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The Gilded Cage

Chapter Text

Josephine rested her head wearily against Martha's shoulder as the prisoner transport rumbled. The remnants of their unit sat around them manacled and defeated. The Varcians did not take prisoners of war, they took slaves. Josephine’s unit had all heard the dark stories of what was to come. They were destined for auction to the highest bidder.

Their own government had issued them with suicide capsules to spare them this fate, but those had been the first thing their captors took from them after the trench was gassed. Apparently the Varcians had grown tired of valuable potential slaves slipping from between their fingers.

There hadn’t been that many of them left when they were captured. The sergeant and most of the unit were dead. Only Josephine, Martha and three other soldiers were left and most of them were wounded. Josephine still had her arm bandaged in a sling and one of the men had been feverish from a leg wound for the last five days.

The transport stopped and light flooded into the dark compartment as it opened. The sound of an argument in heated Varcian drifted in. Josephine understood everything that was said, she had been the units translator. Two people moved into the feint light of the doorway, the woman who had led their capture, General Warren, and a strange burly man with a tablet.

"Come on, you can't take both of them. Leave at least one of the women for auction, I haven't had a woman to auction off in weeks and they're worth at least three times as much as the men."

"I am aware of that, however, I am taking the women as is my right as the highest ranking officer who was present at the capture. I can take either forty percent of the profits or forty percent of the prisoners and I chose the prisoners. I'm sorry if that doesn't suit your business but my soldiers are fine with the arrangement."

"Well, then General, you can just go ahead and take the women right now because the auction house is not going to pay to collar or process them if they are not going to be sold."

"That suits me just fine. My own men can handle the transport."

The man with the whip nodded and barked to several men who were out of sight. "All right, you heard the lady. Bring the two Terran Nuevan bitches out to the general and get the rest of this lot into processing."

Several burly men entered the transport and set about unchaining them one by one. Josephine had to fight down a scream when one of them grabbed her by her injured arm. No bones were broken but a deep cut made it painful to move. The sun was blinding when she found herself on the hot concrete landing pad of the auction house.

"Hello little one," General Warren greeted her, "I promised I would come for you and I have."

Josephine spat at her feet.

General Warren just smiled, "Oh you are going to be a pleasure to break my dear, a pleasure." She motioned to the guards. "Get her and the other into the hover car and be careful, they are not cattle. I don't want them injured any worse than they already are."

Martha somehow found the strength to try and fight when they dragged her out. An eclectic shock to the back of her head put an end to that. The general's guards carried her limp body to the waiting vehicle. They were both placed in a dark enclosed space that Josephine had to assume was specifically designed for the transport of prisoners. She barely had a chance to cry out to her comrades before the door was slammed in her face and she had to sit in the darkness with the unconscious Martha.

She managed to get Martha’s head into her lap to protect her from the bumps and jostles of the ride. Martha returned to consciousness before they reached their destination. Josephine stroked her hair and spoke to her softly.

"Don't try and fight when they move us again."

"How can I not?"

"We have to wait. We have to find a chance to escape and save the others. Please promise me you'll wait."

“Alright."

The transport eased to a halt and their small compartment was again flooded with light. The guards who removed them this time were gentler. One helped the wavering Martha to stand and the other was careful not touch Josephine's injured arm.

They were in the courtyard of a very large mansion. It was bigger than the barracks in which Josephine had lived most of her adult life.

General Warren was waiting for them. She held her arms wide."Welcome to your new home my pets. I think you will find it a good deal more agreeable than the auction house.”

The first room into which they entered was huge and vaulting with a staircase that dominated the entrance. A gray haired woman was waiting for them. She was dressed simply in well cut grew clothing  and wore a silver color that could almost be mistaken for necklace. She bowed to Warren.

"Welcome home General."

"Lydia. I'd like to introduce you to the two newest additions to my harem." She glanced back at Josephine and Martha, "What were your names anyway?"

Neither spoke. She shrugged, "Lydia, check their dog tags if you're curious. Anyway, whatever your names are Lydia is my housekeeper and will be your caretaker. She will see to your needs but you must obey her orders without question. To defy her is to defy me and I do not take disobedience lightly."

She paused, "Lydia, see that they are cleaned, fed and tended to by a doctor. If they give you trouble have the guards restrain them. Keep them isolated from the rest of the harem for now. I will send for them both later tonight."

And with that she was gone. Martha and Josephine were left with the grey haired housekeeper and more than a few hovering guards. She gave them both a sharp looking over.

"More soldiers, just what I bloody need," she mumbled, "the next thing I know you'll be fighting with the other women, trying to escape or killing the guards. I'll be the one blamed for it. You just wait and see." She sighed, "There's no helping it I suppose. Come along, you both look dead on your feet. I'll see you properly tended too. A hot bath and some food will make it all seem a bit better."

Any will that Josephine had to try to escape went out of her at the mention of food, she hadn’t eaten in two days. She and Martha demurely followed the housekeeper through a series of corridors with a guard on either side of them.

They came first to what was clearly a large bathroom with a huge sunken tub that dominated the center of the room.

"Right then, off with the filthy clothes. Let's see what the two of you look like under all that dirt."

They both hesitated. Josephine glanced at the four guards currently stationed at the door, two women and two men.

Lydia rolled her eyes, "Now don't go acting all modest. You'd best just get used to the guards. They'll never touch you, it is more than their lives are worth, but they'll keep a close eye on you. Now undress or the guards will help you and you don't want that."

With a weary shrug Josephine set about unbuttoning her shirt. It didn't prove easy, not with her arm still in a sling. Lydia moved to help her but Martha waved her away and did it for her.

When she was naked she stepped quickly into the tub and a moment later Martha followed. The water was blessedly warm and felt better than anything she had known in months. The guards watched them with expressions that Josephine could not read. If there was lust there it was kept subdued by a kind of cold professionalism.

The water stung the wound on her arm but she wanted to get the dirt rinsed off. Lydia offered to help her wash her hair but Martha said she would do it. Lydia shrugged and brought them a box of shampoo and soap. Martha cleaned her with gentle efficiency.

They had showered together more times than she could count with the other women of their unit but never touched while doing it. It felt strange but not unpleasant. When Josephine was clean, Lydia held out a white fluffy town for her and Martha helped her from the tub by supporting her good arm.

She toweled off quickly and glanced around for clothes. Lydia gave her a simple white robe and soft slippers that would be useless anywhere but upon the soft-carpeted floor of the mansion. She began to regret just how much she’d been cooperating. She might have made an escape attempt when she still had her clothes and boots but not in the slippers.

The housekeeper led them next to a small infirmary where a young doctor cleaned and re-bandaged Josephine's arm. She was small and cute with her hair pulled back in a bouncing ponytail. She took blood from them both and asked a lot of questions about their medical history.

Wearily Josephine answered feeling too tired to lie. The doctor asked her about a bunch of illness she had never heard of before and if she had vaccines she didn't think existed. When her questions were done the doctor gave them each a series of shots.

She clicked a button on her computer screen and without looking asked, “Now, sexual history. I need both of you to give me the number, age and gender of your past partners, as well as the age you became sexually active."

"I'm not fucking telling you that," snapped Martha.

The doctor sighed, "These are routine questions. They'll help me know what to illnesses to screen you for."

Both women remained silent. The doctor looked them over and realized she wasn't going to get the information out of them. She shrugged, "you can tell me at your next checkup.”

She went to adjust something on another exam table, "Let's finish up. I'll start with you Josephine. Hop up and put your legs in the stirrups."

Josephine balked.

The doctor sighed. "Listen I'm not trying anything funny. I just need to do a quick pelvic exam to screen you for STD's or cancer. I'm sure your own military ran the you through the same exams when you got your entrance physical."

This was true but somehow Josephine couldn't make herself stand and face this humiliation in front of the guards by the door. The woman had seemed like a real medic when she was bandaging her arm but now Josephine remembered she was just some minion in General Warren’s employment.

The doctor gave her a sympathetic look. "I would pull the curtain and give you some privacy if the guards would let me, but I can't. If you won't allow the exam, I'll have to sedate you and perform it anyway." She sounded like she really didn't want to do that.

Josephine considered her options. The one thing she wanted less than to be examined in front of the guards was to be unconscious and at their mercy.

"Fine,"

The doctor worked quickly and professionally and when she was done with Josephine she examined Martha. She did a quick breast exam on each. Although nothing else had ruffled her, she actually made a slight sound of surprise when she saw the ugly scar that cut just beneath Martha's breasts to stop at the base of her lowest rib.

Martha smirked at her surprise, "Shrapnel wound," she explained.

The doctor ran a hesitant hand over the ugly scar, "Who stitched your wound. This was poorly done. It must pain you."

"A field medic, she was a little more worried about keeping me from bleeding out than keeping me pretty."

"All the same, there's a salve I can give you to help heal the scar tissue. I'll have it sent to your quarters."

"I like the scar."

"I'll still send it."

When the doctor was done Lydia gave them grey slacks and a white shirts that reminded Josephine of the stained fatigues that they had been forced to abandon in the bathroom.

Lydia led them to another room. It was nearly empty aside from a great table in the middle and a mess of electronics on several shelves. A young man was sitting in front of a computer typing rapidly. He glanced up when they came in,

"Hey Alex, these the new girls?"

"I'm a fucking soldier. Don't call me a girl," Martha snapped at him.

Instead of being frightened the young man looked nonplused. "I hate to break this to you lady but you aren't a soldier anymore, or even a prisoner of war. You're a slave now and the sooner you accept it the better."

"Go to hell,"

"Hey, don't take out your anger on me. I'm just the staff. My names Todd by the way." He stood up and went over to a cabinet and began to fish around in it. "Now let's get you set up with your collars and cuffs. The one's I'm giving you today will just be temporary. If the general decides she likes you she'll buy you some lighter and nicer looking ones. If she ever decides she trusts you, which I doubt, you’ll just get an ornamental silver collar. For now though you get the heavy electric ones. The good news is that they're at least waterproof.”

He set down two metal collars and four sets of metal bracelets on the table. Both the collars and bracelets had small rings on them too.

"Hold still for a second. He unclipped one collar and snapped it around Josephine's neck before doing the same with the bracelets. He repeated the process with Martha and then picked up something that looked a lot like a remote control.

"You're going to feel a little shock as these thing calibrate."

What he called a little shock brought Josephine to her knees with a howl of pain. It felt as if her bones had just caught fire.

"What the fuck?" snarled Martha who had been similarly floored.

The man just shrugged. "Now the devices are set to your own biorhythms. If I didn't calibrate them they might use too much electricity and kill you. Now, these collars and cuffs are something you want to take seriously. Right now they are set so that if you leave the perimeter of this estate they'll give a shock strong enough to knock you unconscious, if you try to damage them or take them off the same thing will happen. If a canceling signal isn't given within thirty minutes of a stunning shock, the collar will give you a strong enough voltage to kill you. Your master, General Warren, can also use these to give you shocks of pain if she wants. I’d advise avoiding giver her a reason to. If they are used too often, the pain shocks can cause nerve damage."

After that Lydia finally brought them to a small room and fed them. It was just soup and bread, it was the best they'd eaten since well before their captivity. When the food was gone Josephine wanted nothing more than to lie down and sleep but Lydia apparently had more to say.

To their utter surprise, she sent guards outside. She calmly pointed to a small device on her own wrist. "Just so you know I can control your collar and cuffs too so don’t even think about attacking me."

She leaned back in her chair and crossed her hands, "Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk. I am not your enemy but I am not your friend. It is my job to ensure that the General’s harem runs smoothly and if you get in the way of that I will punish you. You're captured soldiers and your pissed as hell, I get that. Life sucks. You can act as angry and defiant with the general as you want, heck she'll probably get off on it before she punishes you, but you don't pull that shit with me. Do we have an understanding?"

Martha’s eyes narrowed dangerously but Josephine spoke before she could, “Something like that.”

“Now, there are some rules you need to know. You do not under any circumstances fight with the other women. You can practice sparring with them bur but no real combat. If I see a real fight, I'll shock everyone involved to break it up. You don't steal from the other women. If there is anything you want, I will get it for you. You can sleep with anyone in the harem you want as long as she's willing but don't force yourself on another woman, ever. You don't have sex with the guards. If a guard ever touches you, you tell me immediately and I will deal with it.

"There will be other house slaves who will see to your day-to-day needs and you will treat them with respect, you aren't better than them just because you’re a bed slave. You will not have sex with any of them. If there are ever guests in the harem you will not have sex with them or let them touch you unless ordered to by Warren. Above all, you will not try and escape. It's impossible with the collars and you will just piss Warren off. If you break any of these rules, I will have to punish you and I would honestly rather not, so try and behave.

"Warren is going to have a whole set of mind games. Resist her or submit to her however you see fit. That is your own business. I would actually recommend you try and seem defiant as long as possible, that's probably why she wants you. You don't want her to get bored and sell you. If she does you'll end up auctioned off and probably bought by a brothel, that's usually what happens to captured female soldiers and it is a fate worse than death. Better to be the plaything of one cruel woman than a thousand soldiers on shore leave.”

Josephine's thoughts swirled. She had no words. Martha looked equally exhausted. Lydia seemed to understand.

"I will let you rest now. More food will be sent later and tonight the guards will bring you to Warren."

After she left Josephine and Martha curled up together on the bed and slept. They didn’t have the strength to try and escape yet.

 

That night four guards brought them to a room with a bed bigger than anything Josephine had ever seen before. The room was alight with a series of small lamps. Warren was waiting patiently sitting in a comfortable chair beside the bed. Two guards stayed outside the door and the other two entered and stood mutely with their backs to it.

Warren stood to greet them. "Welcome, I must say you both clean up quite well. The lack of dirt and blood rather suits you. How are you finding your new home?"

Neither woman answered her. She rolled her eyes. "You may be silent if you wish. I did not bring you here for conversation." She began to circle them, while still wisely keeping a good distance. She had her hand on her wrist strap in subtle warning of what would happen if either woman tried to attack.

"Now, I have a proposal for you two. While I look forward to bedding you both, I am content to take my time, savor the experience. Tonight I would like to see you two fuck each other. You two are lovers aren't you?"

"We are not your dolls," said Martha.

"No, no you're not. I am not interested in dolls. Dolls can't feel pain. You have a choice my dear soldier. Either you fuck your lover in front of me, or I will bind you so that you are helpless to do anything but watch and then I will fuck her as cruelly as I can before letting each of my guards do the same in turn. It is your choice, I will enjoy it either way."

Josephine felt her blood chill, "Martha," she said quietly.

Martha looked at her with pained eyes but still nodded. “Let’s do this quickly.”

She took Josephine's hand and led her to sit on the edge of the bed. Martha kissed her once deeply before she sank to knees before her. Martha helped her tug off her shoes and pants amd Josephine tugged off her own shirt and bra, shivering in the chill air.

Josephine closed her eyes and leaned back, tangling her hands in Martha's hair as Martha ducked her head between her legs. She fought down the sob clawing its way up from inside of her but she couldn’t stop the tears sliding down her face. She felt more exposed and vulnerable than she ever had before.

Warren had taken a seat in a chair across the room and was watching them with her chin resting on her hand, as if they weren’t even that interesting.

She couldn’t respond to Martha at first. She tried to forget where she was, what was happening. She focused entirely on softness of her lovers curls beneath her fingers, the warmth of Martha’s hand on her naked hip, of the skilled tongue against her clit. If she tried hard enough she could pretend that they were back in the storage room on the base.

For all of Josephine's fear and apprehension her body finally relaxed. She fought to bring back the scent of gun oil and metal that had always filled the storeroom. In a moment Martha would look up and they’d kiss and lie down on an old blanket on the concrete floor. They’d stay together as long as they could and slink back to their bunks just before dawn.

She tried so hard to cling to the safety of the memory but still her orgasm wouldn’t come. She wondered if Warren would just let them stop but she remained silent. She didn’t dare look at the woman again. What would she do to them if she got bored or impatient.

Josephine leane down to whisper. “I need your fingers too.”

Martha obeyed, slipping one and then two into Josephine’s slick body. She curved them at just the right angle as she kept working Josephine’s clit with her tongue. It was probably the gentlest she’d ever fucked her, as if she thought Josephine might shatter under her touch.

When she switched from licking her to clit to a more solid sucking motion, Josephine was finally lost. She forced down the cry she would have normally made and came with no more sound than a few ragged breaths.

When she opened her eyes Warren was watching them with an amused grin, "Come now, I expect a bit more from a pair of Terra Nuevann soldiers. Don't tell me you couple with no more than a few kisses and a bit of cunnilingus and gentle fingering like a pair of school girls."

She went to a box at the foot of the bed and fished something out. She held up a strap on with an attached red dildo. She threw it to Martha who caught it out of reflex and then held it like a dead rat.

Warren laughed, "Don't tell me a woman as butch as you has never used one of those before?"

Martha actually blushed. She glanced at Josephine, who shook her head ever so slightly. Warren noticed.

"Both of you, never? Oh this is going to be fun."

"I know what to do," snapped Martha, glaring at their captor. She angrily began to fiddle with the straps trying to attach the thing to the outside of her pants. She got the leather tangled though and made a sound of frustration.

Warren actually smirked. She motioned to one of the two guards she said, “Help the poor thing, she’s clearly no idea what she’s doing.”

The young woman warily approached Martha. “Try anything and you’ll regret it.”

Martha narrowed her eyes but said nothing.

The guard sighed, still standing out of easy striking distance. “Take off your pants. I can promise you that this toy is much more fun that way.” Martha obeyed and shed her pants. She got the straps tangled when she tried to put on the harness. Warily the guard got closer and helped her untangle the mess. She quickly and effectively helped her step into the harness and secure it.

"There we are," she murmured in her ear as she synched the last strap. "you should feel it on your clit now."

Martha clenched her hands and the guard quickly stepped away.

“Get on with it,” said Warren. “Unless you’d rather I fuck her for you.”

Josephine shivered and reached for Martha, drawing her onto the bed.

Hesitantly Martha crawled onto the bed and helped her. Martha kissed her almost apologetically as she ran her hands over her. Josephine gasped as her lover pressed fingers back into her, moving them firmly as she brushed her clit with her thumb. Josephine wanted to bury her face in Martha’s shoulder and cling to her but that would be showing weakness.

Martha worked her until she was moving against her hand and then withdrew. She crawled over Josephine, resting her weight on one arm while she used the other hand to guide the dildo towards Josephine's entrance.

Josephine made the mistake of looking past Martha to where General Warren was watching them. Her entire body tensed and she made a soft sound of pain when Martha began to press the dildo into her rigid body, Martha stopped when she felt resistance.

“Josephine?”

“Just keep going,” she hissed.

Martha didn’t.

“Do it damn it!”

“I don’t want to hurt you.” She sounded more afraid than Josephine.  

Across the room, Warren laughed. “If your lover is too cowardly to take you properly little soldier, put her on her back and fuck yourself on her, unless you really would rather I take you on your back instead. I can promise you that I will not be anywhere near as gentle as her.”

Josephine pale and pushed at Martha’s shoulder. “Do what she says.”

Martha rolled off of her and Josephine straddled her. Josephine lined up the dildo and slowly sunk down. Her own body was still tense, and try as she might to relax, she couldn’t. The toy felt big and it stretched her in a way that felt very different then fingers.

Martha used one hand to rub slow circles on her back to calm her and the other to rub her clit and urge her onwards. Bit by bit the toy entered her until it was flush inside of her. She rested panting with her forehead pressed against Martha's.

"I've got you, you're safe, I've got you." Martha murmured.

When Josephine's breaths evened out she experimentally rose up and sunk down on the dildo again. She braced her hands on her lovers shoulders. At first it felt awkward but gradually her body loosened and with Martha rubbing her clit it even began to feel good. Martha tentatively raised her own hips to meet hers and slowly, tenderly they set a rhythm together.

Josephine felt herself begin to calm as waves of pleasure slowly began to roll over her. She looked into Martha’s warm dark eyes and for an instant she felt safe. She crushed their lips together to muffle her cry when she finally came.

They continued to move for half a minute more as Josephine eased down from her release and then they went still. Josephine rested her head wearily on Martha's shoulder. Martha pulled her as close as she could. She looked past her exhausted lover to glare at the woman watching them contently like a cat with a mouse beneath her paw.

Warren just smile. "I am pleased with you both. You may go once you are dressed. The guards will take you back to your quarters.”

Chapter Text

Josephine woke before Martha. She left Martha sleeping deeply upon the soft sheets. It was the first bed they had been allowed to rest in for months. She had fallen asleep naked but there was a robe by the bed. The room was full of warm sunlight that came in through a window. She opened it and let in the fresh morning air. They were only on the second floor and she could have easily climbed down if she wanted to. The weight of the collar on her neck and the cuffs on her wrist stopped her though. She had no doubt they would do exactly what they were supposed to. She had to find a way to get them off before she and Martha tried to escape.

The window looked down upon an inner courtyard. It was beautiful, like a cloister of medieval monastery with a huge central pool and plants all along the edges and plenty of green space. A few chairs and tables had been set out. There was an inner ring of carved columns that provided a covered walk on the outer edges of the courtyard.

As she watched a beautiful young woman in a white summer dress walked out and settled into one the chairs by the pool. She wore her wavy golden hair lose about her shoulders and was carrying what looked like a lute, which she began to play. Her voice was light and sweet and her fingers deft upon the strings.

A minute later a dignified woman with well-cut graying brown hair came out to sit and listen to the music. She wore black trousers and a loose white shirt. She had the look of a soldier, perhaps a general. She sat with her back straight and hands crossed in her lap.

The moment was ruined when two women with the dark hair and olive skin of Septians wandered out. They wore the same clothes that Josephine and Martha had been given and carried themselves like fighters. The taller of the two had a solid build, short hair and an ugly scar on her otherwise fairly attractive face. Her features were narrow and her eyes like those of a fox. Her companion was a bit shorter and had her long dark hair pulled back in a braid.

"It's fucking eight in the morning give it a rest princess," snapped the taller Septian in badly accented standard.

The girl blushed and went silent.

"Must you always be so rude?" the gray haired woman asked them.

"Do you always have to be such a stuck up bitch?"

"Better that than a hired dog," She leaned back into her chair and flipped open the book that she had carried with her.

The scarred woman scowled like she wanted to keep arguing but her companion tugged her arm and led her to a cleared space in the yard where a set of mats had been laid out. They began to spar with quick angry movements.

Two more women came out into the courtyard. One was probably in her late thirties and the other barely into her mid twenties. The older woman had fiery red hair cut short and her companion was a dirty blond with her hair just a bit longer than a proper military cut. They greeted the others and then set about sparring on another set of mats.

They moved far more gracefully than the mercenaries in a style that Josephine knew to be the form of martial arts the Germanacan military used, she’d learned some when her unit was posted with a Germanacan unit. The older woman was clearly teaching the younger woman, explaining moves as they went.

The last woman to enter the courtyard was clearly Varcian with her dark braided hair and pale skin. She was beautiful with a delicate face and a slender form but she carried herself stiffly. The longer Josephine looked at her the more familiar she seemed. She realized with a cold shock she'd seen her once in a newsreel. She was a Varcian general, or had been once. Now she wore a slave collar like the rest of the women in the harem.

Josephine would have watched longer but Martha stirred on the bed. She stretched and looked around her surroundings in mild confusion. Her eyes lit upon Josephine and for a moment a smile graced her lips, and then she remembered where they were.

Josephine went and sat beside her on the bed. Martha sat up, her forehead creased with worry.

“How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine.”

"Did I hurt you last night?”

"No, I'm just a little sore, that’s all.”

Martha still looked concerned. Josephine kissed her cheek and slipped an arm around her. “We’re going to be alright.”

When Martha didn’t reply, Josephine cupped her face and kissed her properly. She rested her forehead against hers. “We are going to get through this, whatever it takes. We will survive and escape and rescue the others.”

The door banged open. Josephine started and Martha drew her arms around the smaller woman protectively.

The housekeeper, Lydia, sighed as she bustled into the room.

“Don’t you glare at me girl. I’ve no patience for it, especially when I’ve brought you clothes and food.” As if to punctuate her words set a pile of clothes on the edge of the bed. She motioned for a girl wearing dull gray clothes and a cheap copper ornamental collar, who had hesitated in the doorway, to set down a breakfast tray on a small side table.

"Eat and dress quickly. I'm taking you to meet the rest of the harem today."

As they ate Lydia sat primly in a chair and talked.

"There are seven other women in the harem, all slaves like you. There are two Germanacan soldiers, a former lieutenant named Gretel and a former admiral named Helen. They are nearly as angry as you two, maybe you'll get along. There is a Francian general, Alexandra. She's a decent woman, treat her with respect and she’ll return it.

"There are two Septan mercenaries that barely avoided being hung as pirates. They are trouble, especially the scarred one. Their names are Tali and Eli. There is only one Varcian in the harem, Kara Malvek, she was nearly executed when she lost a major battle but General Warren convinced the empress to let her keep her former rival as a slave instead. The youngest member of the Harem is a Delvian Princess named Isabella. She was captured when her planet fell, she's a real sweetheart, be kind to her."

When they had dressed and eaten Lydia led them down to the courtyard. She clapped her hands and all the women turned and looked.

"The harem now has two new members. I want you to meet Josephine Tate and Martha Mitchell. She rapidly introduced the other women. The Francian general bowed, the two Germanacan’s offered nods, the delvian princess curtsied, the two Septian pirates eyed them speculatively and the Varcian offered no greeting.

"I'll leave you all to get better acquainted and I had better not hear about any fights or I will make you regret it, that means you Eli."

She strode from the courtyard and left Josephine and Martha alone to face their new companions. There was a quick trading of glances between all the woman and it was wordlessly decided that Alexandra would be their spokeswoman.

"Please, sit," she said motioned towards two more chairs on the grass. Quietly the other women sat as well.

The crows feet at the edges of Alexandra's steel grey eyes deepened as she spoke, "I am sorry you have lost your freedom, I am sorry you have become prisoners like us. We have little to offer you in this place but our friendship.

"Thank you," said Josephine solemnly.

"I am sure you both intend to try and escape and I would expect no less of soldiers, but I must ask that you listen to the stories of our past failed attempts before you try anything so that you may be spared the same mistakes." Something in her steady gaze also suggested she meant so that they could plan better. "If you are up to it now we would also be eager to hear whatever news you have of the war and the outside world."

And they told them everything they knew. Germanaca was still occupied, Francia had just fallen and the Terra Nuevann military had been pushed back to the Io frontier. Near midday, several house slaves brought food, some kind of grain, vegetables and meat. Sara, Helen, Gretel, and Isabella thanked them but Eli, Tali and Kara didn't even seem to notice their presence.

Martha bolted her food as if she thought someone might take it away from her and Josephine forced herself to eat slowly.

"There's more food if you want it," Isabella offered motioning towards the platter the servants had left.

Helen looked at Josephine and Martha thoughtfully, "how long were you two kept as prisoners of war?"

"Only about a month, just the time it took them to transport us here. They fed us most of the time, just not very much. They kept us with our unit at least. We were already half starved before they captured us though. We were on a base under siege on a moon of Gamma Delta for almost two months without a supply line and we were on less than starvation rations by the end."

Helen nodded, "Gretel and I were taken when our ship was immobilized in battle. We'd have fought them to the last man but when they breached the hull they pumped in sleeping gas and took the whole ship prisoner. We spent two months in their ships hold with close to two hundred of our shipmates. The damn Varcians had either not been prepared to take that many prisoners or they didn't care. Most of us nearly starved to death or died from the inhumane conditions they kept us in. When Warren bought Gretel and me at auction her doctor wasn't even sure Gretel was going to live, she'd been injured in the initial attack and her wounds had never healed."

Gretel stared at her hands and said nothing. Josephine noticed a thin line of a scar tissue on the side of Gretel's neck and another that ran from her wrist up into her sleeve. She suspected there were more under her clothes, probably shrapnel wounds. The former admiral laid a hand on her first lieutenants shoulder, quietly reassuring her. They seemed close.

Eli coughed, “At least they let your soldiers live. When Warren took my ship she charged us all with piracy and hung my men outright. She only kept me and Tali alive because she wanted to fuck us."

"You and Tali are pirates," said Helen coldly, “that what all governments do with your kind.”

"Privateers, we had a commission from our government to attack Varcian ships. We just had the shit luck to run into a military cruiser when we were hunting for a cargo vessel."

Alexandra leaned forward, "Yes and in the last war you had one to attack Francian ships. I almost caught you and your crew seven years ago close to my planets borders. You didn't care who you fought so long as you made a profit, you even attacked civilian vessels.”

Eli narrowed her dark eyes, "Well at least I'm not a traitor who surrendered on behalf of her entire planet. I may be a pirate but at least I went down fighting."

Alexandra was on her feet in an instant and Helen had to move to stop her. She guided her back to her seat and Alexandra glared at the mercenary. Her grey eyes flashed colder than steel. "I am no traitor. Our defenses had fallen and they were ready to annihilate us an example to the other planets, I was the only one left alive with the authority to make the decision, so I did."

Once she said her piece the fight seemed to go out of her. She turned back to Josephine and Martha. "Warren was the general I surrendered to. I gave her my sword and told her the most merciful thing she could do was let me fall on it. Instead she brought me here and kept me as a pet."

Kara made a sharp sound, "Don't be so dramatic. At least you still have your honor. You were my goddamn enemy and even I think you're fucking noble. You're the reason I'm here. I lost a battle to you and my own empress called me a traitor and wanted to execute me. Instead my rival, Warren, asked to keep me as a slave and the empress thought it was funnier to humiliate me like that than to kill me. If I had any honor as a warrior, I'd kill myself instead of suffer the indignity of being kept as a pet by a rival general and living among slaves who were once my enemies."

"Do tell us how you really feel," said Eli.

"Go to hell pirate."

There was clearly no love lost there. Josephine glanced around the group of women and realized that Isabella was the only one who hadn't told her story. She didn't look like she wanted to talk so Josephine didn't ask. She seemed rather out of place as the only non soldier there, even if she was a princess.

When the food was cleared away Helen invited Martha and Josephine to spar with her and Gretel. Josephine declined on account of her healing arm, not wanting to tear open the scabs but Martha went to practice with Helen. Their fighting styles didn't match very well. The Germanacan form of martial arts was brusquer and more immediately violent, designed to kill an opponent immediately while the form of martial art taught in the Terra Nuevan military was more defensive and elegant, designed to disable an opponent without risking oneself.

Alexandra called out advice as she watched and Eli added sarcastic commentary and Tali occasional advice. Gretel watched quietly, saying nothing as she sized up the two soldiers.

Josephine was still not sure what to make of Gretel. She still hadn't spoken and seemed to take little joy in the match. There was something empty in those pretty blue eyes of her.

They were all so distracted that no one noticed Warren enter the courtyard, not until the first match was finished. She applauded from where she was leaning against a pillar.

"Not bad, not bad. I'm glad to see you girls getting along so well."

Helen saw the anger flash across Martha's face and brought her to the ground in an arm lock before she could lunge at their captor.

"Don't be stupid!" she hissed in her ear, "she'll just shock you."

Warren laughed and strode over as if the sight was nothing out of the ordinary.

"I see you've still got some fight in you my pet. I'm afraid I'll have to punish you for it though, Helen won't always be there to stop you and you must learn."

She tapped a device on her wrist and Martha went rigid with pain. Helen quickly rolled off of her.

"You didn't have to do that," spat Helen as she stood up.

Josephine knelt beside her fallen lover. Martha had calmed, although she still gave the occasional twitch. She took slow careful breaths and sat up with Josephine's help.

Warren smiled at them, "I must say. I think pain suits you. I will remember that. I rather enjoyed your little sparring match as well. Helen, Gretel, you are to come to my chambers tonight at eight, the same time the guards will bring the Terra Nuevans. I've seen you fight and now I'd like to see you fuck."

She patted a glaring Helen on the cheek and sauntered away. They all stood in silence for a moment.

"She does that a lot," said Eli. "Its best not to spar in front of her. It only gives her ideas. I think she gets off more on making us fuck each other than doing it herself."

 

When they returned to their room after the evening meal, Lydia was waiting for them again.

"You must bath and dress and then I will take you to General Warren." She motioned towards some clean clothes that were laid out on the bed.

Martha considered this for a moment and then simply sat on the edge of the bed. "If she wants me she can damn well drag me from this room in my sweat stained clothes. I'm not going anywhere."

Lydia let out a tired sigh, "I do not have time for your childishness." She held up her wrist to demonstrate the device on it. "You will be cleaned and taken to her, the only question is whether we will do it the easy way or the hard way. Do not make me use this."

A look of wariness crossed the soldier's face,"bitch!" she spat and stormed towards the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.

Josephine gave Lydia a long, thoughtful look, "you are a slave like us. How can you bear to be your mistress’s enforcer."

Lydia met her gaze evenly, "Because it is better to be the guard dog than the sheep. I was not born free like you and the others. I have been sold seven times and been beaten, starved, raped and worked to the bone by many masters. You will forgive me if sometimes I find it hard to sympathize with the hardships of pampered bed slaves. You and the other concubines in her harem live better than most free citizens."

Josephine considered her words carefully, "Even a gilded cage is still hell for a wild bird." It was line of Terra Nuevan poetry, she couldn't even remember when or where she'd read it.

"Better caged than baked in a pie," snapped Lydia. "I will wait outside the door."

 

They were brought to the same room as the night before. Warren was already there with Helen and Gretel. They were both kneeling in front of her. Helen looked angry and Gretel's expression was blank.

Warren motioned for the guards to stay in the room by the door and then beckoned Josephine and Martha foreword.

"Welcome, tonight is to be your first proper lesson in obedience. Kneel."

Neither obeyed. Warren held up her wrist strap in threat and Josephine knelt, Martha didn't. Pain brought her crashing to the floor. She tried to stand and Warren brought her back down again. She didn't try to stand a third time but stayed down on her knees, not so much submitting as merely lacking the strength to stand.

"Good girl," Warren patted her on the cheek. She glanced over at Josephine, "You seem to be the faster learner of the two of you or perhaps you just biding your time and waiting for a better chance to strangle me."

Josephine met her eyes coldly.

Warren grinned. "The later I think. I will need to watch you more carefully than your companion."

She took a set back, "I am not such a fool as to ride an unbroken horse. Tonight I'll watch Helen and Gretel fuck you little soldier. I trust you will not fight them, they are only following my order and I'd hate to have to punish them because of you. As for you Martha, I think tonight I will merely make you watch as they take your lover. I'd rather not risk your defiance resulting in you injuring one of my favorite slaves. Stay where you are or I will shock you again."

She walked to a table and retrieved a box. She brought it back and gave it to Helen. "You will use this on her and do try to be gentle. It is only her second time with one and this toy is bigger than the one from last night. You and Gretel may prepare her as you see fit."

She stepped back and went to recline in a chair near the bed. Josephine nearly jumped when she felt Gretel's gentle hand on her shoulder.

"Come on, I'll get you ready."

The Germanacan stood up and tugged off her clothes gracefully. The body beneath was scarred across the stomach and shoulders, but still beautiful. She was slender and lightly muscled with delicately curved hips and high firm breasts. She showed no sign of embarrassment or modesty as she gently tugged Josephine to her feet and helped her undress as if they had been lovers for years.

When Josephine was naked, she could not help but hold her hands to cover herself. She felt vulnerable in a way she never had in countless locker rooms. Gretel stepped close to her and whispered in her ear, "Your beautiful, let me see you."

Josephine let her hands fall away and wished it really was only Gretel's eyes that saw her.

"Come be with me," Gretel took her hand and led her to the great bed that dominated most of the room.

She sat down on the edge and reached up to pull Josephine into an almost tentative kiss that she quickly deepened. She tangled one hand in her hair and ran the other playfully up and down her back. She drew her close until she was standing between her legs.

She broke the kiss so that she could lower her mouth to one of Josephine's breasts and draw the nipple into her mouth. Josephine took a sharp breath and rested one hand on her shoulder for support.

Gretel quickly brought one hand between her legs. She found her clit with one finger and stroked it tentatively, drawing out the desire from Josephine. She resumed the kiss and brought those same fingers lower, pressing them into the other woman's wetness. Her fingers were quick and skilled. Her thumb resumed the job that her fingers had left.

Soon Josephine was having to fight not to buck against her hand and glad of the kiss that muffled her sounds of pleasure. She was close to her release when a hand on her shoulder nearly made her jump. She turned and saw Helen, still dressed but wearing the strap on that Warren had given her. Her expression was almost apologetic.

"Kiss her," whispered Gretel in her ear so Josephine did. Helen kissed back with the same skill and control with which she had spared that afternoon. She released Josephine from the kiss and with a push to her back urged her onto the bed.

Gretel scooted back and pulled Josephine over herself and Helen followed them both up onto the bed. Josephine felt confused and uncertain what was happening as she crouched over Gretel .

"Stay on your hands and knees," Helen told her as she touched her. She ran her hands over her back and then worked one under her to press between her legs and into her. Her fingers were strong and practiced and she quickly found just the right place in her.

Gretel pulled her down into a kiss as she wedged a hand between them to keep rubbing Josephine's clit. Josephine felt trapped between two pleasures, her nerves overwhelmed. She closed her eyes and willed herself to only feel. It was better than remembering where she was.

Helen added a third finger, stretching her carefully. When Josephine was close to the edge she withdrew her fingers and replaced them with something else colder and blunter and slicked with lube.

Gretel broke the kiss to whisper to her, "If it hurts tell her to stop."

Before Josephine could reply Helen began to slowly press the plastic dildo into her. It was bigger than the smaller one of the night before and it stretched her painfully. Her breath grew shallow and Helen stopped. Josephine wasn't sure who was rubbing her back or telling her to breath. Someone kept rubbing her clit.

When she relaxed, the woman behind her resumed slowly, bit by bit pushing the toy into her. She was panting by the time it was fully inside of her. Her arms were trembling and she rested her forehead on Gretel's shoulder. It was all just a bit too much. She had never felt this stretched before in her life, she was certain something would tear.

Helen kissed the back of her neck and Gretel rubbed her clit, sending little sparks through her. After a few minutes she gave a nod and Gretel began to move slowly, rocking her hips more than thrusting in and out of her. She soon picked up her pace and searched for just the right angle. When she found it, Josephine gasped. She clutched at the sheets and struggled for breath as Helen used the toy to stroke a place deep inside of her again and again.

She moved faster and faster, thrusting hard enough that the bed rocked. Josephine kissed Gretel just as her orgasm washed over her. She would not give Warren the pleasure of the sound. Her arms trembled and when it was done she collapsed onto Gretel with Helen’s toy still inside of her.

Gretel did not complain but Helen quickly pulled the dildo out of Josephine so that she could move and lie beside the woman on the bed instead of on to top of her. Josephine was half dazed but she kept kissing Gretel anyway and soon worked a line down her body towards the center of her pleasure. She murmured softly for her to spread her legs for her. She desperately wanted to take back some kind of control and Gretel was a responsive and seemingly willing partner.

Josephine brought her lips to the other woman's aching clit and felt the body beneath her shudder with need. She felt the bed shift and realized from the sounds that Helen must be kissing Gretel at the same time she was going down on Gretel. It did not take her long to bring the beautiful blond to orgasm

She crawled back up her body and kissed her lazily on the neck as the woman caught her breath. Josephine was surprised when she felt an insistent hand pushing her off of Gretel's body. She met Helen's steady gaze, still bright with hunger and need.

Josephine nodded and rolled out of the way as Helen climbed onto Gretel, kissing her softly and murmuring to her. Gretel raised her hips and the former admiral easily pressed the toy into her welcoming body. She locked her legs behind her back and the two women moved together.

Josephine stretched out beside them and watched lazily. She hadn't realized until then that they must really be lovers, probably from before they were captured. She wondered how many times Warren had made them couple in front of her for them to be able to so completely forget that she was watching them. Helen was whispering in Gretel's ear every time she moved and Josephine could catch snatches of her words.

"my love...beautiful...perfect."

It didn't take long for Gretel to arch her back with her second orgasm and Helen to follow her. They lay together in a haze of pleasure and seemed utterly unaware of Josephine. She tugged a blanket around herself, feeling cold. For the first time she looked back at the room and saw Martha kneeling and looking miserable and Warren looking amused.

She felt a tentative hand on her shoulder and Gretel lazily tugged her towards herself and her lover. She was leaning back against Helen who had her arms around her. The blond tugged Josephine's head down to rest on her naked stomach and stroked her hair.

"Thank you," she whispered softly, as if Josephine had had any choice in what had just happened. Helen moved her free hand to touch the side of Josephine's face almost affectionately, but she was looking at Gretel.

She heard Warren stand with a yawn. "I am well pleased. The rest of the night is yours to do with as you wish. I am off to sleep. Some of us must work in the morning."

Martha did not move until the door closed behind Warren and her guards and they were left alone.

She stood awkwardly, her legs stiff from kneeling for so long.

Gretel sat up on an elbow. "I can promise you that the bed is softer than the floor.”

Martha moved close to the edge of the bed but did not sit.

Helen spoke gently, "Gretel and I aren't going to touch you unless you want us to and we would never keep your lover from you."

The dark haired woman nodded tiredly and sat on the edge of the bed as she chucked off her soft soled shoes and her outer shirt but kept her tank top and pants. Her hands that had been so steady the night before were trembling. By the time she crawled onto the bed properly, the two Germanacan's had pulled away from Josephine and tugged down the covers of the huge bed. Martha stretched out and pulled a sleepy Josephine protectively into her arms,

Helen reached foreword and gently touched Martha's shoulder, "Don't hate us."

Martha's eyes were cold, "I don't hate you but how I can respect you? How can you just obey her like that? You looked like you fucking enjoyed it."

Helen closed her eyes wearily, "It's just easier this way. We fought her when we were first brought here and all it every got us was pain and humiliation. We've found that if we obey broader orders than she forces fewer more specific and constraining ones and leaves us a shred of independence and dignity."

"And the pleasure you took in it?"

"It makes it easier."

Martha considered what the former admiral had said. She suspected she had a point. Anger still burned like a hot coal in her stomach. “I won't lie still and let her fuck me."

Helen and Gretel shared a quick glance, "she won't rape you herself for a while. It's one of the last things she does when she thinks you're nearly broken. Even then she'll probably bind you. She knows how dangerous a captured soldier can be."

"Then she had best not forget it or I'll snap her neck.”

Gretel yawned and leaned back against Helen, “If you ever do get the chance, don’t let me stop you. Now go to sleep or get off the bed.”

Martha frowned but said nothing else and lay down pointedly between Josephine and their companions. Josephine pulled her close, aching for the familiarity of her arms. They fell asleep together on the soft sheets.

Chapter Text

Josephine woke to a room awash in mid morning sunlight. She glanced across the bed and saw Helen still asleep and Gretel standing by the window wearing a silk robe. Her golden hair was soft and wavy. She looked beautiful in the early morning light.

She met Josephine's curious gaze with a coy smile. Josephine slipped from Martha's arms and shivered as she stood naked beside the bed. She noticed another robe hanging from a nearby chair and pulled it on.

Gretel moved across the room towards her. She lightly brushed a hand along the side of Josephine's face and drew her close,

"You are always welcome in Helen's and my bed. Martha too if she wants."

Josephine felt a shiver run down her spine as the beautiful blond kissed her. The sound of the door opening sent her stumbling back. A plain young woman in a slaves grey clothes and a bronze collar carried in a breakfast tray.

"Thanks Maggie," said Gretel. She nodded quickly and set about gathering dirty clothes off the floor. She left as silently as she’d arrived.

Gretel motioned Josephine towards the table. She poured them both coffee from the small carafe arching her elbow delicately as she did it. She moved as elegantly as a society damsel in her own salon. Josephine raised an eyebrow. Gretel grinned.

"Germanancans believe that it is important to be both an officer and a gentlewoman. We all get etiquette lessons in the academy."

"Figures, all I learned in boot camp was how to swear, fuck, and drink whiskey straight."

"You're an enlisted woman then?" She said it with curiosity not judgement.

"They'd have never let a poor girl from the slums become an officer."

"For a girl from the slums you speak the common tongue very well."

"I had extra training so I could be my units translator. Martha's common tongue is nowhere near as good as mine."

"I heard that." They both turned to see Martha stretching. She joined them at the table. "You got six weeks extra language training and as far as I can tell all you ever did with it was swear at our enemies over the radio."

"Hey, it was hard work. I had to translate the sergeants curses from Castilian to the common tongue. There isn't even a word in common tongue for puta, at least not one that’s an insult." Remembering the sergeant and the unit tightened her throat on the last word.

Helen sat up groggily on the bed, "there are five in Germanacan. I should teach you some time."

They ate a surprisingly peaceful breakfast together, considering the circumstances.

"So when do the guards take us back to our room?" asked Martha.

"They don't, the door's unlocked. You're free to move around the harem. You could have gone back to your own room after Warren and the guards left last night. She calls this her bedroom but it's just where she fucks us, she's not dumb enough to sleep near women who hate her."

"Where does she actually sleep?"

"Hell if I know, if I did I'd have strangled her in her sleep a long time ago."

Josephine glanced towards the door, "so what about clothes?" she motioned towards her robe.

"It's not far. Wear the robe. You can shower here or there and there should be clean clothes in your room. I guess if you're modest you could ask Maggie to start bringing you a change of clothes on morning's you're in this room."

 

They passed the rest of the morning and much of the afternoon sparring in the courtyard. Josephine’s arm had been healing quickly from whatever the doctor had cleaned it with and smooth new skin was already replacing the formerly inflamed scab. This time she and martha sparred with the two pirates. Their style of fighting barely resembled that of Josephine’s own planet and mostly seemed to involved going for pressure points. Eli fought the most sneakily but Tali was actually more skilled. They both seemed to take a kind of easy joy in the fighting and that made the whole thing fun.

By the end of the afternoon every part of Josephine hurt but she'd finally gotten a good hard jab to Eli's stomach. Alexandra called an end to it before anyone actually got hurt and they all retired into the shade. Martha fell asleep with her head in Josephine's lap. To Josephine's mild surprise, Isabella chucked off most of her clothes and went to go swim in what Josephine had thought was a decorative water collection pool. Josephine had to secretly admit to herself that the girl looked very good in a wet slip.

Eli sat next to her in the shade of the columns and caught Josephine’s eye, "the sad part is that she actually used to skinny dip back in the days we had all female guards. I really miss that.”

Josephine raised an eyebrow.

"Our little princess is Delvian. She has no modesty whatsoever where other women are concerned but won't even show her ankles around men, some kind of cultural thing."

"There used to be only female guards?"

"Yea, it was kind of a point of pride for Warren, at least until Alexandra, Helen and Gretel's last escape attempt. They killed three guards, bitches didn't even include me and Tali, apparently they didn't think they could trust us. To be fair Tali and I were new here so maybe they just didn't know us well enough to trust us yet, it's not like they included Kara either.

“I guess it was for the best that they didn’t since Warren punished them pretty horribly when the attempt failed. Alexandra’s still got scars on her back and Gretel’s utterly terrified of the dark after being locked in a room with no light for so long. Anyway after the guards died she couldn't find enough women willing to guard us so she finally had to hire some male guards. As far as I can tell it doesn’t matter, they’re all too afraid of Warren to ever touch us, well except for that one that did try with me one time but I took care of that.”

She leaned closer to her, almost whispering in her ear, "by the way Josephine, just a heads up. When Warren gets around to having Tali and me fuck you and Martha, she’s going to probably tell us to hurt you. She gets off on the idea that I'm a cruel bitch, so pretend to be a little afraid of me okay? I'll try not to cause you any harm but act like you're in pain. If she binds you make a show of struggling."

Whatever Josephine would have said next was lost as the whole courtyard went silent as Warren strode in.

"Fuck, she's already back," hissed Eli. Josephine nudged Martha awake.

Warren seemed angry and tired. "Eli, Tali, Josephine, Martha my room now!" she barked.

When Josephine stood too slowly for her taste she grabbed her roughly by the arm and yanked her to her feet. Every instinct in Josephine's body cried out to fight and attack her enemy but her logical mind reminded her that that would just get her shot. She heard Martha growl at the sight of her mistreatment. Two guards moved to either side of her before she could do anything foolish.

Josephine let Warren half drag her to the bedroom. She threw her down on the floor and waited for the others. There was something ugly in her eyes as she snapped orders at the guards.

"Chain the darker haired Terra Nuevann to the wall, I want her to watch but I don't want her able to do harm when she gets angry."

Martha tried to move away from the guards but she was outnumbered and they quickly maneuvered her backwards. Before she realized what was happening they'd clicked her collar and manacles to a set of chains there. She could sit or stand but not do much else.

"Josephine stand in the middle of the room. Eli secure her wrists."

There was a chain hanging down from the ceiling that had not been there that morning. Eli took her wrists and tugged them above her head to click them to the chain. She wasn't chained so high that it hurt her but she couldn't lower her arms. Josephine gave an experimental tug and realized with a sickening feeling that she was trapped.

Eli leaned close and whispered in her ear, "Keep your fingers wrapped on the chain so that your weight is on your hands not your wrists. If you don't, they’ll end up bloody and bruised.”

Warren’s voice cut through the room, “Cut her clothes off, and this time give the damn knife back when you're done. If I find you trying to hide one again, I'll beat you."

Eli accepted a sharp looking pocket knife from one of the guards, "I only wanted it to cut apples mistress."

Warren smirked as she settled into her chair, "Somehow I doubt that my dear pirate. Especially after you used the last one to slit one of my guards throats."

"He tried to touch me."

"Yes, I saw the security footage and I'd have done far worse to him than a slit throat if you'd had the good sense to come to me. Now get on with your business."

Eli nodded and moved quietly in front of Josephine. She cut away her clothes in a few quick skillful slashes, always with the knife turned towards the cloth not the skin. Josephine's clothes fell away.

Warren took the knife from Eli. "Now get out of my way." She pushed her aside so that she could circle Josephine. "Do you know what happened today little soldier?"

Josephine said nothing but watched her warily. Warren ran the knife lightly over her naked body. "Today your planet had a little victory along the border. Today my planet lost a battle cruiser and guess who my empress blamed for it?" She cut Josephine just below the breast in one sharp motion.

"Leave her alone!" yelled Martha. "If you have to hurt someone hurt me."

Warren ignored her. "I can't hurt the Terra Nuevan general who destroyed my ships but I can damn well hurt you. It's a shame really. I did have plans to break you slowly, to do it almost as a seduction but now I just want to make you bleed." She slashed again, this time a narrow line across her stomach.

Josephine couldn't suppress her cry of pain this time. She'd fought for her life before but no one had ever tried to hurt her just to see her pain. The next cut was on her back, the one after that on her shoulder. She didn't let herself make a sound again.

Martha swore and struggled against her chains but she could not get free. Out of the corner of her eyes Josephine could see Eli watching them with empty eyes, beside her Tali had her face hidden in her hands.

