Thank you for reading! This is an NSC written by Aia and InBrightestDay, written with my approval and reference. Discussion for this story will be primarily located on discord! Come on in and let us know what you thought, we don’t bite.
Everything happened so quickly. The conversation abruptly stopped. Nareen’s eyes went wide with wordless panic as she tried to scramble away in the same moment that clear shock spread across Sena’s face. A blur of movement later and kthid were on top of Nareen and Sena.
Selara’s body froze at the word. Nareen tried to flee, but she couldn’t get far. The room had only a single entrance, the one to Selara’s back, but she could hear the thumping of heavy footfalls. Master Avraks stopped right next to Selara, grabbing her by the chin and twisting her head towards him.
“Master Avraks,” Selara whispered, blood pounding in her ears. “What are you doing here?”
“What am I doing here? You seem to have forgotten how this works, Cave Worm,” Master Avraks said. “This vessel belongs to us, every room and every corridor, down to the last rivet. Anything you slaves use or eat or live in, it’s only what we have allowed you.”
Master Avraks shoved Selara away as he let go of her face, setting the bells clattering as she stumbled. “Somehow all the punishments still failed to impress that on you,” he growled. “You really are as stupid as you are obstinate.”
Selara turned towards her friends. Nareen had been pinned to the ground, on her hands and knees with her back bent as she desperately fought to keep her body off the ground. One of the kthid, a tall, lanky warrior with sharply curved horns, held her head against the floor with a single paw. Nareen was hyperventilating, sobbing with each breath.
Sena hadn’t tried to run, but the kthid that went for her still had her restrained. He had taken one of her arms and wrenched it behind her back, at an angle that had Sena’s face contorted in pain. The kthid was bulkier than both the one restraining Nareen and Master Avraks himself, his arms great pillars of muscle.
“Wait,” the bulkier kthid started. “Was that it?”
Master Avraks frowned. “Was what it?”
“These three round here,” the stocky kthid said, giving Sena’s arm another twist. “They’re the ones you’re going on and on about, aren’t they?”
Master Avraks’s frown deepened. Selara couldn’t help but tense. “Obviously. What’s wrong with them?”
“Commander, I think when Rakda heard that you knew about some spicy slaves, he was expecting something different,” the lankier kthid growled, grabbing Nareen by the hair and pulling her head up. Nareen’s face was stained with fresh tears, her expression contorted into one of pure terror. “Something rebellious and exciting. Not, well, this.” The lankier kthid sneered at Nareen contemptuously.
“Yeah, what he said,” the stockier one growled. He twisted Sena’s arm even further, wrenching it behind her back until she howled in agony. “Nothing special about these whores, least what I can see.”
“Oh, don’t worry. They might look like nothing special, but that’s just because you can’t look into their heads and see all the ugly thoughts squirming around in there,” Master Avraks said, waving his paw dismissively, “Oh yes, they’ll play innocent; act like they’ve been broken in. Like they’ve been reduced to meek little arane.”
The blur struck Selara’s face hard, sending her rolling across the ground in a storm of metal noise and pain. She barely managed to catch herself, getting her bearings in time to see Master Avraks smirking at her. With her face still burning with hot pain and the taste of iron on her tongue, Selara couldn’t stop the furious hiss from reaching her mouth.
“Oh, now that’s a good look,” the lankier kthid chuckled. “That one’s yours isn’t she, Avraks?”
“Yes, that’s my Cave Worm. A vicious, hateful little bug who still refuses to accept her place in the universe despite my very careful instruction.” Avraks growled, returning Selara’s glare. He turned towards the other kthid, his expression going jovial. “Naturally, she still obeys my commands.”
Master Avraks turned, clicking his fingers. “Follow me, Cave Worm.”
Selara bit down a retort. “Yes, Master Avraks,” she whispered. She wrestled down her anger and straightened up. Without it, the lingering fear she always felt in her master’s presence quickly returned. The understanding that he could hurt her and there was nothing she could do to stop him. That sentiment was far less likely to get her into trouble, however, and so Selara bore with it.
Master Avraks walked over to a nearby couch and seated himself like a monarch on a throne. Selara crawled to where her master was and knelt in front of him. Sena and Nareen weren’t allowed even that level of autonomy as they were hauled to their feet and marched towards the couch like puppets. They were forced down to their knees beside Selara.
“Now,” Master Avraks said, “would you like to hazard a guess as to why I’m here today?”
With Nareen sobbing and blubbering by her side and Sena biting her lip as she wrestled with the pain and fear, Selara genuinely had to stop herself from saying something they’d all regret. She bit her lip hard enough for it to hurt, and then took several deep breaths and raised her head.
“I’m waiting, Cave Worm.”
“You disapprove of this?” Selara guessed, “and you came to punish us for continuing to meet?”
Master Avraks burst out into laughter. Somehow that made her any angrier than anything that happened before. “If I disapproved of this, Cave Worm, I would have ensured that you were aware of it long ago. If you still refused to stop, then I would have made you hurt for your insolence.”
“We’re here to have fun with you whores!” the bulkier of the kthid laughed. “Hey, Commander, can we just rape yours? These two don’t seem like any fun.”
“Shau’lun’s light, Rakda. Are you capable of being patient for one damn moment?” Master Avraks demanded. He smoothed the irritation out quickly. “Don’t worry. I intend to allow the both of you, and all of the troops, to participate in my heitera’s ongoing education. Do you have any objection, Cave Worm? ”
The wave of involuntary nausea Selara felt almost made her vomit. “No, Master Avraks. I have no objections.”
“Good,” Master Avraks said, “Because I have come here to do you a favor.”
Selara immediately tensed up. This couldn’t possibly be good. There wasn’t much she could do or say, however. She could only kneel in silent dread as her master pulled a data tablet from the stowing compartment behind his back and started poking at the glass screen. He turned the tablet around.
Selara drew in a sharp breath. The screen, like most of its kind, had not been designed for her eyes, but the picture had clearly been passed through some kind of filter that rendered the image red and visible to her.
“Recognize her, Worm?”
“Yes,” Selara whispered.
The photo captured Anisa with her expression contorted into one of agony and mortal fear. A large, ugly wound had been torn straight through one of her limbs, causing a puddle of blood that appeared to Selara’s eyes as only a dark shadow. Selara looked down to the ground as a wave of cold understanding crept over her.
“I had a thought, Cave Worm, that you and your little band here might want to know why your frail little friend has failed to attend your most recent meetings.” Master Avraks said. “I had considered telling just you, but I imagined you’d likely fail to deliver the message with the necessary flair.”
The fact that Master Avraks came all the way here to deliver the message all but guaranteed that what he had to say would be awful. Selara alone wasn’t enough. He wanted to see both Sena and Nareen’s horror, as well, as he finally announced the news. Even now, Selara could see the sadistic glee in his eyes.
“That’s why I took the time out of my schedule to make sure that the message was properly delivered,” Avraks said.
“What did you do to her?” Selara growled.
Master Avraks snorted, grabbing Selara by the collar and harshly yanking her forwards. Selara yelped through gritted teeth as her knees scraped across the cold ground. “Obstinate as always. Perhaps a night on the anal stake will help in readjusting your attitude,” he growled, forcing her to look straight into his eyes. “I came here to tell you what happened to your friend, Cave Worm, instead of just letting you wait and worry. The least you can do is show a little gratitude.
There was a dangerous edge to his voice, one that made Selara’s hairs stand on end. An edge that portended violence. “Of course, Master Avraks,” Selara whispered through gritted teeth. “Please forgive this worm for her insolence.”
A calm, cruel smile spread across the reptilian’s face. Master Avraks pressed the button near his trousers, causing his already engorged cock to spring out. The rape rod was already so flushed with blood that it glowed brightly to Selara’s eyes. “Surely you know better ways of showing gratitude.”
Selara bit her tongue. “Yes, Master.”
Selara opened her jaw as wide as she could, so wide that she could feel her muscles aching. The cock still didn’t come in easily. Selara guided her cockhead across her palate, attempting to delay the moment when her tongue would have to taste the bitter shaft for as long as she could. It was too hot, too wide. Her reflexes screamed at her to pull back.
