaid.”

“I understand, master, but we cannot tell when someone might come to the house and leaving only Menno and Torst to answer the door and tend to guests… sir, I would never want to send a message that your lady wife’s house was not prepared to care for any guests at any time,” Darrin explained.

The master tilted his head to one said as he considered the words. “If this Prud can carry the basket or the one that boy has, then I’ll agree to it.”

Arsen sighed softly but Darrin nudged him with his elbow nonetheless. Soon Prud was there in her basic work uniform. She prostrated herself toward the master then at his leave, stood up to face Darrin. Arsen handed over the first basket and took the food one from Shem and the three of them escorted the master back out to the Overseer’s hut.

**********
Darrin stood at attention as Lord Ezekiel looked over his proposal the next afternoon after calling the Chief of Servants to the secondary parlor where the lord had his household meetings, like Lady Shaynis mother had. Each noise the master made had Darrin struggling to maintain position but when none of these noises turned into angry questions or accusations but simply turning more pages, the slave found he was able to relax a bit.

“This Prud is the same who helped with the baskets yesterday?” Lord Ezekiel’s first question surprised Darrin who nodded and turned his gaze toward the master. Lord Ezekiel was sitting with the first of the five pages open before him, a slight frown on his face. “That name won’t do for service staff. It sounds… harsh and certainly not erotic.”

“I’m sure the girl would be happy to have her name changed if she could change jobs, master.”

“Her looks are good, clearly she is strong, too, plus the number of tokens and the names attached to them indicate a decent ability to please in multiple ways,” Lord Ezekiel continued. The master had yet to use the girl in question for pleasure but as Darrin looked over the ledger he noted that the new master tended to use males more than females, a ratio of nearly 4 to 1, in fact, and all of the girls were from the yard or field slaves.

“I’d have to assess this Amal to see if she would be appropriate for a transfer from housekeeping but the others I’m familiar with,” Lord Ezekiel stated.

“The idea has merit then, master?” Darrin asked. His heart was pounding. It could not be this simple to convince the man of his plan. It couldn’t.

Lord Ezekiel’s frown was back as he sighed and closed the cover over the proposal. “Darrin, how have I harmed you or this estate since the wedding?”

“Sir?”

“It is a straightforward question, boy. Answer it.”

Darrin looked down for a moment then looked back up to meet the lord’s gaze. “You haven’t harmed anyone or any part of this estate, master.”

“Then why are you afraid of me?”

Darrin’s eyes widened for a moment before he regained his composure. If Lord Ezekiel wanted to be treated more like how Darrin treated his mistress, the slave would take a risk and state the obvious. “Sir, only a foolish slave does not have a healthy fear of his owners. I like to believe I am not a fool.”

Lord Ezekiel huffed and glanced away for a moment before returning narrowed eyes to Darrin. “Why would you bring this proposal to me before Gavriella? Ultimately the decision will be hers.”

“Lady Shaynis’s mother oversaw all household staffing decisions with limited input from the previous master. Are you not the proper authority to approach first with such a proposal?”

Darrin clenched his hands as the nobleman stood up suddenly and stepped around his desk. “I know that Gavriella talked to you and since then you’ve been more friendly toward me. I have to confess that I’ve struggled in dealing with you in a professional manner all of the time. Theory about who you were before and confronting it turns out to be challenging.”

Darrin blinked. Did the master just admit that he was jealous of Darrin or worried about his relationship to Lady Gavriella? That was ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as Darrin’s own jealousies were. The man was looking a bit lost, embarrassed by his admission and Darrin’s sense of duty urged him to sooth him. “Sir, we have all had to adjust to new roles on this estate. I have great respect for you and how well you have been running the household.”

Lord Ezekiel chuckled briefly as he leaned against his desk and folded his arms over his chest. “Let’s be honest, most of the running of this place falls upon you and the other heads of staff. I’m merely a figurehead, no,” the man ordered, as Darrin opened his mouth to protest. “I am well aware of the role of spouse, I’ve prepared for it most of my life. I may make the decisions or pass on my opinions to Gavriella but ultimately it is the staff that carries out the instructions with limited oversight. I know it keeps you all quite busy. Frankly I’m surprised you’ve had the time to come up with such a well fleshed out proposal.”

“Just as you turn to us for the daily running of the estate, I also turn to those directly below me to carry out your will, master.”

Lord Ezekiel rolled his eyes but he wasn’t angry as he uncoiled and picked up the proposal. “The only real problem is the idea where to find former bedslave. So,” Lord Ezekiel continued to speak as he turned back to his desk and picked up a pen, “consider that a bit more in your proposal before we meet with my Lady Wife.”

“Yes, sir, ,” Darrin agreed. In a few minutes he had the corrections for him to work into the proposal as well as a date and time to meet with Lady Gavriella and Lord Ezekiel together.

 

**********
“What new name might I have, sir?” Prud asked when Darrin and Alice met with her that evening. The girl looked a bit worried but she was still very interested in moving into the front of the house instead of doing housekeeping.

“Ultimately that would be up to the mistress or the master but I’m sure they would be willing to listen to suggestions,” Darrin told her.

“I’d say something with the same letter to start, it will make it easier to adjust to it,” Alice suggested. “That is if you want to do this?”

“Yes! Oh, Madame Alice, nothing against you or the work but I do love talking to people, meeting them… being with them,” the girl replied with a slight blush. That was good; it meant that she wasn’t looking to use sex as merely a means of advancing. That was not the sort of slave they wanted to make readily available to guests.

“Which is why I recommended you and Amal for transfer. But nothing is certain yet. We just wanted to check if you could accept a new name before Lady Gavriella makes a decision.”

“Of course, yes, I understand the reasons. I do like the idea of keeping the same first letter.”

“We’ll go through the ledger then and make a list of names that are already taken. That will help the mistress decide,” Darrin pointed out as he looked at Alice then at the door.

“Off you go for now, back upstairs to clean,” Alice ordered. As soon as the girl was out of the room and the office door shut, the head of housekeeping gave Darrin a pointed look. “And what else happened during this meeting?”

“Lord Ezekiel made a few logical suggestions that I need to add to the proposal. Otherwise he supports the idea,” Darrin said. Alice wasn’t buying it her look said so Darrin put the papers on his desk with a groan. “He knows I’ve been jealous of him. I thought I was going to get the beating of my life.”

“But you didn’t, he didn’t,” Alice said slowly.

“No, no, because without the precise words, Lord Ezekiel admitted that he’s been jealous of me.”

“No!”

“Yes! Took me by surprise, too.”

“You told him that he had nothing to worry about, right?” Darrin didn’t say anything as he looked away from Alice’s gaze. “Right? You can’t just think because you’re pleased her a few times that you are actually competition for her husband?”

“I know that!” Darrin yelled back. They both stopped and took a few moments to clam down before Darrin added, “You and I could have been jealous but we worked through those feelings. Lord Ezekiel has even less to worry about from me.”

“We were never competing,” Alice cut in. “I was her bodyslave, never her bedslave, I know there is an overlap but I wasn’t trained like you. Everything she did with me was youthful exploration. Fun for both us most of the time. But you helped pick him as her husband just as Nance did. That gives the two of you more power than any of us on this estate.”

Darrin frowned and squirmed at the words. “No, no, we have no power because of that,” he insisted but it felt wrong coming out of his mouth.

“You could. If you were more confident, you could use that power in so many ways.”

“No! That’s a risk I’m not willing to take. Nance has no desire to take it either, she’s content where she is and I am as well.”

Alice shook her head. Holding up her palms she backed down on the subject. “I’ll go then to check on my staff, then.”
“Yes, do that,” Darrin replied. Minutes after the door to his office was closed, he could do nothing more than stand and consider Alice’s words.

**********
Darrin was sitting at the small side desk in Lady Shaynis’s office taking notes as she and Lord Ezekiel interviewed and examined the six slaves his proposal recommended moving around the estate to plans where they could be seen by and accessible to family and guests more easily for special services. Prud, who now be named Pearl, as well as Amal were easily accepted into the service department even though they would still be called maids and not footmen. Should one of them, or another woman in the future, advance to the position of butler, that title would remain unchanged. To differ them from their previous positions in housekeeping those in Alice’s department would be called housemaids in keeping with her title as housekeeper.

The four field slaves were a much harder sale. Stenwale had dictated letters of recommendation for each one, he would have come himself but Lady Shaynis ordered him to take a week from work to help his wife adjust to life as a new mother. That ordered had shocked every slave on the estate but of course no one criticized her decision because it might benefit them in the future. Miss Beth’s idea to start breeding was put on hold until she was fully recovered; a condition the woman swore wasn’t necessary but the doctor disagreed. Both mother and child were fine but the babe was small, a touch too young. They needed time to bound and heal, and thus increase the child chances of survival and Miss Beth’s chances of having a better pregnancy later.

It wasn’t a simply matter to move a field slave to the yard, the yard included several different subsections. Zora seemed most comfortable around the horses but mucking a stable hardly made her attractive to most guests. The woman had a natural charm and so it was decided that she’d be liaison between riders and the stablehands, overseeing the scheduling of tasks since currently the stablemaster didn’t like those tasks. She would need an intense course of basic reading and writing to help her but her mind was quick and she already knew numbers and dates even if she had never read or written them down. Zora at just 16 was the youngest in consideration but slave’s ages were hardly an issue for most work. The fact that she wasn’t a virgin by choice, a surprise to all of them, factored heavily into the decision to change her status.

Pam was moved to the front gardens because Stenwale proclaimed in his letter “plants loved her.” With the right uniform to highlight her pale hair and bright blue eyes, she’d be like a flower herself as she worked. Lord Ezekiel mentioned seeing such front gardeners at other houses and how impressed he’d been by them. Lady Gavriella concurred with a few examples of estates in the capital where the entire outdoor staff was purposely uniformed to highlight the beauty of the land and building. Pam seemed a bit overwhelmed by the idea of being out front in such a capacity but Lord Ezekiel’s suggestion to more Russ, the most token rewarded gardener out to the front as well was accepted and that seemed to relax the young woman.

Valt was a big man yet had a very boyish face and gentle nature. While his work was good in the fields, he was the target of other slaves there for his personality. He was too accommodating in some ways and Stenwale felt he would be an asset in the gardens rather than a distraction in the field barracks. “Won’t he just then be a distraction in the yard barracks?” Lady Gavriella has asked. At that point, the head gardener, Emid, was called in and questioned. One look at the field slave and comparison between him and the other gardeners made it clear that as long as Valt was told not to have sex with other slaves, he could likely stand his ground in the yard barracks. Darrin thought that Valt might not say “no” but as long as it didn’t affect his work in any capacity it shouldn't be a big issue, at least not to the Family.

Max was physically more in line with the yard slaves but unlike Pan or Valt not particularly good with plants even if he was good with his hands. Out in the fields, his primary tasks had involved maintaining the barracks but that wasn’t a full-time job. The yard included more than plants. There were fountains, benches, pathways, as well as the barracks, stable, and carriage house to be maintained. The current slave in charge of those, Dovy, was called in and he said, “ Yes, please, Mistress, I could very much use the help.” Dovy himself was getting older and when Max agreed to follow his orders, Max, too, was moved.

Once the other slaves were released, it was Darrin’s turn to answer questions about additional staff. It felt good to stand up after hours over the desk but he only stretched slightly before taking his position. The mistress and master looked at him for a moment then at each other before Lady Gavriella spoke up. “It has been a long day. We even missed mid-meal. Darrin, you are excused from dinner duties to get your own meal and gather your thoughts. We’ll meet back here in three hours.”

“Wonderful idea,” Lord Ezekiel commented as he stood and stretched his arms over his head. Darrin bowed as the noble moved passed him to use the bell to the kitchen to summon someone.

Lady Gavriella stood up as well and came closer to him. Darrin felt his body tense up as she put her hands on his chest and smiled at him. Her husband was in the room telling Nance to make an early dinner and have it ready in the next thirty minutes. Darrin swallowed but stood still. “Ezekiel really appreciates that you brought these ideas to him first,” she whispered. “I appreciate as well. Take this break to review your ideas because we do have tough questions to ask.” With that his owner patted his chest with on hand and then moved away to join her husband.

Darrin stood still until he heard the couple leave and the door shut behind him. He turned and walked purposely to the kitchen where he ordered up a light meal from Shem. “You all had quite a day,” Nance told him as she worked on the noble couple’s food herself and let one of her assistants take care of him. “At least you called to say that you didn’t need luncheon. Don’t tell them but this is basically what I had planned for that just beautified a bit more. You get the changes you wanted? Darrin? What’s wrong?”

Darrin looked up to find Nance standing in front of him. He must have let his mind wander, no, not wander, he’d been going through the proposal again mentally and hadn’t been present. It was dangerous and he knew better than to do that anywhere outside of his private office and bedroom. “Lady Shaynis has approved the in-house and yard changes; nothing affecting the kitchen directly. But we are meeting again after they dine to discuss new purchases. Is there anything you’d like me to add to that section of the proposal?”

Nance gave him a look that said she wasn’t impressed by his half-lies but she just sighed and went back to the plates she was filling. “Another experienced cook would be helpful but don't push that if it will get you into trouble.”

Shem looked at Darrin then back at the plate he was fixing for him but the look had been one of sympathy and that made Darrin’s nerves fray even more. “This is not trouble making,” Darrin chuckled.

Back in his office, Darrin had to make himself eat the food as he looked over the proposal. He couldn’t see anything outlandish in his suggestions; they seemed rational and well presented. Bodyslaves were grossly underappreciated and that might be an issue but both nobles were well aware of their own bodyslaves abilities, talents, and skills. Surely they would use their experiences to see beyond the stereotypes.

**********
“Sit down, Darrin,” Lady Gavriella told him when he entered her office upon her order hours later.

Darrin looked at the office. The furniture had been moved around in the time he’d been on break. Now three chairs were set in the center, two closer but the third wasn't far from them. Lord Ezekiel was sitting in one of the two chairs that were closer so Darrin took the third one, sitting down at the same time that his mistress did.

“We’ve shocked him,” Lord Ezekiel observed as he sat at ease, one leg jutting out, one of his arms on the chair’s arm while his other hand cupped his chin.

“Darrin, if you’d be more comfortable standing, you may do so,” Lady Gavriella sighed. She clearly didn't want him to so Darrin just politely declined but he sat stiffly in the chair. After another sigh she began to explain the reason for the seating. “We want you to know that the questions were are going to ask may at times seem harsh but they are not criticisms of your work as Chief of Servants nor of your position as my former bodyslave.

Darrin closed his eyes at the word former but quickly reopened them as he replied, “I understand, Mistress, that you must ask question about such a radical change in how the house is staffed.”

“It isn’t as radical as you think,” Lord Ezekiel stated drawing Darrin’s attention. “At least the moving slaves around to reflect their natural talents and personalities. The birthing idea and using bedslaves as staff, that’s more radical.”

“But we aren’t here to discuss the birth idea,” Lady Gavriella gently stirred the conversation. “As you must know, Darrin, it is not uncommon for bodyslaves to continue to serve a master even after a marriage both in that capacity and in other roles within the household. Given that reality, our main question is how you possible think we might find such former slaves to serve here?”

