Where Princes Kneel
The soft glow of oil fire filtered out through the lamp, and shadows lapped at each other all over the floor. The air was stale and papery, ventilated only by a thin, vertical slit of a window. Through it, I saw a narrow column of the evening sky. Ahead of me lay my bed, which was shaded by a frilly cloth and draped in layer upon layer of rich, silky fabric. Beneath it was a hugely fluffy red rug that reached almost to the edges of the room. All I could hear was the understated scratch of my feather pen on paper. I hunched over my desk, casting shadows on the polished oak wood to my right.
As I practiced my penmanship, my hand twitched across the expensive paper almost on its own. My mind was elsewhere.
Behind me, there was a knock on my ponderously heavy wooden door, shattering the silence.
“Come in,” I said stiffly.
The hinges grumbled as the door swung open.
“Prince?” said a voice.
I turned around and recognized the servant behind me. This was Júlio, my parents’ personal messenger. They used him to communicate with me so they could spend more time with their precious oldest son, Crístobal the XII.
“Hey there, Júlio,” I greeted. “Any news?”
“Yes, prince, I-”
“Please, it’s just ‘Emilio.'”
“Er… as you wish. Emilio, I have a message from your parents. They say you are to attend your brother’s banquet at Port Muíxa.”
“Ugh…” I groaned. “Do I really have to be there?”
“I… that’s what your parents have ordered.”
“No, Júlio, that’s not what I meant. I meant… how adamant were my parents? When they asked you, did they sound… dismissive?”
“Let’s use that. Tell them I’m very busy, and we’ll need a lengthy discourse to sort out my schedule.”
“In those exact words?”
“Yes. I know those two; they’ll never do it. They give me money, power, and freedom, but the one thing they would never spare for me is time. As soon as they think that getting my attendance will be inconvenient, they’ll drop the subject.”
“I’m not sure about that…”
“Don’t worry, Júlio. They won’t know it’s a lie, and, if they do, they won’t blame you.”
Júlio hesitated for a moment, seeing my reasoning, then bowed and slipped away. A moment later, the mighty door boomed shut.
Having been thusly spared another waste of time, I smiled and set back to my practice. My hand skittered across the paper once more.
An hour passed in peace.
Then, all at once, my door swung open, hinges complaining under the speed and weight.
“Boy,” said a female voice. “Get on your knees.”
I turned around. My maid, Nora, stood imperiously in the doorway. Her short, tight black dress accented her smooth, bare arms, which folded authoritatively. Above her slick boots and beneath her sharply flared-out skirt, there was nothing covering her strong, shapely legs.
“Oh…” I sighed, “hello, Nora. I’m… I’m not sure I have it in me do this today.”
Nora cocked her head disapprovingly to one side, then strode into the room and, with one arm, heaved the door shut behind her.
“Boy,” she said, “That’s not your choice to make. I want you on your knees.”
Nora was right. She and I had an unusual deal. One night, after discovering that I had a kink for female domination, she approached me in my bedroom and made me an offer she knew I wouldn’t refuse. Every night, after sundown, I would cease to be her prince, and she would cease to be my maid. After sundown, she was my mistress, and I was her slut boy, to be used and treated however she saw fit.
“You’re right,” I said. “As you wish.”
Setting down my pen, I stood purposefully up, then turned around and knelt carefully, placing my hands on my knees.
“Spread your legs farther,” she ordered.
Without a word, I slid my left knee a few inches out, then my right.
Smirking, she knelt in front of me, holding her eyes a few inches above mine. With her left hand, she grabbed my chin, then ran her hand up and down my jaw. As she stroked my blushing cheeks, I discovered that her body was even hotter than mine.
Her firm fingers effortlessly tilted up my head, and I gazed straight into her rock-solid eyes, which gushed sweetness and desire.
Nora knew full well how lucky she was; I was a treasure desired by women all over the kingdom, and here I was kneeling for her.
Her hand shifted to the back of my head, and I put up no resistance as she pushed me onto her lips. All on their own, my arms wrapped around her as she sucked lovingly on my tongue. Then I felt her hand brush between my legs, and I froze.
She would not let me go. Her vice-like arm held my head where it was, and her right-hand dove beneath my belt, where her smooth skin contacted my soft, hot organ. Her fingers walked down my masculinity and closed gently around my balls, and I shuddered and moaned into her mouth. Her fingers opened and contracted, kneading my fragile testicles with feminine precision. As they did, she released my mouth, and I gasped in time with her stroking.
She licked her lips, smiling, then leaned into my ear and whispered, “Good boy.”
I purred incoherently.
Her hand traveled to my hardening cock and wrapped smoothly around it, her fingers feeling every throb that surged through it.
“Mmm…” she whispered. “It feels nice. It feels eager. You’re eager for me, aren’t you? Don’t you want me to push you over and take you?”
“Oh, yes,” I panted.
“Maybe just one more day, and I will. Until then…”
She stood and hitched up her skirt.
“Pleasure me. Now.”
For one moment, I stopped, waiting for her to step closer, then realized what she wanted me to do. Leaning forward, I scooted across the carpet.
Once I was close enough, her hands darted around my head and grabbed me by the back of the collar, then hoisted me in as her skirt fell behind me.
I felt moisture everywhere. I brought up my face, and my wet lips touched hers, tracing a warm ring around her hungry slit.
Her hand beat against my shoulder.
“Lick me!” she snarled.
Without a second’s hesitation, I stuck my tongue out, forcing it through her smooth, sensitive walls. I paused a moment as her whole body shuddered, then flicked my tongue up and back, sliding smoothly against her.
“Yeah,” she hissed, “more, more…”
Placing a hand on her stomach, I slid my tongue across her sex in diagonal motions, feeling it quiver with each stroke, then pushed as deep into her as it would go. With a flick of my tongue, I tickled her clitoris, then traced a circle around it.
Nora was seething and swollen. Her fingers clutched fistfuls of my suit, and, even from under her skirt, I could tell that her teeth were gnashing.
Bringing my mouth up, I wrapped my lips around her clitoris and sucked once. Immediately, I felt her muscles tighten in a wave of tension shoot up her body. Then I sucked again. Then again. With each pull on her femininity, energy shot through her, and her hands tightened around my shoulders.
Now she was pressing me so far into her that I couldn’t breathe. I sucked frantically, then pressed my tongue onto her clit and traced around its base one more time.
At last, her body contracted, then flashed with heat as juice exploded from her sex, soaking my face. Her fingers tightened and loosened around me as she heaved long, heavy breaths. Her arms stopped pushing, and I finally separated from her body, then pulled out from under her skirt.
