She followed him quietly, as she had been taught. The streets were dark, and the gangs, when encountered, stayed away, knowing who it was she followed. His eyes scanned the streets, one hand always near his sword. The streets of the city were always dangerous, especially these streets, the neighborhoods they traveled through…and it was all so very strange to her.
Her day had started strange. A horde of servants had descended on her…the first time anyone but Chren had ever attended to her. They had cornered her in the tower; she, terrified, had been ready to attack, before his voice had told her things were alright…whenever Chren told her something she knew she never needed to doubt: he simply did not lie to her, not even when the Dark One himself ordered it. Then, as well, she saw another face she recognized, from the times she would spend with Mallos' female Winterlight, herself also apparently being attended to. Between Chren's promise and that familiar face she let herself relax.
The care she then found herself placed in was that of the giggling bunch of servant women, who proceeded to drag her toward one of the larger pools under the tower, before leading her fully into it. The women had scrubbed her body thoroughly…not one bit of her was untouched by a brush and a sweet smelling soap. They had shampooed her mane and tail, and then oiled her hair with something that smelled strongly of herbs and made her mane and tail feel as if they were made of silk. It was an interesting sensation, especially when they gently massaged her scalp.
Next had been her wings. They were so gentle, yet thorough in the cleaning, they got every bit of feather-dust and shaft-scale off her wings, and then worked herb-oil into every feather until each of them had a rich shine. They then went to work on her coat, massaging her muscles, making her feel limp and loose, working the soap against her skin. The woman who served Winterlight worked on her shoulders and upper back.
This was a new sensation to the young Rin. They worked on her wings, her legs, her body. One of the women wrapping decorated wire along her primaries and covert feathers. Making color patterns appear as if she were an adult female instead of an unbred juvenile. To the young Rin's eyes it was a miracle.
Leading her out of the pool they then went to work on her hooves and claws. The water had softened them to were they could trim back the damage done by the missions she had gone on. It still wasn't easy for the servant women. One of them dared to meet her eyes and asked her what had caused one of her hooves to split nearly to the frog. Kaja had blushed and told her that she had hit something very hard with that hoof. She didn't feel the need to say that it had been a sentient's skull.
One of the women asked her softly if she would like for her to paint the claws and hooves. Kaja pondered that for a moment; she had seen many women in the tower with painted nails, and finally decided to try it. The woman smiled then, looked over her claws and nails, then at the colors they had worked into her feathers. She watched in fascination as her claws were painted in one color, then with delicate brush strokes of a contrasting color patterns were added. Her hooves had more intricate patterns worked into them. It looks almost like she was walking through grass. She liked the effect and pranced a bit for the women, holding her tail up high.
Then her stomach growled, the servant women laughed and one of them brought her a small animal freshly killed. The one who painted her claws stopped her before she could tear into it, saying it would ruin her hard work. So Kaja had to allow them to cut it up into strips and eat those. A couple of the women threw a strip into the air for Kaja to catch. This made the young Rin laugh.
Then they had her relax on cushions while they did up her mane and tail; one of them held up a mirror so she could watch. The women worked ribbons and combs into the unruly mass that was her mane. It was a miracle to see the thing tamed and laying there in neat and perfect curls around her face. They matched the ribbons in her long and flowing tail.
Once they were done they had her walk around the room, making sure nothing pulled, nothing bound, and that everything would withstand whatever Chren would need of her. Finally they told her she could shake. There was nothing like having been still so long that could make Kaja long for a good shake. The girls laughed as she raised all her feathers and fur and then shook long and hard. Once she was done the women touched up the few things she has mussed. But everything held.
She recognized the woman who came in next as one of the women who dressed those whom the Emperor owned. She was at once flattered and uncertain as to what would be happening. The woman was cold to the young Rin mare, but had chosen a light top and a decorative blanket that complimented her hair and body. Kaja had liked what she saw in the mirror, she looked very pretty and even regal.
