Mallory bit back a snarl after the strike to her shoulder, then ignored the sting on her skin, having grown used to the pain. She followed the others in front of her. Their iron chains dragged against cold stones, their cotton clothes stuck to their frozen skin, and their bare feet were coated in mud from the week-long walk in the rain.
Last week, life had been a notch better than it was today. However, she had grown accustomed to her meaningless purpose after being sold into slavery. The moment those first shackles were anchored to her wrists; she had been confused and lost… until she attempted to fight back. Her first master had stripped her of her clothes, her freedom, and her pride. Then her name had been stripped away and replaced by one that mocked her. She lost everything including her inner Alpha.
In recent years, she made it a habit of holding onto the one thing that was still hers, and only hers. My birth name is Aubrey, she repeated it to herself each month so she wouldn’t forget. Even though her master had beaten her Alpha nature from her, some hopeful fragment of herself clung to a sliver of what had been her freedom; she held it in her birth name.
Days ago, her master sold her for a few coins to a knight from Coldhelm. The temporary master, Sir Philip Anson, rode high on his pearly white horse and gazed down at the commoners milling through the streets of Coldhelm. Around him were several Beta workers, who were in charge of the slave train Mallory was chained to. The workers were nicknamed ‘keepers’ because their sole duty was to ‘keep’ the eleven slaves in line and obedient. Normally there was one keeper for every six slaves, depending on the slaves’ breed and age.
The citizens of Coldhelm parted like a wave as Sir Philip Anson turned left onto a larger, busier street as his slaves continued the march through to the capital. Mallory peered around the other slaves’ shoulders and took in the sight of the stone castle that towered over the city’s small thatched homes. Whipping her head back, damp strands of hair flung from her face, and she gazed upon the eerie structure that loomed ahead of them.
The square castle sat on a hilltop, which made it nearly impossible to scale. There were four visible levels, and the highest level had a grand balcony; most likely the top floor was for the king and queen. Two gigantic towers rose up on either side of the structure, and the red metal roofs stood out against the graphite-colored stone. Long, distinctive banners hung from nearly every window. Each banner had the mountain lion crest of the House of Wymarc. As the procession neared the castle, the royal guards stepped forward to block access to the stone bridge.
Mallory couldn’t make out what her master said to the guards, but they were allowed to pass, then continued onto the bridge. Once past the gate, their view opened up and the magnificent Tharnstone Castle stood before them. To the right and left there was a rift so deep that death would come to anyone who fell from the bridge. Wind and pellets of rain struck Mallory’s face, but she didn’t care, too fascinated by the castle.
At the next gate, another set of guards halted them before signaling for the iron gate to be raised. Once the gate was high enough to march under, their group passed the gatehouse to enter the inner ward. They were corralled to one area while their owner spoke to a well-dressed, portly man. Within seconds the keepers shouted orders for the Tharnstone soldiers to assist them.
A keeper yanked the chains Mallory and the other slaves were connected to. She rumbled a few times but followed the caravan to the right and entered through an open doorway. At first it was dark, but after a few paces there were torchlights lining the hallway. It was musty and dank, but at least they were out of the wind and rain. The keepers kept the slaves in single file while the three soldiers led them through the maze of halls.
“Line up, slaves,” a keeper ordered when they reached an empty storeroom.
A soldier removed shutters from several windows around the room, allowing the murky light of day to pour into the room. The group of royal soldiers positioned themselves behind the line of slaves.
With a heavy sniff, Mallory recognized the familiar scent of grain; she’d spent her early adulthood as a farm slave. A few pieces of dried barley were wedged between the stones, but the chatter from the door opening brought her attention to the flood of people coming into the room.
Six Tharnstone soldiers entered first, followed by the same portly man, who was waving his hands about and chatting with their master. The next man was tall and burly, every bit a true Alpha. He wore refined clothes with gold accents against the dark attire. His golden crown was simple, but it signified his status all the same.
