Gift of Flesh

Gift of Flesh

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance

Summary

Raised as a concubine, Miakaela now finds herself chosen by the Monarch of her land as a Gift of Flesh for a neighboring king. Envoy Naissun is commanded by that king to bring her safely through the rough journey to his harem. Tormented by his conscience and a growing affection for Miakaela, Naissun struggles to find a moral and practical answer to this quandary. But of course, first they must make it through the trip alive....In a medieval fantasy setting, two complex characters are torn: should they choose pragmatism and duty, or rebellion?

Summary

Raised as a concubine, Miakaela now finds herself chosen by the Monarch of her land as a Gift of Flesh for a neighboring king. Envoy Naissun is commanded by that king to bring her safely through the rough journey to his harem. Tormented by his conscience and a growing affection for Miakaela, Naissun struggles to find a moral and practical answer to this quandary. But of course, first they must make it through the trip alive....In a medieval fantasy setting, two complex characters are torn: should they choose pragmatism and duty, or rebellion?

Chapter1 (v.1) - Gift of Flesh

Author Chapter Note

Raised as a concubine, Miakaela now finds herself chosen by the Monarch of her land as a Gift of Flesh for a neighboring king. Envoy Naissun is commanded by that king to bring her safely through the rough journey to his harem. Tormented by his conscience and a growing affection for Miakaela, Naissun struggles to find a moral and practical answer to this quandary. But of course, first they must make it through the trip alive....In a medieval fantasy setting, two complex characters are torn: should they choose pragmatism and duty, or rebellion?

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: October 15, 2006

Reads: 11651

Comments: 13

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: October 15, 2006

A A A

A A A

GIFT OF FLESH

by Diana Laurence writing as Diane Lau 

Chapter One

Such time as it is required for the Monarch to bestow diplomatic kindness upon another land's Royal Personage, he shall draw from his Property one who has been raised as Tribute. If the Tribute be a working slave, this shall be deemed a Gift of Strength. If the Tribute be a concubine, this shall be deemed a Gift of Flesh.

The receiving Royal Personage shall dispatch an Envoy to the Court. In a Ceremony the Monarch shall deliver the Tribute to such Envoy and bind it as Property to him. The Monarch shall pay his Fee.

The laws of the Envoy's own land shall then bind him until such time as he delivers the Tribute to his Royal Personage, and transfers the Property to him. If he fail in this mission, the Envoy shall be punished under the laws of his own land.

--Laws and Codicils of the Monarchy of Taelorea



Miakaela knelt, her head bowed, before the throne of the Monarch. She felt quite numb.

This, of course, was the moment for which she had been born and raised. She was a Gift of Flesh and had known so since she was twelve, when the Mother of the Harem took her aside for the private ceremony known as the First Presentation. Mia could barely remember a time when the eventuality of this moment hadn't haunted her mind. In fact, countless times she had fantasized about it, exploring different possible scenarios. She had pictured being chosen for bestowal upon a kind, handsome nobleman who lived in her homeland, and making a happy life in his possession, or even being retained in permanent service to the Monarch himself, among the people she had known all her life. She had imagined likewise the darkest possibilities: being given to a cruel foreign master who would torture her for his pleasure, or kidnapped on the journey to her new home and ravaged and murdered by criminals.

But many years before, she had stopped envisioning these scenes, knowing that she had no control over her eventual fate and that contemplating it did no good. Miakaela was a cheerful person by nature, and therefore she did her best to enjoy each day on its own terms. She befriended her fellow concubines, took pleasure in their company, and formed a close bond with many. She worked hard at her lessons, finding the arts of pleasure fascinating, and rejoicing in her studies in dance and perfumery and even the more serious sciences. The members of the Harem were, of course, pampered and protected, but unlike some of her peers, Miakaela never took this for granted. Until the day she was chosen to be sent away, she was grateful to know she would have fine clothes, the best food, a warm bed. And after that, well, that bridge would be crossed when it must.

And I'm at the bridge now, thought Miakaela, but she still couldn't bring herself to fully consider the course her life was about to take. Even the morning's ceremonial preparations hadn't made it seem real. By Taelorean custom, that morning her hymen had been broken by the Mother of the Harem. Mia had then been prepared for the Envoy by several hours of treatments, to beautify her skin and hair, but to her this had been moot silliness. The journey would be hard and she was to travel in rugged clothes that would serve the dual purpose of protecting her from the elements and disguising her from potential kidnappers, so there was little point in these cosmetic ministrations.

So, as she knelt before the Monarch in her travel clothes she hardly looked her best, and frankly didn't care. And that uncharacteristic apathy was the one clue she had that under her numb stoicism, she was actually reeling. Mia took a deep breath and concentrated on emptying herself of feeling. Hysterics would do no good and only make things harder for her, so she left her gaze upon the floor and waited.

