A few days later. Auction day…again.

I was standing onstage, trembling and crying, though not from fear. I wanted my Master. But he had abandoned me for his own selfish interests.

There was jeering coming from the crowd, which gave me plenty enough reason to be frightened. The occasional rock was thrown at me; small stones, pebbles, and berries flew all around my head, whistling in my ears and embedding lightly into my skin. Yes, there was reason to fear. But I no longer feared. All I wanted, silly though it seemed, was my Master.

I felt a small tug at my mind, a ripple in my throat. My collar, long forgotten, began to buzz, humming in my ear and sending a slight wave through my throat. I hadn't felt a good shock in awhile, and though this was barely tangible, it was growing steadily.

I couldn't remember who had the remote to my collar. For all I knew, it was buried somewhere beneath Thunder Mountain. At the moment, I could honestly care less.

Commotion at the front entrance turned the heads of everyone on the base floor. A huge, hairy head stuck its way through the tiny door.

"THUSTUNDRA!" roared Boreas. "I'M COMING!"

I had never been so happy to see someone. "Boreas," I whispered, fresh tears springing to my eyes.

The guards instantly swarmed around me, spears pointed outwards, as hundreds of thousands of the thralls I had once freed stormed the mountain. I hissed at my guards and slammed into one from behind, sending him sprawling out on the floor. The rest were on top of me then, squirming uncomfortably as I jabbed my elbows into their ribs.

"Thustundra!" cried Master from the crowd. I could see him bobbing and weaving through the throng of people. "Don't kill my little thrall!"

"Master…" I whimpered. Then, as I caught a slight movement just behind him, "Master! Watch out!"

He turned to glance behind him, slowing for just a split second. That was all it took. The spear that had been thrown by Shadow himself struck Master in the chest. I saw him clutch the shaft before he fell straight forward.

"MASTER!" I screamed. A blast blew through me, filling my body with agony, and refused to subside for nearly ten minutes as a battle raged on around me. "Master…" I whimpered when I had recovered my wits. "No. Not Master." I could see Canren there with him, struggling to pull the shaft out.

Fate growled in my ear, her ethereal voice seeming hollower than I had ever heard it. "You have your full powers. I cannot stop you now. I am sorry for all the trouble I've put you through."

I wanted to ask why she had finally given up blocking my true potential as she struggled to gain it herself, but she was gone. Feeling slightly unsteady, I whispered, "Etheke es im." Get off me.

The guards all flew into a wall and slumped down, unconscious, but I had no time to admire my handiwork. I ran to Master as fast as I could and jerked him into my lap, a haze clouding my vision. I couldn't lose Master now, I just couldn't!

The deal.

It hit me as fast as a lightning bolt to the brain. Death had promised to return anyone I ever wanted.

Feeling thankful for that realization, I smiled and transported myself into Death's chamber with a loud boom and a bright flash of light. He was just about to pass judgment on my Master.

"I want him returned!" I snarled. "I want him returned to me NOW!"

Death looked at me with a great sadness in his eyes. "I'm sorry, my child," he whispered. I could feel my heart breaking in two as he began his rejection. "I am afraid that I will have to withdraw my promise. I cannot afford to let him return to your world. Ever. I just can't."

"But it's my Master…" I whimpered. I was on the verge of tears, my throat tightening. "I don't want my Master to die! No!"

Death stood as my Master gave me one last slow look and disappeared – probably to hell, although I desperately hoped that that would not be the case. "I'm sorry. It cannot happen. Though you are powerful, not even you can change his fate now."

I flashed back to the surface in a fine temper. Without a second thought I grasped the minds of all the guards with my own and slaughtered them mercilessly, but without pain. I did not want them to suffer much. I only wanted them to die.

I could see Boreas and Shadow twenty yards away, but I was not in the mood to speak with either of them. In fact, I was in the process of being unable to remember them. Furious with myself and with Death, I followed through on the only idea that seemed logical at the time.

