With the children now past testing – even if Markov’s reality-manipulation had resulted in an unreasonably large number of them passing – they had time to ramp up to some serious rivalries with each other!
Markov was keeping an eye on that! The first batch of children would be good practice for learning to deal with the larger batches of children he’d been siring on his new concubines – and it would help him set some precedents and rules for managing them better! There had to be a dominance order, or the creche would never have any peace!
It wasn’t long before he found Felan and his two silver slaves busily loading an unconscious Eduar (the remaining silver boy), into a slave-processing machine, right next to one of the green boys – it looked like Seiden – who was already fully restrained, ready for processing, and emitting occasional sobs…
Ah, hatchlings. That was so cute! It was about time they got busy on sorting out who was going to be dominant, who was going to be subordinate, and who was going to be a slave! And Felan was already doing VERY well! With Eduar’s brother… Andras (at least if Felan hadn’t renamed his property) – the boy had his full allowance of three enslaved siblings already and might well have exceeded his quota of ten slaves altogether!
Hm. He’d have to think about allowing some more, at least for the kids who did well… it wasn’t like the care and feeding of hatchling-slaves was much of an expense, and depriving them of the slaves they’d risked themselves to acquire seemed a bit unfair… Still, that was definitely the end of providing slaves for them himself!
(Felan) “Hi dad!”
(Markov) “Hello Felan! Got yourself some more slaves did you?”
(Felan, quite proudly) “Yep! And the slaves they had!”
(Markov) “So, how many is that?”
Hm… He’d given Felan the weapons to enslave four “wild” hatchlings, the boy had already owned Andras, he’d defeated a second silver during testing, Eduar and Seiden made eight – and Seiden had caught a couple of “wild” hatchlings, although Eduar hadn’t gone hunting (some sort of weird scruples there) – and they’d all gotten two when he handed around some slave-hatchlings from the spoils of capturing the adolescents and young adults….
Huh. Maybe he ought to assign someone to keep track of all that. That put Felan way over his quota though! He might have to exercise his privilege – as a chromatic master of the household – of appropriating some slaves of his choice from the bunch!
(Felan, with an odd air of disappointment) “Sixteen”.
Well! That was QUITE respectable! Especially for a hatchling! Even if six of them HAD been gifts… Why disappointed? Had he been expecting more?
Markov took a quick look at his son’s mind…
Ah! Felan was well aware that he wasn’t allowed to keep all of them! The excess would have to go up for sale, or be turned over to his father, or be put to work outside the creche until he got his own place, or some such – and he knew that his father was entitled to make his own choice. He was both generally disappointed at the slave-keeping limits (even if they WERE fairly generous) and disappointed about having to give some up.
The Silvers were – of course – the best slaves in the bunch; but those were two of Felan’s sibling-rivals and a personal trophy, and it would be mean to take them.
(Felan, hopefully) “Would you like the slaves back that belonged to Eduar and Seiden? They’re over the limit!”
Well, that was a small enough concession!
(Markov) “Why not? They’re as good as any!”
Now, how had the battle gone? Those were always fun, but Felan seemed practically uninjured!
It seemed that Felan had had a standing offer from Eduar to “fight him any time” – and Eduar had even agreed to bet himself against… only getting his enslaved brother instead of Felan and all his properties if he’d won. Oh! Sibling loyalty was evidently a LOT stronger in Metallics than in Chromatics! In any case… Felan had steered Seiden into challenging Eduar, and then – when Seiden had (as had been rather likely) lost, he’d promptly taken the now badly-battered Eduar up on “Anytime”. It had been an easy fight!
An open challenge for “any time”?! Oh, now THAT had been stupid!
Meanwhile, Felan had finished fastening all the restraints – and was now amusing himself by happily picking out processing options while he waited for the systems medical modules to wake Eduar up…
Seiden was already awake of course, but he seemed to have more-or-less resigned himself to what was about to happen.
Now what would Felan be going with?
It looked like… some cosmetic markings, tweaking their natural magics to be more useful to him, turning up the processing pain levels to near the maximum, total emasculation rather than standard neutering, claw-clipping, and some other disarming modifications.
Evidently he wasn’t anticipating sending them into any fights.
Ah well, that was a shame. Or was he planning to use the others for that?
Ah! He was planning to use the wildlings for troops if he needed some. He was planning to use his siblings as personal attendants.
Well, if he was already making them attendants, reducing their combat abilities would be fine! Still, HE preferred lots of strong backs and claws – with proper conditioning – for making him very rich!
Well, the boy was only eight, and he probably wouldn’t be out on his own for quite some time. He could always have some of that undone later if he pleased! Silvers made good servants, but not using them in combat would be a waste!
About that time Eduar twitched a bit against the restraints, groaned, and woke up. There was a moment of confusion – and then a horrified realization of where he was, and that both Felan and his father were now looking at him – Felan with pleasure and Markov with… amusement.
Eduar pulled against the restraints rather hopelessly – and tried casting a pleading look at his father… He’d wanted to save his brother! Surely that would mean SOMETHING to Markov, even if he WAS a green!
