Once the slaver was gone, I closed my eyes and returned to the position she had shown me. I whimpered and rocked from one leg to the other, shifting my weight to try to relieve my the ache in my knees from being on them constantly. My shoulders had started to burn from the constant pull on them, and my wrists hurt from the rubbing of the manacles as I moved. I bit my lip and took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. The beating hurt more than this did, but it was over quickly; I had no idea when this would end, or how much worse the aches would get. I also had a feeling that nobody was going to help me recover this time.
That thought caught my breath in my throat. This had seemed like the simplest solution, back before I started it. Less than half an hour into the servitude, and I was starting to understand just how hard it was going to be. I wanted to run, to beg release, to ask for help, but no-one who would listen to me. I wasn’t a person; I was property, and unowned at that. My stomach knotted as reality sank home. I really was just a slave now. There was no turning back from this point. I was trapped… no, I had trapped myself. Whatever fate I suffered, it was my own fault.
The first sob broke out of me unbidden, the second and third following rapidly. With my paws trapped behind my back, I could only try to wipe my muzzle on my shoulder, quickly slicking my fur with tears and mucus. I had no family now, and no home. I didn’t even have a name, unless my new owner gave me one. I still breathed, but for all it mattered to anyone, I might as well be dead. The urge to run flooded me, but suddenly I turned and bit down my shoulder, grinding my teeth into the bone until I cried out into pain into my own flesh.
Stop it, I yelled at myself in my own head. If you hurt your sale price because of this outburst, you hurt your family’s chances. You have to restrain yourself, S… top thinking that way. Control yourself. You did this for your family; you can do the rest for them, too. I forced down a ragged breath and coughed, then righted myself. I couldn’t put my paws on my knees as I’d been taught, but I could do my best to imitate it. I straightened my back and spread my legs, exposing my sheath. I kept my gaze down and my ears demurely back against my head. I had endured this much. I would take whatever pain was given to me, if it would keep my family safe.
As the morning passed into day, the auction house grew steadily warmer. The layer of hay kept me from the worst of the chill of the hard-packed ground, and the air inside the increasingly crowded building was mostly still. A steady stream of people walked past my stall, looking down at me, perhaps studying my paperwork, then continued down the row, to listen to the vole beg for freedom around her gag. She was certainly the more entertaining show, but I was certainly the better-trained. I could only hope someone would consider that important.
Some time early after noon, a pair of women that had come past in the morning returned to lean against the stall. The taller of the two, an older, heavy-set lynx in a dark green blouse, looked down at me. “This is the one, is it, then?”
The other, an amply-endowed rabbit in white with a crocus blossom tucked against one ear, nodded and gestured across the wall at me. “He’s the cutest of the lot, his chart says he sings, and he’s likely the youngest what hasn’t seen circumstances.”
The lynx crossed her arms under her chest and leaned over the wall. “Up, boy, and come here. I’ll have a feel.”
I drew in sharp breath. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but my master says I’m—”
She cut me off with a snap of her claws. “I didn’t ask you, boy. I know what you got told; they all say the same. I’ll check your fur against the rating, not make off with you. Now up with you, and stand here.”
Her companion giggled as I hesitantly stood. “Oh, he is a slight one, isn’t he?” Heat flushed my face as she aimed a finger at my sheath, and my shaft poked free, making her laugh even louder, which only spread the full-body blush and made me that much harder. “What, is that all?” She smirked. “He’d barely rate a good-morning, much less a thank-you-an’-good-night.”
“Ease off, Fila,” the lynx snapped, making the other woman flinch and withdraw her paw. “Tease the boy, don’t torment him.” She turned back to me with a smile. “Now, stand here, boy, and let me pet you a moment.”
I whimpered as I approached the gate, at once flustered by but grateful for the attention. The lynx’s claws and fingers were light, quick, and delicate; she was obviously skilled with her paws, though she had none of the callouses that suggested craftsman skills. She was clearly healthy, the weave of her blouse was quite thick, and up close I could pick up a faint scent of apple blossoms in her fur. She hmphed. “All right, it’s not a lie. That’s easily a fine, if not higher. Fila?”
The rabbit took a turn brushing her paw down my shoulder and over the back of my head. “Oh, easy, Miss Aida.” she said with a nod. “If not very.” She giggled. “Shame about the rest of him; he’d be fun to feel down there.” My fierce blushing only made her laugh louder. “Oh, an’ he’s still so tender!”
