The chain no longer tightened when Sparr moved. He was allowed a circumference of roughly six meters, enough to reach most of center stage, but not the lines of maidens on either side. The throbbing of the drug in Sparr’s muddled head blocked out everything but his lust, the maidens, and the chain binding him. Behind him, a maiden broke line, beginning her graceful, dangerous dance across the stage.

With a bellow, Sparr yanked the chain at his waist. The small amount of slack he had been allowed went tight. The maiden, a slim, familiar woman, stumbled over the unexpectedly taut chain. Sparr lunged.

She would have escaped, had her gown not betrayed her. Recovering quickly, the dancer rolled away and half stood. Half mad with lust, Sparr clutched at the flimsy fabric, seizing a handful. Again, the maiden stumbled. Sparr’s hand closed around her ankle. She was his.

Phia gave out a cry, turning to stare at Sparr with wild eyes. Her robe was already half open, her body exposed. The maiden could do nothing but watch as he pulled her toward him by the ankle, then once the two were close enough, by tugging her by the thigh. He loomed over her now, panting and eager. Dimly, Sparr recognized Phia. She had cared for him, laughed with him, pleasured him. Under the drug’s control, it didn’t matter. The woman might have been a friend, a stranger, or an enemy. He would have her, would take what he wanted.

Sparr slid his hands up Phia’s body, brushing her slit before continuing up her belly, toward her breasts. As he did, the robe’s tie gave way, allowing the garment to open fully. The maiden lay exposed now, on her back in the center of the pale, silky fabric. A cry of approval went up from the crowd.

He would devour her. Holding the maiden’s arms to the stage, Sparr leaned forward to suck on a perky breast. His tongue found the nipple, circled it, then drew it into his mouth. He tongued and sucked on the soft flesh until Phia cried out. Greedily, he switched sides, sucking roughly and eagerly, pressing his strong, wet tongue against her. Beneath him, the maiden wriggled futilely.

“Oh,” Phia gasped. “Ow, oh fuck.”

“Nnnnnnh,” Sparr growled. He wanted to taste every inch of his captive. Without freeing the maiden’s hands, he kissed up to her slender neck. He breathed hot against her, then gave a long lick from her neck to her ear. Sparr flicked his tongue into her ear, exploring wetly. She was delicious.

“Ohhhhhh,” Phia moaned. She writhed beneath him, slim body arching in an effort either to dislodge or encourage him.

Stronger, more urgent music poured forth from the band. Sparr raised himself, momentarily confused. His eyes swept the crowd. Strangers’ faces gawked at him, cheered for him, or admired the young woman he had captured. They hated him. They loved him. The crowd was as mad with lust as he was. He turned again to Phia.

Gripping her thighs tightly, Sparr buried his face between Phia’s legs. She was shaved bare, and wet with desire. The maiden had about her a foreign, spicy scent. Sparr dove in, wriggling his tongue into her slit.

“Eeeeeeh!” Phia gasped. With her hands freed, she scratched and pushed fruitlessly against Sparr’s shoulders, against his head. He was unmovable, tonguing her until she was as wet with his saliva as from her own juices. She ground against him, trembling and alive. Was she encouraging him, or fighting him off?

His cock was awake. Like a separate being, it bounced and slapped against his thighs, reminding him of its presence. It would not be denied its pleasure. He would not be denied. The captive was his to enjoy.

Phia lay before him like a prize, her pale body surrounded by the tatters of the discarded robe. The brunette was panting, eyes wide, staring at Sparr as if seeing him for the first time. When he moved to mount her, the maiden’s hands flew to his chest. She might as well have been pushing against a wall. Sparr’s lust raged within him. Only by summoning the last threads of his self control could he restrain himself from impaling her in a single, brutal stroke. Still, he wasn’t gentle.

Sparr nestled his cock against Phia’s slit, quickly guiding the head toward her slick opening. He entered her, groaning aloud as the wetness tightly encased him.

“Oh Alain, oh, ow!” Phia gasped. She couldn’t tear her eyes away from the sight of Sparr’s cock opening her.

“Nnnnnnnh!” Sparr pushed, ignoring the cries of the maiden twisting beneath him. Her efforts succeeded only in slowing him. Ever more aroused, he pushed again. The drug pounded in his head. He had captured her. The maiden had dared to invade his space. It was only right that he would take her, enjoy what he now owned. Again he pushed, holding Phia’s legs apart.

“Owwww,” Phia winced, snapping her head to one side. Even as wet as she was, the girth of Sparr’s cock was a test. Her lips parted, her breath came rough. She lay helpless as he opened her deeper and deeper, grunting with selfish lust. At last, with a final, painful thrust, he bottomed out.