Finally they had put on something called "Makeup" bringing out her eyes and complimenting features. She had heard one of the females saying it was almost a shame that they couldn't do more than a few light touches because of the fur, but Kaja was glad of it, she wasn't sure she liked what little they had done. The stuff on her lips felt strange, and the mixture on her eyes felt slightly unnatural, though she had to admit she liked how it made her look. Maybe berry juices instead of these strange smelling chemical concoctions would work?
Then she was led up to the main hall to meet with Chren. He smiled at her warmly; "You look nice," was all he needed to say to make her blush and bow her head, before carefully rubbing her cheek under his chin and lightly nipping at it, showing her submission to his authority as her stallion. He responded by taking her by the scruff and then gently closing his teeth over her throat. It reassured her that she was still loved and needed.
He motioned for her to turn, and he looked her over carefully, then lifted one hoof to admire the patterns there. His eyes taking in every bit of work, even sniffing her carefully. She could tell by the change in his scent that he liked how she smelled now. His voice was soft, "We need to get going. I will need to be back by nightfall."
"Yes Bayo, I understand." She didn't call him Master like she normally did when others were around, instead she used the Rin term for a lead stallion.
Chren smiled at her, and gently stroked her hair before setting a brisk pace away from the tower, leading her down familiar paths to the city. Kaja never liked visiting cities, they were places of dread normally, but with Chren leading her, she knew she would be safe. Why he hadn't told her to take her Arrahn form, though… Usually when they had to interact with "people," he would have her shift.
The people were fearful but remained quiet when watching the two of them. Everyone knew what he was even if they didn't know who…and one did not upset a Dragon Warlord, by any means. He led her through the worst parts of the city…both of them knowing the places well. It had been here that she had first met HIM, the Dark One, though she hadn't known it then. She had just seen a starving child being beaten on by others.
She never forgot that time, nor the fear he…then a boy…had put deep in her soul. How often she had wished that she had known what he was and had taken him out of there, gone after him and tried to make a difference before things… But she hadn't. She hadn't known, and did the cowardly thing, running from him in her fear.
Years later she returned, and found a second young one, in much the same situation…only this boy had been willing to trust her and her kindness. He had accidentally seen her natural form, then said he preferred it. More honest, he said. How that boy had touched her soul. She made him an offer that she had never made to the other children…offering to take care of him herself. And so for almost two years she had disappeared from everyone's knowledge…or at least, everyone's knowledge save two.
Now that boy walked before her. Her Stallion, her man, and in the Dragon Emperor's world of darkness, her master. She admired how he moved, the deadly grace he had held from the beginning. He moved like a predator, a hunter. He moved like a bipedal version of her kind. All his body language called to her with a siren song she could not deny, nor wished to.
They had started to be a pair during the time she had taught him what she knew about life and living; teaching him how to survive in both the wilderness and civilization, teaching the skills that let her move in those worlds so easily. Knowing what to barter and how to barter; when to work, and the kind of work to find.
Finally she had taken him to the Spirius and to her Foster-Brother. She had left her duties to long unattended, and the then-boy had understood…she had to try to save other children. But it had been to long and the Dragon had been ready for her. For the next two years she was playing "tag" with the third, the sixth, or any of the warlords he cared to send after her.
How often had she returned to the camp with only one child, or worse, with none at all, because she had had to run before she could even get close. She knew at least two of the warlords had been children she had wanted to go and try to rescue; their fates haunted her soul even now. Finally, however, she hadn't been able to escape…and cornered, captured, locked in strange chains and being taken to the Dragon himself came…and it was there that the real nightmares began.
In a way, she was lucky. He found her interesting, especially since she could move between worlds without a ship, something he seemed to value highly. He had been unhappy when he learned that it was a talent she had by virtue of her birth and not something she could teach…and that was when the nightmare got worse.
