Bride of the Sun God

by Zack

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© Copyright 2002 - Zack - Used by permission

Storycodes: MF/f; bondage; slave; nc/cons; X

The Star Fleet Series
Bride of the Sun God 
by Zack

Chapter 1 

The Amalgamation Survey Ship Interloper moved in a synchronous orbit above the third planet of star U1256637. Far below on the planet's surface Lieutenant Thar Breg, the ship's Xenologist, sauntered through the streets of Lanudu, the capitol of Bridium, the island nation that improbably dominated the planet. It was late spring in this northern hemisphere, and for once the sunshine wasn't blocked by clouds. He entered the cobblestoned square that surrounded the Temple of the Sun God, a massive granite structure that dwarfed all of the other buildings in the city. 

He walked across the square and joined a line of men that were waiting to enter a side door of the temple. He asked the man in front of him, "Say, mate, is this the way to the Sun Priestesses?" 

Thar was disguised as a Galuvian seaman. Galuvia and Bridium were commercial rivals, but there hadn't been open warfare for more than forty years, so the man nodded yes without any overt display of hostility. The line was moving steadily forward, and in a few minutes Thar was able to make his substantial 'donation' and enter the temple. The room he entered was vast, with a vaulted ceiling at least twenty meters high. Many oil lamps mounted on a double row of massive chandeliers dimly lit the room. This may have been a temple, but it wasn't quiet. Thar had no trouble guessing the source of the chorus of moans, grunts, and cries. 

Rows of three-sided cubicles filled the floor. Some of the cubicles had the unwalled fourth side closed off by a curtain, but there were plenty of open cubicles to choose from; Thar picked one at random and stepped up to the opening. Most of the cubicle's floor space was occupied by a bed, and a very pretty blonde woman was sitting on it, her long hair cascading down her back. She was naked, and the bronze collar locked around her neck was connected by a bronze chain to a ring set into the stone floor. 

When she noticed Thar she smiled. "Hi, sailor. Come on in." She wiggled her shoulders and made her spherical breasts jiggle. 

Thar entered the cubicle and closed the curtain. The sides of the cubicle were higher than his head; this provided some privacy. "You're a Sun Priestess?" he asked. 

"No, I'm the Emperor's daughter. I just do this because it's the only way I can meet men." 

Thar flushed. "I'm not as stupid as I sometimes sound. It's just that this is the first time that I've been here and I'm finding the temple hard to believe. Could we talk? I'd like to know more about all this." 

The woman jingled her chain. "I'm not going anywhere, and talking is easier than fucking. Ask your questions. My name is Kepa." 

"My name is Thar. How did you become a Sun Priestess?" 

"Every year each district in the Empire has to provide a woman for the contest that selects the Bride of the Sun God. The winner, if you can call her that, is sacrificed to the Sun God at the solstice. The five runners-up become the high priests' concubines. The losers become sex slaves here in the temple, although they call us priestesses. The donations we bring in are a major source of income for the temple." 

"Are you a slave for life?" 

"Oh, no. After three years we're released and given enough money to live on for a while. Usually a former priestess has her pick of men who want to marry her. We know a lot about sex." 

"Are you chained to this same bed all the time for three years?" 

"No, it's three weeks working and then one week off. We can do what we want in the off week, except leave the temple." 

"How is the Bride selected? Is there some sort of test, or what?" 

"Beauty is all that matters. The high priests select the six most beautiful contestants, and then the Bride is chosen by lot from that group. Almost everyone in the contest would like to be one of the six finalists, except for the risk of being the Bride. The runners-up only have to serve a year, and they don't have to fuck every yarp who can pay the donation." 

"Why doesn't a district just send some orphan, no matter what she looks like? I wouldn't expect a man would want to risk his daughter." 

"The district that provides the Bride is given a five year exemption from the contest and the runners-up get a three year exemption. During that time they don't have to tithe or provide contestants, so every district wants to win. Some districts will even hire an exceptionally beautiful woman to be their entry, but in most districts the contestant is chosen from among the residents; that's how I got here. It's supposed to be an honor to serve the Sun God, and it's not like the contestant is going to be gone forever; except for the Bride, of course." 

"That's all the questions I have for now. Let's have sex. What's allowed?" 

"You can use any opening and do anything you want as long as you don't hurt me. If you want to whip a girl or do something like that there's another room with priestesses who are being punished, or who like being hurt. A large donation is needed to get into that room." 

"Can I tie you up?" 

"Oh, sure. There's some rope in the drawer under the bed. You can't gag me, though. Did you know that if I have an orgasm you get a coupon that gives you a discount on your next donation?" 

'I'll keep that in mind." Thar got some soft rope out of the drawer. "Cross your wrists behind your back." 

Kepa smiled, turned around, and crossed her wrists. Thar tied them together with diagonal wrappings, and finished with a cinch. He was careful to tie the knots so they were out of reach of questing fingers. Kepa struggled for a few minutes and then commented, "This tie is conventional, but well executed. I can't get loose, but it's not so tight that I'll be damaged; you know what you're doing." 

