Leylas has Essek between her thighs again, his tongue working against her and a slow heat building in her stomach, when she feels a shift. The mattress rises a little as one of his hands comes off of it and does not return. She props herself up and glances down just in time to see him dragging his fingers down the shaft of his cock.
Immediately, she brings a foot up, plants it against his shoulder, and sends him sprawling. “Essek.”
“My queen—” He’s scrambling already—up onto his knees, for an explanation, an excuse.
She raises a hand, and he falls silent. “Did I tell you that you were allowed to touch yourself?”
“No, my queen.”
Leylas stands, letting her robe fall closed around her legs. “And how do you propose I respond to this disobedience? You must learn if we are to continue with our arrangement. But… I am not cruel. I can hurt you without breaking you.”
Essek shudders. His gaze drops to the floor between them as he tries to gather himself. Then he clears his throat. “My queen—My body, my mind, my reputation—” he stumbles over this last.
“That promise remains.”
“But it would please you…?” he trails off, then, casting his eyes briefly up to hers.
“I would see you whipped for your insolence. You will not bleed, and there will be no lasting harm, but it will hurt.” Leylas gestures and a chest opens. “I still do not wish to see you broken. If it becomes too much, say so. I can think of more than one way to correct you. Will you submit?”
Essek pauses, jaw working, and then bows his head. “Yes, my queen.”
Tension remains in the line of his shoulders, but she allows it. He will give, or he will not.
“Hold out your wrists.”
Leylas flicks a hand again, and a coiled rope lifts out of the chest and into her hand. She unspools it, passing its silken length through her hands until she finds the midpoint. In each body over the centuries, she has had a fondness for the particular feeling of rope and the way her playthings catch their breath when she binds them. The cuffs she ties on him are simple and stable, the cord running across his palms at the end of the tie. He can hold onto it if need be. She intends to make it necessary.
A wave of her hand conjures a servant from the air. “Pick up the rope,” she commands, and it does. “Essek, you may walk. There is a ring in the ceiling—stand under it.”
He rises unsteadily, following the servant to the ring Leylas had indicated. She, meanwhile, lounges on her bed. She watches with a cocked head as the servant approaches the ring. The trick of making her conjuration float had come to her several lifetimes ago. It is nothing to perform it now. Rope spirals upwards with the servant, and it pulls the ends through the ring.
Leylas can feel Essek watching her. She leaves him in silence. At her thought, the servant begins to drift downwards, taking the ropes with it. It pulls Essek’s arms above his head and then draws him onto his toes. A soft noise comes from him, then—only a bitten-off gasp, but it’s a start.
She stops the servant once she has him up as far as he might be able to sustain. “You will not use magic.” Leylas commands, “I do not require you to speak unless it to request a pause or a stop. Is that clear?”
His hands curl and uncurl around the ropes. “Yes, my queen.”
He is, she muses, at least properly repentant.
The servant returns to the chest, then, and comes back with a whip. It’s a beautiful piece, made of black leather, and its tails whisper over the carpet as the servant begins to circle. Essek tenses, twisting his head around. Leylas tsks once, and he faces forward again, hands curling tight on the rope. A tremor runs down his spine as the whip passes in front of him, and he twists his hips away with less subtlety than he likely believes. He’s still, she notes, half-hard.
The whip cracks, tails slicing through the air bare inches from Essek’s thigh, and he gives a strangled shout. A moment later, the lack of pain registers. He lets out a ragged breath, almost slumping before the ropes being him up short.
“Hold still,” she orders.
A strangled whine just barely slips past his lips. This time, as the servant moves, he lets it pass beyond his range of sight. It comes to a stop behind him with the whip trailing on the carpet.
The only warning she gives him is a crisp, “Begin.”
The first blow lands against Essek’s back. He flinches but does not cry out. Leylas would have been disappointed if he had. The first blows are softer, meant to warm his skin and wake his nerves. A plum flush spills across the backs of his shoulders under the steady rain. His breath hitches a little with each stroke, but he keeps himself silent and still. Perhaps it is pride, perhaps he is showing his obstinance. Either way, she will see them give way before she finishes with him. There is a difference, she muses, between breaking someone and bending them.
Leylas watches him for a moment longer and then rises from her place on the bed. She wanders to her bedside table, pours herself a cup of tea, adds honey, and stirs. The soft clink of the spoon against the sides of the glass sounds between the cracks of the whip. Then she returns to her bed, gesturing absently.