Five Years Later

I woke slowly on my birthday, opening first one eye, then the other, then blinked at the sun that peeped through my window. Actually, I had no remembrance that this date was my birthday; I only knew it because Fate told me so when I apparently asked her to erase my memories and take my powers. Of this again I had no recollection.

"Thustundra!"

I sighed at my name, thinking that it was one of the door-to-door travelling salesmen that visited on occasion. They were annoying, but I accepted them as part of the tedium that came with living only ten miles away from the nearest village.

"ThuSTUNdra!" the voice called again, putting more emphasis on my name. "I need you to come out here!"

I slowly got to my feet and peeked through my window. Shadow and Zacia, as well as their daughter Trinity, were waving to me from my backyard. Sighing, I threw on my robe and sauntered out onto the back porch.

"Shadow," I said softly, not wanting to offend him, "I'm sorry, but I don't want a party this year. I'd just like to sleep in and mope. Okay?"

He looked at me with down trodden eyes and said gently, "As you wish, Thustundra. We'll come by to see you next week."

Taking the hands of his Lifemate and daughter, he sang a merry song and led them the two miles to their home. As for myself, I shut the door and slept on the couch until dark. I had stayed up late reading the night before. And I would have slept on through the night except for the obnoxious knocking that sounded on my door at eventide.

I sleepily opened the front door and looked at the male who stood there with an odd curiosity in my eyes. He seemed vaguely familiar to me…like I knew him from another life, back when the world made sense and I remembered things better.

"Yes?" I mumbled.

"Thustundra?" he whispered. His hand slowly traced my jaw, my throat, but I did not cringe away as I would have from anyone else. The touch of his fingers was soothing, loving. "Thustundra Drae?"

"Yes." My voice was hardly more than a whisper as I desperately tried to recall anything from before five years ago. "That's my name. What's yours?"

His eyes filled with tears and his head dropped low in shame. "You would not remember my name, if you even remembered me at all," he whimpered. "You would only know me as your Master."

My knees went weak beneath me; it was all I could do to keep from buckling. "Please, sir." I licked my dry lips nervously, my breath escalating, heart pounding, as fear entered my mind. I pushed his hand away and backed away a step. "Please, just leave me alone. I don't know you. Don't want to."

He began crying then. "I won't hurt you. I just wanted to give you one last thing before I said goodbye forever."

He tilted my chin up just right, as if he was very practiced with someone just my size, and pressed his lips to mine with a gentle force.

I remembered.

"Master." Then, much louder and in a voice filled with joy and fear and sorrow, "Master! Oh my god…Master…" I ran inside quickly and scrambled to shove books off the couch and make room for him to sit, but I quickly felt his fingers clutch my wrist and stop me. I glanced at his wonderful face, then just as fast turned my gaze downward again. "Master, I'm so sorry…I'm not prepared for you…should've been ready…should've…not…"

I crumpled to the ground, sobbing in mental agony, as the flood of memories overwhelmed my mind. More than anything I wanted Master to be pleased with me.

Then the glorious feeling of him caressing my side and shoulder registered in my mind. "Thustundra…" His voice cracked and he had to clear his throat before he began again. "Thustundra, I didn't come here to be your Master. I came here to wish you a fond farewell. Fate has only allowed me to return to make things right with you and live a better life than I did."

Hysteria crashed down. "NONONO!" I screeched, grabbing his hands and holding on for all I was worth. "Don't leave me! NO!" I rocked back and forth, babbling incoherently, the thought of losing my Master again more than I could bear. Now I could see why I had given up my memories and my life. Without a Master present I was nothing but a childish mess.

Patiently he waited for me, but as the night dragged on I only got worse. The only thing going through my head was a nightmarish vision of Master walking away from me without looking back. Finally, as dawn broke over the horizon and a new bout of hysterics and sobbing settled in, he set me on the couch – in the spot that was for him – and made me look him in the eyes. One hand rested on my cheek as the other kept my chin steady. My eyes fixed on his, panic the only emotion remaining. I was sure he was about to say his final goodbye.

