Blood of Passion

By Skyla Moon

Chapter One

Lord Daven looked exceedingly bored as he picked at his dinner half-heartedly and listened to the talk of nobles dining in his hall. I stood behind him, still as a statue, just as my position required. He kept turning his head slightly to the side, as if he wanted to look back at me, but he stopped each time.

I heard him sigh and tried to ignore the rumblings of my own stomach. Lord Daven. Everything was about him. My life revolved around him. I belonged to him. The steel manacles around my wrists and the thin metal collar around my neck never let me forget it. I was his slave. Forever his, no matter what I wanted.

Lord Daven pushed back his chair suddenly, the loud noise causing the soft murmur of conversation to halt. He slammed his hands on the table, causing more than one person to jump. I didn't. I was used to his outbursts.

"Please, forgive me, but I feel unwell. I must retire. Enjoy the food and wine as long as you want; my servants will tend to your needs. Good night," he said roughly and turned on his heel. He grabbed my arm roughly, towing me along with him.

"Come with me," he growled. He wasn't mad, at least, not at me. When his anger was directed at me, it was much more terrible. I still bore the marks of his fury.

"Yes, my lord."

He dragged me into his room and slammed the door shut. I looked at his back as he took several deep breaths. "I hate them. No, I loathe them. They prattle on about the latest fashions or disputes between the King's sons, 'Oh, did you hear about such-and-such? What a scandal!' I hate them, Ezekiel."

He turned to me. I flinched involuntarily as he took a step towards me. He raised his hand and I steeled myself for a blow, but he ran his fingers down my cheek instead. "You're not like that. You never tell me what I don't want to hear." He slid his arms around my waist and carefully undid my sword belt. It clattered to the floor.

I was favored. His guard. He trusted me with a sword around him, to protect him. I pretended not to hear what the other guards said, the free ones. They said that I just used my body to get ahead. That wasn't what had happened. He was the one who had taken an interest in me. I simply did what he told me. There was nothing left but obedience. He was my master, I was his slave. I had been for five years. Ever since I had been foolish enough to become a mercenary and then join the wrong side of a war.


"Yes, my lord?"

"Do you love me? No, before you answer, don't say, 'Yes, my lord' unless you really mean it. I want the truth from you."

I glanced down at him briefly. I had never thought about it. I had only done what he had told me to, my own emotions weren't part of the process. I didn't know. I truly didn't know what I felt for him. I certainly didn't hate him, but I wasn't sure that I loved him. Cared for him, maybe, but love?

He chuckled. "That's enough. Don't strain yourself."

"I'm sorry, my—mm." He cut me off by pressing his lips to mine. He lingered there a moment before pulling back and looking up at me, his hands casually resting on my waist.

"Why don't you ever open your mouth for me? You give me your body, yet you won't give me that small part of yourself. I don't understand."

My own eyes widened and I looked back at him. I hadn't even realized that, but now that he had said it, it seemed painfully obvious. "My lord," I began.

"No. Don't say that. Please, call me Daven."

"… Daven," I repeated. It was the first time I had called him by his name. It felt strange, yet oddly freeing at the same time. It made me feel as if he was treating me as his… equal, but the manacles around my wrists constantly reminded me that I was far below him. I was only an amusement to him, nothing more.

"Do you want me to…" I wasn't sure how to phrase it. I felt color rise in my face and I looked away from him.

"No, it's fine. Just stay with me tonight. You're far more interesting than those nobles. I swear, I could hold a more interesting conversation with you than I could hold with them."

I smiled slightly as I drew him into my arms. Conversation wasn't what he wanted me for. I brushed my lips against his ear and whispered, "Of course, my lord."

"Ezekiel, what did I just tell you?"

"Daven," I amended carefully and stepped away from him. I pulled my plain shirt over my head. It no longer caught on my manacles or the circle around my neck. It used to, when I had first become a slave. I had had years of practice since then.

"It was a good decision to make you a guard," Daven said as he ran a finger down my chest. "This was wasted on such menial tasks like cleaning, don't you agree?"

"Yes, my lo—Daven."

