Chapter One: The Contest
Vladimir woke up on the fateful morning with a mixture of excitement and dread. He knew what today meant to his townspeople. He also knew what today could mean for him.
Vladimir was a twenty-five year old farmer in a western Russian village. Stepping out of his hut into a dull morning sun, he was immediately greeted by a handful of town folk who had come to see him off. Vladimir knew how much they were counting on him. He accepted their good wishes and climbed on his horse for the long ride to St. Petersburg.
It was midmorning when Vladimir rode into the gates of the city. He'd been to St. Petersburg before, but never on festival day. Mobs of people, more people than he had ever seen in his entire life, were packed onto the cobblestone streets. But as they saw him, they made way and let his horse pass. Whispers went around as they sized him up for the coming competition. He knew many would lay their life's savings on today's event. Even more people relying on Vladimir this day.
As he entered the square, he was stopped by a couple of guards who directed him to the preparation tents. There he was greeted by Peotre. He'd met Peotre on his preliminary scouting of the area. It was Peotre who had put him through his first paces and approved him for today's competition.
A groomsman took away Vladimir's horse while Peotre led him to a large tent. Inside, there were about twenty men, his adversaries. Vladimir sized them up as best he could, but it was really impossible to tell who had the advantage from looks alone.
Vladimir started to strip off his clothes, as the other men were doing. Peotre handed him a simple loincloth to wear as he explained the course of events that would lead up to the competition. Vladimir listened half-heartedly, quite aware that the other men were checking him out as well.
Trumpets blew and Peotre shouted to the assembled men. There were twenty-five men, who all lined up at the tent opening. On Peotre's command the men marched out single file and made their way up to the stage in the center of the square.
Standing near the center of the line, Vladimir looked out at the assembled masses and felt very vulnerable standing up there in nothing more than a loincloth. A large man, decked in the finest clothes stepped to the head of the stage. The crowd died down immediately.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," shouted the man, "by order of our most honored Tsarina Catherine, I bid you welcome to the annual Rusulka Festival!"
A round of cheers ran through the crowd and the man waited for the noise to subside.
"These twenty-five men, kinsfolk to you all, have been hand selected to take part in today's celebration. And today's victor shall travel to Moscow where he will enjoy a full year in the service of our Tsarina!"
Another round of cheers, but Vladimir was beginning to grow very anxious. He wanted to bolt. He did not wish to compete. But he knew how important a victory would be to his village. If he were selected, his village would be exempt from all taxes while he served. And after one year, he would return with a bag full of gold and live out his days in comfort. Despite the possibilities, Vladimir was still filled with dread.
Vladimir looked over his shoulder at the stage apparatus; five long benches and a beam overhead. Very similar to the makeshift setup that his villagers had prepared for Peotre's visit, although it had not been used. Peotre had spent nearly three hours evaluating Vladimir. Vladimir had never been put through such a trial before in his life and he thought for sure that he would not make it. But in the end, Peotre gave him rich approvals and presented him with the certificate that would put him in today's event.
The fat man was still talking, "...and since our Tsarina does desire the men of her court to exemplify the strength and, at the same time, sensitivity of her realm, these men have been chosen for their great physical stature."
The man was right. Vladimir looked to his left and right and was surrounded by the most extraordinary men in the region. The all ranged in ages between 21 and 30 and they had incredible physiques. Vladimir himself had been training for this day for the last five years.
"And now that they have proven their strength, today they shall prove their sensitivity," the man shouted, pulling a long feather from his sleeve and holding it out over the audience. A great cheer filled the square. The Rusulka Festival was about to begin.
Vladimir was moved to the side of the stage with the other men as the first five contestants were taken to the benches. Vladimir thought about the legend of the Rusulka that he had been told since he was a child. The Rusulka were water nymphs, believed to be the spirits of unbaptized children that had died. It was believed that the Rusulka would emerge from their lake homes to find men sleeping along their banks. They would then tickle the men to death and drag their bodies under the water.
The Rusulka Festival was an invention of Catherine the Great. It was well known that the Tsarina was fond of tormenting the male gender. It was rumored that about a decade past, the Tsarina was taking her evening stroll through her torture chamber when she happened upon the most handsome man she had ever seen. He was stretched upon a rack, striped down to a loincloth but unharmed and awaiting his torturer.