He tried to break her; it hurt so much, and so often. She held, though, held for so long, defying him every chance she got…but carefully, remembering Amrender's last command to her, "You have to survive Kaja, and teach my son how to live. Make sure that he lives."
She even got some of the other prisoners out. Her greatest pride had been getting Keitana out…though it cost her in ways no one who didn't live there, in the walls of the Dragon's tower, would understand. But then she had been forced to help bring Keitana back, to undo what she had done. She still hated herself for it, for betraying a friend and ally so dear to her…but most of all, because that brought him into it. Chren came for her.
She had begged him to forget, to turn around and go back…but he wouldn't, not even when the Dark One forced her to hurt him, to try to save his life, try to save him from what she had already been made to feel. He held fast…and made a deal with the Dark Emperor Kovus Tegatane; a deal for Keitana and herself: his life for their freedom. Kovus could do whatever he wanted with Chren if she and Keitana could have their freedom.
And it held…for a while.
Then Chren had lured her away from the camp and brought her back to the tower and back to Kovus. How angry she had been, how hurt and betrayed. She had yelled and screamed at Chren, said horrible things in that anger she felt in her very blood.
And he had listened to it all, before grabbing her by the scruff and…explaining things to her. What he had done to insure that she would be with him. How he had done it all to save her from hurt and pain by the monster's hand once more. How he had done it so that he would be sure she was with him and not any other.
And then they were together, despite everything that the other warlords could throw at them. Despite every hurt and torture Kovus threw at them. She never lost her belief in Chren, and he, never his belief in her. And slowly both warlords and their dark ruler seemed to accept that the two of them would not abandon each other.
And now they got time to be alone together…never very long, but still time together for just the two of them. And this was such a time.
Chren finally stopped. "Here it is…Monster Tegatane himself said this place was good."
"Yes, Master." She shivered a bit at the daring of his comment. Few within the Empire dared call Kovus anything but Master, through whatever actual words they used.
Her comment, though, caused Chren to turn for a moment and touch her cheek with his hand. "No need for ceremony and authorities here, T'chi'a. In fact I'd prefer it if master was not used."
She smiled at him, "Yes Bayo, I understand," and moved up so she could rub her cheek to his, then once more rub her cheek under his chin. This time he didn't take her throat between his teeth, but instead brought his hand up to smooth the fur of her cheek then scratched her under her chin, bringing a "purr" from deep in her upper chest.
"If you keep that up Bayo I might forget myself and try to get you to take me in the middle of the street."
Chren smiled at her, "And that would be bad, T'chi'a, as it would leave no time to eat."
He took her hand then and led her inside…but she wasn't sure about it. Normally she doesn't eat with "People"…they liked their meat to be too old. They liked it partially rotten, even, which often made her sick. Dried meat she could often handle, but not the partially rotten stuff that most "People" partook in.
The place was crowded; many of the various beings under the Emperor ate here…but finally he visibly became tired of waiting and with a snarl got them a table. She, in turn, touched his arm lightly; sometimes the anger in him worried her. He had never been so angry at his own kind before, but her touch seemed to soothe him and he smiled, brushing his lips against her cheek to reassure her.
One of the waiters led them to a table that has been set for the two of them; a chair for him, and a pile of cushions for her. Already all her favorite fruits had been set on the table in small bite-sized pieces. She looked at Chren, and saw him smiling at her.
"You've been very good, T'chi'a. I thought you might enjoy this."
Kaja could feel the tears start to form in her eyes; she'd never dared do more than sample a bite or two in places like this…at least not since the fall of the Praithian Empire. The Praithians…they had understood her kind because the Kchronaens had before them. They'd treated her…normally. Not with fear; not like so many had for ages now.
She smiled at Chren, even as he speared a piece of fruit and held it to her lips. She took it from his hand, shivering slightly, for a Rin a female accepting food from a male was part of courtship and breeding displays.
He leaned across the table. "Tonight."
