BHM The Transformation of Midnight (Historical fantasy, BHM)

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Salacious Caitlin

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This is the first chapter, and it's meant to be a slow burn, but it will go to some big places... trust me. It's more along the lines of a romance novel than anything I've written before, so please let me know what you think!


The Transformation of Midnight
by Salacious Caitlin​

Chapter 1

When I heard the sound of the carriage rattling over the frozen road, I tried to jump up and leap from the cover of the stone wall I was hidden behind. In truth I lurched to my feet, which were numb inside my tall riding boots of formerly polished leather, and staggered through the knee-deep snow holding my tattered greatcoat closed with my left hand while brandishing my pistol in my chilblained right. “Halt!” I shouted.

The carriage stopped. Lucky, I was so lucky today, because I could see the crest on the side, the golden falcon on azure blue. It was the Warden himself, de Valeriano, the lord over all these lands as far as the eye could see (or could have seen had the fucking blizzard not been rattling down). There’d be money aplenty, gold coins to buy food and warmth – maybe the Warden even had something to eat with him, a flask of mulled wine, candied fruits, the kind of thing the rich and powerful ate without even so much as considering the cost – I was so hungry –

“You know who I am,” I declaimed, as I’d done so many times before. When I’d had my horse, and my other pistol, and a rapier sheathed at my side. But I was down to one gun, three bullets, and a skinning knife. “You know what this is. Stand and deliver, Lord Warden.”

I was watching the coachman, swaddled in a wool coat and scarf as he was, to see if he would do anything, but he made no move. The horses, fine bay matched hackneys wearing rugs against the weather, stamped and blew. There were, incredibly, no guards. Lucky, I was so lucky…

He descended the carriage steps, a man I’d seen before only from a great distance; tall and broad-shouldered with the line of a scar down his left cheek. Tavern talk said he’d gotten that in the war against the Others, across the sea. That he’d killed hundreds of those sharp-toothed goblins, maybe thousands.

But today he was going to be robbed, so I said, “Throw out your gold. Your gems, yes, the brooch on your collar, there. Quickly!”

The wind tore at me. The lord was smiling. “You look somewhat past your days, Midnight – is that whom I have the honor of addressing, behind that mask? Midnight, the dread highwayman? Though your famous plumed hat seems to have gone astray.”

My erstwhile comrades had thrown the hat on the fire. Horse, money, everything else they’d taken; except what I’d been able to snatch up and run with, once they thought they’d beaten me insensible. The bruises still ached in the cold.

Hunger ached worse. My head spun. “For your humor, I’ll take one of the horses, too. Do it! I’ll shoot!”

“Don’t be a fool,” said de Valeriano. “You can barely stand.”

I raised my pistol. The sky tilted. Darkness fluttered at the edges of my vision. I felt my body hit the snow, and simultaneously there was a brutal impact, heat in my leg, the sound of an explosion.

Hot wetness pumping from my lower leg, through the leather of my boot. I’d dropped my weapon. I tried to get up. Couldn’t.

I would be hanged. Or the Warden would shoot me again. In the head this time.

I tried to rise, to meet it standing. I was too weak.

The last thing I knew was powerful arms picking me up as though I were a feather, and a voice saying, “Help me here, Petro. Goddess, he’s no more than a bone with a rag wrapped around it. I’d better get this bleeding stopped.”

Pressure on my leg. Agony.

Nothing.



When I woke, the first thing I felt was something warm against my lips, and I sucked at it desperately, understanding only after a while that it was a soft cloth, and I was being fed warm milk, as if I were an orphaned kitten.

“Sit up a little. I think you can drink on your own now.” And strong hands helped me to raise myself, leaning on soft pillows.

I opened my eyes. A firelit room, very fine, paneled in wood with paintings on the walls; a featherbed under me; four bedposts with silken gauze cascading to the floor; a warm goosedown coverlet over me. Fever racing through my veins, hot pain in my leg, and the Warden of the Coast of Storms sitting by my side, feeding me milk.

I could not determine how this had all come to be. He should have killed me, or given me to the Watch. Maybe he was simply waiting for the storm to relent before he sent for them.

But why feed me, then? He was putting a cup in my hands. This time it was rich broth, fortified with wine. I gulped it down.

“You’re a pathetic sight,” he said. “The ballads led me to hope for so much more.”

It seemed unwise to answer back, so I only regarded him: his strong-boned, scarred, pleasant face and sandy hair.

Looking at his face, I realized my mask was off. Not that it mattered now.

“Have some more,” he said, refilling the cup.

Once I had drunk it my shrunken belly was full to the point of discomfort. There was a sensual quality to the fullness, the warmth around me; things I hadn’t felt in far too long.

I drifted into feverish sleep, still wondering for how long he would let me live.
 
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Salacious Caitlin

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Part 2 ….
In a while I woke – I couldn’t tell how long a time had passed, but I was alive. And I needed to piss. I pushed back the coverlet.

I’d been so weak, so overcome, that I hadn’t realized I was naked under it. My bruised ribs stood out; my skinned knees – yes, they’d forced me down on them – were knobs between gaunt, saddle-sore thighs and bony pale calves. Only not the left one. That was swollen, purple-red around a white bandage.

Somehow, I stood, and hobbled across the carpeted floor to the garderobe. That was luxury for you. A separate room to piss in! I used it and washed my hands in the basin there and realized how inadequate that was when a lock of my black hair snaked into view over my shoulder: filthy, matted, and there was a louse clinging to a sticky strand. The Warden had seen my disgusting state, and had let me lie on his fine linens anyway.

Ashamed, confused, and hungry again, I crept back to the bed and pulled the coverlet over my wretched form; not a moment too soon, for the door opened and the Marshal walked in.

“Good,” he said. “You look a bit less like a corpse, Midnight – I can’t keep calling you that. It makes you sound like a cat.”

“A cat you are still deciding whether or not to drown,” I said.

He sat on a chair close to the bedside. “A wildcat, rather. But one assailed by wolves, I think. A pack of them. Is that how you came to be in such a desperate state? And what is your name?”

“Midnight,” I said, “for now. And… there’s no honor among thieves.”

Except there is; but I had broken it, when I misunderstood, when I took friendship for something more, when I allowed loneliness and desire to make me stupid.

I was not going to tell him that. I was still likely enough to be hanged as a thief. Better that, than burned as a breaker of the Goddess Brida’s laws.

“Well, cat, thief, whatever,” he said, “your leg must be cared for, before it kills you. You will have to trust my battlefield surgery.”

It would seem that I had no choice. And I didn’t want to ask why not just kill me, because it seemed some spell had made him forget that he ought to, and I didn’t want him to change his mind. So I nodded.

The next minutes… hours… were hell.

A hefty manservant came in at the Warden’s call, and held me down, or I could not have stayed still for it. Every touch of the Warden’s big, calloused hands on my infected wound was agony. But worse was to come. I caught a fold of the coverlet between my teeth and bit down hard to keep from screaming as he searched the wound, probing it with forceps, finally after a century of torture finding the ball and drawing it out in a rush of pus that made me sick to smell it. Tears streamed down my face. I thrashed convulsively, even with the manservant forcing me down into the featherbed with all his weight, until the Warden had to keep my leg still by kneeling on it, and then…

And then he heated the forceps in the fire and cauterized the wound.

