About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Table of Contents
LAURENT: CAPTIVES AT SEA
LAURENT: MEMORIES OF THE CASTLE AND THE VILLAGE
BEAUTY: THROUGH THE CITY AND INTO THE PALACE
BEAUTY: EXAMINATION IN THE GARDEN
BEAUTY: MYSTERIOUS MASTER
BEAUTY: THE RITES OF PURIFICATION
BEAUTY: THE FIRST TEST OF OBEDIENCE
LAURENT: FOR THE LOVE OF THE MASTER
BEAUTY: THE WATCHER
LAURENT: A LESSON IN SUBMISSION
BEAUTY: MYSTERIOUS CUSTOMS
LAURENT: THE GARDEN OF MALE DELIGHTS
LAURENT: THE GREAT ROYAL PRESENCE
LAURENT: THE ROYAL BEDCHAMBER
LAURENT: MORE SECRET LESSONS
BEAUTY: INTO THE ARMS OF FATE
LAURENT: DECISION FOR LEXIUS
BEAUTY: REVELATIONS AT SEA
LAURENT: JUDGMENT OF THE QUEEN
LAURENT: FIRST DAY AMONG THE PONIES
BEAUTY: COURTLY LIFE IN ALL ITS GLORY
LAURENT: LIFE AMONG THE PONIES
MOMENT OF TRUTH
An Exciting Preview of Beauty's Kingdom
THE EROTIC NOVELS OF ANNE RICE WRITING AS A. N. ROQUELAURE
The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty
Since 1983, A. N. Roquelaure has envisioned (for the uninhibited reader) a hypnotic and seductive adult fairy tale in the Sleeping Beauty novels. Now, the author of this exquisite erotic trilogy reveals her true identity—beckoning the reader into a sensuous world of forbidden dreams and dark-edged desires ... a world in which traditional ideas of submission and dominance and gender preference are thrown to the winds ... a world made irresistibly inviting by the adventurous spirit and imagination of the unrivaled Anne Rice.
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014. U.S.A.
Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane, London W8 5TZ, England
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia
Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2
Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England
Published by Plume, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc.
Previously published in a Dutton edition.
First Plume Printing, November, 1990
First Plume Printing, This Edition, May, 1999
All rights reserved
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
Roquelaure. A. N.
Sequel to: The claiming of Sleeping Beauty and
Cover design: Zoe Norvell
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any
means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written
permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or
dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
I’ve always loved the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, and found something erotic at its core. The Prince awakens Beauty with a kiss. And I thought, all right, what if he brought a kind of liberation, an induction into a world of bizarre yet irresistible delights? It has to be remembered that within the frame of a sadomasochistic fantasy like the Beauty trilogy, the readers are invited to identify with and enjoy the predicament of the slaves. The books aren’t about literal cruelty; they’re about surrender, the fun of imagining you have no choice but to enjoy sex. Beauty’s slavery is delicious, sensuous, abandoned, and ultimately liberating. This is all part of the framework. And it seemed to work exquisitely with the old fairy tale. And of course the fairy tale removes us from everyday life; it removes us from the intrusion of garish headlines, literal violence, and all the ugliness of crime. We go into a gilded dream here, luscious and engulfing, in which we’re free to imagine all sorts of things—a fairy-tale world indeed.
As Anne Rice, I’m known for certain kinds of novels; the Roquelaure books retain the name Roquelaure (even with my name added) to indicate that this is something “different.” If Anne Rice is one kind of savory dish, well this is another entirely. And some might find it far too spicy for their taste. I don’t like the idea of confusing or disappointing readers, so the pen name helps with that. Of course, there are many people who have read all my work, including the Roquelaure novels, and they see me as a multifaceted writer. But the Roquelaure material is erotica, without reservation, and it needs that pen name on the label, so to speak. The pen name says: Anne Rice is doing something very different here.
