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Friday, August 3, 2012

Sanguine - Part 10

Part 10

Danny handed his mom a thin wooden box; the type that typically stored fancy dresses. “Sandra says to make Christine wear this when we bring her to town today. All of it and nothing else...”
We're going into town?” Shelly questioned.
Yes,” Danny stated.
Shelly nodded, and then rushed to help her daughter get dressed. She was frankly scandalized by the undergarments, but since the dress itself was a thick and modest white velvet, she shrugged off her concern. Instead, she clucked and fretted over her daughter's battered body.
Christine numbly let her mother do whatever she wanted, and then meekly followed her to the breakfast table. She barely ate, pushing her food around her plate. Only her nephew was able to get her to smile for a few moments, but even he couldn't get her to cheer up.
They were soon on their way to town. Danny held Gavin on his back in a makeshift carrier, and Gavin babbled on happily as he watched the trees go by. He loved being able to toddle about, but he loved riding with his daddy even more!
They met up with Amos and his family on the way.
Any idea why there's a rumor going around that our Lady plans to make an announcement today?” Amos asked Danny.
Yes,” Danny stated grimly. “But I'm not going to tell you what's going on. To be honest, I only have an inkling...”
Amos nodded, content to find out in due time.
It's true that a sign was posted on the platform in the center of town stating that there was to be an announcement, but since messengers weren't sent out to summon everyone, only those who saw the sign or heard about it from others managed to attend.
As the bell rang the noon hour, people held their breath, both excited and dreading what was about to happen. Sanguine stepped onto the platform, and then looked around the crowd carefully. She was relieved to find that only about half the people she governed were in attendance.
The bell fell silent, and Sanguine took a deep breath. “My dear people, I know that I seem to be a harsh and unforgiving Mistress, but that is simply not true. When serious matters are brought to my attention, I feel I have no choice but to act!”
She pointed off to the side, and a girl wearing an ornately frilly black dress walked up the stairs onto the platform. She pulled on a leash, leading a man who had his hands bound and his mouth gagged. He didn't try to struggle since he knew that there were two guards just waiting to hurt him if he tried to get away.
Sanguine waited for the prisoner to look around at the crowd. “This man is not actually a criminal – according to the laws upheld by their Majesties. I cannot change the laws for the entire kingdom, but right here, in my jurisdiction... My word is law!”
She gestured to Danny, and he gently but firmly guided his sister onto the platform, and then stepped down. There simply wasn't room for all of them.
This poor girl has been abused by her husband!” Sanguine announced.
Christine gasped, miserably crying out, “No! That's not true!” Her sobbing told everyone that she was probably lying.
Sanguine abruptly untied the ties on Christine's shoulders and then yanked the dress down to the platform. It was made for easy removal, which was exactly why Sanguine had insisted she wear it.
Christine's body was covered in bruises. Some were dark and violent looking, and other's were fading. The small undergarments preserved her modesty, but it was clear to all that there probably wasn't anywhere she was unmarked except for her face and hands – places that others would see.
Sanguine pointed to Christine's husband again. “This man has abused his wife, and the evidence is clear for all to see!” She took the leash from the girl and then gestured to Christine – who was futilely trying to cover up her body with her arms and hands. The girl quickly and efficiently pulled the dress back up and tied it into place.
I hereby declare that no man may abuse his wife or children! Doing so shall guarantee the man a spot in my dungeon!” Sanguine announced as she grasped the leash where it connected to the collar around his neck. She yanked him closer to her so that she could glare at him. “You will regret what you've done...”
She pushed him backwards slightly, but not enough to make him fall down. “Sang-Soif! Take him away!”
Yes my Lady!” The girl replied cheerfully. She took his leash and forced him to walk in humiliation through the crowd of astonished onlookers. They had always thought him to be a good man, but the evidence was undeniable.
Slowly, they looked to Christine. She shook as she watched her husband be taken away.
I also dissolve your marriage,” Sanguine informed her.
You mean... my husband can no longer tell me what to do? He can no longer... hurt me...?” She almost whispered, but it was loud enough for the silent audience to hear.
Never again, I promise you,” Sanguine murmured, and then hugged her.