The following cut was near her neck and deep. Josephine could feel the warm blood flowing down her body. There was so much anger in the Varcian General’s eyes, Josephine wondered if the next cut would bring her death. She had too much pride to plead for her life.

Tali raised her voice for the first time that night, "Mistress, don't you want to see Eli and me fuck her? That's why you brought us right?"

Warren paused, her knife raised.

Tali stepped forward. "We want her. You'll let us have her won't you?"

The look in Tali's eyes suggested that she had made herself too numb to feel anything, but Warren didn't seem to notice.

Warren lowered the knife as if suddenly remembering herself, "of course, my dear pirate. I do want to see you and your lover play with her." She stepped towards Tali. She slid a hand around the slender dark haired woman's waist and pulled her close, "I want to see you violate her and break her together."

"We'll make her cry out like a cat in heat," Tali whispered in her mistress's ear, pressing her body against her. She was not a particularly good actress, but she tried.

Warren pulled her close for a dominating kiss before shoving her away roughly. "I want cries of pain not pleasure. Fuck her together in the ass and the cunt. Get to it or I will turn this knife on you." She turned and stormed over to her chair, flinging herself down and watching with wide dangerous eyes.

Eli helped Tali to her feet. One of the guards brought them a box from beneath the bed. Josephine tried not to look as they took several tools from it. She realized that she was either shivering or trembling, her whole body shaking. She knew Tali had probably just saved her life but all she could feel was a cold fear of what was to come. Eli moved in front of her and Tali behind. She jerked against the chains as she felt their hands on her. Eli's hands were gentle, running her fingers over her shoulders, her breasts, her stomach as she leaned close and whispered, "try and relax. We'll get you ready first. Act upset, make unhappy sounds. That's what Warren wants."

When she kissed her it was rough and all for show. She felt Eli's fingers pressing between her legs, finding her clit quickly. She didn't have to fake her sound of alarm when she felt Tali 's lubed fingers pressing at a completely different part of her anatomy.

She tried to pull away but that just pressed her against Eli. Eli slipped two fingers into her tense body and it didn’t feel good. What sound she would have made next was lost against Eli's mouth, which was a good thing since Tali chose that moment to slowly work a finger into her ass.

It was a strange foreign sensation, and burned a little even with the lube. Tali kissed at her neck and rubbed her back with her other hand even as she pressed deeper into her. Eli worked her two fingers inside of her tense body and slid her thumb over her clit.

"Make more noise," Eli hissed. Tali bit her on the side of the neck. Josephine couldn't suppress her cry of pain and surprise as Tali worked another finger into her. She felt horribly violated and stretched. Both women worked their hands in and out of her.

Her breath sounded rapid and desperate in her own ears. She wouldn't make another sound, she wouldn't. The humiliation was bad enough as it was. Eli moved her other hand to her breast and pinched it painfully so she almost howled. Tali bit her ear. When she released the ear she snapped, "Scream you idiot, or she'll cut you again."

"Get to it already," barked Warren impatiently.

Before Josephine realized what was happening Eli pulled her into another kiss to distract her and Tali started to push a dildo into her ass. It hurt like nothing ever had before. She felt stretched to the point of breaking. There was no pleasure in it, only pain and discomfort. She knew enough from hearing other people talk about this kind of sex to know it wasn’t supposed to be done roughly or quickly. It shouldn’t even hurt if done properly. She struggled, desperately trying to pull away but she had nowhere to go. Even as Tali slowly penetrated her, inch by painful inch, she rubbed her back and whispered to her softly.

"Relax, breath, cry."

Eli rubbed her clit. When she broke the kiss Josephine panted for breath and slumped against her. Low moans built up inside of her throat. She didn't realize tears were pouring down her cheek until she saw them dripping onto Eli's shoulder.

When Tali had the toy fully sheathed in her she remained still and let Josephine get used to it as best she could. Eli kissed her on the cheek. Josephine jerked back into Tali 's arms when she realized what Eli was about to do. Words poured out of her.

"No, I can't. Not both. Please."

Eli said nothing. She lined up the dildo and pushed into her slowly. The feeling of being helpless and filled overwhelmed her. She had nowhere to go, nowhere to run, no way to get free, no way to make it stop. She was certain she would tear and break. Someone was making small animal sounds and apparently it was her. If her hands had been free, she’d have fought to claw herself free. Vaguely she could hear Martha swearing again, threatening to kill Eli and Tali.

Somehow Eli got the dildo all the way into her. Josephine was trembling violently, unable to be silent. She could feel Tali rubbing her back and Eli kissing away her tears from a million miles away. Some vague part of her hind brain even realized that Eli was still rubbing her clit and that somehow in spite of everything else, that felt pleasurable.

She latched onto the feeling and slowly let the pleasure build inside of her as if it could overwhelm the pain. Then they started to move and her world went red. It was too much, far too much. They left her and pressed back inside of her in unison. She clutched at the chains that bound her because she had nothing else to touch. Her mouth filled with the taste of blood and she realized that she'd bitten her own tongue.

Pleasure and pain tangled and became indistinguishable from the raw feeling of her overwhelmed nerves. An orgasm curled in her stomach and she let it build and wash over her with a desperate wail but even then they didn't stop. When she opened her eyes again, they were still moving inside it, her body sensitive beyond the point of agony.

"Stop, I can't. Please it's too much stop." They didn't and she had only to look across the room to see why. Warren was sitting on the edge of her chair her face raw with desire and want, her fury and bloodlust gone. Martha had slumped against her own chains, her face a map of defeat and helplessness.

Josephine felt another orgasm crackling inside of her like sparks from a downed power line. It washed over her and her world went brilliantly white and then black. When everything came back into focus. She was still hanging from the ceiling. Nothing was inside of her anymore and Eli was working to undo the magnet clips that held her cuffs to the chain. Tali was across the room, kneeling with her head between Warren's legs. Warren had her head tilted back and her hands tangled in her dark hair.

Eli caught her with strong arms as she fell. There wasn't an ounce of strength left in her battered body. Eli held her against herself as she began to tremble and sob. She hated herself for her weakness even as Eli rubbed her wrists and tried to get some blood back into them. Her hands burned as her circulation returned.

Distantly she heard Eli snarl at a guard to stop staring and get them a blanket.

Something warm was draped over them both. Eli pulled it around them and warmth began to slowly infuse her body again. She heard Tali give a slight cry of pain and looked up as Warren shoved her away roughly once she had achieved her own pleasure. Tali scrambled away with her eyes lowered on hand covering the red mark on the side of her face.

Warren stood, stretching languidly like a cat. There was no trace of her earlier murderous rage. She glanced at Eli and Josephine without emotion and left the room with her guards at her heels.

Tali waited half a beat and then stood up and cautiously approached Martha. The chained woman had a wild look in her eyes and her wrists were bleeding from her failed struggles.

Tali cautiously stood in front of her, "Now that Warren’s gone, I can unchain you but only if you promise not to hurt Eli or me."

Martha lunged forward and was brought up short by the chains less than an inch from Tali, "go to hell bitch."

Josephine sat up weakly, leaning heavily against Eli, "Martha. Don't take out your hatred of Warren on them. They had no choice."

"They hurt you and enjoyed it. I'll kill them." She yanked on her chains again.

"She'd have slit your lover’s throat if we didn't distract her. She's done it before," said Tali softly. "She killed a Francian slave in a fit of anger after losing a battle and then fucked me with the woman's blood still on her hands."

Martha stilled, her eyes wide, "You're not lying are you?"

"No. No I'm not."

Martha slumped against her chains, sinking to the floor. "Unchain me. I won't do anything."

Tali tapped a series of buttons on the connecting clips between the chains and Martha's collar and cuffs clicked free of the chains. She stood up stiffly and walked towards Eli and Josephine. She knelt before Josephine, delicately running her fingers over Josephine's tear stained face. In spite of her promise not to do anything, she looked ready to kill.

Eli spoke quickly, "Help me carrying her to the bed. The floor is no place for her." The last thing Josephine remembered was Martha lifting her up.

Chapter Text

She woke the next morning in the same bed as the previous night. Every inch of her body hurt. Martha was curled around her and Eli and Tali were gone. The door creaked open and Lydia poked her head in. She took one look at Josephine and then quietly motioned to someone behind her. She and the doctor who had seen Josephine and Martha when they first arrived slipped into the room.

Martha's eyes snapped open and she gave them both a murderous look. Lydia wisely kept her distance but the doctor carefully edged foreword, her medical bag in hand.

"Josephine, would it be all right if I took a look at you?"

"She's fine," snapped Martha.

Josephine was less sure of that. She could feel that the sheets around her were sticky with traces of drying blood. She reached foreword and tugged the blankets off so that she could look at herself. The cuts looked ugly and ragged in the morning light.

The doctor's face darkened. "I think we'd better take care of those cuts and maybe check to make sure nothing inside of you is torn either."

Josephine nodded. Martha pulled her closer, "Don't touch her."

"Damn it Martha. Everything fucking hurts. Get off the bed and let the doctor help me," snapped Josephine. Hesitantly, Martha pulled away and slunk from the bed. The doctor cleaned Josephine's wounds and then gave her a quick but very awkward and uncomfortable internal exam.

When she was done the doctor let her put on a robe and talked to her as if she were a normal patient and not a captured soldier in a harem.

"The cuts are shallow enough they should heal without stitches. I'll come by your room every day to change the bandages. If you use the cream I give you they won't scar. Your not torn internal but your pretty raw and tender. I'll give you a salve. I don't want you to have sex, vaginally or otherwise for a couple days."

"That's not exactly something I have any power over,” said Josephine bitterly.

"I know...I'm sorry. I'll tell Warren that you need a few days to heal, but she doesn't always listen." She gave Josephine the salve she's brought and left with Lydie.

 

Later that day Josephine had to lean heavily against Martha's shoulder to make it to the courtyard. Everything hurt, but she couldn't bear to remain in their room any longer. Nearly all the other women were in the courtyard. They looked at Josephine with a mix of understanding and sympathy.

Martha helped her ease down onto a blanket on the grass and sat beside her. Gretel was the first to approach them, quietly sitting beside Josephine and taking her hand in her own. She said nothing and it was oddly comforting.

She stayed with Josephine as Martha went to the space they used for sparring matches.

"Eli. Let's do this." Her voice came out cold and sharp.

Eli stayed where she was sitting with Tali beside the pool. "I won't spar with you today. You're too angry. You might hurt yourself or far more likely, you'll hurt me."

"Fight me damn it! If you’re too afraid then what about you Tali?"

Tali turned, her slight body tensed like a fox ready to flee, "No. You don't get to vent your hatred of Warren on us. We'll spar with you tomorrow when your anger has cooled, but not today."

"Get up you cowards!"

She stormed towards them but Alexandra intercepted her.

"They said they would not spar with you today."

Martha glared at the general, "They hurt Josephine."

"I doubt they did that of their own free will. Warren makes puppets of us but we need not be savages. If you must burn away your anger, then spar with me."

"Fine," spat Martha. She followed the sharp eyed warrior back to the space they used for sparring matches.

They bowed and began. She fought with all the raw frustration of a caged animal. Alexandra ducked and retreated,  never throwing a blow of her own as she let Martha push her back across the practice space.

She moved with an impressive grace for her age. She waited until Martha was exhausted before she began to fight back, never striking hard enough to do damage but forcing Martha to go on the defensive. She drove her back across the practice space until the other woman's breath was haggard and her defenses lowered. She waited until Martha tried one final lunge and sidestepped her, she tripped her, caught her wrist, and bore her down onto the mat. They landed with a thump.

Alexandra kept Martha immobilized by her wrist. Martha was so surprised she forgot to struggle. Alexandra released her and stood, offering her a hand up,

"See my friend, you are not at your best today. We'll spar again tomorrow and perhaps then you can show this old woman what you can do."

The young soldier accepted the hand and stood, "I'd like that very much."

The sound of applause startled them both. Warren sauntered in like a cat. All of her anger from the day before had vanished, replaced by a cruel playfulness. Josephine had a bad feeling she'd been watching them.

"My, my no wonder Terra Nueva is losing the war if that's the best you can do."

Martha glared at her, "What do you mean losing? We just won battle a few days ago didn't we?"

Warren's face darkened, "You hadn't best learn to guard your tongue girl. I just might have to cut it out, although actually I've got a better use for it. Get on your knees."

Martha took a step back. Warren sighed and hit a button on her wrist. A wave of agony brought Martha down. Josephine stood to go to her side but Helen and Gretel held her back, fearing to let her come under their keeper’s wrath as well.

Warren turned to Alexandra who had until that moment stood silently. "You've beaten the girl in a fight, why don't you enjoy her as a prize?"

"I've no desire to touch a woman who is stunned and in pain."

Warren clucked softly as she walked over to Alexandra, laying a hand on her stiff shoulders, "Oh Alex, will you never learn? What you wish does not matter. Resist me in my games and I will only be crueler. Acquiesce now and I'll let you be gentle with her, refuse and I just might have her whipped instead."

Alexandra turned face away, "What do you want?"

"Make her orgasm however you see fit."

"Fine."

"And I want you to do it here and now, on the grass."

Alexandra paled slightly, "You'd so humiliate us?"

"Of course, my dear general. Nothing pleases me more. I want you to fuck her on the grass with the rest of the harem watching. Now get to it before I change my mind and think of something more painful."

Alexandra cast her one more cold look and quietly walked to Martha, who had finally managed to sit up after the pain of the electric shock. She watched Alexandra with a new wariness. Alexandra knelt beside her as if speaking to a frightened animal.

"I won't hurt you, you have my word. I won't fight you either, if you refuse so will I and we'll face whatever new hell she comes up with together."

As Martha considered this, Josephine quietly crossed the grass and sat on her other side. She leaned close and whispered softly in her ear. Martha nodded wordlessly, her expression one of acceptance.

"She agrees," said Josephine.

"Alright." She didn't act immediately though. She reached out a hand almost tentatively to touch the side of Martha's face.

The young woman watched her with uncertain dark eyes but did not flinch.

Alexandra hesitated, "can I kiss you?"

Martha nodded again.

Alexandra kissed her tentatively. She cupped her chin and tilted up the her face so that she could lightly brush her lips against hers and then after a moment she deepened the kiss. She could feel the tension in the soldier's shoulders.

When she broke the kiss she whispered, "focus on me, ignore all else."

She kissed her gently just beneath the ear and ran an almost chaste hand down her body. She slipped her hand beneath the soldier’s shirt, laying her hand against the warmth of her stomach. As Alexandra touched Martha, the soldier leaned back against Josephine, who drew her close.

Alexandra kissed her again and then moved her hand into her loose canvas pants. She tried to push them down but Martha shook her head sharply.

"Leave me my clothes, please."

“As you wish."

Martha jerked in slight surprise as Alexandra found her clit. It only took a moment before her breathing grew ragged. What sounds she might have made were lost as Alexandra kept her mouth covered with her own. Martha kissed her back earnestly as her desire began to cloud her focus.

Josephine kissed at the back of her neck, and slipped a hand beneath her shirt and bra to find a breast. She whispered in her ear, “Go on, I want to see you come.”

“I don’t think I can.” She sounded on edge but Josephine could feel the tension in her body. Martha actually didn’t orgasm that easily, at least not if she was frightened. Josephine could get off during an air raid, in fact had usually found that to be the best way to get through them. Martha though, as happy as she’d always been to fuck Josephine during those terrifying moments that they were hunkered down in the trench afraid each moment might be their last, she never wanted to be fucked until the all clear signal had been given.

“Focus on me. We’ve shared a woman before, this isn’t so different. Just pretend she’s any other soldier we might have invited back to our bunk.”

Martha closed her eyes and tried. Alexandra continued her gentle ministrations.

“I’m here, I’ve got you.”

Josephine felt Martha relax finally. The tight coil of her shoulders finally easing. Her breath grew desperate and then she arched her back as she came with barely a sound. She slumped against Josephine, and Alexandra withdrew with a final kiss to her forehead.

Warren seemed pleased. "Ever the gentlewoman, aren’t you general?"

Alexandra didn't reply.

"Come along to my room, you too Isabella darling. I'm in a rather tender mood tonight and you two fuck so sweetly."

She turned and exited the courtyard. Alexandra offered Isabella her arm and with a resigned nod Isabella took it. They followed their mistress silently.

"That wasn't as bad as it could have been," said Eli with her usual lack of delicacy. "She didn't have anyone beaten."

Martha gave her a less than generous look as she stood up, straightening her clothes. She headed for her room and Josephine followed quietly.

 

The next morning Josephine felt less sore, although her healing cuts itch from their new scabs. She left Martha dozing and wandered the halls until she came upon a small breakfast room that overlooked the courtyard She found Helen, Gretel and Eli. She pulled out a chair and picked at the food that a servant brought her.

"How is Martha?" asked Gretel gently.

"Still sleeping," said Josephine, hesitant to say more.

Eli took a bite out of an apple, "best to let her rest. Warren did something to make her feel powerless yesterday so she'll do something painful again soon." She spoke as if what she said was nothing out of the ordinary.

"Eli!" snapped Helen. "It's fucking breakfast."

"I'm just warning her."

"Do it later. Can we have one moment where we don't talk about our situation?"

Eli leaned back in her chair, "Fine. Let's pretend we're not prisoners in a sadistic bitch’s harem. Why hello Admiral, fancy meeting you here. Are you going to arrest me for piracy?"

Helen rolled her eyes, "one of these days I'm going to kill you."

"You'd have to actually beat me in a fight first."

"I don't spar with pirates."

Eli gave her a roguish grin "because you know you'll lose."

"Only because you fight dirty."

"That's how I win."

"She does have a point," admitted Gretel smiling slightly.

Helen gave her a look of mock betrayal, "don't tell me you're agreeing with her."

Gretel shrugged, "I'm just saying there's a reason none of our fleet ever managed to capture her ship."

Helen returned her attention to her roll. Josephine settled into eating. After being so desperately hungry for so long it felt bizarre to be surrounded by so much plenty. The house slaves always laid out far more food than the women in the harem could eat. If she were to guess it was likely a strategic move on the slaves part because they likely got to eat the excess food.

The coffee was strong and bitter and when she was too full to eat anything more she settled back into her chair and sipped it. If there was one thing she had learned from her time in the trenches, it was never to miss a chance to eat, rest or fuck.

Isabella wandered in looking radiant in a blue silk dressing gown with her hair loose down her shoulders. A fully dressed Alexandra followed her.

The former general pulled out Isabella’s seat for her and she sat down. Isabella kissed Alexandra on the cheek in thanks before the other woman sat down beside her. Josephine could see genuine affection, even devotion in the way the Francian general looked at the woman beside her. She was clearly in love with the princess.

Isabella beamed at everyone at the table before settling in to drink her tea and pick delicately at a sugary pastry. She turned her warm smile on Josephine.

"I haven't had a chance to get to know you very well. Tell me about yourself."

"There's not much to tell. I'm a private in the Terra Nuevann army, the thirty-second division."

Isabella gave her a knowing look, "I could already guess most of that. Tell me about you and Martha. Are you lovers? You seem very close."

In spite of herself Josephine felt herself blush, “I suppose so."

She'd never really thought about that. They'd certainly been fucking for about two years but they'd never put a word to it or been exclusive. They weren't just fuck buddies though, they'd been to hell and back together, that meant something. "It's complicated."

Isabella shrugged, "Well then, tell me about where you're from, your home, your family."

And Josephine did. At first hesitant but gradually more and more until the words poured out of her. She talked about the slums in which she grew up, the squalor and the poverty as well as the vibrancy of life. She talked about her mother, who gods willing was still alive and well, she'd get Josephine’s death benefits if she remained MIA for more than three months. She even talked about her unit. She talked until it hurt too much and she grew silent.

Isabella listened and smiled and somehow drew the words out of her like a spinner twisting fleece into thread. When Josephine was done, Isabella covered her hand with her own,

"I like you. I think we'll be friends."

 

That night a summons came for Josephine but not for Martha. The guards led her alone to the room that Warren used every night. Alexandra and Isabella were already there. Alexandra wore her usual button down shirt over a tank top and slacks and Isabella was wearing one of her gauzy white dresses.

Josephine glanced around. She was still sore from two nights before but sensed that it would be unwise to say anything about that.

Warren spoke, "After watching Alexandra with Martha yesterday I thought it might be nice to see you with her tonight. I suspect you are still tender from the other night but she'll be careful with you. She is a gentlewoman after all. I thought you might enjoy Isabella as well, she's so delightful."

Before Josephine fully realized what was happening, Isabella was in front of her, grabbing her face to kiss her insistently and tugging at her clothes. Her lips were sweet and soft, her hands gentle and skilled.

"I want you," she whispered as she nipped at Josephine's ear. "Touch me. Take me.” Something in her tone didn’t ring true, like she was trying to make herself believe the part she was being forced to play.

Josephine hesitated. She felt Alexandra's hands warm against hers and her breath just beneath her ear. “Do as the little princess commands you, it would be a shame to disappoint such a sweet woman.”

It seemed such an odd thing to say, as if they really were playing some game of seduction and the Delvian noble actually had some control over the situation.

There was something sad in the princess’s ash green eyes and for all the loveliness of her full lips, there was no hiding that her smile was forced. All the same the princess took the initiative as if she ardently wanted Josephine.

She tugged the soldier towards the bed, divesting her of her clothes as they went. By the time they hit the blankets Isabella had gotten all of her clothes off and tugged off her own dress as well. In spite of the cruel general watching them, Josephine could feel her own body beginning to heat with desire.

Isabella pushed her back onto the blanket and crawled on top of her kissing her as she went. Josephine reached up to pull her closer and tangle her hands in her golden curls, careful not to tug.

Isabella grabbed her right hand and guided it between her legs. Josephine found her slick and ready. She pressed two fingers into her and the girl arched against her. She worked in another finger and pressed her thumb against her clit. The princess moaned into her mouth and ground herself against her fingers. Josephine brought her free hand to her small breasts, all the while kissing her languidly.

Josephine was vaguely aware that Alexandra was kneeling behind the princess, kissing her neck and running her hands over her body. The woman writhed between them and soon arched her back with a sharp moan of a cry as her orgasm washed over her.

"Keep going, she can come again,” said Alexandra.

Josephine did not still her hand and within a short time the princess moaned a second release before slumping against her shoulder. Josephine pulled her close and took the opportunity to take a few breaths herself.

She was genuinely surprised when Alexandra leaned over Isabella to kiss her. It was a gentle kiss, offering a great deal and yet demanding nothing.

Warren ruined the moment.

"I want to see you fuck her properly, Alexandra, and not just the lazy hand job you did for the other Terran yesterday. Use the strap on from the bedside table. I even included some lube for the sake of kindness."

Josephine hadn’t exactly expected Warren to listen to the doctor but she still grimaced.

Alexandra wordlessly pulled away from the two women on the bed and went to find the items. Josephine helped Isabella stretch out and lie down on the bed. Her body was warm and limp but her face quickly became concerned when she saw Josephine's expression. She stroked her cheek lovingly.

"Sh, don't fret. Alexandra is very good at this, I promise."

Josephine believed her. She held out her arms to Alexandra when she came back to her. There was quiet gratitude in the general's eyes. She kissed Josephine again tenderly.

"May I touch you?" the request seemed ludicrous under the circumstances. As if there were any choice.

"Yes.”

Her hands were gentle and certainly skilled. She caressed Josephine's breasts, stomach, sides, legs. She kissed everything and all the while she spoke softly, saying the things most women want to hear from her lover,

"You are so beautiful.”

When she abandoned Josephine's lips to worked her way down her body, Isabella reclaimed them. Alexandra reached the apex of her legs and quickly found her clit with her lips. Isabella drowned Josephine's cry with her kisses. Alexandra worked her clit quickly and slipped two fingers into her willing body. Josephine whimpered, for all Alexandra’s gentleness, her inner walls were still very sore and tender.

Alexandra took her time, moving slowly, never pressing too hard inside of her, still working her with her mouth. Soon enough she had Josephine whimpering in pleasure. She arched as her body clenched with orgasm.

By the time her pleasure began to fade her head was resting in Isabella 's lap and Alexandra was kissing her again with her essence still on her lips. She slipped a pillow beneath her and then pushed her fingers back into her, this time cool with lube. She moved them carefully and thoroughly, preparing her.

She withdrew them and lined up the strap on.

"Are you ready?" she asked quietly.

Josephine nodded and Alexandra pushed into her slowly. It stung a little but otherwise it actually felt good. Josephine locked her legs behind Alex's back pulling her as close as she could as the other woman sunk into her. Isabella kept stroking her hair, even as Alexandra kissed her again.

Alexandra rubbed her clit as she began to roll her hips and the feeling was incredible. She felt her shift her weight and then the feeling was even better as she hit just the right place inside of her. Alexandra fucked her slowly and evenly, careful to make every thrust count. Josephine braced her hands against the bed for leverage so that she could arch her hips and thrust back. Isabella tangled her fingers with hers. It felt so good that for an instant she could forget everything but the feeling of cresting pleasure.

Her orgasm came over her gently, like waves at low tide. Alexandra kept moving and a second one followed the first just as sweetly. When it was done she slumped back against Isabella and Alexandra pulled the toy out of her. Isabella let her rest her head on her shoulder and Alexandra stretched out, throwing an arm over them both.

"I can get you off if you need it," murmured Josephine sleepily.

"No, need. Another time perhaps, the toy did for me," said Alex. She kissed first Isabella over Josephine's shoulder and then Josephine.

Josephine looked over her towards the Warren, who had now stood. Warren shrugged, "Sleep well. You can be as lovey dovey as you want tonight. I'm in a kind mood," and she left the room.

Josephine let herself drift off between the two women holding her.

She woke in the early hours of the morning to find her side of the bed cold. She felt the bed move and glanced over drowsily to see Isabella arching in pleasure under Alexandra's body. It wasn’t hard to mistake what Alexandra was doing with her hands. Josephine feigned sleep and soon slept in earnest.

When she woke again Alexandra and Isabella were asleep, curled up in each other's arms. She slipped from the covers and tugged on a robe to return to her own room. Martha woke at the sound of the door, sitting up quickly but relaxed as soon as she saw who it was.

“Josephine?”

Josephine shrugged off her robe and crawled onto the bed.

Worriedly Martha touched the side of her face. “Did she hurt you again.”

“No, this time it was only Alexandra and Isabella.”

“Did they…”

Josephine didn’t particularly want to talk about it. “No. Please, just hold me.”

Martha looked like she wanted to stay but but instead she bit her lip and pulled Josephine into the warm circle of her arms.

Although they both lay very still, it was some time before either truly slept.

 

Chapter Text

 

The next day began peacefully enough. Martha spent most of it sparring with Alexandra. She bore her no ill will, certainly not like she had Eli and Tali, and seemed happy to learn from her. Josephine rested in the shade of the courtyards only tree and listened to the other's talk. Eli was telling some fantastical story,

"And as we cleared the nebula I saw them, the space sprites. They danced through the asteroids, little bits of shimmering light. Their song was the sweetest thing I'd ever heard.“

"Wait, how could they sing in a vacuum?" said Gretel. "There's no sound."

"They were magic," insisted Eli.

"More likely you saw was light reflecting off bits of rock and gas in the nebula. It's called the fey effect," said Kara without fully looking up from her book. The disgraced Varcian general seldom spent much time around the other women in the Harem but the warm morning sunlight had been enough to bring even her into the central courtyard.

"I know what I saw and it wasn’t dust," insisted Eli.

Kara rolled her eyes, "keep telling yourself that."

"I believe her," insisted Isabella.

"Honey you'd believe anything," Kara told the princess.

They might have said more but Lydia hurried into the harem followed by several house slaves.

"Josephine, Gretel, Warren is taking you with her to a dinner tonight and I've only got two hours to get you both ready. Come along quickly or it will be me who gets punished.

What followed was a chaotic hour of getting scrubbed, dried, perfumed, brushed and dressed by two very hurried slave girls. Josephine's insistence that she could do all of this herself fell on deaf ears. By the end of it she was dressed in sleek black trousers and a fairly ornate blue silk shirt with dragons embroidered on the hem. It clung to her lean figure and even she had to admit it looked good. The slave girl, Maggie, messed with her short hair with a mix of brushing and gel until it looked surprisingly good. She even managed to get some light make up onto her, which felt strange since it was not something she hadn't worn since she was a young girl playing dress up.

The moment she was dressed, Lydia hurried her down the hall.

"Come on, Warren said she wanted your collar and cuffs switched to something more presentable.

The young man who’d put on the first set of cuffs and collar was already waiting in the tech room. He sat Josephine down and ran a device over her cuff and collars and they snapped off. He clicked on a new set, both made of what looked like delicate silver interlaid with swirling designs. The metal was light and cool against her skin. It felt better than the heavy metal cuffs and collar she'd had before although she knew it was just as dangerous.

Todd held a device in front of her and clicked it rapidly. “I don't need to shock you since I've got the readings from when I programmed the last set but you’re gonna feel a tingle as they turn on."

Josephine flinched but all she felt was a few sparks, like static electricity.

Todd nodded, "Good, you're all set. It's programmed to let you leave the house tonight but it will still shock you if you get more than four hundred feet from Warren's wrist strap. Also try not to get the bracelets or collar scratched up. The metal underneath is next to indestructible but the silver coating and engravings are not."

"I'll keep that in mind,” she might go looking for something sharp just to do that very thing.

Lydia took her back to the courtyard where Gretel was waiting. She wore a slinky black dress and heels, her golden hair curled about her ears. considering that her hair was normally straight, her curls for the night must have taken an impressive effort with a curling iron. She was sitting with Helen, her face hidden in her lovers shoulder. Lydia clucked at her unhappily and hurried over with a handkerchief in hand.

"Don't you dare cry or smudge your makeup, not after Maggie and Lucy spent so much time on it."

"I know the drill," Gretel snapped, her expression fierce.

"Then you can help Josephine tonight." She turned to Josephine, "Now listen to me carefully. I don't know what Warren's up to, normally she wouldn't taken an unbroken and untrained slave out in public but apparently that's what she'd doing with you tonight. If I knew she was going to do this I'd have prepared you for it sooner.

"You need to be careful or it can cost you your life. Within theses walls you can act as defiant as you want, god knows she gets off on it, but once your outside this house you need to the perfect little slave and do exactly as you are told. She cannot afford to have a slave appear defiant in public, if she had to punish you in front of others she won't be as merciful as she is here."

"Merciful?" asked Josephine doubtfully.

"Yes, compared to the normal punishments for disobedient slaves she’s been positively gentle with you. You’ve hardly been whipped or starved. Now, when you're in public walk two paces behind her, never speak unless spoken to, always address her as mistress, never meet any freeborn person’s eyes, when she sits kneel beside her chair..." Lydia's wrist strap beeped and she cursed under her breath, "Damn it, there's no more time. Just follow Gretel's lead. She knows what to do."

She hurried them both towards the hall. Josephine barely had a chance to wave to at a worried looking Martha.

Warren was waiting at the bottom of the staircase in the main hallway, wearing an elegant blue dress uniform. She had something in her hand that chilled Josephine's blood.

With a wry smile Warren stepped forward and clipped a leather leash to Josephine's collar. As humiliated as she was, Josephine had to wonder why she hadn't done the sane to Gretel.

"Gretel can be trusted to behave herself my dear, I am not yet certain of you." She tugged on the strap of leather and gave her just enough of a tug to know that she wasn't joking. "Now come along, the car is waiting."

 

At least this time she was allowed to sit in the main part of the car and see the night time city flashing past. It was a short ride but Warren used the time to toy with them both.

"Gretel, you look stunning as always, Josephine, you clean up far better than I expected. I trust you will both be on your best behavior tonight, especially you Josephine. I would not normally bring such a new slave into public but the empress heard that I'd acquired an attractive Terra Nuevan soldier and wanted to see you. You will behave or I will punish not only you but Martha as well. Do you understand?"

"Yes mistress," said Josephine without emotion and without meeting Warren's eyes.” If she needed to be cold and lifeless to survive then she would be.

Warren patted her cheek, "I knew you were a smart girl."

When the car stopped a slave opened the door. Warren stepped out first, tugging on Josephine's leash just enough to make her exit awkward. Gretel followed them silently. They were in the driveway of a palace. A facade of marble and lighted windows greeted them.

All around well-dressed Varcian's were disembarking from cars and walking towards a great doorway. Josephine had to hurry to keep up and even so she stumbled occasionally when Warren jerked on the leash for her own amusement.

Josephine only saw a few other's slaves in the crowd, all were well dressed like free citizens but wearing the unmistakable collars, although only a few had the cuffs.

They entered a great hall and Warren was announced by a slave as she stepped through the door.

"Brigadier General Warren."

Nearly everyone in the room turned to look at them. Josephine felt herself blushing in spite of herself. Warren barely seemed to notice. She took a glass of champagne from a passing tray and made her way into the room, greeting other generals and nobles as she went.

She paused longest when a tall blond man with three general's star approached her.

He bowed to Warren, "It is good to see you Warren."

"And you too General Walters."

"You truly brought her then? Do you think it wise?" His eyes flicked to Josephine and back.

Warren shrugged, "Our great empress requested it."

"But an unbroken slave in the palace..."

"She will not disgrace me."

General Walters nodded, "I should hope not. Well I'm sure the empress will be pleased, your new pet is appealing enough." He took a step towards Josephine reaching out to touch her face.

Josephine flinched back.

He laughed, "a bit skittish though. Be careful tonight Warren. If she balks at the wrong moment, it could go badly."

"As I am aware," said Warren her tone icy. She tugged on Josephine's leash and led them further into the crowd. "Come along Josephine. I must go and greet the empress.” Under her breath she added, “for the love of god girl, behave."

They made their way to another room, this one even larger than the one they were in. She paused to allow two guards to search her. They did the same to Josephine and Gretel and then they were permitted to enter the room. There was a long line of people but Warren calmly walked to the front of it and knelt. She pulled Josephine down to kneel beside her and Gretel mimicked the motion.

Before her was a woman sitting upon an ancient throne of polished dark wood. The woman was exquisitely beautiful and wore a dress of spun gold. Her face was worthy of a goddess and her eyes deep pools. Her dark hair was twisted back and she wore a delicate coronet of jewels upon her arching brow.

“Welcome General Warren," said the empress. "I see you have finally brought one of your new pets I have heard so much about, but where is the other? The second slave you have with you is Germanacan not Terran. You acquired two Terrans did you not?"

Warren did not dare look up, "Forgive me my Empress, I dared not bring the other before you. She is not yet broken and I feared she might misbehave."

The empress laughed softly, and it was as sweet and rich as bells. "My dear General, I did not think there was a woman you could not break. You must train her better and bring her to the next ball." She motioned Warren to rise, "Well, let me have a better look at this one. She is tame, is she not?"

"Of course my Empress," Warren tugged Josephine up to her feet and nudged her foreword. Josephine took a step forward keeping her eyes downcast for fear the empress would see the anger in them.

"Turn," hissed Warren and she did resentfully.

"Look up slave, let me see your face"

Josephine willed her face as blank as stone and obeyed.

The empress laughed again, this time crueler, "You need not pretend submission girl, I can see the raw hatred in your eyes. You'd rip out my heart if you could.”

Josephine would have if she had thought she had any chance of getting past the four bodyguards that stood beside the empress's throne.

The empress looked past her to Warren, "She's a fine creature, my dear general, but nowhere close to broken yet, a chained tiger at best. You would be wise to be careful with her, I'd hate to have my favorite general murdered in her sleep by a slave."

"You need not fear for me my Empress. I can control my pets and I am not so sentimental as to let any of them sleep in my bed."

"Well, if you can control your newest pet I would very much like to see her perform tonight, perhaps with one of mine."

Josephine felt her blood run cold.

"As you wish my empress."

The empress made a dismissing motion and Warren bowed again. She half dragged Josephine from the room by her leash. Gretel followed silently, eyes on the floor.

 

They wandered through the main hall, pausing every so often so that Warren could speak to another General or noble. A bell was rung and they went in to a great hall lined with tables on three of its four walls. Warren sat only a few seats away from the empress. A hurried serving slave laid two mats beside her chair and Gretel knelt upon one of them. Josephine followed the motion and kept her eyes down so that she would not glare out at the room filled with her enemies. None of the serving slaves offered her food or drink, not that she'd have had the stomach to eat.

Words and conversation flowed around her as she knelt and she heard none of it. It all seemed like some cruel trick. Her knees soon began to ache from the unfamiliar position. She glanced over at Gretel and saw that she had shifted the way she was sitting, no longer kneeling, so much as artfully resting on one elbow and stretching out her legs. Apparently they were allowed to move a bit. She shifted her weight until she was sitting cross-legged.

No one seemed to notice her or the other kneeling slaves at all. There were only a few others, some watching the feast in utter fascination and others in boredom, but none showing the resentment on their faces that she felt in her heart.

She was just beginning to let her mind wander when Warren slipped a roll of bread from her plate and Gretel took it from her as if it was the most natural thing in the world, as if she were a dog accepting a scrap from her mistress. She ate it in small neat bites.

Warren offered another roll with her right hand, not even looking to see if Josephine would take it. She didn't want it.

"Take it!" hissed Gretel, and Josephine did without thinking. It was small and white made from refined wheat flour, finer than anything she'd ever eaten as a soldier. Her throat knotted with resentment and her hand clenched, crushing it, dropping flaky white crumbs onto the mat where she was sitting.

She heard male laughter and realized that her action had not gone unnoticed. General Walters nudged Warren.

"I don't think you new pet likes bread."

Warren covered with a lie so quick it surprised even Josephine.

"No, she doesn't. I forgot that the poor thing is allergic to something in our white flour. No wonder she looks sad. She must be hungry and I've just given her something she can't eat. Here Josephine, have this instead."

She tone was playful but her eyes were not. She held out a bowl of small yellow things that looked like some kind of cornballs. Josephine let the crumbled bread fall from her fingers and took the bowl without looking up. She knew now that half the people at the table were watching her, including the empress, waiting to see if she would act out, shame Warren, show her disobedience. She wanted to throw the bowl at Warren but she wouldn't discard her own life like that.

She took one of the bits of corn puff and bit into it. It tasted of butter, sugar, and spices but it was sawdust on her tongue. She swallowed it and numbly gnawed on another until she was certain no one was watching her anymore.

She wanted to throw it back up, but figured that things would not go well for her if she did. Josephine set the bowl it on the floor in front of her and closed her eyes willing the nausea to pass. Gretel laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder and she leaned against her, letting the other woman's touch comfort her.

She heard General Walter’s amused voice. "Your pets seem very close General Warren. You don't suppose they're giving you cuckolds horns in your absence?"

General Warren laughed, "It is only wives not slaves who can cuckold and I am perfectly aware of what my pets do in my absence as well as in my presence. In fact, I encourage intimacy amongst my harem, I find it makes for a more interesting environment. Don't tell me you forbid your slaves from touching each other?"

General Walters seemed slightly taken aback, "It has never been an issue. I doubt they have any interest in each other."

Warren smirked, "That you know of."

Walters narrowed his eyes but any chance he had at retorting was lost when the empress clapped her hands and the room went silent.

The empress rose so that she could address the room. "I believe it is time for some entertainment.

"General Warren, might I borrow your new pet?"

Warren stood and bowed, "Of course, my empress. She grabbed Josephine's leash and tugged her around the table towards the center of the room. The empress motioned one of her guards forward and she took the leash. Warren bowed and returned to the table.

One of the guards offered Josephine a wine glass. When she looked at it blankly the woman whispered, “drink it.”

She uncertainty and drank a small sip, it was wine but it didn't taste right.

"Finish it," hissed the guard in her ear and grudgingly she choked it down wondering if it was poison but not willing to risk the indignity of having it poured down her throat. Instantly she felt her skin flush and the metal goblet fell from her fingers. The room seemed to spin. The guard, who had had her leash the moment before, dropped it to support her as she stumbled.

"What?..." she murmured.

"Just an aphrodisiac it won't hurt you," said the guard softly that only she would hear.

The empress smiled at the sight of Josephine already helpless and disoriented.

"Is it working already? You Terra Segunadan's really don't use anti toxin nano bots like the rest of the civilized galaxy you?"

Josephine was just lucid enough to look up and reply, "We've no need of them. There are few things in the galaxy stronger that the kind of rotgut we're was raised on."

"Even aphrodisiacs?"

"We fuck well enough on our own. We hardly need drugs to help us." She felt as if she were speaking through a haze. She knew she should be afraid, watch her words but she couldn’t remember why.

The empress laughed softly, "my, my you've got quite a tongue on you my dear soldier. You must show us its other uses. Why don't you service one of my personal guard?" She waved her hand at the guard who had held Josephine up. She was a dark eyed young woman who did not seem surprised by the order.

Josephine meant to protest but before she realized what was happening, the guard supporting her pushed her down to her knees. Her hands hit the floor as the room spun for a moment. She felt as if her blood was boiling, her skin on fire.

Cool hands tilted her head upwards. She looked into the dark haired woman's beautiful face.

"Do as the empress bids," her voice sounded almost tired, as if the act before them would degrade her ever bit as much as it did Josephine.

Josephine rested her forehead against the woman's legs, wishing the room would be still.

She tried to fumble with the woman's belt and found it difficult. The guard helped her, undoing her own belt and unbuckling and unzipping her pants. She wore no underwear. She gently tangled her hands in Josephine's hair and urged her on.

She had trouble remembering where she was, or why she objected to pleasuring the clearly willing woman before her. Her own libido was like a restless current within and it took everything she had not to beg to be touched. She leaned forward and nuzzled between the woman's legs. She licked tentatively at first, and then more confidently as she found her clit. Her actions drew out soft sounds of pleasure from the young woman.

Her hands pulled on her hair almost painfully but she barely felt it. She lost herself in the rhythm of her tongue’s movement and the woman's sweet sounds. The hands on her tightened and the woman gasped in orgasm. She gently nudged Josephine away, already doing up her trousers.

Josephine sat back, cold and confused. She knew she was now in the grip of whatever drug she had been given. All the same she wanted nothing more than to be touched and be held. She glanced about hazily, if only Martha were here, or perhaps Gretel. Well Gretel was there, she could see her sitting at Warren's feet.

"Gretel," she called hopefully. She knew Gretel would want her. Gretel had invited her to share her and Helen's bed before. Gretel made no move to come to her. Panic grew in her with the fire in her chest. "Gretel, please, I need you."

Out of the corner of her eye she saw the empress tilt her head to the side, "Who is Gretel?"

"The other slave I brought. They are quite beautiful together, would you like to see it, my empress?"

The empress leaned back in her seat, "Perhaps another time. Right now, I want to see her fucked by my own guard. Lucia you know what I expect."

Josephine felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up into the unfamiliar face of an imperial guard. She didn't like those cold blue eyes anymore than the way the woman's hands dug into her shoulder. She tried to stand, but there was no strength in her limbs and she stumbled. The crowd laughed.

The light haired woman caught her wrist in an iron grip and tugged her forward. She realized vaguely that at some point the servants had laid down a soft mat in the middle of the floor.

Distantly she could hear the empress speaking, "Now we shall see if she fights or offers herself up like a bitch in heat. Generally women who have been given torgus root do the former, but perhaps our Terra Nuevan friend will differ in an entertaining way."

The woman had both her wrists and pushed her down onto the mat. She didn't want to go willingly but she barely had the strength to fight. When the guard began to undress her, she tried to wiggle away for all the good it did her. The first guard, the one with dark eyes that Josephine had pleasured, helped the blond one. They had her stripped in less than a minute.

She could feel the eyes of the room upon her naked skin and tried to cover herself but the dark eyed woman grabbed her wrists and forced them over her head.

"No, lovely, don’t hide."

"Sh, relax. She won't hurt you," the first guard whispered in her ear even as she replaced her comrades hands with her own, holding Josephine done.. The golden haired guard ran her hands quickly, almost clinically over the soldier body, squeezing her small breasts, tracing the flatness of her stomach, pinching her thighs.

When  the dark haired guard tried to kiss her, Josephine turned her head away and again she heard laughter. A grip like iron turned her head back and she clenched her teeth as she was forced into a kiss. She couldn't say why she disliked this woman any more than any other she'd been forced to lie with since her capture but something about her chilled her blood even with the aphrodisiac spiking her libido.

The woman pinched her breasts so hard it made her whimper and forced her legs open. When she shoved her fingers in, she found her already wet from the drug, even as she clenched her body against her.

"It's okay, shh, we don't want to hurt you," whispered the other guard in her ear but Josephine barely heard her as she weakly tried to fight against her.

The fingers inside of her were sharp and quick, they found just the right spot right away and curled against her g-spot, but so hard that it hurt. The thumb on her clit was too rough, mixing over stimulation with the pleasure. The clear eyes of the woman above her were far too pleased with having a woman trapped. The blond woman used her other hand to draw her nails down Josephine's side leaving red marks.

Josephine knew she could not come like this and wondered if she should just fake an orgasm to end it. Then the blond pulled away for a moment and she watched her fumble with her belt and she realized that she had a strap on hidden beneath her clothes.

Josephine panicked, tried to pull away, tried to fight but she had no leverage and nowhere to go.

The next kiss stole the breath from her lungs as the woman thrust the plastic toy into her. It hurt but her body wanted it anyway. She was fully under the sway of the torgus root and she hated it even as it made her ache and cry our as she was fucked.

The guard thrust into her quickly and brutally but it was still enough. Without realizing what she was doing, she locked her legs behind the other woman's back. She felt the dark haired guard release her hands and she threw those around the back of the blond haired woman's neck, clinging to her as she met her brutal thrusts.

She knew she was making desperate sounds and she hated herself for it. She was seldom able to come purely from something inside of her, so the orgasm that washed over her came as something of a surprise. She had barely finished shuddering before she felt the woman pulling away from her.

She reached for her in desperation only to realize both the guards were trying to roll her over onto her stomach. Panic again seized her and she again tried to struggle for all the good that it did her. Strong hands held her wrists to the floor even as the woman behind her yanked her up onto her knees and re-entered her from behind.

The angle of penetration was deep enough to make her gasp. When she opened her eyes again, she realized the entire room was watching her and her face burned with as much shame as lust. She kept her head down so that they at least would not see her face. Every thrust brought a sharp cry from her, even more so when the woman began to rub her clit with her now free hand.

A second orgasm coiled in her stomach insistent and warm. It washed over her with the force of a rolling wave. She bit her own lip so hard she tasted blood. The woman on top of her kept thrusting until her body too shuddered, probably from the pressure of the strap-on against her clit.

She pulled out and quickly moved away. The other woman released Josephine's wrists.

Josephine sunk onto the mat, covering her face, ashamed even in the haze of a fading orgasm. She was again aware of the eyes of an entire room on her. The sound of applause was goading and when she looked up she found herself alone on the mat. The drug still burned in her veins.

She was so dazed she barely heard the empress speak, "General Warren, I am well pleased with the performance of your pet. You must bring her to my next ball with the other Terra Nuevan you have acquired but for now you may reclaim her."

Warren stood and came forward for Josephine. She stood weakly. To her surprise Warren did not take her leash but instead laid her jacket over shoulders and steered her back to the table. She sunk down onto the mat at Warren's feat wearily.

Gretel was instantly beside her, worriedly looking into her clouded eyes. The room began to spin more and she rested her head in the Germanacan's lap, feeling slightly ill. She closed her eyes and the world slid away. She did not wake again until someone shook her.

"Come on, it is time to go," said Warren.

"I feel sick," mumbled Josephine.

"It's the aftereffects of the drug, just try not to puke in the car."

Gretel offered her a hand without a word and helped her through the thinning crowd toward the front door. It was all Josephine could do to keep the coat wrapped around her shoulders, she was shivering and colder than she'd ever been. She collapsed onto the leather seat of the car and did not wake again until they pulled into the drive of the mansion. She couldn’t stop shaking and she fell so nauseous.

It took Gretel and a house guard to get her inside. Somehow she ended up back in her own bed with a worried Martha hovering. The doctor came and gave her some kind of antitoxin mumbling about the bad effects of Varcian drugs on off worlders and then she slept.

Chapter Text

She woke the next day feeling much like she had one of the worst hangovers of her life. Lydia brought her water and some painkillers that helped with her head. After Josephine got down a cup of water she gave her a fizzy green glass of soda too. "Drink this, caffeine always helps after Torgus poisoning.”

Josephine blinked blearily, "I was actually poisoned?"

"Torgus is a toxin just like alcohol. People use it recreationally. In small amounts it is a pleasant aphrodisiac that can enhance sex, too much of it can cause a brief sense of euphoria but it can also causes disorientation, nausea, increased heart rate and even death."

"You know a lot about it," said Josephine sitting up against the headboard to sip at the soda.

"This isn't the first time Warren has brought one of her slave’s home from the royal palace sick from the stuff. The empress seems to take special delight in using it.”

Josephine wasn't sure if she should be comforted or horrified to realize that other woman had suffered the same ordeal as her. She finished the soda and leaned back against the bed as a sudden wave of nausea washed over her, mercifully it faded before she was ill.

By the afternoon she felt strong enough to go downstairs and sit in the shade and after an hour so in the sunlight she felt human again.

She was more than a little surprised when Kara came and sat down beside her. The black haired woman had a book in her lap but she didn’t turn any of the pages. After a moment the former general handed Josephine a pack of crackers,

“Here, I’m sure you’re still nauseous but eating these will help.”

Josephine took them but didn’t open the package. Very quietly she asked in Varcian, “Warren’s taken you to the palace before too hasn’t she?”

Kara nodded, “Three days after the empress gave me to Warren, she had her bring me to the palace. The empress had me drugged, the same as I’m sure she did you, and ordered her guards fuck me like a common whore in front of the entire court. The damn drug had me begging for it. I tried to kill myself afterwards but I didn’t do a good enough job of it because Lydia found me before I could bleed out. When I woke up Warren was waiting, she gave me a photo of my niece and a copy of an anti-war article the girl had written for a university paper. Warren told me if that I ever succeeded in what I’d attempted she’d see my niece tried and executed for treason. Of all the things she’s ever done to me, I think that is perhaps the cruelest.”

Josephine listened silently. She was surprised Kara was speaking to her at all, when she’d mostly ignored her and Martha during all their time in the harem. The dark haired woman was looking out over the courtyard to the sloping roof of the courtyard.

“Does it get any easier?” Josephine asked at last.

“Easier? No. It doesn’t get any easier. You just find ways to make it bearable. Helen’s got her endless sparring and Gretel her manners, Alexandra has her unshakable dignity and Isabella her half mad friendliness and optimism, Eli’s got her dark sense of humor, and Tali’s got…well she has Eli I suppose, I never have quite understood that woman.”

“And you?”

An almost maniacal smile crossed the former generals face, “The dream of revenge I suppose. When the time comes I won’t just kill that bitch, I’ll make her beg to die.”