His mistress’s voice was a bit harsh by the end but the question really wasn’t unexpected even though he’d laid it out in the proposal. “I did not know that it was common for bodyslaves to be used in other capacities. Rumor among slaves is that most of them end up in brothels.”

“Which you do not list as a possible resource in our search,” Lady Gavriella pointed out.

Darrin frowned slightly before he replied, “No, Mistress, I didn’t think that would be acceptable for a family of your status. I thought it would be more reasonable to find those who were not yet sold but would be.”

Lady Gavriella took a breath and so her husband jumped in. “Your rumors are correct in that the bodyslaves of the average noble over the course of that noble’s lifetime will not continue in a household but be sold to brothels. Given that your proposal claims to be looking out for the best of this estate, we were surprise to not see brothels listed as a possible source. Surely the greatest number of former bodyslaves will be found in them. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Yes, Master, I do agree that the greatest number would be in brothels but…” Darrin bit off his sentence.
“But what?” Lady Gavriella pushed, her voice gentle again.

“Prostitutes are not appropriate for this household,” Darrin ground out.

“But you argue that we should consider sexual service as a criteria for the service and yard staff. Who better to know about a wide range of such service than a whore?” Lord Ezekiel countered.

“Dear, please, language,” Lady Gavriella replied.

“A prostitute then, it is merely a matter of semantics. Brothels are the ones notified when a bodyslave is no longer required, there is no noble network advertising such dismissals. Your proposal that we turn to non-existing resources is most baffling given the depth of the rest of your argument,” Lord Ezekiel pointed out.

Both nobles looked at him and Darrin shook his head. “I didn’t know that, Master, Mistress, I didn’t think, I apologize for my lack of foresight.”

“Darrin,” his owner’s voice made Darrin turn to her. “You also do not mention the training houses like the ones you were sent to during my first term in the capital as an apprentice. Compared to the rest of your proposal, this part seems ill conceived. I’m disappointed.”

That brought Darrin out of the chair and onto the floor, his head bowed to her feet. He was weeping now even though he knew better. He was proving himself unworthy of the job he had and he’d find himself in the hated brothels soon enough he was certain.

“This is… I don't even know what to call this,” Lord Ezekiel’s voice made Darrin shake as he lowered his entire body to the floor. “Get up, boy, good God, you’re the Chief of Servants, show some control!”

Darrin pushed himself back up and retook a seat. He couldn't get words out, couldn’t look up. Suddenly Lady Gavriella was in front of him, bending down, looking at him worriedly. “I think he’s in shock. This might have something to do with what Alice told me and what Nance told you.” Her voice sounded far away.

“How can he have ascended to his position without knowing about special services? He was your bodyslave,” Lord Ezekiel’s voice sounded worried but also annoyed.

“Mine, I never shared him. I don’t know if he was a virgin or not before he was sent for training.”

“I wasn’t,” Darrin whispered.

“Darrin? Pull yourself together. We aren’t angry at you,” Lady Gavriella said.

“Disappointed,” Darrin chocked out before he could stop a few more sobs.

“God, he’s as high-strung as Nance said. Tighter than a top,” Lord Ezekiel replied.

“Get us a glass of water, dear, please,” Lady Gavriella ordered but she was blocking Darrin in the chair so he couldn’t fetch it. In a moment she was pressing against his mouth so he took a few sips. “Now you hold this glass, that’s it, and I’m going back to my seat. We need to talk about what just happened.”

“Should I call the girls?” Lord Ezekiel asked. “They did warn us, they might be able to calm him down.”

“Let’s give him a chance to regain control. I know he can do it. Darrin, come now, I need you,” Lady Gavriella stated firmly.

Darrin looked up from the glass of water. Both nobles looked very worried, a bit afraid, and for a second he wasn’t certain why. His uniform was askew so he used one hand to try and pull it straight. “I… I’m sorry for… that, Mistress, Master,” Darrin said softly.

The two looked at him for a moment and then Lord Ezekiel said softly, “This happened with us pushing about brothels but he’s never been, right?”

“No, sir, I have been in one before,” Darrin replied.

“What?” Lady Gavriella’s eyes went wide. “There is nothing like that in your papers.”

“No, Mistress, there wouldn’t be. The slave breeder knew he couldn't get a good price for us if that was on our records.”

As the noble couple exchanged looks and whispered to each other, Darrin’s mind replied his horrible teen years before he was bought by the Shaynis family.

Chapter Text

It was like watching one of the rare videos that the Shaynis family owned, technology from before the current world, plays captured on shiny circles of strange material that the machines ate then spat back out once they showed the images on a screen. The Shaynis family rarely used these circles, the slave farmer didn’t have them at all; such tech was for the most powerful. Darrin had seen these captured plays a few times usually while kneeling next to his mistress during family celebrations when the equipment was brought out of storage.

Replaying his previous life was like watching one of those plays except there was no control stick, only the muted voices of his owners that he was struggling to grasp onto as the younger him was standing up to face the slave farmer, Aurel Vennure, in his memories. Even now that man’s voice made him shudder.

“There’s a good boy…. Not a child though,” Master Vennure sneered as he crouched down to look eye to eye with Darrin. “Not as of today. Today you can take on some more serious work.”

“Master, please, he’s so small,” a woman’s voice pleaded. The farmer stood up and young Darrin flinched as the sound of a slap and cry came from above him. “Get her out and rebreed her. This good boy doesn’t need a woman any more.” The farmer was crouching again, touching Darrin’s face, brushing his hair, stroking his cheeks until he grabbed what little flesh was there to pinch. “No women for you until I say so. No, a sweet thing like you has other ways to earn me money.”

“Darrin?” Lady Gavriella’s voice made the slave blink. “Fetch the mind doctor, Ezekiel. The one I have on call. No, you go, our entire household is in this man’s hands, I won’t leave it to a messenger.” His mistress’s voice was falling further from his hands as Darrin slicked further away.

Younger Darrin followed Master Vennure out of the wagon as quickly as he could. A year since the woman he thought of as his mother was taken from him, a year under the master and his son’s direct care. Darrin looked at the four story brick building in the city. His first time off of the farm was exciting, a birthday surprise, the farmer told him with a grin that should have warned him. He was still too naïve to realize that in seven years he’d be kneeling on the floor of the finest house he’d even seen because the younger him gasped and smiled as he was jerked by the arm through the opened woodened doors and down a hallway to a parlor.

“Here’s the one I’ve told you about,” the farmer said as they entered a room with a man seated behind a large desk. The farmer’s desk was old compared to this or perhaps just ill made. The man behind the desk stood up and the farmer bowed down a bit, so Darrin got to his knees. If his master was afraid then this was not a good birthday surprise.

“Stand up, boy!” the other man ordered, jerking Darrin to his feet with one strong pull. The other man turned Darrin around a few times then snorted. “Do you even feed him? He’s small, I can feel his bones under his shirt.”

“He’s naturally small though he’ll feel out once he starts growing, if you want him to, there are things I can do,” the farmer began but the man told him to shut up.

“We’ll try him out first then I can decide that. Here’s your money,” the other man said as he handed something to the farmer in a leather box.

“Let me tell the boy what’s happening. He’ll give you less trouble if he isn’t terrified,” the farmer added.

“Maybe we like them terrified,” the other man replied but he moved back to stand by his desk.

“Darrin!” the farmer’s sharp voice made the slave look at him. “I’ve not sold you, only rented you out for a bit to these… gentleman. You obey him and his friends like you do when we have friends at the farm. You hear me, boy?”

“Yes, Master,” Darrin squeaked. The farmer caressed his face again then stood up and left.

“Boy, go with this slave and do as he says. I’ll call for you later, once you don’t stink of gods know what,” the other man said. Darrin looked at the other man briefly then ducked his head.

“Darrin, Darrin?” Lady Gavriella’s voice cut through for a moment but Darrin fell back into the memories.

Younger Darrin was beneath a long table, crawling down it, attending to the brothel owner’s friends if their pants were open and their cocks out waiting for his ministrations. Oddly it was the closest he had of fond memories of his buried service because once they were satisfied with dinner, they’d ignore him for the older whores and he’d get to help the servers and kitchen staff who gave him leftovers, particularly sweets. Other than his first night’s audience for the brothel owner, Darrin hadn’t been left alone with a member of the club that first year. He was picked up and taken away by the farmer a handful of times. Darrin would be taken back to the farm to be weighed and looked at by the doctor who came by twice a year to make sure the farm was adhering to laws. Darrin was taken back for the birthday of the farmer’s son as a party favor to be passed around to his friends. Darrin was taken back for the major holidays when the brothel had to close or risk losing its license. The rest of that first year was spent either bored in a small room off of the owner’s office or underneath that big table.

The next year, the brothel owner said his growth spurt made him more acceptable to the members and he was brought out to the after dinner events. It was at his first one that he saw another slave being fucked and the younger Darrin heard himself called that hated word: whore.

“Not that,” Darrin whispered.

“Darrin, what did you say?” Lady Gavriella’s voice was digging through his memories. Something alighted on his arm and Darrin pulled away. “I’m not going to hurt you, but I need you to come back to me,” she pleaded but her voice changed into the growl of a bearded man who was pulling him down the hall toward the one room the younger Darrin hated most of all.
“Unless you keep resisting me, then I’ll show you what it means to be hurt, whore!”

Darrin stumbled through the door as he was thrown across the threshold. The equipment that he had shoved farthest back into his mind, farther than that first after dinner party or the farmer’s hands on his body that birthday evening that started all the pain. Darrin didn’t want to look at it again but his younger self was turning around in wide-eyed horror as the member who dragged him there watched with a hungry grin. “So many things for us to try and it will only hurt as much you force me to hurt you,” the man claimed.

“Pain sometimes cannot be avoided but you have control over how you react to it,” Trainer Kaylana’s voice made the memory blur a bit. She was in her training uniform but instead of a riding crop she had a flower in her hand, one just opening up.

“You think that’s impossible but it isn’t,” Trainer Zebulon’s voice joined hers. The two trainers from the city were looking at him as though he was much shorter but Darrin only felt the floor against his feet not his knees. No, it wasn’t a memory. Somehow these two people who had helped him learn to enjoy sexual service were there in that horrible room with his younger self.

Then their voices changed to a more refined female voice saying, “Darrin, wherever you are, your mistress has need of you. You are a valuable member of her household and a star pupil of my academy. You need to come back to her. Call out to him again. Tell him how much he is needed.”

“Darrin, please, it’s been a full day and things are just falling apart without your oversight,” Lady Gavriella’s voice said.
“I said to pay attention to my dick, whore!” Darrin cried out when the member slapped him.

“This isn’t working,” another man’s voice said from far away.

“Lord Ezekiel, would you please give us a few moments alone,” the refined female voice said.

“What if he becomes violent?”

“Why do you push me to hurt you like this?” the member screamed at younger Darrin as he beat him. “All you had to do was go to the bench and lay across it? Are you deaf or just stupid?”

“Please, Ezekiel, give us a few minutes,” Lady Gavriella’s voice broke through the beating for a moment.

Darrin blinked and tried to look around the pole he was tied to, tried to tone out the sting of the whip, and the rush of its tails through the air.

“Make it more personal, Lady Shaynis. The more personal the better,” the refined female voice said. “I’m a trainer and a mind doctor, I will never repeat what I hear to anyone other than you and Darrin and only to help him recover.”

Darrin jerked as something touched his hand but there was no sting, no heat, no raising welt of itching.

“Darrin, please. I’m Gavriella. I’ve seen you since the day you came to this house, I’ve watched you since you came to this house. My brother, what he did, he did for me, because I asked him to. Because I wanted you. I still want you. You have to come back to me because I need you.”

There was a warm whisper against Darrin’s ear as Lady Gavriella said, “I love you.”

The dungeon at the brothel cracked and broke apart in his mind as Darrin started to cry, his hands pulling at his owner’s thighs as he lowered his head to her lap. “That’s right, you’re with me, with me, not anywhere else,” his mistress told him softly.

“You’re right here back home where you belong, Darrin,” the refined female voice added. Darrin placed the tone now; it was Violet Luther who owned the training facility and the trainers who had tried to rescue him by helping him become more than a whore, more than a domestic slave. Why did was she offering him hope when he knew he’d failed.

**********
Darrin finished buttoning up his vest but he couldn’t bring himself to look in the mirror to make sure all was proper with his attire and appearance. He looked at the jacket next, the simple yet elegant lines and decorations that marked the wearer as Chief of Servants. Should he put it on?

He was in the office of the Chief of Servants, had slept the previous night in the Chief of Servants’ bed, had woken up here at the same time he had every day for several months now. Darrin had been surprised when Torst and Arsen escorted him to this office after Lady Shaynis called them; more surprised that neither footman made a comment. Even Menno whom they passed just acted like it was perfectly normal routine for Darrin to be escorted by two footmen who were literally supporting his ability to walk a straight line last night. He knew it was night because of all the lamps on in the house.

Until he was told otherwise, Darrin decided he had best continue as he had been. He slid the jacket on, adjusted it properly, using it to push down those damned memories that had been stirred up. He’d worked so hard to keep them down, been the best slave he could be, following every rule, using them to bolster his motivation to never go back to that place or any one like it.

Darrin looked at the outbox on his desk and frowned. Of course there was no report because he’d just lain down on the bed where the footmen laid him and stared at the ceiling until he fell asleep. If he slept, he didn’t feel like he had. The clock on the wall told him that he might be able to get a report done if he hurried so he sat down and tried. It went well until the meeting with Lady Shaynis and her husband, everything was clear, his handwriting smooth, the sentence precise.

His hand trembled as he wrote: “I have failed you. Do with me as you will, Mistress” underneath the heading of that meeting. Continuing he merely wrote the same sentence under the other normal headings of the report forms.

Darrin stood up, folded the report properly and tucked it into the left pocket of his jacket. After a moment he went to the attached bathroom to vomit a few times. A glance up at the mirror made him grip the sides of the sink hard as he stuffed his feelings back down inside his mind. A quick wash of his face and rinse of his mouth and he was out of the office and out into the house to go about his duties.

“Good morning, Mister Darrin,” every slave said as he passed them in the hallways. Darrin just nodded as he walked to his owner’s office. He looked at the slot for his report a moment longer than normal then slipped it in before turning on his heel to continue his overview of the household.

Everyone was working as they should, this being a normal day, so his directions were barely needed. That was good; it meant that the household would function even after he was… Darrin stopped and put a hand on the wall for a moment.

“Mister Darrin, are you alright?” Darrin looked over to find Amal, one of the new service maids, standing by him. She was carrying a breakfast tray toward the dining room where Lady Shaynis, her husband, and her mother would be dining. They must have requested something from the kitchen that Darrin realized was merely steps from him now. “Mister Darrin?”

“I’m on my way to breakfast, Amal. Thank you for asking. Please do not keep the mistress and her family waiting,” Darrin replied.

“Yes, sir,” Amal said, dropping a quick bow before she headed to the dining room across the hallway.

Darrin couldn’t move as the maid backed through the service doors and into the dining room. It would be so easy to step behind her and listen, he knew other slaves did it, he and Mister Gavin had caught them a few times though Darrin had never been brave enough to try it himself. Before Darrin could stop he was at the service door, one hand nearly touching it. With a shake of his head he backed up, spun around, and hurried into the kitchen.

