Chapter One

He called himself Arex after the ancient war god of his people. Or, at least that was what he said. Nobody was really sure what name if any other he had been born with or exactly who his people were or where they dwelt.

In truth, nobody ever had the nerve to ask him. He was a big man. He towered over all of the emperors elite guard, who were the hand chosen biggest and strongest men in the capital. He always went about heavily cloaked with a mask covering the lower part of his face. All one could see were those cold ice blue eyes glittering from the mountain of a warrior's face. It was rumored that only the emperor himself had seen the mans whole face, which wasn't exactly true. But that's how rumors go.

The man had appeared in the capital city eight years before, unannounced and unbidden. On the steps of the emperors palace he had upended a large sack containing the heads of seven vampires which had been plaguing the southern marshes for years. Another sack, which remained on his horse, had contained all of the loot he had discovered in their nest which they had taken from the hundreds of victims the vampires had claimed. It was his by right.

For a year he came and went, traveling the countryside and living in the wilds. Whenever a beast threatened a town or village and the regular hunting parties were unable to subdue it, there was Arex.

After the first year he had claimed enough bounties to purchase a large estate on the outskirts with many many acres of wooded forest adjoining it.

Now he was Arex the Hunter and all who heard the name knew of him. He was the mightiest hunter of them all and, despite only being somewhere in his middle of his life, already his name was the stuff of legend in the halls and hearths of Dunis, the capital city of all of Kahedron and the glittering jewel in the eye of the emperors realm.

Never was there a beast that Arex could not slay and bring back it's head as a trophy. The emperor himself was said to have dozens of his trophies adorning his halls. The greatest of them being the giant head of a dragon which was, in life, as long as a hundred ships. Just preserving that trophy took over a dozen of the very best skinners a year to complete. The very head of that very dragon now hung in a place of honor above the emperors throne. And the scaled hide from that dragon now made up the glittering breastplates and shields of the emperors own personal guard.

The bounty from that kill had made Arex a very wealthy man indeed. He could have retired to a life of luxury behind the walls of his estate and never ventured forth again for the remainder of his days.

But Arex was not such a man.

His whole life was the stalk and the hunt and the battle and the kill. Pitting himself against the most dangerous and cunning beasts was the ultimate meaning of life for him and he could not imagine living any other way.

In the back of his mind, Arex knew that one day he would perish from the jaws or claws or hooves or talons or spikes or venomous stings of one of the creatures he hunted. It was his fate and he shrugged it off. His only fervent wish was that whatever beast brought him his last breath did so while dying by his hand.

There had been many close calls throughout the years. If you were to see him, as very few ever had, not wearing his body armor and hunting gear, you would see that his body was criss-crossed with scars, both old and new.

Even now, as he walked into the marketplace, Arex walked with a slight limp, favoring his right leg a bit. That wound would have killed lesser men and left even the healthier of them laid up in bed for many months. Seeing the aftermath of that wound had made Deril, his personal slave and sole attendant, feel weak and slightly ill to his stomach. His master shrugged it off as nothing, but Deril noted that Arex now slept less comfortably at night and never on his right side as he used to. He fretted for, as hunting was life to Arex, his masters happiness and comfort was life to Deril.

Serving such a man had not always been easy. In the seven years since Arex had bought Deril from the slave pens there had been many lessons to be learned. Some had been learned behind a sharp word or the back of his masters hand across his face or even, twice, bound to a pole and taken to with a thin flat strap which had left Deril sobbing and covered with welts for days.

But such an event had not taken place in quite a few years. Deril had learned that his new master was not at heart and evil or cruel man. He preferred to instruct calmly and quietly if it were possible. He never struck out in anger or frustration, always with the intent of getting his point across as quickly and efficiently as possible. The slave admitted to himself that he had been willful and rebellious and quite foolish in his younger years.

And now, even though he was still a slave, Deril walked with a bit of pride. Those who knew him in the marketplace and beyond knew that when he spoke, he spoke with the authority of his master behind him. Even the fat merchants and burghers who would normally look on any slave with disdain, gave Deril the same preference due his master. He was, in all sense of the word, his masters right hand.

But only while Arex was in town in his residence. While on a hunt, Arex worked alone and only hired local help after the deed was done to cart back the beasts broken carcass. It was his way.

The months while his master was away were always long and lonely for Deril. To be sure, he had his duties to keep him busy. Arex's manse was always spotlessly clean and well stocked, awaiting the masters return.

And each night he kept a spot warm in his masters bed, whether Arex was in residence or not. Deril actually had a room to himself, just a small cell, more like a closet, just off his masters bedroom. But he could count the times he had slept in there in the last seven years on the fingers of one hand. Even on the nights when Arex was ill for some poisonous sting or an infection from some nasty claw or fang and did not want him in his bed, Deril always catnapped on the thick rug on the floor at the foot of his masters bed, ready in an instant to bring him whatever relief he might need.

But the nights when Arex was home and in good spirits mentally and physically, Deril slid between his masters sheets each night with joy and a wondrous expectation in his heart. For, despite being such a physically imposing man who approached every problem with a flashing sword and guns blazing, Arex could also be a tender and sensitive (albeit a bit vigorous) lover who was acutely aware of his partners needs in bed as well as his own.

That had been one of the hardest lessons that Deril ever learned. As a matter of fact, that very subject had been the reason for the first time he had even been bound to the pole as the focal point of his masters irritation. Deril had never been touched by a man before up to that point in his life. Taken as a slave in his early teens, he had been a field hand for an owner with a large farm and never once even saw the inside of his masters house. Living in somewhat cramped conditions in the slave quarters, Deril knew that there were men who preferred the company of other men, but he shunned them. And once or twice he even managed to secure an entrance to the females quarters for a few minutes of hurried bliss. But such things were publicly frowned upon and if any were caught they were severely beaten for such transgressions.

When Deril was twenty summers old, the master had been killed in a border skirmish with a rival lord and his beautiful mansion burned to the ground. He, along with the surviving slaves, were sold back to the slavers and returned to the pens. In abject misery and fear of who he might be sold to next, Deril awaited his fate.

Standing on the auction block once again, the young slave quailed as he looked down at the huge man who was bidding on him. The man seemed to tower over the others in the crowd, all of whom gave him plenty of space to stand in. He was heavily cloaked and wore a mask that covered the lower part of his face. All Deril could see of his potential new owner was a pair of cold looking ice blue eyes. The quavering slave was quickly sold, for once his intentions became clear, nobody dared bid against the large dangerous looking man in their midst.

Leading his new property home by a short chain attached to his collar, Arex began instructing Deril in his duties, at first inside the mansion and the grounds surrounding it.

Then in his bedroom.

In the beginning of their relationship, Deril had resisted his new masters advances.


And had been punished for it.

Equally vigorously.

Like the master hunter that he was, Arex treated Deril like any beast he had hunted. He stalked and spurred and drove him until there was but one way for Deril to go.

For twenty nights, Deril slept on the floor next to Arex's bed, chained to the bedpost, morose and despairing, knowing that soon he would no longer be able to sidestep his masters wishes and be forced to be his sexual plaything. The thought of the huge strong man taking him to bed scared Deril half to death. On the twenty first day he 'accidentally' broke a plate while serving dinner. When he slipped into the kitchen to replace it, he slashed his wrists with a bit of the broken pottery.

What Deril didn't count on was the hunter's keen sense of smell. Arex could track a wounded creature for miles in a blackened cave by scent alone. And had. For him to smell fresh blood less than ten yards away was nothing. Seconds after the blood began to flow, Deril found himself slammed face down on the hard stone floor with his wrists wrenched painfully up behind his back.

Arex calmly and efficiently bound his wounds, then just as calmly marched him down the stairs to the basement, bound him to the post and stripped him of his clothes.

For the next twenty minutes Arex calmly and coolly lectured Deril on what his duties as a slave were and what Arex expected of him. All of the duties expected of him. Including keeping his masters bed warm and his master as well.

For the twenty minutes following that Arex calmly and carefully striped almost every single inch of Deril's flesh with the strap. The only areas very carefully missed were Deril's face, his bandaged wrists and his genitals. He was struck just hard enough to sting and leave a welt, but never once drew blood or left so much as a lingering bruise.

On the twenty second night, Deril knelt by his masters bedside and begged forgiveness. When it was given, he crawled willingly into his masters bed and gave himself to him completely.

As with most things in life, there was some pain at first, but the ecstasy quickly over-rode that. It was a night filled with cries of pleasure like Deril had never known in his young life.

From that night on he had never looked back. Now he served his master as willingly with his body in bed as he did cooking his meals, mending his clothes, tending to his weapons or cleaning his mansion.

In truth, Deril loved Arex with his whole heart and soul and would gladly, willingly, sacrifice his life for his master. Arex had taught him how to defend both himself and his masters property with a skill that would defeat any half dozen robbers or thieves. He always carried two medium sized knives at the center of his back under his tunic in case they were needed, even though this wasn't strictly allowed under imperial law. Deril learned that his master had a disdain for most of the imperial laws and followed them only when it suited him to do so.

So far no cutpurse or brigand had ever been foolish enough to try and test the master in combat. But Deril was always alert, just in case.

Such an important person as Arex could have ridden a horse or been drawn in a carriage to town that day, but such things were not his way. Unless time was of the essence or the distance far too great, Arex preferred to walk on his own two feet.

