Meanwhile, still in fast-time in the Dragon Empire, Raphael as Philsantias (who currently had firmly suppressed most of the instincts, drives, and memories that went with the dragon identity) was relaxing a bit while his investigations ran, his defenses were set up and reinforced, and he considered how best to get the most reward for getting a little more information on Ailill.
Then Segev – his young blue son – turned up…
(Segev) “Father? May I borrow your ritual magic chest?”
(Philsantias ) “Er… (those tools could be used for a LOT of different things!) What do you need that stuff for?”
(Segev, looking very proud of himself, and obviously expecting a big dose of approval) “Well… your set will do a better binding ritual than the sets they make for kids like I have! Varer (Phil’s bronze son who had scored so high on the academics during testing – and so was Phil’s current favorite hatchling) said I was dumb, and I said he was an arrogant jerk, and he said I needed to be beaten into submission so no one would have to listen to me any more, and I said he could just try it, and he did! He’s so “smart” that now he’s my slave and I’m hanging his academic excellence award on my wall as a mounting board for his sex and claws and fangs!”
Philsantias did a truly classic spit-take. In a species with a breath weapon, this could be rather destructive… The wall, ceiling, and computer console were going to need repair – but the nanites would handle that automatically.
(Segev) “And it will be good for binding the girls too!”
Philsantias deployed his divinatory powers to take a look almost reflexively. This needed confirmation!
Varer… was currently down in the slave-processing room, chained down spread-eagled over a slave-processing rack. He was battered, scorched, muzzled, and whimpering… Ergias – Phil’s young silver son who had washed out in testing and been enslaved at Ailill’s school – was currently pulling Varer’s claws out one by one with some pliers and swabbing out each bleeding claw-sheathe as he went with some sort of acid that dissolved the claw-root so that the claws would never grow back. He was handing the pulled claws to Segev’s young copper slave, who was using them as brushes to draw binding runes on Varer’s hide with the blood from the wound where his sex used to be.
Varer was screaming hoarsely and hopelessly with each yank and acid-burn, but no one was paying much attention to the protests of a new slave being processed.
There were a bunch of young metallic girls there watching – mostly some of the neighbor’s daughters – and occupying the remaining seven processing racks, with another one leashed to each rack other than Verer’s and one rack with TWO girls waiting to go on it! Even though they didn’t really seem to be restrained in any way that he’d have thought would hold them – and most of the ones watching were just giggling.
(Segev) “Varer should be almost ready for the binding ritual now!”
Philsantias gave Segev a covertly-horrified look – that was his BROTHER he had screaming down there! – and did a quick check on what had actually happened… and on just how this worked in the Dragon Empire, and what his options were. There had to be something he could do that fit in!
And Segev DEFINITELY wasn’t getting any ritual tools!
It looked like… Varer had issued the initial insults. While Segev was more foul-mouthed and creatively insulting in his replies than his summary had really indicated, it had still only been verbal name-calling. Varer HAD issued the challenge – and Segev had accepted, and had… pulled some fairly impressive combat tricks out of somewhere, and won easily.
By the laws and traditions of the Dragon Empire, a full formal challenge had been issued and accepted, and Segev did now own a new slave. The claw-pulling and the rest was one of the more common chromatic variants on the usual dragon-binding ritual. The metallic variant was… a bit less painful, but ultimately did much the same thing – as some of his own firmly-repressed draconic memories were informing him.
Obviously enough, his peers saw this as… quite normal.
Varer had started it. And… if Varer had won, as he’d thought that his superior magical skills would let him do easily, it would be Segev screaming on the processing rack right now.
Oh shellcrack! Sickeningly enough… Segev was more-or-less in the right! Even by most off-dimension standards! He’d simply stood up to being insulted and bullied…
Segev was peering at Philsantias’s expression with growing puzzlement and disappointment. He’d confidently expected that – since he’d won, and Varer was no longer a kid to be proud of or able to produce grandchildren – this would make him the new favorite! Why wasn’t he getting proper congratulations and approval? He’d done everything right! He was a winner, and Varer was a loser. What more WAS there?
