352: Rough Trade

on February 16, 2009 in Book 13

In Which Mackenzie Saves Versus Traps

I took one last look at the goblin chains. Not only were they very close to being a collar… some of them were long and looser like necklaces, but some of them were basically chain chokers… but I had to believe that Caron was more right than she knew about me “getting my ass bit off” for wearing one of them.

What would Oru think if she saw me with one? It didn’t seem likely that she’d immediately assume it was from Amaranth or any of my other, non-goblinoid lovers.

“She did have some good points,” I admitted to Amaranth, who I could see was still smarting from having her idea cut down and brushed aside. “It doesn’t mean she’s right about everything, though.”

“Yeah,” Amaranth agreed. She sighed and tossed her head and said, “Come on, baby… let’s… let’s figure out what we’re doing here,” as she wandered away from the forbidden displays of chains and collars. She picked up some leather bracelets that came in pairs. “What do you think of these?”

“I really don’t know,” I said. “I’m not sure what they’re supposed to be saying. I mean, people give bracelets to their friends, don’t they?”

“Oh, well, I was thinking of them as being like cuffs, as in handcuffs or shackles,” Amaranth said. “But… I guess if you have to explain it…” She sighed. “That’s why I thought of a collar, baby. I want something… unambiguous. Something that tells the world… tells everyone… that we’re serious about this.”

“Maybe we don’t have to tell everyone,” I said.

“Maybe,” she agreed half-heartedly, and put the bracelets back on the peg she’d found them on.

“Just so you know,” I said, “I do think it was a good idea… I mean, I like having something that marks me as yours, even if it’s just in our minds… maybe for now, especially if it’s just in our minds. I mean, if Caron didn’t have any other point, she showed us that people are going to have their own ideas about anything we do.”

“Yeah,” Amaranth said.

“Writing on my forehead is kind of… obtrusive, and wouldn’t really work when I’m in classes. I don’t think most people look at the paddle twice because every other person’s got a scabbard or sheath on their belt, but it wouldn’t be appropriate everywhere.”

“Do you have any specific ideas?” she asked.

“I don’t know… I’m just thinking as I’m going,” I admitted. “I didn’t know I’d be shopping for something like this, so it’s not like I have some big plan, you know?”

“Do you want some more time to think about it?” she asked. “I mean, we could come back…”

“I think… I think the important thing for me is that it’s from you,” I said. “I mean, a collar… I understand why it means what it means, because of pets and… well… slaves… but it’s the idea of you giving it to me, you putting it on me… I mean, I don’t want you to just grab something at random, but… do you know what I’m saying?”

“I think so,” she said. She sucked on her lower lip a bit, scanning the racks. “You know, I’m less and less sure that we don’t want a collar.”

“Well… on top of everything Caron said, think about what happens if we don’t get separated,” I said. “I mean, if she’s wrong that this is just a phase or whatever that we’ll grow out of, where do we go next, if we get a collar now? The goblins have got their promise chains and then whatever they do next. If a collar’s that big a deal, maybe we should save it.”

“That is something to think about,” she said. She stepped over to a display of necklaces and picked one up, turning and holding it to out towards me. “Well, what about this?” It was a long, thin silver chain with a locket on it, with an actual lock. A key was hooked through the chain. “I could keep the key, and you could wear it… even though it doesn’t actually lock on you… that could be good, right?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I like the symbolism, but… I’d lose something like that, or I’d get it caught on stuff and it would break. And I couldn’t sleep in it, so it would have to come off. Apart from the whole losing thing… well, that would kind of defeat the purpose. I want something that I can wear literally all the time.”

“Okay, so we need something that’s close to the skin,” she said. “And waterproof. Is leather waterproof? I’d hate to go with plastic… I’m just not sure what kind of metal jewelry you could wear to bed and stuff.”

“Have you considered a piercing?” Caron asked from the curtained recess.

“Oh, no,” I said. “Hell no.”

“Just a thought,” she said. She came out into the store and looked at Amaranth. “Hey, you call her ‘Baby’. Do you also call her… ‘Puppy’?”

The basement shop suddenly was very, very cold.