Lost to all control, I spat out the cloth and let out a string of curses. Bastard, I called him. Torturer. Fucking shite-arsed son of a plague-sick sow. And more.

He only finished what he was doing, and bound the wound. The manservant left. The pain lessened a little. “Bravely borne,” he said. I heard mockery.

“Fuck you,” I said.

“You would have preferred for your leg to rot off and kill you?”

“No.” I tried to slide my leg away from him, and instantly regretted it. “I place… no blame… “ Fuck, my leg hurt. “On you for defending yourself. I would have shot you.” Actually, I was not sure I would have. It’s bad policy for a highwayman to kill; it makes his victims much more likely to fight back the next time. Besides, I had been busy collapsing into the snow like a puppet with its strings cut.

But let him think that I would have done it.

“No doubt,” said the Warden.

I lay for a while, trembling in the aftermath of pain, ashamed of the way my breath was still unsteady. He regarded me silently. His eyes were blue; a blue too cheerful for his stern face or the pain he had just caused me.

“Stop whimpering,” he said after a while. “A pistol ball in the leg is the least you deserve, thief.”

I clenched my jaw to silence myself, wishing that I had my rapier, and strength to run him through with it.

“And you will admit to no name beyond ‘Midnight, the dread highwayman’, as the broadsides have it, nor tell me how you came to be in such a state. But we must speak, cat, of what happens next.”

‘Cat.’ I was nobody’s pet. I said, “I want a bath. If your Wardenship doesn’t mind.”

“That will help somewhat with the smell,” the Warden said.

I had not really considered that the same manservant and another one almost indistinguishable from him would be called in carrying a tub, nor that I would be so weak they would have to help me bathe without getting my wound wet, but at least the Warden did not stay to observe this awkward procedure. The hot water and soap felt so good I did not resist being embarrassingly bathed like a small child.

He hadn’t spoken my name in front of the servants, but the coachman would surely have talked. There would be no question of who I was. I wondered what the servants would do. There was quite a price on my head. On the other hand, they might not wish to disobey their lord, who seemed to want me alive, for now.

In any case there was nothing I could do about it.

Finally I was back abed, my black hair untangled and free of lice, hanging in a damp curtain to my waist. The manservant left. The Warden returned, with another servant, a kind-faced, plump woman, and she was carrying a tray of food.

Real food. Buttered oatmeal cakes and cream and honey. Even through my throbbing pain and lingering fever, I was immediately ravenous. When she set the tray down by me I fell upon it like a starving wolf, unable to make myself be mannerly.

I looked up at one point and saw him watching me lick honey from the back of my hand.

Blue eyes.

Watching, with a little, pleased smile.

In a little while, he rang the bell that stood by him on a table of inlaid wood, and when the woman appeared, told her, “Bring more; and some of the roast chicken, and milk to drink.”

I ate that just as wolfishly. After all, I might be hanged tomorrow. And I was so hungry.

Blue eyes. Smiling. Watching me. Raking over my bones.

(End of Chapter 1)
 

Clandy Caine

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What a great start! I like how the story began in the middle of the action rather than with expository info about your characters and their world so that those details can be revealed gradually over time. I’m really looking forward to the next chapter!
 

Salacious Caitlin

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Chapter 2



"I had sworn to myself only a few days ago that I was no man’s pet. But that was before the chocolate."


After that, I did not see him for two days.

On the first morning, I hobbled to the door at the sound of a knock and found the woman and the manservant there. She was carrying a tray with some honey, almond and berry confection and chocolate, actual dark, creamy, rich chocolate in a large cup, but I restrained myself from snatching it from her and diving in face-first. The man – who was about my age, and had an appealing, open, freckled face, now that he wasn’t holding me down while I screamed – had a stack of wood for my fireplace, and a bag over his arm.

It was embarrassing that these people had been hard at work while I sat in an armchair in the velvet dressing-gown I had found over the foot of my bed. I was not from a noble family, nor used to being served. “Let me take that,” I said, reaching for the firewood.

But he shook his head. “No, indeed, sir. You are a guest and must rest that leg,” and he busied himself at the fireplace, while the woman set the tray on the small inlaid table and smiled encouragingly at me.

Was I a guest? That was reassuring to hear. I said, “Thank you both very much. May I know your names?”

“Aithya, dear,” the woman said, and the man said, “Cassinii, sir. But people just call me Cass.”

“You needn’t call me sir,” I said, though then it occurred to me that I was not about to tell them my real name. “I’m grateful for your hospitality, which I don’t doubt has saved my life.”

I was hoping to make friends of them, to learn what the Warden intended for me; but they only smiled, and left fairly quickly, though not before Cass handed me the bag, which proved to contain my shirt and breeches, laundered and mended.

Then I wolfed down the food. Where did the Warden get such things? Most of it was not grown within hundreds of miles of here. He must be fabulously rich.

And he seemed to want to treat me kindly. Why?

Maybe he was like myself, a breaker of Brida’s law – but no, that was impossible, stupid to even consider.

But didn’t it make some sense? A man of power, able to keep someone in secret – especially someone with a price on his head and not a penny to his name – always assuming the servants would not talk. A clandestine, cosseted paramour. I found myself exploring that idea. After all, I wasn’t ill-looking; I was of medium height with a muscular frame (at least when I wasn’t a rack of bones with an incongruously protruding belly from breakfast); I had a fashionably waist-length mane of black hair; all of my teeth were present and quite white; my eyes were hazel and a girl had once told me she envied my long lashes, although it was true she had been a tavern whore and probably angling for business. Still, it didn’t seem absolutely impossible.

The Warden wasn’t hard to look at himself, and I guessed him to be about forty years of age, so it was strange he seemed to have no wife.

So… maybe.

It could do no harm to muse upon it, to let my imagination run free, to let my hand slide down over the slight bulge of my full belly, and wrap around my cock while I thought about what the Warden might want with me.

After all, there was nothing else to do but stare out the window and wait for the noon-day meal.

Aithya brought food three times a day; and what food. I had never had such things, even before I was thrown out of my father’s house. Apricot compote with cream. Chicken in cinnamon sauce with rice. Coddled eggs on white bread – well, I’d had that before, but not the savory green sauce drizzled over it. Sweetmeats whose flavors I couldn’t even identify.

I thanked her for it politely every time, and devoured it to the last morsel. I was starting to wonder, in truth, at my hunger. Yes, it had been a hard last month or so – winter is a bad season to make your living robbing travelers – and even before my companions cast me out, we had all been lean and irritable as alley cats. Then I had literally eaten nothing for a week, drunk nothing but snowmelt. Still, the intensity of my desire for food was surprising.

