Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
I wrote this story a few weeks after writing "A Warrior Reborn," and, truth be told, I only vaguely knew where it was going to go when I started. I knew only that I wanted to follow Tristan's journey, and so I have. I actually consider this my best story in the TG Genre, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Here it is, the second part of this untitled trilogy. I haven't written the third part, and I'm not sure when I'll get around to it. If I get a good enough response, I'll probably get to it sooner rather than later. So those of you who really enjoy it, don't hesitate to let me know. Anyway, here it is.
The Black Witch
Tristan paced the battlefield, his long strides covering twice the distance of most other men. His long, golden locks fluttered in the gentle, wandering breeze. That wind carried with it the evidence of that day's battle - a horrid stench of death and decay. As if he couldn't see it with his own eyes. Bodies were strewn everywhere; some were his men. Others were the enemy. The country of the dead men's allegiance mattered not at all to the crows picking at their flesh. Tristan wondered whether or not it had been worth it. Probably not. One life can not outweigh the thousands killed on that battlefield. He stepped over the bodies, careful not to trip. In the distance, he could see the castle; it was huge, domineering, and dark. That was his goal, and he confidently walked toward it. Tristan didn't need anyone else with him. No one left alive in that castle would dare challenge him. However, he did keep a sharp eye out for arrows; even under the flag of truce, he wouldn't put it past the brigands to fire at him. He neared the castle, and no arrows came. More, though, the forbidding facade of the building began to fade as he stepped ever closer. The walls were near to crumbling, the gate barely hung on its hinges, and the ramparts were completely unmanned. No, it wasn't a fortress. It was a ruin. Tristan stood only feet away from the huge but derelict gate, and pounded on it with his massive fist. The sound seemed to echo. "Oi! If you let her go now, we'll let you live. If not, you will all die. Decide soon, for we will be inside the castle within the hour," his deep baritone bellowed. When no answer came, Tristan turned, and walked away. The twang of a bowstring was all Tristan needed. On the quiet battlefield, he could hear it quite clearly. He whipped around, and, quick as a striking mongoose, snatched the arrow from the air scant inches from his chest. He tossed it down with disdain, like it was barely worth the effort to catch. Turning back around, he walked back to his army. "Guess we have their answer, then," one of his captains said. Tristan only nodded. "No point in waiting. I'll ready the men." And off he went, * A little less than an hour later, Tristan's men had the gate down, and were pouring into the castle's courtyard. Tristan, of course, led the charge himself. There weren't many defenders, and none could stand before Tristan's mighty blade as he swung it to and fro, cleaving men in twain. Blood, entrails, and the cries of dying men filled the air. Tristan paid none of it any heed. He had his mission; he knew where he was going. The castle's single tower beckoned. That's where she would be. He shouldered through the door at the base of the tower, knocking it from its hinges. Mounting the steps three at a time, he raced up the tower, the sounds of battle fading behind him. He ran easily, for he was a pinnacle of human endurance, strength, and willpower. So, he reached the top of the steps barely winded, and took in the scene before him. There she was, dressed all in white - the beautiful Princess Dierdre. She had been visiting from a far away nation when she had been kidnapped by a local highwayman. But then Tristan noticed the man in the room. He was nearly as big as Tristan himself, and equally impressive. Muscles bulged from his sleeveless leather jerkin, and Tristan's warrior instinct recognized that the man was a formidable opponent. He carried a pair of short swords at his hip. "The mighty Tristan," the big man said. "I've heard of you. This ought to be fun." Tristan did not respond, but instead whipped his sword around, aiming for a quick kill. Quicker than Tristan would have thought possible, the man's twin short swords came up, parrying the blow. And then he attacked, sending blow after furious blow at Tristan, who struggled mightily to avoid being sliced to ribbons. Never before had he encountered a foe of such staggering ability. It was unnatural. Even as he fought with every ounce of skill he possessed, Tristan knew that he was outmatched. Tristan, however, was not one to give in to defeat so easily. In fact, he was not the type to give in at all. If the other man wanted victory, he would have to snatch it from Tristan's dead fist. Concentration. Sweat. Anger. Pain. Weariness. And finally, fear. Tristan knew he was on the verge of losing his life. After what seemed like hours of fighting, his nearly endless stamina began to fade, and still, his opponent fought with the same unnatural vigor. Then, fatigue having taken its toll on both Tristan's mind and his body, he made a mistake. His opponent seized it eagerly, and Tristan felt the bite of a short sword on his wrist. He heard his sword clatter to stone floor, and saw his hand flying through the air, severed from his body. Tristan fell to his knees, clutching the bloody stump where his hand had been. "Who are you?" he asked through gritted teeth. The man did not answer. He just smiled a crooked, mirthless smile, and raised one of his swords. The last thing Tristan saw was the flash of that sword as it arced through the air towards his exposed neck. He couldn't move. He wanted to, and he should have been able to, but something prevented the action. Instead, he simply sat there on his knees, waiting. Time slowed, and his fear began to mount. He wasn't strong. He was weak - as weak as a kitten. Sure, his body was physically impressive, and he was a talented killer, but in his mind, in his soul, he was feeble. For all of his life, he had used violence as a crutch, propping up his fragile life. Strange, that it took impending death to show him the error of his ways. His life was a lie. He was no champion. He was just a frightened child who had squandered his gifts in favor of his own selfish needs and wants. He was a killer, a murderer, and in that moment, just before he was about to die, he was ashamed. The sword descended, and Tristan closed his eyes, waiting for the moment of his death. He hoped that the stories of some supreme, judgmental being who presided over the afterlife was false. He wanted his farce of an existence to end, so he could embrace the blackness of nothingness. * Tristan awoke with a start, and for a brief second had no idea what was going on. He tried to slow his breathing, but his heart felt like it was beating through his chest. The dream had been so real; in fact, it had happened once, long ago. He remembered it well. However, in reality, there had never been a confrontation at the top of that tower. He had simply rescued the woman, and returned her home. Before that, though, she had thanked him, and properly. Tristan still remembered that night well; she had been very enthusiastic. "What's wrong? Another nightmare?" Tristan heard Arista ask. He turned, and saw her propped on one elbow, looking at him concernedly. "I'm okay," he replied, but hardly believed it himself. Arista put her arm over him protectively, and hugged him close. It felt good. Tristan felt safe. He thought back to how he had come to be in that situation, where he needed a woman to hold him in order to feel secure. It had all started a little over two years previous. He had been captured during a battle, and then, imprisoned. There, the very woman he now clung to so fervently had cast a spell on him, transforming him from the nearly seven foot warrior into an effeminate weakling. Over the course of months, he had shrunk to a little over five feet tall, and his body had changed to mirror a woman's, save a few key differences. He had no breasts, of course, and he had a penis, albeit a very small, barely functional one. Then came the mental changes. Arista had changed both his sexual preference and the type of sex he found pleasurable. Before, he had been a normal heterosexual male, but after Arista was done, he craved the touch of men, and quite enjoyed having sex with them. He still did, as a matter of fact. He had spent nearly two years as a captive, a year of which was spent as little more than a sex slave. But over time, Arista's true nature became apparent. She had not wanted to change him; she had little say in the matter. The two became lovers, though Tristan felt little attraction toward women. However, he did feel affection for Arista, and the two grew ever closer. Finally, when Tristan returned home to bid farewell to his family (he and Arista had decided to flee together), it was revealed that his own brother had been behind it all, and had magically compelled Arista to comply with his wishes. It had all been a bid (successful, at that) to acquire the throne. Then and there, despite two years of conditioning, Tristan had snapped, and had become the warrior once again. But he didn't have the strength to go with that nature, so he had been easily slapped aside. He was on the verge of death when Arista saved his life with a killing spell. The two had been fleeing ever since, searching for a safe haven. It had been two months since Arista had killed the king, and they had been pursued by Einar and Honus (their respective countries) for the entirety. And so Tristan found himself, small, weak, effeminate, and quite pretty, being held in Arista's much stronger arms. He had been conditioned to act as a lady, and wore the accoutrements of such a station. Arista had offered to change him back, but he had refused. That man was dead. The warrior was gone. Tristan didn't think he could return to that sort of life of violence, even if he wanted to (and he didn't). Violence had gotten him nothing, and he simply wanted to live what was left of his life in peace. He sighed, and closed his eyes, hoping for sleep that would not come. * Tristan was still awake when Arista awoke the next morning. She kissed his forehead, and said, "Good morning." Tristan smiled at her, but said nothing. He knew the effect he had on Arista, and that morning was no different. She kissed him full on the lips, her tongue mingling with his. Arista's hands crept under Tristan's shift and fondled his small penis, which stiffened slightly. Tristan was grateful for that; it wasn't that long ago that he was physically incapable of responding to a woman's touch. The two kissed for a few minutes, until Arista guided Tristan's shift off. There he lay, completely naked, his feminine form exposed to his lover as her mouth left trails of kisses all over his body. She paid special attention to his nipples, which were as sensitive as any woman's. He moaned each time her tongue flicked across them. Finally, Arista's mouth traveled between Tristan's legs, and she took his penis and testicles into her mouth all at once. Slipping a finger into his anus, she worked it in and out while sucking his shrunken member. It was heaven for Tristan, who let out little whimpers of pleasure throughout. Finally, with a gasp, he came, shooting an impressive amount of semen into Arista's mouth. When Tristan's body relaxed, Arista climbed on top of him, and kissed him, transferring the semen into his mouth. She always liked to do that, he knew. Tristan swallowed it. "My turn," Arista said, stripping off her own shift. Tristan marveled at her body. She was much taller than him, and her skin dark. Her breasts were large, and her body curvacious. She straddled Tristan, and leaned in, letting him tongue her nipples for a few moments while she ground her crotch against his. Tristan was soft again, but it didn't really matter. His penis was small enough that he he couldn't really penetrate her anyway. She rolled off of him, and spread her legs. He knew what she wanted, so he positioned himself between them, and lowered his face into her nether region. He licked, he lapped, and his fingers penetrated. Tristan knew Arista's body better evem than he knew his own; he had performed fellatio on her so often. And it was only a matter of minutes before Arista's body was rocked by a series of convulsions accompanied by screams of pleasure. Tristan kept going, for he took great pride in his ability to give pleasure - a remnant of his year as a sex slave. As Arista panted, Tristan slowed his efforts, licking only once every few seconds. Finally, Arista's hand brushed his cheek, and then tilted his chin back. Arista stared at him with such love that Tristan couldn't help but feel it in return. He climbed on top of her, and lay there, kissing his lover gently. His weight was hardly a problem, and Arista held him, gently caressing his rear end. "I love you so much," she said. "I love you too," Tristan answered. "Your nightmare," she said after a few moments of blissful silence. "Was it the same as before?" "Yes and no," Tristan replied. "Same basic premise, different situation. It's not a mystery what it means. I am ashamed of my former life in reality as much as in the dream. It is nothing." "If you say so," Arista said. Then, she changed the subject, suggesting that they needed to get up, and get going. "But where to?" Tristan asked. "Where will we not be hunted?" "I don't know. If we can get outside either Einar's or Honus' influence, I might be able to hide us," Arista suggested. "That is the only plan I have been able to come up with, at least." "It's thin," Tristan stated. "Very thin." "Or you could take the throne," Arista suggested. "Like this? Not likely," Tristan responded. "I can change you back. You can be the --" Arista began, but was interrupted by Tristan. His voice was more forceful than anytime he could remember when he said, "I will not go back to being that person. What I was...it was wrong. I will not risk becoming that person again." "Then we have no choice but to continue our flight," Arista said as she pulled on a riding dress. Tristan was doing the same, though he noted that his was quite a bit more feminine than Arista's more utilitarian design. They ate a small breakfast at the inn in which they had stayed the night, and paid the innkeeper - a small, rotund woman. Afterward, they went to the stables and reacquired their horses. Less than half an hour later, the couple was riding along a harldy distinguishable road through the countryside, only barely knowing their real destination. They simply wanted to get as far away from the rival nations of Honus and Einar as they could. Arista and Tristan had abandoned their carriage in favor of their horses, selling the vehicle for traveling money. Also, they had changed clothes from their incredibly frilly and elaborate court dress to more modest working-class attire. However, nothing could hide the fact that they were not the sum of their possessions. They were rich, and carried themselves as such; no amount of peasant clothes could change that. Stopping to rest near a tiny stream, Tristan dismounted, and stretched his legs. There was a time when he could ride for an entire day with no discomfort. But that was long ago, and he had been a far different person. He sat down next to Arista, and the two ate travel rations without enjoyment. Both were used to far different fare, and regarded the tasteless lumps of bread and dried meat with ill-disguised contempt. Tristan barely ate anything. He knew he should be happy. He was free, or freer at least than he had been for years, and he had the love of a strong, fine woman. Even amidst their mad flight from their pursuers, he felt lucky. But he couldn't shake his unease. Something was wrong, but he couldn't quite put his finger on just what it was. He knew it wasn't anything external, no lurking danger, but it was real all the same. It was a problem in his mind, some stray thoughts in the back of his brain that said that his situation was all wrong. He pushed those thoughts away, and focused on Arista. He did love her, that much he knew, but his physical attraction to her - or to any woman - was lukewarm at best. He had made strides in that respect, however. Only three months previously, Tristan had felt absolutely no attraction. Only since the encounter with King Frederick had that begun to change. Perhaps time would cure the additional lack. After they ate, the two mounted their horses, and continued along the trail, which allowed Tristan the opportunity to ponder his feelings for his companion. Was attraction - physical and sexual - absolutely necessary for love? He had always thought so. In fact, throughout his life, he had used lust and love almost interchangeably. But there he was, his love for Arista absolute, and he knew that she was not even close to his ideal sexual partner. She wasn't even the right gender. As much as he wanted it to be different, he was not willing to take that step, and allow Arista to change him back to the man he once was. She had claimed that it was the only way for him to regain his past sensibilities toward women. Tristan knew only a few things for certain, but he did know that he was absolutely not prepared to pay that price. He would not become that person again. His mind delved more deeply into his reasoning as he rode. It wasn't any one thing, really. The biggest reason, of course, was that he didn't want to become a violent killer again, but it was more than that. Thoughts of Arista guided his mind toward his former attitude toward women. He had taken whoever he wanted, slept with countless women. He had been completely dominant, and had no cares for their feelings. He couldn't tolerate becoming that monster once again, and he knew that the physical change was the first step. Tristan could not let the process even begin; he simply did not trust himself to resist those violent urges. When the sun began to dip behind the horizon, Arista and Tristan were too far into the wilderness to hope for any sort of inn or hostel in which to spend the night, so they made camp a little off of the trail. They didn't make love that night, but instead, merely held one another, hoping to keep warm as the night's temperature dropped. Tristan fell asleep, his mind still occupied by a dreadful foreboding. * His unease was well-founded, for when his eyes fluttered open the next morning, he looked up to see a pair of burly men. Tristan's arms were still wrapped around Arista, so when he tensed, she was awake immediately. She sprang from the ground, muttered one unintelligible word, and a fireball sprang to her fingertips. She held it there, her arm cocked, and said, "Who are you, and what do you want?" Tristan was frozen. He had no idea what to do. He looked back and forth between Arista and the men for a few seconds before one of the big men said, "Well, ain't that a surprise?" Tristan came back to himself, and said, "Take whatever you want. We have money. Just take it and leave." He reached for his bags, detached a large money purse, and tossed it towards the men. It caught in mid- air as Arista uttered another word. It slowly floated back to her. "No. Leave and you might live. Stay, and I'll kill you both," Arista said. Tristan began to speak, but Arista cut him off, "Quiet! Let me handle this." Tristan obeyed, feeling small and insignificant when faced with such danger. The two men didn't move a muscle. One, the smaller of the two (though he was still quite a big larger than either Arista or Tristan), stepped forward, and said, "Chuck that fireball, missy, if you dare. But know that if'n you miss, you ain't gonna get off another one." He pointed to his companion, a bearded grizzly bear of a man, and then back at himself. "There're two of us, ya see." Another word, and Arista had a second fireball in her other hand. "I've two fireballs, then. One for each of you." "A stand off then, is it?" the smaller, bald man asked. "So be it. Do what --" Arista released her balls of fire, sending them straight at the chests of the respective men. A split second passed, and Tristan saw the big, hairy man look down at a where the fireball had passed clean through him. The smell of burnt flesh filled the air, and the hole sizzled. He looked back up, and then collapsed, dead before he hit the ground. Before Tristan could even look at the other man, a harsh laughter filled the air. Male laughter. His eyes found the bald man who was the source of that mirthless sound. The fireball hadn't been nearly as effective on him, but not for lack of aim. A round hole had been burned through his tunic but the skin beneath remained unscathed. He continued to laugh as he reached through the opening of his collar, and pulled out a medallion on a leather thong. "Those sorts of tricks don't work on me, love. Shame about Billy though. He was a stupid lout, but he was a good one in a fight. Now, you gonna go quietly, or am I gonna have to get nasty with ya?" he asked with menace. Arista didn't answer, but instead, bounded towards the man. She tackled him, and, using her fingers like claws, gouged deeply into his face. The advantage gained by her surprise attack was short lived, however, and the man soon had Arista's wrists in his meaty hands. He rolled her over, and pinned her to the ground. Tristan cowered in fear, trying to make himself as small as possible. He wasn't scared of the man himself. He was terrified, instead, of the situation. Tristan was afraid to help his lover, but scared at what might happen if he didn't. Indecision froze him, and fear at taking that first step kept him there long after the indecision faded. He watched, horrified, as the man held both of Arista's wrists in one hand as he hiked up her dress with the other. He forced her legs open, and pulled out his member. He tried to kiss her, but she bit his cheek. "Oh, I like me a feisty one," he said with an insane smile. And then Arista screamed as the man plunged into her. The rape was over in mere minutes, but for Tristan it seemed to last hours. He simply couldn't move. Doubts flooded his mind. What could he do anyway? He was helpless. What if he acted, and failed? Would he kill Arista? Would Tristan's life be forfeit? More, though, he couldn't move because his mind had formed a block against violence. It had started with a spell - Arista had cast it herself - designed to keep him from harming his sexual partners when they were vulnerable. But even after the spell had been lifted, the psychological impact had remained. That, coupled with Tristan's fervent fear of becoming again the man he once was, made it nearly impossible for him to act violently. Ironic, he would think years later, that Arista was the person who had planted the seeds that prevented Tristan from helping her. * Thin ropes cut into Arista's wrists as she struggled against her bonds. She knew it would do little good,; the nameless man had tied the knots carefully. Her eyes wandered to Tristan, who leaned against the cave wall, staring back at her. She wanted to say something so badly, to comfort her lover, but a dirty cloth had been shoved into her mouth. The rape had been devastating to Arista, and she had cried for hours, even as the man had led Tristan and her to the nearby cave. She knew it was natural to be upset, but her tearsangered her; Arista was embarrassed by what she considered a sign of weakness. But she hadn't been able to stop