If I needed any more indication that I had done well, her face had it. Her cheeks blushed furiously, and sweat rolled down from her hair. She smiled exhaustedly and licked her lips.
“Good boy,” she huffed. “Very good boy. That’s all. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“What?” I gasped. “Wait!”
Her brow creased.
“You said you’d give me my underwear back!” I whined. “Don’t you remember?”
“Hm… yes. Yes, I guess I did. No, wait; I didn’t say I’d give them to you. I said I’d let you see them. So, then…”
She drew my underwear from a pocket and held it out.
“Got a good look?” she jeered. “Tomorrow, if you’re a good bitch, I’ll let you wear them for another day. Got it?”
I bowed my head, dreading the prospect of going another day with my masculinity chafing against my clothes. But I knew it was not my choice.
“Yes, mistress,” I mewled.
“Good boy. See you tomorrow.”
With a flirtatious sway of her hips, she walked away. At the door, she turned and blew me a kiss, then grabbed the mighty wooden slab and dragged it shut behind her.
Just like that, I was alone again. My cock throbbed for more attention, and my brain sizzled from Nora’s domination. I picked up my pen and found that I could no longer focus. I got up, opened my door and slipped out of the room.
In the castle courtyard, I got down on my back and stared up at the peaceful sky.
Before I knew it, I was asleep.
The next morning, I felt a hand on my shoulder, followed by a timid male voice. I felt sunshine on my skin, then, a moment later, opened my eyes.
A figure above me scampered back a few feet. Sitting up, I blinked, adjusting to the sunlight, then finally recognized the figure ahead.
“Good morning, Júlio,” I greeted. “No one saw me like this, did they?”
“I… I’m not sure, my prince, I didn’t… I’m not sure. But I have something to tell you. It’s your parents.”
“Isn’t it always? Fine, let’s hear it.”
“No, my prince, you don’t understand- they’re here.”
I sat bolt upright.
“Here?!” I repeated. “In person?”
“Yes, my prince.”
In an instant, I was on my feet, eager to see what they had in store for me. I could not tell whether I was motivated by hope or morbid curiosity, but I could not wait to find out.
“This way, my prince,” said Júlio, reading my mind.
Like a squirrel, I dashed out of the courtyard, then up a spiral staircase. When I started towards the throne room, I felt a tug on my shoulder. Looking back, I saw Júlio demurely shaking his head. Instead, he led me down to the opposite wing of the building, to my room.
As we approached my door, which stood stolidly shut as always, sweat rolled down my forehead. I felt like I was entering a cave without a torch.
“Why here?” I whispered.
Júlio could only shrug.
Intrepidly, I pushed open the door, then stepped in, looking as confident as I could manage. There, my parents stood side by side, decked out in all of their gaudy regal fopperies. My father looked to be putting on the same charade of courage as I was, and my mother, as always, was little more than a prop.
We stared at each other for a moment, deathly silent. Then my father cleared his throat.
“Son,” he began, “I’m sure you remember a promise I made to you two years ago- that I would give you at least three months’ warning before I married you off. Well, I’m afraid that’s a promise I’ve had to break.”
My jaw dropped. I was amazed, not because my father had gone back on his promise, but because he was talking to me as a person and not an object. He never talked to me this way.
“We had received a wonderfully generous offer,” he continued. “And we settled the deal yesterday. In exactly three weeks, you are to be officially married off to Princess Eleode of Hayguía.”
I froze. Hayguía was a matriarchal nation, where women held power and men served them.
My father continued talking, but I no longer listened to him. I knew I should have been furious with him for breaking his promise, but I was distracted by my future. To be reduced to a plaything… to be owned by a female… it was all just too exciting.
“Now,” he continued, “I can see that you’re shocked. I understand that, but I need you to-”
“How should I dress?”
“I need to know everything, Dad. Everything about Hayguía. Dress, customs, etiquette… do we have anything in the library?”
My parents both stared incredulously at me until Júlio stepped in and quipped, “I believe so, your majesty.”
With that, I was off, sprinting downstairs to the royal library. If serving women was going to be my life, I was going to do my absolute best; it was time for some research.
In the library, I pulled down the first few books I could find on foreign customs. Within the minute, I was buried in the first one, reading about the history of Hayguía. I read that they had been a matriarchy from their very beginning and that their fighting women had served with distinction all over the world. I read that their early adoption of gunpowder had won them an unbreakable border defense on their homeland and that their fast, beautiful battleships had won them a global empire. I read about their advancements in science, curing diseases all across the world. I read that Hayguían medics were some of the most highly sought-after in civilization.
Then, I read about men’s lot in that nation. I read about the husbands and brothers of famous and powerful women. I read that a man’s wardrobe is chosen by his sister until he marries, then by his wife. I read that his job is to provide for his wife and her family. A proper Hayguían male is always at women’s service in any capacity he is capable of.
When I read that, my mind immediately drifted to salacious matters. Sure enough, on the next page, there was a replication of a famous Hayguían painting of a warlord surrounded by her concubines. The caption told me that the symbols present were meant to identify her as evil and that this painting was a condemnation of savage warfare. But all I could see was the woman’s dominance. If the real women of Hayguía were anywhere near this strong, I would be plenty happy there.
For the rest of that day, I read about Hayguía, learning new details about my submissive life there. When I next saw one of my servants, I demanded more books on the subject, and, just like that, I found my room piled high with books a mere few days later. To my delight, most of them had come from Hayguían presses.
A few more days passed, and a servant humbly informed me that this was my last full day in my own kingdom. That night, Nora kissed me goodbye and released me from her jurisdiction as mistress. Once again, she was a simple maid, and I was a simple prince.
The next morning, at the port, my heart leapt as I noticed a grandly adorned Hayguían ship sitting aloof by the dock.
The hollow clop of my carriage rattling over the cobblestones came to a gentle halt. The exact minute it came to a stop, I leapt down. Grabbing my one portmanteau, I made for the boarding ramp in a brisk walk.
Ahead of me sat the graceful, almost intimidating form of the H.M.S. Elsa IV, from whom two massive smokestacks rose like monstrously thick flagpoles. A paddlewheel hung on the side, yawning almost two stories above the water. Incredibly, the whole wheel seemed to be made of one piece.
Taking a deep breath, I straightened up my posture and adjusted my new red and white silk-trimmed collar around my neck. For the hundredth time, I pivoted it so that my collar ring faced forward.
I strode up the gangplank alone, with no fanfare and no servants. In Fulzore, such humble travel was unbecoming of a prince- obscene, even. But, if my research had taught me anything, it was that Hayguíans like their men to be unpretentious. Of course it depended on the woman, but, if I were to make a good impression on my future lady and mistress, I wanted to start by acting of the land.