I felt I needed the anonymity of the pen name to write freely, to pursue an authentic erotica without being inhibited or self-conscious. And it worked wonders to imagine myself “cloaked” by the name Roquelaure, which is a kind of French cloak—named after the Frenchman who popularized it. My father was still living then and I didn’t want him to know about the books either. In fact, there were lots of friends and relatives whom I didn’t want to worry about as I developed the writing. There was quite a bit of exposure involved in writing such graphic sexual fantasies. It was frightening now and then, and it was thrilling. Eventually, I told my father about the books, asking him not to read them, and I did put my name on them. I adjusted completely to people knowing I’d written them. But only after I’d finished with the trilogy—as I recall.
A pen name enables you not only to cloak what you are doing from friends and family; it gives you a new freedom to do something you would not do as yourself. I have thought of writing some new erotica, and I must confess I imagined using a new pen name for it. I don’t know whether I’ll pursue it, but I do find the freedom of the pen name attractive.
When the Sleeping Beauty Trilogy books were first published, they were underground books. They had the backing of a major mainstream publisher, yes, but the publication, though dignified and beautiful, was relatively quiet. But different readers embraced the books almost at once. They clearly appealed to young people, and older married people, to gays and straights. And they’ve sold steadily ever since they first appeared. Women come up to me at signings with babies in strollers and giggle and laugh and say, “We love your dirty books.” People of all ages, actually, present the books to be signed.
Why do I think these particular books have been popular? Two reasons. First, I think it is because they involve no harsh, garish violence at all. They involve game playing, really. No one is burned or cut or hurt. Certainly no one is killed. Indeed the whole sadomasochistic predicament is presented as a glorified game played out in luxurious rooms and with very attractive people, and involving very attractive slaves. There are endless motifs offered for dominance and submission, for surrender and love. It’s like a theme park of dominance and submission, a place to go to enjoy the fantasy of being overpowered by a beautiful man or woman and delightfully compelled to surrender and feel keening pleasure, without the slightest serious harm. I think it’s authentic to the way many who share this kind of fantasy really feel. I think what makes it work for people is the combination of the very graphic and unsparing sexual details mixed with the elegant fairy-tale world.
Unfortunately a lot of hackwork pornography is written by those who don’t share the fantasy, and they slip into hideous violence and ugliness, thinking the market wants all that, when the market never really did. Second, this is shamelessly erotic. It pulls no punches at being what it is. It’s excessive and it is erotica. Before these books, a lot of women read what were called “women’s romances” where they had to mark the few “hot pages” in the book. I said, well, look, try this. Maybe this is what you really want, and you don’t have to mark the hot pages because every page is hot. Every page is about sexual fulfillment. Every page is meant to give you pleasure. There are no boring parts. Yet it’s very “romantic.” And well, I think this worked.
Lots of people enjoy imagining themselves passive, in the hands of a beautiful lover, male or female, who will force them to enjoy themselves. It’s a common idea, and it cuts across gender and class. Men love these sorts of fantasies as much as women. And these books offer all kinds of gender combinations; women dominating men and women; men dominating men and women. The books offer ornate and seductive variations on the themes; and all of it is interwoven in stories with real characters, and again, the emphasis is on a lush, sensuous realm in which all this happens. There are very detailed descriptions of physical interaction and response; but the fairy-tale spell is sustained.
I also went all the way with exploring the mind-set of sadomasochism as I saw it, letting the fantasy characters talk in depth about what they felt and what they enjoyed and what thrilled them as they were humiliated and overwhelmed. I suspect that for some readers, this kind of deep exploration of the mentality of the participants was entirely new.
Is this why they appealed to so many, because people want this very combination of elements? Perhaps.
I certainly never found the combination of elements I wanted in anyone else’s erotica. So I offered what I could not find; a light touch; elegance; preciseness; a dreamlike kingdom; a dream in which people explore their need to be passive and to “pretend” that someone gorgeous and irresistible is “making” them do it.
Psychiatrists have written volumes on the nature of the sadomasochistic fantasy, but when I wrote the trilogy I didn’t know of any fiction that really enabled you to slide in it and “play” the way I wanted to play. So I wrote the books I couldn’t find.
