Hey all, a few folks know I’ve got a femdom themed fantasy novel I’ve been working on. I’m currently in edits and hope to be releasing the book in late October/early November. Because I’ve been buried in edits I’ve fallen behind on my short stories. So since the novel kept me from finishing a story this month, I thought I’d share the first 3000 odd words of the novel. I hope you enjoy.
Mattin filled the trader’s tankard before taking the empty plate back to the kitchen. His steps echoed in the inn’s near-empty common room. The dozen traders who would usually be breaking their fast of a summer morning had made themselves scarce the past few weeks.
His father glared at him as he started scrubbing the plate. “That’s Marta’s job.”
“Ah, let her be, Pop.” Three month’s ago Count Oeloff had claimed Losel, the blacksmith’s apprentice who’d been courting Marta. Losel was one of Oeloff’s slaves now – if he was still alive.
“Work is a better cure than idleness.” Bren had worked himself like a dog the past year, trying to forget the wife Oeloff had taken from him 20 years ago. Mattin had a few vague memories of his mother, Marta didn’t remember her at all. Bren took a swig from the bottle that he kept close at hand these days. “It’ll be over soon. One more time, he’ll come. One more woman he’ll claim. Then the tribute year will be over. Business will return to normal and we can forget for another ten years.”
Whatever Mattin might have said was forgotten as the sound of a horn rang through the inn. Father and son dropped what they were doing and ran to the front of the inn.
Mattin felt his heart plummet as he peered out the inn door. The coach filling the small in yard was drawn by a matched set of four, heads high and tails plumed, were just slowing to a halt. The coach they pulled was not painted black, the wood itself was darker than Mattin’s hair. It was decorated with gold filigree and sparkling gems. Emblazoned on the side was the sigil of Count Oeloff, lord of South Tarn.
Perched on top of the coach was a battered, one-eyed man wearing a leather and bronze collar. Mattin didn’t recognize him at first. Losel had been whole and hale when the Lord had claimed him a season ago. Now he was covered with scars. His single eye was dull and despairing.
Heart in his throat, Mattin backed away from the door. There was only one reason the fae lord would come to a tradesman’s inn. He had to warn Marta.
Turning, he ran for the back door of the inn.
The Maresday market in Trader Square was quieter than the full seven day market held every Sunsday, but White Oak was a large enough town (almost a city) that none of its markets were ever quiet. Even so, the usual boisterous noise of trading and gossip was subdued. No one met Mattin’s eyes as he pushed through the crowd. No one knew why he had come, and they didn’t want to know. Better to pretend that everybody one passed was about their normal errands. Better not ask questions when you might not like the answers. Mattin understood how they felt. He didn’t ask anyone if they’d seen Marta. Didn’t want anyone asking why he was looking. Didn’t want anyone to… He found her trading gossip and haggling at the chandler’s with Mistress Pors. As always, she was surrounded by a little coterie of friends and admirers. Mattin pushed through the crowd. “Marta! Marta!”
She smiled when she saw him. “Mattin! I’m sorry I left you to do the dishes today. Father wasn’t too angry, was he?”
The older she grew, the more she reminded Mattin of their mother. Especially when she smiled. His tongue froze. As long he didn’t say it, it wasn’t real, right? Just a dream.
“Mattin?” Marta put a hand on his shoulder as around them her friends began to pull back, as if they already knew what he would say.
“Marta…” He took a breath and just blurted it out. “Marta, the lord’s at the Inn.”
She froze. Before she could say anything Ared, who’d been hoping to take Losel’s place, pushed himself between the siblings. “He’s probably come for you, Mattin. Best get home and leave Marta out of this.” Marta gave Ared a little shove, but he didn’t budge. Mistress Pors, who everyone had been ignoring, shoved a package into Mattin’s hands. “Give that to Bren, boy,” the old woman said, “and tell him we’ll get drunk together later.” She blinked away the wetness in her eyes and turned to the rest of the little crowd. “One thing about Lord Oeloff, he’s predictable. He claimed a man three months ago. This time he’ll be claiming a woman. And Marta is the only woman at the inn since he claimed Polla, may she ride easy.” She shook herself and looked at Marta. “If he’s at Bren’s inn, girl, best be preparing yourself.”
Mattin nodded, “You need to run. We need to get you out of here. Maybe if we hurry…”
Marta laughed “Oh don’t be silly, Mattin. A Lord, looking for me! Of course I can’t run. And Mistress Pors, don’t worry! I’ve been ready for this for years. Oh, if only I had worn my blue dress this morning.”
“Marta!” Mattin begged.
“Please Mattin,” she patted his cheek, “I’ve never met a male yet I couldn’t twist around my little finger. Fae or no fae, Lord Oeloff won’t be any different. This time tomorrow I’ll be wearing silks and eating venison off of gold plates!”
Her beaus, one by one, slipped away. Mistress Pors sighed, “Wouldn’t do any good to run, anyway. It’s been tried before. But, girl, you aren’t the first to think so… I pray for you.”