He smiled, taking my hands in his. He brushed his hands over my manacles, tracing the designs in them. He had drawn them himself and then he had dragged me to the blacksmith and handed him the drawings, saying that he wanted new manacles for me. That was when he had decided to make me part of his personal guard. He said he didn't want me to be mistaken for a simple slave; he wanted others to know that he valued me. It was a kind gesture, one of the kindest he had ever done for me, but manacles were still manacles, no matter how pretty. Still, he gave me decent food, bedding, and clothing, although sometimes, I wished I could have gone unnoticed by him.

It wasn't that I didn't enjoy what I did for him, it was just that it had become a monotonous dance. I had practiced each step over and over until it was simply repetition and I was dancing alone. There was no excitement in it anymore. But, I did as I was told. Disobeying would only mean more pain, and I had had enough of pain in my life.

I kissed his neck softly, the first step in one of many dances that I had learned.

He fell asleep in my arms, his gentle breath puffing against my chest. For once, he had not asked me to leave. I wasn't sure if I was relieved or upset about that. After I had pulled on my breeches, he had requested sleepily that I stay with him instead of letting me slip out quietly like I always had. I felt comfortable with him, but…

Why had he asked me if I loved him? Was what I felt for him love or simply obedience? He owned my body, how could I feel something for a man who could kill me without a second thought and have no regrets about it?

My thoughts went back once again to my manacles. Was it possible that he cared for me? Even a little? No, it couldn't be. He had bought my body, my services, my life. He had simply done it on a whim; the designs meant nothing other than the fact that I wasn't a 'normal' slave. I was part of his guard and his lover when he wished it. There were worse things in life.

I closed my eyes, attempting to sleep, but the cacophony of my head wouldn't let me rest. His question had confused me and the fact that I didn't know the answer grated on me even more. After years of peaceful existence and acceptance, he had to ask me the one question I couldn't answer. Did I love him?

I didn't even know what love was. His body was warm, his breathing even. I was content, but was there more than a physical attraction?

I was on the brink of falling asleep when a small sound hauled me roughly back from the edge of unconsciousness. My eyes slid open and then closed again. I had imagined it. It was probably just the wind, anyway. I tried to go back to the peaceful feeling, Daven's breath still warm against my chest, but a slight uneasiness grew in my stomach. I recognized the feeling – it was the same feeling I had gotten when I was younger, after my mom had left and my dad had been drinking too much. Danger. Run, flee, escape, It said to me. I had learned to trust that feeling. Something was wrong.

I stayed perfectly still, keeping my breathing deep and unhurried. Silence, but then… a soft footstep? I was sure I had heard something this time. I doubted it was the wind. The wind didn't walk on soft carpets.

I tensed, waiting for the sound again, knowing it would come. It did, closer this time. I was at a disadvantage. Not only was I lying down, but I was also completely defenseless. My sword was halfway across the room.

Another footstep. The person in the room was well-trained, but even the smallest of sounds cannot be avoided. I had learned to listen for those small sounds long ago. Listening for them had saved my life on more than one occasion.

Daven. Of course the intruder was after Daven. I heard the footsteps stop right beside the bed. It was doubtful he expected another to be in Daven's bed, but it was so dark that the intruder probably couldn't tell that there were two men in the bed instead of just one. I heard the soft click of a knife being drawn and then a pause, a shifting of weight, and then the slight sound of an arm being raised.

My reaction almost came too late. I shoved Daven off the bed roughly and rolled after him as the attacker's knife slashed across my back. It was a shallow cut, nothing serious. I landed on top of Daven and roughly pulled him to his feet, ignoring his protests. I shoved him away as the intruder launched himself at me. I deflected the knife with my arm, the blade biting into it. I drove my fist into his stomach, but he danced away before I could make the hit count. He hopped backwards, and I followed, my punch glancing off a shoulder this time as the knife drove into my side. I let out a gasp of pain, sinking to my knees, my hands pressed to my bleeding side. When I looked up again, he was gone.

I felt the tip of a sword press against the back of my neck. My sword. I froze. "My lord," I began. He added more pressure to the back my neck in response. The sword pricked the skin, drawing a small drop of blood. I wisely stayed silent.

"You fool," he hissed. He removed the sword and slammed the flat side of it into my head, sending me sprawling across the floor. "You complete, utterly stupid, fool."

