Monday, December 7, 2015
Yalera the Brave - Chapter 13
For the next week, Lord Willow took a perverse pleasure in whipping Yalera. He didn't hit her hard enough to wound her simply because he wanted her to heal. When he got bored with that, he'd dunk her head in cold water until she almost drowned. Then he'd pull her up just long enough to catch her breath before doing it again. On the tenth day of the 14 he'd warned her about, he put her on the rack and stretched her just until she cried out from the pain. She was stingy with her cries, so he knew she had hit her limit and any more would permanently damage her – which he didn't want. He wanted her to be more or less healthy so that she could conceive his child.
At this point, she was very close to despair. Only the thought that her brothers would eventually come rescue her kept her going. Even so, having been held captive for over two weeks was starting to take its toll. She felt half dead inside.
Lord Willow saw the dull look in her eyes and grinned. “I think I've just about broken you after all.”
He gestured for his guards to release her from the rack and hold her face down on a table. She didn't pay any attention to him because she no longer cared what he did. If she allowed herself to care, she'd go insane. Therefore, she didn't see him ready an iron pole with his brand on it.
The worst pain she had ever felt in her life seared through her, making her scream in agony as Lord Willow pressed his brand into her right shoulder blade. He only held it there for three seconds, but it was enough to accomplish what nothing else had. She gasped for breath and then sobbed.
“There, I think that's enough for today,” Lord Willow stated pleasantly. “Bring her back to her cell and let her rest for tomorrow. It's going to be a big day!”
Yalera was still quietly sobbing, so she couldn't ask her most pressing question. The guard that was always kind to her frowned and asked it for her. “What's tomorrow?”
Lord Willow laughed and rubbed his hands together as if he was a child anticipating presents. “I want her to rest up for the next couple of days, and so she will be allowed to sit in a comfortable chair as I focus on her companions instead.”
“No!” Yalera gasped out in horror. “No! Please no! I'll do anything you ask of me, just please don't hurt them!”
Lord Willow gestured for the guard to lift her up so that he could grasp her face with his hand. He chuckled as he smirked at her. “Now you know why I have kept them relatively healthy and well fed. You know exactly what I can do to them, and you've taken the burden all on yourself so that I wouldn't harm them, but now that you have hit your limit, it will be far far harder for you to watch them suffer...”
Yalera couldn't stop the tears from falling freely. “No...” she whispered in anguish.
“I did warn you about this from the very beginning...” Lord Willow reminded her. He then roared with laughter as he left the room.
The kind guard sighed and shook his head. “Here... let me help you wash up a bit...” He lifted her into his arms and carried her over to the tub that she nearly drowned in several times. The water was no longer cold but more of a lukewarm. This was actually perfect at the moment since he could simply let her float in the large tub – big enough for her to completely lay down in or float on top. She chose to float so that he could scrub her and wash her hair as the water soothed her seared flesh.
“Dear Gods...” she whispered very softly. “Please help me. I'll do anything you ask if you just get Ando and Baethan out of here before tomorrow.”
The kind guard looked around at all the other guards. Most of them were men who had come to not only respect her, but sympathize with her plight. They all shrugged helplessly.
“We're sorry Princess,” they murmured.
“He has members of all our families held hostage. If any one of us should dare to help you, all our family members would be brought in to take your place,” the kind guard explained.
“Why do you think so many of us fought you to the death rather than quit?” Another guard asked. “I hope that you can't possibly think that there are so many terrible men in the world that we would gladly help torture an innocent girl...”
“Oh...” Yalera murmured with a tone of enlightenment. “I understand now...”
All too soon, Yalera was lifted out of the soothing water. The guards helped her into a soft but simple dress. Technically, it was an underdress, but it was perfect at the moment since it was light and didn't irritate her burn too much. Yalera held her arms out meekly when she was dressed so that her favorite guard could carry her back to her cell.
When he set her on her feet, he whispered in her ear. “If I could help you, I would. I just pray that you understand that one day, that evil man will suffer the worst fate that the Gods can imagine for him.”