Marta hurried through the cobblestone streets, Mattin following behind. When they reach the inn, the ebony coach was still sitting in the yard. Mattin watched as Marta stopped and fixed her hair, dusted off her skirt. “I knew I should have worn my blue dress today!”
“Marta, please!” He knew Mistress Pors was right. Running wouldn’t help. But what else could they do? “Don’t do this!”
She winked at him over her shoulder, “Mattin, you have never understood me. Wish me luck!” With that, she opened the door and stepped inside.
Mattin took a last shuddering glance at Losel, still perched on the coachman’s bench. Then followed her.
Inside, he saw what had to be Lord Oeloff seated on a sturdy chair by the fire. He had features that Mattin knew women would call handsome, with long brown hair the pulled back to reveal pointed ears. He wore leather polished to a high shine, and a tunic with an expensive, glossy look. Mattin’s father stood beside him, holding a flagon of what Mattin was certain was the inn’s finest ale. From the look on the Lord’s face it suited his palate about as well as horse piss.
Just ahead of Mattin, Marta swept toward the lord, dropping into a surprisingly graceful curtsy. “Greetings, Lord. I am Marta, Brensdaughter.”
The lord’s eyebrows rose on his brow, “Your father told me he did not expect you back for some hours.” The simple sentence was threaded with menace.
Marta looked up at the lord and smiled. “That is true Lord, but my brother saw you arrive and came to get me.”
“Clever boy.” Mattin froze under the piercing gaze and dropped his eyes to the floor. “Under the circumstances, I’ll forgive you leaving my horses to stand in the courtyard.”
For a moment Mattin couldn’t say anything, torn between relief and disgust at his own cowardice. He spoke, forcing words through gritted teeth, “Thank you, Lord.”
“Come here, girl.”
Still keeping his eyes on the floor, Mattin heard Marta’s footsteps approach the lord’s seat. He lets his eyes trace the grain of the oak floorboards, swept every morning and mopped weekly.
“You are not afraid.” Mattin shuddered at the hunger in the lord’s voice.
Marta cooed, “I am flattered at your interest, lord.”
Wood creaked as the lord stood. “Come, girl.” Mattin forced himself to look up, to see the tall fae stride towards the door. Mattin stayed where he was, half blocking the doorway. He saw his father’s frantic signal for him to move aside.
The lord was two steps away and glaring. Mattin spread his hands wide and was careful not to look in the lord’s eyes. “Please Lord, don’t—”
Terror gripped him. He shook like a leaf, unable to speak. The lord grew, filling his vision. The inn, his father, Marta, all fade into the background. There is only Lord Oeloff, and the terror the lord invoked.
“Kneel boy.” Mattin sank to his knees, unable to resist the crushing weight of the lord’s will. “Be silent.”
Suddenly, Bren was between him and the lord, kneeling, pleading, “Forgive my son, lord. He… he is a foolish boy and doesn’t understand the… the honor you do his sister. I beg you, lord.”
The lord was silent for a long moment. Mattin could only wait, fear freezing his breath. “Your taxes for the year are doubled, innkeep. See that your boy learns his place.” Then he swept out the door. Marta trailed behind, whispering a quiet goodbye.
Mattin watched her as long as he could, tears blurring her small form as she walked away.
Over an hour passed before Mattin was able to regain control of his body. The force of the lord’s command held him fast. After the lord left, the inn filled. Friends, patrons, family, stepping around him – and sometimes on him. He listened to his father explain, over and over again, what happened. Many expressed sympathy, concern or grief.
And they all spoke as if Marta were already dead.
When he was able to move again, he stood, legs still shaking, and approached his father.
Bren slapped the back of his son’s head, but smiled with teary eyes. “Damn fool boy. Nearly got yourself killed, and then where would I be?”
Mattin couldn’t help smiling in response, “Pop, what about Marta? What can we do?”
The inn fell silent. The constant small noises of eating, creaking benches, clinking cups, stopped. Mattin could feel everyone staring at him.
His father frowned and shook his head, “Nothing. You felt the lord’s power. Best accept it now. Your sister is dead. Mourn her and move on.”
Mattin stepped back, banging into one of the long tables. “No! We can’t just abandon her.”
The older man turned away and began wiping down the counter. “Only one of the fae can fight a fae.”
“You know what he’ll do to her!” Mattin found tears tracing their way down his cheeks. “You know…”
Bren stopped, both hands braced on the tables. His head hung low and his shoulders shook. “Go tend the stables, Mattin.”
A few hands reached out to touch his shoulder or pat his back as he walked past and out the door.
Marta couldn’t stop shaking her head as the inn door closed behind her. Trust Mattin to make a fool of himself. He was such a GOOD brother.
But her new life was upon her and she had no time for fools, even brotherly ones. She slipped her hand under her sash and palmed the star-metal knife fate had brought to her hands when she was a child. As she climbed into the coach behind Oeloff she brought it forward. When he sat, she squeezed herself in beside him and pressed the blade to his throat.
He chuckled, “Put the knife down, girl.”