Josephine didn’t doubt her. “I’ll help you.”

After a pause, Kara asked, “So is the rumor that the empress asked for Warren to also bring Martha to the palace the next time she goes true?”

“Yes,”

Kara frowned. “Listen, you need to convince your lover to stop openly defying Warren. That bitch will beat Martha to death if she doesn’t think she can break her in time. She can’t risk being humiliated in front of the empress.”

Josephine flinched, “How do you know that?”

“Because of how close she came to killing Helen in the weeks before she took her and Gretel to the palace and because of how Hallie died.”

“The Francian Warren killed?

Gretel shook her head regretfully. “No that was Jen, Warren murdered her in a fit of anger. Warren killed Hallie out of fear. Hallie was Delvian. She was Isabella’s bodyguard, they were captured together. She didn’t care about anything but protecting Isabella. Isabella just saw Hallie as a guard but Jen loved Isabella desperately. Warren never had to do anything more to control her than threaten to hurt Isabella .

“When the empress told Warren to bring the two of them to the palace, Warren got nervous, started to wonder if she really had Hallie under her control. She started testing her. I’m not really sure what happened next because Isabella won’t talk about it and the servants tell different stories but Warren did something to Isabella that finally pushed Hallie into attacking her.

“The guards dragged her off Warren before she could kill her. After that Warren Warren had her tied up and made Isabella watch. She cut into her like she did you a few nights ago, except she didn’t stop. Hallie kept cursing her and Warren kept hurting her and…” She took a slow steadying breath. “I wasn’t there but I helped Gretel and Helen comfort Isabella after it happened and she told us everything.”

Josephine shuddered. She was beginning to understand why Isabella ’s smiles always seemed so forced, why there was an edge of fear behind her eyes.

“I can’t let Martha die like that.”

“Then talk to her. She doesn’t have to give up but she has to seem to submit.”

“Even that will kill her pride.”

“Better her pride than her life.”

After Gretel left, Josephine sat for a little while longer under the tree and then she stood and went looking for Martha. She found her just finishing a match with Alexandra on the sparring mats. Alexandra flipped Martha with a quick twist of her arm and the young marine hit the mat in a roll. She came up less than gracefully and they both bowed to each other to end the match.

The young marine was flushed and panting, her short dark hair mussed with sweat. There was still the trace of a smile on her lips as she left the mat to pour a glass of water from a pitcher on a nearby table. Her smile faded the moment she saw Josephine sitting on one of the stone benches built into the colonnade that ringed the central courtyard. She sat down beside her almost hesitantly.

“How are you feeling?”

“Not half as bad as the last time I drank the rotgut our unit brewed.”

Martha smiled weakly, “that is still pretty bad.”

Josephine reached for her lover’s hand and caught it in her own, “How about you?”

“Hanging on.”

Josephine leaned closer, practically whispering in her ear, “How are you really?”

Martha whispered back, “Fucking losing my mind. I can’t just watch you get raped again and patiently wait for my turn. We should have tried to escape days ago.”

Josephine looked down at their joined hands, “And exactly how far would we get with these damn collars on?”

“What so we just give up! Am I supposed to be silent as that bitch hurts you?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because Warren will kill you if you keep fighting her!” she’d meant to say it softly but it came out almost like a sob. “I don’t care what it costs, I don’t care how long it takes, we have to survive and escape. Our chance will come, I know it will.”

Martha looked away “I don’t know if I can hang on that long.”

Josephine clutched at her hand, “You have to. I can’t do this alone.”

“I just…”

What she might have said next was lost when she looked up and saw two guards approaching with Lydia from across the courtyard.

Martha sprang to her feet.

Lydia took one look at her and quickly stepped behind the two guards. “Warren has sent for you both.”

“Were not going,” growled Martha.

“Yes you are, even if I have to shock you unconscious so the guards can carry you,” said Lydia. “Now stop acting like a petulant child and come along. You are making everyone’s job harder.”

Josephine stood and laid a hand on Martha’s arm, “Please,” she whispered.

Martha shook her head sharply, “No!”

The shock from the collar brought her down.

Lydia directed the two guards foreword, keeping well back herself, “Connect her wrist cuffs behind her back unless you want her swinging at you the moment she stops shaking.

Josephine put herself between Martha and the guards, “Please, can’t you just leave her out of it for once and ake me alone.”

The two guards, a young man and a slightly older woman traded tired looks.

“We’ve got our orders. Would you want to face Warren after refusing a direct order?” said the woman sounding almost sympathetic.

Josephine stayed where she was. Behind her, Martha was finding her feet again.

“Josephine, get out of the way or I will shock you too,” snapped Lydia.

Josephine didn’t and a wave of pain brought her to her knees. Her hands were locked behind her back by the guards before the haze cleared. She and Martha were half dragged from the courtyard.

Warren was waiting in the bedroom, sitting in one of the chairs reading a tablet. She stood as Lydia entered with her charge.

“What took you so long? When I order a woman to be brought, I mean for it to be done immediately.”

Lydia’s lips thinned but she did not flinch. “They proved resistant, mistress.”

“Josephine as well?”

“Yes, although I believe that was due to concern for her lover. Mistress, if you will consider the words of a slave, I would counsel caution in dealing with them today.”

Warren smiled thinly, “It is a fool who does not listen to her housekeeper, even a slave one. You see more of the women of my harem than I do. I will keep what you have said in mind. Go fetch Kara, I will be needing her tonight as well I think.”

She motioned Lydia to leave and with a bow the greying haired woman did. The guards stayed. Warren considered the two bound women in front of her.

“Honestly Josephine, I thought you were slightly smarter. You won’t get anywhere crossing Lydia or the guards. As for you Martha, well I’m honestly surprised you haven’t caused more trouble.”

She walked a slow circle around them and the two guards that stood to the prisoner’s backs. “Martha, I am afraid I'm going to have to break you sooner than I intended too. It's a shame really, I was going to have such fun. There is no time now. I don't know when the empress will summon me again and she expects both of you to perform to her satisfaction. I cannot risk that you might behave in a defiant manner before her or balk at anything you are ordered to do.”

She paused to trail a hand down Josephine’s arm, “Now while you may have performed well last night I’m not fool enough to believe you are broken. Ultimately women like you, women who bend rather than break, are the most dangerous. I learned that lesson with Alexandra. She never struggled the way Helen did, just bowed her head and clung to dignity in defeat. I thought her quite tame until the day I tried to fuck her unbound and she shoved a sliver of glass between my ribs.”

She tugged up the edge of her shirt to show the jagged red scar. “I made her rue that day but I learned never to trust a woman who submits too easily.” She kept tracing her hand now along Martha’s back, “Women like you are actually easier, women who fight from the start. You are like an oak standing before a storm, enough force makes you crack and break. I’ll know when you’re really broken, I’ll see it in your eyes.”

Martha tried to jerk away from her but she had nowhere to go with the guard holding her bound hands behind her. Warren absently ran a hand down the side of her face, “I did want to take my time with you, break you slowly the way you do a wild horse. I’m afraid I’ll have to be cruder now, resort to the blunt tools of slave breakers and brothel owners.

“If I’d let them auction you off the day you arrived you’d already be a shell of a woman. Do you know what they do to captured soldiers in a brothel? They don’t bother with coy games like me. They’d bind you, drug you, starve you, beat you, and rape you. They’d weaken you physically until the need for food or rest or simply a cessation of pain would make you obey any command.”

“Never,” spat Martha.

“How little you know girl,” laughed Warren. “No woman knows her own limits until she has been pushed past them and you certainly have not. The only question is if I can bring you there without permanently marring your attractive body.

She stepped back and told the guards, “Bind her to the hanging chains and the ones on the floor as well. Leave her with her feet solidly on the ground but I don’t want her free to try and kick me. Cut her clothes from her.”

The guards dragged her over to the chains that hung from the ceiling. In spite of Martha’s struggles her arms were soon over her head and her ankle cuff’s attached to several chains on the floor. She had enough movement to shift her weight but not lower her arms or strike out. The female guard divested her of her clothes with a few quick slashes of a knife from her belt.

Warren watched the procedure with an amused smile and then turned back to Josephine.

“Now, as for you. I think you’re going to help me with tonight’s events.”

“I won’t hurt her.”

She leaned closer and with a flick of her wrist she had a knife against Josephine’s throat. “If you do as I bid, I’m just going to carve my household crest into her back. You know I will, you’ve felt me put a blade to your skin before.”

Josephine bowed her head, “I’ll comply.”

“Good girl,” she turned away and crossed the room to open a box. She lifted up something that looked like a leather whip with many tails. She balanced it on one hand and absently trailed the lines across her wrist.

As she stood there the door opened and Kara was led in by the guards.

Warren made no sign of recognition beyond a glance out of the corner of her eyes. “You know some people actually enjoy this kind of thing. This little whip was made to be a toy for sex, not for punishing slaves. The tips aren’t even knotted.”

She held it up for the women to see before she began a slow circle around Martha trailing the leather against her shoulders and back. She tilted her head to finally acknowledging Kara where she stood.

“This used to be your favorite toy, you bought it for me after all. You loved when I used it on you.””

Kara turned her face away, “That was when I was a free woman and you were not yet a monster.”

“Yes, just students in the officers academy. I think you even loved me then.”

“I was a fool. I learned that the first time you betrayed me.”

“For what it is worth, that truly was politics.” She stepped away from Martha towards Kara, “I did miss you after that, at least I missed fucking you and eventually I did get you back.”

“With a collar around my neck.”

“All the better.” She held out the whip to Kara, “Now, I’ve a task for you. I want you to whip the Terra Nuevan, begin with this and we’ll see how she reacts.”

Kara didn’t take it.

Warren smiled, grabbing her hand and pressing the whip into it, “I’ll never understand why you are so adverse to our old games, you used to so love them.”

“You ruined them for me the first time you bound me against my will and raped me.”

“Suit yourself,” Warren stepped back, “Now get to it. See if you can get the girl to cry out.” She brushed her hand across Martha’s shoulder as she passed her, “and you’d best try and be still. Kara’s very skilled but if you move she might miss and your lover will be kneeling in front of you. If the whip cuts her face she’ll surely be scared. This is going to be a special game, it will last until you beg for it to stop.”

Martha’s eyes narrowed, “go to hell you bitch.”

Warren just grinned, “I’ve been told that even the devil won’t take me.”

Martha barred her teeth, “I’ve had shrapnel dug out of my skin and been stitched up without morphine do you really think a leather toy is going to break me?”

“We’ll see soldier girl.” She kicked Josephine, “Now do as I told you and don’t just make a show of it. If she isn’t reacting like you're trying, I’ll make good on my threat.”

Josephine’s face burned as she knelt in front of Martha.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered as she rested a hand on her leg and leaned forward, spreading her with her fingers and bringing her tongue to the most sensitive part of her.

“Never apologize for touching me, ever,” managed Martha.

When Kara struck her back for the first time with flogger whip, she made a sound that as more surprise than pain. She stayed silent for the next few strikes, although she jerked slightly each time.

Warren made a sigh of annoyance, “You can hit her harder than that Kara, I think she barely notices what you’re doing to her compared to what her lover is doing for her.”

“I’m warming her skin and bringing blood to the surface so that she the skin won’t be cut or scarred. If you just wanted her beaten like a horse you should have had one of your guards do it for you.”

“You always were good at these games, you never marked any woman we shared. Fine, carry on as you see fit so long as you make her cry out.”

Kara returned to her task her strikes coming harder and faster. Martha began to react more, her hands clutching at the chains above her cuffs.

“Now use the one with the knotted tails,” said Warren. Kara set down the whip in her hand and took up a far more real looking one with strips of knotted leather. Before she brought it to Martha she traced a hand over Martha’s back checking for marks. She reached up and touched Martha’s hands.

“Can you grasp my fingers?”

Martha did.

Warren laughed, “You do realize I’m not going to unchain her even if you say this is hurting her.”

Kara cast her a cold look and then took a step back from Martha and brought the leather cat of nine tails against her back. The soldier cried out and jerked away. She bit her lip and made no sound the second time but soon she was gasping for breath, her entire body tense.

Josephine felt her cease completely to respond to her tongue against her clit. She stopped trying.

Warren noticed, “Josephine, go on and use your fingers to fuck her, see if you can feel how she tenses around you every time she’s struck.”

Josephine hated her with every fiber of her being but she remembered the painful bite of the knife against her skin though and how deeply Warren had cut her. She couldn’t give her any excuse to do that to Martha.

Josephine found Martha slick from her earlier attention. Her body was tense and she clenched against Josephine’s fingers three times before they were in her. Josephine pressed her thumb against her clit as she began to slowly fuck her. She could feel Martha tighten around her with each strike of the whip.

She kissed Martha’s stomach and used her free hand to press her leg, wishing she could hold her hand. The next strike brought a gasp and then a soft cry of pain. Every breath was desperate and ragged.

Josephine could feel her begin to move her hips against her in a familiar rhythm in spite of everything else. She’d have given anything to tell her to let go, to lose herself in what pleasure she could give her but she was afraid to speak.

She turned her fingers sharply inside of her and brought her mouth back to her clit. Soon enough she was responding to her again. Josephine felt when she orgasmed, though she couldn’t tell if the cries she made were from pain or pleasure.

“She barely felt that, use the proper whip,” said Warren.

Kara cast her a sharp look but took another from the table. It was not the terrifying bull whip that Josephine had heard the slaves describe as what was usually used for punishment, it was too short for that. It was a length of braided leather though.

Martha screamed the first time it struck her skin. She flushed darkly and managed to only gasp the second time but a soft howl of pain came with the third one. Warren stood, her eyes practically glinting as she slunk closer.

“Now, you can stop this soldier girl, all you have to do is beg.”

“Fuck you.”

Warren leaned over the kneeling Josephine to catch on of Martha’s breasts in her hand and twist the nipple painfully before drawing back, “More like the other way around, but I promise I’ll do that to you very soon.”

She nudged Josephine with her boot, “and you keep fucking her, I didn’t tell you to stop.”

Martha couldn’t suppress her sound at the next blow or the one after, pretty soon she stopped trying. It went on far too long. Josephine tried to get her off again but she was in too much pain.

Suddenly Martha made a desperate sound and Kara stopped whipping her and lowered her hand with a curse.

“Damnit,”

“Why did you stop?” snapped Warren.

“I drew blood.”

“Good, keeping going.”

“I thought you didn’t want her scarred.”

“I’d rather have her scarred and properly broken than have to slit her throat for being unattainable. Go on.”

Kara raised her arm again. Martha’s cries grew more desperate. Josephine couldn’t make herself pretend to fuck her anymore. She withdrew her hand and leaned against her leg, trying to force down her own sobbs. She felt something warm against her hand and realized with a dull sense of shock that blood was running down Martha’s leg.

“Stop it, please.” She begged Warren who was still standing over them watching, “I’ll beg for her.”

Warren grabbed her by the collar and dragged her away from Martha. “You will not. Come here, I think it is past time I finally got to enjoy you.”

She pressed Josephine’s hands together behind her back, causing them to lock together and shoved her on her knees in front of a chair. She sat down and grabbed Josephine’s hair, pulling it hard enough to hurt. She had the knife against her throat before she could react.

“Now you know perfectly well what to do. Don’t you dare bite me and don’t forget that your life is my hands. You’re not a princess or a general, so don’t think for a moment that you are too valuable to kill.”

She undid the clasp of her own pants with her left hand and pushed them down before shoving Josephine’s head down. The blade bit against her throat and she could feel the heat of blood on her neck as it nicked her. Josephine hated her with every fiber of her being but in that instant she feared her even more.

She didn’t understand why this felt somehow worse than anything else Warren had done to her. It had been easier to be hurt while bound than forced to deliberately give her tormenter pleasure.

She closed her eyes and pressed her tongue to the monster's center. She tasted just like any other woman and she reacted much the same.

Josephine tried to forget where she was, tried to forget the cold of the knife and Martha’s cries of pain. She could be pleasuring any woman, any woman in the universe so long as it wasn’t this one. She fell into a familiar rhythm trying to think only of the body before her and the right motions of her tongue and lips.

She remembered when she’d been just a new recruit in basic training. She’d caught the eye of one of the drill sergeants. One day the woman had called her into her room and asked her to do exactly what Warren just had. Josephine supposed she could have refused, walked out the door and damn the consequences. She hadn’t though, she’d needed to get into the military far too desperately. So she’d done as the drill sergeant asked, knelt before the woman’s bed, pleasured her with her fingers and mouth until she came. She had remembered wiping her mouth as she’d stood and left the room, absently thinking that at least it had been quick.

She’d hated that woman too, hated how worthless and violated she’d made her feel, hated how she’s abused her power. She hadn’t been afraid of her though, not like this. In her life, no one had ever made her feel so utterly helpless as Warren did.

Warren’s hand shook when she came and the blade cut deeper. Josephine tried to jerk away but Warren still had her by the hair. Just as quickly, she released her and shoved her away. With her hands bound, Josephine couldn’t catch herself and fell to her side.

With a movement of her hand, Warren motioned one of the guards to Josephine. The guard knelt beside her and undid her cuffs before pressing a cloth to her neck. The bleeding stopped after a moment. It was only after Josephine found the strength to stand up that she realized that Martha had fallen silent. She turned frantically and saw her slumped in her chains, utterly still save for a slow rise and fall of her chest with each breath.

Kara was worriedly checking her wrists, the whip forgotten on the floor.

“Wake her up,” snapped Warren.

“You’ve got to take her down, her hands have gone cold.”

“I gave you an order.”

Kara looked at her with eyes that still held some essential spark, “I won’t maim or kill her for you. I’ve enough to answer for at the dark gate without carrying your sins for you as well.”

Warren stood, “I’ll make you regret those words.”

Kara met her gaze coldly, “Then beat or starve me. There is only one thing left you can do that would truly hurt me and you won’t give up that much power over me for the sake of a small disobedience.”

“You’re too canny for your own good. Very well, I’ll punish you. Let’s see what new piece of your mind you lose this time I lock you in the dark room.”

She turned to look back at Martha, “As for her, I think perhaps she has been beaten enough for one day. I don’t need her deeply scarred. Let us see how she does after two days of no food, water, or light.”

She motioned to the guards, “Take them both, bind and lock them each in separate small cells.”

Josephine forced herself to stand, “Please, Martha’s hurt, let the doctor see her.”

Warren turned and struck her hard enough with her open hand to send her back to the ground, “Shut up. Just be glad I’m letting you go back to the harem.”

She strode from the room. Josephine watched from the floor as the guards uncoupled Martha’s cuffs and carried her from the room with a resigned Kara following.

She lay down on her side and curled up as small as she could. She was still like that when she heard the door open and close. Someone knelt beside her and a warm cloth was pressed to her neck.

She tried to jerk away but gentle hands stopped her.

“Sh, easy girl, just you rest. Let me see to your neck,” said Lydia.

“Where did she take Martha?” asked Josephine, not bothering to rise now that she knew it was only Lydia.

“One of the cells under the house, wretched places but at least they're clean. I’ve made sure of that.”

“Martha was hurt bad, she needs a doctor.”

“She’s not hurt half so bad as you think and she’ll see a doctor when she’s let out in two days.”

She finished with washing Josephine’s neck and carefully applied a bandage. “There now, that’s barely a scratch no need for stitches or anything fancy.” She took an ice pack from her bag and snapped it to activate it before pressing it to Josephine’s cheek. “Your cheek is going to swell up. I’m surprised she struck you in the face. She doesn’t usually do that. At least you know she’ll leave you alone for a few days, she never likes to bed a woman with bruises on her face.”

Josephine turned away from her.

Lydia sighed, “Fine, I don’t suppose you would want to talk to me. Is there anyone I can tell to come comfort you. You’ve been in the harem long enough, you must have friends by now.”

Josephine almost said no but stopped herself, “Gretel.”

“All right I’ll go find her for you.”

She left her like that, still lying on the floor. She knew she should at least get up and go to the bed but she couldn’t find the strength. The door opened again and Josephine raised her head to see Gretel.

The blond woman lay down beside her on the carpet, pulling her into her arms, “She took Martha then?”

Josephine nodded hiding her face in Gretel’s shoulder.

Gretel rubbed her back, “I know it hurts. She locked Helen away a few times our first year here. She always gave her back.”

“I can’t…I just can’t do this. I thought I could, at least I did when she was only hurting me. I thought I was strong but I can’t hold myself together if she’s hurting Martha too.” Her words finished with a suppressed sob.

“Yes you can. Goddess knows, if I can survive here you can too. You can’t break, Martha’s going to need you when Warren lets her out.” She tilted Josephine’s face to look up at hers, “Go ahead cry now, get it out of your system while it doesn’t matter.”

Josephine tried to refuse but a desperate sob clawed at her throat. She hid her face and let her fear and panic take her. She sobbed, hurt and desperate wounded animal sounds, her whole body shuddering until she had nothing left.

When she was done Gretel washed her face for her and finally urged her up onto the bed. She fell asleep in the Germanacan’s arms feeling as empty as a spent shell casing.

Chapter Text

Josephine woke briefly when Gretel left in the morning and then slept until almost noon. She wanted to curl up and hide beneath the blankets but she needed to get out of that room. She went back to her own and showered. She sat down on the edge of the bed but it seemed far too small a space and she was hungry.

She went into the breakfast room and found some bread cheese and fruit. The servants always left some things out. When she stepped back out in the courtyard it was hot and almost cloying. Sunlight glinted off the central pool.

She saw Eli practicing with a punching bag that was set up on the far side of the courtyard.

“Do you want to spar?”

Eli gave her a worried glance. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Gretel said… well she said to be nice to you.”

“I won’t go crazy on you I just want to move.”

“Okay.”

They bowed in the central of the courtyard and fell into easy motions, as much practicing their forms as actually fighting. The movement and the focus really did help. By the time they finished she was exhausted and sore. Eli gave her a slap on the shoulder,

“Come on let’s swim, Isabella’s already in the reflecting pond.”

She began to undress as she walked, tugging her shirt over head and stepping out of her pants. She didn’t stop with her underwear, shedding those as well before diving into the water gracefully.

Josephine paused for half a moment but then with a shrug ditched her shirt and pants but kept her underwear and bra as she walked down the steps into the cool water. She could not swim, so she stayed on the steps.

Isabella finished her lap and pulled herself up onto one of the pools steps. Her white slip was nearly translucent from the water and it was all Josephine could do to keep her eyes on the beautiful girl’s face and not her other parts.

Eli swam over to Isabella and sat down one step beneath her. The water just reached Eli’s hip, exposing her lean scarred chest to the air. Her breasts were small and firm with dark nipples. Tattoos traced across her body, a dragon on her back and a snake curling down one arm and around her right breast.

Isabella glanced at the naked woman and rolled her eyes.

Eli grinned, “Oh don’t look so judgmental princess.”

“I’m not judging, just impressed by your utter lack of modesty, my dear pirate.”

“Does my body offend you?” asked Eli.

Isabella ’s face softened, “A woman’s form could never offend me but surely your mother must have taught you that it’s not proper to bare yourself naked before the eyes of strange men,” she tilted her head towards two of the guards near the gate, a young man and an older one, neither of whom was paying any attention to the women in the water.

“I’m pretty sure that is something my mother made a regular practice of. When I asked her who my father was, she gave me a pretty long list of possibilities. Besides, why should I care if one of the guards sees me? They all know better than to touch any of us, and I can certainly gut any who dare.”

“That doesn’t make it proper,” snapped Isabella. “A man would never have been permitted to enter the royal harem of the palace of Delvia. Simply because General Warren keeps us like pets does not mean we need to devolve to the level of animals."

Josephine said nothing, listening instead.

Eli leaned back against the steps stretching out her legs. “Yea well we’re both a long way from home sweetheart. You’re a sex slave on Varcia not a princess in your father’s palace.”

Isabella tilted her head back considering the clouds above her, “My father is dead and the palace I was born in is nothing but rubble. How could any woman forget that?”

“Forgive me. That was cruel,” said Eli.

“Not deliberately, just blunt as is your nature. You’ve not lived a life that called for subtly.”

Eli said nothing nor did Isabella for a time.

“So did you grow up in a harem?” asked Josephine.

Isabella nodded, “Yes, although it was very different from this place. There is only one word for harem in standard but what the Varcian’s call a harem is not what Delvian’s would. All of my father’s wives and concubines and their children lived in the women’s quarters. They could of course leave but no man could enter, not even the king.”

Eli blinked, “Wait, so the king couldn’t enter his own harem?”

“It was the women’s space not his. He could invited women to his quarters but even he could not enter theirs, as is only proper.”

“Things don’t work like that on Terra Nuevan,” said Josephine, “my parents shared a room until my father died.” Although it had really just been part of the one room they had all lived in separated by a curtain. “And my whole unit shared bathrooms and barracks, men and women both.”

The princess shrugged, “I suppose a different culture might have its own traditions for married couples and soldiers.”

Eli laughed, “Damn if your aren’t a born diplomat.”

“That is what I was bred and raised for. As the younger daughter of a lesser wife, I was meant to be married off for the sake of some alliance or other. My life was always intended to be lived behind stone walls, I just never dreamed they would be as cruel as these.”

Her voice had cooled, losing its usual light and playful air. When Josephine looked at the princess, she saw something tired and sharp in her young face. She was far more weighed down by her fate than she normally let the others think.

Eli watched her thoughtfully, “Hell, at least I had a few good years of freedom before I got captured and collared. You never had that did you?”

“Raging against the fates is a fools game. We can do nothing but face our destinies with our heads held high,” she spoke as if repeating a nursery rhyme.

“Your mother teach you to say that?”

“Yes,” there was ice in her voice.

“You’re awfully grim today princess.”

“And you’re a vulgar clown,” she snapped before he standing and walking away.

Once she was gone Eli glanced at Josephine, “I didn’t mean to make her upset. Gods, I can’t seem to say anything right to her. I’ve a talent for quick words but it’s gotten me into as much trouble as its gotten me out of.”

“I know the feeling,” said Josephine.

Eli leaned back against the higher step, stretching out her legs in the water. “You know she even let me bed her once, although I’m still not sure she really wanted me. It was not long after Warren had murdered her bodyguard. One night Warren had me fuck the little princess and not in a gentle way. I hated it, but I learned a long time ago doing what Warren wants is the safest for everyone. The next night Isabella came to my room. She didn’t say a word, just yanked off her dress and made her meaning pretty clear. I almost refused her, I could see was hurting pretty bad and wasn’t sure if doing what she wanted would make it worse. I like chasing and seducing but I don’t like making women sad.

“She was desperate and beautiful enough I didn’t turn her away. I touched her like she asked and let her touch me. The whole time I could see the determination in her eyes, like she was trying to take back something that had been ripped from her, as if she could own her body again if she could choose how to use it just once.

“Of course, I wasn’t exactly special. She made the rounds after that and bedded every woman she’d been forced to fuck before. She got to Alexandra last and apparently and the old war dog had whatever the hells she was looking for.”

Josephine looked down at her feet in the water, kicking them absently. “Do you always tell other people’s stories?”

The dark haired woman shrugged, “Why shouldn’t I? It hurts less than telling my own. Get me drunk and I’ll tell you far more than you ever want to hear.”

“Fair enough.”

Josephine closed her eyes, feeling the coolness of the water around her and the warmth of the sun over her skin. She heard Eli scoot closer and felt her hand on her shoulder. “You know, you look like shit. If you need to talk or fuck or be held or get blind drunk I’m happy to oblige. This place is hell if we don’t do what we can for each other.”

“I appreciate the offer but unless you can get Martha back from wherever that bitch locked her up, there’s not much you can do.”

“Afraid not, I’ll leave you to it then. You know where to find me.”

After Eli left Josephine stayed in the water until her fingers were all shriveled up. Then she climbed out, wrapped a towel around herself and went back to her room and slept until dark.

 

 

It was late the next morning when Lydia came to fetch her. Josephine had seen no point getting out of bed. Lydia entered after a precursory knock and She set down a bundle of simple but attractive clothes on a chair.

“Come on get up, the mistress is taking you out today.”

Josephine sat up with a jerk, “Fuck, is she taking me back to the palace?”

“No, we’re accompanying her to a slave market. I believe she wants you to see what they are like. Now get dressed, we don’t have long.”

Josephine reluctantly rose and pulled on the clothes. The black trousers fit so well she knew they’d been tailored for her and the grey short-sleeved top was silk and had swirls embroidered along the hem. Lydia made her sit on the edge of the bed as she quickly brushed and styled her hair.

“You must be obedient and silent today. You’ll see things you don’t like and you must not react badly or shame our mistress.”

“Yea, yea, beaten dog, I know the act.”

Lydia’s lips thinned but she didn’t say anymore.

 

They met Warren downstairs. She was dressed as simply as Josephine had ever seen her, not in a military uniform but boots as shiny as dark glass and brown pants supple against her skin. Her white shirt and coat were close to a military cut, as if she were never completely comfortable in civilian clothes.

She arched an eyebrow at Josephine, “Now do I need to leash you or are you going to behave?”

Josephine’s glare must have told her what she wanted to know because she took a leash from her coat and clipped it to Josephine’s collar. The car was waiting for them outside.

Josephine avidly watched the city slip past the tinted window. She tried to memorize the path the car took but she was quickly hopelessly turned around. Even if she could have used this as a chance to escape she’d never be able to find her way back to free Martha.

They crossed through a seemingly endless expanse of high walled compounds to a far more crowded metropolis of high buildings and crowded streets. They moved beyond these as well to a place of huge warehouses and wider streets. The car stopped outside one of the huge grey buildings.

They stepped out along with two of Warrens guards and into a huge dim building. Josephine had never been in a barn before in her life but she imagined this must be what they were like. The scent of frightened and crowded humanity, even subdued by good air filters, washed over her.

Dark memories of the prison transport rose up and her stomach tightened. She’d have stopped in the doorway if Warren hadn’t used her leash to tug her forward. The room was huge, bisected by multiple divisions and stalls.

Near the door a cold eyed Varcian man who had a whip on his hip steeped foreword and bowed. “Welcome General Warren, so good to have you back here. If I may ask what are you looking for? We’ve just had another shipment of recently captured Nuevan soldiers if that might interest you.”

Warren inclined her head to him. “Nothing that exotic this time. My cook needs an assistant, so I’m looking for a Varcian born slave girl or woman who’s worked in a kitchen before.”

“My assistant Ezra can help you with that,” the man motioned a young woman foreword.

The woman bowed and Warren did not offer her even a head nod.

“This way please,” said the woman.

Warren followed with a roll of her eyes. To Lydia she said, “Honestly I don’t know what this place has come to. Even a general is handed off to an assistant, if she’s not buying a valuable courtesan or war slave. Maybe I should have just sent you with the guards to buy the kitchen help.”

“As you will mistress,” said Lydia.

The assistant was tapping at a tablet as she walked, “Do you have any other requirements other than that the slave has kitchen experience?”

“She’s supposed to be an assistant to my current cook and hopefully an apprentice to her. So someone young enough to still learn, a girl or young woman would be best.”

“Very good.”

She led them to door that had a guard outside of it. The guard opened it and they stepped into a large room filled with pallets.

Empty eyed women looked up at them. The assistant called out a list of numbers and about ten women and girls stood up and wearily made a line. They all wore simple grey trousers and shirts, more akin to hospital scrubs than civilian clothes. The assistant began to walk down the line listing off age and past ownership for each.

Lydia hung back, pausing at each woman to speak quietly with her. If they were surprised to be spoken to by another slave none showed it, instead most whispered back to her quickly.

Warren let the assistant talk for a few more minutes and then looked to Lydia. The slave nodded towards a girl of about thirteen. She was painfully thin and had a large wine colored birthmark across half her face. She had wavy hair all tangled up in a braid she hadn’t redone in days.

“That one? Really. She looks like a half starved dog.”

Lydia nodded and said softly, “She’s got proper calluses on her hands and she’s no stranger to hard work. She says she was owned by a bakery last and can make fancy pastries. No one in your household can do that.”

The girl came forward with her eyes down. Warren glanced her up and down once with only minimal interest and then motioned over the assistant. “I'll take this one on the condition that her shots and health check are recent and her price is fair.”

"They are, as for the price..."

What followed was a very quick back and forth negotiation of numbers that Josephine didn't fully understand but it ended with Warren signing the tablet the assistant held out to her.

Their business concluded the assistant led them back out through the facility. The girl followed meekly, keeping close to Lydia as if she already trusted her.

Just before they came to the entrance, Warren said, "I think I would like to see those recent Terran captures. Lydia you take the girl back to the car and wait."

The assistant perked up as she led them down a corridor and then through a door with a key code and a lock, "Are you truly interested in buying one? They are completely unbroken, you know. Most are only fit for the arenas."

Warren turned down a corridor clearly knowing where she was going, "Check my purchase history, generally those are the kind I'm looking for."

They passed through another door and came to a very dark room that smelled of piss and blood. Josephine's stomach knotted and had she not so feared Warren she'd have paused in her step.

The assistant flipped a switch and flooded the space with light. The walls were lined with small metal barred cells barely large enough to allow a person to lay down. In each was a man or woman in the tattered ruins of a Terra Nuevan uniform. They all wore heavy shock collars and their hands were bound in front of them. Most didn't bother to do more than turn their heads towards the door. They were painfully thin and coated with the level of grime and despair that had clung to Martha and Josephine during their captivity on the prison transport.

Warren started down the length the room, "Come along Josephine, let us see if you recognized any of them. Maybe some of your old friends are here, although I'm sure your unit has all been sold."

Like a woman condemned, Josephine followed her. In each cell she saw fear and despair and sometimes surprise. They saw her Terra Nuevan features set against fine silk and didn't know if she was a friend or a new tormenter.

Warren paused in front of the cell of a woman who wore a lieutenant’s stripes on her torn uniform. Her dark hair was almost matted. It was hard to tell if she was young or old. When she raised her dirty face her eyes burned with nothing short of pure hatred.

"What's this one's history?" asked Warren stepping closer.

"I can't sell her to you," said the assistant keeping well away from the bars.

"I can pay, if that is the issue," said Warren.

"It doesn't matter. She's been rated as too dangerous for domestic sale. She snapped the neck of one guard who thought he might try to have a little fun with her. Now she's heading straight for the arenas. They're going to make a big event of her fight. Apparently she's killed a lot of our people on the field."

"It's a waste, I could make a pet of her with enough time."

The young assistant shuddered, "You didn't see the guards body when she was done with it."

"I can imagine," said Warren. She kept walking down the row of cells. "Is the Lieutenant the only woman?"

"They're more likely than the men to eat their own guns before they let themselves be captured."

"True enough. I only have the two I do because their trench gassed with a stunning agent when it was taken." She paused and turned back to Josephine, trailing a hand lightly across her face. "I found this one lying in the mud, curled up asleep around her gun like it could protect her."

"It jammed," said Josephine very softly.

Warrens eyes widened ever so slightly, "I did wonder."

The assistant coughed, "Do you want to see any others? They're all arena bait really, the brothels aren't usually interested in buying more than one or two of the men."

"I've seen enough, come along Josephine, there's one more place I want to show you today."

...

 

The brightness of the sunlight was almost blinding when they stepped from the facility and back into the car that the guard had brought around. The girl obediently followed them into the car although she was shaking like a leaf. Lydia laid a gentle hand on her shoulder and spoke with her very softly once she was seated.

Warren tapped the intercom and said something to the driver. To Josephine she said, "We're not going home quite yet. There's something else I want you to see."

They drove back into the city, on busy highways and then down narrower and narrower streets, until the height of the buildings almost blotted out the light of the sun. At last they stopped in a narrow alley full of brightly lit red doorways.

Warren stepped from the car motioning Josephine to follow. They walked up a narrow staircase into a very utilitarian looking lobby. A few young looking Varcian soldiers sat about, clearly waiting for something. There was a desk with a bored looking soldier, tapping at a screen.

When he saw Warren and Josephine a slightly confused expression crossed his face. "Ma'am?"

Warren went to the desk and handed him an ID card.

The man took it, looking at it uncertainly "We don't normally get officers here, much less generals. You know you're entitled to go to the Golden Harp over on Red Lantern Street."

"I know."

The clerk bit his lip but nodded, "Right, um." He tapped some keys. "Room Seven is open now."

"Very good," said Warren and turned to go up the hallway.

"Wait, you can't take the slave with you," called the clerk.

Warren turned and gave him a withering look, "Considering that you have just realized about my rank and position, do you really want to tell me what I can and can't do?"

His eyes widened like a rabbit in the headlights, "No Ma'am go ahead."

"Smart boy," mumbled Warren as they walked up the tilted hall. There was a door with a number seven on it and a green light above it. Warren pushed it open and they stepped into a small and not terribly clean room.

There was a bed, a sink, and nothing else. Josephine didn't notice any of that. What she saw was the woman. She was lying curled up on the side of the bed. She was naked and made no move to cover herself with the utilitarian blanket.

She wearily half raised her head when the door closed. Her eyes were clouded with either drugs or despair. She was young and had very little left of what had once been a soldiers build after far too many weeks of starvation and forced immobilization. One of her ankles was chained to the bed. Her features were unmistakably Terra Nuevan, even beneath the bruises.

"This is where you'd have gone if you weren't bought by a private owner," said Warren evenly. "It's where you'll still end up if I get tired of you."

Josephine felt a wave of panic and nausea wash over her. "I'll kill myself first."

"She probably said the same thing." Warren walked the half step across the tiny room to the edge of the bed.

"What was your name and rank?" she asked.

The woman stared at her blankly and said nothing.

"Josephine, you come here and ask her."

Josephine pressed her back against the door, "No."

"Get over here, or I swear I really will let your lover die in the dark room I've locked her in."

Josephine forced her feet to move. They gave out under her and she knelt next to the bed.

"Who are you?"

The woman didn't respond.

"Soldier. Name, rank, and number."

Something like the memory of a spark came to the woman's eyes, "Jenny Parker, private first class, Fifty-Second Unit."

Josephine reached for her hand.

Warren slapped Josephine's wrist, "Don't touch her. Gods only know what she's got. Half the enlisted men have been through this brothel by now."

Anger boiled up inside of Josephine and she glared up at Warren, "She's still a human you heartless fucking bitch! She's a soldier just like me."

"No, she's a body that just doesn't know it’s dead yet." She caught Josephine roughly by the collar at the back of her neck, half dragging her to her feet, "and while you are still a human, you are no soldier my dear pet. If you were still a soldier you'd fight me until your last breath, not let me lead you around like a well trained dog."

Even a week before Josephine would have lashed out, elbowed her hard in the gut. Instead she fought down her rising anger and panic and went completely limp.

"You're the fool who thinks her pet wolf tame."

Warren laughed, clearly pleased. "I await the day you finally bite with bated breath."

She released Josephine and gave the bed a good kick with her booted foot. "Come on, let’s get out of this place, it smells of cheap sex and misery."

...

 

Josephine was bone weary by the time they returned to the house. She dragged herself to her room, lay down and fell into a deep and dreamless sleep. She woke when the door creaked open.

Martha stood in the feint light of the twin moons that shone in through the windows. Her shoulders were slumped and she seemed to be shivering. She was wearing clean grey clothes and her hair was still damp from a wash.

Josephine sat up and opened her arms, "Come here,"

Martha slumped onto the bed and Josephine pulled her against herself. The first sob was slow in coming and then the soldier couldn't stop them anymore.

Josephine held her, feeling utterly powerless.

"I can't. I just can't anymore," managed Martha.

"You can. I know you can."

She shook her head sharply, "If she puts me back in that room...I just can't. I can face anything but that cold blackness again."

"We'll stop fighting her, she won't put you back there again," It cost Josephine everything to say that.

Martha raised her head, "There are other ways out."

"No!"

"Why not? If we'd had the chance to take our capsules before we were captured we would have."

Josephine pulled herself away from Martha so she could sit up against the headboard. "That was before."

"Before what?"

"Before we knew the situation."

Martha sat up cross legged, "You mean before we knew we'd end up in a gilded cage instead of thrown into a brothel or arena?"

"Yes, because here we have some hope of escaping."

"I'm not stupid Josephine, we both know we fucking don't. I'd rather go out on my own terms, as a soldier, than die like a dog at that sadistic bitches hands."

"We are not going to die damn it!"

Martha stood and crossed the room to lean against the wall, her hands clenched at her sides, "What, so you'd rather submit like a goddamn coward? Where the hell is your pride?"

"In the mud on Io with our dead comrades."

"We should have died with them."

Josephine shook her head and wrapped her arms around herself, "Dead is dead Martha. Maybe you're not afraid to die but I am."

Martha lowered her head, "Of course I'm afraid."

"Then don't fucking off yourself. Stay with me, please. I can't do this alone."

"You don't need me."

"Yes I do. Please, hang on just a bit longer. The dark gate will always be waiting but we only get one time in the light."

Martha's face softened and she came and sat on the edge of the bed, "why do you always have to quote that damn poet."

"I like Evelyn Garcia," she crawled over to her lover.

Martha shook her head heavily, "You carried that damn book around like a sacred text."

"Brings me about as much comfort," she laid her head down in Martha's lap. Martha began to gently stroke her hair. "You really want me to stay?"

"Yes," she murmured.

She leaned down and kissed her on top of the head. "I love you, you know. If you won't follow me down, then I'll stay in this living hell with you."

"Thank you."

There was a silence then, where Josephine should have said she loved Martha. If Martha was waiting for her to say it,  she never said so.

 

Dawn came with its warm light and when they cross the courtyard the air smelled cloyingly sweet. Half the green vines that wrapped the columns of the courtyard had bloomed overnight with long petaled white flowers.

At breakfast Helen was sneezing and Isabella was drinking some kind of tea with the flower petals in it.

"We should rip the damn things up, roots and all," insistent Helen.

"You wouldn't be sneezing if you let the doctor give you an allergy shot," said Gretel with an only slightly nagging tone. Clearly it was an old argument.

"I'm not medicating myself for a damn plant. They shouldn't be here in the first place."

"I kind of like them," said Eli. "It's a shame you weak Germanacans can't even deal with a little flower pollen."

"Shut up pirate," growled Helen. "You almost choked to death from anaphylactic shock the last time the cook put peanuts in the cookies. Now they won't put them in anything and I like peanuts."

"Clearly Lydia thinks you'd use them to poison me."

"You make it sound very tempting."

"Ladies, please. Can we have at least one breakfast without death threats?" asked Alexandra as she set down her coffee cup.

Eli offered her an almost rakish smile, "who are you calling a lady?"

Alexandra raised an eyebrow, "my fellow prisoners of war then."

"I was never a soldier."

"My fellow prisoners of war and illegally imprisoned privateers then."

"I actually prefer 'that fucking pirate bitch' if you're letting me choose my own form of address."

Alexandra smiled in spite of herself, "I'm afraid I currently reserve the term "fucking bitch" exclusively for our captor."

"Fair enough," laughed Eli and returned to her hot chocolate.

Josephine couldn't bring herself to eat anything but she forced herself to sip at her coffee. It seemed strange to her how quickly she'd gotten used to the taste of milk and sugar after so many years of the bitter black brew made from overused grounds in the trenches.

Beside her Martha slowly ate a piece of bread while looking at everything else on the table.

"Don't do it," warned Helen when she noticed her eyeing some of the bacon. "You eat anything other than bread for your first meal after three days of starving and you're going to puke it up. I know from experience."

Martha gave her a less than grateful look but still listened to her.

"She still using the whole four by four dark padded room routine?" asked Eli.

"Eli!" snapped Isabella, "you will not further traumatize our friend after she has suffered an ordeal!"

"I wasn't, I just wanted to know. In case you've forgotten, I spent a lot of my first year here in that room."

"The first time's still the hardest," said Tali softly. "Especially if you’re afraid of small places. She only did it to me twice, I think it bothered her that I stopped talking for a month after the second time.

No one had much to add to that. Kara's absence hung over them heavily. They all knew she was still locked away.

 

...

 

They spent most of the day beside the pool. Martha's back was hurting her terribly, even with the painkillers the doctor had given her. Josephine leaned against one of the trees and Martha lay on her side with her head in her lap.

It was late afternoon when Kara was brought back into the harem by the guards. She looked tired but was otherwise unhurt and turned immediately towards her room. Martha started when she saw her and scrambled to her feet.

Kara wearily held up a hand, "I don't have the energy to fight you."

Martha shook her head, "I've no grudge against you."

Kara blinked, "I beat you half to death, before I refused to do more."

"Which makes you the first Varcian soldier who's actually tried not to kill me."

A thin smile crossed the former general’s lips, “Unlike the bitch who keeps us I believe a woman should die like a warrior with her head held high, not a broken down like a dog."

"On a better day we should spar."

"I would like that." Kara offered her a nod and then turned down the hallway that led to her room.



Warren sent for them that night. She was seated on a couch beside a low wooden table drinking wine when they entered the room. She motioned them towards the second couch across from her. The guards followed them, standing behind them as they always did.

"Sit, drink. There's wine." There were two other glasses on the table along with a brightly wrapped package in pink and white paper.

Neither woman made any motion.

"Go on, it is much better than the stuff Lydia buys for the harem."

"I don't want to be drugged again," said Josephine.

"If I wanted you drugged, I could have held down and injected. This really is just wine. I thought I'd be civil and have a conversation with you"

Josephine traded a look with Martha and then shrugged and took up the long stemmed glass. Even as finely made as it was she could tell it was heavy plastic. Warren was no fool. She wasn't going to give her slaves any kind of potential weapon.

It tasted sharp and bitter. Josephine had never drunk anything but beer and cheap rotgut before her capture and she had no idea if it was good or not. Martha's hand shook violently as she tried to hold her own glass and most of it ended up on her lap. She didn't try to drink.

"There, see. Not so bad." Warren's voice was soft, almost soothing. It terrified Josephine.

Warren nudged the package towards Josephine, "Go on, open it."

Josephine didn't want to. Gods only knew what as under that paper but she knew that Warren would make sure she knew by the end of the night no matter what she did. She reached out and took the paper. She ripped it quickly, like a child with a present.

A heavy and well worn hardback book fell into her hands. Songs of Light and Shadows by Evelyn Garcia tumbled into her hands.

"How..." She felt as if her heart had been ripped out and handed back to her.

"Lydia tells me that it was actually quite hard to find. Books in Castilian are hard to come by on Varcia and apparently no one here has felt the need to translate a Nuevan novelist."

"I knew the room was fucking bugged," snarled Martha.

Warren rolled her eyes, "Well of course. Did you think you weren't constantly being watched?" She leaned forward, her lips beginning to turn into a Cheshire grin, "Consider the book a gift to mark the passing of a significant event. Most women in my harem eventually attempt suicide before they finally submit, I'm rather impressed you both decided to skip that step."

Josephine dropped the book like it was on fire.

Beside her Martha slowly set down her glass, "You'd have never actually let me escape that way would you?”

"You know you may be smarter than you look soldier girl. You may still leave this place as a corpse but it will be because you died at my hand, not your own. There are a lot of things worse than death, don't make me show them to you."

Martha bowed her head and dropped the half empty glass in her hand. It bounced on the floor. "What the hell do you want from me?"

Warren leaned across table to tilt her chin up with a single finger. "your complete and unconditional submission. I'm a practical woman though and I'll settle for simple obedience tonight You are going to hold your lover as I fuck her for the first time." She tilted her head towards the bed, "Go on strip her and, get her slick and ready for me, unless you want me to shove a toy inside of her dry."

Anger and despair played across Martha's face. Josephine took her hand, "Please," she said softly. Martha slumped into herself and obediently let Josephine tug her from the chair towards the bed.

Josephine paused at the edge of the bed chucking off her shirt and pants without any great ceremony. Martha watched her blankly.

"How can you just...?"

"Because I don't want them cut from me," snapped Josephine as she crawled onto the bed.

Martha shrugged off her over shirt but kept the rest of her clothes. She followed her lover onto the bed. She stretched out over Josephine, as if she could protect her by simply shielding her nakedness from their tormenter.

Josephine grabbed her head and kissed her with frightened desperation. Martha kissed her back, because what choice did she have? Josephine was warm and pliant beneath her.

If she closed her eyes and focused on the feel of the woman in her arms she could forget where she was, that there was a madwoman and two guards watching them. It was just her and Josephine stealing a moment on a hard bunk in the shadows of the barracks.

Josephine responded to her touches, arching against the hand she used to caress her breasts and spreading her legs for her. Martha half wondered if it were an act but when she brought her fingers between her legs she found her wet. Of all the things she had to wonder or question, at least she knew her lover wanted her.

Josephine made a soft gasping sound when she felt Martha push one and then two fingers into her, even as she brushed her thumb against her clit. She began to rock her hand, setting an easy rhythm that soon had Josephine gasping.

"Enough," said Warren. She was at the edge of the bed. The two women both looked up at her warily.

"Martha get off her and lean back against the headboard. Josephine lean back against her.

Reluctantly Martha and Josephine obeyed, rearranging themselves so that Josephine lay in Martha's arms.

Warren walked to the edge of the bed and tapped a panel so that she could reach a short length of chain. She clipped it to a link at the back of Martha's collar. "Don't try to lean forward or you'll choke yourself and that would be a waste," then she cuffed Martha's hands together in front of Josephine.

She tapped another panel and drew out two longer chains. She clipped on of each to Josephine's wrist cuffs. Josephine could move some but not reach forward with her hands,

She stepped back and briefly considered the tableau before her, "You know you are both quite fetching like this. The broken little slut and the woman who is powerless to defend her. Someday we'll be able to do this without me binding either of you."

She took a box from a cabinet and set it on the heavy wooden table beside the bed before kicking off her shoes and crawling onto the bed.

She touched the side of Josephine's face almost gently. "I'm not going to make this easy for you little soldier."

Then she kissed her roughly, brutally and utterly without passion. Josephine had been kissed countless times before in her life, for fun, for love, for desire, for fear of loneliness. Never before had any kiss, even the most desperate stolen moment during a quick fuck with a stranger in the trenches, felt as empty as this.

It would have been easier if Warren had hurt her then, done anything other than the almost gentle way she trailed her hands down her naked body. She took her time, slowly exploring her the way a blind woman might touch a sculpture.

She slipped her fingers between Josephine's thighs, feeling the wetness on her labia and then brushing her thumb across her clit.

Josephine jerked in Martha's arms and tried to pull away from Warren but she had nowhere to go but closer to her lover. Martha made an ugly snarling sound and tried to move but her collar kept her trapped. She tried anyway and the collar cut into her throat.

"Please Martha," murmured Josephine. "Please, just this once, don't fight for me."

Martha stilled behind her, leaning back against the headboard and panting for breath.

"You should listen to her, she's smarter than you," said Warren, leaning past Josephine to stroke Martha's cheek, her fingers still damp from Josephine. The soldier trembled but did nothing but turn her face away.

"Good girl, you're finally learning. Now be quiet and watch me fuck your lover in your arms."