Besides… what did he have to lose? At worst Markov would sneer and start the machine himself…
Felan dragon-laughed and released some of the muzzle restraints – enough to let Eduar talk. That way he could be laughed at and teased more effectively before the machine was started!
(Eduar) “Please… Father… I was only trying to save Andras! He’s your son too! Doesn’t that count for anything? Please! Don’t let Felan… I’ll submit! I’ll obey him! (Sobbing, as Felan cruelly tightened an especially painful restraint.) Oh don’t!
Markov dragon-laughed, with his tongue lolling from the side of his mouth. Didn’t the foolish boy realize that a pleading, helpless, young dragon was an irresistible prospect for enslavement? Even the silly Golds couldn’t resist that! After THAT performance he’d enslave Eduar himself if – for some bizarre reason – Felan didn’t! For that matter, quite a lot of dragons found a pleading hatchling quite appetizing! That was why many of the finest chromatic restaurants had “pick your own meal” sidebars of sobbing and pleading hatchlings, and would prepare them while you watched… although the bravest ones, who remained defiant rather than pleading, were sometimes left uneaten long enough to wind up as slaves on the restaurant staff… Hatchling-sidebars were getting rarer as hatchlings got more expensive though!
Off-dimension, Marty shuddered at THAT vision. How could a sapient species – even if each individual could produce many thousands of children over their lifetimes – treat their children as if they were so totally disposable? They were born talking, with distinct personalities! They were cared for, and supported, and encouraged, and taught – and their parents seemed to like them – but the moment ANYTHING went wrong, right down to being beaten in schoolyard fight with another child, they were discarded like pieces of trash! Up until Kevin started meddling, it had been routine for almost 90% of them to die in childhood!… “Win. Win or Die” was NOT the right way to run things!
He wouldn’t let that happen to any of HIS hatchlings if he could avoid it of course. Some of them might wind up as slaves, but he did his best to make sure that even the slaves got to live fairly decent (if sexless and servile) lives . In fact, for some reason, he’d never really found hatchlings to be all that tasty-looking himself – and even found killing hatchlings distasteful (there was no challenge there!) – but there was nothing wrong with using the parts they were losing anyway, and watching a new slave being processed was a great show!
Still, pushing the start button – or playing with his new slave some more first – was Felan’s privilege, no matter how much fun it would be to horn in! Hopefully Felan, as Eduar’s new owner, would prolong the proceedings a bit though!
A weird sympathy-twinge rose from Markov’s human side. This was only a little kid who’d been trying to free his brother – and now was being tormented and mutilated and enslaved for it! In a creche full of evil dragons lawful good tendencies rarely worked out – but STILL. Even the green kid had been manipulated…
That passed in moments though! Seiden had been silly enough to let himself be played as a pawn – and had no room to complain when he was captured. And Eduar…. Eduar had foolishly offered up his balls and his freedom for the taking in an absurd attempt to rescue a proven loser from the slavery it had earned – and they were now being taken, as HE well deserved.
Felan took his cue from Markov’s amused expression – and extended the entertainment a bit.
(Felan) “You’re going to look good with your new slave-markings and modifications! A matched pair with your brother here… (to Andras) Sit up! Show your brother your modifications!”
While Andras was busy proudly and happily modeling its modifications for Eduar, and looking to its master for approval, Felan indulged himself in a little enthusiastic, if amateurish, by-hand tormenting of Eduar’s more sensitive regions – his feet, tongue, tail, and genitals mostly – with graphic explanations of what was going to be removed, and of how much it would hurt , and of how he had washed out now because of his stupid, foolish, loyalty – which had now cost him all of his future chances!
Eduar’s cries, squeals, and groans soon started to subside into exhausted gasps.
(Markov) “Okay, I think that’s enough now. He might get the point.”
(Felan) “Aw! (He gave Eduar a final, agonizing, pinch just to show his independence; there wouldn’t be any more chances to hurt him there anyway!) Well, dad wants to see you get started!”
Markov dragon-grinned again with anticipation! The overture was over and the main show was about to start!
Felan started Seiden’s machine first, so that Eduar could see the process begin – and so that he could see what was about to be done to him, and have a minute or so to anticipate and fear each step, and only then would get to feel it being done.
Eduar gaped at Seiden as he squealed for a few moments – and then started to scream in realization as the same thing started to happen to him.
Markov’s grin grew as he enjoyed the show and proudly considered Felan… The kid had real talent! On “slow and painful” the show was pretty good for the first five or six hours. After that, it mostly settled down to whimpering and twitching while the imprint-training and neural modifications were done – and that would take a week or two.
Marty was quite uncomfortable with it despite Markov’s “logic” – but at least the kids weren’t getting eaten. Still… he could get them into Kevin’s “get dragon’s souls” program. In fact, he’d get the entire batch into the program. They were his kids, and were owed that much. Of course, after the initial bit of pain and misery, kids processed in one of Ailill’s machines would be content and happy even if they WERE slaves. Andras was certainly happy enough to be trotting along at its master’s heels…
Fenal was considering as well… he wasn’t allowed to collect any more siblings, and there was no point in random challenges that wouldn’t improve your resources – so it was time to sit tight, and either work on something new or wait for a good opportunity to arise! Some of the others would be plotting of course, but he could handle THOSE losers!