"Thanks for the critique. Once you're tied up, what keeps you from being hurt by somebody who likes to do that, but doesn't want to pay the extra donation?" 

"There are guards with crossbows on overhead catwalks. You can't see them very easily because everything is painted black, but they watch us and anybody who tries to hurt us gets a quarrel in the back if we say the secret word. That's why gags aren't permitted." 

"Oh." Thar paused a moment and then put Kepa on her back on the bed. He took another piece of rope, doubled it, and looped it around Kepa's right ankle. He bent her knee and tied the ankle to her thigh; then he repeated the process with her left leg. He noticed that her body hair hadn't been shaved and both her bush and her pits were shaggy. That was fine with him; he liked furry women. 

Kepa squirmed on the bed. "This tie makes me very helpless and totally exposed. It's a favorite of men who like their women to be tightly controlled." 

"I'm tired of the running commentary; maybe I can get special permission to gag you. Until then, I want you to shut up unless I ask you a question. Do you understand?" 

"Yes, Sir." 

"Much better." Thar stripped off his clothes and climbed on the bed. He kissed Kepa deeply and fondled her breasts. When he stroked and probed her slit she gasped and stifled a moan. 

Thar said, "You can moan and scream all you want. It turns me on if you're aroused." 

He moved his right thumb in a circular motion on her nipple and used his other hand to tweak her clit until she screamed and spasmed; and while she was still at the peak of her orgasm he entered her and rode her to another high. He marvelled how she could use her bound body in subtle ways that increased his arousal; soon they climaxed together in massive orgasms. 

Thar held Kepa as they cooled down; then he used his hands and tongue to give her another crashing orgasm that caused her to swoon with ecstasy. He gently disengaged and left the bed. There was a small table in the corner of the cubicle that contained a basin and towels; he cleaned off his sweat covered body. 

After Thar dressed he returned to Kepa and kissed her. "You certainly do know a lot about sex, and if I'm in town when you're released I'll be sure to propose." 

She smiled at his compliment. Once more he enjoyed the sight of her bound body and the way the lamplight reflected off her sweaty skin. "I'll untie you now." 

When she was free of the ropes Kepa rubbed her wrists and the marks on her thighs. "I had a good time with you, and that doesn't happen often enough. With all too many of these oafs it's just thrust, squirt, and skip." 

She raised a yellow semaphore attached to a back corner of the cube. She explained, "Pushing this up tells an attendant to stop by and help me clean up." She opened a box mounted below the semaphore and handed Thar a small piece of paper. "Here's your discount coupon. You deserve it." 

"Thanks. One more question. Why is the Sun God Bridium's national deity? You hardly see the sun. Even in the summer it's overcast for at least one day out of three, and in the winter sometimes the sun doesn't appear for weeks at a time." 

"I guess that people just treasure scarce items more than common items. And if we didn't worship the Sun God, May He Shine Forever, it might be cloudy here all of the time." 

Thar thanked her and left the cubicle. As he was leaving the temple he thought, 'I definitely prefer submissive women. So why is Pami my lover?' 

Pami Erig was a fellow Star Fleet officer and a field surveyor renowned for her bravery and aggressiveness. He remembered that on one of Pami's surveys she had been branded with a red-hot iron, but she didn't scream until after she decided that it would compromise her disguise if she didn't. Anybody who got in her way when she was working was likely to become suddenly dead. Thar had proved his bravery on many dangerous field surveys, but he admitted to himself that he didn't have the nerve to break up with Pami. 

* * * 

In the city of Manufru, 120 kilometers from Lanudu, another Amalgamation field surveyor was sitting in her room in an inexpensive boarding house. Sonji Regan was disguised as an Espian, a disguise that for her required no makeup because she had naturally tan skin and black hair. Women from Espia were reputed to be especially skilled in all of the possible sexual permutations, and perhaps because of this reputation they were also prized as governesses, especially if the children to be supervised were young ladies who needed discipline. 

Sonji was looking through the 'Situations Offered' columns of the local newspaper. An employment agency advertisement caught her attention; it stated that they had numerous openings for governesses. Her assignment was to survey the domestic life of the upper classes of Bridium, and this would be an excellent cover. The agency was located close by; she decided to walk there and inquire in person. She picked up her cloak and bonnet and left her room. The weather was clear for a change, and Sonji welcomed the chance to be out in the sunshine. 

It took less than half an hour for Sonji to walk to the address given in the advertisement. The agency was located above a small restaurant that specialized in sweet cakes and cha, the Bridium national beverage. Access to the agency was by way of a street level door that opened onto a narrow and dirty hallway that led to a steep staircase. 

As soon as Sonji was in the hall and out of sight she contacted the Interloper and explained her intentions. Her communicator was disguised as a jade pendant suspended on a fine silver chain worn around her neck. To activate it she pulled the pendant against the chain; it buzzed to show that contact was established, and it would remain active as long as she held it in her hand. The ship could use the communicator signal to determine her location to within a few meters. 