This time she didn't hesitate when she shoved one and then two fingers into Josephine. The soldier tried to tense against the intrusion but that didn't stop it from happening, it never did. She closed her eyes and leaned back against Martha as Warren added another finger and brought her thumb to her clit.

She was too tired to fight, to even care about anything. Warren knew what she was doing and Josephine hated her body for responding. Every press of the generals strong fingers, every brush of her thumb against her clit brought sparks of pleasure that clawed at her. It wasn't the first time her body had responded to a woman who was violating her, but somehow with Warren it was worse. Hatred should have cooled her body’s libido but instead it fed it.

Warren pulled away to retrieve a dildo from the box on the bed and clip it to something she was wearing under her pants.

Josephine almost felt relieved. The general’s hands had felt far too intimate but the toy at least was more disconnected and looked big enough to hurt. And hurt it did when Warren thrust it into her, making her cry out and bringing tears to the edge of her eyes. Warren fucked her in earnest then, rough and hard and as deep as the toy would allow her.

Josephine couldn't suppress the sounds she was making, mostly from pain, some clearly not. She felt something warm and wet on her shoulder and realized that Martha must be crying. She was secretly glad that her lover couldn't see her face, it would have been more than she could bear.

She felt an orgasm beginning to coil inside of her. She was at the cusp of it when Warren made a sharp gasp and after a few more thrusts stilled, shuddering over her. The toy had clearly been one of the one's designed to press against the wearers clit.

Warren was heavy over her body and she considered for a moment what would happen if she kneed her. Fear kept her bound. Warren slowly opened her eyes. They were a mercurial silver in the dim light of the bedroom. She pushed up on her elbows, hands on Josephine's shoulders and considered her, taking in her ragged breath.

"You are close, aren't you, poor thing."

She slowly began to withdrawal and then shoved back into her so roughly that Josephine sobbed.

Warren's grin just widened, "I don't normally give much of a fuck about the pleasure of women underneath me but I'm not unchaining you until your lover gets to watch me make you come."

She punctuated her words with a few more sharp thrusts. She balanced her weight with one hand and reached between them to find Josephine's clit and press it painfully hard with each movement of her body.

It was too much. Josephine bit her own lip so hard she drew blood and sobbed her release. Warren pulled the toy out of her the moment she grew silent.

When nothing happened next Josephine opened her eyes. Warren was standing beside the bed, looking perfectly collected, pants already buttoned. Wordlessly she walked a short distanced to the chair she had earlier abandoned.

"I'm going to unchain you both. I trust neither of you is stupid enough to try anything right now."

One tap to her wrist strap and all of the chains unclipped. Josephine pulled her aching wrists to her chest and worriedly turned to look at Martha. Her lover's face was as blank as a mask. All of the anger that had so often marked her features was wiped away, buried deep enough she could keep it down but not far enough to hide its absence.

"You can go ahead and fuck her now. I'd like to see if you can get her to come half as loudly as I just did."

Martha didn't reply, just buried her face in Josephine's shoulder, pulling her exhausted lover closer. Josephine took Martha's hand in her own and kissed the palm. She felt cold and empty inside, the only warm thing left in the world was the body behind her.

She wanted nothing more than to stay exactly as they were, but she had no choice. She covered Martha's hand with her own and pressed it between her legs. She tilted her head back and whispered in the shell of Martha's ear.

"Please help me forget her, forget all of this."

Martha kissed her neck and began to move her index finger in a slow circle around Josephine's clit. Josephine closed her eyes and sunk into the familiar touch. She wouldn't have thought her body could respond again but it awoke eagerly to her lovers caress.

She tugged at old memories of happiness, wrapping them around herself, countless times she and Martha had stolen a moment in the trenches. There had even been one time they'd sat like this on a storage shed roof, watching the stars above, both beneath a worn blanket. Her orgasm came upon her quickly, sharpening her breath and bringing soft sounds to her lips. She shuddered a few times and then felt her body relax.

When she opened her eyes Warren was watching them with an amused grin. "You two really are dreadfully cute, far more fun to play with as a couple than either of you are alone."

The general stood with a yawn. "You've both served me well tonight. I am pleased."

She walked out the door of the room without another word. Josephine and Martha curled up together on the bed. There were a lot of things that needed to be said and they said none of them, just closed their eyes and waited for sleep that did not come for some time.

 

Chapter Text

In the morning Josephine woke to find Martha still asleep. She did not have the heart to wake her but could not bare to spend another moment in that room. She slipped from her lovers arms, tugged on a clean pair of loose grey pants and a white shirt waiting beside the bed and went out into the courtyard.

The heavy summer heat was already shimmering above the white stones of the courtyard, even so early in the day. The sound of splashing emanated from the pool. Josephine walked barefoot over the grass to the edge.

Alexandra was sitting contentedly on the edge with her pants rolled up and feet in the water, watching Isabella swim in her shift. Eli was skinny dipping and Gretel was lying out on a towel wearing a two piece swimsuit.

The absurdity of a Francian general, a Devlian princess, a Germanacan Lieutenant and a Space pirate all hanging around a pool together struck Josephine rather hard. She shrugged and went to go sit beside Gretel.

Gretel pushed up a pair of dark sunglasses to look at Josephine. "You look like hell darling."

"I feel like it too."

The blond woman nodded, "I did too when I was in the same place as you. The first month is always the worse."

"If you tell me it gets easier because I get used to things, that's never going to happen."

"No, you'll adapt but that just means things will be hard in new ways. Warren will eventually decide you are satisfactorily broken and start spending less time tormenting you.

"And get back to tormenting the rest of her harem once my newness has rubbed off?" asked Josephine lying back and closing her eyes against the sun's glare.

Gretel sighed, "Yes, I do not like seeing new women suffering but every time Warren becomes obsessed with breaking a new slave we all get something of a respite."

"She's left you alone since Martha and I got here?"

"More or less, aside from when she had Helen and me fuck you. I'm fairly certain she actually gets off on mind games more than sex. She doesn't usually send for anyone here just to fuck them."

"She's a psychopath."

"You're just now noticing this?"

Both women turned to see Eli as she pulled herself up onto the edge of the pool, resting her naked arms on the hot stone. Her dark hair was sleek against her neck like a seal's pelt and her skin tanned almost brown by the sun.

"I've fought, fucked and drank with the scum of the universe and never met a woman as terrifyingly predictable and yet randomly violent as Warren," said Eli.

"What do you mean predictable?"

Eli and Gretel traded a look before Eli spoke again.

"Last night she fucked you in front of Martha but didn't fuck her right? Probably even had Martha help her but never actually touched her.

Josephine flushed and nodded.

"It's her pattern," said Gretel wearily. "She did the same to Helen and me. She raped me half a dozen times before she even touched Helen. She did it to Isabella and Isabella 's body guard too, although she killed Hallie before she got to the later stages."

"Why?" It was a dumb question but it sprung from her lips anyway.

Gretel shrugged her pale shoulders, "I don't know. I am pretty sure it's why she collects couples when she can. Maybe it works, Helen was so worn down from watching me be hurt that by the time Warren fucked her she didn't even try to fight back for herself."

Josephine looked to Eli, "She do the same to you and Tali?"

Eli's face closed down, her easy default half grin replaced by a blank page. "In a different way. She knew she couldn't break us with sex so she used pain instead, whips, knives. Tali's still got the scars on her back and I gave her half of them. Thank the gods Warren eventually lost interest."

They all got silent after that.

From across the pool Isabella called, "Come swim with me Gretel, you too Josephine."

Josephine stood, relieved for any excuse to escape the conversation. She had her shirt half tugged of when she realized she hadn't actually put on a bra or any underwear that morning. She tugged her shirt back down, feeling too raw to be naked in front of anyone.

"You know you can just ask Lydia for a swim suit. You don't have to skinny dip like our resident exhibitionist or wear a dress like our modest friend over there,” said Gretel.

"Ok," said Josephine before turning and walking back towards the shade of the columns. She felt the sudden and desperate need to be alone.

 

In the late afternoon Lydia came for her and Martha. She led them to the room Warren normally had them brought to but when they entered Warren was not there.

Lydia noticed their worried glances, "Don't worry, she's not here right now."

Martha straightened her back, "Then why did you bring us here?"

The housekeeper signed and sat down on a chair motioning Josephine and Martha to sit on the couch.

"Warren wanted me to give you some orders and choices and I thought it might be easier if it was here. I try to let all of the women in the harem keep their personal rooms as a space they can retreat to.

Josephine felt her stomach sink. "What does she want?"

"For you to receive training in several sexual acts that you may not be familiar or proficient in. She would like you, Josephine, to able to be able to be vaginally fisted by the end of the week. She would also like you to become more familiar with anal sex, so that it can be done to you without you becoming harmed. She would like Martha to be able to do both of these things to you."

"And she doesn't want to watch?" Josephine was actually slightly surprised by that.

"She might review the footage but no she doesn't really care to see you learn, such bores her." Lydia leaned forward, "Listen, this is basically so that you'll be able to publicly do these things for an audience, like you did in the palace, Josephine."

Josephine flinched and Martha laid a reassuring arm around her. "So she wants me to practice these things with Josephine. Will we at least be left alone to do it?"

"Not exactly. You've got a choice of either working with other women from the harem or being taught by a slave trainer who specializes in brothel slaves."

"No slave trainers," snapped Josephine.

"Then you'll work with Eli and Tali, they are the best at this sort of thing. I'll instruct."

Josephine raised an eyebrow, "instruct?" She had no strong feelings about the greying haired slave woman one way or another but her general collusion with their owner made her less willing to be touched by her than any of the captive women in the harem.

"Only with words dear," said Lydia wearily. "I spent my entire life, before our Mistress bought me at auction, in a brothel. When my beauty faded and I was becoming hard to sell by the hour my former mistress used me to train the new slaves. I can make this easier, teach you how to endure anything. I did and I survived, I can show you how."

"I understand," said Josephine. It wasn't as if she had much control over it anyway.

Lydia nodded, "I'll send for Eli and Tali and we can begin. They'll know what to do, Warren used them to train Gretel and Helen, as well as well as Isabella and her guard."

She tapped her wrist strap, said something into it. The housekeeper sat down upon a chair not far from the bed and motioned Martha and Josephine to sit on the edge of the bed.

"Have either of you ever been fisted or fisted another woman before."

Josephine blushed and Martha looked away.

"You do know what fisting is right?" asked Lydia almost gently.

"I've heard of it," said Josephine softly. "I don't think it's something I can do."

"I've seen it in porn," said Martha.

Lydia raised an eyebrow, "then you'd probably best forget what you saw there, it won't be particularly helpful. We'll have to start from the beginning and make it our priority. We'll have Eli and Tali perform a demonstration for you, then Eli can fist Josephine, she's quiet skilled and a good choice for an inexperienced lover. Now, what about anal sex."

"You know what Warren had Eli and Tali do to me," snapped Josephine.

"Yes, I do, and that was a very brutal way for you to be introduce to it. It need not be as painful or damaging as your first time was."

"I'm never going to like it."

"That's beside the point. The goal is to teach you how to endure it without becoming harmed." Lydia closed her eyes and rubbed at the bridge of her nose like her head hurt, "None of this is for your pleasure girl. You're a valuable slave and the mistress wants you trained to perform, preferably without needing a healer to tend you afterwards."

Before she could say any more there was a knock on the door and two guards appeared with Eli and Tali in tow.

Eli offered them an easy smile like she always did, but Tali kept her eyes down. Martha stood, putting herself between them and Josephine, her hands clenched unconsciously.

Tali took a quick step back but Eli held up her hands, "Hey, easy there soldier girl. I'm not your enemy."

"You hurt Josephine last time,"

"They didn't..." Josephine.

"Warren had us do that. Martha, you've been in this place long enough to know we had no power to refuse, not if we didn't want to be whipped or worse. You'll never live long in this place if you don't learn to forgive your fellow slaves for acting as our mistress's puppets or being compelled to do the same."

Martha's shoulders slumped. "I fucking hate this...and it would be easier if I could hate you."

"But you are too smart for that, even if you try pretty hard to rock the dumb marine grunt look."

"Speak for yourself pirate."

Lydia gave a pointed cough, "I do not mean to rush you, but perhaps you can save the banter for later. I do have other duties to attend to."

Eli arched an eyebrow, "yes, someone has to see that our mistresses odd whims are tended to."

"And yours as well. Who do you think buys that Delvian whiskey you like so much?"

Eli gave a gallant bow, "Ah, yes thank you for reminding that I should stay on your good side dear lady. Tali and I are yours to command. What would you have us do first?"

She motioned towards the bed, "I want you and Tali to give Martha and Josephine a demonstration of what fisting looks like. The supplies you will require are beside the bed. Any insights you care to add would also be useful."

"Cool," said Eli. She tugged off her shirt and kicked off her shoes and pants and walked towards the bed. Josephine and Martha stood but Eli just laughed.

"Stay where you are, you'll see better up close. It's not like Tali and I are modest."

Tali, however, did not undress with the same abandon as her partner. She walked to the edge of the bed before methodically removing her clothes.

Tali lay down on top of the covers and Eli stretched out beside her. Tenderly she reached out to cup Tali's face and whisper something softly in Septian before kissing her. The pirate pulled her former captain closer.

Slowly Eli began to run her hands over her lover's body, teasing her breasts, touching the flat of her stomach, nudging her legs open. When Tali made a soft gasping sound it was clear she had found her clit.

Eli raised her head to look at Martha and Josephine, "If you can, its best to take your time. She needs to be very aroused for this to work."

"And if we're not given time when Warren demands it?" asked Martha, who was looking at the floor rather than the two women before her.

Lydia glanced up from the tablet she had been looking at in her chair, "Do the best you can. If she asks you to perform this publicly, though, she'll warn you in advance, then you can fuck an hour before to be ready."

Tali made another sound and from the way Eli's hand was moving it looked like she'd slipped a few fingers into Tali. She turned back to her lover and murmured more words in Septian. Tali raised herself up onto her elbows so that she could bring Eli closer and kiss her deeply. She arched her back as her first orgasm of the night sparked through her.

Eli didn't stop though, and kept fucking her, a bit slower than a moment before, "It is good to get her off once or twice to help her relax but don't exhaust her. Add fingers slowly and give her time to adjust."

Tali slowly opened her eyes from her orgasm. Josephine flushed when she realized that the pirate was watching her. Tali leaned up to whisper something to Eli.

Eli laughed softly and then looked at Josephine too, "You know, you could join us if you want, you are both welcome. Tali kind of has a thing about being touched by multiple women at once."

Josephine looked at the woman on the bed, skin flush with pleasure, dark eyes heavily lidded and to her own surprise she realized she wanted her. She wanted her in the way she'd wanted countless different women in the trenches, desire born of the sheer need to touch and feel for the sake of pleasure. It was something she thought she had lost along with the power to choose her own lovers.

She was already moving towards the couple, crawling full on the bed instead of sitting on the edge when Martha's hand closed like a vice on her shoulder. "No, you don't have too."

"But I..." she paused half afraid to say what she said next, "I want to."

Martha flushed and hurt crept into her eyes. She released Josephine's shoulder and turned her back "Fine."

Josephine felt suddenly more vulnerable than she had even when stripped and bound. She sat cross-legged on the bed. "I want you to do it with me."

Martha turned back to her, her dark eyes confused. "You do?"

"Yes, we fucked other women together plenty of times in the trenches. I miss it, being able to choose to do it."

Her lover's eyes warmed, "All right."

When they looked back at the fucking couple Tali was well lost to the throes of passion and Eli to her task. At least that's what Josephine thought until Tali turned her head and smiled softly.

Josephine crawled over to her. "You want me?"

"Yes," said Tali speaking in standard for the first time that night. She reached out an arm towards her, "Now are you going to sit there or will you kiss me soldier girl."

Josephine leaned down and kissed the pirate’s unfamiliar lips. She almost jerked back when the woman nipped her lip playfully.

Tali caught one of her hands and guided it to her right breast. Her nipple was small and hard between Josephine's fingers. When they broke the kiss, Tali pushed her head down to her other breast and Josephine latched on, tasting the salt of her skin.

Martha watched a moment hesitantly but Eli motioned her closer and then grabbed her wrist when she was beside them. "Here, I want you to feel how ready she is."

She pushed Martha's hand down between Tali's legs. Martha blushed, "She's wet."

"More than that, feel how open she is."

"You want me to...?"

"Go on, fuck her for a minute, see how open she is."

"I..."

"Please, I want you too," said Tali. Martha slipped two fingers into the warm woman beside her. Tali made a soft sound of appreciation, "more."

The soldier hesitantly added another finger and began to move her hand, using her thumb to press Tali's clit.

"More,"

She added another and felt as vague sense of amazement as she fucked the woman beneath her with four fingers. She was captivated by the sight of Josephine so very close, her head dipped down to suck at the very same woman's breast.

Eli tapped Martha's shoulder. Maratha looked up and saw Eli holding a bottle of lube, "watch." She poured a fair amount of lube onto her right hand and quickly spread it all the way to her wrist. "Always use as much of this as you can, no matter how wet a woman feels, you can't fist her without lube. Now get out of her so you can see me do this."

Martha gently tugged her fingers from Tali and sat back. Josephine looked up as well. Eli held up her hand, "when you fist a woman fold your thumb into your hand and your fingers together."

She leaned over Tali, who suddenly reached behind herself to snatch up a pillow and jam it under her back. Eli pressed her hand between Tali's legs, slowly pushing her fingers into her.

"Go, very, very slowly. She has to let you in, you can't force it." Tali made a soft sound and suddenly Eli's hand seemed to simply slip into her.

Eli remained still for a long moment and then began to rock her hand. Tali moaned in pleasure and began to move to meet her hand. It was slow and gentle and then suddenly almost quick and violent. Tali cried out in Septian, speaking words that could only be swears. She came with a sharp desperate sound and Eli slowly eased her hand out. She stretched out beside Tali, pulling her into her arms.

"I need to hold her for a few minutes, you two should start fucking so Josephine will be ready.

Josephine shook herself as if waking from a dream. Martha was on her in a flash, kissing her desperately and scrambling at her clothes. It felt ridiculously good, even exhilarating to be so desperately and honestly wanted again.

Martha tore her shirt yanking it over her head and Josephine's pants got caught around her ankles for a few frustrating moments. Then she was naked underneath her clothed lover.

Martha pushed her legs open and pressed her fingers into her, two and then three fucking her hard. Josephine gasped against the kiss, bucking to meet her. Her first orgasm took her quickly.

She was coming back down when she felt Martha slowly trying to work a fourth finger into her. She'd never had that much inside of her. She caught Martha's wrist,

"Easy."

Martha nodded and kept fucking her with three fingers, pressing her thumb against her clit. She brought her mouth to her left nipple and Josephine's world exploded into a haze of pleasure.

She was on the edge of a second orgasm when she felt the bed shift and suddenly Eli was beside them. Tali was stretched out a little farther away, lazily watching them.

"I'll take it from here," said Eli.

Martha turned her head sharply and glared at the pirate, "No fucking way."

"Martha!" snapped Lydia from her chair, looking up from her tablet, "I thought you were going to cooperate."

Martha gave her an ugly look as well, "I am cooperating."

"Then let her touch Josephine. You know she's going to be the one to fist her first."

"She doesn't need too, I can do it."

Lydia sighed loudly and set down her tablet before walking to the edge of the bed. "Do you really think that's a good idea? Doing it for the first time with a completely inexperienced partner? Do you want to risk hurting or tearing her the first time?"

"What and I'm supposed to trust that Eli won't?"

Josephine sat up, "Martha, we just saw her fist Tali. We know she can do it safely."

Martha bit at her lip, "I don't like it."

"That matters very little dear," said Lydia. "If nothing else will convince you I think this will. Hold up your right hand Martha, you too Eli. Do you notice something?"

Eli had a slender wrist and long delicate fingers, more suited to an artist or a musician than a fighter. Martha did not, her hands like the rest of her, were solid and had a subtle evidence of strength.

"See, I've got smaller hands," said Eli.

"I'm not sure that's something to brag about," said Martha.

"Martha," said Josephine. "This scares me and I'm not sure I can do it. If it will be easier with Eli, then that's what I want to do."

Martha frowned but she nodded, "okay."

Josephine reached for her, "I still want you kissing me and touching me while she does this, can you do that?"

She moved out of the way and Eli stretched out beside her. When she leaned down to kiss her, her lips were soft and warm, her tongue skilled. She pulled back after only a moment and rested on an elbow as she brought her hand to Josephine's cunt. She pressed her fingers in, one, two, three, four.

Josephine gasped at the fullness but the sound was muffled by Martha's lips.

Eli began to fuck her, slowly and deeply, her thumb pressing against her clit intermittently. Josephine made a low moan of protest when she withdrew her fingers. Eli already had a bottle of lube ready.

The sight of it filled Josephine with a vague apprehension.

Eli stroked her leg soothingly with her other hand, "Don't worry beautiful, I'll take care of you. Tell me to slow down or stop if it doesn't feel right."

Eli folded her fingers together and slowly began to push them into Josephine. For a moment it felt fine, just a slow stretching, then it wasn't.

Josephine grabbed her wrist, "Stop!"

Eli did. She looked up at Josephine, her dark eyes gentle before glancing at Martha.

"You should rub her clit, it will help."

Martha rested on her arm on Josephine's other side and began to slowly rub her clit. Josephine was so aroused it was only a moment before she began to moan again. Eli pushed in a bit more, moving very, very slowly.

She reached the widest part of her hand again and began to press a bit more.

"Slower, please."

She did.

Josephine closed her eyes panting. She'd never had this much inside of her before and she was overwhelmed. She wanted to stop completely, try again another time when it wasn't all so new, but she didn't have the choice.

"Ready?" asked Eli gently.

"I guess,"

Eli moved a little bit more and suddenly it really did hurt. She sat up, nearly knocking Tali off of herself.

"Stop. I can't do this."

Eli began to gently withdraw her fingers, "okay beautiful."

"Wait," snapped Lydia.

Eli raised her head, "She's tensing up, this isn't going to work right now."

"She can do it, wait a moment and try again." She stood and cross the room to side down on the edge of the bed, nudging Martha out of the way. She leaned forward to gently brush Josephine's hair away from her face, "Josephine, look at me girl. I know you are scared. I know you have never done this before and it hurts. I know you hate being powerless, but in this you truly have no choice. The only way through is to surrender and let her in. Your body's resistance is what's hurting you, if you open up the pain will cease."

"I can't."

"Yes you can, close your eyes, breath slowly, focus on relaxing." She looked up

"And someone put a damn pillow under her hips, she shouldn't be lying completely on her back, you'd think none of you had ever fucked before," Martha passed her a pillow and she scooted it under Josephine's back.

Slowly everyone began to resume what they had been doing. Martha rubbed Josephine's clit and kissing her. Eli began to press her hand in again. It went well until she reached the widest part of her hand.

Josephine fought down the wave of panic that threatened and focused instead on the actual feelings of her body. She wasn't really feeling pain, just stretching and unfamiliarity. She slowed her breath and willed her internal muscles to yield. There was an instant of intense sensation and then an easing as the thickest part of Eli's hands slid into her and then the rest.

Eli stayed utterly still inside of her and kissed her hip. "There you go beautiful."

Josephine could feel her entire body trembling somewhere between deep pleasure and something else.

Distantly she heard Lydia telling Martha, "Try and get her off right now, that will help."

She felt Martha's fingers moving against her clit and the slow build of pleasure that always came before an orgasm. It ran deep and strong, intensified by the feel of the still hand inside of her. Without thinking she moved her hips against Martha's hand and the sudden shift inside of her made her gasp.

Eli began to very, very gently rock her hand. It was enough to push Josephine over the edge. Her orgasm began slowly and burned brighter and brighter consuming her. She arched her back and let it take her. She didn't realize she was crying until she'd slumped back on the bed. Unlike all the other times she'd been fucked in Warren's house though, this time wasn't from pain or fear. It wasn't pleasure or joy but it wasn't dark either.

Eli pulled out of her very gently. Josephine shivered at the sudden feeling of emptiness that came over her the moment she was gone.

"Wait..." she murmured.

Eli kissed her thigh. "sh,"

Josephine reached for her but Eli was already moving away from her.

The pirate sat up looking past Josephine to Martha, "Hold her, she needs you."

Martha was already pulling Josephine into the warm circle of her arms. Josephine felt another shiver go through herself. She turned and buried her face in Martha's shirt. Eli traded a look with Tali and both slipped from the bed and began to dress in silence. Lydia stood to collect a blanket and drape it across Josephine and Martha.

She paused to speak quietly to Martha, "Let her rest for a bit but make sure she pees in about thirty minutes or she could get a bladder infection. She can sleep after that. If she bleeds or complains of pain send for the doctor."

Martha watched her with cold eyes, "I'll take care of her."

"I know," said Lydia with a sigh. “I’m depending on that. Next session, you'll be the one to fist her."

She left with the pirates.

...

 

They left the room as soon as Josephine felt she could walk and spent the afternoon in their own. Josephine showered with Martha and then slept for hours. She woke and began to grow restless as the sun slipped below the compound rooftops. She walked to the window and looked down into the courtyard.

"Let's go down to dinner."

"We could have food brought," said Martha, nodding towards the panel on the wall they could press to call down to the kitchen."

"I want to see the others."

"I don't, not Eli and Tali."

Josephine turned to face her, "It wasn't their fault."

"I know, I still don't want to watch Eli eating and pretend I don't know where her hand just was."

"Fine then I'll go alone.

Martha stood, "No wait, I'll come with you."

A long table had been laid out in the courtyard when they went down, it was covered by an odd mix of foods that looked distinctly Delvian to Josephine. Delvian's did seem to love tiny plates and bright colors. All of the women of the harem, even Kara were there. Isabella waved at them excitedly from the head of the table.

"It's the Spring Feast, come join us."

Josephine blinked. "Spring?"

"Its spring on Delvia," explained Alexandria, who was at Isabella 's side as always. There was something approaching a look of pleading in her eyes that seemed to suggest Josephine and Martha really needed to play along.

"Oh," said Josephine and sat down with Martha in one of the only two seats available, the farthest from the princess and to the left of Eli.

Eli leaned over and whispered, "Our little princess has some weird obsession with keeping up this holiday based on Dalvia time, even when it makes no damn sense, last time it happened it was winter here. I think it's a sign of her slowly losing her mind but nobody ever listens to me. Tali and I just come for the Delvian champagne and the little lemon cakes." Her words weren't slurred but she was still drunk enough to be speaking slower than she usually did.

Josephine nodded. It felt very odd to talk to Eli as if nothing had happened, as if the pirate hadn't been wrist deep in her cunt just a few hours before. She wished she hadn't come down to dinner but it was too late now.

Gretel leaned across the table, "you are one to talk Eli, you get drunk as a sailor and sing off key with Tali every Septian New Year and there's about three of those for every Varcian year.

"Your happy enough to drink with me."

"I like Septian whiskey."

"And Septian women," Eli offered her a flirtatious grin, that looked to Josephine more like an act than a genuine feeling.

Helen, to Gretel's right, gave a tired sigh, "Could you try and not be vulgar for just one night of your life pirate."

Eli shrugged, "Who's being vulgar, I'm being honest. You’re lover fucks me and Tali every time she gets drunk, sometimes even when she's sober."

"Shut up Eli," snapped Gretel.

Tali nudged Eli and shook her head sharply but Eli ignored her and kept talking to Gretel. "Why? It's not like your pirate hunting bitch of a lover doesn't know you fuck around."

Gretel flushed and Helen leapt to her feet. "Don't you dare speak to her like that. We will settle this in the ring right now!"

Eli leapt up as well, "Sure thing captain, you're more fun to fight than to fuck anyway. Or have you forgotten that you've fucked me before too?"

"Both of you sit down," snapped Alexandra. "Helen, you're not going to fight Eli tonight, she's drunk. Eli, you're acting beneath yourself and being rude. Either behave with the respect you owe Isabella when sitting at a table she has set, or leave."

Eli opened her mouth to speak and then thought better of it. She looked down at the table, "Sorry Isabella, I didn't mean to mess up your party."

"It's okay Eli," said Isabella gently.

"I'm going to go," She turned and strode from the table. Tali followed her. Helen sat down awkwardly. The silence was heavy as they finished eating.

When most of the food had at least been poked at Isabella tapped a fork against her glass, "If everyone is done eating I'd like to go light the candles."

She bounced up to her feet and they followed her over to the pool where there were several bowls full of unlit candles and flowers were waiting.

"It's supposed to be done in a lake but we don't have one so she uses the pool," explained Gretel under her voice. "Pick up a bowl."

Isabella lit a tapper from a lighter and then went around with it, lighting the candle in each bowl the women held.

The princess stood in front of all of them, a bowl with a lit candle in her hands. The sun was setting and she was illuminated by the light in the candle. Alexandra stood beside her, one hand on her shoulder, "Let us all take this moment, on the first day of the spring, to remember all we have lost, all who have crossed the veil before us and those who may yet live but are lost to us. Let us hold their names and memories in our hearts and whisper them to the wind."

She knelt down and set her bowl in the water where it floated and said, "I remember my family, all those who died when the palace fell. I pray for those who I hope might have escaped."

Alexandra knelt down beside her and let go of her own bowl, "I remember my eldest daughter who died when her warship went down in the final hours of the siege. I remember my wife who stood in the senate hall until it was bombed. I pray for my youngest daughter, gods only know where she is but I pray she's safe.”

Gretel went next kneeling with an easy grace, "I remember my fiancé who died fighting on Tyco station. I pray for my parents and sisters, goddesses willing they are safe and whole.

Helen set her bowl in the water beside her, "I pray for my husband and sons, I know they made it onto a transport in the final hours of the evacuation, I don't know if their ship made it."

Kara bowed her head and released and placed her own bowl in the water, "I pray for my niece, gods know she needs all the help she can get in this hell of a capital city. I pray for my lover, Mary, she’s got the protection of the courtesan’s guild and I hope that is enough to keep her safe from Warren."

Josephine knew it was her turn so she did as the others had, "I remember the members of my unit dead on the moon of Io, I pray for those whose fates I don't know. I pray for my mother back Terra Nueva."

Martha echoed her adding only, "I pray for my little sister and brother."

The bowls floated on the water like small stars against the inky blackness of night. Eli and Tali, who had returned at some point, walked quietly to the edge of the group and took up the two bowls that had been left. Isabella went over and lit their candles. Eli went down to one knee and set her bowl in the pool,

"I remember my crew, poor fools, who I promised wealth and adventure but led to death at Varcian hands. I remember my lover Jack who died fighting at my side and my lover Laura who bled to death in my arms."

Tali took her hand and laid down the last bowl of the night, "I remember the crew I fought and died with, I pray for my daughter back on Septia, I pray my mother will raise her better than I could have."

Josephine wondered if Isabella would say something else but she didn't, just sat down on the edge of the pool, with her skirts hiked up far enough to dangle her feet in the water and silently watched the lights.

With a shrug Josephine crossed her legs and joined her. When she looked up she saw the very faint glow of the stars beyond the city's lights. She felt calmer than she had in a long time, as if with the candle she had let go of the weight of a thousand ghosts.

She closed her eyes and leaned back against Martha who was sitting behind her. It felt good to be close to her, familiar and warm. She clung to the moment, focusing on every second of it so that she could recall it when she needed strength later.

The sound of applause was jarring but not unexpected.

"Don't I get a bowl?" asked Warren as her boots clicked loudly against the stone walkway. She was little more than a dark figure in a black coat against the dimness of the unlit courtyard.

Isabella raised her head solemnly, "Considering that you helped murder many of the people we are morning, no you do not."

"If it is any consolation, I did not actually personally kill any member of your family little princess, although I did see you father die on the empress's altar. Would you like me to tell you about it?"

Alexandra surged to her feet, "For the love of the gods Warren, leave her in peace this one night. We'll do anything you ask tomorrow, but give us this."

“My dear Alexandra, so bold and noble, will you ever miss a chance to rush to your sweet princess's defense? You can save whatever brave speech you’re about to give me, even I know to sometimes let my pets have their rituals. I have come only to give Isabella a gift.

She held up a small bundle wrapped in red velvet.

Isabella watched her with wide eyes as she slowly drew her feet out of the water, "what is that."

"Something I thought you'd appreciate. It will help you be a bit more accurate in who you need to pray for and who to remember."

She held out the bundle to Isabella but the princess shook her head.

"Are you sure you don't want it? I thought you loved pretty things."

She unwrapped the bundle and held up an objects, a heavy golden necklace with a large red stone at its center.

Isabella covered her face and began to sob, "No."

"Won't you take it? It's your birthright now after all."

"Enough!" snarled Alexandra placing herself between Warren and Isabella. "You will torment her no more."

"I'll do what I want," said Warren, "I let you play at protecting her because it is cute but don't try me."

When Alexandra didn't move Warren tapped her own wrist and Alexandra crumbled to the ground in pain. Warren stepped over her.

She held out the necklace, "I will see you wear this princess."

Isabella bowed her head and didn't fight when Warren draped the necklace over head. The gold hung heavy on her slight frame. Isabella clutched the red stone in her trembling hands and looked up at Warren.

"He's dead then?"

"Did you really think the empress would allow the heir to the Delvian throne to survive once she finally found him?"

"My brother was ten years old. How can you delight in the death of a child? Even you are not that evil"

"I didn't kill him." She said with a shrug, "Besides he's probably better off that way than in the empress's tender care."

Isabella covered her face and sunk down into sobs. Warren watched her for a moment, her lip twisting as if disappointed her prey had finally broken, like a cat shaking a mouse to weak to struggle anymore.

Alexandra recovered enough to stand and limp over to Isabella . She encircled her in her arms and glared up at Warren silently, pure hatred in her eyes.

Warren raised her hand to tap at her wrist strap again and then seemed to think better of it. "I will give you this night to grieve princess, but I will enjoy you in my bed tomorrow. I've been too gentle with you lately, I think I'd like to see you fucked by the pirates again."

If Isabella heard her, she didn't react. Alexandra was whispering to her softly.

Warren's lips thinned. She wasn't used to her threats being ignored. Yet for once she did not lash out further against her first target. Instead she barked, "Eli, Tali, Kara come with me," and strode from the courtyard with the reluctant slaves following.

Isabella 's sobs ceased once she was gone. She slowly raised her head, her voice half hysterical "I'm the heir. With my half brother dead, I'm the heir. I’m the last child of my father left."

She scrambled to her feet so fast Alexandra could barely follow her, "I'm the queen now, the queen of Delvia. I can't be a frightened coward anymore, not now. Not when I'm all my people have left."

Alexandra took her arm, "Come away love."

Isabella pulled away from her, "No! Don't you understand! This was my investiture.  I'm the queen of Delvia."

"Yes love, but come away from these ears."

Isabella frowned but she let Alexandra lead her away.

Chapter Text

Josephine woke late the next morning to the sound of skin striking skin. She slipped from Martha's arms and went to the window. Eli and Helen were in the ring in the courtyard fighting. Not one of their customary sparring matches but an honest fight.

She snatched a robe from beside the door and pulled it on as she hurried down the hall and then the steps to the courtyard. There was blood dripping down the side of Helen's face. The pirate danced around the admiral, skirting her heavy blows. Neither of them uttered a sound beyond ragged breaths.

Eli finally got too close to Helen, throwing a punch that missed and Helen landed a heavy punch that downed her. The smaller woman hit the ground and Helen kicked her once hard before she could get up.

Then she did it again. Eli grabbed Helen's foot and toppled her down. Both women hit the ground in an angry tangle of limbs.

"Enough!" barked Alexandra as she strode into the courtyard with Gretel, who had clearly run to find her. Neither woman stopped. Eli had gotten Helen onto her back and was doing her best to rearrange her face.

"I said enough," Alexandra boomed and Eli hesitated. "This is beneath you Helen. You are an admiral, what the hell are you doing fighting like a common sailor."

Eli rolled off of Helen with a laugh, "But it suits me doesn't it general? I'm just a pirate aren't I? You'd expect me to fight like a rabid bitch."

Alexandra half raised an eyebrow as she reached past her to help Helen up. "No, normally I think you are a very brave privateer and a survivor but right now I think you are having some kind of breakdown and behaving as less than yourself."

Eli stood slowly, "I'm not having a damn break down. Who the hell are you to judge me anyway? You fucked me just like every other woman in this bloody place."

Alexandra's face tightened as if she were genuinely hurt, "I am also your friend and I would hope you would at least listen to me."

"No you're not, you’re just my fellow prisoner," snapped Eli and stormed away.

Helen dusted herself off, cracking her jaw. "Fucking crazy bitch."

"Helen," said Gretel soft, "Don't talk about her like that."

Helen glared at her, "Just because you're fucking her for goddess only knows what reason doesn't mean I have to be nice to her."

Gretel's eyes narrowed, "You're one to talk. You've slept with her too! Hell you did it when Warren had me locked up in the dark room."

The two women faced off with the tense backs and thin lips of a couple falling into a long overdue fight. Alexandra took it as her cue to leave and so did Josephine. They walked together towards the hallways as angry voices echoed after them

Josephine looked back over her shoulder, "Should we...?"

"No let them be, they raise only their voices not their firsts. They do this often enough." She let out a tired breath, "Gods this place, it brings out the worse in all of us, even me."

"If this is your worst Alexandra, then you are a better woman than I."

The aging general smiled faintly as they came into the empty breakfast room. She sat down and poured a cup of coffee. "Never judge yourself against other but rather your best self. I was once a general of Francia, a loyal wife and a loving mother. Now I am the traitorous bitch who surrendered my plant to the Varcian Empress. I am a prisoner of war who has long since abandoned her duty to attempt to escape, a widowed woman who has fallen in love with a girl half my age, a girl I can't even protect."

Josephine shrugged, "I'm the last woman to judge you. I was no one before I was captured.”

Alexandra smiled sadly and the crows feet at the edges of her eyes deepened. "You were a soldier of Terra Nueva. That is something you may be proud of, although only you know how good of one you were."

"I dug trenches. I shot people. I sent pay home to my mother."

"That is as honorable a life as amy." She finished her coffee and stood pressing Josephine's shoulder with her strong fingers, "Do not let this prison or that bitch who pretends to own us get you down. Remember who you are and cling to it, it's all we have in here."

She set several pastries in a napkin and wrapped it up, "Now, I need to get back to Isabella."

"How is she?"

"Not well but I wouldn’t expect her to be after the news that she has had.”

She left and Josephine found herself alone in the well-lit room. She poured herself some coffee and gnawed listlessly on a muffin. She wasn't surprised when Eli slunk in.

"Is ‘Ms. Dignity in the face of adversity,’ gone?”

"Do you always insult everyone around you?" Josephine already felt tired and the day had barely begun.

Eli gave her a scowl but grabbed a piece of bread and sat down across from her.

"It's how I relate to people, insults and sex."

"I've noticed."

The pirate reached out for the coffee pot and poured a cup, added nearly half a cup of sugar, and proceeded to dunk her bread into it.

"You know, you can just say I'm a slut. I know you are thinking it."

There was an ugly challenge in her eyes. Josephine did not rise to it.

"Actually I was thinking I understood. I fucked any woman in my trench that'd look at me twice. It helped with the boredom and fear."

Eli's shoulders relaxed and she laughed, "If that's all you were doing it for you wasted your effort."

"What do you mean?" Josephine sipped at her coffee, leaning back in her own chair.

"Sex is power in case you haven't noticed. The trick is learning how to use it. It gets you everything in life from favors, to loyalty, to survival if you do it right."

"So is that why you’ve freely slept with nearly every woman in the harm?" said Josephine more bluntly then she meant. "You have some brilliant plan?"

Eli grinned, "All of the harem aside from you and Martha actually, what Warren made us do doesn't count, since we didn't choose it. The first thing I did when Tali and I got to this place, after I realized that Warren wouldn't kill me for fucking other women, was seduce everyone here I could."

Josephine could tell Eli was going to tell the whole story, so she settled back to listen.

"And Tali? I thought you were lovers."

Eli shrugged, "We were crew mate's who'd fucked a time or two. My real lovers died when our ship was taken. Tali is the only woman in this place I trust, who speaks my language, who understands everything I've lost. Gods only know if that makes her something more or something less than the two who died for me."

She shrugged, "that's neither here nor there though. I don't want to talk about Tali, I want to talk about the others. I can gossip about them and not feel guilty. Alexandra was actually the first woman I seduced here. I fucked her because I realized all the others looked up to her. Aside from Kara, she has actually been here the longest. When I first arrived, she was probably the lonesomest too. Isabella hadn't arrived yet.

"All it took was some subtle flirting, a kiss, and asking if I could come to her room. A woman like that likes to be asked, just as she will always ask permission to touch you and never presume. She's one of the most respectful lovers I've ever had, treated my body like it was mine to give or keep. It really was just sex though, she didn't trust me enough to include me in her and the Germanacan's escape attempt a few months later. I never forgave her for that.

"Afterwards I moved on to Kara. She wasn't too hard to seduce either. She was lonely too. It's not like she had friends, not when she used to be the sworn enemy of every woman here when she was free. She makes a good enough show of not holding a grudge but we all know she lost to Alexandra in the space battle that cost her everything.

"She's got as strong a kinky streak as any woman I've ever met, loves giving and receiving pain for the sake of shared pleasure. Nothing wrong with that mind you, a woman like that is as rare and wonderful as a black swan. If anything she’s as kind and respectful as Alexandra is in bed. She’s the only Varcian I’ve ever met who seems to actually care about consent.

“Warren has used her kinks against her, hurt her and made her hurt others, ruined it for her. By the time I bedded her, she'd almost stopped asking for the things she really wanted, even needed to get off. When she did, she really had to fight to enjoy the pleasure and not flash back to how Warren had hurt her with it."

Eli shook her head, "I got tired of her angst so I moved on to Helen and Gretel came. I never meant to cause as much trouble between them as I seem to have. When I first made advances to Gretel she told me to fuck off, I didn't think she wanted anyone but Helen near her. It didn't help that Warren used Tali and me to hurt Gretel like she did you Josephine."

Josephine shuddered and shook her head, "Let's not talk about that right now." There were still healing marks on her wrists.

"Helen was such a jerk I didn't even bother with her. One day Gretel did something to piss off Warren. Warren wanted to use her for a party later that month so instead of beating her she locked her in one of the dark rooms in the basement to punish her. Gretel’s got really bad claustrophobia, so it was terrible for her."

"Helen got real quiet and lonely while Gretel was gone. She kind of fell apart to be honest. I think back then Gretel was the only thing holding her together. When I crawled into her bed I was trying to be nice, I figured she could use some comfort.

"I've never had a woman fuck me that angrily in my life, at least not one I was willing let do it, and I've fucked rival privateer captains. I still went back to her the next night, she was at least good at what she did.

"The day Warren let Gretel out, she came looking for me. I figured she wanted to throw a punch when she stormed into my room but instead she pinned me against the wall and kissed me. I kissed her back and let things go the way they would.

"I wasn't really expecting to see much of her after that but she kept coming back every so often. At first it was always after she and Helen would have a fight and then sometimes just because I think she wanted to. If there's ever been a woman who's able to lose herself in pleasure, it's her. She's all dignity and grace most of the time but when you get your fingers inside of her..." Eli paused and glanced at Josephine. "But you know all about that."

Josephine looked away, "you said yourself that anything Warren's made us do doesn't count."

Eli blinked, "Damn I hate when I get gossip wrong. I guess you didn't fuck her she went to comfort you while Martha was locked up?"

"Do you have any boundaries?" snapped Josephine. "If any of that was your business I'd tell you."

"I told you mine."

"You have no filter."

"Why should I? I've had my fingers inside every woman in this place, including you.”

Josephine pushed her chair back and stood, walking slowly towards the door. She had to get out of that room or else she’d hit Eli.

"Wait, please I didn't mean it like that. Really I didn't."

Josephine whirled on her, "Do you think this is fucking funny? That our lives are a joke? Did you enjoy what you did to me yesterday?"

Eli's face crumpled, "No, I...listen sometimes it's just easier to laugh at things than really talk about them." She sat up straighter and for the first time Josephine suspected she was really seeing her. With her perpetual grin, gone she seemed older and more worn. "I hate what Warren does to us, what she makes me do. I know I'm a coward letting her force me to touch and hurt women who don't want me, but I'd rather that than death."

Josephine pressed forehead against the closed door, "This place is fucking breaking me."

"It gets us all but we survive. What choice do we have? The only other way is the way Jen and Hallie went and I'm far too afraid of my own gods to go that way."

Josephine didn't ask who Jessica was. "How do you do it?"

"Levity and liquor."

Josephine turned the handle and stepped out into the hall, "That won't work for me."

"You'll find your own way."

...

 

Lydia called them back to the same room that afternoon. This time she had sent for Eli but not Tali.

“This time it isn’t essential to have a more experienced woman demonstrate how to receive the act first,” said Lydia. “This should all be easier than yesterday. “Eli, I need you to show Martha how to prepare Josephine to be fucked in the ass with a strap on and then do it. If that goes well, I’d also like both of you to practice double penetrating her together.

Josephine flushed, “So what you are saying is that if I’m good, I get to suffer more things I don’t want done to me.”

Lydia sighed and went to take her seat by the wall. “This isn’t a punishment girl, it is a kindness and not one you would even get from most mistresses. This is the only chance you will get to learn how to handle these acts without getting hurt. You know perfectly well that when our mistress demands these of you for real you don’t get to say stop or ask for a break. Today you need to focus on learning to relax your body, to take what must be bourn.”

“I fucking hate it.”

The older slave just looked at her blankly, “No one is expecting you to like it, just learn how to not get your ass torn open.”

Josephine scowled but went and sat on the edge of the bed and began to shuck off her clothes. Martha and Eli followed her. While Eli quickly shed hers, as if she were in a locker room and not a place that was usually hell for all of them, Martha kept hers, clearly feeling vulnerable in Lydia and Eli’s presence.

Eli leaned over and kissed Josephine’s cheek with surprisingly gentleness. “Let me guide you through this and I promise it won’t be so bad. Some women really enjoy this kind of stimulation.”

“Of course you would, pirate,” growled Martha.

The former privateer looked across Josephine to give her a sly smile, “Maybe I do but certainly not with you. Although, if your interested I would be happy to fuck you that way. It might help you better understand what we’re about to do to your lover.”

Martha flushed darkly and Josephine gave Eli a sharp glare. She scooted back from sitting on the edge of the bed to the middle of it. “Stop it Eli, you’re not helping.”

Eli shrugged, “I was just offering.”

Martha gave Josephine a worried look, “Josephine...if you think it would make me less likely to hurt you...I could…”

Josephine shook her head, “No, I can tell you don’t want to. We’re forced to do thing we don’t want more than often enough. No reason to volunteer. I trust that you won’t harm me love.”

The other soldier nodded once sharply, “ok.”

Josephine turned her attention back to Eli. “so how are we actually going to do this?”

“Lie back against the headboard with a pillow under your hips. I’ll start touching you.”

“Can Martha hold me?”

“It would be better if she’s at an angle where she can watch what I’m doing.”

“Josephine nodded and moved.” You don’t need me on my stomach or hands and knees or something embarrassing like that right?”

Eli shook her head as she retrieved supplies from the bedside table. “Not unless you want to.”

“Good.”

Eli motioned Martha to Josephine’s side. “So the thing that will help the most is to get her relaxed and aroused.”

“Warren doesn’t usually give us time for that.”

“Not when she has us alone, sometimes when were performing for others she does because it makes a better show.”

She leaned over Josephine, stroking the side of her face and then kissing her deeply. Josephine kissed her back. For all the strangeness of the situation she did desire the privateer.

Eli caressed her breasts, lightly twisting her nipples and drawing a sound of longing from her. She moved her hand lower, pressing between Josephine’s legs. Her fingers parted her labia and found her clit before lightly pressing one and then two inside of her.

“Now you’re just fucking her,” growled Martha.

“Yes I am. I want her to come before we do anything else. You can kiss her if you want.”

Martha didn’t wait for any further invitation, quickly claiming Josephine’s mouth for herself. Eli yielded, moving so that she could duck down between Josephine’s legs. She brought her mouth to her clit, sucking and moving her tongue across in quick motions. With her fingers still inside of her she was able to bring her to a trembling orgasm in less than a few minutes.

She sat up, gently nudging Martha away from Josephine with her elbow. “Now move back a bit and pay attention.” She took up a bottle of lube she had set beside her on the bed and spread a generous amount on her fingers. “I’m sure you’re both smart enough to realize this, but an ass isn’t a cunt. It won’t get wet on its own. You have to use lube or you’ll tear and bleed. It’s also not a part of the body that has the same stretch or elasticity as a vagina, so you need to be slow and careful or you’ll cause harm that won’t heal easily. Also, just in case it needs to be said, anything that touches an ass can’t go near a cunt until its been properly washed, otherwise you’ll cause a bad infection.”

She carefully brought a finger to press lightly against the outside of Josephine’s anus. The soldier flinched back.

“Easy,” said Eli gently. “I won’t hurt you and I won’t do anything without warning you first.”

Josephine looked away, “I’m sorry. I’m trying to be calm. It just...it hurt so much the first time you and Tali did this to me.

Hurt filled the other woman’s face. “And for that I am truly sorry. Josephine, this won’t be like that time. We were deliberately trying to hurt you. We needed you to scream and cry so that Warren wouldn’t kill you or us.”

“I know. That still doesn’t make this easier.”

“Close your eyes, just focus on your breathing.”

Eli glanced at Martha again. “When you can you need to start this kind of thing very slowly. She brought her fingers back to Josephine. For half a moment she just pressed them against her and then she began to rub very small circles. “If you ever have the chance, if you’re not being forced, just touching the outside can feel really good. Now, Josephine, I’m just going to press into you a little.”

She pushed her finger into her and Josephine tensed and whimpered. Eli stilled her hand for a moment and then began to slowly remove and press in her finger again to the first and then second knuckle and then all the way. She rubbed Josephine's clit as she worked.

To Martha she said, “Take your time, work up slowly with just one finger before you move onto the second. Give her other kinds of pleasure as you do it.”

Josephine’s sound of displeasure deepened, worsening when Eli withdrew her finger and pressed in two.

“Stop it, your hurting her,” snarled Martha and Eli ignored her.

Eli touched the side of Josephine’s face with her other hand, still slick from her cunt. “Josephine, open your eyes and look at me. Take a breath and listen to your body. What are you actually feeling? Are you in pain?”

Josephine looked at her with wide eyes. “I don’t know. It doesn’t feel good.”

“Not good isn't the same as pain. Do you feel pain?”

“No.”

“Okay, then I want to you try to focus on relaxing your body around my fingers. You can do this.”

Josephine nodded once. She fought to calm herself. She tried to ease all of the tensed muscles in her body. It was hard, images of every time she’d been hurt were flashing through her mind.

Martha took her hand, slipping an arm around her waist. “It’s okay. I’m here. You’re safe.”

