Tir walked through the silken curtains of the entrance of the palace harem and looked around. It was midday and the place was virtually empty, except for a few eunuchs and girls and boys that were still sleeping from the activities of the night before. It seemed like it had been years instead of months since he had last stepped into the harem. He had never really hated his time in the harem, yet couldn’t say that he had missed it much either. His last memories of the place were the less than pleasant experience of being whipped almost to death by Esper. Yet as horrible and terrifying as the experience had been, it had led into his new life now, and he couldn’t help but feel a little grateful in a weird sort of way.
It was only a matter of moments before he was met by two completely bald eunuchs dressed in the customary white linen wraps, with their chest bare to reveal the black rose tattoo of a palace eunuch. Each one of them showed no emotion as the older one asked who they could get for him. Tir almost felt like laughing at the thought of having the service of any of boys and girls of the harem. As a member of the council he could now request any of his former rivals, but with Drake and Marek as his lovers every single boy and girl in the harem paled in comparison.
“I would like Sasha,” Tir answered in what he hoped was an even voice.
“Sasha?” said the younger eunuchs repeated confused.
“I’m sorry, my Lord, but Sasha is unavailable,” the other eunuch replied smoothly.
Tir shook his head, frowning, knowing very well she was unavailable, but he also knew that she was still alive and in a way causing a problem for the King. Tir had begun to attend the council sessions that were held in the morning with Drake. Officially he had a vote on the council and was required to attend these meetings, even though he still was very unsure of what he was supposed to be doing. Drake had advised him for the time being just to listen and observe while he took his time and studied more about Terma and its laws, with the two old scholars Drake had found to tutor him in the evenings. Tir had done exactly that and had inadvertently heard Drake and the King talking about Sasha and Esper during one of the breaks in the council sessions.
With everything that had been happening Tir had forgotten about Sasha and Esper’s involvement in his kidnaping. Apparently Marek had not and had gone to the King requesting the right to deal with them, after he had left Tir bound and confused in their bed after the hatching. The King had granted Marek the right to deal with Esper but not Sasha, despite the man’s heated protests. Drake and the King had been whispering about how Marek had tortured the eunuch before he granted the man death, not realizing Tir was listening close by.
Tir felt a mixture of emotions at learning of Esper’s death. He was shocked that Marek had done such a thing. Although Tir did hate Esper and felt no sadness or pity for the man’s death, he wondered why Marek had done such a thing so soon after leaving him. Tir couldn’t help but uneasily wonder what had sparked the anger that he had directed at the helpless eunuch. It had been two days since the hatching and Tir had yet to see Marek at all, making Tir worry about the man. He had not come back to the pen at night to sleep, and Feras had told him that Marek was busy with matters dealing with the Dragon Enclave, but nothing else. Tir felt uneasy about asking Feras too much, not wanting the dragon to be put in the middle of their troubles.
Tir knew that Marek was probably avoiding him, and as busy as Tir had been he had not been able to find a way of dealing with the situation with Marek, so instead he had decided to deal with Sasha. Tir hadn’t missed the look on the King’s face when Drake had questioned him about what he was going to do about the girl. He had said that she would be killed, under Drake’s intense look, but Tir knew that it wasn’t what the King wanted. Despite everything, Sasha looked like the woman he once loved. Logan’s expression in the bathing pool when he had talked about Sasha and his long dead wife made it clear that he had trouble at times separating the two women. Drake and Marek were both pushing for her execution, but Tir didn’t want the King to have to make that decision. So despite that fact it would probably anger Marek and Drake, Tir had snuck away at the lunch break for the council session to the harem.
“Are there any orders that say I can not talk to her?” Tir asked quietly.
“My Lord she is. . . well. . . .”
“She is being confined in the punishment room,” the older eunuch replied quietly.