Sonji entered the agency office and approached a middle-aged woman seated at a desk, who said, "I am Miss Withur, the proprietor of this agency. Can I help you?" 

"My name is Sonji. I saw your advertisement and I would like to apply for a position as a governess." 

"Have you done this kind of work before? Do you have references?" 

Sonji dug into her reticule and pulled out some letters. She offered them to the woman. "Here are my references; I'm afraid they're written in Espian." 

"Do you have any Bridium references? Do you have friends or relatives living here who can vouch for you?" 

"No, I have only recently arrived in this country and I don't know anyone living here." 

Miss Withur stared at Sonji for several minutes. "There may be an opening for you. I'll have to check with my client to see if an Espian woman would be acceptable. He is located close by so you can sit over there and wait." 

She opened a door and called out; a large woman entered the room. "This is Glida, my assistant. I'll return shortly." 

Miss Withur was gone almost an hour. Sonji tried to engage Glida in conversation, but her attempts were met by grunts, and she soon desisted. She was relieved when Miss Withur returned. 

Miss Withur said, "My client wants to see you. He is a busy man and we will be interrupting a meeting with his associates, so don't speak unless he asks you a question." 

Miss Withur opened the office door and gestured to Sonji to precede her. A ten minute walk brought them to an impressive granite building, and they waited inside for another ten minutes until they were shown into an opulent boardroom where six men were seated along one side of large table. Sonji stood in an open space in front of the table where she was illuminated by the light from double windows. She stood there in silence as the men stared at her. Finally, one of the men spoke. "Yes, Miss Withur, she is all you say she is. She is very acceptable." 

Miss Withur pulled Sonji out of the room and hustled her out of the building. Sonji protested, "That was the strangest interview I've ever been to. It seemed that all he cared about was my appearance." 

"The interview was just a formality. My client trusts me to evaluate prospective staff members." 

Back in the agency office Miss Withur said to Glida, "Sonji has been accepted by our client. Go get some of the special cha so we can celebrate." 

She took some papers out of her desk and gave them to Sonji. "Fill out these forms. There is a pen and a bottle of ink on that table." 

The forms required her to write an essay, and Sonji was glad to pause when Glida returned with the cha. Sonji was thirsty, and she gulped down a cup of the sweet liquid. She picked up the pen and lost consciousness. 

When Sonji rejoined the world she found herself on a narrow couch, stretched out on her back. She propped her head up enough to find out that she was wearing a white gown that reached almost to her ankles. It had a square-cut bodice supported by two narrow shoulder straps and the tops of her breasts were exposed. The waist was constricted by a bronze chain that was fastened to the wide bronze bracelets locked on her wrists. An iron chain connected her ankle to a ring set in the wall. Sonji was fairly certain that this was not the usual costume worn by Bridium governesses. 

Miss Withur was seated at a table, closely examining the clothes that Sonji had been wearing. She commented, "These are fine clothes; I've never seen stitches so small and even. Espian seamstresses are far better than any in this country." 

There were two other women in the room. One was dressed in a gown similar to Sonji's except that it was bright yellow; she had a blowsy look and was slumped in a chair. Glida was the other woman and she was wearing a fantastic costume; bronze cuirass, helmet, and greaves, and a pleated leather kilt. She had a short sword and a pouch belted at her waist. 

Sonji was relieved to see that her communicator was still in place. The waist chain was loose enough to allow her to reach it; she pulled the pendant and was rewarded by the buzz that meant communication had been established. She shouted, "Miss Withur! Why am I chained like this?" 

"You have just been entered in the Bride of the Sun God contest. Some districts prefer to hire a beautiful woman as their contestant. As you might imagine, the fee for such a service is rather high; after all, the best you can expect is a year as a concubine. Since you won't share in the fee the rest of us will do rather well." 

"Why is Glida wearing that bronze armor?" 

"That is the traditional costume of the Guard of the Bride. Firpa is wearing the yellow dress of the Attendant of the Bride. You, of course, are wearing the white gown of a contestant. Sometimes the chains are just symbolic, but we can't take any chances with you." 

"But why did you kidnap me?" 

"Don't be so modest. You're a beautiful woman; besides, there's a rumor that some of the high priests that judge the contest are partial to Espians." She rummaged through the pile of clothing. "I can't find the pendant. Oh, you're still wearing it. Hand it over!" 

"No, please don't take it. This was my mother's pendant." 

"All right, you can keep it, but you can't wear it with that costume. Give it to me and I'll hold it for you until you get to the temple." 

Sonji didn't want to give up the pendant, but she knew that Miss Withur and Glida could take by force, so she handed it over; when it left her hand the communication stopped. Miss Withur packed it in a cloth bag with Sonji's clothes. 

She commanded, "Glida, the carriage will be here soon. Get her downstairs and watch her. Firpa, you come with me and collect the luggage." She left the room and Firpa staggered after her. 