At the top, a heavily built woman stood, completely blocking me. Her arms were folded, and her face broadcasted gruff but sincere approval.
“Prince Emilio, I take it?” she asked.
As I prepared my answer, it struck me that this woman might be the captain of her ship. Were that the case, it would be proper to call her ‘captain.’ But if she were any other crewwoman, it would be a major gaffe. I decided to play it safe.
“Yes, ma’am,” I tried.
“Good,” she returned. “But it’s ‘captain,’ not ma’am. Around here you call a woman by the highest rank she holds.”
Wordlessly, I kicked myself. This was my first conversation with a Hayguían, and already I looked like I had not done my research.
Taking another deep breath, I tried to calm myself. If there was one thing a Hayguían disliked, it was a man with no patience.
The captain turned and started walking. With a smart, quiet stride, I followed her down across the immaculately clean deck. As I did, I saw the eyes of the entire crew on me. These women were ragged and salty, but they weren’t dirty. Even as their eyes devoured my slender, well-trained form, I felt safe. I gave them a flirtatious wink and continued on my way.
“I can escort you below decks if you would like,” the captain offered. “But I reckon you’ll want to be here to see this.”
“To see us push off.”
Turning, she barked an order to her crew. In an instant, women were scuttling all over the ship. Chains clanked and groaned, ropes twisted and smoke billowed from the stacks. Then, finally, we began to move. Leaning on the railing, I watched as the Fulzoran port scrolled by beside us. Then, as we turned, it started to shrink into the distance.
The days flew by. I spent most of my time perched on the starboard railing, watching as civilization panned by. Occasionally, a woman would make small talk with me, and I returned it in kind. Throughout the entire voyage, no one acknowledged that I was a prince, nor did they order me to do anything. They treated me with the sort of casual comfort with which the treated one another.
On the fourth day, we arrived at Hayguía. The port was a magnificent spectacle, with clean stone walls rising behind a massive pair of metal peninsulas, women in dark blue uniforms scuttling about while a tinny voice yelled orders to them.
A heavy hand came gently down on my shoulder, and I saw a crewwoman standing next to me.
“Look over there,” she said, pointing ahead. “Ever seen a tugboat before?”
I looked around for a moment, then, when it finally occurred to me to look down, my reaction spoke for itself. A tiny little ship guided the Elsa IV into harbor, puffing heavily as it did.
“Neat, isn’t it?” said the sailor. “Maybe you’ll get a closer look when we’re on the ground.”
I continued to watch, spellbound, as the ship pulled into the port and lowered its heavy gangplank, which clanged loudly on the metal.
“Okay,” I told myself, “here goes.”
Gathering my things, I stood up straight at the top of the dizzyingly long gangplank and made my way down, trying to look dignified without looking powerful.
At the bottom, I saw a line of at least a dozen women, most of them standing at attention, all highly decorated. The ones on the outside wore crush caps or tricorn hats, and had medals and war patches studded all over their uniforms, while others stood with no such marks of high merit, looking defiantly confident all the same.
In the center, I saw a young woman, perhaps thirty years old, standing with her feet together and her arms folded smartly behind her back. Her dark brown hair hung behind her in a nicely curved ponytail, and her sharp, gently rounded cheekbones framed a pair of full lips, which rested in a pursed frown. Her green eyes peered at me with guarded curiosity, and her sharp, evenly curved eyebrows rose with interest.
A fancy, frilled sash hung like a bandolier across her chest, in stark contrast to her cobalt dress shirt, which was adorned by brass buttons on her collar and down the middle. A short skirt accented thick black tights and a pair of immaculately shined leather boots.
I stood for a moment, frozen by her commanding beauty; whether she knew it or not, she embodied the Hayguían feminine ideal, being at once powerful and nonthreatening.
“Princess Eleode, I presume?” I said.
“Prince Emilio,” she returned, in a voice that echoed with female power, “It is a pleasure.”
There was an awkward pause, then I remembered what I was supposed to do. Walking up to her, I gently got down on one knee, then both. I squared my knees at shoulder-width and looked up to Eleode. I had to restrain a smile as her leash clipped onto my collar with a little metallic snap.
“Good,” she mumbled. “Come with me. We have much to discuss.”
Perking up, I followed her as she turned on her heels and made her way inland, then stopped at the stone wall. There, a servant opened a heavy metal door, revealing a roomy, smooth-bore tunnel lit by gas lamps.
Eleode entered, but her entourage stayed, and, for a moment, so did I. But when I saw the leash going tighter, I hurried after her.
“This is amazing…” I said to the princess. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“It’s an old war tunnel,” said Eleode. “Designed to resist artillery. If this seems like an atypical reception, it is because I am avoiding the ceremony. I was supposed to lead you up the main road to the front of the castle, but I am in no mood for fanfare. I wouldn’t be, even if I felt safe being outside these days.”
“Safe? How do you mean? You’re a princess.”
“I’d rather not dwell on that.”
“Okay… so what will we do at your palace?”
“The wedding ceremony is in five days. We have until then to get to know one another. I, for one, prefer to do so over activities, and there is no shortage of those at the palace, as I’ve made sure.”
“That’s sounds wonderful!”
A hint of a smile creased her sullen lips.
“I’m glad you think so,” she mumbled.
In silence, we proceeded through the tunnel, climbing the occasional flight of steep concrete stairs, until, at last, we reached an enormous gilded door. Bracing herself against the wall, Eleode slowly coaxed the gigantic slab open.
On the other side, a magnificent cavern of a room yawned open in front of me, gleaming with gold on every edge and draped with fine cloths. Hardly an inch of wall was left bare of some decoration, and the same could be said of the floor; a mosaic portrait shared space with a luxurious tasseled rug and a bed that could sleep a dozen.
I gaped at this panorama of affluence, speechless, until Eleode began indifferently through it. Before the leash could go taut, I followed her to an arch at the other side of the room. Joining her, I stopped again, finding myself on a high balcony that overlooked the ocean. For a few moments, I watched as it crashed against the mossy rocks and showered the lush grass on the shore.
Eleode sat down on one of the two woven chairs on the balcony and motioned to the other, saying, “Have a seat.”
I did so, and she set down my leash.
“Tell me,” said Eleode, “what do you know about Haygía? About your role here?”
“I know that it’s a prosperous empire,” I quickly replied. “And that its scientific achievements are enjoyed all over the world.”
“And for men?”
“A man’s lot is to serve all women, but especially the woman who takes him as a husband.”