Without saying anything else he walked around the two and headed to the room, feeling more than a little uncomfortable. The last time he was in that room he had almost died, and he really didn’t relish the thought of entering it again. Not only that, he felt more than a little uncomfortable pushing his way in, but he wanted to talk to the girl before talking to the King about what he had in mind.
The two eunuchs didn’t try to stop him, although he noticed that the younger one left almost running out the door. Tir knew that he was either going to inform the King or Simeon, but by the time anyone arrived Tir hoped that he could come to an understanding with the girl inside the room.
Entering the unlocked room he avoided looking at the chains that hung from the ceiling in the center and the bloodstained floor beneath them . Shivering a little, his eyes quickly focused on the cowering girl that hung in shackles on the far wall, completely naked. Her eyes looked wildly at him in fear as tears started to form in her eyes.
“Get away from me!” Sasha cried as Tir approached, writhing in her chains. “I don’t want to die, please get away from me. I don’t want to do anything to anger that mad man any further.”
“I’m not going to hurt you,” Tir said quietly, and wondered what had happened to the girl to make her so afraid, noticing that her body was unblemished, without even a scratch.
“You’re lying. I saw what the Baron did to Esper. He said he was going to come back and do the same to me, for hurting you. All because of you, damn you why? Why did you come here?” Sasha sobbed helplessly, her eyes red from tears as suddenly she went limp in her chains.
“You’re not going to die and Marek isn’t going to kill you,” Tir said with a sigh, turning around and opening the door again.
“Give me the keys,” Tir demanded to the eunuch that was standing at the door.
“I don’t have them, only the chief eunuch has them,” the man responded servilely.
“Then go get him,” Tir said.
“I have already sent for him.”
Tir nodded and went back into the room. Forcing himself to look around he saw what he was looking for. He skirted the center of the room and went over and pulled the cloth off the table to reveal an assortment of whips, paddles, canes, clamps, knives and other things Tir didn’t even have names for. Grimacing at the thought of what they were truly used for Tir took the cloth over and reached up to see Sasha flinch away from him.
Wiping her face with the soft cloth he looked at the girl with pity. She had never been nice to him and always seemed arrogant and spiteful, but he just didn’t have the heart to hate her for her actions. Whatever Marek had done to Esper must have been truly terrifying to make the arrogant girl so fearful.
“Why are you here?” Sasha whispered, her eyes still wary as she looked at him after her storm of weeping had subsided.
“To talk to you. I want to know why you helped Esper and why you always seemed angry at me.” Tir replied, trying to focus on the girl’s face instead of her very naked body.
“What does it matter, I’m going to die for what I didn’t even do.” Sasha replied bitterly looking away.
“It does matter, because I don’t want to see you die, but I don’t want to help you if you are just going to try to find a way to hurt me. I haven’t done anything to you, but you seem to want desperately to hurt me. I want to know why,” Tir explained.
“The King likes you. You became his favorite despite the fact you aren’t a girl. He stopped requesting me when you came, and even after you left the harem he still wanted you. How could a boy like you draw his attention? I couldn’t afford to lose it and be sold away. Woman can’t become eunuchs of the harem, and I didn’t want to be sold or be put to hard labor. I’m close to the age where I will be taken from the harem, so close,” Sasha replied desperately.
“You’re not that old,” Tir protested.
“I’m twenty-four; nobody has stayed past their twenty-fifth birthday in the palace harem. If we please a council member, especially the guild ones, we are sometimes requested to be given to one of the guilds, but for me I have been used exclusively by the King since I arrived. Only him, so my chances of being sold or put to a menial job are certain, unless I can influence him. After all, what can I do, I have no skills except my body. It’s all your fault. If you hadn’t come, then I might have been able to remain in the harem longer,” Sasha accused, some of her anger and arrogance coming through her face despite her fear.
Tir felt like laughing at the girl but knew that it wouldn’t help matters any. He had never wanted the King’s attentions and knew that the King had only liked him because of the games Marek played with him. He had to wonder if the girl would have truly wanted his place between the Baron and King, if she knew what it meant. He doubted if Sasha had ever been hit before, or that she would take as much perverse pleasure in it as he did.
