The Erotic Mind-Control Story Archive


Jugal the Market Teer stood on his platform looking over the shops, stalls, and tents of this city within the city. At the center near where he stood, was the great Temple of Commerce, where merchants and customers alike came seeking blessings for their dealings. In front, the wondrous cleansing fountain was nearly as large, with its sculpture of the goddess Neera bathing her feet. It was subtle to the eye, but both the temple and fountain were on the summit of a small hill so that the rest of the marketplace sat below them on cobblestones.

Jugal should have been happy, as the office of Market Teer was a plum position in the Royal Bureaucracy. Merchants vied for his favor as location and rent in the market could make or break their businesses. Also, many of them wished to avoid palace scrutiny of their efforts and therefore were willing to pay extra for his less than official “licenses”. All this meant bribes that dwarfed his official pay.

Jugal was not a happy man that morning, however. By this time of morning, he should have been nicely fogged by the the effects of his Teeko pipe. Today, he was sober, and his head ached. He should have been cool and comfortable in his cotton Kefta and sandals. Instead, he was baking and constricted in his black teer uniform and boots. A large ceremonial sword hung from his belt, further weighing him down. For the fifth time that morning, Jugal once again muttered, “I hate Moon Day.”

It was all because the current High Terosi had a soft spot for his pretty little High Slaves, letting them out to go to his market once every cycle. What did the Terosi care about the disruption to the city’s commerce, or more importantly, Jugal’s stream of graft. With the High Slaves came Royal Guards, very different than the City Guard who shared in the bribes.

The male slave who kept his books, official and real, ran up to the platform.

“Teer, the Royal Litter.....just cleared the Comet Gate.”

Jugal grunted and looked toward the fountain, and called out to the slaves waiting at five spots around its circumference.

“DO IT....DO IT NOW!” he yelled.

Each slave pulled a lever they had inserted in discrete holes in the fountain walls. Small doors opened and streams of cool, cleansing water gushed out. The fountain was raised slightly from the rest of the market place, and the soapy water soon was cascading down. Tent merchants stood around holding their rugs while municipal slaves used brooms and the water to better cleanse the cobblestones. Everywhere, dirty street children enjoyed the rushing water, splashing in the temporary streams.

After a while, the Jugal clapped his hands, and the slaves at the fountain closed the flues. The bookkeeper, who had joined him on the platform, said “Such a waste of good water.”

Jugal muttered dryly: “Well, we don’t want the High Slaves to get market grime on their dainty feet, do we, Kiga?”

The simple house slave holding the parasol did not catch his sarcasm and chimed in: “And their soles are used to the marble of the palace. We have to cool the stones for them.”

Jugal ignored her, and thought instead about his pipe.

* * *

Down in the meat district, Sandor stood outside his tent. All around him, wisps of steam came off the cobblestones as the water quickly evaporated. Despite seeming calm, he was truly anxious. The flooding of the marketplace could only mean the High Slaves were near. At least his tent was raised with a wooden floor so it wasn’t flooded. He went behind it. Tanna sat cross-legged in front of a small brazier. As she stirred with one hand, she sprinkled spices from a small sack. He bent down and smelled the porridge. Satisfied, he told the tavern wench to stand.

“Yes, Master.”

“Thank you Tanna. I’m going to kiss you now, and you will wake. You will remember that you came by for a massage, and we then made love again.”

Sandor embraced her and kissed her. After a moment, she began to kiss him back. He pulled away.

She smiled, and looked down at the brazier. “That smells... interesting....what is that? Lunch for us?”

“Oh, how I wish, pretty Tanna. It’s for a business opportunity, so I need you to get on your way.”

Tanna gave one of her pouts. “Can I come by tomorrow?”

“I will be busy...but I promise to send for you soon.”

He could tell the girl wanted to argue. But his repeated sessions had so completely conditioned her that even out of her trance she submitted to his will. He kissed her again, and she left. He checked the brazier’s coals, and looked up towards the palace on the mountain that towered over Valaysha.

From the front of the tent, he heard two girlish voices simultaneously say “Master healer, where are you?”

* * *

As always, the combination of the heat, the plush cushions, and the swaying of the giant liter made Alif sleepy. She lay with her long legs stretched out, her back propped up against the side of the liter. She probably would have dozed but for the heaviness in her chest. While it was not too bad up in the palace, she always felt as if she was half drowning in the thick humidity of the lower city.