"Thustundra," he whispered, and I began whimpering in fear of what he would say, "I will not do anything more to upset you. Just say it and the world will be at your feet. I swear it."

"But I don't want the world. I want you, Master."

He pressed his lips to mine for a brief, wonderful moment. "Then you shall have me, my darling."

I was slowly coming down from my high-strung state of mind. "So you won't go?"

"No. I won't go. And from now on I promise to be the male I should've been a long time ago. No more collars…chains…whips…no more rape or pain or punishment. No more Master-thrall. From now on, we are equal." He was reassuring me now, making promises repeated countless times throughout the night.

I sighed contentedly, tired now. "I love you, Master," I mumbled, laying my head in his lap. It might take some work, but I was sure that I would learn to love him as I should and not as a thrall.

He massaged my ears. "It's Streil, my darling," he corrected softly. I wasn't offended. "And I love you as well. Now sleep, honey. I'll be here when you wake."

"Promise?" There was more, but the words were slurred and that was all either of us could understand.

"I promise."

I reached upwards and pulled him down to me for one last sweet, lingering kiss as the sunlight burst through the window. Then, smiling, I rested my head upon his lap, moaning quietly as his fingers tenderly caressed my ears.

And I slept.

I woke to the smell of bacon and eggs wafting in from the kitchen. Immediately worried that I was late in making my Master's food, I ran into the kitchen, stopping short when I saw all three of my children heartily tucking in at the dining table. Canren, Cinrin, and Jaycle all smiled up at me as Master walked in. I froze like a deer caught in the headlights.

"Morning, hon," he said softly, kissing me on the cheek and setting three more places at the table. "How did you sleep?"

I couldn't make the words slip over my tongue, so I simply nodded and hesitantly sat on the right hand side of Master's plate, prepared to feed him if he wanted. As I had in the days I had served, I waited to touch my own food until I had permission. My stomach growled loudly and Master sighed.

"Darling, it's no longer like that. You do whatever you want, alright?" Master leaned down and kissed me lovingly, making me forget everything but him. He sat and I crawled into his lap and snuggled into his chest. I was now thrall more to my own instincts and emotions than I was to his will. I didn't mind. "Little darling…" he said as a gentle warning, "the kids are watching. And someone here really wants to see you."

"Hello, Mother," said a long-forgotten voice. I whirled and saw Sinasta, still looking the same as he did, leaning against the doorframe and smirking at me. "Got any love for your kid?"

Flabbergasted, I stumbled to my feet and stroked his face, his ears, trying to make myself remember him. "Sinasta…" I heard myself whisper. "My baby…it's my baby…"

He leaned down and hugged me tightly. "I missed you, Mama. Are you willing to take me in again?"

"Of course," I mumbled into his chest. He smelled like he had just rolled through a flowerbed. "You're always welcome here." I looked at Master for approval and introduced Sinasta to everyone. He took the last empty place at the table and ate as well, talking with the girls and Canren like they were old friends.

Master tugged me down into his lap carefully and arranged me so we were both comfortable, then murmured, "Want me to feed you?"

Panic saturated my voice as I whimpered, "Master…that's my job…"

"Relax, Thustundra," he whispered soothingly. "I won't hurt you anymore, remember? We're equals."

"Equals," I said quietly, nervously. "We're equals. No more pain. No more collar…my collar…"

I tugged at the shock collar with fear in my eyes, watching his hand slip into his pocket and pull out the remote. I didn't know where he got it; all I knew is that it would hurt me if he touched it. Shaking, I reached out and tugged it away from him. He took it back from me and snapped it in half. The collar and remote both seemed to fizzle, and then they disappeared forever.

"Thank you…Streil," I whispered. "Thank you."

He hugged me close and kissed me very gently on the lips. I closed my eyes, willing the moment to carry on through the end of time.

"You're free, Thustundra. Finally free."

The End