10. Stepping Out (Denethor, OC)
prompt for December 10 - 15 hot(t!?) Haradrim
"This is Gondor?"
"Yes." Denethor had waged a campaign not two summers ago to assure that. While Harad also claimed this fertile, resource-rich strip of land in South Gondor, the assertion held, for now.
He didn't know where to focus his eyes. The boy … man facing him wore breeches and a loose, open robe that showed, in Denethor's opinion, far too much smooth, hairless chest. He had enjoyed the performance last night, but watching the sinuous play of oiled skin by torchlight while the dancers leapt and spun was a far cry from seeing an expanse of bare flesh by sunlight in the commander's room at the fort. Looking at the boyish face was no easier; there were definite signs of aging around the eyes.
"And Gondor does not allow slavery." The young, light voice did not at all accord with the shrewdness Denethor heard there.
Denethor gave a curt nod of acknowledgment.
"So this is clearly illegal." The man touched the silver ring, inscribed with the brothel owner's name, welded around his neck. "The fifteen of us wish only to abide by Gondor's laws, and pay a portion of our earnings to Gondor in taxes, rather than all of them to an owner. We provide services no less than any other citizen, and desire only that our …legal… status as free men and women be acknowledged."
Knowing now why the garrison commander had greeted his arrival with undisguised relief, Denethor sourly considered his options. There were not that many outright slaves in the region, but they tended to belong to the richest and least tractable men, who already resented Gondor's presence in the area. Decreeing that all slaves were now free would probably spark another war. Yet, in principle, Denethor deplored slavery. Could he free just this group?
Studying the intelligent face opposite him, Denethor had an idea. "Would you object to moving around or a," he hesitated to give emphasis to the next words, "change in profession."
"We are dancers and prostitutes. Our profession can be practiced anywhere." The other smiled a feral grin. "I have no reason to be grateful to Harad, and I think you will find me very loyal to a new …master."
They understood each other. A talented group of attractive dancers could glean much useful information. It would cost a great deal, but, if he proved trustworthy, it would be worth it.
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