She also brought water to wash with, and a razor and a small mirror with which to shave. Clearly, the Warden was not very concerned that I would slash my way out of this warm, well-fed captivity. Nor was I about to. Everything I could see outside the (expensive, glass-paned) windows was white with snow, and my leg still hurt. I could put little weight on it. Since there was nothing to read in the room, I spent most of my time when not eating asleep, or fretting over what would happen to me, or pleasuring myself thinking what might happen, if I were lucky.

I tried to engage Aithya and Cass in idle conversation, but it seemed they had been told not to linger with me.

But there was one bit of converse of note. On the second day, when Aithya brought my evening meal – rice and spicy chicken and succulent vegetables and more apricots in cream and white bread and smoked fish and an actual goblet full of chocolate – and I thanked her, she said, “You’re a dear boy. Not what I expected from a highway robber. Take it from me: it will go easier for you if you don’t resist.”

Before I could query, she shut the door and was gone.

What would I wish to resist? Of course, I thought immediately of sensual advances. I had every intention of submitting to those, if I got the chance. To have a position in a rich household, warm and fed, while enjoying untold forbidden delights? Wouldn’t I take that in an instant?

Even if it means losing my freedom? Becoming a rich man’s housecat?

I had sworn to myself only a few days ago that I was no man’s pet. But that was before the chocolate.

I wasn’t sure.
 
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Salacious Caitlin

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"Very softly, very gently, he pulled the coverlet down, exposing me further."

De Valeriano visited me again on the third day, coming in after Aithya had already brought my evening meal, so that he walked in on me ripping the flesh from a chicken leg with my teeth, butter smeared over my face and my mouth full. I swallowed hastily, wiped my face, and said, “Sorry. I do have manners. Despite not being a lord like your Wardenship.”

“Don’t trouble yourself,” the Warden said, sitting down in one of the chairs and stretching his booted feet out to the fire. “How is your leg?”

“Better.” It still hurt; it was still hard to walk, but the infection was gone. “Thank you. And for the shelter, and the food… I find myself so hungry. I’ve never felt the like.”

“I’ve seen it,” he said. “On campaign, when men have gone hungry for a long time or been starved as prisoners.”

“Does it go away?” It had occurred to me that sooner or later all this gluttony was going to have an ill effect, especially if I could not manage to leave the room.

“Sometimes,” the Warden said. “In time. Don’t concern yourself with it.”

“If I may ask,” I said, “I am grateful, truly, but I would know what you intend with me. You would have handed me over to the Watch by now if you were going to.” I hoped that was true. “How will I repay you for your hospitality?”

He looked at me, but I couldn’t read anything at all in his blue eyes. “We’ll talk about that later. Finish your dinner.”

But I wanted to keep him talking. I needed to learn more, and besides, I was starved for conversation. “Will you tell me of the wars? Rumor calls you a hero against the goblins.”

“They are more properly called Others,” he began, and went on to tell me tales of the inhuman enemy and their sharp teeth and swift arrows, while I finished the meal. Like every meal I had been served here, there was almost more food than I could manage; but not quite.

“Now,” he said, when I have finished. “Will you tell me your real name? How did you come to be a highwayman? And what went wrong?”

“My name is Corvus,” I said, leaning back to ease the pressure on my painfully full gut, “and my father, who is a wine merchant in Northwick, cast me out four years ago, when I was nineteen, so I chose to go on the road rather than join the army. You have just made that sound like a very good decision.”

“Indeed,” he said. We had been soundly defeated by the Others, and could only consider ourselves lucky that they lived far away across the ocean. “Why were you cast out?”

It was because he had caught me and one of our delivery man locked in a kiss. It was the only kiss I’d ever had other than those I’d pretended to enjoy from girls in taverns, so as not to give myself away, and it was the closest to lovemaking I’d ever gotten. I had paid a high price for it.

“We differed,” I said.

“And then? You were all the rage for a while. I swear the noble-born idiots were vying for who could get themselves robbed by the dashing Midnight next.”

“I fell on hard times this winter,” I said. “Nobody ever survives as a highwayman for long.”

That was true. But also true that if a highwayman is an idiot, if he mistakes his handsome comrade’s friendship for something more, if, while they’re curled up together by the fire for warmth, he says something stupid like, “Do you want to… I thought maybe…” and puts his hand on the other man’s thigh, his career is likely to be a good deal shorter.

I had only myself to blame.

It still hurt that he had told the others, who were sleeping, what I had done; that they would not forgive my lapse, or believe me when I lamely tried to claim I had only been dreaming about pretty Melospiza at the tavern.

And I had liked the horse they stole from me, too.

The Warden was looking at me, narrow-eyed. It was obvious he suspected there was more to that story. But he only said, “A wine-merchant’s son? You can read and write, then?”

“And do accounts.”

“Very good.”

Now, surely, he would tell me what he wanted?

But he only said, “Since you can read, I will have some books sent up. Good night.”



He left, and, frustrated, I went to bed. But that was not the end of the evening.

I was nearly asleep and the fire had burned low, and I was cuddled up under the goosedown, listening to the wind, when I heard the door creak open.

Four years of evading the Watch had taught me alertness and caution. The sound woke me from my drowse immediately. But it was the Warden; it must be. And now was the time to find out if my daydreams might be true. Pretending to be asleep, I sighed, turned, let the coverlet slip from my shoulder, baring my body to the waist.

Quiet, quiet footsteps across the floor, as my skin prickled in the cold. The slight warmth of his presence as he stood over me, the sound of hushed but rapid breaths, the smell of musk and leather. It was impossible to lie still. I turned a little, mumbled, still feigning sleep.

Very softly, very gently, he pulled the coverlet down, exposing me further.

And then he touched me, but not as I’d expected. He put his fingers on my belly, which was still distended from dinner, pressing them in gently where a little softness was beginning to gather around my navel. I felt my flesh quiver a little under his hand.

And then I heard his indrawn breath, and he turned, and in a moment I heard the door softly close.

I sat up in bed.

What the hell was that?

End of Chapter 2
 

Salacious Caitlin

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Chapter Three
"I couldn’t get the top button done without holding my breath."

More time passed; I lost track of the days. Aithya continued to bring huge meals, no two the same; I continued to gobble them with uncontrollable hunger. Cass brought wood and, twice, water and the bathtub – I did not need his help to bathe anymore. Though my leg still hurt and I could not put my full weight on it.

Outside the window, the snow kept falling as if it would never stop.

The Warden came into my room now and then, unpredictably, and nothing was said of his intentions, and there was no repetition of his late-night visit, no matter how I burned to know what he had wanted, and what he would do next.

The priesthood of the Goddess would have required public penance of him for even as much as he had done already. What I had done, in making an advance to my friend, would have been grounds for death. Brida is a Goddess of spring and sowing, harvest and reaping, foals and babies and births. That which cannot produce offspring is anathema to her; or, at least, so the priests say. Maybe De Valeriano was uncertain if he wanted to risk a fiery death for the favors of an outlaw he’d first seen bone-skinny and with lice in his hair. I could not blame him.