This time, the whip comes down harder. It leaves a collection of small welts in its wake, and Essek hisses, shoulders jerking. A second blow crosses the last. The whine that escapes from him is high and tight, catching in the back of his throat. It cracks and breaks as the whip comes down again, although he bites it off before it can become a full cry.
Sipping her tea, Leylas considers him. Perhaps she ought to have set Essek up across from a mirror—not for his benefit, but so that she would be able to see his expression as her servant worked him over. But that is easily fixed. All it takes is a thought for the servant to guide him to turn, the rope twisting around the ring in the ceiling. She keeps her expression impassive as she drags her gaze up the length of his body, from straining legs, to half-hard cock, to heaving chest, to the muddle of emotions his expression betrays. Essek’s gaze flicks over her in turn and, of course, finds nothing. Her face remains perfectly impassive, even as she smiles inwardly.
Leylas raises her cup to her lips again and drinks. Then she directs her gaze to the faint bite mark on his lower lip. “Don’t bite your mouth. I may still use it if I am satisfied at the end of this.”
The next lash comes down just as Essek opens his mouth—as if he believes she wants a reply. This time, the whip catches him across the ass. His eyes go wide, and his mouth falls open on a sharp yelp. Color floods into his face, and he tugs at his ropes. The servant swings again. His gaze drops to the floor as he pants. She keeps him facing her for another three lashes, watching him flinch and blush before she has him turned back to face the wall.
If she had known being struck on the ass like a misbehaving schoolboy would be so injurious to his dignity, she might have done it sooner. Or, perhaps not. It does her no good if he will not accept it.
Essek shudders as the whip plays against his skin. There’s no pattern to where it falls, now; it strikes his back, his ass, the backs of his thighs. He fights it, at first, not the whip, but the pain of it, tensing, breathing hard. When he moves to hide his face against his arm, she has the servant stop him with a sharp grip on his hair. He groans, and there is something that might be defeat in the sound. The next blow catches him just at the top of his thighs, and he cries out, stumbling briefly before steadying himself against the ropes. A ragged breath escapes him, and then a yell as the whip strikes the same spot. His head hangs down, and his limbs tremble.
“Please—” he gasps, “My queen, please—”
“What is it, princeling?” she asks, setting down her cup. “Do you need it to stop?” Essek shakes his head. “Then I suggest you give into it.”
The next strike elicits something just shy of a scream. A welt blooms at the top of Essek’s thighs. He stumbles forward only to jerk against the ropes, straining to balance on his toes. His legs go out from under him as the next blow lands against his ass. Leylas gives him just enough time to regain his balance before striking him across the back. This time, he gives a low groan. The ropes hold him so he cannot slump, but still, she sees it when he sags into them as much as he is able.
“Just like that, princeling,” she soothes.
Essek whines under the next stroke of the whip. He drags in a breath, and it hitches and shakes. Again, the whip comes down. The unmistakable sound of a sob follows the crack of the lash against his back. He stands trembling, gasps and whimpers interspersed with hitching sobs as a tapestry of purple welts blooms across his once unmarked back, his ass, his trembling thighs. He stops trying to twist away, stops stumbling. Only when the whip catches him just above the welt at the tops of his thighs, do his legs buckle.
“Let him down slowly,” Leylas commands, sitting up and setting her teacup aside. “But—turn him, first.”
The ropes go slack a little at a time, and Essek folds to his knees on her carpet, breathing hard and slumped forward. She can just make out the tops of the welts on his shoulders.
“Look at me.”
He raises his head. Tear marks trace down both cheeks, and a flush lingers in his face. Leylas catches his gaze and smiles, deliberately letting her gaze wander over him. She stands, and he remains facing forward as she approaches as begins to circle. Her fingers trail across his welted back, and Essek’s mouth falls open on a whine.
“You suffered so beautifully for me, princeling.”
He shudders. “Thank you, my queen.”
She touches him again, his skin hot under her fingers, and drinks in his keening cry. “I need you to do one more thing for me.” Essek whimpers, just once, and Leylas does not bother to hide her smile. Then she waves the servant over with a bottle of slick in hand. “Since you wanted it so badly earlier… touch yourself for me.”
He hesitates for just a moment before reaching out and taking the bottle. Its contents spill into his palm, and he concentrates on keeping it off of her carpet. When he reaches for his cock, she holds up a hand. Instantly, he freezes.