Master Avraks gave her no such opportunity. He grabbed her by the hair and forced the head deep down Selara’s throat. The pain was immediate, not just from the feeling of having her throat dilated and her neck distended but also from the scales scraping her insides. Master Avraks bucked his hips just before he fully hilted inside of her, forcing a hot, choking pain down Selara’s throat and tears from her eyes.
Bells rang like a torturous instrumentation as Master Avraks jerked Selara’s face up and down onto his shaft, his cock violently spearing the hole at the back of her mouth. The only thing Selara could do was to force her jaw as wide as open, keeping her sharp teeth well-clear from her master’s shaft as he inflicted his lusts on her.
Heavy balls swung into Selara’s chin with a steady and yet furious pace. Master Avraks’s forceful jerking of her head made her pendulous breasts bounce uncontrollably. Drool dripped onto them as her master ravaged her throat. He made it impossible to preserve even the barest hint of dignity. All Selara could do was fight to get some air in and out of her lungs in between those long, savage thrusts.
Screaming pulled Selara’s eyes away. The kthid to her right grabbed Nareen by what was left of her horns to keep her on the ground. He sodomized her from behind, earning an immediate scream from her as the kthid shoved his cock deep down her unprepared bowels in a single long thrust. Her screams only intensified as the kthid built up his pace.
Sena fared little better. She was already on her knees, and the kthid didn’t bother adjusting her position. He simply grabbed Sena by the large crests that protruded from her head like horns and used that to slam her face down onto his crotch. Selara could see the faliran’s eyes twitching, but she didn’t even pretend to resist as she was used like a fleshlight.
Neither of the kthid were paying much attention to the women they were raping. They had their eyes on Selara as Master Avraks continued to twist and distort her throat with his hateful cock. They were probably already mentally planning out what they would do when they finally got a chance to violate her.
“If only you were as good at quelling your odious personality as you were at taking cock, perhaps you’d be more heitera than worm,” Master Avraks sneered. “Now, where was I? Oh yes. Karvaak Thron had invited a number of the officers for a feast. Imagine my shock when I realized that your tentacled friend was to be the centerpiece.”
Even though the insides of her throat felt as raw as the worst of colds, Selara still felt herself shuddering at the mention of the feast. She’d heard stories about the feasts that the ship’s upper officers threw.
“Personally I’d never thought much of her. She was just another slave stupid enough to follow along with your little idea,” Master Avraks mused. “Karvaak Thron, however, demonstrated his eye for quality, and he extracted an unexpected level of entertainment out of that whimpering creature.”
Selara’s thoughts raced through her head. It was hard to think when she was being fucked so hard that she could almost feel her brain rattling around in her skull. The only thoughts that remained within her head were brief, simple ones. Stories of the fates of slaves that she had heard, some so horrific that they could only ever be rumors, were dredged up from the bottom of her mind.
“Yeah, I heard those feasts are great!” the kthid raping Sena laughed. “You think you can get us in next time, Commander?”
Master Avraks snorted. “I doubt it. Only the highlords’ favorite officers are even considered for such eminent gatherings. I only managed to be invited through a mix of luck and rank.”
Selara’s lungs burned. She fought for every gasp of air, but it wasn’t enough to replace what her body needed to keep herself fully lucid. Selara still couldn’t speed up to try to get her master to finish more quickly. He controlled the pace of her facial violation. The only thing she could do was tighten up her soft throat around that hardened shaft, hoping that the pain she was adding to would be rewarded by her master finishing a little more quickly.
Master Avraks’s eyes turned down towards Selara’s face. “Your little friend really was quite the enjoyable feast. She screamed so sweetly when I raped her. And she was tight, so very tight,” Master Avraks rumbled. “Not even the umbral virgins your armies tried so hard to protect screamed or tore quite as satisfyingly as she did.”
Selara’s anger mixed with growing fear inside of her. It was a heady mix, made all the more disorienting by her slow asphyxiation. The edges of her vision were darkening as her lungs felt increasingly like they were being crushed and wrung like rags by phantom hands.
The two other kthid continued raping Sena and Nareen, jeering at them as they did so. Sena groaned incoherently as the bulky kthid reached over her back and grabbed hold of her wings, twisting them until the transparent wings cracked and crinkled beneath the force. Nareen screamed as the taller kthid raped her against the floor, dragging her still-healing burnwounds across the ground.
Master Avraks moved through a whole album of torment. Each image showed Anisa in a worse state. Hung up and used like a punching bag. Run through with so much electricity that the bolts were actually visible even through the image. All the while, he only slammed her face down with increasing vigor. Like he was somehow extracting sadosexual glee out of seeing her teary eyes fall across an increasingly appalling series of images.
Each image left Anisa a little more broken. Unpatched wounds, piercings missing with pieces of flesh they’d once been attached to, large patches of dark that Selara could only interpret as blood. It was only when Master Avraks reached the final part of the image, however, that Selara’s stomach truly dropped out from under her.
Her throat was still being ruined by the scaled cock, and yet she could barely pay attention to the pain. The screen depicted Anisa, metal wires trailing behind her, in the middle of trying to frantically escape. The pale shape of a llorian leaned over her, sword in hand. Master Avraks tapped the screen and the video started playing.
Anisa’s frantic voice filled the room. Begging quickly turned to screams as arane moved in to hold her down whilst the llorian raised her blade.
Selara spun. Nareen stared at the wide screen, her eyes wide. Her shock turned to hysteria as she tried to tear herself free from the kthid. Somehow, the pain of her unhealed wounds and even the violent anal rape was completely forgotten as Nareen tried to claw her way forwards. “Anisa! Stop it! Stop it right now! You’re hurting Anisa!”
“It’s a recording, you stupid barbarian. This all happened already,” Master Avraks sighed. “Cave Worm, are you not going to pay attention? Even after I’ve gone to the trouble of bringing you this information myself?”
Selara’s fingers, placed on her thighs for some semblance of balance, curled and drove her nails downwards. Anisa’s desperate cries for mercy felt like needles stabbing against her eardrums. Her blood seethed with the violence of magma trying to force its way to the surface. Selara’s diaphragm flexed and spasmed as it tried to draw in more air to fuel the flame of rage burning inside of her.
Master Avraks’s scaled lips were peeled back to reveal the daggered teeth locked together to create a sadistic grin. Hate. Selara hated her master. It was something she knew, but the moment brought it back with such force that it almost made her black out before the lack of air could. The rigidity of her throat only made the pummeling from the cock more painful. Master Avraks’s shaft throbbed as he rushed towards his climax.
Anisa was growing weaker. The cephalian’s pleas were becoming less coherent and her screams weaker by the moment. Arane moved in, recovering the bloodied limb, and lifting it out of the shot of the video recording. The sound of sizzling, of meat cooking on a grill, came in from somewhere off screen.
“Anisa!” Nareen screeched. Selara could hear Nareen’s fingers raking across the smooth floor and the sound of thrashing. Selara remembered the size of the kthid that had Nareen pinned. The monster was a warrior, weighing three or four times what Nareen did. She fought anyway. Selara’s eyes flickered to the side just in time to see Nareen trying to kick the kthid off her and the reptile slamming her head against the floor so hard it made Selara wince. Still Nareen struggled.
“Let go of me! Let go of me!” Nareen howled. “Anisa! I need to go help Anisa!”
“What would you even do?,” Master Avraks asked as he watched the video, seemingly amused by the hypothetical. “What could you possibly contribute to an injury like – oh, it’s over.” He raised a brow in surprise. “That was much shorter than anticipated. In any case, what would an uneducated savage like you be able to contribute? And like I said, this happened days ago. There’s little to be done.”
Master Avraks slammed Selara’s face down on his groin with furious speed before tearing the scaled shaft out of her throat. The cock spurted, the glowing hot jizz painting her hair and smearing her cheeks. The fluids dripped down and stained her breasts alongside the spit and throat slime that was still dribbling from her gasping mouth.