Christine started sobbing on Sanguine's chest. “Thank you!”
Sanguine simply continued to hold Christine tight, stroking her hair lightly so that it didn't tangle or catch in Sanguine's sharp nails. Eventually, Shelly bravely ascended the stairs to the platform, and took charge of her daughter.
Thank you, my Lady,” she murmured gratefully.
Sanguine nodded at her. She watched as the two rejoined the rest of their family... and hers...
It was ironically a little known fact that she was once the simple daughter of local farmers. If asked about Sandra, most people said that she died shortly after being taken away by the Tax Collector. If asked where Lady Sanguine came from, most people insisted that she came from the Underworld!
As a result, even if she strode over to her parents, hugged them, and called them mother and father, not many would believe her. They would think that she had gone crazy! They might even start acting strangely towards her family...
With a small smile, she simply watched them. Her hand unconsciously resting on the small bulge in her stomach.
Now that the main event was over, people started dispersing. They wanted to talk about what had just happened and how it might affect them. They also wanted to speculate on whether or not their Lady was getting fat or if there was another reason her stomach was no longer flat.
Sanguine closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths. She had already decided not to hide her pregnancy this time. She had already vowed to hold her tongue and ignore the gossip and speculation, but she hadn't quite been prepared for everyone to see her so publicly.
Squaring her shoulders, she marched to her horse, mounted up, and rode back to her castle.
That girl!” Mareth sighed in exasperation, and then turned to hug Danny. “How are you doing?”
Surprisingly well, considering...” Danny assured her with a smile.
Mareth sighed again, and then giggled. “You know... considering how she was born to simple farmers, and then turned into a strange representative of the crown, she makes a great Lady!”
I agree,” Danny said with a grin. “As much as people fear her and call her a demon, she's done more in the last year to help everyone prosper than Clan Wolf did in the last generation!”
Amos nodded in agreement. “Based on how big our tribute is going to be this year, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the castle larders will be stuffed to bursting!”
Everyone's having an excellent year,” Christopher added.
Shelly placed a hand on her husband's arm, and gave Amos and Mareth a polite smile. “Excuse us. I really want to take my daughter home now.”
Of course!” Mareth exclaimed, and then hugged her best friend. “If you need any of my mother's special salve, I still have a bit left.”
It was Christine who shook her head. “No, I'm fine... Bruises fade all on their own...”
Mareth squeezed her hand in sympathy, and then waved goodbye as they rode home.
Danny found it ironic. First, how the two families had been close for many years. They had been excited when first Danny and then Sandra was born. All four parents hoped that the two children would marry and make the two families into one large family, but Sandra kept refusing that. Even so, they really had become one large extended family.
Amos and Mareth considered Danny their son in law, and Gavin's existence only proved this fact in their mind. It was like a fairy tale come true... except that it was all twisted and distorted.
Danny sighed and focused on his work.

That year for Winter Solstice, Sanguine decided to throw a large party in her castle for everyone! She sent out personal invitations to all the people under her jurisdiction, and hired extra servants to help out with decorations and preparing a feast. She was almost giddy with excitement!
The day of the party arrived – it was not held on the actual solstice because that was reserved for spending time with family – and the castle looked festive. Almost everyone came, mostly because they were afraid of what the Lady might do to them if they didn't!
Even though Sanguine hadn't mentioned it in the invitation, the people realized that it would be far too crowded if they brought all their children with, so they left everyone 12 and under home. Gavin was left with Mareth and Amos' youngest 2 children, who were now 11 and 9, while Lucy and Trenton were allowed to go to the party.
The party was fairly simple. It started with a feast, and then musicians played hours of lively folks songs for everyone to dance to.
Sanguine sat at a small table on a dais during the feast. By her side was Sang-Soif, wearing another ultra frilly entirely black dress. Across the table from her sat Godric, the Earl of Clan storm. (Note: remember how the french word moi is pronounced mwa? Well, Soif rhymes with that: Swaf.)
He had come to once again pester her for her hand in marriage, and flirted with her almost constantly. She refrained from glaring at him or rolling her eyes too much, but it was clear that she wouldn't even consider his offer. Sang-Soif was openly hostile to him, often growling softly.