Then, one night, he walked in while I was eating the most recent gargantuan meal. He returned my greeting, said, “Go on with your dinner,” sat down, and proceeded to watch me.

The unabashed stare of his bright blue eyes was something I still had not gotten used to. Especially as the last weeks had seen an increasing change. I still had on my own shirt and breeches, which Aithya had taken to wash several times in the interim. But the effects I’d feared, of gluttony and being pent up in one small room, were definitely beginning to show. More quickly than I would have thought possible, a soft bulge of fat was pushing its way over the waistband of my tight riding breeches, and I couldn’t get the top button done without holding my breath. The softness continued in a roll around my waist, all the way to my back. And if I got up to fetch the velvet dressing-gown to hide in, pretending I was cold, the Warden would get a very good look at how much softer and rounder my arse had grown.
None of this stopped me from finishing my meal, and if he hadn’t been watching I would have licked the plate, but I felt my face redden under his stare.

“I’ve decided,” he said.

I hurriedly drained the last few sweet drops of chocolate from the tankard. “About me, my lord?” I tried to look as appealing, as unlike a man who might perhaps deserve to be hanged from the nearest gallows tree, as possible; hoping he couldn’t see that the second button of my breeches had now come undone under the pressure of my increasing belly.

His gaze on me was intense. Hungry, even.

He said, “You’re well-spoken, well-mannered, literate and numerate. Perfect, in other words, for a gentleman’s assistant. I have need of such.”

“My lord, surely you did not need to capture a secretary by putting a pistol ball in his leg. They are not so hard to find as all that.”

The Warden laughed. “No, indeed. But I’ve taken a liking to you. And more importantly, Midnight – I’ve come to like that name; it suits you perfectly. You have things you do not wish known, and so do I. In particular, I think we share a certain reluctance to obey one of the Goddess’ supposed laws. Do I need to explain to you which one?”

“No,” I said, hoping I was right, because there were, after all, many laws.

“In effect, you will be a servant in my household. But most of your duties will not be difficult. Clothing and food…” He smiled at the word ‘food’, and glanced at the conspicuously emptied dishes on the table. “Those will be provided you. But you must swear to obey me in everything without question, Midnight. You must take me as your lord. You must rein in your rebellious nature.”

I thought about all this for a little while. “Forgive me, Warden,” I said, “I know this sounds naïve… I am not well experienced in such matters.” Or at all. My face felt flaming red. “Do you mean that we would be lovers?”

He laughed again, though not unkindly. “I mean that you would be my concubine.”

That did not seem like exactly the same thing, but the thought was instantly swept away by the realization that he wanted me. I could scarcely breathe, and did not know what to do next.

He said, “Do you consent to this? If not, you may go. I will even make you the gift of a warmer coat. Though I will not enable robbery by giving you your gun back.”

Sleet rattled against the window as if trying to break into the warm, firelit, soft-carpeted, roast chicken-smelling room.

Awkwardly, heart pounding, I began to undo the laces of my shirt.

“Ah, not yet,” the Warden said, though the smile broadened on his scarred face. “There is a question you have forgotten to ask, Midnight. When you accompany me to the court in Anthusbourne, or when I entertain company, how will you escape being recognized, and taken by the Watch?”

“Oh,” I said. “But I always had a mask on whenever I stopped travelers.”

“That’s not enough to be sure you are well disguised. After all, it would be an inconvenient scenario for me as well, were you to be taken. No, you will be unrecognizable. You are already well started on your way.”

I blinked stupidly. “My lord?”

“You will become exceedingly fat,” the Warden said. “You’ve already plumped up astonishingly well. Unrestrained gluttony seems to come naturally to you. But I’ll make you expand further, until you’re rolling in your fat, until your flesh wobbles and jiggles on your heaving bulk as you struggle to walk across a room. Nobody will ever guess that the mass of lard they see before them was once the body of a dashing highwayman.”

Was the image he conjured up desperately arousing to me? Or was it the thick heat of lust I could hear in his voice? Whatever it was, I was throbbing hard against the seam of my too-tight breeches, but I managed to say, “But… but then how will I defend myself?”

“You will never have to. You will be under my protection.”

“You want me… that way,” I said, realizing perhaps a little late the significance of the sumptuous meals, the fingers on my belly in the night. “When you say I would be your concubine, you mean after…”

“After you become fat enough to please me,” the Warden said. “Yes.”

“But not… yet.” Frustrated desire burned on my skin.

“By the looks of you, it won’t be long until you are as ripe as a fruit ready to burst its skin and fall from the tree,” he said. “Now. Do you consent?”

I didn’t know if I wanted to become enormously fat. Maybe I did, although it had never occurred to me before. Maybe it was only the sound of his voice, describing it. But I did want to be touched for the first time in my life. And I did want to be safe, and to have a future other than the gallows… and to be fed.

“I consent,” I said.

“I thought you would.”

“May I possibly,” I said, “have another tankard of chocolate?”
 

Salacious Caitlin

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Chapter Four, Part One (This chapter gets more explicit.)
"I was the fattest person I had ever seen."

I couldn’t breathe.

I couldn’t breathe, already, and the noose wasn’t even yet around my neck.

“Get your fat arse up there!” the leather-armored Watch sergeant shouted at me, loudly so the crowd could hear, and poked me in the rump with the tip of his halberd. The crowd roared with laughter. There must have been a hundred or more of them, all gathered at the scaffold to see me meet my fate.

The wooden stairs up to the scaffold were narrow and creaky. My arse swayed as I started up them. My thighs pressed into the soft hanging weight of my belly, and my shirt pulled out of my breeches, baring pale, soft bulges and rolls. The effort made me gasp for air.

But not as hard as I would be gasping in a moment.

“Feed him more,” somebody yelled from the crowd, and somebody else responded, “Fatter than my prize hog!”, and a rotten turnip sailed through the air to scarcely miss my head.

I reached the platform and stared out over the crowd, making my face as stony as I could. I wouldn’t beg for my life. I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of seeing that I heard their poor attempts at humor.

“He’s a big one!” the hangman announced, to a wave of laughter. “Watch carefully, good people! With a bloated bastard like him, the noose will probably pull his head right off! You don’t want to miss that.”

Nobody was riding to rescue me. I knew that already. But, as I fixed with the crowd with a cold glare, I saw… him. Standing in the front, a mocking smile on his handsome face, taking in every curve and dimple of my vastly fattened form.

Then I wanted to cry. But I forced myself to stay expressionless as the hangman fixed the rough rope noose around my neck.

“Have you any last words, Corvus Boteler’s-son, known as Midnight?”

“Fuck you all,” I said.

He tightened the noose. It dug into my chins.

And then the trapdoor under my feet vanished. My weight shot downward.

Strangling. Thrashing. Couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t…



I woke up spasming and thrashing in a frenzy of pleasure, feeling myself spurt onto my belly.

As I calmed into wakefulness, I realized that of course I was in my bed in the Warden’s manor house, and my throat was sore, because I had been snoring and choking for breath in my sleep, something I had never done before the last few weeks.

