Rose led the way through a series of tunnels under the mansion that finally let out in a huge cedar paneled room. The noise level jumped so quickly that Rose leapt back to bury her head against my chest and I lifted my hands to cover her ears. We stayed like that for a moment while our ears adjusted and then Rose peeked out from between my arms and we both took in the sight of a huge broad oak table strewn with food platters and coffee urns. It was the coffee that broke the spell. We walked hurriedly over the marble floor and grabbed the nearest seats. I pulled Rose's seat out for her and she waited for my nod before sitting down, that was where her manners gave out in the face of croissants, fresh coffee, fresh fruit, pancakes, waffles, French toast, hash browns, sausage, bacon, and probably a dozen other things I couldn't see, but whose scents drew me. The smells were amazing as they mingled above the table and I felt like I was in an old cartoon, floating along behind a line of steam.
We dug in and for a few minutes my awareness narrowed only to the food and drink in front of me. Slowly, as I began to sate that hunger, I noticed the world around me. Rose's hip moved sensuously against mine where our seats were pressed together and I could feel every move she made. Her leash was run under her arm and it sat on my lap, twitching occasionally as she leaned forward and back. The table was packed, both with food and people, and conversations were already well under way.
I leaned back to sip my second cup of coffee and look around a bit more. The walls were cedar and hung with a simple series of paintings. The artists were not all familiar to me, but the subject matter was. I craned my neck to see the rest of the artwork and decided that, yes; the series was a discourse on consensual slavery through time. I saw a campy print of a muscled man standing on a craggy peak with a barely dressed woman kneeling at his feet. Next to that hung a beautiful semi-realistic image of a cultured woman eating her breakfast off the naked back of a man. The images all held to the same theme, and as I looked, I saw that in no scene was the slave pulling away or trying to escape; and in no scene was the master showing expressions of anger or hatred. I leaned back in my chair for a moment and stared into the shadows behind the huge chandelier. I wondered where the public had gotten the stereotypical image of the evil slave owner and the mistreated slaves when they were dealing with sexual slavery. I could understand the evil plantation owner just fine, and I wondered if it was that image that had carried forward to this different variation on the theme.
I checked on Rose and she was still daintily nibbling on a scone and listening to the conversations going on around us. I looked back at the table and the occupants seated within earshot. Some I recognized some I didn't. With the exception of Rose, I had not thought to sit near anyone I knew. The smell of food and coffee had led me by the nose from that point until I was sated. I did notice RG sitting across from me and leaned forward to ask how he expected his date to go tonight.
"Oh, marvelously. I think I almost have her convinced I'm human. Too bad she saw fit to take psychology in college, or she wouldn't see through so many of my tricks, but I'll convince her yet; you'll see." He went back to his sausage and toast with gusto so I let him eat in peace. The person sitting to my left was a complete stranger, but he looked familiar. I stared at his profile unabashed until he turned, noticing my attention and I suddenly recognized him as the red haired man with the slaves in a bag.
"Hi! My name is Xeno, I enjoyed seeing your work last night." It sounded lame even to my ears, but I felt the need to say something.
"Thank you." His voice was a deep rumble. "I enjoyed creating the show." He smiled then, wide and welcoming. I warmed to him instantly. "I see you let your slave eat from the table, that's very generous of you."
"Excuse me?" I hoped I hadn't just broken another rule by accident. I looked sideways at Rose who was sipping her water and watching the socialization going on around her with a mixture of pleasure and pain. Some of her fears were slipping back to the surface; so I reached out and stroked her hair. She leaned into my touch and her smile brightened for a bit. I offered her a cigarette, which she declined with a little shake of her head. I slipped my hand into her lap where I could stroke her thigh and let her know I was there while I turned back to the man sitting on my left.
"Pardon, I just have to ask. What did you mean about letting my slave eat at the table?" I watched him chew his toast thoughtfully for a minute and then he responded.
"Well, we of the community believe that it is our responsibility to draw the lines between slave and master, we need to make certain the slaves are aware of their place in life." I was no longer sure I liked what he was saying.