It was only one word, but she knew what it meant and smiled back to him. They took turns feeding each other pieces of fruit. Sometimes he took her fingers into his mouth and nibbled on them, making her shiver; his eyes meeting hers, and speaking of the rewards for trust and her obedience.
Without thinking she fluffed her feathers, preening just a little in front of him…then forced herself to remember he's not one of her kind, he is an Arrahn. Still, there was something in his eyes, as if he knew what she's trying to say without speaking. Especially when he reached across the table, to once more caress her cheek.
The main course came next. She could smell the cooked meat, but it didn't have the slightly rotten smell it usually did. The scent was fresh, with even a faint smell of cooked blood. The other smells were equally tempting, and she could feel her mouth water just a bit.
Chren looked to the waiter, speaking with the voice learned over time from his own Master. "It is all as I requested." A command, not a request.
"If any is not..." No other words were needed; both knew the nature of the warlords, of the entire empire, even, that he had created.
She reached out to touch his arm once more. "It smells wonderful, Chren. And it smells fresh."
He turned away from the waiter, and next speared a piece of meat in a sweet smelling sauce, lifting it to her lips. Taking it, she closed her eyes in pleasure at the flavor. "Oh Bayo, it is so good…I haven't ever tasted anything like this before."
"Such is well," the only words he says as he spears a different piece and brings it to her lips. She frowned a bit at its spicy flavor, not really sure she liked it. After that, though, he followed up with another piece, this one with different spices, not as hot…and she smiled once more. "Can I have another of that. I like it and the sweet."
He simply nodded and speared the pieces, feeding them to her. This time he didn't allow her to feed him anything, himself consuming anything she didn't seem to enjoy. She was shivering by the time that the last morsel of meat was gone, nuzzling him under the chin and nipping at his neck and throat.
"Easy, T'chi'a…dessert is still to come." He stroked her throat gently, his hand going to the scruff of her neck and squeezing it firmly. She forced herself to back off a bit, knowing she is pushing him too hard. He had told her tonight, and tonight it would be.
"Good Girl." He let go of her scruff and once more scratched her under the chin, then lifted her chin so that she looked back into his eyes. "And what would my beautiful T'chi'a like to finish this treat?"
"I don't know, Bayo…I've never had any of this."
He nodded and brushed his cheek to hers, "Take your time; it is all for you, after all."
She nodded and then lightly sniffed the cakes, puddings, and other sweet treats, her senses wanting to go wild from the near overload of delicious smells. Chren lightly rubbed her back, caressing her up to the back of her neck. "Easy, T'chi'a…"
She couldn't help but tremble, her nose so much more sensitive than the short-liveds, and so many smells, SO good…there was still more meat, all of it smelling so fresh and so good… And then the deserts, sweet smelling spices mixed with delicate nut or flower smells…
"I don't know what to choose Bayo, it all smells so good."
He smiled, indulgently, stroking her gently…smiling as she looked at everything like a child in a candy shop. She knew that in a way she was. She hadn't even come into her full powers, let alone been bred. She knew only too well she'd given up that part of her people's rite of passage in order to be with Chren; they both knew it.
But all the same, he simply continued smiling at her, before she at last makes a choice, a rich smelling fruity cake with nuts and some sort of rich smelling milk based topping on it. "Always so rich your tastes, T'chi'a…you might make yourself sick anyway…"
Kaja laughed; they both know that unlike almost all the bipeds, she could handle eating "rich" foods. He took the cake from her and then the fork, motioning her to allow him to feed her again. She bowed her head, then lifted it once more with an open mouth, which he carefully places small bites into, onto the tip of her tongue. "Slowly now, T'chi'a…enjoy this…"
And she obeyed, savoring each and every small bite; watching him as he smiled at her, him seeming to so enjoy her pleasure at this, each of her bites accompanied by a gentle caress by his hand; her senses, almost reeling from the smells, from the gentle touches, from his nearness.