“Maybe more,” the lynx replied, rubbing a finger against the crusted patch of fur on my shoulder. “What’s this?”
I ducked my head. “I… cried, ma’am. Earlier.”
Miss Aida nodded in response to that. “Tell me, boy, are you in there honest?” She thumbed over at the next stall. “We put in the question on Betorik; he’s walked the line too fine for too long.”
I drew in a breath, then let it out and nodded. “This was my choice.”
Miss Aida folded her arms across her chest and hmphed again. “So you were right, Fila. Two silver, once we finish here. This is the one, then?” Fila nodded, and the lynx smiled. “Done and done. Wait here; I’ll place a bid. Get him talking.” Then she walked towards the entrance and the block of tables.
The older woman gone, Fila tucked her arms under her chest and leaned on the railing, her breasts straining against her white top. “So, boy, look up. Do you see anything you like?”
I did as ordered, the heat in my cheeks burning. “Yes, ma’am.” My shaft twitched, straining in my sheath.
Fila’s eyes dropped to my groin, then rose again. She licked her lips, her expression falling into a predatory grin. “What if I told you to have a taste, boy?” She cupped her fingers under her breasts and lifted, moaning softly as she caressed herself through her tight blouse. Her nipples stood out against the fabric, large and hard. “No harm in a quick nip, is there?”
“I—” I stammered as I backed away from the stall. “My master told me to refuse an order I couldn’t perform, and to shout if it’s repeated.”
“Oh, I bet Miss Aida’ll be your master soon, though,” the other rabbit teased, bobbing her breasts in her paws, her breath low and sensuous. “What’ll you do if she orders it?”
I bit my lip and squinted my eyes. “I do as I’m told by my master, ma’am, but for now I can’t.”
Suddenly, she laughed and stopped, resting against the low wall. “Oh, stop. I’m having you on. It’s all just a tease.” She smiled broadly, showing teeth. “I’m Fila.”
I nodded. “I heard, ma’am.”
Fila’s ears bobbed forward. “You’re a quick one. What’s your name?”
I held still for a moment, biting down my first response. “Lot 1150, ma’am.”
She rolled her eyes. “I meant before. You weren’t always a slave, were you?”
I shook my head again. “No, ma’am, but who I was before I was a slave doesn’t matter now.”
“Oh, stop,” Fila said again, rolling her eyes. “Here you go taking it all like some great tragedy.” Her expression suddenly turned serious. “You’ll always have been who you were. No point in throwing it away just because that isn’t who you get to be for now. So, before you were Lot Eleventy-Tween or whatever, what was your name?”
I bit my lip, my breath caught once more in my throat. “It was….” I hesitated, then in a tiny voice, said, “Stannis, ma’am.”
She nodded at that, beaming. “See? That was easy. Miss Aida says a bit of entertainment around the main room will help people pass the time while they wait, an’ the other girls and I, well….” She giggled. “Let’s say it’ll be nice to have someone under us for a change.”
I tilted my head to the side. “Ma’am?”
She waved a paw dismissively. “Never mind, never mind. Miss Aida’ll—Oh!” She turned, hastily curtsying to the older lynx as she returned, then glanced past to the guard walking behind her. “What’s news?”
Miss Aida thumbed to the guard. “Twice what the last person offered, and over the reserves. They said we can claim him now if we like, and I’d rather. I’ll have supper in my own hall tonight, and getting through the city gate after nightfall is a bother.” She motioned to the stall. “Let him out.”
The guard nodded and unlocked my stall, then held out a sheaf of parchment to Miss Aida. “Sign, and again. Proof that you’ve claimed him. Will you need a lead or restraints?”
The lynx looked at me, her eyes narrow. “Will I?”
I bowed my head, blushing hard. “No, master.”
Miss Aida hmphed again. “Don’t make me regret this, boy. Take his irons.” The guard nodded, then moved behind me and unlocked my restraints. As soon as my wrists were free, I rubbed at them to try to ease the itch. The lynx’s paws went to my throat, replacing the previous collar with a new one, with some kind of tag hanging from my neck. “My establishment’s sigil,” she said when I went to run my fingers over it. “You’ll see it later in detail. For now, follow me. Fila, keep an eye on him. We’ll want an early night tonight; I want him on duty come daybreak.”