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Monday, July 16, 2012

Sanguine - Part 2

Part 2

The carriage rolled to a stop, and a footman hastily jumped to open the door. Six women climbed out of the carriage, and then stood looking at the small house for a moment. Some of them looked displeased, but one radiated happiness.
Couldn't we have done this when it's not so cold out?” Abattre complained.
You know as well as I that winter is the only time we seem to run out of useful work to do,” Douleur reminded her. “Now stop whining, it's good to get out every once in a while.”
A man and a woman emerged from the house, both frowning and obviously trying to hide fear. “Can we help you?”
Sanguine stepped forward with a smile. “Mother, Father... It's so good to see you!” She tugged the hood off her head and then rushed forward to hug them.
Sandra?!” They asked incredulously. Each took a moment to squeeze her tight. “Danny told us that he found you, and that you were well, but he refuse to tell us anything else!”
Sanguine laughed. “I'm sure he didn't want to think about it!” She turned to indicate her friends. “These are my sisters now. Soumettre, Panique, Misere, Douleur, and Abattre.”
Are you sure there'll be enough room for us all to stay for an entire week?” Panique asked, her manner that of someone who'd never had to share a room in her life. She was born a street rat, so that wasn't true, but she dearly loved her privacy.
We'll manage,” Sanguine assured them.
You're only staying for a week?” Her parents asked both happy to have her visit and sad that she wasn't coming home for good.
Sanguine laughed a rich deep laugh. “I doubt you could handle us any longer than that!”
Sanguine?” Misere asked. “Whatever are we going to do here for a whole week?”
Sanguine shrugged. “I don't know... Normal things that normal people do?”
What's normal?” Abattre asked with a laugh. The young women all looked at each other but no one had an answer to that question.
Frowning at the sheer strangeness of the question, Sanguine's mother changed the subject. “In any case, you girls can stay in the attic. It should be plenty big enough for all of you.”
Sanguine nodded and then snapped her fingers.
Yes Mistress!” The footman and the carriage driver replied instantly and leapt to gather the luggage.
And don't you dare drop a thing, or it'll be the stick for you!” Douleur warned them.
Yes Mistress!” They chorused fearfully.
Soumettre laughed, and then threw back her hood. “I don't know why we haven't taken a vacation sooner. Just smell that fresh air!”
We have fresh air at home!Abattre insisted.
Soumettre growled. “Oh don't make me hurt you, I can you know!”
Abattre scoffed incredulously. “Oh please! I could beat you within an inch of your life before you had a moment to realize I'd even moved!”
Sanguine crossed her arms and glared at them. “There will be no fighting while we are here or you'll answer to me.”
Yes Sanguine,” they all replied reluctantly. They couldn't help it, it was part of their training to fight each other in order to keep their skills sharp.
Why do they keep calling you that strange word?” Sanguine's father asked. By this point, her younger brothers and sisters had all gathered around behind their parents. She smiled at them each for a moment before returning her attention to her father.
Because, that is my name. I am Mistress Sanguine, and my specialty is blood,” she explained.
What does that mean?” Her mother wondered.
It means that I have a very important job for the King and Queen, as do my sisters. Together, we reform criminals who would otherwise be executed. Each one of us has a specialty we use; mine is blood.” Sanguine smiled at them again to reassure them that this was a good thing.
One by one, her sisters raised their hands. “My specialty is Misere... Misery.”
Panique mean panic.”
Abattre means to beat, as in beat up anyone who doesn't do what I tell them to.”
I'm Soumettre, and my specialty is subjugation.”
My specialty is pain... Douleur...”
At that exact moment, the driver and the footman returned from bringing all the luggage up to the attic. They dropped to their knees in front of Douleur.
She smiled at them, petting their heads like well trained dogs. “Good job!”
Their chests puffed up in pride. They easily out weighed their mistresses, and they had muscles to match, so it baffled Sanguine's parents that they seemed so afraid of these young women.