I shuddered, closing my eyes. This was the side of him I never wanted to see. The cruel side, the side that beat, belittled, swore… the side that was completely different from the somewhat caring Lord Daven.

"Do you realize the magnitude of what you've done? You let him leave, just like that. You do know the penalty for letting an assassin escape, don't you?"

"Yes, my lord," I whispered. Failure resulted in death. I had failed to protect my master because I had let his would-be killer go free. It didn't matter that I had saved his life, the fact that I hadn't killed his attacker meant that there would undoubtedly be another attack on his life, an attack that would never happen had I done my job properly.

Death terrified me. Even living the half-life of a slave was preferable to dying, and now my life would be stripped from me. Death. The absence of life, of everything. What was there after life?

I struggled to my knees and bowed to Daven, spreading one arm wide while keeping the other over the gash in my side. "My lord, forgive me, please," I whispered, shutting my eyes tight. I didn't want to see his face when he told me I would die. "I – I don't want to – to…"

He knelt down beside me. "Shh, Ezekiel." He wrapped his arms around my shivering frame. "You will die with honor." His voice lacked any trace of warmth or kindness. It was cold, uncaring. "Come." He took my hand gently, but I was not deceived. "It will be swift, I promise." He drew me to my feet slowly.

"My lord, please," I stuttered.

"No, Ezekiel. You know the law. You failed to do your duty and, like any man, you will meet the punishment for that failure. Thirty lashes to remind you of your failure, execution because you failed to protect me. Accept your fate, Ezekiel." He turned toward me. "I trusted you with my life. I gave you things no slave has ever had, and this is how you repaid me."

"My lord, I was unarmed."

"That makes no difference. I expect my guards to lay down their lives unselfishly for mine. You had the choice to refuse my offer, yet you did not. You chose to be my guard and you gave your word to put my life before yours. I cannot trust my life to a man who only cares about himself. I should have guessed. You were a mercenary, after all."

His words stung me. Mercenaries were infamous for fighting for whoever paid the highest. Their loyalty could be bought and they were also known as cowards whenever any true danger came and the gold wasn't enough to face it. Paid killers. It was what they were infamous for, but I had never been like that. I had done it simply because it was the only thing I knew how. There was no trade I learned except for fighting. I had nowhere to go – I certainly couldn't go home to my drunk of a father and after my mother left years before, I had no idea where she went.

I felt the blood trickle through my fingers and more blood down my back as Daven led me down several flights of stairs. We were both silent – I could think of nothing to say. It was true that I had not fulfilled my obligations as his guard, but faced with the sudden possibility – no, probability – of death, I suddenly wanted to live. I would have broken down and begged or cried had my pride let me do so. Slave or not, I had some measure of dignity and I would not debase myself before him by groveling and pleading for my life when I knew it would do no more than debase me in his eyes.

My bare feet padded on the cold, stone steps as he led me down once more. I tried to ignore the stinging pain from my wounds. They were not bad, just annoying. They were nothing compared to what was about to come. Thirty… I had never taken that many at once. It would leave my back a ruin of cuts, but it wouldn't matter for long.

Finally, we reached the bottom. Daven took a chain carefully from the wall and slid it through the rings on my manacles. He then turned the wheel so my arms were secured above my head.

I took a sharp breath as the first lash hit my back. It felt like fire was racing across the cut. The whip struck my back again. My exhaled breath hissed through my teeth. Again. And again. I didn't cry out. I wouldn't let myself. Not now.

Twenty-nine… thirty. I heard him drop the whip. I could barely think through the pain. My back was on fire, each lash mark a burning brand shoved into my skin. I sagged in my bonds, unable to even hold myself up.

"Ezekiel," I felt a soft hand brush against my cheek, wiping away the tears. "Zeke?" I opened my eyes. It had been a long time since he had called me by that name. Daven's frame swam in and out of my vision and then finally focused.

"You… you asked if I… if I…" I gasped.

"Shh, don't speak. Save your energy."

"If I… if I… love you…"

Daven raised himself on his toes and our lips connected. I closed my eyes, more tears spilling out of them, and he pulled away.

"You have until sunset tomorrow. Goodbye, Zeke," he whispered.

The tears slid unheeded down my cheeks after he left the room. "I do," I choked. "I do love you, Daven."