Coming of Age (Enslavement - Book 1)
  • Author - I. Binder
  • Rating -   
  • Site Rank - 152 of 2955
  • Story Codes - M-f, non-consensual, bondage, caught, extreme, kidnapping, medieval , sensorydep, slavery, torture
  • Post Date - 4/13/2014

Author's Note: This is a story of betrayal, enslavement, hope and desperation. It is actually the first in a series of stories involving a young woman who after being cheated of her inheritance by a conniving guardian is sold into slavery.

For Esme the coach ride had been thrilling. It was three days in a public coach to Bacau. But for the last six years Esme had not been in a coach at all. She had not been in a city. She had not been out in the world, so she had not had contact with young men. As the coach bumped lurched and shook over what passed as a highway, Esme flirted, and engage the young cavalry Captain sitting across from her in conversation.

Her Uncle sat next to her, sometimes sleeping, but usually displaying disgust, boredom, or at best disinterest. Even though he was Esme's guardian, and would properly be so until they arrived in Bacau, Esme had had little contact with him except by letter. Esme's father had died when she was twelve and her Uncle became her guardian and protector. Her mother had died when Esme was only a child.

She had been taken initially to his dark foreboding house populated with dour servants and what Esme was sure were unhappy and vengeful ghosts. She was not unhappy to leave that place even if it meant going to a convent school. Even though there was almost complete isolation from the outside world there were other girls her age, and in spite of strict discipline she had made some very good friendships and mostly enjoyed her time.

The education was also very good. She was now fluent in English, French, Latin, German, and Hungarian. For much of the day she had been showing off by talking to the Captain in French, which he also spoke fluently, although nobody else in the coach seemed to know the language. This gave her a feeling of superiority and allowed her to be somewhat daring in the conversation. The Captain seemed to enjoy it as well.

She almost wished the trip would be longer. They would stop at an inn for the night, leave at dawn tomorrow and arrive at Bacau by late afternoon. That meant that the very next day she and her Uncle would meet with the solicitor. Her Uncle would then make his accounting to the solicitor and sign over all of the accounts and properties of Esme's father's estate to Esme. In just two days time she would be a very rich girl, her Uncle could go back to his gloomy mansion, and she would never have to see him again. Fine by her.

Esme turned her attention back to flirting with the Captain. During her time at the convent school she had had little interaction with men. She knew she was inexperienced, but even so, this seemed a very fine specimen. He had dark hair and a full well groomed mustache. He was about ten years Esme's senior, but appeared in good physical condition, strong, but not overly muscled. And there was something about the uniform that made her feel queasy inside. Esme had determined that his destination was also Bacau. In French, so her uncle could not over hear, she told the Captain that she had some important business to conclude in Bacau and that she would then be on her own. He had suggested that they might see each other while there and she responded positively.

The coach had slowed. Esme wondered if they were at the inn, but it seemed too early for that, the inn should still be an hour away. Esme put her head out the window and saw that the coach was held up behind a wagon pulled by two oxen. The road was too narrow for the coach to pass at this point.

Esme could see a man sitting on the front bench of the wagon and another riding next to it on horseback. There were people sitting down in the bed of the wagon. They all appeared to be women and were all sitting with their backs against one side or the other.

Because the coach had moved over to one side of the available road looking for a place to pass Esme had a very good view of the wagon. It was a slaver's wagon. Each of the girls in the back was wearing a heavy collar around her neck. There were five girls sitting on one side and four on the other. It appeared that the wagon was configured to handle twelve. The girls did not spread out along the length of the wagon; instead they each had a specific spot with the last three positions being empty.

They were all naked, and the way they sat, evenly spaced with their backs against the side wall, their legs in front bent at the knee, Esme assumed they were restrained in place in some fashion. The side boards of the wagon came up to just below the neck of the girls. Although none of the girl's arms were visible, Esme had a mostly front view of the five girls sitting on the far side of the wagon. It looked like they each had their arms behind them and their legs in front with all the feet lined up near the center of the wagon bed.

All of the girls wore a muzzle across her mouth. It covered from just below the nose down and under the chin. Most looked down or straight ahead although several were looking back at the coach, one girl even made eye contact with Esme. There was a pleading quality to her eyes as if she thought maybe Esme could do something for her. The look made Esme shiver. These were slave girls. Esme didn't know how they came to be slave girls and she did not want to know. She did not know what their future would be, and she did not want to know that either. She knew that slaves were openly sold and owned in Bacau, but this was the first time she had actually seen a real live slave. It made her very uncomfortable. She wished that the road would widen out so the coach could get around them and on to the inn. She did not want anything more to do with a wagon full of slave girls.

The Captain was sitting facing Esme, so he did not immediately see what was holding them up. "What is it?" He asked, speaking now in English.

"Slavers with a wagon of slaves." Esme answered keeping to English.

"Nasty business." The Captain said. "In this day and age there is no reason to allow one human being to own another. The practice should be outlawed."

"If you don't want to see slaves then Bacau is the last place to go. It is one of the most important slave markets in the world." Esme's Uncle had joined into the discussion. "It is well accepted and an important part of the economy here."

Esme was not surprised by her Uncles attitude. He was always so dismissive of the rights of other people anyway. She would be very happy to put him behind her. She was thankful he had sent her to the school, although she knew it was her money that paid for it. She was sure the tight old skinflint would not have paid a farthing if it was his money.

The coach had gotten around the wagon now and the team opened up to the expected rate. They would soon be at the inn. Esme forgot her Uncle and switched to French to talk to the Captain. She knew her Uncle spoke no French and she could tell from his face that he sensed she had done this to keep him out of the conversation - which she had - and that he was very irritated with her - which made her happy.

Esme felt somewhat sorry for the poor slaves she had seen, but she did not identify with them in any way. They probably deserved being made slaves. And, from what she had seen about how people around here lived some of them were probably better off as slaves. At least they would be fed - although the look in the girl's eyes haunted her. She needed to put that out of her mind. The Captain was telling her of some of the great balls he had attended and her heart leapt into her mouth with the description of the lavishness. As soon as she got her money and settled back at her father's estate she was going to hold the greatest ball that had ever been seen. She would, of course, invite the Captain.

The coach arrived at the inn. They were greeted by the Innkeeper and his wife. A young male slave knelt by the side of the porch. His wrists and ankles were cuffed, but not otherwise restrained. He wore a metal collar that was connected by a short chain to a ring on the porch. The Innkeeper unlocked the chain from the ring and directed the boy to collect the travelers' bags and take them to their rooms. The Captain declined the invitation and instead carried his own bag.

Esme was shown to a room upstairs. Her uncle was in the room across the hall from her and the Captain in one of the rooms next door. Their other traveling companions, an older couple were in the room on the other side of Esme.

Esme stretched out on the bed to rest before dinner. She did not know if she had slept, but she heard sounds outside the window. She got up and looked out. Her room looked over the back of the inn and a stable/barn. Directly below her window was the slave wagon. It had apparently just arrived.

There were nine women and only two slavers, but the men were very professional and the women all tightly restrained, the slavers had no difficulty controlling their very valuable property. Esme watched as the slavers unloaded the wagon. This allowed her to see just how cleverly the women were held during transport.

Every woman wore a metal collar fastened around her neck. There was a ring in the front and in the back. From the ring in the back a chain hung down to just above the small of each girl's back. There it fastened to a circle in the middle of a short chain that joined the girl's wrist cuffs behind her back. With her hands pulled apart there was just about a foot of chain between them, but when she relaxed her arms down her hands came together just above the top of her buttocks. The girl had some limited use of her hands, but the chain to her neck prevented her from even touching her buttocks. Had it not been present she could easily step through the chain and bring her hands up in front of her, but that was prevented.

Each girl also wore cuffs at her ankles. These were also connected with a hobble chain of just over a foot. In the center of the hobble chain there was a larger link, about three inches in diameter.

Down the center of the wagon there was a bar. It was anchored at the back of the driver and passed through a hole in the tail gate of the wagon when it was raised. A ring in the end of the bar allowed for a chain to be pulled through it locking the tail gate up and the bar in place. The center ring in the hobble chain of each girl had been fed over the bar as the girl was positioned inside the wagon. This meant that unless the back of the wagon were opened she was held in the wagon. Also, she could only exit the wagon by sliding down to the end of the bar so that the ring could be pulled off the bar. Further, when she sat back against the sideboard of the wagon her feet were held in the middle of the wagon, anchored by each ankle by a chain of only six inches long.

One of the slavers removed the chain holding the bar through the back of the tail gate and lowered it. This freed the end of the bar so that the hobble chains of the slaves could be slipped off, but only when she moved off the back end of the wagon. No slave moved, in fact, they all stayed stiffly in their position, backs to the side wall. Esme quickly saw the reason. Along the side wall there were six pairs of holes, each with a something that looked like a trunk latch. Each pair of holes was directly behind a girl (or for the empty spots where a girl could be fastened.) The top hole was about two inches below the top of the side board. The lower hole was toward the middle of the side board about where the small of the girl's back would be. Each hole was ringed in metal to give it extra strength.

The chain from the back of the girl's collar to her wrist chains was lined up with the two holes. Then after insuring that the girl was sitting straight with her back to the board, a hook attached to a clasp was slipped through the chain next to the hole. When the clasp was closed the hook pulled tight and closed so that it held the chain tightly in place. The girl's neck and wrists were thereby tethered to the side of the wagon. Although there was a ring in the clasps to which a padlock could be attached none of the clasps holding the nine slaves were padlocked, and none were needed. No girl could not move to one side or the other. She could not change her position. Since her legs were connected by her short hobble chain to the bar up the center of the wagon, she had very little movement of her legs.

Even though the girls were sitting within two inches of the girl next to them they could not even touch each other. And, no occupant of the wagon could reach any of the clasps on the outside of the wagon. Esme was shocked and impressed with just how simple yet effective these restraints were.

The restraints also allowed the two men to easily handle the nine girls. Until the clips connecting her to the side wall were undone no girl could even attempt to remove her hobble chain from the center bar. The slaver fastened a leash line into the ring in the front of the closest girl's collar. Then he opened the clips for that girl and guided her down the bar and out of the wagon. When she was finally standing on the ground, he connected her leash line to a ring on the back of the wagon. While the first girl was being removed the second man leashed and removed the next girl. Her leash line was then fastened to the ring in the back of the girl who had been first removed. Only then did they proceed to the next girl, thus creating a coffle of chained helpless slave girls.

Esme noticed that one of the girl's head was completely encased in a hood. When the time came to remove her from the wagon she was not placed in the coffle with the other girls but instead leashed to a ring on the other side of the wagon.

When the coffle was complete, the large slaver gave a command that sounded like present. The girls reacted quickly. Each girl straightened her back, moved her legs apart to the allowed length of the ankle hobble and pulled her wrists up to the middle of her back. They all stood stiffly looking straight ahead.

Each man utilized a small whip to encourage the girls to obey. Esme observed that the chain arrangement for the hands kept the girl's hands at the top of her buttocks. She could not even try to protect her thighs and buttocks from the cruel slashes of the whip. How humiliating this must be for those poor girls. They were naked, chained, and made to obey curt commands receiving painful slashes of the whip if their speed was to slow or enthusiasm lacking.

When all of the girls were removed from the wagon and all but the hooded girl chained in the coffle attached to the back of the wagon, the large slaver turned his attentions to the girl in the hood.

He turned her so that she was facing away from him. Then, using the chain that linked her hands behind her, he lifted the center ring until he could connect it to the ring in the back of her collar. Her arms were now pulled up behind her back each wrist held by a short six-inch chain to her collar.

The man then stood back and snapped a whip making it crack in the air. The girl's body could be seen to shiver, but no sound was emerging from her. She must be muzzled under the hood. The poor girl could not see the man because of the hood. She could hear him, but she did not know what he was going to do next, or when. After snapping the whip a few times, he stopped and stood still studying the helpless body before him. The girl twisted from side to side. The man drug his foot along the ground and the girl jumped. Then he lashed out with the whip. The stroke wrapped around her flank with the tip ending its flight at the middle of her right buttocks.

There was still no audible sound from the girl, but it clearly hurt. She jumped and twisted. Esme could see her hands opening and closing, but tightly held up between her shoulders and thus unable to assist her in any way.

The man waited and watched the twisting and squirming girl. The whip coiled back and whistled forward again. The girl could have heard it coming just a fraction of a second before it bit, but would have no idea where it was going. This stroke crossed her back and circled her waist with the tip ending on her stomach right below her navel. The twisting dance of pain renewed. Esme was frozen. She did not want to watch this girl punished, but she could not turn away. She wondered why the girl was being punished. She did not remember any of the girls being hooded when the coach had passed the slave wagon.

The third and forth strokes of the whip bit around first one side, then the other, of the girls upper body leaving the painful red line across first one and then the other breast just below the nipple. Esme marveled at how even the lines were. It seemed that the pain from these insults were almost too much for the girl. She twisted and pulled jerking at the leash that held her standing helplessly at the back of the wagon. The other slaves stood without moving watching the punishment of their compatriot and certainly happy that it was her and not them.

Esme was interrupted by a knock on her door. This allowed her to turn away from the events outside the window and receive the announcement that it was time for supper. She was sure she would be enjoying a much better fare than the poor slave girls. As she looked around her room, she felt a bit guilty, thinking of how comfortable she would be while the slave girls suffered in their chains out in the cold barn. She had to drive the thoughts from her mind as she quickly touched up her hair and went downstairs to the dining room. Before leaving her room, she could not resist looking out the window. All was quiet now. The door to the barn was open, and light streamed from inside, but there was no sign of the slavers or their slaves.

As with most inns of this type, meals were served at a large table around which all of the travelers sat. Esme was happy to see the Captain and arranged to seat herself opposite him. She wondered if she would have taken as much care with her personal preparations if she had not expected him to be there. She did not care that her Uncle sat next to her.

A serving girl brought bowls of a thick hearty soup. Just as she began serving the soup, the two slavers Esme had seen with the wagon entered the room. There was a third man with them. It appeared that he was one of the slavers. The larger of the men turned to the group. "I apologize, but we had to see to our cargo before joining you."

Everybody knew what that cargo was, but nobody seemed to want to say anything about it. Several people nodded and turned their attention back to their soup. The men sat at the table as the serving girl nervously brought them each bowls of soup.

As they ate, the group seemed to relax a bit. The older man from the coach looked over at the man who was clearly the head slaver. "Seems you are short of a full load."

"Some trips are more productive than others. While we would like a full load we can still make a profit with even seven or eight if they are top quality."

The man Esme had not seen before then joined in: "Looks like we have an acquisition for tomorrow evening in a village North of here. Eleven is not bad." Esme was puzzled at his math, there were only nine girls on the wagon, but did not want to intervene; there must be two more girls about to lose their freedom. Esme shuddered with sympathy. She wondered if these poor girls knew what was waiting for them. Very likely not.

The man who had asked the initial question responded: "Didn't get a great look, but they seemed pretty good. Does the peace treaty in the North limit availability?"

"Certainly the armies have always been a source of good slaves, but most of our production has never really relied upon that."

"If it isn't betraying a trade secret, where do you get them? From the looks of how carefully you keep them under restraint it would not appear that you get many volunteers." The man chuckled at his joke.

The slaver returned the laugh. "It is fair to say that young girls are not lining up to become slave girls. And, I suspect that any notions of it being romantic are laid to waste when our slave wagon arrives in town." He smiled and took a few spoons of soup before continuing. "Every town has its share of rebellious young trouble makers that they are happy to be rid of. Josh here works as an advance man while Tom and I move with the wagon. We will hold outside of town while he meets with the town fathers. If he can come to a provisional agreement on suitable property then we can come into town and collect it." He paused and looked around the table. The older woman scowled at him. Esme had been carefully watching him, but turned away when he looked at her. She felt herself flush.

"Once there is an agreement we drive the wagon into the center of town. It is all the more dramatic if there are already some slaves onboard. The new slaves are brought to the square by the townsmen. It is priceless when they first see the wagon and realize what is in store for them. Most collapse in fear, babbling and pleading for a second chance. Many continue to be defiant. I have seen some fight like absolute wild cats at that point. Others meekly surrender. I think they are just in shock. That is probably the best. In the end, it is the same for every new slave. She is stripped naked and placed in slave chains. From that point escape is impossible and her fate is sealed. The town is paid, she is fastened in the wagon, and she is on her way to the slave markets of Bacau."

Esme shuddered at the thought of the poor girl being striped and chained in public. "Why is that done so publicly? Doesn't anyone ever come to a girl's rescue?" She could not help herself.

"We would just as soon do it quietly, but the public event is important to the town officials. The elders and parents use it as a warning. Some parents will even bring their young daughters to witness the enslavement making sure that they know if they don't improve their attitude a similar fate could await them. It is unlikely that anyone would want to help the girl, although there is always the risk of an outraged paramour, self proclaimed hero, a brother, or just an antislavery do-gooder. We try to determine that risk and neutralize it in advance." He did not elaborate.

"When you arrived here you beat one of the girls. Why was hooded? What had she done to deserve such treatment?" Esme didn't like this man. She didn't like what he did and she didn't want the others to see him as performing some proper role in a civilized society.

"Most of the property we acquire have a rebellious streak. It is the girl's tendency to disobey authority and just do as she pleases. It is often this attitude that lands her in my chains. That attitude has to be broken quickly. It is imperative that I make sure she understands her new position in life and the importance of obeying. In the end it is better for her that she learns that lesson quickly." He looked into Esme's eyes as he spoke. This time she could not turn away.

"On the back of the driver's bench of the wagon, in plain sight of the slaves, we hang the discipline hoods. If a slave misbehaves in any way she is immediately hooded. Once she is hooded, she knows that she will be punished when we stop for the day. She can spend the day anticipating her punishment, while the other slaves will see the danger of misbehavior by her presence. It is surprisingly effective."

"I can see how that would work. I sometimes wish I could do something like that with the regiment." It was the Captain. Esme looked at him. Certainly he could not be supporting this cruel treatment of these women.

"And what exactly did this girl do to deserve such a harsh punishment?" There was an edge to Esme's voice as she spoke.

"When we were passed by the coach earlier today she looked up and made eye contact with one of the passengers. I think it might have been you mademoiselle. Slaves are not allowed to hold eye contact with free persons. And, she is certainly not allowed to try to evoke sympathy for her position by use of her eyes. She is not expected to enjoy her new position in life, quite the opposite, but she is expected to accept it, and she will learn to accept it. As she is taught to act, so shall she begin to think. Fear of the whip and the cane will quickly bring her to conform her actions to our expectations. Some learn slowly, others more quickly, but in the end they all learn." His smile was broad.

