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A Rough Weekend for a Betrayal

Sorry for the late weekend addition to Betrayal’s Hands. Turned out to be a rough weekend what with a family medical emergency. Ongoing troubles, but there’s good news on the horizon. The horizon being a couple of days away. But enough about that, on to chapter 3!

Chapter 3

Corillius bit back the oath he wanted to mutter. It would do no good to his warriors if they saw his spirits flagging—theirs were already running low. They’d lost two of their number within the first two days, both felled by trolls in the fens they’d crossed. Long a nuisance, the Nordlamarian army had sent a detachment many years ago to beat the trolls back into the fens and try to eliminate them once and for all. It had been thought successful, but now Corillius and his unit knew better.

Once they were free of the fens and within the border of Aradmath the going had gotten easier. They’d moved as stealthily as possible through unfamiliar terrain. They’d all committed to memory the ancient maps of the Kingdom, but an eagle’s eye map was of little comfort when skulking through the wilderness in the middle of the night.

After three weeks of travel they came within sight of Duth Darek. Patrols had been few and far between with so many of the kingdom’s warriors tied up at the border. Corillius was certain the easy part of their quest was behind them.

“Captain, them walls is 30 feet tall if’n they’s an inch!” one of the soldiers, a short but powerful woman named Marta, hissed. Her voice carried to him in the night air.

“Aye, hope you don’t fall if we have to climb them,” another soldier named Veera growled; she was Corillius’ second in command, a solid veteran of many campaigns.

Some of the others laughed, but Cor shot them a look to silence them. “We go in small groups, if they ask your business, say you’re travelers. Mercenaries looking for work as caravan guards. Whatever you do, do not claim to be from the northlands! You’ve cut your hair and changed your clothes to avoid that, don’t give it away now! Remember your squads and where to meet up.”

They all nodded and then, with another gesture, Cor started them off towards the gates. With no sign of anxiety or nerves, both Veera and two others stood and headed into the town. Because of the Aradmath attitude towards woman Veera carried no weapons, her two male escorts bore them all. They’d arm her once inside when circumstances permitted Other groups were similarly arrayed. It was a gamble, but one they’d rehearsed many times.

Corillius dispatched every group until, several hours later, he went in with two women, his pack on his back laden with knives and bucklers, in addition to the longer sword he wore at his side and the daggers in his boots. As with the others, the guards at the gate were lazy and uncaring. Duth Darek was the capital of the mighty Kingdom of Aradmath, what fool would dare to assault it?

 

****

 

King’s Baron Makan didn’t hear the ringing of his horse’s hooves on the cobblestones. He didn’t see the giggling group of lower house maids returning home with their laundry. His mind had moved on to far more interesting and enjoyable pursuits. Upon reaching the city, he’d sent a messenger to invite Lord’s Baron Darleth to meet him at his pleasure house. Makan knew that his power and the possibility of his daughter’s hand would ensure no refusal of his request. As his horse turned the final corner, he smiled. Darleth stood outside the house, leaning on the gate post. Makan dismounted and handed his reins to the boy who appeared from the stables.

“Well Darleth, are you ready to inspect my newest acquisition?” Makan clapped the younger man on the shoulder hard enough to stagger him. Together they proceeded to the front door. Inside their cloaks were taken and a scantily clad young woman appeared to lead them to the bathing room.

“I trust you don’t mind if I bathe first?” Makan began stripping off his gauntlets.

“Of course not,” Darleth replied, his eyes passing coldly over the young slave girl in front of them. There was no passion in his gaze, no admiration, and no lust or desire.

Both men stripped down and let themselves be tended to in the large bathing pools by teams of naked serving women. Makan’s treatment of them was chauvinistic and crude, but if any of them had been asked afterwards each would have said they preferred his pinches and slaps to the cold disinterest and cruel look in Darleth’s eyes.

Finished with their bath, Makan led Darleth out of the room, a goblet of wine in his hand and silk robes covering their bodies. He let another serving girl lead them down a passage and into a small room with a bed and a table set with two chairs. A dresser and a small closet was nearby. Chained to the bed was the naked slave from the northlands, Captain Annalyse Promus, now simply a slave with no name.

“She was the leader of a band of savages from the north… can you believe it, a woman in charge?” Makan said, laughing incredulously. “How we’ve been unable to finish them off this long amazes me.”

Darleth nodded thoughtfully. “Perhaps our warriors are loath to strike a woman, since they know the truth of their inferior nature. The soldiers on the front are, after all, mere commoners.”

Makan chuckled. “That must be it, the simpletons don’t realize that a woman is like a hound or a horse, they need a firm hand to guide them and when they are of no more use, well…”

Darleth nodded, smiling for the first time, “Indeed, there is that. But I find they can have a great many uses beyond mere entertainment. Their political power behind the scenes is impressive, my friend.”