Philsantias’s divinations continued relentlessly… Ergias was helping with the ritual since he saw it as a routine household task – and because he knew that Segev, who was dominant on the male side of the creche now (if only because this made him the ONLY remaining male in the creche) was entitled to his services after Philsantias, who had no current task for him.
Philsantias turned his attention to the females – and to where Segev had learned those combat tricks – in hopes of finding a clue as to what to do… What in the nine hells was going on with THEM?!?
The females… Well, the Emperor had decreed that, within the next few years, all unenslaved hatchlings currently below young adult (50 years) had to be tested. Testing had an 80-90% failure rate – which meant being desexed and enslaved. As usual, most of the rest would be enslaved or killed in fights later. About 1% would make it to young adult, and start breeding. For males, being enslaved meant being desexed regardless. For females… male masters very rarely sterilized potential concubines. Ergo, submitting to a male who had already passed his tests and seemed dominant meant a 90%+ shot at “concubine and kids”. Ergo, a lot of the smarter females who were coming up on testing were looking for a good prospect… For dominant young males it was bonanza time. They wouldn’t be old enough to even start experimenting for decades – but the girls taking that route needed a master before their testing times come up. Since they wouldn’t be resisting, all the binding ritual required from them was a painless symbolic token of submission – letting their new owner leash or bind them was sufficient. As the only remaining male in the Creche, Segev was an EXCELLENT prospect.
Besides… The boy was quite charismatic and DID have that “bad boy” vibe going.
As for the combat tricks… Segev was wanting to work as a proctor at Ailill’s school. Normally phantasms couldn’t get divine endowments – but Segev could get them from Kevin/Ailill thanks to his direct link with… Philsantias himself. He was thus getting the “wants to work for Kevin” package – including the reflex actions, and some luck, and various other boosts. He didn’t entirely know why, but he knew that he had picked up a fair number of skills and tricks – and it had given him a lot more confidence.
The boy hadn’t done anything WRONG – but this was… it was horrible!
Philsantias was STILL trying to figure out what to do when Segev’s copper slave turned up to tell Segev that Varer and the girls were ready for their binding ritual.
Philsantias considered the copper slave for a moment… At least it was a brief diversion from his tortured son on the processing rack, who had now been reduced to incoherent moaning and twitching against his chains. The copper boy was HAPPY to be a slave – just like Ergias was!
Classically, slaves in the Dragon Empire rarely get to be too old or powerful. Eventually they become too resistant to the binding rituals, and try to escape too many times, and generally die for it – although presumably an unadvertised few did manage to escape from the Empire. Some became resigned to their situations eventually, but they were pretty much ALWAYS sullen and resentful – one reason why they’d gladly see their masters demoted to slavery with them.
However “Ailill” was doing it though… The slaves HE turned out were… happy to serve their masters, and got pleasure-feedback whenever they served well. They didn’t want to resist, or to escape – and tended to make sure that they didn’t develop any abilities that would interfere with… a long, happy, lifetime of servitude. All the drives that would have gone into territoriality, and the desire to reproduce, were going into a desire to be property and obey.
The slaves Ailill processed were likely to live far longer, and happier, lives than their combative, breeding, masters. All they’d be missing out on was the direct sensations of sex (unless they were breeder females, or used illusions, or telepathy, or other means – all of which were well within reach of even a dragon, even as a slave – to experience that too) and the pleasures of raising their own kids.
Of course, they got to play with their masters children, and not having their own meant that the enslaved males and non-breeding females also missed out on seeing 99% of their kids winding up dead or enslaved.
A lot like the Thralls really – although the effect didn’t go quite so deep; with the slaves mostly being phantasms, they had no souls to bond.
That “cheerful happy enslavement”, “protective lesser evil”, “pleasure from service” was so… so KEVIN that he probably should never have had any doubts about “Ailill’s” identity! The kid practically had it trademarked! He could just see it on some infernal personnel list… “Sanwell, Kevin, Demon King of Voluntary Slaves and Pleasure in Servitude…”.