Glida took a key from her pouch and unlocked the iron cuff that held Sonji chained to the wall, but she replaced it with bronze cuffs connected by a short bronze chain. She helped Sonji stand up. Sonji was still dizzy from the drug and the chain between her ankles was so short that she couldn't walk; Glida had to carry her from the room and down the stairs. 

They reached the street door just as a two-horse carriage pulled up. Miss Withur was waiting outside, and she supervised as the driver stowed the luggage in the boot and then helped her into the carriage. Firpa climbed in awkwardly, and Glida lifted in Sonji. 

The driver examined Sonji and expressed his approval. "So she's our contestant this year, eh? She's a beauty; I hope she wins, because the tithe is crushing us poor folk." Then he remembered what that would mean to Sonji. He dropped his gaze and hurriedly climbed onto the seat. Glida got in and closed the door; the driver cracked his whip, and they moved off. 

Sonji had expected to ride in the carriage all the way to Lanudu, so she was surprised when, after traveling only a few kilometers, it stopped next to a moored canal boat. This boat was over twenty meters long and only three meters wide; it had a small cabin near the stern, an open space heaped with crates, and a larger cabin in the bow. The helmsman was standing in a open area right at the stern next to the tiller; another man was harnessing a team of horses to a line tied near the bow. When the helmsman saw them he shouted, "We're ready to leave! Get aboard at once." 

The driver helped Miss Withur out and loaded the luggage on the boat while the other three women were getting out of the carriage. Miss Withur took her carpetbag and the cloth bag containing Sonji's clothes into the small first class cabin near the stern. Glida carried Sonji into the larger second class cabin near the bow, and Firpa followed with two carpetbags. When they were all aboard the mooring lines were cast off and the man with the horses mounted the one nearest the boat and cracked his whip. The horses moved out at a trot and the boat glided through the water. 

The three women were the only passengers in the second class cabin. The sun had set soon after they were aboard and now the only light in the cabin was provided by a small oil lamp. Glida removed her armor with a groan of relief and put on a linen shift. All of the women sat quietly; there was no conversation. 

About thirty minutes later Miss Withur entered the cabin and addressed Glida, "I have business near the outskirts of Lanudu and will be getting off the boat before you do, so you'll have to go alone when you take our Bride-to-be to the temple. After the contest return to Manufru and I'll give you and Firpa your share of the money, once I collect it from the committee." 

After Miss Withur left the cabin Firpa got a black bottle out of her bag and started drinking. It wasn't long before she was passed out and sprawled on a bunk, snoring noisily. Glida got some bread and cheese from her bag and she and Sonji shared it and a bottle of wine. Glida drank most of the wine, and when the bottle was empty she seated herself next to Sonji and put an arm around her shoulders. 

Sonji didn't like this, and her fears were confirmed when Glida kissed her on the lips. She struggled against the chains on her wrists and felt a wave of arousal. She kissed back and then murmured, "I can do more for you if you take these chains off." 

Glida replied, "I like you the way you are, so they stay on." 

"At least take the chain off my ankles, I can't spread my legs at all. You're not afraid of me, are you?" 

Glida chuckled, "Of course not." 

She got the keys from her pouch and removed the cuffs from Sonji's ankles. Sonji stood up and hiked her gown up to her thighs. She smiled at Glida, took a step, and delivered a flying kick that broke Glida's neck. 

Sonji retrieved the keys and freed her wrists from the cuffs and removed the chain from around her waist. Then she had to sit quietly while a wave of reaction overwhelmed her. Sonji wasn't used to killing people, and the empathy that enabled her to easily blend into other cultures kept her from being a detached outsider, casually disposing of the inhabitants of a backwater planet as if they were inanimate props in a theatrical performance. 

Then she brought herself back to reality. These people had kidnapped her for money and were delivering her to possible death as a human sacrifice. This was self defense, and Glida had it coming. Sonji never considered killing Firpa; Firpa couldn't harm her. Sonji wished she had her communicator, but getting it would require her to kill Miss Withur and the boatmen, and a mass killing would create a possible violation of the First Directive. This was her rationalization, but Sonji knew she couldn't kill two innocent men just to avoid an inconvenience. 

Sonji started to organize her escape. She needed clothes that weren't as conspicuous as this gown. She rummaged through the baggage and found Firpa's dress and cloak. She ripped off the bottom of the white gown to convert it to a slip; Firpa's clothes were ill-fitting and smelly and she couldn't stand the thought of putting them next to her skin. She took off her white sandals and put on Firpa's black shoes; luckily, the fit wasn't too bad. 

Now for the cleanup. She put the cuirass and greaves on Glida's body and wrapped the remains of the white dress around the chains and stuffed it, Glida's kilt, and the sandals into the helmet. 

Sonji blew out the lamp and waited in the dark until the boat glided to a stop and the horses were changed. She waited some more until the routine of the journey had resumed; then she dragged Glida's body to the cabin door on the canal side of the boat. It was a struggle, but Sonji was able to hoist the body onto the narrow deck and roll it into the water. The splash seemed terribly loud to her, but the boatmen didn't seem to notice. The weight of the armor pulled the body below the surface, and Sonji dropped the helmet and the sword into the water. 

