Back in the round room with the large bath in the center, Master hurriedly gathered materials while I relaxed in the warm tub. He came up beside me and laughed loudly, “You sure look pretty soaking in a tub!”. More laughter ensued from the both of us, and for a moment the approaching Brighton Auctions left both of our minds. After a long hard laugh, Master told me I must be quick, as we had other things to attend to before the Auctions began. I rose up out of the bath and Master instructed me to don the burlap sack again.
With his stick in hand, he led me back down the hall and into the stadium where the chosen would dine and the auction would take place after. My knees trembled as I stepped down into the large stadium, table in the middle of the circular room and seats that rose up to the ceiling.
Master chuckled as my jaw dropped in awe of the immaculate room. Up until this point of my journey, I had seen mostly stone, and rough stone at that. This room, I could easily get used to being in. He instructed me to run as I had in the garden, on the tip of my toes with my knees lifted high to my chest. I despised running about like this, trying to “look graceful”, as Master had told me to, again and again.
I ran like this around the entire massive stadium, my knees trembling beneath me and my balance more and more impossible to keep. Every time I tripped, every time I stumbled, Master would slap my bottom hard with the stick in his robe. I yelped and flinched and tried harder to please him, though my legs could hardly bare my weight.
Master stopped walking and I continued running, lifting my knees as high to my chest as I could, though by this point I was barely getting my feet off the ground. Around the stadium fully once more, Master watched in delight, his crinkled eyes smiling. Finally, he called me to him and demanded I kneel on the ground in front of him, on my hands and knees, like the steeds he had raised in his time before the Brighton Ceremonies.
He slapped my shoulders hard and fast, multiple times in a row. He thwacked my bottom strong and steady with his stick and his hand, until it felt on fire. His whole demeanor had changed and I became quite scared of the Master with the wrinkled face. He yelled at me, “How dare you trip while running through this grand stadium! Respect your King and Queen, trip you shall not! Disappointment seeps through my veins, you dirty scoundrel!”. I shivered and cried silently to myself. Would no one stop him? Were other commoners receiving the same treatment?
He stopped abruptly and took a step away from me. He told me to rise and look him in the eye. I slowly stood, my back end throbbing, my shoulders stinging. My legs wobbled beneath me and I felt that surely today I would meet my maker. Master steadied me and apologized for his brutality. “All commoners are subjected to beatings by their Master’s or Mistress’. It is necessary for them to gain strength and prepare for the coming events at the Brighton Auctions.” I gave him a questioning look, and inquisitively said, “Yes Master?”
“At tonight’s Auctions, you will be required to run this stadium in the fashion you just have. You will run with all the other commoners who are up for auction. Your mission is to never trip, or I shall be very disappointed in you, and surely you will displease King Oghrain and Queen Persephone. After the run, marble stones will be cast about the room. Along with the other commoners, on your hands and knees and using nothing more than your mouth, you will try to catch the most marble stones.”, Master explained, pausing long enough to show me a marble.
He tossed the marble stone across the room, and raised an eyebrow. I lowered to my hands and knees and chased after the round stone flickering across the floor. I picked up the stone using my teeth and brought it back to Master as quickly as I could. He smiled and took the stone from my mouth. “During the Auctions, you will not bring the stone to me, for I will just be another face in the crowd. Instead you will take it to a bowl lined in front of the seats to the right of the room. Here sits the King and Queen. You will show them the stone between your lips or teeth, and then you will drop it in the bowl. You will then return, on your hands and knees with your head lowered, back to the center of the room, where the table currently is, and face your King and Queen.”
“After that, I will come to the front you and you will stand with your back to the King and Queen. You will raise your arms above your head and stand as still as a board. Again your bottom will be reddened by the elegant slapping of my fine stick, and the crowd will cheer in delight as you attempt not to squirm under my rhythmic beating. Sound fun?”, he asked, with a smile spread wide across his face, every line crinkling in excitement.
He gave me no time to process, before yelling at me to start practicing. He boomed, “Start running! Lift those knees high to your chest, look graceful!”. I began making my way around the large round track before me, trying as hard as I could, in my weakened state, to stay on the tips of my toes, to lift my knees as high as they would go, and more than ever, I tried not to trip, for I knew my punishment would be severe.
Master threw ten stones about the room after I had completed my run. On my hands and knees, I crawled from rounded stone to rounded stone, picking each one up with my teeth and dropping them on the ground in front of the risen seats on the right wall, as bowls were not placed until the auctions began. My knees hurt the faster I crawled, though my desire to please Master and the King and Queen was much more than the pain. My speed delighted Master, and he smiled to himself.
I turned around after the last round marble stone had been dropped on the ground, and crawled as fast as I could back to the center of the room, behind the table occupying the space I would stand. I stood as I faced the left wall, and raised both hands as high above my head as I could. Master came to my side and scolded me in a low voice for standing before he was at my side. He stated matter of factly, “You made a mistake. After we complete this, you will run the whole course again. Though this time, you will be careful to not make any mistakes, or you’ll be running this straight until the auctions and through the whole thing!” I knew not to take his words lightly.
I stood very still, as a rain of blows showered my already reddened behind. I choked back tears as the pain seared throughout my body. Strike after strike came down upon my burlap covered back side, and it took all the strength that I could muster to not falter before my Master. Then, almost as quickly as the beating had started, it stopped. Blood trickled down my leg and Master laughed. He came around to the front of me and wrapped his arms about me. My knees buckled, and I collapsed into his arms, sobbing out all the pent up confusion. This was all too much, much too fast.