I never thought a book as eccentric as Interview with the Vampire would have mass appeal. I only knew that I wanted to “be with the vampire” in the story, tell it from his point of view. I wanted to be inside his head and heart and reveal his voice and his pain. Now as it turned out, other people were exploring this same kind of thing—the backstory of the villain, the monster, or the comic book hero and heroine who’d always been described from a distance or in brittle form. People wanted to explore all kinds of super characters and hear their intimate musings. And I began to see more and more of this—movies made in which Superman could bear his soul, and Lois Lane could really talk about what it meant to love him. The demand for such romantic fantasies grew and grew. But did I have any idea that would happen? No. I wrote what I wanted to read. Well, the same thing is true with the Beauty books.
I didn’t know whether that many other people had the fantasies. After all, we didn’t talk much about them. Only a small elite knew about the mysterious Story of O. But I knew I had these fantasies, and I wanted to share them, and I felt an overwhelming desire to do them “right.” I didn’t want to compromise, water them down, or shrink from the most humiliating detail. I wanted to really delve into intense sensuous pleasure but put a gilded frame around a safe place for the reader from which he or she could go and come with ease.
Of course these books have from time to time been banned. I never expected a library to stock the Beauty trilogy. I know that many libraries respond to community standards, and I just never thought about it much at all. I did notice and I couldn’t help notice that the books sold well and steadily, and that at every signing I gave, people brought them to be signed. Recently, I’ve signed as many copies of the Beauty books as I have of any other book I’ve written. So I don’t worry too much about being banned. I’ve always shocked people. Years ago, I published a novel about the eighteenth-century castrati opera singers, titled Cry to Heaven. Someone brought a copy back to a bookstore in Stockton, California, and demanded his money back. “This is pornography,” he said. There are always some people objecting to what I do. I’m grateful the Beauty books have been embraced and sustained over the years.
As a feminist, I’m very much supportive of equal rights for women in all walks of life. And that includes for me the right of every woman to write out her sexual fantasies and to read books filled with sexual fantasies that she enjoys. Men have always enjoyed all kinds of pornography. How can it be wrong for women to have the same right? We’re sexual beings! And fantasy is where we can do the things we can’t do in ordinary life. A woman has a right to imagine herself carried away by a handsome prince, and to choose for herself as she writes, the color of his hair and eyes, and imagine his silky voice. She has a right to make him as tall as she wants and as strong as he wants. Why not? Men have always allowed themselves such fantasies.
Famous madams have told us for decades that powerful men love to be dominated and come to them for role playing that allows the male client to be passive. In fact, some madams have said that men who enjoy playing the passive role are often men who are very powerful in real life. Well, women today are more powerful than ever. They’re Supreme Court judges, senators, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, executives, soldiers, cops. They can excel in all walks of life. And why shouldn’t they be able to go home from the courtroom, the university, or the office and kick back and “pretend” they’re being swept away to the Queen’s sadomasochistic kingdom where all the fairy-tale court will watch them being ravaged by the handsome Prince?
The literary world today is wide open for all kinds of creative endeavors. We are in a new golden age in which fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction, historical drama, horror, gothic, and supernatural romance are all mainstream. Well, the same holds true now obviously for erotica. People in general are “out of the closet” as enjoyers of erotic books. The novel 50 Shades of Grey has proved this. And I am discovering that the Beauty books in spite of all their playful excess—are for the first time going mainstream.
But I wouldn’t continue Beauty’s story. I felt that ended just the way I wanted. But I might write some more. I don’t think I did all I could do in these books, within the fantasy itself, in admitting how much the slaves enjoyed it—how they loved it. I’d deepen that aspect, and still keep the tension, if I did them today.
People are much more comfortable today admitting and talking about what they enjoy in fiction and film. Much more. People are “out of the closet” about sexuality, period. The whole world knows women are sensual human beings as well as men. It’s no secret anymore that women want to read sexy fiction just as men do, and there’s a new frankness about the varieties of fantasies one might enjoy. So many clichés have been broken and abandoned. And this is a wonderful thing.
THE STORY THUS FAR
In THE CLAIMING OF SLEEPING BEAUTY
AFTER HER century-long slumber, the Sleeping Beauty opened her eyes at the kiss of the Prince to find her garments stripped away and her heart as well as her body under the rule of her deliverer. At once, Beauty was claimed as the Prince’s naked pleasure slave to be taken to his Kingdom.
