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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cheri - Part 11

Part 11

The man pulled out a knife and tried to stab Chèri, but Ando was quick enough to catch him and take away his weapon. People gasped in shock. Why would anyone want to kill the Regional Director?
Several other guards raced up to help Ando subdue the would-be assassin. They quickly dragged him away.
“Stop!” Chèri commanded. “Bring him here.”
They were reluctant, but complied.
“Why did you try to kill me?” She asked.
“You deserve to die!” He insisted vehemently. “You say you care about the people, and promise a better future, but people are dying, and you refuse to help!”
“What?” Chèri inquired, not sure she had heard him correctly. “People are dying?”
“Like you don’t already know!” He cried angrily. “Last year, there was very little food to be had anywhere, but most of the smaller towns had plenty stored up for such an emergency. During the spring and summer, we recovered a little, but it was nowhere near enough! Now there’s nothing, and the people are starving! Yet, when we send messages begging for help, you ignore them.”
Chèri was seriously confused. “What messages? I never received any requests for help.”
Rei – the Assistant Regional Director – cleared his throat. “That’s because you instituted a program to distribute aid as needed. Therefore, all requests for help are routed directly to the Official in charge of that program.”
“So… it’s possible that messages are being sent, but then ignored?” Chèri questioned.
Rei shrugged. “It’s possible.”
Ando was torn. He knew that Chèri considered feeding the people to be the most important duty, but this man had just tried to kill her. Even if he felt he was justified, his actions were punishable by death.
“Bring the Official in charge of distributing aid to me,” Chèri ordered a couple of guards who weren’t busy keeping an eye on the criminal.
A short time later, the Official was brought forward. He knelt on the dais, then sat on his feet, and gave the Regional Director a respectful bow.
Chèri explained the situation. “Tell me, is it true? Are you guilty of withholding aid from those that need it?”
“No my Lady! I most certainly send aid to those in need. It’s just that I do not have enough for everyone. Sometimes, I have to choose between two villages,” he explained.
“That is not part of the program guidelines!” Chèri exclaimed angrily. “You are supposed to send a portion to everyone who needs it!”
“But, my lady… If one village still has a little, and another has nothing at all, shouldn’t they get priority?”
Chèri bit her lip as she thought this over. “Fine, I will look through your records to see if you’ve done your job to the best of your ability.”
He looked reluctant, and obviously suppressed a sigh. “Yes, my Lady.”
“In the meantime,” she gestured at the man that tried to kill her, “bring him to a cell, but do not hurt him. I want to verify his claim before passing judgment.”
“Yes my Lady,” the guards grumbled. It was near unheard of for anyone who attempted to kill a Regional Director to remain alive for more than 10 minutes after they were caught.
It was the day that Chèri listened to complaints from the people, but nearly being assassinated made her tremble with the desire to hide. She wasn’t afraid for her own life; it was that of her unborn child. If someone had managed to kill her, thus ending the baby’s life… she didn’t want to think about it!
“I’m going to rest,” she announced, politely ending the hearing for the day. She beckoned Ando closer, and whispered in his ear. “Have the official confined until I get a chance to look through his records.”
Ando nodded, and issued orders to the guards that had retrieved the Official. They nodded, and led him away.
Chèri really did rest for about a half an hour, taking the opportunity to eat something, but then she located the Official’s office, and started reading through all his records. By midnight, she was ready to have him hung for treason!
“Ando, look at this! He was definitely lying to me!” She exclaimed, thrusting a few scrolls into Ando’s hands. “He said he sent aid to towns with nothing, but in actuality, he sent aid mostly to certain towns, and ignored several others repeatedly. Occasionally, he did send aid to a town that was desperately in need, but most often, the ones that needed it most, he just ignored.”
Ando took a moment to look over the scrolls. “It looks like he favored the bigger towns over the smaller ones. I can see a tiny bit of logic in that, there’re more people in need in the bigger towns. However, according to this, he sent aid to those towns on a schedule, not based on when they actually needed it.”
Chèri read a new scroll, and gasped. “He didn’t send out everything! He only sent out about half of what we have to give! He was letting people starve!”
Ando read the inventory scroll over Chèri’s shoulder. “I see what you mean. What do we do now? No matter how you look at it, there’s not enough to go around.” He pointed to the stack of letters sent by villages in need.
Chèri sighed. “I’ll send a request to the correct Official in the Outer Palace for aid. I know he probably doesn’t have much left to give either, but every little bit will help.”
She stretched and yawned, exhausted by her day. “In the morning, I want everything we have left prepared to leave. We’re going to travel around the Region, and give out aid to those who’ve requested it. It won’t be much, but it’ll be better than nothing.”

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Chèri finished tying the request to the messenger bird’s leg, and sent it off to do its job.
“I should have handled the relief program myself,” she sighed, mentally kicking herself in the butt.
Ando shook his head. “You created the program because you can’t handle everything yourself.”
“Maybe not, but this is the most important thing for me to handle!”
Ando placed a hand on each of her shoulders. “Listen, it makes no sense for you to travel around. You’re needed here. Give this task to someone else.”
Chèri flung his hands aside, and walked a few steps away. “The people blame me, and they’re right. I gave my duty to someone else, and he did not do what he was supposed to. I should have kept a close eye on him at the very least! It’s my responsibility to fix this mess…”
“But how is it a good idea for you to go around doing this personally?” Ando demanded.
“Because! They have to see that I really do care! Otherwise, they’ll just send more desperate men to try to kill me.”
“They’re probably going to do that anyway, but you’ll be a much easier target out in the open,” Ando argued.
Chèri sighed. “I know…”
They heard the clock announce that it was one hour before midday.
“It’s time,” Chèri murmured.
She walked to the courtyard of the Regional Palace to find a large crowd of people waiting for her. Looking around lifted her spirits a little. She found a good place to stand, and then addressed the crowd.
The man who had tried to kill her was standing off to one side, under the careful watch of two guards. Chèri had sentenced him to come with her and help her as she did what was needed. It was a shockingly light sentence for the crime, but she refused to kill someone who was just trying to help his people, albeit by doing the wrong thing.
“I need volunteers,” she began. “It has recently come to my attention that many people throughout the Topaz Region are starving to death. They need so much more than food. They need healers, and… just about everything, I’m sure. If you think you can help, then I beg you to volunteer. Come with me as I seek out those in need and do what I can to help them.”
As much as she wanted to get on the road right this minute, Chèri forced herself to be patient as all the necessary details were seen to. She ordered the Official in charge of feeding the residents of the palace and the soldiers in the militia to supply their group with food, even if it meant that the residents and soldiers had to go on rations so that there was enough to go around. She didn’t think it was fair to bring aid to others, only to eat it up as they went.
She also separated out a couple of smaller portions of the aid to be sent directly to some of the towns it would take her longer to get to. Yes, they needed food the most, but she was bringing so much more, and it would take her time to get to all the towns that needed her.
The residents of Topaz city left her speechless! Those that could volunteer, did. Those that couldn’t dug deep into their personal stores of food, and gave what they could. They also gave herbs, and other supplies such as spare blankets and clothes. It wasn’t much, but it was more than she’d had. Their generosity simply amazed Chèri!
Eventually, everything was ready to go, and Chèri set out on what she felt was her most vital mission yet. Please let me save everyone! Please don’t let anyone starve to death, not if I can help them!
Winter was slowly turning to spring, but the cold lingered the longest in the mountains which was where the majority of the towns they needed to visit were located. The trip was going to be cold and miserable, but she was determined to keep everyone cheerful.