It was a lie of course. She knew perfectly well that Martha couldn’t make her safe. Her presence helped though. Her breath slowly grew even. She could feel Eli’s fingers still inside of her. They felt weird but they weren't causing her pain. After she’d been hurt so many times it was almost bizarre for something to be uncomfortable but not actively harming her.

“I’m ok Eli, just keep going.”

And she did. “Martha? Can you rub her clit for me and still see what I’m doing?”

“Yea.”

Eli worked two fingers inside of Josephine, moving slowly and carefully, waiting for Martha’s touch on her clit to gradually make her begin to feel desire again and even moan slightly.

Her sounds shifted when Eli worked up to three fingers. She kept working her, stretching her and Josephine would never admit it, but it was all starting to feel good. Then Eli pulled her fingers out.

“This next part will be easier if you roll over.”

“Don’t fuck her that way yet,” said Lydia suddenly; glancing up from whatever accounts she was looking at on her tablet. “She’s doing well enough to probably practice double penetration as well this session. Put the medium plug in her and let her lover fuck her cunt with the strap on. That should help her get accustomed to the feeling. Then, Eli you should fuck her in the ass, after she’s come again. Once that’s done you can take her together and hopefully be done before dinner.”

Eli glanced over her shoulder, “Damn if you don’t know how to ruin a moment.”

Lydia shrugged, already looking back to her tablet. “This isn’t about you having a moment pirate. It’s work, your supposed to be teaching the girl, get to it.”

Eli stuck her tongue at her and then returned her attention to Josephine and Martha.

“You put on the strap on and I’ll get the plug.” She handed Martha a now familiar bundle. Martha began to fiddle with it as Eli took something from the bedside table.

“So butt plugs are pretty easy to use. You just need to lube them well and put them in slowly. The trick is just using one that is big enough that it won’t slip out.”

She pressed the base of the plug against Josephine. “The nice thing about this one is it vibrates.” She tabbed a button and Josephine’s eyes got very wide. Eli teased her with the lubed plug for a few minutes, just barely pressing the vibrating thing into her and then easing back.

Near the end Josephine was practically pressing into it. Then Eli got it far enough into her for her to feel the widest part of the base and suddenly it hurt. Josephine whimpered and froze, just as the plug fully slid into her. She struggled for breath for a moment, fighting for calm and found it. Eli got out of the way.

“She’s all yours soldier.”

Martha moved over her, kissing her gently and then hungrily. Josephine reached for her. Her whole body felt on fire and weird. Kissing Martha was familiar at least, so was being fingered by her. The plug made her feel tighter in her cunt and two fingers felt like practically four. She was as wet and ready as she had ever been.

When they broke the kiss for breath she whispered in Martha’s ear, “Go on, fuck me, I want you.”

Her fellow soldier needed no further invitation. In spite of herself, Josephine gasped when Martha pressed the toy into her. She felt very full. She’d had more inside of her before but had always been so overwhelmed and afraid she hadn’t really been able to focus on any particular feeling. Now though, she could feel the odd combination of pleasure and fullness.

“Easy, slow,” she gasped.

Martha obeyed. She slowed, almost too much.

Something in Josephine grew restless and frustrated. She hooked a leg behind her lover and rolled them in one swift motion, pinning Martha beneath her.

The other woman looked up at her with raw desire and pulled her into a hungry kiss. Josephine rode her. In spite of everything she loved the feeling. For half a moment she was powerful again. She could at least pretend she was in control.

Her orgasm washed over her and was over far to quickly. She wanted to just keep fucking Martha but Eli touched her shoulder. Josephine stilled over Martha.

“Hands and knees beautiful.”

She didn’t want to, but she pulled away from Martha and did as she had been told. Martha sat up beside her, so that she could kiss her again and stroke her hair.

Josephine flinched when Eli pulled the plug from her. It was a struggled to force herself to relax as Eli pressed her fingers into her ass again. Then she felt her move behind her and line up the dildo. When she began to push it into her it hurt and something inside of her panicked.

She moved before she even realized what she was doing. She threw Eli off of herself and in the same motion pinned her to the bed by the throat.

“No!”

An electric shock to her collar brought her crashing back to the blankets and curling up in writhing pain. Distantly she heard Lydia stand, heard her moving to the bed and checking on Eli before barking at Martha to get out of her way.

The older woman’s hand was cool as she gently brushed the hair from her face.

“The hell was that? You’ve never attacked another slave before.”

Josephine turned her face away, curling up on herself tight. “I didn’t mean to. I panicked.”

“Why did you panic?”

“It hurt.”

“You’ve been hurt worse before.”

“I know…I just…” Hell, Josephine didn’t even know why she felt she had to explain herself to a woman who was a lackey of her tormentor.

Lydia sighed wearily. “Sit up girl, dry your eyes.” She pressed a tissue into Josephine’s hands.

Hesitantly Josephine sat up, leaning back against Martha for support as she did. Across the bed, Eli was watching her warily, a bruise already forming on her throat. When she felt Josephine staring she looked away.

“It’s okay. I should have seen you were getting spooked.”

That just made Josephine feel more guilty.

Lydia cast her half a glance before returning her attention to the naked woman before her. “In this case, I suppose the fault is actually mine. I’ve little enough experience training freeborn women and I forgot that you are different than slave born. Freeborn can hold themselves together through almost any agony if they think they have to in order to survive, but the moment you shown them a bit of kindness or hint of safety or choice, they break. I should have just hired a slave trainer, allowing you the choice to undergo this training with your lover and a fellow harem slave has done you no good. The illusion of choice is worse than the certainty of none.”

Josephine was not so upset that she didn’t take in what Lydia was saying. “No. You’ve made no mistake. I…I can do whatever is required of me. Please let me finish this with Martha and Eli.”

The housekeeper raised a dubious eyebrow, “Without incident? You just tried to choke Eli. You must realize that if you’d done that to a more valuable slave there would be serious consequences. If you ever do that to a free woman or gods forbid our mistress, you will be put down.”

“I know. I’m not stupid.” She took a breath. “And I swear I won’t hurt another slave again.”

“Alright, show me,” said Lydia moving away from the bed. “Just understand that if you allow yourself to panic or harm Eli again, I will hire a slave trainer.”

With the housekeeper out of the way, Eli made no move to approach Josephine or Martha.

“Listen,” she said carefully. “You two look pretty comfy with each other. Josephine, why don’t you let Martha fuck you in the ass instead of me? I can tell her what to do from a safe distance. If that goes well, I’ll get a new strap on and then your lover and I can take you together.”

Josephine felt deeply ashamed that she’d caused the uncertainty and fear she saw in the other woman’s eyes. All she could think to say was, “ok.”

Eli’s face softened. She closed the short distance between them to lightly kiss Josephine on the cheek, “Don’t look so guilty. I’ve been hurt far worse, far too many times, by people who actually meant to hurt me. You didn’t do much worse then throw me off when I did something to you that you didn’t want done to you. It will take a lot more then what just happened to make me afraid of you pretty soldier girl.”

Josephine had to fight back tears. “Thank you.”

Eli glanced at Martha, “You got the general idea of what you need to do? You should probably finger her ass again, just to make sure she can take it.”

“Yea,” Martha kissed Josephine once on the forehead and then pulled away from her.

Wearily Josephine moved back onto her hands and knees. Martha found the forgotten lube and pressed her fingers back into her lover’s unhappy body. This time when Josephine felt the dildo against herself she closed her eyes and forced her body to relax. Martha pushed into her slowly but it still hurt.

The feeling of stretch and pressure alone was enough to make Josephine gasp. She felt tears at the edge of her eyes and it was a desperate struggle not to flash back to the last time she’d been hung from her wrists. Somehow she found her way through it.

Eli knelt beside her, speaking gently to her, one hand pressed between her legs to find her clit and bring her pleasure. Josephine’s breath still grew shallow and desperate.

Distantly she could hear Martha talking to her, feel her hand rubbing circles on her shoulders and her lips on the back of her neck. Between the comfort of her lover and the pleasure of Eli’s fingers, Josephine felt the sparks of pleasure. Somehow amidst everything, the dildo in her ass started to feel ok, almost good.

If she hadn’t been so overwhelmed, so scared and hurt, she might have liked it. She hated herself for the moans that finally began to come to her throat. She would have never dreamed that she could come that way, not in a million years. Her body betrayed her though. Fear and adrenaline had always been able to get her off quicker than anything else.

She came suddenly and with a desperate sound. She was so ashamed of herself that she covered her mouth with one hand. Martha eased the toy out of her and Josephine lost the strength to stay up. Martha pulled her into her arms, murmuring softly to her.

Josephine heard Eli move away and had just closed her eyes to doze when the pirate kissed her again. “One last thing and you can sleep beautiful,” she said softy.

Josephine forced herself back to waking. Eli had fetched a new dildo. She could tell because it was blue instead of the red one she’d had before.

The pirate nipped at her ear. “Hey soldier girl. I need you to ride me like you did your lover earlier. Then she can take you with me ok?”

Her limbs felt loose and tired, as if she’d just run a great distance but she found the will to move. It wasn’t hard to find her place above Eli. The dildo she was wearing slipped easily into her cunt. Josephine gasped with pleasure and her face burned because of it.

Eli sat up enough to pull her down into a kiss, when they pulled apart Eli whispered in her ear, “It’s ok. Take pleasure where you can. If you can’t find it between two fine women, where can you?”

They barely had a chance to move together before Martha was behind her. Her lover had lubed the dildo again, but it was still intense when she pressed it into Josephine’s ass. She went very, very slowly and Josephine did everything she could not try cry out. She may well have torn the bed sheets that she was clawing.

Eli caught her lips in a passionate breath-stealing kiss and it was enough to distract her. Both toys were fully seated within her before Eli broke the kiss. They remained still, letting her trembled and struggle for breath between them.

She tried to find words and couldn’t. “I…”

“Sh, we’ve got you,” whispered Eli. And then they began to move and Josephine’s world went white. When she’d been fucked the same way before she’d been too lost to pain to be aware of much of anything. Thing time, there was more pleasure then she would ever willingly admit.

She had been this full before, but that had been before she knew or trusted Eli. The last time Martha hadn’t been part of it. This time she was between two women she did actually trust. She closed her eyes and fell into pleasure.

One orgasm took her and then very surprisingly, so did another. She was utterly boneless when they pulled the toys from her. She curled up between Eli and Martha and let her breath slow and deepen. She would not have thought the pirate would be a good cuddler, but she proved herself to be so in that moment, at least when she had an exhausted lover to tend to.

From a thousand miles away she heard Lydia stand. She paused briefly by the door. “There, see. It is always easier once you just accept things. The moment you stop fighting or resisting, everything hurts less.” Then she left.

Chapter Text

 

The next day Josephine spent most of the morning swimming with Isabella and then part of the afternoon in the small harem library brushing up her Varcian by reading one of the few novels in the place. That afternoon she passed with Martha and Kara sparring in the yard. After that she had a few minutes of respite sitting alone in the silent room until Lydia knocked on the door and bustled in.

"Get into the shower, we've not much time to get you ready."

Josephine didn't bother to move, "what now?"

"The mistress intends to take you with her on an outing. It's not your place to ask where or why."

Josephine straightened her back, "I'll ask what I will of you. You’re a slave too. Do you know what she wants?"

Lydia's eyes narrowed, "Don't get uppity girl. You're not a favorite, just new. You want me as your friend, especially if she starts to get tired of you. A few words from me could help persuade her to sell or keep you in a few months time."

A deep feeling of exhaustion washed over Josephine, "I wasn't picking a fight Lydia. I just wanted to know."

The slave woman sighed, "She's taking you to the arena as a pretty bauble on a leash. Get showered and dressed. I expect you ready in thirty minutes."

Josephine went to shower before she said anything she'd regret. When she stepped out the slave girl with the birthmark on her face was laying out clothes on the bed.

The girl was singing softly under her breath, but she jumped when she saw Josephine standing there in a towel and quickly dipped a deep courtesy.

Josephine blinked as she reached for the fine silk, "You don't have to bow to me kid, I'm as much a prisoner here as you are."

The girl flushed and looked at her feet, "I was meaning no disrespect ma'am. You're a bed slave though and my mama always said favorites weren’t the same as us regular house slaves. You gotta show them respect."

Josephine sighed, "Just don't call me Ma'am, I was never an officer and you're not under my command."

She blinked but nodded, "Yes ma'am."

Oddly Josephine had to fight down a laugh that bubbled up. "What is your name anyway kid?"

"Millie,"

"Josephine, and honestly you can just call me that."

The girl didn't look like she believed her but she bowed her head obediently. Josephine wished the girl would go so she could dress but she just stood there patiently. She turned her back and began to tug on the bra, shirt and pants. The trousers were tight and impractical but the shoes were hard soled for once instead of slippers.

She couldn't seem to get the shirt on correctly though.

It wasn't a military cut like everything else she'd been given. It seemed like a snarl of blue silk wisps to her and the lacy bra was still visible through the thin fabric.

In exacerbation she turned back around. "Do you know how the hell this shirt is supposed to fit?"

The girl nodded and quickly with deft fingers helped her turn and flip the fabric until part of it looped over her chest twice. The effect was at least a little less translucent.

She sat on the bed and let the slave girl brush her hair, twisting some of it back with a set of silver clips. It had gotten longer over the last several months. There was more makeup this time and dangly earrings with blue stones that clinked when she moved her head. Her ears weren’t pierced, so the earnings clipped to her earlobes.

She felt like a whore when she looked in the mirror. Warren was dressing her more and more like a regular pleasure slave. She had no idea what that meant. A guard came for her and led her from the harem across the house to a room where Warren was sitting across from a beautiful blond woman in a red dress reclining on a low couch.

The woman tilted her head ever so slightly as she watched Josephine enter, her eyes slowly sliding over her in a careful evaluation that was far more professional than lustful.

"You're bringing a slave to the arena?"

"My dear Mary, I've got my own box, I could bring a dog if I wanted."

The blond woman smiled wryly, "You'd be less likely to be accused of ostentation if you brought a dog instead of both a courtesan and an expensive slave."

Warren shrugged as she stood, offering Mary her hand. "Let them accuse me of every sort of decadence, so long as they acknowledge that I have the wealth and power to do what I want.

Mary took the offered palm and stood gracefully, "You are far more blunt with your politicking than most women who can afford me. It's rather refreshing."

"Glad to amuse. Now come, the car is waiting and it would not be fitting to be late to the first arena fight of the season."

A guard opened the door and Josephine followed the couple without being bidden. She hated how she had come into the habit of such automatic obedience but it was better than to have attention drawn to herself.

The car was waiting in the courtyard and she was somewhat surprised when the guard motioned her to follow Warren and her guest inside. She climbed into the backseat and made a sound of surprise when Warren grabbed her and yanked her into her lap. It was such a distinctly un-Warren like thing to do, physically doing something instead of ordering it.

The car shifted as it swung out onto the road. Josephine fought down the urge to fight and remained where she was. Warren ran a hand down her body.

"She's lovely isn't she, far more fun than a dog. It's a long ride to the arena. Why don't you let her use the time to show you how good she is with her tongue."

The courtesan's lips pursed and her eyes narrowed, "Do I need to remind you of the specifics of the night's contract?"

"Oh?"

Her cheeks flushed, "I am a freeborn woman. I do not fuck slaves under any circumstances and you insult me by even suggesting it."

"And yet you willingly agree to fuck your lover’s worst enemy." Warren roughly pushed Josephine off her lap just as the car took a sharp corner. Josephine half fell onto Mary. The woman caught her at the shoulder with more strength than her slender frame would seem to suggest. Josephine quickly scrambled back, taking a seat as far from both women as she could.

"Don't you fucking judge me you vicious bitch!" hissed Mary.

Warren's face remained utterly calm as she stretched out her legs, "Keep talking to me like that and I might not even let you see her."

Pure fury twisted the young woman's face, "Don't you dare. You signed the contract for the night, the same as I did. If you break it, no guild courtesan in this city will ever sign with you again or even speak to you in public."

"Well I can't have that. What will people think of me if high class whores won't even greet me. Don't worry Mary, I always keep my word. I'll let you see your former lover, my slave, before the night is done."

"You had better."

"I'll never understand what you see in Kara, she's just a romantic fool, a weakling I used to advance my own career. She's no use to your own career now that she's a slave, why do you still care?"

Mary turned her head to look out the window at the city flashing past, "Not everyone in this world is heartless General Warren. Some people even consider loyalty and kindness to be qualities worthy of love."

"They're idiots.

Mary looked back, "What would it take to get you to sell Kara to me? You must have tired of her by now."

Warrens lips twisted into a thin smile, "What would you offer me?"

"Money...information. We could work something out."

"Would you fuck a slave...even do it before an audience?"

Her eyes widened, "Would you sign a contract agreeing to give her to me if I did?"

Warren laughed dryly, "No, I don't actually intend to ever let her go. I just wanted to see what you would say."

Mary just shook her head and said nothing.

The arena came into sight long before they reached it at the heart of the city. Josephine had once seen pictures of a great structure called the Coliseum on old earth and it reminded her of that. It was a huge stadium made of the white stone so common in the city. Huge sun shades, like the white sails of a ship were flapping in the wind high above and shading the eyes of the audience.

It vanished from view as the car dipped down into an underground parking garage. They left the car to travel up a series of elevators and corridors until they stepped into the brilliant light of the box. It was perhaps one story above the arena floor and set among several others, all open to air and the sound of the arena. When she looked out, she could see the rolling ocean of the crowd on their benches.

It wasn't terribly big, just space enough for several chairs. None was offered to Josephine and she guessed that she was supposed to kneel beside Warren as always.

When Josephine looked to the left, she realized why it was so prestigious. The empresses royal crest was carved into the stone of the box immediately next to them. The empress herself stood flanked by four guards, two painfully familiar. The crowd was utterly silent as she gave what sounded like an opening speech.

Josephine didn't hear much of what the empress said next, although the crowd was clearly listening. Down in the arena a gate had opened and three young men in tattered Terra Nuevan uniform were driven out.

For an instant she hoped they were not her unit, but even at such a distance a second look told her they were.

They each had a weapon, a sword, a knife, a spear; all were things they couldn't have possibly known how to use. A cheer went up and another gate opened at the far end.

The animals looked like a wolves, but they could not have been wolves, not with the size of them and the speed at which they moved. Josephine watched in mute horror as the three beasts descended upon the men.

She'd heard stories of such creatures in the trenches, biologically engineered war dogs, every bit as likely to tear apart their handlers as their intended target. The Varcian's had stopped using them when they proved uncontrollable.

The animals rapidly circled the men, snarling and snapping. Her unit were no fools, they stayed back to back, weapons raised, jabbing at the beasts each time they came too close.

Eventually one of the animals lunged, dodging to the side of the raised spear and bearing a man to the ground. His friends attacked it, which left them vulnerable to the other beast. One man went down under a beasts fangs.

Josephine was on her feet in an instant, her hands clutching the railing.

"No!"

"Sit down!" snapped Warren.

Josephine did not obey.

"They're my unit!"

"Then you should be thanking me for saving you from their fate."

"Please help them, I'll do anything but stop this!"

Warren's lip twisted in an amused grin, "Even I can't stop an arena fight. Now sit, or I will sell your lover to the arena and let you watch her die like your friends down there.”

Josephine sunk down to her knees tears streaming down her face. It was already almost over. The two men left fought back to back, but with three beasts they couldn't keep up. One got his spear lodged in a war dog’s shoulder and the animal skittered back, dragging him forward. Its pack mate had the man down in instant the other soon followed him.

She had lived with them, fought with them, been willing to die for them and yet now she watched, utterly powerless. For an instant she had considered leaping over the railing and joining them in their final struggle, but then she'd have left Martha all alone to Warren's cruelties. She forced down her sob and buried her face in her hands.

At least the Varcian's did not let the beasts feed, not very long anyway. A whistle sounded and the creatures ran back out through an open gate.

"That was cruel, even for you," said the courtesan softly. "Did you really have to bring to slave to see her unit slaughtered."

"Perhaps I'm being kind. Now that she's seen this, I'll probably have to beat her less in the long run."

Down in the arena another fight was beginning. This time it looked like two Varcians. They both wore light kevlar armor and fought with what looked like swords to Josephine, but she wasn't really paying attention. It took all the control she had to both suppress the desperate need to weep or strangle Warren.

She barely looked up when the curtain to the box opened and an imperial guard saluted Warren,

"The empress has sent for you. She said to bring the slave"

Warren stood and snapped her fingers. "Mary stay here. Josephine come along." Josephine followed.

They went up a short flight up steps and then through a door onto a large balcony where the empress sat amongst a small group of well dressed nobles and a few high ranking members of her military.

Warren knelt and Josephine followed, two steps behind her.

The empress motioned Warren back up, "I'm disappointed in you my dear general, you missed most of my opening speech."

Warren bowed her head, "Forgive me your majesty, I did not know my presence was expected in a timely manner."

The empress's lip twitched, "Because I did not invite you to my personal balcony, as I have in years past?"

"Yes, my empress."

"You are a good soldier but a terrible example for proper manners. I suppose it is part of your charm in a way."

Warren kept her eyes down, but something of her posture reminded Josephine of the way a dog crouched before it attacked, "Please forgive me empress."

"Of course, so long as you improve your timeliness. Merely because I do not keep you always at my side, does not mean you have fallen from my favor. You must come to the palace tonight for the festival feast. You should bring that lovely Terran slave you've clearly trained so well, and the other that I've yet to see."

"Yes my Empress."

"You are able to bring the other one out in public are you not? Surely you've not met your match in a war prize."

Warren flushed, "The other slave is perfectly obedient she is merely not as lovely as this one, so I take her out less."

"Good I look forward to it,"

They were dismissed with a wave.

Warren kept up her look of calm all the way back to her own balcony, where she sat utterly silent and straight backed as women and men died in the arena bellow. Mary wisely said nothing. Josephine sat utterly still at the general's knees, lost to her own thoughts and fears.

They stayed for three more hours like that until the sun rose high and the crowd began to disperse. Warren stood stiffly and seemed almost surprised when she realized that there was still a courtesan and a slave with her.

"Mary, I've greater concerns than you. I will release you from you contract for the day and trust you can find your own way home."

"You may release me from providing any further services today but you must keep your agreement to let me see Kara."

Warren gave her an aggravated scowl, "Fine, come along. Let it not be said that I broke a contract with the whore's guild."

It was a short walk back to the car, but it seemed an eternity of a drive, Warren silently brooding. The moment they pulled into the driveway she was on her feet and heading for the house. When Lydia met her at the landing of the stairs she snapped.

"Take the damn whore to go see her lover, give her a half hour, no more, and then have the guards see her out. Bring me the other Nuevan right now. I will speak with her. The moment I'm done you've got to prepare her and Josephine for the palace."

Warren stormed up the stairs, snapping her fingers at Josephine like she was a dog that would simply follow. She did. Warren flung open the door to the sitting room they had come from earlier and sunk down onto the couch. Not knowing what else to do, Josephine hung back near the door.

When the general looked up after a moment there was something very ugly in her eyes. "You will not tell your fool of a lover what you saw today, not before tonight."

Josephine averted her eyes, "I won't."

"If you want any hope of her surviving the night you had better use everything in your power to get her to do exactly what she's told in the palace. Is she fails me before the empress, I will skin you both alive and I do mean that literally."

"I know," murmured Josephine.

The door opened as Lydia hurried in with Martha, still sweating from sparring out in the the courtyard.

Warren leapt to her feet. Martha didn't see the blow coming but Josephine did. Warren hit Martha once with a closed first, nearly knocking her off her feet. Josephine was at her lover’s side, grabbing her wrists and struggling to bodily restrain her before she could fight back.

"Martha. No! She'll kill you."

Martha turned to look at Josephine in confusion and then slumped in acceptance. When Warren hit her again she just took it on the chin, her face turned away.

Warren stepped back grinning almost maniacally.

"Good, you might not be truly broken but at least you've learned what you have to do to survive. Disobey what the empress asks of you tonight and you might survive, possible for a few days, but you'll wish you hadn't before you finally die. She's unduly fond of flaying alive those who displease her."

She straightened her back and glanced over at Lydia, who was still standing by the door, "See that she puts ice on her face before she bruises. Now get them out of my sight."

...

It was a long afternoon. The routine of bathing and dressing had become very familiar, almost habitual to Josephine. Martha's hands shook the entire time. The clothes that the young slave girl, Maggie, brought were more unsettling than what they had been given before. Martha's were very simple, dark slacks tailored to her form and a beautiful gray shirt with a dragon stitches all across it.

Josephine's were tight black trousers and what she was certain was only a bra. It made of a few wisps of red silk and left most of her stomach, back and shoulders bare. There were dangly clip on earrings with beautiful red stones and a necklace and jangling bracelets.

Maggie didn't have orders to put any makeup on Martha, which was for the best because she couldn't have sat still for it. She spent a long time with Josephine though, showing far more skill with paint than Josephine would have expected the young girl to have. She laid the colors on a bit thick, painting Josephine's lips a blood red and darkened her lashes and coloring her eyelids with blue.

"This is ridiculous," Josephine told Lydia when she came to check the progress. "I look like a whore not a soldier. If I am valuable because I was once a soldier, why am I being dressed like this."

Lydia sighed and set about tugging part of Josephine's hair into a delicately wrought silver clip. It had become just barely long enough.

"Because you are even more valuable as a status symbol if she can prove she has broken you. Anyone can drag a drugged and beaten captive about on a leash, it's another thing to make that woman smile and dance and behave as well as any brothel born slave courtesan. Last time she took you out she needed people to remember you were a caged tiger she was brave enough to keep, now you must be an obedient one who she's taught to do tricks."

She glanced at Martha, "Now you're the tiger dear. You must look fierce but roll on your back and bear your throat when ordered."

"And if I don't?" snapped the soldier from where she was sitting on the edge of the bed glaring.

"Then pray that the empress has you killed, for Warren will do far worse if she gets you back after you have shamed her. If you care nothing for yourself, then do this for your lover. She does not have the death wish you do."

She lowered her hands from Josephine's hair, her dark eyes narrowing, "And if you cannot do that, if you know you cannot, you'd best not still be among the living when the guards come to take you to the palace. That will be kinder for both of you."

"I am no coward," spat Martha. "And I'll be damned if I die by my own hand to escape these bastards."

Lydia shook her head as she and Maggie left. "Gods, if you’re still talking like that, you are not ready for this. I don't know what the mistress is thinking taking you out when you are so poorly broken, you will shame her."

"Then at least it's her funeral too," called Martha after her.

"Martha, please," begged Josephine.

"What?" snapped Martha, "you'd rather get fucked than beaten, I get that."

"I'd rather live to fight again."

Martha surged to her feet, "And when is that going to be huh?"

"I don't know. I know I don't want to die in agony and humiliation. Not tonight, not like this, not dressed like a fucking doll." She wanted to cry but that would ruin the makeup and then the slave girl would have to fix it and she'd have less time with Martha before they had to leave, so she fought down the tears.

Martha took a slow steadying breath. "I don't know if I can do this Josephine."

"You have to try," Josephine knelt down beside her taking her hands in her own.

"I will, for you I will."

Chapter Text

It was utterly silent during the car ride over to the palace. Warren was done with threats. She sat silently brooding, eyes upon the window. Just before they arrived she took out a simple metal looking leash and clipped it to Martha's collar.

"Stay behind me and keep up. Don't make me drag you like a dog." She didn't bother with one with Josephine this time as she had not their last several outings.

When they arrived, the car stopped and Josephine and Martha followed Warren silently and unbidden. From the moment Warren's feet hit the ground, she was all confidence and ease to the untrained eye.

They made their way through the crowd with Josephine and Martha trailing after her. When Martha did not walk fast enough for Warren's liking, she gave the leash a rough yank and nearly pulled the slave off her feet.

Anger flashed in Martha's eyes but she bit it down.

"Oh she's a fierce thing isn't she," laughed a dark haired woman in a blue dress. "She looks like she was just snatched from the battle field."

Warren offered the woman a formal bow, "Hello Lady Delilah, I can assure you she's fully broken. I would not bring a dangerous slave to an event such as this. I've had her as long as the slave that the empress so liked at the last ball here."

The woman smiled with painted lips. "Then you should have brought her then, instead of being so selfish with your nice things."

"I did not think her as lovely as the other Terran, I bought with her. In truth, I only collected her because I like sets. Who brings anything but the best to the palace? I only brought her tonight because the empress expressed curiosity."

The woman took her arm companionably, “then you ought to sell her to me if she so bores you. At least I know how to appreciate a properly tamed warrior woman."

Warren tilted her head to the side, "Is that why you keep inviting me to your bed then?"

"I'm not sure I'd call you tamed, your tongue is certainly rather sharp, but that gives me all the more reason to invite you. Someday I do hope you’ll accept."

"Perhaps when your ex-husbands stop turning up poisoned."

"It was only one and everyone knows it was by his political enemies not me. I take much better care of my lovers."

"I'm sure you do."

A bell was rung and the gathered guests went into the same great hall for dinner. Josephine and Martha sat at Warren's feet. Warren was seated between the woman in blue and General Walters.

This time Walters had brought a beautiful brunette haired woman dressed in a skimpy green dress. She wore a slave collar and sat at his feet as obedient as a dog, seeming as content as one as well. She spared Josephine and Martha a quick glance but didn't say anything.

"I see you brought a slave yourself this time," Warren said to Walters.

"Yes, she's my newest. I bought her from the White Lily Breeders. They do fine work, raise the slaves from childhood and train them as fine courtesans. She can sing like a lark and dance with impressive grace. They even guarantee their virginity."

"How dull,"

"Not everyone enjoys slave breaking the way you do. Some of us prefer a nicely trained and obedient woman. And you know..." he lowered his voice, "there's a lot to be said for being the first to fuck a slave, gods only know how you haven't caught something terrible with your preference for soldiers."

Warren gave him a thin smile, "honestly Walters you make me sound like a foolish enlisted woman risking the pox in a poorly regulated military brothel, I do get my pets tested before I touch them. What I don't understand is your obsession with virgin slaves. Can you only fuck a woman who's never had another man because then she can't realize what a poor lover you are by comparison?"

"And that's enough of that," interjected Lady Delilah. "A bit of verbal sparring at the dinner table is amusing but you two are hitting below the belt and not in a flirty way."

"Forgive us Lady Delilah," said Warren, "we meant it only in humor."

The meal carried on. Warren handed down a few grapes to Josephine but none to Martha, perhaps because she knew she wouldn't eat them. It was all Josephine could do to chew and swallow the little sweet fruits that tasted bitter in her mouth.

When the meal was done the empress clapped her hands, "Now let us have some entertainment. My dear General Warren I see you brought your pets as promised. Won't you let us all enjoy them?"

"Of course, my empress. They are but recently captured war slaves, and though obedient not yet well educated in the arts of pleasure. I hope they are still able to please you and your guests."

"My guards shall help them." There was something ugly in the empress's smile and as she looked at Warren, like she thought she was about to win a game.

Warren unclipped the leash on Martha's collar and pointed them both forward. It took all of Josephine's courage to stand and walk around the table to the center of the room.

One guard had a cup and was about to give it to Josephine when the empress shook her head, "I don't think we'll need that. If these slaves are as obedient as you say, General Warren, there should be no need to drug them for compliance."

Across the room Josephine saw Warren pale.

"Go on then," the empress flicked her hand at them, "I'm told Terra Nuevan's fuck like cats in heat but I've never actually seen two of them go at it. Let's see that for a start.

Josephine moved quickly, catching Martha's face with her hands and kissing her deeply and far more frantically than she had meant to. If she could just get her to focus on her this might be all right.

Martha kissed her back hesitantly and Josephine pushed down on her shoulders, whispering in her ear, "Lie down."

Martha did and Josephine straddled her. When Martha hesitated to do anything Josephine grabbed one of her hands and pressed it to her breast.

Josephine kissed her beneath the ear and whispered, "close your eyes, focus on me. You've got to start fucking me right now love."

If she had learned anything from Warren it was that women who took pleasure in watching others were impatient.

Martha's fingers shook as she scrambled with the clasp of Josephine's pants and slipped her hand inside. Josephine made a gasp of pleasure she didn't actually feel. She undid the clasp of the red slip of silk and it fell away from her breasts.

Martha sat up to bring her lips to one nipple and she began to stroke Josephine's clit. A few sharp sparks of pleasure washed through Josephine. She moaned louder than she would have, had they been alone.

She watched the crowd and saw some leaning forward but the empress herself was sipping at her wine. Keeping on the pants had been a mistake; it limited the motion of Martha's hand and lessened what the crowd could see. Josephine moved her hips against Martha's ministrations and tangled her hands in her lover’s hair, tugging hard.

Martha made a sound, but it might have been from pain. Josephine hissed in her ear, "Roll us, get my pants off and make a show of fucking me, do it hard."

Martha hesitated half a breath and then she yanked her fingers from Josephine and rolled them with the flip of a practiced fighter. She yanked Josephine's pants off and shoved her legs open with her knee.

She covered her mouth with her own as she drove her fingers into her again. Fear had made Josephine slick, if tight.

"Shift so the empress can see more," Josephine gasped as she raised her hips to meet each thrust of Martha's hand. She couldn't come easily without her clit being touched but this looked better.

She cried out every couple thrusts and hoped it sounded convincing.

"Harder,"

"I..."

"Do it."

Martha did, slamming her fingers deeply into her with each rapid movement of her wrist. Josephine wasn't really ready and it hurt a little. 

She would have faked her orgasm, if she thought she could do it convincingly enough, but she was probably already pushing her luck with the louder moans. She reached between herself and Martha and pressed her own clit roughly. It wasn't what she liked but she knew it would work.

She arched her back and made every sound that came to her. She gave herself half a breath and then pushed on Martha's shoulders, hissing.

"Lie down, let me get you off."

"Can't I just..."

"Please."

Martha rolled off her and Josephine scrambled at her pants without look up. Martha raised her hips to help her get them off. Josephine crawled between her legs and ducked her head down to her lovers cunt.

Martha was as dry as a stone and her leg muscles were tight with tension. She didn't respond at first when Josephine put her mouth to her but after a moment she began to.

Josephine relaxed into what she was doing and Martha began to move her hips slightly against her. Then suddenly Martha's hand tightened on her shoulder and she made something close to a snarl.

Josephine didn't understand why since Martha was not yet close to coming. Then she felt a hand too far down her back to be Martha’s. Someone grabbed her hips and yanked them up. Another hand pressed between her legs, stroking her wet labia.

When she tried to raise her head a strong hand grabbed her head and forced her back down on Martha. There was no further prep, no fingers even, before a lot of hard plastic was roughly shoved into her cunt.

She cried out, her voice drowned out against Martha. The woman fucking her, pulled on her hair harder, keeping her down and slamming into her again and again. Martha tried to pull away and in spite of everything Josephine knew she was about to do something stupid.

Josephine grabbed at her, trying to keep her where she was. "Let her," she managed to grind out.

Martha stilled and Josephine flicked her tongue against Martha's clit again. She nearly lost her balance every time the woman behind her slammed into her. It didn't really matter though what she was doing, just what it looked like. It seemed to go on forever but in spite of everything she felt Martha shudder and heard her make a muffled sound, as if she'd covered her own mouth to try and hide her orgasm.

The hand on Josephine's head eased up and she pushed herself up onto her elbows gasping for breath. When she turned her head she saw the blond guards behind her. The bitch winked at her.

When she looked back in front of her she saw the other guard, the dark haired one, forcing Martha to kneel in front of her. For an instant Josephine thought Martha was going to fight back but then they locked eyes and Martha's shoulders slumped.

Martha let the guard force her to her opened uniform pants. Josephine didn't get long to think about it though. The blond guard pulled the dildo out of her and she suddenly felt something slick against her ass.

Josephine almost hoped it would be just fingers. At least the guard started with those, quickly and efficiently. She wasn't brutal but it still hurt. The guard withdrew her fingers and began to slowly press the dildo into her. That hurt, a lot. Josephine forced herself to relax, to breath. It was hard. The guard didn't give her long before she started to slam into her with slow deep thrusts.

When she raised her head, she saw that Martha was still on her knees in front of the dark haired guard. The guard closed her eyes and shuddered before shoving Martha away. Josephine didn't see what happened next because the other one started to fuck her harder.

Pain and pleasure began to blur and she knew she might actually come again when suddenly the guard stopped and pulled out of her. Josephine slowly opened her eyes. She could see that Martha had lain down again. The second guard had helped her put on a strap on that was somewhat larger than the one inside of her. Martha was glaring at the woman and saying something sharp and angry.

"What?" She sat back on her knees, her whole body shivering from exhaustion and the orgasm she'd been pulled back from.

"Go fuck yourself on her, I'll take you from behind," said the guard as if she were telling her to tie her own shoes.

"That won't...the toys are too big," they seemed worse than the one's Warren had had Eli and Tali use on her, although she hadn't really gotten a good look at those.

The woman's hand tightened painfully on her shoulder and she leaned close enough to whisper, "do as you are ordered slave." She didn't need to make an actual threat. It was already there in her tone.

Josephine crawled the short distance to Martha and straddled her again. Martha looked up at her with worried eyes. Josephine kissed her once honestly and then raised up her hips to sink down on the toy. She was relieved to realize that it had been lubed. It really was large and took her a moment to adjust to, even after the fucking she'd already received. She forced herself to move.

Martha's hands were gentle and familiar on her hips, helping her. The guard didn't give them long. She knelt down behind Josephine and pushed her a little farther forward so that she could get at her ass. She pressed one finger at first and then two. Josephine went utterly still. Even those two fingers felt like far too much with the dildo already inside of her.

The guard removed her fingers and lined up the toy. Josephine tried to relax, she really did. She tried to stay calm and still, all of that went out the window the moment the head of the toy began to press into her ass. It was too much and too big and it more than just hurt.

She whimpered and tried to pull away. The other guard was already kneeling beside them ready to grab her and keep her in place.

Martha tried to sit up, grabbing at the guard behind Josephine, catching her wrist and twisting it painfully, "Stop!"

The guard did, quickly trying to free her wrist as pain twisted her face. Her friend let go of Josephine and grabbed Martha's throat, pressing her thumb just beneath the slave collar.

"You're going to let go of my friend, slave," she warned.

Martha twisted the other guards wrist harder even as she started to struggle in earnest. The guard pressed harder, "you let go of her bitch or I crush your windpipe.

"Martha, please," begged Josephine. They locked eyes. The fury in Martha's face slowly bled away to grief and then acceptance.

She let go of the guards wrist, which she quickly yanked back. The other guard released Martha's throat. Moving instead to grab both of her wrists and pen them over her head.

Slowly, very slowly, the blond guard began to push into Josephine. She whispered to her, "Your lover hurt me and now you're going to pay for it."

The next thrust was fast and hard, so brutal that Josephine couldn't suppress her first cry of the pain or the one that followed.

To her shame, she was quickly reduced to soft sobs at each thrust. She pressed her forehead against Martha's, clinging to her shoulders, wanting it to just be over. It seemed to go on forever.

The guard behind her reached between her and Martha and found her clit. She pressed it painfully hard, "Go on and fucking come. This won't stop until you do."

Josephine closed her eyes and let the pain and raw stimulation wash over her. She hated herself for somehow being able to find pleasure in all of it, but it was there. She clung to it and after a few more agonizing thrusts she came, although how anyone could tell that sound from her cries of pain she didn't know.

The guard stopped and pulled out of her. She slumped onto Martha, too exhausted to even care if the other toy was still inside of her.

Distantly she heard the empress laugh, "Warren I am impressed. You have trained them both quite well, although the taller one perhaps not as well as you might have. She did resist a bit near the end. I think she hurt my poor guard’s wrist."

"Forgive me Empress. I will see that she is appropriately punished."

"And my guard? Aren't you going to offer her an apology, after all it was her and not me who was harmed by your poorly trained slave. If a dog bites the master is at fault not the beast."

Warren turned to the guard, eyes thunderous, “I apologize if any harm has come to you due to negligence on my part. If you will accept any manner of compensation from me I will gladly offer it."

"Your words are enough honored general," said the guard, although she was cradling her wrist against her chest when she stood.

"Now, enough of this," said the empress, "Get these women off my floor and let us have some music."

Josephine tried to stand and found she did not have the strength. Someone draped a blanket around her and strong hand lifted her from Martha. Two simply dressed palace slaves helped her slowly limp back to her place next to Warren's feet. They tried to do the same for Martha but she stood on her own power. She untangled herself from the toy and snatched up her pants, tugging them on as she walked.

She sat down beside Josephine pulled her into her arms. Josephine slumped against her shivering violently. Everything hurt.

She was surprised when a glass of water entered her field of vision. General Walter's slave girl gently pressed it to Josephine's lips. Josephine realized how dry her mouth was and drank.

She felt so cold. She closed her eyes and let herself sink into sleep. She woke briefly to the sensation of being carried. She was in Martha's arms they were outside. Martha was putting her in the car. If Warren spoke during the drive she did not hear it.

When they arrived Warren let Martha carry Josephine as far as the front hall before snapping at the waiting Lydia.

"Get the pretty little bitch to the infirmary before she bleeds to death from the damn guards careless fucking. Put the other into a cell. If she's not out of my sight this instant I'll kill her and she's too valuable now for that."

A guard took Josephine and led her from the room.

Chapter Text

 She woke slowly in an unfamiliar bed. The same doctor who had treated her before was sitting beside her. She made her drink some water and let her go back to sleep. When she woke again everything hurt but she sat up anyway.

The doctor gave her another cup of water. "How are you feeling?"

"How do you think?"

"Like hell, although at least you weren't drugged this time. That might have been kinder though, you've got some tearing but nothing terrible. I'm going to try and let you heal without stitches. You need to not have penetrative sex for at least a week. I've told Warren as much."

"Let's see if she lets me."

"She seemed pleased with you, I think she will."

"And Martha?"

"She's locked up downstairs. Word through the household is that Warren has just left her there."

Josephine was relieved that Warren hadn't hurt Martha, at least not yet.

"Can I go back to my room."

"Yes, take it easy but you can do anything short of sparring."

 

 

Josephine slept all that day. She hurt in several places but it was more a deep crushing exhaustion that forced her down than any physical harm. Gretel and Helen came in and laid down beside her. Josephine curled up with her head resting on Gretel's chest and Helen held her from behind. It helped. Neither asked about the palace and for that she was glad.

When they left in the evening Gretel asked if she could send someone else. Josephine asked for Eli and a few minutes late the pirate came. She stretched out on the bed and reached for Josephine as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

She was just drifting off again in Eli's arms when the door opened. Josephine did not bother to raise her head, expecting that it was only a harem slave with food. It wasn't.

"Damn if you aren't a little slut. I've locked your lover away for less than a day and already you've already got a new woman in your bed. I'd have thought you'd have at least taken a day or two to rest after how you were so thoroughly fucked last night." Warren sounded amused.

Josephine didn't try to find a response. To her surprise Eli did. "I'm only comforting her, mistress. I am as able to hold a woman, as I am to fuck one."

"Although you do seem to tend towards the later," said Warren as sat down on the edge of the bed. "So tell me then pirate, how is the little soldier doing?"

"I'm fine," said Josephine speaking for herself.

"Good, I intend to have you back in my bed soon. First though, I do intend to reward you. You served me obediently last night."

Josephine sat up slowly, "Let Martha come back to the harem."

Warren's eyes narrowed and her good humor instantly vanished, "I will let that go because you do not properly know how to ask for a reward little slave."

Josephine felt sick. If she said the wrong thing again she knew things would quickly become worse. She already had food and clothes and wine. What did Warren even think she could want?

"Could I have another book in Castilian?" There was a small library in the Harem but all the books were in Varian aside from a few in standard.

Warren reached out and almost gently stroked the side of her face, "Of course my pet, that is easily done."

She stood and left. Josephine looked at Eli, "What just happened? Is this some new trick?"

Eli shrugged her shoulders, "With her it always is."

 

Josephine was down in the courtyard next afternoon, lying on a blanket in the shade of the grass beneath the overhang when the gate opened and Warren came in with Martha, Lydia and several guards.

Josephine leapt to her feet, as did Isabella and Alexandra who were in the courtyard.

Warren didn't bother to spare any of them a glance. Lydia spoke to a bored looking dark haired man with an ugly turn to his lip. He had a lean and hungry look to him. He wore no collar though, which meant he was a freeman

"Use the hook on the central column and bind her with her wrists above her head. Whip her only on her back and do not cut her skin too deeply. She is not to be scarred."

The man gave a derisive snort, "I know my business woman."

Lydia was not deterred, "You'd better, she is a valuable bed slave, not a common laborer."

"I spent years as a slave master at a brothel, I can make a woman hurt without ruining her for trade. Although..." he glanced at Warren, "there are plenty of more painful methods than just a whip."

"I'm sure you know all of them, but I wouldn't really want to still touch this woman after I knew she'd been left alone with you. Now deliver the thirty lashes, that's all that's needed today."

Josephine ached to go to Martha, but she knew seeing her might easily urge Warren on to a new cruelty. She stood with the tree to her back watching as one of the guards forcefully removed Martha's shirt and chained her to the column.

Martha didn't fight, didn't resist. She turned her head and her dark eyes met Josephine's. They were as calm as Josephine had ever seen them. She wasn't scared or angry, just accepting a situation in which fighting would do her no good. Josephine felt as if she couldn't breath.

She felt a hand on her shoulder and realized that Isabella and Alexandra were at her sides. She did not turn her head at the first strike of the whip, or the second. Martha did not cry out not then, not until the thirteenth, when the first drop of blood was drawn.

Josephine felt tears seeping down her face. She hated herself for shedding them. She'd buried friends in the trenches with dry eyes, why was she weeping now? They didn't stop any more than the blows did.

Martha's cries were short and sharp, a quick bark of pain, not a scream and not a sob. The last one fell and two of the guards hurried to take her down.

"Take her to her room and send for the doctor. She won't need the infirmary," Lydia told the guards.

Josephine felt Warrens eyes on her and the woman gave her a very slight nod. Josephine almost lost the strength to stand. Warren had just given her Martha back, but she'd shown exactly who was in charge in the most brutal manner possible.

She hurried back to follow Martha to the room. Martha lay down on her stomach, to keep off her back and the doctor was there almost instantly. The damage wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been, a good number of long red welts but only a few open ones.

 

The next few days passed peacefully. Martha healed rapidly, the damage done to her back had not been as bad as Josephine feared and with the help of the doctor’s ministrations her wounds had closed without stitches. Josephine's own body ached for a time and then did not.

Warren did not send for either of them. It was late afternoon a few days later when Lydia came into the harem. She clapped her hands to get the attention of the women hanging about the courtyard.

“Isabella , Martha Gretel, Josephine, Kara and Alexandria you’ll all to serve at dinner. You’ve a few hours to get ready and you’d best make a good show of.”

Josephine froze, “I won’t go back to the palace!”

Gretel gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze, “We’re not going there, although this is barely better. Warren sometimes throws formal meals here and expects us to serve and entertain.” She spat at the end of her sentence.

Josephine turned to Lydia, “So basically she’ll make us fuck for the entertainment of her guests?”

The grey haired slave woman nodded, “Among other things. Now there is not much time, go shower and put on the clothes laid out for you. I’ll send a slave to see to your hair.”

There was no more room to argue. Josephine took Martha’s hand and tugged her back towards their room.

“Why should we willingly preen for her?” snapped Martha. She had been quiet and short tempered since they'd returned from the palace.

“Because otherwise we’ll be forced and I don’t want to be dragged into the shower by the guards.”

Martha said nothing more. When they reached the room Josephine chucked off her clothes as if they were burning her skin and walked into the bathroom. She turned up the water so hot she could barely breath and stood beneath the spray. Her eyes were so tightly closed and the water so loud she did not hear the curtain draw back.

“Fuck, are you trying to boil yourself,” gasped Martha as the spray hit her. She scrambled to turn the faucet.

Josephine ignored her reaching for the shampoo and roughly scrubbed at her scalp. Her hair was getting longer, three fingers past military cut. She wanted to cut it but there were no scissors or anything sharp enough in the harem. She supposed she could ask Lydia but she feared the steward had probably been given orders not to.

She let the water run over her and reached blindly for the soap, scrubbing it desperately over her skin. She didn’t even have the choice of shaving or not shaving her legs and armpits. Something the doctor had rubbed on that skin the first day had made the hair fall away and it didn’t seem to be growing back yet.

She felt Martha’s hand on her shoulder and reached up to cover it with her own. The kiss caught her by surprise and forced her eyes open. Martha pushed her back against the tile wall of the shower stall. She broke it just long enough to whisper, “I love you, know that whatever happens tonight you’re still mine and I’m yours. She can’t take that from us.”

Josephine clung to her, “I know.” Before their capture she'd have shoved away any women who made a claim of possession. Now she needed to know that she still had some power, some choice. She chose Martha, Martha chose her, or at least they pretend they were choosing and not just clinging together from fear.

They kissed again frantically and Martha pushed Josephine’s legs open before sinking to her knees before her. Josephine gasped and learned back against the wall, raising one leg to rest on Martha’s shoulder and tangling her hands in her short wavy hair.

Martha knew her body perfectly, when to use the tip of her tongue and when the flat, when to lick and when to suck.

It didn’t take long to get her almost to the edge. Martha pressed two and then three fingers into her and Josephine clenched around then crying out her release to the small white room. Martha helped her sink down into a sitting position on the cool tile and turned off the water.

When they eventually dried themselves and went back into the room wrapped in towels they found one of the harem slaves, Jenny, waiting patiently by the bed with a basket.

She offered them each a bundle of clothes. “The housekeeper said to give you these.”

Josephine opened the bundle and then dropped it with a sound of surprise, “It’s a uniform, a goddamn Terra Nuevan uniform. Where the hell did she get this?”

Jenny flinched away and Josephine felt a quick stab of guilt. She forced her anger away, none of this was the slave girl’s fault.

The girl kept her eyes downcast, “Warren had the seamstress make them. The clothes you came here in were burned.”

Martha opened her own bundle and laughed, “Well they didn’t get it quite right. Josephine and I were only privates, neither of us had an officer band and the blue slashes are on the wrong shoulder. At least I think, I only ever wore a dress uniform a few times.”

Jenny glanced around nervously, “Should I take it back to the seamstress?”

“Of course not. I don’t give a damn if that bitch’s games are accurate or not,” said Martha.

Jenny’s eyes went wide at the sound of her curse. “You should not speak like that about our mistress.”

“Why not, what’s she going to do beat me again? She’s probably already going to do that sooner or later anyway.”

The girl’s lips thinned, “You do not realize how lucky we are. General Warren is a good mistress.”

“She’s got you brainwashed too, like every other poor soul in this place,” said Martha as she began to tug on the clothes not caring if her fellow slave saw her naked or not. It wasn’t like anyone in the harem really bothered with modesty anyway.