“No…” Amaranth said. “We haven’t really done any of that kind of play. I don’t think she’s ready for it, and anyway, I’m not sure how much I’d enjoy it. It might be like, you know, getting to look at and smell a great big feast, but not… well…”

“Oh,” Caron said. “Because that’s the name used on a kind of bulletin that’s been going around, along with a description that sounds an awful lot like her.” She glanced at me. “Of course, she’s probably not a half-demon.” I must have jumped about a mile. “Oh, it is about you.”

“What kind of bulletin?” I asked, feeling the hair standing up on the back of my neck. Ordinarily my first thought might have been about the authorities… or that the school’s legal team was trawling for scandal or something… but only one person had called me “Puppy”.

“Well… kind of like a classified want ad,” Caron said. “I’d be careful where I shopped, if I were you… I’d stick to the open bazaar, the Walled Market, and other chain stores.”

“Why?” Amaranth asked.

“Because little out of the way shops like mine tend to have a visitors’ agreement by the door that lets the owner resolve problems privately, like mine does,” Caron said. “Remember when I said that if you tried stealing, you’d end up wearing a collar anyway?”

“Yeah…?” I said, not at all liking where I thought this was going.

“I wouldn’t have had to look around for a buyer, if you’d tried something. I could have bought this whole block outright with the money you’d bring me,” she said. “Which I would have done with a clear conscience, by the way, since I warned you first. But other shopkeepers aren’t going to have my scruples about it, especially with the price tag on your neck. You have to know that once a writ of enslavement is processed, the law’s not inclined to look too closely at the events leading up to it… and somebody with a lot of money can get things processed quickly.”

“Do you find yourself selling shoplifters into slavery often?” I asked. My opinion of Caron had gone down a little throughout the evening, but it was definitely trending strongly downwards now.

“Eh, maybe once every two, three months,” she said. “Most of the people stupid enough to try the five-finger discount on me are minors, and they just get a talking to. Hey, just because I don’t dress in metal with a horned helmet on my head and swig mead from a tankard the size of my head doesn’t mean I’m not a dwarf… and nobody in their right mind steals from a dwarf. Anyway… what were we talking about?”

“Uh, piercings,” Amaranth said, looking as disconcerted as I felt by the two abrupt shifts in the conversation.

“Oh, yeah. Why not a piercing?” she asked. “It’s a way of putting your mark on someone in a way that can both be seen and felt, but unlike a tattoo, it can come out if somebody changes their mind. And unlike a collar or a ring, it can just be a piercing as far as everyone else is concerned… meaning, if you do get separated and you do move on, you can keep your promise and keep her in a corner of your heart and not have to make any embarrassing explanations.”

“I thought you didn’t believe we were going to last,” I said.

“It’s easy to stay eternally devoted to somebody who isn’t there,” Caron said. “Just as long as that devotion isn’t getting in the way of your life. Also, depending on where the piercing is, it can mean she gets to be part of your lovemaking, no matter how many partners you go through.”

“You know… I think I like that,” Amaranth said. She looked at me. Her gaze trailed down my body, stopping considerably lower than I would have preferred, given the subject. “What do you think? You have such nice, big labia anyway…”

Amaranth!” I said.

“She does, though,” Amaranth said to Caron. “I’ve always considered mine to be kind of a minimalist expression of femininity.” She put her hands on her inner thigh, sucking in her slight tummy and framing herself with her fingers and thumb. “There’s nothing wrong with them, obviously, since every woman is a unique experience, but I’ve always enjoyed someone with a little bit different set-up. My friend Barley has much… um…”

She trailed off and looked away. It was obvious that in the back of her mind, Amaranth still thought of Barley as her best friend and sister, her constant companion. I wondered how often she found herself thinking I have to tell Barley about this or I can’t wait to see what Barley has to say.

Caron laughed, apparently mistaking Amaranth’s sudden loss of enthusiasm for the topic for an embarrassed realization as to what she was saying.

“It’s okay,” Caron said. “I’ve seen her pussy and it is nice. Think about shaving it, though.”

“What, don’t you like body hair?” I asked. Surprise was the least crippling response I could choose.

