Sunday, December 6, 2015
Yalera the Brave - Chapter 12
Rohan woke up with a shout, completely startling his wife. He sat up so abruptly that he almost strained his stomach muscles. His head immediately started pounding, prompting him to press his hand to his forehead. “Yalera!”
“She's not here,” Hannah informed him sadly.
“What happened?” He demanded fiercely.
Both Hannah and Marlena – along with the four soldiers that had been assigned to stay behind to guard them – shook their heads and shrugged. “We don't know. All we do know is that Yemry brought Rune back to camp and ordered most of his men to go with him, and then the next day, Yuna showed up with you in her mouth.”
The way Hannah said that let him know that she had thought for sure that the worst had happened. He pulled her into his arms and stroked her hair. His stomach, sides, and back burned from pain where he had been beaten – which Hannah reminded him of when she hugged him and accidentally poked a tender spot.
“Ah!” He hissed softly in pain.
“I'm so sorry!” Hannah squealed in horror as she backed away from him. She well knew that he was covered in bruises and must be in terrible pain. She placed a hand on his chest softly. “What happened?”
Rohan sighed and shook his head in self-derision. “I was careless. I wasn't expecting an ambush because – well – Prince Hugh is dead. I didn't think that anyone would have any reason to attack us...”
He pointed to a waterskin. More than anything, he wanted to soothe the terrible thirst that plagued him. After taking a good long drink, he set the waterskin aside.
“I forgot that we're still in Nandia and Nandians aren't known for being peaceful,” Rohan continued his explanation. “Anyway, I was ambushed. I fought back and was doing pretty well until Rune came to my rescue. The mercenaries were expecting her though because they had set a trap. She stepped in it and her yowls of pain distracted me just enough that someone managed to knock me out.”
Hannah slipped her hand in his and pointed behind him with her other hand. He turned to see that both Rune and Yuna were napping behind him. Both were positioned to show that they were clearly worried about him. He shifted until he could crawl over to Rune.
“How are you, girl?” He asked softly, hugging her and stroking her head with a hand. Rune opened her eyes and made a soft sound. It sounded mildly pitiful, like she was saying: “I'm hurt, feel bad for me.” She shifted, laying on her side so that she could move her injured leg closer to him.
“Oh girl...” Rohan murmured in sympathy as he inspected her massive paw. Someone had bandaged it, but it looked like a rushed job. He looked over to his wife, his eyes clearly wondering why his beloved pet hadn't been taken better care of.
Hannah looked apologetic. “No one dared to tend to her wounds except Yemry. He had to hurry, so he basically washed the wounds clean and then wrapped a bandage around it before leaving again.”
Rohan nodded in acceptance. “That's fine. I can take care of her now.” He unwrapped the bandage to find that the wounds – which looked like something had bitten her and left shallow teeth marks – had scabbed over nicely. There wasn't really much he could do at this point except massage the injury to promote healing. As he worked, Rune roared at him.
“Hey!” Rohan called out sharply. “None of that now! I'm helping and you know it!”
Rune growled but otherwise didn't try to stop him. Yuna was awake now and crawled closer to her sister to lick her face. Rune grumbled but returned Yuna's kisses.
Rohan finished as quickly as he could, then patted her comfortingly for a couple seconds. Then he shifted so that he could pet Yuna. “What about you, girl? Are you hurt at all?”
Yuna meowed, giving him a kiss.
“What happened to Yalera?” Rohan asked her.
Yuna lowered her head to the ground and covered her face with a paw.
Rohan harrumphed in understanding. “She made you take me and leave, didn't she?”
Yuna meowed. She really sounded like she was almost ready to cry. Rohan hugged her.
“I know you miss her,” he stated.
“What happened after you were knocked out?” Marlena asked, noticing that Hannah was twisting her hands in worry.
Rohan looked around. They must have decided that it would be better for him to sleep next to the fire since he had woken up there rather than in his tent. This also meant that all of them were able to keep an eye on him as he rested. Every single person looked interested to hear what he had to say.
Rohan looked down so that he didn't have to see his wife's expression. She looked like she was forcing herself to wear a brave face for him. This meant that she more than likely wanted to burst into tears and throw her arms around him.
