Season content notes: fictional slavery, con noncon*, pain play, pain play implied, sex, reference to/discussion of child abuse, violence
Two days later, Brit buried his own doubts and took Mattin into Jahlene’s glamourhame for the first time.
Mattin held to the many assurances he’d been given: the lady didn’t take anyone as a toy unless they wanted her to. But this once, he wished Brit would tell him what to expect. Why did he have any reason to be in the glamourhame at all?
But Brit didn’t offer any explanations, and Mattin wasn’t willing to ask.
The scents of wood, leather, and oil permeated the windowless room. But something else in the air set him on edge—even more on edge.
The walls were paneled in the same dark wood as the rest of the manor. Oil lamps, polished to a high shine, hung near the ceiling. Shelves covered one wall. They held…implements, many of which Mattin didn’t recognize and didn’t want to. The room was large, with a wide-open center area and a half dozen pieces of…furniture along the walls. A pair of shackles were bolted to the center of the floor. A chain hung from the ceiling above them. Mattin shuddered. His imagination painted vivid images of what would happen to someone hauled up there.
Someone cleared their throat behind him. He’d stopped in the doorway without realizing it. Crait stood behind him. Mattin hurried to move out of the man’s way—which, of course, put him inside the glamourhame.
Crait gave him a nod before turning to Brit. “You wanted me, sir?”
“The boy needs a demonstration. Is your wife off duty tonight?”
The floor dropped out from under Mattin. Demonstration? Crait’s face split into a huge grin. “Yes, sir!” The big man closed the door to the glamourhame and began stripping off his clothing.
“Good,” Brit said. “On the cross with you.”
Mattin stared. Crait, now naked, walked up to a large wooden X set in one corner and stretched himself out across it.
Brit walked over to one of the shelves and picked up a many-tailed whip. He then walked over to the X, waving for Mattin to join him. Mattin forced himself to walk across the room. Brit handed him the… “This is a flogger. Crait has a liking for them.”
Mattin stared at him, eyes wide and jaw loose. “You—you want me to…”
“You will spend time assisting the mistress in the glamourhame at court. You can’t avoid it. So get used to it now.”
Mattin eyed at the flogger in his hand, then looked at Crait. The man’s back was a mass of scars. He swallowed.
“Now, boy. Prove to both of us the glamourhame won’t break you or stop wasting my time.”
Mattin took a breath. He could do this. He didn’t want to, but he could. For Marta, he could do anything. He stepped forward and raised the flogger.
He swung it gently, afraid to hurt the man. Brit snorted. Crait muttered, “I know a four-year-old who hits better.”
Mattin gritted his teeth and took a firmer grip on the flogger.
The next hit made Crait jump, but when he didn’t cry out, Mattin raised the flogger again.
He tried to divorce himself from what he was doing. To forget he was hitting—beating—a living man. A friend. It made him sick, but he had to continue.
The flogger was heavy in his hand. After a few minutes, he found a good rhythm. Crait held himself on the cross. He could get down at any time. He didn’t. Instead, he clung, knuckles turning white on the handles, as his back turned red from the flogger.
Somehow, realizing he chose to stay there gave Mattin the detachment he needed. He focused on the feel of swinging his arm. The shift in his weight. The satisfaction of action after long hours behind a desk.
He was breathing hard now—sweating—but Crait just stood there. The room was silent except for the swish and thud of the flogger. Mattin found himself gritting his teeth. What was the point of hitting a man if he didn’t feel anything? Why, by the Mare, should he put himself through this if Crait didn’t even notice?
He swung harder. Crait grunted as the blow landed. It ripped something open in Mattin. The anger he had been pushing aside swamped him—at Oeloff, at himself, at Brit and the whole world. Mattin growled. Fear, desperation, shame: he poured them all out onto Crait’s back. He emptied himself of everything—everything except exhaustion. Without the focus of emotion, he felt the soreness in his arm—the ache in his heart.