“I’m not a harem boy anymore, Sasha, and you heard me tell the King I wouldn’t be with him in that way again in the bath. I meant it, and you had nothing to fear from me. With me gone out of the harem his attention had already turned back to you,” Tir answered.
“You’re lying. Everybody wants to be close to the King. He’s the King!” Sasha replied, looking at Tir doubtfully.
“I don’t love him. He is a good man and I didn’t mind servicing him, but I would have rather been left alone,” Tir answered truthfully.
Sasha looked at him disbelieving as Tir sighed again. Even though he had been a harem boy he still had trouble understanding the people of the harem, and obviously they had trouble understanding him. He doubted he would ever be able to convince the girl hanging on the wall that catching the notice of a patron had been the last thing on his mind. He enjoyed servicing the King, not because he was a King but because he was still attractive despite his age, and because of Marek.
“Sasha, if you couldn’t be a harem girl what would you want to do?” Tir asked.
“What is the point, I’m going to die as a harem girl now,” Sasha whispered, fear returning to her eyes.
“You’re not going to die. Please, would you tell me?” Tir asked, trying to get an answer out of the girl.
“I like clothes. I hoped that I would be assigned to the seamstress. I wanted to please the King enough that he would assign me to one of the palace seamstress,” Sasha answered.
“Well I don’t think it would be a good idea for you to stay in the palace. It would be better for the King if he didn’t keep trying to find a replica of his beloved,” Tir said to himself, thinking of what to do with the girl as the door opened to admit Simeon.
“My Lord, you shouldn’t be here,” Simeon said with a low bow, his eyes glancing between Sasha and him.
“Please don’t do that.” Tir said with a pained expression. He still had trouble with people bowing to him, especially the few people he did know and like.
“My lord?” Sasha asked, her eyes wide.
“Show respect to the Maquis,” Simeon said sharply, glancing up the girl disapprovingly.
“Maquis?” Sasha said, her voice going up an octave.
“I’m the bastard son of the King of Recura,” Tir explained shortly. “What exactly are the orders for her?”
“She is to be confined,” Simeon answered.
“Well then none of us have broken that order. Look, take her down and bathe and dress her in servants clothes. I will have the King send orders for her in a little bit,” Tir said, looking up at the girl.
“I can’t do that My Lord,” Simeon said, looking calculatingly at Tir.
“Please Simeon. I will take any blame for the actions, you can tell the King that I tricked you, if there are any problems,” Tir said softly.
“Why, she has been nothing but trouble for you.” Simeon asked after staring at him.
“Because the King can’t bear to kill her, and Drake and Marek are pushing for it. If I forgive her and help her neither one of them can blame the King for not killing her. She hurts him because he can’t bear to be parted from the ghost of the one he loved. I don’t want to force the King into killing her because of her own stupidity. Besides, what she did isn’t really worth her life. Please just get her cleaned up for me,” Tir asked, looking at Simeon.
The man looked at him for a time before he smiled slightly and nodded. Simeon walked over and unshackled the girl that was still staring at Tir in disbelief. Tir walked over to her, and looking her in the eyes, stared at her until she looked away.
“I’m going to try to figure something out for you that doesn’t involve you dying, but I want a promise from you,” Tir said finally.
“What do you want?” Sasha asked, looking at the floor.
“I want you to stay away from the King and Marek both. Do not seek them out, and I also want your promise that you will not try to do something to hurt me,” Tir said quietly.
“Why do I have to stay away from the King?” Sasha asked, looking surprised.
“Because you aren’t his beloved, and trying to be that can only hurt both of you. You might look like her, but you aren’t her, and every time you do something that she wouldn’t do you remind him of his loss. I’ve seen it in his eyes in the bathing hall after you left, Sasha. I’m doing this because I don’t want you to hurt him anymore. Promise me,” Tir said seriously.