Esme hated him. This girl had been punished because she looked at Esme. Certainly there had been a pleading look in her eyes. What did they expect? She had been only recently enslaved. She must be looking for any hope; any hope at all that her fate may be changed. That was certainly no reason for such a cruel beating.

Esme was surprised that her uncle had not chimed in on the topic of disrespectful and disobedient youth. Esme had heard his lectures on the topic of the lack of quality in young people during the short time she had lived with him and before he shipped her off to the convent school 'where she would learn proper respect'. Even then, she had received several terse letters from him responding to complaints that she was not showing proper respect for the sisters. She looked over and saw that he was grinning, seemingly enjoying the discussion. She was so happy that she would be rid of him in only two days. She would have her inheritance, she would be independent and not beholding on any man, and she could do pretty much whatever she wanted. She smiled back at her uncle.

Esme did not want to listen to these discussions any longer. She took her leave and retired to her room to get some sleep. She realized that she was very tired. The coach ride had been exhausting. Wearing only a flannel night shirt she climbed into the large comfortable bed, spread out, enjoying its size, expanse and softness, and was quickly asleep.

She felt pressure. Something or somebody was on top of her. She was being pushed down into the soft mattress. The comforter and sheets that had covered her were gone. What was happening? She opened her mouth to protest but felt something slip past her lips and into her mouth. It was large; it gave a little, but not much. It filled her mouth almost completely. There was also pressure against her lips and her chin. Something had been pulled tightly across the lower front of her face and under her chin. Her head was pushed face down into the bed and she felt straps being fastened tightly behind her head.

She tried to scream or cry out. Almost no sound left her mouth. The combination of the mouth stuffing leather (she could now taste it), the tight panel across her face, and the pressure pushing up on her chin to hold her mouth tight on its confining bundle kept her words and her screams locked down inside her.

She was face down on the bed and could feel the weight of someone on her back. There was more weight on her legs. She discovered this when she tried to roll over and then tried to kick. Her arms were pinned at her sides by the weight on her back. She wanted to reach up and tear the terrible thing from her mouth, but she could not free her arms.

She felt her night shirt pushed up baring her legs, thighs, and buttocks. She had worn nothing below it. Now she wanted to reach back and pull it back down to cover her body. The weight on her back kept her pinned down tightly.

The weight on her legs was wrapping something around her ankles. She felt coil after coil of soft material circle her ankles and then pull them together. She was being tied. The person on her legs must be sitting on her upper legs facing her feet. She tried to kick, but her ankles were now held together. She felt the ropes cinched through the ankle bindings making them even tighter.

The hands on her ankles were released, but they were now bound. She tried to wiggle them against each other and kick up and down, but she could tell they were tied and the ropes had been knotted off.

The pressure on her legs moved up toward her buttocks as the pressure on her back shifted up to her shoulders. As the lower pressure moved up Esme felt her night shirt pulled up. When the person who had tied her legs had turned and positioned himself (she was pretty sure it was a man, his hands were not soft) on her buttocks the man that had been on her shoulders shifted off of her pulling her night shirt up as he did.

Her arms were no longer pinned to her sides, but they were stuck in the sleeves of the heavy night shirt which had now been pulled up over her head. She needed them free to fight back. She pulled her arms down letting them slide from the sleeves of the night shirt. But, as quickly as they were free from the material strong hands grabbed her arms and pushed them together behind her back. It was the man sitting on her buttocks that held her arms together. The other man was not idle. He began wrapping her elbows with soft cord. She tried to twist and pull away, but quickly (how had he don't that so quickly?) her elbows had been wrapped and he was cinching the tie. When he was done her elbows were separated by only about an inch and this entire inch was tightly cinched rope. She was in trouble. She was in serious trouble.

They could have just gotten off her at that point, but instead the man who had just tied her elbows held them in place while the other man released her arms and began to wrap the rope around her wrists. With her elbows tied and two men holding her down she was able to offer no resistance as they were carefully and tightly wrapped and cinched. After her wrists were tied the man took both ends of the rope from the knot, carefully placed at the top of the cinch, and pulled one end around each side of her stomach. As he did they rolled her over onto her back and she could see for the first time her assailants. He was the large slaver who had beaten the girl and the one who had joined them later. The man then took the two ends from the wrist tie and carefully knotted them at her stomach. When he let go she looked down to see the knot sitting at her navel. She shifted her hands to one side and then the other and watched as the knot moved back and forth. It would always be beyond her reach.

Esme looked up at the larger man with her best pleading and inquisitive look. "Now we are ten, tomorrow it will be eleven. Then off to the slave market." He ran his hand up Esme's now naked body kneading her right breast before moving his fingers to the nipple. He stroked it and to Esme's shame it responded by hardening.

"Pleasure later. We have work to do now. Let's get this one secure." It was the other man.

The man with his hands on Esme's body nodded his head then pushed her down onto the bed. The other man pulled out another length of rope and began to lash her legs just below the knees. They were tight, but not so much that the rope cut into the flesh.

As he worked the other man tied another rope in a larks head around the elbow cinch. He then took the two ends, ran them under Esme's left arm, up over her left shoulder, behind the back of her neck, down over the right shoulder, and then back under the left arm to the elbow cinch. He wrapped the lines around the cinch then pulled them up through the lines now at the back of her neck and back down to the elbow cinch where he tightened the entire tie before tying it off.

Esme was very frightened now. She knew she could not untie either her wrists or her elbows. She could never reach the binding at her knees. Her only hope, if given the opportunity, would be to try to release her ankles.

Esme remembered that the Captain was in the room next door. If she could get his attention he would rescue her from these fiends. She tried to yell out - nothing. Now she could see just how effective these slave muzzles were. There would be no talking. There would be no yelling. There would be no sound loud enough to attract the attention of anybody else.

She tried to twist away from the men and throw herself against the wall. The large man was holding her by the cinch to her elbows and she could go nowhere. She looked around to see if there was something in the room she could knock over to make a sound. On the dresser, not far away, was a wash bowl and pitcher. That would make a very loud noise if she knocked it to the floor.

The large man's eyes followed her look. "Good idea, I can't wait to see you try to make it happen." With that he pushed her face down on the bed. There were still two lines from the tie at her ankle. The lines were threaded through the binding at her wrists then pulled over the cinch at her elbows. As one man pushed her legs forward and leaned his weight down on them, the other man pulled up the slack and tied off the ropes at her elbows. When he released her she found that she could not straighten her legs. Her wrists were touching her ankles and she could pull them no more than an inch or two apart. She could feel the muscles of her back straining with this position. This was going to be very uncomfortable. She wondered how long they were going to keep her like this. Why had they tied her up? Why had she not just been taken to the barn and put in chains? That was supposed to be their system.

"Your loving uncle has decided that your rebellious and disrespectful nature is just too much. He has sold you to us as a slave." The man was again stroking her naked body. She squirmed and did her best to show her displeasure with this action, but it only evoked a smile. "Under normal circumstances we would take you right to the barn and place you in chains, but we don't want to alarm the other guests. I doubt there would be any trouble, but why chance it. You will be allowed to sleep the rest of the night on this nice soft bed, of course, your position will not be that comfortable, and then in the morning your uncle will make apologies at breakfast. It will be announced that you are ill and are going to rest the day and take the coach the following day. Once the coach has left then you will get your chains and take your rightful place on the slave wagon. But, I will be fair with you. We will only enslave you if you are still bound when we come for you after breakfast. All you have to do is get away." Both men laughed.

Esme shook her head back and forth. She needed to tell him that she was rich. She needed to tell him that she could buy her freedom. But the damn muzzle prevented any chance of that. Tears built up in her eyes and began to run down her cheeks. How was she going to get away? She knew she could do nothing with the men here. Maybe after they left she could do something. She could knock her body against the wall. Would that be enough to alert the Captain and bring him to her? She could shuffle over to the dresser and knock the pitcher and basin to the floor. The crash might alert help. If not, a sharp piece of broken ceramic may allow her to cut the ropes.

Meanwhile, the men were not done with her. She was pushed over onto her side. One of the men connected a new line with a larks head to the elbow cinch. Then he pulled it up to the post on the upper left side of bed and tied it off. Esme looked at the knot and the length of line connecting it to her elbows. She just might be able to squirm around and get her hands on it. But then, the other man fastened a similar line to the cinch at her knees. This he pulled down to the bed post on the lower right side of the bed. The two men then positioned her in the middle of the bed so that she was diagonally across it and tightened the lines until she was held fast.

They rechecked the security of all their knots, then patting her on the flank got up and went to the door. "Remember, if you want to be a slave just stay where you are. We will come for you in the morning and suit you with a fine set of slave chains. If you don't, well, just come down to breakfast and you will be free." They laughed and walked through the door.

Esme was enraged at what they had done to her. She was not ready to be a slave. She was not ready for this to happen. She jerked and pulled and twisted. Her arms were held tightly together because of the bindings at her elbows and wrists. Her legs were tightly tied and pulled up behind her. Her fingers looked for a knot. She could find none. She knew that the knot from her hands was on her stomach. She could see the damn thing, but could do nothing about it. She had tried to rub it against the bedding, but that was clearly not going to work. She knew that the knot from her ankles and also holding her in the hogtie was tied at her elbows. She could never reach that.

There was no way she was going to untie herself. Her only chance was to make some noise. She had given up on calling or screaming. She could not believe how effective the damn muzzle was. But they had had years of experience with slave girls and knew exactly what would work. This device had been carefully crafted to keep a girl quiet. It did its job.

There was no way for her to get to the dresser and knock over the pitcher and bowl. She was held diagonally on the bed tethered between the two posts. The knots to those ropes were at the posts themselves, again miles from her grasp. She had tried to pull and twist to see if one might loosen. These were professional slavers. Knots they tied did not come loose. When they tied a woman she stayed tied.

Esme stared at the wall only a few feet away. She knew that just on the other side of the wall the Captain slept peacefully unaware of her plight. If he only knew he would come. If he had the slightest idea of the danger she was in he would rescue her. She was sure of it. Pinned as she was between the bed posts she could not reach the wall with any part of her body. She tried to roll over and reach back with her feet. She tried to roll the other direction and force her head forward. She could get within about six inches, but no more. She could not get there. She could see the wall, but she could not knock on it. A silenced scream of frustration raged through her body as she pulled and twisted and jerked at her bonds. She knew it was useless, but could not help herself from trying.

The bed was large and heavy. She thought she might be able to shake it and make it hit the wall. She tried to shake her body back and forth, but the mattress was soft and the anchor lines were pulled with such tension that she could only make it rock a little. Had it been pushed right against the wall that might have worked, but it was at least four inches away. No part of the bed came within an inch of the wall.

Esme was coated in sweat from her efforts. She had tried everything she could think of. She was a smart girl, too smart to be a slave, but she had found no plan to defeat her bonds. When reason and plan were exhausted she just struggled in panic. She did not realize it, but she had learned her first lessons in being a slave. She had no control over her situation. Control was completely in the hands of others and there was nothing she could do but endure. When they came for her in the morning she would still be tied here on the bed. She would be exactly as they left her. They would joke that it must mean she wanted to be a slave. She would be humiliated, but she would be here. There was no way for her to be any place but here. There was no way for her to avoid the enslavement that would come with the morning. Esme wept.

She thought she should try to get some sleep, but it was almost impossible. She had such wonderful plans for her life. She was about to be independent and wealthy. She was going to be able to travel. She was going to enjoy life. Instead she was bound to bed in a shabby inn waiting to be placed in slave chains. It was unfair.

Esme could see light coming into the room. It must be morning. Had she slept? She was not sure. The large slaver entered her room. Esme's uncle was with him. Why was he doing this to her? She was lying on her side on the bed, still hogtied and anchored between bedposts. This meant that she was completely exposed to the two men standing just inside the door to the room.

Her uncle said nothing as the slaver walked over to where Esme lay. He didn't joke and tease her as she had expected. He looked at her with a stern powerful expression that frightened her. "You are about to begin life as a slave. As an introduction to that life I am going to beat you." He paused as he let the words sink in.

Esme shook her head back and forth and renewed her futile struggles against the ropes that held her. "It is not because of anything you did. It is actually a kindness that I am doing. You must learn that you will be beaten. You will be beaten for your mistakes. You will be beaten for other's mistakes. And, you will be beaten if a master or mistress decides that they want to beat you. I don't expect that you will enjoy being beaten. I do expect that you will fear the whip and the cane and that you will do all within your power to avoid it. Today's beating will help you realize just how important it is to be completely obedient." Again he paused.

Esme was hyperventilating in fear. The tight gag and muzzle made it difficult for her to pull in all the air her system seemed to want. She did not want to be beaten. She would do anything she could to avoid it, but there was nothing she could do. She did not want to be tied helplessly to this bed, but here she was. She did not want to be a slave, but she knew that she was, if not already, about to be one. And, she was going to be beaten and she could do nothing to stop it. She started to sob. She lifted her head and tried to look at her uncle. Maybe he would have second thoughts and intercede for her. He just smiled.

The large man reached over Esme, grabbed a foot and pulled her onto her stomach. "I am going to give you ten strokes of the cane. I am going to apply them to the soles of your feet." She looked toward him and for the first time saw the whippy cane he held in his right hand. He slashed it back and forth in the air. It whistled as it cut through the air.

This was not possible. He couldn't really hit her with that. He certainly could not hit her on the bottoms of her feet. That would hurt. That would hurt a lot. She was convinced of that. He must be trying to scare her. It was working.

There was another whistling sound as the cane cut through the air. The flesh of Esme's feet erupted in fire. Her entire body stiffened. Her attempts to pull her feet away from her bottom caused her body to arch in her bonds. She had not been prepared for that. She had never in her entire life felt anything the equal of that. She did not think there could be so much pain. She screamed, but the scream was choked away by the horrible gag and muzzle. Somehow the inability to even properly scream made it hurt all the more.

Before she had even caught her breath there was another swish and another stripe of fire on her defenseless feet. It was more than she could stand. Nothing in her life had prepared her for this. She did not even think the body was capable of sustaining such pain. It had to stop. There was no possible way she could stand any more. She wiggled back and forth. She tried to move her feet around. She looked over at the man. He was standing by the side of the bed. Esme could see his right hand with the light cane hanging down to his side as he studied her movement.

Esme tried to make eye contact with him. She tried to beg him to please stop. She wanted to tell him that he did not need to hit her again. She had been thoroughly and completely convinced that she would do whatever he asked if he would only stop. But, he did not. She saw his hand come up she watched as if in slow motion while the cane lifted far above his head and then descended until it once again slashed across the soles of her feet. She had been able to watch the entire arc of the cane. She had been able to tense her body just before the awful stick made contact with her flesh, but none of this had diminished the pain. She twisted and pulled at her bonds. She screeched and screamed into her gag and muzzle. She could not see anymore because her eyes had filled with tears. "No more. No more. Please." That is what she was saying, but it came out as only a "gnummm . . . nunnn . . . eee!" She felt her bladder release and the bed clothes grew warm around her. In spite of her pain she was humiliating at having wet herself.

Esme managed to roll back onto her left side. Because her elbows were tied to the left top bedpost she could only lay on her stomach or her left side. Right now she needed to get her feet out of the line of fire and that was the only place she could try to hide. This left her on her side looking straight up at the large man. She watched as the whippy cane flexed up into the air and then descended again. Her feet were out of harm's way so it slashed instead across the top of her breasts. She had not been expecting this and she gasped with the sudden pain to a new part of her body.

He stood watching her for a moment and then the cane rose and fell again. Again it hit her breasts, now just a little lower bisecting the angry welt from the first strike and her nipples. Somehow, she knew where the next stroke would be. The thought was not acceptable. She rolled back onto her stomach to protect her breasts. She could feel the two painful stripes as her breasts made contact with the bed clothes.

Before she could even think about her new position the swish of the cane, the familiar precursor of pain, announced another strike on her feet. She had endured six cuts of the cane. Four on her feet and two across her breasts, he had said ten, that meant another four. She did not think she could endure that. She was going to go mad with the pain. And as she contemplated her lose of sanity the cane found her feet once more. She had not tried to move away. She was not sure if it hurt more on her feet or her breasts but she was sure her feet had taken all they could. She rolled once more to her side.

The man walked over to the dresser and put the cane down. "That is five of your ten strokes. After breakfast I will return and give you the final five. When I return you will beg me to put you in chains and will humbly ask to receive five more strokes on your feet."

Esme was in shock. She had been hit seven times, not five. She had been hit five times on her feet but also twice on her breasts. Oh God, the strikes to her breasts had not counted. That was only half of her punishment. She could not take any more. And he expected her to beg to be enslaved. She did not want to be a slave. But, if breakfast had not yet been served then the coach was still here. The Captain had not left. He was still in the inn. He could still find her and rescue her. All she had to do was be found. Her feet hurt terribly. Her breasts burned. She looked down and saw the two angry red lines across the tops of her breasts. She could not live like this. She had to escape . . . but there was no escape. She had been tied by professional slavers she was completely helpless and she would stay tied until she was untied, and now she knew she would only be untied to be put in chains. She pulled again at her bonds, but there was no conviction in her effort. She knew the answer.

It seemed like a very long time. The wet bedding smelled of her urine and became cold and clammy against her skin. For a moment she thought about how embarrassed she would be when the maid came to change the linens, and then she laughed. That was the least of her humiliation now.

Esme heard sounds in the hallway. She heard voices. She heard the voice of the Captain. He was in the hallway, just outside the door to her room. He was talking to someone. Esme tried to call out - nothing. She tried to bounce the bed and have it make noise - again no noise. She tried to twist and pull at it - the frame of the bed was far too heavy to respond to her. Salvation was standing only feet away separated by a single door. But then it moved away. She heard footsteps down the hallway and eventually to the stairs. The Captain and the others were leaving.

Very soon it would be only Esme and the slavers. She would be expected to ask to be enslaved. She would be expected to ask to be beaten. But then there was a spot of hope. For her to ask they would have to remove her gag. She was about to have a great deal of money. What did slavers care most about? Clearly it was money. She could offer to buy herself out of this. She was certainly willing to pay them more than they could expect to sell her for. That would work. Then she could deal with her uncle.

The large slaver had returned to the room. Fortunately her uncle was not with him. "Are you ready to be a good obedient slave?" He looked at her. She was still gagged. She needed him to remove her gag, but he had not. If he did not take off the gag she would not be able to negotiate her release. She panicked.

His cane slashed across her thigh. She knew from before that this did not even count as part of her punishment. "Well?" The cane was poised to strike again.

Esme nodded her head up and down. She knew was the right answer was and she was going to give it.

