She lifted the wine glass to her lips and sniffed it gently, allowing it's fine vapor to caress her nose, her palette, then she took the smallest of sips, holding it on her tongue as the glass rested between her two hands. After a moment she allowed it to flow down her throat, her head bows to touch the foot of the wine glass as she lifts it to her master. He studies her, watches her for any sign of poison or spell on wine or glass.
The room is a soft buzz of conversation, but the man at the head of the table ignores it for a moment, watching over the lowest of his slaves. A slight shifting of her position tells him that she has finished checking the wine with both her body and her mage-powers, and he lifts the glass from her hands.
Around him are the men and women of a half dozen worlds, his empire. So much smaller than the one he once ruled, but it is a good start. He looks at his higher ranked women. The gifts of a hundred nations on six worlds. So many and so beautiful.
They in turn watch him, and the woman that kneels at his left side, her head bowed, her eyes unreadable. She hides how much she hates it here. She can feel their hatred of her, and feels more lonely than she does in her cell. She almost wishes her Master would send her back there.
He gives her his glass and nods at her. The woman takes small delicate sips, knowing he is watching her and striving to please him. A small tidbit of meat is offered her, and she takes it from his fingers like the trained pet she knows she is. What is pleasure in her room is now so very painful, the contempt of those who had once been her friends. Gold, Sapphire, Silver, Pearl, Ruby, Tourmaline, once so close. Now they hated her. When they walked by she could hear them muttering under their breath words like, traitor, sellout, bitch, slut, whore.
The young mage took another bite of food like she had been taught. Did they even know what she had suffered to learn this at fir. She still remembered her first session with the whip, with the branding iron, with the needles, the hooks, the rope, . She remembered the pain of him punishing her, then ordering her to HEAL herself so he could punish her more. Then she learned and came the rewards, the gentle touches, the treats. The news of her friends and how they were doing. Her friends…What friends?
Finally she cannot take the pain and whispers so softly, "May I please be excused Master?"
He shakes his head, "Watch." It's all he needs to say. The mage shoves her pain ruthlessly into a corner and watches. Some of the women here are from the newest world in her master's empire. They might try something foolish. But nothing happens. It is quite except for the snubbing, the snide comments made when the women are sure HE will not hear them.
It is almost with relief that she lifts her chin so that her master can unlock the chain that holds her to his chair and he puts a leash to her collar so he can guide her to his bed, a slight flick of that leather line and she is on her feet, head bowed, hands placed JUST the way he likes to do anything else means another session in the pit. Another session of being beaten till blood flows in a crimson stream from her back. She much prefers not to waste any time on such things. She would rather have their long rambling talks.
His voice breaks the stillness, "I have an announcement, I will be gone for the next three days. Gold, you are in charge of my harem. Mica, you will be allowed to roam the palace freely until I get back." The demon's hand is gentle as he caresses the young woman's face, "You have been a good girl, you have earned the reward."
The mage freezes then, for one brief moment she feels joy, then she feels the hatred slam down on her as Gold fixes her once friend with a look of pure malice. The mage knows she is the lowest of the low. Anyone in the harem can do pretty much what they want to her. This will be hell for her.
The halls seemed empty with the Demon-Lord gone. The mage wandered them silently, staying away from the harem. She went to visit the one person she truly wished to check on, Diamond. The Demon Lord told her he was dying,
She slipped into the room like a ghost, Diamond looked so old there. She knew he was almost two hundred years old, but for so long he didn't look it, now he did, his skin was sunken and sallow, his eyes glazed. The mage felt her heart break as she took one bloodless hand into her own.
"Mica, you came. He told me he would help me hold on till you came."
"Lord Diamond," Her voice quavered.
"Hush Sharreena Ree, Hush. I know who you are now. I should have realized it long ago. I only knew for sure when you told us you held the shield. OH child, I am so sorry this has happened to you."
The magess looked at the ancient arch-mage, "There is nothing to forgive Diamond. I did what I had to."
