Deror will never call Strato by his first name. Period. He doesn't see Divines as human, and therefore they are not considered worthy of his respect.
This chapter is COMPLETELY about Deror and Pulse. There is nothing about Tetra or Strato in this chapter.
It hadn't been something Deror would typically have done. He had left a large portion out of his alibi, to spare his sister the pity and sympathy that he did not need more of.
He had, indeed, met this intimidating figure in a palace of a distant land. The scorching desert through which he had traveled had left him ragged, penniless, and dying of thirst. His clothes were shredded, and his furred companion lay limp in his arms. He had abandoned his food supply and extra clothes miles back, and was prepared to lay himself beside his fox and sleep in the dunes of the everlasting hell.
Fortunately, he stumbled across a remote city, tucked neatly into the anonymous heat of the lands. There, a great castle stood, surrounded by thatched huts and lavish gardens and fountains. Though his body was wracked with starvation, no one took pity upon him. He wandered the city crying out for food and shelter, but was ignored.
Approaching the castle, he found that the guards were few, and the halls open; so he slumped against a wall and took comfort in the shadow of the great marble building. A scream awakened him, and he opened his eyes to see a beautiful young lady, frightened by the sight of the scruffy man. He stood quickly and bowed, attempting what little he knew of courtly speech, but was apprehended by her numerous guards.
He was then thrown into a dark, damp cell, and left for the rats to devour. All had seemed hopeless. He was left there, with no one but his faithful fox, for many months, possibly years.
Finally, one fateful day, he heard voices at the entrance of the dungeon. These weren't the sounds of hundreds of men, women, and children screaming hoarsely into the unforgiving stone; this was the sound of grace, of courtly speech, of haughty, well-bred gentlemen.
Deror grasped a metallic bar and raised his head hopefully. What could they be doing down here, in this most wretched of places? The heavy wooden doors opened and revealed a tall, light-skinned Divine with dark hair, and the shorter, darker desert noble who controlled the dungeon activity. He carried a thick leather whip by his side, and gold bracelets clutched his muscled arms. His rough face was opened in a cunning smile, but the stranger seemed mildly interested, if at all.
He strolled slowly down the isles, looking into cells, studying faces, and inspecting their relative health and appearance. He passed by many, and was interested by few. The dungeon master was trying to engage him in light conversation. Deror strained to listen.
"So, what is it you're looking for? We have many prisoners here, some taken from war, some condemned for crimes...I do have them separated by age, if you're looking for a group specifically." The stranger turned his cold eyes onto the man, who quailed beneath his intense gaze. Then, the stranger smiled, a chilling, cruel smile which made all around him shudder.
"I'm looking for young, fresh females to add to my harem," he stated bluntly. "Preferably between the ages of five and ten and five and twenty." He turned and glanced into the cell of a young woman, who immediately shivered and began to cry. Deror relaxed, reassured that he was not under threat of purchase. Gladiators were bought once a week, and Deror thanked the gods daily that he was born a lightweight.
The Divine turned and glanced into his cell. Perfectly at ease, Deror shot the stranger a dark look, and was surprised by the look in the Divine's eyes. He looked, if anything, very confused and anxious. He stood quickly.
"I'll take this one," he said, reaching into his pocket. The keeper looked puzzled.
"I thought you said you were looking for females!" he sputtered, accepting the coins that were shoved into his hand nonetheless. The Divine turned, his eyes greedy and his expression terrifying. Deror couldn't quite suppress a quiver of fear.
"I was. Now I'm not. I'll take this one, wrap him up for me please," said the Divine, turning and sauntering away while the keeper counted the coins hastily. After a few seconds, he gestured to the nearby guards and turned to follow the Divine. The guards entered his cell and approached him, while he backed away. He had no intention of going anywhere with that insane man.
Dodging the guards, Deror escaped through the cell door and yanked open the heavy wooden doors. Set at a full sprint, he was relieved to hear his fox running at his heels. He could hear the men behind him, and he hadn't an idea to where he was running, but he went through door after door, searching for an exit.