Master gently rubbed my back and patted the short messy hair atop my head. His voice was again honey smooth, as he whispered in my ear, “It’s okay now. Quiet, you poor thing. It’s over.” Master’s voice soothed and calmed me, until my sobs began gentle sniffles. I steadied myself in his arms, and we walked arm and arm back to the large round room. He removed my burlap sack and once more, I dipped my sore and tired body into the warm water of the bath.
Master rubbed soft soaps over my body, and though his hands were calloused and old, the rubbing brought me again to tears. I quivered as his hand ran down my chest, and his fingers tangled in the hair that had accumulated on my pubic mound. I looked at him, questions filling the whites of my eyes. Master smiled and nuzzled his head in my neck, “Quiet poor man, I am preparing you for the Auctions. Do you not remember the rules as they were told to you?”, his voice was still gentle and smooth, and the questions waned from my eyes, and from my mind. Don’t think, don’t look. Don’t think, don’t look.
I closed my eyes, and laid back in the tub. Soap surrounded me and my body could barely be seen through it. Again, Master’s hand traced the length of my body, this time from the tips of my toes, which he rubbed until the pain in my toes was gone, up my long legs, pausing at my knees to rub until the pain had subsided. Once again, he tangled his fingers through the hair that had gathered on my scrotum, and then he cupped my testes, fondling them with his dry, rough hands. I let out a soft moan, as Master gripped my hardening shaft.
Slowly, up and down, he rubbed my swelling member. My hips bucked wildly beneath him, as my breath became frantic and unsteady. My ankles flexed, as my passion erupted, forming a squiggly line in the now cooling water. The soap that had surrounded me, was now beginning to fade, and a wave of shame washed over me.
Master rose from where he had knelt beside the tub. He handed me a blanket crafted from wool, and I wrapped it around my shoulders as I stood from the bath. Master began rubbing warm oil all over my body, being especially careful near the broke skin of my behind. I was dressed once again in the burlap sack, the materials abrasive texture tearing at my darkened bottom. My eyes stung with tears, and I asked, “Master, why does it hurt so? Why does water continue to find it’s way to my eyes?”
Master wrapped his safe arms around me once more, “Be still, good commoner. Training by the Elite Advisory Council always hurts, and that is just the way it is. The way it was intended, my boy. You can never assume to know what kind of evils await you on the other side of these sturdy stone walls that surround you, or the strong gate that keeps these walls sheltered!”. He took a step back from me, and held me at arms length, and in a much more serious voice, his face turning to the tough leather I had seen in the garden earlier that day, as he weaved his sad story of victory, “There is a wild world beyond the great gate that you will most likely walk through after you are bought at The Brighton Auctions, young man. Do you not recall the tale in the garden? Well, do you? Answer me boy, answer me at once!”
He shook my shoulders and I stammered, “Y-yes Master, I-i recall”. “Good! So you remember then, how this very auction that you are partaking in, as one of King Oghrain and Queen Persephone’s humble commoner’s, began long ago when the great King Arturo Brighton died and his Queen made a tragic error in judgement?” I nodded my head and whispered, “Yes, Master”.
He removed his hands from my shoulders and wiped them together, as if trying to remove dust from them, the oil now cooling against my skin. Master shook his head, “Well, enough about that.” A devious smile broke through the tough wrinkled skin, “One last mission before we go to the Brighton Auctions. Be strong tonight, my boy, and fear not. Don’t think and don’t look. Make your King and Queen proud”.
In a moment of weakness, my voice changed from that of a man, to that of a small child, as I blurted, “But Master, I wish only to please you. To make you proud, Master.” Before I took my next breath, a rough hand landed swiftly on my face, knocking my head to the side. The tears I had fought back before, now ran down my cheeks and I was not sure at all, that I would be able to control myself. Master tried his hardest to calm his voice, and un-crinkle the lines streaming along his face, “Your only duty, commoner, is to make your King and Queen proud and very wealthy! I do not mean to be so blunt, my boy, but you must understand the entire purpose of this. You are not here to make me proud, I am merely a step in the pathway you will walk to please the mighty King Ohgrain and Queen Persephone. And it would please the King and Queen greatly, if you were an obedient offering to wealthy nobles and commoners of other countries, and thus made your King and Queen wealthier, so that they may hold their status as the dominating country in all of the world! Do you understand, you foolish little thing?”
I nodded as tears streamed down my face. Master came to me and again wrapped his arms around me, “Oh, I know you love me so. As I love you, my boy. Our love is not one that is meant to last. You are to live out the fate that the Brighton Ceremonies has brought you, and I am meant to live out mine. I assure you this is not the last time we will see each other. Just as I repeated the ceremony, the same fate may fall upon you. So buck up boy, the night has only just begun.”
As he grabbed me by the arm, he kissed the cheek he had slapped, and I held my breath to hold back the waiting tears. I stood as tall as I could, trying my hardest to look graceful. As we left the large round room, women no longer shackled to the walls, no robed figures wielding whips, Master whispered to me, “Make your King and Queen proud, my boy!”. Silently, we walked arm and arm down the winding halls, back to the stadium, where my fate would be decided.