them anymore than she had been able to keep the man from raping her. Physically, she wasn't really hurt, which surprised her. She had seen many victims of rape before, and most had carried physical injuries. Aside from soreness, she felt little pain. However, mentally, the wounds were deep and plentiful. Nothing could have prepared her for the pain, the anger, or the feeling of helplessness which had accompanied the dastardly deed. But that wasn't the extent of it, for before the rape, Arista had never been with a man (she had always preferred women), had never been penetrated, much less so roughly. She had always relied on her magic, and rightly so. It had never failed her before that day when she had needed it most. Her mind wandered back to a similar instance years earlier, when her lover, her beautiful Tristan had suffered a similar fate. Two guards had raped him right in front of her, and she had let them. Even then, she had been sympathetic to his plight, though she had struggled to keep it hidden. But, having lived through a rape herself, she had a newfound respect for Tristan. How had he done it? How had he picked up the pieces so quickly? Why didn't he hate her? But as Arista looked into Tristan's eyes, she saw not even a hint of the hate she felt she deserved. All she saw was concern for a loved one, and that made her feel even worse. Love. She had only felt it once in her life - not even the love of family had graced her existence, for her parents had died when she was very young. She didn't even remember them, not really. Tristan was all she had, and for the life of her, she couldn't understand why he returned her love. Arista knew that Tristan's attraction for her was limited, and that she was partially to blame for it. She had used a complicated spell to change his sexuality, after all. That he had somehow managed to break through it, albeit only partially, was a testament to Tristan's willpower. Even so, Tristan was willing to look past the fact that Arista was a woman, and he wanted to be with her. If that wasn't love, she didn't know what was. Sitting there, completely helpless, and with turmoil dominating her mind, she resolved to wait. Eventually, the man would make a mistake, and Arista would seize it. He had secured them both in the cave, and then had disappeared. She knew it was only in her mind, but she could smell his sour breath and hear his heavy breathing. Where had he gone? She could only guess. And wait. The time would come, and Arista vowed to be ready, and not just for herself. Tristan needed her. * It was hours later before the stocky man returned, but he did not come alone. With him was a tall, slender man with an immaculately trimmed beard, dark hair, and a hawk nose. "Oh, you did well, Barney. You did well, indeed," the slender man stated. "That one," he pointed to Arista, "is a magician, you say?" "Aye," Barney replied. "She held two fireballs at once, she did. I'm no expert, but I know that ain't typical." "No, not at all," the tall man said. He tossed a large purse at Barney, who caught it, and continued, "You did not lie. As agreed, you will receive the other half when we get them to my estate." "Thank you, Lord Wallach," Barney said, inclining his head in deference to the other man. Wallach. The name was familiar to Arista, but she could not place it. Lord Wallach approached her, and placed a small, sliver bracelet around her wrist. Immediately, she felt it, and knew what the bracelet was - a means of control. He reached up, and removed the gag. "Do you know who I am?" he asked. Arista shook her head, unwilling to speak. Her mind raced, as she expected to have to tell a story about who she was. The truth wasn't an option. "Well, let me educate you. My name is Wallach. Barney here called me a lord, but that's not really true. I don't hold any title. No, I am a simple merchant. Now, tell me who you are." "I am a magician from across the sea," Arista said. "And that one?" Wallach asked, pointing to Tristan. "My servant," Arista answered without hesitation. She knew that classification as a servant would rankle on Tristan, but it was unavoidable. Wallach looked at Tristan, and said, "Strange, a servant who dresses better than the mistress." He shrugged. "It does not matter. Why are you here and not across the sea where you belong?" "I am on the run from a death warrant," Arista stated simply. A lie which is close to the truth is always best, she knew. "Interesting," he said. "But largely irrelevant. You are both slaves, now, and will be sold within the month. You know what this is?" He held up the bracelet. Arista nodded. "Then you know that if you should choose to use your powers without permission, it will cause quite an intense pain. Do not test it." Arista nodded, knowing that he spoke the truth. She wouldn't free herself through magic, not while the bracelet remained. She had used similar items before, and Arista knew that she wouldn't be able to remove it herself, either. She sighed. "Gather them," Wallach said to Barney. "And bring them to my estate. Your payment shall await you there. You may keep their belongings." And the ducked out of the cave. * Arista rode her horse with her head held high. Barney had removed her bonds, but she had gone quietly. She knew that she would stand little chance in a physical confrontation with the much larger, much stronger man. They traveled for most of that day, through rolling hills, until they approached a well groomed manor. The lawn was fantastic, with towering oaks and bushes trimmed into fantastic shapes. A single road cut straight through, and Arista saw the castle even from afar. Parapets jutted from the walls, and towers loomed. It was a palace to rival any she had seen, and Arista had seen quite a few. The effect of the building grew as their horses carried them ever closer. Arista's heart sank. This was not the home of some minor brigand with delusions of grandeur. No, it was the home of someone quite successful at whatever it was he did, and as such, probably quite intelligent. She wouldn't be free as easily as she had expected. A pair of guards stood in front of the main gate, and they were let into the courtyard where they were met by another man who gave Barney another purse of coins, and took custody of Tristan and Arista. They were then led into the palace itself, and through its richly decorated halls. Plush rugs, rich tapestries, and exquisite paintings caught Arista's eye, and she was even more intimidated. It rivaled even the palace at Einar, where she had lived for nearly a decade. Who was this Wallach? Tristan's small hand found Arista's, and she buried her trepidation deep in the back of her mind. She had to be strong for him. He needed her. Turning here and there, Arista was quickly lost. The man who led them, however, stepped surely and obviously knew where he was going. Finally, he stopped in the middle of the hall. A door stood on either side of them, and he said, "You." he gestured to Arista. "In there." He pointed to the door at Arista's left. And you, in there." He indicated that Tristan should go in the opposite door. Tristan looked at Arista, a plea in his eyes, but he drifted away, his hand clinging to Arista's until the last second. It caressed hers, even as he pulled away. With one last backward glance, he disappeared into the room, and the door shut behind him. With a deep breath, Arista threw her shoulders back, held her head high, and entered the other room. What she saw was more than a little surprising. A team of servants stood poised around a huge copper bathtub, sponges and pitchers at the ready. She was ushered inside, and a pair of servants helped her out of her dress. She stood there naked for only a brief moment before one of the servant women told her to get into the tub. She took a step and lowered her foot into the steaming tub; it was much warmer than she would have liked it, but not uncomfortable. As she lowered herself into the hot water, she couldn't help but relax a little - until she remembered Tristan. They would soon discover that he wasn't a woman. What would they do? Would they guess who he was? Certainly, word of the fall of mighty Prince Tristan would not have reached this far. Arista could only hope as the servants proceeded to clean her every crack and crevice. * Having been cleaned, clothed (in expensive garments of silk), and made up, Arista was led out of the room, and into the hall where Tristan waited. He looked up at Arista apologetically; they had obviously seen the evidence of his masculinity. Neither were allowed to speak, however, and the man who had been their guide before became so again. He led them through the spacious, expensively furnished halls once again. That time, however, the trip wasn't nearly as lengthy; they arrived at their destination only a few minutes later. He pushed the door open, held it ajar, and indicated for the couple to enter. Arista went first, Tristan clutching her hand like his life depended on it...which it might just have. When she walked inside, she saw Wallach lounging in a leather chair with a glass of some liquor in his hand. He took a sip, and waved for the servant to shut the door. He stood, and said, "Let me get a good look at you two." Wallach walked around them, and Tristan squeezed Arista's hand. Arista looked neither left nor right, but instead, kept her her chin up and her gaze unwavering, and tried to look as regal as possible. "Very nice," Wallach said as he completed the circuit. He looked at Tristan, and said, "I've heard of boys like you that prefer to live life like a woman, but I must say that you are easily the most beautiful I've seen. You should have been born a woman, that much I can tell." He sat back down, and continued, "I know the story you gave me isn't true, but to be honest, I don't really care. Who you are is of little consequence to me. The timing of your arrival, however, is quite fortuitous...for me at least. I am holding an auction in a couple of days, you see, for special slaves. You two qualify as such, and I expect I shall get more for you than for the rest of the slaves put together. In the meantime, please, do not try to escape or cause any trouble. I'd hate for either of you to get injured. And besides, it's not a bad life. You shouldn't fight it. I don't know where you two come from, or what sort of life you've led until now, but you will be treated well. A person doesn't spend a small - or in your case, a large - fortune for a slave only to mistreat them, after all. Any questions?" Neither Tristan nor Arista spoke. "Good. You are dismissed. Geoffrey out there will lead you to your quarters." * Arista felt ridiculous. She was completely naked, save the bracelet on her wrist, and she stood in a line of naked women. Tristan stood in front of her, and kept looking back, as if to ask how they were to get out of that mess. Even if they had been allowed to talk, Arista had no answers. She simply had no idea what to do. If only she could have gotten that damned bracelet off, she would have had any number of ideas, but it was impossible. She was trapped. The line moved slowly, and she heard a low murmur of voices from the next room. An auction of people -- the idea horrified her. Slavery had been outlawed in most civilized nations, but just as with everything, enough money could get around that particular law. And this Wallach, it seemed, had made quite a lucrative living off of preying on those who wished to circumvent it. Gradually, Arista moved closer to the door, until she could hear Wallach describing his wares. He rambled on about the virtues of each woman, about how exotic they were, or from where they had come. A few had useful skills, most of which dealt with some sort of craft combined with magic (such as a jewelry maker who could infuse her trinkets with arcane properties), but underlying it all was a sexual tone. They were naked so that the buyers could gauge how healthy they were, but also so they could see the added benefit of a sex slave. Finally, only Tristan stood in front of her. She leaned in, and whispered, "Be strong. If we are separated, I will find you." She kissed his cheek. A few seconds later, Tristan was led into the room, and Arista heard a gasp, followed by Wallach's slimy voice. He said, "Ah, so you see how unique this little strumpet is, do you? He is quite unique, though he has no real use other than as a member of your harems. But what a piece to add to your collection! It will take a special sort of buyer to appreciate this gem, however. I will begin the bidding at a thousand gold pieces." Such was the effect that Tristan had on most men that the bidding quickly climbed far past any of the others who had gone before him. Arista even heard a scuffle, followed by Wallach saying, "Men, please! Be civilized!" Finally the bidding ended, followed by a few moments of silence. At least they hadn't deduced Tristan's identity. And then, the door opened, and Arista was led through. She looked up, and saw Wallach standing at a podium. Arista turned her head, and looked around the room at the gathered crowd of men. There were perhaps thirty, and they were all richly dressed. She was led to a spot where she stopped, and turned a circle, just as she had been instructed. When she looked at the faces gazing at her again, she was absolutely disgusted. Arista didn't really like men overly much in the best of times, but even less so when they leered at her naked body so openly, so lustfully. "Beautiful. Exotic. And that's just her physical attributes. No, fellows, this one is the real deal. A true magician, and a strong one at that. I know for a fact that she can summon two fireballs at once, and that those fireballs can kill a man in an instant. There is real power in this woman," Wallach explained. "We'll start the bidding at two-thousand gold pieces." Arista didn't know which caused the ferocity of the bidding - her looks or her power. She suspected that it was a combination of them both. Either way, The bids quickly reached ridiculous proportions - even more than Tristan. Part of her couldn't help but feel vaguely satisfied that she was, at least, wanted. With a scowl, she banished the thought from her head. Finally, the bidding ended when only one person seemed to have enough money to continue. The winner stood out, even amidst the rich, well- dressed men. He was only average in size, and middle aged, but he had a commanding presence about him that was unmistakeable. He was a man who got what he wanted. He was a man who other men followed. And amidst that, he had a dangerous air about him. Arista got a chill when she looked into his eyes. Arista was led to him, and he said in a gravelly voice, "Clothe her. I shall await delivery in my carriage." With that, he turned, and left the room. He hadn't even looked at her, not really. He hadn't bought Arista for sexual reasons, but for her power. Somehow, that pleased Arista. She knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, though, that her fate was far different from the one which awaited Tristan. Any relief she might have felt was scattered to the wind at that thought. * Tristan was confused. He had been prepared for a lot of things, but his current situation was not one of them. When he had been purchased, Tristan had regressed back to the person he had been during that first year of his imprisonment, when he had been little more than a sex slave. Survival was paramount, and in order to get through his captivity, Tristan knew that he would have to sacrifice any independence he had regained. And so he had become Tristan the sex slave once again. The trip to his purchaser's estate was short - barely a day and a half - and he spent most of it locked in his carriage. He had been clothed, and escorted from Wallach's castle almost as soon as he had been purchased; he hadn't even seen what had befallen Arista. The whole time, all he could think about was the last thing she had said, that she would come for him. And he believed her with all of his heart. So, his task was merely to survive. Arista would save him if it was the last thing she did. Even so, he was under no illusions about why he had been bought. He was an oddity to put in someone's harem, a strange mix between boy and girl who would no doubt fascinate any guest deemed important enough to warrant his company. That assumption was the root of Tristan's confusion. He was sitting in a spacious den which sported a roaring fire in the enormous fireplace, when the man who had purchased him said, "You must be quite frightened. Do not be. You will not be harmed here. In fact, you may leave if you wish once my explanation is complete. But I want you to consider that life here will be one of opulence, pleasure, and your every whim seen to. You have my word on that." Tristan gazed at his master, and noted, not for the first time, that he was really quite frail and aged. Something seemed off about the whole situation. That man, Tristan thought, was not healthy enough for sex. So why was Tristan there? "My son is a homosexual," the man blurted out. "For me, I simply do not care who he wants to share a bed with, but my judgment is not worth what it used to be. No, my younger brother...half-brother really...well, he would use my son's homosexuality against him when I die, and likely take my estate as his own, leaving my son with nothing. The church, you see, oversees all inheritance, and the problem, dear child, is that they abhor people like my son. Immoral, they call it...an abomination. For the life of me, I can't see why, but that is neither here nor there." He stood, and turned from Tristan, "I could have him marry a woman to prove that he's not, but I have a similar failing to many fathers." He turned back to Tristan, who could see his wet cheeks glisten in the firelight. "I want him to be happy. No woman can do that, but perhaps you can. I do not ask this lightly, for I do not own you, not really. No person can own another. Will you marry my son?" Tristan didn't know what to say, so he remained silent. "You don't have to stay with him after my death, and I assure you, I am close," the old man stated. "But when I die, and he gets the estate, your own death can be faked, and you may leave with a payment befitting such a service." Tristan came back to himself, and asked, "If I say no?" "Then you may leave as quickly as a horse may take you," the man answered. "But know that by staying, you will be doing me and my family a great favor. Moreover, you will have prevented quite a lot of bloodshed." "Bloodshed? How?" Tristan asked. "My son will try to protect what is rightfully his, and my half-brother will try to take it with the support of the Church's militant order," the old man explained. "My son will lose, but many lives will be forfeit." "So you're asking me to prevent a war, and all it will take is a few months of my life?" Tristan asked. "I would be a horrid person to refuse such a request." "So you will do it?" "Of course," Tristan responded. In truth, he wanted to leave then and there, but the harsh reality was that he had nowhere else to go. Arista was gone. He simply didn't know where she had been taken. And he had told the truth. He didn't want to stand aside and let a war be fought if he could prevent it. "But I have a couple of questions, if you don't mind." "Ask," was the old man's simple response. "Where am I?" Tristan asked. "And who are you?" "Ah, of course. I forget that you likely have no frame of reference for your location. You are in Orankos, and more specifically, my hereditary lands, the estate of Count Kinwan," he explained. "My name is Orrun Kinwan. My son, who you shall meet tomorrow, is Abraham." Orankos -- Tristan had heard of it, certainly, but he had not thought that they had travelled so far from his home. The place was far to the north of Honus, and Tristan knew that it was ruled not by a king of queen, but by a collection of independent lords. The old man sat back down with a sigh. "Anything else?" Tristan smiled at the old man, and said, "Just one thing. Where can I get some food? I am starving." The old man laughed. * Arista felt the whip bite deeply into the flesh of her back, but she stifled a scream. That's what he wanted, and she refused to let him get it. She heard another crack, and felt the sting of the whip once again. A gravelly voice said, "Submit, and you shall feel no more pain. Your life will be one of luxury. Just sign the contract." "Never," Arista growled through gritted teeth. "Suit yourself. It's just as well. You know how much I enjoy this," her master said. His name was Fortino, but Arista had learned nothing else about her new owner, save that he was rich, powerful, sadistic, and had a need of a magician's services. She had fooled herself into thinking that her master might allow her a life devoid of humiliation because he had wanted her for her magical talents rather than for sex. Oh, but Arista had discovered soon after arriving at his fortress that there were far worse things in the world. Fortino delighted in pain, Arista could tell, and he had had a wonderful time in the week since he had bought Arista. Three times each day, she received a lashing. It lasted either until she submitted or until she passed out. She had yet to give in. He wanted her to sign a magical contract swearing fealty, but Arista knew that doing so would strip her of free will. She would be unable to disobey, even if it meant her own life. Arista would never sign such a contract, no matter how much she was punished. She suspected, however, that Fortino knew that, and was content just to administer those painful whippings each day. She counted them; somehow, it helped take her mind off of her flayed back. The last number she remembered before passing out was fifty- three. Arista awoke to searing agony. She didn't know how much time had passed, but she did know that her back was a ruined mass of blood and flayed flesh. She felt someone rubbing something cool onto her back. They did the same after each session. Apply the ointment, let her heal just enough where she wouldn't die before they wished it, and then repeat. Her life had descended into a constant stream of painful suffering. Looking at a nearby window, Arista considered throwing herself from it. She was confident that she could muster the strength to carry her through the window, if only barely, but one thought kept her from doing so. She needed to rescue Tristan from whatever horrible fate had befallen him. That she had no idea of how to escape was irrelevant. She would find a way. She had to. The beatings continued for what seemed like months, but was, in reality, only a week and a half. For Arista, though, the days blended together. There was only pain. Vaguely, she knew that she was fed every so often, and that she used the facilities from time to time. Her days, however, were marked only by how much pain she could take before the welcoming blackness of unconsciousness would take her. One night - she only knew because her window was dark - her door opened, and in walked Fortino. He slammed the door behind him, and stood over Arista. "Two years," Fontino stated. "That's all I need, and then you can go." Arista, who lay on her stomach, leaned over and spat on his shoes. "I will put it in the contract that you will not be required to do anything that will harm yourself or anyone you love, and that the duration of your servitude shall be no more than two years. Less if we accomplish our goals before then," Fontino said. "Or we can continue with the beatings, and you will eventually die or submit to a lifelong