She crawled out on the deck, slid the cabin door closed, and crept to the open cargo area in the center of the boat. She waited for a interminable time until the horses were changed again. When the helmsman looked down for a moment she dashed across the towpath and hid in some bushes until the boat moved on. 

* * * 

The canal boat traveled through the night and by morning it had reached Lanudu. Miss Withur left it near the edge of the city and took a cab to a shop that sold ready-made clothing. She had done business with them before. 

The proprietor greeted her as she entered. "Miss Withur! Good to see you again." 

"I have some clothing to sell. It is top quality." 

The proprietor examined Sonji's clothes and marvelled at the quality of the materials and workmanship. "Yes, it is good quality. This stitching is unlike anything I have seen and the cloth is so smooth and uniform." She offered a good price. 

Miss Withur counter-offered and they bargained amiably until an agreement was reached. The proprietor noticed the communicator and asked, "What do you want for the pendant?" 

Miss Withur named a price without hesitation and they bickered to an agreement. The proprietor was happy with her purchase. It was her favorite niece's birthday, and the jade pendant would be a nice present. The girl had just gotten a job as a servant in the temple, and she needed better jewelry than the trashy stuff she had now. 

* * * 

When the canal boat reached it's terminus Firpa was still asleep; the boatman finally had to douse her with a bucket of water to wake her up. She didn't know where she was or remember why she was barefoot and wearing a yellow gown. When she was thrown off the canal boat she wandered a short distance down an alley until she found a sheltered corner behind a trash bin where she could sleep. 

* * * 

When the AI monitoring the communicator traffic on the Interloper received Sonji's transmission and heard 'Why am I chained like this?', it immediately alerted the communications watch officer. He listened to the complete transmission and called Captain Goda, the commanding officer, and she summoned the available field surveyors to an emergency meeting. 

After the assembled officers had heard Sonji's last communication Captain Goda said, "We haven't received any more communications from Lieutenant Regan. Mr. Breg, you have more planet-side experience than anyone else here. What do you recommend?" 

"I recommend that we rescue Sonji as soon as possible. Once she's in the temple it will be hard to get her out, both before and after the contest, and if she is chosen as the Bride she'll be sacrificed. Where did the communication originate? 

"The center of Manufru." 

"There's a good chance that she's still there. The roads in Bridium are in poor condition and nobody likes to travel at night." 

"Very well. Ms. Erig, you and Ms. Mahoon will land in Manufru and effect the rescue of Lieutenant Regan if she is still there. You are authorized to use whatever force is required and to carry any equipment you wish. You will be inserted as soon as possible. Mr. Breg, you return to Lanudu and obtain more information about the temple and where the contestants are housed. Dismissed." 

Pami Erig turned to Swamka Mahoon. "Action at last, Swa! And a free hand with no First Directive shit to worry about! I think we should be disguised as Espians, like we were Sonji's cousins or something; we may have to interrogate some of the locals. That reminds me, I've got to sharpen my knife." 

Erig and Mahoon worked as quickly as possible to prepare for their mission, but there was a lot to do and it was several hours before the shuttle left the Interloper. They were going to use parasails; a new, experimental method of insertion. The normal practice on a civilized planet was to land the shuttle in some remote area, but this often forced the surveyors to trek a long way on foot. With the parasails they could land closer to their destination. 

They launched from the shuttle at an altitude of 4000 meters; it would take them over half an hour to glide to the ground. Erig and Mahoon were wearing night-vision equipment and they located a park not far from their destination. They used the IR mode to confirm that the only warm bodies present belonged to small animals, and they glided to a smooth landing. They disassembled the parasails and bundled them together with their coveralls and the other gliding equipment. They attached everything to a balloon and inflated it with hydrogen from a small cylinder. The balloon lifted into the night; the shuttle would recover it after it reached high altitude. 

All of this took a while, so by the time they had changed into their disguises and hiked to the site of Sonji's last transmission the first signs of dawn were lighting the horizon. Erig had no trouble with the door locks and soon they were inside the agency offices. A quick search was all that was needed to determine that the office was empty. In a back room they found an iron chain attached to the wall. 

Mahoon said, "Not many normal employment agencies need to chain up their prospects. Let's look around in here some more. There are files in the inner office." 

"Right. Get started while I call the ship." 

Mahoon searched the files. "I've found a contract from the district contest committee to supply a Bride contestant. There is also an employment application filled out by Sonji; she was applying for a job as a governess. The writing ends suddenly, and there's a smear of ink." 

"Captain Goda says to ask around and try to trace Sonji's movements. That cha shop downstairs will be open soon. We can start there." 

Erig and Mahoon were waiting at the door of the cha shop when a old woman arrived to open it for the day. Mahoon said, "Excuse me, but we're looking for our cousin. She was here yesterday afternoon, and we think she was a Bride contestant. Have you seen her?" 