With the grateful consent of her parents, and dazed with desire for the Prince, Beauty was then brought to the Court of Queen Eleanor, the Prince’s mother, to serve as one of hundreds of naked Princes and Princesses, all playthings of the Court until such time as they would be rewarded and sent home to their Kingdoms.
Dazzled by the rigors of the Training Hall, the Hall of Punishments, the ordeal of the Bridle Path, and her own mounting passion to please, Beauty remained the undisputed favorite of the Prince and the delight of her sometime Mistress, the lovely young Lady Juliana.
Yet she could not ignore her secret and forbidden infatuation with the Queen’s exquisite slave, Prince Alexi, and finally the disobedient slave, Prince Tristan.
After glimpsing Prince Tristan among the disgraced of the castle, Beauty, in a moment of seemingly inexplicable rebellion, brought upon herself the very same punishment destined for Tristan: to be sent away from the voluptuous Court to the degradation of harsh labor in the nearby village.
In BEAUTY’S PUNISHMENT
Sold on the village auction block at dawn, Tristan soon found himself tethered and harnessed to the carriage of a handsome young Master, Nicolas, the Queen’s Chronicler. And Beauty, put to work in Mistress Lockley’s Inn, became the plaything of the Captain of the Guard, the Inn’s chief lodger.
But within days of their separation and sale, Beauty and Tristan were both seduced by the iron discipline of the village. The sweet terrors of the Place of Public Punishment, the Punishment Shop, the Farm and the Stable, the Soldiers’ Night at the Inn enflamed them as well as frightening them, causing them to forget their former selves utterly.
Even the harsh judgment of the runaway slave, Prince Laurent, his body bound to a Punishment Cross for exhibit, only served to tantalize them.
And, as Beauty gloried in chastisements at last equal to her spirit, Tristan became hopelessly enamored of his new Master.
Yet no sooner had the pair met and confided their shameless happiness to each other than a band of powerful enemy soldiers attacked the village, kidnapping Beauty and Tristan along with other choice slaves, including Prince Laurent, to be taken by sea to the land of a new Master, the Sultan.
Within hours of the attack, the stolen Princes and Princesses learned that they would not be ransomed. By agreement between their sovereigns, they had been condemned to serve in the Sultan’s palace until such time as they would be safely returned to their Queen for further judgment.
Kept in long, rectangular golden cages in the hold of the Sultan’s ship, the slaves accepted their new destiny.
As our story continues, it is night on the quiet vessel and the long voyage is nearing its close.
And Prince Laurent is alone with his thoughts about his slavery....
LAURENT: CAPTIVES AT SEA
But something had changed. As soon as I opened my eyes, I knew we were close to land. Even in the shadowy silence of the cabin, I could smell the living things of the land.
And so the journey is coming to an end, I thought. And we will finally know what awaits us in this new captivity in which we are destined to be even lower, and more abject, than before.
I was as relieved as I was frightened, as curious as I was filled with dread.
And by the light of the one night lantern, I saw Tristan lying awake, his face tense as he peered into the darkness. He too knew that the voyage was almost ended.
The naked Princesses still slept, however, looking like exotic beasts in their golden cages. The piquant little Beauty was a yellow flame in the gloom, Rosalynd’s curly black hair draped her white back to the curve of her plump little buttocks. And above, the long, delicate-boned Elena lay on her back, her straight brown hair combed out over her pillow.
Lovely flesh, these three, our tender fellow prisoners: Beauty’s rounded little arms and legs begging to be pinched as she lay snuggled in her sheets; Elena’s head thrown back in the total abandon of sleep, her long slender legs wide apart, one knee against the bars of the cage; Rosalynd turned on her side as I looked at her, her large breasts falling gently forward, nipples darkly pink and erect.
And to my far right the black-haired Dmitri, vying with the blond Tristan in muscular beauty, Dmitri’s face oddly cold in slumber, though by day he was often the kindest and most accepting of us all. We Princes, caged as securely as the women, probably looked no more human, no less exotic.
