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Sun streamed through the high windows, dappling the floor with slants of the small panes broken by the shadows of leaves. Murmurs echoed throughout the room in a controlled hum with undertones of the rustle of bodies and clothing. The statuary was quite stunning for a private collection, and between each piece stood, alternating, a male and female slave simply clad in silver and gold collars. They were posed modestly, hands behind their backs and eyes respectfully down. But the unassuming nature of the aesthetic was pleasant, and guests remarked upon it accordingly.

But the centerpiece of the room was a stage where an elegant podium stood beside a simple block. The gentleman at the podium was sipping from a tall glass while a silver collared slave waited behind with a tray. The block was newly empty.

Marzelline tried not to squirm as the pony in front of her was led to the block. She was waiting in a well-spaced line, her arms bent at the elbows and bound tightly behind her back, pressing her chest forward. She had been told to keep her head up, her eyes forward, and above all, to keep still. But it was so difficult with all of the people—some in seats, some milling about—and the sound of the gavel every so often. And some of the decorative slaves were simply so pretty to look at.

It was intentional, she thought, that the line of ponies to be auctioned could see the bidders. Some lounged in their straight back chairs, holding their fans up lazily with only the intent of driving the bid higher. Other sat straight, fidgeted. Marzelline wondered which would bid on her. Several had looked her over in the silent morning when they were made to stand outside of their stalls for the bidders' inspections. Her master stood to the back, his hand, she knew without looking, stroking his chin. Though she wanted to more than anything else, Marzelline did not dare cast her gaze in his direction. He wanted an impeccably trained pony, and he felt this was the only way, for Marzelline, he had said, needed distance and a hand firmer than his own.

The shadows in the room were moving with the silently rustling leaves outside, and the speckles of light on the floor were slowly creeping up Marzelline's legs, warming her skin unevenly. She did not move and tried not to look at the pony standing on the block as bidding over him became heated. Soon he was being led down and a gold collared slave was clipping a simple black lead to her. Marzelline tried to keep her eyes forward; she would disappoint her master if she ruined her chances by seeming ill behaved. Of course, that was what some bidders wanted, but those were not the kind he was looking for.

"Lot 4247, then—a female, minimally trained—opening at five thousand."

Marzelline was too terrified to see if anyone raised a fan or a catalogue. The sounds of the auctioneer, as the bidding continued, were almost unintelligible to her. She was wondering when it would be over, why it seemed so interminable. But a clear voice from somewhere in the back of the room cut through that.

The number rang in Marzelline's ears, and her eyes went wide. Fifty was…even she knew she was not worth half as much. She could not help but stare at the tall blonde who was now sauntering towards the stage.

"Fifty to Lady Hilda. Might I have sixty? Fifty-five?" the auctioneer asked after a moment of silence. Marzelline's heart was caught in her throat, and in another moment, she was flinching as the gavel was brought down and a slave was leading her away. She had no idea if the blonde had won or not.

Before she realized, Marzelline was off of the stage, and when she turned her head, she could see her master shaking hands with the woman after they had signed the papers she signed the night before. She shivered as the blonde's crisp blue eyes met her own, and despite her minimal training, Marzelline could not look down. This would be the woman who would dictate all of the small details of her life for the next year, and already, she was afraid she was making a bad impression.

But the blonde merely reached up and turned Marzelline's face with a steady hand so that she was looking forward again. She drew in a breath of relief, of surprise.

"Mm," she heard the blonde intone just as she felt the flat of her palm on her side, the touch firm, appraising. The woman rounded her and nodded as she reached Marzelline's front. And when she reached into her pocket and produced a cube of sugar from it, Marzelline felt a rush of warmth between her thighs. As she leaned forward, she realized she would never so easily come by a treat again, and she took it gratefully, sighing as Hilda ran a hand through her hair.

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