Looking at my list, I was down to one last person. I had avoided recruiting her until the very end at the request of her AI, who told me that she was currently contracted at Rhysh and that the contract would be terminating today. As a longtime member and now amicus civitae to the Rhysh Ruling Council (there is a strong distinction between "a friend of the council" and "a friend of the state," which is why I insist on the second title), not to mention a frequent user of Rhysh's wonderful facilities, I respected her right, indeed her need, to keep separate her professional and personal personas.
However, today I had been invited by her Master, a gentlemel named Tuyvalt, to join them at their residence. Intrigued by the turn of events, and pleased to have such an invitation on such a fortuitous day, I of course made my way to the SDisk and across the mail receiving hall of Rhysh Castle. I announced my presence to the current (and fifth) resident AI, Alyson, who informed me that both Kathy and Tuyvalt were waiting for me on the sunlit inner deck, east wall.
I thanked her and climbed the beautiful curving staircase of crafted marble, walking into the actual Castle complex and finding my way to the east wall's inner deck. I found the wide, curving doorway out to the sun deck, and beyond that I found Kathy. She was the one sitting on the floor as a handsome melVulpin fed her an occasional grape from the bunch on the table before him. She was also currently smiling, a state I like seeing her in. "Master Shardik!" the Vulpin called out to me as he rose from his chair, tugging on the leash that led around Kathy's neck and pulling her up into a standing position as well. "So good to see you. Tuyvalt Caminer Improsire."
I came to a stop and bowed. "Good afternoon, Master Tuyvalt." He returned the bow gratefully.
"And I believe you already know my pet here. Katherine, say hello to your old master."
She beamed. "Hello, sir."
"May I?" I asked, glancing up.
"By all means," Tuyvalt encouraged.
I smiled and leaned down, stroking her face and chin. "Hello again, Katherine. And how are you?"
"Fine, sir," she replied. She looked to be in the best of health; seeing as her only pieces of clothing were the collar about her neck and the slippers about her feet, her body had the tone of regular exercise and the glow of good grooming. I was most grateful that Tuyvalt had resisted a (now passing) rage for humans and not cut off her hair. It fell in long, blonde sheets halfway down her back.
I addressed Tuyvalt. "She is looking good."
"Thank you. She did gripe a bit about the regimen in the beginning, but I believe she's beginning to enjoy her new-found strength." He smiled. "At least, it's so helpful when I place demands on her."
"So, if I may be short, please, tell me where this call arises from."
He smiled. "It's this strength. I'm afraid that between the two of us, her strength and capacity has grown... to the point where I cannot adequately provide her with what she wants in what has become a favored sport of hers and, I understand, yours."
"I take it we're talking about whipping?"
"Yes," he responded, smiling. "By the time I get her sufficiently ramped to please her voracious needs, my arm has worn out to the point where I cannot give her more. We have reached the top's limits."
He paused. "I understand that tomorrow, at the end of her contract, you intend to ask her to join you as an engineer with the Nyano Handele and, having spoken with her, I know she intends to agree. Although she is not coming under your command personally, you are in many ways authoritative to her and you were once her Master. Her first Master. I wish to hand her over to you this evening, at first flash, in a ceremony."
I was intrigued. "Interesting. And what will be the nature of the ceremony?"
"A flogging, of course. I want to warm her up in the main hall. I've already received permission for a reservation, today loud scenes are permitted in the main hall, and... then I want to turn her over to you."
"For my consent, I must speak with her."
"Of course!" he responded. "I would expect you to."
"How do you want this to happen? Is there anything I should know about?" I looked up at Tuyvalt. "What is her safeword?"
"The safeword is 'safeword.'"
She thought before speaking, a feature I had seen in her many times before. She was better at than I was. "I like thud. Lots of it. I like slow build-up, although I've met people recently who build even slower than I like." She grinned. "The most important thing is that I pulled a muscle working out, here," she indicated her right leg, "it's a groin pull. So I'll need to be restrained to protect that."
"We can do that. What time, Tuyvalt?"
"Fourteen on the hour seems right."
"I'll be there."
I arrived ten minutes early. A small crowd had gathered to watch the goings-on, although right now what could best be said was that nothing at all was happening. A wooden triangle-frame rack had been erected in the middle of the floor, two meters in height and about one and one third at the base, with angled footrests and open slats. It had a hand-made appearance of wooden five-by-ten centimeter beams slotted together with tongue, groove, and glue, hammered down to the frame, and then varnished to several layers. I counted and found that one side was 'female' and one 'male,' a classic design. By 'male' and 'female' it was meant that one side had an even number of vertical spaces between the beams, providing a comfortable space for a fem's breasts, and the other had an odd number, the one in the center providing room for a mel's penis. I've often wondered what we'd do if we had a hermaphrodite species on Pendor.