So instead of napping, she looked around the liter. She had to admit that the cursed High Teroshi had gathered quite the collection of female beauty for his High Slaves. Most of her “sisters” were locals, short and curvy girls with long straight black hair and light brown complexions. But women from every corner of the Valayshi Empire were represented. A pair from the eastern horse clans with their almond eyes played their incomprehensible dice game in one corner. Sharp featured girls from the Plains region brushed each other’s long red hair. Slender northern girls with their long legs, fair complexions and blonde and light brown hair were spread throughout. Even the daughter of a Zui chieftain, black as coal and taller than than most of the Royal Guard, sat imperiously in one corner. Regardless of their race, each High Slave a wore the same blue and nearly transparent silks draped over slight thicker blue cloth covering their breasts and lower torsos. Gold and silver adorned their bare arms and lower legs.

Alif sat slightly apart, as usual. She had long blond hair and striking, icy blue eyes. She had made few friends in her three months in Valaysha, and was fine with that. Her father, the late Thane of Korge, had been one of the last to bend the knee to the Valyashi Empire. Southerners had always failed to conquer Korge , largely due their inability to live the extreme conditions of the Upper North, with its thin air and brutal winters. The current Teroshi had finally succeeded through cunning diplomacy and the use of northern traitors and mercenaries. He forced her father to bend his knee to this cursed city and to accept a shameful peace. The Thane would keep his throne, but at the price of an onerous tribute. And the beautiful Alif was a part of that tribute.

The irony was that as a youth, she had dreamed of traveling to Valaysha. She mastered the language and could recite their poetry. She knew all about the great cities, with their giant temples and beautiful art and music. Each time her father’s hall was visited by an emissary or merchant from the south, she would ask questions until her father or mother stopped her.

Now, she only dreamed of returning to the North. She also wanted revenge. Her beloved father had been forever broken by his loss, and had soon drank himself to death. A new Thane now ruled, a mere puppet of the Valayshi and their High Teroshi.

Alif hated being a High Slave, despite the fact she was expected to do little but be beautiful. While the Teroshi occasionally would bed them, dynastic concerns generally limited him to to his small harem of three wives. Regular palace servants did all of the cooking and cleaning, leaving the High Slaves the occasional duties of serving the Teroshi and a favored few their wine and providing entertainment such as poetry, story telling, dancing and music. In fact, local girls considered being a High Slave an honor, one that granted them status above high caste women. Even the ones from recently conquered lands were happy to live out their youth as pretty caged songbirds.

Not Alif. Korgian females were expected to farm, fish, sail, and if need be, fight, no matter how highborn. She had gone on raids and once even wielded a battle axe. She was not a soft pet like these others. She knew killing the Teroshi meant suicide, and she did want to live. Besides, any attempt would likely fail due to his cunning and the ever present Royal Guard with their blood red capes. But she believed that escape was possible, and would be another form of revenge. She knew some of her clan had refused to bend the knee and kept their long boats and weapons. If she could just manage to get near them.

It had taken months, but she had come up with a rough plan. When the other girls were busy buying their perfumes, sweets, silks, and other trifles, she was quietly buying food and other supplies. The spice merchant believed he was selling her seasoning to help her stomach Valayshi cuisine, not knowing that much of it could also be used to cure meat and fish for long journeys. She had managed to trade some palace soap and perfume for a dagger. A ring stolen from a drunken diplomat had secured her theatrical make up that would darken her skin as well as a rough shift with a hood to conceal her exotic golden hair. (She also hoped to find a suitable wig of black hair. All of these things she kept in sacks hidden in a burnt out shell of a whale oil shop.

In addition to supplies, Her market days got her out of the intensely guarded palace. Sometimes, she asked discrete questions but mostly just listened to the conversations between the merchants, customers, and slaves that filled the market. This way she acquired decent knowledge of the cities’ layout. She only had to figured a way out of the walled market place and into the city proper. Then, she would be able to try and get to the port district on the great river. There, she would either bribe her way onto a merchantman, stowaway on one, or acquire a boat. One way or another, she would return north and try to find family that still lived free. If there was none, she would live her years out as a fishwife or hall servant in some seaside village, a fate better in her mind then her current servitude.

Her daydreams of escape stopped when she felt the hostile glare of another, a woman in a prominent place in the front of the litter. Tallenda, the First Slave had additional pillows, and a palace servant was slowly fanning her. Nearly three decades in age, she a great beauty herself. Tall for a Valayshi and with a slender build much like Alif’s, she was said to be the greatest beauty in the land. She came from one of the city’s oldest families, one that had fallen into tax debt. She was overjoyed to be the solution to her family’s woes. Unlike Alif, she had made the best of the situation and used her beauty, talents, and sexual skills to become the High Teroshi’s favorite. It was rumored that he was considering bringing her into the Royal Harem should one of his three wives died. Talenda used this status to rule over the other High Slaves, and she did so with casual cruelty. And now, Alif was the target of her wrath.

