Story Preview: Burdens and Thralls

Burdens and Thralls
A Smuthunter Story

            The town of Berm was named not after some noble founder, but out of the shape and form of the hill it was built on. In the Bloody Days, when the last vestiges of the Empire were crumbling and little wars were common as winter rain, the town was founded more by accident than from intention.

            First there were a few trenches around an old trading post atop a small hill, then when the earthworks and palisades were thrown up, displaced locals, refugees really, started flocking to the site. Traders and merchants brought goods and services to the mercenaries stationed there, and carried letters out for the Empire’s soldiers that were deployed to keel the ground in force.

            Seasons passed and the ground was built up and leveled, farmers started working the fields to feed themselves and the warriors that were protecting them.

As peace began to settle across the region again, won not through victory but the exhaustion of violence, with no Empire to return to, the town of Bern was rightly settled.

            Walls of stone and mortar had been built up, and a proper keep with its own second wall dominated the top of the raised ground. Its citizens were spread wide around the walls, and within, but nothing invites ruin like peace and stability…

            Rase found himself fidgeting with the leather strap looped through the handle of his club. The weapon itself was near the length of a man’s arm, from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, and the band of leather didn’t seem to do much to keep it in his hand, but then again he’d never had cause to use it.

            No one, save the chosen of His Lordship, was permitted to carry iron or steel within the walls, and it had been that way since the conquest. Though his livery marked him as one of His Lordship’s soldiers, Rase was neither well born enough, or well seasoned enough to carry a sword in town. So, if trouble arouse, the club would have to do, the club or the small dagger he carried for eating. Those pieces of metal could be carried by anyone, but only outside of the keep’s walls.

            Tying and untying the thong was his habit, just as some he knew chewed their nails, or needed to constantly bite on the end of their pipes, or work a whetstone at the edge of their dagger. He should have been looking to the crowds, to keeping the peace, and to spy out any rebels, but it had been ten long years since the Founderlings and their allies had been driven out or put to the blade.

            He’d only been a boy then, and had not come to the town until after his father had called for him and his mother. As payment for services to His Lordship, Rase’s father had been given a plot of land and coin; he himself enlisted in the army not only in tradition, but from seeing the way His Lordship’s soldiers had run of the town.

            If one was a farmer, or a brewer, or any other tradesmen or laborer they would do well enough, but to be a soldier, proud, respected, and daring, was to be a cut above the rest. Half his life had been spent in the town, and in those ten years it was clear to him, as it was to everyone, the law of might ruled over all.

A hard wind cut through the autumn afternoon.

            “Shits!” Rase looked up from his fidgeting to see a young woman, near his age, struggling both with her homespun robes, and a very full woven basket.

            “May I?” He may have idolized the authority that soldiering gave, but he saw no value in the crassness it bred in some that he knew.

            The ground was damp, fresh puddles filled the depressions in the road, and the air was still wet with uncertain drizzle. The woman before him was hindered by her mantle, the basket, and not by the weather. Her hood was up pulled low and he could not see much of her face, “Please.”

            She couldn’t look up to see him until the basket was in his grip, and as she did, Rase found himself staring into the softest gray eyes, pale as the sky, almost blue.

            “It’s this weather,” her nose was narrow and sharp, her cheeks were high, her chin came to a s point, and her smile was wide and inviting. “I thought it would be storming, but there’s only…”

            He laughed, “This. This miserable gray. I tire of it ever year, even before the nights reach their longest.”

            She shifted her garb and the wind whipped again, pulling the billowing fabric to the form of her body. Were Rase less taken by her beautiful face he may have noticed the hidden curves beneath her garb. “I wish the rains would come and be done with it. But, thank you, I think I’ve sorted myself.”

            She smiled at him again, her eyes looking deep into his, “But gray isn’t such a terrible color is it?”

            Her eyelids fluttered for one brief second as she reached out to reclaim her basket, and if there was some sort of connection happening between them, Rasw felt the moment passing, “I could, I could carry it for you if you haven’t far to go.”

