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Black Pearl 11

The Black Pearl of Pharazionby Cobalt Jade (cobaltjade@aol.com)Chapter 11: A Narrow EscapeThe next morning the silk had grown loose enough for me to crawl free of it on my own. I snuggled against Ajmid's warm chest. "What will you do now, Ajmid? Will you rally your allies in the city?”"Mmmm," he murmured sleepily, as if he hadn't thought of it. "Yes, of course. I will have to surrender the borzium mines to leave my own house, though.""If the rebels oust Shezrine--and I am certain they will--the loss will not matter. You can easily reclaim them.""True." He stretched and yawned. "And there are many families who will back us once they know of the true king’s return: the Anjuneen, the Zantongo, the Dhroon. The Dhroon in particular are powerful. They have been building their forces for many years, keeping them hidden in their cliffside keep."I jumped as a brisk knock came from the door. "Uncle Ajmid? Will you be eating dawnmeal with us?""No, my dear. I will take it in my room." In answer to my look he said, "That was Gerza, my niece. She was the little sprite who spanked you so soundly with her slipper last night."I tried not to show my shock. In Obn Dhregni even the families take their sensual pleasures together, sharing the household slaves between them. "Have any of the noble families tried to launch a coup themselves?""Shezrine has always been too powerful, and no one wants to suffer as her slave. If we had a sorcerous weapon to use against her, we might have a chance.""Is there such an object to be found around here?""Alas, no. Sorcery is not common in this part of the world. That is the reason why Subbobor Caramaithzes, Shezrine’s sire, found us so easy to conquer. He came from a place deep in the Rift, they say, where sunlight never falls, and magical devices take the place of light."I had spent a year in the city of Turufanx, which lay at least a mile below us, and so I knew what he meant. Small wonder Shezrine was so pale. Our dawnmeal came, and we dug into it with relish: pickled eggs, barley cakes, and flatbread fresh from the ovens. "In my land," I said, "there is a serpent known as the Jacomo. A mere prick from its fangs can kill a man in seconds. But it can be captured easily with a heel mashed against its neck. I swear I will find where Shezrine is vulnerable, and when I do, you will be the first to know. Can I beg you for some clothing, so I can make my way back to the inn with some modesty?"He shook his head. "You are a slave, my dear. Shezrine would ask questions if you were not returned with the others.""You are right," I sighed. I glanced out the window. The palace guards had come back for us and were assembling before the gate. The thought of being impaled on the litter again made me queasy.A broad grin crept across Ajmid's face. "It was not as bad as all that, was it? I remember your face as they carried you in last night. Caught between heaven and hell it was, as if you would die from the phallus playing double-time in your lovely little bottom.""Ajmid!" I scolded."Those rituals would not be followed if they did not create pleasure," he said logically. We finished our meal, then he took me downstairs. The row of litters waited in the courtyard. Ajmid did not speak to me in front of the others, keeping our relationship a secret, but he did plant a little kiss on my neck as he fixed me to the litter. Then the palace slaves bore me up and carried me away with the others.It was almost midmorning when we left the Ushroez estate. A cool, refreshing breeze blew in from the Rift. My bearers jogged me in a steady trot, switchbacking down the cliffside. I couldn't move my head because of the slave collar but knew we had missed a turn. Why weren't we going back to the palace?I strained to hear the guards' conversation over the jingle of the litter bells. "...Duke Ushroez be damned," one was saying. "If the slaves couldn't change his mind, she said take em' and sell 'em to the emissaries from Khardi. And make sure you get a good price for 'em.""Soiled goods," the other cracked, and they both laughed.Panic crackled in my ears. We weren't returning to the Queen. Instead, we were merchandise...destined for the lightless slave markets in the bowels of the Rift. I had heard that in Khardi human flesh often substituted for fowl and pork, as domestic animals did not thrive in continual darkness.I had to get free!Slowly I worked my wrists back and forth, trying to free them from the cords. I dared not be too obvious, lest the guards investigate. My nipples stretched on their leashes as I lifted my rear off the dowel. My arsecheeks struggled vainy as the dowel slid in and out of my rectum like a finger in a glove. If I wasn't so panicked, the sensations would have been pleasurable.But it was all for naught. Ajmid had tied me too tight, damn him!We continued to descend. Merchants lugged goods to market, housewives hung laundry. No one paid the slightest attention to my plight. If I couldn't get free, I would become a slave for real. Luckily we passed through a tunnel so were temporarily in the dark, and that gave me the chance I needed to jerk the ropes swiftly and hard. I felt the fibers part. I quickly untied my ankles and freed my bottom from the dowel, then unlocked the damnable nipple clamps that had tormented me. My nipples burned like two coals. I wouldn't be surprised if bruises showed up later.The white square at the end of the tunnel loomed larger. As soon as sunlight hit my naked back, I made my move. My litterbearers were caught by surprise as I quickly rose to my feet and jumped down hard on the wooden litter. Their sudden slackness, then recovery, acted like a giant spring to launch me gracefully into the air. I landed on a high wall at the side of the street, clutching a post to keep my balance.The abandoned litter ground to a halt. One of the guards happened to glance back, and cursed. "By the Ten Thousand tits of