Lately, the Teroshi had been paying increased attention to the northern girl, though no one could say why. She did nothing to encourage him, and had shown no talent for poetry, singing or story telling. She had gone out of the way to conceal her great intelligence, and pretended to barely speak Valayshi. Most of her captors and fellow slaves thought that she was rather simple. Yet, the Great Teroshi often spoke to her and complimented her. He showed her off to guests as his greatest northern prize. The final straw had been a gift. Alif looked at the strings of jewels that went around her ankle and looped around her second toes, feeling their oppressive weight. She would never understand the Southern fondness for the female foot At first, the gift had made Alif very happy, but not for the Teroshi’s reasons. They were the first thing she had been given that might be valuable enough to bribe a ship’s master. Her appreciation for the gift was soon dissipated by Talenda’s jealous attention. So far the First Slave had limited her attacks to cruel verbal jabs and the occasional slap, but Alif knew to be wary of the woman.

“Look ladies, our homesick sister dreams of what Northern treasures she’ll find today! What’s on the list , Alif,..... Snow Skunk Jerkey, perhaps? No...I you hope to find some heavy seal fur boots for your giant, stinking feet. Or perhaps...yes....some Korgian mead to drown your sorrows, my dear? It is a family tradition, is it not?”

Some the women, mostly from the south, laughed derisively with the First Slave. The others looked away.

Alif just cast her eyes downward, and sheepishly smiled as if she did not quite follow the words. As she did, she altered her plan. Before escaping the market, she would take the time to slowly cut Talenda’s throat.

* * *

The fifty male slaves holding the giant liter carefully sat it down between the Market Temple and its fountain. Municipal slaves quickly brought them and the mounted guard water jugs for refreshment. The head of the horseman did not take a jug, but instead rode up to the platform and gave Jugal a curt nod. A ferocious man with a vivid scar that stretched across the left part of his face, he wore the black tunic and red cape of the Royal Guard. A lethal curved sword hung from his red sash.

Back on the platform, a large gong was sounded, and the enormous Teer spoke as loudly as he could.

“GREETINGS, honored customers! Let all in this place know that an insult to His High Slaves is an insult to the Magnificent High Teroshi himself. Let no one cheat them or hinder them in any way! Ladies, may the gods of commerce bless all of your purchases!”

Satisfied, the Guard Captain rode back to the liter and opened a flap.

“Go ahead, My Ladies...enjoy yourself. Listen for the gong so that we can have you back in time to prepare for tonight.”

First to emerge was Talenda, who brought the palace slave along to carry her purchases. The rest of the ladies filed out and broke into groups of three or four, dividing mostly on ethnic lines. Alif was last out. The captain noticed that the northern girls always lagged behind the others. He waited until they were past and then gave one his officers a discrete nod. The Lietenant in turn pointed at one of the liter slaves, who then followed the northern girls at a careful distance.

* * *

Sandor was exasperated.

“Ladies....Ladies...You know I love treating you two...but I can’t this afternoon....come back this evening, and I’ll give you double sessions.”

The two pretty courtesans were each holding one of Sandor’s arms, trying to drag him into his tent.

“Just a short treatment, Master Healer.......I’ve been dreaming of it all day” said the dark one from the Istruk. “We’ll make it worth your while.”

“You can do us both at the same time, me on the right, Tia on the left.” said her red headed friend, giggling.

Sandor had begun recruiting his network of unwitting agents, and prostitutes such as these two often uncovered the tastiest information. Men would hold their tongues under torture for days, but would spill all to a pretty face that gave them the right compliment. But there could be too much of a good thing. These two were like Teeko addicts when it came to his treatments. He watched in horror as he saw the top of a blonde head approaching in the crowd. His practice was to assert his Art in private, but he had no time.

“C’mon, Master Healer...please.....”

“Pretty Tyra, Pretty Tia, you must listen to the shadow hawk.”

The effect was immediate as both women let go of him and let their arms fall loosely to their sides. He quickly whispered instructions to them. The black haired courtesan stood with him, half blocking the entrance to the spice shop, while her friend took something from Sandor and entered after perfunctorily dipping her feet in the little foot bath at the doorway.

* * *

Alif looked around, and made sure she was not followed. Satisfied, she crossed the plaza to the spice shop. A man draped in expensive healer robes was talking to a gaudily dressed woman. She assumed they were negotiating the price of her “services” until she got closer, and heard:

“Master can I ever repay your kindness..” The young woman had tears streaming down her face, “ other healer would come to our house and treat my child. Thanks to baby shall live.” Sandor was pleased with her performance, but was worried they were laying it on too thick. “I can pay you.....” she worshipfully continued.