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The first town they came to quietly accepted her help, but they seemed almost ungrateful. The volunteers reported hearing them grumble that they Regional Director was doing too little too late. The majority of them still felt she should die for letting things get to this point.
Each town they went to got progressively worse, which was a good indicator of how little they had left. The first thing Chèri did in each town was cook up a big meal for everyone – with help from her volunteers and some of the soldiers she’d brought with. The soldiers were with to keep their aid supplies safe from the townsfolk who would surely demand that she hand over everything she had.
After everyone ate the meal Chèri cooked, she’d play her fiddle for them and sing to them. Slowly, she won them over, but by then, she’d have to move on. She couldn’t stay in any town too long.
Three months passed, it was now summer, but too many people were too sick to work their land. As a result, they were still in more or less the same situation, and she was running out of everything! Finally, the aid sent from the Imperial Palace arrived. That was the good news, the bad news was that there were fewer and fewer survivors left in each new town they came to. The people’s anger and resentment grew because she simply couldn’t get to everyone in time to prevent people from dying.
It was like a plague had swept across the land, which nearly broke Chèri’s heart. Their only real saving grace was that the herbs for the medicine that the doctors and healers she’d brought with her grew abundantly almost everywhere they went. Without them, there would have been little the healers could have done.
“Hey,” Ando crooned soothingly. He’d caught her crying alone in her tent. “You’re doing everything you can.”
Chèri nodded, but couldn’t speak. She was crying too hard.
Ando pulled her in his arms so that he could rock her, and hopefully calm her down. “Try not to let it get to you. You have to think about your child. This can’t be good for him or her.”
She tried her best to stop crying, and slowly, she went from almost sobbing to silent tears. She rubbed her belly, which was now rounded. She was almost 7 months pregnant, but thankfully, the winter houmongis and fur lined cloaks were enough to hide her stomach.
No one yet knew her secret. Though, they did wonder why she continued to wear winter gear now that it was summer. She explained that she still wasn’t used to the chilliness of the mountain air. Which was half true. What the people of the Topaz Region thought of as hot was actually warm bordering on cool to Chèri.
Two months later, she finally arrived in the last town that had sent for her help. They had already received something from the smaller groups, but it hadn’t been enough. Every single person here was sick and on their death bed, but they’d managed to hang on. Chèri got busy cooking, while the healers did what they could to revive everyone they could.
Chèri gasped suddenly, and dropped a pot of water on the ground. It was about to be set over a fire, but wasn’t hot yet.
“Are you hurt?” Ando asked in concern.
Chèri bit her lip a moment. “Hmm… yes, I think I sprained something. Ando, will you please carry me to my tent?”
“Yes, my lady,” he agreed.
One of the volunteers clucked like a mother hen. “You’re positively soaked, my Lady! Would you like me to come help you change into a new houmongi?” The woman was curious to see if the Lady always wore thick and smothering houmongis despite the summer – now fall – heat because she simply didn’t have anything else to wear, or if there was another reason. She figured that Chèri only had a choice between these rough work houmongis and the rich expensive ones that weren’t suitable for hard work. The woman really wanted to see some of the silk houmongis a lady should wear.
“No, that’s not necessary,” Chèri declined. Ando carried her away, and she whispered in his ear. “It’s time.”
“I guessed as much,” he murmured.
They had a plan to hide the birth from everyone too. About a mile from town, there was an abandoned hut. After changing out of the wet houmongi, Chèri announced that she had a strange urge to search the forest. She ordered everyone to continue what they were doing, and then told Ando to bring her for a ride.
People thought this was unusual, but Lady Chèri was known for doing strange things. They made it to the hut just in time to rest for about one minute before Chèri gave birth.
“A son!” Chèri announced, crying joyfully. “Reiki has an heir!” Her expression darkened. “If anyone found out…”
Ando nodded. “You’re right. There are still too many people who hope to use Reiki. They want him to marry their daughters and have the potential heir to the throne carry their blood. This baby won’t be safe until he’s at the Imperial Palace.”
Chèri smirked. “By the time we get back to the Regional Palace, it’ll be time to head out for the required New Year Meeting.”
Ando shook his head. “It took us five months of frequent stops to get this far into the mountains. Traveling home with no stops – but with a baby – will take us at least two months. We would then have to travel at a grueling pace to get to the Imperial Palace in time. Our best bet is to separate from the group at some point, and travel straight to the Imperial City.”
Chèri thought this over. “You’re right… Damn! This year has gone by so fast, and I didn’t even get to see how my programs were doing!”
“Honto’s got a good head on his shoulders. I’m sure everyone is doing just fine,” Ando stated.
“That’s true,” Chèri replied, absolutely certain that the people she left in charge of implementing her various plans were trust worthy enough to do a good job. “I think I’ll send a soldier on ahead with a message for Rei. I need him to send me a thorough report on the state of things. With any luck, things will not be so dire again this winter.”
“I don’t know, judging by the fact that many of the mountain people died or were too sick and hungry to work this summer. I think the crisis will be just as bad, even with the aid we’ve given them,” Ando reasoned.
Chèri groaned. “You’re probably right… I’ll have to remember to give Rei strict orders to have several smaller groups of people ready to distribute food just as winter begins. Hopefully, that will help.”
Ando snorted. “Only if there’s any food to give!”
“Stop trying to ruin my mood!” Chèri yelled at him.
He smirked. “Yes, my Lady.”
“Oh, and Ando?”
“Yes?”
Chèri smiled at him. “Thank you for helping me give birth to my child, I couldn’t have done it without you.”
He blushed. “Though perhaps it might be best if we don’t tell Reiki that I was the one who ‘caught’ his son as he was born.”
Chèri laughed. “I won’t lie if he asks, but I won’t volunteer the information either.”
“We should probably get back to town before someone decides to come looking for us,” Ando suggested.
Chèri nodded. As they rode into town – Ando carrying the bundle containing the sleeping baby – people swarmed around them.
“Are you alright, my Lady?” They wondered.
“Yes,” she assured them, preparing to act. “I had this strange urge to go look in the forest. We rode for close to an hour, the urge propelling me faster and faster, until I found the remains of a couple in the snow. They’d been eaten by wolves, and there wasn’t much left but blood and bones.”
People shuddered in horror. Wolves were an all too common predator.