"What do you mean, their place? I thought we were all equal, different aspects of sexuality and all that." My mind was going on overdrive as I put together things that I'd been told in the past few days. I was making connections left and right, and none of them agreed with this man.
"Equal? Oh no, slaves are inferior, and it's our job to remind them of that. To help them learn to love their place, and to keep them from putting on airs." I could feel Rose beginning to tense under my hand, and I squeezed her thigh reassuringly.
"So what you are saying is that a slave is a second class citizen, where a master is the first class. What about people who like to switch back and forth?" I was trying not to throw my breakfast in this man's face, and at the same time I was fascinated. I knew I was seeing a part of the element that Devon and the others were trying to weed out of the club. I wanted to know my enemy's mind, so I waited patiently for the answer. For a moment I thought I had stumped the man, but finally he replied.
"Those people are mutants and should not be allowed to live any more than the lesser races. I know you have been with Bettie and she may have exposed you to her touchy-feely philosophy on our lifestyle, but keep in mind that she is a woman and should know her place as a slave." That did it.
I stood and my seat flew back, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, but it didn't register on my mind. I was shaking as I raised my hand and spoke. I know my voice was rough with rage, and I was nearly inarticulate while I tottered on the razor edge of stabbing the man with a butter knife, or screaming into his face how wrong he was. I paused, the rational part of me knew that I had already taken myself out of rational debate, but this man had not begun with rational ideas. I savored the idea of ramming the blunt knife through his flesh, but knew that it would not only be a short lived pleasure but it would probably end in my permanent removal from the club whose honor I would be defending. I took a deep breath and spoke, I didn't care who heard and my voice carried to all corners of the suddenly silent room.
"You sir make me ashamed to be male. You bring disgrace to your so-called race. And if you believe all that you say, you are no master. Making people feel small and insignificant does not make you bigger, nor does it make you worthy of that whip you wield. You have made yourself smaller and of less significance by your words than anything I could do." I turned my back on him expecting to ignore the ridicule that would follow, and was therefor surprised to find myself face down on the floor a moment later with the man rolling me over and reeling back to strike. I brought one hand around sharply, without enough time to make a fist and slapped him across the face. The impact rang through the dining hall, and an instant later two large waiters reached under his arms and lifted him off me. The man hung between them, frozen with my handprint glaring vividly from his face, and one of the men leaned over and apologized for taking so long. As he stood I saw him wink at me surreptitiously.
I stood and watched them carry the offensive man out of the room. I brushed non-existent dust from my equally non-existant shirt sleeves and gathered my wits while I righted my chair and sat back down. Rose reached up a tentative hand to touch my face where I had hit the floor, and we both flinched when the applause started. It was subdued, and short lived. Obviously not everyone agreed that my attacker had been in the wrong. I looked up at RG and saw him smiling across at me. He leaned forward and handed me a butter knife. When our hands touched for a moment he whispered "I have been wanting to do that for ages. Brilliant, I would never have thought of turning my back on a rabid beast like him, but it worked." And then he leaned back. I looked at Rose and pulled her to me, she nestled her head into my chest for a moment and then sat back again.
"Thank you Master. He will be one less supporter that she has. Be careful though. Her people are strong, and this story will carry faster than the news of the castle." She kissed my cheek and I winced as her lips brushed the bruise that was growing there.
"Believe me Rose, it was worth it. Are you OK? He didn't startle you too much or anything?" 'Or offend you too much', I thought to myself. That man had been infuriating, but I could see how, to a certain crowd his absurd philosophy could appeal. His type was one I had seen in what I was beginning to think of as the outside world. I had had my run ins with those who wanted to blame their pain on others and claim power as a right rather than an earned honor. He had wanted to take power because that was the only way he knew to get power. I sat back at the table and counted faces. I could see those I knew around the table giving me thumbs up signals, or winking and nodding at me, but they numbered fewer than those who scowled or looked confused. A few strangers also gave me their silent approval, one woman going so far as to blow me a kiss.