Godric had the grace to accept that the Lady likely had a lover she was loyal to, which would explain her rounded belly. Still, he couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to bed her! He grinned at the thought.
Sanguine laughed. “Lord Storm... I have a feeling that you might just love visiting my sisters.”
Oh really?” Godric asked, mildly interested.
Yes,” Sanguine confirmed with a grin. “I'm certain that at least one of them would also be your equal when it comes to sparring.”
Where do they live?” Godric asked, his curiosity piqued. Sanguine gave him directions to Lady Desespoir's castle. Sang-Soif cast him an almost evil grin that sent shivers up his spine.
After the dancing started, Sanguine had to decline most offers. Her 7 month pregnant belly made it difficult to dance as much as she wanted, and she had to take frequent breaks. She did dance with her father a couple of times though, and even danced with Christopher.
Christopher whispered in her ear that she was crazy for not just marrying his son already, but then added that he looked forward to seeing his next grandchild. Sanguine simply nodded, and then kissed him on the cheek.
Meanwhile, Trenton gathered up the courage to ask Sang-Soif to dance. This was because he was curious about the girl his sister kept at her side.
You aren't even 12 yet, so why were you allowed to attend the party?” He asked her after they were on the dance floor.
Sang-Soif sniffed haughtily. “Lady Sanguine adopted me. I am now officially a member of Clan Blood. As such, I am naturally allowed to attend all Clan functions!”
Trenton laughed. “You make it sound like you're better than the rest of us! Sandra is my sister, you know. That makes you my niece, I guess...”
Sang-Soif gasped, gaping at him incredulously. She hastily pulled him off to the side. “What?! How do you know that name? No one calls my Lady that except for...” Her eyes subtly drifted in Danny's direction. She had only ever met him once, but the meeting had been forever imprinted in her mind for several reasons. Calling Sanguine by a different name was one of them.
Trenton laughed again. “I just told you, silly! She's my older sister!”
Sanguine came up behind him and put her arms around his waist, startling him enough that he squeaked in surprise. She softly addressed Sang-Soif with a warm smile.
It's true,” she stated. “Now, would my younger brother care to dance with a graceless pregnant woman?”
Trenton blushed, and then quietly hissed. “Sandra! People are looking at us, and they're going to get the wrong idea!”
Sanguine laughed. “Ah let 'em!” But she didn't force him to dance with her. Instead, she kissed him on the cheek, and then went to find something to drink.
Sang-Soif eyed Trenton warily. “Do not ask me to dance again...”
Why not?” He wondered. “Sure I'm 15 and you're only 10, but it's not like I'm interested in you! I just want to get to know my 'niece.'”
Sang-Soif glared at him venomously, showing her nails to warn him away. As promised, she had received a set of her own claws, and she was already pretty good at using them. Very softly, she growled at him.
Because... In my experience, uncles tend to think my body is a plaything! I am nobody's toy!”
Trenton paled, and took a step back from her. “You're kidding, right?”
Sang-Soif growled again, and then stalked away.
Danny had drifted close enough to hear their conversation, mostly because he was curious about what they were talking about. He stepped closer to Trenton, and put a hand on the boy's shoulder.
It's true...” Danny confirmed. “I happened to be there when Sandra took the girl in. She was sent to work in a brothel, and confessed that the reason why was that all of her uncles, some of her cousins, and even a couple of her brothers had used her.”
But she's so young!” Trenton protested.
I know, and that's why she's here with your sister. No one will ever hurt her again,” Danny stated hopefully.
Meanwhile, Mareth and Shelly ambushed Sanguine. They both linked their arms through hers, and dragged her off the dance floor.
You're too pregnant!” They insisted. “Just watching you dance is making us tired!”
Sanguine laughed. The rest of the party goers reluctantly admitted to themselves that the demon Lady wasn't always scary. Even so, they mostly stayed away from her.
Amos and Christopher came to stand by their wives. Mareth smirked at her husband, and then cast Sanguine an intense look.
I want to see your dungeon,” Mareth stated.
What?!” Sanguine asked in disbelief.
I'm serious,” Mareth insisted. “You always talk about it, and from what I gather, it's where you do your work for the King and Queen. I really want to see it for myself.”