“A few feet away, miraculously safe in a thick bundle of blankets, was a baby,” Chèri announced. “I really think that the Gods urged me to find the baby before it was too late!”
Ando held out the bundle, but didn’t open it so that people could see the baby. The story was hard to believe, but stranger things had happened. The people murmured reverently, and praised Chèri for rescuing the poor thing.
Chèri held up a hand for quiet. “I plan to raise this baby that the Gods have given me as my own, but I’m going to need help…”
A woman from the crowd raised her hand and waved it to catch Chèri’s attention. “You’ll need a wet nurse. I’ll volunteer.”
“Thank you,” Chèri smiled gratefully. “I think I shall honor the great man who has given me so many wonderful opportunities. I’ll name this baby Reiki, in the hopes that he will grow up to be just as good a person as the Emperor is.”
Most people still had a rather low opinion of the Emperor, but no one could deny that the changes he’d made were the reason that Lady Chèri was Regional Director. It made sense to them that she would honor him, and so they clapped mildly in approval of the name.
Three days later, Chèri dispatched a messenger with a letter for Rei, and then sent the bulk of her entourage after him. She retained only a small party of people for her trip to the Imperial City; the wet nurse and her young daughter, two soldiers for added protection, and of course Ando and baby Reiki.
During their long trip – just as it was getting terribly cold once again – a messenger arrived with Rei’s report. Chèri read it, and then sighed in relief.
“Good news?” Ando asked.
“It seems like the first results of my programs were better than expected. There should be just enough food to go around, and better yet, the sales were decent enough that we have some money to grow the programs next year,” Chèri summed up the report.
“He also says that everything we have will be distributed as quickly and fairly as possible.” Chèri sincerely hoped that her efforts would be enough. She also prayed that next year would be much better.
They were close to leaving Topaz Region by this point, and decided to stay the night in a large town. It was winter again, and people were afraid that it was going to be worse than before.
This town was not one of the ones that had needed aid as she traveled around. It had received plenty from the Official in charge of the relief program before she had discovered what he was doing. Even so, they looked like they were all overly thin and had probably suffered from the plague-like sickness that had spread across the Region.
A large crowd mobbed them, and dragged Chèri onto a platform despite Ando and the guards’ resistance.
“Death to the Regional Director!” They roared. “It’s because of you that the Gods have turned against us! Only by sacrificing you will They give their favor to us once more!”
“That’s ridiculous!” Chèri cried out. “I’m doing everything I can to help the people of Topaz Region!”
“It’s not enough!”
“Listen!” Chèri held her hand wide. She took a moment to look around the crowd, gently demanding silence so that she could speak.
Meanwhile, Ando and the other two guards were struggling. The men that held them captive were simple townsfolk, and they didn’t want to hurt them, but they would if they had to. If anyone actually threatened to harm Chèri, Ando would slay everyone in his path in order to rescue her. He also knew that Chèri depended on him to let her do her job before he acted.
“I promise this winter will not be as bad as the last one. I have already given orders to distribute food to all the cities, towns, and villages of Topaz Region. If you kill me, everyone in this town will be sentenced to death, and I won’t be here to stop the Emperor’s soldiers from carrying out the sentence! You have a choice to make, will you place your faith in me and trust that I will help you, or will you kill me and suffer the Emperor’s wrath?” Chèri asked, and then got to her knees to make it easier for them to execute her if that was their choice.
They hesitated. It’s true that the consequences for killing a Regional Director were dire, but they truly believed that it was what their Gods wanted. Baby Reiki’s wet nurse stepped forward.
“Stop! Do not harm my Lady! The Gods favor her! She has traveled across the land bringing aid to the people. On her journey, the Gods led her to an orphaned infant, and she took him in. If you kill her, the Gods will turn their backs on you forever!”
Chèri was touched. The wet nurse had walked in on her nursing her son enough times to know that Chèri had lied about finding the baby in the forest, but she had kept Chèri’s secret. It was surprising that the woman would now use the same lie to save Chèri.
The townsfolk grumbled amongst each other, wondering what to do. A man stepped forward from the back of the crowd.
“Don’t lose your nerve now! She is not favored by the Gods! They want her dead, and the proof is how bad things have been ever since she was appointed Regional Director!”
There was a subtle difference about the man that hinted that he didn’t belong here. The people didn’t know who to believe. Ando finally used just enough force to shake off those who held him down. He rushed to Chèri’s side, holding his sword out.
“I am an Imperial Guard assigned to protect the Regional Director by the Emperor himself. I vow to kill all who try to harm my Lady!” He warned.
“Ando…” Chèri murmured. She was confident and at peace. The crowd was almost silent, and had no trouble hearing her. “I do not condone killing, and you know it. Everything I do is to help and save the people. If they wish to take my life, you may not kill anyone trying to save me.”
“My Lady!” Ando protested, then sighed in resignation. “Fine, but know this,” he addressed the people again. “I may not be able to take a life, but the Emperor will. If you decide to kill my Lady, he will send his army to lay waste to this entire city!”
The man inciting the crowd scoffed. “Why would he? He doesn’t care about his people!”
“Maybe you’re right,” Ando suggested. “But the Emperor is the Gods’ will manifest on Earth. HE has personally appointed my Lady as the Director of this Region. If you kill her, he will consider it an act against him and the Gods!”
This was enough to convince most people that it was not wise to harm the Director. The man in charge of the town stepped in front of the one who still murmured to the crowd to take her life.
“I will not be responsible for the death of every man, woman, and child in town. Release her!”
Chèri sighed in relief. She had been bluffing about the Emperor killing everyone. It was within his right, but she had faith that he knew she would not want such a terrible thing. “Thank you! Ando, hand me my fiddle.”
Ando nodded, and then complied. When she was ready, she began to play the music to a ballad about the great famine several years ago. Her voice was clear and pure despite the tears that flowed from her eyes. When she was done, she set her fiddle aside, and looked around the crowd.
“I also suffered during the great famine. I know what it is like to starve. I vow that I will do everything I can to prevent it from happening in the future! Please, have faith in me,” Chèri ended with a near whisper.
People began to nod, and then wandered back to their homes, softly talking about their Regional Director, and how she really must be favored by the Gods.