And each of us wore the stiff little covering of gold mesh between our legs, forbidding us the slightest examination of our own hungry organs.
We had come to know each other very well during the long nights at sea when our guards were not near enough to hear our whispers. And in our quiet hours of thinking and dreaming, perhaps we had come to better know ourselves.
“Do you feel it, Laurent?” Tristan whispered. “We are near to the shore.”
Tristan was the anxious one, the one who grieved for his lost Master, Nicolas, yet watched everything around him.
“Yes,” I answered under my breath, with a little glance at him. Flash of his blue eye. “It can’t be long.”
“I only hope ...”
“Yes?” I said again. “What is there to hope for, Tristan?”
“... that they don’t separate us.”
I didn’t answer. I lay back and closed my eyes. What did it matter to talk about it when soon all things would be revealed? And we could do nothing to alter them.
“Whatever happens,” I said dreamily, “I’m glad the voyage is ended. I’m glad we’ll soon to be put to some use again.”
After the initial tests of our passion, we had not been used again by our captors. And for a fortnight we had been tortured by our own desires, the boyish attendants only laughing gently at us and quickly binding our hands when we dared to touch the delicate wedge-shaped casings of mesh that imprisoned our privates.
We had all suffered equally, it seemed, with nothing to distract us in the hold of the ship but the sight of one another’s nakedness.
And I couldn’t help but wonder if these young care-takers, so thoughtful in every other regard, realized how relentlessly we had been schooled in the appetites of the flesh, how our Masters and Mistresses in the Queen’s Court had taught us to crave even the crack of the strap to alleviate the fire within us.
Not a half day of the old servitude had passed without thorough use of our bodies, and even the most obedient of us had received constant chastisement. And those sent down from the castle to the penance of the village had known little rest either.
But those were different worlds, as Tristan and I had often agreed during our whispered nighttime conversations. In both the village and the castle, we had been expected to speak, if only to say, “Yes, My Lord,” or, “Yes, My Lady.” And we had been given express commands and sent now and then to do errands unaccompanied. Tristan had even conversed at length with his cherished master, Nicolas.
But we had been warned before we ever left the Queen’s domain that these servants of the Sultan would treat us as if we were mute animals. Even if we could understand their strange foreign tongue, they would never speak to us. And in the Sultan’s land any lowly pleasure slave who attempted speech would merit immediate and severe punishment.
The warnings had been borne out. All during the voyage, we had been petted, stroked, pinched, and guided about in tender and condescending silence.
When, out of desperation and boredom, Princess Elena had spoken aloud, begging to be let out of the cage, she had been quickly gagged, her ankles and wrists bound against the small of her back, her undulating body suspended on a chain from the cabin ceiling. And there she remained, the attendants scowling at her in shock and outrage, until she had given up her vain and muffled protests.
And how kindly and carefully she had been taken down afterwards. Her silent lips had been kissed, her hurting wrists and ankles oiled until the red marks of the leather cuffs were gone from them.
The young silk-robed boys had even brushed her sleek brown hair and massaged her buttocks and back with their strong fingers, as if such irascible little beasts as we must be soothed in this manner. Of course, they had stopped soon enough when they realized the soft shadow of brown curly hair between Elena’s legs was moist, and that she could not help but move her hips against the silk of the grooming mattress, so excited was she by their touch.
With little scolding gestures and shakes of the head, they had made her kneel up, holding her wrists again as they fitted her little vagina with its inflexible metal covering, the chains coming round her thighs and quickly clasped tight. Then she had been put in her cage, arms and legs tied to the bars with thick satin ribbons.
Yet this display of passion had not angered them. On the contrary, they had stroked her wet sex before covering it, smiling at her as if to approve her heat, her need. Yet all the moaning in the world had not brought mercy from them.