The Herald called out from the hall behind her, "Envoy Naissun of the Kingdom of Royoun!"

Footsteps approached, the sound of heavy boots on the stone floor. From the corner of her eye, Miakaela saw these boots come to a stop by her side. They were worn black leather, with slightly pointed toes in the Royounish style, and quite large.

"Envoy Naissun," acknowledged the Monarch, in his slightly strident voice.

"Your Sagacity," said the man. "I come according to the wishes of His Greatness, King Regit the Fourth, Lord of all Royoun, to receive your most kindly gift."

At these words Mia narrowed her attention all the more on the boots. Until now she had not known her destination. And although King Regit was known as a monarch who ruled with a fair hand, according to rumor he had more than one personal vice that marked him as barbaric by Taelorean standards. She was sick at the thought of being his property. So she stared at the boots, focusing on the fact that although they were recently polished, they bore the marks of stirrups upon them.

"We thank you for your travels, Envoy Naissun," said the Monarch, and Miakaela heard him rise to his feet and descend the steps of the dais. Soon his slippered feet likewise came into her view, and an instant later, she felt his cool hand come to rest on top of her head. "This is the Gift of Flesh," he said, intoning the words with traditional ceremonial drama. "This Tribute we give to the wise and mighty King Regit, in a gesture of friendship and cooperation, for the mutual benefit of our Kingdoms."

Then he took up Miakaela's hand in his. "By the power we wield we transfer this Property now to you, Envoy Naissun," he said, and then took the Envoy's hand and placed hers in it.

This hand was warm. It closed over her fingers firmly but gently. Mia took a bit of comfort from the man's grasp, then checked herself. After all, he was there for no other purpose than to deliver her to her fate.

Naissun spoke. "This Property I receive as my own, to bear and tend with the full duties of ownership, till by the laws of Royoun it passes to my King."

Miakaela heard the jingle of coins in a fabric pouch, and knew the Monarch had just bestowed upon the Envoy his fee. The Monarch said, "Go now, we thank you for your service. Safe journey to you, Envoy."

"Humble thanks to you, Your Sagacity."

The Envoy gave Miakaela's hand a little tug, and she rose at last to her feet. Likewise she finally lifted her eyes to see the rest of the man who would take her on the journey to his King.

He was tremendously tall, so much so that he looked lean by proportion. He had the striking hair so common among his people: silver with streaks of every possible shade of brown. His eyes were amber; they regarded her steadily. Although there was nothing stern about Naissun's expression, Miakaela felt respect for him immediately. She could tell from his demeanor he was used to obedience.

Doubtless he had history as a soldier, she thought. His bearing told her so, and likewise the wear and tear to his face. He bore countless small scars and one very noticeable one slanting over his right cheekbone. His nose had a slight odd curve to it, indicating it had been broken at least once. These flaws notwithstanding, Naissun was a handsome man. His brows were beautifully curved, his eyes were striking, and his clean-shaven face bore strong, noble lines.

Without a word they bowed to the Monarch and took their leave. Once out of the audience chamber, the Envoy addressed her: "Fair Tribute, come now with me to the anteroom, I must instruct you."

"Yes, good Envoy," she replied, in the humble tone fitting of a concubine. She took this tone not insincerely, for Naissun's low and well-modulated voice was commanding in the extreme.

He led her to a side room, small and suited for private conversation. They took seats on a brocade-upholstered chaise.

"The journey will be hard," the Envoy began, and then, somewhat to himself, said, "and it is folly to attempt it in winter." He sighed resolutely. "But I shall bring you to my King. Have you any clothes less showy?"

Mia already felt the least showy she ever had in public, and was tongue-tied.

Naissun reached for his belt knife and drew it forth. "I was wise enough to bring a suitable cloak for you, but otherwise your own clothes must be made to do." He bent and took the knife to the edge of Miakaela's trouser leg, which was adorned with embroidered edging. "The less you look a Tribute, the more likely we both are to survive." He deftly cut the edging from first one leg, than the other, each time gripping the leg to steady it.

Miakaela did not like hearing all these references to the dangers of their journey. "Good Envoy, your pessimism alarms me," she permitted herself to say.

To her surprise, this comment merited a smile from Naissun. Mia was even more surprised at the pleasure she felt for having made him smile. Why did the favor of this man already matter so much to her?

The Envoy replied, "I'm a pessimistic man, pay no attention to me. Your wrist, please?"

She offered him her wrists one by one so that he might likewise cut the adornment from them. His grip on her forearms was pleasant. Then he eyed her up and down, frowning. "I wish there were more we could do. But you'll be cloaked and veiled...." He put away his knife. "Now then, I will tell you what the next three days bode."

Miakaela, in her nervousness, fell back on her manners training and sat up to listen politely.

