Title: The Brand
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: sci-fi, fantasy, mm
Pen is a Royal Concubine that belonged to King Darling, who has just been overthrown. Now Pen and the rest of the harem are spoils of war and belong to Duke Wrathful Fury, a hard man with the ear of the Emperor of the West.
The sound of hoofbeats in the distance made him hug his legs tighter to his chest and draw closer under the eaves. He could only pray that the cover of darkness would hide him.
The mark formed on the tender flesh of his neck twinged with fresh pain, a reminder of all that he had lost.
Once he had been more than this sniveling creature. He had had pride of place in the king’s harem. He had been seen and admired… a dazzling gem in a setting that could never hope to match his complete splendor.
Now where was he? Shaking with nerves as he hid in the damp shadow of a smelly slave tree.
He had been the beloved of King Darling, but with the loss of the war… He was nothing but the spoils of the foreign conqueror, Duke Wrathful Fury.
More than anything he wanted the warmth and comfort of the harem, but he was afraid of what was going to happen to him.
He wasn’t a favored concubine anymore. He was a slave, to be used and tossed aside, and not necessarily by the Duke either.
“Splendour, you will show yourself now, or I will have one of your companions killed every fifteen minutes until you make your appearance,” a magically amplified voice called.
Pen huddled in closer to the base of the tree. He could feel sweat and stinking mud soaking through his silks. He really had no idea what he should do in a situation like this.
“Very well, if you refuse to give yourself up…” There was a rustling sound, then a frightened squeal. “And what’s your name?”
“Pre-Precious,” a quavering voice said. “Please sir… Don’t hurt me.”
Pen felt a jolt go through him.
“I’m sorry to have to do this to you, little one, but once I give my word on something…” There was a metallic sounding click. “Don’t worry. It won’t hurt but a moment.”
They were going to kill Precious. If he didn’t give himself up, they were going to kill Precious.
“No!” Without consciously coming to any kind of decision, he found himself hurtling out from beneath the tree cover, his muscles quivering. “Don’t hurt her!”
“Ah, there you are,” the suddenly un-ampliphied purred. A tall figure came striding out of the darkness.
Pen wrapped his arms around himself, suddenly conscious of the filth covering him. He was definitely not at his best, coated in a layer of stinking mud and with his silks plastered to him as a dirty weight.
“Even coated in filth, you still shine,” the man–Duke Wrathful Fury–said, stepping close. “My wonderful prize for conquering this inconsequential kingdom of yours. That pretend king, Darling, he was never worthy of a gem such as you.”
Not even seeming to notice how the mud stained his gloves, Wrathful Fury laid his hand against Pen’s cheek, his thumb stroking across his cheekbone. “So beautiful…”
Flicking his eyes over to where Precious knelt trembling on the ground, Pen licked his lips. “Please, milord, spare her. She is nothing but a child.”
“Hm, a child that you were willing to give yourself up for to protect.” Wrathful Fury’s hand tightened on Pen’s face, gripping him hard in place. “I think that we will hold her in reserve. She can be your faithful pet, and as long as you behave you may keep her. But for every mistake you purposely make… she will be the one to experience the punishment on her flesh, since yours is too beautiful to mar.”
Pen felt tears trying to gather in his eyes, but he tightened his lips and forced them away. He would not weep like a helpless child in the face of this man.
He may have been raised in the harem as the pampered concubine of an indulgent king, but that did not mean he would ever allow himself to be weak.
He was Lovely Splendour of the House of Jade Lilies. He was now the property of Duke Wrathful Fury of the House of Blades. And he would never let himself cry.