The months of captivity began to show upon his ravaged body. He was exhausted, sweating profusely, and slowing. He could hear the guards gaining on him, and dread balled in the pit of his stomach. He looked around desperately, and saw a silver dagger hanging upon the wall, a decoration piece. Jerking it free, he turned, and prepared to fight. He wasn't going down easily.
Backed into a corner, he watched the guards burst into the corridor, their swords drawn. Suddenly, someone cried out, and they froze. The Divine picked his way forward, his expression impassive. He calmly approached the weary victim.
Deror thrust his knife forward, fully intending to bury it in the flesh of his persecutor. But the Divine moved too quickly for him, and caught his armed hand in a crushing grip. He wrapped his other hand around Deror's throat, squeezing almost gently, until his head was spinning and his legs were numbing. When his body began to go limp, he was dropped to the ground, and a bare foot placed upon his temple, holding him to the floor; Deror didn't think it was possible for him to stand, anyways.
"You people are so incompetent," spat the Divine, and he released Deror and left the hall. Looking sheepishly at each other, the guards gathered up the dizzy prisoner and carried him to another room, where he was washed and clothed in a white tunic with gold trimmings. Iron clasps were welded upon his arms, feet, and neck, signs of his slavery. His fox was no where to be seen.
Arms bound tightly and dressed better than he had ever been, he was again presented to the Divine. To his everlasting surprise, he saw his precious fox, seated on the stranger's lap and grooming her thick tail while he stroked her back. She had never shown that kind of friendliness, even to Deror himself. The stranger caught his eye and smiled eerily.
"What's your name?" he asked softly. Deror looked away as he spoke. He couldn't bear the man's calculating gaze.
"My name is Pulsate Satstraso. You may call me Lord, if you prefer." He waited, still smiling patiently as his new slave struggled for words. He had not talked with anyone since his capture, and certainly not with such elegant tones. Finally, words burst forth, though not like how he had planned it at all.
"Wh-where's my lute?" he gasped, backing away slightly. Pulse bared his teeth in a dark laugh.
"I'll get you a new one. Come along, my musical friend," he chuckled, taking the end of the rope that held his captive hands. Standing, he began to walk at a swift pace, with Deror stumbling along behind him, feeling very foolish. At least his fox had returned to his heels, trotting along beside her master.
They approached an enormous, magnificent castle surrounded by willow trees and mossy ponds. Tall, stately oaks threw the grounds in shadow, and a cobblestone path wound its way through the dank brush. Deror couldn't help wondering if he was much better off here, despite the Divine's alarming civility towards him. He had, as of yet, never been treated so kindly before.
They wandered the grounds, each step bringing them closer to the looming mansion. Deror looked with mixed wonder and horror at his surroundings; statues of fallen heroes, nests of raving beasts, and kennels filled with fierce, unforgiving black hounds. The combined elegance and carnage chilled him.
They entered the house, and Deror was surprised to see it was quite empty; the furniture was scarce, and the carpeting was ragged. It was very clean, though, and a delightful smell wafted through the air. He turned, but Pulse had disappeared, leaving him to explore his new abode.
It didn't take long for Deror to get lost. He wandered the many rooms, trying to find the main hall again. There were many fantastic distractions, and he couldn't seem to find anyone who would help him. It was as if no one lived here.
Opening another door, he cried out and toppled backwards. The room was extremely large, with ornate hangings and a marble fountain placed in the middle. The walls were lined with doors, and pillars circled the room. What had surprised him the most, however, was the dozens of beautiful, slender, scantily clad women who had all leapt to their feet at his awkward arrival. When he fell, they all rushed to his side.
He opened his eyes slowly, and saw half a dozen charming faces peering curiously into his own. A soft hand brushed over his face, pausing to stroke his cheek. Deror closed his eyes again, and groaned in pain; he had hit his head on a marble table half way through his fall. His head was lifted, and placed into the lap of another maiden.
"What is he doing here? What should we do with him?"
"He's a slave, see Holly? These are the slave irons, the same that the baker's boy wears."
"Did Lord Pulse buy him? Why would he buy another male?"
"You don't think...?"
"Hush! That's ridiculous, and our Lord will beat you for sure if he hears such dribble coming from your mouth, Marisa!"