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Chèri and company entered Nortown 3 days before she was required to meet with the Emperor for the New Year. She nearly sobbed as she hugged her father tight. They refused to let each other go for a good 10 minutes.
As they were holding onto each other, Ando paid the guards a bonus, and told them to go find some entertainment for a few hours.
“Can my Lady trust you?” He asked the wet nurse. She was holding her daughter, and Ando smiled at the toddler, honestly surprised at how well she had behaved during their journey. She also carried baby Reiki in a sling across her chest.
“I believe in Lady Chèri, and would protect her with my very life if need be,” the woman vowed fiercely.
Chèri nodded, and finally pulled out of her father’s arms. They were inside Sho’s house, but Ando still looked around to make sure there was no one who could overhear them.
“I have so much to tell you,” Chèri informed her dad. “But first, meet your grandson.”
The wet nurse thrust the sleeping three month old into Sho’s arms. Sho stared at him in astonishment.
“Grandson?”
Chèri smiled. “Yes… Last year – during my visit to the palace – I…” She blushed as she blurted out the truth. “Inadvertently signed a temporary marriage contract and then got pregnant.”
“I see…” Sho murmured, studying his grandson as if there was nothing in the world more interesting. “Does he know?”
Chèri shook her head. “Not yet.”

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 “Why do I always have to go last?” Chèri asked despite knowing that it was because her Region was the least prosperous. She fiddled with her lavish houmongi, and paced the room. She was alone, waiting her turn.
Finally, the doors opened, and it was her turn to see the Emperor. She took a deep breath to calm her nervousness. This was the first time she was going to be in front of a large audience, and she hadn’t done anything worth talking about.
She smoothly walked to the dais in front of the Emperor, knelt, sat on her feet, placed her right fist in her left palm, and the bowed so that her sleeves covered her face. She remained exactly this way until given permission to look up at the Emperor.
The herald read a list of her accomplishments as Director for the year that’d just ended. It was pitifully short, however… it was still something to be proud of.
“Director Ruby…” Emperor Reiki stated. “Look up, and tell us if this list is accurate and truthful.”
Chèri lowered her arms and raised her eyes. She bestowed the most brilliant smile on her husband, and then briefly looked at his two bodyguards. They all looked weary from their duties.
“Yes, Imperial Majesty. The list accurately describes what I have done during the year,” she confirmed. Apparently, Rei had sent an extremely detailed report to the Emperor as well.
“And, what are your plans for the future?”
Chèri took a deep breath, her smile getting just a bit wider with pride. “I plan to continue on as I have, growing and increasing the prosperity of Topaz Region.”
He took a deep breath to cover his dismay at her words. After he felt he could talk without betraying his emotions, he continued. “And the other matter we discussed? Have you made a decision?”
Chèri let her smile fade, and looked at her hands for a moment. “Yes…”
“What have you decided?” Reiki asked impatiently.
“I’ve decided… that…” Chèri hesitated only because this was hard to say out loud in front of everyone. “I will marry you. As much as I love being Director of the Topaz Region, and fully plan to keep my position… I love you more…”
The assembled Officials forgot to breathe resulting in an astonished silence. Reiki’s expression softened.
“You mean it?” He asked hopefully.
“Yes,” Chèri confirmed, smiling at him again.
He stood abruptly, and pulled her to her feet. Disregarding the fact that everyone was watching, and such displays were not considered appropriate, he hugged her tight, and then kissed her.
“Finally!” General Sapphire exclaimed, smiling at them.
“Took her long enough!” General Ruby agreed.
When Reiki had enough of kissing her – for now – he dismissed the meeting, and waved to the servants waiting to open the partition. The women and others waiting for the ball to begin joined the Officials. The members of the nobility that were here to celebrate also moseyed into the room. Everyone immediately noticed that the Emperor had an arm around Director Ruby’s waist.
Ando, as Chèri’s bodyguard, had been allowed to wait with the nobility and their attendants. He wore a sling style bag on his back, but no one paid him the slightest attention.
Reiki waited for the initial murmuring to die down. “May I have your attention? … After last year’s celebration, Lady Ruby and I signed a temporary marriage contract. It is my greatest joy to announce that she has finally agreed to marry me permanently!”
Chèri’s face was redder than ever as people congratulated them on their happy news. She took a deep breath, and cleared her throat. “A- … Also…”
Reiki stroked her cheek so that she would look him in the eyes. “Yes?”
“I would like to introduce you to…” she paused and took another deep breath. “Your son.”
The blood drained from Reiki’s face, and she had to hold him steady. “My… son?”
Chèri nodded, and gestured for Ando to come forward. Ando got down on one knee next to them, and held up the sling style bag he’d worn. Chèri took it, and revealed her baby. She gently handed him to his father, and Reiki looked absolutely enchanted.
“I didn’t want anyone to know about him until you did, so I kept my pregnancy a secret. When I gave birth, I claimed to have found him in the woods… I didn’t want to risk anyone objecting to his existence…”
“What’s his name?” Reiki asked.
“I named him after you… Reiki,” Chèri admitted.
The baby looked at his father as if fascinated by this new person. Reiki held him up – carefully, afraid he might drop him – and showed him to the assembled crowd that clamored to get a look at him.
“May I introduce my Heir, Prince Reiki!”
Everyone clapped again, only this time, they sounded like they meant it. It was a great relief to everyone that the Emperor had finally seen to the future of the Empire. They weren’t entirely certain whether or not to believe Lady Chèri about the child being the Emperor’s, but ultimately, only the Emperor could accept or deny the child.
Reiki excused himself so that he could spend time with his new son, and escorted Chèri out of the room after him. They walked to the Inner Palace in awkward silence. Reiki was preoccupied with their baby, and Chèri was worried that he would object to her keeping her position as Regional Director once they were officially married.
Even Ran and Ko were silent as they walked behind the couple, which was unusual. The two of them always tried to crack jokes and lighten the mood whenever they could. For the moment, they were also in mild shock over the unexpected existence of baby Reiki.
As for Ando, he was busy wondering if he was going to be reassigned now, or continue on as Chèri’s personal bodyguard. Which option would be better? He wondered.