I got out of bed and, still shaky from the dream and its explosive conclusion, used a cloth to clean myself. My belly was not as big as it had been in the dream. But it had certainly surged in size since De Valeriano had told me of his desires. The cloth felt pleasant on the pale, swollen softness, and on my newly broad and dimpled thighs, and the roll of fat now thickening my hips.

The Warden had given me a salve “to keep your skin looking as pretty as it does now”, and I smoothed the white musk-scented cream obediently over my skin, rubbing and stroking and unable to resist a little jiggle of my belly. My cock rose up again. But the Warden had said, very strictly, that I was not to pleasure myself. “I want you ready to burst,” he had said.

I hoped he would not blame me for involuntary explosions in my sleep. I was not planning on telling him about it.

He hadn’t touched me yet. Several weeks had passed, and I was much fatter, and throbbing with frustrated lust. It hardly seemed natural to soften and expand so quickly. But I had never known anyone who was my age and fat – there were middle-aged men who were burly and thick, and plump women past their first youth, but nobody young, in my world, had money and leisure to fatten. This must be simply a natural result of the luxurious meals Aithya was bringing me five times a day now. I was just as ravenously hungry for them as I had been at first, when my ribs could have been counted.

Speaking of meals, my stomach growled. It was time for breakfast. And I was going to eat it all and ask for more.

I was determined that today should be the day. I had to be fat enough for the Warden now. Had to, because I couldn’t bear waiting any longer.

Since he had told me of his desires, he had visited me daily, nearly always when a meal was served; he would watch me with his blue stare -- that, now I knew what he was thinking, had begun to make me blush and sweat and try to think of unappealing topics, lest I embarrass myself. Then we might talk – but it was mostly him talking, telling me tales of the court or the war – or we might play Boxes and Monsters. I hated that game, which he had decided to teach me; I could never remember how each piece was to move, or what verse I must recite every time I began my turn (it seemed there were hundreds, and an error would result in a forfeit). Give me an honest, or even rigged in my favor, game of dice at the White Rose Tavern, with me pretending to flirt with Melospiza while secretly gazing at him, and the fresh wind in my face as I galloped my horse down the open road, and…

But that life was over, I reminded myself. I had slammed that door with my own hand. And, that being so, I wanted my new life to start.

I found my old breeches, clean and mended, and began to put them on.

They came up to just above my newly dimpled knees, and stopped.

By the time I’d yanked the fabric over my plump, soft thighs, I was panting with the effort, and seams were splitting. The breeches fastened with horn buttons up the front. I tried, fumbling, to do them up. Bulges of wobbling belly kept me from seeing what I was doing, and got in the way. I held my breath, and tried to suck in the pale avalanche of lard. Finally, with sweat running down my face, I managed to force the upmost button through its hole. Victory!

And then I realized that the large, round, jiggling globes of my buttocks were still exposed, pressed upward by the breeches’ waistband like a lady’s breasts by a corseted bodice.

“Damnation!”

I undid it all, then pulled the straining fabric over my huge arse to the sound of popping stitches. Now for the belly.

By lying down on the bed and straining heroically, hands invisible below my own bulk, I got the buttons done.

Most of my belly hung down over the waistband. The buttons pressed hard into the soft flesh that had begun to burgeon above my cock, and the crotch was almost painfully tight. I had a full-length mirror in a gilt frame, which Cass had carried into my room the week before. I looked at myself in it.

I was the fattest person I had ever seen.

I was a pale, bulging flower of fat, stuffed into the obscenely tight stem of my breeches. Above the waist I had not fattened so dramatically, but my face was fuller than it had been and my jawline heavier, while my arms and chest looked rounded and succulent. My black hair, thick and shining, fell to my waist.

I turned to see the roll of flesh pushed up all around my waist by the breeches, the second roll that started under my arms and ran around to my back, the fabric stretched almost transparent across my arse, which bulged out and hung down, looking soft as a pair of pillows. My belly curved outward and sideways as well as hanging down, swaying and rippling as I moved.

How I wanted to tear off the breeches and pleasure myself, but I had been trying to obey the Warden’s stricture, and I was not going through the struggle to get them on again. He was going to rip them off me. I was determined that it should be so.

I waited.
 

Salacious Caitlin

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Chapter Four, Part 2 -- (Explicit, and not necessarily nice. We're learning a little more about the Warden.)

"Midnight, are you a virgin?"


It seemed as if centuries passed, but late in the morning, the Warden came in – without knocking, he never knocked, but I heard him at the door in time to stand by the window in what I thought would be a flattering light.

He came in, paused, looked, and a smile spread across his lean, tanned face. “Well. You have been making progress.”

“I think so, my lord,” I said, running my hands down my soft flesh, squeezing. “Is this what you wanted? I find myself most unwilling to wait any longer.”

He strode toward me and seized the bulge of my belly where it hung down over my waistband, grasping it hard and pulling me toward him with powerful, calloused hands. I nearly lost my balance, and caught myself with my hands on his shoulders. He was a little taller than I was, and he steadied my bulk with no apparent effort at all. “You do not say when it is time. And you’re not nearly fat enough yet.”

“I won’t beg for it,” I said, staring up into his eyes.

“You will,” he said, staring back.

His hands continued to grip my belly, and now they moved to my flanks, squeezing and hefting my flesh. The touch, and his closeness, had a powerful effect on me: my cock sprang to life. The added increment of pressure was too much for my abused breeches. The buttons burst open, one of them tearing off and shooting across the room like a pistol ball, and my flesh surged free of its constraint.

“Well,” the Warden said. I could feel his breath quicken under my hands. “Perhaps you do… deserve a small reward.”

I put my face up to his, thinking he would kiss me, but he chuckled deep in his throat and bit me gently on the tender skin of my neck, all the while pulling me even closer to him, grinding his slim hips into my softness.

Then, “Get down on the bed. And get those rags out of my way.”

I obeyed, kicking the torn breeches from my ankles, and lay down on the bed, shivering with desire.

“Not like that. On your face. Arse in the air.”

I did that.

“Soon…” He was panting. I glanced around. He was stripping off his fine clothing, revealing himself lean and muscled and rampant. “Soon you will be so fat…” He joined me on the bed, behind me, slapping my arse. “Your belly will rest on the bed when you’re on all fours like this. That’s how fat I’m going to make you. Fatter.”

“Yes,” I gasped, hardly knowing what I was saying, and having no idea what would happen next, only that it was what I had always wanted.

He took a bruising hold of the roll of fat around my flanks, pressed his hips against my arse, and—

Oh Goddess and all Her saints that fucking hurt.

He thrust. I was being torn apart.

I knew it hurt for women, the first time, but I hadn’t expected… this. I’d been shot, run through with a rapier, kicked by horses, beaten, and this felt just as bad and my first instinct was to fight back.

But I couldn’t. I had made a bargain. I had to please him, even if something was wrong with me, and all my muscles were tense and I was stifling curses and cries of pain in the pillow.

He stopped the agonizing thrusting. “Midnight?”

“My lord,” I managed to say.