contract. I give you two days to ponder my offer, in which you will not be beaten." Arista turned her head, and stared at the wall. Two years of servitude for the rest of her life - would it be so devastating? She knew that there was only one reason to employ a magician such as herself; Fontino was going to war. Arista didn't need to know the details. She didn't want to know who the enemy was. All she needed to know was that, if she chose to submit, that Fontino would keep his word. She would deal with the consequences of her actions once she was free, and had found Tristan. Her decision made, she sat up, and turned to Fontino. She said, "I will do it, but I write the contract. I cast the spell. You may have your own magician check it, but I want the wording to be airtight. There can be no leeway in this contract." "Very well," Fontino stated. "Rest. I will return tomorrow. You should be healed enough by then to bend your mind to the task." With that, he left. Arista was keenly aware of just how wrong her decision was. Nothing about it felt right, but she simply did not care. If she wanted to get free, to save Tristan, she would do any number of detestable things. So strong was her need that, in her mind, she had no choice at all. Working with Fontino was her only option. * Tristan walked alongside Abraham, his voluminous skirts rustling with each step. The gardens through which they walked were gorgeous, well kept, and the smells of blooming flowers filled the air. "I am sorry for your situation," Abraham said. "I know that I am probably not your ideal mate, but know that I will not harm you in any way. While we will have to spend time together, I will do my best not to --" "You don't have to apologize," Tristan interrupted. "Your father doing what he did was the best outcome I could have possibly hoped for, in my situation, and I am grateful. You have done me a great service, and you have my thanks." Abraham only said, "Oh." "So tell me about yourself," Tristan coaxed sweetly with a smile. "I know nothing of your life." "As you know, I am different. My father --" "Your sexual preference does not define you, and is not what I want to know. I want to know who you are," Tristan said. He stopped, and Abraham stopped with him. Tristan turned, and looked into his eyes. He wasn't much taller than Tristan himself, and was extremely thin - almost sickly. His facial features were nondescript, but Tristan's gaze was drawn to his bright, blue eyes. They were alive, those eyes. Tristan took Abraham's hands in his own. "Tell me who you are, Abraham Kinwan. Your hopes, your dreams, your interests. I want to know. And I need to know if I am to convince anyone we are to be married." Abraham didn't say anything for a moment, but then stated, "I don't know what to say. I'm not very good at this...at any of this. People perplex me. They just don't make sense." "Then what does make sense to you?" Tristan asked. "Books. And theories. And business. I always know where I stand with those," Abraham allowed. "But most of all, I just want to make my father proud. He does so much for me, has given me every tool I need to succeed, and I want to justify his actions through my own success." "His actions need no justification, Abraham. He does what he does out of love. The end result is irrelevant," Tristan stated. "To him, at least." "But not to me. I love him too, and I want to give him the gift of a successful son," Abraham said. The two started walking again, but Tristan kept hold of Abraham's hand. His grip wasn't strong, but in that moment, Tristan didn't mind, even though he hardly knew why. "So, books? Do you only read academic works, or do you like stories as well?" Tristan queried. "I was never really much for learning about business and such. Instead, I always read stories of war, romance, and heroes." "I've read my share," Abraham stated. "But few really catch my interest, not the way economic concepts do." Tristan was reaching for something with which to relate to Abraham, but he kept coming up short. The man wouldn't open up to him. He certainly hadn't been joking when he had claimed a lack of understanding of people. How does one reach a person with which one shares no common interests? Tristan didn't know. And then he hit upon an idea. Tristan hadn't really latched on to the bureaucratic arm of government, not like his brother had, but he knew enough to carry on a conversation. So he broached the topic of economics, and was quite surprised when Abraham responded with enthusiasm. Quickly, however, Tristan's knowledge was extinguished, so he simply asked questions, listening as well as he could to Abraham's answers. Why did he care so much? Tristan hardly knew why he wanted to get to know Abraham, to put him at ease about the situation. He could have just done the minimum, and gotten to know a few facts, and then married the man. But something inside of him wanted to take it all seriously, like it was the real thing. Was it because he really liked Abraham? No, he knew that wasn't it. Abraham was pleasant enough, but he was far from Tristan's type. And he was extraordinarily boring and awkward. In the back of his mind, Tristan knew that Abraham had become his backup plan. If Arista never came, and he knew that was a distinct possibility, he would have a home, a place with Abraham should he wish it. But did he even like Abraham? Maybe a little, but Tristan was far from passionate about the skinny academic. However, Abraham was kind, he was considerate, and he tried to make Tristan happy. Was that enough? Tristan couldn't even confront the question. In fact, he refused to acknowledge it, preferring instead to hope for a day when he and Arista would be reunited, even though he knew, in his heart, that it was unlikely that he would ever even see his lover again, much less be rescued by her. And so, he lived his life as best he could. Days passed, and Tristan and Abraham grew slightly more familiar. They still weren't close, but a plan formed in Tristan's mind which he thought would do the trick. After two months, Tristan decided that enough was enough, and that it was time for Abraham to open up. He had tried everything short of seduction, and nothing had worked. Abraham was still as closed off as he had been the first day they had met. So Tristan fell back on the one thing he knew for certain, the one skill he had honed to perfection. He decided to show Abraham that being with him could be quite pleasurable. Seduction was his plan, and he put it into action on a drizzly fall day. He had sneaked into Abraham's bed chamber, and undressed. Lying on the bed in his most provocative pose, Tristan waited for Abraham to enter. He didn't have to wait for long before Abraham came in the room, and dropped the pile of books which he had been carrying. He tried to stammer a few words about impropriety, but Tristan rose, and put a delicate finger on his lips. "Quiet, lover," Tristan said. He had thought about the situation quite a bit, and had decided a direct approach would serve him well. Less chance for Abraham to back out. He dropped to his knees, and unbuttoned Abraham's trousers. When he pulled them down, Tristan was shocked; his member was enormous! Tristan had seen penises of all shapes and sizes, and had pleasured them all. But he had yet to see one that rivaled Abraham's. Thick, long, and hardening, Tristan wrapped his small hand around it, and began to stroke it. When it was completely engorged, the thing was intimidating at nearly the size of Tristan's forearm. Could he even fit it in his mouth? Tristan reached out tentatively with his tongue, and licked along the shaft from the base to its head. The musky taste was familiar, even if its size was not. Tristan licked it for a few minutes, paying special attention to the head, before he finally decided to try to fit it in his mouth - he opened wide, and slipped as much in as he could. He knew his teeth were scraping it, but it was unavoidable. Doing the best he could, Tristan sucked for all he was worth. It must have been pleasurable enough, because it wasn't long before Abraham came, shooting semen down Tristan's throat. As it softened, Tristan continued to suck, to lick, and to stroke Abraham's penis. It would be a few minutes before the man was ready, but Tristan knew that he needed to keep the act going so Abraham couldn't back out. After a couple of minutes, Tristan felt Abraham's member begin to harden again. He stood, and led Abraham by his penis to the bed, where he guided him into a lying position. When Abraham was lying down, Tristan continued to to play with the man's penis, coaxing it to erection. It became completely hard after only a few seconds, and Tristan climbed atop the skinny man. Lowering himself onto the penis, Tristan was surprised at how much he had missed being with a man. He knew all along that he preferred having sex with men, but he had managed to put the depth of his passion from his mind. It all came crashing back as he felt the huge penis enter him. It hurt a little at first; it was just so much bigger than any Tristan had taken, but the pain faded quickly, and was replaced by pleasure. Up and down, Tristan rode Abraham, and he was again surprised by the man's stamina. It took him a full fifteen minutes before he came. His hands roamed all over Tristan's petite body, toying with his nipples and spending extra time with his small, erect penis. When Tristan climbed off of Abraham, he could feel the semen dripping from his anus. Abraham grabbed him around the waist, and in hands much stronger than they looked, picked him up. He put Tristan on his back, and lowered his head between Tristan's legs. His mouth felt wonderful as it engulfed Tristan's tiny penis, sucking and tonguing it. Tristan was keenly aware of how much pleasure he was getting out of sex with Abraham; he hadn't felt anything like it in quite some time. He had missed it, having sex with a man. Later, when both Tristan and Abraham were spent, Tristan cradled Abraham's head in his arms, and pondered his feelings. On the one hand, he knew that he loved Arista with all of his heart; on the other, she simply wasn't there. Nor was it likely she ever would be again. But Abraham was, and he was sweet, gentle, and treated Tristan well. And the sex was fantastic. Did sex, kindness, and circumstance combine to be greater than his love for Arista? He didn't know, but even then,Tristan had doubts about how real his feelings were for Arista. She was just so far away, he told himself. And Abraham was right there. Tristan simply didn't know what to feel. * Arista seethed. She knew that what she was doing was irrevocably wrong, but she couldn't resist. The magic of the contract compelled her to obey, and so she did. An enormous ball of fire and molten rock arced through the air, landing amidst a regiment of enemy soldiers, decimating them all. She heard the screams. She smelled the burning flesh, and she felt the earth tremor when it hit. But she couldn't look, simply couldn't watch the carnage she had wrought. It had been nearly six months since she had signed the contract, and each day, she had to remind herself why she had submitted. Thoughts of beautiful Tristan danced in her head, warring with the knowledge that she had done so many evil, despicable things. She had killed. She had maimed. She had been an unadulterated instrument of destruction, raining fire from the sky, moving the earth beneath the feet of opposing armies, and sending waves of tornadoes to tear them asunder. The Black Witch, they called her, and she deserved the name. To any who stood in her way, she was evil incarnate, an indiscriminate murderer. And she knew that the gusto with which she performed her tasks pleased her master, Fontino. She imagined it was him she was killing each time she sent a spell at her enemies. They were winning; Arista had no idea what the war was even about. All she knew was that her participation was a means to an end; she would move mountains if it meant that she could save her love, her Tristan. And just like that, the battle was over. She had won. Sure, the soldiers would take credit, but even they knew that they wouldn't have stood the slightest chance without the Black Witch. She turned from the field of battle, and walked toward an elaborate tent. She entered, and sat on a camp chair, staring at the ground. Arista was too good at her job. The war was all but won; she had killed much more quickly and efficiently than even crafty Fontino could have predicted. Ostensibly, he was happy. He told Arista how much she pleased him each day. But she couldn't shake the feeling that Fontino had tasted true power, that he had seen how little all of his money, all of his men really mattered. And Arista worried that he wouldn't let it go. She tilted her head back, and sighed. Life had grown so incredibly complicated since Tristan had entered her life. Before, she had been content to simply battle on behalf of her queen, but when Tristan had come, all of that had changed irrevocably. He had begun as such a defiant, arrogant captured warrior, but Arista had seen the fear. It had been buried deep, but it was there. Instinctively, she wanted to protect him, but back then, she hadn't been able to. So, the plan had gone forward, and Tristan had been changed. His vulnerability, Arista knew, was a big reason she had begun to fall for him. She had wanted to save him, even then. She had wanted to protect him. Their love had blossomed from there, and in the end, she had saved him. But there she was, with history repeating itself, forced to act in what could only be called an evil manner. And all she wanted was to protect her love, but she didn't even know where he was. She had asked around, and searched, but no one knew of anyone fitting his description. One question nagged at her, however. Would he still love her? She knew his attraction to her was tenuous, at best, but she had seen the love in his eyes. Would it last, even while she was out of sight, and out of his life? She hoped so. More than that, though, she merely wished for his safety. What horrors might befall such a pretty boy, she did not know, but she had seen, had been the victim of man's insipid nature. It was not a comforting thought. A page opened the tent flap, and poked his head inside. Arista could sense his fear at being in such close proximity to the Black Witch. "Lord Fontino wishes to see you, ma'am," he squeaked. Arista inclined her head, and the boy disappeared. Back to work, she thought. What other deplorable actions would be required of her that day? She rose, wondering what the future really held. * Arista sat across from the man she hated most in the entire world, eating dinner. Fontino merely pecked at his food as he looked at it disdainfully. Even though it was significantly better than the fare served to ordinary soldiers, it was still quite a bit less appetizing than what he was used to. He moved the various foods around on his plate aimlessly for a few moments before Arista asked, "What do you want?" He looked up, and smiled. It was a gruesome sight, not because he was an ugly man - he wasn't - but because there was absolutely no joy in it. Fontino answered, "Straight to the point. I've always liked that about you, Arista." Arista didn't say anything, but instead, looked at her master expectantly. "Very well. The war is over. Your task is complete." He gestured to her meal. "Eat. It is a good day for both of us." When Arista didn't touch her food, he suggested, "Then at least have some wine. I had it brought here from the vineyards at Unath. It is quite good." Arista lifted her glass, and brought it to her lips. She knew as soon as the wine touched her lips that she had made a grave mistake. Her body went numb almost instantly, and she fell off of her chair. She couldn't move. She could barely even breathe as Fontino rose, and stood over her. "Ah, do you think I didn't know about your defenses? That you have been preparing spells in case I didn't live up to my end of the contract? Well, I did. You are released from my service. But what shall become of you, my Black Witch? I can not let you leave. Not knowing what you know; I can't let a potential enemy - especially one as powerful as you - walk free. You must see the logic in it," he said. Fontino squatted, and his hand caressed Arista's brow. "No, you will continue as you have been doing. I know your weakness, my dear. The boy from the auction - the one who looked more female than male - he is your lover, is he not? You need not answer; I know it as fact. Tristan, was his name? I also know where he is, and I can have him murdered with a single word. So, you see, dear Arista, you are well and truly trapped." He stood, and turned his back to Arista as inwardly, the fires of her anger rose to heights she had never before known He dared to threaten her Tristan? She would burn him to ash, and lay waste to everyone and everything he held dear! "If I die by your hand or order," Fontino continued. "Your love shall be murdered. The plan is already set in motion. You can not stop it." "I have many enemies. You shall destroy them all," Fontino finished. With that, he turned, and walked to the tent flap. He opened, it, but before he stepped out, he said, "I will not use bracelets or other crude means of control any longer. You are free to do as you wish, but beware the consequences of your actions." And he was gone, leaving Arista paralyzed and fuming on the floor. * Over the year and a half since Tristan had become a resident at the Kinwan estate, life had taken a decided turn towards happiness. Fear no longer ruled his life, and he had the love of a good, honest man. That Tristan didn't love him in return was irrelevant. It wasn't love, but there was a certain fondness, friendship, and sensuality which marked the relationship between Tristan and Abraham, and that, for Tristan, was enough. They had been married on the eighth month of his residence. Abraham's father died two months after that, leaving Abraham the entirety of his estate. Tristan's obligation was complete, but he chose to stay. There was little hope of finding Arista, and nothing else interested him about the outside world. No, he was happy, and he remained at the estate. No one, aside from Abraham or Tristan, knew that he was, in fact, male. The servants called him Lady Trista, but the appellation rankled on him. He was not a woman, and if there was one thing which bothered him about his new station, it was being considered one. He knew it made little difference, as he was closer to female than male in appearance, manner, and dress, but he missed being acknowledged and accepted as who and what he was. However, the lack was merely a minor annoyance when compared to the joy of the rest of his life. Abraham proved to be as generous and loving a husband as he was as a lover, and he doted on Tristan. Tristan supposed that the man was constantly afraid of losing him, scared that he might decide that his job was complete. For his part, Tristan did his best to be a dutiful, loving wife, and bent his will to satisfying his husband's every need - both sexual and intellectual. To Tristan's surprise, he showed a surprising aptitude for governance, and Abraham often asked his opinion on key decisions. Eventually, Tristan began sitting in on each meeting his husband conducted, offering his own insight into each matter. It worked. Between their two keen minds, Tristan and Abraham guided their business and political interests toward extreme prosperity. They, it seemed, could do little wrong, and made a nearly perfect team. As the months passed, their wealth and power grew. Fourteen months after Tristan had come to live at the Kinwan estate, two minor lords had sworn fealty to Abraham, and more were to come. He was building a small kingdom, and Tristan was the driving force. At one meeting, Abraham was getting reports on his immediate neighbors when someone - Tristan couldn't remember the man's name - said, "And then there is Fontino, a lord far to the north of here, who has been wreaking havoc on that region. As you know, m'lord, wars in up there aren't uncommon. But this one is different. He crushes any who oppose him, and has conquered no less than four territories. Maybe more." "Is his army simply better equipped or more numerous?" Abraham asked. "No, sir. He has employed a dreadful magician. It is said that she could defeat an army of thousands by herself. I've seen one of the battlefields, sir. I'm not sure when the battle was fought, or who the opponent was, but the very ground had been melted," the man explained. "I am inclined to believe the stories, at least insofar as the magician's value as a weapon. They are not to be underestimated." "Does this magician have a name?" Tristan asked. "Yes, my lady. She is called the Black Witch," he answered. "It is said that she has skin like ash." Could it be? Could there be two female magicians of that skin coloring? Unlikely, Tristan thought. But he considered it equally unlikely that Arista would become such a monster as what the man had described. Secure in the fact that he knew Arista at least as well as he knew anyone else in the world, he dismissed the notion. Surely she would die before committing such atrocities. Abraham dismissed his advisers, and, once they were gone, asked Tristan, "What do you think?" "He'll advance on you eventually," Tristan acknowledged, and Abraham agreed. "Then we shall prepare," Abraham stated. "Do you think the reports of the witch are exaggerated?" Tristan shrugged. "Probably, but I have seen magicians do the things he describes. In my experience, that sort of destruction isn't possible from one person, though. Likely the tales have become bigger via the retelling, or there is more than one magician. Either way, do not take the threat lightly." "You'll have to tell me some day about these experiences with battle magic," Abraham said, smiling. "You're just full of surprises, aren't you, my love." Tristan recognized the look in Abraham's eyes. He had seen it hundreds of times before - Abraham was feeling randy, and wanted his wife. Tristan was only too happy to oblige. They made passionate love then and there, without bothering to seek the privacy of their shared bed. It was quick, and furious, but Tristan didn't mind. The urgency of it all excited him all the more. * Arista was afraid, mortally and more than she ever had been before. Fontino knew where Tristan was, and she had absolutely no doubt that, if she displeased the man in any way, Tristan's life would be forfeit. Her master was many things, but inept was not among them. He did not make idle threats. No, Tristan's life hung in the balance, and only Arista could keep it from swinging towards mortal danger. More than that, though, she was frustrated. Trapped by her own love, she didn't dare disobey; nor could she show any signs of a lack of effort. Either might get her love, her Tristan, killed. And so she buried herself in the Black Witch, into the persona of fear, of death. She would not be responsible for Tristan's death; that much she knew. But playing a role, night and day, in every waking hour tends to have a strange effect on a person. They begin to become that person; it is only natural. And that is the fate that befell poor Arista. She killed, and she destroyed. Her wake was one of fire and devastation. Wherever she went, agony, despair, and death followed. She became her role; she was the Black Witch. Arista all but died, she was buried so deep beneath the character, the role of the Black Witch. But Tristan was safe, she kept telling herself. Eventually, she didn't even think about him, though. Such is the effect of distance, both in time and space. Out of sight, out of mind - Tristan became both to Arista. If she stopped to think too long, his image would pop into her head, but she couldn't afford to feel. She had to be hard, needed to be strong and merciless. Thoughts of Tristan were not conducive to that. After two more years, she had given up all hope of going back to Tristan. He was gone; he was safe. And she knew that he would absolutely abhor what she had become. At night, as she lie in bed, Arista reemerged, albeit briefly, and she was ashamed of her actions, of the person she had become. She was a monster, through and through. And love was the root, the seed of it all. Did that make it better, she would wonder? Did that make her actions any less detestable? No, she knew that it didn't. It merely made her selfish in the extreme. She had tossed aside all morality, had used her powers to kill hundreds, if not thousands of people all for her selfish desire to keep Tristan alive. She knew it was wrong, right down to her core. But knowing it didn't change Arista's mind. Recognizing her own selfishness did not keep her from, day by day, working towards more and more murder. Arista absolutely loathed herself; there was no other way to describe it. She knew that she would reap no benefit from her actions, not personally, at least. So was it truly selfish? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Those doubts kept her up each night, but still she did her duty, and played her role. The Black Witch emerged each morning, and people, both friend and foe, trembled in her presence. * Tristan knew that life was about to change, and not for the better. The mad, power-hungry Fontino had advanced onto Kinwan lands, and sacked two of Abraham's fortresses. The next target was the Kinwan estate itself. Battles had been fought, and Abraham's men had held their own as well as could be expected, but the tide had been turned by the Black Witch. She was shrouded in mystery, and no one knew anything about her, save that she was dark of skin, viciously evil, and extraordinarily powerful. She had laid waste to an entire regiment of Abraham's finest soldiers in a battle only a month previous, single-handedly turning the tide of the battle. Tristan knew that they were going to lose, but what choice did they have but to fight? Fontino was as abhorrent a tyrant as he was a ruthless military commander. His people barely had enough to eat, and he worked them harder than any sane man would. Many died from hunger, exhaustion, or disease. They weren't people to Fontino; they were simply a means to get what he wanted, which was more power. No, neither Abraham nor Tristan could stomach surrender to such a man. And so they fought, and most of the time, lost. The Kinwan forces were not weak, however, and put up much more of a fight than anyone had previously. It was not enough. Battle after battle turned the land from verdant farm to burning graaveyard, and soon, Abraham's forces began to dwindle. Three years after they had been married, he came to Tristan, who was helping to organize supplies. Gone was the innocent, skinny young man, and in his place was a gaunt, world-weary, but strangely more alive figure. He had grown a beard, and his hair had lengthened. The weight of the world seemed to rest on his narrow shoulders, and Tristan saw the gravity in his eyes. Tristan asked, "What is it?" "They're nearly here. We must get the women and children from the keep, and into the mountains where the army will not follow," he said. Tristan crossed the room, and hugged his husband. "Is she with the army?" Tristan asked. There was no need to specify who. Abraham knew that Tristan spoke of the Black Witch. "Yes," Abraham answered. "Then you're right. The women and children - they must go," Tristan agreed. "And you with them," Abraham stated. Tristan merely said, "If you believe I'm about to leave, you are sorely mistaken. I shall do no such thing." "But --" "No 'buts', Abe. I'm not going to run away," Tristan said with finality. "So what is the plan?" "We don't have a choice. Nearly our entire army is scattered or dead. The enemy is on our doorstep. We must surrender, and hope that Fontino shows mercy," Abraham said. "When they arrive, we will negotiate the surrender, and hope for the best." "You don't expect that, do you? The best, I mean," Tristan reasoned. "Otherwise, the women and children wouldn't be leaving." "I want them to run and to hide, and get as far away form this madman as they can," Abraham said. "I can't stomach the notion of these people living under such conditions." "And us?" Tristan asked. Abraham shrugged. "We'll be okay." * Tristan rode a white horse, and had clothed himself in a matching dress. Let them behold true nobility, he thought. He held his head high, kept his shoulders back, and stared straight ahead at the approaching contingent of Fontino and his bodyguards. To Tristan's right rode Abraham, looking as well as could be expected, given the circumstance. To Tristan's left was one of Abraham's commanders. Behind the three of them was a token bodyguard. None were at ease. They all knew the gravity of the situation. The tension was palpable as the two groups came together. Tristan scanned the group, and then he saw her, the Black Witch, and his breath caught in his throat. * The Black Witch hated peace talks. They were a waste of time; no one would submit to Fontino's terms. They were designed that way. Formalities, though, must be observed, she mused as she rode a few steps behind the main group. She preferred to keep a bit of distance between herself and the opposing force; too many close calls had dictated that. The two groups came together, and the Black Witch looked at the commander, Abraham Kinwan. He looked like a such a feeble man. His eyes were sunken, and he appeared to be malnourished. A patchy beard decorated his jaw. The soldiers behind him were unremarkable, and .... Arista came to the forefront, pushing the Black Witch from her consciousness. Tristan! Her dear, beloved Tristan was there, not ten paces distant, and he looked as beautiful as ever. She struggled to contain her smile as she saw the recognition on Tristan's face. She had been planning for that moment for years. She started to mumble the spell, careful not to draw attention to herself. But Fontino was, as always, one step ahead of her. Too late, Arista saw the flash of a dagger. She stopped mid-spell, and screamed. * Tristan felt an intensely sharp pain in his side, and he yelped, falling form his horse. He had felt a similar pain before, and knew that he had been stabbed. But by who? Arista had recognized him, he knew. And he saw that she had begun casting a spell. As he lay on the ground, he reached to his side, and touched the wound. He hissed in pain, and pulled his fingers away. They were coated in blood. He looked up, and saw that a small battle had erupted around him. Confusion enveloped his mind as the sounds of swords on swords, the screams of dying men, and the neighing of frightened horses filled the air. And then Abraham was beside him, kneeling over Tristan. "Can you stand?" he asked, urgency in his voice. "I..I don't know," Tristan managed, coughing up blood. "Never mind," Abraham said, scooping Tristan's petite form into his arms. "Cover me!" Abraham shouted. No sooner had he taken a step than an arrow erupted from his throat, spraying blood all over Tristan's white dress. The two tumbled to the ground, and Tristan screamed in pain, concern, and fear. Abraham fell on top of Tristan, pinning him to the ground. A man knelt beside Abraham, and pulled him off of Tristan. Tristan rolled over, and managed to come to his knees next to his husband, and knelt over him. He was still alive, but only barely. A sickly gurgle escaped his lips when he tried to talk, and tears flowed freely down Tristan's cheeks. "No," Tristan said between sobs, the battle raging around him. "You can't..." Tristan couldn't even finish the sentence. Until that moment, Tristan hadn't realized the depth of his feelings for the man. It might have been love; it might not have been. But Tristan was absolutely devastated. He cried over his husband as Abraham died, paying no heed to what was happening around him. He didn't care for his own injury; all he knew was that Abraham was gone. It was only a few moments, but it seemed like an eternity. Tristan was lost. Nothing seemed to fit. And then, as if by magic, Arista was standing over him. Tristan looked up, but he didn't see Arista; he saw the Black Witch, and he understood her reputation. She was throwing balls of fire with each hand, and anger danced in her eyes. * By force of will alone, Arista stood over Tristan and the man named Abraham. Fatigue weighed her down, and threatened to send her careening into unconsciousness. Fireball after fireball, she sent at the enemy, but they just kept coming. Desperation filled her mind. She had found Tristan, and she was not about to let him be killed. Not after what she had done to protect him. In the midst of a brief respite, she looked around. The battle wasn't even close to finished, and she knew she didn't have long before her constant use of magic took its toll. And then, Tristan would be defenseless. Besides, even if she could afford to wait it out, Fontino's forces were going to win, and Arista would rather die than let Tristan fall under the thumb of that man. And then it hit her. That was the answer. She looked down at beautiful Tristan. He was pale; the wound at his side still bled, but Arista thought that he stood a good chance of living. The man was another story. Tristan wept over his dead body. "Tristan," Arista said, her voice still colored by the harshness of the Black Witch. "Do not move, not until the spell is finished." Tristan looked up, and Arista saw the person she loved more than anything else in the world. "How will I know?" "I will be dead," Arista said simply. She laid her hand on Tristan's head. "Goodbye, my love." * Tristan wanted to say something, but sadness, shock, and anger clouded his mind. He heard Arista mumbling, almost under her breath, and he knew she was casting a spell. He dared not interrupt her, for he knew that it was the only way. He had seen enough battles to know that, without some sort of magical intervention, he would soon be dead. Maybe it was selfishness, or perhaps he recognized that Arista wanted to die. The only thing she wanted more, Tristan suspected, was his safety. And she was acting to ensure both. She finished the spell, and in the brief moment before it took effect, she looked down at Tristan and smiled. The Black Witch was gone. Arista had returned, albeit only briefly. And then she collapsed to the ground, dead almost instantly. A white light pulsed from her body, nearly blinding Tristan. A few seconds later, his vision began to return, and he looked around. The battlefield was littered with corpses. No one within three-hundred yards had survived, save Tristan. He was appalled at how absolute it was. All sound was gone. Nothing stirred. And the two people Tristan loved most were dead. Arista, who had gone through such pain - Tristan had seen it in her eyes - and Abraham, who had sacrificed everything for his people. They had both loved Tristan with everything they had, and he had loved them back in very different ways. He cradled both of their heads in his lap, stroking their cheeks. He cried as he had never cried before, the tears coming amidst ragged sobs. Everything was gone. Both of the loves of his life were dead, the people about which he had come to care so deeply were scattered to war, and he had somehow survived. Guilt crept into his consciousness. Why him? Why was he special? Why did he deserve to live when so many others had been killed? After nearly an hour, Tristan felt a touch on his shoulder. He looked up to see one of the estate's servants, concern in her eyes. And then he passed out. * Tristan awoke to a creeping dread. For the first few seconds, he didn't know what it meant, but then it all came rushing back. Arista was dead. Abraham had been killed. The dread was replaced by an overwhelming sadness. He tried to sit up, but the pain in his side flared, shooting through his entire body. He gritted his teeth, refusing to acknowledge it. Tristan forced himself upright, and the blanket which had covered him fell to his waist, exposing his chest. He was naked. So, at least someone knew his secret. No matter. The ruse was finished, regardless. He looked down at a bandage covering his side. He touched it gingerly, and winced in pain. The wound was just below his rib cage, and had missed any vital organs. Tristan had experienced many such wounds, and knew that, painful though it was, it wasn't life threatening. But it would hurt, and quite a lot. He looked around, and noticed the familiar sight of the bedroom he had shared with Abraham. He lay back, knowing that rest was necessary, and he thought. What had happened? Someone had stabbed him, he knew, but who? After a few seconds, he realized that it didn't matter. Obviously, it had been one of the soldiers, a traitor in their midst. He was almost certainly dead now. But what really vexed Tristan was Arista. She had been the Black Witch, but why? Did Fontino have some control over her? And if so, how did she break it? Did Fontino still live? What of his army? A hundred questions raced through Tristan's mind, but no answers were forthcoming. He drifted off to sleep, cursing his own ignorance. When he awoke again, it was night. He had no idea for how long he had been asleep. One day? Two? He sat up, and felt considerably less pain than before. Either he had been out for quite a bit longer than he had suspected, or someone was quite a skilled healer. The door opened, and a woman - the servant who had come to Tristan's aid - walked in, carrying a tray with a bowl and a pitcher on it. "Glad to see you awake, dear," the woman said. "I've been wanting to talk to you." "How long have I been out?" Tristan asked. The woman crossed the room, and set the tray on a table near the bed. "Four days," the woman answered. She handed Tristan the bowl, and said, "Eat. You need strength." Tristan took the bowl, and began to spoon the broth into his mouth. The woman watched him diligently, as if daring him to stop. When he was finished - there wasn't much - he handed the bowl back. She set it down, and said, "I have something for you, but before I give it, I want some answers." Tristan nodded. "You are not a woman. Who are you?" Tristan recounted the story of how he had been abducted by the slaver Wallach, and sold to Abraham's father, and how the old man had propositioned him. He didn't gloss any of it over. "Hmm. And the woman? You obviously knew her, the way you mourned her death. Who was she?" the woman inquired. Tristan told what he knew of Arista's story. "I found this on her," the woman said, pulling an envelope from her pocket. Tristan saw his name on the front. She handed it to him. And then she left. Tristan opened the envelope with trembling hands, removed the piece of parchment form inside, and unfolded it. The letter which was written on it read as follows: My Dearest Tristan, If you are reading this, I am dead. I have gone to great lengths to get this letter to you; my influence has allowed me the use of a number of servants, and a select few I trust have copies of this letter. I don't know which one gave it to you, but treat them fairly. They have risked a great deal to find you, and to deliver this letter. I scarcely know where to begin. I love you. I have since nearly the first moment I laid eyes on you. I can only hope that you feel the same about me. I hold no illusions about how you will feel about me after you read this letter, so try to cling to whatever image you have of who I used to be. I want so badly to be that person again, but I doubt that it will happen. You have probably heard tales of the Black Witch; I confess to you now, that I am that monster. I have killed. I have torn entire armies asunder, and I am ashamed to say, lately, I have enjoyed it. I tell you this for two reasons. First, I need to confess. The guilt of it all weighs on me so heavily that I can hardly bear it. I hope that the confession will help, but, in truth, I hold little hope. Second, chances are that you have deduced as much from the stories you have no doubt heard, and I wish to tell you my side of the story. I have no excuses, and I take full responsibility for my actions. I just want you, if no one else, to understand my reasons. I was purchased by a power-hungry mad man named Fontino, and for the first few weeks, I endured torture I will not describe for fear that it might upset you. But I withstood it. I was willing to die rather than submit to him. But then he came to me with a deal. Two years for the rest of my life, he said. I merely had to serve him for two years, or until his goals were finished, and I would be free. Free to find you. Free to save you. I agreed. My help was more effective than he had anticipated, and after only eighteen months, we had won his war. But Fontino is a snake. He drugged me, and that was probably for the best. For what he told me incited my anger to the point where I would not have been able to control my actions. He told me that if I didn't continue to serve, that he would kill you. He knew where you were. He had someone close to you. And if I didn't obey, or if I killed him, that assassin would strike, and your life would end. I couldn't be the cause of your death, so I continued to serve him. And I lost hope. I lost myself to the Black Witch. I became that monster; I had moments of lucidity where I knew what I was, and was ashamed. This letter is the product of those moments. But most of the time, I was every inch the demon of the stories. I have wondered often whether what I did was selfish. I did it for you, but at the same time, it was for my own sake. I didn't want to live with myself if I caused your death. I couldn't. I love you too much. Lately, I have pondered the question of my own identity. Am I evil? I have acted evilly, certainly, but I had good reasons, I think. People call me a monster, a devil, but if they were in my situation, would they do any differently? Could you? Even though it damns my actions, I hope that you could take a different path than I did. I know that you are stronger than I am, so you probably would have. My weakness is my downfall. Perhaps you will pity me rather than hate me for what I have done. I do not expect your love will continue, but again, I ask, remember me as I was, not as I became. With Boundless Love, Arista Tristan read the letter over and over, tears streaming freely down his cheeks. He did not hate Arista, not even close. She had gone to impossible lengths to protect him, had damned herself in the process, and she had died thinking that Tristan would hate her for it. Sad did not describe it. An anger Tristan hadn't felt in ages welled up inside of him. He knew what he had to do, and he hated it. He had to become the warrior again. He wanted vengeance. He needed it. And he knew his target: Fontino. He fell asleep knowing, for the first time in a long time, his path. So ends the second part of Tristan's story, the conclusion of which is yet to come.
Friday, August 26, 2011
This is the first in a series of photostories in which a pair of scientists decide to explore gender identity -- ethics be damned.
Subject One -- My Roommate
I actually really enjoyed doing this one, and I think it's pretty good. Let me know what you think.
Thanks for reading!
Subject One -- My Roommate
I actually really enjoyed doing this one, and I think it's pretty good. Let me know what you think.
Thanks for reading!
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
I put these up from time to time on my other blog to try to get a little feedback on specific things. This time, I'm trying to determine where I stand in terms of how professional my writing is. So, the options are as follows:
1. Professional: It's as well-written as an average professional writer's output.
2. Almost Professional: It's close to as well-written as an average professional writer's output.
3. Good Amateur: It's not quite up to professional level, but it's a cut above other amateur writers' work.
4. Average: It's nothing special. Not bad. Not good. Just right in the middle.
5. Below Average: Most of what you read is better than my work.
6. Bad: I need to really rethink my writing style.
I know it's difficult to judge someone's work, so I only really ask for your initial impression. Don't overthink it. Also, I would prefer if you only consider my text stories when answering this poll (assuming anyone actually does so).
Anyway, thanks in advance for your input.
1. Professional: It's as well-written as an average professional writer's output.
2. Almost Professional: It's close to as well-written as an average professional writer's output.
3. Good Amateur: It's not quite up to professional level, but it's a cut above other amateur writers' work.
4. Average: It's nothing special. Not bad. Not good. Just right in the middle.
5. Below Average: Most of what you read is better than my work.
6. Bad: I need to really rethink my writing style.
I know it's difficult to judge someone's work, so I only really ask for your initial impression. Don't overthink it. Also, I would prefer if you only consider my text stories when answering this poll (assuming anyone actually does so).
Anyway, thanks in advance for your input.
Monday, August 22, 2011
Revenge is a Dish Best Served Feminine
I'm trying a new presentation hosting site, and hopefully this one won't suspend my account. If you want it full screen, you're going to have to click the link above it.
Anyway, hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed making it.
I'm trying a new presentation hosting site, and hopefully this one won't suspend my account. If you want it full screen, you're going to have to click the link above it.
Anyway, hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed making it.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
I was quite pleased with how this story turned out. I started it with every intention of writing a short, extremely erotic story about a magical transformation, but it ended up being quite a bit more than that.
This is the story of Tristan -- a deadly and powerful warrior who is captured by the enemy and transformed into an effeminate weakling. It is the first of a three part story (the second part is already written, but the third is still in the planning stage). I hope you all enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
A Warrior Reborn
Rain fell across the battlefield, soaking the dead with its heavy drops,
its runoff mingling with blood, mud, and tears. But Tristan paid it
little heed, save to mark the change in footing as he swung his heavy
broadsword to and fro, cleaving enemies and friends alike. A bloodlust
had come over him, and his mind made little distinction between the two.
There was him, and then, there were enemies. What lay between mattered
little. He was a berserker, and one of the most feared of his kind in
all the land.
Ah, the land. That was the issue, in truth. Tristan was a warrior
first, but when he wasn't cleaving his way through one of his country's
many battles, he found himself attending courtly proceedings in his more
official capacity - that of Prince of Honus. Yes, his father was the
king, but that did not save him from obligatory military service.