“Well... When I woke up – in the middle of the night, as far as I can tell – I did my best to not call attention to myself as I pulled one of my hands free of the rope binding them together. When I was free of the rope, I surreptitiously looked around until I determined that I could slip away unseen. The problem was that there was a sentry I couldn't see until it was too late. He spotted me trying to get away and he and a partner basically beat me until I passed back out...” Rohan explained, knowing that if he didn't let them know how he'd gotten all his bruises, his wife would just continue to worry.
He crawled back over to her and carefully pulled her into his arms. “There's no need to worry though. I'm fairly sure that if they had done any real damage to me, I would have died already.”
“I don't know about that,” Hannah murmured tearfully. “You look like you might be bleeding on the inside. If that's the case, you...” She couldn't bring herself to say the rest.
Rohan sighed, knowing that she was right.
One of the soldiers shook his head. “Nah... I learned healing from my mother from the time I could first toddle around after her, and I am fairly certain that you're healing just fine. I'll need to take another look to be sure, but it didn't seem like you had any lethal injuries when I tended you before.”
Rohan sighed in relief and then took his shirt off so the soldier could look him over. He figured that the sooner he got it over with, the sooner his wife could stop worrying. The only problem he had was that taking his shirt off made him use muscles that hurt, which made him wince and grimace.
The soldier poked and prodded him mercilessly, using a special wooden cone to listen to his breathing, heart, and stomach. “I am a little worried about your gut, but I think you'll be better after you've had some of the broth your wife made.” At his gesture, Hannah filled a bowl and handed it to Rohan.
“Thanks,” Rohan murmured with an appreciative smile.
“Hopefully Yemry will return with Yalera soon,” Marlena said, looking at her hands fretfully. “He said they had just three days to rescue you, and it's been three days... and you're already rescued.”
Rohan swallowed some broth before responding. “Well... I didn't see Yemry. Yalera showed up with Ando and Baethan. She...” he paused, looking haunted. “She gave herself up for me...” He cleared his throat and forced himself to continue. “So Yemry probably has to rescue her.”
“Oh Rohan...” Hannah whispered sympathetically. She slipped a hand into the one he wasn't holding the bowl with.
“I told her to go...” Rohan whispered, his eyes looking a thousand miles away. Abruptly he set his bowl aside and stood up. “I'm so mad at her!” He roared to the heavens, shaking a fist. “I told her to leave me – that I wouldn't leave without her! – but she knocked me out! And now I can't feel her!”
“Do you think she...?” Marlena asked in a horrified whisper.
Rohan slumped back to the ground so he could finish his broth. “I hope not. There's a Lord who wants to take vengeance on her for the death of his son, so hopefully he doesn't plan to kill her right away. That'll give Yemry time to rescue her.”
“Let's hope,” both Hannah and Marlena prayed.
But as it turned out, Yemry returned to camp the next night without Yalera. He hugged Rohan tightly until Rohan yelped from the lingering pain of his bruises. Then Yemry roared in frustration and tossed a map on the ground.
“We went to the spot marked on the map, but no one ever showed! For all we knew, you were all dead!” Yemry roared in frustration.
Rohan gave him a detailed report of everything he knew had happened. The report ended with: “We can probably have Yuna find Yalera like she found me.”
Yemry sighed heavily. “And then what? We don't have nearly enough men! If she's being held by a Lord... if he has a fortified castle...” He roared again, pulling on his hair. “I'm going to have to bring us to Lord Carver! He said he owes her, so maybe he'll be willing to help, and besides, he can send a messenger pigeon to King Bruno, and maybe...” He shrugged helplessly. “Maybe the King will send the army or something...”
“He will!” Marlena insisted fiercely. “My father will consider this a direct attack on the Royal Family – which is treason. He'll punish this vengeful Lord severely!”
Hannah nodded in agreement.
Rohan had to take a few deep breaths, mostly because he felt like he couldn't breath at all. When he had processed this information, he nodded slowly in agreement. A hand pressed to his chest.
“I suppose you're right,” Rohan admitted reluctantly. “By now, the Lord definitely has her, and so she is either dead, or he wants to make her suffer somehow before he kills her. Either way, there's not much we can do without help.”