He drew back, and the terrible thing I had wanted so badly only moments ago was withdrawn. “Midnight, are you a virgin?”

Of course I’m a fucking virgin! “Yes,” I said.

“I had thought people of your sort were buggering each other without restraint, in your low haunts.”

“No,” I said. “Not in any low haunts of which I am aware.”

He turned aside from me, flipped onto his back and let out a laugh. “I see! Well, some work will be needed before you’re broken to a rider. Never fear, a little salve will do the trick.”

I hoped so. I lowered myself to lie on my side, facing him. “My lord, I would hope to do something to pleasure you now, today.” In truth, I was not feeling particularly cooperative just now. But I had made a bargain, and the freezing sleet was pouring down outside.

“Have you never even sucked a cock?”

“No,” I said, “but surely you can teach me?”

“I can,” he said. “Come over here.”

End of Chapter Four
 

Salacious Caitlin

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Location
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Chapter Five -- Some explicit bits at the start, and the plot continues to thicken in all directions

"You should know there have been others…”

The whole time – even as he told me what to do, how to relax my throat and take his huge manhood deep, how to run my tongue around its swollen head until he gasped with pleasure – he was telling me how fat he was going to make me. How my belly would grow so big that it forced my knees apart when I sat and hung almost to them when I stood and hit the bed when I was on all fours. How my thighs would rub together when I walked. How my arse would be too wide to fit in a chair. How I would have rolls of fat so deep and soft he would fuck them, he would fuck my belly, and as he said that his hips started to thrust and he shot hot, salty spend down the back of my throat.

I swallowed it all and let him see me lick my lips as if wanting to be filled with more. At his words and his taste and smell and the sight of him, hard-muscled and broad-shouldered on the bed, my own cock had come back to exuberant life.

“Touch it,” he said. “Stroke yourself. I can see you’ve done that before. Yes. Can you touch your belly with it? Can you fuck yourself?”

I was well-endowed with both manhood and belly, and when I gently coaxed my cock upward, the head brushed the soft downcurve of my stomach. That was enough. I cried out and exploded in ecstasy.

As I lay on the bed panting and shivering in the aftermath, he said, “Soon, you’ll be able to reach that state just by jiggling and bouncing your paunch as it sits in your lap. And you’ll have to. Because you’ll be too fat to reach your cock. Will you like that?”

“Yes,” I said, already hardening again. Was it what he was saying, the idea of it? Or was it just that someone wanted me, would touch me, would let me touch him? I wasn’t sure, but I said, “Make me fatter. Please. So much fatter,” and loved the look I saw on his face.



This was not to be my last adventure of the day.

After the mid-day meal, which should have been ample for two men but which I devoured with unabated greed, Cass appeared at my door. He was carrying a greatcoat and a pair of boots. “He’s decided that you shall have some exercise in the yard.”

I was not at all averse to getting out. However much pleasure I’d had in the bedroom, it was still a small room, and through the window I could see that the sky was clearing and the sun was shining on the cobblestones. I put on the boots – low-cut gentleman’s walking boots, not the thigh-high horseman’s gear I’d had before, which was just as well because they would not have fit over my new thighs – and the coat, which looked big enough for a horse blanket but fit me perfectly.

“Lean on my arm,” Cass said.

I thought I would not need his assistance. But I did.

It was not stairs from my third-floor room, but a long ramp leading downward. It seemed to have been built to make it easier for a very large person to negotiate (or perhaps to be rolled up and down in an invalid’s chair). Nevertheless, my injured leg still ached once I had taken a few steps, and I found myself gasping for breath, and was glad of the support. His muscular arm pressed into the softness of my side in a pleasant way.

The house was as well-appointed as I would have expected, and there were servants about whom I had not yet met. I said quietly to Cass, “Will nobody gossip about the Warden and his new aide?”

“Not if they value their lives,” Cass said, sounding perfectly matter-of-fact.

I was not sure what to think of that, but we went out into the walled, cobblestoned courtyard, and the sunlight and fresh breeze seemed to bring me to life. How had I endured to be captive for so long? A groom was leading a beautiful chestnut hunter across the yard, and a pair of dogs was running up to me.

And what dogs! These were mastiffs, their shoulders as high as a tall man’s waist, their black-muzzled heads enormous and jowly. They wore broad leather collars with links of chainmail sewn on to armor them. The female, slightly the smaller of the pair, reared up immediately and put her paws on my chest, breathing hotly into my face and wetting me with a certain amount of drool. I let go of Cass to scratch her behind the ears. The male, meanwhile, had pressed his tan coat against my legs and was buffeting me with his wagging tail.

“Grip,” someone was shouting. “Queenie! Come!” I saw a little, ill-favored man hurrying across the courtyard toward us. Cass, meanwhile, was laughing.

I had always been fond of animals. On several occasions it had been an embarrassment to coachmen when their swift, high-strung dogs, meant to guard coach and passengers from me, fawned on me instead.

The mastiffs left it until the last possible moment, when their handler – for this must be the Warden’s kennelman – sounded about to have an apoplexy, and then strolled in their rolling gait back to him, not at all sorry. He clipped leashes to their collars, then muttered at me, “Very vicious, they are. Mankillers. You try anything and you’ll see.”

“Heron, this is the Warden’s assistant,” Cass said reprovingly. “He is not about to ‘try anything’.”

Heron only went off with the dogs, muttering.

“Don’t laugh too much, though,” Cass said to me. “I’ve seen them take a thief down, when they were ordered to. But let’s walk. You were meant to get a bit of exercise.”

I was happy enough to take his arm again. Once we had gone beyond anyone’s earshot, he said to me, “I wanted to know… are the ballads true? Did you really rob the High Priest Migratorius and take his cloak, saying your mare needed a saddle-cloth?”

“That one is true,” I said. “The verse about robbing the judge who had been sent to sentence me is not. I made myself very scarce as soon as my friends broke me out of the jail.”

“So then,” Cass said, “you are the highwayman of the ballads, you are famous, so why are you letting yourself be made into this? I don’t mean… I don’t mean the weight, if that’s what you want. I don’t mean…” Here he looked around as if to make sure nobody was listening. “I don’t mean the other thing. That is why I continue to serve De Valeriano myself – because I know he will not turn me over to be burned for the attraction we both share.”

That was interesting.

“But,” Cass went on, “don’t you understand that you’ve made yourself his slave? He doesn’t love you.”

“I never expected him to,” I said, truthfully.

“But why didn’t you go to your comrades as soon as you could travel? I know he offered to let you go.”

“What comrades?” I heard the bitterness in my voice. “How do you think I ended up starving and dismounted on the road in the first place? My former friends would betray me, or simply kill me, if I met them again. I have nowhere else to go. At least the Warden seems willing to keep me.” And to feed me – such food – and to pleasure me. I wasn’t going to say that, but Cass’s glance at my bulging midsection suggested he had read my thoughts.

“Very well,” Cass said, “but you should know there have been others…”

Just at that moment, the Warden appeared, striding across the cobblestones. “I think that’ll be enough for one day, Cassinii. Come, Midnight. You must not tire yourself.”