I leaned back in my chair and sipped my coffee until the fact that it had gone cold registered. I set the cup down and instantly there was a servant at my elbow. He leaned over my shoulder to refresh my cup and as he did he whispered in my ear. "You have done a good thing today sir. Many of us have suffered at Reginald's hand, and we thank you." I understood that Reginald must have been the cad's name. The servant went on. "Devon has asked that I tell you there is a special after-lunch meeting being prepared in the war room. Your slave can show you the way." I nodded slightly to show my acknowledgement and the servant withdrew. I waited for a few more minutes while the servant passed through the room refilling coffee and whispering his message to the few others that had been invited. Finally, when I felt I had waited long enough to satisfy the protocols of intrigue, I stood, and Rose stood with me.
I commanded her to walk beside me as we left the hall, partially to create a show of equality between master and slave, and partially because I was not altogether certain I would not be jumped again, and I didn't want her behind me, and in the line of fire. We left the dining hall without incident, and I then paused and turned Rose to look at me. "Rose, we need to go to the war room, wherever that is, but first I want you to tell me if you need anything. Do you need the bathroom, are you still thirsty, do you need a smoke." I paused, a thought suddenly making me smile at my own centrist thinking. "Do you smoke at all?" I couldn't remember ever having seen her smoke a cigarette, and when she shook her head I felt like a dolt for not having found out more about the girl I was literally leading around on a leash.
"Ok, no cigarettes then, but do you need anything else? I don't know how long this meeting will run, I'm not even sure what it is about, so I want to make sure you will be comfortable when we get there. You and I both know I'm horribly under-experienced in the realities of this lifestyle, and I want to do everything in my power to keep from neglecting you." I watched her reaction curiously. Rather than speak, Rose started to shake her head, stopped, started to nod, stopped, an expression of wonder came over her face and then vanished to be replaced with something a little like regret, but that too was gone soon, washed away by a beautiful smile. She leaned up against my chest, wrapped her arms around me and gave me a hug. I returned the hug and held her to me, confused, but willing to wait. I wrapped my arms around her and held her tight while she rested her head on my chest and breathed, slowly and steadily.
She spoke into my chest after a while. "No Master, everything is perfect. Just let me stay here and I have everything I need." She pressed her face against my chest again and we stood there, in the corridor, pressed to each other and just being. After another stretch of time, she lifted her head and spoke again. "Thank you Master. I'm ready to go now. Shall I lead you to the war room?" I nodded and off we went. I half expected her to take us back to the fur lined den from the previous night, half expected her to lead us to some new dungeon under the mansion with rotating holograms of the castle and a bank of computer screens on the wall. What she did lead me to was an airy room on the ground floor with huge windows overlooking a garden; a large square table made of ash or some other lightwood, marble floors and a roaring fireplace. There were silver coffee urns and crystal water pitchers lining the table and the number of people there was startling. I had expected to come in on a small, intimate crowd of maybe ten or fifteen, but when I saw the crowd of at least forty people I realized that if this was the inner circle, the club must be huge.
Rose slowed as she led me through the oak-paneled door and then fell behind me. Her leash still hung loose between us, but she was falling further and further behind as we stepped deeper into the room. This time I looked for familiar faces, and found empty seats between Francis and Hades. I didn't know either of them as well as some of the others, but at least here were two empty seats together. I angled us through the still standing crowd and helped Rose to her seat. I then sat and reached for the coffee. "Let me Master." Rose reached for the urn and filled my mug.