“D... Do you think she's dead?”Yemry asked grimly, his hands on Rohan's shoulders.
Rohan sighed. “I don't know... we've never been this far apart before. I can't feel her!” He took a deep breath, and then sighed. “But... I also don't feel like I'm missing half of my soul, so...” He shrugged helplessly. “So I have to believe that she's still alive.”
“Good,” Yemry stated firmly. “Let's get busy packing up camp. Lord Carver is only a couple of days south of here.”
Rohan nodded in agreement, a hand over his heart where he fervently wished that he could feel his twin. “When we rescue her, I'm killing her!”
Yemry chuckled, patting him on the shoulder. “That would defeat the purpose of rescuing her.”
“I know...” Rohan muttered, not sure he would ever be able to forgive his twin for putting herself in danger without him.
Yalera landed on the floor of her cell with a grunt of pain. She wasn't knocked out, but she was reluctant to move. Someone had managed to slice open her right buttocks, and it felt like it was on fire. She breathed in and out very slowly in an attempt to gain mental control over the pain. Her usual trick – telling herself that so long as it didn't hurt to breath, she could bear it – wasn't working.
Ando and Baethan did their best not to trip over or land on her as they were tossed into the cell after her. As usual, they had their hands bound behind their backs and gags in their mouths. The Lord took a deeply perverse delight in making sure they were unharmed while Yalera fought for all their lives. Yalera did so well fighting over the last few days that quite a few guards had come to respect her. One of them kindly set up a feast for them to eat – along with the usual medical supplies – before he released the two men from their bondage. He then left them in peace with a respectful nod.
“I don't know how much longer she can keep this up,” Baethan stated in concern as he checked on Yalera.
“I know,”Ando agreed as he sorted through the supplies. There was luckily a clean needle, although he passed through the flame of a candle a couple of times just to be sure.
“I'm fine,” Yalera insisted, her breath escaping her in short pants.
“Sure you are,” Baethan muttered sarcastically.
“I'm really sorry Princess, but we are going to have to take your clothes off to tend to your wounds,” Ando informed her softly.
She had realized that they must do this, but this was the first time she had been awake during it. Normally, her fights ended with her unconscious. Part of her was very embarrassed that they were going to see her naked, but part of her understood that since they had already seen her naked, there wasn't much left to be embarrassed about. Even so, she had to take a few deep breaths before she nodded in consent.
“Don't worry,” Baethan whispered as he stroked her hair comfortingly. “We already made a vow that we would regard you as an injured person in need of help, and not as a naked woman.”
This actually did make Yalera feel a little better. “Thank you,” she murmured, gritting her teeth as Ando lifted her into Baethan's arms so that he could remove her pants.
The insane Lord holding them captive had provided her with new clothes to change into each day, but they were the rough clothing of a soldier. Thus they were not a great loss each day when his men managed to wound her. Therefore, Ando didn't feel too bad about tossing the torn pants onto a pile of dirt in the corner.
The two men carefully helped Yalera lay on the only bench/cot in the cell so that they could tend to her. Most of her wounds were simple scratches that bled profusely but weren't serious. The gash on her buttock though was concerning since it was deep enough to make it hard for her to walk.
“This particular wound is going to make it a whole lot harder for you to fight tomorrow,” Ando muttered as he busied himself sewing it shut.
Yalera huffed a derisive laugh. “Maybe he'll get bored with that and do something else for a change.”
“We can only hope,” Ando stated dryly.
Yalera sucked in a hissing breath, the feeling of the needle and thread going through her skin finally getting to her. Even worse, one of her healing wounds – a gash on her back – was itchy, which was slowly driving her crazy.
Tears stung her eyes, which she brushed away impatiently. “Baethan? Will you please scratch my back? The healing wound itches ferociously!”
“Do so very carefully,” Ando advised.
Baethan nodded, lifting her shirt enough to uncover the scabbed over slash on her back just under her shoulder blade. He very carefully used the back of his nails to lightly scratch across the slash. Yalera was both frustrated that he didn't dig his nails into her back, and relieved that he actually did help the itch lessen.