Such it was that day. Arex walked the two miles into the marketplace with Deril a pace behind him, both marking his place as his masters servant and guarding his back. Deril wore a loose tunic and soft cotton pants tucked into his boots. The tunic covered the belt that held a purse containing quite a few of his masters gold coins as well as the two knives he carried. Arex, as he was always when he went out, was hooded and masked. His heavy cloak covered the sword and small blast rifle he carried on his back but deliberately did not cover the large pistol in his belt nor the wicked looking knife protruding from the top of his boot.

Deril had learned that his master rarely ever left anything to chance. And what he wanted most when he went out was to go where he wanted to go and get what he wanted to get with as little interference as possible. In a city like Dunis going about heavily and visibly armed was the best way to do that.

As they walked, Deril noted the somewhat pained limp in his masters gait and wondered for the umpteenth time where they were going and why Arex hadn't just sent him. Deril was used to fetching and carrying for him. He did all of the grocery shopping and fetched many different things from the shops and bazaars in Dunis.

'Where are we going again, master?' Deril asked, quite innocently. Arex waved a hand at the street around them and said 'It's quite obvious, Deril. We are going to the slave pens. Nothing else is down this lane.' He turned and glanced at the young man behind him and said 'And wipe that look off of your face. I'm not trading you in for a younger model.'

'Then why do we go there?'

'I think it's time you had some company while I am away.'

'I am perfectly content, master. Myself, I need no others in my life. This trip is a needless strain on you. You should be at home resting.'

Arex turned suddenly and Deril worried that he may have overstepped his bounds. One large hand clad in a leather glove flashed out and grabbed the slave by the shoulder, then gave it a gentle squeeze.

'Do you love me, Deril?' he asked quietly.

The young man slid to his knees in the dust of the street and bowed his head. 'You know I do love you, master. I would never serve another man.'

'Get up, you fool.' He said gruffly. Deril rose and brushed the dust from the knees of his pants. The soft leather of his masters gloved thumb caressed his cheek, then the hand slid to the back of his neck and held him firmly in place.

'You are lonely when I am away, yes?'

He nodded reluctantly. 'I.... I miss you being home, master. The manse is so empty without you there. But I have my duties to keep me occupied. It is no matter.'

The big man put his other hand to his face and pulled his mask down. He leaned down and pulled the younger man to him and kissed him roughly and thoroughly. Deril moaned in the back of his throat and he felt his body responding to his masters touch. He wanted nothing more than for his master to take him right then and there. Yes, even if it was in the middle of the street!

After a moment or two Arex pulled away and adjusted his mask to once again cover his lower face. Deril noted that a small smile curled the corner of his lord and masters mouth before he covered it again.

Arex turned abruptly away and said 'You need company, Deril. We will find you some. And I have some other plans which will require adding a few more to our numbers. Come!' and he stalked away up the street.

The young man quickly suppressed his arousal (though it was difficult) and trotted after his master towards the slave pens.

While the slave market was a nonstop business, they only held the public auctions one day a week. The other days were spent restocking (for there were always bands of raiders wandering in with new supplies of captives) and holding private sales for the elite of Dunis, should they not want to sully themselves bidding among the farmers and factory owners and other riff raff. Knowing that the public auctions would be held the following morning, Deril knew that the pens would be as well stocked this evening as they would ever be. Still wondering at what his master was thinking, he followed him dutifully into the one place he never hoped to see again.

The guards at the gates were huge men and heavily armed and armored. The slave factors got the biggest and roughest men they could find to guard their gates. But Deril noted that Arex still stood several inches taller than the burly ruffians, who bowed their heads differentially to his master as he strode past them without a glance. He also noted the heavy iron collars about their throats which marked them as slaves themselves.

The morning after Deril had fully given himself to his master for the first time, Arex had cut the heavy iron collar from his neck and replaced it with one of soft and supple leather with a buckle so he could take it off at will.

Taking it off only when he bathed, Deril wore his masters collar with pride.

The slave factors recognized Arex at a glance and ushered him into the inner chambers with many bows and flatteries. They offered him a large and comfortable couch to recline on and immediately pretty young serving girls began rushing in and out with platters of fine foods and jugs of wine and other drinks. Arex merely held up one hand and waved them away. He perched on the edge of the finely appointed couch as if ready to spring up at a breath.

The head slave factor, a fat and oily man named Garl who sported multiple jeweled rings on every finger, fluttered his hands to wave away the serving girls and clasped his beringed hands together in front of his ample chest and bowed as far as his corpulence would allow.

'You honor our poor house with your presence, Lord Arex. How may we be of service to you this evening?'

Standing at his masters shoulder, Deril shuddered slightly on hearing the mans voice again. Despite his outward trappings of civility and culture, he knew that Garl was capable of immense cruelty and uncivilized tastes, preferring partners way younger than was socially acceptable. His hands clenched tightly behind his back as he repressed the urge to slit the fat swine's throat.

Arex waved the fat man out of his field of vision and said 'Household servants. Young. Fit. Not that half starved and abused trash you sell to the factory men by the river.' Deril saw the obese factor flinch slightly. 'Bring them quickly.' Deril heard the snap of command in his masters voice and could tell that Arex cared not for the factor either.

For the next hour slaves were trotted in and out of the large room in groups of twelve for their perusal. Some groups were sent away on sight and occasionally Arex would have one set aside for later consideration. It startled Deril that his master was also looking at young women. He already had three or four standing aside amongst the group of young men. Deril had never seen his master take an interest in women before.

When they were down to the last of the chosen group, numbering about a dozen, Arex had them separated into groups of men and women. There were seven males and five females. All were fairly young and reasonably fit, showing little of the prevalent abuse of lifelong slaves, though many showed the bruises and marks from those who had captured them in some raid. Deril wrinkled his nose at the smell. It had been many years since he had been among their number and had almost forgotten the stench. The smell of fear and despair and lack of sanitation and being fed on nothing but scraps and garbage. His hands tightened into fists behind his back as the urge to chop the fat slave factor into quivering bits ran through his mind.

A strong hand landed on Deril's shoulder and his masters whispered voice cut through the haze. 'Control yourself.' Nobody else in the room had noticed the tension building in Deril's body. Covering his servant's discomfiture, Arex pulled Deril in front of him and pointed out the group of male slaves, who eyed them with mixed hope and alarm, wondering what type of men Arex and Deril might be.

'Pick out one.' Said Arex. 'Or two. You know my tastes.... And yours. Someone who would fit well in my household and not have to be beaten too often. A strong back and a willing heart.' Then he leaned forward and whispered 'One who you wouldn't mind having around for a long time to come. Choose wisely.'

Garl made a small grimace of distaste as Deril began perusing the line of offered captives. A slave? Arex sends a mere slave to sample his wares? It was a mark of dishonor on his entire house! Garl practically quivered with indignance. Until, that is, he noticed the icy blue gaze of Arex above his mask. Those eyes held such calm cool malevolence, as if daring the factor to make a remark. Garl felt his anger melt away into fear under the unflinching gaze of the hunter and his bowels turned to ice water. Sweating profusely, the corpulent factor excused himself and fled the room. One of his younger brothers, his face masked in obsequious bland smiles, took his place.

While Deril looked up and down the line of males, Arex stood and looked up and down at the females he had chosen from the groups of newly taken slaves. They huddled together on their knees and a few of them sobbed openly, cowering away from the giant of a man that approached them. He slipped off one glove and snapped his fingers loudly to get their attention. When the females looked up, he raised his hand and they all stood, hands across their naked breasts and clad in only filthy loincloths. They were all dirty and unkempt and a couple of them showed fresh whip marks on their shoulders and backs. Tears made tracks in the filth and grime on their cheeks.

Tugging down his mask, Arex made a grimace of distaste. Not at the women, but at the way they were kept. Even animals deserved better than this. But in Dunis, as indeed in all of Kahedron, animals were usually treated better than most slaves. Arex knew that there was very little he could do about the situation.

Pointing a finger, he beckoned one of the females closer. She was small, as all of the chosen ones were. A dark haired girl who looked to be from the isle of Nikkon. Pale skin and small breasts with large dark nipples and black hair all the way down to her waist.

Trembling, she stepped forward and stood in front of the large man, her dark eyes large with fear and apprehension.

'You can speak?'

'Y... y... yes, my lord. I can speak.' She had the typical Nikkonese accent, but Arex had no trouble understanding her.

'Your name.'

'M... m.... Miko, my lord.'

'Have any of these men or the raiders lain with you since you were taken, Miko?' She shook her head, still trembling. His strong hand reached out and captured her chin and turned her face up to meet his gaze. She tried to flinch away but his grip was as strong as steel. She felt as if he could have crushed her head in his one massive hand. But though his grasp was firm, it was not rough or painful as she expected.

'Are you now with child, Miko?' She tried to shake her head, but couldn't move in his grip so she stuttered 'N... n.... no, my lord.'

Arex gazed deep into the trembling woman's eyes, as if he could see all the way into her soul. He looked at her for a long moment, then asked softly 'Will you serve me, Miko?'

The frightened girl hesitated, then looked up into those ice blue eyes and saw a man that was strong and forceful, one who got what he wanted when he wanted it. But she saw no hint of cruelty there, like in the eyes of the raiders or the slave factors. The huge man frightened her, for there was death in those cold eyes. Death, yes. But not for her. The eyes also promised protection. For she knew that such a man would protect what was his fiercely. She stood a little straighter and nodded her head the little bit that his grip allowed. She whispered 'Yes, master. I will serve you.'