The man began unfastening her gag. He had rolled her back onto her stomach. The wet bed felt cold and uninviting. "Ok slave. Now you will beg to be placed in my chains and ask for the five strokes of the cane that your little feet are still owed."

"Oh, please, don't beat me anymore. I will do what you want." She had not gotten any further before the cane slashed across her feet. This time the scream was not muffled. This time it was not held inside by the tight restriction of the gag and the muzzle. This time it exploded into the air. Even if the coach was a mile away Esme was sure they heard that scream.

"A slave never speaks unless spoken to. A slave never tries to get her master to countermand a previous order. You will now beg for your chains and for the five strokes still due to your feet." Esme realized he had not even counted the stroke he had just placed on her feet.

She sobbed, then she raised her head. This was her only chance. "Please master. I have money. As soon as I get to Bacau I will be very wealthy. As soon as the accounting is made my father's estate becomes . . ." She stopped in mid sentence. She knew. That was the reason she was lying in this wet bed hogtied and bound for slavery. Her uncle could not allow the accounting to take place. He had taken the money entrusted to him. He had taken her money and he needed to make sure she did not complain about it. He had arranged for her to be sold into slavery instead.

Before the thought had a chance to get any further there was another terrible stripe across her feet. "A slave who does not learn quickly suffers a great deal. It is time to beg for your chains and the five strokes of the cane. Nothing else should come from your mouth."

Esme knew she was defeated. She could not take any more punishment, even though she knew she had more punishment to take and that she would have to ask for it. How completely humiliating was that. "Master, please put me in your chains." She could barely get the words out before she buried her face in the bedding and began to sob.

He did not strike her for this answer. "And?"

She was trapped. She was completely and utterly trapped. "Master, please beat my feet five more times with your cane." She had said it. She had done as she was told. It had been forced upon her, but the effect of having to ask to be enslaved and beaten was demoralizing on a level that she could never have predicted.

He stroked her head and held a cup to her lips. Esme was very thirsty and greedily consumed the offered liquid.

"I think you will be a lot of work, but I will accept your slavery. You will stay perfectly still and accept the remainder of your welcoming strokes to show your devotion to your new master." As he said this he lifted her head by her hair and placed the large wedge of leather connected to the muzzle in front of Esme's face. She offered no resistance. Esme opened her mouth and accepted the horrid plug. In mere seconds the muzzle was tightly fastened over her mouth and chin pulling her mouth closed over the ball of leather now tight within her mouth. She could now be beaten in silence.

Somehow Esme held still for the remaining five strokes of the awful cane. She had hoped that her punished flesh would become accustom to the cane, but that was not the case. If anything her flesh had been made more sensitive by the earlier beating.

She tried to put her mind someplace else. Her body was bound and unable to avoid its punishment but her mind could go somewhere. She tried to think of other times and places. Peaceful settings, sitting in a meadow on a warm spring day, or by the side of the lake near the school, places she felt happy. But then there would be the explosion of pain like a burning poker laid against her feet. She hoped she would pass out. After each stroke she saw spots in front of her face. Maybe if the next stroke came right on top of the one before it would have been sufficient to take her to darkness. But she was being beaten by a professional slaver. He knew what her cycle of pain would be with each stroke. He knew how long to wait, long enough for the pain of the stroke to start to ebb and anticipation of the next begin to well up.

It was only five strokes. Five is a very small number, unless it is the number of strokes of the cane delivered to one's body. Each individual stroke of the cane across her now swollen and sensitive feet was its own decent into hell. She would have done anything to make it stop. She would have promised anything to avoid the next stroke. But she could neither move nor speak. All she could do was endure. It was unendurable, but one can actually endure the unendurable when there is no other alternative, and for Esme there was no other alternative.

She was sobbing into her gag. The slaver sat on the bed next to her. He stroked her head and shoulder. "Good girl." The touch of his hand felt good. The gentle contact was reassuring and soothing. "You did very well." His voice was soft and gentle. She clung to the sound of it. His touch felt reassuring. He was so very strong. He could protect her. He released the two lines that feathered her to the bed.

"Let's get you safely in your chains." With that he picked her up. Slipping his arm through the circle created by her hogtied form he shifted her up so that her bound wrists and ankles met at the top of his shoulder. Her body hung below in an arc against his side. He held her so that her knees pointed forwarded and her head back such that Esme could not see where they were going. She was now a slave and didn't need to know where she was taken.

The slaver carried her down the back, service staircase, to the kitchen. The two women working in the kitchen looked up at her as she was carried through. How humiliating thought Esme, she was just a naked and bound piece of cargo.

In the back of the inn the other two slavers had assembled the nine slaves in the wagon. Each sat with her legs connected by the center ring of her hobble chain to the slave bar and with her back fastened to the side wall. They were all completely secure.

The slaver put Esme on the ground near the back of the wagon. From a compartment on the wagon he withdrew a set of slave chains. Esme watched with resignation. The large iron collar was fit around her neck, closed and then secured in place.

The collar and the cuffs all used a near Permanent locking system. When the open ends of the cuff or collar were pushed together alternating rings from each side would mesh to create a small cylindrical sized hole. This hole was open at the top but narrowed toward the bottom with only a very small pin size hole in the very bottom. Just below the top of the cylinder the interior flared out. Into this space was inserted a plug. It was made of iron but wrapped in brass. Thus, the outer part of the plug would deform to match the space but the interior was strong and would resist being broken.

Once the plug was set in the hole a special crimping device was used to force it down into the hole. Once it was fully seated the crimping device further deformed the top of the pin causing it to flair out into the space at the top of the hole creating a flange. To remove the pin it would be necessary to chip out the top of the pin and then drive it up from the small pinhole at the bottom. Only a smith with proper tools could remove the pin.

Esme had been collared. She knew she could not remove the collar. She knew that it marked her as a slave. She had had the entire night to prepare herself for this, but as she felt the crimping tool distort the plug sealing her collar about her neck a feeling of panic rolled over her. If she were not still hogtied she would have attempted to flee. All she could do was hang her head.

Once she was properly collared and a leash line secured from the collar to the back of the wagon the slaver began to untie Esme. As he removed the hogtie and allowed her legs to go straight for the first time in many hours she groaned. She wanted her arms released, but instead he first untied her ankles. Her knees were still tied as he fastened the ankle cuffs in place. Only after these cuffs had been secured with the crimping tool did he untie her knees. She was now collared and hobbled. All that remained was to secure her wrists. The chain from the collar with the wrist cuffs were already in place.

The slaver untied Esme's wrists and then loosened the elbow tie, but did not remove it. Her arms were still held behind her back but as the ropes loosened she felt pins and needles run up and down her arms and through her hands as feeling began to come back. She longed to rub her arms but could not.

The length of the chain from the collar to the wrist cuffs, even allowing for the six inches from each cuff to the point where it meet the end of the chain did not allow her arms to be straight down her back. The slaver had loosened the elbow tie so that he could then raise her wrist behind her, pulling each in the opposite direction, until he was able to close the cuff over the wrist. Only after the plugs were inserted and crimped closed did he then untie her elbows. She was collared, chained with her arms behind her and hobbled. She had been removed from the ropes that bound her all night, but she had been permanently fastened into slave chains and was completely under the control of the slavers.

Without the intervention of a smith, or at least someone with special tools, the only modification that could be made to the slave chains was the fastenings of the chain from the collar to the link in the middle of the wrist chains. Unlike the other links in her chains this link was not completely closed but instead turned back on itself such that one side was made up of two flattened pieces held against each other by the strength of the rest of the link. Thus, with a tool carried by the slavers the link could be spread sufficiently to remove it. Once the wrist chain was no longer attached to the slave's collar a slave could step through her chains bringing her hands in front of her. The chain could then be refastened in front or her hands left free to the twelve inch length of her wrist chains to perform tasks. Slavers transporting slaves had little occasion to allow the slaves the use of their hands and thus kept them locked behind.

Now properly chained the slaver pulled Esme up off the ground. As they lifted her she put her chained feet below her to stand. But, as soon as she put weight on her feet the pain was so intense that she crumpled. The slavers, experienced in such things, seemed to expect that she would not be able to stand under her own power. They held her up and lifted her onto the back of the wagon. She watched with dismay as the center ring in her ankle hobble was fed over the open end of the slave bar.

There were five slaves on one side and four on the other side of the wagon. With the addition of Esme there were now an even five on each. This left two unoccupied spots in the wagon. Esme remembered questioning the comment at dinner when the slaver had said they were off to the north to pick up another slave and would then have eleven. She grimly realized that their math was good. Even as they sat eating with her the slavers knew that she would soon be another naked chained occupant of their slave wagon.

The slaver guided her into place by the chain from the back of her neck. Pulling her back against the side of the wagon she felt the hook engage the chain just below her collar and then tighten back holding her upper body in place. He then deftly found the chain near her hands where it passed by the lower hole and fastened the clip. She was now just part of a carefully packaged and secured cargo of slave girls.

With all of the property loaded in the wagon the slaver lifted the back tailgate threading the bar through a hole so that it extended behind. The end of the bar near the tailgate was slotted, and through this slot the slaver closed a bolt on the back of the tailgate. This effectively held the tailgate in place but also locked the bar up the middle of the wagon in place. Even if a slave were not fastened to the sides of the wagon she would be held in the wagon by the chains around her ankles.

Esme looked around the wagon. She looked over at the girl who had given her the pleading look just one day before. This was the same girl Esme had seen hooded and punished. Esme looked toward the driver's seat on the wagon. She could see four hoods hanging from hooks on the back of the seat. How easy would it be for the slavers to remove one and quickly hood a girl? How terrifying would it be to suddenly be hooded knowing that at the end of the day she would be punished. Esme looked back at the girl and then down at her feet. Had this girl hoped that there was some way Esme could help her? Obviously she could not. Nobody could help any of them. They were captured girls and were all destined to be slaves.

The wagon jolted to life. The oxen moved slowly. Esme was no longer in a hurry to get to Bacau, or anywhere else for that matter. She had no control over where she would go or when she would get there. The ride was going to be uncomfortable. The wagon bed bounced up and down. Esme, and the other occupants, could not shift around. She could not move her bottom forward because she was chained to the side wall. She could not even use her hands to lift her weight. The chain from her collar to her wrist chain did not allow her hands to touch the bottom of the wagon.

As a result the girls bounced up and down padded only by the flesh of their naked buttocks. To add to the discomfort the part of the wagon bed where each girl sat was not even wooden boards but, instead, a metal grill. It had broad metal bands with very narrow slots between them so as not to mark the flesh of the girls, but it was hard and unyielding. At first Esme puzzled over this arrangement. Later she learned the horrible purpose. The wagon did not need to stop to let the slaves relieve themselves.

They had been on the road for several hours when the pressure on Esme's bladder became unbearable. At first she tried to hold on thinking they must stop and give the girls some relief at some point. But then she heard and smelled other girls in the wagon letting go. It was then that she realized that there were be no rest break. There would be no opportunity to move from where she was held. The girl would just pee and the liquid would run through the grill below where she sat. The shame and humiliation of this situation was almost too much for her. She was not going to succumb to being an animal. She was a human. She was a woman. She was not going to pee where she sat. She should not be treated this way. Eventually the passage of time, the bouncing of the wagon, and her helpless state won out. She could not hold it anymore, she let it go. She could feel the liquid running down and hear it leave through the grill below her. Esme was mortified. Even though she knew she was not the only occupant relieving herself in this manner she felt like everyone else in the wagon was watching her and their eyes were saying "you are just an animal."

After several hours of slow travel they did stop for a brief rest break, but the slaves stayed shackled in the wagon. A slaver with a goatskin bag moved down the line of slaves. A small tube at the end of the bag was pressed into a hole in each slave's muzzle and liquid was then pressed into the girl's mouth. Esme was very thirsty, she wanted the water, but she panicked as the water began to fill her mouth around the severe packing of the gag. It was hard to swallow with her mouth so extended, but it was swallow or drown. She figured out how to swallow.

Then they were moving again. Esme ran her fingers over the heavy cuffs that had been fastened around her wrists. Her fingers found the hole where the plug had been placed and then crimped into place locking the cuff in place. She could feel the indent down to the expanded metal that sealed this horror in place. There was no possible way for her to remove these. It would take someone with proper tools, knowledge of the devices, and then time to release her. She, like the others in the wagon, would stay chained until the slavers decided otherwise. Esme felt the tears on her face even before she realized that she was crying. She lowered her head in shame, but as she looked up she could see that all of the girls' eyes were red. None of them had asked for this fate, and all of them shared the same helplessness.

It was late afternoon when the third slaver, the one who did not ride with the wagon, rode up. Esme could see a village ahead. After a brief conversation the wagon started again moving slowly toward the village. The large slaver sat on the bench and drove the oxen forward while the other two slavers rode on horseback just ahead of the wagon.

This was a small village but there was still a square of sorts surrounded by a number of tradesman's buildings. A good sized crowd - for such a small place - had assembled in the middle of the square. Heads turned as the wagon approached. The eyes were on the naked bodies chained in the back. It felt to Esme as if they were all looking at her. Instinctively she tried to bring her hands around to cover her nakedness. The chain clinked, but her hands remained fast behind her back. She tried to lean forward, but she was fastened just below her neck to the side of the wagon. She tried to pull her legs toward her so that her knees would cover her bare breasts, but her ankles were fastened to the slave bar that ran down the middle of the wagon. She could raise her knees a little, in fact they were held bent, but she could not bring them up sufficiently to cover her nakedness. She was on display and would stay on display.

After a quick appraisal, including what Esme took as looks of disapproval, most heads turned back toward the center of the square. Esme followed their eyes. There was a young woman standing in the square. She appeared to be middle to late 20's, she was no more than 5' 6" in height and appeared to be slight of build with raven colored hair. Her arms were behind her and her head was bowed. A man stood on either side of her and one held the end of a rope the other end of which was fastened around the girl's neck as a sort of leash.

After the wagon came to a stop and all attention was now back on the poor girl.

The man not holding the rope moved with an air of authority and spoke: "Mirabelle has been accused of witchcraft." He looked at the girl. She kept her head down. "Do you admit or deny the charges?"

The girl raised her head and shook her head back and forth in a negative. Esme could see that a large wad of something had been pressed into her mouth and tied in place with leather strips. She could say nothing.

"What is the evidence against her?" He looked out at the crowd.

A middle aged woman stepped forward. "Only two days after the mysterious death of her husband, while she should have still been in morning on the farm, I saw her riding up the road from the village. As she came by our field she stopped and looked at me as I led our cow back to the pasture. Only two days later the cow died. I know it was her spell."

An older woman stepped forward. "She stopped at our farm only a week after her husband's strange and untimely death. She asked for water and I obliged. A week later the well went dry." The woman pointed at the girl. "She is clearly a witch."

A man stepped forward. "I was coming home after dark only a week ago. As I rode past the clearing in the North woods I heard strange sounds. When I looked in that direction I saw lights that flickered and flashed. I moved closer and saw what looked like small clouds of luminescent vapor gliding around the naked figure of a dancing female. I dare not be seen and quickly left, but I am sure that it was her. She had placed the entire village in great danger through her communes with the demons."

The girl no longer lowered her head. She looked up at her accusers and shook her head violently from side to side. She was saying something, but gagged as she was nothing could be understood. Was she trying to cast a spell on them? Esme was terrified. The evidence was most compelling.

"See if she is marked." Ordered the man. Two older women approached the girl. They had small knives which they used to cut away her clothing. The girl sobbed and tried to turn her body to protect herself from view as she slowly was rendered naked before the crowd. As she twisted and turned Esme could see that her hands were crossed and bound behind her back. The women then began a search of the girl's body. They lifted her breasts looking at the bottom sides and paying particular attention to where the breasts met and overlapped slightly with the girl's chest. They looked into her arm pits. They pulled apart the globes of her buttocks inspecting the flesh therein.

This all made sense. Esme knew that the mark of the devil was not placed in a plain and easy place to see. It would be hidden from easy view. As Esme thought about this, she heard one of the women exclaim. "There it is. She bares the mark." The woman had pulled aside the girls vaginal lips on the left side and was looking at the outer side that would normally be pushed up against the girl's thighs. The other woman and the man looked where the woman pointed and affirmed the finding.

Esme had never seen a real witch before, but here before her was such a creature. There could no other possibility. The mark was definitive proof. Esme was happy they had her gagged and restrained. Esme had enough difficulties already, she did not need to be cursed too.

"Burn her. Burn her!" Voices in the crowd started to proclaim.

The slaver who did not travel with the wagon stepped forward. "Good people. We have learned that burning the Witch has dangers that were not previously known. If, as we suspect, she is possessed with a demon, then burning her may release the demon. That would leave it free to find a new host from this group of fine citizens." There was a multi voiced gasp as the crowd move back from the danger of this comely Witch.

"But, do not despair. We have found a very good solution to this dilemma. Rather than kill the Witch we will put her in chains as a slave. She will be branded and sold. But, before she leaves here today her tongue will be sliced down the middle. This will give warning to all that see her but it will prevent her from uttering any spell. The demon will be helplessly trapped in the body of a slave who will remain chained." There was the nodding of heads and a murmur of acceptance from the crowd.

The large slaver then walked forward. In one hand he carried a set of slave chains. In the other was the tool for crimping closed the joints. The girl looked at the chains and tried to jerk free of her captors. The two townsmen now held her each by an arm. She tried to kick at them, but as she kicked out the large slaver grabbed an ankle and fastened a cuff around it. He knew his way around slave chains, so it took less than a minute to set the plug and crimp it closed. He then grasped the other ankle and quickly closed the shackle and locked it in place.

The girl looked down at her chained feet as if live snakes had been wrapped around her legs. She kicked and bounced, a deep wail exiting from her throat in spite of the gag. But the chains were solid and they were permanently fastened around her ankles. Even her attempts to kick were held in check by the twelve inch length of the hobble chain.

At a signal from the slaver the two men bent the girl forward. The slaver placed the large collar round her neck and closed it. As he dropped the plug into place and crimped it closed the girl's entire body started to shake and shudder. Esme wondered if she had been able to caste some sort of spell. But, it was much more fundamental than that. The closing of the collar around her neck had brought home the inevitability of her situation. She was being enslaved and there was nothing she could do to prevent it. At least she was not being burned. That was good, wasn't it?

The girl was pushed to her knees and only then were her hands released from the ropes. There was no freedom in this release. The two men held her arms as the ropes were replaced by the cuffs of her new slave chains. Her hands were now chained to within twelve inches of each other behind her back and held by a chain to the collar around her neck. She stopped struggling. The battle was over. She had lost.