            Her eyes were fixed on his, “Tell me, looking upon me, do you feel the urge to ease my burdens, knowing not my name, and sharing not your own? Would you so kindly ease the weight I carry and serve me now?”

            Her voice was gentle, teasing, almost musical as she spoke. Her smile was sharp with the edges of his flattery, yet he could not answer, nor could he break her stare.

            There was a shift in the gray of her gaze then, like the flicker of red flame dancing as she spoke, and Rase found himself forgetting where he was for just a moment.

“Tell me, when you look into my eyes, do you wish to ease my burdens, and carry my labors good stranger? Are you so kind?”

            “Yes.” It was neither clever nor said with purpose, but the word came to his lips as surely as water flows downhill.

He smiled, and the weight of the basket sat easy in his arms. It was filled with this and that, a blanket, some vegetables, some small other things, and perhaps a few clay plates that gave it some heft, “Where are we off to?”

They were still looking into each other’s eyes, separated only by the basket between them, “Isodora.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what the farmers call…”

She laughed, “No, my name is Isodora.”

He felt his cheeks redden and his own laughter come to him, “Rase, of His Lordship’s foot.”

“So I see,” there was a dusky tone to her voice as she spoke, and she’d leaned in closer, “Tell me Rase, if you had far to go, would you not find it easy to bear this burden for me?”

His vision seemed to blur at the edges, and the quiet, calm gray of her eyes once more seemed to dance with some hint of flame, red, bright, and inviting, “Could you not forget yourself in such a thing so simply done, and with such a good heart. It is no small thing to carry another’s burden, but it is no great deed to be as kind as you are to a stranger. Would you not follow me far, simply to ease my burden?”

“I would,” he blinked as his voice took on a musical tone itself, a soft, misty quality, as though it came from far away to reach his own ears. “Besides, you cannot be so far can you?”

Her hand brushed over one of his, “No, not so far away at all.”

They walked through the growing drizzle, the wind at their backs, and they spoke of this or that as they crossed a small footbridge over a stream, and then down a hard packed road between two orchards.

Isodora walked beside him, her arms crossed of her chest to keep her robes from flapping about. “I’ve only just come from the south. Friends here called to me, asking me to come stay with them, knowing I was for naught else but menial tasks in my home.”

“I was ten winters aged when my mother and I followed father here. It is a pleasant land with weather truly baleful for one’s soul, but of little hazard to one’s person.” He knew he’d already talked about the weather with her, but as they made their way, he was truly at a loss for words to charm her or win a smile.

“I’ve heard tell His Lordship Halrick was a mighty warrior, was your father one of his men as you are?” She pulled at the hem of her billowing robes as she walked, yet mud and grime had found a way to cling to it nonetheless.

“He was a mercenary in His Lordship’s employ, not one of his proper army, yet won favor on the battlefield. I hope to one day do such a great service as well.”

The load was not heavy, not compared to carrying the weight of armor and shield, or of the over think training weapons he had been forced to master, and while some men would walk the town with their mail, Rase both saw no point to it, and was glad in this moment he did not.

“It is whispered that Lord Halrick has a taste for blood, that he was cruel to those he conquered, especially so to those with the blood of the fallen Empire. They whisper in other parts that he came with malice to burn out and put to the blade as many as he could.”

She spoke with a blunt curiosity, the same everyone spoke of in chasing the ends of tales and trying to weave together stories. “But this is crass of me, I ought not ask you of your master in such a way.”

“Truth be told, I could not answer. We were both of us but children when that happened, and I know my father only as a soldier who did what all soldiers do. I would hope he was not one for the slaughter of the innocent, but I’ve seen hard men, and from them alone I know well how war and battle could become a madness.”

“Have you not…” her voice trailed off into the steady drum of the increasing rain.

“No. I’m no warrior, none proven at least. Fit only to swing a stick when drunkard argue the cost of eggs.”

Ahead of them, out in a wide field surrounded by a dry stone wall fit only to keep chickens in and nothing determined out, were several low buildings of wood and stone.