Yalera nodded, tilting her head slightly toward him as he stroked her hair. She prayed that when her rescue party finally arrived, this man would be set free. Better yet, all of them would be set free! Once their families were safe, she sincerely hoped that they would become good men who helped others.
The guard opened her cell door, then stepped aside so that she could walk through it. He closed and locked it as he gathered up food and medical supplies. Yalera stiffly walked over to her bench.
“What did that evil bastard do to you today?” Baethan asked. He was already sitting on the bench, and after she sat next to him, he carefully pulled her closer so that she could rest her head on his shoulder. He well knew that she might have more welts or other injuries on her back.
“I don't want to talk about it,” Yalera murmured in a far away voice.
The guard returned to the cell. He held up a glass jar. “My grandmother says that this is the very best ointment for burns. Slather it on as much as you want and it should sooth the burn as it heals the skin.” He then motioned to Ando. “You'll have to stand back if you want any of this.”
Ando nodded in acceptance and stepped back even as Baethan abruptly sat up a bit straighter. “Burn?”
“What kind of burn?” Ando asked as he held up his hands to show that he wasn't planning to attack. Several other guards stood at the ready to subdue them if they got any ideas.
“It's nothing,” Yalera lied in a dull whisper. Her mind was currently somewhere else. This was her new coping technique. So long as she could withdraw into her mind and think about something else, the pain wasn't so bad.
“Harrumph!” The kind guard snorted as he set the supplies down. “You're a terrible liar, Princess. At least Lord Willow promised that you would be doing nothing but sitting in a comfortable chair tomorrow.”
“Don't remind me!” Yalera burst out angrily, tears falling freely once more. She quickly shifted until her face was pressed into the wall. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't stop crying.
“I'm sorry,” the guard murmured as he left the cell and locked the door. Without another word, the guards all retreated to the fairly cozy room set aside for them while on duty. In this way, they could give her a little bit of privacy.
Baethan tried to rub her back to comfort her, but when she inhaled a sizzling breath of pain, he knew that the guard had been serious about the burn. With a frustrated sigh, he pulled the back of her dress out just enough so he could get a peek at her back.
“By the Gods!” Baethan swore. “I hope that Lord Willow dies the most violent death imaginable!”
“Come on Princess, let me tend to your new wound before it becomes serious,” Ando insisted, pulling her off the bench so that he could remove her dress and examine her back. It took him holding his breath for nearly ten seconds before he was able to say anything without roaring in outrage. He knew that she would respond best if he sounded like this was business as usual. For some reason, whenever they tried to offer her real sympathy, she would push them away and completely shut down, but if they talked to her like nothing was out of the ordinary – maybe even made jokes – then she would warm up to them.
Ando worked on her quickly, then put her dress back on her. Then they tried to tell jokes to cheer her up, but it didn't work. She ate only because Baethan practically forced the food down her throat. After she drank a full mug of milk, they let her be. With nothing better to do, she lay on the bench and drifted into a state where she wasn't quite awake, but also wasn't quite asleep either.
“If that bastard is trying to torture us by forcing us to watch him destroy her, then he's succeeding!” Baethan roared in a whisper so that he wouldn't disturb her sleep.
“I know,” Ando agreed. “I feel so useless! I'm supposed to give my life before I allow any harm to come to her, but each day, I'm forced to just stand back and let them take her to be tortured!”
Baethan sighed. “Letting them kill you now would just make everything worse. We both need to survive so that when Yemry finally gets here, we're in the best possible condition to fight for her freedom!”
“I know!” Ando growled helplessly. “But it doesn't make me feel any better! I would gladly suffer in her place!”
“No...” Yalera whispered, soft sobs escaping from her again. “Not that. Anything but that...”
Both looked at her, not entirely sure if she was awake and responding to their conversation, or if she was asleep and having nightmares.
“Not that, not that...” Yalera repeated, curling into a ball so that she could hug her knees to her chest. “Please not that...”
“Princess?” Ando asked, wondering what she was referring to. He carefully sat next to her bench and stroked her head. “Are you...” He had no idea how to finish that question since he knew damn well that she was hurt. He knew that she was injured and suffering, so asking would just be pointless.
