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[personal profile] pierrot_dreams
This chapter has pretty much all the warnings: graphic rape, humiliation, and physical and psychological torture. If this isn't your cup o' tea, you can probably just read the beginning and skim for major plot developments without missing anything.

(Seriously, I am not kidding around with these warnings. Read at your own risk.)



CHAPTER 16

*
Are they done yet? Are they?”

Mama laughs as Luca jigs impatiently at her elbow. “Honeycake won't rise if you watch it.”

Don't bother your mother,” says Papa. “Or the Goddess might send those cakes tumbling into the fire to teach you a lesson.”

Luca gasps. He squeezes his eyes shut and jumps backwards. “I'm not looking! I'm not bothering! I'm not—”

He trips. Luca shifts his weight so that the fall turns into a leap, landing with his foot extended and his arms arced above his head. He looks around guiltily to see if anyone noticed. His eyes meet Alek's.

Careful,” Alek mouths, jerking his head at Papa.

Fortunately Papa is half-asleep in his chair. Luca puffs out his cheeks. Phew. If Papa caught him dancing in the house...

It's been a long time since we had honeycakes on Vernal, Mama,” says Alek loudly.

Papa's eyes fly open. He turns his snore into a grunt of disapproval. “That new commissar,” he mutters darkly. “Never trust a wolf who comes with sugar and honey.”

At least he's letting us celebrate Vernal this year,” says Mama. “Remember the commissar when we were children, Jan? He had the overseers whip anyone who sang or wore flowers.”

Alek whistles. “Even Commissar Abbot wasn't that bad.”

Mama and Papa exchange long, speaking looks. Mama reddens and drops her gaze.

Abbot was bad,” says Papa shortly.

Luca remembers Commissar Abbot's men coming in the night to take Mama away. Sometimes they would keep her for days and days, and when they brought her back she would be limping and bruised and wouldn't speak to anyone, not even Papa. Then Papa would go out and pick a fight with an overseer, and he would be whipped, and afterward Big Yul and Uncle Ivan would have to carry the bloody mess of him home. Luca doesn't like to think about those times.

They're putting up a maypole in the square,” says Alek, breaking the silence. “Did you see? With ribbons and everything.”
Really?” says Luca breathlessly. “Will there be music?”

Uncle Ivan said he's going to bring his fiddle,” said Alek. “And Huldi's twins are going to sing, and there'll be drums and flutes and—”
Dancing,” Luca breaks in, “and dancing, Papa, please—

Papa pushes himself to his feet. The thunder in his broad, scarred face makes Luca's insides twist up.

No,” he says. Then he ducks out the door. His anger lingers behind, thick as smoke.

Alek turns to Luca. The muscles in his jaw are jumping.

Do you know what the overseers say about you?” Alek says.

Alek,” says Mama warningly.

They say you look like a girl.”

Alek!”

And they aren't the only ones,” Alek goes on, ignoring her. “Last week I had to punch Eon because he asked how much your dowry is. Do you know how many men Papa has had to fight over you? Do you know what they say?”

Don't you dare,” Mama hisses.

They say you're an abomination.”

Mama crosses the room in two strides and slaps Alek across the face.

Don't ever let me hear you call him that again,” she says.

Alek touches his cheek. Mama's handprint is white on red.

Papa appears in the doorway. When he sees Mama staring down a cringing Alek and Luca crouching wet-eyed in the corner, he raises his eyebrows but doesn't comment.

I have something for you,” Papa says, almost sheepishly. He's holding a box full of waxy red balls.

What are they?” asks Luca.

Fruit,” says Papa, setting the box down on the ground. “From the wolves' city. Here, try.”

He tosses one of the red fruits to Alek, who catches it one-handed, and another to Luca, who fumbles and has to chase the rolling fruit across the floor. When he catches it the side is bruised brown. He uses the hem of his tunic to rub away the dirt.

The honeycake must be ready,” Papa says. “We'll make a feast.”

Mama smiles then, a real smile for the first time in so long. When she pulls the loaves of honeycake from over the fire they are hot and golden and fill the room with their crisp, mellow smell. Mama and Papa and Luca and Alek sit on the warm stones before the hearth. The fruit and honeycakes are laid out before them, a display of impossible riches.

This must be how the wolves eat every night, Luca thinks. In their city across the sea…

He fills his mouth with bites of fruit and honeycake until his cheeks are stuffed. It's like swallowing the sun. Luca closes his eyes. Sweet. This is what sweet tastes like.

Who wants to hear how the Goddess created the world?” says Papa, voice rumbling with good humor. He and Mama laugh when Luca and Alek start up a clamor of “I do! I do!”

In the beginning there was only the Goddess, and the Goddess was all; there was sea or sky, no earth, no people, and she was alone

Alek scoots close to Luca. “I didn't mean it,” he whispers. “Friends?”

Luca rests his head on Alek's shoulder. Alek drapes his arm over Luca's back. They eat cake and fruit and listen to Papa tell them the story of how everything began.
*


The smell of death filled Luca's nose. He came to himself choking and sputtering.

“Welcome back, bitch.”

Luca was already shaking, even half-conscious. Now, fully awake with the Beast kneeling between his spread legs, Luca's chest began to heave with panic. The shackles around his wrists and ankles rattled as tremors wracked his body.

“I don't think he's happy to see you,” said a smooth, dry voice from across the room.