Sanguine rested a gloved hand on the driver's cheek, causing him to suppress a shudder of severe nervousness. “You may leave us now. Go to the nearby town and wait until we are ready to leave... Enjoy your 7 days of freedom...”
Yes Mistress!” They blurted out in relief.
And remember,” Misere added. “If we hear so much as a whisper that you misbehaved while in town...” She didn't need to finish the threat.
No mistress! We would never misbehave!”
Good!” Abattre stated, and then pointed to the carriage. The two men hastily scrambled to get in it and leave.
They all watched the carriage leave for a moment, and then noticed a new carriage approach them.
That's strange...” Sanguine's father muttered. “Why is he here?”
The moment the carriage came to a stop, a portly Lord stepped out of it, followed by two thugs.
Amos...” The Lord stated, addressing Sanguine's father. He looked around at all the unfamiliar Ladies. “And who do we have here?”
Amos gaped at the Lord for a moment, realizing that there was only one reason for him to visit personally. He blurted out the question anyway.
Why are you here?!”
The Lord sighed. “Amos... did you forget that you owe me – as your Lord – a certain portion of everything you grow? You haven't given me my tribute, and I am afraid that I'll have to take it from you.”
Sanguine frowned. “As a representative of their Majesties, I know for a fact that any landowner that cannot spare much for tribute is allowed to explain their situation and be granted leniency. You cannot take something someone simply doesn't have.”
The Lord laughed. “Their Majesties do not visit every town nor every Lord. They simply aren't around to care if I bend the rules a bit, and you would do well to remember that! I am the Lord around here, and when I say it's time to pay tribute, it's time to pay tribute!”
All six Mistresses growled menacingly. The Lord and his thugs laughed.
Aww... How cute, the kittens want to play!” The Lord taunted.
In the name of His Majesty the King,” Sanguine began.
And Her Majesty the Queen,” Misere added.
As authorized representatives of the crown,” Panique stated.
We hereby warn you to leave now,” Soumettre spoke clearly.
Or we will make you regret it!” Douleur threatened.
Your choice...” Abattre finished.
The Lord laughed even harder, and gestured for his thugs to lay some hurt on them.
Wrong choice!” Abattre informed him with a grin. She punched the nearest thug, and Douleur pressed a good sized metal rod into the second thug's stomach. He screamed in pain and fell to his knees.
Meanwhile, Misere had her whip in hand. With a flick of her wrist, she wrapped the sharp end around the first thug's neck to choke him while Abattre continued to punch him.
Sanguine almost appeared to disappear and then reappear at the Lord's side – she moved that fast. Her right glove was off and she pressed her razor sharp nails into his throat. Small streams of blood ran down his neck.
Perhaps you didn't understand me,” Sanguine murmured softly. “I said that it is standard for anyone who cannot pay tribute to be granted leniency. I also said that I am a representative of their Majesties... Why are you still here?”
You can't be serious!” Soumettre protested. “After the crimes he has committed, we are well within our rights to punish him. Sanguine, how can you even consider letting him go?!”
Sanguine cast her a completely serious look. “Because, we are here on vacation, and besides... Where would we string him up?”
The barn?” Panique suggested.
Sanguine shook her head. “Nah... from what I remember, the barn is falling apart. There's no way it's sturdy enough to hold the Lord here.”
Her sisters all growled unhappily, but dropped their argument.
The Lord was smart enough to take the opportunity to try and talk his way out of trouble. “I was mistaken! I only thought that Amos hadn't paid his tribute, but now I remember that he paid it last week!”
Ah...” Sanguine purred, scratching him ever so lightly. “I thought that might be the case. See that you don't forget it again. My parents would not appreciate having to send me a letter of complaint against your leaky memory...”
Parents?!” The Lord squeaked, and then cleared his throat.
Yes,” Sanguine confirmed.