“Thank you,” she murmured breathlessly as Ando finished sewing up her newest wound. The burning sensation hadn't gone away and it was taking all her concentration to bear it. She buried her face in her arm and bit her pointer finger to stop herself from crying.
Baethan pulled her shirt down to cover as much as possible, and then stroked her hair once more. “It's alright if you cry. We won't think badly of you,” he informed her. He was honestly astonished that she hadn't cried at all, no matter how much they hurt her. In fact, the only time he had ever seen her cry was when she felt Rohan being beaten.
“What good will crying do?” Yalera asked with a harrumph. “It'll just make my head hurt, and thus make me even more miserable!”
Ando finished slathering all of her various wounds with a powerful healing ointment, and then covered her up with a pitiful excuse for a blanket. Baethan left her side for a moment to inspect their small feast. He chuckled softly.
“At least he wants you healthy before he kills you,” he remarked. “He gave us liver. Looks like it was cooked until about medium rare... You want me to bring you some?”
“Yes please!” Yalera accepted, eager to have something else to think about for a few minutes. Baethan handed her a few slices of liver – which tasted like they must have come from a calf. She ate them while still laying on the bench.
“You seem to be getting better,” Ando remarked thoughtfully as he ate. “You started off astonishingly good at fighting, but after the last few days, even injured, you seem to be honing your skills until it would be hard for any one person to defeat you.”
Baethan snorted. “Especially not any one of these soldiers! They have to attack you in groups of at least three men, otherwise you just knock them out or kill them.”
“Puh!” Yalera scoffed. “It's not my skill that's kept me alive. I well know that I am bad at fighting! It's the fact that their Lord has ordered them to take it easy on me. He doesn't want them to kill me, so I have the luxury of doing whatever I can to them and they have to be careful not to hurt me too much.”
“How can you say that?!” Baethan asked incredulously. “We've been tied up and forced to watch you, and so we've seen everything. You kick ass! They attack you in groups because they have to, and they are not taking it easy on you!”
Yalera sighed. “You're just saying that, but I'm willing to bet that if either one of you was forced to take my place, you'd have managed to defeat everyone and get us out of here already. That sadistic Lord only lets me do the fighting because he knows that I'm not good enough to actually win.”
She sighed again, depressed that she hadn't been able to clearly win a fight yet – which would at least allow Baethan to go free. The Lord had proved that he was at the very least honorable enough to stand by his word. If she managed to win a fight, he would release Baethan. Except that his men kept wearing her down before she could win.
Baethan and Ando exchanged incredulous glances. Both had serious doubts that they'd be able to fight half as well as she had. However, she had a point in that they weren't put in the same situation, therefore they didn't know how well they actually would do. It's possible that with nothing to lose and death on the line, they might be able to fight a whole lot better than they thought they could.
“I wonder how Rohan is doing,” Yalera said with a morose sigh. “I've never been so far away from him before. I can't feel him at all!”
“Are you sure your smilodon didn't just eat him?” Baethan joked. He was hoping to cheer her up and it worked.
“I'm sure!” She laughed. “Yuna would never eat either of us! You maybe...”
Baethan laughed. “That I can believe, especially with your brother asking them to attack me all the time.”
“I have no idea why Rohan hates you!” Yalera replied with a soft giggle.
Ando smirked at Baethan mysteriously. “I think I know.”
Yalera tried to sit up, holding her breath until the temporary flare up of pain died back down. “Really? Why?” She asked, looking at Ando with innocent curiosity in her eyes.
Ando simply shook his head and rolled his eyes.
“What?” Yalera wondered, not understanding what he was thinking.
Ando laughed. “I'm just being silly, Princess, don't mind me.”
Yalera sighed in disappointment.
She ate more liver and drank an astonishing amount of milk before she felt sleepy and drifted off. In the morning, one of the guards warned Ando that the Lord was going to come for her soon, which gave him time to wake her up and get her dressed. Baethan prepared the bucket in the corner for her, helped her over to it, and then both of them turned their backs so that she could have a sliver of privacy while she did her business.
After she was done, they barely had time to do their own business before Lord Willow arrived. He smiled at Yalera almost kindly. “How are you doing this morning, my dear?”
Yalera snorted. “Am I really supposed to answer that?”