Makan shook his head and waved his hand. “Bah, cackling hens is all they are. Men rule the country and the home. I regret only that I have no son to pass my lands to, just a daughter. But she will serve you well, she’s been groomed her entire young life for it.”

Darleth smiled. “I have no doubt, My Lord Baron. I look forward to the day when our forces can be allied so strongly.”

“Now then, back to this savage. She cried out both when I took her and when all of my men had their way with her. She’s quite the whore, let me assure you!”

Baron Darleth turned his gaze back upon the woman chained to the bed, her look varying between sullen and openly hostile. “She seems to have some bitterness still within her. It appears you haven’t driven her spirit from her yet.”

“Indeed, I have not. I find it to be a great sport, breaking this one. This is why I chose to have you aid me.”

Darleth nodded, “Fine sport indeed.” The man was lying, he had little or no interest in the slave bitch, but his grander plans required that he play along with Makan, for now at least. An accident later, after he had married Lady T’leren, and things would be different. Until then…

“Spread your legs, my pretty, and make ready to feel the righteousness of Aradmathian nobility!” Makan said, grabbing cruelly onto the slave’s thigh and pinching it between his fingers.

Anna fought, as she always did, but they overpowered the bound woman with ease. Makan fell upon her first, abusing her as brutally as his short and chubby manhood would allow. She’d laughed at him openly at first, which only drew his ire and his fists. She’d learned not to respect him, as he’d hoped, but instead to hide her disdain and loathing. Concealing her true feelings was more difficult than enduring the savagery she experienced.

Darleth was next, testing and teasing her. The teasing was not aimed at her pleasure either, for it involved the suspense of not knowing exactly when or how badly he was going to hurt her. Darleth mostly held himself back, content to slap, pinch, twist, scratch, and sometimes pierce her flesh. Makan felt no such compulsions, he would rut away in a more animalistic manner. Finally, Darleth had taken her, true, but it had seemed to her it was not for his pleasure. She’d despaired he would never finish until he had leaned down and bitten her left breast, drawing blood in the process. Her pained screamed had been the key to drive him over the edge. She shuddered again, remembering the look in his eyes when he’d climbed from her body. He had enjoyed her pain and little else about the rape.

Makan hadn’t noticed his cohort’s need to cause hurt, he was too busy enjoying the fact that her spirit was being broken. Anna groaned as she attempted to shift herself on the bed. Blood and other fluids slid across her skin, shaming her. She felt doubt and worried that very soon she would be broken, in both body and spirit. For a moment she gave into self pity.

Anna turned her face to the wall, not wanting to watch as the two men dressed and left her room. Each time one of them laughed she flinched She hated herself for her cowardice and hated them for forcing it upon her. Eventually they’d tired of their sport and left the room, still laughing to themselves. Only when she heard the key turn in the lock and the footsteps recede down the hall did she look up. Tears filled her eyes, one of which was already swelling shut from a particularly hard blow. Glancing down at herself, Anna winced. Come the morning, she’d be a patchwork of bruises. Blood had run from her nose down the side of her face, drying and tightening the skin underneath.

“Oh Shar, I wish I could hope that you knew I lived. I’d give nearly anything to see you and father again,” Anna whispered. She stared vacantly at the ceiling, fighting the rising tide of despair within her.

Closing her eyes against the tears, she waited for the servants to appear, she expected they’d come to bathe her, as the Baron had let it be known he would return. That thought nearly broke her, she struggled to keep herself under control. She wouldn’t let them see her cry. It was all she had left, this resistance.

 

* * * *

 

T’leren nis Makan managed to maintain her composure as she walked through the large house and up the long stairs. Once in the relative privacy of her chamber, however, she gave in to her self-pity. Sitting on the edge of her large bed, she sobbed into her hands. The idea of marrying and being forced to submit to Baron Darleth terrified her. When the tremors and sobbing subsided, she started to wonder if there was any way, short of disappearing, that she could avoid this union. For long moments all types of scenarios flashed through her mind.

“I’ll do it!” she whispered. Moving to her wardrobe, she rifled through her clothes, pulling out her most worn work dress. Quickly dressing in it, she braided her hair into a severe knot and tied a scarf over it. Satisfied, she put all of her coins into a small bag which she tucked into the waistband of her dress. Casting a last look around the room, she cracked the door open. Not seeing anyone in the hall, she sneaked out of her room and took the servant’s stairs to the rear door of the house. In the waning light of the day, T’leren said goodbye to her life and headed on the quickest route to the East gate of the city. She didn’t know that as she was leaving the city through the east gate, she passed one of the many groups of infiltrators bent on rescuing Annalyse.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

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