“Sit back. Keep your legs spread and your eyes on me.”
Essek does, whimpering again as his heels dig into his welted ass. Then he takes his cock in hand and strokes. It goes fully hard quickly. His breath stutters as he forces himself to slow, to draw it out. She hasn’t ordered him to, but she has not told him anything with regards to speed, and if he wants to give her a show, she will allow it. He makes a lovely sight, flushed and aching, soft groans rising from his chest. His usually graceful hand trembles as it slides over his cock. The other curls tight on top of his thigh so that the bones stand out. When he hesitates, she curls an expectant finger. His head drops forward, just for a moment, as he groans.
Little by little, Essek’s moans build. And all the while, he watches her, wide-eyed. His arms tense, his stomach, his thighs. A deep furrow forms between his brows and his hand moves faster against his cock.
Leylas watches, a slow smile spreading across her face. She catches Essek’s gaze and pins him with it. As he comes undone, she waits. Her gaze wanders over his face, his body. He teeters on the brink of climax, and under her gaze, he tips over it.
Immediately, Essek jerks his hand away. He spills with a bereaved groan, squirming on his knees until the last of what would have been his orgasm leaves him. His cock lies softening against his thigh. The sound of him panting fills the silence while the servant sets the whip side. Then his gaze finds hers again.
“You want to ask,” she raises a brow, “Go on, princeling.”
“Thank you, my queen.” He clears his throat. “...Why?”
Her smile turns sharp. Then she beckons Essek closer. He crawls the few feet to her and settles to his knees again before her.
Leylas tips his face up to her with a hand beneath his chin. “Your willing suffering pleases me—your pleasure, at the moment, does not."
Essek flushes. He can’t nod with her holding onto his chin, but he tries, at first. His tongue swipes over his lower lip. “Yes, my queen. How may I please you now?”
“Good boy.” She hooks her thighs over his shoulders, drinking in his soft hiss as he legs press against his welted back. “Finish what you started. And I suggest you make yourself comfortable, princeling. I plan to keep you here for some time.”
With a low moan, he leans in again, eyes closed and mouth soft against her.
Leylas lets Essek up again sometime later and sinks down on her bed, loose-limbed and sated. Perhaps she could have let him go an orgasm or two earlier, but the way he rubs his jaw sends a curl of warmth through her that almost, almost makes her pull him back. His mouth is pressure-swollen and shiny, the lower half of his face a mess. And although he had hardened again somewhere between the third and fourth time she had come, she would estimate, his hands had remained dutifully by his sides.
“Good,” she croons, shifting so she can get a better view of him without giving up the comfort of her lounging, “There. I knew you could learn.”
Essek pauses in working the stiffness from his jaw and looks up at her. “Thank you for the opportunity, my queen.”
“How can you learn to serve properly if I do not teach you?” she reaches out to run a hand through his mussed hair. Then she gestures, conjuring a spectral hand. From the same chest as the whip, she draws a jar of what appears to be bath salts, the crystals faintly pink. “Take it. Put it in your bath. It will ensure you heal cleanly. But…” she waits until she is confident she has his full attention before continuing. “Do not take any potions or salves other than this. A lesson is of no use if you do away with it.”
He shivers and then reaches up to take the small jar. “I appreciate your thoughtfulness, my queen. Is there anything else you would have of me?”
She pretends to consider, her hand returning to his hair. “Only a little more of your time. You took your correction well, princeling. I will have you again. But not tonight.”
Leylas lets him go after another moment. Shakily, wincing, Essek rises to his feet. She spends another moment as he collects himself to admire the welts striping his skin, the mess from the climax she had taken from him. He’s barely flagging, despite the lack of contact from her. Will he fall to his knees again in his rooms, she wonders, or onto his bed and his stinging back and let the pain and the pleasure mingle? She could tell him not to come until she sees him, and the idea holds some appeal, but… No. She would prefer that he do this part of the work himself, mixing his release with the memory of her control.
With a knowing smile, Leylas waves him away. Essek pauses to bow, stiffly, before leaving her bedroom for her outer chambers and the neat pile of his clothes. Once she hears the final door close and lock, she rises to her feet, sheds her robe, and makes her way to the deep, hot bath waiting for her. She closes her eyes as the sweet-scented water laps around her shoulders, lowers her hand settle it half-idly between her thighs, and lets herself anticipate whether her Shadowhand will flinch as he sits at council the next day. She hopes that he will.