"Today we will go as far as Northedge, by the Soldiers' Road. It is a rough town and I'd rather avoid it, but it is also the northernmost place we can stop before we cross the Lakelands. In Northedge especially we must take pains not to attract attention to you. There are many there who would happily kill several men to capture a Tribute. Do you know of Northedge?"

Mia shook her head. "Good Envoy, I have never been outside the court. I've heard some talk but can only imagine the place."

"Well, you will never leave my side," said Naissun. It was a curious statement, on its face a promise of faithfulness and protection, but uttered so matter-of-factly as to have no emotional content at all. "In fact, I must bind you when we ride. You understand I cannot trust you."

Miakaela felt saddened by this remark, but could expect nothing else. She nodded silently.

"Northedge will be a challenge, but the Lakelands more so. If the weather is fair we can cross in a day's ride, but the weather is almost never fair. We will sleep where we may."

The Tribute could only imagine what Naissun meant by that. She had heard many tales of the Lakelands, an area of wilderness that lay between Taelorea and Royoun and was half-heartedly claimed by both, for it was useless swampland. One road traversed the Lakelands, and could be impassible in the warm season due to water. In winter the road was frozen and useable, but swept by wind and a fair amount of snow, its relatively northern latitude making blizzards more common than in Taelorea. The Lakelands served best as the dwelling of all things evil in both Taelorean and Royounish legends, as in "There was a Terrible Beast, born in the Lakelands, and all the heroes sought to slay it...."

"But once past the wilderness," continued Naissun, "we will enter the civilized lands of my country, and there be quite safe in the last leg of our journey. I will take you to my own home and present you to King Regit the morning of the next day."

Already Mia felt she could trust this man, and she longed to ask his opinion of her future master. But that was far too ill of form to contemplate.

"Now let us be on our way," said the Envoy, and stood.

A little dazed, Miakaela stood up. Naissun met her eyes with his and looked into them intently. "You're afraid. That's to be expected."

She answered with a nod.

His inscrutable face looked down at hers. "You are my property," he said. "I will not part with my property unless my life go with it."

Miakaela hardly knew how to feel about this statement. She had been the Monarch's property all her life and had only just met this man. She wondered that he could be so determined to hold on to what he must relinquish to another in three days. And it likewise felt foolish to surrender her allegiance to him when so soon it would belong to another.

Her ambiguity must have shown in her eyes, for Naissun's expression grew stern. "The law is clear, Fair Tribute," he said, in a voice so hard and fierce it struck terror in Mia's heart. "Mine you are and you answer to no man but me. You will give me obedience or learn to quickly. Do we have an understanding?"

Mia could only tremble and nod, her eyes stinging with tears. Naissun's displeasure seemed more distressing to her than the Monarch's had ever been, even when she was a child. She wondered at this and supposed it was only because she was already in such a state of fear and confusion. But she did not resent his roughness; he had a job to do and every right to perform it in whatever manner he chose.

"Now let us be on our way," he said again.

The Envoy held her arm as they walked the corridors, exited at the front hall, and crossed the courtyard to the stables. Naissun's horse stood at the ready, an immense beast clearly bred for work and not for looks. He was quite different from the recreational horses used by the Court, a solid brown color with similar mane and tail. He bore on his back both a double saddle and two huge saddlebags packed to bulging. From these the Envoy extricated a fur lined cloak and a woolen cap fitted with heavy veils, which he bid Miakaela put on.

He lifted her effortlessly to the back of the saddle. It was actually more awkward for him to mount afterward, and settle himself in front of her. Then Naissun instructed Mia to bring her arms around him. She felt him fasten shackles at her wrists, and chain them to a loop fastened to the saddle.

"Your arms will tire in this position I know," he said, with a surprisingly apologetic tone. "Tell me when you need to stretch them and I will unbind you."

The chains were long enough that Mia did not have to press herself to Naissun's back. So she sat up tall and said, "Thank you."

Without another word, the Envoy spurred his horse and they set forth from the stable.

They emerged onto the well-trafficked main street of the city, and fell into pace with the other commerce. The day was overcast but dry, with only a light wind. It was an unremarkable winter day, and no one took note of the foreign soldier and his veiled prisoner as they made their way through town. It took almost no time at all for them to be upon a road Miakaela had never seen before. As the familiar sights of her entire life faded behind her, the reality of her situation could no longer be ignored.

She would never see her home again. She was going to a place so far away it might as well be the other side of the world. And every face she would see from now one would be a stranger's face.

All at once it seemed there was nothing in the world to hang onto but the Envoy Naissun, who at least had shown her kindness and was sworn to protect her. She found herself taking comfort in being his property, for that at least was some connection of a sort to another human being...

...for the next three days, anyway.

* * *

 


© Copyright 2021 Diana Laurence. All rights reserved.

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