"There is much to forgive Earth-mage. If not for my jealousy and ignorance we might not be at this point," He starts coughing then, deep racking coughs, the mage extends her powers into his body, realizing she can do nothing, he is already to far gone for her to save, for he no longer wishes to fight the illness claiming him. "You have to listen to me Sharreena Ree. You HAVE to. You will be queen one day, do you hear me, you will be queen."
The mage shakes her head, "I am lowborn, common, how can I be queen."
"Ten years ago who would have believed that Gold could become a grasping harpy, or that you, humble little mage, could so deeply seduce a demon-lord to your side."
The magess shakes her head, "I don't understand what your talking about Diamond. I don't."
The old arch-mage turns rheumy eyes to the young woman, "Listen to me Goddess Child. D'Vera, Kirin, Verna, or WHATEVER you call yourself this time. Eternal Mage, You have met your match, your mate if you will. I have seen it. I have seen it child."
She shakes her head, denying this. It cannot be, he's just out of his head because his time is so near, but how does he know those names. She hadn't used those names in Lifetimes. It had been thousands of years since she was D'Vera the warrior, or Kirin the sage. And Verna the assassin. HOW did he know.
"Diamond, please rest, your not well."
The old man grabs her wrist with surprising strength, "LISTEN to me girl. He's falling in love with you, and you can't see it. He LOVES you woman. That is why he keeps you so close, why he punishes you harder than anyone else, keeps you down so very low. He's trying to teach you how to be his Queen. Don't believe me if you want, but I KNOW. I know."
The mage helps the old man up and he starts coughing up blood, she calls a cloth to her hand to help him wipe it from his lips. "Diamond he doesn't love me, he'll never love me. I know what I must do to survive now, and how to turn his wrath from me and the others."
He looks at the young woman, "There is more isn't there?"
The mage looks into Diamonds eyes, "Yes, He's the only one I know who understands me. Who will be there for me."
Diamond looks sad then, "Each of you the only ones in the universe remotely like the other. Eternal mage, if I had known what you were, if only I had KNOWN. You have my sympathy woman. I know what you suffer. But be brave, you will not be alone forever."
"Yes I will, Diamond. Even Tourmaline hates me now. I am his….his whore. Nothing more, nothing less."
"Why did you come here, Mica? You and I both know he will probably punish you. And Unlike the women of the harem I KNOW what he does. I can see the scars on your body your magic hides. Why do you risk THAT for me."
The woman closes her eyes, remembering the punishments, but also their aftermath. The Demon-Lord has never once punished her without comforting her afterwards. It isn't so fearful once you learn how to judge his moods, when to beg forgiveness and when to simply tell him the truth. And she shares that truth with Diamond now, "Because no one should die alone. No one."
Diamond touches her face, she can hear how hard it is for him to breath now. He is forcing himself for her sake, "OH Mica, how often have you had to die alone, how often are you willing to die alone for us?"
For a moment the woman lets her defenses fall, her eyes seem to shine, "Dying alone isn't as bad, it's being reborn and realizing you'll NEVER see your friends again, even if they are reborn with you, you'll never see them again, because they will not remember you"
Diamond pulls the young woman into his arms, "Oh Mica, you will have someone who will remember you, I promise you that. And he will go through heaven and hell to find you again, believe me." And then he starts coughing so very hard, and the mage sends her healing power through him, but knows she can't stop it, he doesn't have long now.
The old man removes the only thing of his he has left, the bracelet around his wrist, the gift from Tourmaline's mother. "Give them to my daughter please Mica. And tell her her father loves her."
The mage nods slowly and takes it, "I will do so tonight. It will not be long before HE returns, then I will not get the chance."
The old mage looks at the young woman and smiles then, "And remember me Mica, when you are queen of Nivia and a thousand worlds, remember me."
The mage gives the man's hand a squeeze, "I will remember you diamond no matter what. I will remember and say a prayer for you."
With that the old man closes his eyes and lets himself drift to sleep. The mage leans forward and kisses his forehead. Then with the lightest touch of her power she eases his pain and gently cuts the cords that bind soul to body. By the time his body realizes the soul is gone she will not be associated with his death. It is the only mercy she has left to give him, a peaceful death.