“I was wondering about you,” Nance’s voice greeted him; it lacked it’s usually cheery tone. Darrin winced before he straightened his shoulders and faced her. She was looking at him with a slight frown but there was no sorrow or pity in her eyes. If she heard what had happened, she probably despised him. “You didn’t get your dinner last night and then no breakfast. I have something for you though.”

“I do not have time…”

“Sit down!” she said in a firm voice that made Darrin flinch.

A glance around showed no one else in the kitchen at the moment, a state he was unused to seeing. He sat down on the stool she was pointing to, moving back when she placed a filled plate in front of him. “Thank you,” he whispered.

“Other than that last minute request I sent off with Amal, I normally eat my own breakfast now while the others are in out in the garden eating theirs,” Nance said as she sat down next to him with her own filled plate. She took a few bites then poked him with an elbow. “Eat up, I’ll not have you fainting on me because you didn't eat enough. You can’t go missing two meals when we only get two meals a day. I’ve heard you tell your staff that so don’t pretend you don’t agree.”

“Yes, Chef,” Darrin replied, earning another poke. The food was probably quite good, everything that Nance created was, but right now it was tasteless and each bite was just another task he needed to do to fulfill his job. Darrin’s hand started to tremble again so he sat the spoon he was holding down and placed his hands in his lap for a second.

“Don’t make me feed you like a baby, Chief,” Nance teased but her voice was strained.

Darrin looked at her and now he saw that pity he feared in her eyes. “I don’t know if I am…”

“I haven’t heard any different. Last night, the master, he called you Chief of Servants. Haven’t heard anything else from Lady Shaynis, so that’s what you are.”

“You talked to him last night?”

Nance sat her own spoon down and looked at Darrin as she fumbled for his hands, holding them in hers. “He sent for me last night, first time since we came here. But we didn’t,” Nance paused to shrug before continuing, “he said our chief of servants is going to need some extra strength, Nance. I know you’ll be a good girl and give it to him. Those were his exact words.”
Darrin blinked a few times, his hands turned and held on to hers. “Did he tell you what I am?”

“The Chief of Servants, silly,” Nance chuckled in a strained voice.

“I mean, about what, what I really… what I am…”

“You're the Chief of Servants!” Nance stated firmly. “Everything else is the past. You’re here right now in my kitchen, eating breakfast in your fancy suit, as Chief of Servants. They know we all got pasts, but we have the present to focus on. So you just… let it go… just do your job… eat your damned breakfast.” Nance pulled her hands back and dug into her own meal but there were tears running down her cheeks.

Darrin looked at his plate, picked up the spoon, and forced himself to eat. Each bite became another push on the memories further and further into the dark. They were like air though, unwilling to move, dancing on the edge of his mind. “Thank you,” Darrin whispered before he left the kitchen and went back to his rounds.

Darrin counted his steps as he surveyed every part of the house then took a tour around the gardens before heading to the fields. Simson waited where Stenwale would normally be but the older man just nodded at Darrin and handed him a report. “I don’t write so good, Mister Darrin, but Mister Stenwale has a few weeks off full duties until Lady Shaynis says he should go back to work.”

Darrin looked at the barely legible words on the report form. He hadn’t even checked to see if Nance and Alice had reports delivered since the missed meeting last night. Suddenly his stomach turned and he mumbled, “Toilet?”

“This way, sir,” Simson said as he moved quickly and opened the door to the outhouse not far from the brick walkway.
Darrin stepped in and emptied most of the breakfast into the toilet, not caring that this was for the family and guests until he was done. “Simson! Get me cleaning supplies, quickly!”

“Sir, I can do that, or get one of the slaves on that duty to come here,” Simson said as he handed over a bucket with supplies that would be kept in the small closet behind the single outhouse.

“Just hold my jacket and let me do it,” Darrin ordered as he took off the symbol of his office and took the bucket.

Cleaning felt grounding; it felt like it did the first day he was in this house, a fresh start at a new life. It was probably where he should have stayed, Darrin briefly thought before Nance’s reminder of his status helped him reclaim his focus. Once the facilities are cleaned, Darrin backed out, handed the bucket over, and took his jacket. Simson just blinked at him, looking away and then back again, mouth moving without words. “If it continues, I’ll call one of the doctor trained slaves to check on me,” Darrin stated.

“Yes, sir, I do hope you aren’t too sick, then,” Simson replied with a bow as Darrin headed back to the house.

With each step Darrin started chanting through the rules he’s learned beginning with those on that first day. He’s here, at the Shaynis estate, he has a job to do, and he'll do it, he swore. “What are you looking at? Get back to work!” he growled at the yardslaves who are staring at him. “I said,” Darrin started to yell and gesture when he saw his jacket in his hand.

“Stupid, boy,” he growled softly to himself as he slipped the jacket on and tried to smooth it down properly as he walked through the back doors.

He controlled himself as he finished his morning rounds in the house, merely nodding at the other slaves, not correcting them or engaging in chatter, much like most mornings. They can’t hear his mantra of rules and Darrin does his best to look normal until Arsen called out to him, “Lady Shaynis wishes to see you in her office, Mister Darrin.”

At that moment the world spun, Arsen said something while another voice replied, and something hard hit the back of Darrin’s head.

**********
“Darrin, I need you to wake up.” Darrin’s eyelids fluttered at Lady Gavriell’s command and soon he was looking up at her. “Good, good, I was concerned we’d need to fetch one of the healing slaves or even for the doctor,” she said as she brushed his bangs back.

“Mistress, I have failed you. Do with me as you will,” he whispered.

His owner merely sighed and looked away for a moment.

“Do not withdraw at this time. Your entire family needs you to be as strong as you know you are, Lady Shaynis,” said that familiar voice that Darrin realized was Violet Luther.

His owner looks back down at him. “I am doing as I will with you. You will follow my orders, as you always have,” Lady Gavriella told him. “Sit up slowly, there you go,” she told him as he used her offered help.

Darrin glanced around using only his eyes. He was in her office. Someone must have carried him there. That meant even more would know his shameful past. Sitting not far from him in the chair that Ezekiel had used is Head Trainer Luther. She’s just looking at him, her face devoid of emotions, a clipboard and pen in her hands, watching what is happening. Darrin licked his lips and bowed his head toward his owner. “Mistress, how may I serve?”

“Sit up on your own first and once I’m back in my chair, I’ll tell you,” she instructed him.

In a few minutes she was next to his former trainers’ owner and both ladies were looking at him, so Darrin just folded his hands on his lap and waited with downcast eyes. “I, um, I appreciate the insight yesterday’s, um, meeting revealed, Darrin,” Lady Gavriella began. It sounded like a speech nervously being given but he sat quietly and listened. “I was not aware of your background though Miss Luther has enlightened me even though certain… facts are not on your official documents.”

The farmer had forged Darrin’s slave documents? Darrin’s heart sped up in fear at the thought of what punishment might await him if his owner decided to report these things to the King’s legal services. Her next words made him look up at her to find her leaning toward him with tears in her eyes. “You are of sound body, you were a fully functioning member of the household staff, you were and are an excellent bodyslave, and you are adjusting well to Chief of Servants… or you were… you will!”

“Lady Gavriella,” Head Trainer Luther reached over and just briefly touched his owner’s hand and it seemed to help her recenter as she paused and took a deep breathe.

“At this time I need you to work with Miss Luther so that these self-depreciating moods and actions on your part can cease as soon as possible. To that end, you schedule a period of two hours a day in your office to meeting with her for the next two weeks. Then we will re-evaluate. Do you understand what I require of you, Darrin?” Lady Gavriella asked.

“Yes, Mistress, I will work with Miss Luther every afternoon. The staff is very competent most days so this will not interfere with you, your mother, or Lord Ezekiel’s routines. I promise, Mistress,” he replied, bowing with his hand over his heart.
His owner gave him a small smile then cleared her throat and sat up even straighter. “Excellent. Please escort Miss Luther to your office and schedule such meetings, taking time today to begin. You are dismissed.”

Darrin stood up, grasping the arm of the couch he had been lying then sitting on, gave his owner a proper bow and then motioned for the Head Trainer to walk with him.

They walked in silence, a few of the houseslaves glancing briefly at them with professional smiles before hurrying on to their various tasks. No one greeted him because he was escorting a guest but that was normal so Darrin was hopeful as the turned down the hallway toward his office.

“Head Trainer… forgive me. Miss Luther,” Darrin began as he opened the door.

“You were correct the first time,” the woman said as she stepped into the room and stood at the center, taking the entire space in with one wide sweeping glance.

Darrin swallowed as he closed the door behind him. It was retraining then that he was to submit to. That was easy, a bit of discipline would likely to do him much good. He was about to kneel when her voice made him stop.

“We are not on formal protocols for these sessions. Set up two chairs so we might face each other.”

Darrin set these up, giving her the most cushioned seat, and then moved them as she directed until anyone seated in the chairs would be able to reach out and touch the other one with little discomfort. Darrin waited until she was seated before sitting himself. “Oh, the schedule, please forgive, Head Trainer,” he quickly said as he rose and fetched the book and a pen.
They quickly determined that the best time was while the family was having mid-day meal since slaves didn’t eat that and the enlarged service staff could now attend to them. Plus it would allow Darrin to concentrate on himself before meetings with the Lady Shaynis, her husband, or the Heads of Departments.

“We don’t have much time today so I’ll just be direct, Darrin,” Head Trainer Violet said once he was back in a chair after setting the schedule on his desk again.

“Yes, ma’am,” Darrin replied, giving her his full attention, looking directly at her face as he knew that he was supposed to do during the less formal training periods.

“We are going to talk about your life before coming to the Shaynis estate. Now, now, I know that you’d like to just set that all aside and move forward and for the most part you will. But clearly you have a lot of strong feelings about your childhood that need to be addressed.”

Darrin sucked in a breath and just nodded his head.

“There will be times that you’ll pray that this was formal training because this is going to hurt far worse than any riding crop, flogging, or fucking could.”

Her use of the harsher term made Darrin smile and look away for a second. Whores were fucked, bedslaves gave pleasure, and Head Trainer Violet was known for choosing her words carefully.

“Frankly, I when I saw the mark of the House of Black Sparks on your inner thigh, I was shocked. I have contacts all over the kingdom and they helped me discover a good deal about your past. I had to tell Lord Shaynis what I discovered. I thought he might cast you out and I was prepared to take you into my household but he said that it was important that his daughter have a well-trained bodyslave and that you would have to do. I think he knew he was dying even then,” she added causing Darrin to return his gaze to her. The previous Head of Family had used him before he gave him to Lady Gavriella but only a few times and always with gentleness compared to what the slave had expected.

“I realized from monitoring your training that you had created some type of mental block about your life on the farm and that club. Perhaps I should have pushed you then but given the timetable we were working with, I determined it was best to just let you continue as you were. The risk was always there that a trigger might arise but I’m unsure as to what that from my conversation with Lady Shaynis and her husband. What do you think caused your memories to resurface, Darrin?

He swallowed. In the back of his mind, he’d been running through what had happened and he knew. He opened and closed his mouth a few times and the Head Trainer simply allowed him to work up to it until it spilled forth. “Lord Ezekiel wanted my opinions about using brothels as a way to find bedslaves for guests and visiting family. I disobeyed him and was rightly called out for my disobedience.”

“Darrin, you’ll need to state it more clearly than that. I can see that you know what triggered this. Try again.”

Darrin closed his eyes but the Head Trainer caught his chin gently in her hand and squeezed just enough to get him to open them. “Brothel. Thinking about any one… It just all came flooding back.”

Darrin started to cry and she released his chin only to put an arm around him and pull him closer and into a hug. “That’s it. Cry here with me during our sessions,” she told him.

Darrin slipped out of his chair to kneel down and rest his head on her lap as she bent over to hold him. As she told him it was okay to cry, he started to talk a bit, in mumbled pieces that he was certain wouldn’t make any sense.

“Of course you were afraid, you had every right to be terrified. You were only a child,” she assured him.

In several minutes Darrin cried himself out. He sat back in the chair and then stood up when she told him that their time that day was over. Head Trainer Violet led him through the calming mantras he’d learned at her facility and soon Darrin was back out in the house correcting minor errors and checking on everyone’s work before dinnertime.

Chapter Text

“No, no, no,” Darrin said each word in increasing volume as he shook his head. Head Trainer Violet stopped speaking, sat back in her chair, and motioned for him to keep talking. Darrin sighed. Four weeks, they’d been doing this for four weeks; Lady Gavriella left for her diplomatic mission one week ago. Each passing day seemed to wind him up more. He as participating in this therapy upon her command but she wasn’t here, it was wasting his time, which wasn’t his own and so he had to continue.

Darrin sighed again, sat back, and crossed his arms over his chest. He looked at the Head Trainer then away and then back to her before he said, “I don’t like that word, it isn’t appropriate to use.”

“Which word?” Why did she constantly ask questions instead of give him information or help him simply move on from the memories that were now nightmares though at least they didn’t interfere with his daily tasks as they had the first two weeks of this therapy. “Clarify which word you mean, Darrin.”

“Rape, abuse… both really. They have no relationship to me… or any slave.”

“Why is that?”

Darrin scowled as he threw back his head and groaned loudly. “Slaves can’t be raped or abused. We can be roughly used, poorly maintained; a dozen other things but those words are for free people. And you know it, ma’am,” he added when he looked back at her.

Head Trainer Violet nodded a couple of times as she agreed, “Legally, socially even, you are correct. Yet the very fact that you suffered a trauma whose memories interfere with you to this day demonstrate that your mind and body know that you can be abused and raped and that it is wrong.”

Darrin leaned forward and put his hands over his ears. “I can’t be listening to this.”

“Why? Because if you listen you’ll have to admit what happened to you, stop hiding from it, and feel some empathy for yourself?”

“What benefit to the Shaynis family would that be?” he countered as he looked up but otherwise didn’t move.

She turned over a page from her clipboard and turned it so he could see it was pages filled with brief listings of dates, times, and signed by different Heads of Department as well as Menno, the Butler. She didn’t hold it toward him long enough for him to read but instead turned it around and looked over it. “This is a list of the times you have lashed out verbally at another slave, missed a meeting, overslept, refused to eat, gotten distracted, took suddenly ill, and failed to correct a mistake over the past four weeks. In the past five days it has gotten much worse.”

Darrin wasn’t going to ask her why she was getting these reports, it was clear from his Mistress and her husband that the Head Trainer was to have power over him and that she was using the rest of the slaves a spies. The initial reason for this had been to help him get better but he clearly wasn’t and he told her. “Then clearly this training is not working properly. Perhaps a new method would work better ma’am.”

“Actually we are making progress at quicker pace than I had anticipated after our first week.” She was still their guests and at moments like this Darrin wondered if this was some scheme of hers to live with the aristocrats instead of back in the capital at her school. He just ground his lips together and shook his head. “You don’t feel like it is progress but tell me, Darrin, would you have spoken back to me so angrily even ten days ago?”

Darrin jerked back and sat up. He had spoken angrily to her, a free woman, a woman who operated the most prestigious bodyslave training facility in the capital, and the woman his owner has assigned him to work with. Darrin swallowed and looked at the floor. “I’m sorry, ma’am, do with me as you will.”

“Oh, no, don’t you dare hide, you stay out here with me in this room talking about the fact that you were raped repeatedly from the time you were ten until you entered my training house. Raped and abused, over and over again.”