Panique had a device that crackled with electricity, and she walked around the Lord so that he could feel her sting. “Also, try to remember that the 6 of us are sisters. Sanguine's parents are therefore our parents, and none of us take kindly to... bullies... picking on them...”
The Lord cried, nearly wetting himself. He nodded. “I understand!”
Excellent!” Sanguine praised. “You learn your lesson quickly. I bet we could break you and remake you in just a few short hours. You would be reborn as a new man, one with the proper manners and respect expected of a Lord. Would you like that?”
He shook his head adamantly.
Sanguine sighed. “Pity...” She gestured for her sisters to let his men go, and then stepped back. The Lord dropped to his knees and kissed the hem of her cloak.
Thank you for sparing me!”
Panique shocked him again with her device, causing him to scream. “You will address her as Mistress!”
Yes, of course! Thank you for sparing me, Mistress!” He grovelled.
Sanguine waved him away. “You may go.”
Yes Mistress!” The Lord replied obediently, and then frantically gestured for his men to get back in the carriage.
All six Mistresses crossed their arms and watched the carriage race away. A small giggle started and then circled around them until they were all laughing.
Sanguine turned to her parents with a grin. “So... when's dinner? I'm simply famished!”
They gaped at her. No wonder Danny didn't want to talk about her! “Uh... soon?”
Dinner was awkward and nearly silent at first, but then Amos' curiosity got the better of him. “So... what did you girls say you do for their Majesties?”
We reform criminals,” Sanguine answered unhelpfully.
Soumettre smiled. “Only the worst criminal are sent to us. The ones that are marked for death. They are given a choice between us and the gallows.”
Panique laughed. “Most choose us because they think we are nothing to fear!”
They think we are weak!” Misere added.
They think they can resist us,” Abattre snorted.
But we always break them... one way or another...” Douleur finished, sending chills up Amos' spine as she scrutinized him suspiciously.
Sanguine smiled at her oldest younger sister. “You're 11, right? At 11, you could choose to serve as a maid in our castle and slowly learn to be a representative of their Majesties too.”
Her oldest younger brother leaned over to place himself between his sister and the rest of the table. “You stay away from my sister!” At 13, he felt fiercely protective of his younger siblings.
The 11 year old girl shook her head. “No thank you.”
Sanguine laughed. “That's fine. I'd still be here happy as any other girl had I not been taken. I don't blame you for wanting to stay.”
You could always come back,” her mother pointed out. “Marry Danny... He's seems to be waiting for you...”
A laugh rippled around the table. Sanguine shook her head with a fond grin. “No... I'm probably never going to get married. I'm... too satisfied with my job to give it up for anyone.”
Her mother frowned in concern. “But what about love? What about children? Don't you want a normal life someday?”
Sanguine sighed and idly tapped her razor sharp, claw-like nails on the table in thought. They poked tiny holes in the hard wood. “Maybe someday...”
The girls all wore matching dresses in their unique color. The dresses were actually rather modest and plain, and made out of soft cotton with plenty of black lace trimming. Sanguine wore her usual hue of deep blood. She had an itch along her collar bone and scratched it lightly with a single deadly nail. A tiny trail of blood ran into her dress, but then vanished, lost as it blended perfectly with the color.
I think that if I actually fell in love, I might consider getting married,” Sanguine finally finished her thought.
I wouldn't mind having a husband to follow me around and obey my every command,” Misere stated. “Not sure I'd want children though.”
I'd love to have a couple of fat and happy babies!” Soumettre announced. “But never would I consent to the man that came with them!”
Me either!” Panique cried out in agreement. “Serving one year as a... well, let's just say that I am eternally grateful that Lady Desespoir rescued me from that life!” She shuddered delicately.
Abattre shrugged. “I wouldn't mind a husband or kids, but I just can't see how I'd have any time for them! I mean really... after anywhere from 4 to 12 hours in the dungeon breaking a man, I'd likely be too cranky to pay any attention to them!”