Selara wheezed and trembled as she fought for air, the rush of cold, fresh breath cooling some of the burning pain in her lungs. Master Avraks grabbed her hair with his free paw, coiling the locks around his shaft and using it to wipe down his shaft. Selara’s face was caked with cum, spit, and tears. It seemed Master Avraks wanted the same for her hair.
It took everything Selara had to stop herself from screaming her next words. “What happened to her?” Selara managed.
“The centerpiece? I wouldn’t know. Her master insisted that she receive medical attention. He was newly promoted, clearly unaware of how these events generally go,” Master Avraks said idly. “What I can say, however, is that your friend’s limb was delectable. Meaty and creamy, and surprisingly sweet. So very different from llorian tail.”
“You ate her?” Selara whispered in horror. Her stomach was empty, and yet it still felt like she was going to throw up. She could practically taste bile at the back of her throat, alongside the salt and bitterness of her master’s phallus.
“The karvaak had intended to cook all of her limbs, so there simply wasn’t enough to go around.” Master Avraks shrugged. “Well, it can’t be helped. I have a taste for it now. When we’re done harvesting the terrans and have returned to Malador, I think I’ll visit a cephalian bar. There is a dish I wish to try.”
“That doesn’t answer my question!” Selara shouted, immediately coughing in pain. “What happened to Anisa!”
The slap struck Selara so hard she could hear her neck crack. She twisted her head back to face her master in an instant despite that, barely able to feel any pain. Her breath hissed out between her teeth.
“I do you the favor of delivering news of your friend, and this is the thanks I get,” Master Avraks snorted. “I care little for expended slaves. Perhaps instead of squatting in our entertainment rooms, you would do better to take your meetings to the reclamation pits. Perhaps you’ll find your friend being dumped there.”
“You’re lying! You’re lying!” Nareen screamed. “Anisa’s not dead! You’re lying!”
The kthid slammed Nareen’s head against the ground with a sickening crack. Selara could see the faint glow of blood as it leaked from Nareen’s veins. “Anisa’s not dead! She’s not dead! She’s not!” Nareen sobbed.
“Interesting,” the kthid raping Nareen said. “This one is feistier than I had anticipated.”
“Yeah, you’re right!” the bulkier one laughed. “Hey, Tekrat, bring that one over here! I want a turn with her!”
“You’ll get to play with her later. Come,” Master Avraks said, rising to his feet. He turned to glare at Selara. “You as well, Cave Worm.”
Selara bit her tongue, lowering her head. “Where are we going, Master?”
“To the range. Once today’s war games are complete, the men will be expecting a diversion. The three of you will do nicely. Consider it remedial chores for wasting your time socializing instead of bettering yourselves for the sake of your masters.”
Selara flinched as a hand grabbed her neck from behind. Master Avraks marched her ahead of his two lackeys, leaning in to whisper in her ears.“Words would fail to express how enjoyable that was, Cave Worm,” Master Avraks growled. “I wonder when you’ll lose another friend. I’m already looking forward to repeating this exercise.”
Master Avraks’s cruel chuckle raked across Selara’s eardrums as he marched her on, towards the next site of torment.
Krathan woke up early, and it wasn’t because of how early he’d gone to bed. He was managing two, maybe three hours of actual sleep a day. Even when he went to bed on time, he spent hours just staring up into the black above him. He woke up invariably groggy, half blind, and barely able to function until he managed to get to his medicine cabinet.
The stimulants rushed through Krathan’s veins like liquid fire, shocking him awake. It was the same formula given to warriors and casteless on long deployments. The cocktail could keep a person awake and aware far past the point their bodies would break down. It was never meant to be used like he was using it. It would be better if he declared today to be his day off.
But how could he? Just because he didn’t get any sleep didn’t mean that the tortures of slaves would stop. It didn’t mean that they wouldn’t need his attention. How could he take a day off, when there might be a slave bleeding to death at his clinic door?
He wasn’t used to feeling this way. Bad days, weeks, or even years were what he’d had before. That wasn’t new. This was.
“I can’t keep going like this,” Krathan muttered to himself.
It was usually Grakrash’s job to help him deal with things like this. Cheer him up when he was depressed. The thing was, Krathan didn’t want to see Grakrash right now. He didn’t want to see anyone. He didn’t even want to see patients. He just wanted to be alone.
Anisa hadn’t moved. Krathan had fantasized about waking up to find her kneeling at the foot of his bed ready to serve. Or just to sit up. Or even just to open an eye. None of that happened. Her lungs were in place, the worst of her injuries were closed up, and her body had been put back together.
And still she refused to wake.
The pane of glass lifted away as Krathan tapped its surface, entering into the section of the room where Anisa was. She breathed, her lungs rising and falling, but she showed no other signs of life. Her skin was still locked in static splotches of ashen gray and soot black. Her eyes remained stubbornly closed. Her three hearts beat in unison. Despite all that: nothing.
Anisa’s body bristled with wires. Krathan traced his fingers over all of them, from her feeding tube to her catheter to the wires linked to the electrodes, to make sure that they wouldn’t catch on anything. Krathan then reached for Anisa’s body, lifting her body limb by limb and moving them around.
Anisa’s body felt like half-filled sacks beneath his touch. There was no pressure, no tremble and twist as her muscles coiled and wound around his body to keep firm purchase of things around her. No adhesion as his paws moved beneath her suckers. Krathan felt like he was handling meat.
Krathan had been angry at his brother. He had been furious at the spoiled partygoers. Krathan made himself watch the entire party to make sure to detail all potential causes of Anisa’s condition, and the list literally ran longer than the files of some of his regulars.
He had been angry. Now he was just numb.
Krathan had watched through the entire party, as sick as it made him, and took extensive notes on every single injury Anisa suffered. Every single trauma that might have caused complications. Electrocution causes arrhythmia or damage to the ganglion, internal hemorrhages causing cascading complications, terror and extreme stress causing acute and persistent neurological distress and damage.
What could be done? More restorative nanites into her cranium, hoping to fix damage that even the most comprehensive scanners failed to locate? Overload her system with cephalian fear hormones to try to force an extreme survival reaction from her body? All that he hadn’t already tried were risky, hypothetical treatments just as likely to kill her as they were to make her better.
There was nothing left to do.
Krathan stared at Anisa. His property, yet further from his reach than ever. “Is this what this is like for you?” Krathan asked softly. “Never having any control?”
Krathan stood over Anisa in silence. Perhaps he was waiting for an answer. Perhaps he was trying to come up with a new treatment regime. Perhaps he didn’t know what to do with himself anymore. It was some time before he heard soft shuffling behind him. Krathan frowned, looking over his shoulder.
An arane. Probably came in through the servant’s tunnel. “Good morning, my lord. Are you finished using the heitera?”
“I wasn’t using her,” Krathan said. “If you’re here to move her and prevent pressure ulcers, I’ve already moved her recently.”
The arane nodded. “Should I cancel your standing order then, my lord?”
“No, just send someone back in two hours,” Krathan said.
The arane nodded. “Understood, my lord. Will you want any other services from me?”
The arane curtsied. “Yes, my lord. What would you like?”
“Doesn’t matter, just get me something. Make sure that it’s quick,” Krathan said, turning back towards Anisa. Should he order some jelly, in case she woke up?
Krathan dug his fangs into his lower mouth to squash the thought. He couldn’t get emotional. His decision making was addled as it was. He hadn’t been notified of any patients yet, but he still should be preparing for his appointment as the head veterinarian aboard the Empty Night.
He didn’t. Krathan just stood over Anisa’s bed, his fingers stroking over the tentacles trailing from her head. So soft, especially now that they were so lifeless. There was no sudden start. No movement as the tendrils shied away from, or occasionally tentatively wrapped around, his fingers.
Anisa wasn’t here anymore and perhaps she might never be here again. Still Krathan chose to pretend otherwise. He stood by Anisa’s bed, an owner and his heitera, his hand cradling her head like a pillow until it was minutes after it was time for him to leave.
Voerash stormed into the palace foyers, stomping down the marble murals making up the pathway. The arane working on polishing the grounds and cleaning up the slaves leashed to the punishment stations shrank as if trying to vanish from his view.
“Thron!” Voerash roared the moment he spotted his brother, marching straight towards the engineer.