Arex released her and pointed off to the side. The young girl stood off by herself, her hands once again covering her small breasts while she pondered what exactly her fate might be.

The big man repeated the examination of the other four girls in the same manner. Three were sent away but one, another small woman with short reddish hair and green eyes and a Cairnish accent stood by the Nikkonese girl. Almost unconsciously, their hands twined together as they stood and trembled and wondered as they looked at their would be new master.

Meanwhile, Deril had finished his examination of the males. He had chosen one who looked to be in his late teens, compact and fairly fit for a slave. He was about as tall as Deril, but not as heavily muscled even though he looked like he would be a good farm hand or laborer. The boy's eyes were bright blue, like Arex's, and a startling contrast to his dark brown hair. Deril directed him to stand over by the two chosen girls and rejoined his masters side as they contemplated their choices.

Arex looked at the young man his servant had selected. 'Only one, Deril? You could have as many of them as you wanted, you know. Why did you choose him?'

Deril made a small smile. 'He has intelligence, my lord. And can read and write. None of the others could. He's young and strong and... reasonably attractive. I explained to him our... relationship, and what would presumably be expected of him. Outside of his household duties, that is.'

Arex raised an eyebrow 'And how did he respond to that?'

'He said that he would be willing to share my bed with me anytime. But...'


'But the thought of being taken by you scares him half to death.'

'Hmpf!' Arex snorted. 'Well, I had intended him more for you than for me, anyway. Although now that you mention it...'

Deril snorted back and pointed towards the two females.

'Women, my lord?' Deril said. 'Two of them?'

Arex raised an eyebrow. 'I remember a time when they were your dish of choice, Deril.'

He shrugged. 'I knew no better then, my lord. I was young and ignorant.'

Arex gave out a short bark of a laugh that Deril knew was his masters equivalent to a rolling guffaw. 'And now, Deril? Now that you are so wise in the ways of the world, are they no longer to your liking?'

Deril shrugged again and made a small grimace of distaste. 'Women..... bleed, my lord.'

A hand shot out and Arex ran a finger through the ring attached to the front of Deril's leather collar and pulled him somewhat roughly towards him until he stared up into his masters icy blue gaze.

'The first time I took you, Deril.' he said quietly. 'If you recall, you bled as well.'

Once again he felt his body responding to his masters touch and words. He wanted nothing more than to tear off his own clothes and offer his body to him right then and there. Even if the whole world were watching!

'Y.. yes, master. I did.' he whispered. 'I would gladly shed my blood for you any time you wish it. I... I am yours, master Arex.'

The bigger man released him and pushed him gently back with a soft smile. 'Yes. You are.' he said. He pointed to the waiting slaver and said 'Don't let him rob me. Give him a fair price. And slip in a small personal commission just because we didn't have to trifle with that fat swine of a brother of his.'

The younger slaver had no qualms about making a deal with a slave. As long as his masters gold was good and plentiful, he had no problems at all. When the deal was concluded, he clapped his hands and a couple of his personal retainers scurried into the room with short chunks of rope. As was their custom, the new slaves hands were bound behind their backs and their ankles were hobbled so they could not take a full stride. Then their collars were strung together with short sections of rope with the smallest of the girls in front and the taller male in the rear. That made any sort of escape attempt that much more difficult. The two girls, unable now to cover their bare breasts, hung their heads in shame. All three looked frightened and apprehensive.

Arex directed the slaver to have a cart and driver brought around for delivery. 'No cage.' he said. 'A plain cart will do. And make it quick. I wish to be away from this place.'

Deril took the lead rope and led his new charges out of the chamber and into the courtyard. A small cart rattled to a stop, driven by a sallow and sour faced young man. As he wore no collar, Arex guess he was one of the youngest of the fat slavers siblings. He apparently resented having to act as a delivery boy. Deril lifted and chivvied the three into the back of the cart then started to climb up to the bench next to the driver.

Immediately, a sneer twisted the sullen driver's mouth and he started to bark some sort of order at Deril when a sudden excruciating pain on the side of his head made him stop and cry out. Arex pinched the young mans ear between two strong fingers, twisting it and almost unseating him from the drivers bench. He pulled the young man sideways until they were face to face. The only thing keeping him from falling in the dust was the formidable grip that threatened to tear the flesh from his head.

'My man, there...' said Arex, in a voice full of cold calculating menace 'Will direct you to my home. Heed his voice as if it were my very own. Make sure all of my possessions make it safely and securely to my mansion....' the fingers gripping his ear pulled and twisted just a fraction more. 'Or your head will be the next one to adorn my dining hall.'

The young driver managed to squeak out 'Yes! Yes! Yes, my lord! Anything you say, my lord!' before he was thrust roughly back up into the seat with his head ringing and his ear burning. He wanted nothing more to do with the huge man whose voice sounded like liquid murder.

As his servant scrambled up into the seat of the wagon trying to hide the smirk on his face, Arex said 'Get them washed up and fed and bedded down. Make sure nobody goes a-wandering. I'll be home late.' Deril placed a hand over his heart and replied 'It will be as you wish, master.'

It was well after the bells had tolled the midnight hour when Arex slipped the lock of his front door and stepped into the hall. As he turned to secure the door against the night, he suddenly stopped and raised his head and said softly 'It's good to know that you are always alert, Deril. No thief will enter my home unbidden, it seems.'

'Not unbidden nor unchallenged, my lord.' Came the reply. Deril carefully slipped the safety back on the large blast rifle held down by his leg and out of view. He trotted down the stairs and headed towards the kitchens, anticipating his masters voice saying 'Tea please, Deril. Something hot and spiced to chase away the chill of the night.' There was a pause as Arex halted halfway up the stone stairway and said 'And your ears, Deril. Bring them as well. They will be needed.'

Deril calmly poured out the steaming hot tea as his master slipped out of his clothing and accessories. Arex carefully and methodically checked each of his weapons as he removed them and hung them on the rack. While the hunter was occupied, the young servant tipped a small envelope of powder into his masters drink and stirred it until it dissolved. The process had made an almost imperceptible whisper of sound behind his back, but Arex said 'I hope it doesn't make me sleep too soon. I have things I need to say to you, Deril.'

Never surprised at the big mans keen senses, Deril shrugged and said 'I only wish you ease from your pain, my lord. To sleep easy.'

'Pain is no matter. It teaches us a lesson and it fades with time.'

Arex slipped the last of his clothing to the floor and stepped to the basin and filled it with hot water. Dipping a cloth in the steaming water, he began wiping his body down. Deril came to his side and got another cloth and dipped it in the water and began wiping down his masters broad back and shoulders. What he could reach of them, anyway. He knew from his ways that Arex would not submit to a proper bath this late in the evening, so Deril did his best to wipe away what he could of the dust of Dunis and hoped that in the morning he could coax his master into the tub... Deril stopped and shivered a little at the thought. He always did so enjoy spending time in the tub with his master....

The big man reclined against the pile of pillows and sipped his tea while the smaller one leaned against one side of his broad chest and did the same. Arex seemed uncommonly pensive and thoughtful and Deril was a little concerned. They sat in silence for a few moments, each lost in their own thoughts until Arex set his empty cup down on the bedside table and spoke.

'What was that you put in my tea?'

'Merely a powder to ease your pain, master. And to help you sleep easier. Something I got from old Jubeth in the square.'

'Our new charges. You made them comfortable, I assume?' said Arex, changing the subject.

'Yes, my lord. Though it was quite a trial. Jeni, the Cairnish girl, thought I was trying to either rape or drown her in the tub, she couldn't decide which. It very nearly came to blows, but I had but to show her the back of my hand and she calmed down and submitted to the bath. I think once she decided that I was harmless she enjoyed getting clean again. The little Nikkonese, Miko, was aghast that a man would attend to her. I think she would have been more comfortable washing me than the other way around. Jaren, the boy, was a bit over excited. I think it was the sight of more naked flesh than he had ever really seen before. He nearly squirted in my hands when I washed him.'

Arex gave a small rumbling chuckle deep in his chest and muttered 'I'm sure you would have thought that a needless waste.'

Deril grinned a little and hid his face in his teacup. 'I guess it's a good thing' he said 'that we kept the servants quarters cleaned and ready. I never understood why before, but now I do. The boy is by himself in one room and the girls in the other. They each have a pitcher of water and a chamber pot handy. Their collars are chained securely to the beds and the doors are locked for extra measure. I took the liberty of throwing out those nasty breechclouts they arrived in and have given them each a soft robe for the moment. Their bellies are full. They are clean and warm and safe and are, the last time I checked, all blissfully asleep.' Deril stopped and glanced up at his master and lover. He added 'I gave them each a bit of the same concoction from Jubeth so sleep would claim them sooner. I hope you won't be needing the services of any of them tonight?'

Arex shot him a look out of the corner of his eye and said 'And now you are thinking 'For the love of god, Arex. Won't you tell me what the hell this is all about?'' Deril sputtered into his tea and shook his head. 'I would never be so presumptuous, my lord.' He paused and continued 'At least, not in those exact words.' He reached across the broad body next to him in the bed and set his empty cup down on the table. A strong arm settled across his back and he curled into his masters body and laid his head on his chest and put his arm around the strong slim waist.