And the rest of us had only watched in lustful silence, our own starved organs pulsing vainly. I wanted to climb into her cage and tear off the little shield of gold mesh and stab my cock in the wet little nest made for it. I wanted to open her mouth with my tongue. I wanted to squeeze her heavy breasts in my hands, suckle the small coral-colored nipples, and see her flushed red with throbbing pleasure as I rode her to the finish. But these were but painful dreams. Elena and I could only look at each other, as I hoped in silence that sooner or later we might be allowed the ecstasy of each other’s arms.
The dainty little Beauty was also most intriguing, and the buxom Rosalynd with her big mournful eyes absolutely luscious, but it was Elena who was full of cleverness and dark disdain for what had befallen us. During our whispered talks, she laughed at our fate, tossing her heavy brown hair over her shoulder as she spoke.
“Who has ever had three such marvelous choices, Laurent?” she asked. “The Sultan’s palace, the village, the castle. I tell you, in any one I can find delights to suit me.”
“But, darling, you don’t know what it will be like in the Sultan’s palace,” I said. “The Queen had hundreds of naked slaves. In the village there were hundreds at labor. What if the Sultan has even more than that—slaves from all the realms of the East and the West, so many slaves he can use them for footstools?”
“Do you think he does?” she asked excitedly. Her smile became charmingly insolent. Such wet lips and exquisite teeth. “Then we must find some way to distinguish ourselves, Laurent.” She leaned her chin on her hand. “I don’t want to be just one of a thousand suffering little Princes and Princesses. We must see that the Sultan knows who we are.”
“Dangerous thoughts, my love,” I said, “when we can neither speak nor be spoken to, when we are pampered and punished as simple little beasts.”
“We’ll find a way, Laurent,” she said, with a mischievous wink. “Nothing ever frightened you before, did it? You ran away just to see what it would be like to be captured, didn’t you?”
“You’re too quick-witted, Elena,” I said. “What makes you think I didn’t run in fear?”
“I know you didn’t. No one ever ran away from the Queen’s castle in fear. It’s always done in the spirit of adventure. I did it myself, you see. That is why I was sentenced to the village.”
“And was it worthwhile, my dear?” I asked. Oh, if only I could kiss her, make her pour her high spirits into my mouth, pinch her little nipples. It was a great cruelty that I’d never even been near her during our days in the castle.
“Yes, it was worth it,” she said thoughtfully. She had been in the village a year when the raid happened, a female farm slave of the Lord Mayor, working in his country gardens, searching out weeds in the grass with her teeth on her hands and knees, the gardener a stout and severe man, never without a strap in his hand.
“But I was ready for something new,” she said, turning over on her back, letting her legs go apart as she always did. I couldn’t stop staring at the thick brown hair of her sex under the woven gold shield. “And then the Sultan’s soldiers came as if I had summoned them with my imagination. Remember, Laurent, we have to do something to distinguish ourselves.”
I laughed to myself. I liked her spirit.
But then I liked all of them: Tristan, a beguiling mixture of strength and need, who bore his suffering in silence ; and Dmitri and Rosalynd, both contrite and dedicated to pleasing, as if they had been born slaves instead of royalty.
But Dmitri could not control his agitation or his lust, could not hold still for punishment or use, though his mind was filled with nothing but high thoughts of love and submission. He had spent his short village sentence pilloried in the Place of Public Punishment, awaiting his whippings on the Public Turntable. And Rosalynd too knew no semblance of control unless shackled tightly. Both had hoped the village would purge their fears, allow them to serve with the finesse they admired in others.
As for Beauty, well, next to Elena she was the most enchanting, the most unusual slave. Cold she seemed, yet undeniably sweet, thoughtful and rebellious. Now and then through the dark nights at sea I saw her staring at me through the bars of her cage with a puzzling expression on her strong little face, her lips spreading easily in a smile when I acknowledged her.
When Tristan wept, she would say softly in his defense:
“He loved his Master.” And she would shrug as if she found it sad but incomprehensible.
“And you loved no one?” I had asked her one night.
“No, not really,” she said. “Only other slaves now and then....” And there came that provocative look that made my cock rise at once. There was something savage in her, something untouched, for all her seeming fragility.
But now and then she seemed to brood on her resistance. “What would it mean to love them?” she asked once, almost as if talking to herself. “What would it mean to yield the heart completely? The punishments, I love. But to love one of the Masters or Mistresses....” She looked afraid suddenly.