Markov evaluated that thought – and was VERY pleased! Fenal had ruthlessly and efficiently enslaved three siblings – two of them metallics at that! – and had tortured them quite enough in the process to make sure that they never wanted to think back on being free, and had done it all with minimal risk to himself! If the boy kept this up, he might well father a crop of grandchildren one of these days! His odds of making it to free adulthood might be almost 50-50 by now! And he knew when to sit tight too! He’d been very clever – and his accomplishments were well worth a pat on the head and a good big dose of dragonish parental approval!
Fenal was delighted! That put him firmly at the head of the pack for the moment… Now all he needed was a big power-boost from somewhere to secure that position!
The new slaves twitching and moaning in their processing machines came in for some parental disdain – not that they were in any condition to notice at the moment. There was a bit of sadness as well, which was more than many chromatics would have felt. Still, they never would have made it outside, and it was better to be happy slaves than miserable ones or dead! And Eduar would get to play with his brother again… at least whenever their new owner didn’t need them.
The dragon race did not remain the dominant power in the galaxy by being soft or by permitting unsuccessful specimens to breed!
He had to wonder that Fenal would do with his trophies though! He was far too young to be interested in their aphrodisiac qualities – or their uses in sexual magic.
He did make it a point to remind Fenal that there was no point in tormenting a conditioned slave. It wasn’t like there was any need to break them or remind them of who was boss – not when it gave them such pleasure to obey.
It was a pleasant surprise to find that Fenal – thanks to being surrounded by Markov’s own conditioned slaves – was well aware of THAT. He might make them squeal a bit for simple amusement once in awhile, but he had no real intention of going beyond reasonable punishments for any foul-ups. There wouldn’t be any challenge or victory in it!
Marty sighed. Ruthless, and cruel, and without the SLIGHTEST trace of mercy – and it was an aspect of him. Even the evil dragon child seemed… more human.
Oh of COURSE. He WAS. The Markov ID, when it was operating on it’s own, was purely an expression of the realm. The kids though… THEY were being influenced by his own power and expectations. No wonder they were unusual for the realm – and were using powers that no normal phantasm would have been able to touch! The boy had enjoyed humiliating and tormenting a rival – but small children did that.
He’d also discarded the grudge once his “opponents” were property and he’d won.
And no wonder that young Eduar had hoped for some mercy from his father. He’d… seen signs of humanity in Markov – Marty’s humanity – and that humanity had… abandoned the child because his predicament had been difficult to face and the dragon-instincts were strong.
Dammit! That motherly guilt-hammer of Mrs Anvari’s was even more powerful than he’d thought! It continued to affect you long after the first shot!
Maybe he could get most of the kids to Kadia? Or at least pull out the ones who got enslaved? Oh wait! He could pair Felan up with Eogam! The kid needed some equals around… Once he had a soul – well, evil dragons generally jumped at Thralldom and, as a relative of his, there would be no price tag on it for him except being sad and wanting to do something different if Kevin disapproved of what he did…
Hm. Kevin / Ailill did need a sorter to determine which of his kids needed slave-processing now that Eogam was resident in Kadia where his grandparents could get at him… Fenal would enjoy that a LOT! It would make him effectively dominant over a sizeable portion of all the other hatchlings in the galaxy! That wasn’t bad at all!
And it would give Eogam some competition later on! Also good!
Sigh… He had been wanting even his phantasm kids to excel and mostly make it through the evaluations, he should have been more careful about what he wished for in an easily-molded dimension like this one!
Eduar and Seiden did get a couple of sympathetic visitors. Their concubine-mothers stopped by to provide a bit of comfort to their sons, even if it would only be to soothe the pains of the imprinting process for a time. The two had lost out, their fate was quite proper, and they were Felan’s property – just as THEY belonged to Markov – but that didn’t mean that they had no feelings for them. You always hoped that this child would be one of the 1% that would make it…
Well, almost always. Javendera (Eduar’s mother) had known that Eduar’s absurd obsession with freeing his brother would almost certainly make him property before long – but then, as a silver in an green dragon’s harem, she’d been expecting a loss ratio even higher than the usual 99% anyway; it had been virtually certain that none of her initial three offspring would make it… Still, while they were all enslaved now, they had all gotten to live, and Markov had impregnated her again. She’d be clutching soon – and she could expect her clutches to get a little larger as she neared true adulthood. Out of the hundreds of clutches to come a few children should make it!
And… Markov’s enslavement machines were very good! This method actually resulted in fairly happy slaves – which was a lovely consolation prize for the losers who survived their defeats! For a green – even for a GOLD – Markov was amazingly resourceful and kind!
Javendera left Eduar to his now slightly-less-painful fate and returned to her genetic labors – competing for Markov’s attentions and favor in hopes of producing many favored offspring.