Tontaxir..."I scrambled over the wall, my rear end wagging him an appropriate farewell. "There she goes! After her!" I quickly assessed my surroundings. I was in a rooftop garden, soft grass and flowers beneath my naked feet. Before me, similar gardens and rooftops descended like giant steps down to the true edge of the city, where the cliff grew too sheer for building. I might escape by running from rooftop to rooftop as the guards milled in confusion below.A turbaned man with a mustache came out of a curtained door to my left. He dropped a flowerpot in surprise."I mean you no harm," I said quickly, holding out my arms in reassurance. "I'm a foreigner in the city and was attacked by some thieves, who drugged me and stole all my clothing. If you could find me some garb, even a simple cloak, I would be most...""Escaped slave!" the servant shouted. "She's up here!"I would get no sympathy from the inhabitants of the city, it seemed. Neither did I stand much chance of fooling them. I ran, shoving the servant aside as the first of the litter guards struggled over the wall.I had counted on eluding my pursuers in the dash from roof to roof, but I hadn't counted on the vigilance of the Obn Dhregnians. They called from the windows, pointed from the streets, yelled from laying bricks or mending sandals: "Escaped slave! Escaped slave!" I found out later they were well rewarded by the Queen for turning in escapees. Even the city's guardsmen took up the pursuit. They had no interest in curbing ordinary crime in the city, but took a special delight in capturing runaways, for they got to punish them personally. I leapt frantically from garden to garden, naked as a lima bean, my pursuers hard behind me. A dull warmth suffused my breasts as they bounced up and down, giving the citizens of the city quite a show. Not only that, but I'd forgotten to remove the clamp on my clit and the little organ was now dangerously irritated. "Stay right where you are, slave," a guardsman shouted, a sturdy net held out before him. I would not be captured like a common animal! "May demons gnaw your testicles," I spat, and flung the weighted clamp at him. It hit him hard in the bridge of the nose, and he gave an unmanly shriek and dropped the net. I knocked him aside and leapt to the rooftop below. I was doomed if I didn't find some clothing soon. Not only did my nudity attract attention, but also my pigmentation; I stood out like charcoal smear against the pale pink brick of the city. But the close pursuit gave me no chances to hide or disguise myself.Finally the merry chase led me to a dead end. Where I expected another rooftop there was only air, and a city square four stories below where a restive crowd gathered, no doubt attracted by the alarms sounding throughout the lower city. I couldn't help but shudder, for in my few days in the city I had noted how disobedient slaves were punished. Every square in the city had a high platform equipped with a variety of wooden frames and crosses, and recovered miscreants were bound there by their owners for the crowds to punish. For many citizens the high point of their day was lashing a helpless back or pair of struggling buttocks, often until the blood came.Of course, I was no more a slave than they were. But there was the question of why I was pretending to be one, and I might have to pay with my freedom. And from what I had seen of Shezrine, she wouldn't mind having a dark-skinned Pharazii slave at all!The litter guards were climbing up onto the rooftop behind me. I could have dispatched the four of them in seconds with my sword. But there was little I could naked and weaponless. I climbed out onto the ledge, keeping my back flat against the brick. The crowd roared beneath me. I couldn't tell if they were cheering for my escape or my capture. Probably both. My pursuers didn't dare follow. But they had me trapped here, and they knew it. There was nowhere I could go.A long silk banner spanned the street in front of me, a leftover from a recent festival. One end was tied to a gargoyle a few yards away, the other to a tower across the street. I judged the distance with my eyes. I might be able to make it. Might.I crept closer to the gargoyle, sidling along the edge of the building. I had only enough room for my heels. The crowd chattered excitedly at my bravery. I was putting on a good show for them. But they knew I would make a better show tied to the frame in the square, jerking under the thunder of their paddles.I reached the edge of the banner. I paused, scanning the crowd. It was now or never.I gave an ear-piercing shriek and leapt, grabbing the corner of the silk banner as I fell. As I hoped, the silk tore horizontally, carrying me, by my own body weight, swiftly across the street. Cries of mingled awe and dismay rose up to greet me as I zipped over their heads, my legs tucked up like an acrobat's. The momentum was enough to ease me over a high wall on the far side of the street where I tumbled onto soft grass, the long strip of silk I had torn fluttering down gently on top of me.I looked up to see a beautiful chestnut-haired woman, a priestess by her robes. Her eyes opened wide and her mouth started to say something. But I couldn't risk being apprehended. I knocked her down with my fist, the silk ribbon tangling in my legs. A slave net couldn't have done a better job. I couldn't afford the time to free myself, so I grabbed the trailing loops and fled, cursing, across the open grounds.I kicked open a utility gate and ran into a deserted alley. Not five seconds passed before the cry was taken up again: "Escaped slave!"My situation seemed hopeless. I was alone in the city, friendless and hunted. To make things worse, I had reached the edge of the city. Before me lay the vastness of the Rift, a sea of blue-gray emptiness that melted into the far horizon; to my right the river creamed over the city's lip. Countless tons of water would be little more than spray by the time they reached the bottom