With her sentence passed and confirmed, they sent Elarra Onga’s-Daughter at once to the Chamber of the Barrel. Her only guard was a goblin, a scrawny fellow who even a flighty princess could have overcome – if she were a human or elven princess. But Elarra was a goblin woman herself. Green-skinned, with big purple eyes and long mobile ears, she stood even shorter than guard-goblin Glum. Furthermore, she had her wrists bound behind her, and was nude beneath her prisoner’s poncho of undyed cloth. And then there was Master Lutz.
The slave dealer walking behind them wore fine and elegant clothes, completely at odds with the savage lizardman stereotype, but he was still big enough to pick Elarra up with one hand, should that become necessary. Not that it would be necessary. Elarra had trusted Master Lutz with the key to her dowry-chest, and he had accepted so smoothly as to make her suspect that she wasn’t the first goblin woman to try to arrange for a more desirable sale.
Elarra had been planning against this moment for years, alone at first, and then with Tilborn Carrotmaster, her secret (or at least semi-secret) lover. The goblins of Cheetpinkiz Mountain imposed a sentence of enslavement on those goblin women who remained unmarried at the age of twenty five. Which was four out of five of them, since their tribe produced five daughters for every son. However, goblin law did allow “The Mercy of the Barrel” to the convicted goblin women before they were collared and sold.
On turning twenty, Elarra had started practicing for the Barrel. She’d taught herself to enjoy being tickled, developing a taste for it as one might acquire a taste for strong dwarf-distilled whiskey, or for a stimulating mug of bitter black koffie. She was far from alone in this; in fact most young goblin women did the same. It wasn’t something one admitted to, since a proper goblin woman was confident of winning a husband. But polite people pretended not to notice when they saw a young woman stumbling home tickle-drunk after a practice session.
After meeting Tilborn, Elarra decided (despite recurring doubts) to not ask for the Mercy of the Barrel when the time came. There were cautionary tales about how foolish it was to decline the Barrel, but Elarra felt that her case was different. Yes, she would have to be sold to Tilborn, since he could hardly stay here at Cheetpinkiz Mountain, and his fellow halflings in the Furfoot Counties would only tolerate Elarra’s presence as Tilborn’s collared slavegirl. But the collar and the enslavement would be purely symbolic. Wouldn’t it?
At the entrance to the chamber, they encountered another goblin woman leaving. She was wide-eyed and wide eared; tickle-melted and so ready to accept the slave collar soon to be placed upon her. In the doorway stood Moltmor Krant’s-Son, the Officer of the Barrel, blocking Tilborn from entering the Chamber.
“Escort him out,” Officer Moltmor told Glum, twitching his ears at Tilborn.
“I am a customer here,” Tilborn answered.
“You’re a damn pinkskin halfling, and this one,” Officer Moltmor pointed a finger at Elarra, “is not collared yet. She’s not merchandise. So go.”
“He is my guest,” Master Lutz put in, his smooth voice matching his fine clothes rather than his scaly skin. “We are here in the name of the Second Lord of Mercy, to ensure that the prisoner is not suffering any more than necessary.”
“That’s right,” Tilborn grinned. Officer Moltmor scowled, but he stood aside as Tilborn followed Elarra into the chamber.
Elarra had always thought of Tilborn’s height as just right: An inch or so taller than her, but not too tall. Now, however, she was more aware of his broad strength as he stood close to her. She felt the familiar touch of his blunt fingers, caressing her ears, stroking her hair, massaging the tension from her shoulders. She wanted to embrace him in return, and found herself pulling at the cords on her wrists that prevented her from doing so.
Tilborn embraced her instead, kissing her thoroughly. He drew back and Elarra felt a spurt of irritation. He was grinning at her, happy at the thought of coming to possess her. Whereas she felt worried and joyful and sad and eager, all at once. And angry at his unmixed certainty. Her eyes stung, and she closed them. That wouldn’t do.