The healer shook his head no. “Save your coins, the babe shall need good food and ointments. Now go, and I will check on him on the morrow.” Just then, the red head exited the shop. She had no purchases, but was holding a small empty jar.

The two girls saw Alif, bowed, and padded away. Alif was impressed, and smiled approvingly at the healer, who acted as if startled by her presence. He bowed, and sputtered an apology to the High Slave for blocking her path, and moved out of the way. Alif quickly dipped her big toes into the dirty water of the shop’s foot bath, barely wetting them, and entered.

“Greetings, Honored Customer!” cried the spice merchant.

“Good Morning.”

“I was not able to procure for you the daga root just yet....there’s not much call for it, but I was able to get the takoo powder from a recent caravan. It’s mostly fresh.”

Alif heard someone else enter, and the merchant said again “Greetings, Honored Customer, I’ll be with you in a moment.”

Sandor walked around the shop, scooping small amounts of spice and dried herbs into sacks. After a moment, the merchant and the lady came over to the shop’s small collection of northern goods. He noticed that the blonde woman had a good eye for the spices, and often caught the keeper in his attempts to cheat her on price or quality. She never lost her temper, though, and in the end she won all of the negotiations.

“Now let me see this ‘more or less’ fresh Takoo powder.” Sandor noted her fluency in Valayshi. She smelled the powder, then frowned. After a moment’s hesitation, she took a spice scoop and a sack and reached into the barrel. Her frown became more pronounced as she stared at something in the barrel.

“What is that?”

The merchant and Sandor walked over and saw what had piqued her interest. Partially buried in the brown powder, sat a small ball. It began to shake, and the spice came off of it, revealing the ball to be made of some black, segmented material that seemed to glisten.

Sandor quietly said: “My Lady......I think you should remove your hand from the barrel.”

She half turned , but kept her eyes on the black ball.

Suddenly, the ball unfurled and revealed itself to be a scorpion about the size of a man’s hand. Before she could say or do anything else, the scorpion scampered onto her right forearm. The tail seemed to waive, and a drop of clear liquid appeared at the end of the stinger. Her eyes bulged and she looked as if she was about to scream. But then, she heard a voice calmly say in perfect Korgirian:

“My Lady....if you value your life...make no sound or motion.” Sandor was impressed, despite her terror she had gathered her wits and did as he bid. Looking at her face, he was struck by her beauty. He slowly moved closer to her. He picked up another spice scoop, then with great speed and dexterity, used it to knock the scorpion on the ground where he stomped it beneath his boot.

“Are you stung My lady?” asked Sandor with great concern in his voice.

The woman was gasping, a crimson blush coloring her pale cheeks.

“No...I think not...thank you Master Healer.”

Sandor quickly examined her forearm, then looked under his boot. He turned accusingly to the shopkeeper.

“The Ponder Scorpion. One sting and My lady would have lost the arm and probably her life.” Actually it was the Ponder’s close cousin, the Baku. Like the Ponder, it was drawn to the heat of the human body. Unlike its fearsome relative, its sting was no worse than a large wasp.

The shopkeeper’s shock finally subsided and he threw himself at Alif’s feet. “My Lady.........forgive me...nothing like this has ever happened in my shop. Ask anyone.....I am always diligent about vermin. Please don’t tell Captain Heer!”

“Please stand, can’t stop every insect from entering your shop. There’s nothing to forgive.”

“Please take today’s purchase as an atonement.....”

“Enough, friend...I will keep silent.” She smiled at Sandor. “And I’m sure the Master Healer will do so as well for a similar gift of atonement for his exertions.”

“Of course! The healer is my good friend and neighbor. Free spices for him as well, today!”

Alif rolled her eyes at Sandor when the shopkeeper began kissing her feet in gratitude.

“It’s always with the feet with these people.” She appraised Sandor for a moment. “You’re not of the South, but you’re not from the Far North. Where did you learn to speak my tongue so well? You barely have an accent for someone from.....I’m guessing the Windless Isles.”

Sandor smiled and nodded. While she had guessed wrong, she was close. “My first apprenticeship was with the 7 Healers of Nara. With them, they taught you nothing unless you learned Korgrian, fast and well. I heard you speaking about Far North spices and salts and it is known that the Teroshi has a Korgian princess as a High Slave. I took a chance.....I thought words in your tongue would cut through your....your..” Sandor bowed his head as if embarrassed.