of the Rift some three miles down. Below me a series of rickety staircases descended into the booming mist, leading to platforms or caves further down. I took them without thinking twice. The cool vapors soon enclosed me, sealing me off from the outside world, and hopefully, my enemies. The maze of stairs and walkways was baffling, but I continued to descend, the worn wood shuddering under my tread. I spared a quick thought for the slave mates I had left behind. I sincerely hoped the tales I heard of Khardi were wrong. I would not want to be roasted alive on a spit, an apple in my mouth, as Khardinese banquet chefs basted me with oil. Much later in my career I was to have an encounter with them, but that is another tale.Before I knew it the walkway came to an end. Before me roared a sheer wall of water. Through gaps in the mist I saw flashes of a wide platform far below, perhaps a long-deserted cable car terminus. If I could rappel down, I would be safe. But I did not have the time, for the mob's heels were already thudding down the narrow platform.Unless....I quickly tied one end of the silk around my body in a sort of harness, crisscrossing my breasts and drawing the end through my legs. I tied the other end beneath the walkway where it wouldn't be noticed. A desperate plan drummed through my head. I was thinking of a childhood toy I had, a spindle on a string I could manipulate to perform tricks. I would throw it from me and watch it unravel; then, with a jerk of my wrist, I would reclaim it, the thread neatly rewinding around its core. That was what I intended to be. A spindle.I wrapped the silk ribbon tightly around my torso using the same technique the Duke had used last night. My nipples went hard as a pair of cherry pits at the memory. Practical knowledge had come of the experience after all. They were nearly upon me. I said a swift prayer to the gods--more out of habit than actual piety--and jumped, toes pointed, arms swept out from my sides. If they should look down all they would see were the white soles of my feet and the curve of my rump as I flew like a tern into the mist. The waterfall was powerful, but I was its companion, not its victim. Rainbows fled before my eyes; I was invincible. The feeling was incredible. I have often been tempted to try this stunt again, but common sense always talks me out of it. My destination flashed past me in a blur of gray and brown. I had overshot my mark...and reached the end of the ribbon.I gasped as the ribbon rebounded and jerked me back up for nearly its full length. I caught a quick glimpse of my pursuer's astonished faces; then, helpless, I fell again. This time a strong gust of wind carried me right into the waterfall.The water battered me like a thousand icy clubs and dashed me down again with it, faster than gravity it seemed. Water filled my eyes, my nose, my nostrils. This was a side cascade, not the main flow, but it was still very dangerous. If the silk stretched beyond the breaking point I would be swept away like a piece of flotsam. Like the river above, only pieces of me would survive the fall into the canyon three miles below.Though blinded and deaf, my heels found an outcropping of rock. I pushed back with all my strength and swung crazily out of the stream. I had time for only a brief gulp of air before I swung back. Again I pushed. I felt the silk shudder and slacken. Had the guards found my tether, were they pulling me up like a fish on a line?On my third rebound I slipped not into the cascade but *through* it, to the clifface beyond. Which was not a cliff but a cave, caught in the eternal twilight between water and stone, as was the sturdily built blonde woman who stood there, staring back in me in shocked surprise. I grabbed a handful of ferns and pulled myself up to the ledge. "Aylinn?" I sputtered."Jozhande?" she ventured cautiously. And no wonder, to see a familiar face suddenly pop out of a waterfall. "The one and only," I said, only a little forced, for I had been as surprised as she was. My lifeline trailed behind me. The end was frayed. If I had delayed only a few more seconds I would have been swept away and dashed to pieces against the rocks. "This may sound like an extremely stupid question, but what the hell are you doing here?""I could ask you the same thing," she said, and narrowed her long green eyes at me. Though we were both rebels I had not been a member for long, so she was less generous with her trust. I climbed unsteadily to my feet, yards of silk ribbon plastered tightly against my flesh. "I was disguised as a slave to fulfill a mission of the palace rebels. It was the only way I could meet with Duke Ushroez, as the Queen's guards were holding him prisoner on his own estate. Danger threatened, and I was forced to escape...as you see me now."The wet silk was sheer as tissue, revealing my nipples and the dark bush between my legs. Aylinn gave me a speculative glance. "Indeed," she said dryly.It was enough to tell me she was a *rezaba,* a woman-lover. I felt no alarm about it. Many amazons were full or part rezaba, though I myself far prefer that delicious and dangerous creature known as man. However, since I entered the city I was not so sure. How else could I explain my strange attraction to the Queen?"Have you a cloak?" I asked nonchalantly. "I do not want to catch cold.""You can borrow one of our uniforms, I guess." She took up a lantern from behind a rock and lit it with a piece of flint. "Don't worry, these caverns are owned by the Dhroon. They sent the rebels a message after you left with Shadow and offered us their help." The Duke had mentioned that name to me. "A noble family?""Uh-huh. And the most powerful, next to the Ushroez, because of their stymphads.""Stymphads? Here in the city?""It's a long story. As yours is, I'm sure. Let's get out of this goddamned spray and go inside where it's warm." She lifted her lantern and waved me into the tunnel.

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