My brow jumped.
“You are close, but that’s not entirely accurate. A man’s lot is not to serve. It is to submit. There’s an old saying in this country: ‘Keep your man happy, and he’ll keep you happy.’
“Then… what do I do?”
“What do you do? Well, us being royals, you do the same thing I do- essentially nothing. But, more generally, a Hayguían’s male is there to be her support. Of course, he helps her occasionally, but it’s more important that he be there for her. He should be her shoulder to cry on. He should be her adviser when she can’t find her way. He should be her lover when she craves intimacy.”
Eleode stood up and leaned over the railing, sighing as her head lolled dispiritedly.
“I promise you,” she said, “I need all of those things.”
This was my cue.
“Princess?” I asked, getting up. “What’s wrong? Something is clearly troubling you.”
“Please,” she said, “just call me Eleode.”
“But… are you alright?”
“No, but a proper royal doesn’t feel.”
“No one can hear us here. It you want to open up now, we can pretend this conversation didn’t happen.”
Eleode sighed again and sank back into her chair.
“Fine,” she said. “This country isn’t safe for me. Everyone denies it, but there is discontent in the streets. I know because I have been there. Five times, I have disguised myself as a peasant and mingled with the commoners, and none of them have any love for their queen or their princess. The high council practically runs the nation, and they all know it. They realize that, by now, the crown’s only purpose is to leech money from the peasantry.”
“I… I never realized anyone felt that way.”
“I do. And they know it too. This kingdom did not get to where it is now by being complacent; the peasants will demand change. They’ll tear us down.”
“What happens then?”
“I don’t know, Emilio. I just don’t know.”
For twelve long seconds, she continued to stare despondently out over the ocean. Then she turned to me and stood up. A tear dripped from her eye, but I could see her lips struggling to smile. She snapped her fingers once, and I got to my feet.
Without warning, she curled her arms around my torso and pulled me in, pressing her lips into a kiss. For just one moment, I hesitated, then reciprocated, gently pulling her into me while letting her warm, eager tongue explore my mouth.
She pulled away, and I opened my eyes, then our lips locked again. I brought up my tongue experimentally and danced with hers. Then we separated.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “I just… I just needed to get that off my chest. I can’t trust any of my servants, and my mother denies everything. You’re all I have to talk to.”
“What about your father?”
“He’s been dead for three years.”
“You poor thing…”
“I don’t know if you know this, Emilio, but I am very, very glad I have you.”
“I’m glad to be here,” I returned. “And if there is anything else I can do to help you, please, let me know.”
Eleode stood up and smiled a smile that could have melted the heart of Olga the Invincible.
“I won’t hesitate,” she promised.
She took up my leash, then turned and headed back to her bed. I followed, feeling fifty pounds lighter.
At her bed, Eleode set down the end of my leash as though it were made of glass, then made for the door.
“I have some business to attend to,” she said, her voice growing cold. “I’m afraid I’ll be gone for several hours. You’ll have to entertain yourself for the time being. Stay in this room. If you meet the staff, they wouldn’t try to harm you, but… I still worry.”
“Oh,” she added, “one other thing: when I return, be ready to make love.”
I grinned lasciviously and intoned, “As you wish, princess.”
“I look forward to it.”
Her door creaked open, then shut with a noise like a judge’s gavel. All at once, I was alone.
I couldn’t help myself; I collapsed back on her bed, overcome with euphoria. This was it; this was what I had wanted. I was in the hands of a smart and compassionate woman. I had no power, nor did I want any. All I wanted was to love and be loved.
I lay there for at least half of an hour, then, at last, I sat up.
Spotting a bookshelf on the far wall, I slid quickly off the bed and skittered up to it, leash whispering over the soft carpet behind me.
On the top shelf, the books seemed to be primarily historical, with some tomes of economics as well.
On the next shelf down, things got more interesting. Mysteries of Men and The Happy Marriage showed themselves prominently, followed by The Nature of Female Affairs, then The Man’s Life and finally Applied Male Anatomy.
Now Eleode was tipping her hand. With a sidelong glance, I pulled one of the latter books down from its place and threw myself onto the bed, then cracked it open and started reading.
The time rushed by. As I read further and further into Hayguía’s fascinatingly accurate take on male and female psyche, I heard the creaking of a hinge.
“Emilio?” said a quiet voice. “Are you here?”
I sat up, pleasant surprise written across my face.
Eleode pushed the door all the way open, and, when I saw her, my face fell. Her eyes were wide and hollow, but her brow was creased low over them. Her pretty lips were knitted shut, and her chest heaved with fast, shallow breaths.
“Eleode?” I gasped. “What happened to you?”
“Oh… I’d rather not talk about it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Please, I’ve been wanting this all day.”
With that, she climbed onto the bed after me and straddled my lap.
Immediately, I could feel her tension. Her fingers felt like ice picks as they weaved their way beneath my shirt, thawing as they touched my smooth, warm skin. Her legs trembled, at first with cold, then with heat as she inched closer and closer to me, then pushed me onto my back.
Now she was over me. I could see the trouble on her face melt slowly away as her hands traveled up and down my chest, two five-pointed circles of heat on my warm flesh. Her fingers traced the grooves of my muscles, then, finally, trended down to my pants.
With deliberate slowness, she lifted away one layer, then the other. With the last bit of cloth gone, she sidled down on my body and brought her face up close to my treasure, then gave it a gentle squeeze between her thumb and forefinger.
I heard a little whoop of approval, then her hands set to work. Her gentle fingers pressed together up and down the shaft, massaging my nerves and drawing my masculinity to full strength. At the same time, I could feel her other hand probing my testicles, cupping them, then gently bouncing them up and down.
“Do you feel that?” she cooed. “It feels good, doesn’t it?”
I could only moan incoherently.
Her fingers tested my stiffness again, then batted around my cock gently.
“Ooh,” she moaned. “It does… I’ve never seen one like this before.”
She crawled up me again, and her lips came within an inch of my ear. Her hot breath rolled across the side of my head.
“Now,” she whispered, her voice husky with desire, “keep it that way.”
Eleode shifted her weight and brought herself up, then down onto me. Immediately, I felt her tightness and her pent-up energy shoot through my body. Her knees tightened around my hips like jaws, and she squealed with animal force.
I closed my eyes. All I could feel was Eleode. I felt her sex, working over mine with savage speed, and I felt her hands clamp down around my shoulders. Then her lips came down on mine, smothering me in a kiss, muffling us as we moaned into each other’s mouths.
I could have sworn I heard her heart thumping.