“You can say it, Master panic. I’ve never been so terrified in my life. Please, take the money I was going to use for the spice.” She smiled. Despite himself, he was utterly charmed.

She broke the spell by going into a coughing fit, falling against Sandor, her hand on her chest.

Sandor supported her, and with practiced fingers, probed her temples, her throat and chest. Between small gasps, she said “This happens... time to time, especially when I over exert...myself.” Sandor was surprised to find himself excited by her body as it pressed against his.

“Slow, steady breathes, My Lady. This is no mystery. You suffer, like most from the Far North, when exposed to the heavy, wet air of this part of the world. The reverse happens to southerners who go to Korgia, though there are ways to hide it. Why do you think it took the southerners so long to conquer you, and why they had to use your countrymen to do it?”

“ I’m usually fine in the palace....and even here it’s usually not this bad.”

“The palace is higher, and cooler. As for this attack, confronting one’s death is another type of exertion that aggravates the condition.”

The merchant jumped to his feet. The last thing he needed was a dead High Slave in his shop.

“My Lady....let me call for the Royal Guard...”

“No!” she curtly said, between coughs. Both Sandor and were surprised by her vehemence. She had more tasks related to her escape, and the Guard would certainly interfere if they knew she was sick. The merchant bowed his head in fear.

“I’m better, now.” she said in a calmer voice, her breathing improving. “Besides, we have a Master Healer here who has already saved my life once. You can treat me, can’t you?” She looked at Sandor with pleading in her eyes. He smiled, and nodded his agreement. Embarrassed, she pulled away from him, picked up her purchases, and stepped out of the shop, but then leaned against the shop’s wall.

Sandor followed and said “My lady, my tent is just over here”.

She turned, and said “Forgive me, words were just to mollify the old crook. I’m sure you are a wonderful healer, but I really have things to do.”

“Damn it” he thought. He did not want to lose this opportunity. He glanced behind his tent, hoping to see smoke from the brazier “Miasma Malaise should not be trifled with...please, it won’t take long.” Just then a breeze from the river picked up, and smoke from the brazier behind his tent wafted out to them, heavy with the smell of cinnamon.

Looking quite determined, Alif began, “Master Healer....I appreciate all you have done for me but I must insist.....must insist.” Alif closed her eyes, and sniffed.....and then her eyes opened wide, and she said “It can’t be....can it?”

Sandor pretended to be confused, then, as if he finally realized something, continued: “My pot of Mieck....of course... I grew a taste for it in Nara. I have it often. Would My Lady care to share in my lunch?” Sandor knew the recipe of dozens of northern dishes, but had gambled that she would most miss the porridge, a staple that Korgians all grew up eating.

She stared at him “I have not had Miek since the morning they took mother made it for me and my sisters..”

“Please, My lady...I insist.” With that, he ran behind the tent and came out with a large bowl of the porridge with a wooden spoon.

She seemed to gather herself. “Master Healer....on top of everything....I can’t take your lunch from you.”

He held the bowl up so that her nose was engulfed by the smell. “I have plenty....please do me the honor.”

After a brief internal debate, she took the bowl, but not the spoon. Using her right hand, she began scooping the porridge into her mouth with increasing speed. Soon, the bowl was empty. Sandor handed her a kerchief, and she wiped her mouth and burped.

“Sir...I cannot tell you how delicious that was..not as good as Mama’s....but....still wonderful....please take all of my money...”

“Please, My Lady...there is a better reward you can grant me if you must.......please let me give you a treatment ....a novel method I have created....I believe it can help your breathing.”

“How is that a reward for you?”

“Trust me....I am not being altruistic. I am a healer trying to establish myself in a strange land with an arrogant people. I am a Master Healer, yet I am exiled to a tent in the meat district If I can truthfully say I have treated a High Slave.....even will greatly enhance my reputation in Valaysha.”

Alif was touched. She knew much about being a foreigner stuck in this land, and she owed this man so much. Her father, the Thane, had always taught the solemn duty to show appreciation. She looked up and saw the sun’s position. She had wasted so much time in the spice shop, her preparation for escape would have to wait until the next moon day, any way.

“All right, Master Healer”.

“This way, My Lady.” They stepped over to the tent. He kneeled at the entrance, and reached in, and pulled out a footbath, cloths, and then a pitcher of clean water from the fountain. He motioned, and she stepped both feet into the bowl. He poured the water, and used a cloth to gently scrub her feet clean. He was surprised to see a black substance had come off her soles. That confused him as the cobblestones had just been washed for the High Slaves. There head been nothing staining the spice shop floor.