“That won’t do,” Tilborn’s words echoed her thoughts. “I did promise that I’d make you comfortable, and I don’t want you to make a liar of me.” He pulled out a cut-glass bottle with an odd sigil pressed into its side, and touched perfume behind each of Elarra’s ears. “Here’s a gift from my sister Topaz – the one who’s a perfumer. She thinks she’s going to like you.” He gave her a look. “But not all my relatives are so understanding.”
Elarra smiled and nodded. It was an old argument between them. After meeting Tilborn, Elarra had wanted to do without the Mercy of the Barrel. If Tilborn purchased her, and took her to his home, it would turn her collaring into a fiction. But he had argued otherwise. His relatives and neighbors would insist on her enslavement being real. A green-skinned goblin wouldn’t be accepted in the Furfoot Counties, otherwise.
For that matter, Tilborn wanted it to be real. So did Elarra herself, half of the time. But it would itch like fire. Her collar would always rest uncomfortably around her neck, unless…
Elarra turned to the frowning goblin at the door of the Chamber. “Officer Moltmor,” she said. “I beg the Mercy of the Barrel.”
The Barrel opened with clever hinges to receive its subjects. Stripped of her prisoner’s poncho, Elarra climbed into it. She needed help from both of the goblin men to do so, since they had left her hands bound behind her.
Elarra sat on the cushion within the Barrel, watching as Officer Moltmor latched it shut. Her head stuck up through a hole in the Barrel’s side, while her feet stuck out through holes in its end. Clamps secured her toes, holding them in a snug grip and rendering her bare soles vulnerable.
Officer Moltmor turned to the rack where he kept the Barrel’s bung-starter, and recoiled. “Hey! What are you doing here?”
Tilborn stood by the rack, holding the bung-starter in his hands. “Looking this over,” he said.
“You have no business here, you furry-footed pink-skin. This is a goblin matter; the Mercy of the Barrel. Go follow Master Lutz, and we’ll deliver you your collared merchandise when there’s collared merchandise to be delivered.”
“But it is my business.” Tilborn held out the bung-starter, displaying the sigil burnt into its side. Squinting, Elarra could make out that it was the same sigil she’d seen on the side of the perfume bottle. “You had a halfling cooper come in to rebuild the Barrel, a hundred and four years ago, and according to this,” Tilborn brandished the starter, “it was old Ulwin Carrotmaster who did the rebuilding. So it’s family business for me to inspect the barrel, and to make sure it’s working properly.”
“Oh yeah? Prove it! The Barrel won’t do anything, unless you know the secret words to command it.”
“Don’t be silly! The runes are carved right on the barrel head.” Tilborn lifted the bung-starter over his head, and chanted the three triggering words, repeating them four times each. The Barrel awoke. Blue feathers appeared and began to stroke. To caress. To tickle-tease Elarra’s bare feet.
The Barrel’s magic was a magic of laughter, capable of a more insistent tickle than any practice session a young goblin woman might arrange. The Barrel’s purpose was not to break the subject to slavery, but to melt her. To turn her into a tickle-drunk puddle, one that could then be painlessly collared and poured into a slave-woman-shaped mold. The goblins called this a mercy and most non-goblin philosophers agreed. Especially the halflings, who valued comfort in the way humans valued happiness, the way elves valued beauty, and the way dwarves valued prosperity.
The tickling started out light and soft, a gentle feathering of Elarra’s bare feet. Three feathers touched each sole, the tips running lightly up and down, and up and down, from her heels to her toes and back again. Elarra caught Tilborn’s eyes, as he smiled up at her, rocking the bung starter back and forth in his hands. But then she found herself distracted by the tease on her feet. She began to giggle. With each stroke, each feather ran along the same path, addressing and arousing the same line. Up and down, and up and down again, the feather-tips ran.