“Damnit, please stop saying that,” Darrin pleaded as he stood up and took a few steps away.

“You can walk around if you want, you can even walk out the doors, but I’ll just follow you and we’ll continue this discussion out in the house.”

“You wouldn’t it,” Darrin turned with wide-eyed horror. She was giving him a calm and steady look; she would. Darrin went back to the chair he’d been sitting in, pleading as he sat, “Just tell me what you want me to say and I’ll say it but you can’t do any of this outside this office, please.”

“I can’t tell you what to say, Darrin, it has to be a revelation you come to.”

“Then why are you so insistent on those words?” Darrin whispered as he glared at her for a second before getting himself under control.

“What do you know about your legal status, Darrin? Not you specifically but of slaves?”

Darrin frowned. What did that have to do with anything? She was looking at him, expecting an answer. “Slaves are human property, bought and sold with the Kingdom and sometimes outside of it.” He paused and thought a bit more. It wasn’t that he’d ever read any slave law but he pieced it together as all slaves did from bits of conversation from the free, during slave sales, and from sharing experiences. He’d also sneaked a few peeks at his owner’s books when she was studying law as part of her training to become Head of Family. “Slave status is inherited by either parent though usually it is easier if the mother is a slave. Slaves can be used in any fashion their owner wants…”

“Actually that is incorrect,” Head Trainer Violet interrupted him. “There are laws and social rules about how slaves should be treated. An owner can be reported for abuse of his slaves and even for rape though both are quite rare.”

“What?” The word slipped out before Darrin could stop it.

“Think for a moment. Think about the different types of slaves there are, how much effort goes into training a bedslave or bodyslave, we use the word interchangeably but they really aren’t. We place a value on access sex services, we place a value or work that goes beyond a particular job. You do have tokens for special services in this household. I know that you do because I know that the Shaynis Family follows the law.”

Special service tokens were a law? Darrin’s head spun at the idea but Head Trainer Violet continued. “There are laws about how much and when slaves should be fed, clothed, housed, how long they can work in a given day or week. Almost every aspect of your life isn’t dictated by your owner so much as she interprets the laws of slavery for this kingdom.”

“But, this is a much better place, everyone says so,” Darrin replied then he stopped. Was that true? Had other slaves told him that or was it his own thoughts on the matter? “The Shaynis family has homes for the elderly slaves who served them. Not every family does that, I’ve heard other say it.”

“That’s true. The law only requires that you care for obedient slaves regardless of illness, injury, or age. Some owners send them to kingdom, city, or village run communities.”

“Or you kick them off of your farm or simply kill them,” Darrin offered.

The Head Trainer tilted her head to one side and narrowed her eyes just slightly. “Have you seen slaves kicked off the farm or killed, Darrin.”

“Of course, who hasn’t?” he replied with a weak grin as he sat up straight again.

“I haven’t seen it. I certainly haven’t done it. I retired a slave three years ago, settled him on the lower floor or my own home next door to my school. He does a few things around the house and gardens because he is bored but I don't expect him to do that given his age. I inherited him from my grandmother,” Head Trainer Violet said. “Has the Shaynis Family killed or… kicked a slave off of the farm?”

Darrin thought back over his years on the estate. He’d seen slaves beaten and punished, but no killed, no one suddenly disappeared either. The log of slaves didn’t show any notes about slaves who died unless it was an accident, illness, or old age; none suddenly disappeared from the list. Darrin just shook his head and wrapped his arms around his stomach.

“No? I didn’t think so. Where did you see a slave killed or abandoned, Darrin?”

He flinched at the question and shook his head.

“You said you saw it and I believe you. You don’t lie, you are an obedient boy.”

Darrin nodded but the walls of the office felt like they were moving closer to him and he found he couldn't look at the Head Trainer.

“Where did you see a slave killed, Darrin? Give me the name of the estate or building.”

It was an order given in a firm tone and Darrin replied automatically. “Vennure Farm and at the, um, House of Black Sparks. Oh, gods,” he said as he bent over with the images of the dozens of slaves he’d seen killed flashing before his eyes. “Oh, gods, they were trying so hard, why wasn’t it good enough?” he asked as he started to cry.

Head Trainer Violet moved closer and pulled him into a hug. This was commonly how such sessions ended and Darrin relaxed into her body and let the tears flow.

**********
“My wife has a paragraph in her letter that you shoulder her, Darrin,” Lord Ezekiel said one afternoon, two months after she had left for her diplomatic mission. Darrin looked directly at the master then. Darrin was standing in formal position a few feet from the nobleman. When the lord summoned him a few minutes earlier, Darrin had taken a moment to use some of the new calming techniques that Head Trainer Violet was drilling him in; no emotionless mask, no fake pleasantries, just a centering acknowledgement that whatever happened he could handle it because he had always handled it. There were many scenarios he’d run through before entering the parlor but a paragraph to him in the lord’s private letter from Lady Shaynis had not been among them.

The nobleman made no move to hand him the letter so Darrin listened closely as it was read to him. “Darrin, Miss Luther has sent me an encouraging report; please continue working with her. In regards to acquiring more service and housekeeping staff, I have had a few discussions with my colleagues. I’ve sent Lord Ezekiel a list of recommended businesses he can consult. I do not expect you to accompany him to the businesses but please do assist him in assessing potential staff. Also assist Beth in starting the optional breeding program, reporting to both myself and Lord Ezekiel.”

The nobleman placed the letter on his desk. “That’s the paragraph but I wanted to clarify the instructions,” Lord Ezekiel began. “I will not be stepping into these recommended businesses either. I do not need to name the sort that they are, do I?”

“No, sir,” Darrin replied. So other aristocrats were turning to… brothels. There he thought of the word, of the location, and his stomach only churned for a bit. That meant that Darrin’s idea wasn’t so wild, so unreasonable. Darrin actually felt relieved by that information and he let himself smile slightly.

“Good, good, and I agree with my Lady Wife that continuing to work with the Head Trainer is a good idea,” Lord Ezekiel added with a smile that seemed to pull a stronger one from Darrin. “You and I need to construct a list of requirements and preferences. I’ll send those to the agency that helps handle slave purchases for this family and they can bring the potentials to us here. Do you have time the next several days to meet with me in the late mornings before midday meal?”

Darrin blinked and nodded. “Of course, master, I will make the necessary adjustments.”

“Excellent. Meet with Beth separately and check on her proposal. Surely two months with the newborn is enough and she can work on this plan since it is hers a bit now,” Lord Ezekiel added, his voice a bit strained.

Darrin paused thinking of Head Trainer Violet urging him with words like “Your owners require your honest assessments, Darrin. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have me in their house working with you.”

“Master, does this breeding idea disturb you?”

Lord Ezekiel leaned his head back and looked at the ceiling for a moment. He spoke before he moved. “I am surprised that using older, experienced bedslaves happens at other estates. My Lady Wife does not report breeding programs at such estates only in commoner households. I have concerns about our reputation.”

Darrin filed away the information about common slave owners. Perhaps Miss Beth had more than just her brief time learning about breeding farms that she had not mentioned but the trick was figuring out how to ask her with suggesting that she’d withheld information.

Now Lord Ezekile lowered his head and looked directly at Darrin. “However, I do see the potential benefits and I know that the King has approved the attempt. Apparently he is quite pleased with Gavriella. I think we may need to consider early weaning if her current mission is a success. Well, let’s start meeting tomorrow then. I’ll expect a report from you and Beth in a week as well. Do you have anything to report to me, Darrin?”

Darrin considered for a moment, letting his head move just slightly, as he thought. “I do not have anything to report, sir, but I do have a question.”

Lord Ezekiel adjusted his body to a more casual position and then nodded for the slave to continue.

“Do you… desire anything that you are not currently being given, sir?” There the question was out. Darrin had noticed an uptick in the number of special services tokens from the master since the head of the family was off on her mission. He was utilizing both male and female slaves but only from the household and yardslaves, not the farm slaves. Initially Darrin thought this might confirm that the reassignments were correct but the other heads of departments suggested it might also be the pressures of being the highest ranking noble in the household keeping him closer to the mansion.

Lord Ezekiel blushed slightly then he laughed in a forced manner as he shook his head. “Thank you for your concern, but I am satisfied if missing my wife. If you are offering yourself, please do not. I do not think it wise to share bedslaves with my wife. Some matters should be kept separate.”

Darrin released a breath that he didn’t realize that he’d been holding at the news his special services were not required by the master. He bowed to lessen the tension and said simply, “I am glad you are satisfied, master. Is there anything you wish to discuss now, sir?”

“Not now. Tomorrow, around eleven shall we say, be ready to take notes,” Lord Ezekiel replied. He waved his hand and Darrin exited the room already sketching out ideas in his head about requirements for a few special slaves to join the staff.

**********
“Miss Beth, thank you for making time to meet with me,” Darrin said as he stepped into Stenwale’s hut. The new mother was sitting in one of the three chairs in the entire structure, looking up from a small pile of pages on their table. The door has been open so at her beckoning, Darrin had come in. Now he sat down in one of the other chairs that she was motioning to.
Miss Beth put one finger across her lips. “If we can be quiet that will help the girl watching the baby in the other room.”

“Of course,” Darrin replied in a soft tone. He moved his chair a bit closer so they could whisper. “May I ask what you are working on, ma’am?” He found it much easier to speak more freely with the freeborn woman now than he had before. Head Trainer Violet made him cry almost every session but she was changing his behavior once he left his office. He hoped for the better and so far the master, the other heads of departments, and staff was reacting positively.

“Organizing the breeding program,” Miss Beth replied. She slid one of the finished sheets toward Darrin so he picked it up. I’ve incorporated all of the staff concerns and those of the Shaynis family as well. Right now I’m making a summary of these dozen pages for a quick read. If you give me five to ten minutes I should be done. It would go faster if I had a computer but I realize that probably isn’t happening out here.”

Darrin blinked and set the page back on to the table. “You’ve heard of computers, ma’am?”

Miss Beth chuckled as she looked up at him for a second before returning to the page she was writing on. “Commoners are not as unaware as nobles may like to believe, Darrin. I’m more surprised that you know about them.”

“I’ve seen a few, never used them, ma’am,” Darrin replied. Indeed it was a death sentence for both slave and owner to teach a slave how to use the ancient devices. Lady Gavriella had one in her office, locked inside her desk; he’d seen it a handful of times. Such a device was in the Council where Darrin had spied it during the one tour he’d been allowed on early in his owner’s introduction to the advisory body. He’d even seen one at the House of Black Sparks as well as a slave beaten to death for touching it while cleaning the office where it was kept.

“Darrin, are you alright?”

Darrin looked up to find that Miss Beth had reached over the table so that her hand was now on his, she was looking at him with concern. Had she and Stenwale heard about what had happened back in the mansion? Did they know that he was in therapy?

“You looked far away. I didn’t mean to stir up anything… bad,” she offered.

They knew then if her words and tone were any indication. Darrin didn’t withdraw his hand or touch her but he did bow his head once before replying, “Thank you for your concern, ma’am. I was just remembering the few computers I’ve seen and it touched upon a unpleasant memory.”

“You’ve seen more than one?” Miss Beth asked excitedly. She withdrew her hand but only to lean further across the table so she could whisper, “I’ve seen one, actually used it during my breeding internship.”

“Oh, that’s impressive, ma’am. Why didn’t you bring that up with the marriage negotiations? That could have gotten you more compensation.”

Miss Beth laughed and shook her head. “Or gotten me carted away. The nobility are very protective of their technologies. They don’t work just to keep it out of your hands.”

Darrin didn’t know what to say. He knew the world operated along strictly maintained social castes but he was surprised that the woman was afraid of a violent reaction to that information. He was fairly sure that his owner would have been impressed. Computers, so he and all other slaves where told, had been part of the cause of the wars because their widespread use allowed The Monster to gain followers and command them to do horrific things. Before he felt pressured to say anything, Miss Beth went back to her writing.

Darrin took the opportunity to look through the information. She had it all laid out. Comparison of costs and benefits using speculation about future estate costs for potential slave breeding and their actual costs from breeders going back four decades. Consideration of costs included time off of work, risks of mother death, risk of infant and child death, ongoing costs to raise children, costs to train the teenager and adult slaves acquired from breeders. Benefits included a few odd references to slave satisfaction written about somewhere. As soon as she finished Darrin pointed to them and asked, “Ma’am, I don't recognize these families?”

“Those aren’t families, those are professors of history, economics, and slavery. I read them when I was interning. I read a lot more than I should have. It annoyed my mentor a bit. He told me that I didn’t need to know all of that old stuff to make a profit,” Miss Beth said with a sigh.

“Ah, I see, ma’am. If, I admit it is a slightly possibility, but if either Lord Ezekiel or Lady Shaynis would want to see this professors, could they?”

“A couple of them are still alive but most of these are records from the academy I attended.”

Darrin blinked. Not only had the woman been an intern but she’d had academy education? How had her poor family afforded that? Why had that not been mentioned? Darrin sat back and crossed his arms over his chest, tilting his head to one side. She mirrored his stance and that made him relax with a smile. “I’m sorry, ma’am, I’m just am wondering how much more impressive your past is compared to what you told us.”

“You mean that you were told. The computer stuff aside, I did tell Lady Shaynis about my academy time, we just had the discussion in private. When I turned down her first offer to me, she suggested we not include it in the contract.”

“Her first offer to you?” Darrin thought for a moment. It had seemed odd to find a wife for the overseer but he had just accepted as part of Lady Gavriella’s putting her own touch on the estate.

“She offered to make me the overseer but I would have had to give up a family of my own; I wasn’t ready to do that.” Miss Beth glanced toward the small bedroom and smiled. “I wouldn’t have Earl or Sten if I’d agreed.”

Darrin looked down at the nickname for the overseer, shocked by the revelation that his owner had considered getting rid of the highest-ranking fieldhand. He had heard that other estates had freeborn department heads, perhaps those back at the breeding farm were free. It would explain a few things he’d been talking about with Head Trainer Violet, memories that didn’t mesh with how the Shaynis estate functioned or any of the procedure and rulebooks Mister Gavin had introduced Darrin to during training.

“I’m actually much happier here than I thought I’d be,” Miss Beth confessed.

“I’m glad to hear that, ma’am,” Darrin replied.

They sat for a few moments in silence then she slid the summary page over. “Go over these with me and give me your opinion. I’d like to get this program started as soon a possible I’ve had three females express interest,” Miss Beth told him.

**********
“Sit down, please,” Lord Ezekiel instructed when Darrin escorted Miss Beth to the parlor the following week. “You as well, Darrin,” the master added. “I won’t have you looming over me while we discuss both proposals.”

“Both?” Miss Beth asked softly with a glance toward Darrin who merely smiled gently as he waited for her to sit before he took the other chair. One of the other service slaves must have moved the furniture around a bit for this set up with the lord’s desk and two chairs facing it.

“We will be purchasing a few more house and yardslaves over the course of the next few years. I think that the idea of opening breeding only to fieldslaves is ridiculous so I want us to discuss how we can make breeding presentable to all slaves on this estate,” Lord Ezekiel stated.

Miss Beth had frowned at the word “ridiculous” but now her frown was even deeper. “My Lord, I thought houseslaves were routinely sterilize.”