“You seem to have stepped in something, my lady.”

She ignored his question and stepped out of the bowl and quickly entered the tent. Sandor got the definite impression she was avoiding the topic.

The tent was appreciably cooler than the outside. Rugs covered the wooden floor, and a work table with Sandors’ healing instruments , a small shrine, and medicines sat in the back. Under the table were stacked many medical scrolls. Two sets of cushions sat facing each other. Suspended on a string over one set, hung a large silver jewel with polished facets.

“Please sit.” Sandor pointed at the cushion set beneath the jewel. He detected some reluctance. But she eventually sat. He took some cushions and placed them behind her “Please lie back with your head raised.” She complied, her legs bent at the knees and her feet flat on the rug. He then turned to his work bench and looked to the small shrine there and said the traditional words: “May the spirits of Healers past, present, and to come guide my mind and my hands in my sacred task.” He then poured some of the pitcher water into a bowl and washed his hands. Drying them, he sat cross-legged in front of her and placed a small cushion on his lap.

“My Lady, please place your feet on this cushion.”

She just stared at him.

“My Lady, I assure you...I have only your health and well being in mind.”

“’s not that....I just can’t get over how southerners are so in love with feet.” Her smile was not unkind. “Every bravo here seems to think the way to win a lady starts with her toes. If you think a foot rub will set you apart here, you will be disappointed.”

He added a touch of annoyance to his voice. “First of all, I am not a southerner. Second of all, it is much more than a ‘foot rub’, Third of all, I assure you, My Lady, my only intent is professional and to ease your discomfort. Perhaps you wish to see the Mark?” He reached to untie his tunic so to display his chest.

“ meant no offense, Master Healer. Here.” she placed her feet on the cushion. He saw there was still traces of black on her heel and toe pads.

“And this is not all I have to offer, Lady...just one technique that I find that eases both mind and body. I admit I am no miracle worker....I can’t cure your breathing problems today...only time here in the South will do that. But I can help speed the process, and make it more pleasant. But to do so, we must work on your body and your mind....We must get rid of the anxiety that only aggravates the problem, and nothing causes anxiety quite like a Ponder Scorpion.”

“What do my feet have to do with my breathing, or my spirits?”

“We often think of those of the East as alien and barbaric. I have been there, and I will tell you that their culture is far older than Valaysia and Korgia combined. They have great healing knowledge. They believe, and have convinced me, there a lines of energy that travel to all points of the body. These lines begin in the soles of your feet. By applying the right pressure at these points, you can create relief and ease the mind.” It was subtle, but Sandor had slowed his speech, and reduced his volume. His voice was now deeper, and there was a certain rhythm to his words. Without asking, he began applying pressure with his thumbs on spots near the top of the girl’s heel.

“This spot leads to your notice that the air seems thinner now....easier to breath.

The girl, looking surprised, nodded in agreement. “How are you doing that?”

Actually, she was doing it to herself. If Sandor remembered correctly, the Eastern healers touched this spot to cure indigestion. He wanted to see if she was reaching a point of suggestibility so that he could proceed with his Art.

“That’s nothing, My Lady.” He stood up and pulled on the jewel until dangled just above her face. He twisted it, and it began to slowly revolve,. He went over to the tent entrance, and arranged the flaps, until light hit the jewel’s many facets. Her large, blue eyes automatically fixed upon the stone.

“I confess...I thought it was a cheap bauble, Master Healer. It’s beautiful in this light.”

“ is a special healing stone.” Sandor was speaking in her native language again. He squatted again, and placed the cushion and her bare feet back on his lap. He began making circular motions with his thumbs on spots between her forefeet and insteps. “Now, My Lady, now that we’ve eased your breathing, I want you to take a long deep breath. Hold it, until I say to release. Now...slowly exhale, feeling all tension and bad thought leave with your breath. Imagine a black, nasty cloud leaving your body with each exhale. Again.....release.....Again....release.” He was pleased to see she was complying, her eyes never leaving the jewel.

“I see you are fascinated by my healing stone....go ahead and gaze on it as you continue to take deep breaths, exhaling all that is bad in your body. Focus on it, until all other sights in this tent fade. The stone has great power. If you focus as I bid, with total concentration, it will grant you visions of what you most desire. Only if you truly love the thing, will it appear. Gaze, My Lady. Gaze until the image fills your mind. Something you love...a good memory, perhaps.” He saw her eyes were dilated, and unblinking.

“Tell me, what do you see?” He continued the massage to her soles, timing pulses with the revolving light cast by the jewel and his words.

Her voice was a murmur. “I see..oh...I can see it....I see the ocean.”