The mage falls heavily to the floor as she feels Gold's hand on her cheek, "Why are you here TRAITOR!"
She doesn't bother to rise, instead she drops to her knees and bows her head to the floor, hoping that what works with HIM will work with Gold. "Diamond asked me to bring Tourmaline something."
The mage grunts as agony flairs through her. She can hear several ribs crack, feel the blood pouring down from her slip lip. "Your lying Mica. Your nothing more than a sell out to HIM. You can't even kill him, you left us here to suffer his lusts. While YOU live in luxury. Don't think I haven't seen the room you share with him!"
The mage doesn't answer, how can she, they don't know, they have never been there when she was sent to the pit, when he raped her every night for years. How could they know why she stopped fighting. But she also knows that Gold purrs at his feet like a kitten. Silver kisses his ass almost literally every night. And Tourmaline, she just does what he tells her no questions asked.
She lets Gold spill her anger on her, like she lets HIM do so. Accepting it after 10 years what else can she do. And Gold kicks her, slaps her, lets the other women hold her up so that she can pull out handfuls of the mage's hair. And the mage herself is amazed all she can think is, "He would hit me harder and in more painful locations."
Finally Gold's rage is spent. The others move back as the mage pushes herself to her feet, they all freeze in horror as they look at her. When HE comes back, what will he do…..She is his personal toy.
The mage looks at them unconcerned, her body starts to glow gold as she heals her wounds, then looks at Gold with humble confidence, "I have something for Tourmaline, please ask her to come here. Her father wanted her to have it."
One of the newer girls rises to her feet, looking shocked at what she's seen. The others look horrified, the few who are mages know that skill in healing, especially SELF healing comes with practice. She had been beaten by them half to death, yet in less than a minute she looked like she JUST walked in here. What did she do to learn such skill.
The mage kneels at Tourmaline's feet the second the woman steps in and lifts the bracelet up, "Your father wanted me to give you this. And he said to tell you he loved you."
Tourmaline looks at the woman, she had seen what happened, and it is with great unease she takes the bracelet. "Thank you Mica."
The magess nods, then rises again. She looks calmly at the other women, stopping for a moment before gold, "Mistress. Next time you wish to seriously hurt me, aim for the kidneys it will take me an extra five minute to heal myself, and I will be in more pain. Ribs are relatively easy to heal."
And with that the mage slips out the door and towards her rooms.
She looks at her reflection as she hears the commotion at the castle gate, her Master has returned home. She knows he will be informed of Diamond's death. But luckily for the women of the harem, the guards never knew of the attack.
She waits for him to come to her, using the time to prepare the room the way she has learned he likes it. Then she arranges herself on the bed just so. Her hair flowing loose around her. She smiles at him when he walks through the door and sits on the bed.
"Magess. What news do you have for me?" He looks right in her eyes and she stops and thinks hard. What does she want him to know. She could tell him how Gold and the other women beat her, but would that really do any good? What Diamond said about her being a queen? In the end she chooses the simplest truth
"Things went well for the most part. Lord Diamond died. And I will admit it hurts me to see him go. I gave his daughter his marriage bracelet I hope you do not mind."
The Demon looks deeply into his magess's eyes, "Is there anything else?"
The woman sighs softly, "Just that the Harem women don't like me. But it is nothing I cannot handle, My lord."
"Are you sure, I would not like it if they stepped out of their place and harmed my property."
The magess thinks about what they did, then suddenly laughs, "Those women hurt ME? My Lord you have hit me harder for pleasing you than any one of THEM could in their rage."
The demon lord just smiles then. "If you say so Magess."
He looked at the women of his harem. The mage had finally gone to sleep, and a touch of his power assured she would stay that way. He looked at each one of them carefully, he could tell they were terrified of him.
A smile crossed his lips as he met each set of eyes, "Mica tells me that you did not give her any undue problems. I hope it stays that way. I would hate to have to…..discipline you like I do her. I'm not sure if you could……survive it."