“Bedslaves are, houseslaves not necessarily. I’ve been doing research as well,” Lord Ezekiel replied as took out a couple of pages covered in his flowery handwriting. He handed them each a copy. “According to Doctor Roggeveen, most of our female houseslaves have been sterilized but none of the males except for Darrin. The procedure for females is more expensive than sterilizing males; there are reversible medications and devices that are less expensive. Reversing the sterilization is outrageously priced, that is out of the question. Former female bedslaves are going to be sterilized, that’s just standard practice but bodyslaves, such as Alice used to be, are not. In fact she isn’t because my Lady Wife made her off-limits to any man and didn’t see the need. Alice is beautiful, so I thought we might ask her to be one of our first, let’s call them, mothers on the estate,” Lord Ezekiel said with a huge smile that Darrin couldn't match.

“You’ve already spoken with her?” Miss Beth was afraid of the lord so she could voice what Darrin was curious about.

Lord Ezekiel waved a hand. “No, no, but I’m told she’s an obedient girl, I’ll sure she’ll be happy to do it. You don’t agree, I can see by your face. Neither do you. Well, speak up, that’s why you’re both here.”

Miss Beth took a breath before she spoke. “As you know, My Lord, pregnancy carries risk, for the mother, for the child. On the breeding farms there are high rates of mortality when the concerns of the stock is not fully considered.”

“Thus your recommendations for more benefits for mothers versus sires,” Lord Ezekiel replied.

“Yes, but that is compensation for a woman coming forward and volunteering. You are suggesting going to a slave and ordering her to breed.”

“That’s what the farms do, isn’t it? They get better stock that way,” Lord Ezekiel replied.

Darrin swallowed. He knew what he was, where he came from, but the master’s tone was so casual that it was a bit difficult to hear. Darrin looked to Miss Beth who was charging ahead with her response.

“Yes, and in reality their survival rates are horrific and their methods… sometimes worse than you might do to your cattle or hogs. Surely the Shaynis family wants to be dignified in its approach to increasing slave numbers.”

Lord Ezekiel was frowning now but he was also thinking. The insult was implied and he needed to respond to it but displaying anger toward his inferiors, particularly Darrin, would be inappropriate. After a few minutes, the nobleman asked in a controlled tone, “So you would simply open up the program to anyone who wanted extra benefits?”

“Oh, no, no, My Lord, not at all. Anyone wishing to participate would need to undergo physicals and interviews as well. As it is, the entire field and yardslave staff is feed the chemicals you mentioned to greatly lower the risk of pregnancies. If two slaves were chosen they’d need to have change in diet for a few months Doctor Roggeveen told me. How are female and male slaves controlled in the house?” Miss Beth looked to Darrin when she asked this question.

“The Heads of Departments are responsible for maintaining sex divisions in sleeping quarters, in overseeing the work and rest periods… I don't know if something is in the food or not,” he replied.

“That isn’t in your records?” Lord Ezekiel asked.

“Not that I have seen, master.”

“Not that I’ve seen in my mother-in-laws records either,” the nobleman confessed. “Well,” he stated as he slapped his desk. “Let’s call the woman who might know then and ask her.”

Darrin opened the door to Chef Nance who has cleared changed her uniform for a fresher one when she came a half hour later. “Please have a seat, Nance,” Darrin whispered to her as she entered.

She walked in, curtsied to Lord Ezekiel, and then took a seat. Nance exchanged a nod with Miss Beth then focused her attention on their master as Darrin took his former chair.

“Nance, dear,” Lord Ezekiel began. Clearly he still had great affection for her to use such a term in this setting. The Chef had told them at a recent heads meeting that she had pleasured him a handful of times since Lady Shaynis had left on her mission and that reflected a slight downtick in the number of special service token, Darrin had noted. “Nance, this is going to be an odd question and I don't really know how to ask without being direct. Do you mix some type of pregnancy blocker into the food for the houseslaves?”

“What?” Nance immediately asked in return then she blushed and swallowed. “I’m sorry, master, I’m not sure what you mean.”

“May I?” Miss Beth asked and at the nobleman’s nod, she preceded to list off several possible terms for the chemicals, some of which got nods.

“Oh, is that what those are for then?” Nance replied once they were through the list. “I always had my suspicions but the Chef back at Lakemore and here at Shaynis both just told me that it was very important to make sure the women’s water and the men’s were kept separate. They always said it was to track usage better.”

“That would be a great way to treat the population,” Miss Beth replied.

Lord Ezekiel nodded then gave Nance a smile. “I’m going to trust what we discuss here stays here in this parlor or only between the four of us and Lady Shaynis, of course,” he said firmly.

“Yes, sir,” they all replied.

“There may be a time in the future when we’ll need you to give special diets to particular slaves in the household, Nance, and only to them. Will you be able to manage that level of complication in the kitchen?”

“I keep a record, master, I can certainly do that. Are you going to breed slave, sir?” Nance asked.

“Always such a clever girl,” Lord Ezekiel told her. “We are considering offering the staff the opportunity to reproduce but not force them to do so.”

Miss Beth nodded but Nance gave Darrin a frightened look before she schooled her face and merely nodded in reply to their owner’s husband. After a moment she asked another question. “Master, does Stenwale know about his breeding program?”

“Yes, though Beth was the one who brought it to our attention.”

“Does Alice know?”

Lord Ezekiel blinked a few times as he shook his head.

Nance took a deep breath and then said firmly said, “She should know as a department head. If she finds out later… if you don't wish to force breeding, isn’t it better to have all department heads informed, master?”

“Beth, Darrin, do you concur?” Lord Ezekiel asked.

“I agree that each department head will need to be an active part of the program if has a chance to work,” Miss Beth replied.
“I agree, master. Alice is very level-headed, very loyal, and given other ideas we’ve discussed, it may be wise to bring her in early,” Darrin pointed out gently.

The nobleman sat and thought for a few moments then he nodded. “Have every department head then meet with me tonight. We’ll lie out the program at that point. Nance, you are dismissed but please do send someone with snacks for we three. We have a few more details to go over.”

After Nance had left, Lord Ezekiel got them to help him get a very detailed breeding program on paper. The entire time, Darrin worried a bit about whether or not his owner would agree to all of the changes this program would create but the master would need to deal with Lady Shaynis himself if she did not agree.

Alice was the more immediate problem when they all met later that evening but true to Darrin’s declarations, she was indeed loyal though she flat out said, “As long as no one expects me to have a baby, I’ll help my staff if they are chosen for the program.”

Lord Ezekiel didn’t push but Darrin had a suspicion that the nobleman was deeply disappointed given the rest of his tone for the reminder of their meeting.

Chapter Text

“Darrin,” Head Trainer Violet stopped him in mid sentence and the slave immediately went quiet though he did frown. “While I understand that Lady Shaynis returning home is an important matter to everyone here, it is a month away. I think you are using these future events to ignore the question about your current emotional state.”

Darrin just let his gaze fall to the floor then he sighed. She’d let him take a minute or so to think but if he didn’t answer honestly, she’d push and push. Darrin had learned it felt better both during and after these sessions to be as honest as he could. It still went against his internal and external training that he’d relied on for 22 years. “The nightmares are less common, still pretty bad when they happen but not as often.”

“Last week you told me that you were having them every other night. How often since then?”

“About every three days… is that normal?”

“Normal?”

“For them to decrease slowly, Head Trainer,” he clarified.

“We’ve only been talking for four months, Darrin. This is actually fast, not slow. You have a very strong mind but I’ve told you that before.” He nodded as she looked at her notes for a moment before asking, “How often are you losing focus during the day? Your thoughts wandering back to the past even when you’re awake.”

Darrin was very tempted to lie but if she checked he’d get into trouble. She’d never said she did but he’d be a fool to think she wouldn’t since his owner had told the rest of the staff to answer any of Head Trainer Luther’s questions at any time. “A couple times a day, depends on the day, what I see, hear, do… it isn’t always bad memories,” he emphasized.

“Tell me about a good memory then, or a neutral one,” she added when Darrin’s frown deepened.

“Well, I think I remembered the woman who birthed me.”

Head Trainer Violet blinked but she kept her voice calm and gentle. “You think? Explain.”

“I have this memory of a woman who I saw more than any other slave on the farm. I have mixed memories of her. Sometimes she is singing to me, sometimes helping me with my clothes, telling me to be a good boy, telling me to hush and not cry, slapping me a couple of times,” Darrin added that last bit in a whisper.

“Did you slap because you were crying?”

“No, no, she would put her arms around me or hug me when I was crying, I think, it’s like little flashes of memories. She smelled like fruit. The breeding slaves were fed well. She always had a round stomach like Miss Beth did when she was pregnant,” Darrin explained.

“But you also remember her slapping you?”

“Yes, just a few times. She’d grab me hard and hiss don’t call me that, the master make hear and then we’ll both be whipped,” Darrin hissed, copying the tone he recalled from the snippets of memories.

Head Trainer Violet leaned toward him and put a hand on his, squeezing gently as she pushed him to answer. “You’re right here on the Shaynis estate. That man has no power over your life now, he never will again. What did you call her?”

Darrin licked his upper lip then pressed his lips together as the memories thrust up in response to the question. “She was right to correct me that way. It was a foolish thing for me to do.”

“What did you call her, Darrin?”

“Mama,” he expelled with a shudder that turned into tears.

“It’s all right,” Head Trainer Violet told him as she pulled him into a hug. “When did you last have this memory?”

“I was meeting with Miss Beth and she had her son. When I walked in she said to him Mama loves you Earl. I just stopped mid step and the next thing I knew Miss Beth was at my side, one hand on my arm, the baby cradled to her chest.” Darrin pulled back and looked at the trainer with a weak smile. “She was worried about me, like I was a person.”

“Slaves are humans, people.”

Darrin pulled back to sit up straight. “Fine. Like I was a free person then. I felt ashamed that I upset her enough that she felt moved to touch my arm, to ask after me.”

“You’re shaking your head,” the head trainer pointed out. “You don’t think you deserved to have Beth express concerns about your well being?”

“She’s married to Stenwale, her sons are contractual slaves but she isn’t. My job is to help her work out her proposals for the estate not to be cared for by her. She has other things to do.”

“Go back to what you said a moment ago. Your job is what with Beth?”

“To help her with her proposals.”

“At that moment when you froze, when you had a memory, were you being helpful?”

Darrin’s gaze dropped to the floor, his cheeks felt flushed. He swallowed and then forced his eyes back up as he replied, “No, ma’am, I wasn’t being helpful at all.”

“What do you think Beth should have done at that moment when you were not helping her and it was clear to probably anyone that you weren’t aware of what was happening in those moments?”

“She should have slapped me or yelled at me, or something to get my attention. Reported me to Lord Ezekiel,” Darrin replied with a firm nod of his head.

“Is that what you would do if one of your fellow slaves, whom you knew was having struggles with his past, had a episode like this? Be honest, I know you pretty well by now, Darrin, so be honest.”

“No, no, I’d help them come to and settle down, and then get back to work but that’s different.”

“Why is that different?”

“I’m slave, another slave would be a slave, too, a peer but Miss Beth isn’t.”

“According to you. But what about according to her?”

“What?” Darrin asked in surprise at that question.

“Do you think that Beth sees you as just another slave?”

“I, um, well, not just another slave but I am a slave, Head Trainer.”

“Legally, yes, but on this estate you actually outrank her.”

Darrin blinked a few times then he stood up and then shook his head before he took a few steps back and forth. He had told her to leave his office months ago when she approached him about this breeding idea, he’d helped her find the supplies building and gave her instructions about what she was allowed to take out and when, in many ways he had treated her as another slave coming to him even if he did put a minor honorific in front of her name.

“You outrank every slave on this estate currently. When tradesmen come to the estate do they call you slave or boy or do they deal with you with respect? Their free born men and women but you deal with them in a professional manner and in return they treat you with respect due your position on this estate not your legal status on a form in a governmental office,” Head Trainer Violet pointed out.

“But they wouldn’t express concern for me,” Darrin replied.

“Because they are just passing through the estate. Even though her status is unique, Beth is part of the Shaynis household just as you and every slave is. Perhaps she sees you as a peer more than a servant as she does her husband.”

Darrin snorted but he stopped pacing and came back to the chair. They sat silently for a few moments until he said, “Have you spoken with Miss Beth?”

“I’ve spoken with many staff and the entire family but I think you are asking if I’ve spoken with her about you… only to say that I am helping you learn about your past so that you can do better in your role as Chief of Servants and to answer a few questions that she had.”

Darrin swallowed. “May I ask what questions, ma’am?”

“You just did and I’ll only say that I’m certain she thinks of you as a supervisor and a peer in many ways. Perhaps a bit like a younger brother even though you are about the same age. When she touched your arm, and when she asked after you, she did that out of genuine concern as well as to get you back to work.”

Darrin felt his mouth tremble as a wave of feeling swept through him.

“What are you feeling right now? Remember the first step is to name the feelings.”

“I don’t know, I’m not sure, confused?”

“By what you should call the feeling or the number of feelings?”

“Several feelings. Surprise, happiness, fear, longing.”

“Longing for what?”

“A mother as good as Miss Beth clearly is, ma’am,” Darrin said as he started to cry again.

**********
Darrin took a slow breath as he waited in the hallway for Lord Ezekiel to ring the bell to summon him into the parlor. The noble was interviewing the group of whores… no, slaves, Darrin corrected himself silently. They’d discussed the importance of making that mental adjustment as Head Trainer Violet called it. His lordship was interviewing them first and given a few of the noises that were escaping the room it was a bit more hands-on than Darrin knew he’d be comfortable with.

He glanced over Head Trainer’s Violet’s hand came to rest on his arm to give him a supportive squeeze. The woman was excellent at her job whether it was training new bedslaves, bodyslaves, or helping them get their heads together so Darrin gave her a smile and nod in return.

He turned his attention to Miss Beth next who was standing a couple of steps away. She returned his smile so Darrin looked to the trainer before he crossed the distance and bowed to her. “Thank you for your help the other day, Miss Beth,” he said as he stood back up.

The woman just chuckled and shook her head, making a light shooing motion with one hand as she replied, “Thank you for helping me. I thought I’d considered everything but your experience is well beyond mine.”

“The project is important, ma’am, but I was referring to your patience when I get a bit… distant at times,” Darrin said softly. He glanced back at the trainer who just nodded for him to continue but before he could, Miss Beth put a hand on his and drew his attention to her.

“Darrin. We all have things we have to learn to cope with. I was pregnant and as much as I tried to pretend that was nothing it was actually a bit hard at times. I have to struggle sometimes with how things work on this estate versus the village I grew up in.”

Darrin frowned a bit. Her comparisons hardly seemed accurate but he knew better than to say that. He was surprised when Miss Beth tilted her head to look him in the eyes as she continued. “Being the third daughter in a relatively poor family wasn’t joyful, it was difficult and not just from an economic view. But maybe I’ll tell you about that later. For now, I’m your colleague, your friend, of course, I’ll try to be patient with you.”

“Thank you,” Darrin said again.

They both turned toward the parlor when the bell rang out. Darrin went to the door and then held it open for both women to enter before him but Head Trainer Violet paused beside him. “I’m staying by your side, if not in the physical sense at all times in here, then in the emotional sense. If you feel panicked, look at me.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Darrin whispered back.