"Thank you Rose." I leaned back and sipped my coffee absently. Something the scumbag had returned to me. He had spoken about putting the slaves in their place, showing them who was master in effect. I, on the other hand, was not willing to give up my good manners with Rose and just expect her servitude. Nor was I willing to make her eat in the corner like some of the other tops had done with their slaves. I understood that for some of the slaves, this was part of a role they were playing, but for others it must have been a form of banishment. Before I had come to the club, I had had a very skewed view of the BDSM lifestyle. I had thought it was all about humiliation and, as Reginald had stated so clearly, putting them in their place. I had been confused because I had identified with much of the other aspects of trust games and domination, but I had shied away because I had been unwilling to humiliate a slave or make them anything less than equal in my world. Now I had seen the interplay of Master and Servant on a broad scale, I had seen that while there was a contingent of people who believed there had to be a difference of equality to exchange power. I had also seen that the people who cared, the people after whom I wanted to model my own domaination; were firmly of the opinion that a master and servant were equals. The slave gave the power to the master; it was not taken from them. That implied that the power was theirs to give and I was much more comfortable with that philosophy. I also had seen examples of sadists who were as caring as anything and loved absolutely while they lay red welts across their slaves' bodies. My head swam with information, but this time I was far from confused.
The meeting was still far from coming together if the large group of people milling about was any indication, so I leaned over to Rose and began to ask her questions. "Rose, how are you feeling? Can we talk for a few minutes? I still have so many questions about everything and I want your input." Rose looked up at me and I saw her think about my question before answering.
"Yes Master. I'm not too deep in sub-space if that's what you are asking." She was slouched down in her chair; she looked comfortable and alert. I watched her for a moment and marveled at her beauty. There was still a subtle sadness about her, and I could only imagine what she would look like if the glee I had seen in her on the few short occasions where she had forgotten her pain were to shine through full force. As it was the first blush of arousal showed through the soft fabric of her blouse, and I barely restrained the urge to tweak her nipples as I watched them come to hardness under my gaze. I took a deep breath and mentally ran through the questions I wanted to ask.
"Tell me Rose, what do you like? Do you enjoy pain? Do you want me to humiliate you like that, that..." I hesitated. "Like Reginald seemed to think? Do you like bondage or being blindfolded or what? I still haven't figured out the difference between what is real and what only shows up in net porn." I took a sip of my coffee to hide the blush that I felt rising in to my cheeks. It was strange to feel inhibited around the woman who had sworn to obey my every command, but there it was.
Rose leaned over and kissed me full on the lips. She sat back up too fast for me to react or return the kiss, and when she sat up, I saw that she had pilfered my cigarettes. She slid one white tube from the pack and pressed it between my lips. I sucked as she held the lighter and then exhaled gratefully. When I reached for the cigarette, she lifted her hands to mine and asked quietly, "Let me serve you Master." I let her take the cigarette from my lips and ash it where upon she returned the cigarette to my lips. "That is what I like my Lord. I enjoy serving. I like to fulfill your every desire; I want to serve you in every way. If you want to humiliate me, I will either enjoy or hate it as you see fit to command me. If you wish to cause me pain, I will enjoy or fear it as you command me. Your arousal is my arousal. Your wish is my command." She lifted my cigarette from my lips where it was dangling unnoticed and ashed it again. When she raised it to my lips, I took another drag and coughed. I had stopped breathing in an attempt to reserve brainpower while I considered her words.
"But, what about you? I, I don't-" I had been about to say I didn't understand when it dawned on me. I did understand. She meant every word of it. If I told her to walk across the room and become visibly aroused before she came back, she would. If I told her to fly, she would probably find some way to at least try. I was stunned and more than a little daunted by the power she was giving me. I had had no idea that this was possible. She was giving over not just control of her actions, but control of her thoughts and emotions. I had to be careful or I could severely damage her both mentally and physically. At that moment I understood how this mysterious Ariana woman could exert so much control over her and over Dream. The woman had probably taken them deep into sub-space and planted what amounted to post-hypnotic suggestions, but instead of suggestions they were commands. And even without being deep in sub-space, the slaves had given her their trust, and until they realized how they were being treated, they would have accepted whatever Ariana told them as truth.
I didn't know what they had been told, or ordered to do or feel or think, but I was going to find out, and I was going to help break her hold over Rose and Dream, and any other slave who had been abused by her. I looked down. But first I was going to mop up the cold coffee I had spilled in my lap. I gave Rose a slightly sheepish look and reached for a napkin. As I reached she leaned into my way so I was looking her in the eye. She asked if she could have some coffee. I nodded and continued to reach for the napkin for a full half a second, then I realized what she had meant.