Other patrons now watched, but Chren glared at anyone who came too close. But by now she didn't care, it was like heaven for her. Her senses stimulated, him touching her…part of her wishing to belly to him, to roll over and show him the trust she holds for him in the way of her people…but so often did Chren become upset when she did so, almost equal with how much Kovus himself approved. She settled instead for continuing to gently nip at his jaw, his throat, nuzzling him.
He remained focused on feeding her the sweet cake, even though now her body and mind had begun to desire another treat. If she didn't already know it would upset him, she would've presented to him then and there. Didn't he realize this would drive her mad with need for him? She tried to make her mind work…did she warn him about how being fed can make a Rin mare desire to present herself to her stallion? She couldn't be sure…it was becoming harder and harder to think…
Finally the last piece was done and he rose and looked at the waiter, nodding as he tossed the man several coins, all of them very high in value, before touching her gently. "It's time to go home now, Kaja."
"Yes…home…" She made herself ruthlessly squelch the desire to present herself to him, to beg him to take her now, as she rose.
The steady walk back to the tower was a torture for her; she kept wanting to rub under his chin, to present to him. She was whimpering softly in the back of her throat while he kept on stroking the back of her neck, trying to calm her. "Soon," was all he said.
She trembled at the word; how soon was soon? She needed him so badly. The door of the tower never looked so inviting; her arm snaked its way around Chren's waist, her head going to his shoulder as she nuzzled his throat again, making a begging sound softly…
"I see she enjoyed her night out, Thirteen…"
She could feel Chren stiffen under her arm, as he appeared from one side, seemingly from nowhere, in the gathering twilight…his eyes burning as green as they always did when he let his twisted power flow unburdened.
"You could say that, sire." In Chren's voice, she could hear it, the contempt he felt for him; the contempt and revulsion…and fear. Always fear, even in one so brave as her dear Chren; in all, save her Foster-Brother alone.
"See to it that she understands that things do not have to be painful for her, here…so long as she accepts the rule of the hierarchy that exists. She, of tertiary rank."
He nodded slightly while she started to lick under his chin, begging him softly with small whimpers and nips. It didn't matter to her that he could see her begging her master; she had to, her body demanded it.
"Quite the little animal, isn't she, Thirteen…"
"Quite the woman, Master," he growled back; growled with all the anger she knew seethed underneath.
"True...but she has finally begun to accept what is a part of her: the animalist side that the weaklings think unbecoming; she, though...quite at ease with it, around you. You're doing very well, young warlord…very well indeed." He smiled, then. That chill smile that never ceased to send the corkscrew of horror…or was it fear, again…down the Thirteenth Warlord's veins.
"May I take her to our rooms, Master?" he replied calmly, showing none of what The Master doubtless knew all the same was there.
At that, he smiled to both of them, before looking solely at her. "A good little animal for your master, aren't you my little Rin?"
Kaja looked up and into the face of the man known to ancient legend as the Nightmare of Worlds.
"Always, Master Tegatane."
"Then do not forget your place around him, were it in your power to do so." His gaze returned to Chren. "You are dismissed, Thirteen." He turned and walked away, into the gathering darkness.
She felt Chren pull her closer to him, guiding her to their sanctuary before finally shutting the door. The moment she heard the door shut and lock, she immediately shifted into her Arrahn form, and turned and presented herself, on the floor as she had been taught, raising her hips up. "Oh Master…please…"
She could feel him start to caress her, soothe the burning within her, even as he knelt behind her and took hold of her hips. "Are you sure you want this, girl?"
He always asked her something like that; perhaps he liked hearing the answer? "Oh yes…please…I need you…"
His voice was so soft that she couldn't be sure, but it sounded as if it said, "Damn you, Tegatane…"
…Then she felt him enter her, making her cry out in bliss. The lesson she was familiar with, at last: that Chren was Master, her lover, her heart and her soul.
She felt her eyes roll back, as lust took her mind.