“Dwarves aren’t allowed to like smoothness?” she asked.

“Yeah… well… I don’t think I want a piercing down there,” I said to Amaranth, not really wanting to pursue the subject of Caron’s tastes. “Doesn’t seem like it would be very, you know… clean.”

“Hey, my work is guaranteed,” Caron said. “As long as you follow the aftercare, the risk of an infection is almost nothing… and don’t students get free healing, anyway?”

“How about some nice earrings?” I asked Amaranth. I felt incredibly lame for suggesting something so completely tame, but even as I said it I could hear my grandmother condemning girls with pierced ears as “painted harlots and worse”.

“Um, it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to get your ears pierced sometime,” Amaranth said. “But it seems to me that among the advantages of a more intimate piercing is that it can be invisible, so you don’t have to worry about it being appropriate with every outfit you wear.” She looked me up and down. “Take off your clothes, baby.”

“What?”

“Caron’s seen you before, and the door wasn’t even locked then,” Amaranth said. “Take off your clothes. We’re not in public, and that’s an order. I want to see what we’ve got to work with.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said, and I took off my coat and handed it to her, then started taking off my clothes. I started by stepping out of my shoes, taking as long as I could with them and my socks before Amaranth’s impatient glare prompted me to peel off my shirt. Caron’s eyes were on me the whole time. She had a very matter-of-fact leer. I wouldn’t have thought a person could be dispassionately aroused, but I thought that description fit her attitude.

I was a naked girl in her store. She was so blase about it that I might have been one in an interchangeable series. It was very depersonalizing, very objectifying.

I stopped after my bra and looked at Amaranth. I was naked except for my panties. She merely tilted her head downward, giving me a brief look over her rims. I swallowed and slid my underwear down.

“See, she’s got such dark hair that she looks bushier than she is,” Caron said.

“You know, I’ve been thinking about taking her elven-style for a while,” Amaranth said. She laughed and covered her mouth. “Ooh, I just realized that made it sound like I wanted to do her in the bottom. She does like that, though.”

“Do you have a strap-on?” Caron asked. “I don’t sell sex toys, but I can give you a good recommendation if you’re interested.”

“Oh, no thank you,” Amaranth said. She put a hand on my shoulder. Amazingly, it didn’t burst into flame, nor did she have to yank it back due to blistering heat. “Mack has enough penises in her life right now. What she wants from me is very basic and feminine.”

“There’s nothing unwomanly about active penetration,” Caron said.

“I’m not arguing that,” Amaranth said. “I’m just saying, it’s not what she’s looking for from me.”

“You can never know if you don’t try,” Caron said.

“I’m pretty sure I can know, thank you,” Amaranth said archly.

“Well, anyway… if you want to take her bald, I can give you a sample of a depilating oil, if I get to see the results,” Caron said.

“We’ll think about it,” Amaranth said.

“Right,” Caron said. “So, if you want to stick to vanilla piercings below the neck, we can do the nipples, the navel, the clit hood, or the outer labia.”

“That’s vanilla?” I asked. It seemed like she’d named all the possibilities.

“Baby,” Amaranth said. “You said it would mean more if I picked. Do you want me to decide?”

I ducked my head while I thought. Honestly, if the question were simply put to me where do you want to get a piercing?, the answer would simply be nowhere. But that just meant it wasn’t something I would choose to get for myself.

Would I choose to submit to Amaranth, if it meant accepting an extra hole in my body?

“Remember, piercings do come out,” Caron said. “They feel permanent but they aren’t, which might be ideal for you right now. Though, for a little bit extra, I can put a binding spell on them… that’s good if you’re worried about losing them, but you pick a release word.”

That made up my mind. I wanted something that would encapsulate everything Amaranth had wanted for the collar, and a piercing like that could do that… without signaling anything huge to the rest of the world, to other people in similar relationships, to any future or current lovers, to goblins, or anybody else.

“Let’s do this,” I said to Amaranth. “But let’s get the binding placed on them… and you keep the word. I don’t want to know what it is. I want it to be your right to remove them, not mine.”

“But what if Mother Khaele pulls us apart, and I don’t have a chance to get the word to you?” Amaranth asked.