Then, suddenly, her lips pulled away and she gave a panicked little stutter. Her hands released from mine and she punched the air above me. Her squealing grew erratic and she gritted her teeth and closed her eyes.
All at once, her sex tightened, and I lost control. My balls contracted, my foreskin stretched back and my entire body went rigid as I emptied in one wave, then a second, then a third.
Eleode fell limply over me. Her breathing was fast and heavy, and her hands rested weakly on my chest. I barely managed to breathe underneath her.
Before I opened my eyes, I felt her lips on mine. Her kiss was shallow, sloppy and uneven, and I did nothing to reciprocate. A few moments later, she stopped trying to kiss, and I felt her tongue brushing over my cheeks, then my eyes.
“That’s good,” she huffed. “That was so good.”
“Thank you, Eleode.”
“You stay right here. I’ll be back for more.”
With that, she dismounted me, grinding against me as she did. Then, with a hip-swaying sashay, she exited the room.
Twenty second passed in silence. I sighed, feeling the heat radiate from me as sensation gradually returned to each of my limbs. That woman had made a mess of me. And I couldn’t wait to see what she would do with me next.
Then I heard a thumping noise. At first, I made nothing of it, then curiosity prevailed, and I sat up.
A few seconds later, there was another thumping noise, closer this time, and the door swung open. In charged a mass of three women, all wrestling violently. To my horror, Eleode was in the middle of them.
The other two were lean, rugged ones, clawing at Eleode with furious aggression.
The fighters all fell onto the carpet, scuffling like animals. Eleode already had her hands pinned behind her back, tied there with a hastily applied bond, but she had not given up. On her reddened face, I could see anger, fear and desperation; everything except confidence.
I watched, terrified, as the two rough women brought down Eleode. One of them- the bigger one- knelt over her legs and planted her palms on the princess’ breasts, causing her to yelp, while the other forced open her mouth down and stuffed in wad of cloth. Next came a scarf-like strip that went around her mouth, covering the lower half of her face.
Then the smaller ruffian pulled a knife.
“Now,” she sneered, “you keep nice and quiet, or I’ll slit you right here. Understand?”
Nothing. The smaller thug nodded to the bigger one, who gave Eleode a sharp strike on the cheek.
Eleode shrieked for just one moment, then nodded fearfully.
The big thug released her grip on Eleode, and the small one hoisted the princess over her shoulder.
“Well done, Fara,” she said. “Now let’s leave here before anyone…”
She spotted me and froze. Her companion did likewise, and they stared blankly at me for a few seconds. Then the worry melted from their faces.
“Well, look at that,” said the big one. “Looks like the princess’ bitch is here, too.”
“Come here, boy.”
I cowered, then finally thought to run. I scrambled back off the bed and got to my feet, then dashed to the balcony.
The balcony offered no options. The ground was severely sloped and rocky, and the masonry was too smooth to climb. Looking back, I saw the bigger ruffian shuffling towards me. She pounded her fist into her palm and licked her lips.
For the first time in my life, I wished I knew how to fight.
The woman advanced on me, and I flinched. Then, all at once, mighty arms wrapped around my torso, and I lifted off my feet.
The masonry swiveled around me, and I felt myself hauled backward, then, all at once, the woman jerked her shoulders, and I flew from her grasp. I landed back in the cushioning of the bed, and, in an instant, she was over me.
Her head stayed perfectly still and her eyes bored holes in me as her hands ripped at my clothes.
“Hey!” said the small one.
The big one’s hands stopped where they were, and she faced her partner.
“Come on!” said the small one. “Honestly, Fara, do you have to do this to everyone we find?”
“Well, then tie him up and take him with. We can’t do him here. It’s too conspicuous.”
Fara took one last look to me, then said, “Fine.”
Forcefully, she pulled my head up and rammed her lips onto mine, sucking like she wanted to eat my tongue.
Resentfully, Fara pushed me away, then, without looking, seized my wrists and tied them together in front of me. Getting up, she grabbed my leash and yanked me up next to her, where her fingers grabbed my chin and twisted until my ear was to her mouth.
“Okay, bitch,” she whispered. “We’re taking the princess back to the boss, and I’m taking you home. I could stuff a gag in you and shut you up, but if you keep your trap shut, I won’t. Got it?”
I nodded stiffly.
“Good. You ready?”
I nodded. Then I felt the sting of her hand across my cheek.
“Not you,” she snarled. “Her!”
“Ready,” said the smaller one. “I’ve got the princess bound. Now let’s go.”
Fara hoisted me onto her shoulder and started after her companion. As she did, I marveled at her strength; this woman was barely bigger than I was- maybe not at all- and yet my weight barely slowed her down.
I guessed that she had done this many times before.
I looked around, trying to see where we were going, but it was useless. Even if I had been familiar with the castle’s geography, I couldn’t have kept up with the route these bandits were taking. Just outside Eleode’s room, they hauled us into a closet, and everything went dark. I smelled dust and I heard shuffling, and Fara’s shoulder shifted gently under my hips. There was a creaking of wood and old rope, and we went down. A few moments later, an ancient wooden door creaked open, and I saw a wedge of starry night sky.
“No guards,” said Fara. “Excellent.”
Without another word, we started down the hill, and I tried and failed to see ahead. I felt cool, moist outdoor air, and I heard feet rustle on soft Hayguían grass.
Fara stopped and turned a little, and I seized my chance to look ahead. I saw a wagon with a black shroud ahead of us, its horses waiting obediently.
Eleode thumped onto the wagon’s deck, and, in turn, I felt myself slung into the air. I landed painfully on a floor of old wooden planks. I looked up and watched as the two kidnappers vaulted in after us.
“We’ve got her, Liz!” said the small one. “Get us out of here!”
“Ja,” said a new voice.
With the leathery slap of reins, the cart horses started moving. I heard damp dirt sloshing under the wooden wheels, and I saw the castle slowly shrink behind us.
It felt strange to ride on dirt instead of cobblestones.
A few minutes passed. I looked to Eleode, who curled up on her side in the far corner. She brought her knees as high as they would go, and her head hunched forward.
Her face told a different story to her posture. Her eyebrows crouched into a single, razor-thin line, and her deep eyes stared fixedly straight ahead. Clearly, her mind was far away.
Beside her, the smaller bandit rested one hand on the floor and the other on her knees. Her eyes, too, were hollow with thought, but her face was not intense. Judging by her softly pouting mouth, I could have sworn that she was remorseful.
Fara, the big one, looked to have no such inhibitions. Her mouth stayed set in its lazy grin, and her hungry eyes alternated between me and Eleode. After a few minutes, she settled on me, and her red cheek grew even redder as she eyed me up and down, her eyes tracing every line of muscle on my half-exposed chest.