'I love you Arex, my lord and master.' He whispered.

One hand came up and ran thick strong fingers gently through the younger mans short but thick black hair.

'And your lord and master loves you, Deril. My faithful servant and ever present right hand...' there was a slight pause and he added 'My lover and friend.'

Deril's eyes went wide for a moment, but he tried to not betray his surprise at his masters words. While they had often bespoke of their love for each other, Arex had always guarded his emotions in his words and had never used them so tenderly before.

There was a moment of silence, then Arex spoke.

'I am going to die, Deril. Probably quite sooner than either of us suspect. That thought annoys me, even though I know it is inevitable.'

Deril shook his head and started to say 'You will live a long..' but a huge hand slipped across his mouth and stifled his words.

'Hush your prattling and listen, Deril. This is important. I am a hunter. That is what I am and what I do. It is my life. If there is a vicious beast in this world that other men cannot kill, then I will hunt it and stalk it and find a way to kill it. I will kill it and it's head will find it's way here to my collection. Or..' he waved a hand vaguely 'Out there somewhere. In the emperors halls or the home of some fat burgher or rich merchant. Whatever. No matter where the trophy rests, the kill is still mine and mine alone.'

He paused and ran one hand gently down his own hip and felt the line of the puckered scar that was the newest of his vast collection of such things.

'I am getting old, Deril. Not old in the years of men, but old in the years of a hunter. Every hunt, every battle, every new injury I get slower and slower. Very soon the day will come when I will not be fast enough and the beast will get the best of me.'

He paused again then said 'I won't mind that so much, I suppose.'

Deril, with his lips pressed into his masters fingers, whispered 'I would mind that very much, my lord.'

The fingers lifted and ran through Deril's hair gently once again.

'And if I do survive, what then? To spend the rest of my days sitting around the fire telling tales of past glory?' He shook his head. His voice roughened and said 'I think not. I am a hunter. That is how I lived and that is how I will die.'

Deril said 'When that day comes I will go find your body and bring it home, my lord. And when we build your funeral pyre I will lay down beside you...' he suddenly squeaked in pain and rose up as those thick fingers closed on his ear. Arex turned the smaller mans face until it faced his. Deril saw the lines of anger between his masters eyes.

'You will do no such foolish thing, Deril. If you ever speak such nonsense again you will find yourself back on the pole, dancing to the tune of the strap!' He shook him lightly then released his hold. Deril clapped a hand to the side of his head to ease the stinging.

Arex continued speaking as if nothing had happened. 'Something must go on after I am passed, Deril. One of those things is you. I have made provisions in case of just such an event. The law-keepers in the palace have a document signed by me. A large portion of my estate will be yours when I die.'

His head swimming with pain and confusion, Deril said 'A slave cannot inherit! The law clearly states 'Property cannot own property.' It is one of the oldest laws in Kahedron!'

'That is why you are no longer a slave, Deril.'

There was a prolonged silence.


'As of this evening.'

Another long silence.

'I... I don't understand, my lord.'

'The papers are there in my pouch. Signed and sealed. They are yours, of course.'

Arex reached down to the younger mans neck, quickly unbuckled the collar and tossed it across the room.

'You are a free man, Deril. You may come and go as you please and never again call any man 'Master'.'

'No!!' Deril sprang from the bed and rushed across the room to the corner where his collar had been thrown. He buckled it back around his neck again and stood looking at the hunter who, for once in the long years of their acquaintance, looked merely puzzled.

'It may be as you say and I am a free man.' He said. 'And no man may ever call me slave or look down on me as mere property. And for that I thank you with all of my heart.' He stepped closer and took Arex's hand in his and held it to his chest. 'But even if I am no longer your slave, you will always and forever be, in my heart, my lord and master....'

'And my lover and my friend....'

Arex pulled the smaller man up onto the bed and onto his chest, his arms wrapped around him tightly and kissed him long and deep. His large rough hands roamed up and down the smooth back and spine then settled on the firm cheeks of his ass as his tongue chased around in Deril's mouth. He heard his young lover moan at his touch and could feel Deril's prick getting hard and poking him in the belly, a little of the slippery fluid leaking from the tip and smearing on his skin.

Rolling them over on the bed, Arex laid Deril on his back, their lips still pressed together and his hand slid down to grasp the sturdy hard prick standing tall from the younger man's crotch. That was one of the things that had first captured the hunters attention when Deril stood trembling on the auction block. He had been stripped naked, as they always were, and Arex could see that the young man had a fairly large and sturdy prick hanging between his legs. While the hunter preferred his bed partners to be smaller than him (which wasn't hard, considering there were very few bigger anywhere) he also liked them built strong and big enough to be enjoyed, no matter how they played. And Deril's sweet body and fine prick had never left him disappointed in all of their years together.

The former slave (who was wrestling with the notion even as all thought flew from his head) moaned and rolled his hips at the touch of his former (but forever!) master. Arex always knew instinctively how to touch him and when to drive him quickly to the edge of bliss and beyond it. Since that first night when he had willingly given his body to the big man, Deril had craved his touch and sought it whenever and as often as possible. He was so big and so strong and so surprisingly tender that it made Deril seem safe and warm and loved as if he had been in his mother's arms. Of course, his mother had never gotten him anywhere near that excited. Sometimes just thinking about making love to Arex made Deril ready to spend.

Before, when he had lain with women, Deril had always assumed that a mans capacity for orgasms was one a night. For that was all that was ever had.

But Arex had shown him the folly of that line of thinking. On the good nights when they made love he had come over and over again, usually at least five or six times a night.

Those nights left Deril a bit tender and sore, but extremely happy the following morning.

He felt the big man move and Arex turned and put an arm over Deril's slim waist and leaned up on his elbow. Arex neatly pinned his body to the bed with his own greater mass and was now facing down Deril's slim body as his strong sure hand stroked the younger mans cock. Over his shoulder, Arex said 'Let me ease you body, and maybe your mind just a little.'

With that he lowered his head and took Deril's hard prick in his mouth and sucked on it gently. Trapped beneath the bigger man's body, Deril could do little but shudder and moan at the feeling of lips and tongue on the head of his cock. One of his hands wandered over the wide heavily muscled back while the other tugged at the short cropped graying hair as Arex's head bobbed up and down slowly on his prick.

Even if he was taking what was considered to be taking a sexually submissive role in their lovemaking, Arex was ever anything but submissive. He took complete control of any situation he was involved in. He pinned his lovers body to the bed like an arena wrestler and took him with his mouth like a victor enjoying the spoils of combat. Arex thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of his lover being helpless beneath him while he took what he wanted.

He also enjoyed giving Deril pleasure. So much of his life revolved around fear and pain and battle and death, it felt nice to create something that was pure pleasure for another. And, despite his outward persona of being the cold and heartless killer, Arex truly loved Deril as much as was possible for him, and always wanted him to be happy.

Deril was lost in the sensation. One strong rough hand stroked up and down the length of his shaft, abrading his skin just a little as it went up and down. His lovers mouth was surprisingly soft and warm and his tongue was nimble and slippery against the head of his cock in the gently sucking mouth.

Arex slid his other hand down and gently cupped Deril's balls in his hand and rolled them in his palm. While Deril moaned and thrashed beneath him, his hand slipped even lower while two fingers spread the firm cheeks of his ass apart and the middle finger slipped between them and pressed firmly at the entrance of his anus. He just pressed the tip of his finger there, not seeking entrance, just enjoying the feel of the muscled ring twitching and spasming against the digit.

At the touch of the thick finger at the entrance of his anus, Deril cried out and thrashed his hips, driving his prick up into his lovers mouth. Just a touch there would drive Deril almost mad until his world narrow down to a tiny microcosm of pure ecstasy. He wanted so badly for Arex to take him there. To be face down on the bed and feeling that huge prick splitting him open and filling him completely. For Deril, being held down and fucked hard and continuously by his lord and master was his vision of heaven on earth.

With that vision in his mind, Deril cried out again, drove his hips upward hard and began spewing his come into his lovers suctioning mouth. Arex pressed just a little harder on the rubbery ring of the smaller mans anus and smiled around the mouthful of prick as Deril shuddered beneath him like a creature in the final throes of death and shot stream after stream of his thick salty come into his mouth.

When he had milked the smaller man of every drop of his jism, Arex released him from the submission hold and leaned back up against the pile of pillows, gathering his trembling lover in his arms and cuddled him to his chest. Deril still trembled and shook like a man running a fever and his skin was covered with goose bumps. Arex slowly ran his warm hands over Deril's skin, soothing and warming him until his hands came to a rest around the smaller mans shoulders and lay still.

Deril lay still until his vision cleared and the shaking stopped. Turning his head, he looked up at his master and friend and lover and saw that the big man had finally succumbed to the sleeping draught in his tea. For the first time in a week since he had returned from the last hunt, Arex slept with a small smile on his lips.

Tugging the bedclothes up to cover them both, Deril lightly kissed the skin over the hunters ribs and whispered 'I love you, master Arex.' as he did every night before drifting off into his own slumber.



Chapter Two

As dawn broke over the vast city of Dunis it found Deril in the kitchen cooking breakfast for his master (as he still thought of him, no matter what those papers claimed) as was his usual morning routine when Arex was in residence. Arex sat at the table and sipped strong black tea, his nostrils flaring at the enticing aromas.