Nah, that made him sound like he was the patron of bondage fetishes or something. “Demon King of Pleasurable Servitude” perhaps?
Oh never mind! He snapped his attention back to Segev – who was STILL waiting.
He let Segev borrow some of the ritual magic tools – the ones that would make the binding ritual easier on Varer, and reduce his pain. There didn’t seem to be anything else he could really do for the boy right away…
Besides… having a kid that wanted to work for Allil might be a problem! Even if – being only a phantasm – he couldn’t actually sign up.
He kept coming back around to the fact that – by dragon standards – Segev was the clear, and righteous, winner; Varer had failed the practical exam, and throughly deserved his fate.
It still didn’t sit well with Raphael, even if they WERE just phantasms. He remembered fathering them, and watching them hatching, and coaching them on their first steps and flight! He’d… have to see about buying Varer and doing something. It would be just wrong to free him into dragon society – so he’d have to find somewhere else to send him them.
Aaagh… and soon there would be… forty to sixty more coming along, the ones he’d just fathered on his harem in the past few weeks! Even more “his children” than the first batch! He couldn’t leave them to grow up in a world like this, watching a hundred go screaming into slavery for every one that could dominate and breed!
There was always Kadia, where it was acceptable to undo this sort of thing – but the Dragon Empire NEEDED reforming! Badly! He had children there, and would have more, and his grand-dragons WOULD grow up in a better realm!
Segev wouldn’t want to sell for awhile – Varer was good at bookwork and magic (which he would doubtless be having him do for him), and was a trophy – but he could always trade up a bit later or (maybe with a Thrall) – or, as the head of the household, simply demand that the boy sell or accept a trade on pain of enslavement.
Drat it! Now he was thinking like a dragon again! A trade up it would have to be! Maybe a pair of Thralls!
As for the females… well, that was OK; they were voluntary – and even if it was a bit weird from his point of view, what they were doing was just sensible. Segev would be starting adolescence – in about forty years – with one hell of a harem, but it looked like quite a lot of boys in his generation would be doing THAT.
Well, discounting the… non-female… slaves anyway.
Philsantias… simply couldn’t bring himself to give Segev his dose of pride and approval. Even if Varer HAD started it, and had been trying to do the same thing to Segev, enslaving siblings got no score in his book, no matter who had started it or who had said what to whom. He was disappointed in Varer, yes – but if they’d had a quarrel they should have come to HIM.
Segev was extremely puzzled and disappointed at the lack of approval – but his female fans helped fill in the gap initially. It looked like father – as a Metallic – had some weird attachment to Varer.
Philsantias was quite relieved that the remaining girls in HIS creche had all already passed, and so had no need to run off to be slaves… He even tried to look for things to be proud of in Segev for a while to blunt the metalic favortism – but couldn’t help noting that the “work for Kevin” benefits, and his reliance on them, might be a problem.
Segev… had excellent reflexes, was strong and athletic, and superbly charismatic. He was brave, and determined, and tough, and decent at tactics, and excellent at using his abilities effectively. He… soon had a few slaves from amongst the neighbors kids, who promptly started challenging him to get his new collection of slaves – but he sensibly only accepted challenges from kids with enough slaves and resources of their own to make the risk worthwhile. He even prepared cleverly…
He simply wasn’t as smart as Varer, or quite as perceptive. He wasn’t a brilliant scholar or mage or scientist (if there was any difference in the Dragon Empire), and never would be. He was simply much more physically inclined.
It had been silly of Varer to lose his temper and challenge him that way… They were only a few years old though, even if they WERE born walking, talking, and magically armed.
Still, while that was OK, that was pretty much the combination that Raphael saw… as less important. For him, relying on physical power was… an automatic disappointment.
Not enough to take some of the neighbors up on their offers to buy the kid from him as a slave – how in the manifold could they expect any parent to seriously consider such a thing was beyond him – but how could the child compete with what might have been?
Segev… tried harder and harder, putting himself at extra risk. He couldn’t understand why bringing home more slaves, and defeating other kids in battle and claiming their resources, didn’t seem to please his father.