“Fuuuuuuuuuuuck!” she cried out. The cluster of maidens observing from the far edge of the stage drew back in fear.

Sparr grunted with pleasure. “Yeahhhhhhhhhh fuck yeah,” he called out. For a moment he froze, buried in the maiden’s pussy, back arched in ecstasy. The audience screamed, clapped, and cheered. The sound swept over him, fueling his desire. He shifted forward to lay atop Phia, his weight supported by his hands, his face close to hers. Sparr tugged his cock almost free, then, watching her expression, plunged it into her again. Her body was his to enjoy.

“Oh god,” she gasped. Sparr’s breath was on her neck, in her ear. They were as close as lovers, but all tenderness had been driven from him. “Alain, please.”

“It’s good,” Sparr said, his voice thick with lust. He slid into a realm between desire and satiation. The girl’s slick delight was what he needed, was the only thing he thought of. Now that he was getting it, his earlier rage eased. Sparr would take her, enjoy her, empty himself into her. There was nothing else.

Phia wriggled beneath him, but no longer with the same urgency. Her short, brunette hair tossed, her soft lips parted. The maiden’s arms still pressed against his chest or shoulders, but whether to push Sparr away or encourage him wasn’t clear. He rode her now.

Sparr neared the abyss, the release of orgasm looming. A few more moments and he would meet bliss. And yet, there was something else, something he should do. The crowd was there for him, cheering him on. He was part of a show. He would give them one. Sparr pulled free, then guided a panting and confused Phia to her hands and knees. She faced the roaring crowd. Unhesitating, he took her from behind.

“Ooooooooooooh,” Phia groaned. She hung her head submissively, no longer impeding her captor as he ravished her.

Instead of finishing with Phia half-collapsed beneath him, Sparr lifted her. He tugged her arms back, holding her wrists together with one hand, while with the other he gripped her shoulder like a vise. On her knees, the maiden faced the crowd, her chest arched toward them as Sparr took her from behind.

Nearing release, Sparr held the girl in place, driving up and into her. She was as near to bliss as was he, her breath ragged. Phia shuddered and trembled in Sparr’s grip, helpless, aroused, and submissive. She would cum when he did. The crowd was on their feet, some lovers entwined, but most hooting and cheering lustfully. Their disbelieving eyes drank in the erotic sight, a slender and lovely young woman being held tight, ravished and consumed by the insensate brute behind her.

Something clanked on the stage. A token bounced and rolled past the couple before it rattled to a stop. After a moment, another followed, then two more. As the pair neared the end of their performance, the crowd was showing its appreciation not just with cheers, but with coins. Sparr barely noticed. He thought only of his own release, an end to the madness that engulfed him.

“Oh god, oh Alain,” Phia gasped. “Your cock, oh fuck!”

“Unh, unh, unh,” Sparr grunted. He could no longer remember how the girl knew his name, how they had met, who she was to him, only that she was the one in his grip, the one he was using. His thrusts became ragged, clumsy. He tumbled into the abyss.

“Ahhhhhhhhhh, fuuuuuuuuuuuck! Sparr gasped. His entire body went stiff, his fingers bruising Phia’s arms and shoulder. His balls tensed. The wave that had been building for twenty minutes crested in less than a heartbeat. He blasted a load of hot cum into Phia’s aching gash.

“Oooooooooh!” Phia came with him, her trembling pussy clenching and releasing. “Oh yes, yes, fuck!” The two weren’t sharing a stage, they were alone, wrapped in a cocoon of bliss. Momentarily, the crowd faded as Sparr’s cock pulsed deep into her. Both jerked and shuddered through the shared tsunami of orgasm.

“Fu, huh, fu, fuuuuuuuu.” Sparr kept cumming, his orgasm stretched out and intensified by the drug, by the crowd. Phia’s soft, welcoming body twitched against him, his partner in ecstasy. Her own cries echoed his own.

“Oh Alain, ohhhhhhh,” she gasped. “Omigod!”

Only grudgingly, the warm, insistent orgasmic embrace softened. Sparr released first Phia’s arms, then her shoulder. She sagged forward, panting, then collapsed to the stage. Sparr was left on his own, facing the crowd, glistening with sweat and dripping cum. Tokens rained down around him.

The chain clinked.


“And so, so I say to the man, ‘It’s not my amphorae that are the problem, it’s your wine! Perhaps if you didn’t ferment it from poxberries!'”