As soon as I nodded, she had smiled and disappeared from view. I knew where she was a moment later when I felt her tongue against the thin leather over my thighs. I looked down and watched her clean the coffee from my crotch. She devoted loving attention to the growing bulge, and when she was finished she looked up at me, a question in her eyes. I reached down and stroked her forehead with my thumb and decided that I was not yet done talking. I gestured her up and she sat back up in her chair, a gleam in her eye and the arousal now very apparent on her body. "That was marvelous Rose. That was truly creative. I would have let you continue, but I still have more questions, if you feel up to answering them." She nodded and took a deep breath, I watched her breasts swell in her shirt and almost changed my mind.
"OK, where were we? Right, so anything I tell you to enjoy, you enjoy. Anything I tell you to hate, you hate. Anything I want to do, whether I've told you to like it or hate it, you want me to do because it is my wants and urges that are important to you. Is that all correct so far?"
"Yes Master. Anything you want at all." My head was still reeling a bit. I was trying to wrap my mind around the concept, but it kept getting too large for me. I was trying to find out the ways to interact with her, and to return the pleasure she was constantly giving me, but I was coming up against the strangest wall I had ever run into. At least that was how it felt until I realized that all I had to do was interact with her and show her I cared. I had to accept the gift she was giving me. I tugged her leash and pulled her in for a kiss before I spoke. Her lips were firm and swollen with her interest. Our teeth brushed and clicked against each other as she surrendered her breath to me and pressed against me. She was nearly in my lap when we came up for air.
When I leaned back to look at her again, I felt clearer than before and my mouth opened before my shy sub-conscious got complete control. "I enjoyed pinching your nipples in the shower Rose. I enjoy your obedience. I enjoy the knowledge that whatever I am doing, whatever you are doing, I am the most important thing in your life. And I really enjoy the constant sexual attention. Keep that up."
She giggled. "Yes Master!" I could see the excitement in her eyes and knew that I had managed to bring happiness to her life with my statements and my order.
"If you have a need that I am not addressing, I need to know about it. I want you to get my attention so I can ask. Can you do that for me? I am still too new at this to have a good idea of how to take complete care of you. I need your help as well Rose. I need you." My voice lowered as I uttered the last sentence. Perhaps it was the strength of the truth in my words. Perhaps it was the first time I had admitted it to anyone. I wasn't falilng into some John Waters version of love, but at the same time; I was not alone anymore, and I didn't need to rely on one-night stands and strangers at a rock show to fulfill my needs. As I looked into her eyes, I could tell that were I to ask for her permanent slavery, she would grant it happily. I also knew I needed to be very careful, because if I did, I would be responsible for her in a very real way. And while the idea certainly had its merits, I wasn't entirely sure I was ready for the responsibility.
I was readying myself for another barrage of questions when the room went silent and those still standing began to find their seats. I held Rose's hand in mine and looked around to see what had caused the shift in the room. I saw that the doors at the other end of the room stood open. Devon was standing between them, with a woman on either side of him, and in his hand he held a laptop. It seemed such an incongruous image I had to stifle a laugh. I had a mental image of Devon as a 21st century Statue of Liberty, complete with holo-crown and a digital readout where the old one had held a book. Rose glanced at me when I shook before I could get the giggles under control. I kissed her hand and let her see a bit of my smile. She settled and raised my hand to rub against her cheek. Devon entered with as little pomp as was possible for someone whose entry had stilled an entire room.
When he had taken his seat at the head of the table, one of the women broke off and took the chair to Hades' other side, and the woman who remained took a seat next to Devon. The woman who sat with Devon was cute. There was no better word to describe her; she wore a ruffled powder blue blouse that reached low enough to double as a dress. Her hair was long and blond and curled softly as it fell passed her shoulders. Her blue eyes twinkled with an innocent glee as she sat next to Devon and leaned on his shoulder. I was taken aback by how someone who looked so innocent could be so comfortable among this crowd of highly sexed people, but if I had learned anything by now it was that not everything was as it seemed.