I brought up my hands and pulled my shirt closed.
“Hey, princess,” said Fara, kneeing her in the rump, “where’s your bitch from? Is he Emmesschian?”
“I thought Emmesschian men were bossy,” said the smaller bandit. “Isn’t that right, Liz?”
“Ja,” said the driver.
“I’m not from there,” I piped up. “I’m from Fulzore.”
“Fulzore?” said Fara. “Never heard of it. Are the men there good at licking?”
I shrank away from her. She gave out a soft, heavy chuckle.
“Well,” she said, “there’s a first for everything. Get up here, bitch. And crawl. I want you on the floor.”
I hesitated for a moment, then looked to Eleode, silently begging her permission.
Across the wagon, Eleode’s eyes seared hatred at Fara, then she looked to me. Grudgingly, she nodded.
Reluctantly, I leaned forward, then planted my hands on the ground and shuffled closer with my feet. Awkwardly, I shimmied my hands ahead, then continued up with my knees.
I saw Fara’s hand, and, a split second later, I felt a sudden yank on my collar. I pulled up to a kneeling position, then her hand clamped around my back and crushed me to her. I could feel her hot chest heaving, and her breath puffed heavily across my face. With my arms pinned between us, I could only look helplessly up at her.
“Wait,” she said, sporting a huge grin. “Not yet. You’re gonna lick me, but first, I want you to strip.”
“I’ll help you with your sleeves. Just get your dick out.”
I paused for a moment, processing this, then Fara released me, and I wasted no time in working my hand into my pants. Once I had them in, I stood on my knees and gently worked my pants down. I looked up and saw six female eyes all locked on my body, staring at the shaved stubble just above my treasure.
I stopped, abashed.
“Keep going, bitch,” said Fara. “You’re not done.”
Swallowing my pride, I shoved my pants down, then winced as my penis flopped out, half erect.
How on earth was it already hard again?
My pants went down to my knees, and I sat back, exposing my balls, then shoved the pants off.
As quickly as I could, I got back onto my lower legs and tore at my shirt. The tear opened further, exposing my soft nipples, but nothing else gave. I looked miserably up to Fara.
“Hm,” said Fara, “not bad. Now hold still.”
Fara brought up a knife, and I flinched, then her blade dove in and out of my shirt sleeves. The cold, smooth back of the blade kissed my skin, and the shirt fell away.
Now I was fully exposed. I tried to keep my heart from racing as the women took a moment to gaze at me. I no longer bothered trying to cover myself.
“Nice,” breathed Fara. “Now get over here. You’re just making me hotter.”
I shuffled forward.
I rolled my eyes, then got down on my hands and knees and crawled towards her.
Ahead, her tough hands hastily undid the buttons on her pants, and she pulled a little pocket open, revealing a swollen pussy that glistened with moisture. I could feel its warmth from a few inches away.
Then I set to work. First, I gave her an experimental lick on one of her walls, then the paused a moment. Fara shuffled with dissatisfaction, then grabbed my hair and shoved me into her.
Now I licked more intensely. My tongue went out and pushed her walls apart as it forced its way in.
Emboldened, I brought my tongue up, passing over the rigid spot that I knew was her clitoris.
“Aah,” sighed Fara, as she stroked my hair, “Yeah, that’s it. Keep doing that. Oh, you Fulzoran men are even sluttier than ours.”
She grabbed my leash, and my collar tightened around my throat as she pulled me away.
“Not bad,” she huffed. “Not bad for a first-timer.”
“That wasn’t my first time.”
Fara gave out another heavy laugh and slapped Eleode’s behind.
“I’m guessing you’ve got something to do with that,” she jeered.
Eleode said nothing. To my surprise, she did not even look at Fara. Instead, her eyes were locked squarely on my unclothed form.
I gave her an apologetic look.
“Okay,” said Fara, “now I want-”
Fara stopped. She and the smaller bandit looked ahead. From where I sat, I could see nothing, but the other two made it clear through their posture that we had reached our destination.
Fara stood up, then her partner did the same, and I heard a pair of small feet clap to the ground outside the cart.
“Get them inside,” said the smaller bandit. “I’ll take the boy. Fara, you take the princess. And, for sanity’s sake, be gentle this time.”
The two bandits reached for us, then hoisted us over their shoulders like sacks, exposing my naked hindquarters to the air.
I closed my eyes, hoping that no one saw me. Before I knew it, we were under a roof. Lamplight reflected off my exposed body, and the warm air was infused with a stuffy musk.
The smaller bandit brought me into a dark stall secluded from the lamplight, then shouldered me off. I let out a squeal of panic for just one moment, then fell softly into a dry, scratchy pile of hay.
“Stay there,” she calmly ordered.
A door creaked shut, and the lamplight vanished.
I shuffled, feeling around my tiny enclosure, then settled into the straw pile, trying to get comfortable. Outside, I heard footsteps, then the rustling of straw. Fara’s husky voice slipped through the door, followed by slapping, then feminine moaning.
To my embarrassment, I was stiffening.
I heard a harshly whispered dialogue, then sound of approaching footsteps. I braced myself.
The door creaked open, and the smaller bandit appeared, holding a small lamp. For the first time, I got a good look at her face, which was drawn and sallow, and half-covered by thin, medium-length blonde hair. Her wide mouth frowned softly, and there was a restless look in her little blue eyes.
“Hey…” she whispered.
“Hello,” I stiffly returned.
She sighed and knelt beside me, setting down the lamp. Her hand ran gently through my hair for a few passes, and I could feel her thin fingers savoring the softness.
“I’m sorry about Fara,” she said. “I teamed up with her because I needed her. I never approved of the things she does to men. Or even to women, for that matter.”
“You’re not like your partner, are you?”
“No, and I shudder to think what she’d do if I wasn’t around to keep her in line.”
“What’s your name?”
“I’m Nina. And this isn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want any of this. The princess- the whole royalty, really- is an artifact. It’s just a holdover from an earlier time. But that’s no excuse to take an innocent woman from her home. I hope this can all blow over without too much bloodshed, but… I’m not so sure.”
Nina looked straight into my eyes. Her eyebrows twitched and her eyes welled up, but I could see a fragile smile on her long, thin lips.
“I wasn’t always a thief,” she sighed. “But times are tough.”
“I understand. A woman has to eat.”
Her eyes closed and her smile deepened.
“But you will give this up when you get the chance, won’t you?” I said.
“When legitimate work comes, you won’t turn it down, will you?”
