Captain Jisten is embroiled in conflict against an invading army of shapechangers who want nothing more than to reduce the kingdom to the wilderness it was carved from. Baby Rasten has been stolen from his cradle, but S’Tyll and Pikara are in close pursuit. High Priest S’Rak has been betrayed by a false friend and captured by one of the few people he can’t stand. Okyran diplomats have arrived in Summertown and are threatening death and destruction if the Koilathans don’t come to their senses immediately. The Kephi priest Pajel, meanwhile, is being seduced by the very temple he’s supposed to be spying on. In the darkness of the woods, is there any hope remaining?
Rak was grateful for the fresh air, raw and icy though it was, to be found outside the close confines of the carriage. The sour reek of male sweat and sex had been enough to make him gag. He took long, deep breaths of the clean mountain air. Virien tied his leash to a ring set in the footboard of the carriage. Rak stole a glance toward the front and saw the driver watering the horses.
Virien gave his bare ass cheek a pat. “You will address every man, woman and child you meet as master or mistress. You will permit any adult in this party to use your body. And if anyone bothers to ask, I haven’t named you yet, so your user may call you whatever they wish. They may not call you by your old name. That’s gone. You’re a nameless, subhuman animal. Do you understand?”
“Yes, master.” Rak stared at Virien’s feet, not daring to look higher lest Virien see his rage.
Apparently satisfied, Virien walked off to check on his men.
The break wasn’t a long one. Once the horses were watered and calls of nature answered, Virien climbed back into the carriage without so much as a glance at Rak. The driver mounted the box and clucked to the horses, getting them moving.
Rak followed, since he didn’t care to be dragged. He took an extra-long step and reached the place where Virien had tied his leash. He started to work on the leather strap. A wooden stick bashed into his fingers. Rak cried out, snatching his hand away and nearly stumbling in surprise.
Sura smiled at him coldly. “You behave, slave! You belong to Chancellor Virien now. And before you think you can get away, look behind you!”
Rak looked. There were slave wagons behind them, the leather sides rolled up to show the steel cages. Inside the cage of the first wagon was a motionless black form.