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A wedding between commoners – or even nobles – was complicated enough, but a wedding to the Emperor, especially when he vowed to only marry once, was downright arduous! Chèri was wearing 12 different layers of houmongi… She couldn’t even move!
So, instead of her walking to her husband to be – as was the way people got married in the foreign Kingdom, Chèri remembered from her youth – she sat on a chair on display for all who were lucky enough to attend the wedding. She sat perfectly still, and forced herself to be patient as the Priest rambled on and on and on about the Gods, the Emperor, and the duties of a wife, especially one about to become the First Queen.
Eventually, Reiki was led through the ceremonial Groom’s dance – after he was lectured on the duties of a good husband. Finally, the Priest tied their hands together, signifying that they were now bound together forever.
Chèri couldn’t stop her hand from shaking nervously. There’s no changing my mind now! She took a few calming breaths, and then smiled at her husband.
Reiki’s hand also shook. He was so excited to have his deepest wish come true that he could barely contain it. It was all he could do to stop himself from lifting her in his arms and carrying her to his bed!
The Priest announced their permanently married status, and the crowd cheered. The wedding took place in the ballroom. Up to this point, the audience had simply stood, and then sat on their feet as they watched the ceremony. Now, they mingled and ate food from the large buffet provided.
A table was brought to Chèri and Reiki. They were served a feast, and ate with their hands still bound – his left hand to her right – which meant that he had to feed her. They laughed as he accidently got a little food on her face, and then kissed.
Much later, Reiki helped Chèri walk to the private hallway that led to the Inner Palace. The moment they were alone – except for Ran and Ko – Chèri stopped and refused to take another step.
“I simply cannot walk in this!” She exclaimed fervently.
Reiki smiled, and kissed her on the nose. “Then let me help you remove a few layers.”
They removed the binding on their hands, and then 10 of the 12 layers, and insisted that Ran and Ko carry them. Both gave fake long suffering sighs.
“What am I? A pack mule?” Ran asked.
“You finally admit that your looks are horrible!” Ko teased.
Ran scoffed. “You’re just jealous…”
Chèri laughed, and resumed walking to the small building that was the Emperor’s room. She and the baby had stayed with him up until the wedding, but they hadn’t made love all that often. Aside from a couple of times the first night they were reunited, she had wanted to wait until they were permanently married. She couldn’t really explain why, it just felt right to her.
Reiki almost felt that waiting for one short month – they both wanted to get married permanently before the temporary contract expired – had been longer than all the years he had waited for her combined! He gestured for Ran and Ko to discard their burden quickly, and then leave them alone. Even the wet nurse – who still couldn’t believe that Lady Chèri married the Emperor! – had taken Baby Reiki elsewhere for the night.
Chèri felt like it was her first time! She was so nervous that her hands started shaking again.
“What’s wrong?” Reiki wondered.
“Nothing’s wrong, I just love you so much that my heart is pounding. I’m afraid that it will break through my chest,” she admitted.
Reiki placed one of her hands over his heart. “It’s the same for me.”
Chèri melted, wrapping her arms around him. Reiki took this as his signal to carry her to bed.

I originally intended part 11 to be the last chapter, but as I was writing it, I realized that there was something left that needed to be done. So, I took what I wrote that happens next, and made it the start of the next chapter. I do intend it to be the last one though :-)

Go To Part 12 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Visual Aid

In Sanguin, I talk about their dresses, but I have to admit my descriptions just don't convey the picture in my head, so, I have decided to provide some visual aids to help the mental image form...

From DeviantArt. Now, as I picture it, there's color and ruffles... and chains, buwahahahaha!

So, another pic to help the image: Bonus, this one will help you picture the shiny thigh high leather boots :-)
From DeviantArt.

Also, here's a picture of what I imagine Lady Desespoir wearing:
From DeviantArt

Now, for a couple of pictures that inspired the story. I watched a clip on youtube, and some of the images shown made me wonder what would happen if normally wholesome and innocent girls were turned into... powerful and slightly perverse girls, lol!

From DeviantArt

From DeviantArt

Anyway... yeah, this is what inspired the story, and I think I might hang onto this one for when I'm in the mood to write something dark, lol :-D

Sanguin


“But we don’t have any money!”
“I’m sorry, but the law states that you pay your taxes one way or another. If you can’t pay with money, we’ll take one of your children to work until they can pay off what you owe.”
The woman gasped in horror, and covered her mouth as she tried not to cry. Her husband stood as stoically as he possibly could, but his posture was obvious hurt too. They had 5 children, but 4 of them were younger than 10. Only their eldest daughter seemed old enough to work off the taxes they owed.
“H… How long will it take?” The husband asked.
The tax collector shrugged. “Who knows? Generally a year or two.”

*****

“Be careful Danny!”
“Don’t worry Sandra; I’m the best at climbing trees.”
“I agreed to catch the apples, not you if you fall!” Sandra warned.
“I’ve been climbing these trees all my life; I’m not going to fall!” Danny assured her.
“You’re lucky your family owns an orchard,” Sandra stated, hiding her envy.
“Don’t worry, in just 3 years, I’ll be 18, and then I can marry you. It’ll be your orchard too then,” Danny informed her.
Sandra gasped. “Marry?! Who said anything about getting married?”
“My parents. They think you’d be the perfect bride for me.”
Sandra laughed. “Oh Danny… You’re probably right. I know my parents will be glad when they can marry me off. I’m just glad I’m still only 14, and they have to wait at least another 2 years.”
“That’s strange, look! There are men coming this way,” Danny pointed out.
Sandra shaded her eyes with a hand, and squinted to get a better look. “You’re right, and they have my parents with them. I wonder if something is wrong?”
The men were soon standing in front of the tree.
“Sandra…” her father began, trying hard not to cry.
The tax collector cleared his throat. “This is the one?”
Sandra’s father nodded.
“Fine then, I hereby take her into custody until she can work off the tax you owe. I’d suggest that you do whatever it takes pay your taxes in the future, or it will take even longer before she can be returned.”
Two of the men accompanying the Tax collector seized Sandra.
“No! Wait!” She cried out frantically. “Where are you taking me? What’s going on?”
“Don’t worry; you’ll see your parents again… as soon as you pay what they owe.”
 “How much?” Sandra demanded to know, resisting them the best she could.
“200 zeni.”
Sandra slumped. It was the appropriate amount of taxes for a family that owned the amount of land they did. The problem was that their land had been almost barren the last couple of years, and they couldn’t afford to pay it. It would probably take her a couple of years to work that off, especially if they couldn’t pay next year.
They dragged her to a cart full of goods and a couple of other children they had taken in lieu of money. She quieted down when she realized that if she protested too much, the collector would just take one of her younger siblings.
“No!” Danny protested. “Surely my parents can help!”
The collector smirked. “Go ask them. If they’re willing, they can come get her from us before we return to the Capitol city.”