“Where are you?”

“On Uncle Favrin’s long boat, the ‘Kraken’s Whore’......we’ve just cleared the Rocks of Demir......”

“Imagine the ship, in all of its detail. The mast, the color of the wood...the feel of the deck on the soles of your feet....admire the full sail with your uncle’s symbol. Smell the salt air. Hear the sea gulls telling you that land is just over the horizon...listen to the song of the oarsman..feel the cold spray of salt water on your face as the long boat is tossed, up and down...up and down.”

“Home....we’re almost there.” the girl whispered, tears falling on her cheeks. Sandor grew concerned...he did not want too strong emotions at this point.

“’s as if you never came south. Let all thoughts of your present life fade away, with each breathe that leaves your body. Just a joyous return after a raid with your uncle. See all of the loot on the deck. See the big smile on his face.”

“Yes, my father the Thane...will feast with us tonight in the Great Hall.”

“You should be proud...proud of the raid...proud of your uncle...proud of yourself....proud...but tired.....your eyes so heavy...they need to close....heavy...heavy eyes.”

She remained silent, but her lids began to drop.

“That’s it, rest your eyes...close your heavy you can bathe in blissful darkness..and when you do all sounds will fade until you only hear my voice....Go ahead, close your eyes.”

Alif’s eyes fully closed, and her head drooped down until her chin was on her buxom. Her breathing was slow and steady, as if she was asleep.

Sandor gently lifted her feet off his lap and placed them on the rug. He then repositioned himself so that he was next to her head. Carefully, he opened her left eye, and saw that the eyeball was rolled up into her head. He let go, and the lid slammed shut again.

“Alif....can you hear me?”

The girl slightly nodded her head.

“Alif...I will speak to you, and you will listen. I will ask questions, and you will truthfully answer, finding that the words leave your lips effortlessly. Alif, can you hear me?”

“Yes, Master Healer....I hear you.”

“Good. Each time you answer, your mind relaxes even more. Now, you mind if I call you that?”

“No...that’s my name......I’m no Lady.”

“My name is Sandor. Say it, now.”




“How di you feel, pretty Alif as I rubbed your pretty, pretty feet?”


“Focus on those pleasant feelings, and say my name again.”


“Remember the relief you felt when I killed the scorpion and you realized you were unhurt. Then say my name.”


“How did you feel when you first smelled the Miek porridge I gave you?”

“ I was home....”

“Focus on that happiness....focus..” A smile formed on her lips. “Now say my name.”

The girl let out a long sigh. “Sandor.”

“My name...the memory of me, will always coexist in your mind with these happy, relaxing, peaceful thoughts. If you agree, say my name once more.


“Pretty, pretty Alif. We’re going to be good friends now. You would like me to be your friend, would you not.”

“Yes, Sandor...I’m so lonely here..,” A tear dropped from her eye.

“ need to be sad...I will be your friend from this day forward...a friend who treats your illness...a friend that knows how to touch your feet that way you crave...a friend that speaks to you in noble Korgian and gives you Miek porridge. Yes?


“A friend that you can trust....always feel at ease to whom you’ll yearn to return.” he modulated his voice into a command. “You will come to see me every market day.”

“Every market day...I will come to you.”

“I will offer a massage...and you will always accept.”

“Always accept.”

“You will always enter this blissful state when I rub your feet, show you the jewel, and speak to you.”


“Good girl.”

Sandor was pleased. Despite her strong and willful spirit, she had fully accepted his Art. He was about to continue, when the ominous sound of the Teer’s gong sounded through the marketplace. He was running out of time. He would not have all night as he did with Tanna and the courtesans. He doubted giving her the ‘Shadow Hawk’ command to automatically return to trance would work at this point. He had to find a way to maximize their time. He continued:

“You will come to my tent first thing, as soon as you come to market.” He was stunned when she began to frown.

“No....No...I can’t do that. I have things to do.”

“What things?” He struggled to keep his voice even.

“I can’t tell you......not yet. Too dangerous for both of us. Oil shop must be secret”

Sandor could not believe his ears. He knew she was willful, but he had never encountered such resistance before. He thought for a time. He was about to try again when the gong sounded a second time.

“All right...we’ll take this up later. You will come to me when you can...each market day, yes?


Now....I am going to wake you soon. When I do, you will feel if you have slept a full night. You feel so grateful and happy.”

The frown left her face, and she murmured. “Happy.”

“Yes, now wake!” he snapped his fingers, next to her face. Her eyes slowly opened and focused on his as she shyly smiled at him.

“Sorry, San...I mean Master Healer, I must have dozed off...I hope my weakness did not spoil the treatment.”