Elarra glimpsed Tilborn twisting the bung starter, and felt more feathers joining the tickle. These new ones ran back and forth, at the level of her toes, at the base of the balls of each foot, in the sensitive arch, at the boundary between her arches and her heels, and across the main part of her sole’s heels. Five magic feathers feathering each foot, at the same tempo as before, each running back and forth along the same tickle-line.
Elarra gasped. She hadn’t realized that the up-and-down feathers had stopped, until they began to tickle her feet once more. These feather-tips now followed a new path with each stroke from toe to heel and back again. Elarra breathed deeply, once, twice, before giving in to the giggles. Tilborn’s perfume comforted her, reminding her of his promises. She heard her own laughter as Tilborn watched her. As he quietly directed the magic feathers tickling her soles. It was a slow tickle, a lazy tickle. A comfortable tickle, not nearly as intense as those Elarra had met in her many practice sessions. But it promised to continue, on and on, and to leave her just as tickle-drunk as she’d ever been before.
The back-and-forth feathers began tracing new paths as well, never interfering with the strokes of the up-and-down set. Every bit of Elarra’s soles received its portion of tickle now, as she giggled and giggled. Her feet were utterly vulnerable, with ankles secured and toes clamped in place, gently but firmly, and the teasing tickles spread over their bare bottoms: Soft tickles, slow tickles, light and gentle tickles that gradually faded away.
Elarra shook her head and looked around. Her head was nearly the only part that could move, trapped as she was in the Barrel, with her hands tied and her feet secured. She couldn’t be sure how long the tickling had lasted. The enchantment on the Barrel kept her from feeling thirsty or tired. Its magic worked against any discomfort that might distract from the tickle the subject felt. But Elarra knew that timing still mattered. A pause had to be just long enough to ensure her sensitivity and anticipation. Too long, and she would begin to recover, but if the pause was too short (or if the tickling continued without a pause), then her senses would start to dull. In either case, it would take longer to reach the happy state of tickle-drunk. And… and in this case, the slave-melted state that waited beyond.
Tilborn smirked at Officer Moltmor, who was now leaning against the wall, arms folded. Elarra’s halfling lover then looked back at her, nodding as he hummed, keeping time. Elarra caught the nod he sent to her, saw him flip the Barrel’s bung starter, and felt the tickling renew.
The blue feathers at the Barrel’s end had not vanished during the pause. Elarra couldn’t see them, of course, but they did give her feet an occasional touch. Not tickling, not really, but just enough to remind her that they were still there. Those feathers remained quiet. It was a new set of magic feathers that provided the renewed tickle inside the Barrel.
Elarra felt the feathers against her bare skin: The edges of the feathers, this time, rather than the tips. They stroke-sawed her belly and breasts, her legs and hips, her sides, her arms, and the base of her neck. They tickle-teased across her back, and along her spine. Elarra laughed. This wasn’t the foot-tease that produced giggles, but a tickle that promised to be more intense.
The quick feathering was light at first, almost like a tickle-bath. Then the whirling feather dance grew stronger, like a bath in strong dwarven whiskey. The tickle-sensations soaked into Elarra’s skin, and she felt herself growing tickle-drunk. Her skin flushed. She knew that Tilborn could see her face and feet turn a brighter green, but that didn’t matter. She felt silly; lazy and excited at the same time. The feel of the feathers, against her skin, lost its edge of eager anticipation and grew broader in exchange. The happy attacks grew happier.
Squeeing and howling, Elarra felt as if she could relax into the tickling, if only relax and tickle were not so ridiculously opposite. She laughed, instead, squirming and struggling against her bonds. The magic feathers, stroking her everywhere, underlined the futility of those struggles. That futility, in turn, served to make her feel even more excited. Her feet felt strange, in the contrast between their untouched exposure and the feathering of her barrel-enclosed body, and she knew that that couldn’t last. A nod from Tilborn confirmed it, as he stood before her, stroking the bung starter to direct the actions of the Barrel’s magic feathers. But before that happened, Elarra wanted just a little more. Just a little more. Just a little more body-tickling.