“Voerash! My, it does seem like I have stoked your chagrin,” Thron laughed, dumping his cloak onto the ground. His armor was already mounted on a nearby mannequin, leaving only an embroidered loincloth. “Is this about the party? Rest assured, brother, that I simply thought you were too busy.”
“I don’t care about your stupid party!” Voerash snapped. He came to a stop just in front of Thron, jabbing his finger in his brother’s face. “I want to know why you promoted that casteless-spawn to a rank of division commander!”
“Oh! So you were upset about that commoner Grakrash,” Thron chuckled.
“Shau’lun’s light, Thron! We’re trying to stomp out this plague of plebians rising above their stations!” Voerash snarled, “not add to it!”
“Do not worry, brother. This is but a temporary arrangement,” Thron said. “He will be disposed of soon enough.”
“Not before he taints our standing and validates the casteless-spawn upstarts,” Voerash growled. “Do you not see how much damage will be done to the grand houses if even we are seen promoting these miscreants to our ranks?”
“Of course I do, elder brother. This damage has been calculated and will be mitigated,” Thron said smoothly. “Voerash, why don’t you have a seat? I shall provide you the details.”
Voerash sighed. It was obvious that Thron was going to force him to do this his way. Voerash turned, fixing his gaze upon the closest arane. “Seat. Now.”
The arane scrambled away, sprinting as quickly as their feet would carry them. He turned back towards Thron, crossing his arms. “This had better be good, Thron, or I’m throwing you out of my palace.”
“How cruel you are, Voerash!” Thron laughed. “Would you care to guess why it was that I promoted this Grakrash?”
“My men told me that you promoted him because he was good at throwing parties.”
“That is what I told them as well,” Thron said. “A somewhat plausible excuse, given the circumstances. A better explanation, perhaps, would be his charisma and his ability to build rapport with his troops through said parties.”
“We have thousands of officers in our lineage that you could have chosen to promote instead.” Voerash growled, turning as something moved at the edge of his vision. His seat. The arane scattered as he grabbed the seat and sat himself down. “Probably dozens of them are better at throwing parties than this Grakrash, if that was so damn important!”
“No, brother. That absolutely would not do,” Thron said. “Those officers are the promising young talent that shall go further to spread the glory of Shau’lun. They are much too valuable to be sacrificed in my plan.”
“Sacrifice?” Voerash frowned, the motion causing his flesh to yank against the metal protrusions jutting from beneath his scales. “For what?”
Thron smiled enigmatically. “I don’t suppose you’ve looked into the warrior I had promoted?”
“Why would I?” Voerash sniffed. “I know all I need to know about a warrior when I see a blank on their genealogy.”
Thron chuckled. “Young Grakrash was brought aboard our ship as an unranked warrior when he impressed one of our officers during an exhibition gladiator match. Since then, he has shown promising leadership potential and impressive martial prowess during the umbral subjugation as well as the harvest of the corvid and harrier worlds. Despite being casteless-born, he became well-liked both by his peers and his officers. He rose quickly through the ranks despite his lineage. If not for his unfortunate bloodline, he would likely have been promoted already.”
“Those credentials are identical to thousands of other officers.” Voerash sneered, “None of which carry the taint of being born from the seed of a casteless.”
“True, but it is precisely because they are valuable that I couldn’t choose one of them for this role.” Thron smiled. “Perhaps one of them shall become a Huntmaster after you. Perhaps one shall even reach the exalted heights of Sunbreaker. To use them would be folly.”
Thron’s smile deepened as he turned away. “Many know me as eccentric and hedonistic, elder brother. I would certainly not deny those charges, but that reputation does allow me a certain leeway which someone as stringent and conventional as you would not be afforded. It allows me to make decisions that seem like they’re very poorly thought through.”
“Like promoting a warrior based on how well he throws parties?” Voerash asked.
“Absolutely, brother. It was not meant to be a good reason. It was only meant to be a plausible reason.” Thron said. “A simple excuse to help shield my actual schemes.”
Voerash snorted. “You keep hinting at that, and yet I still haven’t heard it yet.”
“You will, elder brother, and I suspect you shall find it to be rather satisfying.” Thron smiled. “Ah, but I am afraid I have something to see to first, so I shall have to keep you in anticipation just a little while longer.”
“Kan’lun’s cunt, Thron!” Voerash snapped. “What could you possibly need to do that’s more important than this?”
“Well, I need to see to my heitera. Oh don’t scowl, elder brother. Your face may get even uglier.” Thron laughed. He waved his hand towards the foyer.
Ornate marble congregated towards the centerpoint of the foyer. Murals of the various rapes of alien worlds stacked atop each other, all of them leading to the largest artwork of them all. A kthid god, seemingly congealed from the violet wisps of a nebula, held a mauve-skinned horned goddess against the ‘floor’ as cocks and tails alike poured into her holes.
One of Thron’s heitera, the corvid, was directly above that mural. Her hands were enclosed in steel spheres and her forearms were linked together by a set of metal chains attached to manacles. Both of her legs were also shackled, tied to heavy blocks of concrete each one larger than she was. She seethed despite it, her feathers bristling and her bright blue eyes smoldering like ready flames. She seemed even more agitated than usual. Was she on stimulants?
“What is this?” Voerash asked. “A punishment?”
“A game. My little Tehou has, once again, insisted that she would be able to slay me if only were she were allowed a ‘fair fight’,” Thron said. “In a moment, I shall remove her restraints and prove her wrong.”
Voerash snorted. “The moment you take those chains off, she’s going to bolt for the doors.”
“She has been informed that I have set up many anti-air batteries all around the premises. She shall be hit with repeated stun rounds should she attempt to leave our game room,” Thron said. “Don’t worry; this shall not take long.”
“How about, instead of playing with your cocksleeve, you just tell me what this whole mess with the peasant is about and then you can go back to playing with her?” Voerash demanded.
“I’m afraid that will not be how this will work, brother,” Thron said, turning away. He strode towards his armor before Voerash could get another word out. “Oh, but do not worry yourself. I shall give you something to keep yourself occupied as I bring my little bird back to the ground.”
Voerash leapt off his seat and followed Thron to the mannequin. His younger brother held up a hand to silence him before he could snap back his retort.
“This is actually important, Voerash, as it has to do with my plan,” Thron said. He stopped in front of his suit of armor, lifting up the helmet, “Do you remember your foolish desire to be the one to deliver the killing blow against Sarcand?”
“Foolish? This is a matter of a warrior’s honor, Thron!” Voerash hissed. “He is my enemy and he will die by my hand!”
“Yes, yes. That is all very fascinating and inspirational and impressive,” Thron said dismissively.
“We shouldn’t even be talking about that here!” Voerash said, his eyes sweeping the foyer. “This is a public place. What if some officer walks in and hears us speaking about this?”
“Elder brother, do you think I would be so neglectful? Surely you have seen the guards at the front door. They’re been ordered to stop anyone from entering apart from you and Gronak,” Thron said, handing the helmet to Voerash. “Here, brother. Put this on. It should fit you as well.”
Voerash narrowed his eyes. “What is this about?”
“I had been trialing the systems I had under development on my own armor earlier today. Put it on, elder brother, and just run through the configuration for me,” Thron said. “I think my explanation will make far more sense once you see the results of my work.”
Voerash snorted. “This had better be good, Thron.”
Thron leaned in, his lips pulling back to reveal his teeth. “It will be,” he promised. Thron snatched up the bracers from his armor, striding towards his heitera.
Voerash sighed. At times like this, he really wished that Thron was an engineer. At least then he would be able to force Thron into some menial patrol duty to correct his behavior. Sighing and shaking his head, Voerash headed back towards his seat and forced the helmet onto his face.
The various pieces of Voerash’s cybernetics poked at the inside of the helmet. It had been sized to fit Thron, meaning that it would have been a decent fit over his unmodified head. All of the additions, including his camera eye, couldn’t help but press irritatingly against his skull due to the confines of the helmet.
Lights blinked on as the visor grew transparent, and Voerash became able to see out of the helmet.
