The Bargain (S3, E6)

Season Content notes: con noncon*, pain play, sexual contact, trauma reactions, people handling emotions badly, rape (not explicit), torture (not explicit), pony play, mind fuck (minor), privileged ally is privileged(? — I don’t know how to tag what’s going on with Jahlene in this episode, but it’s definitely all about being privileged)

A few minutes later, Mattin knocked on the door to the glamourhame. Jahlene opened the door after a moment. She didn’t say a word, but her eyebrows drew together in annoyance. Mattin bowed low and offered her the note he had stopped to pen on the way to the glamourhame. She accepted and read it. Mattin, unable to see into the room, strained his ears to hear something. Falthro’s voice came to him faintly — as if the fae were whispering. Even fainter were the quiet moans that had to be from Elose.

Jahlene turned to the room. “My cook is wondering how long he should expect to hold supper for us. What shall I tell him?”

“I believe I am finished.” Falthro sauntered into the doorway, nearly as immaculate as when he’d left his suite that morning. “I’m sure your toy can attend to things here while we clean up.”

The lady’s eyes flickered into the room, and Mattin knew she didn’t like the idea of leaving Elose. Whatever she saw must have reassured her because she nodded and offered Falthro her arm.

Mattin bowed again as they walked past him, dreading what he would find when he entered the glamourhame.

Elose hung on the cross, naked and limp. Her chest heaved with each breath, and her body glistened with sweat. Mattin was surprised—and relieved—to see no sign of injuries. She lifted her head. A cloth gag had muffled her cries, turning them into the low moans he had strained to hear. Her eyes were wide and bright, and tears streamed down her face. She pulled against her bonds, writhing on the cross.

Mattin hurried over to her and began to unstrap her. She shook her head, stopping him. Uncertain, Mattin reached towards the gag and removed it.

“Please.” She moaned. “Finish it.”

What did she mean? He couldn’t ask — even if his test with Falthro was over, the lady had ordered him never to speak in the glamourhame.

She writhed against the cross again, hips thrusting towards him. “Please, Mattin, that bastard kept me on the edge for hours. I’m going crazy—please finish me.”

A blush swept over Mattin as he realized what she meant. Hesitantly, he stepped forward and placed a hand between her legs, ready to pull away if she objected.

She didn’t. She moaned deep in her throat. Her cleft was warm and wet against his palm. “Please,” she whispered again.

He became hard. He had never imagined anything like this. Elose was spread before him, every inch warm and wet and exposed. “Please…” He leaned over and took her breast in his mouth while his fingers slipped inside her wetness. She cried out and pushed her hips against his hand. He pulled his hand back. She strained to follow him but couldn’t. She moaned, and the sound ripped through him. He relented and let his fingers return to her cleft. His tongue teased her nipples and she cried out again as shudders ripped through her body.

After a time, she hung limp on the cross, and Mattin stepped back. He watched her chest heave and kept himself from reaching for her again. He was not fae; he would not take what wasn’t offered. No matter how much he might want to.

When he had control of himself, he undid the cuffs around her ankles and wrists. She collapsed against him, her feet unwilling to support her weight. A quick look located her clothing, folded on the shelves by the lady’s tools. Very few of them had been used, and those that had were all implements for pleasure. Then he understood what the lord had done to Elose. The lady makes pain a pleasure, the thought flickered through his mind, but this lord managed to make pleasure a torture.

Pushing the strange idea aside, he helped Elose to the rack, ironically the only thing in the room that she could rest on, and got her clothing. She took the clothes with a quiet thank you and dressed.

When she finished, she slid off the rack and took his face in her hands. She stared into his eyes a long moment before surprising him with a kiss that left his head spinning and his shaft throbbing fit to burst.

When she pulled away, she smiled but wouldn’t meet his gaze. Shy and modest were not words he associated with Elose, but now she looked like a flustered maiden. Not sure what else to do, he took her hand and led her from the glamourhame to the hallway.

As the door closed behind them, he turned to her and kissed her again. “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to skip dinner and come to my room?” His mouth was dry, but he managed to put a hint of humor into the question.

She didn’t answer but squeezed his hand, and this time it was she who led him through the hallway and to his bed. Where a pleasurable time was had by all.