When the big man was hunting, he ate wild game cooked over an open fire and fruits and berries where he could find them. His vast knowledge of woodcraft included every single thing that was edible in the forests and plains and also every single thing that was not. While he was able to feed himself out in the wild with a facility shared by few other men, Deril had discovered early on in their relationship that the man was completely hopeless when it came to the kitchen. One of the very few times that Deril had ever stood up to his master was the day that he forbade Arex to ever enter his kitchen intent on attempting to cook something.

He fully expected Arex to beat him for that. And he would have accepted the beating and still insisted. But Arex had acknowledged his lack of culinary skills and had graciously acquiesced to the smaller mans demands.

'So' Deril said as he stirred the slightly pungent goats milk cheese that Arex so favored into the skillet of scrambled eggs 'We managed to get side tracked last evening and I never did learn of your master plan.' He glanced over at the man at the table and added 'But I suspect that part of your master plan was to distract me and keep me from asking too many questions. It worked, in case you were wondering.' Deril paused and stirred the other skillet sizzling with sausages then added 'Until now, that is.'

Arex sighed and set down his mug. 'There are apparently things' he began 'That when a man reaches a certain point in his life he begins to think about. One of them, as I told you last night, is the urge to leave something behind. Part of what I want to have go on after I am gone is you, Deril. I didn't relish the thought of you suddenly being left all alone with nobody around you.'

He looked down at the table, a little embarrassed. That rarely happen to him and it was with an effort of will he kept himself from just leaving the room.

'This is hard for me, Deril. Caring about somebody. Worrying about their safety. Thinking about the future. I'm not used to that.' Arex waved his hands around vaguely. 'I never used to care about anything but the hunt. And the kill. And I never thought about the future unless it involved that. And' He waved his hands around again, taking in the whole room and the huge house around it. 'And all of this. What will happen to you? And my home? And my name? Will Arex the Hunter just disappear into the legends and be gone?' He paused and looked his friend and lover in the eye and said 'I want to leave more than just a name behind me, Deril. More than just a name and a heartbroken lover.'

Moving the pans off of the stove, Deril began dishing out plates of eggs and sausages for the two of them. He left the remainder (and there was plenty) on the warm back of the stove to feed their new guests. He listened to his friend while he served up their breakfast.

What Arex said next nearly made him drop both plates on the floor.

'I want children, Deril.'

It had happened during his last hunt, Arex explained. There had been a great wolf marauding around the town of Irbenzia in the south. It had killed several of the townsfolk and their livestock. Hunting parties had gone out to slay it and had never returned. Only bits of their gear were found. And much blood. After months had passed and there seemed to be no solution, the chancellor of the town appealed to the emperor for aid.

The emperor sent his greatest hunter.

The stalk had taken Arex almost a month. The creature had a wide range of hunting ground and seemed to travel for many miles to reach the town. While tracking the beast, the hunter had noticed that it always seemed to avoid a certain mountain pass while it traveled. It was as if it knew it was being followed and led him away from that area.

After the ensuing hunt and the final battle between them (which left him with the great new scar on his hip) Arex left the body of the dead beast to the people of the town and made his way into that mountain pass.

It took all of the skill he possessed to pick up the beasts trail into the mountain pass. It had taken great pains to travel the most difficult ways in and out of the rocky gorge. At the bottom of the gorge, hidden deep within the rocks was a cave. The hunter could see from a distance that there were the remnants of bones scattered around the entrance to the low cave. He sat awhile and waited.

After an hour or so, the sun was high enough to warm the rocks and first one, then more, then a total of five wolf pups came out of the darkness. They were still young, but old enough to begin hunting for themselves.

Once they realized that their mother wasn't coming back, anyway.

He knew that one day there would be a wolf problem in the area again. But it would probably be several years before those were big enough. And chances were that not all of them, if any, would ever live long enough to be as big as the creature he had fought and slain.

And without the great wolves in it, the world would be a much smaller place. But as long as pups were being born, there would be a need for Arex and men like him.

So he turned around and went home with a new resolve in his heart.

'I want heirs to my name, Deril. If nothing else, someone to remember me. Best case, one to follow in my footsteps. Hence, the females.'

Deril nodded and forked the last of his breakfast into his mouth and stacked the plate by the sink. 'I can see....' he said 'A couple of flaws in your plan, my lord. If you don't mind me saying so. But...' he added as the big man raised an eyebrow 'Perhaps my comments should wait. I need to rouse our new... guests.... and begin their first day and training. And, of course, we need to make formal introductions and explain their.... duties. All of them.'

Arex shoved his empty plate away and rose from the table. Deril poured him a fresh cup of tea and he took it and stalked from the room, saying 'By all means, Deril. Awaken them and feed them. They must get quickly used to the hours we keep.' He paused, then turned back and slipped a hand behind Deril's neck and pulled him in close for a deep warm kiss. Their faces only inches away afterwards he said 'Tell them what you wish in advance. I leave that to your discretion. Then bring them to me one at a time. I'll be in the study.'

During a hunt several years ago, Arex had tracked a nest of sliths to an ancient ruin of a castle high in the northern mountains. Though vaguely manlike in body, sliths are eyeless, with huge bat-like ears. They also sported a mouthful of razor sharp fangs and long claws on both their hands and feet. And when left unmolested they bred like insects.

Cleaning out the castle and the warren of tunnels beneath it had taken days. Arex had slain fifty of the nasty creatures and had selected out the biggest of them to take as his trophies when he noticed something large in one of the biggest rooms of the castle, buried under a pile of debris. It turned out to be the throne of whoever had built the castle ages before. It was huge and made from thick wood and sumptuously carved with battle scenes and heroic figures.

Hiring a wagon and crew to bring the thing home had cost Arex a good portion of his bounty, but he didn't mind the cost. And Deril had spent several days cleaning the grime of ages off of the thing and replacing the cushions. In the end, he didn't mind so much either.

The two of them had made love many times in that huge chair.

When Deril knocked at the door of the master's study and gained entrance, he saw that Arex had changed into his more formal 'at home' clothes. He was dressed all in black, fairly tight trousers and a loose tunic and his best soft black boots. All designed, of course, to make an impression as he lounged in the seat of the great chair before the fireplace.

And make an impression he did. The sleeves of his tunic were rolled up to the elbow, exposing the corded muscle of his forearms and the trousers were tight enough that Deril could see the bulge of the big mans prick pushing down the side of his thigh. Deril wanted nothing more than to crawl up into his masters lap right then and there, but he managed, with an effort, to restrain himself.

Pushing back his own excitement, Deril bowed slightly and said 'They are here, my lord.' Arex nodded and gave a small smile, seeing the effect his pose had on the younger man. 'Excellent, Deril. Bring me the nikkonese, first.'

The young man led the slave girl into the masters study by a short lead attached to her collar. She wore a short robe of green silk that Arex knew belonged to Deril. When his lover had worn it, it barely covered the cheeks of his ass. It went down to mid-thigh on the smaller woman. He saw her eyes go wide and her step faltered just a little as she saw the master arrayed in his chair, looking regal and just a bit overpowering. At a gesture, Deril unclipped the lead and left them alone as he closed the doors.

The girl immediately fell to her knees and bowed her head to the floor and trembled. 'Master.' she whispered.

'Get up, Miko.' he said. She rose to her feet and cast her eyes down at the floor.

'Look me in the eyes.' With an effort, she raised her gaze to his face and looked into her new master's eyes. As before, she saw a fierce strength in those eyes. Strength and courage.... And maybe even a little tenderness. It gave the little nikkonese girl hope that maybe her life here wouldn't be the constant horror that it could have been elsewhere. That just maybe she didn't have to live in constant fear and look forward to nothing but torture and toil and an early death.

He made a small gesture and said 'Let me see you, girl.'

Her eyes still looking into his, Miko untied the sash of her short robe and let it pool to the floor at her feet. Her hands at first went to cover her small breasts, then she swallowed hard and they went down to her sides, revealing her body to her master. She was too thin from poor nutrition, as were all new slaves, but her body was fairly firm and sturdy. Arex could see that her nipples were erect with a mixture of fear and excitement.

'You swore that you would serve me, Miko.'

She nodded 'Yes, master.'

'In all ways a woman may serve a man?'

She swallowed hard again and said 'Anything that you wish, master. I am yours.' She started trembling again.

Arex took a cushion from behind his chair and set it on the floor between his feet and gestured to it. The girl came and knelt on the pillow at his feet.

One large hand reached out and took the girl's chin in his hand, his thumb stroking her cheek tenderly.

'Yes, you are mine, Miko. Body and soul. Heart and mind. You are mine.' He stroked her cheek again and said 'Your life here will not be as easy as if you were a free woman, but it will not be as bad as it could be elsewhere. I am not a cruel man by nature, Miko. But I do expect and demand obedience. If you disobey or misbehave, you will be severely punished. Do you understand me completely?'

She nodded and trembled a little more against the surprising soft touch of his hand. 'Yes, my master. I understand. I will serve you faithfully, I swear!'

Arex smiled gently. Then he shifted a little in his seat and sat back and surveyed the pretty slim girl at his feet.

'Did Deril explain your duties to you here in my household?'

She nodded. 'Yes, master.'

'And what did he say that they would be?'