Lord Varn leaned back proudly, chuckling at his own story. His wife only rolled her eyes, but the maidens giggled. It was, after all, their mission to keep the faithful happy, whether laughing at their jokes, or sharing their bed.

Sparr groaned, and hopped from the wagon. At the glacial pace set by the draybeasts, a man easily could keep pace with the caravan, and Sparr needed to work his legs. The red draught had left him sluggish and stiff. He took a moment to survey the wagons that made up the pilgrimage.

First came what was known as the bachelor wagon, holding the pilgrims, all men, who were traveling without a companion. It was this wagon that was the most boisterous. The occupants had insisted on lowering the sun shade and were taking turns each trying to outdo the other with tales of business acumen and sexual conquests. Silla and Liette wisely had elected not to store any wine or spirits within their reach.

In the next wagon came two couples, older and more restrained. The lord and lady Gast, Sparr took for true believers. Lord Gast carried a small replica of the Origin’s wheel which he turned idly, while his wife mumbled something called a recitation. In the place of written teachings, fragments of easily remembered Origin creed were passed along orally. Opposite them sat a slightly younger couple who had invited a prince to join them. Lord Affan sat lost to his own thoughts while his wife flirted with the prince. Sparr let the wagon pull away from him before he became too depressed.

“So, I guess we’ve both tasted the red draught.” Efreem joined him, trotting up from where he had been keeping guard at the rear of the caravan. To Sparr’s delight, the Olm man had been selected to join the pilgrimage after one of the original guards had fallen ill.

“I can’t even remember everything,” Sparr said. Or could he? Certainly, he wasn’t eager to recollect how roughly he had taken Phia. Their encounter was but another example of how thoroughly Kaybe was stripping away his humanity.

Efreem nodded. “It’s like that,” he said. As always, he was a man of few words.

“Is she here?”

“Phia?” Efreem regarded Sparr as if trying to fathom his motive. “No. Mostly the others came. The new ones.”

Sparr wasn’t surprised. The revelation echoed what Silla had told him. He also felt a shameful twinge of relief. There would be no need for an awkward apology. “What about Drian and Tuck?”

“Yes.” Efreem jabbed a thumb toward the rear of the caravan. “I think Liette told them to walk.”

“That’s probably for the best,” Sparr said. The pair hardly could have been less suited for the duties of being a prince. They were too rambunctious, and, Sparr suspected, too clever.

“Oh, here,” Efreem said suddenly. He handed Sparr a crudely-stitched pouch which, upon inspection, was shown to contain tokens.

“What is this?”

“They threw tokens at you,” Efreem reminded him. “At the show.” It didn’t appear to cause him any discomfort that ‘the show’ had been little less than a live sex act. “Liette said you earned them.”

There were perhaps twenty tokens in the pouch. “Help me,” he said, showing his friend a palm full of the discs.

Efreem understood. “The silver ones are the most common,” he said. “They’re the least valuable.” He pointed to a darker one with a warm sheen to the stiff metal. Sparr might have called it bronze. “These are next. Each is worth five of the silver.”

“Are there others?” Sparr asked. “More valuable?”

“Oh, yes. The darker ones. Different colors but no difference in value. All worth twenty-five.” Efreem pushed his fingers through the pile of coins. “You don’t have any.”

Sparr stashed the pouch. “Thanks,” he said. Of the things he had encountered on Kaybe, the tokens were among the most perplexing. Each of the coins was different from the others, and incredibly intricate. There weren’t any signs of wear. Their production surely was beyond the capabilities of the planet’s current inhabitants. What else, he wondered, had been lost?


That evening, Sparr resumed his instruction of Drian and Tuck. The three princes that accompanied the caravan had no time for them, and the guards and drivers were more than happy not to have the two youths under their feet. As before, the three drilled with improvised wooden swords.

“Stay crouched, body turned in. Don’t give him a target.” Sparr circled the youths as they sparred. “No, don’t straighten your legs.”

“I could hit him, easy!” protested Tuck. This particular drill allowed only one of the pair to try to land blows while the other kept up his defense. Neither of the two were naturally inclined toward restraint.

“You both need to learn patience, how to defend yourselves. ‘The best offense is a good defense.'” Sparr had heard the expression somewhere, although he wasn’t sure he had it right.

Tuck grumbled, but continued to dance away from Drian, mostly blocking or dodging the other man’s blows.

“You!” Sparr exclaimed, gesturing at Drian. “What are you doing?”

“Kicking his ass,” laughed the youth. He swung wildly.

“You’re not in control,” groaned Sparr. “Tuck’s right, he could hit you easily. Use the stance I showed you.”