“It troubles you,” I said sympathetically. The nights at sea worked on all of us. The isolation worked on all of us.
“Yes. I long for something I have not had,” she whispered. “I deny it, but I long for it. Maybe it is only that I haven’t found the proper Master or Mistress....”
“The Crown Prince, it was he who brought you to the Kingdom. Surely you found him a truly magnificent Master.”
“No, not at all,” she said dismissively. “I can barely remember him. He did not interest me, you see. What would happen if I were mastered by someone who interested me?” And her eyes took on a strange glitter, as if seeing for the first time a whole new realm of possibility.
“I can’t tell you,” I had said, feeling suddenly at a loss. Up until that moment I was sure that I had loved my Mistress, Lady Elvera. But now I wasn’t entirely certain. Maybe Beauty spoke of a deeper, finer love than I had ever known either.
The fact was, Beauty interested me. She who lay beyond my grasp upon her silken bed, her naked limbs as perfect as a sculpture in the semi-dark, her eyes full of half-revealed secrets.
Yet all of us, despite our differences, our talk of love, were true slaves. That was certain.
We had been opened up and inalterably changed by our servitude. No matter what our fears and conflicts, we were not the blushing, awestruck beings we had once been. We swam, each at his or her own pace, in the dazzling current of erotic torment.
And as I lay thinking, I sought to understand the important differences between the castle life and the village life, and to guess what this new captivity in the Sultanate promised us.
LAURENT: MEMORIES OF THE CASTLE AND THE VILLAGE
I HAD SERVED well for a year in the castle, property of the strict Lady Elvera, who had had me whipped each morning as a matter of course, while she took her breakfast. She was a proud and quiet raven-haired woman with slate-gray eyes, who spent her hours at delicate embroidery. I had kissed her slippers afterwards in thanks for the whipping, hopeful for the smallest crumb of praise—that I had taken the blows well or that she found me handsome still. Seldom did she speak a word. Seldom did she look up from her needle.
In the afternoons, she took her work to the gardens, and there I coupled with Princesses for her amusement. I had first to catch my pretty prey, which meant a hard chase through the flower beds, and then the blushing little Princess must be carried back and laid at My Lady’s feet for inspection, after which my real performance commenced and must be carried through perfectly.
Of course, I had loved these moments—pumping my heat into the shy and quivering body beneath me, even the most frivolous Princess shaken by the chase and the capture, and both of us burning under My Lady’s steady gaze as she nevertheless went on with her sewing.
Pity I had never covered Beauty during this time. Beauty had remained the Crown Prince’s favorite until she fell from grace and was sent down to the village. Only the Lady Juliana was allowed to share her. But I had glimpsed her on the Bridle Path and longed to have her gasping under me. How finely tuned a slave she had been even in the first few days, her form as she marched beside Lady Juliana’s horse quite impeccable. Her hair was golden as wheat as it hung down beside her heart-shaped face; her blue eyes flashed with burnt pride and undisguised passion. Even the great Queen was jealous of her.
But, looking back on all of it now, I did not for a moment doubt Beauty when she said she had not loved those who claimed her affections. I could have seen, had I looked, that her heart wore no chains then.
But what had been the particular quality of my life in the halls of the castle? My heart did wear chains. But what had been the essence of my bondage?
I was a Prince, though bound to serve—a high-born being temporarily deprived of his privileges and made to undergo unique and difficult trials of the body and the soul. Yes, that was the nature of the humiliation: that I should be privileged again after it was over, that I was the equal of those who enjoyed my nakedness and reprimanded me severely for the slightest show of will or pride.
It was never so clear to me as when Princes from other lands came to visit and to marvel at this custom of keeping royal pleasure slaves. How it had flayed me to be presented to these guests.
“But how do you make them serve?” they would ask, half astonished, half enchanted. You never knew whether they yearned to serve or command. Do all beings have both inclinations at war within them?
The inevitable answer to their timid questions was a mere demonstration of our fine training; that we must kneel before them, offering our naked organs for their examination, our upturned backsides to be whipped.