'To cook and to clean, master. To assist Deril in his duties and the household chores. To.. To... attend to your needs, master.' She paused and swallowed hard again. 'No matter what they may be.'

'No matter what they may be? And what do you mean by that, Miko?'

She lowered her eyes and whispered. 'In your bed, master.'

'Will you come willingly to my bed, Miko? Will you serve me with your body as willingly as with your hands?'

'Y...y...yes, master.' she whispered again.

He reached down and cupped her cheek in his hand again, turning her face up to his.

'I am not a cruel man, Miko. I do not wish to take what I want from one who is unwilling. If you will come to my bed willingly you will live a long and fairly comfortable life and bear me many children.' He paused and his eyes hardened just a little and he added 'If you refuse me, you will be returned to the slavers and you can take your chances elsewhere.'

She shook her head and clutched his big hand in both of her small ones. 'No!' she cried 'Please master! Miko will serve you in all ways, master! I swear!' Her lip trembled and she lowered her eyes. A shiver ran through her body. 'I.... confess, master, that you frighten me. I... cannot help my fear. You are bigger than any man I have ever seen....' She looked up at him again, her lips firm in resolve. 'I will serve you willingly, master. In spite of my fears. I will happily bear your children and serve you all of my days.'

When Deril heard his name called he opened the door, towing the small redheaded cairnish girl by her lead. Both of their eyes widened just a little as they saw Miko kneeling naked on a cushion beside the masters chair. She was calm and smiling, her hands and her robe in her lap. Arex winked surreptitiously at Deril while Miko caught Jeni's eyes and nodded slightly.

As Deril closed the door, Jeni dropped her robe and stood in front of her new master, a slight blush spreading from her cheeks down to her chest and her small firm breasts.

Then she dropped to her knees and said 'I am yours, master.'

Arex gestured to the nikkonese girl at his side and said 'Miko has agreed to serve me in all ways, Jeni. Will you vow to do the same?'

She nodded, still blushing with her eyes on the floor. 'Yes, my lord.'

He cleared his throat and when the girl looked up, he gestured to the cushion. She arose hurriedly and knelt at his feet. He held out his hand and she placed her small hand in his. His thumb stroked the back of her small warm hand.

'Look at me.'

She brought her head up and Arex looked at her and smiled gently. She had eyes the color of the greenest woodlands and short boyish hair like fresh cinnamon, with a spray of freckles that went across her nose and spread down to her chest and shoulders. She had small firm breasts and fairly wide hips and a slim waist. Her nipples were hard, like little diamonds set on her chest.

'Deril spoke to you?'

'Yes, my lord.'

'And what did he tell you?'

'That we were to assist him in the household chores, my lord. And to obey both you and he in all things. That if we disobeyed, we would be punished, but not excessively or unjustly. And....and....' her voice broke a little and she looked down at the floor again.


' warm your bed, master. Whenever you may want us to.'

'I will want you to do more than merely warm my bed, girl.' Arex leaned down and took her chin in his hand so that she looked up at his face.

'Think carefully right now, girl child. This is the first and last choice you will be allowed to make in my household. If you will serve me in all ways and come to my bed willingly, you will have a good life here and you and Miko will bear my children.'

'If you choose not to, you will be returned to the slave pens immediately.'

The little nikkonese girl made a small cough and when Jeni glanced over at her, she nodded slightly. Arex chose not to notice the exchange.

Jeni, her mind swimming with both fear and hope, looked up at her master and took his hand in hers again.

'I will serve you, master.'

Deril entered the master's study for the third time, bringing with him the young slave boy behind him by the lead. This time Arex had a nude girl on either side of his chair.

Things seemed to be going well, he thought.

This time when he unclipped the lead, Arex gestured for Deril to come to him. He pulled the younger man up onto his lap, pulling his back into the broad chest and the strong arms settled around his waist.

Jaren's eyes went from Deril to Arex to the two nude women on either side. Though his hands were clasped in front of his body, Deril noted that the front of the boys robe was twitching.

Arex shifted the smaller man onto his hip to clear his field of view and looked at the young slave boy in front of him.

'Let me see you, Jaren.'

Blushing furiously, Jaren opened his robe and dropped it to the floor. Though he was a little undernourished, he was fairly well built. Arex noted that he had a thick sturdy prick that twitched just a little as he went back and forth between arousal and nervousness.

'You are mine, Jaren. Are you not?'

'Yes, master. I am yours.' His eyes dropped to the floor.

'In all ways and in all things and at all times?'

'Yes, master. I am yours.'

'Deril has spoken to you of your duties?'

'Yes, master.'

'And what did he tell you?'

'That I was to tend to the house and the garden, master. That I was to obey Deril and yourself at all times or be punished. That I was to supply... comfort, when directed, my lord.'


'In your bed, master. Whenever you may want me there.' Arex noted a tightening of the young mans facial muscles when he answered the question.

'Does the thought of being taken in my bed frighten you, Jaren?'

'Yes, master it does.'

'Does the thought of being in Deril's bed frighten you?'

'No, master.'

'I take it you have been with a man before?'

'Yes, master.'

'Did you enjoy it?'

He blushed a little bit more and said 'Yes, master.'

'And women, Jaren? Have you been with women too?'

'Yes, master. And yes, I enjoyed it.'

The hunter put a finger to his lips and pondered for a moment, his eyes narrow, staring at the young man who stood naked before him. He was attractive, no doubt. And he suspected that the young man would be enough to keep Deril busy and chase away the boredom while the master was away. Arex absently ran his hand up and down Deril's thigh as he thought. He also wondered what it might be like with the two of them in his bed at the same time...

'Just to let you know, Jaren.' Arex spoke. 'Miko and Jeni have both sworn to serve me under my conditions. You will now have your chance. Know this, then. If you stay and serve under my roof, and that is not yet decided, there are restrictions and conditions. These two women...' he pointed at the girls on either side of him '.. are off limits to you. As you are to them. Any disobedience on this matter will be dealt with..... most severely. Do you understand that completely?'

The young slave swallowed hard and said 'Y...yes, my lord.'

The hunter looked left and right at the two girls who looked grave and also nodded their assent.

He looked back at Jaren and said 'You have said that you are aware that at times you will be required to serve me in my bed. While I initially brought you home to be a helper and companion for Deril while I am away, there will be a time, fairly soon, when you will be required to fulfill that duty. If you stay in my household I guarantee it. It will happen.'

He leaned forward and said 'Now is the time to choose, boy. This is the first and last choice you will be offered under my roof. You can stay here, now, and serve me as I will. Or be returned to the slavers to take your chances. The choice is yours.'

Without much of any hesitation at all, the young slave fell to his knees and said 'I will serve you, master.'

'One more thing.' said Arex. He reached up behind Deril's neck, unbuckled the collar and removed it. He didn't throw it across the room this time, he merely held it in his hand, much to Deril's relief. The three slaves stared at them both, a bit dumbfounded.

'As of last evening, Deril is no longer a slave, but a free man. He chooses to stay with me for his own reasons. Just as he chooses to wear my collar. If you serve me well, as Deril has done, you will be offered the same freedom. Aside from the protection of my name and home, that is what I offer each of you.'

Deril took the leather collar from his hand and buckled it gratefully back around his neck and slid off of the big man's lap. The three scrambled back into their robes as he ushered them out of the room. He instructed them to wait and shut the door on them and turned to his master.

'That went well.' he said. 'Better than I had expected.'

Arex nodded. 'We must discuss this more in depth later, Deril.' He looked at his friend and lover and smiled slightly. 'Perhaps you can find some lingering chore for them to complete this afternoon while I have my bath.' Deril felt his pulse race and his cock shift in his trousers at the mention of the bath.

'In the meantime, find them some decent clothes and things. I'm sure you will think of something. I will be out back practicing. You can find me at the range if you need me.'

Hours later found them both soaking in the large bath in the master quarters. They had been in there for quite some time. Deril had achieved his hope of getting his lover and master completely clean. Arex had grabbed hold of Deril's fine strong cock and stroked him with his hand until his salty come had added to the temperature of the water. In return, the younger man had Arex sit on the side of the tub and had sucked his masters cock until he had come down his throat. Now they relaxed in the steaming water. Arex reclined against the sloped back of the tub and Deril lay back on his chest with his head just below the bigger mans chin.

'Do you think this will work, Deril?'

'I certainly hope so, my lord. But I do wonder if you have thought this thing through. It will, of course, make changes to your..... schedule.'

'What do you mean?'

'For the first nine months or so, you should have no trouble. After that...' he shrugged. 'Children need a father, my lord. If one wishes for them to be raised in a certain way, then one needs to be in attendance. And I am certainly no substitute. Not for you, at any rate.'

'Hmmm.... You may be right at that. Though I am sure you could handle it, should the need arise.'

Deril turned his body until he faced his master, his legs straddling the mans slim hips and looked Arex straight in the eye. 'Oh, no.' He said 'I would not even presume, Lord Arex.' He straightened a finger and poked him in the hard muscles of his chest. 'Your children will need you, sire. Not some former slave who would try his best. If you want your children to carry on in your image, then you must be there to raise them yourself!'

The hunter felt himself getting hemmed in by his lovers logic. He could see, in the very near future, his days spent in the wild dwindling away to nothing and the great beasts drifting out of his reach. Briefly, he regretted starting this whole business.