I spotted Tuyvalt leading Katherine across the room on a leash. She looked quite radiant, although I could see the faint traces of anxiety and knew them well. I'm sure she was having the same thoughts I always do at this point. It doesn't matter how many times I've been on the rack, I'm afraid that the next time something will go wrong. Not with the top, but with me, that I won't take enough to please my master, or that the goal I'm seeking will be harder sought than before, or whatever. They came to a stop; Kathy knelt as Tuyvalt and I bowed respectfully to one another. "Master Shardik."
"Master Tuyvalt," I replied, acknowledging his presence. "Good afternoon."
"Yes," he replied. "And a quite beautiful one." The main entrance hall to Rhysh is built like an atrium; the entire ceiling is glassed over, and since Pendor is a ringworld the sun is always overhead. It beamed down, illuminating the entire room. "Are you ready?"
"Yes, I think so."
"Good. Katherine, please gear up. Ken, let us talk." We stepped to one side and dropped our gearbags. I unzipped mine and he did the same. He had four floggers with him. "She likes these," he said, indicating two heavier ones, with rounded edges and signs of wear. "There are no sharp angles on them anymore, so they're not quite so hot. More impact."
I nodded, reaching into my bag and pulling out the White Whip of Boom, as I call it. Thirty-two tails of heavy leather, but with so much use the tails have worn slightly and are both very flexible and comfortable. Aaden refers to it as my 'sledgehammer.' "This is what I plan on finishing with. I don't know if I'll use any of the others if you have her sufficiently ramped when you call me in."
"This is nice," he commented, hefting the weight of it. "I like it. Can you make another?"
"I didn't make it. It's a custom by Rahn. Nonsentient dragonhide." I made the distinction carefully. There are two species of Dragon on Pendor, and one is sentient.
His jaw dropped. "Rahn makes floggers?"
I shook my head. "No. Rahn made this flogger."
"Ah, I see. You and he have an impressive friendship."
"It goes back to the first Felinzi year, Tuyvalt, when together he and I created the Pendorian Economy as we know it."
He nodded. A clinking sound made us turn to look, and Kathy was standing there, beaming, restraints about her wrists and ankles. "You look ready," I commented.
"Yes, sir," she replied. If it were possible, her grin got wider.
"Onto the rack, then," I said. She walked back to the rack, found the 'female' side (bar in the middle, space to either side) and settled herself down, wiggling a little until she was comfortable. Her legs were spread wide, pressed against the outer beams of the rack. I wrapped a length of heavy chain around the outer beam, then attached it to the cuff about her ankle. I repeated that with another length of chain on the other ankle.
I found two short lengths of rope and restrained her hands to the top of the rack in the same fashion, using a pair of half-hitch knots and securing it with a panic loop. I rummaged in the pocket of my gear bag where I keep the clothespins, found two dyed bright red and used them to mark the 'pull here to free masochist' ends of the rope. "You were saying that you wanted to be restrained along here," I said, caressing her hip softly. She nodded. I noticed that her chest rose and fell a little faster than before. "I've got just the thing."
Reaching into my bag again, I pulled out two cylinders. They made a loud ripping sound as I opened them up. Twenty centimeters wide and a hundred long, made of rubber with soft cloth glued to one side and a five-centimeter wide strip of velcro at one end of the other, they're ideal restraints. I wrapped them tightly about the backs of her thighs and then through the bars of the rack, making sure she was comfortable as she went along. "There, that should keep you still."
"Those are great, sir," she commented. "Where'd you find those?"
"P'nyssa found them for me," I commented. "At Cutter's. She thinks they're supposed to be some sort of exercise equipment. Anyway, the guy at the therapy department said she could have them, and since she's been living around me for so long she knew I'd want them."
I backed off from the scene and was content to watch as Tuyvalt approached her, exchanged words with her while passing his hand over her beautiful back and butt, caressing and encouraging. He took a length of black leather lace, tying it into her hair and draping it forward, down over her chest and thus keeping her back clear. Then he stood away and began.
He wore a body harness, which on most people served no purpose but decoration. About his waist, however, he clipped the tools of his practice, the four floggers with which he intended to work her over. He was calm and methodical as he began. Flogging humans, Satryls, and the like-- the relatively furless species-- is popular to watch because of the quality of skin changes that occur during the scene. Although with some of the heavier-furred species such as Mephits and Vulpins, the amount of loose fur flying around is more than sufficient evidence of the heaviness of such a scene.