Mallory hated King Wilmont Wymarc.
“What did you find for me, Philip?” Wilmont asked.
Philip folded his hands in front of his body. “A variety, my king.”
“I asked for good stock, not variety.” Wilmont stood with Philip and the portly man at the far end of the slave line.
“Of course, my king. I brought you a variety of good stock.” Philip had a charming smile that seemed to soothe Wilmont’s annoyance.
“Fine. Let us get on with it.”
Philip signaled two keepers; each went to the slave closest to them. The keepers pulled their daggers from their hips, then started to cut away the first slave’s shirt and pants. Once the slave was nude, they moved onto the next one and continued down the line.
By the time the keepers reached Mallory, she’d clenched her hands and gritted her teeth, holding back a fighting growl. She closed her eyes and blocked out the close proximity of the keepers, who smelled as foul as she, but at least she had a reason, having been walking for a week straight. Their hands crawled over her as they pulled and yanked at her clothing, slicing it away. Once they finished, Mallory’s skin prickled from the cool air. She opened her eyes and concentrated on the noblemen’s conversation.
“This one is a good,” Wilmont said in front of the third, then stopped in front of the next slave in the line. “This one is too old, Philip.”
“He is still good stock.” Philip pushed against the slave’s bare chest and argued, “He is solid and healthy. According to his former owner, this one has never been sick.”
Wilmont huffed and argued, “He is still old. His seed is probably all but dead by now.” He went to the sixth one and growled at Philip, who was to the right of Wilmont. “I said no Betas.”
“B-b-but he is well equipped.” Philip grabbed the Beta slave’s penis, presenting it to Wilmont. “As you can see for yourself.”
“Still a Beta,” Wilmont growled and continued down the line. “The finest warriors are produced by Alphas.”
By the time the nobles made it to the slave before Mallory, Wilmont had selected three Alpha slaves worthy of whatever he had in mind. Displeased with the tenth slave, Wilmont stood quietly in front of Mallory for a moment. Then he barked with laughter and turned to Philip, who was red in the face. Next to Philip was the portly man, and he looked between Mallory and his king.
“Is this a joke, Philip?” Wilmont clapped Philip’s shoulder and said, “You have always had a sense of humor that I admire.”
Philip shuffled on his boots, then said, “It is not a joke, my king.” He bit his lip and studied Mallory from head to toe. “She fits exactly what you have been searching for.”
Wilmont snorted and folded his thick arms. “I said good stock.” Narrowing his eyes at Mallory, his lip curled when he said, “Not a degen.”
Mallory inhaled Wilmont’s choking scent and her growl almost broke free, but she swallowed it. Her entire body trembled with fire and heat after hearing the slur about her breed. Better a degenerate than a fucking murdering bastard, she seethed to herself.
“She is still an Alpha,” Philip reminded. He reached between Mallory’s thighs and clutched her penis, displaying it to Wilmont, who chuckled but then frowned at Philip’s continued seriousness. “They say degens get bigger during their rut… much bigger.” He released Mallory. “Sire, she is everything you are looking for.” He started ticking off the list. “Young, healthy, strong, big, handsome, intelligent, and light haired.”
Wilmont bared his canines at Philip and snapped, “A degen will not touch—”
“My king,” the portly man interrupted, “perhaps we should leave this decision to the princess.”
Wilmont held his gaze over Philip’s head and appeared to weigh the idea.
“Aerin makes a great suggestion, my king.” Philip smiled at Wilmont and said, “You want the princess to have some options.”
The portly man Aerin shifted closer to Philip’s side and looked over Mallory, then grabbed her face. “My king, the princess’s aversion to Alphas is well known.” He lowered his hand and looked at his king with a determined expression. “But perhaps an Alpha with soft features will be more to her liking.”
After several grumbles, Wilmont huffed. “We will keep the degen.” He stomped off and headed to the storeroom’s exit.