“But he can’t hit me!”

With a nod of his head, Sparr signaled Tuck. The next time Drian launched a wild attack, Tuck dodged it, and landed his own blow on Drian’s knee.

“Ow, fuck!” Drian yelled. “What the hell?”

Sparr raised his hands in a placatory manner. “Lead with defense,” he explained. “A rash opponent will show his weakness. Watch, stay alive, and wait for your moment to strike.”

Tuck, pleased with himself, grinned. Drian was still irritated.

“We don’t have to do this!” Drian complained, rubbing his knee. “We don’t have to train with you.”

“No, you’re right,” Sparr said. “You don’t have to train with me.”

“Yeah,” Drian said. He eyed Sparr warily.

“You don’t,” Sparr repeated. He waved toward where the caravan had stopped for the night. “I think I spotted the lady Affan eyeing you earlier. Warm her bed tonight and I’ll excuse you.”

“Fuck that!” Drian said. “She’s like a thousand years old.”

“What do you think princes do?” Sparr squared himself to Drian. “They sing, they dance, and they entertain. Sometimes they entertain women, sometimes men. Why do you think the temple bought you?”

The color fled from Drian’s face. Behind him, Tuck nodded grimly. “It isn’t like we got to choose who bought us,” the latter said.

“No,” Sparr said, “you didn’t.” Again, his heart went out to anyone caught up in the web of slave trading that infested the planet. “But you can choose what to do about it. Liette will sell you at the earliest opportunity once she realizes you don’t fit her plans. You’ll have no say. When that time comes would you like to know how to fight, or just how to cause trouble?”

The three drilled for another hour.


The days unfolded with a familiar rhythm. Silla and her sole helper, a boy named Grom, woke before the others. As the pilgrims were drawn from their tents by the smells of breakfast, the drivers would begin to break camp. Before mid morning, the caravan would be underway.

Cheddar hung before them, a pale orange ghost almost invisible in daylight, and scantly more so at night. In the several days since Sparr, Efreem, and Silla had seen it rise, it had barely moved. It would be weeks yet before the moon would dip behind them. By then, Sparr hoped, they would already have reached Shong.

The first several days took the pilgrims south, between the two ridges Sparr had seen from space, past the spot where the Urst had captured him. Vegetation was dense, with thick-limbed trees that at some agreed-upon height broke into clusters of wiry branches. These swam with hordes of tiny, dark birds which hopped across the trunk looking for insects. The undergrowth had been cleared from the road, but from time to time, rodent-like creatures with large, haunting eyes could be seen peering at them from under the brush. The nights were a cacophony of hoots, calls, and distant shrieks. Sparr was sure he heard the yelps and howls of the dusk hounds, but none troubled the caravan.

On the morning of the third day the party broke free of the valley to turn east. Here, the terrain gradually softened, with both hills, and level fields in evidence. Many of the hills were planted with vineyards, and for the first time Sparr observed workers there and in the fields.

“Ah, a stretch of land both fertile and treacherous. It makes my heart cry out in joy!” Lord Toph sometimes jumped from his wagon to take some exercise. He fell in alongside Sparr.

“Treachery?” Sparr was puzzled. He had come to appreciate Toph. The man didn’t take himself seriously, and was as fond of a laugh as the others were of tokens.

“Oh yes, yes,” the merchant chuckled. “Remember son, I’m in the secure shipping business. If the entire land was peaceful, I’d be out of work.” He stroked his moustaches, smiling broadly.

“It’s dangerous here? All the way to Shong?”

“Oh, there are more dangerous routes for sure. West, you know. Past the Tooth Hills. I’m obliged to charge twice what I do for a Shong run.”

“So, from here to Shong…” Sparr let the question hang in the air.

“Not risk free,” Toph admitted. “Us pilgrims can sometimes be a target for kidnappers. But, in a caravan of this size we should be okay.” The man’s voice grew quieter. “I do wish we were using my men though, not the Governor’s.”

“I did wonder about that,” Sparr said. “Why does the temple rely upon the Governor for protection?”

“It’s the smart move, when you think about it.” The merchant looked about as if fearing spies. “If something should happen, the blame can be placed upon him. Can you imagine if temple guards let a group of the faithful be kidnapped or slaughtered?”

It wasn’t hard to picture. Donations would dry up. One of the most powerful inducements the temple had, the promise of joining the pilgrimage, would lose its appeal entirely. Men like Toph might still donate tokens for an afternoon with a maiden, but no more than that. Accordingly, the Governor himself would take pains to protect the pilgrims. The symbiosis between the church and the state ran deep.

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