The Lord Willow sighed in disappointment. “Don't say I never tried to be courteous. In any case, my men tell me that you're going to be easy prey today with that nasty gash across your lovely bottom. Of course it's not any fun if it's too easy to defeat you, so I have decided to excuse you from fighting today. I was growing bored with that anyway.”
The Lord paced the outer part of the cell room for a few moments. “I'm sure you can understand my dilemma... What else do I do with you?” He stopped and turned to face her again. “I'm sure you'd love a bath. If I promise to give you a bath and also promise not to invade your privacy during the bath or try to have my way with you afterwards, will you promise to behave?”
Yalera narrowed her eyes at him suspiciously. “Are you serious? You'll honestly give me a bath?”
“Yes,” Lord Willow stated seriously.
“Just out of curiosity, what would you do if I refused?” Yalera wondered, still not trusting him.
“I'll have my men drag you out of there, and then you'll have no privacy as they scrub you up,” Lord Willow stated.
Yalera sighed. “I figured you'd say that. What about my friends?”
“I might let them each have a turn after you've returned to your cell,” Lord Willow said with a shrug.
“And you honestly promise not to rape me?” Yalera questioned, still suspicious.
“On my honor,” the Lord vowed with his right hand raised.
Yalera exchanged glances with Ando and Baethan. None of them trusted the sadistic Lord, but he had proven to be a man of his word. Ando sighed in frustration and reluctance.
“I'm not sure you have a choice, Princess. You may as well accept his offer and take the privacy,” he stated, his look that of a father who was worried about his daughter leaving his sight.
Yalera nodded in agreement. “Fine,” she stated, moving to stand in front of the door to the cell.
“You two stand back,” Lord Willow commanded, pointing at Ando and Baethan. “I'll have breakfast brought in to eat while she's bathing.”
The two men took a good look at the dozen or so mercenary soldiers on hand and knew that it would be pointless to resist. They silently stepped back until they were up against the wall. With a nod of satisfaction, Lord Willow opened the cell to let Yalera out. He then escorted her to a room where an older, matronly maid waited to attend her.
Yalera tried her best to walk normally, but her healing wounds hurt and itched, making her walk slowly and stiffly. She still had a light limp from when someone had managed to lightly slash open one of her legs. A look around the room showed a large tub and a table for massage after the bath was over. Yalera almost smiled gratefully.
“Until later,” Lord Willow stated with a bow, leaving her alone except for two guards who were assigned to stand outside the door to the room.
The maid brusquely helped Yalera get undressed and scrubbed up. Then she let Yalera sit in the tub and soak for close to a half an hour before insisting that it was time to get out. Another hour was spent on a massage. The matronly maid had skill with her hands which made Yalera moan and sigh happily even as she often hissed from the pain of having her wounds rubbed. It was a good pain though, the kind that would promote healing.
After that, Yalera was given a soft brushed cotton robe that felt almost silky to the touch. She slipped into it with a purr of content. It felt like forever since she last had such a simple luxury!
Next, the maid turned her over to the guards, who brought her to another room. This one immediately put Yalera on guard. When she tried to flee the room, six more guards joined the two original ones to block her escape. She was tempted to cry from sheer frustration!
When Lord Willow showed up, she shouted at him. “You promised not to rape me!”
“And I won't,” he stated, gesturing to the rack displayed prominently in the middle of the room. “You won't be anywhere near this today.”
Yalera looked around the room again. Even if she wasn't put on the rack, there was plenty to be apprehensive about. She wasn't sure where to retreat to since nowhere seemed safe.
“Clamp her to the wall,” Lord Willow ordered.
“Why are you doing this?!” Yalera asked desperately.
“Because I have decided that it's long past time that you pay for the death of my son,” Lord Willow stated with a tone like he was saying: Because the sky is blue.
Yalera struggled, but with her injuries and the more than half dozen men on hand to subdue her, she didn't stand a chance. They removed the robe from her, then clamped her to the wall so that she was facing it. Her hands were each about six inches from her head, and her feet were actually clamped to the floor straight down from her hands. It was impossible for her to move – aside from the ability to wiggle her body side to side.