“What shall I do with the others, my king?” Philip asked, shadowing his ruler.
“They are useless to me.” Wilmont paused in the doorway and peered over his shoulder at Philip. “Dispose of them.” Then he was gone with Aerin in tow.
Mallory sucked in her breath, but a sword was already unscabbarded. The first and second slaves were gutted in swift order. With a jerk of her chains, she tried to move, unsure how she could save them. But then the slave next to Mallory took a blade through his back and out his stomach.
“N-no,” Mallory rasped and grabbed the slave as he fell off the sword. She cradled his head against her chest as he bled out, breathing slower until he died in her hands.
A keeper shoved the dead slave off Mallory, then unlocked the chains from the dead slave. “Get up,” he ordered her.
Mallory clenched her jaw, still holding down her snarls. She rose and followed the three remaining slaves who were escorted from the storeroom. This time the sounds of the chains were louder from the excess dragging on the floor. At the doorway Mallory gave a sidelong look at the seven murdered slaves, whose blood flowed into the crevices in the floor.
The journey through the castle’s depths were endless, and when they arrived in a dungeon that reeked of piss, feces, and rotten egg, Mallory nearly lost the few contents in her stomach from this morning’s meal. She placed her hand onto the cold wall and prayed her stomach would settle.
The last keeper neared her and struck her bare ass with a wooden rod. “Keep moving.”
Mallory pushed off the wall and faced the keeper, who was at least a foot shorter than she. She clenched her hands when he didn’t balk under her dominating presence, thanks to the beating rod and sword he carried with him. After releasing a frustrated rumble, she ducked under the doorway and followed the remaining Alpha slaves into the dungeon that was lined with cells on either side.
One by one the guards unlocked the slaves from the chain line and pushed them each into an empty cell. When it was Mallory’s turn, the soldier behind her informed the keeper that the very last cell was specifically for her. The keeper grunted and neared Mallory’s side.
Mallory stared down the length of the dungeon, ignoring the hoots from the prisoners who had their faces against the bars. She dug her blunt nails into the iron chains between her wrist shackles and willed her inner Alpha to stay calm.
“Pick up the chain, degen.” The keeper pointed his wooden rod at the long length of chain that once held ten other slaves. The links were the size of Mallory’s palm and every fifth link held a shackle for each slave’s wrist and ankle. “Pick it all up and go to that cell.” The keeper raised his rod to the cell at the end on the right. “Now,” he growled.
Breathing harder, Mallory bent over and collected as much chain as possible, then walked down the aisle, but several shackles dragged behind her.
“I said pick it up, not drag it, degen!”
Mallory paused and looked at the iron tangled in her hands and arms, but saw the last of it cascaded over her arms and touched the floor. With gritted teeth, she tossed the chain over her broad shoulders, having it spill over her back. Tangling her fingers into the chains and shackles, she hefted the remainder off the floor, then continued down the aisle. Her legs and arms trembled from the weight against her weakened body, but she pushed herself forward.
Prisoners went silent, but the three Alpha slaves who had traveled with her cheered and hooted. They slammed their fists against the bars and growled when the keepers tried hitting them with their rods.
Mallory was panting and sweating when she reached the end of the hall. She turned to the empty, open cell and almost threw the chains down but restrained her desire. The arrogant keeper would use it against her.
The keeper stomped up and folded his arms, staring at Mallory’s strained features. He then leaned forward and whispered, “You think you are proving something, degen.”
Mallory remained focused, refusing to allow the keeper’s taunts to get under her skin. She paced her breathing and waited for the tiny bit of permission from the keeper who now controlled her world.
“Drop the chains,” the keeper ordered.
Twisting to her left, Mallory tossed them and pulled off the lengths from her shoulders; all that remained was the end still shackled to her.