Somewhat in desperation, he pressed down on Deril's thighs until the smaller man's butt connected with his crotch and the semi-erect prick that was laying there. As soon as it came into contact with the soft firm cheeks of Deril's ass, his prick began to twitch and grow harder, poking straight up. Arex pushed him further down until his cock was trapped between Deril's ass cheeks.

Deril reached back and his hand wrapped around his masters mighty prick as it rubbed up and down his ass. He moaned lightly and ground his hips against the big mans, feeling his own cock rising to the occasion.

He reached for the stone crock of lubricant that they used in the tub. It was the rendered down fat of some sea animal and did not dissolve right away in the water. He got a large gob of the stuff on his fingers and began smearing it all over his lovers hard immense prick. While he did so, Arex got some on his own fingers and reached underneath Deril's body, his fingers questing for the entrance to his tight anus.

'If you think, my lord and master Arex, that merely by Unhhhh!...' he grunted as one of the mans thick lubed fingers slid up inside of him. '..fucking me you will distract me from this discussion.. Oooohh!.. You are quite mistaken..... Aaaaahhhhhhh....... For the problem.... Mmmmmmm!... will still remain...... Unhhhh!' He almost howled as two fingers slipped inside and opened his entrance further. 'However,' he continued 'I am willing to uuuh! God!..... table the discussion for later, if it is my lord and aaaah!.. masters wish!'

With his hand wrapped around his masters prick, Deril guided the head towards his willing ass. He had only been fucked once since his master had returned from his last hunt and his ass was feeling a bit neglected. He felt the large fingers slip out of his hole to be replaced by the plum-like head and he pressed down slowly, taking it inside him. Like the man himself, his equipment was larger than most. Every bit of eight inches long and as big around as a tree limb. Even after seven years of getting fucked by the big man and his equally big prick, Deril had to fight to completely relax his body enough to get him inside. It always hurt going in. Every time. But once it was in, Deril was in heaven.

Arex held still and let Deril slowly lower himself on his prick, just watching and enjoying the feeling of being squeezed so tightly. At first he could just feel the soft skin of his ass cheeks as they slid past the head of his prick. Then the resistance of the ring of muscle that kept him tightly sealed shut. That was always the toughest part. Deril panted and whined a little in pain as those muscles were forced open by the huge intruder. Sometimes Arex wished he were a little smaller so he wouldn't hurt his friend. But he knew that once he was fully inside of him, Deril reveled in the feeling of being so full of his cock.

Finally the head slipped inside Deril's super tight ass and he breathed a small sigh of relief at the release of the tension. Then he began the slow process of taking his lovers huge prick all the way up his ass, one small bit at a time. Arex knew that he had to wait until he was at least halfway in before Deril was relaxed enough for him to move. But he also knew that once he reached that point the could fuck the smaller man as hard as he wanted. It was a small price to pay and well worth the wait. He watched and waited, enjoying the view of his lover groaning on top of his prick and watching the muscles in his chest and belly flex as Deril alternately panted and sighed while he worked the big tool deep inside his tight hole.

Finally Arex felt his lovers legs settle on his thighs and his balls resting on his lower belly. Deril had taken him all the way inside his ass. He stopped moving and rested his hands on the big mans chest, panting softly. He could see the tip of Deril's prick poking up through the water and he started to reach for it, but Deril batted his hand away.

'Oh god, no!' he panted. 'I'm already close to shooting off. I want it to last... Aaahhh... just a little bit.. Oooh... longer....' Pressing down on the big mans chest, he slipped up and down just slightly, maybe moving a quarter of an inch. When that felt good, he moved a little more and began to revel in the feel of the mighty prick impaling him and sliding in and out of his ass.

'I've missed this.' panted Deril.

'And I as well.'

'I always want you here, inside me. Forever and always, my lord and master. Ooooohhhhh.....' Arex slipped his hand down on the smaller mans hips and began alternately pushing and pulling, driving his cock up into his lovers willing bottom, taking longer and longer strokes each time.

It didn't take long. It never really did. At least not the first time. Between the bigger mans large cock and the smaller ones tight hole the combination of the friction between the two of them was enough to drive them both quickly to the edge and beyond it. Arex could both see and feel his lovers body tensing up as his strokes became shorter and shorter. Deril suddenly gasped and froze for a split second, then howled in ecstasy as his ass tightened down on his lovers prick like a vise and his prick spewed droplets of come all over the both of them.

Fighting back his own release, the big man waited until he could feel his lover rebound from his orgasm and begin to relax a little. Then he started again. At first slowly, then with greater speed, moving the smaller man up and down on his cock like a child's puppet on a stick.

Arex moved Deril's body up and down, driving his prick up into his ass over and over again until he could feel his own release nearing once more. He started driving his pelvis upward, battering Deril's soft flesh with his body until he could stand it no more. With a roar, his hands tightened on the young mans hip bones and he drove his cock all the way up inside him and began flooding his bowels with his sticky semen. And, as was usual when they made love, when Deril felt his love and master shooting off inside of him, it triggered another orgasm and Deril came a second time, spewing more come onto Arex's belly and into the water. His cries echoed off of the walls of the bathroom.

Deril collapsed across the broad chest, panting and wheezing, his tight hole spasming around the slowly softening prick that still filled him to capacity. Arex put his hands across his lovers heaving back and stroked him gently. Every now and then the large cock would twitch inside him, making Deril squeak and shiver.

Finally after a brief hesitation, the large prick popped back out of Deril's ass. He gasped and tightened his arms and legs around his lovers body and cried out and shivered all over. Arex could feel a third salvo of Deril's come spurt onto his belly.

He patted his gasping lover on the back and remarked 'Now we are going to need to wash up all over again.....'

Chapter Three

Deril had left his master relaxing in the den after their lovemaking in the bath and had gone in search of their three new servants to check on their progress.

Before he had gone upstairs he had charged them with weeding out the back garden where Deril always grew their own vegetables. It was mostly a useless task, for Deril had always before taken care of that himself and not many weeds dared show their heads in his soil. But the garden covered nearly an acre of land and it gave them something to do and kept them out of the way for the time being.

Unbeknownst to him, the three had slipped into the kitchen to share a pitcher of cool water and ease the heat of the warm afternoon. And, as the masters bathroom was directly above the kitchen, the cries of their lovemaking had echoed down the stone ventilation shaft into the kitchen with surprising clarity. But as Deril had never been, up to this time, in the kitchen while Arex was making love to someone else in the bath, he wasn't aware of this phenomenon.

When they heard him coming down the stairs, the three had rushed back out into the garden to pretend nothing had happened. They were all a little sober and red faced when he entered the garden and when he said it was time for them to bathe, all three blushed even redder. Deril wondered what that was all about, but was left with a mystery.

There were two smaller baths adjacent to the servants quarters in the manse. Deril sent Jaren into one and told the girls to share the other while he prepared lunch. He instructed them to bathe quickly and come to the kitchen and assist.

He slipped out into the garden to pick a few herbs to add to the stew he was preparing. As he chopped the herbs into fine bits, an idea formed in his head. He decided to give it some thought before mentioning to the master. But it just might work....

And where was his help? They should have been done by now. Curious, Deril slipped down the hallway towards the servants quarters. Hearing some muffled moans coming from the girl's bath, he peeked in the door quietly. And raised an eyebrow. Both girls were in the tub together, kneeling in the water and kissing each other with passion. Deril could see that they each had a hand between the other's legs and were rubbing there vigorously while they panted onto each other's mouth. While it wasn't uncommon among slave girls, just as that sort of thing wasn't rare among the men, and it wasn't strictly forbidden, Deril had to wonder about their sudden passion for each other.

Turning from that door to the other across the hall, he eased it open silently and saw Jaren lying in the water and stroking his stiff prick. As he watched and admired the view, Jaren gave a soft groan, lifted his hips and came, spattering the bathwater with his seed. And, as Arex had predicted, Deril thought that a needless waste. If he wasn't already so tender and a bit tired, he would have happily assisted Jaren with his need.

Deril slid the door gently shut, then waited a few moments for the sounds of passion in the two rooms to subside. Then he clapped his hands loudly and cried 'Let's hurry! The masters lunch is waiting! If you wish to eat, come to the kitchen now!' He smiled inwardly at the sounds of hurried bathing that followed his announcement.

Several days later Deril entered the masters study with a bowl of various plants in his hand. Arex rested on the soft bilex-hide couch in the center of the room. The little redhead was perched on his lap, almost dozing in a post-coital bliss with her head against his shoulder while one of the masters hands was inside her short robe, absently cupping a small soft (and a little tender) breast in his palm. The other hand held open a large book against his knee while Arex read. Miko dozed likewise on the other end of the couch. Between Arex and their household duties, everybody was running short on rest.

In truth, all four of the masters servants were moving a little tenderly these days. When the hunter stayed out of the wilds too long he became bored and restless. And aside from training out on the grounds with sword and gun and bow as he did every day, Arex only knew of one certain cure for boredom. Since the acquisition of his new additions to his household, Arex had yet to spend a night alone in his bed. Or a morning. Or afternoon. Or evening. Even Jaren had not been spared his turn, though he had spent most of the next day lying face down on his own bed and groaning a little. But when he was offered another chance to spend time with the master and his fine cock, he rallied quickly.