Darrin kept his eyes on the floor as he walked in and took up position by the lord’s desk. He had seen six pairs of feet as he walked by, two with shoes, four without. Two brothels were represented — Swan Song from the third latest city in the kingdom and Silver Dreams from the capital. He looked at the feet, they seemed well cared for so at least the slaves were well fed and treated in the week or so before this meeting.

“I like all four of these but I’d like your opinions, Beth, Darrin, even yours Ms. Turner if you would be so kind,” Lord Ezekiel stated as he walked by them and took his seat behind his desk.

“My opinion, my lord?” Miss Beth spoke up first. “I’m still not sure why I’m here… given my current project. I thought all slaves of this sort were unable to reproduce.”

“If I may, my lord,” an unknown male voice asked so Darrin glanced up to see one of the brothel keepers, probably the owners since this was a unique business opportunity for them, stepping toward Miss Beth. Darrin pushed down a desire to step between her and the man but she was a free woman and the lord was right there plus if he tried anything, the trainer was a skilled fighter he imagined based on his experiences back at her facilities in the capital.

“Please do explain, I think that I didn’t do that,” Lord Ezekiel replied casually.

“Thank you, my lord.” Darrin kept his gaze up to watch as the man turned a smile toward Miss Beth and addressed her. “You must be the one in charge of this breeding program. Quite progressive or regressive depending on one’s view.”

“What is your view, mister?” Miss Beth replied quickly.

“Juda Greenbeck, from Silver Dreams Society,” the man replied with a slight bow. “My view is that I’m interested in making money and ensuring that my members have a good time. What a noble does on his own estate, is his own business.”

“Surely your slaves are sterilized, Mr. Greenbeck,” Miss Beth replied.

“Most are, most are but no all. Come here,” he said with a motion toward two of the slaves with him. Darrin couldn’t help but see them since he was watching for Miss Beth’s sake. She’d said he was her colleague and friend, he needed to pay attention even if he could feel his heart pounding as a woman with ample bosom and a slight man stepped up to their master and bowed to Miss Beth. “Mela was owned by a minor noblewoman for a decade until the mistress was married and no longer needed her. Puck’s master was a single man and when he got married I was able to acquire him. If the bedslave is serving someone of the same sex, there is no need for any permanent sterilizations.”

“Same for my boys, here,” the other brothel owner added.

“So the owner would make sure to only share with the same sex?” Miss Beth asked.

The brothel owners, the lord, and even the trainer chuckled and Darrin could feel his eyes widen at the very notion that he would have been shared when he was with his mistress in that position. “Oh, goodness, no,” Lord Ezekiel spoke up. “That would be considered filthy to do.”

“Oh,” Miss Beth replied and she blushed but didn’t look down or back away, just smiled and laughed lightly saying, “Another commoner rumor then.”

“Indeed,” Lord Ezekiel said in a more serious voice. “Please ask the slaves whatever questions you might have, Beth.”
Miss Beth turned to the woman first. “Have you ever had a child, Mela, was it?”

“Yes, ma’am, that is my name but no, ma’am, I haven’t. Didn’t think it would be an option for me but.” The slave glanced at her master who nodded sharply for her to continue. “I took care of my previous owner’s younger siblings, I think I did a good job of it.”

“So you’d be open to the idea of having a child or two for the Shaynis estate?” Miss Beth pushed.

“If it pleases you, ma’am.”

Miss Beth glanced at Darrin then at Lord Ezekiel before she turned back to the slaves from the brothels. “Even if you are bought and move here, it will be your decision. Good children come from willing parents,” she stated firmly.

Darrin glanced at his master but he lord just nodded with sigh. This was the one area that the household was most at odds with but Lady Gavriella had come down on Miss Beth’s side and she would stand up for the ideal.

“Oh, well, then I think I’d like that depending on who the sire would be, ma’am,” Mela replied.

“Do you boys also feel like you could sire a child?” Miss Beth asked and all three of the male slaves agreed. “I’d want a copy of their genetic tests and family histories but they are pretty so if they are willing, I’d think they’d be a good addition, my lord,” she said as she turned back to the desk.

“Excellent!” Lord Ezekiel replied. “Trainer? Do you have any questions for them?”

“Only if their masters step out of the room,” Miss Violet replied.

In a few moments, the two brothel owners followed Darrin out to the hallway where he commanded Menno to fetch them some refreshments as they took a seat and waited. Darrin found all four slaves kneeling on the floor in a semi-circle around the head trainer as she sat in a chair. Her statement suggested that she’d waited for him to return as well. “I need you to answer my questions in complete honesty. If Lady and Lord Shaynis purchase you and if they or I discover that you have lied, you’ll find yourself in a much worse situation than at the brothels you’ve come from. Am I understood?”

The direct but calm threat got all four to nod. Darrin took up position again by the desk glancing over when his master leaned toward him and whispered, “She’s good.” Darrin merely nodded and went back to observing.

“Mela and Puck, how is life at Silver Dreams?”

The two slaves glanced at each other and shrugged before the man spoke up. “Master Juda makes sure we only see five clients a day and the entire place is closed on Sunday, ma’am.”

“The exception is for parties,” Mela added and Puck nodded with a sigh. “Sometimes you have to care for more than five at a party but they share really well, ma’am. I’ve never had a broken bone or a bruise that was too long lasting.”

Darrin glanced at Miss Beth who now turned away for a second. Was she shocked? Was she thinking about what he had to do when he was in the same position? Darrin pushed that train of thought back and returned his focus on the questions and answers.

“Two meals a day plus clients can bring in food,” Mela said, “or trinkets, too.”

“She gets more of the trinkets, I get more food,” Puck offered with a grin that looked easy not faked.

“I don't want to get fat,” Mela replied but her fellow slave just laughed.

“You two seem to get along well,” the head trainer observed. “Do you have relationship beyond just brothel workers?”

The two slaves glanced at each other and then at the trainer before she did something that Darrin couldn’t see but suspected might be an arched eyebrow that often got him to talk, too. “Puck was there before me, he helped me adjust. He’s like a big brother, ma’am,” Mela replied.

“Even though I’m actually a year younger than her,” Puck added.

“Do you think you’d want to breed with each other?”

“Ew, no, no,” Mela said with a shake of her head that matched Puck’s.

“I think that meets your desire to breed them with the others on the estate, my lord,” Head Trainer Violet tossed back with a look at the nobleman.

“Indeed. We’d just make a note that they think of each other as siblings then. I assume we’ll want to avoid true incest at all costs, yes, Beth?”

“Certainly, my lord,” Miss Beth replied as she turned back to the scene and the desk.

The head trainer turned her attention to the other two slaves. “What are your names and which brothel owns you?”
“I’m Harker, ma’am, and this is Zebe,” the blond replied.

“Can’t Zebe speak for himself?”

“I can, ma’am,” the other slave said softly as he looked down at her feet.

There was a pause and then Head Trainer Violet asked, “Are the two of your lovers?”

The shyer one looked up at the questions, his eyes wide but he wasn’t blushing, he was more shocked. “No, ma’am,” Harker replied with a shake of his head. Master Garrick wouldn’t allow that.”

“And how did he prevent that?” she pushed.

“We each have our own suite where we live and take clients, about four to six a day. We had parties, too, but we only did the same number then. Always up in the suites,” Harker explained. The two slaves from Silver Dreams were looking at the others with slightly open mouths, leaning toward them. That was not the same model of their brothel then. Brothels might be flexible then, maybe Silver Dreams was more like House of Black Sparks but not their feet were so nice, they seemed content even and that didn’t match what Darrin remembered.

Darrin flinched as something touched his arm. Miss Beth was next to him, looking at him, her hand on his arm. Darrin glanced at his master to see the nobleman pointedly ignoring him and focused on the questions. Now the two were telling Head Trainer Violet about their previous owners before the brothel and Darrin realized he’s missed a few things.

In a minute or two they all turned to Darrin when the trainer stood up from the chair and the four slaves stood up as well. Lord Ezekiel came around his desk, gave Darrin a look that seemed to be concerned, so Darrin just nodded once and bowed his head and raised to signal he was prepared to do his job today.

“The final questions will come from my Chief of Servants, Darrin. Answer him as you did Beth and Miss Turner,” the lord ordered as he took the chair away.

Darrin stepped forward and looked at each slave. They didn’t come from where he had, they might not have his problems, and frankly he wasn’t up to asking about that. He really had only a few questions but he began with a statement. “If you are purchased into this house you will serve in either the housekeeping, service, or yard departments. You will also use your skills in sexual pleasure when required by the family or their guests. Do any of you have domestic skills that would help me decision where you can best serve?”

“I’m good with children, sir,” Mela began by repeating what she’d said earlier. “I took care of my mistress’s clothing and suite as well but I can’t say I’m very good with plants or cooking, sir.”

“I can cook,” Harker spoke up. “My master’s wife passed on and he bought and I helped him keep his house before he remarried. I also tended the small garden he had and we always had enough fresh veg and herbs for me to use.”

“My master was very fond of horses so I spent a lot of time around his stables but I never did more than ride them, sir,” Puck added with a shrug. “If I may be blunt… Mostly I was entertainment. I can sing and do a bit of dancing but I’m faster learner, very flexible.”

Darrin listened to each and filed their replies in his memory. Their files would have most of this if not all of it but they all seemed eager to please except for the shy one whose eyes were on the floor. “You, what is your name again?”

The other three slaves stepped a bit away as Darrin walked up to the slave who looked like he would love to fall through the floor. “In this household, when I ask a question, I expect an answer, boy.”

“Zebe, sir,” the man croaked out. His voice seemed harsh but way was unclear until Darrin got a look at his throat. There were the signs of bruising around his neck, faded but still there. Darrin took a step back and then looked over his shoulder toward Head Trainer Violet who nodded slowly at him. Beside her, Miss Beth stepped into his line of sight and she gave him a smile.
Darrin turned back to the man and softened his voice. “Before the brothel, what did you do for your master, Zebe?”

“I did all of the normal things, sir,” the slave replied then he opened his mouth and closed it.

“And?”

“I also was his secretary, sir. I can write and read but his new wife didn’t think it was appropriate,” he whispered.

“What did the boy say?” Lord Ezekiel asked loudly.

Darrin shook his head at the slave and spoke up for him. “The boy said that he can read and write, master. That could be useful around here.”

“Indeed,” the nobleman agreed.

Darrin had decided that they would find a place for Zebe as soon as he saw the bruises but his literacy would make it very easy to do so.

At the end of it, Darrin walked Head Trainer Violet to her suite. They were silent during the walk but at her door she instructed him to look at her. “You did very well. I only saw a few moments of difficulty.”

“Thank you, ma’am,” Darrin replied with a bow before he left. He had recommendations to write up about the four slaves who would be joining them unless his mistress made another choice. So far she had been content to allow Lord Ezekiel to make these decisions and the nobleman had followed Darrin’s recommendations every time.

**********
Darrin walked down the line of his staff, stopping in front of each one and adjust a lapel or collar, pushing a stray hair back, and pointing out any sign of wear on their uniforms. With the inclusive of women to the ranks of service staff uniforms new uniforms were created. The girls were in slightly looser trousers and their jackets and vests had to accommodate their bosoms while their ties were more bows then long, thin pieces of fabric. Zebe, whom Lord Ezekiel did not require all the time and would do dual duty as Darrin’s assistant, was in service staff black but he had a vest only, no jacket unless the master requested it, and bow tie like the girls. It set him aside as Darrin’s watch, long jacket, and the single gray line down his trousers did for him.

Darrin paused and noticed that Menno was glaring down the line back at the new boy. “Everyone go about your duties, I will see you throughout the day,” Darrin ordered but he put up a hand as the Butler made to move. “My office now,” the Chief of Servants hissed. At the door, Darrin motioned for Zebe to stand across the hallway and wait for him so the quiet man stepped back and folded his hands in front of him as he bowed his head to wait.

Once in his office Darrin motioned to a chair and Menno paused before sitting down. Darrin perched on the side of his desk and just looked at the frowning man. “Zebe is not in line to be butler nor to be chief. You shouldn’t be jealous of him,” Darrin stated after a few silent moments.

“I wasn’t thinking of being replaced, sir,” the older man ground out.

Darrin sighed and stood up, moving to sit in his chair beyond his desk. “I’m in therapy,” he said and the other slave’s eyes went wide. They all knew it but it was the first time Darrin had used the word around his direct staff in private or public. “I’m not a therapist. I can’t read your mind and I won’t tolerate whatever jealousies or fears you have affecting how this house functions. So tell me what is annoying you, boy!”

The older man flinched at the belittling word the slaves rarely used in regards to each other. “Why was he chosen to be Lord Ezekiel’s secretary over me?”

“Over you? I didn’t realize that you were interested in the job.”

“I didn’t know there was one until you told us about the new slaves and transfers.”

Darrin tilted his head to one side and tented his fingers under his chin as he’d seen Mr. Gavin do several times when he was thinking. After a second he asked, “What would qualify you to be secretary?”

“I can read and write, I did help the previous mistress with her work until her last bedslave was capable of doing that as well. Did you read my file, sir,” Menno huffed as he sat back further in his chair and folded his arms over his chest.

Darrin didn’t answer the charge. He had, of course, read all of their files before Mr. Gavin’s retirement, but the thing that had stuck with him most about the man across from him was his horrible attitude toward the other slaves. As a butler, Menno was superb with guests and family, always knowing what they needed, always just out of their view and silent. He lacked what Mr. Gavin had called good management skills. The last thing the damned fool needed was a higher position so he’d be even ruder to his fellow slaves.

Zebe on the other hand could barely speak, more of a physical issue than emotional, the slave doctors reported. He was good for taking orders and carrying out tasks but not at managing with such a defect. It was unlikely given his emotional scars that he’d start to think too highly of himself to behave inappropriately with the other slaves. Darrin quickly debated the best way to deal with the issue and decided to be honest and direct.

“Until the Shaynis family had the option to acquire a boy with previous secretarial experience, Lord Ezekiel had not expressed any interest in having one. He prefers to be hands on,” Darrin used the nobleman’s own words and even flexed his hands as the lord had when they’d discussed Zebe.

The older slave deflated a bit at that information. “I see… I thought it was because he was so much younger and pretty.”

“Let’s not dance around it, Menno. I’m sure that didn’t hurt him in the eyes of our master,” Darrin replied.

They sat silently for a moment and just as Darrin was going to stand and dismiss him, Menno spoke up in a plaintive tone. “I practice every night, sir.”

“Practice?”

“Writing and reading, I use scraps of paper I find, I borrow books from the library, I,” he paused and closed his eyes so Darrin encouraged him to continue. “The young master, Romario, gave me his tablet before he left for service. He had a particular fondness for me, sir. I use that as well, not enough to require constant recharging, I promise.”

Darrin’s eyes widened a bit. It was true that when he’d been learning more about the special services tokens that he’s seen that many of them for Menno had come from Romario when the solider visited and before he’s been sent off. Given the nightmares that the old Chef had reported the younger master’s previous bedslave suffered from his time, Darrin was a bit shocked to think what the older slave sitting across from him might have had to do to earn such an extravagant gift. A tablet wasn’t technically a computer but a writing device, a sort of electronic paper tablet that secretaries and each of the head of departments had.