“It is a game of pleasure,” My Lady would say matter-of-factly. “And this one, Laurent, a beautifully mannered Prince, amuses me in particular. He will one day rule a rich realm.” She would pinch my nipples slowly, then lift my cock and balls in her open hand to display them to the amazed guest.
“But still, why does he not struggle, resist?” the visitor might ask, possibly masking his deeper feelings.
“Think on it,” My Lady would say. “He is quite well stripped of the accoutrements that would make him a man in the outside world, only the better to expose the fleshly accoutrements that make him a man for my service. Imagine yourself as naked, as defenseless, as thoroughly subjugated. You might serve, too, rather than risk a gamut of even more ignominious corrections.”
What newcomer had not asked for his own slave before nightfall?
Red-faced and trembling, I had crawled to obey many an order given in an unfamiliar and unpracticed voice. And these were Lords I should some day receive in my own Court. Would we remember these moments? Would anyone dare to mention them?
And so it was with all the naked slave Princes and Princesses of the castle. Nothing but the highest quality for this utter debasement.
“I think Laurent will serve another three years at least,” Lady Elvera would say airily. How remote she was, how eternally distracted. “But then the Queen makes these decisions. I shall weep when he goes. I think perhaps it is his size that most entices me. He is taller than the others, bigger-boned, yet his face is noble, don’t you think?”
She would snap her fingers for me to come near, and then run her thumb down my cheek. “And the organ,” she might say, “it is extremely thick but not overly long. That is important. How the little Princesses squirm under him. I simply must have a strong Prince. Tell me, Laurent, how might I punish you in some new fashion, something perhaps that I have not thought of?”
Yes, a strong Prince in temporary subjugation, a monarch’s son, with all his faculties engaged, sent here to be a pupil of pleasure and pain.
But to incur the wrath of the Court and to be sent to the village? That was an altogether different ordeal. And one that I had barely tasted, though what I did come to know was the very quintessence of it.
Only two days before my capture by the Sultan’s thieves, I had run away from Lady Elvera and the castle. And I do not know why I did it.
Certainly, I adored the Lady. I did. No doubts really. I admired her imperiousness, her endless silences. She could only have pleased me more had she whipped me herself more often, rather than ordering it done by other Princes.
Even when she gave me to the guests or the other Lords and Ladies, there was the special joy of returning to her, of being taken again into her bed, being allowed to lap at the narrow triangle of black hair between her white thighs as she sat there against the pillow, her hair down, her eyes narrow and indifferent. It had been a challenge to melt her glacial heart, to make her throw back her head and cry out in pleasure finally like the most lascivious little Princess in the garden.
Yet I had run away. And it had come over me suddenly, the impulse—that I should dare to do it, just get up and go off into the forest and let them search for me. Of course they’d find me. I never doubted they would. They always found the runaways.
Maybe I had lived too long in fear of doing it, of being captured by the soldiers and sent to labor in the village. It was tempting me suddenly, like the plunge from a great cliff.
And I had mastered all my other faults by this time; I had attained a rather boring perfection. I never shied from the strap. I had grown so to need it that my flesh quivered warmly at the mere sight of it. And I always caught the little Princesses quickly in the garden chase, lifting them high by their wrists and carrying them back over my shoulder, their hot breasts thudding against my back. It had been an interesting challenge to master two and three in a single afternoon with the same stamina.
But this matter of running away.... Maybe I wanted to know my Masters and Mistresses better! Because, when I became their captured fugitive, I would feel their power to the marrow of my bones. I would feel all that they could make me feel, completely.
Whatever the reason, I waited until the Lady had fallen asleep in her garden chair, and then I stood up and rushed to the garden wall and climbed over it. This was no little bid for attention on my part. I would make it an indisputable attempt at escape. And, without glancing back, I fled over the mown fields towards the forest.
Yet never had I felt so naked, so utterly the slave as in those moments when I appeared to be in rebellion.
Every leaf, every tall blade of grass stroked my exposed flesh. A new shame astonished me as I roamed beneath the dark trees, creeping past the watchtowers of the village.