Before moving to the next step the slaver wrapped a scarf around the girl's eyes. He did not want her to see what was next. One of the other slavers had put an iron bar into the fire that was burning in the middle of the square. He had done it quietly at the beginning of this entire drama. It now glowed red and was ready for its use.

With the girl's eye sight blocked the gag was removed. Frightened villagers stepped back again. Would she utter a quick spell and bring them all to doom? She would not be given the chance. As quickly as the gag was pulled from her mouth the slaver grasped her tongue with a par of metal tongs. A scream escaped from her mouth, but she was not able to form any words. Then in a quick stroke he brought his razor sharp knife down through her tongue near the middle and split the tongue forward to the tip. The cut was almost perfect separating her once whole tongue into two separate parts.

As the slaver had cut the tongue, another slaver had retrieved the bar from the fire. He stepped forward and pressed it against the open wound on the tongue, first to one side, then the other. The motion was smooth and quick and the red hot bar was removed from the girl's mouth before the jerking of her body in response to the pain started. Then the girl went limp. Her body's defense mechanism had decided that she would not bear any more. The wounds had been cauterized and would quickly heal, but the pain must have been intense both then and for the near future.

The town authority who had done all the speaking for the town thanked the slaver for his assistance to the town. He handed the slaver a few coins and turned to his constituents. "A Witch has been discovered and neutralized. She has done damage to this village. Her farm is ceded to the town. It will be sold in one month's time. From the proceeds 10 crown will be paid for the loss of the cow and 15 to re-dig the lost well. The balance shall be placed in the treasury." There were murmurs and nods. It appeared that the accusers were to be well rewarded for their good citizenship.

The business of the slavers in this village was finished. The girl was lifted from the ground and carried to the slave wagon. The back of the wagon was opened and to Esme's horror the Witch was fastened into position number eleven. The still unconscious girl was almost directly across from Esme. As they positioned her into place her foot made contact with Esme's. Esme shrieked and withdrew her feet to the limits of their chain. She didn't want to be in physical contact with a witch.

The lead slaver - at least Esme thought he was the head of this group - looked over at Esme. He smiled and reached out for her naked left breast. Giving it a light pat he said. "Don't worry, the Witch is powerless now. From this day forward she is only a slave girl and no longer a danger to anyone." He smiled largely as he ran his hand over her breast. Esme was pushed back tightly against the back of the wagon so she shook her body back and forth pulling her breast out of his grasp. His smile faded. He lifted the tailgate and locked it and the slave bar in place.

Esme could not take her eyes off of the slaver as he walked to the front of the wagon, removed a hood and walked back to Esme. She watched in horror as he opened the hood. "OOOH!" She shrieked, but she could do nothing to prevent the hood being pulled over her head. Her sense of claustrophobia was intense. She could feel the tight leather on her forehead, across her eyes and around the sides of her head, over her cheeks and around her nose where she knew the breathing holes were located.

Then she felt him tightening the laces up the back. What had just made contact with her features now molded itself as if another skin. She could not have this on her face. She needed it off right now. She wailed and shook her head from side to side and up and down trying to shake it loose. It stayed with every movement as if it were a part of her. It was not coming off until the slavers removed it. She could hear the sound of her breathing amplified by the leather, but everything else was now muffled and distant. She never imagined that anything could be so disorienting. How could something so small and simple be so terrible?

What had she done? She had pulled away when he touched her. She didn't want him to touch her. She had never been touched there by another person. It was wrong. He shouldn't touch her there. But, she would be touched there. And she would be touched other places. She was to be a slave and a slave's body belonged to her mistress or master. Esme did not think she could adjust to this, but she knew she needed to. All she had done was twist her breast out of his grasp and now she was hooded waiting for punishment. She lowered her head as much as her restraints allowed and sobbed.

The wagon started to move. Esme found the hood terrible. She could not tell where they were. She had no real sense of where she was. Every movement of the wagon was disorienting. Time was impossible to gage. Her already helpless state was compounded many times over. Instinctively she jerked and pulled at her bound wrists. It was, of course, to no avail. She was held. She tried to turn her head and rub the hood against the side of the wagon, but with her neck chain held tight she could not even reach the side.

Every now and again Esme felt something touch her foot. She was sure it was the Witch. The Witch was right there, across the wagon, but right where she could look at Esme. Esme was certain she was looking at her. She was certain she was thinking up spells to cast and things to do to her. At any touch of her foot she recoiled. She was sure that if she was not hooded and she looked into the eyes of the Witch she would see the demons lurking inside. Not being able to see allowed her mind to create the images. It only added to her terror.

Eventually the wagon stopped. How much time it had been since they left the village was well beyond Esme's ability to discern. She knew that she was about to be punished. But she also knew that after her punishment the awful hood would be released. She would never do anything to have to wear it again.

The gate on the back of the wagon was lowered. There was the sound of someone leaving the wagon. It had to be the Witch. She was the only slave on the chain lower than Esme. Then Esme felt the chain up her back loosen. She knew the clips had been released. Still she did not move until she was signaled to do so. She swung her legs over the back of the wagon as the slaver pulled her ankle hobbles free of the slave bar.

With a slaver holder her arm she put her feet to the ground and stood up. The pain in her feet was intense. They felt like they were completely swollen. She dropped to her knees. They did not make her stand but instead guided her on her knees to the other side of the wagon. She felt a chain clicked to her collar, knowing that is was fastened to a ring at the back of the wagon. She knew she would be held here until her punishment was finished. Once again the hood seemed to be closing in on her. She realized that she was breathing in and out very rapidly. She was starting to hyperventilate. What would they do to her? She did not want to be punished. The memory and fear of the beating she had received back in the room at the inn was so fresh in her mind. She had vowed that she would do what she needed to do to keep from being punished, yet here she was hooded and chained awaiting punishment.

The wagon would shake and move a little as the slavers removed the rest of the slaves. Esme did not know where they were. She did not know if they were standing and watching her about to be punished or had been moved somewhere else. It seemed to her that there must be thousands of eyes on her. She was naked, hooded, chained, and kneeling at the back of a slave wagon. Could anything be more humiliating?

There was a whistling sound and a line of fire erupted across the top of her breasts. There was instantly a bright red line, but Esme could not see it. She screeched behind her muzzle and twisted her body away from the pain. Her hands tried to come up to her injured flesh, but they were held tightly behind her back and could get nowhere near the injury.

As she settled down from the agony of the first stroke there was the sound of another. Again, it was right across the top of her breasts. This hurt. This hurt a lot. She was not sure if it hurt as much as having her feet beaten. The brain does its best to distance itself from such severe pain, but even if the pain was not as severe it was close. It was close enough to make her willing to do anything to not be hit anymore. He was hitting her breasts. They were not supposed to be whipped. She could not let him continue. She turned as best she could until her chest was against the wagon. She could not see where he was but it was the best she could do to restrict his access to the target.

"Turn around and present your breasts for three more strokes."

What, that was not possible. She couldn't be forced to do that. And three more strokes? She had barely survived two strokes. Three more was impossible. She moaned; she tried to plead through the muzzle; she wanted to promise to be good. She wanted to promise to do whatever he wanted. She shook her head back and forth.

The sound of the cane slicing through the air was almost deafening to the poor restrained girl. Pain streaked across her buttocks. She lurched and hopped on her knees as she groaned. The sound again and there was another painful stripe across her buttocks. This bad. This was very bad, but not as bad as the feel on her breasts.

"Turn around and present your breasts for three more strokes."

What? He had just given her two strokes on her bottom. He couldn't expect her to just turn and make her breasts available for more of this awful punishment. She did her best to hunch down, but the chain to her collar kept her up on her knees.

Again the cane sliced through the air. This time it impacted with the back of her upper thighs. So long as she kept her breasts pushed against the wagon she opened her rear and legs for punishment. The state of her complete helplessness was clear. There was nothing she could do to protect herself from the punishment. There was another swish and another slice across her thighs. This hurt terribly. This hurt almost as much as her breasts had hurt.

"Turn around and present your breasts for three more strokes."

The message was clear. He would continue to beat her body until she complied. And, when she complied she would receive three strokes of the cane on her breasts. There was nothing she could do to stop it. She could not resist forever and all she was doing was suffering additional pain. She had no choice but to do as she was commanded.

Esme turned in the direction of the voice. Her buttocks and thighs burned with the strokes they had received. Her breasts burned from the strokes.

"Good. Now present. That means you arch your back and push your breasts forward. Any time that a free person reaches to touch these . . ." His hand reached down and ran over her naked breast, ". . . you will present."

The hand actually felt good. His movement was gentle and it eased the pain from the stripes cut across the top of her breast. Hesitantly she pushed her breasts forward. She waited. The hand had gone away. Fear was overtaking her. She wanted to twist away. She wanted to escape, but she could not escape and twisting away would only result in more punishment. She held her position.

Finally it came. She barely heard the sound of the cane before it struck across the top of her breast. It was awful. It was unbearable; she pulled her body back even though she did not turn away. She screamed through her muzzle.

"Present!" The voice was commanding.

She had no choice she straightened and arched her back and pushed her breasts forward. The stroke came up from below. It did not hurt any more than the strokes to the top of her breasts but it certainly did not hurt any less and it surprised her. Being hooded for punishment increased the terror of the entire experience. She never knew what was going to happen next. She had never in her entire life felt so vulnerable. She moaned and pulled back. At least he seemed to allow that.

"Very good. Present!" Again it was that commanding voice.

Why did she find satisfaction in his praise? He was praising her for being beaten, no, he was recognizing that she had obeyed. This was just too embarrassing for words. Once more stroke, she kept telling herself, just one more stroke then she would be through this. It came. She heard it then she felt it. The pain was too much. He had laid the cane right across both nipples. It hurt so bad she could not even scream. She was gasping for air. She lost her balance and was only stopped from falling by the chain to her collar.


Oh God. No. It wasn't fair. She had taken the five strokes. She had done what she was commanded to do. Was he going to punish her for not keeping position after the stroke? How could she have? The pain had just been too much. But, she knew if she did not obey she would continue to be beaten. Slowly she raised herself. She straightened her back. She thrust her breasts forward. If her face could be seen under the hood the observer would have seen her eyes tightly closed and her face scrunched in anticipation of the pain that was about to come.

There was a touch on her breast. It wasn't the cane. It was his hand. Then the other hand on the other breast. His hands softly caressed the flesh of her breasts. His fingers found the nipples. They were tender and sensitive from the strike of the cane and his touch rippled down through them and through her body. She did not pull away. She would never pull away again. Instead she pushed her breasts forward into his hands. After the pain of the cane the soft hands felt good. Her breasts burned, but the touch was soothing. His touch felt so very good. Then the hands were gone.

"Whenever you are told to present you will push your breasts forward so that they can be touched. You will relish in the touch of your master. Anything else will be most painful." She shook her head up and down. She understood. She would be obedient.

Her breasts hurt terribly. She had completely forgotten her swollen and painful feet. All she could think about was the pain in her breasts. The slaver reached out again and touched her body. She trembled at his touch. Was he satisfied with her? Was he going to beat her some more? She could not handle any more. How could she let him know that she had learned her lesson?

She felt the lacing to the hood begin to loosen. She dropped her head forward to make it easier. She had never been so happy to be rid of anything. As he pulled the hated thing from her head she felt the coolness of the air around her. It felt so good after the claustrophobic confining hood. Her eyes followed the slaver as he carried the hood back and hung it with its three matching partners prominently displayed on the back of the driver's seat, a constant reminder to the slaves, and just waiting for the next infraction.

Esme knew that the very presence of these hateful implements would make her think twice about any resistance, even any hesitancy in obeying orders, any orders. This made clear her situation. She was a slave. She was to obey her masters without question. She could be and would be punished for any failing, real or perceived.

As was normal with any punishment the remainder of the slave chain was kneeling nearby. A three foot, light but strong, chain was clipped to the front ring of each slave. The other end was then clipped to the collar of the next girl up the chain beginning with the end girl, in this case the Witch and continuing until the number one girl had been reached.

The Slaver grasped Esme by the chain at the back of her neck. Released the chain to the front of her collar from the ring in the back of the wagon and moved her over to her place between girl 9 and the Witch. He clipped Esme's chain into the back of the collar of girl number 9 at the same time unclipping the Witch's chain from that girl and fastening it to Esme's collar.

There was always an order on the Chain (as the coffle of slave girls was called) and the higher up on the Chain a girl was placed the more she was deemed to be of value. Esme knew there was an entire social order for such things but she did not know how she was expected to learn it when the slaves were not allowed to talk. She was afraid that the lessons would all be from pain and example. She would have to watch things very closely.

The Chain was moved into a clear area just off the road. Esme had been forced to walk on her feet and to her surprise was actually able to walk, although painfully in the soft dirt. Still, she could not have gone far and she was most happy when only a short distance from the road the slaver ordered the Chain to kneel. Every slave responded quickly and correctly, knees and back straight, head and eyes pointed straight ahead.

A three foot pole was driven deep into the ground near the Witch and a six foot chain from the top of the pole, now only a foot of which showed above the ground, attached to the rear of her collar. By anchoring the end of the Chain all of the Chain was effectively anchored and would go nowhere.

Something was happening on the high end of the chain, but Esme dare not look. It was not until the slaves were told they could relax from their strict position that she observed that girls one, two, three, and four had been released from the Chain. Not only had they been removed from the Chain the clip to their wrist cuffs from the back of their collar had been released and they had stepped over the chain between their wrists so that their arms were now in front of them. Esme wished she could do that. While she had a foot of chain between her wrists it was shortened by the tension of the chain running up her back and her shoulder's ached from the forced posture of having her arms pulled back. But Esme's arms would stay behind her back until, and unless, one of the slavers released the link. She could touch it. She had fingered it. But without the tool possessed only by the slavers it could not be opened.

The top four girls were then separated and joined in pairs by having their front chain's linked together. Thus, each pair was held within six feet of each other. Esme watched as one pair moved toward the woods and began gathering fire wood. The other pair (girls one and two) removed some sacks and a cooking pot from a compartment near the front of the wagon.

At the direction of the head slaver the girls moved rocks into a circle and started to set up a cooking fire. A metal triangle was erected over the location where the fire would be to accommodate a cooking pot. That finished, they used a board and started to prepare food for cooking. Girl one even utilized a large sharp knife to cut food. Esme wondered what she would do if given control over such an implement. She envisioned driving it into the heart of one of the slavers. Then she looked down at the painful stripes on her breasts. She knew she would not dare any act of rebellion.

Meanwhile the pair gathering wood returned with the first arm loads and began setting the base for the cooking fire. Esme at first wondered why the high girls had been selected to do the work while the rest just watched, but then she realized that the relative freedom and the ability to move around and do something was in fact a privilege. These were the privileged girls, they were allowed to work. It also showed that they were trusted, at least to some degree. They still wore chains on their wrists and their ankles were hobbled. Escape was still all but impossible and any act of disobedience or rebellion would lose such a girl her place on the Chain. Something she would never risk.

Esme gave these top four girls a careful look. What was so special about them? Esme realized that she was number 10 girl. She was almost at the bottom of the Chain. The only creature below her was the Witch. She looked over at the Witch. At least there was somebody below her. She looked up the line at the other slaves. She did not deserve to be number 10. She was certainly better than that. But, she was new. She had only been on the Chain for a day. They would see. They would learn. She would move up the Chain.

Esme looked at number one girl. She was beautiful. She had flowing blonde hair, a trim waist and well formed breasts. Even in chains she moved with a gracefulness that Esme found very attractive. Ok, that was pretty tough competition.

She continued her appraisal running down the rest of the Chain. Esme decided that she would have a tough time beating two. Three would be a contest, but four? Esme was clearly better than four. Esme should be at least girl number four.

Then she stopped and looked around. She looked down at her naked body to her chained ankles. She gasped, feeling again the tight packing of her mouth under the muzzle. They had made her a slave. She didn't want to be number four girl. She didn't want to be a slave. She didn't belong on the Chain. She had money waiting for her. She was meant to be free. She jerked and pulled at her wrists. They were held tightly in their cuffs, chained behind her back and to her neck. She could never remove these cuffs. She could never release herself.

She looked down at the chain attached to the front of her collar. She followed it with her eyes up to the number nine girl's collar. Then she turned and looked at the chain from the back of her collar leading to the front of the collar of the Witch. She was chained and connected in coffle as a part of the Chain. There was nothing she could do to get away. And the slavers would direct her as they saw fit. Their orders were the law. They would expect her to act in certain ways. And if she did not do as expected she would be punished. She looked down at the red stripes across her breasts. Nothing in her young life had hurt so badly. Well, maybe the caning of her feet the night before. Her feet were still swollen and painful even to touch. She lowered her head and sobbed.

While Esme was conducting her appraisal of the other slaves and feeling sorry for herself the 'privileged' slaves finished the preparation of the meal. The slavers sat around the fire while the top four dished plates of food and served them, and then knelt, waiting for further direction. The slavers ate, talking to each other, with no regard for the slaves kneeling nearby or for those on the Chain.

Esme could small the food. She realized that she was very hungry. She had not eaten since dinner the night before. From the longing looks on the faces of some of the other slaves they shared her hunger. They watched as the free persons consumed the food. They hoped there would be something for the slaves when the slavers had finished. Several of the girls groaned when one of the slavers handed his dish to a slave with directions to bring him more.

When the slavers had had their fill they handed the plates back to the privilege slaves, removed their muzzles, and told them to eat. The top four sat near the fire sharing the leftovers from their masters' three plates. The Chain watched, stomachs now beginning to rumble, the hunger enhanced by the aroma and the visual stimulation of others eating. Occasionally one of the privileged slaves would look over at the Chain. There was a smile designed to invoke jealousy. It worked. Esme hated those smug girls. She was clearly better than at least one of them. She should not be held here on the Chain while they were allowed to eat. She should have been one of the girls serving the masters. She should be sitting by the fire eating. The top four even added to the leftovers from the pot. This evoked some groans from the Chain.

When the top four had finished they removed four more plates from the wagon, they now had a total of seven. They waited by the cooking pot until they were signaled by one of the slavers. Then they began dishing food onto the seven plates. One pair of girls held the plates and dished the food; the other pair took the plates and set them down, one each in front of the seven chained girls. Esme looked at the plate that had been placed in front of her. It did not look bad. She could see gravy and vegetables. There was a small lump that may have been a meat. She was very hungry now. It didn't matter how this tasted she wanted it. But, she was still chained and muzzled. All she could do was look at it and smell the now very close food. She did look up the chain to see if other girls had received preferential treatment. She thought maybe a couple had, but she could not be sure.

After the food had been placed in front of all of the slaves the slaver ordered "Present." All of the girls came to a kneeling position backs straight, heads up, eyes ahead, even the Witch. This was no time to be disobedient.