“Sir, please don’t take the tablet from me,” Menno asked as meekly as Darrin had ever heard the man’s voice.

“It was a gift from the young master, our Mistress has not insisted that it be returned, it is not my place to take it from you. However, since you can write and read both, I have a concern about underutilizing you. Chef Nance has complained often that she is the only one in her kitchen who can read or write and this slows down her inventory. I think you would do the estate a good service by reporting to her in the evenings and helping her.”

The older man’s face went from fearful to hopeful and he leaned forward so Darrin took out his own tablet and made a note. “I’ll speak with her this evening and inform you of when you will be reporting to her tomorrow morning at inspection. You are dismissed to your duties for now. Please send Zebe in on your way out,” Darrin ordered.

“Yes, sir, thank you, sir, I’ll help her out,” Menno cooed as he stood up. He bowed without another word but he huge grin on his face showed Darrin had made a good choice. Nance wouldn’t put up with any rudeness and while it was hard to teach an old boy a new trick, she’d be the overseer to do it, Darrin was certain of it.

Darrin looked up when there was a coarse clearing of a throat. “Let’s begin with how you are not going to do that when you enter the master’s presence,” he said as he stood up and came around his desk toward the new slave.

**********
“We have done this in never,” Nance said a week later as Darrin and she sat outside the kitchen door on the small delivery porch at the side of the mansion facing away from the driveway. Darrin had his jacket and vest unbuttoned and was leaning back against the doorway as he sat on one of the two low stools outside.

“I take this means that Menno is a big help then?”

“Do you know how much hassle it is to look through everything then write it down? I'm not very skilled with the entire reading and writing to begin with; had to learn for this position. Do you know what he’s created? A checklist! I never heard of such at thing outside of my head. Apparently the master gave permissions and we just mark the list and it sends an order out without Lord Ezekiel needing to check out himself.” Nance shook her head a few times, her lips pressed tight against each other.

“What? Having more time makes you angry now?” Darrin teased.

“I mean it's a bit scary to be using all this… stuff that we ain’t supposed to use, isn’t it? I mean what if government spies come around to check on us?”

Darrin chuckled at the idea of men in black suits lurking about. Soon his chuckles grew louder until the Chef was putting her hand on his mouth, her own laughter nearly matching his. The door opened and Shem, her assistant looked out at them. “We’re fine, boy, go to bed, like I told you,” she shooed him away as the two department heads regained their composure.

Once the other slave was gone Darrin cried out, “ouch,” as Nance hit him on the upper arm. “What was that for?”

“You have some nerve, Mr. Darrin, acting all familiar with me, out here in the dark, just being lazy.”

Darrin snorted. “The master is asleep, we’ve had our meeting, and you, Chef, did invite me here this evening.”

“Fine, fine; turn the blame for your poor behavior back on to one of your underlings.”

“The first time you act like my underling, I’ll probably have a heart attack out of shock,” Darrin croaked back at her.

She leaned in and put a hand on his arm and then gave his cheek a quick kiss. Darrin sat up straight and stood up, looking out onto the patio. “I’m sorry, Darrin, I didn’t mean to cause any memories to stir up, I was just being friendly.”

Darrin blinked a few times then shook his head. “It wasn’t a bad memory, Nance, I just, we can’t, you know that,” he said as he turned toward the door.

“We could. Who would know and we have extra time now,” Nance replied as she stood up. Darrin moved so her hand didn’t touch him as she reached toward him. “I get so lonely. We go from being sexual every day, sometimes more often, to running some part of this huge house. I enjoyed that part of my service, I miss the intimacy.”

Darrin stepped back and frowned but he looked at her. “I thought Lord Ezekiel was coming to you now.”

“Only once a week or so, I’m usually so busy…”

“Except now you have more time. Find a way to let him know the next time he comes to you. Or what about Shem? He’s only a bit younger, he has experience and I’m sure you’d be nothing like his former master. He did come to check on you, and his cell is right next to your office,” Darrin pointed out.

They stood still for a moment until Nance softly asked, “Do you spend time with the other slaves? Do you miss sex when the Mistress is gone?”

“I have a few favors I get from a couple of the staff, but it isn’t anything like I do for the Mistress. I do miss that bit I have a different role now, different rules. As do you and us being together would not be good for this estate. We can’t afford potential conflicts between our departments.”

Nance nodded her head and opened the door. Darrin waited for her to re-enter the kitchen and then locked the door behind them. They didn’t say anything else before heading to their separate offices.

Chapter Text

“Darrin, this will be our last face-to-face weekly session,” Head Trainer Violet tells him a couple of months later.

Darrin jerks back as though she’d just slapped him so she reaches out and puts a soothing hand on his shoulder. “You haven’t told me about a nightmare in six weeks, times when a memory cause you to detach during the day are fewer and fewer. We’ve been on this weekly therapy now for a month. My being on the estate is a waste of the Shaynis time, space, and money. I’ve sent a message back to my house in the capital and a carriage is being sent for me which should arrive tomorrow right after breakfast. How does that make you feel?”

Darrin took a deep breath before he replied. Everything she said was correct. He was under control but he wasn’t a shell that just followed the rules to get him through the day either. He was something else, something he hoped was better; he felt better if a bit odd at times. The slaves had adjusted to the new members in each department, Lord Ezekiel had settled into his role as spouse well and was entertaining and being entertained on other estates on a weekly basis. There was even a pregnancy already among the fieldslaves. The Lady of the family would be home next week and then they’d all start planning for the arrival of the new infant master or mistress in about seven weeks after that. Things were going smoothly which made Darrin frown. “What is something happens and I lose it?”

“First, you won’t go back to how you were before; that isn’t mentally possible. Second, Lord Ezekiel has given your tablet permissions to contact me every other week for a session much like the though it will be verbal only. Third, he and Lady Gavriella have agreed that if your fugue state returns, they will summon me back.” Head Trainer Violet smiled. “But I do have a business back in the capital and I would like to get back to a more hands-on approach there.”

“Of course, ma’am,” Darrin agreed with a bow of his head.

She smiled back and then looked at her notes for a second before diving into the day’s topic. “Lady Gavriella will be back in six days, correct? How do you feel about that?”

“Yes, ma’am, six days and around two hours depending on the carriage,” Darrin replied with a glance at his pocket watch.

“How do you feel about her returning?”

“Um, I’m hopeful that she will find everything suitable. We’re going to do a thorough clearing starting in two days…”

“How do you feel about her returning? Head Trainer Violet interrupted him to repeat.

She was giving him her arched eye and firm look so Darrin took another deep breath before he replied. “Anxious,” he sighed out with another breath.

“About?”

“She’s been gone for four months, I haven’t been apart from her for that long before. She’ll have experiences with the King and this diplomacy mission that I haven’t helped her with. She has a secretary, you know. One the King assigned to her. Another woman, a non-inheriting daughter of a powerful merchant family in the village not far from here.”

“Are you worried about the secretary?”

Darrin took another breath. “I wasn’t her secretary, I could barely read and write when I was her bodyslave but Lady Gavriella shared a lot of things with me when she was interning in the Capital, when her father passed away and she took over the family, planning for the marriage. I felt important to her decision making process.”

“And now?”

“I know I’m important to this estate. I know my position here is of utmost value to her, to Lord Ezekiel, but it feels very impersonal. It wasn’t impersonal before,” Darrin said as he folded his arms over his chest and hugged himself.

Head Trainer Violet nodded and gave him a smile and a pat on his knee. “You haven’t had a very physically intimate relationship with her since the wedding. Do you miss it?”

“Yes,” Darrin replied immediately, his voice a bit strained. He swallowed and looked at the floor. Of all the things to have his last face-to-face session about but he knew it needed to be dealt with before his mistress was home again. “Before I came here, sex was something that was taken from me, it was what I had to do. Here I had other chores and even after I came to train at your house,” he added with a glance at the trainer, “I was more than just a sexual toy for Lady Gavriella.”

“You weren’t just a bedslave.”

Darrin nodded. “I didn’t have as many years to get training to help her move after Master Shaynis’s death but I’m, ah, this is hard to say because it feels like I shouldn’t say it.”

“If it is in your mind, it needs to come out or there is a risk of lashing out. We’ve talked about how the rules of all long lasting societies allow for everyone to vent in some fashion. Saying it, discussing it with a safe listener, these are possible for you in your position.”

“With you, ma’am.”

“With me, with your fellow department heads, with yourself. Perhaps even Lady Gavriella,” she suggested.

Darrin shook his head at that and fidgeted a bit. “I’m not sure that would be wise…”

“Without breaking confidences, let me assure you that your owners would not have kept me here and would not be keeping me on for distance sessions if they did not value your opinions and your mental well-being. As Chief of Servants, you are the most important slave on this estate, the most important slave in their lives and their children’s lives. I’m not saying complain about things or offer asked opinions, but if offered the opportunity to share your opinions, take it.”

Darrin looked directly at the head trainer and then nodded. “Yes, ma’am. I will work to remember that.”

“Good. Now back to the question of you missing sexual service or intimacy. You enjoyed sex with Lady Gavriella?”

“Yes,” Darrin said. He could feel his face heat up as his mouth broke into a ridiculous grin. The head trainer’s own grin and pointed nodding of her head urged him to say more. “She was interested in experimenting yet never strayed from her position of authority. She never hurt me too much, never did things for pleasure that she’d use for a punishment. I felt release most encounters. She never even teased me about sharing me with others. It felt like she enjoyed my body, my skills, my attention. It was easy… no, that sounds like I wasn’t focused, I was, always on her pleasure, but…”

Darrin looked around his office and stood up. The head trainer sat up straighter and followed his movements with her eyes as he went and picked up his tablet and physical book he used to keep track of everything in the household. “Being here in this office and managing all of this feels overwhelming… I’ve never said that outloud before. I worry about making a mistake.”

He came back and sat in his chair as he continued to talk. “Being with Lady Gavriella not just with sex but just helping her dress, escorting her to events, sitting at her feet while she read something or had a discussion with her family, that felt, argh, I don’t have the words!”

“You are doing great,” Head Trainer Violet stated. “Use as many words as you need.”

“Yes, ma’am. It felt safe, calm, or passionate and exciting but still safe. I had rules of how to behave and yet these were so flexible, so big, that I could have done many more things but she was happy to have me just be by her side.”

“And now?” the trainer pushed after a few silent moments of Darrin’s smile fading into a frown.

“Now I worry if I make a mistake, I can be replaced. Now that I have so many duties, so many people looking to me for direction, when I’m not just a body… and I feel more replaceable. That’s crazy, right?”

“That’s normal. It’s called stress. Let’s review, Darrin. You were born into a simple life on a breeding farm where you basically did minor chores until that farmer decide to rent your body out. Immediately you felt threatened and literally you were threatened nearly every day for almost eight years. Then you came here thinking you were settling into the life of a basic domestic slave only to be promoted to bodyslave. Suddenly your body and your mind were valued and you weren’t threatened. Of course you would relax and enjoy those few years.”

Head Trainer Violet took a breath now as well before she continued. “Both you and Lady Gavriella have had to grow up and grow into roles years before anyone thought you would. Her struggles are not identical to yours, I don't want to imply that they are, but they are similar. Both of you to help you cope with these new roles, may have embraced the new rules a bit too intensely.”

Darrin thought for a moment but finally had to admit, “I’m not sure I understand, Head Trainer.”

“I’m saying that rules make things run more smoothly but they are not everything. I’m suggesting that if you want to serve your owner and help yourself, that you need to push beyond those rules every now and again, to give you each that feeling of being safe, valued, and just being that you had before.”

“Mistress misses those few years before her father died?”

“Why would it surprise you to learn that when you miss them, too?”

**********
Darrin stood clasping his hands behind his back, his staff behind him. Each department head was in the same position though Stenwale had the entire field and yard stuff gathered about the gardens not standing right behind him. Near to the balcony was the retired staff that had been carted in as well. Gavin had given Darrin a simple nod then put his arm around Madame Theresa who was looking very worried. Lady Mariette, Lady Shaynis’ mother was seated near Lord Ezekiel who frowned at the microphone set up for him on the back porch. Usually orders and information was merely passed along by the department heads but given the circumstances, the master decided to address the slaves directly rather than risk rumors circulating and becoming more monstrous in the telling.

Darrin had been with the nobleman going over final preparations for Lady Shaynis’s return when the odd beeping started. At first both men had merely frowned but when it continued it became clear it was coming from the Lady’s office right on the other side of a door. Of course both men had keys to it but Lord Ezekiel had used his to open it and allow them both in. Darrin had only seen the top of the desk with a device in the center that he had never seen before the master ordered him out. It had to be a computer, the one the family was allowed because of their standing with the king, one used only for the most direct or important communications. Could the lord even use it?

That question was answered when the man came out with a pale complexion. “Master?” Darrin merely asked before the other man took his offered arm and motioned toward the sofa. So many worries were spinning in his head that Darrin sank to his knees once the other was seated.

“She’s fine, for now, but,” Lord Ezekiel sighed and took a deep breathe then another then a third. “Summon the heads of departments and tell them to gather all of the staff under them in the gardens. I’ll be making an announcement within the hour. And send Beth to me, she can help with the technology. I know the basics but this is not a time to make a fool of myself. Go now!”

Darrin bowed his head and scurried to his feet sending his own staff off to deliver identical messages to the kitchen and the domestic wing while he hurried to the overseer’s cabin himself. Miss Beth hadn’t asked anything, merely handed her son to the field slave who had been promoted to help her with the child before she followed him back to the mansion. Once outside the parlor door, Miss Beth gave his hand a squeeze then went inside to speak privately with the master.

Now Miss Beth was kneeling a few feet away looking at a speaker that Darrin had fetched for them from inside the main office. The desk had been back to normal so he wasn’t tempted to try and figure out what had happened earlier. The master said that Lady Gavriella was fine so she had to be fine. The nobleman had as much to lose as any of them if something unthinkable happened to the Head of Family and there was no heir.

“If you can hear me in the back, raise your hands high above your heads!” Lord Ezekiel said into the microphone. Several hands in the back row went up then a few more as slaves checked to make sure that they were in the back row. “Good. I need everyone to listen to me very carefully.”

Lord Ezekiel took a breath and then looked a piece of paper he had in his hands. “We all have been preparing for Lady Shaynis, my wife, to return to us in a few days. I must report to you all that she had been delayed.”

There were murmurs among the slave but Darrin silence the few gasps he heard behind him with a glance before he turned his attention to the master.

“She and the baby have not been harmed but the King requires her continued presence. We in the Shaynis family and on the Shaynis estate, are obedient to our king,” the master continued. “When she will return to us is unclear. She has made it known to me that the Shaynis estate will be hosting the annual autumnal festival as it has for generations. I require that all of you serve as you normally would in the approaching weeks. Lady Mariette has agreed to act as hostess for the festival. We are counting on each of you to serve to the best of your capacity at this time. Department heads will give you instructions as always. You are dismissed,” Lord Ezekiel said before stepping back.

Miss Beth fiddled with the speaker and then stood up motioning toward Darrin. “Menno, get the service staff back to work,” Darrin ordered.

“Which work, sir. We were helping the domestics with the room preparations,” the butler reminded him.

“Finish those. That way we are prepared for the festival as well as Lady Shaynis,” Darrin pointed out.