After a grunt the keeper worked the iron key into each lock and allowed the shackles to fall to the floor. He indicated toward the open cell with his beating rod, lowering it once she was inside. Next to him a soldier shut the gate and turned the key in the lock, then left with the keeper.
Mallory clutched the bars and peered between them, watching and listening to the keepers talk to the soldiers. Their voices were low, until a newcomer snapped an order at them. Sighing, Mallory went over to the bench and sat down. After such a long, damp walk this morning, it was a relief to be off her feet, and the earlier rush from the events in the storeroom were wearing off.
A chill settled over her nude body. She drew her legs up onto the bench and pulled them against her chest, seeking a measure of warmth. The cold stone wall at her back did nothing to help. As she sat there, her mind wandered back to what happened in the storeroom. It wasn’t unusual for Mallory to be mocked about her breed and nature as an Alpha. People called her a degenerate or a perversion. To be called a degen was the most common of all the slurs. She was also used to being touched and fondled by her owners, everyone fascinated by both her penis and breasts. Usually it ended in mockery, specifically about her slimmer-sized equipment and lack of balls.
But despite her unnatural breed, King Wymarc still spared her life. The nobles had mentioned the princess, who sparked Mallory’s curiosity. It seemed as if Mallory’s fate, along with the remaining Alphas, was in the hands of the princess.
The loud gush of water filled the dungeon and brought everyone to the bars of their cells. A Tharnstone soldier pointed a water hose down the center of the aisle and used it to spray the floor, which kicked up the stench. He hollered over his shoulder for more power and walked down the aisle. The water pressure increased and pushed the dirt, human waste, and rotting food toward the massive drain at the end of the hall. Driving all the waste into the drain, he then hollered again; the water stopped, other than the constant drips.
Two soldiers sprinted down holding three buckets and a long brush. The soldier with the hose turned to Mallory’s cell and pointed it at her.
“Pump the water!”
Mallory scrambled back when the blast of water roared past the bars and struck her. She yelled as the icy shards cut against her skin, and her heart thundered against her chest. Backing up, she went into a corner, but the water followed her before it was cut off. Slumped against the wall, she braced herself with her arms on her thighs and lifted her head when the cell’s gate swung open.
One soldier rushed in and used a soapy brush to scrub Mallory down. The brush’s rough bristles clawed into her already tender, frozen skin and left long red streaks. Mallory clenched her teeth but bared them at the soldiers. Just as she took a step closer, another cold blast pushed her against the wall. The soldier with the hose laughed, then turned the water to the rest of the cell, spraying it down until all the muck went into the drain.
Mallory huddled on the floor, body curled forward, and gasped for air. Her entire frame quaked from the brutal wash down. She crawled to the bench; the only place slightly warmer than the stone floor. Balling up, she closed her eyes and blocked out the other prisoners’ cries.
Silence fell over the dungeon after the soldiers finished cleaning everything and everyone. For a moment, Mallory slept lightly while her body temperature rose. But more banging startled her, and she sat up on the bench, prepared for another round.
This time the three soldiers returned to her cell with items in hand. After unlocking the door, two entered, set the things down, then left and went down the row of cells.
Mallory unfolded herself from the bench and crept over to the clothes and tray of food. Once she was sure it was safe, she held up the tunic and pulled it over her head. Slipping on the pants, she tied the string across her waist. Kneeling in front of the tray, Mallory sniffed the bowl of soup and tested it by dipping her fingertip into it, but the flavor was bland. The large hunk of bread would at least offer some weight in her gut.
Sitting on the edge of the bench, she drank the soup and sopped up the juices with the bread. She struggled against her hunger to eat slowly. She returned the tray near the cell door, then went to the bench while everyone else slurped their food.
The keepers arrived sometime later and informed the soldiers to collect the four Alphas. Without hesitation, the soldiers gathered the clothed Alphas and barked at them to follow. Again, Mallory fell in at the end of the line and ducked out of the doorway of the dungeon. Behind her, the keeper stayed close and occasionally shoved the end of his rod into her back.