“Enough,” Brit said.
Mattin’s arm fell. He found himself staring at Crait’s back. It was a very nice shade of red…
Mattin dropped the flogger like it was a snake. He turned away from Crait—couldn’t face what he’d done. Crait was—had been—his friend. He had been burning with anger and frustration for weeks. Now they were gone. He’d taken them all out on the man in front of him.
Crait hung in on the cross, panting. Brit helped him down. As Crait turned around, Mattin forced himself to face the man he’d beaten…
And was startled—shocked—to see Crait’s face split by a huge grin and his shaft erect.
Crait held out a hand to Mattin, who took it limply. “My thanks,” he said, “You have a good arm.”
“Ah… you’re welcome?” Mattin shook his head, trying to restart his thoughts.
“You gonna need any care?” Brit asked.
“Nothing m’wife can’t provide.”
After a moment, Crait shook himself off, bowed to Brit, and walked out the door.
Brit chuckled. “I wish I could get a painting of your face.”
“I… White Mare’s Blood! What…?”
“A lot of us have learned to enjoy a good beating, but Crait is the one man I know who can’t raise the standard without one. His wife will be thanking you tomorrow.”
Mattin’s mouth gaped.
“Welcome to a whole new world, boy.” Brit chuckled.
“I liked my old world better.”
The image of Crait’s grinning face, the thwack of the flogger landing, the joy and disgust, all mixed in his stomach. He swallowed hard.
Brit sobered and put a hand on Mattin’s shoulder. “I’d make it easier for you if I knew how.”
Mattin closed his eyes and tried to focus on the warmth of Brit’s hand. On being in the moment. “Yes, sir. Will… that… be required of me often?”
“No. If you weren’t going to court, you wouldn’t be here now. And I would have been the one with the flogger today if I thought watching would have gotten through to you.”
Much as he wanted to deny it, Mattin understood what Brit meant. If he had watched Brit with the flogger, he would have been focused on Brit, not Crait. Wouldn’t have seen Crait’s reaction. Wouldn’t have understood how much the “toy” enjoyed the game—but how could he?
“I don’t…why would any human do this?” Mattin’s stomach twisted, “It’s horrible.”
“For you, maybe.” Brit shrugged. “Not for Crait. Not for others.”
Mattin wanted to object—but he’d seen Crait’s reaction with his own eyes. And some part of him wondered—
An image flashed in his mind’s eye—Marta on a cross being beaten by Oeloff. He wanted to yell out—to deny—but he couldn’t. And he had gotten some form of pleasure from doing the same thing.
Brit would make excuses for him, the same way the older man made excuses for the lady, his beloved mistress. But it was all the same. That Crait, for some twisted reason, enjoyed the pain didn’t change anything. Right?
I wonder if Mattin and Jahlene’s language has a saying similar to ours about a certain river in Egypt… Ah well, Mattin will work through his issues in his own time. Or not.
In the meantime, we are returning to the world of Ma’evoto/Ameohne’e and all the rest of the troperific fun:
They are a plucky band of rebels, fighting against a tyrant who overthrew the rightful government and is supported by an army of monsters. The only problem?
They think they’re the good guys.
They are family, grandmother and granddaughter. Students of Kabbalah in a world where someone could really create the Golem of Prague. They are done sitting back while injustice takes place around them. The only problem?
They’re on opposite sides.
They’re just a kid, trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in this crazy world their mother just took over. And their new mentor is trying to kill their mother. The only problem?
They are coming to usher humanity into a new galactic society. They have the best of intentions, amazing technology to sell us, and know exactly what will fix all our problems. The only problem?
If someone doesn’t stop them, they are going to destroy the world.
She has a prophecy foretelling her success, a dragon sidekick, and plans for the biggest battle station ever built. She’s going to save the world. The only problem?
She’s the bad guy.
See you next week!
The Bargain (S1, E1)