He smiled back. “No..not at all...falling asleep is a natural reaction. The goal, after all is to relax you.”

“Well, it did do that.” Alif slowly got to her feet. Sandor handed her a small sack of powder. He said, “Mix two pinches in boiling water, every morning, then take a damp cloth and drape it over your head. Breath in the steam twenty times.” The gong sounded again.

“Oh many times has the gong sounded, Master Healer?”

“Just three.”

“ long did I sleep? I have to get back....I’ll be punished if I’m late” She thought of Talenda....who might use this to terminate Alif’s market privileges.

“Go through the wine merchants, you’ll get to the Temple much quicker.”

She hurried past him . As she reached the flap, she turned and handed him all of her coins. “I’ve done so much.” With that she ran off toward the fountain before Sandor could say anything.

* * *

Heer was drinking wine with the Teer on the platform when he saw Alif running toward the Royal Litter holding small sacks. He was surprised, the northern girls were usually quite lagging after a half day in the market.

“Don’t run...My’ve plenty of time. We still wait the First Slave to return, late as usual.” Alif arrived at the platform, breathless, and held out her purchases for inspection while staring down at the cobblestones. A guardsman met her, and looked in each sack, then said, “Spices, Captain, as usual.” The fat Teer, Jugal, waddled up in his ridiculously tight uniform, and said: “Blessings on you High Slave, the coin you spent, and on your purchases.”

The girl looked up at him dully, and entered the liter without responding.

“Play your little game, Alif...keep pretending to be the simpleton. " Captain Heer thought to himself. He had known of her pitiful escape preparations for some time now, as well as her fluency in Valayshi. Normally, she would have been fed to the river sharks, or sacrificed to the Fire Demon for her disloyalty. But the High Teroshi had plans for her. He wanted to add her to his harem....the first barbarian to be so honored. The North was in disarray. The girl’s family was in near open revolt. The current Thane was weak and stupid. While that suited their plans at first, it was becoming a liability. The Teroshi wanted this girl to warm to him. Then he would have Heer see that one of his three current wives met an “accident” to make room for Alif, who would then gratefully spew out a mongrel son to prop on the northern throne. Two ancient dynasties would unite and legitimize what he had accomplished by the sword.

If Heer had been the Teroshi, he would just put girl in the dungeon and take her until she made a son. But he wasn’t, so he simply watched the girl. The High Teroshi was highly amused by her plots, overconfident in his ability to charm her before she actually tried anything. As for Heer, he was curious if her efforts would reveal organized opposition to the palace in the city.

He looked over, and saw his lieutenant speaking to the liter spy who had following her. As more of the girls returned, the younger officer approached the Captain, who pleasantly said:

“Tell me Lieutenant...what has our yellow flower been up to today?”

* * *

Sandor sat in his tent, going over the session with Alif. He had applied his Art as well as ever. Sure, she was strong minded, but she had been truly deep in trance. What inspired her to resist? He thought about her words about an oil shop. This spurred another thought. He stepped outside and looked at the cloth he used on her feet. Sure enough, there were black marks. He smelled then then carefully tasted the tar like substance.

It was whale oil...burnt into grease.

Throwing the rag down, he began walking until he reached to the outskirts of the market. The Valayshi had the wisdom to keep this dangerous commodity away from the rest of the market. This was do to common sense and in part to their deep seated superstitions regarding fire, which they believed to be caused by demons. Their wisdom was illustrated by a burnt out shell of a large building. A blackened sculpture of a Whale stood by it’s wrecked door. The burnt out remains of tents and stalls surrounded the building. Carefully, he entered. Sunlight poured through the giant holes in the roof and he saw slender bare foot prints on the grease covered floor. They seemed to cluster around a pile of debris. His trained eyes realized there was something out of place with the pile. Using the remains of a stone work table, he managed to get to the pile without leaving boot tracks. After digging around for a moment, he found bags of smoked and cured meat, a dagger, and a short brown shift with a hood. He carefully, put everything back as it was, and used the table to return to the door.

If anything, he admired Alif even more as he walked back to the meat district. Her plan was doomed to failure, but still showed cunning and bravery. He realized that he would not make her a slave in the manner of Tanna and the two prostitutes. He had reduced them to zombie servants, with little trace of their original personalities when enthralled. That would not do for Alif. It would take too much time, and such control would be always at war with her nature. Instead, he would use the Art to convince the princess that obeying him was the only way home for her.

Sandor then remembered her happiness when she thought she was sailing home. For the first time in a long while, he felt guilty, because that was the one gift he could never give her.