The slaver walked up and down the Chain several times looking at and touching several of the girls. They held their position perfectly. Finally satisfied he walked down the line removing the muzzles. Each was clipped to the back of the girl's collar for ease of replacement.

Esme welcomed the freedom of her mouth. She moved her jaw to work on the knots. She said nothing. None of the girls dared to speak.

Finally the slaver ordered the girls to eat. Unlike the privileged girls the remaining seven still had their hands chained behind their back. How could they eat? Esme looked up the line and saw that the girls up the Chain had dropped to their bellies and pressed their faces into the plates. As Esme knelt looking at the degrading posture of the other slaves she felt a sharp pain across her shoulders. "Eat". The command was clear. Esme dropped to the ground and started to eat.

Esme heard groaning and whimpering from her left. It was the Witch. The Witch lay on her stomach with her face pressed obediently down into the bowl, but her swollen cut tongue made it almost impossible to eat. She sucked at the gravy and tried to maneuver pieces of vegetable and meat back into her mouth. With each attempt there was a squeal of pain. Esme did not know if it was hunger or the fear of the whip that inspired the Witch to push her face into the bowl and try to overcome the pain. Esme for a moment forget the demon and felt pangs of sorrow for the poor girl. Then she remembered. A witch should suffer. Esme did not feel sorry for her any more.

As the seven slaves ate the top four cleaned the cooking implements and returned them all to the wagon. One pair had taken a bucket to the nearby river and returned with water. They had then arranged and laid out furs for their masters around the fire. The air was starting to grow cool and Esme wished she were closer to the fire. They were just far enough away to not feel any heat.

The slaves were given what seemed like a very short period of time to finish their food before the "Present" command was given again and they all rose to their knees. A slaver followed by one of the pairs of top girls inspected the plates and the slaves. If the slaver was satisfied then the privilege girl washed the face of the slave. As soon as the slave was clean her muzzle was returned. Every slave dutifully opened her mouth to receive the hated intrusive leather ball and held still while the straps of the muzzle were buckled about her head. If the slaver was not satisfied he pointed to any portion of food left on the plate while the girl in front of him cringed. The only exception was the Witch. She was still not muzzled, her swollen tongue serving an adequate purpose.

Esme had not known that there was a rule to leave the plate completely clean. Nobody told her the rules; they just expected her to watch and learn and to learn from the pain of her mistakes. Three of the slaves, including Esme, did not passed inspection and each received two strokes of the cane on their bottom. The Witch, of course, was one. With her split swollen tongue it was almost impossible for her to eat. Never-the-less, she was not excused from the beating for not having eaten all before her.

Esme whimpered and whined. Her breasts hurt, her feet were swollen and very painful and her bottom had now received enough strokes to hurt. She did not want to be beaten any more.

The top four girls had finished their camp tasks. Without any reluctance or question, in fact seemingly happy, they stepped back through their wrist chains and turned so the slavers could reconnect the chain from the back of their collar. Then the muzzles were replaced and they returned to their place at the top of the Chain.

The slavers walked up and down the Chain. All of the girls knelt up and seemed to be doing all they could to catch the attention of the slavers. At last three were selected, girls 3, 6, and 8. They were removed from the Chain and the Chain was closed down to fill the gap. The upper girls had to move down since the bottom of the Chain was anchored. The three selected girls were led to the sleeping area that had been set up for the slavers. They each knelt by the furs of the slaver who had selected her and watched while the slaver fed a spike through the end of the chain from the girl's neck and then pounded it into the ground next to the sleeping area. She would not be able to wander off during the night.

Esme could see that the slavers were getting ready to bed down. She was already feeling a bit cold and she knew that the nights were quite chilly here. She wondered if the slaves would just be left bare on the ground. That would make for a pretty uncomfortable night. She hoped they would at least give her something to cover her body.

Esme's hopes were inflated when she saw the slavers bringing what looked like canvas sacks from the wagon. A sack was laid out on the ground in front of each girl. Then the slavers, starting with the bottom three, which included both Esme and the Witch, opened the bag and directed the girl to step inside. Once standing inside the bag she was made to squat. The bag was then pulled up over her body and a threaded slip chain at the neck was pulled tightening the top of the bag around her neck.

The chain was fastened to a clip on the outside of the bag, but there was no way for a person inside the bag to reach the clip, release the neck, or get out of the bag, even if she had the use of her hands. Esme tried to tell herself that at least she was covered from the cold, but feelings of claustrophobia washed over her. She wanted to scream - she was prevented by the tight muzzle. She wanted to jump up and run - She was chained and fastened inside the bag. She could shake her body back and forth, but from the outside that didn't even look like anything.

They laid her down on the ground insuring that her neck chains were tight between her and the Witch below and slave 9 above. The bag was much shorter than Esme would have liked - even if she had liked sleeping in a bag. She could not extend her legs. In fact, she would not even fully extend her knees. She hated this bag. She hated her chains. She hated her muzzle. She hated being a slave. She did not want to do this. She wanted her life back. But she had no control or ability to change any of these things that she hated. She could only endure.

Esme was certain she could not sleep this way, but she had no choice in the matter. There was really no choice. She looked up the Chain. One after another pretty young female heads emerged from the tight top of the canvas bag. They looked like a string of carefully wrapped presents.

For a long time she listened to the sounds of the three selected slaves pleasing the masters. She wondered what she would have done if she were selected. She did not think she could do the things she would be expected to do. She was still mortified just from being touched the night before when she was captured, not to mention the humiliation she felt over being made to kneel naked before these men. The night before - was it really just the night before. Had she really only been a slave for a day. She cried and then she slept.

Esme woke to sounds around her. She opened her eyes and squirmed to change her position sufficient to see what was happening. One of the slavers held girl number six by the chain to the front of her collar. He had made her kneel between the Witch and the post that had been driven into the ground. Then he removed the chain that was anchored to the post in the ground from the back of the Witch's collar and instead fastened it to the back of the collar of girl number 6. She sobbed as he did this. The chain from the front of her collar then was fastened to the back of the collar of the Witch. Girl number six was not longer number six. She must have been displeasing. She had been moved to the end of the Chain. She was now girl number 11.

Esme looked the other direction and saw that girl number three was returned to her old location, but girl number eight was now moved up to the number five position. This moved the old girl five down to six. Seven stayed in her original place because six had been moved to the end of the Chain. But the girls below eight, including Esme, now moved up one place. Esme was now girl nine. She found some pleasure in having moved up a position on the Chain, although she still looked at the girls above her with the knowledge that she was better than most and should clearly be in a higher position.

She did wonder what the girl had done to be moved to the end of the Chain. The old girl number six was not only now girl number eleven she was in position below the Witch. How could that be? Esme realized that the Chain was dynamic. And she had learned the night before that higher position on the Chain came with privilege. She wanted to move up the Chain.

NO. She didn't want to be on the Chain. She did not want to be a slave she wanted her life back. She had moved up a position on the Chain, but she was still a naked chained slave, connected at the neck to the rest of the slaves, and locked in a canvas bag to sleep.

Esme's dismay was enhanced when the slaver who had moved the former number six girl to the end of the Chain returned with a hood and fastened it over the girl's head. She began to sob even louder through her muzzle as she saw him approach with the hated object. The rest of the Chain grew still and very quiet.

Only when the girl who had fallen from grace was hooded did the slavers begin to open the bags and release the slaves from their sleeping positions. Esme was happy to crawl out of the bag. The chain to the post now anchored to the new girl eleven was released and used to guide the slave girls to an area just off the road. Esme's feet hurt and were still very swollen, but she was too afraid not to get on her feet and limp to the designated area. Once in place the slavers signaled the girls to perform their required bodily function. Esme was horrified. She needed to go. She had been holding it that last hour or so, very afraid that she would soil the bag. What would be the punishment for that? She didn't even want to think about it. As she watched the other girls squat and let go she was overcome with humiliation and shame. This could not be happening. This was just too much.

Esme looked to the end of the Chain. Even the new girl eleven, hooded, squatted and performed her duty. Esme looked at the hood going in and out with the girl's breathing. She remembered the feel and the terror of the hood. She looked over at the wagon and saw the other hoods hanging there. She sobbed, but she squatted and forced herself to let go. As she felt, heard, and smelled the discharge from her body she closed her eyes. She was sure that all three slavers were looking at her. She was being treated like an animal not a person.

When the girls had performed to the satisfaction of the slavers they were once again guided to the wagon. One by one, following the new order of the Chain, they crawled up into the bed, their hobble chain central ring fitted over the slave bar. The collar chain, attaching each girl to the next, was only released once the hobble chain was safely over the slave bar, and then the girl moved up to her position, sat with her back to the side and was once again fastened into place. The entire process was efficient and completely secure. There was never an opportunity for a girl to even try to run.

Esme now found herself on the left side of the wagon. She was in spot number nine. To her horror this placed the Witch, now in spot number ten, directly across from her. That meant that there was no way for Esme to avoid having her feet touching the Witch's feet. It also meant that the face of the Witch was directly in front of her. The girl's eyes were sad. She was the only slave not muzzled, but Esme wished she were. The girl had trouble keeping her mouth closed. Today, the tongue was badly swollen and, with its two distinct parts, it looked like snakes were roiling around in her mouth. The sight was terrifying. They had said that the Witch's powers had been neutralized by splitting her tongue, but was that really true? Would the demon in the Witch try to escape by jumping into Esme. If she was forced by the leg chains to be in physical contact with the Witch could that provide an escape for the demon? Esme was so consumed with her fear of the Witch that she lost track of the rest of her plight.

The newly demoted girl number eleven sat next to Esme on the left side of the wagon. She was sobbing softly under her hood. Esme tried not to look at her. Every slave in the wagon knew that this girl had failed to please a master and that she was now the lowest ranking slave, and tonight, when the wagon stopped, she would be punished. Esme shivered at the thought.

The wagon moved on slowly. The countryside looked pretty much the same. The view from port was not much different than it had been from starboard. The seat was no more comfortable than where Esme had been before. She was troubled by the knowledge that previous occupant of that position - the girl who was not in the eighth position - had almost certainly peed onto the metal grill just the day before. Esme had gone through the grill where the Witch now sat. She had not seen them wash down the inside of the wagon. But, there was nothing she could do about it. She was sure she could smell the acrid smell, but it might be her imagination.

She tried to divert her attention to the area outside the wagon, the trees and hills. The weather was warm with only a slight breeze. She would enjoy the scene, if she were not a chained slave bouncing on a hard metal grill set in the bottom of a slaver's wagon. She looked up the line of slaves. They all looked very sad. Even girls two and four, up at the top of the right side - the privileged slaves - did not now show the same attitude they had the night before in the camp. Esme wondered how much of their attitude was an act to try to impress the masters and preserve their position on the Chain.

Esme looked at the Witch. She was looking off to the side, watching as the country side slipped by. She looked so young, so innocent; she could not be more than a year or two older than Esme. She did not look hard, or even dangerous, at least until she opened her mouth. Esme wondered how she had become a witch. Was it something she sought out? Was it done to her? That thought was very frightening. What would it feel like to be a witch? What would it be like to have such power? But it was an evil thing and such a person was doomed. Just look at this creature sitting with her tongue split. What horrible things had she done? She had been married, Esme remembered talk of that, but her husband had died. Did the Witch have a hand in that? Was her power really gone or just lying dormant below the surface. The Witch turned her head back and made eye contact with Esme. Esme's body shuddered and she quickly looked away.

Most of the days travel was uneventful. Occasionally they would pass a farm; sometimes they would meet another traveler. Several times men walked over to the wagon to check out the merchandise. With her back held straight Esme's breasts stuck out straight. They were a tremendous invitation to touch, and touched there were. She closed her eyes and pretended she was somewhere else, but she did not pull away or do anything to interfere with this until now unthinkable invasion of her person. One glance at the hoods hanging from the back of the driver's seat and her memory of the day before was sufficient to cure any such thought or rebellion, no matter how slight.

At one farm the farmer brought out his three daughters. He made them stand by the wagon and look at what happened to disobedient girls. The oldest was perhaps 16, the youngest no more than 8. The older girl made eye contact with Esme then dropped her eyes and shuddered. The youngest girl could not take her eyes off the slaves. Certainly they had both seen plenty of slaves before. But, they had probably not seen a slaver's wagon with freshly enslaved women near their own age. The farmer looked like a cruel strict man. Esme decided that the older girl was counting herself lucky that her father was not in a bad mood. The girl's eyes went to the empty twelfth position in the wagon. Only her father's momentary good mood separated her from an ignominious fate. Would the girl be married off to a local or was she destined to end up as Esme now was? Esme decided she did not like the girl's chances.

Esme expected that the wagon would stop before dusk so camp could be established while there was still light. Esme was surprised when they kept on even as the light started to fade. Moving in the twilight gave her an uneasy feeling. Would they be put upon by highwaymen? Then she laughed. Even through her muzzle it could be heard. Highwaymen indeed - the goods might be in danger of being stolen. Only she was the goods. The Witch and girl 8 looked up at Esme with a look of curiosity. She would have liked to share her thoughts, but the slaves could not share anything verbal. Esme realized just how much she missed just being able to talk to someone. She hated the slavers. Taking her was so wrong, but here and now there was nothing she could do about it other than obey and try to keep from being beaten.

There was just a glimmer of light left on the horizon when the wagon pulled up at a collection of buildings. It was not a town or a village more like a farm or ranch. There was a large house, a barn, some outbuildings and a stable. Two horses watched from the stable.

The slavers stopped the wagon near the barn, opened the tail gate and began to remove the Chain. One by one, as released from the wagon side, the girls slipped their leg shackles down the bar and were guided out onto the ground. As each girl exited the wagon she was locked into coffle from the back of her collar to the front of the collar of the girl who had just exited. From the back of the collar of the first slave removed, the new slave eleven, a chain held her locked to a ring in the back of the wagon. She was still hooded and now separated from the rest of the chain.

The remaining slaves were then removed, each immediately locked into the coffle. As if escape was ever an option for a slave with her arms locked behind her and her legs in shackles. But even then no slave was ever free of a chain leash and/or connection to the coffle.

After the entire Chain had been removed from the wagon and placed in coffle, and the new girl eleven beaten, the slavers led them toward the barn like building. Esme did not think the beating was quite as bad as what she had received the night before. Esme's buttocks were still sore from the beating, aggravated by the days ride. Her back and shoulders hurt and her legs were stiff. She wanted an opportunity to stretch her muscles, but restrained as she was it was hard to find any relief. At least she would be able to sleep out of the elements tonight.

Just inside the door of the building Esme saw what at first looked like a long narrow slave pen but what was really a line of low slave cages. One by one the girls were removed from the chain and guided into a cage. Each cage was about five feet wide, three feet tall and not more than four feet deep. The back was a brick wall. The sides and top were bars set about six inches apart. The side bar of one cage made up the side bar of the next cage in line. Thus, a girl in one of the cages would be able to actually press up against a girl in one of the cages next to her if that girl moved up against the bars. But that would not be necessary as each cage was designed to accommodate two slaves.

The front of the cage lifted straight up so that the entire front was open. All of the openings yawned open now. Only after two girls were maneuvered into a cage was the door closed. The chain from the front of each collar was then clipped to a ring in the front of the gate, evenly spaced apart. The ring was outside the cage. It could perhaps be manipulated by a person with free use of their arms, but was virtually impossible to reach for the chained slaves.

The gate of the cage locked with a bolt in the lower corner. The mesh of the cage door was close enough together in the region of the bolt to deny access to anyone inside, even if she had the use of her hands. The slaves were not going anywhere.

Esme and the Witch were guided into a cage. Esme was in first. After entering and watching her chain locked into place she saw that there were head size openings in the gate and in the ceiling portion just in front of the gate. A girl would be able to get her head out either hole, but they were both too small to allow any more of her body to escape the confines of the cage. The floor of the cage was old wood planking with a light cover of hay. Not much softer than the wagon but, it was not bouncing, and it seemed she could move around a bit. Esme did her best to explore her new domain. She could not stand. She could not even come to a full kneel position inside the cage. She would not be able to stretch out although she could lay down curled up.

The Witch had withdrawn to the farthest available corner and pressed herself back against the wall.

After the last girl had been caged the slavers ordered the girls to come forward and kneel at the front of the cage with their heads out the hole in the front of the gate. The crack of the whip emphasized the importance of doing as they were told.

The hole was about two feet off the ground. If she squatted down fully on her legs her back raised slightly Esme found she was able to align her head to the hole.

The wood floor was not comfortable on her knees. She wished her hands were allowed to be in front of her. At least she could then use them for some support. One of the slavers came down the line of slaves and moved a bar behind the necks of each girl. When it slid down it clicked into place. Her head, and the heads of the other ten slaves, were now held tightly in place. She was able to turn and see the clip on the bar, only a few inches from her head, which held the bar in place. It would take almost no effort to release it, but with her hands chained behind her back it was just as secure as a padlock. Esme sighed as best she could through her muzzle.

The slavers then folded up a board to create a narrow platform just below the faces of the slaves. Then, working down the line each girl's muzzle was removed and hung on a hook in the gate next to her head. As one slaver removed the muzzles a second placed a bowl of water in front of each girl.

As much as she hated being watered and feed like an animal Esme was terribly thirsty and very hungry. She welcomed the opportunity to push her face down into the cool water and suck large mouthfuls up. She had to rise up on her knees to get her face down, but with the change in angle it was easy to accomplish. Fearful that the water would be quickly removed Esme drank as quickly as she could, but the slavers were now in no hurry. The girls were left for 15 or 20 minutes to enjoy the liquid.

Then, starting at the top of the Chain a slaver walked down the line with a bag and poured a mixture of grain and dried fruit into each now empty bowl. Esme's face was wet from the water and the food quickly stuck to her cheeks and chin, but she did not care. She was hungry and the food, although simple, tasted good. Besides, her head was locked forward just over the bowl and there was nothing she could do about that.

Esme thought about how degrading it was to have someone else control such normally personal aspects of your life, but realized that part of the lesson was that as a slave her body and her person were no longer hers. She was a thing to be owned by others and they, not her, would decide what she would do and when she would do it - this included when she would eat, what she would eat, and how much she would eat. If she didn't eat all that was before her she would be punished. She had been punished enough. She did not need more. She especially did not need more for failing to do something she wanted to do. She ate.