“That’s fine… I don’t want to know, even then,” I said. “Look, no spell’s truly permanent, and since this is a convenience feature and one that’s off the shelf, it probably wouldn’t be too hard to break. The point is, I’d have to deliberately set out to do that. It would take effort. I couldn’t take it on the spur of the moment… I’d have to think about it.”

Amaranth listened and thought about it, chewing her lip, and then looked at Caron.

“How much does that cost?” she asked. “A binding spell like that?”

“An extra two gold,” Caron said.

“Two gold?” I said.

“Three gold if it’s a double set, like two nipple piercings,” Caron said. “It’s cheaper because I can cast them together.”

“Maybe we can get that added later,” Amaranth said to me. “Would that be okay?”

“Listen, I’ll let you have it in trade,” Caron said. “The whole thing. Any regular body jewelry with the binding spell and custom release word, plus a sample of the hair removing oil.”

“Oh, well… I don’t think we’ll be doing that,” Amaranth said, and the regret was dripping from her voice so strongly that I could practically hear it splashing on the floor. If I’d been game, this would have been the perfect solution, in her mind: me expanding my sexual horizons, and getting the spell I wanted on the jewelry, to boot.

But Amaranth knew my limits and wasn’t going to commit me to sex with a virtual stranger. She could have asked, but she had to know what the answer was. I felt deeply appreciative that she hadn’t put it on me to say no… I liked being able to feel like she was in control, and having to break out of that after submitting as far as saying I’d accept whatever jewelry she picked for me would have been disappointing.

Really, if we couldn’t get the spell put on it, it would still be okay. It would still be from her, it would still be hers… and in me, a part of me, forever.

“You haven’t heard the offer yet,” Caron said. “There’s a Veil party at the Tomb.”

“The Tomb?” Amaranth repeated. I might have blurted out the same, but I was feeling very at ease with my passive role.

“The Tomb of Horrors,” she said. “Hardcore BDSM club, with an emphasis on the S and the M. It’s this Saturday. You come, you bring her… shaved… and you put on a performance with her, and the jewelry’s yours.”

“What… kind of performance?” Amaranth asked.

“That’s up to you,” Caron said. “It hasn’t escaped my notice that you’re a nymph, so I’m sure you’ll come up with something better than tapdancing.”

Amaranth looked sideways at me.

“Baby… it’s not exactly public,” she said. “But I need to know what you think.”

“Why is that worth two gold to you?” I asked Caron.

“First, I’ve got a girlfriend, but I’ve got eyes, too,” Caron said. “I like tall, skinny bitches. More specifically, I like tall, skinny, loud, stupid bitches, and I like watching them get their asses beat on a little, if not more. It’s… cathartic.”

“Oh, Caron, we don’t call people stupid,” Amaranth said.

“Thank you,” I said sarcastically.

“Look, this is a good deal,” Caron said. “Nobody’s going to touch you there if you don’t want them to. Nobody’s going to interfere in your performance, and good ones get tips, so not only will you not be out any money, you could come out ahead. You also get a night of… education, if not entertainment. If you two are as serious about all this as you want to believe you are, this could be the next step. If not, it could be the eye-opener you need.”

“You’re being awfully charitable for somebody who tried to entrap me into slavery,” I said.

“Only if you were stupid and greedy,” Caron said. “Look, I swear to you that there’s no trap waiting for you in the club. I’m not trying to lure you there so I can trick you into slavery once you’re inside. They frown on that sort of thing, actually, since it blurs a line between consensual submission and chattel slavery that everybody would rather stays nice and solid. What do you say?”

She looked at Amaranth, and then me, and then at Amaranth.

“That’s an awfully inventive offer, Caron, but I don’t think…” Amaranth started to say.

“Wait,” I said. “We can’t spare two gold, so… sure. Let’s do this.”

“Wait… so, you’ll accept anything I want for you?” Amaranth asked. “Any piercing?”

If I wanted to keep my naughtier parts intact, this would be the time to speak up or forever hold them. But… I wanted it to be her choice.

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Caron, may we borrow a blindfold?” Amaranth asked.