As he took my arm and shepherded me back inside and up the ramp to my room, I thought about this. Of course there had been others. The Warden was an experienced man, wealthy, probably in his middle thirties; clearly I was not the first. But Cass’s voice had sounded as though he meant to warn me of something dire.

I was tired, though, short of breath even from that very short excursion, and a meal was waiting, beef cooked in pastry and mushrooms chopped up in butter and herbs and a tankard of chocolate. I could always think about all this later.
 

Salacious Caitlin

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Messages
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Location
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Chapter Six (Warning: Explicit)

"People will stare and laugh at you struggling across a room with your huge belly swaying to your knees and your arse bursting out of your clothes.”

The next evening, I lay on my bed: replete, from my dinner an hour before, but uneasy in my mind.

There had been no walk in the courtyard that day, and I was disappointed. The fresh air and sunlight had been so pleasant, and the chance, however brief, to converse had been welcome. I’d thought of opening my door and walking out myself. Why shouldn’t I?

It was only that I thought the Warden would not approve… and I was a little afraid to displease him.

And it made me angry that I was afraid. He couldn’t own me.

Except that in every way that mattered, he could.

Try not to think about it.

I was wearing a dark green velvet robe, with nothing underneath. I lay back on my pile of soft pillows and let the velvet slide away from the full-fed curves of my body.

My skin was very pale, luminous in the moonlight through the window; I had little hair on my chest and none on my belly, so my growing roundness echoed the moon. I rolled on my side to let my girth spread out across the coverlet. Looking down my body, I could see the thickening bulge over my ribs, a wide roll at my waist, and then the softening expanse of my arse and the line of my thigh, revealing a single dimple. Predictably, my cock hardened.

Even though a bulge of fat like a second, lower belly was growing above my cock, I could still reach it without much trouble – but I didn’t reach down and wrap my hand around it. Instead I rolled onto my belly, feeling the flesh squish and wobble underneath me. Soft weight pressed down on my cock.

It felt as good as I’d thought it would. I started to thrust my hips, pushing into the featherbed. My breath came fast. Fat jiggled on my back, my arse. The heavy cushion of my belly felt wonderful underneath me. I reached under my bulk, took my cock, pressed it upward into the warm soft weight –

A sound at the door. I immediately pulled my hand away and sat up, closing the robe, trying to look as if I’d been idle as the Warden walked in.

But why? Why shouldn’t I please myself? I was angry at myself for allowing him to make me submit, and perhaps it gave my smile an edge, because the Warden raised his eyebrows. “Your cheeks are red, Midnight. Have you been thinking lustful thoughts?”

“I’m out of breath from walking across the room, my lord,” I said. “That’s how fat you’ve made me.”

With satisfaction, I saw the immediate bulge in his breeches.

“You’re still a skinny waif,” he said. “You’re a rack of bones compared to the mountain of flesh you’re going to be.”

That still alarmed me a little. At the same time, thrills of shivery lust ran over my skin.

He stripped off his coat and shirt, baring his tanned, hard-muscled torso. “By the time we go to court in spring, you’ll waddle, not walk. You won’t be able to see your feet. People will stare and laugh at you struggling across a room with your huge belly swaying to your knees and your arse bursting out of your clothes.” He was removing his boots and breeches as he spoke, and stood before me naked, so aroused by his own words that a drop of moisture sparkled in the moonlight at the head of his swollen cock.

I lay back, letting the robe fall open, running my hands up my body, squeezing my fat, letting it bulge around my fingers.

He bent to his coat, got something out of the pocket – a little ceramic pot, such as might hold a lady’s rouge – and sat down on the bed next to me. “You want it. Tell me you want it, slut.”

I sat up and said, “I will not be called slut by you, especially not for doing what you wish of me. My lord.”

He didn’t react to my words. His expression didn’t even change. “Turn over,” he said. “Arse in the air. Just as you were enjoying yourself when I came in.”

I hadn’t thought he had seen that. I turned over, not sure now I was in any sort of mood for lovemaking.

“Spread your legs.” I felt his calloused hands on my soft inner thighs, urging them apart. “Hmm. You’re getting some dimples. And a nice overlap here, where your bellyfat wraps around your flanks and blends into these pudgy hips.” He pinched the roll of fat in question, making me gasp. “This arse is far too small.” He slapped it, sending ripples through my flesh. “But still ripe for riding.”

I didn’t want the pain from the night before. “Yes,” I said, but I knew my voice sounded uncertain.

“Calm yourself,” he said. I looked around to see him opening the little pot. A scent of rose attar wafted out. “Now spread those thighs a little wider.”

I obeyed. Then I felt his touch, two fingers coated in the creamy salve, pressing against my arsehole, working their way in. I tensed, expecting pain – but he was careful, almost gentle, and I felt my body stretch to let him in, and it started to feel good. I sighed. Began to relax.

Then he withdrew his fingers, and I heard slippery sounds and his fast breaths, and looked back to see him spreading the salve over the hard length of his cock. I gritted my teeth and waited for the pain, but he was slow this time, slow and inexorable and filling me completely, gripping the roll of fat at my waist to pull himself in deeper, thrusting harder now so that I felt my flesh rippling with the force of it, and he was hitting something inside now that felt so good I started to moan and push back against him to bring him deeper. “Slut,” he growled. “You’re going to fatten. So. Much.”

“Make me bigger. Make me into… a round ball… too fat to walk,” and when he heard that he screamed like a wildcat and I felt his scalding ecstasy shoot into me, and I came too, my seed shooting out onto my swinging belly, forgetting my uncertainty, forgiving all his roughness, he could call me anything he wanted, he could do anything as long as he would feed me fatter and push me over this edge of uncontrollable pleasure.

(End of Chapter Six)
 

Salacious Caitlin

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A short chapter, but now the plot will start to thicken. Speaking of, without a BHM of my own to experiment on, I hopefully don't have anything too anatomically improbable in any of these scenes. Let me know if something doesn't ring true.
 

Salacious Caitlin

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Messages
64
Location
California
Chapter 7
"I felt my belly growing, covering my lap, avalanching over my thighs."


The next day, I was allowed… allowed, it set my teeth on edge… to walk in the courtyard again with Cass. I made an effort not to need his arm, and was pleased to find I could walk without limping, although my thighs brushed together and it was difficult at first to balance my enlarged body. And the sensation of my rolls of fat jiggling and rubbing against each other was distracting in the extreme. Despite these challenges, I set out beside him across the cobblestones. It was a pleasant day, with a faint sound of birdsong coming from beyond the tall wrought-iron gates.

“We may have more time today,” Cass said. “I hope so.”

“As do I,” I said, “because I wish to know more about these others of whom you spoke. Where are they now? Am I a member of a whole harem of piles of blubber?”

Cass shook his head. “They are gone. But the Warden forbade me to speak to you of them.”