I shifted my attention to the woman who sat next to Hades. She was amazing. She was petite in every aspect, her face seemed to glow with an inner confidence and her smile when she looked at Hades was as radiant as the sun. I saw twin points when she smiled and wondered if she wore fake canines until I realized that they were too small to be fakes. She had natural fangs. The part of me that still loved to immerse itself in cheesy vampire novels was fascinated. I continued my admiring examination of the woman and saw that she wore clothing that, while simple, set off her charms like no fancy ball gown ever could have. She wore a small spaghetti strap tank top and a velvet miniskirt. Her legs were perfect and I felt my mouth go dry as she swung them around to slide into her seat. I let my eyes travel back up the lines of her body and nearly fell into her eyes when I realized she was staring right back at me. There was a smile on her face and a challenge in her clear brown eyes. I met her gaze for a few minutes, until Rose shook me and I looked back at her.
"That's Kali. She belongs to Hades Master, they share on occasion, but not before they've talked it over. You might have more luck telling her you are interested and waiting to see if she calls you than trying to stare her down." There was no hint of jealousy in Rose's voice, just a subtle amusement and a deep tenderness. I shifted in my seat and gave her a deep kiss, thanks for the information and positive reinforcement for pulling me out of the trance into which the staring contest had put me.
I looked to the head of the table and saw that Devon was again standing. The girl next to him slouched comfortably in her chair, and everyone else, rather than stand with him, quieted those last few degrees and turned to watch. I noticed his zipper was down when the girl reached over to zip it up, and while it ruined the somewhat solemn moment; the self satisfied look on her face and the relaxed way in which she did it left no doubt in my mind that while she may have looked innocent, that girl was getting exactly what she wanted while he had been sitting. Then Devon spoke.
"As you all know, the move to the castle has begun, we have already drawn up the lists, with a bit of room for negotiation and last minute additions. And with the exception of a few members who are rarely here these days, this group is it. There are some of us already working on the structure, and there are a few more, even now en route, but I felt it was important, especially in light of today's outburst," Here he glanced at me. I tried hard not to look defiant and he continued. "In light of today's outburst, I felt it would be a good thing for everyone to know who their allies are. I expect the drama will reach a fever pitch in the next few weeks. If we could have delayed telling everyone until the last moment, we would have; but we do need more volunteers to actually work on the damn thing. This is a big project and the more hands the better." Devon gestured and the girl poured and handed him a glass of water.
"Now, as to the drama," He sighed and shook his head. "There are a few who will lead the movement, and most of you know who they are. They have a number of, well, let's call them henchmen and thugs for lack of a better term. You will all need to watch and see that none of these henchmen, nor the leaders do anything stupid. I expect a few fights." He cast another glance at me. "And the best way to handle them has I think, been seen. If they are not throwing anything particularly dangerous, just ignore it and within seconds the offending party will be removed from the club. The rules are the same, and any of you caught starting a fight will also be removed, and that removal will be just as permanent. You are more than welcome to explain to these people in whatever terms you wish how immature they are being, but make sure those terms stay verbal. Part of the reason these thugs and idiots have been deemed thugs and idiots and unworthy of joining us is their very inability to join in a polite debate without throwing personal attacks. They have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they cannot conduct themselves maturely and as such are being removed from our rather more polite society."
Devon leaned over and the girl lit a cigarette for him which he drew on contemplatively for a moment before continuing. "No doubt this is the third or forth time most of you have heard this song. I'm mostly singing it again for the newer members and so that no one misses the finer points. As I said, just because these are chaotic times does not mean the rules of polite conduct are being relaxed. We are not at war. If anything; this is a peaceful and coordinated retreat from the society that has begun to sicken us. Let me repeat once more."He raised his voice to a carrying boom. "We are not at war." It was at that moment that the door flew from its hinges in a shower of splinters and noise.