Esme could hear the Witch, her body almost touching Esme's, groaning and yipping with pain as she tried to eat the food. She was making sounds that sounded almost like words. This was very frightening because splitting her tongue was supposed to have rendered her mute. How could this be? Did that mean she would soon be able to start casting spells? Esme assumed that the slavers would be the primary focus of any such effort. She pictured the three slavers turned into pigs running about the floor of the barn with their clothing hanging loosely off their now changed bodies. The image made her chortle. This drew a look from the number 8 girl right next to her, and then from the Witch. Esme froze when the Witch looked at her. Esme pressed her face back into her food and did her best to act as if she did not see the Witch looking at her. Being so close to a witch who seemed to be regaining her power was more than terrifying. The Witch looked back into her bowl and returned to the task of eating, accompanied by an increasing cacophony of noises and sounds.

After a time, one of the slavers returned. He was accompanied by a slave girl with her wrists chained before her. She carried a bowl of liquid and a soft looking rag. Beginning with girl eleven she set the bowl of liquid down next to the now empty food bowl. On a signal from the slaver she moved the food bowl out of the way. The slaver than lifted the girl's head by her hair and held it while the slave dipped the rag in the bowl of water and washed the girl's face. When she had finished the slaver removed the muzzle from where it was hooked on the outside of the slave cage and reapplied it to the girl. She opened her mouth and received the hated plug with no word or movement of protest or reluctance.

Finished with that girl, they moved up the line, next the Witch (still not muzzled), and then Esme. Esme knew better than resist and she was quickly cleaned and muzzled.

Esme looked over at the slave girl standing meekly to the side of the slaver. This girl seemed to move with efficiency and grace in spite of her chains. Clearly she was not new to her slavery. Esme wondered how she would adapt to this new life that seemed unavoidable. But just the thought made her stomach lurch and her throat swell.

After all of the girls were cleaned and once more safely muzzled the slave girl collected all of the empty bowls and left. Although she wore chains, at least she was not leashed and led around. Would Esme find enjoyment in such simple but restricted freedom? She hung her head. He back was now hurting from the enforced position. She desperately wanted to at least be able to straighten up and sit back. The three foot height of the cage would not allow more than sitting, but right now that would be heaven.

Esme's hopes were elevated when the slaver lifted the bar from the neck of girl eleven. Then to Esme's surprise he opened the front of the cage, unlocked the girls lead chain and guided her out onto the floor. Without saying a word he led the girl away leaving the remaining slaves locked by the neck in their cages. Esme shifted uncomfortably in her restrained position, once again finding herself darkened with the gloom of her situation.

After a time - there is no real sense of time for a chained slave - the slaver brought back girl eleven. Esme watched as they approached but turned her head away not daring to catch the eye of the slaver. She heard the pen next to her opened and sensed the girl climbing inside.

Another slaver appeared on the other end of the pens and the slavers released the bars holding the necks of the girls. This allowed the slaves to move back into the pens and lay down. The slaver who had taken girl eleven moved over in front of the pen Esme shared with the Witch and opened it. Esme looked up at him in terror and slipped back to the rear of the pen, but he showed no interest in her. Instead, he released the chain anchoring the Witch and withdrew her from the pen. When she was standing outside he closed the pen gate and latched it in place. Esme was now alone in her pen.

Esme wondered what they had done to girl eleven. The girl was now curled up in the back corner of her pen with her back to Esme and the other girls. Esme thought she detected a shiver run through the girl. What were they doing with the Witch? Was Esme next?

She was. The slaver returned leading the Witch. Her head was down and tears streaked her face. Esme's eyes were drawn away from her face and instead to her loins. All the hair between the Witch's legs was gone but there was something else there. It was red, shinny, a stone of some sort, perhaps an inch in diameter. It dangled from a gold colored ring piercing the right labia of the Witch. Esme could see carving in the stone. It was an amulet. She had been right to worry about the Witches remaining powers. It was clear that extra protection had been taken. It must have been very painful for the Witch, but Esme did not care. She was happy that the slavers had taken this extra precaution. After all, Esme was the one now sharing a cage with the Witch. Esme did not want this Witch to have any ability to cast any spells.

The Witch was very quiet. The moans and distorted groans that had become so familiar were not to be heard. Esme had been worried that the splitting of the Witches tongue had not seemed to mute her as advertised. But now she appeared to be mute. Had the amulet finished off what the tongue splitting had started? Perhaps! The reality, of course, was much simpler. In the back room, where each girl was in turn taken, the Witch had been strapped to a chair. Once her head had been secured and her mouth propped open, the doctor, using a modification of a surgical tool known as a tonsil guillotine had quickly and efficiently isolated and cut her vocal cords. It was an easy open mouth operation that left no outward mark and only minimal bleeding. The Witch was now completely and irreversibly mute and would remain so for the rest of her life, convincing all who saw her that her powers as a witch were under control.

The cage was opened and the Witch crawled back in. Esme moved to the side away from her. The slaver did not close the gate. Instead, he unfastened Esme's chain and gestured for her to crawl out and follow. Bereft of any alternative she complied.

As Esme was led down the corridor she wished she had tried to take a better look at the first slave girl. Something must have been done to her because she had crawled into her cage and curled up with her back to Esme and the other slaves. Esme had not really even looked at the Witch upon her return. Her full attention had been called to the area between her legs and the amulet fastened there. She was suddenly worried that she would be adorned in a similar manner, but that did not make any sense. Esme was not a witch so there was no reason for them to take any precautions with her.

Then Esme began to quake with fear. What Esme was that could draw attention was a virgin. Was that status about to change? She looked at the strong back of the man pulling her along by her lead chain. He was not ugly, even handsome in a rugged fashion. But this was not how she had perceived the departure of her maidenhead. She, like most young girls, had romantic visions of being swept off her feet. The suitor would be refined of speech and manner. He would display a fit body with finely chiseled features. He would be firm yet gentle. She would feel safe and protected in his arms and long to be carried into his bed.

That vision, the dream, was driven away by the now very real nightmare of her present existence. She was surely about to be deflowered, but it would be a course ugly, even brutal affair, in which her feelings and pleasure would be nonexistent, even counterproductive to the lesson that it would be meant to instill. The lesson was that she was no longer a person, she no longer had control over her person or body, she was property, and she could, and she would, be treated as property.

Esme was led into a room the center piece of which was a large sturdy chair. But it was no ordinary chair. Braces and straps were set at what seemed to be strange locations.

Esme was turned and pushed back into the chair. She did not resist, she had learned that was not allowed. The seat of the chair was curved so that her buttocks perched on a narrow shelf of only about six inches. A brace supported her lower back and a belt from that brace was cinched around her waist pulling her back tightly. Another brace crossed her upper back allowing a strap across her chest just above her breasts. He arms fit through a space in the back of the chair allowing the two belts to hold her tightly.

Two protruding braces were moved and adjusted against the sides of her head. Another brace at the back of her neck when combined with a strap across her forehead held her head unmovable.

From the seat of the chair a metal brace was adjusted along the back of each leg and her leg was strapped at the upper thigh, knee and ankle. The leg braces held her legs and allowed them to be moved and positioned. Esme gave a small shriek when the back of the chair reclined slightly and her legs were pulled up and out. The result was that she was pushed up to expose her loins in what felt like a very provocative fashion. She would never have assumed such a demeaning and humiliating position, but fastened as she was there was nothing she could do about it.

When Esme was locked into place the slaver stepped aside and an older man that she had not seen before came forward. His face showed at least a day's growth of beard. He had the rugged look that Esme liked, but he was at least twice her age and did not have the chiseled features she wanted. She wondered if this would be her assailant. We this be the man who took her maidenhead? If it was to be there was nothing she could do to prevent it.

His hands moved over her body. Thankfully they were soft and his touch was not harsh. She was encouraged. He lifted each breast. He examined the nipple and seemed to test the weight and firmness of her flesh. He ran his hands over her abdomen and down between her legs. He pushed through the hair at her loins and she felt his fingers enter her. No man's hand had ever been there before. Esme blushed. There was nothing sexual about the way he was touching her. If he was going to deflower her couldn't he at least make it somewhat romantic?

She wondered if his hand would push through her hymen. He did not. She could feel his fingers inspecting her virginity, but he did not push any further.

The man turned and said something to the corner of the room. Esme has been so caught up in the feel of his hands that she completely missed what he had said. Then she saw the slave girl come forward. She carried a small bowl which she sat down on a small stool between Esme's legs.

Esme tried to look down but her head was pulled back by the strap across her forehead. She felt something warm and wet. The girl was doing something between Esme's legs. Then she felt scraping and pulling. Esme looked down her nose as best she could. She was being shaved. She was humiliated at the thought of having the hair between her legs removed. It was the only protection in her nudity and it was being taken away. There was nothing she could do to prevent it so she looked up at the ceiling and sobbed into her muzzle.

When the girl had finished her task and dried Esme's beauty lips and surrounding area with a soft towel she stepped away and then knelt. The man stepped forward and ran his hand over the freshly shaved flesh. Esme could hear the slave girl breathing heavily. Had she become excited by the task? Esme decided that was not the case, the girl was merely terrified that the man would find some fault with her work. It he did, it would likely mean a beating.

The man seemed satisfied. He said something else to the girl and she retreated to the corner once more returning with another bowl. The man turned his attention to Esme. She tested the straps that held her in place pulling the thigh straps another notch.

The girl was holding a bowl and Esme could smell the strong smell of vinegar. Esme hoped they were not going to put vinegar on her freshly shaved womanhood. She expected that would burn like the blazes and the thought made her very afraid.

Esme's muzzle could not hold back her gasp when she saw the man hold up a long thong of leather dripping vinegar back into the bowl. On the end held in his hand was a large awful looking needle. It looked more like an awl for working leather.

With his left hand he squeezed Esme's beauty lips together and pushed the needle through near the top of her slit. Esme felt the needle push through first one lip and then through the other. She felt the leather being drawn through the wound. She felt the burn of the vinegar in the fresh wound. The pain was worse than the cane. It was worse than anything Esme had ever experienced. Her entire body stiffened and she screamed - although what came out was greatly muffled.

The man looked up into her face and smiled. "This is for your own protection. And the vinegar will protect and clean the wounds." He looked back down at his work.

When he had pulled the thong to within about six inches of the end he tied a knot in the two ends and then treaded them under the stitch that now joined Esme's beauty lips. Then he moved down about half an inch and repeated the process. When the needle emerged having once again pierced Esme's most intimate parts the running end was looped back through the portion of the line that ran down from the stitch above thus pulling the line to the middle. There were now four burning holes in Esme's body. The vinegar felt like liquid fire. Esme was now twisting and struggling with all her strength to try to escape the chair. The result was almost indistinguishable.

The man paid no attention to Esme or her screams. He proceeded down another half inch and repeated the process placing a stitch of leather into Esme's body. Once again he fed the running end back through the line coming down from the strap above.

The man then picked up a small metal funnel. He inserted it into Esme's body at the lower part of what was left of her opening. Then he returned to his stitching. Esme screamed and struggled but one stitch at a time her beauty lips were closed sealing the prize of her virginity behind the leather lacing. Esme was not to be raped. She was not to be deflowered. Instead this was a valuable asset that was to be sealed and protected. Esme wished the man had just raped her.

When her crotch was fully laced it looked like the seam on a modern American football. The stitching was even and straight. This man had obviously performed this task before. The lips were held tightly together.

The two ends of the lacing extended from the bottom of the stitches. The man fed the back stitch back up over the bottom stitch. Then he pulled both ends of the thong through channels in the back of a brass medallion about an inch in diameter. After pressing it tightly against the bottom stitch he used a clamp to close it over the two ends of leather. He cut away the loose leather.

Esme's beauty lips were now tightly stitched and the stitching sealed at the bottom to certify the treasure that was protected within. This treasure was protected from everyone, even Esme. Until the stitches were cut away nothing could get in. The end of the small funnel protruded from the sealed flesh just below the medallion. This would allow liquids to drain from her body.

Esme did not want anyone to see her like this. The fact that she had been fully shaved to allow for this indignity only made it worse. The man ran his hand over the tightly confined flesh and smiled. The slaver stepped forward. To Esme's dismay his hand found her flesh and fingered the stitching. The touch hurt. The thong had been soaked in vinegar and any touching caused more of the awful liquid to seep out of the leather and into the fresh wounds. Esme wanted to touch her poor tortured flesh. She wanted to massage it and try to make it feel better, but she could do nothing. Her hands were chained and held behind her tightly strapped body.

The man now walked around and stood next to Esme's head. She looked up into his eyes like a rabbit looking at a stout. She was frozen in place; her mind seemed to be blank.

The man signaled the slave girl forward again. Esme could not even imagine what horror may be about to descend upon her next. The man's hands were on her face. She tried to turn away - she could not. She tried to pull back - she could not. She could only moan and groan into the muzzle.

He pushed his fingers up into her nostrils. It was invasive and humiliating. He pinched his fingers against her septum and wiggled them back and forth. Then he reached back and took a black metal tool from the slave girl. Esme could see that what looked like a pincher, but with a solid flat piece on one side and a half inch long punch on the other.

"Oh God. Please. No!" Esme tried to enunciate her fear and feelings, but nothing came out. It was not just the muzzle holding in the sounds, her vocal cords were frozen.

She felt the metal in her nose. She felt the two sides closing, the punch side pushing into the soft flesh and cartilage of her septum. She felt the pressure then she heard the pop as the punch drove through opening a hole. Esme closed her eyes. She could no longer watch. She did not want to see the eyes of this man. She had expected that he would remove her virginity. Instead he had stolen her pride and innocence. The loss of her virginity would have been so much less invasive.

Esme was not surprised when the man slipped a heavy ring through the new hole in her septum. She was not surprised when she felt it crimped closed. She was not surprised when she was removed from the chair and pushed down over an anvil as the ends of the ring were joined.

She knew that this was one more way that she could be controlled, but more importantly it was a visible mark of her status as a slave. Even if she could shed her chains, even if she could find clothing to hide her body, she could look no free person in the face without them immediately knowing that she was a slave.

The slaver led Esme back to her cage. She walked with her head down. She did not want anyone, even the other slave girls, to see the degradation and humiliation she felt over her now tightly stitched loins and the new ring hanging over the top of her muzzle.

The Witch was in the back of the cage turned away. She did not turn back to look at Esme and the slaver. Esme crawled into the cage and turned briefly to watch the slaver fasten the chain from the front of her collar to the ring outside the cage and close and lock the cage door. He then moved on to the next cage and withdrew that girl.

Esme turned away from the other slaves and curled up against the bars. She pulled her legs up to her chest and sobbed into her muzzle. She had not even dreamed that life could be so horrible. How was she going to do this? How was she going to live a life of being a slave? It just wasn't possible.

Esme did not move as the other girls were removed one by one and taken to their fate and then returned. Esme did not inspect them on their return. She did not know if their loins were stitched or adorned. She had seen the provocative gestures of most of the other girls. Certainly they were not virgins. She wished she had not been one. The stitching through her beauty lips burned from the vinegar. She hoped it would dry quickly, but she thought she could feel the leather starting to shrink as it dried. How tight would it get? It didn't really matter, it was already too tight to get anything past, and there was not a thing she could do about it.

After all of the girls had made their visit up the hall and been returned to their cages the three slavers returned. The head slaver ordered "Present". Esme felt her body tremble. She wanted to stay curled up on the floor of her cage, but even in the few days of her slavery she was too frightened to ignore an order.

She quickly rolled up on to her legs and crawled forward to the gate of the cage. The slaver directed that they should press their bodies against the cage front and extend their heads up through the hole in the top of the cage near the gate. As with the feeding hole the slave's heads were locked in place by means of a sliding bar on the top of the cage that pushed up against each girl's neck. It also had the effect of pushing her forward against the bars. The feel of the bars against her skin, her breasts pushing between the bars and her shaved and stitched loins held at the feeding hole made Esme feel even more vulnerable.

When all eleven girls were secured in place the slavers walked up and down the line. Esme dare not look from right to left, although she could see from her peripheral vision that the slavers were reaching out and touching the bodies of the girls. The youngest of the slavers stopped in front of her. He was sufficiently good looking that had they met under different circumstances she would have been interested in him.

But this was not courting. He did not need to worry about any niceties. He was a master and she was a slave and his hands explored her body in a very ungentlemanly fashion. She felt his fingers run over the stitching that held her labia closed and protected her maidenhead. The wounds were sensitive and they burned with his touch. The pain was not severe, but the humiliation of being touched so was more than Esme could bear.

He looked into her eyes and smiled. She wanted to turn away. She wanted to shout at him. She wanted to pull her body away from his touch. But she could not and she dare not. Her body was locked forward against the bars of her cage. He could touch her as much and as long as he desired and she could do nothing to prevent or even limit his access. She could turn her head slightly, but she dare not do this and the pressure of the top of the cage on his chin prevented her from even lowering her face.

The hands left her body. Some cages were being opened. Now Esme looked to her right and saw three slaves removed. They were slaves 1, 3 and 6. Esme knew they would share the slavers bed that night. She wondered if they would actually be in a bed. It would almost be worth being chosen just to be in a bed, but Esme knew with her loins closed she was not a logical choice.

After the three slaves were chosen and linked together by their neck chains the slavers released the neck bars and let the remaining slave girls descend into the cages. Esme only glanced at the other girls before curling up as best she could and trying to sleep. She was very tired. She needed to go to sleep, then maybe she could wake up and find this was only a nightmare.

The air was cold and getting colder. The slaves had been given no blanket. Esme almost missed the sleeping sack she had been locked into the night before. She wanted to wrap her arms around her body to try to get warmth, but they were fastened behind her back. She shivered.

Esme felt something behind her, something warm, something soft. The Witch had come over and pushed her body up against Esme. Together they could share body heat. Together they would be warmer. One of the other girls Esme would have welcomed, but this was the Witch. Esme felt her body stiffen with fear. If the Witch noticed she did not react. Instead she pushed her body closer into Esme's. It felt like the Witch had molded her body to all the contours of Esme's back.

But it felt good. There was warmth from the contact. The skin was soft. The contact was comforting. The girl may be a Witch, but right now they were just sisters in misery. Esme's body loosened and she responded by pressing back. Emse's hands were between the legs of the Witch. Esme felt the medallion pierced into the girls flesh. Esme opened her hands and began to caress the soft flesh of the Witch.

The Witch expelled air, but there was no moan or human sound to go with it. Esme felt unsettled by the lack of sound from the Witch but decided that the actions of the slavers had rendered the girl mute. It was, of course, true, but not by any magical or supernatural means as believed by Esme. The simple cut of the specially designed blade helped to create the fašade of the existence of a Witch and the ability to control her.

Esme nodded off. She did not know how long she had slept. The barn was dark. There was a moon out, but it cast no light within. There were sounds. Someone was in the barn. The person did not move like one of the slavers. Instead, the movements were of one who was trying not to be detected, at least not by those outside the barn. All of the occupants of the cages were tightly muzzled - except for the Witch, and she was mute. There was no danger of sound from inside the cages.