“Welcome, Huntmaster Voerash,” A computer’s unemotional voice spoke. “Please start by repeating these words. Exceptional. Forest. Satellite.”
Voerash raised his eyebrow. He honestly expected something with more fanfare, considering that it had apparently been commissioned with one of Thron’s artists. “Exceptional.” Voerash said, turning his eyes towards Thron. “Forest. Satellite.”
Thron stopped right in front of the corvid, grabbing her around the neck and pinning her feet to the ground with a stomp. Voerash could see the pain in the bird’s face even from a distance.
“Oh, how fierce you are. It would be so beautiful if it weren’t so foolish,” Thron sighed. “Now, my beautiful little blackbird. This will only end with you on the ground with your ass in the air, a hole of yours dripping with my seed. It is only a matter of which hole that shall be.”
“Fuck you!” Tehou spat. “The only hole that’ll be dripping anything is the hole in your neck when I tear out your fucking throat!”
“Repeat these words. Holler. Medicine. Refrigeration.”
The computer’s voice came so suddenly that Voerash’s back actually snapped straight. Right. He was calibrating Thron’s helmet.
“Holler. Medicine. Refrigeration,” Voerash repeated.
“So adamant,” Thron sighed. “You will beg for my seed, Tehouanai. It is just a matter of time. Why even Seeker was fierce in her day. A cold fierceness, granted, but one born from her desire to resist me to the end. A venomous little assassin that plotted to drive a knife into my heart even as she spent her days sucking my cock.”
Thron smirked, tightening his grip. “And yet look at her now,” he said, his smirk deepening. “Do you remember how her tongue felt last night?” Thron laughed. “Tonight you can go to sleep on a soft bed, my cum warming your womb and Seeker’s tongue lashing your clit, or you can fall unconscious whilst standing in your tiny little cage.”
“Go die in a fire, sicko!”
“My. You really are so different from Lyok’aeh. I do wonder if you two were ever friends at all?” Thron smiled. “I make time for all my heitera, as you know, but it is sweet little Lyok’aeh that goes above and beyond. So dedicated.”
“She – she’s not dedicated to you, you disgusting fuckeye!” Tehou snarled. “You – you forced her to!”
Thron laughed. “My my, your faith is strong! Especially for a — oh what do you say? ‘Traitorous cocksucking scumbag’? How highly you think of her.”
Voerash could see the corvid’s expression twist with a collage of emotions. Whilst Voerash thought Thron was much too light on his heitera, he did have to admire his younger brother’s skill in jabbing at the deepest part of a slave’s heart. The computer demanded more words, and Voerash obliged.
“No I don’t!” Thron’s heitera finally managed. “That bitch is still a traitor!”
“Of course she is! Just a pathetic traitor debasing herself for the privilege of being a favored pet!” Thron smiled. “Of course, all she did was betray a doomed people so she may better improve her lot. Her choice is commendable, surely. She even attempted to extend that privilege to you.”
“Shut up! Shut the hell up! I don’t care!” Thron’s heitera screamed, desperately tearing at her bonds. “I never asked for her help!”
“And yet she showed that kindness. For you were friends!” Thron sighed. “And look how you returned her kindness. With contempt, anger, hatred, and mockery. Saddening. Truly saddening.”
“Shut the hell up, you monster! You came to our world! You killed everyone! This is your fault, you bastard!” the corvid screamed, desperately trying to lash out at Thron even in her bonds. “You ruined everything! Things were finally going well, and you ruined it all!”
“Oh do try to be reasonable. Your world was doomed. Your people were born to be prey,” Thron said. “Truly, what is better? To be wiped out outright? Or to be given the honor of birthing warriors for the greatest empire the universe has ever known?”
Thron leaned in, whispering, and the helmet let Voerash hear every word clearly. “Lyok’aeh understands that. Does that make her a traitor? Perhaps. But she had abandoned a futile fight to serve a higher purpose and is rewarded for it. Oh Tehou, you would not believe what sweet songs of surrender the ‘traitor’ now sings for me!”
“Shut the hell up! I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you all!” the heitera continued to scream. “I’ll cut all of your fingers off and feed you glass and make every last one of your bastard family members watch!”
“Ah, shattered glass! That certainly brings me back,” Thron chuckled. “You realize, of course, that once that broadcast went out and the warriors declared that they would do the same to you, Lyok’aeh had begged me to spare you?”
Thron showed off his row of polished white teeth. “I had her quell all of their wraths. She took that anger and that fury onto herself. So desperate to give you a chance! I had to pull her away from the warriors three times and hand her over to the medics before their wrath finally subsided.”
The young woman wasn’t screaming for once. Voerash saw that crack in her expression. That cold realization as Thron’s words seeped into her ear like venom. “And what has she received from you in return for her sacrifices?” Thron asked. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing from the ingrate she used to call her friend.”
“She regrets her sacrifices. She tells me about it whenever we’re alone,” Thron said, voice wistful. “She’s disappointed in you. All those countless rapes and abuses she went through amount to this. I comfort her, naturally, and there is nothing that would comfort a female like a chance to breed with a superior organism. She eagerly begs me for the privilege.”
“Shut up! You’re lying! You’re lying!” the corvid heitera screamed. Tears were beginning to fall. “You’re lying!”
Thron laughed. “She’s a traitor, isn’t she? What possible reason do I have to lie? Her loyalty belongs to me now!”
“I said shut up!” the heitera howled.
“She hates you, you realize,” Thron continued. Voerash continued the helmet configuration, but his attention was transfixed. “When I make love to her, it’s my name she moans. When we curl up in bed, she’ll lean in and whisper to me her hatred of you. Whisper how she wishes you would see reason. How pathetic and hateful you are. How she regrets ever calling you a friend.”
The corvid’s face twisted in horror and pain. The woman’s entire body was trembling, like she was being electrocuted. A mock-frown spread over Thron’s face.
“How much longer do you intend to let her wait exactly, Tehouanai, before you finally show her that all she has done for you hasn’t been worthless? A few more months? A few more years? Until Lyok’aeh is nothing more than a distant memory?”
“Shut up! Shut — ” The corvid looked like she was going to continue screaming, but the shock reached her expression first.
Thron’s finger had been driven down onto his bracer’s button. The restraints on the corvid’s body instantly came undone. The shackles around her legs sprang open and the metal sleeves around her wrists hit the ground with a thump. More shackles that Voerash didn’t notice, ones that were presumably clamped around her wings, also thunked to the ground.
“Last chance, Tehou. Get on your knees and beg me to impregnate you,” Thron said, “or continue with this pointless game and face the inevitable consequences.”
“How about you go fuck yourself, asswipe!” the corvid screeched, lunging straight for Thron.
The corvid was a blur of black. Thron dodged back, knocking aside a blow aimed for his face. The corvid spun out of his grasp with a beat of her wings, veering around the concrete block as Thron lunged after her with an eager smile on his face. Voerash sighed. If only Thron was this enthusiastic about helping him run the ship.
The corvid spun, black wings shearing through air, as she swooped down towards Thron. She swerved around Thron’s punch and raked her talons over his side. She landed on the ground, spinning and slashing her talons across Thron’s ankle as she rolled onto her feet and vaulted into the air.
Thron moved faster. The corvid gagged as he planted a kick straight into her side and sent her hurtling through the air. The slave crashed in a flurry of rolling wings and legs. The female barely managed to recover, her talons scraping against the marble as she forced herself into a landing crouch. She clutched her side, her chest pulsing with a frantic pace.
“Much too greedy,” Thron chuckled, turning towards the corvid. The triple parallel cuts on his side and ankle bled bright red, but Thron was clearly unfazed. “You could have gotten away, Tehou. I thought your capture would have taught you that lesson!”
“Shut the hell up!” the corvid screeched, shooting towards him.
The two of them clashed in a flurry of blows. Wings, claws, and talons clashed in a blur of motion. Voerash found himself raising his brow, the aperture of his mechanical eye shrinking. The corvid girl fought a lot better than he’d expected. She fought an enemy with far greater strength, much greater reach, and with speed that wasn’t meaningfully slower than hers, and yet she was still managing to just barely stay in the fight.