The war had started over land, it was true, but there was far more to it
than that. There was an inescapable difference of ideology which had
exacerbated the boiling inferno that was the relationship between the
two nations of Honus and Einar. It began, like any number of conflicts,
with a land dispute. Both nations wished to control the rich, fertile
Gornos Valley, but both had a legitimate claim to its ownership. And
so, the first war, which lasted for nearly a decade, was fought. Both
sides won and lost many battles, but neither could claim victory. An
unspoken agreement to cease hostilities was reached, and both sides
backed off. They simply could not afford the monetary or human cost any
The second war was a little different. Land was the primary goal, but
Honus took a different tact to rile up its troops. Einar had been ruled
by a queen for as long as anyone could remember; it was a matriarchy
through and through. As one might suspect, that tradition affected
their general attitude towards women. Male and female soldiers fought
side by side, and were considered completely, and unequivocally equal
throughout the land of Einar. That is where Honus aimed its first of
many political attacks. So, the propaganda machine was born. Until
that time, Honus had taken a somewhat liberal view of women, and really
wasn't all that different in its views from Einar. But it all changed
with the second war. No one knows where the idea to demonize the
matriarchy (and its resulting feminism) actually came from, but it was
generally regarded as the sole reason for the continued animosity
between Honus and Einar. The second war continued for nearly forty
years, off and on. Both sides were unwilling to give up, but neither
could keep up the battles for long.
An uneasy peace was reached when, once again, neither side could muster
a significant force with which to fight. That peace lasted for almost
fifteen years, until the current war - called the Third War by most -
As Tristan fought his way through the hordes of men and women, fierce
soldiers all, little crossed his mind, save a need for blood. He was a
brutal man, true, but he was, if nothing else, an efficient warrior. He
had gained his reputation early in the the Third War, and had been
fighting the Einarians for nearly a decade. They had come to fear him,
and rightly so. Few could stand up to the hulking warrior.
He acted without thought; his instincts guided him. Tristan ducked
under the blade of a an axe, and opened the belly of its wielder with
his broadsword. In the same motion, he spun, sending his blade arcing
to decapitate a woman. He was unstoppable, hacking this way and that.
Tristan took minor cuts and bruises, but no wound was serious. He
battled for what seemed like hours until none stood before him. The
battle was finished.
He let the tip of his sword fall to the muddy ground as he panted from
exertion. Slowly, the scene around him came into focus. It was
strange. During the battle, he merely saw a sea of bodies through which
to cut. Each time, however, the battle ended, and he was horrified by
the carnage. Tristan, though, was a good soldier. He didn't let any of
the horror show.
Tristan felt a hand grasp his shoulder, and he spun, grabbing the
offending hand. He yanked, sending his would-be assailant crashing to
the mud. It was only when he had the tip of his sword at the man's
throat that he realized his mistake.
"Be easy, brother," Frederick said. Prince Frederick - Tristan's
younger brother - smiled. "The battle is won."
Tristan retracted his sword, and sheathed the weapon on his back. He
extended a hand, "My apologies little brother." Frederick took the
Good-naturedly, he replied, "No need, Tristan. I should know by now not
to sneak up on you like that."
Tristan could only shrug. "The Einarians have retreated, then?"
"Look around. They are all dead or running like the cowards they are,"
Frederick replied. "We have won, brother."
Tristan snorted in derision, but not for the Einarians. No, he scoffed
at his own brother's words. Cowards? He had seen none who qualified as
such on that day's battlefield. But then, Frederick often thought of
the defeated as having shamed themselves. Never mind that Frederick
himself never actually participated in any sort of warfare, save
whatever games he played with his friends. Prince Frederick preferred
to view the battle from afar, to seize on any strategic advantages. Few
would say it to his face, but many men thought him the coward.
"Always so glum, brother. Can you not enjoy this victory? We have won
the day, and we shall celebrate!" Frederick exclaimed. In spite of the
way he felt about his enemies, Tristan was, in fact, happy. He was not
without his pride, and the princely warrior's ego had been stroked that
The tent was magnificent. There were few other words to describe the
silk structure in which the main celebration took place.
Night had fallen, and torches and lanterns had been lit. The King
himself had chosen to bestow the joy of his presence upon those beneath
him. So there King Nalos sat on his uncomfortable, gilded throne,
watching the festivities.
It had been a great victory, to be sure, and quite lopsided. Nalos knew
that his son had tipped the balance in favor of the war host of Honus.
He always did when he fought. Nalos looked at his son, and not for the
first time, thanked the gods for giving him such a gift.
Tristan was huge; he towered over each of the other two-hundred people
in the tent, and easily. But he was not lumbering, like so many other
giant men. He moved with an athletic, deadly grace. Each movement was
measured, and he maintained a warrior's balance even when at rest, far
away from danger. Tristan, though, was more than his stature. He was a
born warrior, his every instinct aggressively dominant. Nalos felt
confident in the fate of his nation should Tristan succeed him.
And then his eyes came to rest on his other son, Frederick. That one
was far too clever for his own good. He wasn't a small man, but he
wasn't terribly large, either. Average. What he lacked in size,
however, he made up for in cunning. Frederick had always been that way.
Perhaps it was growing up in his brother's shadow, or maybe it was the
gods' own design, but Frederick had always preferred to think, to plan,
rather than act. He was the exact opposite of his brother. Even their
hair colors reflected their differences. Where Tristan was blonde,
Frederick's hair was as black as the night. Tristan was fair, like his
mother, and Frederick had taken after his own mother. The two could not
be any different, and yet, there they stood, laughing, joking, and
enjoying one another's company.
King Nalos stood, and his retainer banged his scepter on the floor. The
tent grew silent in a split second.
"A great battle was won today, but the threat still looms. We shall
need many more victories before our task is complete, and the Einarians
lay at our feet! But we are not here for rousing speeches. Rather, we
have come together to celebrate the achievements of our heroes. Ten men
have been chosen to receive gifts befitting their valor on the
battlefield. You ten, step forward," the king said.
Ten men, Tristan among them, made their way through the crowd until they
stood in front of the king. Nalos went to each in turn, and recited
their heroic deeds. Most had saved a fellow warrior, but some, like
Tristan, had simply outfought their peers. The king gave each a token.
Some received golden trinkets while others were given jewelry.
Finally, the king came to Tristan. "Ah, my son. Once again, you have
proven yourself quite a formidable warrior, and once again, I stand
before you with a prize. But this prize is unlike any other you have
received. It belonged to your great-grandfather, King Piros," Nalos
held up a golden torque, on which was engraved a series of whorls and
knots. "And I give it to you, champion of Honus."
Tristan knelt, and said, "Thank you, father." The king clasped the
torque around his son's neck, and said, "Let the celebration continue!"
Tristan sat across from his brother, but he didn't see the smaller man.
No, he looked past him, and saw only the bevy of young beauties across
the tent. He knew he had their attention; why wouldn't he? Women had
always been easily seduced by the hulking warrior prince. One in
particular, though, had caught his eye.
He didn't even know her name, but Tristan was captivated by her beauty.
More, though, she seemed to be ignoring him. Tristan was intrigued by
her seeming indifference. She even had her back turned to him, and
Tristan's eyes flowed down her auburn locks to the pert buttocks which
her dress, loose though it may be, could not hide. And then she
turned, and Tristan's breath nearly caught.
Green eyes flashed, and Tristan was smitten, then and there.
"Are you all right, brother?" Frederick asked. "It looks as though you
have seen a ghost."
"No. A goddess," Tristan replied as he locked eyes with the red-headed
girl. Frederick followed his brother's gaze, and Tristan asked, "Who is
"I do not know, Tristan, but I shan't rest until I do," Frederick
replied, smiling. He removed himself from the table, and began mingling
through the crowds. Frederick had a knack with crowds, something
Tristan himself had never mastered. He always felt ill at ease when
surrounded by people. A few minutes later, Frederick returned.
Her name was Penelope, and she was the daughter of some minor lord,
Frederick told Tristan. Her name mattered not at all to the big
warrior. He knew as soon as he saw Penelope that she would be his wife.
The fires of love, it seems, can ignite even at first sight. So it was
with Tristan. He wanted her, and so he would have her.
Three days later, Tristan requested leave to marry Penelope from his
father, who granted readily. He was so eager to please his son that he
raised not even the slightest objection. The girl's opinion was not
asked. Nor was it needed. The king merely decreed that she would be
his son's wife, and so they were betrothed.
The day of the wedding came, and the two were married in a lavish
ceremony. Penelope's father was thrilled, for his status within the
kingdom had risen seemingly overnight. Penelope played her role well,
and the wedding went off without a hitch.
On the wedding night, Tristan leaned back against the headboard of his
ornate bed, waiting for his new wife. He had already undressed, and he
lay there completely naked. His excitement grew with each passing
second until Penelope entered, still wearing her bridal gown.
"My lord," she said, curtsying. Tristan nodded.
Tristan knew little of feminine attire, but Penelope seemed to only pull
a few strings, and her dress fell off, leaving her standing there, bare-
breasted and nude. Tristan had heard tell of women who wore clothes
beneath their clothes - they called him undergarments - but the fashion
had yet to catch on in Honus.
Penelope was everything Tristan had imagined her to be. Her breasts
were perky, and her figure was plump, but not fat. Her skin was pale,
and creamy with a scattering of freckles here and there. And then there
were the eyes, those innocent green eyes.
She seemed to glide towards him, and Tristan grew more aroused with each
step. She didn't even need to touch him before he was ready. Penelope
climbed atop him, and they made love.
Tristan had coupled with many women over the course of his twenty-six
years, and Penelope was far from the most skilled or enthusiastic. But
Tristan cared little for that; she was perfect. It wasn't the actual
love-making which caused Tristan's pleasure. It was some indescribable
emotion that was the source. Tristan had never felt anything of the
sort, and, lying on the bed, Penelope's head resting on his broad chest,
Tristan had to admit that it scared him, and more than a little.
Time marched on, and Tristan was given an entire two months before he
had to return to war. They were simultaneously the most magical and
most frightening two months of his existence. Penelope had a hold on
him; that much was certain, and Tristan feared whatever deeds she may
push him into. But Penelope played the submissive wife. She bowed to
Tristan's every whim. Tristan, in turn, doted on his beloved, giving
her gifts and showering her with affection. She accepted gracefully,
for she truly was glad to be the wife of such a great man.
Soon, however, the time came for Tristan to return to war. His absence
had hurt the armies of Honus, and they had lost ground. Tristan
returned to the front, a distracted man. Certainly, he remained the
fearsome warrior, but in the back of his mind, thoughts of dear Penelope
lingered. Battle after battle, though, the thoughts faded, and soon,
Tristan had become the single-minded killer he had always been.
Nearly a year passed, and the war had not abated. While Honus had the
edge in martial strength, the Einarians boasted magicians of unmatched
power. The result was a stalemate. Both sides knew that they were
evenly matched, but still they fought, unable to throw the past aside.
On one fateful day, Tristan fought on even after the battle had raged
for nearly two days. He had barely rested, and was stained from head to
toe with the blood of his enemies and dirt from the field of battle.
Tristan stood before his army during a brief respite, and took in the
scene before him.
At one end of the valley were the Einarians; at the opposite were the
men of Honus. Dead littered the valley between the two armies, and
crows pecked at their flesh. Tristan saw the Einarian host poised for
attack. The sun had reached its zenith nearly four hours before, and
had already begun its descent.
Tristan knew that only one army would be left alive by nightfall.
There were no pretty speeches. No motivation was needed. These men
knew what was at stake. Tristan nodded to a page, who then raised a
flag in signal.
Tristan broke into a trot, carefully placing his feet between the dead
bodies as he gained speed. The men of Honus followed him. The
Einarians followed suit, and charged as well.
The clash was magnificent. Metal on metal, screams of the dying, and
the battle cries of desperate warriors filled the air.
Tristan waded into the battle, as he had always done, swinging his
broadsword this way and that. He moved like a tired, but still
powerful, predator, and he killed an enemy with each stroke of his
sword. The battle surged this way and that, each side gaining advantage
at varying times.
A huge fireball landed amidst the warriors, killing Einarians and the
men of Honus alike.
Magicians. They cared little for the lives of lesser mortals. Balls of
fire rained from the sky, each killing a bundle of warriors,
indiscriminate of their allegiance. Tristan himself was nearly hit on
no less than four occasions.
The tide of battle turned, and soon, it was clear that the magicians had
all but won the day. Tristan, however, was a stubborn man. He would
not give up so easily. His great sword in hand, Tristan waded through
the battle, making his way ever closer to where the magicians had
It seemed like hours, but in truth, it was mere minutes later when
Tristan broke through. He slew the magicians' guards easily, and faced
down the trio of magic users.
And then he saw one smile.
"We have you, Prince of Honus," a female magician said with a wicked
grin. Tristan lurched forward, and nearly reached them before invisible
shackles latched themselves to his ankles and wrists. He toppled to the
ground, unable to move his arms or legs.
Tristan peered into the faces of the magicians, and spat defiantly.
The magician waved her hand, and blackness enveloped Tristan.
Tristan awoke to the dim light and cold solitude of a dungeon. He had
been in enough of them to know their musty smell. His mind was cloudy
at first, but in only moments, he focused. It had been a trap. The
entire battle had clearly been a ruse to capture the prince. Einar only
had a handful of magicians at its disposal, maybe as many as a dozen,
and they had sent three into harm's way to capture Tristan. He almost
He was unbound, but the cell was small. Tristan could touch all sides
without even stretching his arms to their full length. He sat up, and
ran his hands through his blonde hair; it was still caked with dried mud
and blood from the battle. Then, he realized that he was completely
Though Tristan knew the seriousness of his situation, he was not
frightened. Each time he went into battle, Tristan knew the risks. He
was keenly aware of his own mortality, and did not fear it. No warrior
could afford to. His captivity did irritate him, however. Patience was
not his strong suit, and as time passed, Tristan's anger began to
seethe, just below the surface.
After two days with absolutely no contact or provisions, Tristan began
to wonder whether the Einarians would simply let him thirst to death.
No sooner had the thought flitted through his mind than a small flap
opened at the base of his cell door, and a large bowl full of murky
water was pushed through. Tristan lunged at the flap, hoping to grasp
an ankle or foot before it shut, but hunger, dehydration, and fatigue
slowed him. It clanged shut before he could reach it.
Not one to dwell on failure, Tristan eagerly lifted the bowl to his
lips, and drank. Small sips at first; he was no fool, and he did not
lack self-control. Tristan had no desire to slake his thirst only to
vomit the contents of his stomach because he was too impatient. After a
few minutes, he drank again, this time a little more deeply. A half an
hour later, he drank more. After three hours of slowly letting his body
acclimate itself to the hydration, the bowl was dry. Tristan leaned
against the wall, and continued to wait. His eyes never left the flap.
A day later, his vigilance was rewarded. The small flap opened, and
Tristan lunged. His hand wrapped around a slender ankle with an iron
grip. A few seconds later, Tristan's hand began to burn, but he only
gripped harder. The burning wrapped itself around Tristan's wrist, and
traveled up his arm to his shoulder, then his neck, and finally, his
head. He held on for almost a full minute, squeezing with as much
strength as he could muster, invisible fire burning most of his body,
before he could hold no longer. He let go, and his hand was pushed back
into the cell.
He burned for most of that day before the magical fire faded. However,
Tristan refused to cry out. He would not give his sorcerous tormentor
that particular satisfaction.
The next day, Tristan received the first meal of his captivity. It was
not much, certainly - just a tasteless gruel - but Tristan ate every
last drop of the substance. He knew that he needed to keep his strength
high, and whatever food they gave him would be necessary for such an
So his life fell into a routine. Each day, the flap would open, and
food or water was shoved inside, but never both. They gave him a bucket
in which to relieve himself, and each morning, it had been emptied.
Tristan knew that magic was at play, for he would have awoken had the
door been opened. Days passed, but soon, those days turned to weeks,
and those weeks turned to more than a month. Day by day, his muscular
body lost its heft; the lack of food, coupled with an inability to move,
let alone exercise combined to create a much thinner Tristan.
But he never lost his fire, his will to survive. Each time the flap
opened, he would fight. One time, he even managed to trip his guard
before she sent the magical fire. Tristan did not eat for almost a week
after that. The days blurred together, and Tristan began to think that
he would die in that small cell.
After what Tristan reckoned was three months, on a day not unlike any
other, he felt the magical bindings clamp onto his wrists and ankles.
He did not even struggle, for Tristan knew it was pointless. He merely
sat leaning against the wall of his cell as the door swung open on
And then she stepped inside. Beautiful was an understatement, Tristan
thought. Yes, she was past that, but there was something else. It was
a power in her eyes, something calculatingly superior in the way she
gazed at the blonde warrior. Dark of skin and hair, Tristan had heard
tell of that woman. She was the Einarian's second-in-command, a magic
user of unparalleled gifts. Her name was Arista.
"How are you finding your accommodations, Prince Tristan?" she asked,
her voice like pure silk. Tristan remained silent, so Arista continued,
"You are probably wondering what it is that we are going to do with you,
I am sure. In all honesty, that question has taken us months to answer.
We could kill you, of course, but what does that gain? You are already
out of commission, and our armies have benefited. You are far too
valuable to keep locked in this cell for the rest of your life, so that
rules out prolonged captivity." She stepped closer, and, with a finger
on Tristan's chin, raised his face. Tristan wanted to spit, but
something stayed him as Arista gazed into his eyes.
"But then it hit me." Her voice was the hiss of a snake as she
whispered, "I needn't constrain myself within the confines of normalcy.
You are special, Tristan. No need to deny that, and that fact means
that you require a unique punishment. I won't spoil it for you, though.
I would not dream of that."
Arista touched his forehead, and Tristan blacked out once again.
He could not move. Tristan felt the bite of leather restraints on his
wrists and ankles. He smelled burning incense, and felt the coarse
grain of unfinished wood on his back. A low murmur surrounded him.
Tristan's eyes fluttered open to be greeted by yet more darkness, though
it was not complete. A soft glow permeated the room, and, as he
focused, Tristan turned his head to see the dark shadows of cloaked and
hooded figures surrounding him. He tried to speak, but his words caught
in his throat.
Never had Tristan felt more helpless than when he lay on that wooden
altar - for that's what he realized it was - unable to move, unable to
speak, and completely at the mercy of his captors. He lifted his head
as far as he might, and soon found Arista. She was cloaked like the
rest, but her posture and height was unmistakeable.
Arista stretched out her slender hand, and extended her fingers.
Tristan had seen enough spell-casting to know that magic was at play,
but it was something far more complicated than anything he had ever
Magicians typically only had to utter a few words to cast a spell, but
thirteen magic-users working in concert? That was unheard-of.
A slight tingle started at his toes. It wasn't unpleasant, but Tristan
knew what it meant. The spell was beginning to take effect. The blonde
warrior wondered what was to become of him. The tingle intensified, and
became a mild burn. The mild burn became a raging inferno, and Tristan
tried to scream. His mouth opened, but no sound came out. The pain was
A silent scream filled his mind as he passed out once again.
Tristan dreamed a strange dream. When he awoke, he could remember
nothing about it, save a feeling in the pit of his stomach. But he
remembered everything up until he had succumbed to the pain, and passed
He didn't feel any different as he sat up in his cell, except for a
dread which filled his mind. What had they done? It was complicated
magic, he knew. Why else would they have used thirteen magicians? What
other reason could there be for Arista's involvement?