Someone was at the bars looking in on Esme and the Witch. Esme felt the Witch stir. She had heard - and felt - the presence of the person. Backlit by the light from the open barn door Esme could tell the figure was female.

The intruder moved up to the next cage and began to inspect the girls within.

"Susan?" Esme heard a soft voice from the intruder.

A girl, two cages up moved; then she turned and pushed up to the bars. It was girl number 5. She made humming sounds through her muzzle. Esme could still not believe how completely effective these humiliating muzzles were.

The intruder unlatched and opened he cage. She unclipped the chain to slave 5. Who crawled out and pushed against her.

"I found out what happened to you from Brandy. It took a while to find their trail." As she spoke the intruder unbuckled and removed the girl's muzzle.

"We need to get out of here before the slavers return. I don't want to see you in an empty spot in their cages." As she spoke girl 5 walked not toward the door, but over toward a table on the side of the room. "See that tool? Use it to open the link on the chain holding my hands behind me." She turned and presented her hands.

The intruder picked up the tool and in only a minute freed the back chain from its link in the girl's wrist chains. She was still chained and hobbled, but she was then able to step through her chains and bring them up in front.

As the intruder finished her work Esme felt the Witch pull free of Esme's body and move up to the cage. She turned her back to the cage and pushed her chained hands back. She grabbed the cage and shook it.

The intruder looked at her.

"Careful, she is a witch." Girl number 5 said.

Esme followed the lead of the Witch. She pushed her body up to the cage door and rattled it. She turned and looked pleadingly over her shoulder.

"Ok, but we can't take you with us." Girl 5 took the tool and moved forward to Esme. Quickly she unfastened the link and for the first time since her capture Esme was able to step through her chains and put her hands in front.

Esme shook the cage door again and pointed down toward the latch at the bottom. Even with her hands in front she could never reach the latch on the door. The girl nodded and released the bolt. The cage door sprung free and Esme pushed it up.

"How do we get the rest of these chains off you?" The intruder was examining the girl's chains.

"We can't do it here. We need to get out of here. It will be difficult, but I think I can straddle a horse." The other girl nodded and they left.

The former slave 5 looked back and smiled at the others, chained and locked in their cages.

Esme pushed her way out of the cage before something happened and the door locked itself. The Witch followed her, turned, and presented her chains. Esme used the tool to remove the link and free the chain from the wrists to the collar.

Then Esme tried to remove the muzzle that had kept her silent. The buckles were in the back and she was having trouble getting them. She felt hands on her shoulders and head. The Witch, her hands now in front of her, reached up and unbuckled the muzzle. It came free with a popping sound and a sigh of relief from Esme. She really hated that thing.

Esme walked down the line of cages. "Does anyone else want to be freed?"

Girls 2, 4, 7, and 8 all backed away from the cage door as if it suddenly become electrified. Girl 11 however turned and presented her hands. Esme stepped toward her and released the chain link. Then she stooped and released the cage door.

When Esme, 11, and the Witch slipped out the door of the barn the intruder and 5 were gone. The light of the moon now made everything seem bright. Esme choked in fear of being spotted.

Esme stood at the door of the barn looking up and down the road, but 11 started walking in the other direction, away from the road. It was a narrow road or trail. The Witch followed. Esme looked back at the road then back at the two girls now almost 30 yards away. Esme did not want to be on her own. She quickly shuffled behind the others trying to catch up.

The rattle of her leg chains sounded like alarm bells ringing in the quiet of the night. Esme thought she was going to throw up. She looked back at the large house, but all was still. She expected to see a slaver run from the house at any moment. She was officially escaping right now. What would the punishment be for that? It would certainly be harsh.

Esme was so focused on looking back at the house that she missed a small branch sticking up out of the ground. Her ankle chain caught and she fell to the ground. Once again, the sounds of her chains rattling, now legs and wrists as well as the loose chain behind her could certainly be heard for a long distance.

Esme froze on the ground. She looked back at the two girls moving up the path away from her. Neither one looked back. Maybe it had not been so loud. There was still no movement from the house.

Esme regained her feet, untangled her ankle chain and once again hurried forward trying to catch her compatriots.

Soon the house and barn could no longer be seen. The trail ended at the edge of a small river, too wide to be a stream but not wide enough to support any substantial water traffic. The trail intersected a somewhat more traveled trail that followed the bank of the river.

Girl 11 turned to her left. Then she stopped and turned toward the Witch and Esme. "It is best if we split up. They will be looking for us in the morning. Together we attract too much attention."

The Witch nodded and turned to the right.

Girl 11 turned back and started down the trail. The Witch started shuffling up the trail. Esme stood looking from one to the other. Where could see go? She was not going back toward the barn. She did not think she could cross the river wearing her chains. It may be narrow, but it looked deep enough to be a challenge.

Girl 11 seemed sure of herself. But her look when she said 'split up' seemed to make company unwelcome. Esme did not want to be alone. She did not really want to be with the Witch, but she knew the Witch had lived only a day's ride from here. She probably knew the terrain. She had not complained about going up the trail. Maybe she knew something.

Esme turned to the right and started to follow the Witch.

For a long time she shuffled along about 50 yards back behind the Witch. Once or twice the Witch looked back at her, but she never stopped and waited for her to catch up. Instead, the Witch moved forward with what seemed to be a purpose.

For several hours Esme followed the Witch. The moon which had been high and bright had disappeared over the horizon and there was not yet a glint of morning. The trail was dark and foreboding. Esme thought about the five girls who had rejected a bid for freedom and stayed chained in their cages. Certainly they did not want to be slaves. Where they just so broken that they could not take a chance for freedom? Did they know that the chances were so terrible that it was not worth the try? Had they been the smart ones? Esme looked down at her chained wrists. She rattled the chain. What chance did they have?

Esme looked ahead. The Witch was not there. Esme felt a surge of panic. She did not want to be alone. Where was the Witch? She picked up the pace and tried to hurry forward.

Esme felt her eyes moisten. She was crying. Why was she so afraid? She had been afraid of the Witch when she was chained across from her in the wagon. Now the Witch was free, at least partially free. Why was her disappearance more frightening than being near her?

Esme was about to call out when she saw movement to her left. It was the Witch. She was at the edge of the river. She was using her hand to scoop up and drink water. Esme sighed in relief.

Cautiously Esme moved down next to the Witch. The Witch turned her head and looked at Esme. Esme froze and looked at her. The Witch's face did not change as she returned to drinking.

Esme aped her actions. The water tasted cool and refreshing. The best part was that she was drinking on her own volition, from her own hand. It was the most free she had felt since her capture back at the Inn.

The Witch finished drinking then sat back on her haunches. She seemed to be studying Esme. When Esme was done she sat back and looked at the Witch. Their faces were only about 18" apart.

"I am sorry." Esme said. The Witch looked confused. Esme didn't explain what she meant. She was not even sure what she meant. She just smiled. The Witch smiled back. Then the Witch pointed up the trail. Then she pointed her fingers at her own eyes and back at the trail. Then she held her finger up in front of her mouth.

Esme understood. They needed to keep a careful look and be very quiet. Esme nodded.

The Witch stood up, moved back to the trail and then waited for Esme to catch up. Now the two girls walked side by side up the trail. Esme was happy to have company. She was happy that she was with the Witch. She hoped the Witch could get some of her powers back. Maybe there was a chance for them after all.

As dawn began to brighten the horizon Esme heard sounds up ahead. The Witch stopped and tapped Esme on the shoulder; then she signaled off to the reeds between the river and the trail. With the Witch leading the way the two girls moved into the reeds and settled down.

It was several minutes later that a wagon driven by a young man moved down the trail. Esme looked to the Witch. She shook her head and pushed Esme's head down. They were not going to reveal themselves to this young man. Esme trusted the Witch's appraisal.

When the wagon was out of sight behind them the two girls resumed their walk. After a time Esme saw the Witch stiffen. She tapped Esme on the arm hard enough to almost propel her into the reeds once more. Esme caught her balance and the two girls crouched again in the reeds. Esme huddled up against the Witch. She could feel her tremble and this made Esme afraid.

She had cause to be afraid. Coming from the direction Esme and the Witch had taken two horses appeared. The riders were two of the slavers. Esme wanted to watch them, but the Witch pushed her head down into the reeds. She complied.

Esme tried to control her breathing. It sounded so loud to her. How could the slavers not hear? They were about to be caught. They would be punished. Esme felt her bladder release. The liquid was warm on her legs. She could smell the urine. She wanted to look over at the Witch, but the Witch's hand was still on her head and held her down. Esme considered jumping up and trying to run. But, she was chained. She would stand no chance of escaping. She thought about the river only a few yards away. Should she jump into the river? Again, the chains made that impossible. She could not hope to escape the slavers in the water, at best she would be pulled under and drown. Somehow she managed to hold her position.

Esme felt the pressure from the Witch's hand ease. She raised her head and looked around. The trail was empty. The slavers had ridden on. They had not seen the girls. They had not heard them. They had not smelled them. Somehow they had evaded capture.

Esme could not help herself. She lifted her chained arms over the Witch and then pulled her to her. The Witch could not reciprocate because her hands were held in front by her own chains, but after a moment of resistance she relaxed and melted into Esme's embrace. Then Esme felt the Witch's head on her shoulder. Nothing but the sounds of labored breathing came from the mouth of the Witch, but tears were now streaming down her face. Esme held her tight. Esme knew that the Witch had saved her. Esme had never felt so frightened. She had almost panicked, but the Witch had somehow remained in control.

For a long time the two girls remained in the reeds clutching each other. With their heads on each other's shoulders it was the most comforted Esme had felt in a very long time. She could feel the Witch's naked breasts pushed into her own. The combined flesh was hot. Esme felt strange sensations coursing through her body.

Finally, the Witch eased back. She smiled at Esme and pointed with the fingers of both hands up the trail. Esme nodded. She lifted her chained arms back over the Witch's head and the two girls carefully rose and started up the trail. The sun was well up now and the surroundings were bright.

Almost immediately the trail changed from woods to cultivated land. The Witch stopped and crouched as she studied the area within view. Some farm buildings could be seen off to their right but there was no activity in the field.

The girls moved on carefully. Soon they came to a fenced in pasture that contained a small herd of cows. But beyond the pasture the trail opened into what looked like a small village. That did not seem like the smart destination for two chained escaped slaves. And, it was the direction the slavers had gone earlier. The Witch seemed to think the same thing. She guided Esme off the trail and along the outside perimeter of the pasture.

Esme could see a barn up ahead and it seemed the likely place to go. It would provide some cover. It may also have tools that they could use to get out of the chains. If they could escape the chains and find some clothing they would be a lot less conspicuous. As Esme thought that her hand went to the ring in her nose. How were they going to get that off?

Esme and the Witch moved up the side of the barn carefully watching for any movement. Everything was quiet. They slipped inside and welcomed the darkness provided by the large building. On one side hay and animal feed was stacked. It was late in the season and the farmer was accumulating reserves for the winter ahead.

On the other side there was a wall of bars. In the middle was an open door of the same barred structure. Inside the pen were about a dozen sleeping pallets. Above each pallet, set firmly in the wall was an iron ring. A large bucket in one corner was a third filled with brackish water. It was a slave pen for the farm, but it did not appear to be in present use. Did the farm not have any slaves or where they now kept in other quarters? They could be out working the fields, but there was a feel to the place that said it had not been recently occupied.

In the back of the barn, well beyond the reach of the slave pen was a work bench. On the bench there was an array of tools. They were not neatly ordered and did not look to be in good repair. Esme did not care. She quickly moved forward to the bench. The Witch mean while was inspecting the other surroundings.

When Esme got to the bench she first lifted her wrists and inspected the cuffs locked thereon. Most of her time as a slave her arms had been held behind her and she had had little opportunity to inspect her restraints. The cuffs were solid and heavy. They could not be broken. In order to remove them she would need to remove the pin that had been crimped into the locking rings. She looked at the bottom and saw that there was a very small hole. Its diameter was smaller than most nails. It would require a small and strong rod to push up through that hole.

She inspected the head of the pin. The head of the pin was concave from the tool that had compressed and flattened it. A seal of sorts had been created in the top of the pin in the form of an owl imbedded in the soft lead.

The top of the pin had been expanded into a flange. Before the pin could be pushed up it would be necessary to remove the top of the pin. Esme looked around the bench for a tool that might work. She found a chisel, but the blade was about an inch wide, much too wide to fit into the head of the shackle. She tried using the corner of the chisel. She was able to dig into the lead and peel away the middle, but she could not get to the sides where she needed to reach and remove the flange.

She scratched away the owl in both wrist cuffs, but the pins looked as solidly set as ever. I really did not matter, as she could not find anything small enough to fit the holes in the bottom. Without something pushing up after the lead seal was removed the pin would not release.

Esme found a hammer. Maybe she could at least break the chains. She sat on the floor, placed the chisel over a link in her ankle chains and struck it as best she could with the hammer. Chained as she was she was only able to get a short swing, but the sound of metal on metal was loud and reverberated through the barn. Esme looked up to see the Witch coming her direction with a look of terror on her face.

"We need to get these chains off." She said authoritatively.

As the Witch got to her she examined the link she had just struck. There as a line in the metal of the link where the chisel had bitten, but it was little more than a scratch. On the other hand the blade of the chisel had a half moon indent where the chain had overcome the tool. This was clearly a chisel made for wood and would never cut through the steel of the chains.

Esme threw the chisel on the floor with disgust. She got back up and returned to the bench looking for a better tool. It was not here.

A change in the light made both Esme and the Witch suddenly turn to the door of the barn. There was a girl standing there.

Now it was the Witch who looked close to panic.

Esme took a step forward. The girl, whose eyes were now very large, took a step back.

"Please." Esme said. "Will you help us?"

"You are escaped slaves." Esme could not be sure if it was a statement or a question.

"We were taken by slavers but have not been registered so we are not legally slaves. The slavers are very cruel, we need to escape them. Please help us." Esme didn't know if what she had said gave her any legal claim to freedom, but it sounded good. She took another step forward. This time the girl had not backed up. The Witch has stayed rooted to the ground.

The girls face changed. Esme could tell she was thinking. "I will bring you some food and something to wear, but you have to stay out of sight until I decide what is to be done."

Esme didn't like the 'decide what is to be done' part, but she was very hungry and the prospect of something to wear was most inviting.

The girl backed out of the barn and then disappeared. Esme turned back to the Witch. "I guess we might as well get comfortable." She said as she looked for a place to sit down. She looked through the open gate into the slave pen. The logical place to rest was on one of the sleeping benches, but Esme could not bring herself to go in there. It appeared that the Witch was of the same mind because she crawled up onto a bale of hay and stretched out as best she could in her chains. Esme climbed up next to her.

Esme was not sure if she had fallen asleep. She was very tired. But she awoke to the smell of food. The girl had returned with two plates. Piled on the plates were cooked meat, freshly boiled eggs, and a large quarter of bread.

The food tasted as good as it looked. It was so superior to what Esme had been eating the last few days as a slave. It clearly reminded her of her strong desire to be free.

While Esme and the Witch ate, the girl patently stood by. When they had finished eating, she handed each a cotton garment. Esme's face fell as she held it up. It was a slave tunic. Two wide panels that clipped to the slaves collar in the front and the back held together midway down by a narrow strap of cloth leaving a six inch separation on each side.

"It is illegal for a slave to wear regular clothing. It is illegal to give them to you. So long as you wear chains and collars this is what you must wear."

Esme did not like the way the girl had said that, but accepted the logic of wearing something that matched their current state of restraint. Esme shook out the garment and pulled it on. She had never worn such a thing before but found that it was very easy to put on once she realized it needed to be brought up so that her arms extended through the spaces in the upper part.

"Do you have any tools we can use to get out of these chains?" Esme felt refreshed from the meal and let her focus go back to the restraints.

"I don't have such things." The girl answered a little too quickly for Esme's liking. "There is a blacksmith in the village, but I doubt he would be willing to help you."

"Maybe we can sneak in after dark and use his tools." As Esme spoke the girls face briefly showed a look of horror.

"Ok, but for now you need to keep out of sight. I can't have anyone know I have helped you. I don't think anyone will come into the barn, but please stay away from the door." The logic made perfect sense to Esme.

The girl collected the plates and left. Esme looked back at the bale of hay that she and the Witch had rested on. It was not particularly comfortable. She walked around the inside of the barn. She had inspected it before looking for tools, now she was looking for a place to curl up. There was really not a good place.

Esme came around to the barred wall and the gate to the slave quarters. She swung the door back and forth. It was heavy but it moved easily on well oiled hinges. She closed it to see if it would automatically latch. It did not. In order to lock it in place a heavy bolt set in a plate in the wall next to the gate had to be slide into place.

The Witch was watching Esme. Esme pushed the gate open all the way. It stayed in place. Then she stepped through the doorway. Her stomach rolled as she passed behind the barred wall. The sleeping benches were crude wooden platforms raised only about 18 inches off the ground. Each had a rolled up mat that apart from being dusty on the top of the rolled part looked reasonably clean. Esme unrolled a mat and pushed up and down on it with her hands. Compared to how she had slept the last few nights this was quite soft. She lay down on the mat. It felt good.

Esme heard the sound of the mat on the bench next to her being unrolled. It appeared that the Witch had chosen to join her. Esme did not realize how very tired she was.

Esme opened her eyes. The barn was dark. It was very dark. She looked back toward the door of the barn. She could not see it from inside the slave quarters, but she could tell that no light was coming in from outside. The sun was down. She must have been very tired. She could hear the Witch breathing slowly. She was on the next bench sound asleep.

Esme wondered where the girl was. Would she show them where the blacksmiths was? Would they be able to get in? Would they be able to utilize the tools to escape without being caught? She didn't know, but she needed to try.

Esme swung her legs around and stood up. Her head felt light. That was surprising. She was surprised to see that the gate to the slave quarters was closed. Esme did not like that. She walked over and gave it a push to swing it open. It held tight. Had it been locked? Esme grabbed the bars of the gate and pushed hard. It still did not move. She shook it back and forth. It held firm. It was locked.

Esme looked at the edge of the gate and the barred wall where she remembered the latch to be. She could not see anything from the inside except the back of the solid plate on which the latch was mounted. She tried to push a hand through the bars at the edge of the plate so she could pull back the latch. The bars at this point were too closely spaced to allow a hand to be inserted. Naturally, this cage was designed to hold its occupants. What good would it do if one could reach through the bars and open the gate? Esme shook and pushed at the gate. She wanted to scream.

Esme felt the presence of someone at her side. It was the Witch. The Witch reached out and touched the heavy metal gate. Then she put her other hand on Esme's shoulder.