His staff exchanged looks so Darrin hissed at them, “Get back to work now!” Darrin closed his eyes for a second knowing that everyone on the balcony must have heard him but they continued with what they were doing.

“Darrin,” Mister Gavin called to him so the Chief of Servants paused to kneel by the edge of the balcony, causing Miss Beth to frown. Neither nobleperson was paying him any mind, both were sitting very close to each other, Lady Mariette’s hand on her son-in-law’s shoulder as he said something to her. “We may be retired but if we can help, please let us know,” his mentor told him simply.

“Thank you,” Darrin replied with a friendly look toward all eight of the retired slaves there. One was missing, the oldest one. He’d make an inquiry once things settled in the house.

“Yes, Miss Beth?” Darrin asked once he with the young woman on the other side of the balcony.

“Help me get this back into storage please,” she replied. She had the microphone in her hand already back in the case and all of the bits and pieces that connected everything wrapped up. The speaker wasn’t heavy per se but it wouldn’t do for a freewoman to being carrying it while there were slaves around.

“So old fashioned,” the woman commented as they went inside and through the halls to the main office. “I heard once that there were devices like this that communicated with each other over the air like other things.”

“I wouldn’t know, ma’am,” Darrin just replied as he shifted the speaker to one hip and used his keys to open the door. The put the devices into storage and locked that door.

“Did Lord Ezekiel tell you what happened?” Miss Beth whispered before they took another step.

“He did not, ma’am.”

The woman bit her lip then nodded her head. “And he might not which is unfair.”

Part of Darrin felt like he should protest and insist she not say another word. However she was the freeperson in the room and he was a slave. He was also head of the entire staff both inside and outside the mansion and if a dire situation was in the making, he would need to be prepared so he could help the staff stay focused.

“The negotiations were interrupted by an attack,” Miss Beth said.

Darrin blinked. “I thought the King and the warrior whatever she is had agreed to meet?”

“It wasn’t the western or northern realms that attacked. He said it was an outsider, possibly from across the seas. Something about an aerial assault.”

Darrin didn’t know much about world geography but he did know that the kingdom he lived in was one of three on a big island. Trading happened across two seas on either side of it but he had been taught that theirs was the most powerful. An aerial assault sounded impossible but then hadn’t the world been nearly destroyed by similar military technologies?

“The assault was more propaganda than harmful, apparently pieces of paper and cylinders came down around the camp. Something about the northern warriors now asking to join the negotiations and Lady Shaynis needed for continuity. That’s all he told me,” Miss Beth ended with a shrug. “She’s only three months from delivery, how long could this go on with a new nation or more involved?”

“Lord Ezekiel says that she is fine, that the situation is fine,” Darrin replied even though that was stretching what the nobleman had said. “We have to make sure that things run smoothly here so that whenever she returns, everything will be as she and the new master or mistress need.”

“You’re right,” Miss Beth agreed as she followed him to the door.

Darrin locked it then bowed to the woman who brushed off an offer to escort her back to her cabin.

“Darrin!” Lord Ezekiel’s voice drew the slave’s attention as he head back to his office. The master and his mother-in-law were standing by the door to the parlor. “Bring us tea and my secretary. We have some festival planning to do.”

“It is good to stay busy,” Lady Mariette replied.

“Indeed, Mother Shaynis,” Lord Ezekiel said in a soft voice. The nobleman was generally calm and easily amused but now his tone was dull, his eyes worried.

“Pastries or something more hearty for tea, master?” Darrin asked.

The two exchanged looks then Lady Mariette spoke up. “A bit of both, I think. We’ll also take our dinner in the parlor, no need to set the entire table tonight when we must adjust our plans.”

“Of course, Madame.” Darrin bowed then went to arrange for it all. The entire time he silently repeated “she’s fine” to himself.

**********
“Would you dance with me, Mister Darrin.” He turned to see Pearl standing just to his left, a smile on her face, her nicest day off dress a light blue that complimented her eyes. The Chief of Staff had prepared for the possibility at the afternoon and evening’s festivities so he bowed to her and took her hand.

“Once dance only,” he said before whirling her out into the backyard.

The grass was cut very low and luckily it had not rained in a couple of days so the area set aside for dancing wasn’t muddy. Not that it would have prevented this celebration. The Autumnal festivals were one of three festivals that allowed slaves to relax and interact with near abandon. Only Stenwale’s assistants were on duty and they were switching every few hours so they could also relax just not too much; someone needed to oversee the estate.

Not all the slaves were present. Lady Mariette had her body slave with her and Lord Ezekiel had taken Zebe with him to a party at another estate. Of course the coachman and his assistant were with the nobles as well but the bodyslaves would be at the main party and the other slaves often hung out while they waited for the party to end. In a few weeks, when Shaynis Estate hosted their festival party, other estates would be allowing their staff to party. In theory with the owners away the slaves could do as they wished by Darrin and the other heads of departments followed the philosophy that slaves, including themselves, needed structure to thrive.

When the song, crudely yet effectively played by a few other slaves, finished Darrin and Pearl clapped politely. Pearl turned to find one of the yard slaves waiting with an out held hand so she followed him while Darrin nearly bumped into Alice who was looking at him expectantly. With a smile, he offered her hand and danced with her as well.

This was actually far more less relaxing than he felt at parties with Lady Gavriella, Darrin realized five dances later when one of the domestic staff approached him for a dance. “Give me a few moments to catch my breath and get a drink,” he told the other man who’s smiled faded until he was tapped on the shoulder and urged to the dance by another almost immediately.

Nance was by the food and drink table with Shem at her side; neither of them had danced with anyone that night. Darrin pushed the rumor he’d heard about them becoming exclusive aside and merely greeted them both. If they wanted to be foolish and invest their hearts, it was their lesson to learn not his to teach. “This is quite a spread you have for us all, Chef.”

“I hope so. We didn’t have much time, usually back at Lakemore they waited until after their own party to offer the slaves their own,” Nance replied.

“Lord Ezekiel pointed out that Lady Gavriella may be returning at any moment so it is best to get this out of the way,” Darrin repeated what the nobleman had said.

Shem snorted softly but didn’t say anything as he handed Darrin a cup of punch. Nance sighed as she handed him a plate to load up as he wished. “He’s very stressed, I’m sure he didn’t mean that this is unimportant. He knows you have to keep your estate calm and these allows a bit of steam to be worked off that could otherwise boil over.”

All three nodded quietly as Darrin started to fill his plate. “I feel like I should tell you about our guest roster for the party here but that would be work, so I’ll simply say that I have cleared it with Lady Mariette to hire more aid should you need it.”

“Don’t say more, I’m trying to enjoy the party,” Nance told him.

Darrin pointed ignored that Shem leaned against her and kissed her cheek at that comment. “I want a bit of everything so I will have to come back,” Darrin decided when he was only a third of the way down the table.

“That’s right, eat, dance, eat, dance, and eat again. That’s what we like to see,” Nance told him. Now she was leaning up to kiss Shem’s cheek in return.

Darrin smiled at them, bowed his head, then headed to a group of chairs and tables where Alice and Theresa were chatting. “May I join you?” he asked before taking a seat at their motion for him to do so.

“I was telling Alice that we’re so happy you invited us all retired folks to the party. That doesn’t always happen,” Theresa said.

Darrin blinked then frowned. “The parties are open to all the slaves on the estate, I assumed it included retired ones as well. Did I make an error?”

“No, no, I don’t think that you did, neither do the rest, well, except for Gavin, that old bastard, but he’s still there dancing nonetheless,” Theresa replied with a nod toward the dancers. Indeed his old mentor was out there dancing in a small circle of male slaves.

“Mister Gavin doesn’t approve?” Darrin felt his pulse start to speed up as he continued watching the dancers.

“No, no, he just likes to complain. We’re all a bit younger than we expected to be at retirement. It can get a bit boring,” Theresa explained.

“I suggested that perhaps when the babies start coming that the retired staff could serve as a sort of nanny and teacher service for the estate,” Alice said, drawing Darrin’s attention from the dancers.

“Oh, that’s right, we haven’t really addressed the needs of the babies much beyond the first year or so. You should bring it up with Lord Ezekiel as soon as possible,” Darrin suggested. “I was told earlier tonight that one of the field slaves is pregnant for certain and one of the yard slaves may be as well.”

“Oh, damn, they didn’t waste any time getting permissions, huh?” Theresa tossed out with a chuckle. “I don’t know much about kids but Bea was the nanny for the Shaynis children and she is one of us. I’m sure she could teach us all unless Lady Shaynis will be bringing her back to the mansion?”

“I don’t know what the plans are in that regard yet,” Darrin confessed.

“Could I ask Miss Beth to help me work on a proposal?” Alice asked.

“Yes, that would be ideal given her work at the breeding farm and her own motherhood. If we give too much time off for new mothers it will effect productivity,” Darrin added. His gaze wandered back over to Nance and Shem who were now holding hands while talking to a few other slaves. He must have made a face because both women turned and looked then laughed.

“You don’t approve?” Theresa pointed out which only made Alice laugh harder.

“He’s her staff, she can do with what she likes,” Darrin snapped before he stuffed his mouth with a bit of mushroom.

“He does not approve,” Alice repeated after a deep breath to calm herself. “I don’t know how service does things, but in domestic, coupling up isn’t uncommon.”

“Quite true,” Theresa confirmed. “Given this new breeding program it may be a complication but it isn’t like anyone expects faithfulness that’s for bedslaves. Oh, I’m sorry, Darrin, I didn’t mean to use that term.”

Darrin waved offer the apology as he sat his plate on a small table between every two chairs. “Bedslaves, bodyslaves, we have different rules. That is a fact. I just didn’t think that other slaves really formed emotional bonds like that,” he added with a nod in the direction of the long table.

“None of us do until we become one of them,” Theresa replied firmly.

Darrin didn’t say anything outloud, merely picked up his plate again. As he looked over the nearly hundred slaves in attendance at the party he struggled to really see himself as one of them. At one time, for a few short years, he had been but Master Christoff had helped him become something more. No, Darrin decided as he continued to watch, he really wasn’t just one of the staff, he wasn’t your average slave, but clearly he needed to stop judging some of their activities from the vantage point of the owner’s bedsuite as he was clearly doing with Nance and Shem.

Darrin left his plate with the women and accepted a dance invitation from Torst with a gentle request that neither woman let someone else use his plate. “I’ll be back if that is acceptable?” he asked both.

“Only if you dance with each of us before you stuff yourself again,” Alice teased while Theresa nodded with a grin.

Torst chuckled so much he missed a few steps so Darrin frowned and scolded him. “Sorry, sir, just I never seen you flirt before.”

“I was not flirting,” Darrin insisted.

“Right, sir, sure enough,” Torst laughed again before he brushed his lips over Darrin’s. Both men paused and then Darrin cleared his throat and led the dance properly without a word of condemnation or praise for the kiss.

A few minutes later after the dance, Darrin kept hold of the footman’s hand and led him off into the bushes where they knew others were trysting from the sounds of moans and groans about them. Torst started to kneel but Darrin shook his head and spun the older man around to face a tree trunk. “I, um, what am I thinking,” Darrin mumbled as he paused in undoing his fly.

“I’m prepared, sir,” Torst replied as he looked over his shoulder. “Just in case thought it would be safe to be.”

Darrin looked silent at the other man who slowly turned and reached down to urge him to release his trousers. “Sir, if you haven’t done this before, I can teach you or just a blow job, I’m fine it.”

“I thought, this, maybe you’d enjoy it, some do,” Darrin was fumbling now, his mind struggling to go back to the aroused place it had been just minutes ago. He was having flashes of bad and good experiences in the other slave’s place. To be the receiver, to use a polite term, wouldn’t be wise in his current position unless it was at his owner’s command, but he could still remember enjoying it with Lady Gavriella, her brother, and one of his trainers. Torst seemed to like it all but they had never done more than a blowjob or some mutual hand jobs.

The footman was looking at him and then started undoing his fly as well, letting his own erection free. Darrin looked down, usually he just touched the other slave without really looking but now he could appreciate that the other seemed aroused by the thought of being fucked. “Sir, if you wanted, we could go back to your office or even my dorm bed. We might have a bit of an audience there but either would be more comfortable than here standing up or on the ground. Unless you’d like that.”

Darrin shook his head and then pulled his trouser back up as did Torst. “Let’s to my office then,” he agreed in a soft voice. This time they did not hold hands but did hurry back around the edges of the party and into the house.

Once in his office, Darrin allowed Torst to lead him into the bedchamber itself. He’d never had another slave there, not even a maid since Darrin insisted on cleaning the office himself. The bed was find for one person but it would be tight for two trying to sleep but then as Torst quickly reminded him by starting to undress, they weren’t going to be sleeping.

In a few minutes they were both fully nude, again nothing they had done before so each took the opportunity to look over each other’s body. Where Darrin was smooth, Torst had light hair over his chest and groin. The older man didn’t have any noticeable scars but then the footman was very accommodating and obedient, it was hard to imagine him any other way and most slaves weren’t beaten to the point of permanent marks without cause in most households.

When Torst turned around and put his arms down on the bed, raising his butt up and spread his legs, Darrin could see the moisture just peaking from between his cheeks. “You sure you have enough lube, I have more,” Darrin offered.

“Sir, no disrespect, but if you don’t fuck me right now, I might scream,” Torst interrupted firmly without looking back over his shoulder.

Darrin nodded and went down into a crouch as his trainer had taught him. He eased in one finger and then two, pausing when the other man sighed and relaxed his stance. Thrust and moving the two fingers in and out soon had the sighs turned to pleas for more so Darrin added a third. He should say something. Trainer Zebulon always had as had the masters though what they said varied. Darrin began slowly thrusting with the three fingers as he tried to think of the best words. While he outranked Torst they were both slaves so he went by the trainer’s model. “That’s it, take my fingers, Torst. Get all ready for my cock. I’m getting hard for you, boy.”

“Yes,” the footman groaned. He pushed back a bit and adjusted his stance to try and get deeper penetration. “Yeah, please, sir,” Torst moaned as Darrin bumped against his inner point of pleasure.

Darrin continued but then frowned down at his flagging erection. Something was off but they’d started and he needed to finish. As he kept fingering the other slave, Darrin went back to the memories of his mistress mounting him, fucking him, watching him touch himself. In a few minutes he was hard and could stand up to slide his dick into the loosened, hot channel. He thrust, slipping his hands over the other slave’s body, mouthing the words the trainer and his owner had said, but in his mind he wasn’t in his office until they both came and were laying on the bed recovering.

“Thank you, sir,” Torst said as he lay on his side and smiled down at Darrin. The other slave’s smile faded a bit. “Was there not enough lube for you, Sir, you look a bit pained.”

Darrin blinked then shook his head. He trailed one hand up Torst’s arm and caressed his face. “I’m good, I’m great,” he insisted. “It’s just been a while for me.”

“You did it good, sir, if you don’t mind my saying.”

“Why would I mind that?” Darrin chuckled. “But,” he said adding a light smack on the bed cover for emphasis, “we should get back to the party.”

Torst popped up and got dressed quickly. At Darrin’s insistence he headed back alone while Darrin continued to stare at his ceiling. After several minutes, Darrin sat up without pulling up on his own clothes, went to his journal and wrote down the facts of the evening so he could discuss it with Head Trainer Violet in a few days.