That's a good point,” Sanguine agreed. “Unless we started taking turns – rotating shifts or something – we'd never have a set time to even see our husbands and children.”
Is you job really that important to you?” Amos asked in disbelief.
Of course it is!” Sanguine exclaimed, echoed by the others. “Without us, far more men would die than have to! We save lives!”
There was a knock on the door. Trenton – the 13 year old boy – rushed to answer it.
Sorry to intrude,” a man apologized as he concentrated on knocking the snow from his boots and removing his cloak. “But I saw Lord – Sandra!”
Sanguine smiled at him. “Hello Danny.”
Her sister Mistresses all purred as if they were cats and a mouse to play with had just entered the room. Abattre tsked and then said,” Look... it's the one that got away... unharmed...”
What are you doing here?!” Danny demanded, both excited and afraid to see the woman he loved.
We're here on vacation to visit with my family and reassure them that I'm just fine,” Sanguine answered. “More importantly, what are you doing here?”
I saw the Lord headed this way earlier, and came to see if everything was all right,” Danny stated.
We're actually fine,” Amos admitted, his tone betraying the fact that he was still surprised by this fact.
Danny sighed in relief. “Thank the Gods!”
You know... if you had sent me a letter telling me about how corrupt the Lord is around here, I would have come to visit sooner,” Sanguine informed Danny.
You would?” Danny asked incredulously, mentally kicking himself for not thinking of that.
Of course! It's our job to help keep order in the Kingdom,” Soumettre answered for her. Danny warily took note of her more or less normal dark orange dress. Sanguine wore the color of blood, of course, Misere wore gray, Douleur wore a bright red that was almost pinkish, Panique wore dark blue, and Abattre wore a deep shade of purple... almost like a bruise...
He was relieved that they weren't wearing the strange costumes they'd been in when he first saw them. Smiling, he focused on his beloved.
How long do you plan to stay and visit?”
Seven days,” Sanguine replied, and then laughed. “Trust me, that's the absolute longest we could stay before getting kicked out or causing trouble.”
Danny nodded to cover his morose disappointment.
Have you eaten yet?” Amos's wife, Mareth, asked Danny. He shook his head. “Then please... sit and join us.”
The younger children took this as an excuse to excuse themselves. They were inexplicably afraid of their guests, and had been just waiting for an opportunity to get away. They rushed off to their shared bedroom.
The awkward silence returned for a few minutes, and Sanguine tried to fill it by talking a little bit about how Lady Desespoir had found her and trained her.
Soumettre, the newest Mistress, tilted her head to the side and made a pensive sound. “I didn't know that you were sent to work in the mines. I just naturally assumed that your were rescued from a brothel like me.”
Panique shook her head. Panique had been with Lady Desespoir the longest, and knew all their stories. “No, I was a street rat who was forced to service lowlifes, Misere was the daughter of a Lord...”
My parents turned traitor and were sent to Lady Desespoir. I had no one else to take me, so my Lady decided to keep me and train me.”
Panique took over the story again. “Abattre was found in a brothel, and Douleur was a slave.”
Haven't I ever showed you my scars?” Douleur asked Soumettre.
Soumettre shrugged. “I've seen them, but I never asked how you got them. I just assumed that you had a bad customer or two...”
A bad master,” Douleur stated.
Why were you sent to the mines?” Sanguine's mother asked.
Because... I refused to work in the brothel,” Sanguine answered matter of factly.
That's not right!” Her mother protested. “The Tax Collector isn't supposed to send any of the children to work in the brothel!”
Sanguine shrugged. “He wasn't going to, but one of his assistants suggested it. I refused, and that would have been that, but the assistant insisted and I fought. My disobedience was considered a bad habit and I was sent to the mines to learn to do as I was told.”
Her parents both closed their eyes and tried not to think about what could have happened to her.