The force of his command rolled past her like a ruffling wind. Inside, she exulted – the stories were true! “No.”
He stiffened under the blade and glared at her. “Drop the knife.” For a moment, she could see the glamour behind his words. A brightness that shined along his skin, making him the center of the world. But though she could see the power, it didn’t touch her.
She twitched the knife, his skin parted beneath the blade, “I hold starmetal, my lord.” She watched in delight as the blood drained from his face. He opened his mouth but before he could say anything she placed a finger across his lips. “Why don’t you signal your slave to drive on. Then we can talk.”
For a moment he did nothing. Then, he reached up and rapped on the top of the coach. The battered fool up top responded, and the carriage moved beneath them. “What do you want?”
Marta smiled, “A bargain.”
He sneered, “I don’t bargain with humans.”
Marta shrugged, “I doubt your household would object to finding your dead body. If you won’t bargain with me, i have no reason not to cut.” He tried to glare at her, it was rather amusing. The all powerful fae, reduced to blustering. The coach went over a pothole and the jarring bump threw her into Oeloff. The knife dug in and blood began to trickle down his throat. “I will skin him alive and make him sleep on salt!” Oeloff exclaimed. His hands moved to the cut, but froze when the knife shifted.
“An interesting idea. But have you considered sandpaper made with salt?”
Oeloff turned to her, and for the first time looked at her. “That is… a novel idea. You might almost be fae, girl.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment. Now, my bargain?”
She was surprised to see he looked excited as he leaned back against the seat. “Put that toy away, girl, and tell me what you have in mind.”
Mattin sat in the hay loft, trying to come up with a plan. His father could crumple and give up, but he wouldn’t. He would get Marta back, free her from the fae lord. If he could just figure out how.
He pushed aside visions of climbing over the walls of the lord’s manor – staging a daring raid on the heart of the tyrant’s home. In his imagination he slipped through the dark night, snuck into the depths of the lord’s horror-filled dungeon, and used a previously undiscovered skill at picking locks to free her and escape from the lord’s clutches. In reality, he knew if he tried any such thing he’d only get caught.
Confronting the lord directly wasn’t an option. His hands shook at the thought. The memory of the lord’s power, of being overcome and controlled like a puppet, terrified him. Even for Marta, he couldn’t face that again.
And even if he could, what good would it do?
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of footsteps from below. “Boy! I need my mules.”
Mattin clambered down the ladder, the old trader was standing in the doorway.
“Right away, sir.” Mattin led the mules out of their stalls and went to fetch their harness.
When he came back, the trader was just finished inspecting them. The man grunted, “Not bad, boy. You took care of your sister as well?”
Mattin growled and kicked the floor, “Not that it matters now.”
“Aye, your father has the right of it. No way to fight a fae straight up. Only another fae can do that.” Mattin turned on his heel and went back into the stable, fetching out the man’s cart.
They worked together in silence, hitching the mules. The strong animal scent was calming, an old friend from years of working in the stables. Mattin let the familiar aroma calm him and asked, “So I should just give up? Let my sister be tortured and killed?”
The old man snorted, “I wouldn’t be surprised if your sister manages to turn the tables on the lord. She wouldn’t be the first.”
“But you said—”
“I said a human couldn’t take a fae straight up. There’s more than one way of fighting back, boy.”
Mattin didn’t reply, just buckled the last straps of the harness in place and stepped back.
“If you are serious about saving your sister, head west to County Erida and strike a bargain with the lady Jahlene.” The trader swung up onto the cart’s bench, “She and Oeloff have hated each other for years.”
Startled, Mattin trotted alongside the cart as it pulled out of the courtyard, “But… I don’t have anything I can bargain with!”
The cart turned down the main thoroughfare and was soon lost in the crowd. Just before it disappeared from sight, the man called back, “You have yourself, don’t you?”
At first, Mattin didn’t understand the trader’s meaning. When he did his heart started to pound. Tapping his fingers against the side of his leg, he force himself to confront the idea. He could buy his sister’s life and safety, by selling his own. He had an answer – if he was brave enough to take it.
The stench of fear filled his nostrils – his own fear, not for Marta now, but for himself. If he followed the trader’s advise – if he offered himself as a slave to Countess n’Erida – then going by what happened to Lord Oeloff’s slaves, he’d be lucky if he died quickly. He had heard, from other traders, that not all fae were as bad as Oeloff. That many preferred to keep their slaves alive and healthy – if only so they didn’t need to keep training new ones.
And even if n’Erida was like Oeloff, could he just abandon Marta? He had been her protector since their mother died, was he to just abandon her now?
No. He took a bracing breath and turned towards the inn. Bren wouldn’t like it. It was a moment’s work to climb the old oak tree and shimmy though the window into the attic where he slept. He would be gone before his father knew what he planned. Hopefully, after she was free, Bren and Marta would be able to comfort each other.
In a short time, he had a change of clothes and his small store of coins bundled for the road. He’d wait until late, and then slip out once his father was in bed. It was best that way.