The armoured fists of the guards
forced the slaves down. They were
brought to their knees where they could only drearily watch the auction from
the wings of a large stage.
Khamsin looked out across the stone
floor of the stage to the warped auction block that awaited each of them at the
centre. Curling flows of marble rose in
organic waves to hold the lower regions of a large steel ring. The hoop stood vertical and was large enough
to easily hold any spread-eagled human within its interior. As with all Hrothite engineering, the hoop
flicked out curling thorns of steel and bore meandering veins upon its cruel
surfaces. Not that any part of a slave
would be in contact with these decorations because from four equal points a
small aperture allowed chain to emerge that ended in a sturdy leather
Beside the auction hoop stood a wiry
individual. The man wore a leather vest
and billowing loose trousers tucked into his tall boots. A cloak spilled from his shoulders and the
sheet of silk was fixed to the neck of his dark serpentine mask. The artificial face flung sets of horns back
and bore numerous small fangs upon the sneering lips. His red gleaming eyes regarded the new
arrivals with wicked intent and then he turned to the audience
‘The last of today’s lots have just
arrived!’ he announced boldly. His voice
carried well and it was clear that his skills as an orator were easily able to
defeat the muffling embrace of the Hydra mask.
Arrayed before the stage were numerous
rows of seats and the precise lines were partially filled with a few
Hrothites. The men and women were all
hidden from view by their customary masks and each of these were slightly
stylised to personal taste. The faces
represented the full array of the various Great Houses of the race - Hydra,
Minotaur, Manticore, Chimera, Unicorn, Basilisk, and Griffon. Each lounged in their seats, waiting to see
if any of the few remaining slaves met their fancy.
It was clear that most of those who
had attended the sale had already departed with their purchases. Khamsin was in the dregs of the day where
funds and choice were at their absolute lowest.
The high walls of the auction area
bore draping tapestries. The material
was etched with detailed lines of ornate runic script and several illustrations
of a shadow-cloaked woman of great beauty.
She had a piercing gaze and an array of nightmare fangs that soiled her
The top of the walls had curls of wire
tumbling along it. The steel coils were
embellished with bristling arsenals of barbed needle teeth to dissuade passage
and would grievously lacerate those who tried.
Beyond the perimeter wall could be seen the peaks of the city as it
reared up to thrust jagged spires into the heavens. Khamsin had never seen their equal in height
or craftsmanship. The dark stalagmites
dwarfed even the few remaining skyscratchers left over from the Lost Age. However, where those lingering towers of
glass and steel inspired admiration and melancholy brooding on all that
humanity had lost, these examples were malignant growths that chilled the soul
to witness. Dark banners flapped in the high-altitude
winds and, on pole and precipice, she could see human forms. She would have assumed that they were
carcasses, but the subtlest writhing could be seen in their hopelessly bound
bodies. Hanging like trophies, they
decorated the evil blocks and each building displayed a huge flag at its summit
that flaunted the image of the House mascot.
Beyond the monolithic heights of the
city could be spied the upper reaches of the mountain range that ensconced this
dreadful place of human slavery and rampant perversion.
Khamsin was brought from her
observations when the auctioneer snapped his fingers and beckoned to one of the
guards. The woman beside her whimpered
meekly and gave small pulls of resistance as she was forced over to the hoop.
The manacles and fetters were buckled
tightly to her extremities by the second guard and the mancatcher launched open
its jaws. Without giving her a mere
second to defy their will, the chains growled with life. The apertures in the hollow hoops gobbled up
the steel links at a frightening rate and, with a whiplash snap, the woman was
yanked into the air. Formidably
spread-eagled, her body was stretched taut.
Her muscles rippled as she howled aloud with the stress of the
position. Hauled apart in the air for
easy scrutiny, the woman sobbed and clawed at the unforgiving leather but her
digits were unable to assist her.
A click came from within the stage and
the apparatus began to revolve slowly, turning to offer her physique from every
‘It’s getting late, we’re almost out
of stock, so I’m going to let this little specimen go for the initial sum of
just ten tokens. A bargain, my friends!
