The first time I saw her, she was on her knees in the middle of Azarius's courtyard, wrists and ankles shackled and bound, glaring up at the Sorcerer as if she could flay the skin from his bones by sheer force of will. Of course Azarius is not affected by it in the least.

A/N: I have started a lot of stories and I am trying to figure out which ones are decent and worth continuing, need to be changed, or simply discarded. Your input and suggestions would be appreciated immensely. Thank you.

I also should credit the vast majority of Nikolai's plot to the influence of Fenris from Bioware and Dragon Age. I did not notice how much until someone commented and I went back and re-read it. My apologies.

This is the edited Version of Slave. I have tried to change a few things to make Nikolai more original but I am not sure how much I succeeded. I do hope that this version has improved over the last one. Your inputs and suggestions would still be very much appreciated. Thank you and Enjoy.

Nikolai' POV

The first time I saw her, she was on her knees in the middle of Azarius's courtyard, wrists and ankles shackled and bound, glaring up at the Sorcerer as if she could flay the skin from his bones by sheer force of will. Of course Azarius is not affected by it in the least.

Azarius walks around her in slow circles, the cloth of his robes whispering as he examines her. The auction master who brought her lists off all of her faults—stealing, attempted escapes, defiance, insolence. The list is damning for a slave and it is a wonder she still breathes.

"And why," the Sorcerer breathes softly when the large, muscled man finally falls silent, "did you see fit to bring her to me? What use would I have for a slave such as this?"

The auction master nods respectfully, but the moisture on his brow and the slight fluttering of his fingers betrays his nervousness. I watch impassively, knowing the man is no threat to my master, but I continue to behave according to the training that has been ground into me.

"I normally wouldn't ever dream of dishonoring your house with one such as this, Sorcerer Azarius, if it wasn't for two qualities she does possess."

"Oh? Do continue." There is a touch of curiosity in Azarius's voice, and a hint of threat. If whatever the auctioneer says displeases the Sorcerer, he will feel Azarius's wrath most keenly.

The man nods again, a bead of sweat forming on his temple and then running down his cheek as he swallows audibly, his Adams apple bobbing. "She has spirit, sir."

"I have no use for a slave with spirit, except to break them of it."

"Of course, sir, but you have mentioned in the past that certain slaves with spirit are useful to you." At that, he glances quickly at me and then back to Azarius. I fight the urge to attack the auctioneer.

The Sorcerer's expression grows thoughtful as he follows the auctioneer's look, and he slowly strokes his beard.

"You might be right in that some cases spirited slaves are useful. But their uses are very narrow indeed. Spirit alone is hardly a reason for me to be interested."

"You are absolutely correct, Sorcerer. Normally, one like her would only be suitable for manual labor. But…you said you were looking for a compliment to your bodyguard." Another quick look at me. "I think she might be what you're looking for."

The conversation catches my attention and I immediately focus on the scene before me, taking in exactly what is happening and being said, instead of just allowing the conversation to flow over me as I usually do when my master is talking.

Azarius's expression becomes calculating. "She fights?"

"Yes, sir."

"What discipline?"

"Dual wielding."

For the past few years, Azarius has become obsessed with finding another to make into a bodyguard like me. But it isn't quite as easy as simply selecting another fighter. To begin with, Azarius needs a slave—it is highly unlikely any free guard or warrior would submit to such a position—and slaves are generally discouraged from any type of martial training. Those that do know how to wield a weapon are often little more than brute force. Anyone Azarius chooses will have to be able to think and react quickly. And not just any fighting skill will do—it needs to be something that would compliment my abilities.

And then there is the fact that Azarius likes…pretty things. Physical perfection isn't required, but any candidate has to be pleasing to the eye. There are those Azarius has passed up immediately, simply because of an unsightly scar or other defect. Even the punishments and agonies inflicted on me, whether by Azarius's own hand or Sasha's, leave no marks behind.

And despite all of this, Azarius has still managed to find slaves to test. Nearly a dozen have been purchased in the last two years, four even making it to train with me before Azarius found some flaw and…removed them.

My master resumes his circling, now resembling a predator closing in on his prey, and I allow my own gaze to focus on the kneeling slave. Even as Azarius looks at her with new eyes, my own are taking her in, cataloging everything in an analytical fashion.