The Tsarina was so taken by this man that she stopped to talk to him. As she moved around the rack, her sable robe brushed across his bare soles. Despite his predicament, the man was so ticklish, he couldn't help but laugh. This fascinated Catherine, who reached out a bejeweled hand and stroked the captive's soles. Within minutes, the Tsarina had the man in hysterics, taking great satisfaction in reducing a man to a giggling heap. The torturer found the Tsarina on top of the rack, straddling the man and tickling his torso without mercy. She ordered that the man be taken to her private chamber where it is said he spent all five years of his sentence as the Tsarina's tickle slave.
From that point on, the Tsarina would make frequent shopping trips to the dungeons, seeking out handsome young men to amuse her. Her court administrators feared for her safety. After all, her majordomo would warn, these were captured criminals, some murderers. Being alone with these men in her private chambers, even if they were tightly bound made her courtesans nervous. So it was about that time that a call went throughout the realm. The most beautiful and handsome men would be sought out. Those that proved to be the most ticklish would win the honor of serving in the Tsarina's Royal Tickle Guard. For a year's service, the men would be treated as nobility and the villages of their birth would greatly benefit. The Festival had proven to be the most sought after event in the realm.
But Vladimir still awaited his fate with fear. He watched as the first five men were lashed to the benches, their wrists lashed together and pulled up over their heads by ropes tossed over the beam. Their arms stretched up tight, their heels hanging off the ends of the benches. Each man was approached by a pair of court-appointed ticklers who proceeded to stroke torso and sole at the same time.
As the five men began to laugh hysterically, Vladimir noticed that Peotre was one of the ticklers. Vladimir remembered well the day that Peotre had ridden into his village.
It was a tradition in Vladimir's village, that on a man's twentieth birthday, he must present himself to the village elders to access his ticklishness. Vladimir had heard of other villages where the men were tickled on their eighteenth birthdays and the most ticklish ones had to endure daily ticklings to prepare them for the competition. But in Vladimir's village, it was believed that too much tickling would make the man less sensitive. Thus it was not permitted to tickle the village males except for evaluation and competition.
So on Vladimir's twentieth birthday, he was eager to take the challenge. Like the other young men of his village, he knew the prestige that went with the competition. He'd worked his body hard, to build an impressive physique, even only a few years into adulthood. On the day of his birthday, he was looking forward to the test of the elders.
But once they had him lashed to the table and began to explore his ticklishness, Vladimir realized for the first time in his life how incredibly ticklish he really was. He'd never been tickled in his youth and was unfamiliar with the sensation. As the elders started tickling him, Vladimir quickly discovered that his senses could not stand the intensity of the light touches. The elders smiled their approval as they stroked his soles, his toes, naval, ribs, and armpits, and were rewarded with screaming, hysterical laughter. They only needed to tickle the lad for thirty minutes to decide that they had their candidate.
And for the next five years, Vladimir had to prepare. Every day, he had to rub salve on his body and bare feet to keep the skin smooth and soft. He had to work hard to keep his body in peak condition. And he had to wait, remembering the day on the elder's table and afraid of what he knew was coming.
It was spring of this year when Peotre rode into the village. The Royal Evaluators make circuits throughout the kingdom, and Vladimir's region was only visited every four or five years. And there had never been a son of his village that had passed the Evaluator's exam. The whole village was relying on him.
Peotre was the same age as Vladimir. A very striking man, Vladimir was taken by his stunning looks and gentle nature. They spoke for a short time, and Vladimir began to relax with this man even though he knew what was about to transpire.
Finally, Peotre ordered him to shed his shirt and footwear and lay upon his bed. Peotre had declined the use of the public bench and he and Vladimir were alone in Vladimir's hut. Peotre then took some bindings from his bag and lashed Vladimir to his own bed.
"So tell me, Vladimir," he said, "have you been tickled much in the past?"
"Only once by the village elders. It was five years ago when I turned twenty."
"Oh, yes, your village believes in the virgin flesh. Untouched by human hands, so even the more sensitive. From the hundreds of men that I have tickled, I tend to agree with their assumptions. They must have found you quite ticklish."
"It could barely endure the thirty minute ritual."
"Thirty minutes, is that all? I'm afraid I'll take quite a bit longer than that. And if you prove worthy, you'll find that the competition can take hours. And if you should happen to win, we are talking about tickling for days on end. Are you sure you are prepared for that?"