“She’s been better than any owner I’ve ever had. She bought me away from a brothel.”

“A slave owner bought you, very kind.”

“She didn’t do it because she wanted me, she did it for my mother. She bought my mother at auction after my mother had been sold from the brothel. When my mother begged her to go back and buy me too, she did. She never even let me be beaten when I was a child. That’s better than I was ever treated in the brothel. They were selling me to customers for years before I left that place.”

Josephine felt something knot in her stomach and forgot about the shirt in her hands, “gods…” All she could think of was the place Warren had taken her.

“The gods have no more pity than men have kindness, for those who are born slaves. My life has been no worse than most.” She stood with a straighter back than Josephine had ever seen any of the slave girls stand before.

“So who is your mother then?” asked Martha as she finished buttoning her uniform coat.

“Lydia.” She took up a comb and set to work on Josephine’s hair. “Now let me finish what I was sent to do or I’ll be accused of being lazy and it will be your fault.”

The uniforms fit far closer than any real one’s they’d ever worn and the fabric was far better. The eagle crest was backwards on the coat’s sleeves and the stitching was done in red thread instead of white but they were almost believable. They went down to the main courtyard where Lydia was waiting with the other women.

“Good, you both look half presentable.

Isabella was wearing a simply cut but elegant dress of gossamer blue silk and a coronet that must have been made with gold leaf and glass, otherwise it would have been worth a fortune. Her collar and cuffs seemed very out of place on a woman wearing such delicate garments. Alexandra had on a dark grey Francian uniform with bar and a hawk on the shoulder. Gretel wore a dark blue Germanacan one. Kara alone had simple black pants and a white shirt that made no reference to her former rank in the Varcian military.

“What is this exactly?” asked Josephine.

“One of her games,” said Gretel. “She likes to remind us who we once were every so often, as if any of us could forget. That and she likes to show off to her guests. She likes them to know that she’s humbled generals and princess’s both.”

“We were never either of those,” said Josephine. It made her wonder about the false rank on her uniform, Warren might not have been willing to create a fake general but she had no problem making privates look like officers.

“I’m sure the bitch has her reasons,” said Kara, who had been listening attentively to the conversation. “She always does.”

Lydia clapped her hands ending the conversation, “All right, listen up. Most of you are familiar with what is expected of you, Josephine and Martha are not. For tonight you will sit at your mistress’s feet and do only as you are directly bid by her. Isabella you will play your harp, Gretel you will play lute for Isabella to dance later in the evening. Alexandra, Isabella , Gretel, you will serve drinks. Kara you will be sent for when it is time.” She paused for a moment, “And just so you all know, General Walters will be at the dinner, remember he’s grabby so don’t get too close to him. Warren already had to warn him last time he was here and groped Gretel.”

She and the guards brought them throughout the house. Josephine took what chance she had to take in her surroundings, high arching stone corridors. She wondered if the house had once been a small palace or if all noble homes on Varcia were like this.

They came to a great courtyard perhaps four times the size of the harem one. At the center were three low tables set like a U with three low couches. There were three people reclining on each couch, most of them clearly Varcian military with a few exceptions. General Warren was reclining at the head of the U. An exquisitely beautiful woman in a sleek red dress was to her right, the same woman she'd taken to the arena. A woman in what was unmistakably a Terra Nuevan diplomatic officer sat uncomfortably to her left. A seat farther down sat General Walters, who Josephine recognized from that night at the palace.

The Nuevan diplomate wore a white uniform coat that had yellow lines marking her sleeves and shoulders marking her as a member of the diplomatic corps. She had classic Terra Nuevan features, dark hair and eyes combined with a soldier’s build and could not have been much past thirty, although worry lines were already beginning to show at the sides of her eyes. The Terra Nuevans would have never sent a senior diplomat on a mission they thought she might not return from, not when they could use a less valuable one.

The woman’s eyes widened the moment she saw Josephine and Martha. The two soldiers froze in their steps as well.

Lydia nudged them both forward, ‘Go on,” she hissed, “don’t make a fuss, just sit at the mistress’s feet.”

Martha didn’t want to move but Josephine took her hand and tugged her foreword. It was a long walk across the courtyard. Josephine kept her eyes on the far wall, she’d learned it was easier than looking at Warren but not as humiliating as looking down. She never turned her head far enough to see the diplomat.

There was a mat beside Warren. Josephine sat down quickly, tugging Martha with her. She kept her head up staring at the ornate chair leg.

She couldn’t suppress a shudder when Warren reached down and ruffled her carefully combed hair. She prayed that Warren wouldn’t try to touch Martha.

“Oh don’t look so shocked my dear ambassador, you knew perfectly well that your planet’s captured soldiers have been sold as slaves in Varcian markets for years, at least those that are not traded in prisoner exchanges or killed in the arena."

“That is true General Warren, although you know we have offered to buy our people back, repeatedly,” the woman’s voice didn’t waver.

“Barely enough to award the capturing units a fair prize of war. Most of the captured soldiers are worth ten times as much in the auction house as your planet is willing to pay for them. You do understand don’t you?”

“The economics of selling prisoners of war has been explained to me.”

Warren tapped her hand absently against the table, “You do a very good job of keeping a civil tongue, but I can see you disapprove. Please voice your concerns, I will have no ill will between a guest and myself under my own roof.”

“It is not personal General, however, you must understand that my government has always opposed all forms of slavery. Experiencing it in person during my diplomatic mission has been difficult.”

“I thought Terra Nueva had indentured servitude,” said the courtesan. Mary, her voice delicate and cultured. She was hiding her hatred of Warren well. Every part of her body language was calculated, from the way she sat to how she leaned ever so slightly towards Warren, the very image of a diligent courtesan employed for the night.

“That is not the same thing,” said the diplomat.

“Can an indentured servant’s contract not be sold?” asked the woman.

The Terra Nuevan shifted uncomfortably in her chair, “Yes but there are many limits and legal protections.”

“And are those always followed to the letter?”

“As much as any laws,”

Warren clapped her hands, “Enough of this Mary. Your wit is sharp enough that you will cut our new friend. Let us enjoy the meal.”

The conversation shifted and the air filled with the smell of food and the soft sound of Isabella’s harp and voice.

Josephine had just begun to lose the thread of the conversation when Warren’s hand dropped below the table and she held out a small round bread to her.

With a shaking hand she took it. The first small bite she took stuck in her throat but she forced it down, and then a second. She didn’t have the strength to fight over a piece of bread again. Mercifully Warren didn’t try to give one to Martha, who was sitting as silently and expressionless as a statue.

Josephine had just crumbled up the last of the bread in her hands when she heard General Walters say, “Did you just poison your poor slave Warren?”

“What?”

“You gave her a bread roll. Did you not say yourself the other night at the palace that the reason the slave refused to eat the food you gave her was that our wheat made her sick?”

He sounded smug. Josephine was getting an increasingly good sense of just how much enmity lay between the two generals.

“I am impressed how much you remember about my slave,” said Warren carefully.

“Her performance with the empress’s guards left an impression.”

“Understandable, and to answer your curiosity, my doctor said that the wheat was not the cause of her previous illness.”

“I see,”

The words swept onwards. Josephine’s knees ached and she switched to sitting cross-legged. Beside her Martha seemed numb to everything. Josephine reached out and took her hand. An hour passed in a dull haze of sound.

The food was taken away and more alcohol brought. Gretel played a lute like instrument that Josephine had seen her practice once and Isabella danced. She was swift and light on her feet and her movements reminded Josephine of a video she’d once seen of a ballet.

When she was done Warren waved her off with a nod and she returned to pouring drinks. Josephine had just begun to almost doze when she heard Isabella gasp. Something hit the floor of the courtyard and smashed.

When Josephine looked up Isabella was frantically trying to pull away from General Walters who was attempting to pull her into his lap, which had caused her to drop her pitcher of wine.

“Let her go!” snarled Alexandra just as Isabella wrenched herself from his grasp.

Isabella had a wild panicked look in her eyes and her coronet was askew. She lunged for a knife that lay forgotten on the table. Just as her hand closed on it, Alexandra caught her around the middle and yanked her roughly into her arms. She deftly snatched the knife away and kicked it under the table, so quickly most of the people there didn't even realize what had happened. Isabella dissolved into hysterics and clung to Alexandra.

To Josephine, the hysterics looked like a cover, when her earlier violence had been genuine. The face the princess buried against the generals shoulder was dry and her sobbing shudders were forced.

Warren surged to her feet and made a sharp gesture with her head towards Isabella and the guards and Alexandra hurried her from the room.

"General Walters, I have warned you before not to touch any woman of mine.”

The blond haired man laughed, “It was just in jest, honestly you should be ashamed of how disobedient your slave is, honestly, fighting to get away from a citizen.”

“She is perfectly obediently, she knows who she belongs to and who is allowed to touch her. Lay a hand on what is mine again and I will challenge you to a duel, so help me."

The man paled, “the empress has forbidden her officers from dueling.”

“Yes, after I killed General Smith.”

“I will not risk her displeasure, not over a matter started by the impertinence of a slave."

"Then you'd best learn not to touch other people's things."

There was a brief tense silence and then the woman in red broke it. “My, my Walters. The poor slave girl really didn’t seem to like you. What on earth did you do?”

The man snorted, “Nothing but catch her wrist. I can’t see why she reacted so dramatically, surely a slave woman must be used to far more ardent attention than that.”

“Not from men in her case,” said Warren with a causal shrug as she took back the attention of the table, “I’m fairly sure the little princess has never bedded one willingly or otherwise. I found her in the women’s harem of the Emperor's palace when Delvia fell. I know I was the first Varcian to lay hands on her. She seemed to adjust to my own harem well and get along with the other women. It wasn’t until I added several male guards that I realized just how afraid of men she seems to be. I’ve no idea if it’s a Delvian thing or if she’s just a little bit unbalanced. She’s surely endured more at my hands than she ever has from one of them.”

“Delvians are odd,” said another guest, “I hear they keep their wives locked away, not just their concubines.”

The Terra Nuevan diplomat coughed, “Actually, that’s a misconception. Women in Delvian noble homes have separate quarters from the men, which men are forbidden to enter, but the women are allowed to leave. They don’t keep slaves or concubines either.”

Everyone turned and stared at the woman. She looked down at her glass, “I lived on Delvia for several years as part of a diplomatic mission.”

Warren smiled carefully, “Well then my dear Lieutenant Sharpe, we shall defer to your expertise on the matter then. Why do you think the princess so fears men?"

The diplomat sat up straighter, “I don’t think what we just saw was fear. If she is anything like other Delvian’s I have known, then she is fiercely conservative when it comes to what she considers proper male behavior. A Delvian noble woman might easily begin a conversation she has chosen to initiate with a strange man on the street, but react angrily if a man of her own household enters her rooms unbidden. It is a central tenet of their culture that a man might never touch a woman without her consent. Her reaction to General Walters was one of outrage and anger, not fear.”

“And how do you think she’d have reacted if I’d grabbed her?” asked the woman in red.

“Probably the same, perhaps less dramatically, although I cannot say for sure. In my time living on Delvia, I never saw a woman touch another against her wishes,” she choose her words carefully.

“How quant,” said Warren. “Perhaps this Delvian timidity and respect toward others is why Varcia was able to conquer them so easily.” She raised a glass to which the rest of the guests toasted. All save the diplomat.

Once the glasses were drained, Warren reached for Josephine’s collar tugging her up roughly. “Now enough of this matter. My dear ambassador I’ve taken the liberty of providing a bit of entrainment for tonight. It has long been a tradition for this kind of intimate dinner party to enjoy an erotic performance on the part of the household slaves. I thought you might be interested to see what use your country women are put to as slaves.”

The diplomat paled, “I would rather not.”

“I insist.”

Warren pulled Josephine close enough for her to hear her whisper in her ear, “Take Martha and do what Gretel tells you. She knows what I expect."

Josephine took Martha's hand drawing her to her feet and led her to the center of the room where Gretel was already waiting.

...

 

In the end it was not as bad as she had expected. Warren might enjoy seeing her concubines hurt but she was smart enough to realize that would be a bit much for some of her guests. The performance was clearly meant to titivate and entertain.

Gretel had whispered for them to kiss each other, even as she quickly began to undress both women. She urged Josephine down onto her knees, telling her to pleasure the still standing Martha. Josephine did as she was bid and we not surprised when she heard Gretel kneel behind her and felt her fingers press into her.

Gretel had brought her off even as she got off Martha. Then Josephine had gone down on a reclining Gretel as Marta fucked her, again from behind. There had been applause and Gretel had hurried them both from the courtyard.

Lydia was waiting for them with robes. Josephine had expected to be led back to the harem but instead Lydia took her arm “Come with me, Warren is sending you out of the house for the night."

Martha froze in her step, “She’s not going anywhere without me.”

“She goes where the mistress wishes, don’t make me shock you again.”

Martha glared by she didn’t challenge the housekeeper again. Lydia led Josephine away from the others with two guards in tow. They walked down a series of hallways that Josephine had never seen before. The carpets were soft beneath her feet.

They stopped out into the cool night of a back courtyard where a car was waiting. Josephine followed Lydia into the back of it. It was a far simpler vehicle than any she had been in before.

She did recognized the palace when it came into sight though. The car did not enter the main compound though, but around to the side and then into another courtyard, that was probably an associated outer building. The house they came to was fine, but not grand.

When they stepped out into the courtyard two imperial guards stopped them at the gate.

"No one has been authorized to enter the diplomat's residence."

"I've brought a gift for the diplomat from General Warren," said Lydia firmly.

"What gift?"

"A bed slave for the night. The general will be greatly disappointed if I am not allowed to deliver her."

The slightly younger of the two looked past her at Josephine and then laughed, "Wait, I know that woman. She's the Nuevan slave General Warren brought to the palace. She was well...I still get off to what I saw that night."

"You'd best stick with looking and keep your hands to yourself. She's a valuable slave and the general won't have anyone but the diplomat enjoying her."

The older female guard looked troubled, "She's a war slave. She's dangerous. She shouldn't be allowed into the palace grounds, even the annex, unattended."

"I will remain with her. Her collar has already been set to shock and kill her if she moves more than a hundred feet from me."

The two guards exchanged a look.

Lydia gave an exacerbated sigh, "You can also give me your names and I'll let the general know you both helped me. She doesn't forgot those who have done her favors.” They let them in after that.

The older of the guards led them through the house to a room near the center. Lydia pushed open the door. It was a simple but elegant room, full of dark carpets and wooden furniture but utterly devoid of any sign of occupancy beyond a closed suitcase by the dresser.

“Do you need to use the bathroom?”

“What?” said Josephine turning to look at her.

“I’m about to chain you to the foot of the bed for the night. Do you need the bathroom? There will be a chamber pot under the bed but I would imagine you’d probably prefer not to have to use it.”

“Chain me?” Josephine took a step back towards the door.

“Just by your collar and you’ll be able to move, no need to get dramatic about it. The mistress has ordered it.”

“Why is she punishing me like this?”

Lydia signed, something she did a lot, “She’s not punishing you. It’s all just for show. She wants to present you to the diplomat for the night as a bed slave. Honestly I think binding you is a bit dramatic, just to make a point but whoever listens to me?”

Josephine stared at her.

Lydia rolled her eyes, “So do you need to pee first or not? I don’t have long to prepare you before the diplomat comes back to her room.”

“Yes.”

Josephine ducked into the attached bathroom and made use of it. She noticed that there was a second story window and considered how hard it would be to climb down. She'd heard what Lydia had said earlier, she could get somewhere in a hundred feet but not far. Hiding somewhere on the grounds like a frightened dog until she was found was not an attractive prospect.

She washed her hands and went out.

“Go ahead and strip and kneel on the floor.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes, don’t make me shock you.”

Josephine tried very hard to ignore the two guards who were hanging out beside the door and watching with interest. She dropped her robe in a messy pile, not caring if someone else would have to fold it later, and knelt beside the bed.

Lydia opened the bag she was carrying and took out a chain from it. She linked it once around the heavy wooden slat of the bed and clicked that bit together before she took the length and connected it to Josephine’s collar with a magnetic clink.

“Hands behind your back.”

When Josephine didn’t obey instantly, Lydia grabbed her hands and forced them behind Josephine’s back with more strength than the soldier would have thought the slight woman had. The magnetic cuffs clicked together.

It didn’t hurt but Josephine knew it would soon, “You can’t just leave me bound like this.”

“It shouldn’t be for long. When Lieutenant Sharpe comes back to the room she can unlink the cuffs is she taps them. You’ll have to ask her to do it for you though.”

She tapped another panel and took something out. “Now be still.”

Josephine saw a flash of metal in her hand and flinched away.

“They're just clips, be still or it’ll be worse.”

Josephine glared at her but wasn’t in much of a position to refuse so she looked away and suppressed a gasp of pain as Lydia attached a set of metal clips to each of her nipples.

“Just be glad I haven’t tightened them, if the guards prepared you I’m sure they would. Now lean all the way forward onto your elbows and raise your hips.”

“Hell no.” Josephine had seen what the slave woman had in her hand.

Lydia motioned the guards over and they shoved her down for her.

“Now relax, trust me this is no worse than has been done to you before and you know it hurts more when you fight.”

Josephine put up a brief token struggle but it was useless with he hands bound behind her and the guards holding her down. Lydia didn’t waste time. She slicked the toy from a bottle and then pressed it against Josephine’s ass just as quickly. Her other hand was almost gentle as she rubbed her shoulder,

“Sh, easy. No point in fighting me girl. This has got to be done, mistress’s orders.”

Josephine forced herself to relax in spite of herself. She still remembered exactly how much it had hurt the last time a guard had pressed something hard and plastic into her ass and she didn’t want that again.

The toy went in more easily than she might have thought but still left her gasping. The guards pulled her back up to her knees.

“One last thing and we’re done.”

The blindfold was almost too much. Josephine wondered if it was supposed to calm her like a hood over a falcon or if Warren wanted her even more afraid and vulnerable.

Lydia squeezed her shoulder and spoke to her very softly, “Don’t be afraid this is nothing, just one of the mistress’s games. The ambassador will be here soon and I’m sure she’ll ease your restraints rather than fuck you. Just breathe and stay calm, you’ll only hurt yourself fighting the restraints.

She heard her stand.

“Oh, and the mistress said to tell her that you’re a gift to Lieutenant Sharpe for the night but no longer. I'll come to take you back in the morning.”

Then the door closed and she was left to silence and darkness. She tried to get the blindfold off by rubbing it against her shoulder but Lydia had tied it very well.

The pain in her shoulders deepened as did the ache in her nipples and other parts. She hated this, she hated it so much. As a soldier she’d often been forced to wait, spent hours crouching helpless as mortars fell all around her trenches. At least she’d had a rifle in her hand then. A gun might have often been useless but it had always made her feel better.

She heard the door open and the click of a light.

“Fuck!”

Josephine guessed that the sudden thump was the woman backing into the door.

“Did…did she send you?” asked the diplomat.

“More like had me brought here and bound,” said Josephine. “Please, I can’t unlink the cuffs or loosen the chain on my own and kneeling like this really hurts."

Hesitant steps got closer. “How do I…?”

“Tap my cuffs and they'll unlink.”

Sharpe knelt down beside her and Josephine’s wrists cuffs uncoupled from each other.

Josephine gasped in pain as her stiff arms were finally freed and almost fell flat on her face. She scrambled to get the blindfold off and found Sharpe worriedly kneeling beside her.

“How do I free you from the chain?”

“You can’t. I’m chained here until morning.”

“That’s inhumane”

“So I’ve noticed,” Josephine reaching up to free herself of the blindfold and then unclip one of the breast clips and quickly regretted it as a sudden shock of pain ran through her when blood returned to the restricted nub. She did the second much slower although with no less sound.

“Can you turn around for a second?” she asked.

When Sharpe just blinked at her, she sighed, “They shoved something inside of me and I’d rather you not watch me get it out.”

“Bastards,” Sharpe flushed and turned away. The plug proved easier to get out than go in but it was still a shock.

She slumped beside the foot of the bed sore and miserable.

The diplomat draped a blanket around her shoulders before sitting down beside her. Josephine drew the blanket closer around herself fighting down an involuntary shiver as her face burned with humiliation.

Sharpe looked at her hesitantly, “you really are a Terra Nuevan POW aren’t you, not just a Varcian slave in a fake uniform?”

Josephine nodded. “ Private Josephine Tate. The Forty-Second Gamma Delta. I was taken during the fall of Io. Have you heard anything about my unit? Only half of us were captured, some I thought might have escaped though.”

“No one made it off Io after the siege started.” She paused, “Listen, I’m still figuring how this planet works but does all of this mean that General Warren’s given you to me? Can I free you and send you back to Terra Nueva?”

Josephine wanted to cry. “No, it’s only for the night.”

“I see…I’m truly sorry.”

“But, you must have some connections. You could help Martha and me escape.”

Something on Sharpe’s face closed down, “You know I can’t do that. I’m allowed to do nothing that’s not part of my diplomatic mission.”

Josephine grabbed her arm, “Please, you're an officer, you have to help us. I can’t stay here, this place will kill me.”

“I just can’t.”

Josephine turned her face away sharply, “Then Terra Nueva has really abandoned me haven’t they, they’ve abandoned all the POWs.”

“The government is trying, they really are. There’s just not much they can do to free slaves on an enemy planet.”

“Can you at least take a message back to my mother then? She probably thinks I’m dead. I don’t know if learning what has happened to me will make it easier or harder for her but she always hated not knowing more than anything. Her name is Margaret Tate, she lives in the East Side Slums of the capital. Tell her I’m alive and well.”

“I’ll make sure a message gets through.”

“And the other soldier, Martha Blanche, she’s got family in the same slums.”

“I will.”

There wasn’t anything left to be said after that. In the end they shared the bed. The chain was long enough for Josephine to lie down on the bed, she supposed it was made that way in case someone wanted to fuck a slave on the bed.

Sharpe lay down curled away from her on the great bed and didn’t sleep. Josephine didn’t for a long time either.

In the morning she faked sleep when the diplomat woke and dressed. Sharpe paused beside the bed, “Be strong. Someday this war will end and Terra Nueva will find a way to get all the POW’s back, by conquest or by coin, we’ll get you back.”

Josephine sat up drawing the sheets about herself. “I wish I believed you.”

“I know.” The lines about her eyes were very deep for such a young face.

She saluted Josephine and after a moment of hesitation Josephine returned the salute. Then she turned and left.

Chapter Text

When Lydia brought Josephine back to the house she led her through the winding halls of the house until they reached a room with a heavy wooden door where she knocked and entered.

They stepped into a brilliantly lit study. Warren sat at a desk reading through a pile of papers. A tall dark haired woman in a lieutenant's uniform stood behind her and appeared to be explaining some of the papers. They both looked up with vague interest when they entered. Lydia nudged Josephine forward.

"Well, did she fuck you?" asked Warren.

"You know she didn't," said Josephine.

"I didn't expect her to, although sometimes it is nice to be surprised. Tell me how she reacted."

Josephine wondered if what she said next would betray her country woman. She fell into parade rest out of habit and chose her words carefully. "She wasn't happy with the situation but she treated me with respect and promised to inform those on Terra Nueva that I was still alive."

Warren nudged the woman beside her, "See that lieutenant? I've had this slave for almost a month and she still talks like a soldier. I doubt I'll ever beat that out of her. You can still tell a lot from what she's saying though. Our friend the diplomat wasn't just upset, she was rattled, which means we've got her exactly where we want her."

The woman frowned, "Forgive me general but I still do not understand what you hoped to achieve by sending the diplomat a bed slave you knew she'd refuse. Haven't you simply made an enemy by insulting her by offering one of her own enslaved subordinates."

Warren tilted her head slightly to the side, "You know if you really want me to help with your career, you need to start proving you're a little bit smarter. At the very least try and prove yourself more conniving."

The woman flushed. 

Warren sighed and motioned her closer, "Let me explain this very simply then. In case you've forgotten the empress has placed me in charge of negotiating the rate of prisoner exchange with Terra Nueva. They've got more prisoners they are willing to trade than we do though, since to them our captured soldiers are just prisoners they have to house, guard, and feed. To us, however, the healthy and breakable soldiers we captured are valuable as slaves. We only want to trade the Terra Nuevan’s back the slaves that are too weak even for the arena. This means we want to convince the Terra Nuevans to give us several Varcian soldiers for every Terra Nuevan soldier we trade, since we have fewer we are willing to give up."

"Why would they agree to that?"

"They won't, at least not yet. It's why thousands of our captured soldiers are starving to death on their prison camp on Tyco. Occasionally we manage to capture Terra Nuevan civilian transports and trade the less valuable one's but it's not enough."

The woman scowled, "Surely our country women are worth more to our planet than the price of a slave."

Warren shook her head and leaned back in her chair, "Not when that money comes as direct prize money to the capturing units. Look at the girl in front of you. How much would she sell for at auction?"

"I don't know twenty-thousand?"

"With her looks more like thirty and closer to fifty if she's sold fully broken.”

"That's more than a fully trained bed slave from one of the pleasure houses."

"Oh but she is so much more than that. She's not just a pretty face with angry eyes, she's a status symbol."

Warren motioned to Josephine, "Come closer, kneel in front of me."

Josephine obeyed. 

"Now look at her. What do you see?"

The woman looked her over slowly and flinched slightly when she caught Josephine’s gaze.

"A woman who wants to kill me."

"She wants to kill me too, but what is she doing?"

"Kneeling."

"Good, I see your powers of observation have not failed you. Now, tell me Lina, how often on a daily basis can you make one of your mortal enemies kneel in front of you, much less lie on their back and let you fuck her?"

The woman flushed, "never."

"So now can you see why owning her makes me powerful in the eyes of others?"

"I think I am beginning to understand."

  "Yes, the empress will not stop the sale of war slaves because they are too financially and symbolically valuable."

"How does this relate to the diplomat though?"

"I want to convince her to get her planet to give up on the prisoner exchange idea and start selling us back our own captured soldiers. Until now they've refused because they thought they could eventually force us by starving and mistreating our soldiers."

"And alienating the ambassador helps with this how?"

"Not alienating, teaching. She has come to make a deal about prisoners and I will guide her to what I want. Last night I showed her that she really has no power here, that Terra Nueva is never getting back their soldiers, not when we have made them utterly and completely our slaves. Once she understands they are lost she'll be ready to negotiate for other things."

She paused suddenly as if remembering that Josephine was still at her feet. She tapped her lightly on the shoulder, "Get back to the harem and in the future learn to pretend to not be listening. It is not a good thing for a slave to seem too interested in her mistress’s conversations." 

Josephine rose and left.

...

 

Warren sent for Josephine, Martha and Kara that night. Josephine felt her stomach knot as they were all led to the bedroom together. Warren seemed relaxed, rather than angrily. Her eyes and focus were on Kara instead of Josephine and Warren for once. 

She crossed the room to catch the former generals wrists and pull her into a brutal kiss. The other woman tensed and then softened against her, kissing her back. Warren pressed her a few steps back pushing her wrists up and clipping her cuffs into a chain that hung from the ceiling. 

Kara’s eyes snapped open and a look of hurt and fear filled her face when she realized that she was trapped. 

Warren rested her hands on her hips, lazily considering her, “Why such worried eyes? You used to love when I tied you up.”

“You used to only do it with my consent.”

“I was a lot younger and more foolish then.” She took a blade from her boot and began to cut away the other woman’s clothing. “I thought I could be content with mere games, then I realized that such things were only an echo of what real power felt like.”

“You don’t have real power now, just fear. You were a fool to burn me when you did. I’d have stayed your loyal ally.”

“Yes and probably dragged me down with you when you fell from favor. You always were weak. It’s alright though, your my pet now and I enjoy your combination of desperate pride and broken strength.” She moved closer, just long enough to apply two silver nipple clamps that made the other woman gasp. “Mostly I just enjoy how ashamed you are that you still take pleasure from me hurting you, even as you hate my very soul.”

Warren turned to glance over her shoulder, “Josephine, you are very good with your mouth, won’t you see to Kara. Martha, I think it’s past time you returned the favor for what Kara did for you before. The first whip she used on you is on the table.”

Josephine’s task was simpler. With her face burning she sunk to her knees in front of the bound woman. She used her finger to part Kara’s legs, open her labia and find her clit with her tongue. She knew exactly how to make the other woman’s breath shorten. 

Martha hesitantly went to fetch the flogger on the table. “I don’t know how to use it,”

“It’s simple enough, just flick your wrists. Aim for the center of her back. Try not to wrap her sides unless you want hear her whimper. 

Martha frowned uncertainly at the leather thing in her hand and moved behind the bound woman. She was very close to throwing it down and taking whatever consequences Warren inflicted on her.

“It’s okay,” said Kara softly. 

“I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You really can’t hurt me much with that toy, do as Warren says.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

The first time she tried to snap the whip, it did not even connect with Kara’s skin. The second time it did with barely a sound. 

Warren laughed from where she stood a few paces away. “Martha, honestly. You are not fanning her. Do it a bit harder.”

Martha did, perhaps a bit too hard, because Kara made a sharp sound and jerked against her bonds. Martha’s eyes went wide.

“That’s it,” said Warren. “Keep doing that.”

Martha did and the three of them began to fall into a rhythm. Kara jerked every time the flogger struck her but the sounds she made were not those of pain. Between the strikes and what Josephine was doing, her breath grew short and desperate, almost pleading. With a few minutes she was very close to an orgasm. 

Then Martha missed a strike, several of the strips of leather wrapped around Kara’s side. The bound woman made a sharp and very non-erotic yelp of pain. The strips of leather caught Josephine on the cheek and she made a similar sound as she jerked back, falling on her ass. 

Martha dropped the flogger and in panic knelt beside both women to check on them. She worriedly touched Kara’s side as she reached for Josephine. Martha had to push Josephine’s fingers away from her cheek to check on her. There were two red lines, but they were already fading. The same could be said of Kara’s ribs. 

Warren, couldn’t suppress her laugher, “Gods, Martha, you suck at this. One little mistake and you act like you’ve killed someone.”

Martha glared at her, “I don’t want to hurt them.”

Their tormenter just smirked, “You haven’t and lucky for you that isn’t what I want from you tonight. Go to the cabinet and fetch two strap-ons and lube. I want you and Josephine to fuck her together. 

Warren moved close again, stroking the side of Kara’s face. “I hope you enjoy this next bit. You always did so love-fucking women in this way with me. Surely you’ll eventually get used to taking the passive part in this.”

Kara’s eyes were cold fire. “You know I hate all of this.”

Warren clucked her tongue, “You should watch your words better. Keep mouthing off and I’ll have to find a new way to punish you. How would you like me to bring that courtesan lover of yours to see you be so humiliated.”

“No.”

“I really should. She’ll do anything to see you. Poor thing clearly loves you. She’s even signed four contracts of assignation with me so far just to see you for a few minutes each time.

“Fuck you! Fuck you! You heartless fucking bitch!” Suddenly Kara was nothing but rage. She desperately tore at the bonds that held her. She tried to kick Warren but the general wisely stepped back. 

“Such emotion over a woman who is little more than a high class whore. You really needn’t worry so much, Mary does have the protection of her guild and their lawyers and influence. I can’t do a damn thing to her she doesn’t agree to in a contract first.”

Warren made a wide circle around the struggling woman. “Her particular guild actually won’t even let her agree to be beaten by a client. That does make me wonder what you two ever did together considering your tastes. I suppose she beat you rather than the other way around.”

Kara said nothing, her anger easing enough for her to hang slack in her restraints as she watched her tormentor.

Warren barely seemed to notice. “I tried to hire her to whip and fuck you as I watched, but apparently her guild also forbids her from servicing slaves as part of a contract. That seems rather limiting to me honestly.”

“Then perhaps you should leave her alone,” snarled Kara.

“What fun would that be?”

“The hell did I ever do to you Helen? Why are you tormenting me and everyone I have ever given half a damn about? You’re the one who bloody betrayed me.”

Warren chuckled, “Nothing, not a thing in the world. I’m doing this all for my amusement.”

The bound woman slumped completed even though the weight on her wrists must have hurt terribly. “What do you even want from me?”

“Your complete and utter surrender and obedience. I’m no fool. I know I don’t have it yet. Someday though, I will fully break you and you will be truly mine and obey me without question. Then at last I’ll be able to trust you.”

“You are a fucking idiot. You never had to do any of this. Gods know I’d have willingly died for you when were just girls in the academy. Hell, even if you’d shown me even the shadow of kindness after you saved me from the empress’s bloody altar, I would have been utterly yours. I would certainly have come to your bed willingly.”

“And that is how we differ Kara. I don’t trust anything that comes as a gift.” Warren stepped back further to take a chair by the wall. She motioned to Josephine and Martha. “Go on. Fuck her. See what sounds you can get out of her.”

The two Terra Nuevans hesitated but not for long. Josephine moved faster then Martha. She knew Warren’s games far too well and she didn’t want to give their tormenter another chance to be cruel. 

She had to stand up on her tiptoes to kiss the taller bound woman.“We’ll take care of you, we promise,” Josephine whispered in her ear.

“I know sweet girl. I trust you and your lover.”

Josephine looked back over her shoulder, darring a single request. “Can we unbind her? It will be easier to fuck her that way.”

“Your not that short,” laughed Warren, “Although I suppose I can have a slave find a step stool for you if you really need it.”

“I’ll manage,” growled Josephine. She kissed Kara deeply as she pressed her fingers against her center. She found her wet, although the muscles of her body were tense when she worked two fingers into her. Her fear and unhappiness was ruling her. Even when Josephine brushed her thumb against her clit she barely responded. 

“What do you need?” Josephine whispered in her ear. “Tell me how to make this easier.”

Kara’s face flushed with misery and shame. “Claw my back, bite my throat. Make it hurt enough that I don’t have to think.”

“I can do that beautiful.” Josephine had once had a lover not so different from Kara, another woman in the trenches. She’d always begged for a rougher touch, for the feel of teeth and nails. She’d never been ashamed of it, just stated what she needed and arched with pleasure when she got what she wanted. Seeing a woman so hurt and ashamed to ask for something so essential to her nature nearly broke Josephine’s heart. 

“We’ve got you,” Martha murmured pressing against Kara’s back. She nuzzled her neck and then bit, softly and then harder. 

Kara flushed, her breath quickening as she pressed back against the other woman. Josephine caught one breast between her fingers, twisting sharply and the other with her lips and teeth. When the bound woman began to shiver, she pressed two and then three fingers into her slick warmth. 

Martha was clumsier, carefully slicking her fingers with lube and then pressing one into the former general’s ass. Kara jerked in discomfort but didn’t complain. Her breath quickened as Josephine began to fuck her with deft fingers.

Martha worked a second finger into her and Kara made a low sound that grew all the more desperate as Martha began to move her fingers and fuck her. Between the two soldiers, she trembled. 

“I…I need.”

“We know what you need,” murmured Martha and she bit her once on the shoulder hard enough to draw blood. Kara cried out and shuddered with release. 

Josephine and Martha didn’t wait for her trembles to ease to finally get to the business to which they had been set. Martha pushed her dildo into her first. Kara’s breath’s grew short and Josephine pulled her into a breathless kiss to distract her, biting her lip hard enough to taste iron. 

Martha gave her a few thrusts and a half breath before Josephine pushed her own toy into her. 

Kara’s eyes were wide and desperate and although she could find no words it was clearly too much for her. They tried to distract her. Josephine bit at the skin just above her breast, more than hard enough to leave a mark as she twisted both nipples. Martha dug her nails into her back hard and painfully. 

The general’s eyes drifted shut and a low moan came to her lips. “Keep, keep doing that,” she managed to gasp. 

They did, even as they began to move the toys within her. Her breath was shallow and desperate. Josephine abandoned one breast to find her clit, pressing hard with her thumb. 

Kara gasped and moaned, body trembling as she tried to move, although she had nowhere to go. Josephine nipped her way up her neck to take an earlobe between her teeth and bite teasingly hard. She was rewarded with a gasp. 

“Please, please,” It wasn’t even clear what Kara was begging for. Neither the toys, nor either woman’s uncertain attempts at pain seemed to quite do the trick. 

An odd inspiration struck Josephine. She brought her hand to Kara’s throat, just touching, nothing more. The bound woman made a strange sound. Josephine pressed, very, very lightly.

“Tell me you want this.”

There was no answer. “Open you pretty eyes and tell me you want this or I stop.”

Emerald green eyes snapped open meeting her own. 

“Please, yes, please.”

Josephine pressed harder, just enough to shorten breathe. The woman between her and Martha shuddered violently and finally came. Josephine and Martha stilled their movements. 

When Josephine looked over her shoulder she was the raw want in Warren’s eyes. She knew what was wanted of her. She paused only long enough to free herself of the toy and then went to kneel at Warren’s feet.

Her tormenter tugged her hair painfully, guiding her where she was wanted between her legs. Josephine obeyed, her skin flushed with a deep shame she felt only when she touched Warren. She used lips and tongue, as she knew she was expected, hatred pooling in her gut with every movement. She wished Warren tasted bitter and or that her flesh burned like embers. It seemed wrong she had only the body of normal woman, that she taste of salt and tensed and gasped like any lover might. The way she suddenly shoved away Josephine with the palm of her hand the moment she came was actually welcome, a sharp reminder of who she’d just been forced to pleasure.

Josephine rested on the floor, looking up at her owner through weary eyes. Warren was taking slow steadying breaths, already doing up her pants and probably planning to depart.

Hating herself Josephine said, “Mistress, you’ll unbind her won’t you? She won’t be any fun for Martha and me to play with if you don’t.” 

Warren laughed, a sharp bark of a sound, “Gods, you’re starting to sound like Eli and it doesn’t suit you. Don’t try to charm me pretty girl. Just say what you mean.”

Josephine sat up properly, “Please let Kara down. I’m scared she’s hurt and I don’t think my cuff’s are programed to let me unbind her.”

“That’s better. I’ll get you the authorization tomorrow. For tonight, I will oblige you.” She stood, stretching leisurely, and tapped a button on her wrist that released the chains that clipped to Kara’s cuffs. The woman fell with a gasp of surprise but Martha caught her before she hit the floor.

  Warren ruffled Josephine’s hair before striding to the door, “you and your mate have pleased me well tonight my pet. I don’t know why you care, but I’ll leave you to tend my ex-rival in peace.

The moment she was gone Josephine scrambled back to Martha and Kara. 

“I’m fine, really. You can go,” said Kara wearily. She was already curled in on herself.

Josephine felt her pulse and tried to look into her eyes but she turned her face away. “You are shivering, let us get you to the bed at least.”

Between Martha and Josephine they were able to lift the trembling woman onto the bed and drew the covers around her. Without a word Josephine and Martha lay down and curled on either side of her.

“You don’t have to stay,” there was a suppressed sob in her voice. 

“We want to,” said Josephine.

“And we will,” added Martha.

It was too much, for all her pride Kara began to sob. She buried her face against Josephine’s shoulder, crying into the softness of her dark hair. 

Martha rubbed her back, “We’ve got you. You’re safe. Were here.”

“Why are you being so kind?”

“You were kind to Martha.”

“I beat her.”

“And refused to beat her to death. The least we can do is hold you after we’ve hurt you.”

“You and your gentle lover didn’t hurt me girl,” she managed through her tears.

“If we didn’t, Warren did. Let us comfort you, others have done as much for us before.”

She seemed to relax between them at least. “Thank you.”

“It’s nothing.”

Kara cried for a time longer and then seemed to finally regain control of herself. Very softly, too softly to likely be picked up by any sort of recording device she whispered to them both. “We all just have to hang on for a bit longer.”

“What do you mean,” whispered back Josephine. 

“Help is coming. I can’t tell you anything more than to be ready. Warren takes you out of the house more than the rest of us. If anyone gives you an object or a message, bring it back to me.”

“Do the others know?” asked Martha.

“Only those that need to.” 

She was being deliberately vague, either she didn’t trust them or more likely wanted to make sure that they couldn’t implicate any other member of the harem other than her if things went wrong. 

“We’ll help however we can,” promised Josephine. She didn’t dare say anything more after that for fear of being recorded. As she closed her eyes to sleep hope blossomed in her heart for the first time since before her capture.

Chapter Text

Lydia came to find Josephine the next morning and took her to the small infirmary of the house. Josephine grew nervous when he housekeeper directed her to sit on the small medical table and wait. Lydia sat down in the room’s only chair and began absently flipping through her electronic table.

"Why are we here?" asked Josephine.

"Your ears need to be pierced."

Josephine blinked, "What?"

"You ears aren't pierced and part of the jewelry you are to wear tonight is a pair of earrings."

"Can't you just give me those clip on things again?"

"Not these, they're real jade and too valuable to be reset. When I told our mistress you couldn't wear them she told me to take care of it." She yawned and set down her tablet. "Honestly I should have had it done when you first came here but I wasn't sure you'd last long enough for her to start having me dress you up."

"Well that's very reassuring."

Lydia looked up, "Don't get mouthy with me girl. Anyway you should be relieved right now, she decided not to pierce your clit, something about reducing sensitivity or something."

Josephine shut up. A minute later the female doctor who had treated her upon her first arrival entered yawning.

"I can't believe she called me in on my day off to do an ear piercing. Seriously Lydia, you could have done it yourself with a sterile needle. This is a waste of my medical degree."

Lydia shrugged from where she sat, notably not getting up to greet the freeborn woman. "That would take time to heal. She needs to be able to wear hoop earrings and a navel piercing tonight."

"Yes, heaven forbid my boss not get to dress up one of her dolls the way she wants to for one night." The doctor was already busy rummaging through a cabinet and taking out something that looked like a small laser gun and package of sterile cloth.

"Do not speak of the mistress like that," said Lydia sharply.

"She's your mistress slave, she's just my employer. I can quit if I want, and if she keeps calling me in for things like this, I just might. I was trained to cauterize wounds on a battlefield not adorn slaves with pretty stones."

Lydia bit her lip and said nothing more. The doctor cleaned Josephine's ear lobe with a wipe, lined up the little lasar device and clicked a button. The air smelled like burned skin. Josephine whimpered at the sudden flash of pain that was gone as fast as it began. The woman quickly slid a stud into her ear and moved to the next one repeating the process.

"Lie down slave. Raise your shirt. This will take just a moment."

Josephine froze, "Your not putting that thing anywhere near my stomach."

The doctor looked to the housekeeper who sighed, "Josephine don't make me have you restrained or this will just take longer."

Josephine lay down. There was the clicking sound again, a bit of pain and it was done.

Then she felt a hand on her breast pushing up her shirt and bra.

"No!"

"Sorry," said the doctor with a shrug. "Just be glad I'm not doing it with a needle."

It did hurt, a lot. It hurt on both of them. When she looked down she could see metal gleam on her breasts and stomach. She hated it.

"You can change the jewelry as soon as tonight," said the doctor, "just make sure you keep something in at all times for the first month or so or the holes will close up and I'll have to redo this."

Josephine didn't bother to reply. Lydia let her go back to the harem for a few hours. Martha noticed the metal studs in her ears right away but said nothing about them when she saw Josephine's face. Warren sent orders in the later afternoon for Josephine and Martha to shower and get ready to leave the house.

Preparing for the night was becoming a routine. Josephine was less than happy with the clothes the slave girl brought her than any before. There was just a wisp of blue silk to wrap her breasts in and a flowy blue skirt that may as well have been transparent and barely reached her mid thigh. Her stomach was left bare. 

Martha did see the piercings then.

"Oh gods, Josephine."

"I don't want to talk about it," she snapped. 

Just as she said it Lydia bustled in with the birth marked slave girl in tow. The girl went to help Martha brush her hair and Lydia ordered Josephine to sit on the edge of the bed.

"I'm going to show you how to change the jewelry so you can do it yourself in the future."

It was simple enough. The studs just had to be popped out and replaced with the shinning silver and emerald dangling earrings with little stops in the back to ensure they would not be lost. The naval piercing took a moment longer as it had to be threaded more carefully and involved screwing on little bejeweled piece of metal into another. 

The nipple piercings were the most humiliating. Lydia touched her with the same quick professionalism of the doctor. She slid out the simple silver rings and replaced them with small-jeweled rings. Her fingers felt cold against Josephine's skin.

She added four delicate silver bracelets to each of Josephine's wrists with small stones and a necklace with one heavy one.

"Tonight when you get back, put the silver rings back in. They'll be more comfortable. Don't you dare lose any of the jeweled pieces, they are a set and worth more than you."

"And how much am I worth?"

"More than most pampered bed slaves, even the exotic ones, for the empress herself has asked to see you fucked twice, even if it was just to try and humiliate Warren. You are worth all the more because you have never publicly shamed your mistress and seem to anyone watching to be properly broken."

"And yet a few bobbles are more valuable than me."

"They are Delvian emeralds. Few things are worth as much as them. Our mistress seldom shows her wealth in her own apparel, but she does enjoy using her slaves too. Now enough talk, just do not lose these things. Try not to let your clothes be torn either, unless the mistress does it. Francian silk like this is not cheap."

She sat still as Lydia herself did her makeup, it was becoming more elaborate. Her eyelashes were darkened, her lips painted, her eyelids gently dabbed with a soft brush to become the same blue as the silk. 

When she looked in the mirror she saw something closer to a pinup girl than a soldier. Somehow the the silk seemed to soften the strength of her toned body. Even with all the sparring she did with the others she had never regained the weight or muscle she had lost during her time in the troop transport. 

For a moment she felt sorry for herself and then anger boiled up. Let anyone who saw her think her a whore then, let her captors forget how dangerous she was. When she turned back around she saw Martha watching her. She could not read the look in her lovers dark eyes. Martha at least had not been forced into something ridiculous. She was dressed in fine dark pants and a charcoal grey shirt with birds embroidered on the hem. She wore no jewelry and her hair was still military length. Lydia had cut it the day before.

Lydia came in and told them it was time. Martha turned to look at Lydia her face sliding into almost disdain, "Why the hell do you always doll her up like a society bitch and I get to just wear pants."

Lydia' lip twitched, "Because she's valuable and you are not. Warren's showing her off not you."

Martha returned her ugly look, "Then why the hell is the bitch even dragging me along? Why doesn't she just fucking kill me like everyone keeps saying she's going to?"

"Because you make a nice plain contrast to Josephine's beauty and you both look better as a pair. Believe me though, you are the far more easily replaceable part of the set."

"For a woman who's a slave too you can be one hell of a vicious bitch."

"We may both be slaves, but do not pretend we are alike girl. I am a housekeeper who has made herself necessary to our mistress and you are a pleasure slave low in her favor. Do not mistake me for an enemy though, I honestly don't care. Save your anger for our mistress because I feel nothing but mild annoyance for you."

Martha did not know how to reply. She didn't get a chance. Something on Lydia's wrist strap beeped and she sighed.

"Enough of this, I must take you both downstairs now."

...

 

They reached the bottom of the steps just as Warren arrived. She was dressed as always in simple but well made clothes, fine grey trousers and a shirt with no embroidery that was probably worth more than some of her slaves.

She nodded her head in approval when she saw Josephine. "You wear emeralds well my dear."

Josephine shrugged her shoulders, "It makes no difference to me if they are emeralds or glass, they are not mine."

Warren walked towards her running a hand down her chest, slipped her fingers past the ephemeral silk to stroke a nipple and then rub her fingers over the warmed silver hoop.

"No, both they and you are both mine and I enjoy showing off my things." She caught Josephine's chin with her hand for a long and invasive kiss. 

Josephine forced herself to go limp, to open her mouth to her.

Warren was smiling when she at last released her, "Good girl, you didn't even bite me. I'm not sure I would try that with your lover. She would, and I'd have to cut out her tongue, which would be a shame. I do love her angry words."

It was a longer ride than usual in the car. When they arrived they stepped out into the warmth of a summer night and a lush green landscape. They were in the drive of a large white country house. A servant led them through lavish halls and then out into a large garden full of blooming roses of every color. 

At the heart of the garden at a low table reclined a small group of Varcian nobles on low couches. There was a man and a younger woman reclining together. A woman closer to Warrens age in trousers with a military look about her had her own couch. A dark haired man a little younger than warren stood up and greeted her.

"General Warren, what a pleasure to see you. I am so glad that you have come."

Warren raised three fingers in greeting and nodded her head, "Colonel Parker, I do try to make the time to see friends, especially in informal settings."

"I cannot promise the grandeur of the palace in my modest country home, but perhaps you will find the simpler company more relaxing."

"I'm sure I will."

She reclined on one of the open couches and accepted small plates as they were passed to her side of the table. Every so often she would pass little bites of food to Josephine. There was rice wrapped in a kind of leaf Josephine did not recognize. She tried to unwrap it but it began to come apart in her hands.

The sound of a young woman's laughter startled her. She looked up to see the amused blue eyes of a blond woman in a light green dress. The woman nudged the grey haired man who was sitting beside her.

"Oh look, she's trying to take the grape leaf off."

The grey haired man shrugged,"Jenny, the girl is a Terra Nuevan, she's probably never seen a dolma before. I doubt they are civilized enough to have grapes."

Josephine flushed and lowered her hands to her lap, crushing the damn thing.

The woman laughed again, "Oh don't be embarrassed pretty girl. If you've never seen a dulma before, how could anyone expect you to know how to eat it? Watch me." She reached onto the table and lifted up one of the small green bundles. She held it between two fingers and bit into it, careful not to spill the white rice.

Josephine's hand shook as she lifted up the crushed mess of leaves and rice and ate it. It got stuck in her throat and she started to cough. Martha whacked her once hard on the back and she found her breath.

A glass of wine appeared in her line of vision, "Here girl," said Warren far more gently than she normally would have. "Try not to choke to death, you are far too valuable for that."

Josephine took the wine resentfully, it stung her throat. She took small sips, cradling the carved crystal in her hands. 

"She's so delicate looking, it's hard to believe she was really a soldier," said Jenny still looking at Josephine. "She's so obedient too, you've really done a wonderful job training her."

"It took some time, but most things worth doing do. She lacks manners and grace but I have my housekeeper working on that."

The grey haired man leaned forward, "The other does not seem so tame though, she's been glaring at my wife since she spoke to your slave."

Warren looked down at Martha and her hand twitched like she wanted to strike her but was refraining in polite company. "She is very protective of her lover, I acquired them as a pair. I find couples are always the easiest to control and break. I have some work yet to do with her but believe me I have her in hand. She knows what will happen to her lover if she disobey me."

Their host Colonel Parker shook his head, "I do not know how you do it Warren. When I come home I want merely to be served by a gentle natured slave that someone else has trained for me. I certainly don't want to do the cruel work of breaking them myself. Honestly, could you imagine me beating a slave?"

The woman with a military look, who had not yet spoken, finally did, "It is not cruel," she said, "You ride do you not? Any horse that carries you must be broken. You keep dogs and they had to be trained. If these captured soldiers were not broken they would be too dangerous to keep and have to be killed in the arena."