"Alanna, why else would our Lord buy a male? Perhaps if he planned to kill him..."
Deror whimpered and struggled feebly against the dozen hands that pressed against his chest and stomach.
"Be quiet, Marisa, you're distressing him!" snapped the maid who's lap on which his head rested. He opened his eyes cautiously and found himself looking into the clear green eyes of a beautiful blonde, her skin pale and her full lips smiling. A gold coronet rested upon her wavy hair, and gold bracelets adorned her wrists and upper arms. Her dress was of cool green cloth, silky and form-fitting. A delicate gold collar encircled her throat, and upon it was engraved 'Alanna.'
He looked around. The one at his side, whose hand rested upon his face, had blue eyes and short, straight dark hair. Her dress was blue, but she had no coronet or bracelets. Her necklace was engraved with 'Marisa.'
He studied the worried faces. The woman with long, black hair and cold gray eyes was Holly. The quiet girl with her hand on his chest had curly red hair and green eyes, and her name was Lonnie. Ursula, Helena, Artemis, Louise, Pan, Eve, Mora, Della, Ginevra, Kim...his eyes began to blur.
Alanna held her wrist beneath the slave's nose, and was relieved to feel his steady breathing against her skin. She let her eyes wander the curves of his smooth face. His skin was darkened from the sun, very unlike her Master's milky complexion. His hair was fair, and slightly wavy. His eyes...how dark they were! He was the first young man she had seen in many, many years, besides her Lord Pulse. He was younger, and his face much less...cruel.
Oh, she loved her Lord Pulse; he was handsome, wealthy, sometimes quite generous...but he was sadistic. She had seen his vicious side, and wished it to never be directed towards her. Fear made her timid, compliant, gentle...it hid her true ferocity, and she hated it, but it couldn't be worse than what she had seen him do to so many others. The strong-willed never lasted long here.
Suddenly, footsteps echoed through the halls. Frightened, the girls raced back to their rooms, hiding behind their doors from Pulse. Only Alanna was left, holding the head of the injured young man. The doors flew open, and Pulse stood there, tall and dignified. As frightened as Alanna was, she dared not move, lest she cause discomfort in the wounded man.
Pulse stared at her, his eyes cold. He walked slowly over to his harem overseer, delighting in her fierce protectiveness of his new charge. Her exquisite, defiant face glared up at him, though he could see her hands trembling. Feeling something along the lines of compassion, he bent and carefully lifted the troubled boy into his arms. Alanna stood, too, worry spreading over her features.
"Is he...he'll be..." she stumbled, her eyes catching her master's. He smiled almost gently.
"He'll be fine."
Deror opened his eyes wearily, half expecting to still be in the dungeons of the desert palace. Instead, he found himself lying on an extremely comfortable bed, complete with a downy cover and a breakfast tray lounging on a nearby table.
Suddenly, the door burst open, and Alanna flounced in. Her golden hair swung loose behind her, and her green eyes flashed with mischief. Deror felt a rush of apprehension.
"Hello there! How are you feeling this morning?" she warbled, as Deror struggled to avert his eyes. How could she be so comfortable around him when her clothes left so little to the imagination? Deror once again struggled for words, but was at a loss for what to say.
After straightening his blankets, fluffing his pillow, and opening his windows, she bent and kissed Deror on the mouth. Yelping loudly, he jerked back, his expression confused and shocked. A dark laugh turned Alanna around.
"As much as our guest...appreciates...your enthusiasm, I think he's going to need a little time alone for now," Pulse chuckled, watching as Alanna flushed and left the room (though not without kissing her master first). Pulse turned to face Deror.
"I bought her when she was four; she hasn't yet experienced life outside of the harem." When Deror nodded weakly, he grinned. "and I can see you haven't yet experienced life inside of a harem."
More on Deror's experiences later; it'll actually be a separate story, but I'm not starting it till this one is over. There's also going to be a separate story for Pulse. This chapter just explains a little of Deror's introduction to Pulse, and a little of Pulse's 'kindness' and 'generosity.'
Oh, and Pulse buys Deror because he recognizes him as Tetra's sibling, not because he's gay 99