And though the big man would be loath to admit it, he was feeling a little chafed in the private areas himself. He was in a hurry to ensure both women were with child before he left for another hunt. But he was also greatly enjoying having them in his bed, which surprised him just a little. Jaren had turned out to be a lively and exciting bedmate as well. And even though he was faced with a veritable smorgasbord of sexual partners, Arex could not spend a day without Deril in his arms at least once. Even if he were just sleeping, he wanted his young lover within arms reach. But too much of a thing, even if it was a good thing, was still too much.

On the first night that Arex had taken both of the females into his bed together, Deril led Jaren to his own small bed in the adjoining room. Deril had resisted taking one of the other, larger spare bedrooms as his own. In his mind, his duty to Arex outweighed his newfound free status. So with only a thin curtain for a door between them, their cries of pleasure mixed freely together that night. And many nights afterwards as well.

At the end of the first week, Arex had sent Deril into town to the leather crafters booth to purchase three more soft leather collars. They all wore their new marks of his ownership proudly in place of the heavy iron ones.

Deril had taken Jaren out in the garden with him, helping to pick one sample of each of the plants growing there and several of the plants outside the garden as well. The younger man carried another bowl filled with fruits and berries.

Holding up a small plant that grew in clusters of threes, Deril said 'Master, what is this?'

The hunter glanced up and said 'Don't be a dunce, Deril. You know exactly what that is.'

'Humor me, my lord. What is it and what is it good for?'

Arex looked at his somewhat annoying friend with a small scowl, then slid a scrap of paper into his book and closed it.

He said 'Any fool knows what that is, Deril. It's Queensfoil. You use it to bring out the flavor of meat.'

Jeni stirred in his lap, her hand going atop his inside her robe. She shook her head and said 'It's Amarinth. You steep it in water to ease pain.'

Miko likewise stirred and said 'On Nikkon we called it 'Kwong-Lu'. It means 'Peaceful Mother'. Dried and powdered, it helps childbirth.'

Deril looked at the young man behind him. Jaren colored a little at being called on. He said 'If you crush it and squeeze out the sap, it makes a strong glue.' He shrugged and said 'When I was young I was apprenticed to a bookbinder. We called it the 'Binding Weed'.'

Deril said 'When I was a lad in the south by the great desert, this plant was extremely rare and limited to only the highest nobility. It was said to grow only where the mightiest warriors fell in battle and was supposed to enhance one's bravery and strength in battle. We called it 'Athelum'.' He gestured towards the garden outside and said 'We grow enough out there in our garden to make myself a very wealthy man back home.'

He turned and pulled from Jaren's bowl a cluster of succulent looking brilliant green berries. They seemed to glow with life and looked wet as if they had been freshly sprayed with clear spring water.

'And these, master?'

Arex made a face and waved them away. 'Ach!' he said 'Where did you get those? '

He said 'Those are Fool Berries. They look very sweet and inviting and wonderful to eat. Even in the dead of winter or the heat of summer they look that good. But they will give you horrible stomach cramps and the runs. Even the birds will not eat them.'

Deril dropped the berries back in the bowl and pulled out a stalk of something brown and doughy looking. It looked like a stick of dried mud and about as appetizing. 'And this?'

The hunter made another face. 'Mudwort. You can live on it for awhile if you have to. But you won't be real happy about it. Not even Queensfoil will make it appetizing, but it will fill your belly and keep you from starving to death.' He waved his hand to put the thing away and said 'Where is all of this going, Deril?'

The young man turned and set his bowl down on the table and said 'One more question, lord. A hypothetical question. You have chased a wyvern into the middle of the Becalmed Valley and now find yourself lost. How do you find your way out again?'

'You always travel widdershins against the paths among the rocks. Head ever uphill and take only the second right hand turnings, never the first.' The big man was beginning to look a little impatient.

Deril went and knelt on the rug at his masters feet and placed his hands on top of one broad knee.

'Hear me out, O' lord. You are Arex, the mightiest hunter and slayer of beasts in all of Kahedron. Perhaps in all of the world. You have seen and experienced and learned things that most men can never imagine. You know more about hunting and woodcraft and wild beasts and exotic places than any dozen hunters alive today.'

Deril slid the soft leg of the hunters trousers up to expose a kneecap criss-crossed with deep scars. He ran his fingers gently over the damaged flesh and kissed the skin gently.

'These scars.... These battle wounds....' he said 'Are your badges of honor and the reminders of your glory in battle. Yet....' he paused and tried to weigh his words carefully. 'Yet, they do slow you down, some. Maybe enough that some day you will be killed by some beast that is the lesser hunter than you. You could end up being taken down not by a mighty monster, but by some small and stupid beast that just got lucky. That would be a needless lost and disgrace, my lord.'

A scowl wrinkled the brow of the hunter. His eyes narrowed. He could tell that Deril was trying to trap him home with logic again, all while stroking his pride. Though he knew Deril was doing it out of love for him, he could not but feel frustrated.

'Once again, where is this going?'

Deril held up his hands in defense. 'A proposal, master. You have in your mind and body skills which should not be lost carelessly, but preserved for the ages. Give me.... Us... one year of your time. One year to see at least the first of your children born and named. During that year we will extract and record as much of your knowledge as we can. I envision several volumes, broken down by subject matter. All illustrated and printed all over the kingdom...'

Arex shook his head. 'Schoolbooks, Deril? Dry and dusty tomes of an old hunters ramblings? Pfagh!' He lifted the book in his hand and said 'I read for entertainment and escape, Deril. I am no academic....' But Deril placed his hands on his masters knee once again and insisted.

'Do you remember when you taught me to shoot a bow and fight with knives and my hands, master? And how to disassemble a blaster and clean it and make it shoot every time unfailingly and true? You have a way of instructing that takes the subject to the meat without ego or getting side tracked.' He gestured at the other servants scattered around the room. 'Will you teach them the same? Will Jeni and Jaren and Miko also be taught to fight and hunt? To defend themselves and your lands? To feed themselves and survive in the wild if necessary?'

Arex looked around and saw that all of them were looking at him expectantly. He had fully intended to train Jaren as he had Deril. A man should know how to defend himself, surely. But the women? The mothers of his children? Taught to fight with their hands and knives like men? The thought had not crossed his mind before. But now that it did, he saw the logic behind it and vowed to begin immediately before they became too big with child.

As that thought crossed his mind he realized how neatly his young lover had just trapped him. He shot a frown at the man kneeling at his feet. He opened his mouth to say something but a movement distracted him as Miko turned on the couch and crawled into his lap. She settled on the other side from the redheaded girl and placed a small hand on his cheek.

'Will you teach us, master?' she whispered. 'Please?'

Jeni laid a hand on the other cheek and said 'I am only a slave, master. But I am yours. No other man will touch me. No other man is worthy. Give me the knowledge and the skill to keep me safe from harm.' She kissed his cheek gently with her warm soft lips and whispered 'Give me the strength of your mind, master. Teach me to be strong so your children will be strong.'

Jaren knelt beside Deril and placed his hands on the knee atop the other mans. He kept silent, but looked up at the big man hopefully.

Arex raised an eyebrow and looked down at his young lover, seeing where this was leading.

'A school, Deril? Is that your grand scheme? A school for hunters?' He shook his head. 'I will teach these others, as you say. It is necessary. They must be able to defend themselves at all times. But I will not waste my time instructing fat burghers and perfumed lords who wish to hunt foxes and deer from horseback....'

Deril raised his hands again and shook his head. 'No, no, my lord. We can devise a test. Physical and mental. So that only those who are serious and dedicated are allowed entrance. A maximum age requirement.' he paused and raised his own eyebrow. 'Just imagine it, my lord. Dozens of fit young men...' he paused again and glanced at the two half naked women lounging in the big mans lap 'and maybe even a few young women... all wanting to be just like you.... In as many ways as possible...'

With a growl, Arex snaked out a hand and grabbed the young man by the collar and glared at him. 'A lesser man would beat you for putting me in this trap, Deril.'

Deril's hands came up and covered his masters grip gently. 'A lesser man would not be worthy of this trap, my lord.'

One year later the household was no longer the lonely and austere place it once was. The grounds resembled an armed camp, as the students were housed in small tents on the grounds. Every other day they were invited to dine in the main hall with the master and his staff, but for the lions share of the time they had to live off of the surrounding land. And they were not allowed to forage in Deril's garden under any circumstances.

Two dozen prospective hunters divided their time between classroom learning and field training under the legendary woodsman. At first only men were admitted, but they had just gained their first female students the week before. At all hours of the day could be heard the ringing of the blacksmith's hammer as he turned out swords and other weapons to Arex's exacting specifications. Next door to the blacksmith a bowyer and fletcher made bows and arrows by the dozens. And to the other side of them, an armorer turned leather and steel into protective clothing for the students.

'The Guide' as it came to be called, turned into ten volumes and was being reprinted all over the kingdom in seven different languages.

The great hunter, his hair getting greyer all the time, had become the father of three children by this time. A fine pair of redheaded twin girls and a strapping dark haired boy who was the spitting image of his sire. And both Jeni and Miko's bellies were beginning to show once again with the promise of more.

There were no more slaves living in the household. All had been freed, but all four of them still wore the soft leather collars as a show of love for their master. In celebration of their freedom and to repay him for his love, they had conspired together with a furniture maker in town and had a huge bed constructed that would easily hold all five of them comfortably.

And Arex never slept alone to the end of his days.



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