Thron was clearly the more experienced fighter, however. He effortlessly slapped aside her punches, kicks, and scratches, driving her backwards as he did so. The corvid ducked, rolled, swooped, and flew around Thron, just barely managing to slip away from being caught. She swiftly climbed up the air column with the frantic beatings of her wings, before veering around and plunging for Thron. Thron turned to face her and fell into a ready stance.
The corvid folded her wings, her body grazing Thron’s paws before they could snap shut. Her claw slashed at Thron’s feet as she kicked hard, using the rest of her momentum to rocket away. Thron spun, galloping after her on his paws and feet.
“Was that it?” Thron laughed.
“Oh, just you wait!” the corvid screamed as she cut a wide circle in the air. The pair hurtled towards each other.
Thron got back on his feet and balled his fist as the corvid dove for his face. He shifted from defense to offense in an instant, lunging for the bird. The corvid’s blazing blue eyes widened and she lashed her wings and went shooting upwards. Thron jumped, his paw open like a metal trap.
It looked like the fight would end right then. The corvid twisted her wing, causing her to violently tumble out of her climb. Thron snatched for her, but he was already dropping. The corvid dropped as well, throwing herself straight into a series of rolls that smoothly turned into a frantic takeoff.
Voerash grunted. He wondered who would win, between Slayer and Thron’s favorite toy.
“Running already?” Thron laughed, galloping after her.
“I’m not running, you bastard!”
Thron whipped his head aside as the corvid spun and kicked at his face, her talons missing his eyes by millimeters. The corvid tried to jump off the ground, but Thron slapped her wing out of position and sent her stumbling. Lunging, he slammed straight into her like a rushing meteorite. The corvid tried to counterattack, but all she managed were shallow wounds across Thron’s back. The female scampered away with her hands nursing her chest as she spun to fly away.
Thron had far too much reach. He grabbed the female and tore her out of her flight. The corvid clawed for his face but he acted faster, swinging her around like a sling. The feathered slave became a blur as Thron raised her above his head and brought her crashing down to earth.
Voerash yawned. He knew Thron was an excellent fighter, of course, but he’d still expected the fight to go on for a bit longer. Thron kept slamming the female against the floor, bringing her down again and again until the last of her fight had been pummeled out of her. Thron dropped the slave idly like he was discarding garbage, letting the ball of snapped feathers and broken wings crash to the ground. The corvid was hyperventilating. Her arms and legs seemed intact, but her body was bloodied.
Thron grabbed her by the thighs and violently pried them apart. The bird’s screams hinted at fractured bones beneath her thighs.
“Were you like Lyok, you would be lying on silks with your feathers smelling of soap,” Thron said, tossing his loincloth aside. “Alas, you remain stubborn, and so we continue with our games.”
The corvid somehow found the energy to scream as Thron drove his cock deep into her ass. Though the slave was still covered in injuries, Thron showed her no mercy. He plowed into the slave like a youth breaking his first female.
“Voerash, would you like to join me?” Thron asked. “I would like to imagine that our little show proved exciting.”
Voerash grunted, rising from his seat and striding over to the pinned slave. His feet crushed discarded feathers. “I would rather you just explain yourself.”
“Certainly,” Thron said, unclasping the latch on the corvid’s beak and throwing the beak aside.
The lipless hole of flesh may have looked unappealing, but Voerash drove his cock into it without a second thought. The fit was snug, the tight throat bulging around his cock to such an extent that he could almost make out his scales. Voerash spent little time dallying, slamming his hips straight against the open hole.
The corvid’s choked pain of scream vibrated against his cock like a sex toy. Her rough tongue tried desperately to drive his cock from her esophagus, but it served only to further stimulate him. Thron continued sodomizing the female, though he certainly didn’t leave her pussy unoccupied. He had driven a digit between the fold and curled up his finger, driving his claw into her quim from within.
“No more delays, Thron. You owe me a damn good explanation,” Voerash growled.
“Oh, elder brother. You really must take your time if you are to enjoy the finer things in life,” Thron said, “but I do suppose it is time. Application fifty-one. Load variant twelve zero one.”
The helmet beeped. “What — ” Voerash froze, reaching for his mouth. The voice he was hearing was not his own. “What is this?”
“You would not be aware of it, Voerash, but that is young Grakrash’s voice.” Krathan stroked his chin, still hammering his hips against his heitera. “The baritone syllables are still somewhat inaccurate, though. I will have to make a few more adjustments before it is completely ready.”
“What is this?” Voerash muttered, scratching his helmet. “Some kind of disguise?”
Thron chuckled. “Sharp as always, brother,” he said. “You wish to be the one to kill Sarcand. That simply isn’t possible, brother, if you wish to keep your hands clean of this messy affair. Though he is casteless-spawn, that upstart is not without allies. It would simply be impossible to be the one to put down the harvestmaster and still avoid the condemnation of the Sunbreakers.”
Thron smiled, digging his claws into the slave’s thighs. The corvid screamed, the sound resonating against Voerash’s cock. “But then the thought occurred to me. What if, for the purposes of everyone outside of our very small circle of reliable allies, everyone thought that the one who killed Sarcand was someone else? What if there was a way to allow you to be the one to slay your hated enemy, and yet ensure that the blame falls solely on some other individual?”
“So that’s why you didn’t promote someone from our line,” Voerash muttered.
“To expend someone who shares our lineage on such a gambit would be a true waste. Young Grakrash, by comparison, is eminently disposable,” Thron smiled, leaning in. “Here is how things will go. We have scouted out the human space stations. Once the fleet portion of the war is done and we move towards harvesting terrans, Division Commander Grakrash will be leading a contingent whilst armed with our miniature atomic warheads.”
Thron shrugged. “A very novel weapon, naturally, but these terrans have proven to be a very capable adversary. Somewhere during that mission, in an environment saturated with jamming, Commander Grakrash will order the use of the weapon on a suspected human fortification point. It just happens that that is where Harvestmaster Sarcand’s command post is situated.”
Voerash hissed. Even hearing Sarcand referred to in that way made him seethe. He took out his anger on Thron’s heitera, reaching over her breast and twisting the meat. The scream encouraged him to thrust even more quickly.
“It is all a horrible mistake. A tragedy, really,” Thron said, voice appalled. “Having seen the initial success of Sarcand’s plan, we have decided to give those of lower birth a chance to prove themselves as well. Yet when given a position of such importance, all they managed to do was cause the Harvestmaster’s unfortunate death. In light of this tragedy, perhaps we should acknowledge that some people are simply born better, worthier, than others. It falls to those born from great dynasties to lead. Those casteless-spawn afforded the privilege of a caste should find gratitude in their station and make way for their betters.”
Thron smiled. “And that will be the story that everyone hears.”
Voerash gave the throat another few harsh stabs before he finally climaxed, the pleasure shooting from his spine all the way to the head of his cock. The hot ejaculate sprayed all over the insides of the bloodied corvid, filling her gullet with his cum. The semen pooled in the heitera’s mouth hole as he withdrew his shaft, wiping his cock down on the feathers of her cheek. Thron was still busy sodomizing his heitera.
“Everything is prepared then,” Voerash said glibly, still speaking with another man’s voice. Though he wanted to remain stern with his indulgent sibling, even he couldn’t entirely stop the eager grin from touching the edges of his maw. “Do you need anything else from me?”
“Only your faith.” Thron smiled. “I shall be delivering you the highest seat below Shau’lun.”
“Searcher of magnificence and truth! To witness your shining visage makes my heart weep with joy! Ah, but a dark shadow looms above your brow! What sours your mood and paints your soul with such dreary – hey wait — ow!” Ehnkath blocked the closing door with his hand, with predictable results. He grabbed on, a wavering smile on his face. “Ah the fresh pain is but a reminder of our beating hearts!”
“What do you want?” Krathan muttered.
Ehnkath leaned against the door, shaking his paw like he was trying to shake off the pain. “Wise surgeon of the stygian abyss! My desires are as simple as reading prophecy from the heavens!” Ehnkath declared, “I desire not for the self, but as a gift granted! Through a portent of the champion Grakrash, first of his name, I have learnt of your trials! I have henceforth come.” Krathan gritted his teeth.