Vladimir knew it was more than he'd be able to endure, but his success was far too important to the village. "Yes," he said, "I am prepared."
"Excellent, than shall we proceed?" Peotre pulled a stool up to the end of the bed and began the evaluation. He started on Vladimir's soles slowly, using just his fingers. He explored the heel and high arch. He tickled each toe individually. Vladimir was laughing loudly, already begging the man to stop.
"You are a ticklish one," Peotre said, "But I've seen the most ticklish men in the realm. Let's see what you are truly made of."
Peotre produced a feather and started to stroke Vladimir's bare soles. Vladimir had only been tickled once before in his life and that time was with fingers. The brushing strokes of the feather were instantly overwhelming. He lost all sense of himself and spiraled down into a well of unrelenting tickling. At one point, he realized that Peotre had tied his toes back because Vladimir's feet were wiggling around so wildly. Completely helpless, Peotre returned the feather to Vladimir's feet and proceeded to tickle them for another hour.
"Quite impressive," Peotre said as Vladimir came out of a haze. "I do believe you actually passed out for a moment or two. You are quite ticklish, I will admit. And we're already half way through."
Vladimir was exhausted. He'd been laughing hysterically for the last hour and a half and he was hoarse and breathless. Peotre was mounting the bed, straddling Vladimir's hips. Vladimir did not believe that he could endure another second. But, again, the need of the village overcame his own need.
As Peotre fingers descended toward Vladimir's ribcage, he tried to free his mind from his body. But the tickling took over again and Vladimir was thrashing about on his cot, bucking Peotre around like a rag doll. Peotre dug in with his knees, and moved up into Vladimir's armpits. Then he tickled down his sides and across his washboard abs. For another hour and a half, Vladimir endured the most severe tickling any man had ever received.
Standing over Vladimir's bed, putting away his instruments of torture, Peotre said, "Vladimir, I believe that you are perhaps the most ticklish man I have ever evaluated, and I have been doing this for six years. You have an excellent chance of winning this year's competition. You could make your village very proud."
Vladimir was too exhausted to reply. He was panting, every now and then starting to giggle again when he thought about the tickling he'd just received. Peotre removed his restraints, but Vladimir was too tired to even bring his arms down.
Peotre sat at the edge of the bed and rubbed Vladimir's stomach. At first Vladimir thought he was going to tickle him some more and his body twitched. However, as Peotre rubbed his stomach and chest, Vladimir found that it helped him slowly recover.
"This will help reduce the tickling sensation. I 'm sure that your whole body must be tingling." Peotre gave Vladimir a complete rub down, ending up at his feet for many minutes. At the end, he started tickling along Vladimir's soles again, and when Vladimir laughed and pulled his feet away, Peotre said, "I am sorry. There will plenty of time for that in a few months."
Peotre had stayed until late evening, dining with the village elders. He had requested that Vladimir join them, seated at his right hand. At the end of the evening, Vladimir offered Peotre the hospitality of his hut, but Peotre refused. "I wish to get a couple hours ride in and then sleep beneath the stars. It is a glorious night.
"And a fortnight hence, you and I will meet again," he said, taking Vladimir's hand. "I truly hope that you win, my friend, it would be wonderful to have you at the palace for a whole year."
"Thank you, sir, you honor me," Vladimir said, blushing.
"No, you will honor me by winning that competition."
Now Vladimir watched as Peotre stood on the stage and tickled the ribs of the second man from the left. The man was losing his composure, but enduring well. The competition was truly grueling. Of course, the most ticklish man would be the one that could resist the tickling for the shortest time. But if a man is screaming for the ticklers to stop, how does one judge that his pleading is sincere? Instead, the men are tickled to unconsciousness. The first man to pass out from the tickling is the winner of his round. And no one can make themselves pass out, nor can they fake it when they are being torturously tickled. Depending on the endurance of the five men involved, the tickling can go on for hours.
Vladimir noticed that the man that Peotre was helping to tickle was beginning to falter. The tickler at his feet was scratching in between his toes while Peotre dug into his armpits. The man was laughing so hard he was screaming. Then suddenly, his head slumped down and he was silent. At that instant, both ticklers stopped their torment immediately and announced their man the winner.
The five men were released from the benches and taken to a recovery tent. Vladimir was part of the next five men.