“I promise. I don’t want to ever see that blonde Baron again. He’s a monster and I don’t want to do anything to draw his attention to me ever again. I will also stay away from the King, if you can keep me alive, I promise to stay away from him,” Sasha said with a low bow.
Tir nodded and left the harem. It was about time for the council to start up again and he knew that he had to hurry if he wanted to talk to the King before it started. By the time he got to the sitting room he found both Drake and the King getting up to leave.
“Where have you been?” Drake asked curiously.
“At the harem,” Tir answered to see a look of shock pass over Drake’s face as the King began to laugh.
“It isn’t what you’re thinking,” Tir said quickly.
“You can do whatever you like,” Drake said stiffly, hurt and anger surprising Tir a little.
Drake never seemed to be jealous of Marek, but apparently the Baron was an exception. It made Tir feel better to know that Drake didn’t what him with others even though it was just a misunderstanding.
“Good, because I would like to have Sasha as my personal servant for the time being,” Tir answered.
The identical look of shock that appeared on the two men’s face made Tir chuckle as they took in his words, which were totally different from what they were expecting. His chuckled died as a frown appeared on Drake’s face, and he looked directly at Tir.
“Why, she was part of the plan to discredit you?” Drake asked.
“She didn’t go through with it. It isn’t worth her life, Drake, and you know it. I don’t think it is a good idea to keep her in the harem after everything that has happened. She wants to be a seamstress, but I would like it if she was out of the palace,” Tir answered honestly.
“Well, I can’t blame you there,” Logan answered, sitting back down in the chair, misunderstanding Tir’s reasons for wanting the girl gone.
“Then send her to the mines,” Drake suggested.
“Absolutely not! Drake what is wrong with you, I thought you hated punishing innocent slaves,” Tir said, a little shocked at the normally kind and mild mannered man’s suggestion.
“She isn’t innocent, she knew you were going to be raped and ruined. She was going to help do it,” Drake replied firmly.
“And she didn’t do it. Drake, intentions aren’t deeds, you send her to the mines and she will be gang raped and eventually killed. It’s a terrible way to die,” Tir reprimanded.
“She tried to hurt you,” Drake replied stubbornly.
“She didn’t, and you and Marek are going to stop this now! Esper’s dead, that is enough. Logan will you give her to me?” Tir asked turning to the King.
“What are you going to do to her?”
“Could I send her to the Highlands, surly there must be a seamstress that would take her on,” Tir said.
“I’m sure many would pay for her,” Logan answered.
“Pay? No that wasn’t exactly what I was thinking,” Tir said as Drake’s frown increased.
“You aren’t going to free her for attempting to have you raped!” Drake growled.
“Tir, I agree with Drake. She doesn’t deserve freedom,” Logan agreed.
“Do I have a castle of some kind?” Tir asked exasperated.
“Of course,” Logan answered.
“Then I will send her there. I will ask the overseer to put her in a position as close as possible to her interests,” Tir said.
Logan nodded as they both looked at Drake, who was frowning. Tir wasn’t about to tell Drake the reason for him helping the girl in front of the King, so instead he walked over and put his arms around Drake, blushing a little as the King watched.
“Trust me a little,” Tir whispered as he stood on his toes to give Drake a kiss.
“Tir, not in front of father,” Drake said, embarrassment overcoming his anger as he glanced over at his leering father.
“Only if you stop growling at me,” Tir said, smiling mischievously.
“Ok, ok I will trust you, but I doubt this tactic is going to work with Marek,” Drake said as Tir let go of him.
“If Marek asks about Sasha tell him I dealt with her,” Tir said with a shrug.
“And what will you tell him?” Drake asked, looking doubtful.
“I don’t know. Let’s hope he doesn’t ask, or I have a feeling I won’t be able to sit for a week,” Tir said sourly as the King began to laugh.