Do I hear ten?’ broadcast the man, marching passed her and indicating her
‘No takers? Come on! Ten tokens for a brand-new
human? I can’t believe I’d be insane enough to offer her for such a price and
yet still there are no bids? Can this be true? Come on, ten tokens.’
A few of the crowd shuffled idly and
shook their heads. They were not
interested in the woman.
‘I’ll drop it to five. Any bids for a paltry five tokens? Five
tokens! Why, that’s less than a decent lunch!’ he continued, trying to
galvanize some interest but finding nothing save indifference.
A token. One measly token for a
fresh human straight from the world and in need of training,’ he continued, but
still there were no takers.
‘Very well. Set her aside for Reactor installation,’ he
Two Minotaur guards emerged from the
opposite side of the stage. One of the
men lifted an overlong pistol-like device that had a large muzzle. After twiddling a few of its settings, the
man placed the contraption to the girl’s left shoulder blade. A hiss of osmotic pressure stained her with
dark pigments. She shuddered and
released pained murmurs of reply to its effects before it was taken away.
The image of a lightning bolt and a six-digit
series of letters and numbers were now set upon her and the two guards started
to take her down.
Brought to the rear of the stage,
Khamsin could just make out a cage door in the wall. Fingers were curled around a few of the bars
as the occupants looked meekly out but they made no sound. The reason for the silence of the rejects was
revealed when an egg-shaped black orb was forced into the girl’s mouth. The device gave a click and expanded
outward. It cracked open into four
segments that pressed to her teeth and spread her jaws painfully wide before
locking into position. Unable to
regurgitate the gag, she broke into convulsive fits as a hiss of pressure
emanated from her maw and thick rubber bladders flung themselves to the inside
of her cheeks to puff them out and choke her words with their influence. Defeated by the influence of the gag, the
girl was too busy trying to get used to its horrible muting effects to resist
her escort. She was hurled into the cage
and the door locked behind her.
The auctioneer beckoned again and this
time Khamsin was pulled upright and marched over. The leather bands were clamped to her wrists
and ankles and as soon as the mancatcher released her, the machine snatched at
her with bilious might.
With a jerk of motion, she leapt into
the air and was brought into the centre of the hoop. The chains pulled tighter to make her arms
and legs reverberate with a struggling pressure as she was racked. Clenching her teeth to endure the horrible
suspension, Khamsin started to turn and her body was casually offered for
viewing. She felt embarrassed but also a
little excited at this public display of her form because she had the safety of
knowing for certain that she was to be purchased. Through her sly placement in the dregs, she
was more valuable than all those who had gone before her this day. An eerie pride swelled in her heart.
‘Okay, this one I’ll start with for
five tokens,’ he snapped casually. Her
weary and battered appearance was being coupled with a lacklustre sales pitch
to ensure apathy.
Silence reigned as an answer. Had her prospective owner changed his mind?
Had Morkith failed to turn up?
‘Any offers at all?’ asked the
auctioneer while panning his hidden stare across the assembled.
Khamsin wondered if she was going to
be sentenced to the Reactor. It had to
be some sort of foul fate, the worst of all lots that was in
all likelihood a fatal one.
‘A token,’ half-heartedly declared a
familiar male voice.
Khamsin gave a minor sigh of relief
that she knew would not be detected. Her
back was currently to the audience and her body was turning round
to face them again. Despite the
recognition, she hoped she was not mistaken, and it was an infuriating length
of time until she could finally see for certain who it was who had purchased
‘Come on, sir. How about a serious bid? A token? That’s
hardly a fair price,’ tried to encourage the salesman, switching his charisma
back on to make it appear as though he were genuine in trying to get someone
else to buy her.
‘Take it or leave it. A token.
That’s my only offer unless you want her for the Reactor,’ huffed
He was sitting towards the back with
his arms folded across his chest. A
woman in a rubber leotard stood beside him.