The girl must have locked them in after they fell asleep. How did she know they would not wake up and catch her? Esme's head was still groggy. Had she put something in their food? Wait until she got her hands on her, Esme thought.

It was pretty clear the gate was not going to open and they were stuck. Just inside the door there were two plates of food. Again it was cooked meats, but now with some vegetables. Esme touched to meat. It was not warm. Esme was not sure she could eat. Her stomach hurt. She picked up a piece of meat and took a bite. It tasted good.

Esme went back to her sleeping bench and lay down. The Witch came over and joined her. Esme did not complain. She wrapped her arms around the Witch and tried to rest. What would morning bring?

Esme woke to light and also the sound of the bolt in the gate being pulled back. Esme felt the Witch move as well. They unwrapped from each other and sat up. The gate was now open and a young man stood just inside. He pointed to the Witch and signaled for her to come to him. Slowly she responded. Esme considered trying to rush past him, or even better rush at him. With the efforts of both herself and the Witch they might be able to overpower him and escape.

As Esme slipped up to her feet and considered the best angle to move from, the Witch reached the young man. The young man grabbed the chain at the back of the Witch's collar and used it to guide her out the door. Esme decided that rushing him was the right thing to do, but as she started to move forward he swung the gate shut. There was the clang of its closing and the thunk of the bolt setting into place just as Esme arrived at the gate.

She was locked in. She had moved too slowly and any chance for that plan to work was now gone. Esme watched as the young man guided the Witch out the door or the barn. Esme missed the Witch. She did not like being alone. She was sure it would not be for long, but she didn't like it.

It was only minutes later that the young man returned for her. She did not want to go with him. But she did not want to stay locked in the slave pen either. Maybe she would have a chance for escape. She needed to be alert and look for an opportunity. Esme walked forward and stepped through the doorway. She felt the pressure on her neck as he grasped the chain from the back of her collar and guided her forward.

Out the door of the barn there was a wagon. The Witch was seated on the right side with her back to the outboard supports. The young man guided Esme onto the left side. He never let go of the chain at the back of her collar as he guided her up to a position directly across from the Witch. When he had her positioned with her back to the sideboard she heard the sound of her chain being fed through an iron ring in the sideboard. He tensioned the chain pulling her back against the side and fastened it somewhere below on the outside of the wagon. Esme was able to twist just a little, but realized that there was no way that she would be able to reach the fastener. She was now chained within the wagon. Her stomach started to do flips.

The young man climbed up into the wagon. Esme could see that the Witch was holding her hands down in front of her between her knees. The man took the chain between Esme's wrists and fed the center ring and then the chain through the ring in the middle of her ankle chain. The ankle ring was larger than the ring between the wrists so he was able to pull the first chain through the ring in the second.

Esme looked over at the Witch and saw that she was similarly fastened. In the center of the wagon bed was a metal peg with a diameter just smaller than the ring in the wrist chains. The man pulled the wrist chains forward and pushed the ring over the peg. Esme saw what he intended before he managed to complete the action but with her wrist chain already fed through the ankle chain she had no leverage to prevent the man from pushing the ring over the peg.

As the ring seated a clip at the top of the peg allowed the ring to go down but then expanded to prevent it from coming back up. "Please don't do this." The man had not spoken to the girls and Esme had not spoken to him up until that moment.

She pulled back on her hands and tried to free them. She could do nothing. Her arms were held forward between her knees with her hands pulled down to her feet. She tried to lean forward to get some leverage, but the chain at the back of her collar pulled taught and she was unable to do anything. It was simple but effective.

Esme saw that there were three other pegs down the middle of the wagon. There were holes on both sides at the top of the sideboard for each of the pegs. The wagon could easily transport eight chained slaves. The man turned a handle on the back board of the wagon just behind the driver's seat. As he did additional flanges expanded from each of the pegs. Unless the handle was turned back down there was no way to remove the chains. The handle was only about two feet from Esme's knees, but it might as well have been in the next county. There was no way she could reach it.

"You two tried to get my sister into trouble. I have no sympathy for you. I am taking you to the magistrate. You can make your case to him." The man had gotten out of the wagon and come around to Esme's side. She looked at him and saw that he had a slave muzzle in his hand.

"No. Please. I will be quiet. I hate those things." She stopped talking only because he had held the gag portion up in front of her face. She crimped her lips together and shook her head.

"Looks like you have not had much training." He kept the gag in front of her face while he reached inside Esme's tunic with the other hand. She felt his fingers find a nipple. She tried to shake her body to shake him loose, but it did not work. Instead his fingers closed and twisted - fire spread through her breast.

"Ow. Please . . . don't. That hurts." He continued to twist.

Esme sighed and opened her mouth. She felt and tasted the leather plug on the inside of the muzzle as it slipped behind her teeth. With that, his fingers left her breast and instead set to tightening the straps of the muzzle. Esme could see a tear form and run from one of the Witch's eyes.

The young man climbed into the wagon and with a jerk it started to move forward. Esme wondered where they were going when it turned away from the village. Esme could not believe that once again she found herself chained in the back of a wagon. At least this time her hands were in front of her and she was dressed, even if it was only a slave tunic.

The wagon moved slowly for about an hour. They drove into a town with a proper town square. There as a two story building near the square and it was there that the man stopped the wagon.

Almost as soon as the wagon had stopped two men emerged from a large door in the center front of the building. They had matching tunics of semi military design.

Esme watched as the young man turned the handle at the back of his seat that released the pin holding their wrist chains down over the peg in the middle of the wagon. He lifted the chains from the peg and guided Esme and the Witch toward the back of the wagon where the two men now waited.

Esme untangled her wrist restraints from her leg restraints and slid down to the end of the wagon. As she slipped her legs out and onto the ground one of the men grabbed her arm. He signaled for her to step through her wrist chain. Using a tool he quickly connected her wrist chain to her neck chain. Then guided her toward the door through which he had emerged only moments before. His grip was strong and Esme followed his lead.

Inside the door they were in an open entrance way that extended through to the back of the building. Four doors, two on each side, were all closed. A stairway led up to the upper floor.

Esme and the Witch were guided to the first door on the right. Inside was a large room. A large desk sat at the far end. It was raised on a dais of about 18 inches. That allowed the large man seated behind the desk to look into the eyes of the girls who were brought to stand before him.

"You wear the chains of slaves but not registration numbers." Esme tried to maintain eye contact with him but found she was unable to do so. She lowered her eyes.

She wanted to protest her innocence and the unfairness of her situation but she was still muzzled.

"We don't tolerate runaways here." The brow furrowed and the eyes grew dark and threatening.

"Why is that one not muzzled." He said to one of the guards.

The guard grabbed the face of the witch and turned it toward him. He squeezed her cheeks and she opened her mouth. The guard jumped back. "It be a witch me lord!"

"So, ye be a pair of witches." The man shook his head. "Muzzle it too."

Esme could not believe that she was not even allowed to say anything in her own defense. The fact that she wore chains - and perhaps this awful slave tunic - seemed to settle any issue of her identity. Esme shook her head back and forth. She tried to speak through the muzzle, but it was effective and nothing at all distinguishable came out.

"Silence Girl!" His face turned red. "I have no need to hear ye lies. Or maybe ye thinks to cast a spell. I think not."

Esme stopped trying to speak. It was clearly of no help to her. Not only had this man decided they were slaves, but witches as well. She suddenly feared that they would be burned at the stake.

"Take them to the square. They will dance the dance of the disobedient slave until full sundown. Meanwhile we will see to their proper ownership and further disposition."

Esme didn't like the idea of being made to dance all day, but it didn't sound that bad. The reaction of the Witch, however, worried her. The Witch was shaking her head back and forth and wildly trying to pull away from the man who held her.

The man led the Witch struggling from the door out to the entry way and out the front of the building. He had grabbed the chain from her neck to her wrists and was pulling and pushing her forward. Esme felt her legs weaken as she watched the struggling, she did not resist as the other man guided her behind her much panicked partner.

There was a platform in the middle of the square. Esme was not surprised that she and the Witch were taken to the platform. The man released his hold on Esme's arm, but not before he clipped a chain from a ring of the platform to the back of her collar. He then left her standing there as he moved over to help the other man with the Witch.

Esme looked up at the chain holding her firmly to the column. She hated how easy it was to restrain her. The clip was fastened high enough up to place it beyond her reach so long as her hands were held behind her.

The Witch was pulled over to another column and similarly fastened in place. She hung her head and cried. Esme found it eerie that the Witch could cry with such a large flow of tears but accompanied by no sounds other than her labored breathing.

The slave tunics were unfastened from the girls' necks and dropped to the ground. The simple construction of the tunics allowed them to be removed from a girl even when her arms were helplessly bound. Esme found it humiliating that she could be stripped so easily with no ability to protect herself. She had almost gotten use to being naked over the last few days, but just a short time of wearing clothing, even the simple covering of a slave had made her resent her now forced nakedness.

After she was stripped the man wrapped a belt around her waist and the column.

The men opened a large wooden cabinet under the platform. From it they withdrew two strange looking metal devices. Each device was about two and a half feet long with two large holes near the center. As the man approached Esme she could see where the holes were going. Suddenly she didn't like the idea of this "dance".

Esme tried to squirm away, but she was held tight to the pole by the belt around her waist. The man pushed the device to Esme's chest and pulled her breasts through the holes. Once he had worked her breasts fully through, he began to tighten a knob on the front of the device.

Esme watched in horror as the circles surrounding her breasts tightened. He continued to turn and tighten the knob until the device was tight around the root of each breast. Esme's breasts began to swell as they engorged with blood. It had only been a few minutes and already it was becoming very uncomfortable. Esme wanted this thing off her breasts. She wanted it off right now. The man let go of the device and Esme felt the weight of it pulling down on her tightly confined breasts. She tried to shake her upper body to rid herself of the hateful thing, but it was way too tight to come loose. She was not going to like this at all.

Esme looked over and watched as the process was completed with the Witch. The Witch did not try to shake the thing loose. It seemed she knew that such was not possible.

The men returned to the cabinet. This time they each removed two other metal pieces. The man smiled as he set the two pieces down on the ground next to Esme. He knelt down and lifted one of her feet. Then he slipped one of the metal pieces over her foot. Her toes and foot pushed down straight into a V shaped piece of metal. A curved piece of flat metal ran from her toes up her arch to her heel. It then curved over the heel and fastened around the ankle just below her ankle chain. The effect was to keep her foot pointed straight down. She could not lift her toes.

He grabbed her other foot and started to install the matching piece. As he did Esme realized that the only way to take her weight on her feet was on the tip of the metal device which extended several inches beyond the end of her toes. But as she put weight on the end of the shoe device a bar across the top of her toes was tightened over her foot pushing her toes back against the metal below. Within seconds it was too painful to endure and Esme lifted her weight letting the strap around her waist hold her.

When the second shoe was installed the man released the belt around Esme's waist and unhooked the chain to her collar. She took her weight for only a few seconds on the horrid shoes and then let her legs fold up as she groaned with pain.

"Looks like she doesn't like her new foot wear." The man laughed to his companion.

"I suspect by nightfall they will be willing to do anything to get these off." Replied the other man.

Esme was already willing to do almost anything to get them off. They didn't hurt too badly so long as they had to bare no weight, but it would be impossible to wear them for long.

The other man did not release the Witch, but instead had joined Esme's tormentor. Each of them grabbed one side of the device attached to her breasts and lifted her up. Now her weight was being taken by the horrid steel device connected to her breasts.

As they walked her up the stairs to the platform she tried to use her feet to take some pressure off her breasts, but that only succeeded in punishing her feet.

Once they had her on the platform they each connected a chain to a ring at each end of her breast device. They adjusted the tension so that if she pushed down with her toes in the awful shoes she could raise herself to about three inches of slack in the breast chains. Her breasts hurt so badly from being dragged up the platform that Esme pushed down to take the pressure off. She tried to grit her way through the pain in her toes and feet.

It seemed like forever but it was probably only 15-20 seconds. She couldn't take it anymore. She bent her knees and took the weight off her feet. She tried to lower slowly into the device holding her by her breasts. But as she did she realized that the rings at the ends of the device, the rings to which the chains were attached, were not fully stable. As weight was placed on each ring, it pushed a lever which in turn tightened the constrictions on her breasts.

Now Esme understood the "dance". She could take the weight of her body on her toes, painfully crushing her feet. Or she could take the weight from her breasts. The pain from either was unendurable. The amount of time she could stand either was not measured even in minutes. Instead she moved back and forth from one to the other.

Esme looked at the sky. The sun was not even a third the way up into the sky. "Sundown?" That was not even remotely possible. She could not be expected to endure this until sundown. She needed out. She needed out right now. She twisted and pulled at her chained hands. All that did was make her bob up and down on the restraints holding her breasts. It felt like her breasts were being torn from her chest. Her eyes filled with tears. She pushed her toes into the platform to raise herself up. Her legs were wobbling. They were starting to cramp.

She looked around for anyone who might help her. People stopped in front of the platform, they stood and watched as she twitch and dance. There were two expressions. Some looked at her with what she could only describe as scorn. She was a slave being punished for a serious indiscretion. Others smiled. Nobody moved to assist her in any way. Nobody was coming to her aid. And she could do nothing to help herself.

Esme realized that if she were not muzzled she would be pleading and begging. She was only minutes into this horrid ritual and already she was willing to promise anything. She was willing to do anything. She had never experienced anything like this before. How long would she be left like this?

The minutes dragged. The hours seemed endless. This was not something that you could adjust to. Her body did not become numb. Her mind gave her no sanctuary. There was only the constant pain and the never ending dilemma of the selection of the means of torment.

The sun was finally low in the sky. Esme did not know how she had survived this day. She was sure that her breasts were ruined and that she would never be able to walk on her feet again. The tear streaked face of the Witch communicated the same story.

Esme saw the wagon pulling into the square. She saw the slaver sitting at the front, a wide grin across his face. She watched as the tall slaver rode his horse up to just in front of the platform. For a time he just sat in the saddle and watched the dance of pain before him. "Pull up the wagon so the others can see." Then he turned his horse to clear a space for the wagon.

The slaver on the wagon maneuvered it in a semi circle so that the slaves in the back could turn their heads and see Esme and the Witch. The tall slaver talked to the guard that had been watching over Esme and the Witch. Then he and the other slaver walked away leaving Esme and the Witch to their torment with the rest of the wagon as mute witnesses.

Esme could see the horror in the eyes of the other slaves as they watched their former slave mates in the throes of their agony.

Esme's mind was not focusing on anything outside her own pain, so it took time before she realized that there were nine slaves in the wagon. With four having escaped there should only be seven. Although the sun was now getting low in the sky the wagon was still well lit. Esme studied girls eight and nine. They were the former girl five and the intruder who had released her and the others. Esme did not feel sorry for these girls. If that interloper had not come alone Esme and the Witch would never have been released. They would be safely sitting in the wagon, not dancing in pain in this horrible place.

Clearly escape was impossible. Even with outside help girl five was still in her chains and back in the wagon. The intruder had had a horse, but she too was now naked and chained, only a slave with her comrade. Rather than freeing her friend she now joined her in the misery of slavery.

It was only as she saw the slavers returning that Esme realized that girl 11 was not in the wagon. At least one of them had escaped. It certainly did not help Esme right now, but it did make her feel somewhat better about her situation.

The tall slaver handed a small coin to the guard. The guard and the slavers climbed up onto the platform and began to release the tortured slaves from their position. Esme and the Witch were lowered from the hanging position. Just the removal of the pressure on her breasts was a huge relief. Esme noticed that her breasts were a very dark red, almost purple from having been so tightly confined for the entire day. As the slaver turned the knob on the breast device and it released its grip Esme's breasts erupted in fire. She knew it was only the blood rushing back reacting to the pain receptors, but the pain was terrible.

On the other hand, the removal of the awful boots left her feet feeling a sense of relief. They hurt. They hurt a lot. She was convinced that she had sustained permanent damage but having the boots removed was heaven.

The slavers wasted no time. As soon as Esme and the Witch were free of their punishment devices they were pulled to their feet and guided toward the wagon. Esme was sure her feet would not hold her, but somehow they did. Fortunately it was only a few steps to the back of the wagon. Esme was happy to sit on the bed of the wagon as her ankle chain was threaded over the center bar. Seconds later she was chained in place as slave number 10. The Witch returned to slave number 11.

Esme looked into the eyes of the intruder - now slave number 9. Esme blamed her for the pain she had suffered all day and for her current demotion to near the end of the chain. The girl was, of course, muzzled, so she could say nothing. Her eyes were red and puffy. She had clearly been crying. Esme did not feel sorry for her. Esme turned away.

The wagon rumbled slowly for several hours. It was well beyond sunset when they stopped and camped in a clearing near a stream. As the Chain was removed and staked out in a line on the soft ground Esme resented her position as girl 10. She was clearly better than that. Her escape had been wrong, but she should certainly be placed higher on the Chain than the intruder and the former girl 5.

It felt very good to stretch out on the soft ground. Esme's breasts and feet still hurt terribly. She was happy when she was not selected to make the meal, or to attend to the masters. She was even happy when the sleeping sack was laid out before her. She moaned and protested as best she could when the center ring in her leg hobble was connected to the center ring of her wrist chain creating an easy hogtie, but she squirmed into the sack without any protest.

There were sounds in the camp. The sun was already coming across the horizon. Esme could not believe she had slept so soundly. Her legs felt stiff. She desperately wanted to stretch them out, but knew that she had to patiently wait until she was allowed from her sleeping sack and the hogtie released. She was becoming accustomed to the life of a slave - dependent upon the actions of others, her needs and wants of no consequence.

Morning came, the slaves were once again loaded in the wagon and they were back on the road. Esme stopped paying attention to her surroundings.

The walls of the city loomed on the horizon even before they arrived at the gate. Esme did not remember anything so imposing. The convent had been walled, but it was only a small estate and the walls barely 15 feet. These walls were well over 30 feet high and extended as far as the eye could see. Even the gate tower was intimidating. The opening was at least 20 feet high with a strong portico hanging above the entrance. Uniformed guards checked all traffic that came through the gate. Esme wondered how a wagon full of new slaves would be treated. Would there be an opportunity for her to protest her enslavement?

She considered again the unfairness of her uncle's action. His greed and crimes disguised through her enslavement. She could see herself a free woman presenting herself to the solicitor, collecting her inheritance and then seeing her uncle led away in chains. But, that was not the truth. She was the one in chains, and as the paperwork of the slavers was checked and reviewed the wagon and its load of enslaved women finally entered the city headed for the most well known slave markets in the world.

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