⌇⌇⌇⌇⌇

“It’s been 3 years! Surely she’s paid off your taxes by now!” Danny roared.
Sandra’s parents shrugged. “All we know is that she did something not too long after she left that put a large credit in place of our taxes. We have no idea why she hasn’t come home.”
“That doesn’t sound good,” Danny murmured with a frown. “I’m going to go find her!”
“What if you can’t find her? What if she’s unable to come home?” Her parents asked, betraying the fact that they really were very worried about their daughter, even though they tried to pretend that nothing was wrong.
“My grandfather died a couple of months back, and left me some money. Hopefully, it’ll be enough to rescue her no matter what kind of trouble she’s in,” Danny prayed.
“But why? Why would you do this for our daughter?”
Danny was quiet for a moment. “Because… I want to marry her. Because I’m still angry with my parents for not saving her. Because I just have to know what happened to her.”
They each placed a hand on him sympathetically. “Don’t be too hard on your parents. They couldn’t help, we understood that.”
“Even so… I’m going,” Danny stated.
“Good luck,” they wished him, hugging him to convey their gratitude.

“I’m looking for a girl taken instead of taxes three years ago,” Danny informed the Tax Collector.
“Name and location she was taken from?” The Collector asked.
Danny gave him the information he needed, and waited for him to look through his records.
“Ah… It seems that she was too much of a handful, and was sent to work at the mines. From there, a large payment was sent to us, so as far as we’re concerned, she’s fulfilled her service.”
The mines! Danny pushed the alarming thought to the back of his mind, sighed, and mumbled his thanks.

“I’m looking for a girl sent to work in the mines about 3 years ago,” Danny explained to the man in charge. He then gave the necessary information so he could look her up.
“Hmm… She’s not on record as ever having worked here… let me try one more record…”
Danny waited what seemed like forever, but finally, he had an answer.
“She was bought before she ever got here.”
“Bought?” Danny questioned. “As in slavery?”
“No one knows for sure, but every once in a while, a girl is bought by the crown.”
“Do you have any idea where they took her?” Danny asked desperately.
The man shrugged, and then wrote an address down on a piece of paper. “This is my best guess.”
“Thanks…” Danny said, feeling almost depressed. He had really hoped to find her by now.