“We are here. If you would come with me to my door and delivery me my burden, I would be in your debt.” She spoke as they walked forward, her words were easy, and he hoped she too felt whatever was in the air between them; it was a near tangible current that had hastened his step and enlivened his arm.

As they crossed the field he saw an older man and woman working in the fields, tending to animals, doing something properly agrarian that he didn’t wholly know. Though his father owned farmland, he was not a farmer.

‘They are my friends, distant cousins of some sort. They are rebuilding their barn and have turned their house proper over to me.” These words came as they crossed the threshold into the low roofed house.

It was two rooms, with a proper slanted roof. It smelled of herbs and the lingering scent of burnt tallow. The heavy light of the fading day shown inside, and red tinged coals sat hot in a broad brick and stone fireplace. It looked old, like something made when times weren’t as mean.

There was a large table with thick legs and a smooth top made from a single piece of wood. “Would you place the basket on the table?”

She asked this of him as she pulled back her hood, then pulled a long wooden pin from her hair, and it fell down in a thick black cascade. Rase found himself staring at it, at her, as she stood with her back to him.

Isodora’s hair was the color of new twilight; what he thought was black was hinted with a lustrous purple, cleverly dyed or accentuated in some way that was beyond his understands. To Rase, women with their beauty tricks were a certain kind of magician, but perhaps considerably less dangerous than His Lordships’ wizard.

“You’re quite thoughtful Rase, a kind man in a hard town.” She turned to him, and her robes fell away, “a good heart in a sour profession.”

He stared at her, dumbstruck.

“It isn’t every man who would take on another’s burden,” her hands fell to her massive breasts, no, her gargantuan breasts. They were not naked, she was not naked, a soft black dress, plain but elegant clung to her. Its neckline was low, and though he could not see it, it was hemmed under those heavy swollen tits and the straps were bunched to help support their considerable weight.

This was why she’s truly struggled with the basket, this was why her robes were so loose and billowy.

“I saw in your eyes who you truly are, and when you looked into mine you felt my touch. Look again and see.” Her hand danced up from her chest, like a snake rising to strike, and Rase found himself again looking into the quiet gray softness of her gaze.

He let out a short sigh and felt a quiet, calming weight descending over his neck and shoulders. There was something there, a light behind a curtain, like a shadow cast on the side of a tent. He stared, looking, watching, remembering the way everything else faded away in those red glowing flashes.

Some sorcery was afoot, but what did he know of magic.

“I would let you see the eyes behind my eyes, I would let you see me again, but not now. Not when you would find yourself with your own pressing burdens, ones perhaps I can share and ease as you helped me.”

That hand fell back down to her chest and Rase shook his head again. He felt disoriented, like his arms and legs had become light, but that there was a gentle weight pressing down on him, keeping him still, like there were hands on his neck or his shoulders.

“Isodora, I have no burdens to impose on you.” He smiled, it was a sheepish sort of thing and as he stared at her chest, unabashed. Again, he felt his cheeks warm.

“Perhaps you simply do not know what you carry, or what you will carry. We all have burdens,” her hands scooped under her breasts and he watched them rise, seeing clearly that they were the size of large, ripe melons. “And once you begin a kindness, it is often times very hard to stop.”

“Would you not call your curiosity, your desires, a burden?” Her hands pressed her tits together, the creamy softness of her skin spilling up and out of her dress. “Speak not, simply think on it a moment, be in that moment and wonder for me, do you feel the burden of your curiosity.”

Her hands moved slowly over her own skin, then reached out to him, just as she would were she to take his hands in hers, but they instead grasped only his gaze and pulled that in closer still.

“The beauty of another can be a burden to one’s own mind. The lust for another can be a heavy weight.” Her hands returned again under her breasts to make them bounce in their fullness, “And I know of the weight of lust, do you not see what could compel such a burden in you? Answer not but stare, speak not but remain in this moment and gaze upon this sight, does not the burden of my beauty give rise to the weight of lust in you?”
Rase couldn’t deny her that.

Yes, that’s an awful lot of story, but to see what ultimately befalls our hero… and it is oh so much more than you assume… simply click the link below!

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