It felt like it had been years since Xitlali had begun to take her anger out on his flesh. Since that first searing stripe of pain had bloomed along his spine, since she had made the first stinging slice across his ribs. And it felt like it had been decades since he had screamed as his body had been violated in a way she’d sworn in their contract that she’d never do.
“I am many things, Jerald, but I am not a rapist.”
A liar had apparently been one of the many things she was when she’d spoken those words to him.
He’d tried to keep focused on the present by counting each blow like some of his fellow slaves told him they did. Tried to work on keeping his breathing even and deep. Tried not to anticipate the next hit, the next shift from one pain type to another so that his muscles stayed loose. But after the two hundredth blow, after she had thrust inside him with a burning pain he’d never experienced before? His mind had wandered. Split off from the present reality to mess about elsewhere. He still felt each blow, each cut, each thrust and reacted accordingly, but the impact to his psyche was muted. He registered it but didn’t all at the same time.
And sure a part of him knew that it would only make it worse when he was left to recover at the hands of the Mad Qishir’s “Healers”, but that had stopped the detachment from happening. And once it hit there was nothing he could do about it. Not that he would if there were.
Some things didn’t need to be felt in the occurrence. And his current torture more than easily met the requirement.
“Change forms,” Xitlali ordered suddenly, her voice breaking through the fog around his mind, sickly sweet around the edges and breathless from exertion and the pleasure she got from hurting him. “I want to see you, the real you. That’s the one I want to play with, not the false face your kind wears.”
He was shaking his head in wide-eyed horror, spluttering out his answer before he could think better of it. “M-mistress, I cannot do that. I…my form is sacred. It can only be seen by my Qishir if I am qahllyn to one or my mate. Not even my own birther knew my form.”
The silence that fell in the wake of his response was deafening and he swallowed thickly as fear slipped down his spine because one does not tell the Mad Qishir “no.” But he hadn’t been thinking beyond that no one who wasn’t his mate or his Qishir could see his form, the truth that all Alphenians had beneath their skin. That even the birthers didn’t know the truth of the ones they gave life to, neither did their attendants, as they were all blinded. Such was a requirement of the sacred duty of birthing the next generation and ensuring that the birthers and those they begot survived.
He hadn’t said anything when he’d been captured during the raids because so few with in the Worlds that weren’t his kind knew that about them that he hadn’t thought to negotiate for an Oath from Xitlali to keep this moment from ever happening. Instead, when she hadn’t mentioned knowing about it, he had kept it hidden to himself, figuring it was safer to stay silent than to speak about it. Praying the entire time that it would never be an issue. Clearly, that had been the wrong move.
He tried to remember the peace that voice from earlier had given him, the promise of hope it had carried when Xitlali fisted a hand in his hair and yanked his head up, her red-brown eyes level with his own, the fury twisting her mediocre features palpable. But his attempts failed in the face of the horror that stared back at him. His fear only intensified seeing her fury because she had been so angry when this latest session had started that she had broken not just a Law but gone back on her own word. And the thought that if she had ra–if she had for–that she had done that to him in a fit of rage, he didn’t want to even think about what she would do when her fury was a living, breathing thing in the room with them.
“You will change forms or what I will do to you will pale in comparison to anything you’ve suffered from me before.”
He didn’t have a chance to even take a breath let alone reply before there was a series of rapid knocks at the door and she snarled, throwing him back towards the floor as she turned towards the door. It took all he had not to whisper a prayer of gratitude for whoever had interrupted her and saved him.
“This had better be good,” she snapped, voice like poison as she roughly pulled the door open. He hadn’t even heard her cross the room.
“My sincere apologies for the interruption, Qishir Xitlali,” he didn’t recognize the voice and didn’t dare chance looking for fear of being caught moving without permission. “But there has been an interesting development that I thought you should know about.”
“Spit it out, Uveis. I am busy.”
Uveis…that’s one of her mother’s Triad. What is he doing here?
“Someone found the Grey Qishir’s cabin despite his wards.”
Xitlali huffed impatiently when the male paused and didn’t continue right away. “And?” she prompted, tone a threat of violence that only worsened the poison her voice already was.
“And sent no less than two full colonies of Hounds to pay him a visit.”
“Holy shit,” Xitlali sounded breathless again but for an entirely different reason.
“Alaïs just sent runners across the City. She’s gathering everyone back at the Palace immediately.”
“Of course,” he felt her eyes land on him and he flinched. “Get yourself cleaned up and to the Healers, Jerald. We will continue this when I return.”
Her stare was heavy on him for a handful of heartbeats more before she looked away and spoke to Uveis again, “Tell me, how did she come to know this? Did someone–”
The door closed on whatever else she was saying, leaving him alone in the room he despised, trying to hold it together until he could no longer hear her voice or sense her energy. And once he couldn’t, he waited until he’d counted to three hundred before he dared to move.
With a sob that sounded broken and pathetic even to his own ears, he collapsed forward into the half-congealed blood that had pooled around him. Rolling carefully on to his side, he covered his face with his hands and allowed the tears to fall. Allowed the fog to dissipate entirely so that the enormity of what had happened could sink in. He would let it cripple him now so that he could do what he needed to to survive. And when he was finally allowed solitude to sleep?
He would let it destroy him so that when he awoke, he would be stronger than before.
“I Hear you and you are not alone.”
Hopefully strong enough to finally gain his freedom and kill the bitch that had stolen it from him.