Her face was lost beneath a featureless hood that snaked beneath a tall
steel collar. The metal band held her
wrists and her arms were folded viciously up behind her to make her thrust her
chest forward as she tottered on the absurd heels of her rubber thigh boots. A leash from the front of the collar
connected to Morkith and he held his pet and a short crop with equal
‘Okay, sold to Morkith of House
Chimera, First Neophyte to Lady Xhithris,’ announced the auctioneer and his
words brought forth the two guards.
Her details were set and the weapon
touched her shoulder blade. She braced
for the clear distress this branding would cause and it was not a wasted
effort. A wriggling pressure was forced
into her skin as the flesh was assailed by an internal presence that pushed out
with increasing potency. Khamsin
whimpered and tried to fight her bonds, but stretched as she was she could not
even twitch. The device came away and
left her tattooed with a Chimera silhouette that showed a goat-headed lion with
a rear fanged serpent for a tail and spread its eagle wings from its back. Below the symbol of her ownership was her
code that she managed to spy when she was brought down from the hoop ‘936A26’.
The guards drew her from the stage and
down a set of stairs on the other side.
A short hallway led onto the street beyond where Khamsin was aghast to
see humans being used as the primary means of locomotion. Ponygirls scampered proudly, their tight
encasing uniforms accentuating their forms as they pulled sulkies, gigs, carts,
and other vehicles. Hrothites lay in the
opulent comfort of the eldritch vehicles, the slender wiry construction and
elaborate design making the vehicles seem like giant living skeletal insects
rather than sane modes of transport. The
crack of whips upon bare skin created soft and steady drum rolls on the air as
the humans were steered by their owners.
The sight was as strange as it was magnificent.
A woman sat at a desk was entering
data into a ledger with two Minotaur guards, armed with serrated halberds,
standing to attention beside her. The
opposite wall bore lines of rings and several of them were occupied by
purchased slaves still awaiting collection.
Their bodies were held up and face first to the wall by the automated
collars, thereby allowing their personal data to be easily viewed on their
The guards pushed Khamsin to the wall
and she was clamped into place and left staring at the stone. Without further word the guards marched back
to continue processing the last few specimens on offer and culminating the
day’s sale of human merchandise.
The sound of scribbling was the only
other sound in the hall as her details were taken down and her ownership
Footsteps entered the hall and hands
were upon her once more. They swiftly
steered her anatomy into a new plexus of restraints. Leather bags were tightened onto her
hands. The plain mittens screwed her
hands into fists and then kept them there.
Thick leather bands were buckled to her wrists and just above her
elbows, the foot-long bar between each keeping her limbs parallel and trapped
behind her. Rough movements forced her
feet into knee high boots. The tall
heels made her extremely unsteady as zips were hauled up and then lost beneath
a padlocked band. A hand emerged before
her and forced one of the egg-shaped devices into her mouth. Her lips were parted and then it was shoved
it into place.
The creation replied with its designed
response and immediately broke open and levied its strength against her
jaws. Khamsin tried to stop it, biting
down onto it as hard as she could but it was an ultimately vain effort. The construct spread her jaws steadily and
made her squeak in dismay as she feared it would shatter them with its blind
devotion to creating as great a rictus as humanly possible. The implement stopped, leaving her huffing
through her nostrils, the corners of her maw resonating with mayhem. With a sibilant howl of air
the interior bags started to well and shove into her cheeks, clogging her maw
with dense rubber pillows. Her cheeks
started to ache as they were stretched and her eyes watered as she snorted
through her nose, trying to come to terms with the anguish of this most cruel
Khamsin’s tongue had been squashed
into the base of her mouth and her face was burning from the distortion. She
felt the collar open and it was quickly replaced by another version.
The leather posture collar applied
sharp leather serrates into her jaw line and these forced her to attention lest
she lean onto the painful spires. The
collar was buckled into place and a pair of leashes was applied to her nipple
A soft tug turned her around. The inside of her teats tingled with stress
as the metal pulled at the tender tunnels.
Morkith stood before her, holding her
reigns in one hand and his crop in the other.
He reached up with the tip of the weapon and stroked her distended
cheeks. The smooth leather traced the
suffering swollen skin and a victorious chuckle tickled his throat before he
turned to lead her out.
‘Come on, slave,’ he uttered.