Their host shrugged almost apologetically, "All the same Waters, I do not like it. I do indeed raise dogs and horses and I know perfectly well that beating either can ruin them. I am not convinced it is so very different for humans. Most of the slaves on my estate were born to it and my overseer very seldom has to severely punish any of them. I buy most of my concubines from reputably training houses and have found them all quiet obedient. A slave that is born and raised is not the same as a war slave, any more than a wild horse is like a barn raised one."

"Then why bother with a wild one at all?" asked Jenny.

"For they can be the finest to own," said Warren.

Their host sipped his wine and leaned back on his couch, "I still find it cruel. Just a few months ago, I finally bought a bed slave who was not pleasure house raised. Captured Terra Nuevan soldiers have become such a fashion, that I figured I should have at least one Terran to show off. I didn't want a soldier though, if nothing else I wasn't going to put a dangerous woman in with my gentle concubines. So instead I bought a civilian girl who was captured on a transport ship. I got her at the auction house unbroken and untrained but they promised me she wasn't dangerous."

"Was she?" asked the woman in blue.

"No, I wouldn't have kept her if she was. The poor thing was terribly traumatized though. She cringed from the slightest touch and cried all the time. It took me a week before I could even get her to speak, much less anything else. She was so afraid, I waited a full month before I took her to my bed."

"If you punished her for crying, she'd stop," said the grey haired man.

"Yes and be even more wretched or even become dangerous. I've taken in and cared for stray and abused dogs before. You have to gentle them slowly and kindly, gain their trust. Training an abused animal is completely different from working with a healthy one."

"Why keep her then?" asked Warren, "If she's of little use to you, sell her."

"I could never do that, she's such a sweet creature and I think I am making progress with her. If I sold her she'd only go to someone who might mistreat her."

"You are far to sentimental," said Warren, "Although I suppose it is your own good nature that has helped you make so many friends and alliances so I cannot fault you for it."

As they spoke a slave girl in a delicate pink dress of flowery silk entered the room carrying a tray of goblets. She caught Josephine's attention because she was unmistakably Terra Nuevan, from her wavy dark brown hair gathered back in a clip to her dark eyes.

She did not have the build of a soldier and was young, probably a year shy of twenty. She also seemed terrified. Her eyes were downcast and her hands shaking ever so slightly.

She came to bring Warren a new glass of wine. When Warren did not notice her or take one, she shifted the tray to take one off and set it on the small side table next to Warren's couch. Her wrist was shaking too badly and the tray tilted. She yelped and tried to right it. It was too late. The full glasses slid from the tray onto Warren's lap and the two slaves sitting on the ground beside her. 

Martha scrambled back, tugging Josephine away from the shattering glass. Warren froze and blinked slowly, looking down at the glass in her lap and wine on her sleeves. 

For an instant cold anger flashed across the general's face and her body tensed as if she were about to attack. The slave girl stepped back slowly, her eyes wide with fear.

"Warren, I'm so sorry," said Colonel Parker quickly.

Warren seemed to remember herself and slowly unclenched her hands. "So this must be the charming new slave you were talking about," she said dryly. 

Another slave hurried over and started dabbing at Warren with a cloth as the offending slave girl slunk back. Warren snatched the cloth from the slave and set about drying her own lap.

"It's all right," said Warren regaining her composure. "I've served on the front lines and certainly had worse things on my clothes than wine. These are not so fine and they are dark enough they will not stain. Honestly I think my two slaves may have gotten the worst of it." She glanced over at Martha and Josephine and calculatingly registered their wine soaked state. Josephine had stood up as Martha quickly brushed at her with a wet cloth a slave had handed her to get the glass shards off.

"Is she hurt?" asked the woman in blue.

"No," lied Josephine though a few shards had cut her.

Warren looked thoughtful, "It's a shame about her clothes, it was such fine Delvian silk."

"Oh," Jenny said, "those can be saved if you put them in warm water right away and let them soak. I've gotten wine out of a dress like that before."

A gleam came to Warren's eyes, "We must try that then. Josephine take them off."

Josephine did not resist or question. She knew Warren well enough to know what was intended. She stepped out of the stained slippers, unwound the cloth from her breasts and stepped out of the skirt. She was naked then, save for the jewelry and all eyes were upon her. 

"She is lovely," Jenny murmured. Her husband did not seem to appreciate where her eyes were looking and he tried to turn the conversation. "Parker, aren't you going to punish your slave for her clumsiness? She did spill an entire tray." 

The man looked nervous, "It was an accident. I don't see any need."

"If you don't teach her consequences, she won't learn and then she'll be useless,” said the grey haired man.

Colonel Parker sighed, "I'll take care of it later."

"Why not now?" suggested Warren. "It need not be something harsh. She spilled wine, let her clean it up."

Parker nodded and made a wordless sweeping motion at the girl.

"I meant something more entertaining," said Warren. "Have her lick the wine off."

"Yes do," said Jenny eagerly. "I want to see that."

"As do I," agreed General Waters.

Cornel Parker looked suddenly embarrassed, "Surely you've all seen enough of that sort of thing in the palace."

"I wasn't suggesting anything that dramatic, just a bit of light entertainment. You don't think I'd let my slave hurt yours do you?" there was a glint in Warren's eyes and Parker saw it. He looked nervous like a buck that had caught a wolf's sent on the wind. He knew he was beat, all the eyes of his guests were on him.

"All right, although ordering her might take a moment. She doesn't speak more than a few words of standard. I've been using a translating program, hang on a minute while I send for the tablet."

"My slave can translate," said Warren, "Josephine speaks Varcian well enough. She was her units communications expert.”

"Proceed then" Parker clapped his hands and several servants brought another low couch that was flat without a back and set it down in the center of the tables, moving the forgotten dinner table to the side.

Josephine went and sat on the edge without being told. 

"Lily," said Cornel Parker and motioned at Josephine. 

The girl slunk forward hesitantly. Her eyes were wide like a doe's edging into a clearing.

"It's okay, I won't hurt you," said Joseph in Castellano.

The girl gasped and seemed ready to cry. "You speak Castellano?" Her accent was strange like she'd grown up on a colony so far from Terra Nueva that they were practically speaking a different language.

"Yes, I'm a prisoner of war, so is Martha over there" said Josephine growing bold in her knowledge that the only other person who understood them was Martha.

"I'm from the fifth moon of Tyco, I was captured on a transport ship," murmured the girl looking at her feet.

"Get on with it," snapped Warren. "Stop chatting with the girl."

Lily cringed at the hint of anger in the voice, "What did she say?"

"For us to hurry up. She wants you to lick the wine off my body as punishment for spilling it."

"What?" she blushed red.

"You need to do it before they get angry and make us do something worse, believe me they will."

The girl looked anywhere but at her, "but you are naked."

"Yea, I noticed. Just do it, please." She held out here hand. "Here, start with my hand it will be easier."

Blushing even more darkly Lily obeyed. She took her hand in her trembling one. She raised it to her mouth and made a small tentative lick. When the earth did not open up beneath her she began to methodically work across the back of her hand and then her palm and fingers.

Josephine tried very hard to ignore the tingling sensations that were running through her. The look of shame on the enslaved civilian’s face was enough. 

When Lily was done with the hand she started slowly up her arm.

"Come on," laughed Jenny, "She's got to put a bit more spirit into it than that. This is boring. Get to her breasts"

Josephine touched lowered her head so she could whisper, "they want it to look like were fucking. It doesn't matter if you actually get me clean, just move on to my chest and stomach."

"I-..." managed the girl.

"Sh," said Josephine as she laid down on the low couch and used her hand to guide the girls head, "I'll guide you."

The licks stayed quick and tentative, still actually cleaning away the specs of drying wine. She stayed to the edge of Josephine's right breast, avoiding doing much of anything.

"Pretend to go over the nipple, clean around the rings, that's what they want."

The girl very shyly worked her way over and after a few quick tentative licks darted her head back.

"She's so shy," said the woman in blue, amusement clear in her voice.

"You'd almost think she'd never been fucked before," added General Waters with implication in her tone. "You have enjoyed her yourself haven't you Parker? The point of gentling a horse is to ride it after all."

Parker sat up on his couch, "Of course I have, but she was practically a virgin when I bought her, much of that modesty remains."

"And probably cold as a fish, look at her," said the grey haired man without sounding very impressed.

"She is not, she's just not used to touching a woman," replied Parker, beginning to look upset.

"You don't have the women in your harem fuck each other?" asked Warren.

"Not everyone is as much a voyeur as you Warren," said General Waters in amusement.

"Or as much an exhibitionist as you," retorted Warren with a grin, "which reminds you really should come to dinner at my house some time soon."

That got some laughter from everyone.

Parker saw his chance to end the situation. "If you've all had enough of mocking my newest pet, I'll just send her away."

"Oh, let her stay," said Jenny. "I so liked watching her with the soldier girl. You have to admit they are very pleasing to the eyes."

He raised an eyebrow, "So you do like watching her then."

"Yes, I think the shyness is cute. I'd love to see what she'd do if the soldier actually did something to her."

"I can order my slave to fuck her if you'd like," Warren offered. "I don't share her with other citizens but I wouldn't mind seeing her with another slave."

"I suppose, so long as she's gentle with her. Women are usually gentle with each other aren't they, gentler than men are with women anyway?" Colonel Parker seemed to believe what he'd just said.

Warren raised an eyebrow and Waters failed to contain a laugh. Warren accepted a new wine glass from a different slave.

"Oh Parker, you are so very naive to the ways of the world. I can tell my slave to be gentle with yours if that's what you want though." She snapped her fingers at Josephine, "Fuck the girl, do it as gently as you would Isabella. See if you can get her to moan."

Lily had listened to all of this with a confused face. Josephine stood up, reaching for Lily's hand, "Lie down with me."

Lily went rigid "What did they say?"

"They want us to have sex."

She hid her face, "I've never been with a woman. I don't know what to do."

Josephine reached forward and gently brushed the hair from her pretty face, "It's alright, I have."

"I can't. They are watching us."

Josephine cupped her face in her hands, "Just focus on me okay. Forget everything else. I'll take care of you."

Then she kissed her, softly at first, barely more than a brush of her lips. The civilian did not fight her but her mouth was closed. 

Josephine stroked her shoulders gently with her fingers. "Sh, sh, I've got you."

She pulled her closer and the girl clung to her as if she were the last solid thing in the world. This time when she kissed her, she kissed back, not with passion but a sort of deep desperate loneliness. 

Josephine answered her and began to make more of a show of moving her hands over her body. She found the zipper of the dress and undid it. The whole thing fell away easily and so did her bra, which was just a scrap of silk anyway. 

Lily trembled in her arms. The slave's breasts were small and high and her nipples quick to harden between Josephine’s fingers. Her legs did not part to her touch, although she made a sound of surprise when Josephine's fingers brushed her inner thighs.

Josephine kissed down her neck, pausing at a breast and felt the body beneath her arch.

"Oh,"

"Sh," she ran her tongue beneath the underside of the soft mound of the breast and then once around the nipple, before drawing it into her mouth.

"Oh, Oh," Lily sounded as surprised as she did aroused, as if it were all taking her by surprise.

Across the room she saw Warren whisper something in Martha's ear. Martha stood stiffly and crossed the room to them. 

She was very careful with her first touch, merely laying a hand on the girl's shoulder. Then she reached past her to run her fingers through Josephine's hair. Josephine broke her kiss with Lily to bring her lips to Martha's. They pressed the startled slave between them.

When Lily opened her mouth to speak, Josephine quieted her with a finger against her lips, "My lover is to lay with us too. She is as kind and gentle a soul as I have ever known."

Martha kissed the back of her neck, "I will not hurt you little bird, " very gently she ran her hand down Lily's back. "Let us take care of you." The girl shivered and her eyes took on a look Josephine had seen on a lot of women in her life. This wasn't the first time she and Martha had shared a lover.

"Lay down with us beautiful," she murmured and took a step back climbing onto the couch and drawing the girl with her. She lay down on one side of Lily as Martha took the other. She focused her attention upon kissed her now eager lips and capturing an alert nipple in her fingers. Martha worked her way lower with slow careful kisses. 

She gently nudged her legs open with strong fingers and found her clit. 

"Ah, ah," Lily gasped against Josephine's mouth. 

Martha ducked her head down and kissed her inner thigh once before bringing her tongue where her fingers had just been. Lily's entire body jerked. She clutched at Josephine, digging her nails into her shoulder even as she kissed her more desperately. 

"What is she doing," she managed to gasp.

"Going down on you."

"No one's ever done that before."

"Close your eyes and just feel."

She buried her face in Josephine's shoulder and tried to hide the sounds she was making, to little avail. 

She bucked when Martha slowly slid one and then two fingers into her. Martha fucked her slowly, still working her clit with her mouth. Lily's movements grew more and more frantic. 

Even as the girl finished shuddering in her arms, Josephine raised her own head to look around the room. Cornel Parker's sat utterly entranced, as did most of the other guests. Jenny was sitting on the edge of her couch her mouth a bit open. Her husband had used the opportunity to wrap an arm around her and pull her close, while still observing the performance with some interest. Waters was reclining as calmly as she had before although there was a glint of amusement in her eyes. 

Warren alone seemed a bit bored. She was resting her chin on her hand. When she caught Josephine's gaze she gave a slight shake of her head.

Josephine reached down to stroke Martha's hair. Martha raised her face to look at her.

"We're not done love, " Josephine whispered to her in Castilian.

Martha nodded. 'The same again?"

"No, it needs to look rougher but not be so. Get her on her hands and knees in front of me. Fuck her again as she gets me off."

Martha She kissed Lily's stomach once and then gently began to roll her over with Josephine's help. 

"huh," murmured the stunned girl.

"Martha's going to get you off again," Josephine promised her. "But I need you to pleasure me this time too."

"How?" murmured Lily almost dreamily, even as she let Martha ease her to the floor and urge her back up onto her hands and knees.

"Do for me what Martha was doing for you. You know what a clit is right?" Josephine sat on the edge of the couch and drew Lily's face into her lap, cradling her face with her hands at first.

"Yes,"

"Lick and suck on it, that's all you have to do sweetheart. If you get tired use your fingers for a minute."

"Ok," he voice sounded very small and uncertain.

Then Martha kissed her back and reached between her legs to begin to rub her clit again. Lily gasped.

Josephine gently guided her head forward. She more than a little bit clumsy at first. She licked her outer labia with about as much skill as she had the wine splashed earlier. Josephine very gently tugged her head up until she reached her clit. Lily seemed to realize she'd found it and increased her efforts. 

Josephine gasped and had to force herself not to pull the poor girl’s hair. Then Martha started to fuck Lilly from behind with the fingers of one hand inside of her and those of the other on her clit.

Lily's enthusiasm soon made up for her lack of experience. Josephine may very well have pulled her hair then, she certainly didn't seem to mind. Warm waves of pleasure washed through her. It was one of the first times she'd been in such a situation and not actually in pain.

When she looked down she saw the dark haired head between her legs and the young woman's naked body. She was already arching her slender back as Martha knelt behind, her hands busy. Martha raised her eyes to Josephine.

They burned with lust and desire and something deeper. She came to the intensity of Martha's dark eyes even as a strangers tongue brought her there.

She didn't fight the sounds. She'd learned that her tormentors always wanted to hear her. Lily followed her a moment later, gasping her orgasm with a series of small desperate sounds before collapsing to the floor.

Martha, ever the gentlewoman, even in the trenches and certainly in this circumstance, stretched out beside Lily, pulling her into her arms as a few final tremors took her slender body. Josephine did not join them but instead look to Warren who gave her a pleased nod. They were done.

The woman in the blue dress applauded and the rest joined her.

"You have trained those two well," Parker complemented Warren.

“They came knowing how to do that," said Warren. "The only hard part was breaking them into doing it on command."

"If all former soldiers are that competent with their bodies perhaps I should purchase some," said General Waters. "I have been considering a new addition to my harem, although I would be looking for a male soldier probably. I enjoy a woman every now and again but it's not worth it to me to keep one when I like men so much more."

"I have heard the males are easier to break," said Warren, "And you can get an attractive one for a cheaper price than you would a woman. Although I cannot speak from experience." 

"You really have no interest in men do you?" asked Cornel Parker. He sounded almost disappointed.

"That is indeed my nature and most would say that is actually a mercy upon men. You should be glad of it, for I am never cruel to my friends and the same cannot be said of lovers."

"I would certainly rather have you as a friend than an enemy, I will say that," said Parker.

Warren raised her glass, "To alliances then."

They all raised their glasses and toasted. 

A slave came with a cotton robe for Josephine and another led an exhausted Lily away. Josephine and Martha went back to sit upon the cleaned patio at Warren's feat. Martha pulled Josephine into her arms. She almost growled when Warren reached down absently and began to stroke Josephine's hair.

Warren reached forward and grabbed the back of her collar ever so subtly and Martha went still.

The evening slowly wound down after that. There was a desert of some kind of frozen fruit and cream that Warren took one bite of and handed down to Josephine. It was one of the best things Josephine had ever tasted but it became ash on her tongue when she saw the way Martha looked at her when she accepted it.

It was followed by some kind of strong sweet brandy. Warren again sipped her glass once. Then she handed it down, to Martha this time not Josephine.

Martha's eyes burned with cold fury as she took it. She drank the liquor in one quick swig. 

"I can't believe you just gave a slave ten year old Cavian Liquor," said Parker with some amusement. "I know you call me soft, but you are quite indulgent of those two."

Warren shrugged, "It was not to my taste, a bit too green, and if I had not given it to her it would only have been drunk by the slave that cleared the glass. You don't really think anything that leaves this table is thrown away do you? Trust me, your house slaves have a whole pecking order in regards to who gets which scraps."

"Too green you say? Then I'll send for better. Now how do you know my slaves have a pecking order?"

"All slaves do. If you don't believe me ask your housekeeper. I have heard some interesting things from mine."

"Why bother with such trivial matters?" asked the grey haired man.

Warren shrugged, "It's a hobby and if nothing else good practice. Anyone who seeks to lead others ought to at least know what is going on in their own household. I once bought a worn down woman who was sold from a brothel for next to nothing and made her my housekeeper. 

“I bought her young daughter from the place for a great deal more to earn that woman's loyalty and was paid back a thousand fold. Nothing passes in my house that I do not know of and every want I have is seen to before I know I have it. Most fools waste their efforts coddling their concubines, when all that does is make them as spoiled as yappy lap dogs. I would say beat your concubine and be kind to your cook and you will live well."

"I just hired a freedman to run my household," said General Waters, "that bastard is harsher to my slaves than I've ever had the heart to be.”

"And my steward was inherited from my father," said the grey haired man, "He runs the house on respect for his age if nothing else. I only keep house slaves, no bed warmers so there aren't so many anyway."

"I wouldn't mind a bed warmer or two," said his wife, who was more than a bit drunk at this point.

"Let's not speak of this now," he whispered to her.

Parker spoke as if he hadn't heard them, "There have been ten generations of slave stewards in this house. The former one always trains up a son or daughter. They do a fine job without much bother on my part. Honestly I think if you just step back and let slaves do their work, if you've got good ones, you need neither punish or reward them. The ones who are born to it know their place and their roles perfectly well."

Warren nodded, "That is probably true. I do not come from such an old or wealthy family as you do Parker and must deal with the trouble of buying at auction or even breaking the unbroken. I cannot say I do not enjoy it though."

"To happy households," declared the drunk woman in the blue dress. The guests toasted to that and soon the evening wound down.

Right before they left, Josephine's clothes were returned dry. Apparently the soaking had worked for they looked as insubstantial and blue as they ever had before. At Warren's bidding, Josephine slipped off the robe she’d been given and tried to get the clothes back on. It was as she was doing this that she realized there was a bit of paper in the robe pocket. She folded it into her hand and then slipped it into Martha’s pants pocket.

Dressing proved difficult, there were apparently more clasps then she'd realized though and even with Martha's help she couldn't get the silk to stay on her breasts. She had to walk back to the car half naked. It seemed a long drive back. She curled up in Martha's arms across from Warren, who seemed to be paying them no mind.

As they pulled out Warren said more to herself than them, "Gods, keeping alliances is boring. That man is a bloody naive fool but he's from a damn old family and I can't afford to lose his friendship. At least you two spiced the night up a bit."

Martha and Josephine both knew not to reply. 

Later, back in their room they looked at the paper but it appeared to be a dry cleaning receipt. Martha was sure that it must have just been left in the robe pocket by accident and not be related to anything Kelly had said at all. Jopsehine was less certain. 

The next afternoon Josephine found Kelly reading beneath a tree. She asked to see her book and once it was in hand slipped the paper between its pages. Kelly took the book back and when she saw the dry cleaning receipt her eyes widened for a half second before she closed the book. 

To Josephine she said. “lovely weather we’re having, although it won’t last when fall begins.”

Jopsehine knew code when she heard it. 

Chapter Text

They were sent for the next night and brought to Warren's sitting room. There was with dark harried woman from the party a week before, who Josephine remembered as being called General Waters. The two women were sitting very close together and food and wine were largely forgotten on the table. Warren motioned Josephine and Martha forward and they came and sat at her feet.

Warren ran a hand through Josephine's hair. "She is lovely, isn't she?"

Waters nodded, "Yes, as pretty as any concubine I've ever seen."

"Would you like to watch her and the other Nuevan slave perform for us?"

Waters leaned close to Warren, running a hand down her clothed arm, "We could yes, but I've already seen that, I think I'd rather you watch me with one of them. I'd love to put on a show for you."

Warren made a low sound of appreciation, "I would enjoy that very much indeed."

She pulled Waters close, kissing her once, deeply and passionately.

The woman practically melted against her. They pulled apart after a moment both of them flushed.

"Let us retire to the bedroom."

They stood and went through a side door into the next room, Josephine and Martha following. Warren kissed Waters once more and then went to take a seat beside the bed, "Josephine, undress and get onto the bed.

"Martha come here."

Josephine undid the ties at the front of her dress and let it slide from her body.

"She is beautiful Warren, but I meant the other one," said Waters.

"Martha?" asked Warren in mild surprise.

Waters nodded, blushing slightly, "I go more for the rough soldier types than the delicate ones. Is the tall one not fully broken then?"

"I would not permit her in the presence of guests if she were not. You are welcome to enjoy her."

She turned to Martha, "Go on, undress." She moved closer so that she could whisper in her ear, "You will do exactly as she orders you. Do not dare disobey or hurt her. Shame me as you did that night in the palace and I will let every guard in this place have Josephine and you every night for a week, the men and women both. Do we have an understanding?"

Martha nodded numbly and began unbuttoning her shirt. Warren stepped back.

Waters went to her eagerly. She pulled the half undressed Martha close and kissed her. Martha froze, standing still as a statue as Waters pulled back enough to help her shrug off her shirt and began to undo her pants.

"You are such a handsome woman," Waters murmured, "and you have such fierce eyes. You still look like a soldier. I wonder if you remember how to fuck like one."

Martha said nothing.

Waters looked over her shoulder to Warren "toys?"

"In the box beside the bed, use whatever you like." she snapped her fingers at Josephine who retrieved it.

Waters stepped away from Warren to go through the box on the bed.

Warren moved closer, slipping her arms around Waters's waist and nibbling at her neck as she looked through the box.

She picked out one of the largest toys. "That one?"

Waters shrugged against Warren, "why not?"

"I've never actually fucked her with a strap on before, I'm not sure how easy that particular toy will be to get into her. Perhaps we should start her with something smaller."

Waters turned and kissed the side of her neck, "It's for me, not her."

"Oh, well in that case I am going to enjoy watching this."

Waters handed the dildo and strap-on to Martha, who seemed a little surprised, but took it and put it on.

"How do you want her," Warren was busy trailing her hands over Waters's body, still holding her from behind.

"On her back, on the bed. I want to ride her."

Martha obeyed as Warren helped liberate Waters from the rest of her clothes.

Warren went back to the chair and sat beckoning Josephine to her. She pulled Josephine into her lap, tugging her clothes from her body and slipping her fingers inside of her.

Waters climbed over Martha, kneeling over her and kissing her again. "Go on touch me, I know you want to," she half whispered.

Martha obeyed, although it was clearly not what she wanted. She ran her hands almost mechanically over Waters's body, touching a breast as if it were a foreign object.

Waters squirmed, "Come on, I saw what you did to that slave. You fucking know what to do."

Martha's eyes narrowed. She rolled them, knocking Waters off and onto her side, roughly pressing a hand between Waters's legs."Is this what you want?"

Warren was already on her feet dumping Josephine from her lap, when Waters moaned, "yes."

Martha pushed her fingers into her, finding her slick and desperate.

Waters moaned, moving against her.

Warren sat back down. She pushed Josephine down to kneel on the floor this time and directed her between her legs to a familiar task. Her hands were rough and almost absent minded as she pulled her hair and watched the show before her.

Waters made soft sounds of pleasure as Martha worked another finger into her. At the same time the naked general reached out and caught one of Martha's breasts twisting it sharply enough to get a surprised yelp from her.

She grabbed her shoulder and rolled Martha onto her back roughly and straddled her again. When Martha tried to move, she grabbed her wrists and pressed them down hard.

"Do not forget your place slave. I'm going to fuck myself on you now and you're going to lie on your back."

She shifted her weight until she was over the dildo and then she slowly slid down onto it. Her eyelashes fluttered with pleasure and she gave a low groan as she eased the heavy piece of plastic inside of herself.

She rested for a moment on top of Martha, and then she rolled her hips. "I told you to lie on your back, I did not tell you to lie still."

Martha glared at her and rolled her hips once. 

Waters moaned in appreciation. She began to move, pushing herself up and down. "Come on, show me what a soldier of Terra is capable of!" She'd had to let go of Martha's hands and Martha used them to grab her hips and move her harder. She made no complaint.

Across the room Warren watched enraptured, not even closing her eyes as she shuddered through an orgasm from Josephine's ministrations.

Waters rode Martha on the bed. The two bodies writhed as they slammed together.

Waters arched her back and cried out as the came once and then again and again. She kept moving until she couldn't anymore and slumped over Martha.

Warren pushed Josephine aside and went to the bed. Waters raised her head and smiled at Warren before grabbing her and kissing her. She eased off of Martha and pulled Warren to the bed.

They hit the sheets in a tangle of limbs. Martha vacated the sheets before Warren got any more ideas of what to do with her. Moans were rising from it, mostly from Waters. Over her shoulder, Warren called. “Both of you stay. Martha, use the toy on Josephine.” 

Martha glanced at Josephine who was standing, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. Her face was flushed. Something strange crossed Martha's face as she came closer to her. She pressed Josephine against the chair, feeling between her legs. "You're fucking wet for her," She whispered in a hiss, "She barely even fucked you and you're wet for her!"

"I can't help it," snapped Josephine. "It's what my body does and a good thing too or I'd be torn bloody every day."

"You come for any woman who touches you don't you." Martha pressed her fingers into her and found her ready. Josephine had to fight down a groan. "Have you ever even wanted me or am I just like any other?"

Josephine tensed and tried to push Martha away. "How dare you ask that!"

"Fucking answer me!"

"Yes, I want you, you goddamn idiot! Now get off me or fuck me but stop hurting me with your words."

Martha yanked her into a kiss. It was rough and desperate and held a thousand things.

She pushed Josephine down onto the floor. Josephine wrapped her legs around her waist and she slid the toy into her in one smooth movement. They fucked, quickly and brutally on the soft carpet.

Josephine arched and moaned and clawed at Martha's back as her orgasm grew inside of her. The first was quick and violent and then the rest slowly rose and crested and receded as Martha thrust into her.

The pressure of the toy against her clit was finally too much and Martha shuddered and collapsed stretching out over Josephine. Josephine held her closer, stroking her hair and whispering to her softly.

It was some time later that Waters disentangled herself from Warren. 

"Gods, I needed that, all of it."

Warren grinned and stretched out beside her languidly. "I'm glad you enjoyed yourself."

"I don't suppose I can talk you into selling or giving me the taller slave while you are all satisfied and content."

She shook her head "No, I'm afraid not. I've put too much time into training her and she compliments the pretty one so well." She leaned over and kissed Waters once, "and besides, I can always use her to tempt you back to my bed."

"You don't need a slave to do that," said Waters.

"Really? At the garden party you said your interest in women was limited."

"In general it is. I do make exceptions, as you have just seen."

"For those who can grant you political favors I imagine," said Warren.

Waters's eyes widened, "I did not-"

Warren cut her off with a wave of her hand, "Don't bother insulting us both. We are each old hands in the world of intrigue and you only take lovers who can help you. I know that you have asked the head of the military Brigadier General Patrick to transfer you from the western to the eastern. For that to happen I have to agree to allow you to come under my command."

The general flushed and drew the sheets around herself, "Is it impossible to imagine that I just wanted to fuck you? You are a general and commander of the Eastern forces. Power is seductive."

Warren laughed and tugged at the sheets, "I know that perfectly well. Now are you going to sit there in a huff or would you like to resume our activities?"

Waters bit at her lip but finally nodded, "yes I would.”

...

The next afternoon Warren again sent word that Josephine and Martha were to be dressed to go to another party. Apparently the summer was the height of the season for courtyard gatherings. Josephine had barely stepped from the shower, still toweling her hair, when she found Lydia waiting with Maggie and a fine wooden jewelry box sitting beside her on the bed.

"You don't trust Maggie to help me with my earrings?" Josephine asked her.

"Not ones of this value." 

Lydia opened the box and began to remove a complex set of silver and diamond pieces. "These are worth almost as much as the others. Damian Crystals are not cheap."

Josephine sat on the bed and let her switch out her jewelry, barely feeling the house keepers clinical touch on her skin. There was a delicate silver chain that linked the naval piercing to her breasts and her breasts to each other. The earrings were heavy with small stones and dangled in multiple silver parts. There was a silver ear cuff on her left ear as well.

There was a matching set of delicate bracelets and a necklace but they were too tight and could not be worn with her collar and cuffs.

Lydia frowned, "We need to get you refitted for lighter cuffs and a more delicate collar."

"One's that can't shock me?"

“You will always wear ones that can do that. The ones you have now are heavier and wider though, they are meant to protect your wrists and throat if you need to be restrained. You've stopped fighting now. You don't need such clunky things anymore, Warren's going to want something that looks prettier."

"Like these trinkets? Where does Warren even get these? Did she buy them for me?" 

Lydia laughed, "Do not flatter yourself child. These are courtesan jewelry not slave bobbles. Warren acquired them when Kara's mistress sold them after Kara's downfall."

"Oh." Nothing was ever simple was it? Even a pretty bit of stone had a dark history. She could remember the golden haired woman with the burning eyes. "I've met her, I'm surprised she would sell them."

Lydia shrugged, "From the gossip I heard she had to. She could not be seen wearing a traitor’s gifts. Selling everything her patron had given her helped her distance herself quickly and get enough capital to sustain herself until she could find a new one."

"And Warren bought them."

"Yes, to be honest I'm surprised she's not used them to torment the poor woman. I suppose she's enjoying having you wear them in public as a status symbol instead."

Lydia finished with the jewelry and wound a thin bit of white silk over Josephine's breasts that hid nothing. She draped another gossamer bit of cloth over Josephine's shoulder to wrap once around her waist and barely cover her crotch. Her stomach was left bare.

"I may as well be naked," 

"With these clothes you will catch more attention than if you were. There is an art to paying this much to wear so little."

"I hate it."

Lydia sighed and pressed Josephine's shoulder almost gently. "Don't. This is a good sign. You are a favorite and I think our mistress will be gentler with you for a time. The more of your skin she shows the less she can bruise. It is always better to be a pretty porcelain doll than a battered toy."

Martha came out of the bathroom already dressed in slacks and a clean white shirt, "So what does that make me."

"A rag doll," said Lydia as she ran a tube over lipstick over Josephine's lip. "And one we can only hope does not get forgotten out in the rain."

"What the hell did I ever do to you?" snapped Martha.

"Nothing, I only speak frankly to you for your own good. Right now we must focus on making sure you do not draw more attention to yourself. So long as you do not cause trouble Warren will keep you as a complement to Josephine. Tonight you must be silent and obedient. Warren is going to a very wealthy friends home."

...

 

It was another long drive out into the countryside. Josephine was beginning to become accustomed to those. Warren spent most of it tapping at a tablet, completely ignoring them.

They arrived at a large country estate just as the sun was setting. The car slowly wound its way up a long drive and finally dropped them off at a beautifully columned white house. A slave led them through to a back garden.

It was a much larger gathering of nobles than the last, although the set up of the tables was much the same. Warren was greeted by the host, a greying haired man with a stiff back and a hawk nose.

"Warren, it is a pleasure to see you again. You always make my little parties so much more lively.

"Lord Reynard. It is good to see you again. Your events are certainly never dull."

"I see you've brought two of your pets. The girl in silk is very lovely. Is she the famous one from the palace ball?"

"Yes."

"When I heard that story I imagined a savage scarred soldier, not this delicate creature."

"Do not be fooled. A bit of silk does not make her tame, or change what she is."

"And is she safe to have about then?"

"Don't worry I have her on a short lead."

There was as short time of guests milling about with drinks in their hands. Josephine and Martha followed Warren. The soft white gravel of the courtyard hurt Josephine's feet through her thin slippers but she did not complain.

A bell was rung and the guests sat down on the reclining couches around the table. Josephine and Martha took their places at Warren's feet. Warren handed small bits of food to them as always.

The talk at the table was lively, much of it about the arena. Their host was very quick to brag.

"One of my long term investments has finally come to fruition. The boy I purchased to be trained as a gladiator has won his first several fights. He's done excellently in the non lethal matches and at the end of the month he will face his first battle to the death."

One of the women laughed, "Oh Reynard, you brag as if you've purchased a fine horse."

"It is much the same."

"Then let us see him," insisted the woman. "Is he an ugly beast or a handsome lad?"

Their host shrugged, "He's a gladiator. What does it matter?"

The woman's husband raised his glass to his lips. "If he's handsome you can rent him out for the nights after his victories. Some people pay a lot for that sort of thing."

Reynard shook his head, "And in doing so often ruin a good fighter. It destroys their moral and ruins their purpose. One does not breed a fine racing mare until her time on the track is done. If a slave is to fight, fight them. If they are to be fucked, fuck them."

There were a few nods and the slave was sent for. A moment later a young man of about nineteen with fiery red hair returned. He had the body of a well trained athlete and an ordinary enough face. He kept his eyes down, clearly intimidated by the crowd.

"This is Perseus," his owner introduced him.

"That can't be the name he came with," someone laughed.

The old man nodded, "He didn't come with one at all. They don't name them in the training house I bought him from.

"What do you make of him Warren? You've said little," their host asked.

Warren shrugged, "A fine enough purebred. I'm sure he'll do well for you in the arena."

"You don't sound very impressed."

"To be honest I've never been that impressed with cockfighting."

The old man's face darkened. "I have seen you at the arena often enough Warren. Do not tell me you disapprove of such an ancient and traditional sport."

"I have no objections. I enjoyed watching the fights in my youth. It is simply that I am a soldier now and have seen real battles. Watching a pair of well fed slaves play at fighting simply does not thrill me now."

He bristled further, "It is just like a soldier not to appreciate an art."

"I never claimed to."

The old woman in the grey dress leaned forward, "I suppose you prefer the fatal matches then? The ones where captured soldiers fight to the death. Do those at least seem real to you?"

Warren shook her head, "I find those to be the dullest of all, since they are rigged from the beginning."

"How?" asked a man. "They look real to me."

"And yet you must notice that the prisoners always die? Almost unarmed, injured, starved and beaten men being devoured by beasts is hardly a fair fight, even if it is good for moral. If they were fed, healed and given weapons to which they were accustomed any war forged captured soldier could easily kill even a genetically engineered war wolf much less a spoiled gladiator of the arena. I have watched my pets sparring between themselves and they are far more impressive than any training day I have glimpsed in the arena."

"Really? Would you like to put a bet on that?"

Warren sat up, her interest peaked, "What sort?"

"One of your soldier pets against my gladiator."

"That might well be a passable amusement. It will have to be Martha not Josephine, it would be a shame to ruin her silk and jewels."

"Excellent and we must lay some stakes."

"Name your price," said Warren, "keep it reasonable, though I won't bankrupt you."

"I was thinking more along other lines. If my man wins then you give me your pretty slave."

"I would not risk forfeiting her even for my pride. If my woman loses I will lend you Josephine for the night. In that time you may do whatever you wish to her so long as she is not returned to me scarred."

"Agreed. In return if my man loses what would you have of me? I know you've no interest in a male gladiator."

Warren considered for a moment, "No, but I'll take his first golden laurel wreath crown if he wins one, as well as his first prize money. That should be equivalent.”

"Very well. This should be highly entertaining." The host stood up and clapped his hands.

"Honored friends, we must now go to the estates small arena if we are to witness this amusement. Do not worry the wine and food will follow us."

Warren stood but Josephine could not find the will too. Her owner grabbed her arm and half forced her to her feet. Of all the terrible things that had happened to her, somehow this felt like a breaking point. She surely had less to fear from the nearly arthritic noble than she had the empress and yet something frantic tore at her stomach. 

She'd never lain with a man. Not that the gender of a rapist should matter, but somehow in the fearful part of herself it did. At least with women she could close her eyes and pretend she wanted it. Her body would react for her and she could imagine the desire she felt was something other than adrenaline and fear. If Warren gave her to this man though, she couldn't pretend.

"I cannot do this, I cannot." Josephine hissed at her.

Something dark came over Warren's eyes, although she would not strike Josephine in public.

"You will do as you are ordered or I will do worse to you than anyone I lend you to, man or woman."

She leaned closer pretending to kiss Warren's ear. "I will kill him if he touches me."

"Then I will torture Martha to death."

"No."

"Then you had best hope your lover can defend you."

Warren began to walk and Josephine and Martha had no choice but to follow.

Martha took Josephine's hand. "I will win this for you. I'll die fighting before I give up."

"I know Martha, I know." Except she didn't know that Martha would win. She just knew Martha would fight for her with everything she had. 

Some quiet voice at the back of her mind. The one that occasionally just wanted to start laughing uncontrollably even whispered that this was what Martha must want. Now her lover would finally have a chance to fight to protect her, when she had been denied it so long.

Josephine squeezed her hand, "You won me that night a year ago on All Souls Eve, when I was the harvest queen. You'll do the same tonight."

This was not the night of a festival though. She didn't have a wreath of wire cables around her head in the place of leaves and bracelets and anklets of bullet shells in the place of bells. 

She'd never meant to be the harvest queen. Traditionally on Terra Nueva the harvest queen was the prettiest girl in a village or in the modern world on a city block and chosen by a vote. In the trenches the other soldiers had chosen her as a joke and snuck up on her to crown her.

They'd jammed the crown of wires on her head and carried her protesting loudly to the edge of the practice ring where she'd been given a rifle as a scepter and placed upon a camp chair throne to watch the harvest king matches.

Of course the harvest king didn't have to be a man. Over half the unit wanted to prove their fighting prowess and the matches had taken a long time. She hadn't really minded. The one perk of the embarrassment of the crown was her friends kept her well supplied with rotgut. 

Martha had won. She'd received her own crown of wires and bowed to Josephine as tradition dictated. They'd danced once to the laughter and drumming of their friends. Even city rats like them knew the harvest dance. 

Then they'd danced a bit more and Josephine had been struck by how beautiful Martha's dark eyes were in the weak light of the trench's naked electric bulbs. She'd bedded her before, she'd bedded every half decent looking woman in the tench who'd have her.

This time though it was something more. She whispered in Martha’s ear to take her to bed and her fellow soldier had swept her up into her arms and carried her from the sparring ring turned dance floor to the cheers and ribald suggestions of the unit. They'd lain down together on the narrow ledge of a bunk carved into the trench and fucked slowly and gently. Martha had touched her more sweetly than any woman had since the civilian lover she'd left back on Terra Nueva. 

She called her harvest queen and held her warm and safe when they were done. For a few hours Josephine could forget where they were. Then a few hours before dawn their had been a raid and she'd had to scramble from the bunk half naked with her head pounding. She'd grabbed a riffe that was not hers and before the sun rose she'd shot two men she would never know the names of.

She slept with Martha again a few nights later, but the next time Martha's arms felt restrictive instead comforting and she had slipped away to go back to her own bunk. She went back to her though; time and time again until one night Martha whispered that she loved her.

She'd pulled away and yet she still came back and Martha whispered it again. She kept saying it even when it drove Josephine from her. It was as if she could not help herself. Josephine had once told her that she did not love her in return. Martha had turned her face away and Josephine had felt heartless. She'd held Martha then in apology.

After that she would lay in her arms after they fucked. Martha stopped saying she loved her and they found a sort of peace. They were almost happy those last few weeks before they were captured.

Josephine was shaken from her revelry by their arrival at the training ring. It was a large outdoor space with a few small attached sheds for equipment and some rough metal stadium seating.

The guests sat and the gladiator youth went and began to stretch. 

Martha paid no attention where she waited at the side of the field with Josephine and Warren. She shed her over shirt and her boots. When no one offered her cloth to wrap her hands she quickly tore the shirt and covered her knuckles.

Warren laughed at that, "Do you know what that fine cotton was worth slave?"

"No but a broken hand is certain to pain me."

"Smart girl."

The gladiator did not bother with such a preparation but instead simply walked to the center of the dirt ring, stripped down to his loose grey pants and nothing else. When he took his shirt off some of the audience made sounds of appreciation. He had more muscles then one would expect on such a young body. He looked towards the crowd smiling nervously, as if not yet accustomed to attention.

Josephine grabbed Martha and kissed her long and deeply. When they broke apart she whispered, "Win this for me. If I am yours, then fight for me."

Martha clutched her hand and then went out onto the field.

The host, Reynard called out the rules to the fighters. "The first to cede or stay down for more than ten-seconds loses. No weapons or biting but all other forms of attack are allowable."

The fight started slowly, the gladiator had been trained not to rush in and Martha was an experienced fighter. They circled each other carefully until the young man made the first strike.

Martha blocked the punch with her hands and her feet slid across the dirt at the impact. She kicked out catching her opponent at the knees and causing him to stumble. He kept his balance and sprang at her again. 

They fell into a rapid flurry of motion. Josephine watched with her heart in her throat. It only took her a moment to realize that Martha was losing. She had always relied more on strength than technique and her opponent was stronger than her.

Her forced her back across the ring, putting her on the defensive quickly. A sharp cross punch to the face sent her down and he followed her, grabbing her arm and forcing it behind her painfully.

"Stay down," he snapped when she struggled against him.

"No."

He eased up the pressure on her shoulder before he dislocated it. "We've fought enough to satisfy them, I don't want to hurt you."

"Go to hell." She slammed her head back hard and there was a painful cracking sound. The gladiator scrambled away from her, clutching at his broken nose. He got his hands up in earnest again but it was already too late. 

He was in pain and it threw him off. Martha quickly forced him back, landing blow after blow mercilessly, further bloodying his face. She didn't seem to feel the attacks she barely bothered to block. She got him in a hold and they hit the ground together hard.

A few rolls put Martha on top. She hit him once hard and then again and again. He stopped struggling but he didn't yield.

"Enough!" barked Reynard.

Martha hit him again. Her fist was bloody when she raised it.

Warren leaned close enough to Josephine to whisper, "Do not let your lover kill him. He’s too damn valuable."

"Martha stop. He's down." Josephine called out.

When Martha began to draw back her arm again. Josephine ran out into the field again. She grabbed Martha's arm. "He is not the enemy."

Martha roughly jerked her arm away from Josephine. She turned with murder in her eyes and her hand still clenched ready to strike. Josephine took a quick step back.

"Martha, please. He’s just an injured boy."

Martha lowered her hand and slowly climbed off the bloodied gladiator. Other slaves hurried forward to help the stunned young man limp away. The soldier stood clenching and unclenching her hands.

Warren raised her almost untouched glass of wine, "It seems my champion has won Reynard."

The older man raised his own glass, his face bitter. "Yes, yes she did. Perhaps you should enter her in the arena fights. She would surely win you a laurel wreath."

"Now, now we both know war slaves may not be entered as proper gladiators. It would look bad if they actually won. I will have to content myself with any wreath yours wins.”

"If this fight is any indication you may have struck a poor bet Warren. I am beginning to doubt my slaves worth if he can be defeated by a Terra Nuevan. I think I will have him train a few more months now before his first fight. You won and yet may never see a wreath from me. If I had won the bet I'd at least have gotten the pretty slave for the night."

Warren shrugged, "If you'd like, you can still see her fucked, even if you may not do it yourself. What do you say to a bit of entertainment? I will reward my champion with her."

There was a brief silence and then Reyard nodded his head, "I'm sure my guests would be highly entertained. 

Warren moved to the edge of the circle although stayed far enough to not be easily grabbed or hit. She could see the wildness in Martha’s face and her right hand rested gently on her left arm, just on top of the wrist gauntlet that let her control their cuffs and collars.

"Go on Martha. You fought well, take your prize."

Martha turned to look at her, eyes narrowed and unreadable. Josephine could see their lives shattered in an instant. She moved quickly, putting herself between Martha and Warren.

"My love, come here." She reached out for her. "I need you."

Martha's eyes got wide and then she grabbed her, pulling her roughly into a desperate kiss. Josephine almost lost her footing. She kissed back, struggling to find passion when fear was so strong inside of her. 

Martha eased her to the ground. Josephine felt the delicate silk of her clothes tearing and then become completely lost as Martha covered her. She pressed her down with her weight, her hands on her body, grabbing, taking. Her mouth covered hers, stealing the breath from her lungs.

Josephine turned her head to the side, "I can't..." she would have said, "breath" but Martha grabbed her chin turning her face back. A sudden panic coiled in her gut and she tried to push at her, get some space. Martha just shoved her down.

Her fingers were sticky and with a dull sense of horror Josephine realized they were still covered in the gladiators blood. Her lover forced her legs open with a knee, jamming her hand against her cunt and found her wet in spite of everything. She shoved her fingers into her quick and brutal. Josephine didn't try to fight the gasp she gave. 

Martha fucked her harder and rougher than she ever had before, three fingers inside of her, nothing on her clit. Josephine closed her eyes so that she wouldn't have to look at those familiar eyes turned into something else. What did it matter? She'd been used often enough. If she could forget that it was Martha she would be fine.

In spite of herself she felt her body reacting, her hips arching. She had to fight down a desperate moan.

"Go on, fuck me."

Martha slammed her fingers into her harder and harder, drawing gasps and whimpers from her.

She grabbed her hair and pulled it hard. "Look at me damn it. Open your eyes and look at me."

"No." 

Martha tightened her grip on her hair. "Fucking look at me!"

Josephine forced her eyes open. Martha's eyes were the grey they had always been but nothing else was the same. She'd only ever seen her look at Warren that way. 

The fear that filled Josephine's face must have broken the spell because there were suddenly tears at the edge of Martha's eyes.

Josephine hated her own back for arching, her body from orgasming in that moment. She never broke Martha's gaze, even as she clenched around her hand and cried out in something that was neither pleasure nor pain.

Martha slumped over her, her whole body trembling.

The sound of slow footsteps caused Martha to jerk her head to the side. A frightened slave girl dropped a plastic bottle into the dirt.

"Your...your mistress said to use this. She wants you to put your whole hand in her."

The girl fled. Slowly Martha reached and picked up the bottle.

"Martha," said Josephine very carefully, "You need..."

"I know," Martha cut her off, her voice ragged but her own again. "I know I have to be careful or I'll hurt you."

She slicked her hand and pressed it back against Josephine. For a moment all the soldier could do was tense. Martha pressed slowly but firmly and Josephine forced herself to breath. She made unwilling muscles unclench.

Martha got the start of four fingers into her tight body and slowly began to work up towards the thickest part of her hand.

Josephine began to tremble. Martha kissed her again and pushed forward. She slid into her with a flash of pain.

Josephine went utterly still. Her eyes wide. She'd never felt like this before in her life. She'd had Eli's hand in her but that had been slowly and carefully when she was calm. This was something else. The sense of stretching and intensity was almost more than she could bare.

She closed her eyes and reached down her right hand to touch her clit. Slowly she circled her fingers and brought pleasure back to her body. Martha very gently rocked her hand and it was almost too much. Then she moved it again.

Josephine moaned and clutched at Martha's back with her other hand. Her lover began to very carefully push harder. Her world shifted into one comprised only of sensation and movement.

She cried out as her orgasm took her and she clenched around the hand and then again as another took her. Martha began to fuck her in earnest. Josephine rode the edge of pain and pleasure. She arched and screamed and then went utterly still.

Martha pulled out of her and Josephine whimpered at the loss of contact. She pulled her into her arms, curling up with her on the rough dirt of the training rings ground. There was the sound of applause and then the sound of the crowd standing and heading back to the garden.

They didn't move until a few minutes later when Warren's boots entered the edge of Josephine's line of sight.

"Come on, I won't wait for you."

Martha slowly rose to her feet and then reached back down for Josephine. The exhausted woman wrapped her arms around the back of Martha's neck so that she could help her stand.

They followed Warren back down the stone path. When Warren sat, Martha slumped with Josephine to the ground beside her couch. She barely responded when something warm was draped around her shoulders. She pulled it tighter so she could wrap it around the woman in her arms and saw that it was Warren's coat.

Warren reached down and ran a hand through her messy hair.

"I think you will prove useful after all."

For once Martha did not have the strength to tell her to go to hell.


 

Chapter Text

Dawn came as it always did. Josephine woke alone, curled up naked in her bed. She stretched and felt the stiffness of her body. She took off all the jewelry, which was all that was really left of her clothes from the night before. She deposited it in the box Lydia had set out. It was attached to the dresser by a simple metal chain and locked itself once she closed it. Apparently she was not trusted not to steal the jewelry or Lydia did not believe the harem secure enough. Lydia would come to fetch it later.

She stepped into the shower and stood in the thundering water as it washed away all of the dust of the practice ring dirt. Her hands shook as she cleaned herself. She half expected to find her cunt torn but her fingers found her labia and entrance unharmed. When she pressed her fingers deeper, she was terribly sore but there was no burning or other harm. 

She closed her eyes and leaned against the wall as she began to sob. It didn't last very long. It seemed that she had become accustomed even to crying, using it as a quick emotional release so that she could continue with her life.

She dried herself and then set about putting on the simple silver rings Lydia had given her. She didn't want to wear them but she didn't want to heal and be pierced again either. She dressed in loose grey pants and a white shirt before heading down into the courtyard.

The sound of violence, fists against skin, reached her first. Martha and Helen were sparring. It was terrifying to watch. Martha was attacking her with a fearsome single minded fury. The other woman danced away from her blows with a quick and deadly grace.

She waited until she saw her opening and struck once, hard and brutally connecting her fist with Martha's stomach, sending her to the ground with a sharp gasp of pain.