As he stepped up to the benches, Vladimir realized right away that Peotre was going to be one of his ticklers. He thought how Peotre was the one that lined them up in the tent. It would have been a simple matter for him to make sure that Vladimir was in place to be his victim.
Vladimir was strapped into the bench, looking out at the audience. The masses held up the feathers they had brought with them, cheering on the ticklers and ticklees alike. Peotre's partner sat on the floor in front of Vladimir's bare soles. Peotre stepped up behind Vladimir and whispered in his ear.
"That is Boris. I have told Boris all about your most ticklish spots. We'll try to make this as quick as possible, my friend."
The tickling began. Boris' fingernails started scratching down Vladimir's soles at the same instant that Peotre drove his fingertips into Vladimir's armpits. He was howling right away. The two men went right for his most vulnerable tickle spots and had him hysterical in seconds.
The crowd saw Vladimir's intense reaction and started to cheer for him. The other ticklers saw the early success of their counterparts and dug into their victims even more eagerly. This round was starting at a fast pace as the five victims were tickled senseless.
Vladimir lost all sense of time and location. He was floating on a sea of feathers, a wave of hands. There was only the tickling and no way for him to avoid it. He laughed and laughed and the laughter and tickling went on forever.
When Vladimir came to himself again, he was being helped off stage. Peotre was walking him to the recovery tent.
"Listen to the crowd! They love you," he shouted in his ear over the din. "Forty minutes. No man has ever succumbed so quickly before. You are the favored to win today."
Vladimir was too exhausted and dazed to speak. He let Peotre lower him to a cot where he panted and felt himself quickly going to sleep.
"Take heart, my friend. No tickling you will ever receive in the future will be as severe as the one you've just endured. We do not make a practice of tickling men until they pass out. It really is the best way to gauge to most ticklish in a lot. Rest now," Peotre said, "One more event and you could be mine for the next year."
Vladimir was too tired to catch Peotre's implication. He fell into a fitful sleep.
Vladimir dreamt of laughter. His own and the men out on stage taking their turn at the tickling benches.
He awoke as Peotro gently shook his shoulder, "Wake up, Vlad, it is time for the finals."
Vladimir was surprised to find himself rather refreshed. Much like he remembered after Peotre had tickled him at his village, after a few minutes rest, he felt as if he hadn't been tickled at all. He seemed to suffer no long-term ill effects. Unlike some of the other men that were recovering in the tent. Even those tickled in the first round too weak to even stand on their own.
Vladimir was taken up to the stage. The man that had won the first round was being taken down. He was red faced and exhausted, but grinning like a victorious combatant.
Vladimir was led to a large comfortable chair that had very short legs. In front of the chair were two holes. Vladimir sat in the chair and his feet were guided into the holes. Men beneath the stage bound his feet in place. Vladimir was then instructed to put his hands up behind his head. There was a metal eyelet at the top of the chair and his wrists were tied to it.
Vladimir was back to himself now and realized he was being prepared for the Rusulka March. At the end of the stage, all the noblemen had lined up. At the bottom of the stage, the peasants formed a gigantic line that snaked around the square. As music began to play, the peasants began to make their way underneath the stage while the noblemen approached Vladimir. As the two lines converged on him, Vladimir found his torso being tickled by the noblemen as they passed by him. At the same time, the peasants down below were tickling his feet as they passed. Each person only got a mere couple seconds to tickle him, but they came one after the other to create a constant barrage of severe tickling. Guards had to be posted at Vladimir's body and feet, because some participants did not want to move along. They tried to get in as much tickling as they could. But the guards would move them along when they threatened to stall the line.
The noblemen were allowed more time at Vladimir's body than the peasants were allowed at his feet. The noblemen tended to employ fancy feathers and brushes, which they had crafted for this occasion while the peasants used their long fingernails to torment Vladimir's bare feet.
The Rusulka March lasted a little over thirty minutes, so Vladimir was able to endure the assault without passing out. When it was done, the crowd offered up a loud cheer and Vladimir was untied and led back to the recovery tent. Peotre was waiting for him there.
"Well done, Vlad, the crowd loves you. I'm sure you'll win." Peotre was beaming with pride.
"I have to lay down a bit," Vladimir said, "I'm exhausted."