She will be tall when standing, probably near my own height. Her limbs, from what I could see, revealed by the sleeveless tunic and ragged pants, appear straight and true. If they've been broken in the past, they've healed well. Beneath her pale skin, her muscles are long and clean, visible because of the way she tenses against her restraints. No heavy bulk like most human men, or even some women. Her frame isn't built for raw power, but for speed and dexterity.

Even bound as she is, she kneels up, back straight and shoulders set. Part of that is surely stubbornness and defiance, but it is a stance that will give the best chance should she find herself free. She watches, through strands of dirty, black hair, as Azarius circles her, but she keeps her head very still, moving just her eyes to keep him within her peripheral vision.

I take a moment to look at her through Azarius's eyes. Her skin is mostly unblemished, and the handful of scars are small, light—most likely something Azarius or Sasha could lessen or even remove. Her features are even and symmetrical, and I think that she might even be considered pretty. Perhaps not beautiful—her face is probably a bit too sharp for true beauty—but if I were to allow myself thoughts of that nature, she does seem to be attractive.

Azarius stops circling to stand before her, lips pursed in thought. "How is her health?"

"From what her previous master said, excellent. She recovers from injury quickly and hasn't been ill in the time he's owned her."

"And how long was that?"

"Just over a year, Sorcerer. He hoped to break her of her ways, but gave up on it as too much trouble. He merely wants to recover whatever he can of his investment. Normally, she'd be bound for the quarries, but I thought to offer you the chance to purchase her first."

"I see," Azarius murmurs, and then makes a sharp gesture with his hand. The auctioneer quickly reaches down and hauls her to her feet with one beefy hand. The woman snarls and tries to wrench herself free, only to be rewarded with a hard cuff to the side of her head for her efforts.

"Carefully," Azarius murmurs. "If you damage the goods, I won't be able to offer full price."

"Yes, Sorcerer. My apologies."

I watch as my master carefully inspects every inch of her, first with his eyes, then with his hands. He examines her as one might examine a piece of livestock, feeling and squeezing flesh, moving clothing to see something better and running his hands down her limbs to make sure nothing is hidden. She tries to pull back from his touch, but the auction master grabs a fistful of hair, cruelly pulling her head back so that her struggles are ineffectual. And then Azarius reaches out to grasp her chin to get a better look at her.

The woman spits in his face.

This time, the blow from the auctioneer's fist sends her back to her knees. But Azarius merely produces a square of silk from his robes and wipes his face, laughing softly. My gut clenches instinctively at the sound. Pain and humiliation always follow that laugh, and though I feel a brief stab of pity for the woman, I am grateful that it isn't directed at me.

"Spirited indeed. Very well, you've made your case. I'll buy her." A nod of his head brings his steward scurrying over with a pouch of coins. There is a brief, murmured discussion as Azarius haggles over the price. Then, as the servant counts out the auction master's gold, another signal from Azarius brings a handful of guards hurrying over.

"Take her to the cells," he instructs them. "She'll need to begin training, but let's see if we can't blunt the blade a little before we do."

Turning on his heel, he looks at me. "Come, my pet. I have business in the city to attend to."

I fall into step a pace behind and to the right of Azarius, immediately on alert for any possible threats, while grinding my teeth with hatred for the man. By the time we pass through the gates, thoughts of the unfortunate woman being taken below Azarius's palace are already fading.

The second time I see her, she is standing on the packed earth of the training yard behind Azarius's mansion.

She has been in the cells for ten days, and looks it. Her hair hangs, lank and greasy, down past her shoulders. The ragged clothes she wears are filthy, and her skin is dirty and scraped. But the biggest change, or lack of that is, is her demeanor. In the courtyard, she was defiant and proud. Now she still is surprisingly. Her shoulders are draw back and her head is raised high, but her eyes lack the fire from before. That is due to the omnipresent darkness of the cells—I can see her squinting, desperately trying to re-acclimate them in the bright outdoor light.

Another reason for her somewhat lessened fire is that she is definitely weaker. Azarius isn't such a fool as to deny her food and drink entirely, but what he did provide was meager and barely edible. The point is to break her, not kill her.

At least not yet.