"Yes, that must have been the Espian girl I saw just as I was closing up yesterday. She was with that Miss Withur. Glida was the Guard and some woman I don't know was the Attendant. Did your cousin know what she was letting herself in for? 

"Why do you say that?" 

"Well, she was chained very securely. Usually the chains are just a symbolic part of the costume, but they were tight on her. She couldn't walk; Glida had to lift her into Rul's carriage." 

"Where can we find this Rul?" 

"He's probably waiting for the Ax and Shield to open. That's a tavern three blocks over and two blocks down. It's a slimy place, I wouldn't go in it if I were you." 

"Thank you, you've been very helpful." Erig and Mahoon walked three blocks over and two blocks down. There was a carriage parked outside the tavern; the swaybacked horses were hitched to a rail in front of the door. 

A half dozen scuzzy men were lounging around the tavern door, and when it opened they entered with a flurry of pushing and elbowing. Erig and Mahoon were about to follow when they heard snores emanating from the carriage. Erig opened the door and a man who had been leaning up against it fell out and landed on the muddy street. 

She asked, "Are you Rul?" The man gave a nod, and she continued, "You picked up Miss Withur and a Bride yesterday. Where did you take them?" 

"To the canal port. They took the evening packet boat to Lanudu; they should be there by now." 

While Erig was questioning Rul, Mahoon was watching what was happening around them. A young woman carrying a package stopped outside the tavern, hesitated, and then went inside. The woman looked like she was in her late teens, and she wasn't dressed like a bar girl. Mahoon had dropped her carpetbag and was moving towards the door before she heard the scream. 

Inside the tavern two men held the girl pinned against the bar while two others tied her hands behind her back. When she was secured they turned her around and one ripped off her bodice and exposed her small, pointed breasts. The crowd erupted in hands that mauled her until a burly man pushed them back. "Don't push, boys. There's enough for everyone. Line up behind me." 

"Yeah, do that. Then whip it out and bugger the asshole ahead of you. You at the front, you could screw yourself, except that you're not long enough." 

Mahoon made her suggestions from just inside the door. She had pulled up the front of her skirt and tucked it in her waistband. The significance of this was lost on the men, who forgot the helpless girl and surged towards Mahoon. Three kicks later the survivors backed off to regroup. 

The burly man shouted, "All together now! Get the bitch!" He led a charge that produced the same result. Mahoon sensed movement to the side and turned to see the barman swinging a cudgel. She braced to block the blow, but before it could land Erig kicked his knee and he fell down, screaming. 

The sobbing girl was crouched against the bar; Mahoon helped her up and led her outside. Inside, the barman with the ruined leg was still screaming. There was a meaty thud and the sound stopped in mid-scream. 

Rul was looking dazed; Mahoon shook him and ordered, "Get ready to move." He unhitched the horses and climbed onto the seat. 

Mahoon took out the knife strapped to her thigh, freed the girl's hands, and helped her into the carriage. Erig emerged from the tavern and got into the carriage and yelled an order to get moving. Rul cracked his whip and they plodded off. 

The girl was covering her breasts with the ripped bodice. She said through her tears, "Oh, thank you. I would have died if you hadn't saved me." She looked at her tattered clothing. "My dress is ruined." 

Erig dropped a handful of gold and silver coins into her lap. "Here, take this. I took up a collection in the tavern." 

After they took the girl to her rooming house Erig contacted the ship and reported what they had learned. Erig and Mahoon felt like children let out of school; there was nothing more to do in Manufru, and the shuttle couldn't pick them up until after dark. Erig told Rul to drive them out into the countryside; the pickup point would have to be in a rural area, and there was no need to walk if they could ride. 

Erig commented, "I didn't know that you liked to rescue damsels in distress, Swa." 

"Well, usually I can't. If I'm doing a field survey I have to blend in and keep my head down. But this isn't a survey, and I wasn't going to let those animals rape that girl. I see too much of that when I can't do anything about it. And thanks for taking out that barman." 

"My pleasure. You might call me a sentimental fool, but I don't like rape either. I've taken a lot of abuse doing surveys but I knew that it was part of the job, and although I don't like it I only get physical damage. That girl would have been devastated." 

They sat in silence as the carriage left Manufru and lurched thorough the countryside. As the kilometers scrolled past the agriculture changed from gardens and orchards to pastures and scrubland. They were traveling down a dusty road that ran through a village when Erig yawned. "This should be far enough from the city. I see an inn over there; let's get a room and sleep until it's time for the pickup. Both of us were up all night." 

"Fine with me." Mahoon yelled at Rul to stop, and they dismounted from the carriage in front of the inn. She gave Rul a handsome payment. "Forget you ever saw us. Your friends in the tavern will want to forget, too." He nodded, cracked his whip, and the carriage moved on. 

Erig and Mahoon pushed through the door and entered the main room of the inn, which had a bar and a scattering of tables, a few of them occupied by farmers or peasants. A plump, middle-aged woman was behind the bar. "Welcome, travelers. You're a long way from Espia. How can I help you?" 

Erig replied, "We'd like a room for the night. Is one available now?" 