All questions would be answered in time, Tristan decided. Whatever
spell they had cast, he would soon feel its effects. There was little
use in filling his head with useless worry. Ah, but it is one thing to
decide to put something from your mind; it is quite another to actually
do so, especially when your day consists of staring at a stone wall.
Inevitably, Tristan's mind continued to speculate.
Aside from his mind's new obsession, Tristan's days fell back into the
familiar rhythm. Except he quit his small show of defiance; he no
longer lunged for the ankles of his guard. What was the use? Even
should he actually reach his captor, Tristan knew he was in no condition
to attempt an escape. He likely wouldn't get ten feet.
The mysterious spell taunted him, day by day. For the first few days,
he half expected to burst into flames, or be transformed into a toad.
Soon, though, those thoughts faded in favor of more complex, sinister
thoughts. After all, Tristan had little else to occupy his mind.
A month passed, and Tristan continued to lose weight. Lack of food had
turned his once muscular body into a thin caricature of itself. He
tried to do what exercises he could in the confines of his cell, but he
simply did not have the energy. More often than not, he merely sat,
pondering his circumstance.
Tristan knew that he was a shell of his former self, and after a while,
he quit acknowledging his own body. Better to ignore it, than to think
about the weakling he had become.
Two months after the spell had been cast, Tristan's cell door opened.
They hadn't even bothered to bind him that time. Arista loomed in the
doorway. Somehow, she looked bigger than she had before. Tristan was
on his feet in mere seconds, and he lunged at the magician. Or at least
he tried to lunge, for she caught him by the throat, and slammed him
against the wall. Tristan tried to fight, but she was far too strong,
or rather, he was far too weak to match her.
And then he noticed something. She didn't merely seem to be larger.
She was actually taller than him. Had she grown? No. Tristan had
shrunk. He was over a foot shorter than his normal seven feet.
"Now, now, pet. Play nice," Arista sneered. She released him, and
Tristan fell to the ground, rubbing his throat. The magician looked him
up and down, and said, "Look at what has become of the mighty champion
of Honus. Bested by a mere woman. For shame." She smiled.
"What --" Tristan began, but was silenced by a stinging backhand from
"Quiet, boy!" she said quietly, but Tristan felt the menace in her
words. He obeyed. "Good. You can follow directions. Continue, and you
will not be punished. Disobey, and you will regret it. Now stand."
Tristan hesitated for only a moment. What use was there in
disobedience? He didn't stand a chance in any physical confrontation,
and could not hope to escape in that way. But perhaps he could lull
them into trusting him, and he could escape sometime down the road.
He felt small as Arista circled him, and it had nothing to do with
actual size. "Good. You are coming along nicely," she said. Arista
patted Tristan's rear. "Soon," Arista said as she finished her
And then she was gone, the door clanging shut behind her.
Tristan was truly frightened, then. He had always been able to count on
his size; it had given him a certain power that had nothing to do with
his physicality. It had given him confidence. Without that crutch on
which to lean, he felt lost. And it wasn't over. She had clearly
implied that more changes were to come. Would he continue to shrink
until he was the size of a child? Were they changing him into something
else? He ached to know, but feared the knowledge.
No, he thought. Tristan would not be conquered by fear. He would
persevere, and take what opportunities which might present themselves.
Despite his own admonishment, though, Tristan could not help but take
stock of the changes he had undergone.
He knew he had shrunk, but how much? After a few minutes of crude
measurement and comparison to his surroundings, he estimated that he was
barely five and a half feet tall - about average height for a man in
Honus. Average. Normal. The idea disgusted him. Then, Tristan ran
his hands over his body, feeling for muscles that weren't there. It was
more than the near starvation that had robbed his body of its mass; the
spell had contributed, he knew. He felt...soft. There was no other
word for it. And then he realized why. He had no body hair. Not a
single strand of hair was on his body below his eyebrows.
Tristan had never been a particularly hairy man, but he had never been
completely smooth, either. His hairless body was dirty, surely, but he
could feel his silky skin beneath his wandering hands. A spark of
familiarity flared in his mind, and he instantly knew why. His skin
felt like that of a woman.
At the thought, his hand inevitably went to his genitals, and as
expected, he knew they had shrunk by nearly half. Was that the purpose
of the spell, then? Were they going to turn him into a woman? He
didn't think it possible.
Tristan raised his slender arm, and sniffed beneath it. He hadn't
bathed in months, and the smell was not pleasant. But it wasn't his
smell. It wasn't the body odor of a man. He couldn't describe how it
was different, but he knew that it was.
How had he not noticed the changes before then? They were so dramatic.
Of course, Tristan knew the answer to his own question. They had been
gradual, and he had little frame of reference by which to gauge the
transformation. That, and he had been distracted by his own depression
at his weakened, captive state.
Vowing to not be caught unaware again, Tristan found a loose rock, and
marked his height on the wall. It wasn't much, but it would give him
some way to keep track of the changes.
That night, Tristan could not sleep; thoughts of what the future might
hold prevented it. So he lay awake on the stone floor, thinking about
life as a normal-sized man, or worse, a small man. He dared not think
what was in his mind, though. He couldn't bring himself to ponder
existence as a woman.
By Tristan's reckoning, almost a month had passed since Arista's last
visit. He had continued to shrink, but had leveled off after three
weeks. Tristan estimated his height at around five feet, four inches.
The rest of his body had lost more mass, but he couldn't be sure how
much. What he did know was that his hands and feet were dainty and
feminine. In addition, his genitals had continued to shrink as well,
but had leveled off at about a quarter of their former size. He looked
like a child down there.
He was sitting in his cell, his mind nearly overwhelmed with depression,
when his cell door opened. In walked two burly men. Tristan was taken
aback by how intimidating they were. He had never been afraid of a man
before; sure, he had normal fears of abstract concepts, and he was
uneasy when it came to great heights, but he had never feared another
human being. Not until that day, at least.
The two men said nothing, but merely took Tristan by the arms, and
hauled him from the cell. Tristan, to his credit, tried to struggle,
but the men were far too strong. After a few moments of useless
struggle, Tristan gave up.
They led him through the dungeon, but Tristan barely noticed his
surroundings. His mind was preoccupied with musings on his fate.
Surely they wouldn't kill him then, but what fate awaited him, he did
The trip through the dungeon was a blur. He was dragged through it, up
some stairs, and through some hallways. He absently noted that the
decorations were getting richer as he progressed. Where were they
Almost as soon as the question entered Tristan's mind, the guards
stopped. One of them, a hulking, bald brute, knocked on a door.
"Enter," the voice of Arista called from inside.
The bald man opened the door, and Tristan was led inside.
The room was spacious and richly furnished. Tapestries decorated the
walls, and a trio of chairs dominated the space. Tristan could see
through a door at the other end of the sitting room that a bedroom
"Ah, Prince Tristan," Arista said, rising from one of the chairs.
"Lovely, just lovely." She clapped her hands twice, and from nowhere
came a pair of servant women. "Let's get you cleaned up, then."
The two servants - both stocky and a bit bigger than Tristan - took
Tristan's hands, and led him to and through a side door. Inside was a
huge copper bath tub, and he was told to get into it. Tristan was eager
to wash the dirt from his body, so he did not resist.
As he stepped into the warm water of the tub, he noticed that the water
smelled of flowers. Then, one of the women poured a bucket of water
over his head, drenching him. Tristan's long, blonde hair obscured his
vision as he felt the women rub him down with soap. They were quite
thorough, and left no crack or crevice uncleaned. Tristan noticed a
slight smile on one of the servant's face when she was washing his
When they were finished, Tristan stepped from the tub, and saw that the
water was nearly black from the grit and grime of his imprisonment. He
was dried, and then directed to sit on a dainty-looking chair which
never would have supported his weight before the change. He sat, and
the chair did not protest at the weight of his petite frame.
Then, the servants went to work. They did something with his hair, and
applied some things to his face, but Tristan had little idea what they
were doing, as he had no mirror. After almost an hour, the women were
finished, and led him back into the sitting room.
Arista smiled when Tristan came in, and said, "Oh, that is just
gorgeous. But something is missing." Her hand came to her chin as she
thought. "Ah, I know." She mumbled a few words, and a pink ribbon
appeared in her hand. Arista crossed the room, and knelt in front of
Tristan. Then, she tied the ribbon around his penis. Tristan looked
down at the perfect bow on his small penis, and could not deny that it
looked, well, adorable.
"And now the finishing touch," Arista said, holding the torque Tristan's
father had given him. It looked smaller. "We had this torque
adjusted. It is famous, you know. All know its story, having been
passed down from father to son, King to prince. One of a kind." She
clasped it around his slender neck, and then attached a six foot chain
to it. "Come now," Arista said, tugging on the chain. "Let's look at
the new you."
Arista led Tristan to a full length mirror. Tristan kept his head down
for almost a full minute before he dared to look. He raised his eyes to
an image of beauty.
Tristan's face was that of a princess, rivaling that of any woman he had
ever seen, and surpassing nearly all. They had fixed his hair in quite
a feminine style, weaving in a crown Tristan recognized as the style a
princess of Honus might wear. His eyes traveled down his slender neck
to his slim shoulders. He gazed at his torso, at his slightly rounded
belly and thin waist. His hips flared out like a woman's, and his legs
were shapely. He knew without looking that his buttocks had been
feminized as well. The only parts of his masculinity which remained
were his small genitals and a lack of breasts.
"What have you done?" Tristan asked in a breathy whisper. He had not
spoken in over a month, and was surprised to hear his high-pitched
Still holding Tristan's leash, Arista smiled. "Don't you like your new
body, mighty prince?"
Tristan could not contain his anger any longer. Months of seething
frustration boiled out in an instant, and he launched himself at Arista.
Surprised, Arista was knocked from her feet, and the two rolled around
on the ground, each trying to get the upper hand.
Years of training were thrown aside, and Tristan could not help but
fight in what was an unmistakeably feminine style. He scratched, clawed
at the bigger woman. Tristan even grabbed Arista's hair, and yanked
some free. After only a few stunned seconds, though, the two burly
guards grabbed Tristan, and easily pulled him off of their mistress.
Arista took a moment to compose herself, and then said, "For that, you
will be punished." She waved her hand at one of the guards. "Do what
you will, but do not mark him up."
Tristan looked at the guard to which Arista had spoken. He wore a
crooked smile on his face.
"Bend him over," the bald guard barked, and Tristan felt the rough,
strong hands of the other guard push him over.
Tristan struggled as best he could, but to no avail. He squealed,
kicked, screamed and tried to wiggle free, but it did no good as the
bald guard pushed Tristan's legs apart. Then it happened so quickly
that Tristan barely registered it outside of a sharp pain in his rectum.
The guard had entered him from behind.
Helplessness. Despair. Pain. Humiliation. It is a strange thing for a
man to be raped, surely. Yes, the physical pain is intense, especially
for a virgin, but the emotional impact is far greater. It is enough to
completely break a normal man. Tristan, however, was anything but
ordinary. He was a champion. He was a great warrior. Tristan
dominated everything put in front of him, be it women, battle, or other
men. And so his fall, though no less assured by the rape, was from a
far greater height. Every one of those emotions, that humiliation and
degradation was felt all the more keenly because of who Tristan was, or
rather had been..
Tristan fought as best he could; what else could he do? Soon, though,
as the guard took him from behind, Tristan's struggle lost its
intensity. He quit screaming, and just lay there as the man did his
business. By the time the two men switched places, Tristan was sobbing
"Just relax, darlin'," the other guard whispered in Tristan's ear.
"Relax, and it won't hurt so much."
A big part of Tristan died that day when the second guard entered him
from behind, and he didn't even move. There was no fight, no struggle.
He just lay there, bent over the chair as the big man did his business.
Tristan sat, still naked, on one of the chairs, and he could feel a wet
spot forming beneath him. The guards had not bothered to pull out. He
couldn't get pregnant, after all. He wasn't a woman. But, then again,
what was he? He certainly wasn't a man. Was he something in between?
Tristan couldn't bring himself to ponder the question.
It was almost like it had all happened to someone else, like he had been
a spectator to the most humiliating, degrading, and painful event of his
life. He had been raped, but that part wasn't the most troubling to the
former warrior. No, the worst part was that they had treated him, not
like a man, but like just another woman who needed to be taught a
He had remained bent over the chair long after the men had finished;
Tristan had simply been unable to will himself to motion. And so he had
remained there, gently sobbing until one of the servants had helped him
up, and onto the chair.
Tristan hadn't said a word since then. He hadn't looked up, but
instead, stared at the ground. He was aware, but still dazed from the
"You see what happens when you're a bad boy?" he heard Arista's voice
ask. "Look at me."
Tristan raised his eyes, and was surprised by what he saw. Arista sat
across from him, and Tristan saw genuine pain. Did she regret what she
"You asked me a question before you attacked me," Arista began, her
voice soft. "You wanted to know what we had done to you. Let me
explain your situation. By now I'm sure you realize that the battle in
which you were caught was a trap. We wanted to capture you, but we
really didn't expect it to work. We had tried and failed many times
before. But capture you, we did. As I told you months ago, we were
unsure how to deal with you once we had you. My first thought was to
turn you into a woman, but it soon became clear that that was
impossible." She shrugged. "Our magic simply won't do that. We
considered all sorts of possibilities, but none seemed, well, right."
Arista paused, and stood. She put her hands behind her back, and
started to pace. Finally, after a few moments, she continued, "Then, I
realized something. We didn't have to make you a woman. We just had to
take away your masculinity. So, we bent our will towards doing just
that. It took a while, but we figured out how to do it without killing
you - no easy task, mind you."
She turned to him, "But you've seen the result. You have, to be blunt,
the body of a young woman except for a two obvious differences, and a
couple of subtle ones. Of course, you retained your male genitalia, but
your, ah, equipment is much smaller now. No breasts, obviously. But
there are two other things which you may have noticed. One, your anus
is quite a bit more sensitive now, and is capable of taking quite
aggressive penetration. Think of it as your new sex organ. You have no
basis for comparison, but if we hadn't changed you, you would be
bleeding quite freely right now."
Arista smiled. "And then there's my personal touch. It is not as
drastic as the other changes, but I think it is far more...profound.
It's a mental change, so the degree of difficulty..ah, but you don't
want to hear me prattle on about my craft. Suffice it to say that I
took away a few of the rougher edges of your personality. What that
means for you, we can't be certain. Time will tell, perhaps."
Arista sat down next to Tristan, and put her arms around him. He was
stunned, but unsurprised. He had, after all, seen the changes himself.
He knew that the rape should have hurt quite a bit more, and, towards
the end, he had felt the beginnings of physical pleasure. It had been
overshadowed by his intense humiliation and mental anguish, but it had
"What is to become of me?" Tristan said in his soft, girlish voice.
"That is my favorite part, for it offers a chance at redemption. We
know that you have simply done your duty as a warrior, and we also know
that you are no more brutal than any other. But you are a symbol, and
one we must destroy utterly and without mercy," Arista explained. "So
we have devised a plan. For two more years you will remain our captive.
The first will be the most difficult, for you will be humiliated on a
daily basis. Everyone will know what you once were, and we will leave
little doubt about what you have become. It will be degrading, and most
of my colleagues think you won't make it. I think you are a survivor,
however, and I have faith that you will play your part. The only
consolation I can offer is this: you have no choice but to obey, so try
to enjoy what moments you can."
Tristan asked, "And after that first year?"
"The second year will be more relaxed. You will remain what you are
now, but the humiliation will stop. You will be given quarters
befitting your station, but you will be required to learn how to act as
a lady. It will be difficult, and you will be unable to continue any
masculine tendencies. I will not lie. The goal is to train the
maleness out of you. After that year, you will be given a choice. I
won't tell you the terms of that choice now; it is for another time, but
know that you will be released should you wish it."
"Why are you telling me?" Tristan asked.
"Because, like I said, you have no choice. I just thought it was the
decent thing to do to at least tell you your fate," Arista said.
"And if I disobey?"
"You will be punished, but this time, the men won't be so gentle,"
Arista said. "If your disobedience becomes too common, I will see to it
that you spend the rest of your life in a brothel as a cheap whore."
Tristan could not bring himself to doubt Arista's words.
"Now then, let us go to dinner, shall we, pet?" Arista said, standing.
She tugged on his leash.
Tristan's mind was reeling as Arista led him through the hallways. He
hardly noticed his surroundings, so focused on his predicament was he.
So that was their plan? To completely emasculate and humiliate him?
Arista had said as much. Tristan was completely lost; he had no idea
what to do. Should he play along, and hope that Arista would release
him after the two years? Or should he fight, and endure whatever
punishment they could throw at him?
He knew that he wanted to fight. It was, after all, his nature to
resist, but the combination of his new body, the rape, and whatever
Arista had done to his mind made him hesitate. Tristan was afraid, more
so than he ever had been before, and of so many things. He feared what
men might do to him; he was afraid of whatever punishment Arista might
mete out. And he was afraid that she might just doom him to a life as a
cheap whore. He knew he couldn't really resist if that's what she
wanted to do. Most patrons at brothels didn't really care whether their
whore was willing or not. Some even liked the fighters.
No, resistance seemed futile as Tristan was led through the halls. The
servants had fixed his hair, and adjusted his makeup. But he wore
nothing save the pink bow around his shrunken manhood; his feminized
body was bare for all to see, though they passed no one in the halls.
They reached a pair of double doors, in front of which, a pair of guards
stood. One of the guards nodded to Arista, and pushed the door open,
and Tristan heard a din of voices coming from inside. If he was going
to resist, now was the time. He wanted to. He needed to, but he
didn't. Rather, he followed Arista meekly into the dining hall.
Tristan felt all eyes on him, though he kept his own to the ground. He
couldn't bear to look at anyone. Arista stopped, and said, "Ladies and
gentlemen, I present to you Prince Tristan of Honus." There was an
And Arista was moving again, tugging Tristan along. She sat, and said,
"Stand behind me, and do not speak, pet." She looped Tristan's leash
onto a chair, and sat. Tristan hazarded a glance at the occupants of
the table, and was unsurprised to see that nearly twenty sets of eyes
were on him. But Tristan stood as he had been instructed.
Servants entered, and set down the first course, and the diners began to
eat. Conversation, inevitably, was dominated by talk of Tristan.
"Is that really him?" a fat man asked. Arista answered in the
affirmative. "Oh, he is just adorable," a woman who sat at the head of
the table said. Tristan assumed she was the queen. "Well, done,
Arista." The magician nodded in thanks.
So the meal went, with many people barely touching their food. Instead,
they stared at Tristan, or asked questions of Arista. Tristan found
himself studying the people around the table, just as they were studying
Their expressions were many and varied. Some viewed him with obvious
hate. Others looked at him like he was some sort of novelty. And
others looked at him with lust. Still others alternated between the
Time passed, and soon, the plates were clean, but the conversations
continued long into the night. Tristan learned a lot that night, not
least of which that Arista really didn't care for the people at the
table. She was polite enough, but Tristan couldn't help but notice a
certain curtness to her words. He also found out that the queen of
Einar was an absolute dolt. She was flighty, vapid, and quite stupid.