You know...” Soumettre said, her voice soft with thought. “I think it might be a good idea for their Majesties to take in all the female street rats, slaves, and girls forced to work in the brothels and teach them all how to reform criminals. Maybe then crime would become extinct and...”
The kingdom would be a better place to live! That's an excellent idea!” Misere cried out in agreement.
Danny shook his head fervently. “I can agree that our kingdom has its problems, but that is definitely not the solution!”
Douleur growled at him, her eyes narrowed as if trying to probe his mind. “I think you might have a different opinion if you had ever been a slave or forced to let a man have his way with you!”
Panique fiddled with her electrical device, obviously longing to use it on him. Danny's hand trembled ever so slightly, but stopped when he took a deep breath.
Sandra... Can I talk to you in private for a few minutes? Will you walk with me?” He asked.
Her sisters all growled protectively, but only Abattre stood and glared at him, meeting his eyes fiercely. “Do not think for one moment that our sister is weak! You will maintain proper manners and respect for her at all times, or she will remind you of your place!”
And if she doesn't...” Panique growled, stroking her electrical device.
We will!” Misere finished, idly twirling her whip around a finger.
Danny swallowed nervously, then nodded in understanding. “I know.”
Sanguine laughed. “Well, after a warning like that, I have no choice but to hear you out!”
She stood and lightly stroked Abattre's right cheek. Three tiny red lines formed on Abattre's skin, but she gave no sign that it hurt or even stung. Instead, Abattre smiled.
Do not terrify my family while I'm out!” Sanguine warned her.
Abattre laughed. “I'll try, but I make no promises!” The rest murmured in agreement.
Sanguine walked to the door, and waited for Danny to help her into her cloak. It took him a moment to remember his manners, but then he helped her bundle up before bundling himself.
Douleur sighed. “Well... since we have nothing better to do, why don't we retire to the attic?”
Panique grinned at her. “You can prod me with your pain stick and I can shock you with my lightning!”
Sounds like fun!” Douleur laughed.
Abattre held out a hand to Soumettre. “I tell you what, if you can beat me in a fair fight, I'll let you tie me up.”
Soumettre held out her rope of subjugation, and purred menacingly. “Not only can I beat you in a fair fight, but you'll be bound and helpless before you can count to 10!”
Misere bounced lightly. “Hey Soumettre, once she's tied up, will you let me whip her?”
Soumettre shrugged. “Why not?”
Sanguine laughed. “Just try not to create a racket!”
Her sisters all waved to her and then filed up the stairs. Danny gave her a look of disgust before holding open the door for her. Her parents also looked at her with an expression of horror mixed with relief that she apparently knew how to protect herself.
What?” Sanguine asked Danny. “Would you prefer to let them practice their skills on you?”
He shook his head and suppressed a shudder at the thought. They walked out the door, shut it, and then walked around the property in silence for a few minutes.
So...?” Sanguine prompted when the silence started to get on her nerves.
Danny sighed. “Do you remember when we were younger, we talked about getting married one day?”
Sanguine groaned, and stopped short. “Please tell me that you aren't about to ask me to marry you!”
Why not?!” Danny demanded. “If you had never been taken away, we would have been married a couple of years ago, and maybe even had a baby by now!”
At 18, Sanguine was almost on the verge of spinsterhood, but this didn't bother her in the slightest. She studied him intently for a moment. A moment later, she sighed.
Danny... I'm probably never going to get married. To even consider it, I'd have to find a man who could...”
Who could what?” Danny pressed her to continue.
Sanguine looked down, and scratched at her skirt. “Who could withstand torture; doesn't mind scratches or bleeding; who could accept me for who I am and not try to change me... for starters...”
What about love? What about passion? What about a man who kisses you like you are the only woman in the world and sets your blood on fire?” Danny asked, knowing that he was risking his life or at least some of his blood by being so bold. He had her left arm in his right hand, and slowly tugged on her to pull her closer.