“Sure,” Caron said. “But, let’s get this in writing first, just so there are no misunderstandings.”

She ran behind the counter and pulled out a piece of paper and a pen and started writing. It didn’t take her long. She beckoned us over and turned the paper around to face us. It was a bill of sale, with the items listed as “1 pc. body jewelry, 1 small jar oil of depilation, 1 binding spell” and price listed as “1 performance on Tomb of Horrors guest stage” with payment due listed as “by 11:59 PM, Saturday, 17th Calendula, 222.” She handed me the pen and said, “Legally, it has to be your signature.”

“Why?” Amaranth asked. “We’re both rendering the payment. She’s wearing the body jewelry, but if this were a cash transaction I could be the payer just as easily as she could.”

“Well… I don’t care if you’re the one up on the stage with her or not, it’s her I want,” Caron said. “And if you two stiff me, she’d be the one I’d be going after, wouldn’t she?”

“You’re not just talking about the jewelry,” I said. I put the pen down and picked up the paper. At the bottom of the page there was a line saying that in the event of non-payment, the default terms on the back would apply. A quick glance at the back was enough to confirm what the default penalty was. There was no attempt to hide it in impenetrable legalese. “You sell clothing and jewelry… not even fine jewelry, and some of it second-hand clothing,” I said. “How do you justify credit terms like this?”

“Well, for starters, I don’t sell a lot of stuff on credit to begin with,” she said. “It’s not a dwarven concept. If I let somebody walk out of here with something that doesn’t belong to them outright, I’m going to make damn sure they pay. If somebody cheats me, frankly, I’d rather see them punished than get my money back. Slavery’s not a dwarven concept, either, but as long as other races are going to inflict it on each other, I’ve got no problem using it.”

“But this isn’t about punishing me for cheating,” I said. “It’s about you trying to make some gold off me.”

“Kid… if you had any idea how much ‘some gold’ is in this case, you wouldn’t be blaming me,” Caron said. “Anyway, as tempting as it is, it’s not like I’m trying very hard here to ensnare you. How often do you think I specifically warn somebody that shoplifting is punishable by slavery before I leave them alone in the store?”

“How often do you leave somebody alone in the store?” I countered.

“If you had tried to pocket something, it would have been my fault?” she asked.

“I thought you were Steff’s friend,” I said.

“Funny, I thought you were,” she said. “You know her. Why would you think that’s a recommendation of character?”

“Baby, let’s leave this,” Amaranth said, taking the paper from me and putting it down on the counter. “We can get you pierced in the bazaar, where there are more rules and people around. We don’t need a bunch of fancy binding spells. I love you and you love me… it was silly of me to think we needed anything more than that.”

“Not yet,” I said. I was feeling my old stubborn streak up. Caron had been trying to play us. Who knew how much of her collar talk had just been an excuse to try to get us angry and then give herself a reason to excuse herself?

“Is this Tomb place actually in the city?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“Is it easy to find?”

“There’s no sign on the outside, but there’s a picture on the weavesite and it’s got the address and a map,” she said.

“And if we show up, there’s no hoop we’ll have to jump through to get on the stage and give our performance?” I asked. “They’ll just let us?”

“Absolutely,” she said. “I’ll vouch for you, which gets you to the head of the line if there is one, but new meat is always given consideration, and a half-demon and a nymph… well, people are going to be eager to see what you’ve got.”

“Are you willing to swear to me that you will see to it that we are able to get up on stage and give our performance, thereby rendering payment in full, before eleven fifty-nine on Saturday?”

“I do swear,” Caron said. “The party begins at nine, by the way. You really should have asked that, but your oath covers you there because I wouldn’t have been able to swear if the party started at midnight or something.”

“Okay, then,” I said, scowling because I hadn’t thought of that possible trap. I picked up the pen and took the paper from Amaranth.

Baby,” Amaranth said.

“What if she wants nipple piercings?” I asked Caron.

“I’ll be flexible, if only because I think those tits need ornamenting,” she said, and she took the paper from me and amended it to read “or 1 set nipple piercings” and “or 1 mass binding spell”, then handed it back.

“Mack…” Amaranth said.