No you don't!” Sanguine protested.
I do too,” Amos informed her gently.
As do I,” Christopher added.
I want to see the place where you transformed my daughter's ex husband into the apologetic and respectful man that comes to woo her now,” Shelly said, effectively ganging up on her.
Sanguine bit her lip, and carefully considered their request. Sang-Soif was loitering nearby and laughed.
Why not show them?” Sang-Soif giggled as if Sanguine was being absurd. “Then they have nightmares for weeks, and the story of your demon-ness will grow and spread even farther!”
Mareth looked at the little girl curiously. “I know that you've been adopted by my daughter, but we've never been introduced.”
Sang-Soif smiled at her and gave a deeply respectful curtsey. “Hello, my name is Sang-Soif, which means blood thirst.” She wiggled her claws at them. “My specialty is also blood, and that's why I am now a part of Clan Blood.”
Sanguine laughed. “You're trying to terrify my family, my love. Stop it!”
Yes Sanguine,” Sang-Soif murmured obediently.
Sighing, Sanguine caved in to their request. “Fine, but you all have to promise not to say anything, and retreat if it gets to be too much for you to handle.”
Shelly glanced at Sang-Soif. “If a child can handle the dungeon, than I'm certain I can too!”
Sang-Soif simply laughed, and then followed the group of adults as they followed Sanguine. Sanguine was wearing soft, heel-less shoes to accommodate her pregnancy, so she walked silently. Her apprentice – on the other hand – simply adored her lethal short-heeled shoes, and purposely made them click in a sharp staccato.
When they finally arrived in the dungeon, at least one of the prisoners started crying. “Please no! Not again! I'll do anything you want, I swear!”
Good evening, my Lady,” the two guards on duty greeted her respectfully.
Happy Solstice,” Sanguine returned their greeting.
Mareth and Shelly gasped that all of the half dozen or so prisoners were naked and clamped uncomfortably to the wall! They really hadn't expected that.
Sanguine ignored them. “How are my prisoners doing?”
Resting quietly,” one of the guards assured her.
She smirked. “I'll bet!”
The one sobbing continued to beg. “Please my Lady, have mercy!”
Sang-Soif practically danced up to him. “Quiet you!” She ordered with an inappropriately cheerful tone. She placed her claws along his throat in a silent promise should he disobey.
Sanguine grabbed his file off the wall next to him and examined it. “Hmm... I think you may be all but broken. What do you say? Would you like me to send you to their Majesties so that they can assign you something useful to do?”
Instantly, his quiet crying evaporated, and he glared at Sanguine. “Their Majesties are do not deserve to sit on the throne! If you send me to them, I'll finish the job I failed!”
Sanguine snorted a laugh. “Do you think that you are lucky you managed to evade capture until you reached my territory? I will break you, and if I don't, you will be publicly executed as the treasonous bastard that you are!”
It was his turn to snort. “I would rather die than be a good little boy for their Majesties!”
Hmm... pity...” Sanguine murmured coldly, she pressed a finger to her lip as she thought. “The rack I think.”
Yes my Lady!” The two guards replied, rolling a large metal rack out from a side room. Copious squeaking from inside the room announced that the rats were excited.
Sanguine gestured to Sang-Soif, who nodded and then started slashing the prisoner all over his body. She purposely left the wounds shallow, but they bled freely. When she was done, the guards unclamped him from the wall and then secured him to the rack.
They rolled the rack back into the dark room, waiting for the rats that had come out to run back in. The prisoner immediately started screaming, but it was muffled when the heavy door was shut.
20 minutes?” Sang-Soif asked.
Sanguine shook her head. “If we left him in there for 20 minutes, he'd probably be dead. I still think he's mostly broken, so we'll just let him suffer for 5 minutes, and then I'll determine if he should go back on the wall or if he needs to rest for a bit.”
She then coldly inspected the rest of the prisoners. Each one greeted her; “Good evening, my Lady.”
She purred and stroked the obedient ones on the head. The very last prisoner was the most recent addition to her dungeon, and rather than greet her, he snarled and railed at her like a savage beast.