Tuyvalt struck her rhythmically, the tails of the whip coming down surely across her back, striking her shoulders and down the ribs easily, the soft whap-whap-whap of impact carrying well in the large hallway. The strikes came down with rapid, sure aim. I admired his style.
He stopped the talk to her again, getting her impressions before moving on. He switched floggers, dropping the previous one down on the ground rather than clipping it back to his belt. He now wielded two floggers, one in each hand, each precisely measured; they were duplicates. Like a martial artist he made them spin through the air, applying them to her back precisely as he took a step forward. It was like watching an expert wield nunchuckau; the exacting skill he exercised demanded great attention, attention obvious on his face. A photograph of him at this point would not have been flattering.
Kathy was starting to tremble; a small moan escaped her, followed by a sharp gasp as Tuyvalt brought the right flogger down hard and fast against her skin. But her head gave a nod.
He continued, the whip stroking her skin rhythmically, every once in a while interrupted by a sharp, painful strike that made her wince and moan. But no screaming yet.
He upgraded to the final of his four floggers, the heavy beast with bias-cut tails. He started lightly, brushing and then fanning her back with the tailtips first. She grinned suddenly, as if she recognized that whip. I knew that look, like meeting an old friend. I, too, have had old friends made of leather and pain. And I think she grinned with the knowledge that she was going to get, if not everything she wanted, she would get enough.
Tuyvalt's arm grew stronger as he built, and the moans from Kathy escalated into screams, but not screams of rejection. Her head nodded crazily, her eyes glazed over, and the words from her lips were shouts of "Yes!" and "More!" I grinned, appreciating that kind of enthusiasm.
Her back was covered in red, angry swatches from where Tuyvalt's strikes had landed. She was screaming freely as the black tails of the whip landed, and her body shuddered and shook with each impact.
Tuyvalt was beginning to tire; his muzzle was wide open with panting. He gave me a glance, and I nodded.
He started to give her blows as hard as she could. Kathy's body was alive on the rack, shaking and moving the rack. I pointed to two rather large people and then to the rack, motioning for them to hold it down. They nodded and stepped forward, standing to basebeams. Tuyvalt's aim was demanding.
"Five," he breathed quietly. Kathy was trying to hold herself perfectly still. "Four." I picked up the Sledgehammer. "Three." His blows were powerful; it was hard to say if the rack shook from her body's violence or from the impact of his whip. "Two." I straightened out the tails and held ready. "One."
I stepped into place at his side as he stepped out of the way. The timing was perfect. And I didn't hold back. The white tails sang over my shoulder and flew through the air in a straight line, landing on her back like a, well, like a sledgehammer. She screamed. And the word in that scream was "YES!"
I hit her harder. I felt my breath explode with every strike and with each slam I was rewarded with a scream of yes.
She pushed herself away from the rack, stretching the rubber about her thighs, locking her elbows to keep herself perfectly straight. Her head dropped forward. Her thighs trembled uncontrollably as I whipped her, hurt her. My teeth were clamped in a snarl. I felt great.
I counted. "Thirty-eight! Thirty-nine! Forty!" She wasn't hearing me. The screaming was total; she barely drew breath to scream again. I struck again, again, and again. The sounds of the blows resounded, but were barely audible compared to her shrieks of pain.
"ENOUGH!" she shouted and dropped back to the rack. Since I had compensated for her holding herself away from the rack, my tails connected with empty air. I dropped the whip and ran to her. "Kathy?"
Tears streaked her face, collecting in little droplets on her chin and falling across her breasts. "Kathy?"
"Just..." She sobbed. "Just take me down..."
"Are you okay?"
"I... Yes." Her voice was cracking with tears. "Just take me down, Ken. Please."
I reached up for the two ends of rope that had the clothespins on them, pulling them. The knots came free and she fell away. I reacted, driving my knee up between her legs to give her a place to land as she sagged. "Tuyvalt, her feet?"
"I have it," he said. I ripped the velcro from the cloth- covered side of the wrap restraint. It had been rather tight and whipped around the wooden bar, but I stopped it from hitting either of us. I got the other one off her just as easily and soon she was free. We dropped her to the wooden platform. "Put your head between your legs," I told her. "Take deep breaths."
She nodded her head, gulping for air. Someone walked up bearing a pitcher and glass of water. I thanked him for it and handed the glass to Kathy. "Here, drink this."
"Thanks," she said. Her voice sounded hard, but dissolved into sobs again as she lifted the glass to her lips. Both Tuyvalt and I waited for a while, both of us keeping one hand on her.