Peotre lifted up Vladimir's legs and sat at the end of the cot. Then he put Vladimir's feet in his lap and started to massage his feet. It felt so wonderful that Vladimir thanked him and closed his eyes to enjoy the treat.
"The Tsarina will love you," Peotre said, "She doesn't tickle her men much at all any more. She likes to watch as they perform during meals and special events. Other members of the Guard will tickle you. You're going to love it. There is so much camaraderie. The Guard will be like your second family. They take care of each other because they know a tickler one day is a ticklee the next. You really are very fortunate."
"I haven't won yet," Vladimir managed to say, fighting off sleep. Peotre was giving him a fabulous foot massage, but even that tickled a little and he was giggling softly under his breath. Outside, he could hear the howls of the next man going through the Rusulka March.
"Oh, Vlad, you'll win easily. These other men can't compare to your ticklishness. There's only the final tickling to go and then the judges' decision. They have to pick you."
"One more tickling? I'm not familiar with that one."
"Oh, it's new this year. Nothing really, just five minutes as kind of a finale. That's all."
Strangely, despite Vladimir's extreme ticklishness, after today's ordeal five minutes seemed like nothing at all. Peotre was beginning to apply lighter touches to Vladimir's feet, making them twitch and wiggle, but he let him continue, even if it did make him laugh a little.
The other men were taken through the Rusulka March and then all five were returned to the stage. Their wrists were tied together and then the rope was tossed over the beam and they were hoisted about a foot off the stage. Dangling from their bound wrists, their ticklish torso were stretched tight and exposed to the audience. One tickler took a place behind each man and started tickling his torso.
The fat announcer returned to the stage.
"Ladies and Gentlemen! I present our five finalists. Each has been mercilessly tickled for your amusement. And now it is up to the judges to decide who will join the Royal Tickle Guard."
The announcer motioned toward the men as the ticklers dug into their armpits, making them laugh louder. The audience cheered.
The five ticklers came around in front of the contestants and were joined by the five other ticklers. They each grabbed an ankle, wrapped their arm around it, and started tickling the men's feet.
"The judges have made their decision."
The announcer started reading off names, from fifth place to first. As each man's name was announced, that man's ticklers would stop tickling him and move over to one of the men still being tickled. One by one, the names were called and each time, two ticklers were added to the mix of men left. One by one the names were called and Vladimir was still getting tickled. He was so exhausted and laughing so loudly, he could not hear the announcer. He just waited for the tickling to stop, knowing that would mean he had lost.
But then Vladimir realized that there were twenty hands tickling all over his body. He had won and all the ticklers were giving him a final tickling as the audience cheered loudly. Peotre had said that the tickling would only last five minutes, but thirty minutes must have passed already. The tickling continued until Vladimir was engulfed in a sea of fingers and laughter and something else. His mind was racing, and he was disoriented, but he concentrated on that other thing. That thing that was riding on the waves of titillation that were surging through his body as ten men tickled him at once. As Vladimir started to lose consciousness, for the briefest of moments, he recognized that thing; it was pleasure. Pure unfettered pleasure, and at that very moment when Vladimir hoped that the sensation would go on forever, he was swallowed by the void of unconsciousness.
When Vladimir next woke, he found himself wrapped in an expensive blanket, laying on a comfortable bench. As he came to himself, the swaying and bumping told him that he was in a carriage. Underneath the blanket, he still wore only the skimpy loincloth that had been provided at the ceremony. Vladimir tried not to think too much about the ceremony because it made his entire body tingle.
He slowly opened his eyes and saw Peotre sitting on the opposite seat, staring at him.
"Good, you are finally awake, my friend," Peotre said, smiling. "I feared you would never wake up."
"Where are we?" Vladimir asked, his voice hoarse from the day's laughing.
"Why, we're on our way to Moscow. You have slept for many hours. It has grown dark and we will be stopping at the next village for the night."
Vladimir sat up, pressing his bare soles against the plush velvet that lined the bottom of the carriage. He looked out the window at the approaching darkness. They were traveling a well wooded area.
"How are you feeling?" Peotre asked.
"Wonderful, actually," Vladimir answered, surprising himself. He did feel remarkable well-rested and full of energy.
"Can I rub out any knots for you? I have very skilled hands."
Vladimir thought how marvelous that would feel, but he felt suddenly awkward and declined. Then he doubted his response.