Danny looked around the courtyard with apprehension. There was no doubt about it, this was the correct address, but he didn’t know whether to hope she was here, or hope she wasn’t.
“Such grotesque statues…” he murmured to himself as he inspected the 4 statues of naked men lining the path to the front door. Each one was the height of actual men, and they had life like skin-tone, but they were all contorted and shackled into awkward and painful positions that no real men could possibly withstand. To add to the realism, the statues all looked like they had been severely beaten and scratched.
Danny caught himself about to touch one, but shivered and backed away before he actually did. One of the statues opened his eyes, and looked straight at him. He clutched his heart, and jumped back at least a foot, almost bumping into a statue on the other side of the path.
“Are you stupid? Leave here before they catch you!” The statue insisted.
“What?” Danny asked. “I’m here to find a girl.”
“Trust me! You don’t want to find any of the girls here!” Another statue exclaimed.
They were seriously freaking him out, so Danny ran away from them towards the door.
“Don’t say we didn’t warn you!” The statues called out after him.
Danny took a moment to calm both his heartbeat and his breathing, and then knocked on the door. The door knocker was shaped like a man bent in half, and in order to use it, one had to grasp its torso, and bang his rear against the door.
“What kind of place is this?” Danny wondered.
The door echoed like thunder for a moment. Danny unconsciously held his breath as he waited for the door to open. Finally, with a sound like timber cracking, the door parted from its frame to reveal a woman.
“Can I help you?” She asked. She was dressed as a maid, and had a kind expression to go along with her sweet aura.
“Um… I’m looking for a girl that was brought here about three years ago. Her name is Sandra.”
“I’m sorry, but there’s no one by that name here,” the maid informed him.
“Are you certain? She’s 17 by now, and has blonde hair and blue eyes.”
“Hmm… it’s true that a couple of girls match that description, but none of them are named Sandra,” the maid stated.
“Can I please see them for myself?” Danny inquired.
“Are you here as a customer then?” The maid wondered.
“Customer?” He paled. If this was some sort of brothel, he would do whatever it took to rescue his future bride.
“If you’re here as a customer, you can come in and look the girls over, but other than that, I can’t let you through the door.”
Danny took a deep breath to give himself time to think.
“Seriously, run away while you still can!” One of the statues yelled.
The maid’s kind and friendly aura evaporated. “Statues are not allowed to talk! If their majesties were not coming for an inspection in less than an hour, I would have you all brought in to be beaten!”
She returned her attention to Danny, her sweet aura back as if it had never disappeared. “Sorry about that. Sometimes the statues forget to keep their mouths shut.”
“Uh…” Danny uttered, not knowing what to say.
“Anyway, we do have their majesties coming soon, so perhaps it would be best if you came back later,” she suggested.
“I’m not leaving until I find her!” Danny insisted.
“Suit yourself,” the maid shrugged. She stepped back to allow him in, and then shut the door with a resounding boom. “It’s also true that girls are bought by our lady from time to time. Those that can handle the rigorous requirements become mistresses here, and those that can’t either become maids, or they go home. Occasionally a girl dies…”
Danny felt his heart stop. “Would you know if Sandra was one of the ones who’ve died?”
“I’ve only worked here for about 2 years, so if she died before I came, you’d have to ask someone else.”
“I see… Well, how many ladies are there?” Danny wondered.
“Total? There’s the Lady, six Mistresses, and 4 of us maids.”
“So… you really would know if someone was named Sandra,” Danny replied, his hope that maybe she was just lost in the crowd utterly crushed.
“We maids are trained in domination just as the Mistresses are, but we are not as…”
“Demanding,” a new woman supplied the missing word. “You are capable of commanding obedience from a naturally submissive man, but you do not have what it takes to break a strong man and bend him to your will.”
The maid nodded. “Exactly so.”
“So the question is, potential customer, do you wish for a relatively gentle touch? Or would you prefer someone who can truly strip you free of your will and remake you into a new person?”
“In just one night?!” Danny asked incredulously.
“Usually, unless you are very strong of spirit,” the woman smirked. She had black hair and blue eyes, and was wearing a strange dress that was low cut, had short sleeves, and the skirt was split up the middle almost to her womanhood. It parted to either side to show off her legs, but was otherwise full length. The dress was purple and black, and abundant with lacy ruffles… and chains… She completed the outfit with a pair of shiny black leather boots that came to her mid thigh, and had long sharp heels.
Danny forced himself to stop thinking about what she was talking about. He shook his head. “I’m just here to find a girl named Sandra.”
The strangely dressed Mistress smiled patiently. “I am Mistress Abattre. It means to beat, as in to beat up any man who does not bend to my will.”
She gestured around the room. “These are my sisters, Mistress Misere, Mistress Douleur, Mistress Soumettre, and Mistress Panique. We’ve all been taught by our Lady how to break a man using our respective specialties. Misery, Pain, Subjugation, and Panic. Which are you in the mood for?”
The four other women were all wearing almost exactly the same outfit, except in different colors contrasting with the black – gray, bright red, dark orange, and dark blue. The dresses were made from expensive fabrics and made the Mistresses look like they could be high society ladies, except they were all twisted and perverse.
Danny held up his hands, and stepped backwards towards the door a few steps. “I really think I’m in the wrong place.”
“As if we will let you leave so easily,” Abattre laughed.
“I…” Danny searched for a good reason for them to let him go. “I probably don’t have enough money to be a customer. I just came here looking for Sandra.”
“That’s not a problem, we can always take our payment in blood,” Mistress Soumettre informed him. She then cupped her hand around her mouth to amplify her voice as she shouted. “Mistress Sanguin, this one is for you!”
The entire room fell silent, and then Danny heard the clicking of heels striding closer. Slowly, a woman wearing the same dress in black and dark red – the color of dried blood, Danny thought – emerged from a dark corridor. She had her blonde hair pulled back into a tight bun.
“Sandra?!” Danny gasped. The woman stared at him coldly, her blue eyes bored holes in his soul. Her expression softened just a hair.
“Danny?”
“Sandra!” Danny exclaimed happily. “I’ve come to rescue you! I have enough money to pay off your debt and bring you home.”
The five other Mistresses all laughed as if he had just told the funniest joke they’d ever heard. Even Sandra smiled in amusement.
“You don’t understand, I am not some sort of slave or indentured servant. I am a free woman in their Majesties service. I am Mistress Sanguin! My specialty is blood… To honor the friendship we once shared, I will give you a choice. Will you stay and pay for the privilege with your blood, or will you leave now while I’m still being generous?”
Danny unconsciously took a step closer to the door. “Your parents are worried about you! Won’t you please come home?”
Sanguin’s soft expression disappeared completely. “Go home? To parents who had no choice but to let me be taken to pay their taxes? Why would I choose that when here I perform an important service? Here, I am powerful!”
Mistress Panique tapped her thigh lightly with a sturdy riding crop. “I beg to differ! We are powerful no matter where we go, but why would any of us leave when all our toys and wonderful playthings are right here?”
“I think I’ll go now,” Danny decided.
“Fine,” Sanguin granted generously. She pointed at the maid, who was still waiting to see if she would be needed.
The maid opened the door, the effort making her muscles harden visibly. Danny suddenly realized that escape from this place would be almost impossible. No wonder the statues warned me not to come in here!
“Tell my parents that I’m well, and happy. Perhaps I’ll visit them… I do miss everyone, but not enough to go home,” Sanguin said.
Outside, Danny discovered a carriage bearing the royal crest, and half a dozen guards unloading an armored wagon full of burly looking men. Sanguin pushed Danny to the side, and whispered a command for him to stay put and out of the way.
Mistress Abbattre ran up to the man who looked like he was the toughest of them all. She punched his left cheek without any warning whatsoever.
“You think you can resist us?” She demanded. “You think that you can withstand all the pain and agony that we will make you suffer? Who knows, maybe you can, but can you withstand that?!”
The men all looked at the statues. “If you resist submitting to our will, we will lock you up out here and leave you to rot!”
“But don’t think that will get you out of daily torture and punishment,” Mistress Douleur continued the obviously well used speech. She selected a different victim, and pressed a metal rod to his abdomen. He screamed as if he was on fire, and tried to get free, but the guards prevented him.
A new woman strode out of the still open door followed by 4 naked but perfectly obedient men. She wore an all black dress – that seemed to shine with a hint of blood as the light hit it – made from velvet. It didn’t have a part to show off her legs, but was decorated with manacles, and various other shiny chains. She carried a letter.
The door to the carriage opened, and the King and Queen stepped out. “Lady Desespoir,” they greeted.
“Majesties,” Lady Desespoir curtseyed respectfully. The men accompanying her all dropped to their knees, and bowed their heads. “As you can see, I have a few men ready to be of service to you.”
“You’ve done an excellent job, as always,” the King praised. He accepted the letter she handed him, which was all the notes they had taken on each of the men. Often, secrets and vital information came out as they broke a man.
“You men!” Lady Desespoir pointed at the prisoners, and then gestured at the obedient men. “Take a good look at these men here. They have been reborn, and now vow to serve the Kingdom and their Majesties without fear or hesitation. This is your fate. If you do not break to our will, you will die. Those are your only options. I am Lady Desespoir, and my specialty is despair!”
One of the prisoners dared to scoff. “You expect us to be afraid of a bunch of women?”
Sanguin marched up to him without the slightest regard for the fact that he was taller and far more muscular than she was. She let him examine her nails for a moment. Each finger was tipped with a sharp metal spike that was a razor.
“I am Mistress Sanguin; you will fear me, because I will take your blood little by little until I have completely exsanguinated you!” She used the nails of her right hand to scratch an X across his chest. It immediately bled profusely. She placed her hand on his neck, and dug one nail in to drive home the point that she held his life in her hands.
Lady Desespoir accepted a packet of information on all the new prisoners, and continued to chat with theKing and Queen for a few moments. Meanwhile, all the Mistresses except Sanguin forced the new prisoners into the house and down to the dungeon. After that, the “inspection” was over, and the King and Queen got in their carriage and left.
Lady Desespoir decided to inspect the statues. She examined them closely, and as hard as they were trying to appear silent and submissive, something in their eyes promised to murder her the first chance they got. She laughed.
“Sanguin, I think it’s time they bleed a little more.”
“Yes, my Lady,” Sanguin replied with a quick curtsey. She circled one slashing him randomly with her nails.
Lady Desespoir snapped her fingers, and ordered. “Bring me some honey!” A maid that had been paying attention from near the door immediately rushed away to do as commanded.
When the maid returned a few moments later, she held out the jar for the Lady. Lady Desespoir smeared honey all over the men after Sanguin scratched them up. The Lady then smiled at the maid.
“Come check on them in the morning. If there’s anything left after the insects and the animals come to feast, then bring them inside and let them decorate a wall in the dungeon for a bit.”
“Yes, my Lady!” The maid replied almost eagerly.
“Came, Sanguin, we have work to do,” she purred, stroking Sanguin’s cheek with one finger as she walked towards the house.
“I will follow momentarily. I just want to send this man away with a message for my family,” Sanguin explained, pointing to Danny, who was gaping at them in horror.
“As you wish,” Desespoir murmured, and then strutted away.
The moment they were alone, Danny shakily approached Sanguin.
“This is a horrible place! What did they do to you?!” He cried out.
“They saved me and gave me a purpose,” Sanguin replied. “I’ll tell you.”