Martha stayed down, curled up like she was clearly in pain. Any other day Josephine would have run to her. This one she did not. Helen knelt, to check on Martha. Grudgingly the downed woman accepted the offered hand up.

Josephine stepped back into the shadows of the columns and stayed there. The stone was warm against her back. She wished she could sink into it, stay safe and hidden forever. It didn't last. It couldn't.

"You okay there soldier girl?" Eli asked it gently. Josephine wearily opened her eyes and saw the pirate there beside her.

"You're seriously asking me that?" 

Eli shrugged, "Hey just cause I'm losing my mind doesn't mean I can't tell when others are too."

"I've been better."

"Would a drink, a fuck or a smoke help?"

Josephine shook her head.

"Wanna spar then?"

"Yes."

They went out onto the cleared practice area. Eli started slow, giving Josephine a moment to warm up and then they flew at each other. Josephine felt a strange exhilaration and joy bubbling up inside of herself. If there was one thing left that kept her from feeling helpless it was fighting.

They didn't stop until they were both soaked in sweat and exhausted. It was only then that she noticed Martha watching, her dark eyes pained.

Josephine knew she should go talk to her, at least say something. The distance of the courtyard felt too great and when she looked at her lover, even as the woman’s face was wracked with guilt and worry, she couldn’t stop herself from seeing the blank and empty look of the night before. She knew, at some deep and terrible level, that Martha was very close to breaking. If they didn’t escape soon, there wouldn’t be enough of Martha left for it to matter.

 

Josephine was napping in one of the chairs by the pool when Lydia woke her.

"Get up, I need you clean and dressed. The empress has sent for our mistress and she is to bring you and Martha."

Josephine raised her head, "Not another palace ball."

"No, just a summons. I don't know what your going into but you've got to be presentable. Hurry up and get into the shower."

Grudging they did. When they got out Lydia helped Josephine change her rings for jewelry of gold and tiny rubies. The dress she was given was short and did not cover her shoulders but it at least it was more than a few scraps of gauze.

Warren was frowning and pacing when they were brought down. She said nothing to them as they went to the waiting car. The whole drive she tapped her foot and stared out the window.

It was early evening when they reached the palace and were shown through halls populated by servants and a few stray courtiers. Instead of going to the great public rooms they went up a set of stairs.

Two guards were standing at a doorway. They were the two that had fucked Josephine on their last visit to the palace. One quickly searched Warren from head to toe and then did the same to Josephine and Martha. Josephine didn't bother to react when the woman's hands lingered over long.

Then they were let in to the sitting room of the empress of Delvia. It was as luxurious space as Josephine had ever seen. The ceiling was painted with a scene of nymphs fleeing a satyr, and ever piece of furniture was painted with gold leaf and cushioned with velvet.

The empress reclined upon a low couch, wearing a beautiful blue silk gown and sipping wine. She gave a slow dangerous smile, her full lips curving only on one side.

"Warren, my dear general, please have a seat."

Warren did on the couch across from her and Josephine and Martha knelt at her feet. A servant quickly offered Warren a glass of wine and she took it with steady hands. She sat very stiffly.

The empress crooked a thumb at Josephine. Warren pressed a hand to her back and Josephine knew to crawl over to her. The empress cupped her face and then almost absently ran a hand through her hair.

"You really did make a good find with this lovely creature."

"She is yours for the asking," said Warren.

"I couldn't take one of your toys from you Warren. If there is one thing I know my citizens do not like it is the taking of their property outside of taxes."

"All the same, she is yours if you want her my liege,"

The empress pushed Josephine aside and she went back to Warren's feet. "Oh do relax and stop sitting like your expecting marching orders. I did not call you here for a matter of state."

"I am yours to call as you wish, as are all loyal citizens," said Warren carefully.

"Are you indeed? I seem to recall that you were not so quick to obey my summons when I was not yet your empress. I still remember the day I called you to my bed and you refused."

Warren flushed, "My liege I meant no insult in my refusal. I sought only to respect your honor. You were just a girl, barely sixteen."

The empress laughed, coldly and sharply, "I think you thought more of your own skin. You feared my father."

"That too my liege. I was newly made a general and your father had already banished a lesser noble you'd been caught with."

She tilted the glass in her hand, swirling the wine in the glass, "I was quite enamored with you then you know. You seemed such a dashing young general. It hurt my pride quite a bit when you would not have me. It hurt even more when I saw you with General Kara Jones at every state event, sweet as a pair of love birds."

Warren said nothing. The empress kept talking, "You did tire of her though eventually, or at least she had no more advantage to offer you. Then you came courting me, as you had not when you should have years before and I let my interest be known."

Warren paled, "You had grown into a woman, I thought my suit finally fitting."

"More like an empress crowned. You wanted me when I had power to give you. It gave me pleasure to refuse you then."

"As was your right my liege."

The empress tilted her head slightly, considering the woman before her, "I do sometimes wonder if I was over hasty though. You have not lost your charms or you handsome face in all the time that has passed. I wonder if I did not let my pride deny me something pleasurable."

Warren leaned forward slightly, "Nothing that you wish is denied to you my liege."

The empress set aside her glass, her eyes meeting Warrens, "Even you my dear general?"

"I am yours to command in all things."

"Really? How deeply does that loyalty run. Would you do anything?"

Warren's face showed she knew she was stepping into a trap, but she had nowhere to run, no way to go but forward. 

"Anything you wish of me, my Empress."

The dark haired woman leaned back against the divan, her eyes gleaming. "Kiss the pretty slave."

Warren blinked, "Kiss her my liege?"

"Yes, I'd like to see it."

Warren leaned down to tilt Josephine's face up and kiss her. It was stiff and almost formal at first. She watched the empress out of the corner of her eye but could read nothing on her mask like face.

Warren broke the kiss and looked up, "Would you have me kiss you? I can promise you that there is more pleasure in the doing than the watching."

The empress smiled very carefully.

"I want to see you touch her. Make her moan."

Warren nodded dutifully and began to undress Josephine, easily undoing the ties at the back of her dress with adept fingers. All the while keeping the empress in her sight. She ran her hands across Josephine's breasts and body. She was not gentle, twisting her nipple painfully and pressing everything else so hard she almost bruised her. She got a sound of pain from Josephine and a moan that was clearly false.

Josephine was almost too afraid to react. She knew she'd gone tense under Warren's touch, they were not making a good show. Wordlessly Warren tapped Martha and motioned her towards Josephine. The dark eyed woman nodded and slipped onto the couch pulling Josephine into her arms. Martha kissed the back of Josephine's neck and quickly found her clit with her fingers.

Warren pressed a hand between her legs. She forced her fingers into her quick and hard.

In spite of herself Josephine began to make the sounds that were wanted.

Warren pinched a nipple hard between her fingers and shoved into her harder.

It hurt but Josephine had become so accustomed to such treatment it didn't take her long to feel the sudden sparks of an orgasm ripping through her. She moaned and arched against Martha, closing her eyes so that she could forget the woman over her.

Warren pulled away the moment her shudders were done, wiping her fingers on Martha's shirt before standing and turning to face the empress "My liege"

"I did not give you leave to approach me," said the Empress coldly.

Warren bowed quickly and low, "forgive me."

"Shed your clothes. You have not lost a single stitch. I'd like to see you."

Warren began to unbutton her shirt. She shrugged it off and began to unbuckle her pants, stepping out of them with as much grace as she could. When she paused with the clasp of her bra the empress grew impatient.

"All of it. You are not a blushing school girl."

Warren flushed and quickly undid the clasp of her simple black bra, letting it fall away and then pushing down her underwear and stepping out of them. She stood naked with her arms at her side, parade rest. Josephine could not see her face but everything in the general’s stance was defiant.

Although she was past the flush of youth she still had the body of a soldier, all lean muscles and a few scars. A single, ugly red slash made its way down her back, marring the smooth pale skin there. It had to still pain her.

The empress gave the faintest of nods. "I want to see them both fuck you."

"My liege I do not permit my slaves such a liberty."

The beautiful monarch's face clouded, "you will permit what I bid you to. Are you refusing the will of your empress?"

"No my liege."

"Then you will obey?"

She nodded.

"Good. Then I want them to do to you what I had done to your pretty slave on her last visit to the palace. There is box beneath the couch with everything that is needed. I imagine your pets will know what to do."

Josephine knelt to search for the box as Martha watched warily. She feared Warren but she feared the empress more.

Warren did not move. If she had gone pale before now her face was utterly bloodless. "My liege, please do not ask this of me. It is humiliating. I cannot bear it."

"You may be very surprised what you can bear. To refuse my will is treason. Do you seek your own dishonor and death?"

Her whole body tensed and for a moment her fists clenched. The two guards that stood at the empress's sides came to attention.

Slowly Warren opened her hands."No, my Empress I do not. Nor will I ever forget this day, or what you asked of me."

She held her sovereign's gaze for a long angry moment and then she turned to the couch. She grabbed Josephine who was just standing with the box, causing her to drop it, lube and dildos and harnesses tumbled onto the carpeted floor.

She kissed Josephine once, hard and brutally before throwing her away. Josephine stumbled and hit the soft floor, catching herself with one arm and raising the other to protect herself.

Warren did not attack her again. "Go on, you heard your Empress."

She sat down on the edge of the couch and grabbed Josephine by the hair yanking her between her legs, "Get me wet you stupid creature."

She glared at Martha who had just vacated the couch. "You put the toy on. I'll start with you beneath me."

"Have her use the red one," advised the empress, "the other slave can use the blue. The lube is in the green bottle." The woman had leaned back in her chair, sipping at her wine glass again and looking very amused.

Warren pulled Josephine's hair hard, "Go on, do what I told you," she hissed.

Josephine lowered her mouth to where she was bid too. Warren didn't really react to her though. She was completely dry. Josephine could feel the tension of her leg muscles like she was ready to run. She kept yanking her hair, as if hurting her made her feel better. Josephine was half sick from fear or what Warren do to her and Martha after this.

After a moment Warren pushed her back, "Get me the lube and put on the fucking toy."

She accepted the bottle and motioned Martha towards the couch. Martha, who had put on the harness and red toy obediently, was watching Warren like she was a rabid dog.

Warren climbed carefully onto her on the wide couch. She grabbed Martha's hands where they were at her side and pushed them down by the wrists forcefully, leaning so close that only she could hear her. "Don't you dare move, don't you fucking dare or I will have every single guard in my household fuck your lover to death."

Martha nodded wordlessly.

Warren slapped her once, hard and then sat back. She considered the dildo for a moment. It was as big as anything she’d ordered used on Josephine before. She spread some of the lube on her fingers pressing them first quickly into herself and then coating the dildo with more than was probably necessary. She raised herself up onto her knees above it and then stayed there, as if fighting with herself to sink down.

She sunk an inch so that it pressed against her entrance. Pain and discomfort washed over her face and she froze. Fifteen-seconds passed, and then thirty. After almost a minute the empress laughed. "Do not tell me that you are afraid my dear general.

Warren flushed, "I...I am not accustomed to having anything of that size within me."

"From what I have heard that you generally do not permit yourself to be penetrated at all, at least in the rare times you take an actual lover instead of a slave."

"It is not something I take much pleasure in," said Warren simply.

The empress's smile broadened slightly, "Well I would hardly wish to order you to do something that might tear you."

Warren's shoulders slumped with relief, "Thank you."

"You can have the pretty slave fuck you first with the small toy then they can trade and have you together."

The general scowled but crawled off of Martha, "Come here, Josephine, lie down and we will get this done."

"I'd rather you on your hands and knees," said the empress, "That is always a far greater pleasure to watch."

Warren took a slow gathering breath, biting her  lip as she did. Then wordlessly she crawled onto the floor.

Josephine had gotten the toy on but hesitated, so amazed was she by the sight of her tormenter kneeling as she was. Warren was on her knees and elbows, her shoulders tense and her head low.

She turned to glare at Josephine, "Do as your empress has bid you, you little bitch, you are to obey her orders unquestioningly as you would mine."

Josephine nodded quickly and knelt behind her. The bottle of lube had rolled off of the couch and she picked it up. She quickly slicked two of her fingers. The action felt mechanical, familiar. How many times had she prepared a less than eager woman for Warren's enjoyment?

She knew she needed to be careful, any harm she caused Warren, she and Martha would pay for later, empress's orders or not.

Warren jumped slightly when she felt her fingers. Josephine had to press to get them into her. Any other woman she'd have rubbed her shoulders, whispered to her. For her captor she did not have that compassion.

She moved her fingers inside of her a few times, brushed her clit with her thumb and then withdrew her hand. She lined up the dildo without further preamble, pushing it into her without touching her body further.

Warren made a low unhappy sound as it began to breach her. Her hands clenched and unclenched against the rich carpet as Josephine slowly slid the toy into her from behind. 

Josephine had to move slowly, so tense was the body beneath her. For an instant Josephine felt almost empathetic. She'd been hurt in this way so many times, she knew what Warren was suffering. She hated being a puppet in this act every bit as much as she'd ever hated hurting any other woman in the harem.

The toy reached its full depth and she gave the woman beneath her a moment to catch her breath.

"Go on, fuck her properly. She'll not shatter," the empress bid. Josephine began to move, carefully, not forcing herself. She rested her hands on Warren's hips for balance.

Warren gasped and spat, "Slower, you fucking slave bitch," under her breath. As she said it she reached back and clawed Josephine's hand with her nails.

Josephine remembered why she hated her. 

"Harder, she can probably barely feel that."

Josephine obeyed her. 

Warren panted and trembled beneath her, struggling just to keep herself up. 

"Harder,"

She moved up her hands to grab Warren's shoulders, slamming into her body as hard as she could. The woman under her moaned in pain but what may have been pleasure too.

The toy was grinding against Josephine's clit and she could almost feel an orgasm of her own kindling. She barely realized it though. Waves and waves of suppressed anger washed over her as she fucked the woman beneath her.

"Take her in the ass now."

Josephine slowed enough to slick her finger against. She pressed them against Warren's ass, sliding one into an unwilling body and then back out, then two. Warren began to curse under her breath in Varcian.

Josephine drew the toy from her cunt and lined it up against her asshole. Warren tried to jerk way. Josephine used a hand on her shoulder to keep her in place. It occurred to Josephine in that moment that she was actually stronger than Warren. She might be smaller but she was younger and still in fighting form.

She was not cruel enough to slam the toy into that part of her. She pressed in slowly and firmly. Warren bit her own lip until it bled and kept a steady stream of rapid curses. The toy at last slid into her fully. 

Josephine gave her half a moment and then began to fuck her. Warren's curses got louder. 

"Make her come like that," purred the empress.

Josephine slipped a hand beneath Warren and found her clit. The woman's body was shaking. A few quick presses of her fingers and she shuddered in a surprising orgasm before slumping to the floor. Josephine quick disentangled herself.

"Get her back up on the couch. I want to see you both inside of her.

When Josephine tried to tug Warren up she jerked away violently, turning with a raised hand. There was murder in her eyes. Josephine scrambled back.

"You will not strike the slave, I don't want her bruised as I watch her fuck you," snapped the empress.

Warren spat blood on the carpet from her bitten lip, "As you wish, my Empress," 

She stood with as much dignity as she could muster and went back to the couch where Martha was watching. Martha quickly laid back down. She managed to keep her face utterly blank.

Warren climbed onto her, her knees on either side of hers as she knelt over her. This time she was able to will herself to sink down onto the toy. It slid into her slowly but smoothly. She was breathless and wide-eyed by the time she found herself sitting fully on the slaves lap.

She braced herself and began to slowly raise herself up and down. Her right hand slipped down to touch her own clit to ease it.

"Move your hips slave, you are a living woman not a statue," chided the empress.

Martha obeyed. Warren gasped and rode her as best she could.

The empress told Josephine, "Go join them pretty girl. Don't neglect your mistress."

Josephine went to the couch and knelt behind Warren. Martha stopped moving so that they wouldn't all tumble off the couch. The angle was difficult and she had to push her slightly forward with a hand between the shoulder blades before she could line up the toy.

Warren went utterly still the moment Josephine began to press it into her. "Wait, stop."

"Don't stop. Hold her if you have to," ordered the empress.

Josephine didn't stop. She kept going, slowly and surely forcing the plastic into her. 

"Bitch!"

Warren turned on her, trying to attack. Martha grabbed her arms though forcing them down and Josephine pressed on her back, trapping her between the two of them as she slid fully into her.

Then they fucked her together. It was stilted and awkward and yet utterly animalistic and brutal. Warren struggled for another moment and then slumped, bowing her head as she fought down the cries clawing their way up her throat.

The empress stood finally, crossing the room to stand beside the couch. She considered the scene before her and then she reached out and cupped Warren's face, forcing her to look at her.

Warren tried to jerk away but she couldn't. She was trapped and Martha still had her hands. There was cold fury in her gaze.

The empress smiled, "You are glorious like this my dear general. There is nothing fiercer than a wolf with her foot in a trap."

"I am not a wolf," Warren spat and then added quickly, "my liege."

"How does it feel to be fucked by two of your slaves, two slaves you captured as enemy soldiers?"

Warren closed her eyes and bit at her lip again, drawing blood to drown out the sound she would have made. Slowly she forced her unfocused eyes open again to look at the empress, "exactly as you want it to feel, my empress."

She tensed, nearly knocking Josephine back. In spite of herself she was on the edge of an orgasm.

“I know your plotting to betray me, dear general,” the empress hissed. 

“Never,” gasped Warren.

“Don’t deny it. The only question left is what I’m going to do with you. I could have you publicly shot or keep you as a pet of my own, or I think perhaps I’ll keep you exactly where you are, knowing you will never dare act now that I know. They do always say to keep your enemies close.” She leaned even closer, “For now though, I’m going to make you come for me while you are helpless and in pain.” 

The empress reached between her and Martha, not an easy feat considering how close they were pressed. She deftly found Warren's clit between all the press of bodies and rubbed it a few times roughly.

Warren came with a howl, her face turned away from the empress. 

Josephine slowed her movements and stopped. Martha went still as well. Warren slumped against Martha, her body limp with exhaustion. Neither slave dared move at first.

The empress turned and went back to the couch to finish her forgotten wine. 

"Get off of me," Warren hissed at Josephine who was all too willing to comply, scrambling back and pulling the toy out.

Warren managed to climb off of Martha and nearly fell over on the couch. She got herself up into a sitting position her feet on the floor. Only then did she finally raise her eyes to the empress's again. They were as unreadable as a snake's.

"Is there anything else you would wish of me tonight, my Empress? You have granted me an orgasm, would you like me to offer you one?" Her voice could have melted steel.

"No, you have not earned that, although I am quite pleased. There is something to be said for watching the fantasy of one's girlhood reduced to a whimpering slut."

Warren did not react.

The empress kept talking. "We must do this again."

"If it is your will."

"And you will bring the slaves."

"As you wish."

"Un-bruised. Don't beat them to death before I see you again."

"I will see to that."

"You may go now."

Warren bowed stiffly and then began to quickly gather up her clothes and dress. Josephine and Martha, taking the hint, did the same, although Martha had never shed more than her pants.

Warren moved stiffly but efficiently, tugging everything back into place, buttoning up her shirt and then fixing her hair with her fingers. When she was done she bowed one final time and headed towards the door, limping slightly. They passed no one in the halls.

Josephine and Martha followed, not daring to get too close. Neither of the guards who guided them offered any help and Warren did not ask for it. Josephine was startled when she felt the dark haired guards hand brush her own and a bit of paper pressed against her palm. 

Her dress had no pockets so she slipped into her bra, the neckline of her dress more than low enough for the task. The moment they reached the car, Warren slumped onto her seat.

She covered her face and curled into herself. She did not move until they reached the house. Then she slowly uncurled and forced herself to her feet. She waved away the offered arm of one of her guards. Instead of heading towards her own rooms she turned towards the harem.

The sound of music and laughter greeted them as they entered the courtyard. Gretel was playing a violin as Isabella and Alexandra danced. Tali and Kara were dancing as well, although not the same dance as the first two. Helen and Eli were watching from the side, drinking and talking.

The music stopped and everyone went silent as Warren entered the yard. She moved like a wounded animal, limping slightly with murder in her eyes. The dancers stopped and Eli and Helen quickly stood.

Warren turned to look at Josephine and Martha.

Everything inside of Josephine told her to back away, but she knew if she did Warren would attack. Warren moved so quickly she wasn't even able to bring up her hand to block.

The closed handed punch caught her on the side of the face and sent her to the ground. She knew if she fought back, even for an instant, it would be her death regardless of what the empress said. Martha was over her in an instant, ready to take what blows fell next.

Warren stood with her hands clenched and then shook her head once. Her face was a mask of controlled rage. "Get out of my sight, both of you or I'll kill you and I must not do that."

Martha helped Josephine to her feet and they fled. Once they were out of sight, beyond the bend of the hallway that led to the rooms, they paused, Josephine unwilling to fully abandon the others. 

Warren stood there and then slowly turned back to the courtyard. Her eyes fell first on Isabella, where she stood in the circle of Alexandra's arms.

"Come here, you stupid little creature. I'm sick of your delicate face."

Alexandra shoved the princess behind herself, "I will die before I let you touch her while you are like this."

Warren laughed once sharply and angrily, "That can be arranged. You have no power to defend her you know. I need only tap my wrist and you'll crumple in pain." She stalked towards them, "Should I take you in her place?

Will you offer your body in lieu of hers?"

Alexandra raised her chin, keeping her eyes locked with Warrens, "Yes, do what you want to me but do not raise a hand to her."

Warren began to clench her fist again and then lowered it. "No, I do not need your stoic nobility tonight. You never even cry out when I hurt you. I could beat you to death and never draw a sound.”

She turned away and considered Gretel where she sat with her violin in her lap. Helen moved quickly to Gretel's side.

The Varcian smiled cruelly at Gretel, "Now you do cry wonderfully when I hurt you but I will not waste your beauty on a night of anger. You are not the sort of woman that more scars will suite."

She tilted her head to Helen, "You are, but you do not heal so quickly and you are still politically valuable."

She crossed the space to where Kara and Tali stood, having not yet fled after their forgotten dance. The former general turned her face away and the pirate cast her eyes downward and waited.

Warren cupped Kara's face in her hand and tilted her head up, "I could take you, but you like pain to much. The last thing I want right now is to hear you moan."

Then she turned towards Tali. Involuntarily the pirate shrank back a step. It was a mistake. Warren closed the distance between them in an instant. She grabbed her wrist hard and Tali made a sound of pain.

"Now you though, you are not beautiful or valuable or too proud to cry in pain. You, I will take tonight."

"Oh for fucks sake let her be," Eli pushed away from the column she was leaning against. "You've already broken her beyond repair, hurting her more is crueler than kicking a stray dog."

Warren looked up thoughtfully, "And are you offering yourself in her place dear pirate?"

Eli scowled at her. "I aint no fucking martyr. I'm just telling you you're wasting your time with her. You like when women fight you, she'll just cower."

Warren let go of the trembling Tali and went towards Eli, "And will you fight me tonight my dear pirate?"

Eli's eyes got wide, like she was realizing what she'd just done, what was about to happen. She stood her ground, a woman ready to accept her fate. She did not even tremble. She met Warren's eyes just as Alexandra had.

"I just may, seeing as I'm sick to my stomach of cowering."

Warren moved closer until they were a hair's breadth apart, "Funny, I always thought you were the ultimate coward. A woman willing to do whatever it took to survive."

"This ain't living." Eli spat on the ground.

"Are you going to fight or do I have to drag you?" Warren asked eyeing her with something between desire and hunger.

Eli clenched her hands. "If I'm going go out it might as well be fighting and swearing like a proper pirate queen."

Warren tapped her own wrist and sent her to the ground in a wave of pain before she could move.

"Bring her to my room," she barked at the guards. They grabbed Eli before she could recover and hauled her from the room.

Tali gave a wail of grief and sunk to the ground. Gretel ran to her, holding the sobbing woman. When Tali had worked her way through her first wave of sorrow, Helen helped Gretel get her back to a room.

 

Chapter Text

No one slept that night. Josephine and Martha came back into the

courtyard and they all sat in fearful silence. It felt to Josephine like they were sitting vigil.

Josephine took up a book that someone else had forgotten on the grass. It was some history book about a war on old Terra written in Varcian. With the book open on her lap Josephine finally slipped the paper from her pocket and looked at it. In said Julius Caesar 1.2.21 . She had absolutely no idea what that meant. 

With as much subtlety as she could manage, all other things considered, she took the book over to Kara, she was sitting silently against one of the courtyard columns, her face grim. 

“I can’t read this Varcian word, what does it mean?” Josephine asked and passed her the book with the slip of paper still in it.”

Kara’s eyes went wide as she looked at the paper. Very softly she whispered “I need to go look something up in the library, I’ll be back.” 

She pressed Josephine’s shoulder and stood, leaving the courtyard. Some time later she came back and whispered to both Josephine and Martha before making the rounds of the others. “It means the Ides of March.”

“What?” 

“A day on the old earth calendar. It is two days from now, be ready. You’ll know the time has come when your cuffs and collar are deactivated.”

Near midnight Lydia came into the courtyard and those waiting there stood.

"Has she...is she?" Alexandra for all her dignity did not know what to say.

Lydia shook her head, "She's alive, though I don't know if that is a cruelty or a kindness. Warren has not left the room and I heard Eli's screams from the hall."

Martha surged to her feet, "How the hell can you stand this?"

Lydia looked at her with cold eyes, "Because I have no other choice. I have no more power to help your friend right now than you do."

Martha slumped back onto the stone seat beside Josephine. They had not told the other women what had happened at the palace. They hadn't asked. It didn't really matter. All they knew was that Warren had come back angry and dangerous.

As they night wore on they all grew more and more tired. Eventually Josephine and Martha went back up to their room and slept as best they could. Dawn came without any sign of Eli.

At dawn the guards brought back Eli. One of the guards entered first opening the gate. The other two were carrying her. Eli was naked and bloodied and her eyes were tightly closed.

They just dropped her on the grass. Alexandra reached her first, kneeling beside her to feel for a pulse as she looked up at the guards.

"Can't you fools see she's badly hurt? Why didn't you take her to the infirmary. Go get the doctor."

The young man seemed surprised to be so spoken to by a slave but the sheer authority of Alex's voice cowed him. He looked away. "The mistress gave orders she was to be brought here."

"She's bleeding, get the doctor."

"We ain't got orders to do that, and I don't answer to you slave."

Alexandra's eyes narrowed and she stood. Gretel took her place beside Eli, already trying to get her to lift her head and drink from a glass of water.

"I used to send boys your age to fight and die," she said softly. "I've killed plenty of fools like you, including two of your predecessors in this god forsaken place."

The guards eyes widened, "Are you threatening me?"

"I wasn't aware that I needed to do so in order for you to realize I was dangerous. I think the question is whether you want a woman as deadly as me to remember you as the son of a bitch who didn't have the common humanity to go tell a doctor a woman was bleeding to death?"

"I have orders," He turned and walked quickly from the harem with the other two.

"She's not bleeding to death," said Gretel, "At least not yet. We need to get her wounds clean or we might still lose her to infection.”

Eli stirred in her arms and gave a soft groan. She took the water when Gretel brought it to her lips again.

"Alex, Helen, Martha," I need one of you to get me a blanket so we can move her without causing more harm then we need to.

Josephine worked up the courage to come closer and knelt beside Eli where she was still resting in Gretel's lap as the others ran about. Her face was bruised and much of her body was covered in knife cuts, ranging from shallow to deep, some still bleeding. Her back, what little of it Josephine could see was a cross hatching of whip gashes.

Eli's eyes opened and she focused on Josephine.

"Where's Tali?" her voice was raw.

"Asleep. She's safe."

"Good," she closed her eyes and sunk into a fitful sleep.

Alexandra came back with a quilt and very carefully they moved Eli to one of the rooms. It took well over an hour for Gretel to methodically clean all of her wounds. Lydia never came that day. But Maggie slipped in with a basket of medicine, including antibiotic.They woke Eli enough to take them and got her to drink more water. It

was all they could do

Deep in her gut, Josephine worried how they would be able to move Eli during the escape. She need to be back on her feet and quickly. She ached to press Kara for more details but she feared being overheard, they had already pushed their luck. 

The hours of that day passed in a tense silence, the women of the harem pacing like caged animals. Everyone waited in the courtyard, save Eli who slept and Tali and Gretel who watched over her. The house slave, Maggie, who had some medical training was also with them.

Oddly enough, only Martha seemed anything close to calm, more herself than Josephine had seen her since they were free, calm as she had always been on the eve of battle. After watching Josephine pace the small courtyard for about an hour she called her over to where she sat on the grass beside the pool and pulled her into her arms. 

“Be still love.” 

“I’m afraid.” She always had been before going over the top. It seemed that this afternoon was no different. 

Martha nuzzled her ear. “Whatever comes, it will be better than things as they area.” 

“Even death?”

“I’d rather die as myself than as who this place is forcing me to become. I’m not brave like you Josephine.”

Josephine leaned back against her, looking up at the cloudy grey sky above them. “I am anything but that.” 

“You are brave enough to bend and yet remain yourself. It is not in me to do that.” 

Josephine took Martha’s hand in her own and kissed her palm. “You are as much yourself as you have ever been Martha Waters and come what may, I know you will fight at my side.” 

“Always.” 

She had just tilted her head back to kiss her when a shock of pain sent her down onto the grass. Martha was on her feet in an instant, ready to defend her but her own collar and cuffs did the same to her. 

Warren strode into the harem, a wild look in her eyes and two guards at her back. She stepped over Martha to kick Josephine in the side before anyone else could react. “Do you know what the fucking empress has ordered? She wants me to come back to the palace tomorrow.” 

Josephine gasped in pain.

Warren kicked her again. Martha tried to rise to her feet but Warren tapped at her wrist strap to send her back to the ground with a cry of agony. For good measure she kicked her in the stomach  as well before she grabbed Josephine by the front of her shirt, dragging her to her feet. 

“I dare  not touch you or yoru stupid soldier grunt of a lover myself, you fucking whimpering little bitch. It would be far more tempting to kill you both and I can’t do that. The empress said not to even bruise you.” She smiled then in a terrifying way that showed her incisors. “There are so many ways I can make you hurt without leaving a mark. By dawn you will wish I had the mercy to kill you and your lover.” 

She dropped Josephine. Who hit the ground hard, still a bit too stunned from her last shock to catch herself. 

“Kara, you’ve a talent for not leaving marks, I’ve need of your talents tonight.” 

The former Varcian general set down the book she had unread in her lap and stood. “No.” 

  Warren whirled towards her. “What do you mean no?”

“I’m done hurting women for you.” 

“You will do as I bid tonight or I will finally send an assassin after that little rebel niece of yours. With you gone and your sister dead, that girl has no protection.”

“Do that and you will have no power left over me.” 

“Do I look like a woman who cares anymore?” She took a threatening step towards Kara, who held her ground. 

Warren tapped at her wrist strap and nothing happened. She tapped at it again with the same results. Her eyes went wide. In an instant, everyone in the courtyard who could was on their feet, Alexandra and Helen moving towards her like a pair of hunting hounds. 

The general’s eyes went wide and she bolted for the gate of the courtyard, her confused guards turning to follow. Warren ran smack into Lydia, who was just entering the courtyard and they both tumbled to the ground. 

It was not a fortunate day for either guard. Helen moved with impressive swiftness slamming an elbow into the face of the younger male guard and knocking him down. The middle aged woman managed to draw her gun and get off a single shot, grazing Alexandra’s shoulder.   

Alexandra barely seemed to feel it, with a solid punch to the face to knock her off her feet and then a kick to her hand to send the gun skidding across the cobbles. Just as Helen was moving to disarm the downed young male guard a shot rang out. 

Everyone turned to see Lydia standing over a shocked Warren, crimson blossoming across the right side of her chest. 

“Lydia,” she gasped, “why? I never hurt you.” 

The grey haired slave’s face was filled with a fury that she had never dared show before. “No, you just had me help you hurt others.” She kicked the downed woman. “Do you think I never cared, that I haven’t felt like a monster for all the things I have silently enabled you to do?” 

Warren tried to reply but coughed up blood instead. 

Lydia’s hands were steady as she aimed the gun again. “Die you fucking bitch.” 

The second shot was deafening. She had aimed for the head and didn’t miss. She dropped the gun then, eyes huge and afraid. 

The male guard made the mistake of trying to go for his gun then. Helen had his throat slit with a bit of sharpened metal before he could get to it. Helen took up the dead man’s gun as the unarmed female guard threw up her hands. 

“Don’t kill me.” 

“Why shouldn’t we?” asked Helen.

“My employer is dead and I’ve no quarrel with you.”

Helen didn’t look convinced.

“I have two young children at home and I want to get back to them. Spare me and I give you my word I won’t block your escape.”

Helen’s face didn’t soften.

Alexandra, who still didn’t seem to be feeling her injury stepped forward, “You have our word, if you keep yours.”

“You have it.” 

“Then get the fuck out of here.”

As soon as the guard was gone Lydia turned to them, “Take my daughter with you and I’ll help you escape.”

Kara offered her a nod of acknowledgement and took up the fallen gun. “Help us and we’ll take you both.”

Isabella ran to get the others as Josephine and Martha both managed to stand again, although they were both were weak from having been shocked and kicked. Kara passed them both a bit of sharpened metal. 

By the time that Isabella came back with a limping Eli, supported by Tali and Gretel with a frightened Maggie at their heels, the sound of gunfire was echoing through the compound. The moment the slave girl saw the dead bodies she made a frightened sound. Her mother took her hand and whispered to her softly until the girl calmed. 

To the others she said, “I can get us through all the gates of the house, which way are we going?” She was already tapping at her wrist strap. 

“To the back delivery entrance. There should be a car waiting.” 

Lydia opened the gate of the harem and they hurried out into the hallway. 

“Wait,” said Isabella suddenly. “We’ve got to find the Delvian coronation necklace. Warren showed it to me at the spring festival, I know she has it somewhere.”

“No time,” snapped Kara.

Isabella looked to Alexandra pleadingly, “That ruby is the sacred symbol of my family. I can’t be crowned without it. 

The Francian general shook her head. “You are the symbol your people need, not a stone. I’m sorry my love, I must protect you first.”

They made it down one corridor and then another before the sound of gunfire got louder. 

Kara, who was leading the group, ducked back into the servants hallways the others were still in, as the wall exploded where she had just been. 

“Shit, there are two of her guards and they’ve got rifles.” She frowned at the handgun she held, which had already been discharged twice and likely didn’t have that many shots. Helen moved to her side, her own gun in hand. 

The shooting hadn’t stopped, although none of it seemed to currently be directed at them. The guards seemed to be fighting someone on the other end of the hall as well. 

“Give it here,” snapped Tali. “I’m a better shot than any of you fucking soldiers.” 

“You’ve never seen me with a gun,” snapped Helen. 

“Yes but I’ve killed plenty of your nations sailors in a firefight during boarding before. When did you last use a handgun general?” 

Helen scowled but gave her the gun. 

Gretel lightly tapped tapped Kara on the shoulder. “I’ve got a shitload of marksman trophies for pistols, what about you?” 

The former Varcian general shrugged and handed over the weapon. 

While Josephine and Martha had the most recent field experience of anyone, neither was experience in anything but a rifle and other similar weapons. Enlisted women were not given handguns, only officers.  

Gretel and Tali both ducked low and looked out again. Each got off a shot and ducked back. A scream suggested they’d hit someone. They waited, ducked again, and fired. This time Tali Gretel wasn’t fast enough. She stumbled backwards, her shirtsleeve crimson with blood. 

The gunfire grew suddenly more intense, again mostly not directed at them. Then everything went silent beyond what sounded like the moans of a dying man. 

A young woman’s voice echoed down the hall. “Aunt Kara, is that you?”

“The fuck are you doing here Lacey?”

“Rescuing you, what’s it look like.” 

Kara strode out into the destroyed hallway, stepping over the body of one guard who lay utterly still and the other who would soon enough. “You weren’t supposed to put yourself in danger you foolish child.”

“I had to, I couldn’t ask my friends to get shot at without me.”

A young woman in chamo who looked like a much younger and far more pink haired version of Kara poked her head into the hall. 

Kara pulled her into a huge. “Your mother would curse me from the grave if you come to harm for my sake.” 

The young woman grinned at her. “For once in your life Aunt Kara, can you just be proud of me instead of worrying? I mean I am the leader of the anti monarchist rebels and very daringly rescuing you”

“Very proud of you sweetheart, now get us all to safety.” 

“Is the bitch dead?”

“Yes.”

Kara glanced over her shoulder to motion the others to join them. After crossing the hall, where Martha and Jopsehine both paused to take a rifle, they were greeted by a group of four armed men and women, none old enough to likely even be more than a year or two into their twenties. 

They hurried through the rest of the house. They saw no one but a frightened slave who darted away and a guard who finding herself outnumbered, did the same. Lydia opened each gate and door they came to. 

At last they reached the back loading bay in the rear courtyard. The weak fall sun was already dipping low on the horizon as they stepped out to the waiting van. Lacey turned back towards the house, unclipping a cylinder shaped device from her belt. 

Alexandra caught her hand before she could do anything. “Wait, there are still people in there.”

“No one but Warren’s goons.” 

“And the house slaves,” replied the general. “Who are here through no fault of their own.”

The young woman chewed on her lip. “They might still be able to get out before the whole house catches from the incendiary device. We need the house to burn so they won’t be sure if Warren is dead yet or not. My people need the empress to blame Warren for what’s about to happen tonight, at least at first.” 

“I’ll warn the household,” said Lydia. She flipped open her wrist strap and said. “This Lydia, I repeat this is Lydia, The house is on first and must be evacuated. Take nothing and go, get to evacuation point two. Get out of the house. I repeat, get out.” Her voice echoed through the house on a recorded loop.

Before Lacey could chuck the device, her aunt took it from her and began to tap a few buttons. “I know this model, it can be set on a delay.” She hit a few buttons and rolled it under the door. “It will go in five minutes.”

They all scrambled into the waiting van, which was being guarded by only one young man in chamo. Although the back had been cleared out it still smelled very strong of chemicals, leading Josephine to suspect it had very recently been put to a more mundane civilian use. It was also rather crowded with some many people in one space, even if there were no seats in the back. 

They could see nothing as there were no windows and a solid divider between the front and back of the van. Isabella began to finally bandage Alexandra’s shoulder and Helen did the same for Gretel’s arm, which was still bleeding. 

Eli slumped exhaustedly against the side of the van. The exertion of moving had caused her to bleed through her bandages and shirt. Her face was pale from pain, although she made no complaint. 

An almost peaceful calm had begun to settle over them when Josephine asked. “Where are we going exactly?”

“To meet my contacts,” said Isabella to Josephine’s complete surprise. “They have a ship waiting outside the city in a small airfield to get us offplanet.”

When the soldier just stared at her the beautiful woman sighed. “No that I am the uncrowned queen of Delvia, my government in exile on Septia has finally deemed it worth trying to rescue me.”

Joseph glanced towards Lacey and the other Varcian antimonarchist rebels, very unclear how they fit in.” 

The Delvian’s agreed to finance us and provide what we needed to get my aunt out, if we got Isabella as well, so we agreed to work with them.”

“They got in most of the messages when Mary was allowed to see Kara and then a few through you when Warren took you out of the harem,” explained Isabella.

It occured to Josephine that she and the other members of the harem were apparently just a side note. Isabella saw the concern on her face. “Don’t worry, I’m getting all of us off planet.”

“Except me. I’m staying,” said Kara.

“Are you sure?” asked Alexandra. “If you come with us you have my word we’ll protect you, former Varcian general or not, you are a friend.”

Kara shook her head. “Afraid not, my niece is apparently on a crazy cruzade to overthrow the empress and I can’t let her do that alone. Also Mary is still here and I swore I would find a way to get back to her.”

Alexandra offered her left hand as her right was currently in a makeshift sling because of her injured shoulder. “May the gods smile kindly on you then.”

Kara clasped her hand, “you too.” 

The car slowed and then stopped. Lacey perked up. “This is where we part ways.”

 They piled out into an empty parking garage to find two more non descript vans waiting. Two men, standing beside one of the vans bowed deeply when they saw Isabella. 

She offered them both a nod, looking impressively regal for a woman in a lacey white sundress and soft soled slippers.  

It took Tali and Martha’s joint efforts to get Eli into the back of the second van. Although her injury had initially not seemed as bad as Alexandra's, Gretel was starting to get light headed from blood loss in spite of the bandages that had been applied. Josephine and Helen helped her. 

It wasn’t until the door to the van banged shut that Josephine realized she’d never even said a proper goodbye to Kara. It was too late now. The drive to the edge of the city was a long one and she might have dozed had she not been so afraid. 

A sudden thought occurred to Josephine. “Lydia, how do I get this accursed collar and cuffs off?” What if they didn’t stay deactivated or had tracking devices.

“Let me see. I’m not sure how they were deactivated.” Lydia crawled over and took one of Josephine's wrists into her lap. She pressed a button and nothing happened. Then she tapped a few things on her own wrist strap and the seal on Josephine’s collar and cuffs all hissed open at once. With shaking hands Josephine removed them. The skin of her wrists was several shades paler than that of the rest of her arm. She hated that lasting reminder of her imprisonment every bit as she was glad to be free of the hated cuffs and collar.

Lydia did the same for everyone else and then trembling, as if it were far more than she’d ever dared she took off her wrist strap. She undid the simple clasp on her own delicate silver collar and let it fall. 

Her hands shook so badly she couldn’t manage the clasp of her daughter’s thin bronze collar. The girl reached to help her, though her hands weren’t entirely steady. All the same they go the clasp and the prettily made and cruelly worn thing fell away. 

Maggie stared uncertainly at the thing she had worn for so very long.

“Mama?”

Lydia hugged her. “It’s okay honey. We’re going off planet. We won’t be slaves anymore.”

“Who will be then?”

“I don’t know but we’ll figure it out.”

When the van stopped again, they opened the doors to a nighttime airfield. It was a small one, the sort usually designed for the lighter shuttles used to go up to larger orbital ships. A single such small shuttle was waiting, looking for all the world like a boxy silver bird.

They had just begun to move the injured to the shuttle when a huge explosion rocked the earth. Smoke rose up on the horizon. 

Lydia’s eyes got huge. “Oh gods, that’s in the direction of the palace. What did that pink haired girl do?”

“Something suitably dramatic,” said Helen as she spat on the ground. “As far as I’m concerned this whole damn planet can burn. “No you coming or not.”

Lydia paused for half an instant, then she looked at her daughter, the girls eyes as frightened as her own. “Yes, we are.”

The shuttle proved to be nearly as crowded as the van, although it had enough launch and landing harnesses at least. Josephine had not had the chance to see Varcia when she was brought in a windowless troop transport. This time she did though, at least for an instant. When they launched all she saw at first was the brilliant starlit sky they rose up to as the whole ship shook with the launch.

Only once they had reached orbit and the nose of the shuttle turned, did she briefly glimpse a green and blue orb huge and innocent beneath them. How could such a hated place look so much like any other planet, so similar to the pictures she had seen of Terra Neuva from space? For the first time since she had been captured she allowed herself to honestly feel the wave of homesickness that washed over her. 

She did not allow hope to filter in as well until their shuttle began to dock with a larger ship. Then and only then did she truly believe they had gotten away. She reached for Martha’s hand beside her. 

“We’re free Martha, we’re really free.”

 

Epilogue

 

Ten Years Later

 

Josephine stretched out beside the naked blond woman woman, considering her in the dim light that filtered in through the window of her flat in the Terra Nuevan capital.

Gretel was lying on her back, her eyes closed contently.  She was as beautiful as Josephine remembered her although the years had left their mark. Her face had softened from it's previous foxlike leanness and there were laugh lines etched at the corners of her eyes and mouth.

Her hips were a bit fuller and her stomach more rounded. The few silver strands in her golden hair were so lite they were barely noticeable. There was an ease to her body now. She so very different from the tense and heartbroken woman who had been her fellow prisoner on Varcia.

  When she opened her eyes, her smile was gentle.  Her face still held the kindness it always had but now there was joy as well.

"I wish all my diplomatic meetings could be conducted like this."

Josephine's lips thinned, "This is personal, not diplomatic."

"Of course, I was only teasing," she reached out and stroked Josephine's cheek with soft fingers. "We are old friends after all."

Josephine caught her hand and kissed her palm.  Gretel shivered.

"I did always wonder what happened to you.  I saw a few news clips of you and Martha being welcomed home as heroes. You both looked so lovely in those images, standing there together wearing dress uniforms with your hands clasped. How is Martha by the way?  I suppose you two must have married."

Josephine sighed, "She asked me the day we returned to Terra Nueva and I said no, she's asked a hundred times since and I've never changed my answer."

"A hundred?"

"She is a very stubborn woman and so am I. She’s always been the marrying kind and I never will be. I've tried to let her go so many times, told her to find a woman who can love her as deeply as she deserves to be loved but she always says I’m the one she wants.

“I always thought you loved her.”

“I do, in my own way but it will never be as she wishes me to.”  

The Geremanacan diplomat had nothing to add to that, she simply nodded.  Listening had always been one of her talents.

Josephine felt suddenly vulnerable, and wished Gretel were the same, "And you?  Are you still with Helen?"

Gretel gave a sharp and pained laugh, "No, of course not.  She found her husband and sons. What was between us... well it was never more than sex and release. I suppose compassion and friendship too.  I went to her bed when I was still her secretary because I was in awe of her, I desired her for her confidence and power. She bedded me because I was pretty and convenient and she was lonely with her husband so far away.  Then after I learned my fiancé died, she was kinder to me than she had any call to be and I needed that.

"After we were captured, she clung to me and I to her, because she was all I had and I was all she had.” She closed her eyes and tears leaked out the side, "I always needed her more than she needed me though. In the worst days in the harem the only thing that got her through our ordeal was the hope that her husband and her sons lived.  When we got free, she found them and then I had no one.”

Josephine reached out and pulled her closer, holding her as she had done so many times before.

When Gretel had control of herself again she said "I know I should have moved on. I was still young enough to find a new love, to marry, to even have children. I never met anyone who had a smile like my fiancé did.  No one could ever be her, that beautiful woman I left on Tyco station, no one.”

“No one?”

"I had lovers of course, but no one serious, no one that mattered."

"I'm sorry," said Josephine softly.

"Don't be," Gretel raised her head to look into her eyes, "My life hasn't been a lonely one. I've got friends and two of my sisters made it off Germanacia.  I have wonderful nieces and nephews. I'm as happy as any stateswoman for a government in exile might be."

Josephine nodded, "good, you deserve whatever happiness you can find”

They lay for a comfortable moment before Gretel added, "You know I saw Alexandra's daughter the other day."

"I thought she died on her ship."

"That was the older one, her older daughter actually made it off Francia during the evacuation.”

"She was in the Francia government in exile?"

"No, just a pianist on Gavia.  I saw her perform at the grand theater in New Novascotia.  She has her mother's straight back but a much gentler face.  I spoke with her after the performance, she said she'd heard from her mother, although she hadn't seen her. Alexandra is still on Delvia with Isabella, leading the rebellion there.”

"Alexandra always loved Princess Isabella. I’m not surprised she followed her on her mad quest."

"Not that mad really. They've forced the Varcian from parts of the Northern Continent and their resistance is only growing.”

“Good for them.” 

"And the others?  Have you ever heard anything more about them?"

"Kara's dead.  I saw it earlier this year on news wire from Varcia.  The Empress finally caught her and several other leaders of the rebellion.  She was publicly executed and not in a quick or clean manner. The underground papers say she died defiantly at least, cursing the empress to the last.  Her niece is still leading the rebellion. They say the resistance is growing."

Josephine nodded grimly, "I'm sad to hear that.  She was a good woman. She deserved better."

"We all do, but we take what life offers. Eli at least is doing well.  She always was the sort to land on her feet. I don’t know how the managed it but she’s now captain of the Queen of Hearts, a privateer ship under the Septian flag that exclusively targets Varcian military and cargo ships. They say she's the terror of the deep.  She's painted "Death to Varcia" on the side of her ship.

Josephine smiled. “That sounds like her.”

“I ran into her ship a couple months back.  She hailed my transport when we passed them on a trade route.  She wished me well. She's looking older but damn if she doesn't still have that grin of hers.  If we weren’t hundreds of miles apart in deep space I'd have been happy to go to her bed again."

“I’m sure she’d have taken you up on it. Any news from Tali?”

“Yea, she and I actually keep in touch. She made it back to Septia and her mother and daughter. She sent me a picture of her daughter’s school graduation the other day. Apparently the girl doesn’t take after her at all and is quite the scholar.”

She rolled over to fetch a small communications tablet from the side of the bed and flip through it.

Beside a wooden stage a teenager, who bore a strong resemblance to Tali, wore a black graduation gown waved at a camera. Tali stood with an arm thrown around her daughter's shoulders, face beaming. 

“I don’t think I ever actually saw her smile before,” admitted Josephine. “It suits her.” 

“It does. She mentioned Lydia’s daughter, in her last letter. You remember Maggie don’t you?”

“Yea she was a sweet girl.” They mother and daughter had ended up going to Septia with Tali and stayed with her until they got their feet under them.

“She’s doing well. She finally saved up enough to start a small hotel in the capital, after running another one for years. She’s certainly got her mother’s business acumen.”

“And her mom?”

“She died of a stroke about three years after getting to Septia.”

“Oh,” Josephine had no particular fondness for the housekeeper but she certainly hadn’t wished her ill either. “She had so few years of freedom after everything.” 

“She saw her daughter free,  that was what she killed Warren for.” 

Even after so long, that name was enough to make Josephine shudder. She drew the sheet around her suddenly, not wanting to be naked anymore. 

Gretel frowned. “Do you still get the nightmares too?”

Josephine nodded. “Yea, the army made see a shrink and that helped. They still permanently removed me from active field duty. Hence why I ended being assigned to the foreign military liaison office. It’s often dull but at least no one shoots at me.” She managed a smile. “Sometimes I even get to spend time showing representatives as lovely as yourself around the capital.”

“You still think I’m lovely huh?” 

“Of course.” Josephine drew her back into her arms.  

“When we were in that horrible place did you ever really think we’d someday be free again as we are now?” Gretel said, leaning against her.

“In the most secret part of my heart I always hoped but I never believed.”

“And now?” 

Josephine’s hand absently went to her throat. It had long since tanned back to the same shade as the rest of her skin. “I believe in a lot of things I never used to.”

Gretel shifted just enough to retrieve a forgotten and nearly drained wineglass from the table. She passed it to Jospehine and then reached for her own, holding it up. 

“To freedom and forlorn hopes.”

Josephine raised her own. “To that and friends in dark and good times.”

They drained their glasses and returned to their earlier activities as the light of the Terra Neuvan sun faded.