Luca didn't have to look to know the Pig was there, watching. He turned his head to the wall, muffling little noises of despair into the mattress.

“And it seems he doesn't want to see me at all,” the Pig continued wryly. “Though it's hardly the first time that sentiment has been expressed.”

The Beast closed the vial of smelling salts and tossed it on the table beside the bed. He grabbed a handful of Luca's hair and jerked him so that he faced the Pig. Luca offered no resistance. He wanted to go away inside his head again, but they could tell when he wasn't all there. The Pig always knew.

The Pig watched from an armchair—the same chair every time, high-backed and imperious as a throne. It was thoroughly at odds with the starkness of the damage room. Maybe that was the effect he wanted. The Pig's trousers were unlaced, but he didn't touch himself. Instead he watched Luca with his beautiful red-blue eyes, the hint of a smile playing at the corners of his ruined mouth.

“That was terribly impolite of you, Luca,” said the Pig mildly. “Passing out with nary a by-your-leave. I'm disappointed.”

“'m s-s-sorry, s-sir.” His voice was raspy from screaming. The words were barely coherent.

The Pig tipped his head as though he didn't quite catch that. Then he smiled.

“No,” he said, tapping a fingernail against the arm of his chair. “Not yet. But you will be.”

The Beast grinned. He reached over and picked up the – thing. It was a long wooden wand branded on one end with a boar's head and tipped at the other with twin metal prongs. There was a crank on the side. The Beast began to wind it, building up a charge.

Luca screamed. He screamed without conscious thought, a long, keening wail of terror more animal than human.

“Haven't even started yet,” said the Beast, sounding offended.

The Pig laughed. “He knows what it feels like now.”

Luca did know. It felt like fire and venom at once, burning as the sting ripped through his nerves. Most cruelly of all, it left no marks. They could hurt him like this over and over again. Luca's scream broke into sobs.

“We wouldn't have to use the prod at all if you hadn't convinced some poor fool to pay your protection fee,” said the Pig kindly. “It's your fault this is happening, Luca. You understand that, don't you?”

Luca tried to say yes, but before he could force the word out the Beast touched the prod to his thigh. For a brief instant Luca felt nothing but a deep, biting cold. Then he arced up like a bow, spasms seizing every muscle in his body. White light bloomed behind his eyes.

and the Goddess's right eye became the sun and her left eye became the moon so that she was able to watch over the Chosen in the light and the dark…

Luca fell back on the mattress, limp as a doll. His thigh twitched. His cheeks were wet.

“You are so beautiful like this,” said the Pig. His voice was hoarse with arousal. “Again.”

This time Luca started screaming before the pain started. When the prod touched his nipple he was struck dumb. Everything fell away. He was suspended in a silence without end.

and the Goddess saw that the Chosen would suffer at the hands of the Apostates and she wept for her people until her tears became the sea…

A slap brought Luca back.

“Breathe, damnit!”

Obediently, Luca dragged down a searing lungful of air. It felt like stretching a badly cramped muscle. Tears pricked the corners of his eyes, but he forced himself to suck in deep, even breaths.

“Careful,” chided the Pig. “If his master finds marks, we won't be allowed to play with him anymore.”

“Shame,” said the Beast. “Little bitch looks good bruised up.”

“When he belongs to me I'll have you bruise him every day,” the Pig promised. "In fact, I'll insist on it."

Luca struggled to steady his breathing. If he passed out again they would be angry with him. The slap had knocked his head to one side; his vision was blurry, sliding in and out of focus. He could just make out the distant outline of a door. Robert—
No. When would Luca learn? Nobody was coming to save him.

“Again.”

The prod dug into Luca's other nipple. The current crawled into his flesh, wringing spasms so violent they terrified the part of him that could feel anything but pain. He grit his teeth and fought to stay present, riding each big wave of hurt as it crested. It was so much worse like this, forcing himself to feel every jolt eel through him, but it was right, it was what the Pig wanted. Whatever the man wanted was right. Luca would be good, he would give the man what he wanted, and then maybe the pain would end. Lady, let it end…

And it did, so abruptly that Luca kept screaming out of sheer reflex before he realized that the prod had been taken away. He fell back on the mattress, panting. Had the Pig seen how hard Luca had worked to keep conscious? Was he pleased?

“Slut didn't faint like a girl this time,” the Beast noted, winding the crank. “Getting bored, slut?”

Luca shook his head frantically. The Beast laughed. He leaned over, shadowing Luca with his bulk. He was hard, of course. The hot, horrible length of him rubbed against Luca through his breeches. He shoved his tongue in Luca's mouth and Luca tried to respond like he was supposed to, sucking him in hungrily and struggling not to cry when the Beast's hand pressed against his still-cramping thigh. Luca managed to raise his leg enough to rub against the Beast's erection. Perhaps if he got fucked they would lose interest in him after. He never thought taking the Beast's cock would be the lesser of two evils, but even that couldn't hurt as much as the prod.

“You've been too soft on the boy,” the Pig sighed. “He's grown spoiled. I trust you will amend the error?”

Luca sobbed against the Beast's mouth. The Beast pulled back, grinning. He picked up the prod and positioned it between Luca's legs.

“My pleasure.”

Luca didn't bother holding on to consciousness this time. When the prod entered him, he fell gratefully into oblivion.
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