It was clear that Arista was the true power.
At almost midnight, Arista excused herself from the table, citing a need
for an early next morning. She tugged at Tristan's leash, and said,
"Come now, pet." They were almost out the door when Arista was hailed
by one of the men who had been at the table.
"A word, Arista?" he asked. Tristan looked at him. The man was middle-
aged, but had the body of a former warrior gone slightly to seed. What
was left of the warrior in Tristan noticed that the man was not to be
"Yes, Count Irving?" Arista said, turning.
"I was wondering if I might have some time, ah, alone with your pet," he
"Certainly, but know that he is not to be harmed. You may use him as
you wish, but I can not abide your harming such a helpless creature,"
Arista said. Tristan's thoughts ranged from gratitude to outrage. On
one hand, he appreciated Arista's protection. On the other hand, he
rankled at being called helpless.
"Oh no. Nothing of the sort, I assure you, Arista. But one thing," he
paused. "I want him to enjoy it. Or at least act like it."
"That can be arranged," Arista said. "Tomorrow night, then?"
"I was hoping that I might have him tonight," the Count ventured.
"No, I have plans for Prince Tristan tonight," Arista stated with a
smile. "I shall send him to your quarters tomorrow night, then."
The Count nodded, a hungry smile decorating his face.
"Hold very still, pet," Arista said, her slender fingers at Tristan's
temples. They had returned to her quarters only minutes before. "You
certainly don't want this spell to go wrong. You would end up a
Tristan believed her. He had seen the effects magic could have on
someone's mind, and had no desire to interrupt the delicate process.
Arista's brow furrowed in concentration, and Tristan couldn't help but
notice that she was quite beautiful. Her dark, mocha colored skin was
exotic, and she had a commandingly sexy presence about her which Tristan
found quite appealing.
Arista's fingers grew hot, but only for a split second, and then she
said, "There. All done. Now you will be unable to harm another human
being without causing yourself considerable pain. Even thinking about
violence will cause unease. Try it."
Tristan couldn't help it. He imagined snapping Arista's slender neck.
As Arista had said, a slight nervousness bordering on fear enveloped his
mind. He put the idea from his thoughts.
"Stay, pet," Arista instructed, and she disappeared into another room.
She returned a moment later, and she was as naked as Tristan. What was
this? She sat on a chair, and spread her legs. "Kneel before me."
Tristan did. "Now please me with your mouth."
Tristan had no desire for punishment, and besides, he had done as much
before. He lowered his face into her nether region, and began to lick.
After a few minutes, Arista moaned. A few more minutes, and she had her
hand on the back of Tristan's pretty head, pushing his face into her
The whole time, even as he licked, Tristan couldn't help but note one
simple fact. He was between the legs of a beautiful woman, and he was
not even the slightest bit aroused. His member hadn't stirred. He
might as well be licking some inanimate object for how much it excited
him. That thought scared him more than anything else. What had
happened to him?
The next night, Tristan was led through the palace, still completely
naked, by a servant. Arista had told him to obey the woman like she was
his mistress. Tristan, of course, obeyed. He didn't really have a
choice in the matter.
And so he found himself standing in front of an ornate door as the
servant woman knocked, then waited. The door opened, and Tristan's
leash was passed to another servant. For their part, the servants did
not even acknowledge Tristan's nudity. He was grateful for that.
Tristan saw the Count as soon as he entered the room. Dressed in a
flimsy silk robe, he smiled suggestively as he leered at Tristan's
The Count waved the servants away, and rose, crossing the room to where
Tristan stood. He took Tristan's hand, and led him to the couch.
Tristan noted the lust in the Count's eyes.
Count Irving disrobed, and pushed Tristan to his knees. The former
warrior knew what was expected; he had prepared himself for that moment.
But as he knelt in front of the Count, staring at the man's erect
member, something happened. Tristan became aroused. His own shrunken
member did not become engorged, but the feeling was unmistakeable. He
wanted to touch it. He wanted to taste it. And he wanted it inside of
him. He tried to resist, but it was nearly useless. Tristan knew that
it would do him no good, and besides, he wanted to do it.
Tristan looked up at Count Irving.
"Go ahead, my sweet," the count urged. "I know you want to."
Desire is a strange thing. No one can control the object of their
desire. No one can change what they truly want, and Tristan was no
different. He wanted that man as much as he had ever wanted any woman.
Perhaps he wanted it more.
With a tentative lick, Tristan's lingering masculinity was tossed into
the back of his mind. The lick became a kiss, and Tristan lost himself
to his lust. He took the Count's member into his mouth, just as he had
seen so many women do to his own. The warrior screamed from the back
of Tristan's mind, yelling for him not to give in, but he pushed the
weak cries aside, and committed to his task of pleasuring the Count.
He sucked, he licked, and Tristan kissed the man's privates until he was
rewarded with a salty, sticky gift in his willing mouth. He swallowed
A few minutes later, Tristan still knelt in front of the Count, trying
to coax the man's member back to erection. It didn't take long.
Count Irving reached down, and hauled Tristan to his feet, then sat down
on a rich sofa.
"I want you to do this of your own volition, Prince Tristan. I want you
to ride me like a wanton whore," Count Irving said. Tristan hesitate
for only a second, his past masculinity eliciting a mere moment of
reluctance. It passed quickly, and Tristan climbed atop the Count.
Tristan reached back with a dainty hand, and gently teased the Count's
erect manhood with a light touch. He hovered just above the man, the
tip barely grazing his rectum. Tristan grabbed the penis, and lowered
himself onto the Count.
It was so different than the rape. Tristan had half expected pain, but
there was none to be felt. There was only pleasure. It was similar to
the pleasure he had felt when making love to a woman, but oh so
different. He lowered himself all the way down, and sat there for a
moment, staring into the eyes of his first real, male lover.
Then he started to move, up and down just as he had seen women do. His
hands roamed over the Count's hairy chest as he rode the man. They
kissed as they made love, and Tristan felt the rough bristles of
Irving's stubble on his smooth, delicate face. For some reason, that
excited him even more.
The orgasm shook Tristan like nothing had before. He screamed in
pleasure as his body convulsed, but still he rode, not wanting it to
Tristan came once more before the Count did the same.
Tristan still sat astride the Count's softening member, and he leaned
in, his face resting on the Count's heaving chest.
"You killed my brother, you know,' the Count said. Tristan looked up to
an evil smile. "Almost a year go. I had planned to kill you tonight,
Arista's instructions be damned. But...I don't know. There you were,
sucking, and I couldn't do it. It would have felt like killing a
Tristan didn't know what to say, so he remained silent. Irving
continued, "I don't know what Arista did to you. Maybe nothing. Maybe
you've always been like this, and she just gave you the body to match
your cravings. Either way, you may go now."
Tristan rose, and felt the man's semen dripping out of his anus as he
left the room. Shame, excitement, fear, and indignation roiled in his
mind all at once.
Tristan was back in Arista's quarters, sitting on the couch, and staring
into nothingness before he came back to himself. The sheer horror at
what he had done nearly overwhelmed him. What had come over him? Was
it some sort of compulsion? Was that part of what Arista had done to
No. Tristan had felt magical compulsion before, and he felt confident
that he could recognize it. It was something else. The feelings, the
desire, and the attraction had come from within him. Tristan thought
back to what Irving had said. Maybe he had always been like that, and
he had just been strong enough to deny it. Now, though, in his weakened
physical and mental state, he simply could do it no longer.
But that made little sense either. Tristan had always been attracted to
women, but the night before, he had felt almost nothing when he had been
with Arista. Something was different. He vowed to ask Arista when she
Even with that decided, Tristan found his mind could occupy itself with
little else. Was it so bad, though? It had been pleasurable enough,
more so than sex with any woman had been. Even after the fog of lust
had lifted from Tristan's mind, he grudgingly admitted that he wanted to
feel such pleasure again.
Irving wasn't terribly attractive, so Tristan couldn't help but wonder
how he would react to a young, handsome, and muscular man. Tristan
tried to stop himself, but failed. Images of naked men - some familiar,
and others complete conjurations from his imagination - flowed through
his mind, and Tristan became aroused. He felt a slight wetness in his
Tristan pushed his bottom forward on the couch, until it hung off, and
he spread his legs. He closed his eyes. Before he really knew what he
was doing, a small finger had found its way to his anus, and slipped
inside. Tristan worked it in and out, as he imagined scenarios where
handsome men would ravish him. He moaned, and increased the pace.
Tristan pleasured himself for only a few minutes before he was rocked by
another screaming orgasm. It wasn't as intense as it had been with the
Count, but it still left Tristan panting. He opened his eyes.
Arista was sitting across from him, smiling.
"Don't let me interrupt you, pet," she said.
Embarrassed, Tristan closed his legs, and sat up. Remembering his
decision, he asked, "What did you do to me?"
"It appears that you've been doing things to yourself, pet," she
Tristan felt himself blush. "No. Did you put some compulsion on me? To
make me, you know..."
"Did I change your sexual preference?" Arista asked. "Most certainly.
You are as close to a woman as we can make you. You aren't a man
anymore. Therefore, you are attracted to men. It is only natural.
From what Count Irving said, and what I just saw, you seem to enjoy it,
anyway. Men have the equipment to give you pleasure. You must see the
logic of it all."
And Tristan did. He didn't want to, certainly, but he saw that it made
sense in his twisted situation. That didn't prevent his anger from
It was a split decision, so the spell had little time to do its work.
Tristan leaped at Arista, and bowled the larger woman over. He raised a
fist, and was about to send it into Arista's face when an indescribable
pain wracked his entire body. He tried to fight through it, but it was
far too strong. He collapsed to the hard, stone floor, and writhed.
Vaguely, Tristan saw Arista pick herself up, and straighten her dress.
Through eyes bleary with tears, Tristan saw the woman as she stared down
on him, and said, "I will leave you like this for tonight. Let that be
a lesson to you."
Tristan managed to stay conscious for almost an hour before the pain was
too much, and he blacked out.
The next day, Tristan awoke to a surprising lack of pain. There wasn't
even any soreness. He sat up, and saw Arista sitting on the couch
staring at him.
"I am sorry," she said. "That was unfair."
"What?" was all Tristan could manage.
"I shouldn't have left you like that. Your anger was understandable;
you needed to be punished, but given the circumstances, I should have
restrained my temper. I apologize," Arista stated. Tristan thought
that she almost sounded genuine. Was this another game?
"Furthermore, I shouldn't have been so cryptic about your situation.
Generally, I feel that knowledge of one's situation makes it go down
more easily," Arista continued. "So, I have decided to explain more
Arista stood, then, with her back turned to Tristan, said, "Of course
you know the changes to your body. And I explained what was done to
your mind. You will be aroused by men, and they, by you. I could tell
you how we accomplished this, but you probably wouldn't understand a
word of it. Suffice it to say that it is so."
She turned back to him, "As to what you can expect. Well, more of the
same. You will be a plaything for whoever might wish it. Men or women,
it does not matter. You will be instrument of sexual pleasure. I think
I am right in saying that this will be quite enjoyable for you."
Tristan knew she was right.
"Your partners will be chosen by me, and for maximum diplomatic effect.
Mostly, they will be envoys from other nations, but some will be
selected as a special favor for select Einarians. I'm sure you can see
the benefit. Envoys will inevitably report that the mighty Tristan has
been transformed into a simpering sex slave. They will think twice
before any aggressive action against us," Arista explained. "As to the
Einarians, well...you have wronged a great many of these people, and
some will wish to humiliate you by taking you to their beds."
Arista smiled, but Tristan detected a hint of sadness. She continued,
"These activities will occupy your nights. Your days will largely be
your own, save a few in which you will be instructed in your new role.
After the first year, you will be, as I said before, trained as a lady.
Before that, though, you will wear no clothing at all. The world has to
see what has become of Prince Tristan for this to be a success."
Tristan had guessed at the plan, certainly, and he had gotten pieces
here and there. But hearing it all spelled out like that was difficult
for him to bear. Years later, when he would look back, he would cite
that day as the one in which he truly lost the last shred of his
masculinity. It wasn't his new body. Nor was it the rape or the
subsequent sex with Count Irving. He wouldn't even credit his
attraction to men, and the pleasure he felt when one made love to him.
No, it was none of that.
It was the helplessness he felt in that moment, just after Arista had
fully explained his future. He broke down and cried, and not from pain
or humiliation like he had after the rape. There was absolutely nothing
he could do about any of it, and for a man who had grown accustomed to
simply taking what he wanted, that feeling, that emotion, was
Never before had Tristan been confronted with an inability to change his
fate. The fact that he always had been able to had become the
cornerstone of his personality. Before, he saw what he wanted, and he
took it. No one dared challenge him. It was both the source and
confirmation of his own confidence. It was the core of his masculinity.
And that core had been shattered.
Arista cradled the former warrior in her arms, and stroked his hair.
She even hummed a soothing tune, and Tristan couldn't help but feel a
certain affinity for the woman. She was the cause of his
predicament...no, that wasn't right. She hadn't captured him. She
likely hadn't even been the driving force behind his punishment. And
she had shown him some kindness, before, and as Tristan was at his most
vulnerable. No, Arista was an enigma. She was cruel, certainly, but
was that due to circumstance? Or was she truly as heartless as she
seemed at first glance.
Tristan thought of those things and more, as he was comforted by the
Tristan's life fell into a rhythm much like the one Arista had
described. His days were taken up by feminine instructions. He was
taught to move, to act, and to care for himself as a woman. Over time,
and through constant attention, Tristan's comportment changed. It was
gradual, unlearning a lifetime of habit, but his teachers were vigilant,
and over time, Tristan began to arch his back, to sway his hips, and to
keep his wrist bent. He was told to watch the mannerisms of women, and
to mimic them, and so he did. As a result, his gestures when talking,
though those occasions when someone wanted him to speak were few and far
between, became like that of a woman.
Each night, Arista took him to dinner, and had him stand naked behind
her. Everywhere Tristan went, he was naked, and his nudity ceased to be
a source of embarrassment. Against all odds, he actually began to enjoy
the effect his naked body elicited in people.
Sometimes, Arista would have Tristan get beneath the table, and orally
pleasure random guests. It was like a game, and Tristan did his best.
He generally chose men, but occasionally, he found himself between the
legs of a woman.
After dinner each night, Tristan would be led to someone's quarters.
Sometimes, they were men. Other times, they were women. Still others,
it was a mixture of both men and women. He participated in normal
couplings, threesomes, foursomes, and even all-out orgies. He was an
object of pleasure, a toy used for sex.
Months passed, and Tristan's former life began to feel like something of
a dream. He was so far removed from the warrior that that life hardly
Arista had said that it would be embarrassing, and it was at first.
Even after Tristan acknowledged that his masculinity was gone, he still
had difficulty growing used to his new station in life. After six
months, he had adjusted completely.
One night, in the midst of the sixth month, Tristan was led to the
dining hall. It was just like any other day. The ribbon on his penis
was yellow, and his leash stretched out from his neck to Arista's hand.
When they entered the dining hall, it was empty. Tristan knew what that
meant. That was the signal that that night would be one in which he
would give oral pleasure to the guests.
Arista didn't even have to tell him. Tristan got down on all fours, and
crawled under the table. He was excited, for it was one of the few
times when he could exercise any control over his situation. Tristan
could choose his own path. Once Tristan was under the table, he heard a
sharp clap. That was the signal for the guests to enter. From beneath
the table, he saw boots, the hems of fine dresses, and slippers. Chairs
pulled out, and the guests seated themselves.
Now was the time. Tristan looked around. He knew he wanted a man that
night. So which one? He could hear the murmur of conversation above
him, but paid it little heed. He was on a mission to find the perfect
member on which to suck. It only took him a few moments to find a
Tristan crawled over, noticing the man's ornate breeches and polished
leather boots. Probably a soldier of some sort. They always had the
Tristan reached up a dainty hand, and felt the man's crotch. The
stranger flinched slightly, but otherwise did not move. What man would
refuse such a touch?
The former warrior's hands massaged the man through his pants for a few
moments, feeling the man's arousal. Tristan could tell that it wasn't
huge; nor was it small. It was just right. He had chosen well.
Tristan unbuttoned the man's breeches, button by button, until they lay
open. He reached in,and pulled the man's member free. It quivered in
the air for a moment, shaking back and forth after being released.
Tristan licked it, starting at its base, and ending at its tip. He went
slowly, teasing it with his tongue for a few minutes. Finally, he took
it into his mouth, still going as slowly as he dared, until the tip
occupied his throat. Then, he pulled out, sucking gently. Tristan
heard the man moan.
Tristan pleasured the man until he was rewarded with warm, salty semen.
He swallowed dutifully, and then, went on to pleasure someone else.
Before the night was through, Tristan had gone down on four different
people - three men and a woman, and his belly was full of the result.
He didn't stop until he felt a tug on his leash.
"For those of you lucky enough to have felt his mouth, let me introduce
the author of your pleasure," Tristan heard Arista say as he crawled
from under the table. He stood, and Arista continued, "Prince Tristan
Tristan heard a gasp, and looked up into a set of very familiar eyes.
"It is not your fault, you know," Arista said, Tristan's head in her lap
as she stroked his hair. "It was bound to happen eventually."
"But --" Tristan sobbed.
"So you sucked your own brother's penis," Arista said. "It's not a big
deal. He's not even your real brother. Yes, your father adopted him,
but you share no parents."
"But since his mother married my father, we have been together. We grew
up as brothers, and now --"
"Now he has seen you as you now are. I warned you that this would be
humiliating," Arista said calmly.
Tristan sat up, and said, "But that's not even it. He was with her.
With my wife. She saw me like this!" He gestured to his body. "She
will never have me back, even after I return to Honus." Tristan was
absolutely distraught. He had hoped that once the whole ordeal was
finished, and Arista returned him to Honus, everything would just return
"Do you love her, then?" Arista asked.
"She is my wife," Tristan replied.
"Was your wife," Arista corrected. "I did not tell you because I didn't
want to upset you, but you were declared dead almost three months ago.
Your former wife is now the wife of your brother. That is why they were
Tristan did not, could not speak. He simply sat there, lost in thought.
Was it true? It had to be. Arista did not lie. He turned his head,
and saw something in Arista's eyes. Was it anger? No. Tristan had
seen her angry. What was it? And then he recognized it. She was
jealous. Had she set the whole thing up as some sort of punishment for
his love for his own wife? Or was she clearing the way for something
Tristan knew that Arista did not really think of him as a prisoner
anymore. She had comforted him when he was in pain, supported him
throughout the ordeal, and the two had grown close. He was her shadow,
and Tristan could tell that she felt at least some affection for him.
The leash, Tristan knew, was like nearly everything else: a show of
dominance which existed for other people's perception. But in the
quarters he shared with Arista, there were no such shows of dominance.