“I… you have to understand. Sometimes, it’s just too much. Some people don’t realize that we all have our limits.”
“You can do it. If you can kidnap a princess, you can till a field. Twenty years from now, don’t you want to look back on your life with a clean conscience?”
“You can do it. I know you can.”
She smiled and curled her arms around me.
“Your arms are tense,” I said.
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of. You lead a rough life, don’t you?”
Her head fell against my shoulder, and I could feel her fingers tighten and loosen on my other shoulder.
After a minute, she shifted, then got up to her knees. She looked back to me and brought her head close, then turned away.
“It’s okay,” I said. “Go ahead.”
In an instant, she turned on me and pressed her lips to mine. Her whole body slowed as she savored the contact. Then, after a few seconds, she slowly pulled away.
“Thank you,” she breathed. “But I thought you belonged to the princess.”
“I do. But you needed that. It doesn’t take a sage to see it- you haven’t had anyone to talk to for a long time.”
A few tears trickled from Nina’s eyes, and she smiled once again.
“Thank you,” she said again. “My lips are sealed.”
Taking the lamp, she left the stall and gently closed the door.
As her footsteps crunched away on the floor of the stable, I heard her mumble, “Men truly are a gift.”
There was a mumbled conversation, then the lights dimmed to nothing. With a peaceful little sigh, I sat back in the straw pile and descended into a soft, shallow sleep.
The next morning, I awoke to what felt like a soft, warm breeze. I curled up tighter in the straw, then my eyes eased open.
I looked to the source of the voice. Nina crouched over me, hastily clutching at my wrists. In one shaky hand, I saw her maneuvering a knife in between my hands. Instantly, I knew what she was dong.
“Nina?” I gasped. “But… what about you? You have a bounty to collect.”
“On the princess, yes. You were never supposed to be a part in this.”
She stopped and put a hand on my shoulder.
“If I let you go,” she said, “will you promise not to rat us out? I can’t let you be punished for things other people did, but I can’t let my friends down either.”
“You have my word.”
She continued sawing, and, in just a few seconds, my hands were free.
“Follow me,” she whispered.
The door inched open, and she gently lead me by the leash through the stall, around Fara, who slept with her arms and legs wrapped around Eleode. I saw a third figure in the other corner- Liz, I presumed.
After forty seconds of tiptoeing, we reached the threshold and slipped out into the chilly morning air.
“Now go,” said Nina. “Be safe.”
I looked out at the shadowy streets, then back to Nina.
“Thank you,” I said. “Women are truly a blessing.”
Nina beamed, then ducked back into the stable.
With that, I was on my own. The air was misty and the skies were cloudy. The sharp edges of worn old wooden houses leered down at me, glowing with the occasional candle.
I looked around, unsure what to do. It occurred to me that this was first time I hadn’t had anyone- male or female- to guide me. I took off down the road.
Before too long, I found a woman shuffling away from me down the road, holding some kind of tool I did not recognize. Furtively, I ran around in front of her.
The woman did not look drunk. Instead, her bushy eyebrows were knitted with somnolence, and her grizzled mouth was pursed with concentration. Her gait was uneven.
“Ma’am?” I started. “Excuse me, ma’am… can a man’s body buy him transport?”
The woman stopped and stared at me. Her eyes widened with what could have been anything from pity to fright.
“You’re…” she said, “you’re not a real street whore, are you?”
“I am now, I’m afraid.”
The woman faced me earnestly and demanded, “Who are you really?”
“I… I’m Prince Emilio of Fulzore.”
The woman’s face went slack.
“You’re not… you’re not lying.”
“No, ma’am. My brother’s name is Crístobal XII.”
“The prince and princess were both declared missing last night. Prince, what happened to the princess?”
“I’m sworn to secrecy.”
“Prince,” said the woman, grabbing my shoulders, “if Princess Eleode is in danger, you need to tell us.”
“I’m taking you to Anna.”
The woman’s hand locked around mine, and she towed me down the street at the fastest pace I could keep up with.
A few minutes later, the woman stumbled to a stop at an inconspicuous door and darted in, still holding my hand.
Inside, a woman worked at a crafting table, surrounded by her husband and three children. A handful of other women stood by, some hauling around tools. Half of them stopped as I stepped in.
“Anna,” said my guide, “we found the prince.”
Now everyone stopped. The woman in the middle wiped her brow and took a long look at me. I felt a fresh wave of self-consciousness over my nudity, and a few of the women ushered the children into a room in the back.
Anna folded her arms and stared at me suspiciously. I stood up straight.
“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,” she said. “The princess was a famously voracious one.”
“What?” I said. “No… that’s not why I’m naked. She and I were kidnapped, and I was stripped.”
“Is she still alive?” asked Anna, suddenly worried.
“Where is she?”
“I promised not to tell.”
Anna’s brow furrowed with consternation.
“Why in blazes would the princess want to keep her location secret?”
“No- I didn’t promise to the princess. I promised to the kidnappers.”
“What on earth for?!”
“One of them let me go. She knew that what she was doing was wrong. She needed the money, but she didn’t want to wrap me up in this.”
Anna’s face softened, and her arms unfolded.
“Yes. And I don’t want her to regret it.”
“We’re loyalists, prince. All of us are. You can’t expect us just to let the princess go. Not when so little of this country is still willing to fight for its rightful queen.”
“I understand that, but you know I have to honor my promise.”
“We’ll find a way. Men, get in the backroom. It’s time to decide what to do.”
The rest of the men and the children stepped through a narrow doorway in the back of the room, and I reluctantly followed them, then I felt a hand around my shoulder.
“Not you,” said Anna. “We need you to help us plan.”
Juvenile cries of excitement filtered in from the backroom, mixing with the deep, serious feminine mumbles that drifted about around me. Women hunched over the worktable, pointing to it with pencils and drawing diagrams on a map. Occasionally, someone would turn and ask me a question. Every time, I flinched, staring into eyes that stared back at me with the intensity of a loaded crossbow. Then I would stutter out my answer, and the women would get back to their planning.
One hour passed, then another, and so forth until dawn gave way to noon.
“That’s it,” said Anna, standing up meaningfully. “Women, we have a plan.”
* * *
That evening, I crouched, fully clothed, in an alleyway with the loyalists. Just a few dozen yards down the street was the stable where Fara, Nina and Liz had taken me.
“You heard me,” said Anna. “Go on. Get going. We need you to distract them.”
“No,” I whimpered. “This is wrong. Nina did right by me. I can’t let it bite her.”
“She’ll get her bounty. Now move.”
Stiffly, I tiptoed down the road to the stable.