I looked around to see if anyone was listening. There was only Heron, walking the mastiffs on the other side of the courtyard; they strained towards us, tails wagging, but he pulled them back. “Cass, since I’ve come here it has been nothing but vague warnings. You say the servants are too afraid to gossip; Aithya warns me not to resist. This and that thing are forbidden. I expected a lord to be masterful. But there is something more to know. Isn’t there?”

“Are you regretting your decision to become, as you said, a pile of blubber in my lord’s service?”

“I have already told you why I made the choice. But he… I did not expect that he loved me. Still…”

“I’ve served the Warden for nearly ten years now,” Cass said. “I was his aide during the late war against Hesperica, and the expedition against the Others. He was wed, but his wife died before I came into his service. Of his other lovers… well, I cannot speak of them. But he has a cruel streak, Midnight. You must have experienced it by now. I think he finds you fascinating because of what you were, and how he can transform you. If he gives you pleasure it is because he is aroused by doing so, not because he feels he owes it to you. There is no kindness in him.” Hesperica was a country to the south, whence chocolate and many other delicacies were imported. We went to war with them now and then.

“Oh,” I said unhappily. But what he does to me feels so good. “Very well, then. A final question. Is something being added to my food?”

Cass laughed. “You have been here since midwinter, only three months, and have put on, I’d judge, seventy or eighty pounds? What do you think?”

“Hmm,” I said.

We continued around the courtyard. Cass said, very obviously trying to change the subject, “How did it happen that you went upon the road?”

“My father is a wine-merchant in Northwick; my mother died when I was born. I was a trial to him, too wild and too ready to laugh and not very interested in learning his business – and then he caught me with one of our deliverymen. A boy, really – I was nineteen and I think he was about the same – and neither of us truly knew what we were about or that it could rapidly convey us to the stake. My father caught us the first time we kissed, beat me half senseless and threw me out of the house.”

“What happened to the deliveryman?”

“He was let go. My father chose not to denounce either of us to the priests. He made a great noise about how benevolent he was being, as he was whipping me with the buckle end of his belt. I took the punishment at first, but the more he prated on the more angry I became until I stood up, snatched the belt from him, threw it in his face and rode away with his words of disinheritance ringing in my ears. Later, I sought out the man, wearing my mask and wide-brimmed hat so he would not recognize me, and found that he had gotten employment elsewhere.”

“You didn’t make yourself known to him?” We were near the stables now; horses put their heads out of their open stall doors and nickered to us.

“I was afraid; I had learned my lesson. It did not stick, however.” I went up to one of the horses, a glossy bay hackney meant for pulling a rich man’s carriage, and let him lip at my palm with his soft muzzle.

“You said as much.”

“There was someone.” Him. “I was mistaken in the nature of his friendship.”

“I thought all highwaymen took oaths to one another, never to desert their companions.”

“We did. ‘Never to desert my companions in any danger or otherwise, to the last breath.’ He broke it.”

“I am sorry to hear it,” Cass said quietly. “You have dared more than I. I had a lover, who served as a captain of horse in the war against the Others. We knew the Warden would not betray us, and that we were safe so long as no-one else saw.”

The bay was licking my hand for the sweat-salt on my palm. “You had good fortune,” I said.

“Until the Others shot him through with arrows,” said Cass.

I turned to look at him. “I am most sorry for your loss.”

Cass nodded, biting his lip, then said, “This is all too grim a conversation for a spring day. What do you say—shall we mount up and ride around the manor?”

“Are we allowed?”

“He has not forbidden it,” said Cass, leading the way into the stables.



Of course, I had once been able to leap upon my horse’s back without so much as using the stirrup, and gallop away at speed.

Of course, now, when the stablehand led out the heavy hunter – a handsome animal, well over seventeen hands tall and powerfully built – I did not dare to try that.

Still, I was a little surprised when I struggled to lift my foot high enough to get it in the stirrup, my heavy belly hindering me, and then I was astonished, not to say humiliated, when with one hand gripping the reins and a lock of the horse’s flaxen mane, and the other hand reaching for the pommel, I was unable to hoist my weight into the saddle. Instead, I landed back on the ground with an embarrassing thud. “Damnation,” I muttered, and tried again.

This time, as I struggled and strained to haul myself upward, Cass put his hands on my arse and pushed, and I landed in the saddle, red-faced. Cass was chuckling. “Very dashing, sir, if I may say so.”

The horse blew out his breath in a long-suffering manner, as if I were crushing him. I took a moment to arrange all the rolls and bulges and sensitive spots that had not existed the last time I sat a horse; who would have thought that a saddle had so many ways to poke and pinch a belly and an arse, not to mention a pair of pudgy thighs? But I got myself situated at last, and looked around to see that Cass had mounted a rather smaller animal. “Let’s go,” he said.

We rode out into the courtyard, made a circle of that, and then went behind the manor, into the gardens, which I had not yet seen. These were no formal aristocratic flowerbeds, but largely devoted to growing food. My horse resigned himself to my weight, especially as my balance began to return and I remembered my horsemanship so as not to rest quite so much like a sack of stones upon his back. We even trotted – although this caused a good deal of unrestrained jiggling of my flesh, which was both uncomfortable and wildly pleasurable.

The feel of Cass’s hands pushing deep into the plumpness of my buttocks was also, in truth, still with me.

After an hour or so, a servant came for us and said that the Warden wished to see me in his study. I dismounted, not very gracefully and scandalously sore, but extremely glad of the outing and the company. Grave thoughts, however, were foremost in my mind.

I could not do what I had once been able to. I had known that in a way, of course, but the ride had brought it home to me.

And Cass had strengthened my concern about the Warden. It was not only my innocence. There was cruelty there.

But I had made my choice, and must go forward with it. There was no alternative but to forge ahead, seeking what pleasure I might.

Telling myself that, I went in obedience to my master’s call.



Weeks passed. The weather warmed.

I wrote the Warden’s letters – nothing of a personal nature, but all to do with business and the management of his hands. ‘From the hand of Tyto de Valeriano, so signed.’ (He had never invited me to use his given name.) And ate Hesperican potatoes fried in butter.

On some days, I walked and rode; allowed to walk by myself now, but always riding with Cass as company and guard. The chestnut hunter, who was called Trueheart, became my customary mount (although he never failed to sigh, groan, and sometimes fart when I first settled into the saddle), and the mastiffs daily greeted us with wags and drool.

It was lucky that I had the exercise to strengthen my muscles a little. I was still fattening.

I did the Warden’s accounts. Those were complicated and difficult, for he had a great deal of income from various sources. An hour’s session required at least a tankard of chocolate for sustenance. I felt my belly growing, covering my lap, avalanching over my thighs.

Orders for new linen; bacon and pork shoulder cooked in beans.

Letters to managers of his estates; nuts and berries in heavy cream.

A summons for a tailor to come all the way from Anthusbourne to dress me for court in a manner appropriate to a lord’s assistant; two platters of meat-filled dumplings to celebrate.

He took me every day – sometimes two or three times. Often, he left bruises on my tender, swollen flesh. But it was worth it. So I told myself.

And at last, the day came when it was time to pack for court.
 
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