Lord Willow cracked a whip a few times experimentally. “I know exactly how to do this so that you don't receive any permanent damage, thus I can do this all day.”
Yalera wanted to cry and beg him not to do this, but she knew he wouldn't listen, so she took a deep breath, gritted her teeth, and prepared herself not to cry no matter what. As the day wore on, it got harder and harder to hold back gasps and half cries, but when all was said and done, she never truly broke down like he wanted her to.
“Impressive,” he murmured sincerely. Even after breaking her skin for at least the last 20 lashes, she still didn't give him the satisfaction of truly seeing her cry.
He had her released from the wall. She turned and slumped to the floor so that she could glare at him through wet eyes. The coolness of the wall soothed her just a little.
“Hmm...” he remarked in thought. “I think I'm going to have to do this a few more times before you feel any remorse for your actions. Bring her back to her cell so that she can eat and rest for tomorrow.”
A guard brought her the robe and held it out for her. She didn't have the energy to stand up, so she reluctantly held her hand out for a different guard to help her to her feet. Once standing, she almost fell again because her legs were wobbly. Then she let them put the robe on her like she was a doll. Finally, one of the guards who felt a healthy respect for her scooped her up and carried her back to her cell.
He set her on the bench in her cell as other guards held swords out threateningly to Baethan and Ando so that they weren't tempted to fight. More food was brought in as the guard set her down and stroked her hair. “Sorry doll,” he murmured sympathetically, then left the cell and locked it behind him.
“What happened?” Baethan fervently wondered as Ando wisely walked over to their medical supplies.
“Did he break his promise after all?”
“Not technically,” Yalera muttered.
“Well... there's blood on your robe, so...” Ando gestured for her to stand and turn around.
Yalera shook her head since her legs still felt wobbly. Instead, she lay face down on her bench and closed her eyes. “I'm tired and would like to rest.”
Baethan swore as he could now clearly see the thin lines of blood seeping through her robe. He paced the cell, wondering how he could repay Lord Willow in kind. Ando clenched a jar of salve and marched over to her.
“And we'll let you rest after I've tended to your new wounds and you've had something to eat,” Ando stated insistently.
He waited for her to undo the sash to her robe, and then slipped it off her. It took him a few seconds to swallow the rising bile in his throat before it would stay down. Then he slathered her back with a layer of ointment, massaging it into some of her older wounds as he simply layered it on the new ones. Luckily, the ointment sealed them so that they stopped bleeding.
Baethan fought tears, sorely tempted to cry on her behalf. However, he knew that she would probably get mad at him if he did so. Instead, he cleared his throat and busied himself filling a plate for her.
“Here, have an omelet along with your usual liver. There's also milk... and apple juice, if you want,” Baethan offered.
Yalera nodded her head vaguely, passively letting Ando put the robe back on her and help her sit her up. She took the plate with a tiny nod. “Thank you...”
“Yeah...” Baethan murmured, feeling his heart constrict at the numb expression on her face.
The next morning, Yalera discovered that the messiest part about being a girl had arrived during the middle of the night, which made her robe look like she had been stabbed. A guard sent word to the Lord, who came to see this for himself.
“Hmm...” he murmured. “I'll be kind and grant mercy today. You there! Bring her some clean clothes and a few rags!”
The guard he pointed at saluted and ran off to do as told.
Lord Willow returned his attention to Yalera. “This is good news! It means that there's only 14 days left to torture you...”
“Only 14?” Yalera questioned, a suspicious horror filling her.
“Yes,” Lord Willow confirmed. “After that, you'll either be carrying my heir, or I'll just kill you outright.” He shrugged as if neither option was all that important, then turned and walked out of the room.
“I was afraid of that...” Yalera muttered, well knowing that human females were most likely to conceive in the middle of their cycle. She slumped against a wall and slid down until she was sitting with her knees in front of her chest. She hugged them to her and rested her head against them.
Both of her guards wished that they could break open their cell, kill everyone in their path, and escape with her, but all of their efforts so far had proven that the bars of the cell were far sturdier than they had the strength to break. With a sigh, both wondered how long before Yemry showed up to rescue them already. With any luck at all, it might be in time to stop Lord Willow from breaking Yalera completely.