Philsantias didn’t know what to do either; he certainly didn’t wish his son ill (and winding up screaming on some other child’s processing rack was certainly ill) – but if he kept that up, sooner or later he was going to lose.
Evidently even young dragons had the “make my parents proud of me” thing going – but every time he looked at Segev, he thought about Varer screaming… That kind of killed what little pride he could find in “My juvenile delinquent just neutered and enslaved your honor student and will shortly be in bed with your adolescent daughter!”
He tried having a talk with the boy when it really started looking risky.
(Philsantias) “It’s not that I dont like you, but I see the risks you are taking and it’s getting very dangerous! You will not be able to buy my affection by just being stronger than others, or by bringing in more resources.”
Segev looked rather pathetically lost and blank at that. What else WAS there? Everyone knew that only the strongest 1% – or less – would get to continue their bloodlines! Was there anything more important than that?
(Philsantias) “Yes, there are things more important than that, like … (Raphael stopped where he would normally have put in a bit about “being a good person and helping others.”) discovering new ways to make your life easier”
Segev was desperately searching for some hidden meaning… If his father didn’t approve of him, he might take it into his head to have him enslaved, or sold, or – for that matter – roasted for dinner or tortured to death! There HAD to be some way to win Philsantias’s good will! He was the only intact boy left! Didn’t that automatically make him the best? Where was he going wrong?
(Segev) “But… don’t slaves and wealth do that?”
(Philsantias) “Are slaves and wealth going to help with the next chalenge or insure that you make it to my age and hopefully older?”
(Segev) “But Slaves equals Resources and Practice and Wealth, and Wealth equals Magic Items equals Power! That’s a basic lesson! Isn’t that “Yes”?”
Drat it! Was there somewhere to turn for draconic parenting advice? It looked like “Dr Dracospock” was the usual source, and might be entertaining, but he was pretty sure that HIS work would mostly consist of a long list of signs of when it was time to discard a child… Divination would work, but it was very likely to give an answer he wouldn’t like – and there was no telling where the information came from… The Thralls were actually pretty good at parenting, but somehow they just didn’t seem appropriate as advisors.
That left Markov. He seemed likely to be the better source for such information.
(Markov) “Ah, hello again! Is it business, or pleasure?”
(Philsantias) “Dragon Parenting advice… so neither?”
(Markov) “Ah, that! What’s your problem? They keep cropping up!”
(Philsantias) “I have a kid trying to impress me who keeps going out to challenge more kids. He keeps winning – but eventually something is going to get him like this.”
(Markov) “Well… you can’t really tell him NOT to fight. That’s not how things work around here. Now what you could do is make sure he’s not getting in over his head. You could also join a coalition and monitor the fighting until he comes of age. Still… if he’s winning, good for him! If he loses… well, he’ll be someone else’s slave, and no longer your worry!”
Philsantias passed on some details… the kid had fought five outside duels now, and had been sticking to kids with enough resources to make the challenge worthwhile. He’d started with two defeated males and fifteen girls… He’d gone to 4 and 24, then 7 and 40, then 18 and 50, then 30 and 70 – and finally 45 and 102 – with more girls trickling in and the resources to simply start purchasing less-dominant boys who’d annoyed him…
Apparently he felt that SURELY daddy would be impressed and approving at SOME point! Even if very VERY few other hatchling males were willing to challenge him now!
Markov was mildly impressed… Felan would be ahead on females, but probably behind on males – even if he was allowed to claim them openly. Still, Segev was doing VERY well for straight combat-claims!
(Markov) “Oh yeah! Another thing you might want to do . . . keep any slaves the kid wins above a certain number until he’s of age. It keeps him from getting too swell-headed, and gives him an incentive to work for your approval! Besides… that IS pretty impressive for a hatchling! Why AREN’T you impressed?
(Philsantias) “But he already works hard for my approval! That’s why he keeps going out for more challenges!
(Markov, reasonably) “Well, are you showing your approval? I would be, and I know how you can be!”