"Of course, my lord, if you wish it, I would be glad for the such. Or if you require to tickle me further, I am at your disposal."
"No, no, as you wish. You shall be put to task soon enough. On our journey, you are my guest and I am here to serve. But I am a demanding servant." Peotre patted his knee, "Now place a foot up here and allow me to relax you."
Vladimir obeyed and Peotre started kneading and massaging his foot. Vladimir was instantly enraptured, sinking into the cushioned seat and nearly drifting off again.
"I have a surprise for you at the inn. We will be joining with another traveler."
"Who is that?"
"The winner of the Georgian region. I have heard that he his a Goliath of a man. He will be waiting at our service when we arrive. Have you ever had the pleasure of tickling another man?"
"No, sir, I haven't," Vladimir said, a little surprised, "Am I to tickle this man?"
"He is resolved to it, by my command. As are you and all that serve the Guard. When you are received by the Tsarina, you will be compelled to practice your maneuvers. You will have to lend a helping hand to your compatriots, so to speak. Besides, I thought you might enjoy the opportunity to deliver the stimulation."
"I've not the training for it, sir."
"No worry. You can wiggle your fingers can you not," Peotre asked, wiggling his own fingers across Vladimir's sole. Vladimir let out a laugh.
"Then you shall do fine."
The carriage hit the cobblestoned streets of the village and soon arrived at the inn. Their arrival was anticipated and there were servants to unload them. Vladimir was still unclothed, so he stepped out of the carriage with the blanket wrapped about his shoulders. A carpet was laid up the stairs of the inn to keep his bare feet clean. They were led directly to their rooms.
When the two men entered Vladimir's room, there were two beds. At the edge of one bed sat a man that stood as soon as they entered the room. His head nearly brushed the seven foot ceilings. The man was incredibly large and amazingly muscled. He wore a tunic with no sleeves, revealing arms as fully around as Vladimir's thighs. Vladimir looked down to the sheepskin boots that appeared to be wrapped around two large hounds.
"Vladimir, this is Boris Patrovich," introduced Peotre.
"An honor, Sir," Boris said, extending a hand.
Vladimir's own fist was engulfed by Boris' immense hand. They exchanged pleasantries all around.
"I've heard, Sir, that you're to put me to the testing," Boris said to Vladimir. He peeled off his tunic to reveal the largest, most chiseled physique that Vladimir had ever seen in his life, "Would you like to begin straight away?"
Vladimir balked, but Peotre said, "Forgive him his hesitance, kind sir, it is his first go at the other side of the tickling."
"Is that so," Boris said, sitting on the bed and pulling off his boots. He laid back on his elbows and put his feet up. There were incredibly large, possibly the length of Vladimir's arms from fingertip to elbow. And wide across too, with perfectly shaped toes standing in a neat row. "Perhaps I can entice you with my bare soles, Sir," he said, wiggling his toes slowly. "I've not met a man yet that can resist the temptation of torment these monsters."
"In Georgia," Peotre said to Vladimir, "They do not follow the virginal victim supposition. Young me are tickled daily as soon as they reach puberty. They believe a truly ticklish man can be cultivated over the years. So Boris here has been tickled daily since the age of sixteen."
Peotre looked at Boris, who he judged to be about twenty-two. The thought of being tickled every day for six years made Vladimir shiver.
"And it is still as fresh as the first stroke," Boris added, putting his arms up under his head. For the truly ticklish such as we, there is no lose of sensitivity in repetition. In fact, for me, it has proven to be an addiction. I fear I could not go a day without it. Why, before you arrived, I spent the afternoon in the receiving room downstairs, giving the locals a turn at these feet."
"Here, Vlad, help me tie him down," Peotre said. There were already ropes tied to the thick bed posts. Borris laid himself out spread-eagle. Vladimir tied his left wrist and ankle while Peotre tied his right.
Peotre reached down and started to stroke Boris' ribs. Boris started laughing immediately, his torso tightening up, his muscles bulging. "Come, help me bring this giant to hysterics."
Vladimir gingerly reached down and scraped Boris' ribs. He felt the muscled flex under his touch, Boris' body shift slightly away to try to escape his fingers. But Vladimir kept his contact, scratching along the length of his ribs. Boris was laughing harder.