Elarra didn’t notice when the body-tickling faded. The whirling tickle-attack on her feet took all of her attention. The blue feathers swirled and danced, and Elarra felt them focus on her left foot. A dozen or more feathers, flicking quickly and making wiggling teases to tickle toes and arch and the special sensitive places that seemed to expand to cover her entire sole. Her eyes widened as she laughed and laughed. She caught the scent of the perfume Tilborn had applied to her ears, and she wanted to smile. But she couldn’t. Because she was laughing. Laughing too hard to smile. Because her left foot was being tickled. Being tickled and tickled and tickled.
Then the feathering switched to Elarra’s right foot. To her right sole getting tickled and tickled. Intensely tickled. Greatly tickled. Inside, Elarra felt something her practice sessions had never given her: A sensation that combined the happiness of being tickle-drunk with the excitement of a tickle just beginning. Elarra wanted that feeling to go on and on. And it did go on and on. The Barrel’s blue feathers, directed by Tilborn with his bung starter, tickled her right foot, then her left, then her right again. On and on and on.
It tickled everywhere on each foot in turn: Heel and arch and ball. The heart of the ball. The base of the toes and the toe pads and between the toes. The tops of the toes. The ankle and the top of the foot as well. In addition, every so often, a stroke of a feather across Elarra’s belly or along her legs would remind her that more tickle-feathers still waited for her inside the Barrel.
Another pause came in the tickling. Elarra watched Tilborn mop his brow and drink water. She felt fine, thanks to the Barrel’s enchantment. In fact, she felt a little spurt of selfishness that Tilborn should flag so when she wasn’t finished yet. She still wanted more. More tickling! A deep breath, and again she caught the scent of Tilborn’s perfume, still lingering at the base of her ears. She closed her eyes and drank in the scent again. Tilborn had promised to make her comfortable, in his collar. And she would have to make him comfortable, too. She’d promised that to him, but it hadn’t seemed important before.
Elarra’s eyes flew open as the tickle returned. Great sweet spikes of tickle smashed into her bare feet, at the end of the Barrel. And the tickle returned to the inside of the Barrel too, the unseen feathers stroking her nude body all over. But the dance of the feathers inside the Barrel was only an accompaniment to the foot-tickling. On both feet at once.
Elarra felt the same up-and-down and back-and-forth of the feather tips as in the beginning. But now at a faster tempo. Much faster. The swift strokes produced a tickle that sank into her feet. They produced a tickle that ran up her legs and teased her from the inside. They produced an inner tickle that matched the strokes of the feathers on her breasts and belly. That matched the way the feathers on her arms and legs and shoulders and spine were tickling her from the outside in. But most of all Elarra felt the feather-tips tickling her feet. Tickling and tickling and tickling them. The entire sole of each foot was a most sensitive tickle spot now, and it felt wonderful.
She saw Tilborn smiling at her as he gestured with the bung starter. She could still smell the perfume he had given her. He was smiling at her, and now she was melting. She still looked strong and wild on the outside: Squirming and struggling, and laughing and giggling. But inside she felt herself melting. Melting inside the Barrel. Melting under Master Tilborn’s smile, and his gift of perfume, and his masterly tickling of her feeeet!
Elarra felt the collar click shut around her neck. It had been made to her size, so she had tried it on before, but now it felt… comfortable. More locks clicked as shackles were fastened around her wrists and ankles. The slave shackles had been made to her size like the collar, and like the collar they now felt comfortable, in a way they hadn’t, back when they were being fitted.
She felt familiar hands stroke her hair and her ears. “Rest now,” Master Tilborn’s voice whispered in those ears. “We ride for the Furfoot Counties in the morning. So rest now.”
“Yes, Master,” slavegirl Elarra whispered back.
more of Slave Elarra & Master Tilborn in "After Dinner Tickle"