At the stable, I brought up a curled hand to knock, then thought better of it. Taking a deep breath, I placed my palm on the door and pushed it open.
No one was inside. There was an oil lamp burning atop a barrel, and there were fresh footprints in the straw and dirt.
Thinking I knew what was coming, I swallowed again and stepped inside.
All at once, someone’s weight beat on my back, and I fell forward. A hand clasped over my mouth, stuffing a bundled-up cloth into it. As if guided by a second pair of hands, a bandage wrapped around my head, trapping it there, rendering my mouth useless.
I went limp, waiting with what calm I could muster as female hands bound my arms pinned and shut into some wooden contraption.
Feet stepped cautiously around me, then two hands gripped my leash and hoisted me to a kneeling position.
“Fara,” said Nina’s voice. “Put him away- separate from the princess. Then help me pack. Liz?”
Before I could hear any more, my leash jerked again, and I allowed myself to be pulled down the familiar path to the back of the stable, then to a stall nearly as dark as the last one I had been in.
I was shoved against the far wall, and my skin pressed against moldy wood. Then, inevitably, I felt skin caress my torso, picking around my clothes, searching for openings to the undefended skin beneath.
“Ah, hell with it,” said Fara’s voice.
The hands turned me around to face her, and, Fara recoiled.
“You?” she gasped.
Her gape turned into a smile.
“Hah! It is you! You came back for another taste of this, didn’t you?”
She posed, showing off her mighty build.
“Yeah,” she purred. “I bet you did. Well, since you’re so eager…”
She stepped forward and pressed my back to the wall with her body. Her firm muscles and her small, sharply rounded breasts pushed against my chest.
Her curled fingers slithered their way into my hair, kneading and tilling it, then down my body to my ass cheeks, squeezing them and pulling at them.
I let out a weak little moan.
“Aah,” she sighed, “that’s good.”
Her hands wrapped around my gag, then froze. There was a banging on the door.
“Fara, Liz, look alive!” came Nina’s frightened voice. “Someone’s here! Someone’s here!”
There was a ragged crash, wood scattered on the dirty floor, and, past Fara, I could see Anna and her crew storm into the building, brandishing shovels and hammers.
“Fara!” said Nina. “Fara, drop the boy! Come on, we have to-”
“Don’t bother,” came Anna’s voice.
She strode in and folded her arms.
“Damn it,” said Fara, standing next to Nina. “I told you we should have moved earlier.”
“Just focus, Fara. I’ll get us through this… I’ll get us through this.”
“Oh yeah, and the new bitch is the prince. He came back.”
Nina’s face turned to me, filled with disbelief. One at a time, her face twisted with grief, then anger, then shame.
“Prince,” she mumbled. “Why?”
I shook against my bonds, unable to speak. The next moment, one of Anna’s women grabbed me, tore away my gag and positioned me in front of Nina.
“Tell her,” said the woman. “She deserves to know.”
For a moment, I stared into Nina’s hurt look, at a loss. Then I put my words together.
“This isn’t what it looks like,” I stammered. “I made them promise that you wouldn’t pay for this. I got their word.”
Nina looked helplessly to Anna.
“A promise is a promise,” said Anna. “Nina, we’ve got a plan to smuggle the princess into your boss’ hands, then get her back out. They’ll never know you were a party to it, you’ll get your money, and the royals will go free. Everybody wins.”
“That won’t be necessary,” said Eleode.
We all looked. Eleode strode in, her bonds gone. She was stark naked, with every inch of her tight, smooth skin on full display. Her face was flush and sweaty, there were bands of whiteness crisscrossing her limbs. Eleode seemed to notice none of this; she walked with the same heavy, stable strut she always used. Her nudity did nothing to detract from her natural, feminine dominance.
“Nina,” she said, “this job is finished, but you did a noble thing by letting Emilio go. Whatever my bounty was, I would gladly pay it from the royal treasury.”
Nina, Fara and Liz traded incredulous looks.
“Anna,” said Eleode, “you and your women prepare the cart. We ride for the palace shortly.”
One by one, the women turned and shuffled carefully outside.
The minute everyone was gone, Eleode lunged into me and smothered me with a fast, hard kiss. With my hands still tied, I nearly fell on my back, but her strong arms caught me.
“I’m so glad you’re safe,” she whispered. “I’m sorry this happened to you. I know none of this was your choice.”
“It’s alright,” I said, “we’ll be fine. You’ll get back to the palace, and you’ll be a princess again, and we can keep…”
Eleode let out a rueful sigh, and my voice trailed off.
“No,” she said, “Emilio, we can’t go back.”
“What… what do you mean?”
Eleode clasped her hands behind her back and paced broodingly.
“The days of royalism are numbered,” she mumbled. “In truth, this nation has belonged to the people ever since the council took over. The exact minute the queen ceased to be the sole arbiter of her country, this day became inevitable.”
“What?” said Anna, standing in the doorway. “No… we still need you, princess! This country can’t live without its queen, and you’re the last of your bloodline.”
“The council is what truly rules Hayguía now. You people have proven that you are more than capable of self-government…”
Her voice soured.
“…and,” she added, “today proves that the people want it, too. They’re sick of the farce that we are still a monarchy- maybe as sick as I am.”
Anna’s whole face quivered as she processed this, then she stood up and mechanically said, “Where to, princess?”
“To the palace,” Eleode reiterated, “but not back to the throne. Take me to the gate, and Nina will have her money, and Emilio and I will have our freedom.”
“As you wish, princess.”
A few minutes later, Eleode and I sat together in the back of a wagon as Anna and her crew sat in front, egging the horse to motion.
Eleode sat with her arms casually draped around me, holding me close. With her other arm, she gently stroked my hair.
“Emilio,” she said. “You know you’ve got a choice to make now.”
“What?” I asked. “What do you mean?”
“I am officially going into exile. You were set to marry the princess of Hayguía. Now there is none. By word of law, you are free.”
“Oh my goodness…”
“If you want to go back to Fulzore, that can be arranged.”
“I don’t want to.”
Eleode’s hand stopped, and she crushed my body against hers.
“I thought you’d say that,” she whispered.
“I’ve only known you for a day, Eleode. And you’ve already treated me better than anyone else I know. No prince in his right mind would give up the chance to be yours.”
Without warning, a pair of tightly pursed lips pressed up against my cheek.
“Thank you, Emilio,” she whispered. “I won’t take this honor lightly.”
Taking her hand, I closed my eyes and purred. The clip of my leash rattled, and Eleode brought me in front of her, where she wrapped both arms around me and lovingly squeezed me.
I smiled back. If today was any indication, I had made the right choice.