"Yes, I do have one." They moved to the bar and the woman handed Erig a key. Erig paid in advance, and the innkeeper put the money into a box under the bar. 

Mahoon asked, "Where's the privy?" The woman pointed to a side door. 

Erig picked up both of the carpetbags and headed towards the stairs, and Mahoon went outside and walked the short distance to the privy. She dumped and was heading back to the inn, thinking that a handful of leaves was not a good substitute for a sonic cleaner, and musing that it was the small things that made life so much harder on backward planets. 

She was being so introspective that she didn't pay attention to her surroundings until a cry of pain attracted her attention. Next to the inn was a side road perpendicular to the main road they had used earlier, and it was now filled by five men on horseback. They wore swords and steel helmets and had cocked crossbows slung on their saddles. 

Two of the men had ropes tied to their saddles; the other end of each rope was tied to the wrists of a young woman. The women were panting and sweating, and one had fallen and was being dragged. The leader spotted Mahoon and signaled for the troop to halt. He exclaimed, "Look! An Espian; she must be a spy. Arrest her." 

One of the men dismounted and took some rope from his pouch. Three others aimed their crossbows at Mahoon. She had gone into her fighting stance, but she decided that the crossbows made the odds too long. She cursed under her breath; she had body armor in her carpetbag, where it was absolutely useless. As penance for her stupidity she stood still while the man wrapped thin rope around her wrists and cinched it. He dragged her over to the road and took a coil of rope from his saddle and tied an end around the binding on her wrists. He mounted and the leader ordered them into motion. The pause had given the fallen woman a chance to get up, and the three women staggered along behind the mounted men. 

As the horses turned onto the main road in front of the inn Mahoon whistled so loudly that the horse she was attached to shied. She was almost jerked off her feet, and she nearly fell again when the rider yanked on the rope. She watched the door of the inn and was cheered when the innkeeper opened it and looked out. Then she had to watch the road as the pace was increased and she was forced to jog. 

Erig was naked when she heard Mahoon's whistle. She looked out of the window of her second floor room and watched Mahoon being dragged down the road. She muttered, "What has that girl gotten herself into this time?" and started to dress. 

Erig was met in the main room of the inn by the sad-faced innkeeper. "I have some bad news. Your companion has been taken by Sir Jalnu." 

"Who's Sir Jalnu?" 

"He's the baron who bought the castle and the surrounding lands last winter. Since then he and those thugs of his have been seizing young women and taking them to the castle. None of the women have been seen since." 

"How can he get away with that? Isn't there any law in this land?" 

"Here he is the law. He's the Justicar for this district, and he has been careful to make everything look legal. All of the women were charged with some petty offense, and Sir Jalnu tried them himself and sentenced them to a year's imprisonment in the castle. Everyone hopes he will release them when their time is up, but we all fear the worst." 

"Why don't you do something? Hasn't anyone appealed to the Emperor?" 

"One man did. One of his daughters was taken, and he went all the way to Lanudu and appealed to the Imperial Chancellor. They said they would 'investigate'. When he returned to his farm he found that his other daughter was gone and his wife was hanging in the barn. She supposedly left a note that said that she couldn't bear the shame of having two criminal daughters, but she couldn't read or write. The man went to the castle, and he was found at the base of the wall the next day. The official verdict was that he had fallen accidentally. Since then everyone has been too afraid to act." 

"Where is this castle?" 

"Just down the road. You can see it when you get beyond the trees. But don't go there! You'll be taken too. Get out before they come for you." 

"Yes, I think I will be going." Erig returned to her room and put on her armor. She strapped on a couple of phasors, and made sure they were set to 'kill'. Other equipment went into a pouch at her waist and she put on a cloak and bonnet to hide all of the hardware. She picked up the two carpetbags and left the inn. 

Mahoon was breathing fast when she had jogged the kilometer or so to the castle, but the other two women were ready to collapse. The horses clattered across a drawbridge and through a gate and stopped in the bailey of the small, rundown castle. The leader dismounted and ordered, "Bring them to the courtroom." 

The other men dismounted and untied the ropes from their saddles. They dragged the women into the castle and down a short corridor to a large room that was empty of all furniture except for a high bench with an ornate chair behind it. They all waited for some time until the leader entered and seated himself in the chair and opened a ledger. He announced, "I am Sir Jalnu, the Justicar for this district, and you have all committed crimes. This is your trial." He pointed to a woman and her guard shoved her in front of the bench. 

"What is your name, girl?" The woman whispered her name and Sir Jalnu wrote it in the ledger. "You are charged with, ah, trespassing. You are found guilty and sentenced to one year of imprisonment." He wrote this information in the ledger and signaled the guard for the next woman, who was sentenced to a year's imprisonment for poaching. 

Then it was Mahoon's turn. "What is your name, girl?" 

"Malunusometon Hulapoinarkeluiosjax." 

"How do you spell that?" 

"Just the way it sounds." 