Sanguine rolled her eyes and sighed. “Do you hear him, Sang-Soif? He thinks that if he insults us enough, we'll grow to fear him and then let him go.”
Sang-Soif laughed. “I've heard better insults from my cousins!” She slashed the man's cheek. “You may think you've done nothing wrong, and it's true that slavery is legal in this kingdom, but you were caught abducting free-born girls and selling them at the slave market! Do you have any idea what those girls were bought for?!”
Do you?” The prisoner sneered at her.
Yes!” Sang-Soif shouted. “I know exactly what they went through!”
Sanguine pulled her back, and looked her in the eyes. “No, my love. You mustn't let anger control your actions. You must remain firm and detached. This man is not your one of uncles, cousins, or brothers. He did not hurt you... You are safe here, no one can hurt you.”
She made Sang-Soif stand to the side, and then faced the man. “Did you molest the girls you abducted before you sold them in the market?”
He stared her directly in the eyes. “No. The girls fetch a much better price if they are still pure at the time they are sold.”
Good,” Sanguine stated. “You get to keep your balls.”
The man shouted at her after she turned to leave. “You may as well tie me to that rack and let the rats chew on me until I die, because I am never going to turn into one of your pathetic pets!”
Sanguine stopped, and then turned her gaze back to him. “Are you asking me to simply kill you?”
Yes!” He exclaimed emphatically.
Now that Sang-Soif had regained her composure, she put a hand on Sanguine's arm. “Can I do it?”
How would you like to kill him?” Sanguine asked.
I want to practice that thing you told me about.”
Sanguine nodded. She snapped her fingers. “The table!”
The guards roughly took the prisoner off the wall, beating on him as necessary to stop his struggles, and then strapped him to a large, carved, stone table.
Are you certain you want to die?” Sanguine asked the prisoner. He had a death sentence – of course – but he could still choose to be saved.
Yes,” he confirmed grimly, his voice shaking slightly now as he realized that it was really going to happen.
As you wish,” Sanguine murmured. “Sang-Soif, practice the gentle death first.”
The girl sighed in disappointment, and then nodded. She climbed up onto the table and knelt next to the prisoner. “First, I slash both sides of his neck, like this.”
She demonstrated with her razor sharp claws. The cuts were deep enough to bleed freely, but not deep enough that he would die anytime soon.
Why?” Sanguine asked, testing her.
Because this is where two of the largest veins in the body are located, traveling up directly from his heart.”
Good. Now what?” Sanguine asked.
I slash the veins in his wrists and inner thighs, and then I let him slowly bleed to death,” Sang-Soif replied as she worked.
Sanguine looked into the prisoner's eyes. “This is a peaceful death. You will slowly fall asleep, and the world will simply go dark. There won't be much pain.”
Thank you, my Lady,” the prisoner whispered, relieved that it wasn't a horribly painful death.
Sanguine turned her attention back to her apprentice. “This is the method I prefer most, but now you may try the other way if you wish.”
Sang-Soif nodded. She pointed to a spot on the man's abdomen. “I poke a hole here, right under his ribcage, and then I reach up to grab his heart?”
Yes,” Sanguine confirmed. “But remember, the stomach and intestines are in the way, and it's actually really hard to force your hand all the way up there. He's going to start screaming from the pain, and even tied down, he's going to squirm and make it that much more difficult.”
I understand.”
Oh Gods!” Mareth and Shelly gasped in unison, reminding Sanguine that they were still there.
This also reminded her that she had a prisoner ready to come out of the rat room. She noticed that the guards had already pulled him out, and he was waiting for Sanguine to inspect him. He hung limply from the rack, and Sanguine was sure that he had passed out.
I can't watch!” Mareth cried out, her eyes glued to the man on the table.
Neither can I!” Shelly added, a hand over her mouth.
Sanguine tilted her head in sympathy. “I told you to retreat the moment things got to be too much for you to handle. Go up the stairs to the guards' break room and wait for us there. This won't take long.”
Sang-Soif purposely didn't wait for them to leave. She dug into the man's abdomen with her claws, having to tear open a hole since she didn't yet have the strength to jab one with her claws.
Sanguine left her to her work so that she could inspect the one on the rack. She seemed deaf to the prisoner on the table's screams of horror.