Dinner with Falthro was also unexpected. Cook had managed, without instruction or prompting, to create a picnic-style dinner that had Falthro in raptures. Somehow Jahlene managed to suppress her surprise when she saw the xocalt-glazed chicken. Falthro didn’t notice—it was his first exposure to the southern treat, and he was a gourmet. He was oblivious to anything except the strange new taste. She was delighted to talk about food again rather than what passed for entertaining discourse in the court.

Just as well, perhaps. It took a few minutes for Jahlene to regain her focus and not be distracted by the things she was tasting from Mattin and Elose. Jahlene had never cared how her people spent time together as long as everyone was willing. She refused to be bothered now. Mattin would never be hers, so what he did in private was no business of hers.

So she focused on Falthro and his rhapsodizing about the food.

When he finally wound down, she asked about his technique in the glamourhame. It had been decades since she learned anything of worth from another fae, but she had to admit Falthro’s methods intrigued her. The feast he provided them had been as satisfying as anything she had ever managed—and without any harm to Elose.

“I thought you might like that,” Falthro said, “I admit, I’ve been watching your technique for some time.”

Jahlene stared at him a moment. Then laughed at herself. No point now in pretending he hadn’t surprised her. “Alright, I’ll bite.” Suiting action to words, she took a small bite of an apple slice glazed with honey. “Why?”

“Because,” Falthro took a sip of fruit juice, “You have managed to draw more emotion, without causing permanent harm to your toys, than anyone else. I might, as a master of exotic triaglamour take it as a challenge to my skill. But in truth, I have long found it… more comfortable to maintain the same staff for as long as possible. Crippling or traumatizing my humans means needing replacements sooner.

“So I find your skill something to be admired.”

Jahlene gripped the table to keep from reacting to that matter-of-fact statement. She tried to remember if anyone, even her few friends among the fae, had ever shown the faintest hint of approval for her way of handling her people and home. She couldn’t remember a single one. She took a long drink, using the action to cover her unsteady hands.

“So, I did some experimenting of my own,” he blithely continued, though he couldn’t be oblivious to her reaction. “The key, I’ve found, is to keep them right on the edge of completion without allowing them their satisfaction. It’s particularly effective to alternate my approach—the appetizer, if you will, of fear and anticipation when they do not know what to expect, pleasure or pain, is a flavor worth taking the time to savor.”

During the conversation which followed, Jahlene never tasted anything from Falthro but the amused detachment which was his trademark at court. Her own emotions ran wild, telling him far too much. Making it far too easy for him to manipulate her. And yet… and yet… in the end, Jahlene threw her worries aside and let herself bask in, for once, receiving approval from one of her peers. It was the most enjoyable conversation she’d had with another fae since… she didn’t know when.

By mutual consent, Jahlene and Falthro avoided politics, court, and the usual gossip. From glamourhai, the conversation moved to fashions, an area Jahlene didn’t care for but which Falthro managed to make interesting anyway. He was fascinated by what she knew of fashion and food among the Mountain Folk.

“Did you know,” he asked, his emotions flickering for a moment, too quickly for her to tease out their meaning, “no one—no one—has collared one of the Mountain Folk before? However, did you manage it?”

Jahlene nearly choked on her wine. “Nonsense. When we warred with them five hundred years ago, Emperor Kalid took several prisoners as slaves.”

“I know.” Falthro grimaced. “I was there. As soon as our backs were turned, they ripped off the collars and set about sabotaging our war camp. The Emperor was not pleased and… hm… quieted that part in the chronicles. To this day, no one knows how they escaped. Unless you do.”

Focusing hard on her disbelief, Jahlene shook her head. “Falthro, whatever I may be, my glamour is not strong enough to do what an Emperor could not! If Jaffrey wanted to leave, I expect he would manage as easily as his ancestors. Like all my people, Jaffrey wanted my collar.” She sighed and called up her exasperation with the other nobility to flavor her thoughts. “If there is any secret, it is one I have been trying to get someone to listen to for decades.”

To her hidden relief, Falthro chuckled and said, “Well, my Lady n’Erida, allow me to reassure you that one person has been listening.”

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