After a couple of months, Arista had offered him clothes, and he had
refused. She had offered to remove the collar and leash, but Tristan
was used to them at that point. More often than not, after Tristan had
been used by whoever that night's partner was, he returned to Arista's
quarters, and slipped into bed with her.
Was it love? Probably not. But Arista had grown fond of him, at least
enough to not treat him like the prisoner he was.
"Why were they here?" Tristan asked after a moment.
"Peace negotiations," Arista answered quickly. "The queen wished to at
least make an effort."
Tristan knew that a precarious set of rules governed warfare. If
captured on the field of battle, as Trista was, a warrior was fair game.
That same warrior, if under the flag of diplomacy, was off limits.
Tristan always thought the system was silly, but he adhered to it, just
as everyone else did.
"Were they successful?" Tristan asked.
"Of course not," Arista responded. "There will be no peace so long as
these two nations are led by arrogant fools." A tinge of anger laced
Tristan knew she was right.
"You never refer to it as your country or your countrymen. Your
coloring is different from most Einarians, and your speech carries an
accent," Tristan said. "Where are you from?"
"Across the sea," was Arista's only answer. She had run the emotional
gamut from jealousy to anger, and now, it seemed, she felt regret.
Tristan chose not to probe it any further, and simply lay his head in
her lap while she stroked his smooth cheek.
After that night, Tristan's sexual escapades took a decidedly downward
turn. It went from being a sexual plaything every night to every other
night, and then, to only rarely. Tristan was slightly disappointed, at
first, but soon became accustomed to the lack of sexual activity. In
addition, Arista quit taking him to dinner, and instead, ate with him in
the small dining area in their quarters.
At the eight month mark, Arista began insisting that Tristan clothe
himself, but certainly not in male clothing. Nor was it any sort of
clothing Tristan had ever seen. The garments were made of silk, and he
generally wore two - a top and a bottom. The top, Arista referred to as
a camisole, and it was a shirt with thin straps instead of shoulders,
and without sleeves. The lower garment, Arista called panties, and was
made in such a way that it hugged his body tightly.
Admittedly, Tristan liked the way he looked in the new clothes. His
plump, round rear looked astoundingly feminine, and the top showed off
his thin, smooth arms and narrow shoulders.
As the weeks went on, Arista began confiding in Tristan. Tristan had
never possessed a sharp political mind, but he knew enough to offer his
insights. Arista, it seemed, was surprised by his knowledge.
Obviously, she had thought him a dumb brute.
They grew closer, day by day, and soon, Tristan shared Arista's bed
exclusively. It wasn't as satisfying as being with a man, but Tristan
did enjoy Arista's company. And there was no lack of sexual pleasure in
that bed, certainly.
After eleven months, Tristan knew that the humiliation was a thing of
the past, even though, according to the plan, a month still remained.
He trusted Arista, and knew that she wouldn't subject him to that
Though they were close, Tristan still barely knew his lover. She was
from another country, another continent entirely, but would not reveal
why she had come to Einar. Aside from that, her past remained shrouded
in mystery. It was enough, though, for Tristan that he was a part of
her present. He did not pry, thinking that when she was ready, she
would tell him.
On the eve of Tristan's one-year anniversary in his body, he and Arista
were dining when she said, "Have you thought about what you will do when
the time is up? When your second year is complete, I mean."
Tristan shrugged. He had thought about it, certainly, but had come to
no conclusions. Would he be welcome back in Honus? Somehow he doubted
it. Would he still be welcome in Einar? Perhaps. "I don't know."
"Would you run away with me, then? Right now, would you go?" Arista
asked. It was her favorite question. She asked it at least once a
As always, Tristan said, "Of course." And then, he added, "I love you."
The words were out before he had even realized it. Why had he said
that? Was it true? It was strange to think that the person most
responsible for his condition was also the person he least blamed.
Arista didn't have to say it, of course, but Tristan knew that she
hadn't really wanted to punish him. Not so severely, at least. He saw
the regret in her eyes over the first year of the punishment phase, and
he had little doubt that Arista wasn't really to blame. She was simply
Tristan's words had taken Arista aback. She looked at him questioningly
for a moment, then asked, "Y-you love me?"
"I shouldn't have said that. I'm sorry," Tristan said quickly in
response. He did love Arista, certainly, but was it romantic love? Or
was it like the love between sisters? He was unsure on that count.
Tristan felt little in the way of arousal, even when the two made love.
He simply wasn't put together that way; Tristan was attracted to men -
physically, at least. He liked their bodies, their faces, the rough
stubble on their faces - all physical things. But he loved the
tenderness with which Arista treated him; he felt safe with her like
with no other. Was that enough?
"Don't be sorry, love," Arista said. "I confess that I have grown quite
fond of you as well." She touched his lips. Tristan kissed her finger,
and smiled. Tristan knew where it was going. Arista was in the mood,
and he couldn't bring himself to refuse her. Was it simply conditioning
to cater to the sexual whims of others? Or did he truly draw pleasure
from making her happy? He tossed those thoughts aside, and rose,
removing his scant clothes.
They made love as two women might, and Tristan did feel quite a lot of
pleasure, but it wasn't the same as when he was with a man. For
Arista's sake, he tried to fake it.
The first day of Tristan's second year was hectic. Early in the
morning, he was fitted for an entirely new wardrobe. He tried on
skirts, dresses, more lingerie, and shoes. The seamstress measured him
over and over, making small notes on her papers, and soon, left Tristan
with a few temporary dresses to wear.
Next came instruction on how he should conduct himself. The instructor
was a severe woman whose every sentence was preceded by, "A true Lady
does --" Tristan hated her. However, he was thankful that he had
already mastered feminine movements; he shuddered to think what the
severe woman would say had she seen him as he had been, clunking around
on heavy feet.
Finally, he attended classes teaching a style of dance called ballet.
Arista told him that it would make him more graceful and ladylike.
Those first few days, he merely stretched, and did a few basic moves.
But week by week, the level of difficulty inclined steeply.
Over the course of that year, Tristan was transformed from an improper
young harlot (for that is what he had become) to a lady. The dresses
felt constrictive at first, what with their corsets and voluminous
petticoats, but soon, he became accustomed to them. By the end of the
year, Tristan wore them without thought; it was second nature to him.
Arista asked him almost daily what decision he would make, and Tristan
skirted the question. He simply did not know. On the one hand, he felt
obligated to return to Honus. On the other, he was now certain that he
loved Arista. His marriage to Penelope felt silly by comparison. But
was that because he had not seen her for almost two years? Or had he
simply lusted after her, and confused that lust with love? Tristan had
Finally, in the eleventh month, Tristan and Arista were lying together
in bed, having just made love. Tristan sighed, and said, "I need to go
back to Honus."
Arista turned to him, and sadness in her eyes, said, "If that is your
"You misunderstand me, my love," Tristan responded. "My life...before.
It feels so far away, now. Emotions I felt, bonds I shared - I need to
know if they were real, or if I simply thought they were because I had
no basis for comparison.'
"Is what we have not enough?" Arista asked.
"It is. But you have to understand what I'm saying. My family, I
haven't seen them for almost two years. I missed my father's death. I
missed my brother's coronation. No, I am not bitter. I know I would not
have been a good king, and I will not press that issue, though it is my
right. Frederick will make a fine king," Tristan stated. "I don't know
if you willingly left people behind, or if there was nothing left for
you where you came from, but I have to know."
Tristan finished with a huff, and neither spoke for almost five minutes.
Finally, Arista said, "They were all dead. Back home, I mean. I didn't
know how to control my power, and I killed them. I still don't know how
it happened. One day, they were alive, and the next, they were piles of
ash. That is why I left." A single tear flowed down her cheek. "You
say you love me, and maybe you meant it. For that, you deserve to know
what I am. I killed almost four-hundred people that day. I am a
"You didn't know --"
"I knew that what I was doing was dangerous," Arista interrupted. "I
knew that people could be hurt, but I was overconfident. You have
danced around the subject of my punishment of you. Again, you deserve
to know that I did not choose your punishment. I did not want to do it,
but I gave up the right to choose my actions long ago. I forfeited that
right when I killed those people. I won't make decisions regarding my
"Why are you telling me this?" Tristan asked.
"You need to know. It has been weighing on me for almost two years now,
and I needed to say something before it was too late," Arista said. "If
you leave, I can't have you thinking that I did this to you. I won't
let that hang between us."
"I don't care," Tristan said. "Even if you had made the decision, I am
not bitter. You changed my life, Arista. It was difficult, at first.
And I hated you for it. But it wasn't long before I saw the person you
were. You love me. And I love you. The past is irrelevant now."
"But what of the future?" Arista asked.
"We could run away together," Tristan replied. "Like you said. Just
leave. Who would stop us?"
"What of your family?" Arista inquired.
"I still need to know," Tristan said. "But we can go before the year is
up, and then, disappear from there. Your obligation to the queen will
be fulfilled, and I will know where I stand with my family."
"You will confront them like that?" Arista asked. "You do not want to
change back before you see them?"
Tristan answered, "No. If they love me, they will accept me. If not,
well...we'll cross that bridge when we get there, won't we?"
Tristan stood, nervously wringing his small hands, in front of the
throne room. He didn't know why he was so uneasy. His brother knew
what he had become; he had seen firsthand. Was it because of Penelope?
No, he knew that she was well aware of his condition. It just didn't
make sense. Arista stood proudly beside him, head held high, shoulders
He was thankful for her strength, at least. She had insisted on
accompanying him to his father's - no, his brother's palace.
Preparations had begun directly after the conversation in which it had
been suggested, and the trip had commenced two days later.
The journey had been uneventful, but still quite strange for Tristan.
For one, he had rarely been out of doors since his capture, and he found
that he was of two minds about it. Part of him had missed it while the
other part just wanted to be back indoors where it was clean and
orderly. The other thing which made the trip strange for Tristan was
the method of transportation. For all of his life, a trek across the
countryside meant riding a horse, but a lady did not ride a horse across
such a distance. No. ladies rode a carriage, and so Tristan did as
well. It was just as well. His skirts would have made it difficult to
It had been disconcerting for Tristan to see his country again, and it
had grown stranger as they moved closer to his home, what had formerly
been his late father's palace. He had known that he should have felt
something, but all Tristan really felt was a desire for the whole affair
to be over with so that he could go on with his life.
That desire warred with his nerves as he waited for the doors to open.
He glanced up at Arista, and she smiled encouragingly. It was
comforting, that smile.
He had chosen to wear one of his most feminine dresses - a ruffled white
and pink creation with a corset and voluminous skirts. He still wore
the torque his father had given him on that day, what seemed so long
ago. Let them see him at his most feminine.
The doors opened, and after taking a deep breath, Tristan stepped
through. He clutched Arista's hand tightly.
Surprise - that was the only emotion in Tristan's mind as he looked
around at the nearly empty throne room. There were only two figures -
Frederick and Penelope. He had expected either to be welcomed to court
or to be demeaned in front of the court. But he had not anticipated
meeting with only his brother and former wife.
Chin up, he thought. Shoulders back. Regal. Do not let them see your
confusion. Let not surprise show on your face. Hundreds of little
thoughts danced through his head at the same time, but they all had one
aim. Be ladylike.
He walked gracefully across the spacious room. It was so familiar;
Tristan had attended court there hundreds of times. But it looked so
barren, so empty with none of the courtiers, lords or ladies of which
the court was comprised.
The couple - Tristan and Arista - both gorgeous in their expensive
dresses - stopped but a pace away from the royal couple. One tall and
dark, the other pale and shorter, they looked a bit mismatched at first
glance. But then there were the hands, clasped together so tightly, and
their expressions, so closely mirroring one another.
Tristan knew he had made a mistake the moment he looked at his brother's
face. There was no love. There was barely any recognition. There was
only disdain with a hint of disapproval. He looked at Penelope, and she
looked away, unable to meet his gaze.
"Come back for more, eh, big brother?" Frederick asked. "Didn't get
enough when you were under the table back in Einar?"
Tristan didn't know what to say. Surely Frederick knew that he had had
no choice but to become what he had become. Certainly, he knew that
Tristan hadn't known it was him. Or did any of that even matter?
Frederick continued, "Why did you come back?"
"I...I don't know," Tristan said, his eyes falling downward.
"You shouldn't have. You must know that you're not getting the throne,"
"I don't want it," Tristan replied.
Frederick didn't say anything for a moment, but finally, he smiled. "I
never liked you, you know. You always acted so arrogant, so superior.
In fact, my dislike bordered on hate. But that's not why this was done
to you." When he noticed Tristan's confusion, he laughed. "You didn't
know? Oh, that is just priceless."
"W-what are you talking about, Frederick?" Tristan asked in a quiet
voice, even though he knew the answer.
"King Frederick! Not just Frederick anymore, brother," Frederick said.
"Or you may call me 'Your Majesty', if you prefer." His voice was
calmer. "Oh, but they didn't even tell you why you were changed, did
they?" Frederick wagged his finger at Arista. "You sneaky Einarians.
Shame on you."
A smile which could only be characterized as evil spread across his
face, and he continued, "I did it. I had you taken. I gave you to the
Einarians. I dictated the changes. That's why I was there before, to
check on you. And I must say, they did an excellent job."
"You? But why? We were bro--" Tristan said.
"Brothers?!" Frederick snapped. "We were never that. There was you -
the shining, golden warrior who would one day be king, and then there
was me. Nobody ever took me seriously. I wasn't a warrior. I didn't
seek glory like you, so I was dismissed. But that's not why. No, it
was a pragmatic rather than emotional decision on my part. I wanted to
be king. You were in the way, so I had to get rid of you."
"But why this? Why did you not just kill me?" Tristan asked.
Frederick shrugged. "This seemed better. I admit, it probably would
have been simpler to just kill you, but far less fun. I wanted to see
you get your comeuppance, brother."
"And father? Was he part of the plan?" Tristan asked.
"That old fool? I poisoned him soon after you were taken," Frederick
said offhandedly. "Just after I married your wife. She never loved
you, you know. Tell him, Penelope."
Penelope looked away, but Frederick continued, "Well, she didn't. She
married you for your position."
That did it for Tristan. Rationally, he knew that Penelope probably
hadn't returned his love, but he had convinced himself that she had held
at least a bit of fondness for him. Apparently, that was untrue. He
No amount of magic, no compulsion, nor anything else in the world could
have stopped Tristan at that moment. He launched himself at his brother
- no, it wasn't his brother - he was something else, something vile.
Something in him changed, then. It was as if his gentle nature merged
with the former warrior, forged together by a strength of purpose. He
wanted blood, and the fragile, dainty Tristan could not get it, so he
let the warrior loose. When he did, it was as if an invisible wall had
shattered in his mind. There was rage, anger, and blood lust. The
warrior had returned.
However, Tristan did not possess the body of a warrior. But he did have
surprise, and that was enough. He collided with Frederick, and the two
tumbled to the ground. Tristan had only one shot, and he went for his
brother's throat, his dainty hands clasping around Frederick's neck.
And then Tristan was thrown aside like the petite weakling he was. He
skidded across the floor, and Frederick stood.
The King laughed. "Didn't think that one through, did you?"
Tristan looked up, and saw a cowering Penelope and a stunned Arista.
Frederick ignored them, and walked towards Tristan.
He grabbed Tristan's hair, and hauled him to his feet. And then he
slapped Tristan, and hard. Tears welled up in Tristan's eyes. Rage
boiled inside, but he simply didn't have the means to stop Frederick.
"I really should have just killed you," Frederick said. "Suppose that
mistake shall have to be remedied."
He pulled a jeweled dagger from his belt. Tristan looked at Penelope,
who dared not move against her husband. Then his eyes found Arista.
Her eyes were closed, and her lips moved soundlessly. The dagger rose
towards Tristan's throat, and time seemed to slow. He knew then that he
regretted his life.
Violence. Murder. Death and destruction. He had devoted his entire
life to those things, and for what? It had only gotten him more of the
same. Until Arista came along. She had done horrible things, he knew.
Something had clouded his mind before, had glossed over the nature of
his captivity, but even with a clear head, he knew that she had done him
a favor. She had ended the cycle of violence, at least for him. And
for that, Tristan was grateful.
But did he really love her? She had stood by him. She had comforted
him. She had loved him. And then he realized. Arista had been just as
much of a victim as he was. She hadn't wanted to punish him. She
hadn't chosen the form that punishment would take. She had been forced
into it, and had clearly regretted the situation throughout.
He didn't know if it was love, but as he stood on the brink of death, he
wanted the opportunity to find out.
Arista's eyes popped open, and her lips stopped moving. A soft
concussion filled the air, and Tristan felt the grip on his hair lessen,
and finally, release. Then, he saw Frederick fall to the ground,
And then he fainted.
Tristan awoke almost two days later, and immediately felt the bumpy ride
that told him he was in a carriage. His eyes fluttered open, and he saw
that Arista was staring at him.
"Awake at least?" she asked.
"What happened?" Tristan inquired.
"Frederick is dead," Arista said. "We...I violated the flag of truce
under which we met Frederick. So, we are on the run."
"From who?" Tristan asked.
Tristan was unable to continue the conversation as he passed out again.
He awoke almost a day later, and found that the carriage had stopped.
Arista still sat across from him, but she was asleep. Tristan sat up,
rubbing his groggy eyes, and replaying events in his head. His brother
had been responsible for everything, but he was dead. How did that make
Tristan feel? Angry? Sad? Remorseful? He was unsure.
He was lost in thought when Arista woke up. Neither said anything for a
few moments, but finally, Arista said, "I think it's time you heard the
Tristan nodded. "Go on."
"Your brother hired a trio of magicians to capture you on the
battlefield, which they did. Afterward, he sent an envoy to Einar, to
my queen, offering you as a prisoner, but under certain conditions. We
would have to sign a contract, a magically binding contract which would
dictate your treatment," Arista explained. "The Queen isn't as stupid
as you might think, and she recognized the strategic advantage that a
prisoner like you represented, so she agreed. As her subject, I agreed
as well. We signed the contract."
She closed her eyes, leaned her head back, and sighed. After a moment,
Arista continued, "Part of that contract was that you would know nothing
of your brother's involvement. The rest of the contract dictated the
terms of your imprisonment, which you know well."
"I didn't know, not then, what sort of person you were. You didn't
deserve such treatment. No one does, not simply for serving his
country. For that, I apologize. I know that nothing will ever be --"
Tristan interrupted Arista with a passionate kiss. After a few moments,
he pulled away. "I don't care. I know you, and I know that you
wouldn't have done this willingly. Besides, you have set me free. I
realized something recently. I was completely unhappy before. I think
that's where all the anger came from. But now...now, I'm different.
I'm at peace, I guess. It was a difficult road, but I think it made me
a better person."
"So you don't want to go back? I can change you back if you wish,"
"No," Tristan replied. "I think I can learn to live like this."
And he kissed her again. His mind was unclouded by magic, and Tristan
felt something he hadn't felt in almost two years - attraction to a
Yes, he could adjust. As for what happened next, that is a different
tale for a different time.