I think he's too weak to put back on the wall. Put him on a cot and let him rest,” Sanguine announced.
Yes, my Lady.”
The man on the table choked on a gasp, and then fell silent. Sang-Soif sat back on her heels in disappointment. “I'm not strong enough to do that properly. All I could do was scratch his heart open so that he bled to death much more quickly.”
Sanguine carefully placed a hand on her shoulder. “You'll get there, someday. For now, go get washed up and change.” She then examined herself. “Miraculously, I'm not covered in blood! So, I'm going back to my party.”
Yes, Sanguine,” Sang-Soif murmured. “Have fun.”
Sanguine nodded and then kissed the girl on the cheek. She licked the little bit of blood off her lips, and then faced her visitors as the girl ran up the stairs. The two women had hastily left, but then men were staring at her with bone-white faces.
And this is what you do every day?!” Her father managed to ask.
Sanguine shrugged. “What did you think happened in a dungeon?”
Not this!” Amos cried out.
Sanguine turned to smile at the guards. “Now that he's dead, throw his body onto the fire, and then feed his blood to the pigs.”
They nodded.
Gesturing for her father and his best friend to start up the steps, Sanguine decided to explain things to them so that hopefully they'd understand.
The vast majority of the citizens in our Kingdom are honest and kind. It's just that our Kingdom is so big that the small percentage that commit terrible crimes... Well, they have to be punished somehow, and they are sent to dungeons like mine. It's my job to try to reform them, and I'm good at it. If I can save them, they become upstanding citizens again.”
She paused to think the next part over carefully. “If that means that I have to be cold and cruel, so be it! Maybe now you can understand why I don't want my children to be part of this though...”
Amos stopped on the stairs just before the guards' breakroom. He turned to his daughter and pulled her into a hug.
Seeing that... It's shocking and hard to stomach, but I heard it clearly. One man tried to assassinate the King and Queen, and the other sold young girls into slavery. When I think about Lucy or Amara at the hands of someone like him...” he sighed to suppress a shudder. “I understand why a man like that deserves to die such a horrible death.”
They finished walking into the breakroom. Shelly grabbed Sanguine by the arms, and stared at her fiercely.
I have to know! Did you ever do any of that to my son?” She demanded.
No,” Sanguine assured her honestly. “He simply asked to watch, and I let him. I'm certain he probably still has nightmares about it, as you likely will for sometime to come.”
Shelly exhaled in relief and let Sanguine go. Movement from her stomach prompted Shelly to put a hand on her belly. “My daughter doesn't look it, but she's about 5 months pregnant herself.”
Sanguine smiled. “So Gavin will have a sibling and a cousin to play with.”
Then this one is Danny's too?” Mareth asked for clarification. No one ever talked about this openly, but they weren't exactly in the open.
Sanguine nodded. “There's absolutely no one else that could be the father.”
Not even that Lord?” Amos wondered curiously.
Sanguine laughed. “No! I'm certain Lord Storm wouldn't mind in the slightest fathering one of my children, but I do not want him!”
Danny startled them all by stating, “Good!” He was leaning against the wall while standing on the bottom step that led up from the breakroom. He had somehow managed to get there without them hearing him.
I thought – after you'd been gone for a while – that this might be where you all went, so I came looking for you,” he explained with a shrug.
Danny...” Sanguine murmured happily.
Now that we're somewhere no one will see us, I'd like a dance,” Danny informed Sanguine, holding out his hand.
I'd love to dance with you!” Sanguine exclaimed, walking over to place her hand in his.
Christopher cleared his throat. “I think we're going to just leave you two alone for a bit. It's probably time we brought your sister home anyway.”
Danny and Sanguine took turns hugging their parents goodbye.
I can't believe you brought all our parents down here!” Danny blurted out as he pulled her into his arms.
Sanguine giggled and wrapped her arms around his neck. “They insisted!”
Their parents all shook their heads and muttered “Never again!” as they left the dungeon.
Sanguine chuckled, and snuggled into Danny's arms. He kissed her hungrily, making her body hot and her toes curl. Too bad I can't have him stay the night...

Go To Part 11 

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