This story was born of another Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge. We were to use this website to generate a random story title and write a sub-1000 word story. Mine were all awful, so I picked the least worst: “The Captive’s Male” .
This is what I done, 997 words.
“Bas,” Kerin said behind me. I turned, shading my eyes from the oppressive red sun. I tweaked my face wrap to keep the sand out. “Bas, just a minute.”
“Kerin, my love,” I caught him under his armpits as he stumbled and eased him to the soft sand. The almost total black of his skin made mine look pale, despite what the sun had done to me.
“I’m fine,” his tone said otherwise. I looked down at the crude bandage I’d torn from my robe. The once vivid crimson was now a dark and malevolent umber. We had only one choice for help. “Where are we going? Did you say something about a caravan? Perhaps you can buy supplies from there while I hide.”
“Yes,” I said, uncorking the water skin and letting him drink. There was no caravan. Even if there was, we had no money. I’d dropped it as we’d fled the carnage. Kerin was worth more than currency. Where we headed, they’d be all too happy to help. It terrified me.
“Kerin?” he had fallen unconscious.I hardly noticed his weight on my back as I carried him towards great stone walls of Ralyah, the great rival to Bal Yor, whence we had had fled. The gates, as expected, were drawn closed against the coming sand storm.
“Piss off, nomad,” shouted a dark-skinned guard from behind her black face veil. “Gates are closed till the storm dies.”
I lowered Kerin to the ground with as much care as I could muster given my exhaustion, and looked back up at the guard. Even from where I was, I could see her eyes widen, greedily. “Open the gate, quickly,” she called behind her.
We were taken to a guard tent erected against the wall. I was given water and fruit while the guard’s surgeon tended to Kerin. The tent was stifling but I kept my sleeves down, lest my skin betray me. Making sure Kerin was always in my sight was difficult; the guard who let us in asked so many questions. Her name was Alif.
“What happened to you, that you are left wandering the sands, carrying your own male? Where are your slaves?”
“Our caravan was raided,” I lied. “I took the most valuable item and ran.”
She looked me up and down. “You are his owner? Your skin is pale for bedrilla.”
“I’ve… been ill.”
Her eyebrow said she didn’t believe me. I squirmed under her gaze as more guards came to see what was going on, hiding from the impenetrable sandstorm raging across the city. I needed to be very careful. Kerin and my relationship was not just an abomination in Anra’s omniscient sight, it would cost my life. He slept on, oblivious, as dozens of guards eyed him hungrily. The laws of possession of males were the only thing keeping us safe.
“Here,” said another guard handing me a wine skin. Her tall headdress marked her as a sergeant.
I nodded thanks and reached for it. As I did, she grabbed my wrist and pushed up my sleeve.
“I knew it,” she growled. “Look. A slave.”
“Please,” I said. “I escaped from Bal Yor, your enemies. I am a friend.”
“No thieving slave is my friend,” she spat. “Alif, take her to the cage.”
“No,” I cried, but she held me fast. “Kerin.”
“Do not worry about the male,” said the sergeant with a grin. “The Kalipha has plenty of space in her harem for another breeder.”
The cell was carved into the stone wall and barred with bamboo. They took everything from me. I wanted to weep, to scratch at the stones, to throw myself against the bamboo, but instead, I sat and meditated. As long as we both lived, there was a chance could make it to the coast and find a trader from the north to take us. Perhaps.
Some time around midnight, the storm began to blow itself out. I had a visit from my captor, sneering. “Yes,” she said. “He is looking much healthier now. He is a strong one. I will present him to the Kalipha myself, once the storm abates. She may even let me breed from him. My wife and I will have our child after all. A strong child.”
I said nothing, though her words cut me deeply. Behind her, Alif looked on, her brow knotted. Our eyes met. There was pain there. Something long buried. My captor spat on me, muttering about thieving southerner slaves. I was to be executed at dawn, and Kerin to be given to the Kalipha as a stud. My stomach twisted. All we had been through, only to end up worse than we started.
Dawn was minutes away and the guard tent had all but cleared as the women went about their duties. The gates would open soon, the entrance bustling with caravans and hawkers. My captor came for me. She carried the great curved scaranth that cut through necks so easily. “Come now, little slave.”
“Let me see him.”
She snorted and grabbed my hands, bonding them behind me, pushing me towards the tent flap. I swallowed, holding back the tears. I would never see my Kerin, my love. Our blasphemous love would die with me.
There was a sound, metal on metal, gurgling, my bonds were cut. I spun, ready to fight. Alif stood there with Kerin, he was dressed in a veil and woman’s robe.
“Go,” she said as I took Kerin’s weight from her.
“Why have you done this for us?”
“You are in love,” she said with a sad smile. Tears were at the corners of her eyes. “It is obvious. My beloved was taken from me. They beat him and slit his throat.”
“What will happen to you?”
She shrugged and turned to the body of the sergeant. “Just go. Please.”
I opened the tent and led my love into the glorious light of dawn.