“You don’t get it yet, do you, harlot?” Thanis shouted. He smacked Illiandra across the face, hard, nearly toppling her over. “You belong to me.”

Illiandra could feel blood trickling from her lip as her cheek burned. She steadied herself and kept her head bowed, not daring to meet Thanis’s eyes.

“Now kneel down at my side like the animal you are,” Thanis said. He pointed at his feet and smirked at his companions across the table. They all laughed heartily with drunken enthusiasm. Illiandra dared to think one of them did so only reluctantly, though. Someone to keep an eye on.

Illiandra took a deep breath and, slowly as she dared, knelt down by Thanis’s chair. One day she would find her way free of this. One day her family would be safe and Thanis would pay. One day.

Her thoughts were disrupted as Thanis drove a heel into her ribs. “Aren’t you listening, bitch?” he said. “I expect you to attend my word. Now take off my boots and clean them. It’s been a hard day’s ride.”

“Yes,” Illiandra said, her teeth gritted. He began to work on the complex laces that lined his shoes. Each one was worth more than her village made in a year, she suspected. She had a deep urge to rip the laces out.

“Yes, what, slave?” Thanis said.

“Yes… my lord.”