I looked over her back. "She's bleeding," I pointed out.
"I am?" Kathy said, tossing her hair dazedly.
"Yes," Tuyvalt agreed, reaching back for the first aid kit in his bag. "This is going to sting, Katherine."
"Surprise that," she smiled, then hissed as the alcohol hit her back. "Ouch." She giggled. "Whee. More endorphins."
"Slut," I said uncritically.
"Yeah." She looked up at Tuyvalt. "Master, thank you so much."
He gathered her into his arms and hugged her, mindful of her back. Then he looked over at me, reached behind himself. I heard him unclip something from his belt, and then he held out the leash. I regarded it carefully, then looked at Kathy, whose vision was still glazed over but managed to be coherent enough to convey both apprehension and desire. I smiled at her, and while watching her face closed my hand about the leash and took it out of his hand. She wrapped her arms around his neck tightly one last time. "I'll never forget you."
"I don't expect you to," Tuyvalt replied. "Enjoy your voyage."
She nodded as she released him, then crawled to me. "I am yours, now."
"We are not contracting for this, Katherine. We are both too busy this appointment." I knelt down, balancing on my toes to face her. "But I still need you."
"Yes, sir," she smiled. "Thank you." I leaned forward and kissed her. Her tongue slithered against mine, tasting slightly of the cold salt of her tears.
We parted. "Rise," I said. She rose up, and I handed her leash to her. "You're free."
She threw her arms around me, hugging me close. I laughed gently and hugged her back. Tuyvalt walked close to us, and she reached out and pulled him in. Together we held her while the crowd broke out in spontaneous applause. "I need something to eat."
"Carbs," I agreed. "Come, let's go find the kitchen." I led the way through the gathered crowd.
I watched Kathy down three glasses of water in a row, followed by a large hunk of bread. "Easy," I said. "You don't want to upset your stomach."
"She always eats like this afterwards," Tuyvalt said.
"I know," I replied smiling. "So, what did you think?"
Kathy swallowed what was in her mouth before answering. "It was wonderful. Everything I could have hoped for. You actually got me to call safeword, which is what I was hoping for."
"'Enough' wasn't really the safeword we'd discussed, but I got the message." She laughed, nodding. "Anything in particular you feel needs to be discussed?"
"Yeah," she said, turning to Tuyvalt. "About my exercise."
"It was something you asked for."
"Yeah, but I think we went about it slightly wrong. I... When the flogging started, I could look down the rack, between the grid and my body, and see my pubic hair. I used to not be able to do that because I had a slight belly. No offense, Tuyvalt, but I liked having that belly. It made me feel feminine." She patted her midsection. "Now I've got this hard, tight stomach and I... I miss feeling girlish."
"You want to let it go, then?" I asked.
"No, I don't think so. I just want to get back some of the curviness and softness I had. The strength and stamina are great, but I want to feel like a woman, too."
"You know, a lot of fems would argue that--"
She cut me off. "I don't care what other fems say. This is what I want to feel like myself, ovaries and all." I grinned, and she smiled back. "You should know better than to bring up an argument like that in Rhysh Castle!"
A pair of Uncia stopped by the table. The shorter one said, "I just wanted to thank you three, and you especially, Katherine. That was a very beautiful scene."
"Thanks," Kathy replied with a blush as they moved on. "I never know what to say to that. It wasn't meant to be beautiful. I was just being me. It was a very self-indulgent scene."
"Artists are always self-indulgent," I replied. "After all, they're making what they want to make. That doesn't mean it can't be beautiful."
"Look at what you make, after all," Tuyvalt pointed out, grinning.
"Well, yes." I blushed.
Kathy nodded. "It's still embarrassing." She went back to chewing on the tough bread. After washing down another mouthful she asked, "Ken?"
"Could I spend the night with you? I have to go to Orientation tomorrow morning, but I'd really like to spend tonight with you."
"Kathy..." I said warningly.
"I'm trying not to get attached," she said. "I know you've got kids this decade and just don't have the time to be a Master, but it is something I want. Just for one night?"
I nodded. "Just for tonight. Tomorrow you go into Orientation and eat, sleep, and breath Ohadi Five warp drive until we break dock."
She grinned. "Thank you."
After she was done, I stood up to leave. Tuyvalt stood as well, reaching out to shake my hand. "Thank you," he said. "That was very well done."
I nodded. "It was. You did all the hard work. I was just the icing." We shook hands. Then I took Kathy's hand in mine and we walked back to the SDisk and home.