They were led up to the ground floor and escorted into a different room warmed by the gigantic fire in the stone fireplace. Dreary sunlight streamed through stained-glass windows. From the tapestries and pillars, it appeared to be a great hall. Ahead of them was a dark wood, tiered dais that had three empty thrones, two of which were on an upper level. The keepers positioned the prisoners in front of the dais.
Eight soldiers flooded into the great hall from a side door and spread out around the dais. The four keepers remained behind the slaves; from the corner of her eye, Mallory watched them straighten their backs when the royals filed through the side door as well.
King Wilmont Wymarc headed the procession, followed by Philip, Aerin, and a soldier with brilliant bronze armor. The last person to enter was a young female, who appeared to be in her late teens. Her shoulder-length brunette hair was split into two braids. She wore a beautiful, long emerald-green dress with its short train dragging behind her. When she stood on the upper dais with Wilmont, her intense blue eyes scanned the Alphas one by one.
Philip and Aerin were on the lower level of the dais. Whereas Aerin remained at one end, Philip walked to the middle, closer to the royals. “Princess Kinsey Wymarc,” he said and held out his hand at the slaves. “May I present to you the best Alphas in the kingdom.”
“Yes, yes,” Wilmont brushed off, then turned to the princess at his side. “The best stock that money can buy.” He rubbed his dark goatee.
Philip cleared his throat and folded his hands together. “Perhaps you would like to take a closer look, my princess.” He bowed his head and waited for her decision.
Kinsey pursed her red lips, then tore her attention away from the slaves to address Philip. “I would like that, Sir Philip.”
Philip beamed and offered his hand to Kinsey, who took it as she descended the dais. He guided her to the first Alpha, who was at the opposite end of the line from Mallory.
The bronze-clad soldier shifted his position closer to Kinsey, shadowing her. He looked to be the princess’s personal guard.
“Do they have names?” Kinsey asked.
Philip smiled and replied, “Whatever you see fit to call them, my princess.”
Kinsey took small, timed steps as her eyes dragged over each slave. Her features remained neutral, until she stood in front of Mallory. Her stare lingered, and a peculiar light entered her bright blue eyes. “I thought you said they were all Alphas.”
“Yes, princess.” Philip smiled at Kinsey. “They are all Alphas.”
Mallory fought to remain still and breathed in Kinsey’s sweet scent, which raced to her head. Kinsey was an Omega, an unmated one. For a beat, Mallory’s lip curled, but she strangled her Alpha’s natural reaction to an Omega. She continued to stare straight ahead, fighting to not look at the princess, who stared so intently at her.
“Is she…?” Kinsey struggled to find her words and looked at Philip for help.
Philip had a soft flush to his cheeks. “Yes, my princess she is equipped. Do you wish to make certain?”
Mallory tensed and gritted her teeth, prepared for her drawers to be dropped to the floor. Since being sold into slavery, she was quite accustomed to people wanting to see her genitals to prove or disprove her Alpha nature. Everyone overlooked her Omega-like qualities, forgetting she was both breeds together.
Kinsey released a soft sound, something between a rumble and growl. She shook her head and replied, “Perhaps another time.”
“So, what do you think?” Wilmont asked, stepping down from the dais with soft booms. “Are there any you wish to forego immediately?”
Mallory prepared to be cast out, then run through with a sword. No Omega wants a degenerate Alpha, she reminded herself. With her burning eyes staring upward, she waited for her final sentencing.
Kinsey neared the dais but remained on the ground floor, then turned back to face the slaves. “They all please me, Father.”
Wilmont huffed and puffed up his chest. “All of them? You are certain?”
“Yes, Father.” Kinsey turned to Philip and said, “You did well. Thank you, Sir Philip.”
Philip bowed to Kinsey, then turned back to the soldiers and keepers. “Please escort the princess’s Alphas to their rooms.”
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