"I'll teach you the price of insolence! Fifty lashes! String her up." Sir Jalnu reached under the bench and found his horsewhip. 

The guard started to force Mahoon over to a hook extending from the wall. She kneed him in the groin and when he bent over kneed him on the chin. He went down, but the other three guards were on her, and one managed to grab the rope attached to her wrists and pull her to the floor. One guard sat on her legs while another tied her ankles together. She was carried to the wall, the rope attached to her wrists was flipped over the hook, and she was hoisted up until she was on tiptoe. The guard she had kneed recovered enough to punch her in the stomach. Sir Jalnu turned her to face the wall and grasped the collar of her dress. 

Meanwhile, Erig had reached the castle. Before anyone spotted her she ducked into the woods and used a cable through the carpetbags' handles to secure them to a tree. They were locked and secure against any tools on this planet. 

She crossed the drawbridge and spoke to the guard at the gate. "Please, sir. My sister was just brought here, but there must have been some mistake. Can I speak to Sir Jalnu?" 

The guard chuckled evilly. "Of course you can. Sir Jalnu will be very pleased to see you." He seized Erig's elbow and led her into the courtroom. 

Sir Jalnu paused before he ripped off Mahoon's dress. He fingered the fabric. "This dress is too good to tear up. Untie her hands, but be careful." One of the guards untied the rope that went over the hook and lowered Mahoon's arms, and the other three aimed their crossbows at her. 

The gate guard shoved Erig into the courtroom. "Here's someone to see you, Sir Jalnu." 

Erig proclaimed, "Sir Jalnu, I'm an Imperial Inspector. You are under arrest for treason and murder." 

Sir Jalnu sneered, "This woman is an impostor. Shoot her!" 

As the guards swung their crossbows towards Erig she drew her phasor and fired three times. The guards died, but one managed to fire his crossbow and the quarrel hit Erig in the stomach. The armor kept it from penetrating, but it forced her to step back. Sir Jalnu and the guard reached for the crossbows on the floor. Mahoon hit the guard's neck with her bound hands and the blow stunned him. The gate guard grabbed Erig from behind just as Sir Jalnu came up with a crossbow. She shot again, but the guard spoiled her aim and her shot hit Sir Jalnu in the mouth instead of between the eyes. He died anyway. 

Erig stomped the foot of the guard that held her and he loosened his grip. She brought around her phasor and killed him. She used her knife to free Mahoon and then gave her a phasor. "This is exciting. And all because you had to use the privy." 

The two other captive women had dropped to the floor when the action started; Erig beckoned them to her and freed their hands. She ordered, "Get out of here. Go back to your homes." The women ran out of the room. 

The guard Mahoon hit was recovering; she put him in an armlock and he screamed. Erig asked him, "Where are all the women that have been arrested?" 

Mahoon tightened the armlock and the guard gasped out, "Most of them are upstairs. In the workroom." 

"Lead on." The guard led them up some stairs and down a corridor to an iron-bound wooden door. A guard holding a crossbow was dozing on a bench; he awoke with a start and raised the crossbow. Erig killed him. She took a key from his belt and unlocked the door. A burly overseer holding a whip swung it towards her; she killed him too. 

The room was noisy with the whirring of spinning wheels. There were about thirty partially naked women in the room; all were spinning flax. Each had her right ankle chained to a ring in the floor; most of the women had welts, some old, some fresh. Mahoon whistled, and they all looked up. The noise diminished as the wheels slowed to a stop. Erig announced, "I am an Imperial Inspector. Sir Jalnu's crimes have been discovered and you are free." Some of the women cheered, others started to cry. 

Erig unchained one of the women and gave her the key. "Unchain everyone. When you are released from the chains stay in this room. We'll return to escort you out of the castle." 

Erig and Mahoon organized a quick but through search of the castle, enlisting the help of every servant they found. All seemed to be glad that Sir Jalnu was dead. Two more of the arrested women were found naked and chained to the bed in an opulently furnished bedroom. Both of them had fresh whipmarks on their backs, and they were fainting with relief when they learned that Sir Jalnu was dead. 

When everyone above ground level had left the castle Erig escorted the captive women from the workroom to the bailey while Mahoon and the guard searched the dungeon. Only Mahoon came back upstairs. 

Erig asked, "Where's the guard?" 

"He tried to escape and I was forced to kill him." 

"He looked like he was too stupid to live." 

The sun was setting by the time the last of the castle's inhabitants, loaded down with their possessions, had crossed the drawbridge. As soon as everyone was clear three intense fires broke out in the castle. The outer walls were stone, but the floors and inner walls were old wood that burned fiercely, and flames were soon shooting up over a hundred meters into the sky. 

Erig and Mahoon trudged away from the castle. Even from a distance of several kilometers the fire was visible. 

Erig said, "The shuttle is on its way. I told them to look for the bonfire." 

"Good. I enjoyed our day in the country, but now I need sleep." 

End of Chapter 1 

Bride of the Sun God
continues in Chapter 2

Copyright© 2001, 2002 by Zack.  All rights reserved.
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