Vladimir continued ticking Boris' ribs, stroking down and over his washboard stomach. The more Boris laughed, the easier it became to tickle him. Soon, Vladimir was digging in with fervor, working his way up toward Boris' armpit. When he struck home, Boris became hysterical, laughing and bucking on the bed. Peotre stepped back and said, "Take him."
Vladimir climbed on top of Boris, straddling his waist, and started tickled both his sides. Boris was red faced. Tears were rolling down his cheeks. Vladimir lost track of time, but it seemed only a couple seconds later when Peotre was pulling on his arm.
"Enough, Vlad, you have to give him a rest," he said, pulling him off of Boris.
Boris was exhausted, so winded he was laughing without making a sound.
"So soon?" Vladimir asked.
"So soon? Vlad, you've been tickling him for over an hour."
"Captivating isn't it. Come sit here." Peotre brought him to a chair that was at the end of the bed. Vladimir sat down and was staring directly at Boris' huge bare feet.
"Now, you must give him some time to recover. Gaze upon his feet and let us see how long you can resist the urge to strike."
Peotre sat on the other bed and Vladimir stared at Boris' feet. As Boris fought labored breath, his toes were wiggling quite a bit. Vladimir watched as his toes rolled up and down, wrinkling the skin of his soles. As his toes splayed and then squeezed tight, the movement started to become an invitation. An invitation to send his feet into spasms of activity. Despite Vladimir's earlier hesitance, he was finding the temptation to tickle growing ever stronger. Once Boris regained his senses, he started to wiggle his toes more seductively, taunting Vladimir to strike. Vladimir tried to resist, but it wasn't long before the need to tickle overwhelmed him, and he reached out with both hands.
As soon as he made initial contact, he was lost. Despite their great size, Boris' feet were incredible soft and warm. He scratched his fingers up and down his bare soles, watching his toes dance around furiously. Boris laughed louder than before. Incredibly, his feet were even more ticklish than his body. Vladimir delighted in the movement of his feet. He could not recall ever seeing the reactions of the tickled from this perspective. To be looking at his bare soles, and past his feet to his bound body, his screaming laughter. Vladimir was engrossed in the moment, and tickled the poor, helpless Boris for another hour.
When Peotre finally pulled him away from Borris' quivering soles, Vladimir felt the urge to turn his tickling fingers on his benefactor, but he knew that could not be. Instead, Peotre pushed him down onto the other bed face down and sat across his calves. And then he started to rake his nails across Vladimir's still bare soles.
Vladimir laughed and squirmed, gripping the headboard and squeezing hard. He wanted to kick Peotre off him, but feared such a move. So he did his best to endure the torturous tickling, pushing his face into his pillow and laughing hard.
Peotre tickled his feet for many minutes. When he finally stopped, Vladimir was so exhausted he did not realize that Peotre had stood; until he came down on his back and drove his fingers up into his exposed armpits. Vladimir tried to bring his arms down, but Peotre's fingers had already driven home and were wiggling about his pits. Vladimir could not stand it and tried to roll away. The two fell on the floor, Peotre on top of Vladimir, still tickling away.
Despite the fact that Peotre was tickling him to his limits, Vladimir couldn't help but notice the closeness of their bodies, the firmness of Peotre's muscled torso pressed against his. He noticed the warmth of Peotre's fingertips as they grazed his bare skin. He felt his breath on his neck and he pushed into him and drove his fingers into Vladimir's ribs. Vladimir was still laughing hysterically, but he was not struggling as much as before.
Suddenly Peotre stopped. "No, not yet. You're not ready yet," he said and he stood. He helped Vladimir up. "You are learning well, and exploring the nuances of your new profession. But you must rest now. Please, go across the hall to my room and sleep. I have work to complete in here."
Vladimir wanted to stay, but he obeyed. Peotre shut and locked the door behind him. Before Vladimir made it across the hall, he heard laughter coming from the room.
Carefully, he snuck back to the door and peered through the keyhole. He could only see Boris' feet flexing and wiggling. He watched them, wishing he could be back in there tickling them some more. Then he saw Peotre's fingers scratching and stroking the soles and toes. Boris' feet wiggled and flexed more and more desperately. Suddenly his feet froze, his toes stretched wide and then, he feet collapsed back to the bed, completely limp. The laughter had stopped and Vladimir rushed to Peotre's room, afraid of being discovered.