“I told him that I didn’t want to talk to him,” Krathan growled. “That also means I don’t want him sending anyone to talk to me either!”
“Alas, wise surgeon. Now that I have learnt of your trials, all the tusked reapers of Saud’laudarak could not turn me aside! I must aid you!!” Ehnkath announced. “For though you have mastered all the ways of the flesh, you know not how to heal the soul.”
Krathan sighed. “Go away.”
“But without the stars of — ”
“Do I look like I can deal with you right now?” Krathan demanded, pinching his nose as a pang of pain struck his head. His paws were still shaking from the stimulant’s side effects. “Just – just please go away.”
“But – ”
Ehnkath frowned, chewing his cheek. He raised a single paw with all the fingers outstretched. “Five minutes. Five minutes, and I’ll fuck right off,” Ehnkath said. “Trust me, this is much faster and easier than getting me to leave.”
Krathan stared at the hand. “Fine,” he growled, “but I am timing you.”
“Wondrous! Though you may find yourself lost betwixt the forests of indecision, you shall emerge from the grand journey assured of the path you have chosen!” Ehnkath cheered, striding into his room.
Krathan grumbled, walking around the artist and heading towards his workstation. How did Grakrash even put Ehnkath up to this? Did he pay him? Krathan didn’t have the mental strength to figure it out either way. He just went to his station and set five minutes on a timer, stretching the counter over the largest screen he had before turning around.
Ehnkath, perhaps unsurprisingly, had decided to position himself in front of the glass partition. He stared through the transparent screen, quietly observing the comatose Anisa.
“I heard what happened to your heitera,” Ehnkath said. “I’m sorry. It must have been awful.”
Krathan froze, locking his jaw. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Of course you do,” Ehnkath sighed. “I heard about that ‘feast’. I can’t imagine how horrible it must have felt when they wheeled her into your clinic.”
Krathan turned away, “I am a vet. I’ve seen worse,” he said. “Patients in life-threatening conditions, even ones missing limbs and with their bodies covered in injuries, aren’t extraordinary. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve lost a patient either.”
“Sure,” Ehnkath said, folding his arms and leaning against the glass, “but I doubt any of them made you feel as miserable as you do right now.”
Krathan snorted. “I am not miserable!”
“Of course you are,” Ehnkath said. “It’s upsetting to lose someone you care about. Especially when you lose them to something cruel and unnecessary.”
Krathan opened his mouth, and yet no words came. He closed his mouth and gritted his teeth. “I didn’t lose someone. I lost a heitera. A valuable piece of property, yes, but just a piece of property.”
“It’s not wrong to feel upset. It’s not strange either,” Ehnkath said, smiling softly. “In fact, I think it’s strange if you lose someone and don’t feel anything at all.”
“I didn’t lose someone. I just lost a slave and it doesn’t bother me! It doesn’t — ” Krathan’s eyes burned. “It isn’t supposed to feel like this! She’s just a heitera! Just an animal! She can be replaced!”
The words came up Krathan’s throat like acidic bile. He nearly doubled over from the sudden rush of pain. “Why can’t I just – just be normal for once!” Krathan demanded. He furiously wiped at his face before any tears could form. “There’s trillions of other slaves on the market! Tens of millions of cryogenically suspended cephalians I could buy right now that would last me far longer than her! I – I just — ”
Krathan didn’t know how long he stood there as the cascade of emotions tore through him like a solar storm. It hurt. His organs swam in the cavity of his body. Krathan’s talons raked against the glass with such force that it felt they should be gouging holes in the material.
Ehnkath reached over, placing a hand on his shoulder and giving Krathan’s arm a firm, comforting squeeze. Krathan stood there for far too long, with a man that was practically a stranger to him, feeling his own emotions burn through him until he was left feeling so brittle that it seemed like he should crumble away to dust.
“So,” Ehnkath said, “feeling better?”
“No.” Krathan sighed, wiping at his eyes again.
“Well, you will. Believe me,” Ehnkath said, turning his eyes towards Anisa. “Even if it’s the end for her, things will get better. It may feel hopeless right now, like there’s no point in going on, but that’s going to end.”
Krathan stared forwards. “So that’s it then?” he asked. “Just – wait? Ignore it until it stops hurting?”
“Yeah. The pain will go away, even if the guilt doesn’t,” Ehnkath said.
Krathan clutched his stomach. “You sure sound confident.”
Ehnkath waved his hand. “It’s just how things are. It hurts a lot, then a little, and then it’ll stop. You’ll learn from this. So in the future, you’ll do better. So things don’t end this way again.” Ehnkath’s eyes lingered on Anisa for a long time before turning back towards Krathan.
“I don’t know how your relationship was, but if you’re this broken up about her then I think I can guess,” Ehnkath said. “I – don’t think she would want you to be miserable over this. If that means anything, coming from me.”
Ehnkath waited, but Krathan didn’t have a response for him. He eventually pulled himself away from the wall and adjusted the rainbow cloak on his shoulder. “Well, it seems like I’ve overstayed my welcome by, like, twenty minutes. I’ll be going now,” Ehnkath said. “Althea’s probably worrying about where I am.”
“Althea?” Krathan asked. “Is that your mirucain? Where is she?”
“I left her in my room. She didn’t want to come today. Said you were scary.” Ehnkath shrugged. “I think it’s your scar.”
Krathan reached up to his face. “The damage is superficial. My vision is not impacted.”
“Well, it makes you look scary. Not quite Huntmaster Voerash scary, but still scary,” Ehnkath said, heading for the door. “Look, I’m just telling you this because I care. If you want to tattoo over that or something else to hide it, then you know who to call.” Ehnkath paused and looked back over his shoulder,
“Or, if you need anything at all. If you just want someone to talk to,” he said, smirking, “don’t worry, there’s no fee for that.”
The door wasn’t very loud, and yet the thump of it closing still echoed in the spaces between Krathan’s ears.
Krathan turned around and pressed his hand against the glass. There was only the briefest of delays as the glass took in his biometrics before sliding open. The comatose Anisa lay where he had left her earlier in the morning.
Without thinking much about it, Krathan found himself putting Anisa’s hand in his. It was something she did often, whenever she was riding him or was just being moved. She clung to him like a tree. Her hands were small and clammy, lying limp in his paw.
In the soft lights of the flickering medical readouts, Anisa’s features seemed more frail than ever. Like a single wrong move would shatter her to pieces. The gray skin almost looked blue underneath the light. Lying on the bed as she was, Krathan could almost imagine Anisa was sleeping.
So small. So fragile. She barely even felt real. She was like a dream, fading as his mind woke.
“We’re alone again,” Krathan said.
This was stupid. It wasn’t like she was awake to hear him. His eyes were on Anisa’s face. Her visage was captivating as a snowflake he had created during his science education, and just as liable to melt away beneath his touch.
“We’re alone again,” Krathan sighed. “I always liked it when we were alone. Whether it was with you with your lips wrapped around some part of me or if we were watching something on the computer or if we were just sitting together. I liked just being with you.”
Krathan gently laid Anisa’s hand back down by her side. His hands moved down, tracing over her skin and squeezing at the limb. He’d never realized how soft her body really was. Without any muscle tension to give her body shape, Anisa felt like a bag of gel. Krathan turned the tentacle over, running his finger down the rows of suckers.
“Even your body doesn’t feel the same when you’re not here. It’s still beautiful. Of course it is. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single slave who was as attractive to me as you are.” Krathan sighed.
“Well, now I own your body. I can do whatever I want with it. I could breed you right now if I wanted,” he said, placing his hand over Anisa’s womb. “But I don’t feel any closer to you. I own you now, and you’re further away than you’ve ever been. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?”
Krathan’s paw glided down to Anisa’s right hip. He could feel her heart beating right beneath his palm. Cephalians had three hearts, but two heartbeats. The two hearts on either side of their hips were meant to beat together. Together, they fed Anisa’s long, trailing pelvic limbs. Together, they fed her field organ.