Sanguine let him, waiting until his face was only an inch from hers before resting her hand on his neck and gently poking him with her nails. She was warning him to think his actions through, but she was also testing him on his courage and determination. He hesitated for a moment, and then kissed her anyway.
Impressed that he had the courage to knowingly risk getting scratched, Sanguine carefully wrapped her arms around his neck, and pressed her body into his. Danny seemed to melt from relief, and responded by winding his arms around her waist.
Sanguine got lost in his kiss, moaning. She had never felt anything like this before, and was surprised to find that she liked it. That thought was like a bucket of cold water dumped on her head, and she lightly poked the back of his neck with all of her nails; digging them in just a bit deeper until he got the hint and let her go.
What's the matter? I know you liked my kiss, so why did you stop me?”
Sanguine carefully removed her nails from his neck and stepped back. “Because I liked your kiss. I'm not going to let you kiss me until I can't think straight, and then the next thing I know I'm caught in the hay with you and obligated to marry you! I can see your plan so clearly... Do you really think I'm that stupid!”
Danny gasped incredulously. “Do you really think I'd do something like that?! I'm trying my best here to prove that I'm a good man; the right man for you!”
Sanguine growled, suddenly angry beyond belief that he refused to listen to her! She'd made it quite clear that she wasn't interested in marriage! “I think you'd better go home and tend to those scratches before you bleed to death.”
What scratches?” Danny wondered.
Sanguine slashed his arm so quickly that Danny almost thought he was struck by lightning. He inhaled a sizzling breath and carefully inspected his injured arm. She'd managed to scratch him deeply enough that the wound could turn serious, but lightly enough that it would heal without any real damage if he treated it quickly. With all the bleeding, it looked far worse than it actually was.
Sanguine turned her back on him and marched toward her parents' house.
Sandra...” he called after her.
Go home Danny...”
I'm not afraid of you!”
Sanguine stopped short, and turned to him. “Oh really?” She advanced on him slowly, her entire aura darkening almost visibly.
Danny stood his ground, staring at her as he forced himself not to tremble or squirm under her scrutiny.
She slashed his leg, adding to his not so serious but painful wound count. “Go home now while I'm still being nice.”
How can you ever respect me as a man if I don't stand my ground?” He pointed out. “If you won't listen to me and let me show you how much I care about you, then I have no choice but to prove to you that I have what it takes to be your husband!”
She shook her head. “No... you don't. If you did, you would be on your knees apologizing for upsetting me.”
He reached out to grab her by the arm; to pull her close and tell her that a marriage was made up of equals, but she evaded his grasp and rammed the palm of her hand into his nose. He held a hand to his nose, groaning from the pain. Blood dripped from his previously injured arm onto the pure white snow.
Last chance to leave before I toss you to the mercy of my sisters!” Sanguine warned.
I am not one of your criminals in need of reform!”
Then stop trying to force yourself on me!”
Danny sighed, then took a step back and nodded. Sanguine resumed her march to the house. She slammed the door open, stepped inside, and then slammed the door shut.
Sandra!” Her mother yelped from the unexpected noise. “What's wrong?”
Sanguine tossed her cloak aside, and then inspected her blood covered nails. They were designed so that each one could hold poison if she chose, but at the moment, they were simply filled with Danny's blood. Sucking on one to clean the blood out, she shook her head.
Nothing. Everything's fine.”
Her parents both gasped. “Where's Danny?!”
If he has any sense in his brain, he's halfway home by now!” Sanguine stated emphatically.
Completely forgetting to grab their cloaks, her parents rushed outside to the spot where quite a bit of Danny's blood had fallen to the ground. It wasn't enough to indicate he had died, but it was enough to worry them. They stared at his rapidly retreating horse, and then gaped in horror at the daughter who was watching them with a completely blank expression on her face.
Without the slightest show of remorse, Sanguine turned, and joined her sisters in the attic.

Go To Part 3 

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