⋨ ⋩ ⋨ ⋩ ⋨ ⋩

Sandra sat in the back of the cart with her arms wrapped around her knees. She was still in shock from being ripped from her parents so suddenly. They may have been poor, but they were always happy and loving.
When they arrived at the Tax Collector’s office, the children were all assigned a place to work. They started with the boys, both ten. The Tax Collector examined them carefully.
“This one has spirit. He’ll be a cabin boy… Do you like that? It’s high adventure for you!”
The boy nodded with a grin.
“And the other… You’re not spirited… I think a coal delivery boy,” the Collector pronounced. The boy sighed in relief, and nodded.
He moved on to the other girl in the cart. She was 8 or 9. “Washing dishes in the Dancing Bear Inn. That should be suitable.” She nodded, also looking a bit relieved that he didn’t assign her somewhere horrible.
“You…” He pointed at Sandra as he thought. “You’re old enough to be a maid, or… a shop helper…”
One of the assistant collectors cleared his throat. “Sir… working as a maid or shop helper would take her years to pay off the tax, but if she were sent to the madam, she could pay it off in a matter of months.”
“You have a point…” the Tax Collector mused.
His assistant caressed Sandra’s body as if picturing the delights he would soon uncover.
“No!” Sandra protested. “I’ll be a maid! I’ll be a very good maid!”
The Tax Collector shrugged. “If that’s what you wish.”
His assistant wouldn’t drop the matter though. “Sir, if you just give me a few minutes alone with her, I’m sure I could change her mind.”
Sandra cringed as he squeezed her butt, and then smacked his hand away. “Stop touching me!”
He grabbed her by the wrist. “Why you disobedient little brat!”
She struggled, kicking him in the shin as she tried to pull free from his grasp. The Tax Collector sighed.
“Clearly, she doesn’t have the right attitude to be a maid or a working girl. She needs some discipline. To the mines with her!”
“What?!” Sandra demanded. “Mines?!”
The Tax Collector smiled at her reassuringly. “Don’t worry, the sooner you learn to do what you’re told, the sooner you’ll be returned here for reassignment. … Of course… if it takes you too long to learn your lesson, you’ll likely die, and then we’ll have to make another trip out to your parents in order to collect their taxes.”
“No!” Sandra begged. “Please don’t! I’ll be a good maid, I promise!” She struggled and fought as the assistants all dragged her back out towards the cart.
All too soon, she was on her way to the mines. The journey was supposed to take 2 weeks, but 3 days before they arrived, a carriage stopped, and forced them to wait for a few moments.
Out of the carriage stepped a woman who was both beautiful and strange. She wore a dark dress and makeup, and had a powerful aura.
“You there, girl. Stand up and let me have a look at you,” she commanded.
“If you want to take me to a brothel and make me submit to men, then I would rather work in the mines!” Sandra informed her with attitude.
The woman laughed. “You have the right attitude, I like that. Now… Stand up and let me have a look at you!” She commanded in no uncertain terms.
Sandra complied.
“Has a man ever showed himself between your legs?” The woman asked.
“No,” Sandra replied with a shudder.
“If one were to do so, what would you want to do to him?”
Sandra narrowed her eyes, and growled. “I’d want to kick him, and scratch his eyes out! I’d want to tear open his neck and let him bleed to death!”
“Bleed, huh?” She smirked. “Your specialty shall be blood. If you come with me, I’ll see to it that you never have to submit to any man ever… unless you want to.”
“Wait a minute!” The two men escorting the girl to the mines protested. “We can’t just give her to you!”
“I am Lady Desespoir. I am acting with the full authority of their Majesties. If you try to stop me, you’ll find yourselves in my dungeon.”
“Yes my Lady!” They hastily agreed.
She handed them a small purse full of money. “That is to pay whatever she owes. You may each take a small amount to compensate for your trouble, but that money had better get to the Tax Collector and be credited to her account. Trust me, I’ll check,” Lady Desespoir chuckled menacingly.
“Yes my Lady!”
She held a hand out to Sandra. “Come. Leave all this nastiness behind you.”
Sandra smiled at her savior. “Yes, Lady Desespoir.”
The Lady gestured for Sandra to get into her carriage, smiling fondly. “You’re lucky I was in the area delivering something.”
A week later, Sandra got her first look at the Lady’s large house. It was not quite big enough to be considered a mansion, but it was certainly bigger than anything Sandra had ever seen.
“At first, you shall be trained in strength and endurance. After all, it will be your job to subdue fully grown men. For that, you will need all the skill you can get.”
“Yes my Lady,” Sandra replied, grinning at the prospect.
“Hold out your hands?” The Lady commanded. Sandra complied, and watched curiously as sharp metal spikes were placed on each of her fingers, and then tightened securely. “This shall be your weapon. It will take you a while to stop scratching yourself, but once these are a part of who you are, you’ll never be at anyone’s mercy.”

Months passed as Sandra was taught basic fighting skills, and drilled in strength and – most importantly for her – speed. Her attacks would rely on her ability to get close to her opponent quickly, and strike. This was to subdue an unruly subject. Most of the time, she would need to know how deep to cut and where.
When Sandra had been with Lady Desespoir a year, the Lady and her entire household threw the girl a party.
“Congratulations!” The Mistresses cheered. “You are now one of us!”
Lady Desespoir stroked her head as if praising a well trained dog. “From now on, your name shall be Sanguin, which means blood.”
Sandra thought this through quietly. To be honest, she had been nervous and squeamish at times. She was not naturally a person who enjoyed hurting others, but she had so much talent. The skills came easy to her, and she was good at what she did.
Plus, the men that came here were criminals. They were sentenced to death, but given a second chance at life. All they needed to do was pledge their loyalty and service to the King and Queen. If the Mistresses could get them to do so, them they lived. If not, they died.
Sandra considered it a service worth performing if she was able to save even one life. She nodded, smiling.
“Yes, my Lady. I am Sanguin, and my specialty is blood!”

Go To Part 2 

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