(Philsantias) “But how do I show approval?… and I’m not sure I DO approve of all this conquest! It is impressive I suppose – but it’s not something great.”
Markov sighed. Fairly obviously, he might know it intellectually, but it hadn’t really sunk in on Philsantias that – in the Dragon Empire – draconic “parental authority” covered the unquestioned right to have your hatchlings enslaved, sold, roasted for supper, or tortured to death on a whim. A hatchling who wasn’t either safely anonymous or pleasing a parent was in deadly danger – and that did make them kind of desperate. Every time Philsantias rejected another attempt to please him, he was effectively telling the boy “I’m trying to decide between enslaving and killing you”.
Worse, the child was a chromatic, with an entourage, and numerous enemies, in the midst of a civilized, metallic-dominated, area. He didn’t even have anywhere to try to run to.
(Markov) “He’s just doing what he expects the adults around him to like… dueling, taking and processing slaves, and being ruthless.”
(Philsantias) “But I dont want him going out and constantly gambling with his freedom like that – and slaves and money mean little to me.”
(Markov) “Then tell him what does matter to you. He’s probably desperate for your approval. After all, around here, if Daddy doesn’t approve of you, you’ll get enslaved or worse.”
Philsantias was brilliantly intelligent. Surely he’d think of telling the boy something that he COULD do; he couldn’t suddenly become brilliantly intelligent unless he got a LOT of money to pay for a really powerful intelligence -boosting amulet!
Hopefully he wouldn’t ask the boy to “Free Varer” either. ANYONE could tell him that that would just trigger a “You STILL care more about the stupid slave than about me!” reaction. That would, of course, get Varer freed – but it wasn’t as if an ex-slave had any possible role in the Dragon Empire!
(Philsantias) “Ah, it is just so hard. He is a physical fighter type, I have always been mage type.”
Was Philsantias deliberately trying to drive the child insane with desperation? Couldn’t he approve of “success” unless it was obtained the way HE would do it? Was he really constantly telling an eight-year-old hatchling that “you can’t live up to my expectations” and “you’re worthless” when the boy knew that THAT equated to an upcoming death sentence? When the child was doing brilliantly? Hell, he almost felt like taking the kid in! As an adoptee rather than a slave!
Marty sighed. He had to admit that Raphael had that special brand of brilliance that sometimes turned into complete insanity. In a realm where mutilation and enslavement was considered a fair fate for a child who was simply disappointing, and “death by slow torture – and possibly roasting and eating alive” awaited a kid who actively annoyed a parent, Raphael had managed to come up with a form of child abuse that made an EVIL CHROMATIC DRAGON feel sorry for the victim…
(Markov) “Hey, there’s some things a warrior can get for a mage. Ingredients, materials, documents… You could have him hunt those down for you instead of fighting everything.”
(Philsantias) “hmmm… “
(Markov) “Perhaps something as simple as patting him on the head and saying “Wow! That is a lot! You’re doing really really well! You might want to stop for awhile though! The Creche is getting overcrowded with all those slaves of yours and even when you hit adolescence you won’t be able to keep up with more than a hundred girls too readily!”
(Philsantias, sighing) “Well I will have to try that. and I think I will tell him I was never going to sell him or anything worse.”
(Markov) “Yeah, definitely tell him you’ve got no plans for that. It’ll make him feel a lot better.”
It did. Segev was aware that he mostly had enough to satisfy his dragon-instincts now – and if father approved of him, he had EXCELLENT chances of getting to grow up to be a father… If you threw in the testing-losses, and the rivals he could afford to simply buy, he was already well up in the 1% of expected survivors!
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 193b – The Lesser Dragonwars (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- [Emergence Campaign] Federation-Apocalypse Session 196 — The Slave Rebellion (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 192c – Reporting In (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 192a – A Dragon Born (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 192b – Dragon Hunting (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- [Emergence Campaign] Federation-Apocalypse Session 194b — Future Concerns (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 194a – La Belle Draco sans Merci (ruscumag.wordpress.com)