“I was always fascinated by your body. Your field organ barely feels real. It doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that could ever evolve,” Krathan said. “But I suppose the same could be said for a lot of the slave species, couldn’t it? That was why I decided to become a vet, you realize? Because no other career would allow me to learn as much about all of you as this one does.” He paused, watching her face. “You don’t even have the slightest fraction of the scientific knowledge needed to understand how astoundingly remarkable your body is. Would you want to learn? Would you have wanted to know? Would you find your body as fascinating as I do, or would you just find it boring? You must be so used to how amazing what you have is that you can’t even understand how special you are.”
He went silent once again, taking his paw off Anisa’s hip. He stared at her for a long time before gently stroking her head, like he was brushing away an invisible strand of hair. “You do realize, of course, what this does to all of my plans?” Krathan asked, “I have everything prepared. I have the branding irons picked out for your body, I have the collars measured out for your neck, and I was going to have your infertility treatment reversed so I could put a child into you. And then I was going to take you with me to pick out your new bed, and then go down to the canteen and get you whatever you want from the menu.”
Krathan looked down at his cephalian. “We can still do that, you realize? We still have the time.”
Silence and empty time reigned within the chamber. Krathan went over the bedside care, again and again, as the time wore on. He waved the arane away both times as they came in to carry out their scheduled treatment on Anisa.
Krathan eventually found himself sitting still again. He reached for the pouch behind his back, pulling out the tablet and scrolling through the various options until he found an image of massive alien trees that had become familiar to him through his recent research.
He tapped the button and the video began to play. “I’m playing some more documentaries about Ururaau. Your favorite,” Krathan said softly. “Honestly, I found it a bit annoying that you kept wanting to watch the same one over and over again. I don’t know what you found so interesting about it. There’s only so much you could learn from just staring at nature, after all. Sooner or later you’ll need to get our measuring equipment and start peeling back the exterior.”
To call it a documentary was, in many ways, comical. It was just a video taken from a static camera of a scene from Anisa’s homeworld. Massive trees standing in fields of waving grass. Even from this angle, Krathan could see the patches where landing craft had scarred the otherwise pristine nature of the cephalian homeworld. He could see rubble where houses had been.
Krathan was beginning to grow uncomfortably cold. The temperature measured on the surface of Ururaau indicated that cephalians preferred temperatures considerably lower than what kthid were used to. He pulled a spare blanket from beneath Anisa’s bed and threw it over his shoulders.
“It’s considered very poor conduct to ignore your master. You need to listen to me when I tell you something or I’ll need to punish you,” Krathan said. “Come on, get up. It’s your favorite documentary, Anisa. Let’s go watch it from the couch so you can see it a little better.”
Krathan’s hand trembled. This was stupid. Maybe he had been up for so long that he was growing delirious. He really should go to bed.
“I read that I should do the absolute minimum for you to make sure that you survive. It’s to train heitera to be independent and serve their masters instead of having the master serve their property in any capacity. It makes sense, right?” Krathan asked. “But I’ll make an exception for you. Just wake up and ask and I’ll carry you to the couch. I’ll carry you wherever you like.”
The video continued to play on the screen, filling the entire room with the soft sounds of far off winds and the rustling of leaves. It was faint and it was quiet, but in the chamber where words seldom passed the sounds of echoed nature seemed loud.
“I really meant what I said I’d carry you wherever you like. If you just opened your eyes and asked me right now, I’d walk you through the servant’s corridor all the way up to the observation deck and we could watch the stars up there together,” Krathan said. “Once we make it back to Maldoror, there are a lot of natural parks where they have trees from your homeworld. We can go there as well. There’ll be massive pools, and you can swim for as long as you like. It’ll be expensive of course, but it doesn’t matter. If it makes you happy, if it means I can see you happy again even one more time – ”
Hot tears ran down Krathan’s face. He wiped them away, but more soon joined them. He had to start using his blanket to mop up the teardrops. Anisa reacted to none of it. Time flowed by her, leaving her untouched. She was frozen in the moment.
“I – I want to hear you sing again. I want to see you eat breakfast and watch documentaries with me and listen to me when I try to teach you something and do what I tell you to and – and – ” Krathan gritted his teeth. “I want to just be with you again, even for just one more hour. I didn’t know it was going to be over already! No one told me that it was going to be over already!”
There was no one there to hear him crying or judge him for it. He just cried as he continued to cling to the cephalian’s bedside, letting the emotions that he kept bottled up for so long just flow out of him.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you last time! I’m sorry I let them do this to you!” Krathan grounded his teeth against each other. “I could have stopped them! I couldn’t have gotten there before they began torturing you, but at least I could have arrived before they began to destroy your body! I could have arrived before they took your leg! I could have – ”
Krathan curled up to the corner of the bed, clinging to the railings. The emotions welled like a sticky mass in his throat, slowly choking him. He felt like throwing up, but he knew that nothing would come out. Krathan just clung to the bedside, tears running down his face.
“Just – please! One more chance!. That’s all I want! One more chance to get this right! I don’t want to do this alone, not anymore. Not without you. Please. Don’t leave me here.” Pain coiled Krathan’s spine. “This place is so cold and empty without you.”
His pleas burned into nothing. The pain didn’t subside, but Krathan didn’t scramble over to the office table where he knew he kept his analgesics. He wasn’t even sure he could make it that far. Not even if he crawled.
The vet turned away from his tablet and just stared at the cephalian. Willing her to wake up. Begging her to just wake up. She wouldn’t move, however. Her eyes were still shut and her skin was as gray as ever.
Krathan fell asleep with his head pressed against the railing. In the dwindling seconds of his consciousness, it occurred to him that he would be guaranteed neck pain for this. He didn’t care. He didn’t have the energy to care right now. The vet went silent as he sank deep into his dreamless sleep.
The sound of rapid beeping startled Krathan awake like a bucket of ice water across the face. He jumped up. Were they in another fleet engagement? He spun his head around, his neck feeling like it was being forced to hold up an interceptor. Krathan tiredly blinked away the blurriness in his eyes and looked over to the sensor. He froze.
Anisa was blue.
Krathan nearly entangled himself in every wire in his mad scramble to his feet. The brain waves told him immediately that she had recovered from her coma. How? How long had she been asleep? Krathan panicked, spinning around. Where were his nanites? Where were his analgesics! He needed to act quickly while he still had this chance!
“Anisa, I’m here now! I’m — ” Krathan froze. The cephalian’s colors continued to gently undulate between blue and white. Krathan had seen this pattern of color change before. The neural charts confirmed his suspicions. Anisa may no longer have been comatose, but she was still asleep. She was still deeply asleep.
She was recovering. Oh Shau’lun she was recovering. Streams of tears ran down the contours of Krathan’s face as he dropped to his knees. One of Anisa’s hands was still on her chest. Krathan took the tiny hand in two of his own and desperately clung to it.
He would need to make sure to run a full body scan to check for undetected pressure ulcers and constricted blood and lymph capillaries. He’d just had an entire day’s worth of work dumped on his head. He’d need to monitor her brain for any signs that she was going to slip back into her coma. He would need to arrange for linguistic, mathematical, logic, and various other exercises to make sure Anisa managed to preserve brain function and performance during her recovery. Anisa’s recovery. Anisa was recovering!
What felt like thousands of emotions rushed through Krathan all at once. Even on his knees and clinging to a bedside, Krathan still felt himself staggering. He wanted to just tear out all of those needles, throw his arms around her and hold her tight. He wanted to hug her and never let her go again.
He couldn’t do that. Anisa was recovering, and that must absolutely take priority. If Krathan had to stop drawing breath to accomplish that, he knew at that moment that he would have found a way to breathe through his skin or die trying. His eyes fell over his heitera’s body, her skin dancing with that glorious light-speckled blues that he never thought he would see again.
“Thank you, Anisa. Thank you so much. I promise I’ll never let go of you ever again. I will protect you. I will keep you safe. No matter what else it costs. I swear, Anisa. I won’t let anything threaten you again,” Krathan whispered, clinging onto Anisa’s hand.
Somehow, despite the fact that his heitera was clearly still lost in her sleep, her fingers wrapped around his, and she clung to his hand as well.