A few minutes later, Peotre came into the room and Vladimir pretended to be asleep. Peotre sat at the end of the bed and carefully put one of Vladimir's feet in his lap. He massaged it like he had in the carriage.
"Soon," Peotre whispered, not thinking Vladimir could hear, "Soon it shall be your turn my precious one. Soon you will see the truth of all this."
Vladimir wondered at Peotre's words, but the massage was so exquisite that he quickly drifted off to sleep.
Vladimir awoke the next morning, a fresh set of clothes awaiting him. He washed and dressed and went downstairs. He immediately heard laughter in the dining room.
When he entered the room, it was packed with villagers. Across the room, Boris, shirtless, was hanging from one of the great rafters, doing pullups. A villager was standing in a chair behind him, reaching around to tickle his armpits and ribs as he brought his chin up to the beam time and again. The villagers counted while Boris laughed loudly.
They were at twenty-one when Vladimir entered the room. When they reached twenty-five, Boris let go of the beam, his huge bare feet slapping hard again the wood floor as he landed. The villagers cheered him and the man on the chair reached into his pocket and turned over a piece of silver.
Pocketing the money and grinning, Boris surveyed the room and spied Vladimir. "Aye, there is my kinsman. Come, join me, Vladimir. Perhaps you'll be so kind as to allow me to repay the most ruthless tickling with which you visited me last evening." Boris sat down and put his legs up on two other chairs. Immediately, a couple of villagers sat on the floor and started stroking his bare soles with feathers. They tickled his feet only enough to make his toes wiggle, not enough to make him laugh.
The crowd cleared for Vladimir as he crossed the room. "Tis true, Sir, I did tickle you most severely last eve. Is it custom that I should give myself up to you now for your revenge?"
Not revenge, Sir, payment. Payment lovingly given and received. You and I are members of the Guard now. We go in service of the Tsarina. Surely you would not deprive your country folk of the pleasure of glimpsing the men that shall soon be in the presence of royalty. Now come, sit upon my knee and gift these good people with the fine timber of your laughter."
Borris sat up, pulling his feet away from his attendant ticklers. Vladimir came and sat upon his knee. He truly felt like a child, so eclipsed by this bulk of a man. Borris reached around him and began to unlace his tunic. Vladimir sat passively as Borris removed his shirt. Once his body was bared, Borris brought his fingers up to Vladimir's sides. His hands were so large, his fingers covered from his waist to nearly his armpits. Grasping firmly, Borris began to wiggle his fingers.
Vladimir was laughing immediately. He began to squirm, but Borris pulled him in against his massive chest, surrounding him with his hulking form and tickling. His grip was far too strong to break, and Vladimir could do nothing but collapse against the giant and laugh.
The villages cheered on. At Borris' urgings, his attendants removed Vladimir's boots, grasped his ankles firmly, and started to swirl the feathers across his bare soles. Vladimir was hysterical now, but unable to fight or resist. Borris whispered in his ear, "Are you enjoying your tickling, my little friend?" Vladimir was too breathless to tell him yes.
As Borris and his two attendants tickled him, Vladimir noticed Peotre enter the room. He watched the scene with interest. He stared at Vladimir, intent upon his reactions. Vladimir stared back, as if to let Peotre know that he was laughing only for him. He felt such a closeness to Peotre, he tried to convey with his expression how much he wished that Peotre were the one at his feet at that moment.
Vladimir was beginning to lose his composure, breathless and red faced. Peotre broke through the crowd, saying, "Enough now, we have a long ride ahead of us. Pray give the lad a breath of air."
The attendants stopped immediately, but Borris tickled for a few seconds more before releasing him. "Tis true, my lord, this one does show most impressive inklings toward the art. His reactions are most astounding."
"Yes, the Tsarina will be most pleased. With both of you. Now fetch your clothing and let's be off. You may tickling one another on the road to Moscow if you wish it."
"I know my feet would be most obliged if you honored them with your caresses, my little friend," Boris said to Vladimir.
"I would be honored, Sir," Vladimir responded, although he would have rather told Peotre that he too pined for the touch of Peotre's fingers upon his bare soles.
The three men mounted the carriage. Boris took up one whole bench and put up his two massive feet on the other so that both Vladimir and Peotre would have a foot to tickle.
Thus Vladimir, Peotre, and Boris continued their journey to Moscow, laughter trailing after the carriage as it made its way down the rutted field paths toward the capital city.