“I want this,” I said. I put the paper down and signed it before Amaranth could protest more. “She’s been giving us shit since we got here and I think we deserve a little something to show for it.”

“Wonderful!” Caron said. “I won’t regret this.”


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16 Responses to “352: Rough Trade”

  1. pedestrian says:

    “Wonderful!….I won’t regret this.”

    Gosh, everyone just seems to assume that a half-human submissive is
    a safe toy. It would be an interesting development, if some jerk riled up the demon half. For sizable tip, an inconvenient body or two could be disappeared. If it wasn’t consumed in flames.

    Current score: 7
    • BlackWizard says:

      I think people assume she’s safe because of how meek she acts to begin with. If she acted all ‘demony’ they would probably be MUCH more wary of her.

      Current score: 1
      • Tuukka says:

        Mack actually is a pretty safe toy for anyone with any combat training and a willingness to use it.(or working hands to make holy signs with)
        That is why it is so frustrating when she resists any and all combat training.

        Current score: 1
        • zeel says:

          Or anyone even remotely religious – it only takes a hand gesture and a minor amount of faith to subdue her.

          Current score: 0
  2. MadnessMaiden says:

    See, that’s another thing I don’t agree with. How is a piercing better than a collar or a promise ring? Even if you take it out, there’s still a hole there. And if you get a sexual part pierced, you lose some feeling in it. Their logic does not make any sort of sense to me. >.<

    Current score: 1
    • Konso says:

      You forget that they have magical healing….and probably magical piercing. If the piercing is removed and healed, no more hole. If your piercing tool magically slides between nerves without damaging them, no feeling lost. The physical effects of the piercing are less permanent than the mental effects of the collar.

      Current score: 4
    • Daezed says:

      Side note: you do not always lose feeling with genital piercings. Sometimes, you even gain sensitivity. It was this way with mine.

      Current score: 5
    • Athena says:

      Also, there is not necessarily still a hole there, especially if you only wear it for a few months, or a year or two. *My* ear piercings are in no danger of closing up, but I’ve had them well over fifteen years now, so a few months with no earrings is nothing. Earlier on, though, you take it out and the hole closes up.

      Current score: 0
  3. BlackWizard says:

    “Eh, maybe once every two, three months,” she said. “Most of the people stupid enough to try the five-finger discount on me are minors, and they just get a talking to. Hey, just because I don’t dress in metal with a horned helmet on my head and swig mead from a tankard the size of my head doesn’t mean I’m not a dwarf… and nobody in their right mind steals from a dwarf. Anyway…”

    This is the second time I’ve heard about how Dwarves handle stealing from them. There’s also been some mentions about trying to get over on them too. It must be a hellava thing to try to get over on a Dwarf! lol

    Current score: 0
  4. Anthony says:

    At least someone really understand what Steff is like, and is willing to talk straight about her…

    Current score: 2
  5. LogicSwitch says:

    Here’s a thought: why not do the performance first, then the piercing? Surely they could pay for the magic Nair. Then they could back out of the party without falling into Mercy’s clutches.

    Current score: 5
    • C says:

      I like how you think. Sadly, thinking and common sense appears to be a rarity with these characters.

      Current score: 2
  6. Cadnawes says:

    For those of you who still don’t get it, in this world and evidently theirs, collars have cultural meaning attached. A piercing can mean or not mean whatever you want. I have several, I didn’t think very hard about getting any of them. I’ve only given one collar.

    Its culture that makes a ring mean so much, too, no bleeding required.

    Current score: 3
  7. Maesenko says:

    Well, they apparently didn’t think about what would happen should they not be able to attend; if they find out ahead of time and try to neg on the written agreement, there’s no escape clause.

    Current score: 2
  8. Dangflabit says:

    Really genuinely starting to resent mack and amy for there willingness to jump in over their heads. i know this is poor form for someone reading a series but i find myself skimming through or skipping over chapters more and more. Oh well where’s the next chapter that isn’t laying on the fetishes and dumb decisions with a legion of paintbrushes

    Current score: 0
    • nobody says:

      What I have read so far tells me you will be reading very little of this story with your search requirements.

      Current score: 1