“Just leave me alone,” Yalera insisted in a soft and far away voice. “I want to go to sleep and never wake up!”
Exchanging silent looks of extreme worry, both men left her alone.
In the morning, Lord Willow arrived with a cheerful expression. He hummed as he walked, and then smiled at her when he stood outside her cell. “I've brought you a very rare treat today! It's a drink called hot chocolate, and I assure you that like everything else, I have not poisoned it.”
He handed it to Ando through the bars of the cell. Ando sniffed it suspiciously, took a tiny sip, and then shrugged. He held it out for Yalera. She took it and drank a little, but only because the warmth of it was somehow soothing.
Clapping his hands once in satisfaction, Lord Willow grinned at her all the more. “So, my dear, would you like a bath and a massage before your ordeal today, or would you like to just get to it?”
Yalera shook her head and got on her knees in front of the Lord. “Please no. I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to kill your son! I wish I could take it back!”
“Princess...” Lord Willow murmured with a confused tilt of his head and a wry smile. “Are you actually admitting that you feel remorse?”
“Yes!” Yalera gushed, hoping and praying that he would decide to be honorable after all and let them go. “Let me fight again. Let me serve you however you wish. Whip me some more! I don't care what, just please! Please don't do what you plan to!”
“Oh my dear...” Lord Willow replied with a heavy sigh. “Haven't you understood by now that the only thing I want from you is to suffer as much as possible?”
Yalera choked on a sob, wondering if it would do her any good to keep begging.
Lord Willow gestured to his men. “Take her. She has forfeited the bath and massage. However, I would like to see how my brand is doing.”
The cell door opened and Yalera rolled out of the reach of the guards.
“No!” She cried out. “I will not behave today!”
Both Ando and Baethan exchanged confused and worried glances. No matter what the Lord had done to her up until now, Yalera had more or less accepted her fate because she knew that there were far too many guards to subdue and force her anyway. It made no sense for her to suddenly fight so hard.
And make no mistake, she was fighting as if her life depended on it! She lashed out, punching and kicking anyone who dared to get near her. Neither man was sure whether they should try to help her or not since a glance at all the guards standing behind Lord Willow assured them that they'd die long before they gained their freedom.
They decided to compromise. Rather than help her fight, they pulled her behind them and protected her from the guards as best they could. It was a bad solution, but they had nothing better they could do.
Lord Willow roared with laughter. “All this time you have bravely accepted your fate, despite knowing that I plan to do terrible things to you, and yet now you fight?! If I had known this, I might well have progressed sooner!” He turned to address the leader of his men. “I don't care what it takes, drag her out of there and secure her to the chair I have prepared for her. Once she's secure, come back for the other two,” he ordered, and then turned to stride from the cell room.
“No!” Yalera cried out repeatedly. “No!” She tried to climb the wall and evade them that way, but it was futile.
“I'm sorry!” Whispered the guard that finally managed to capture her. It wasn't her favorite guard since he was across the room looking away. It was hard for him to stomach the sight of her fighting so desperately. Two other guards helped hold her as she struggled to get out of their grasp. Another four guards held Baethan and Ando back.
“NO!” Yalera screeched. Then she burst into language so foul that a good half of the men blushed in embarrassment. No matter how much she fought them, they firmly carried her out of the cell and all the way to the chair prepared for her.
After she was clear from the cell room, Baethan grabbed the sleeve of the guard that had been holding him. “What's supposed to happen today that's so much worse than anything so far?”
The guard wouldn't look him in the eye. “Uh... well... she's not being tortured today...”
“What's that supposed to mean?” Baethan demanded, not understanding him.
“Oh...” Ando muttered, and then swore under his breath. “That's why you're supposed to come back for us in a few minutes.”
“Oh Gods!” Baethan cried out in understanding and dismay. He looked to the ceiling as he silently counted to ten. The guards left them alone for them moment making doubly sure that the cell door was locked.
“I'd take care of any bodily functions you might have before we come back,” a guard suggested as he walked out of the cell room.
“Of course,” Ando murmured, trying to mentally prepare himself for the ordeal ahead.
“Oh bumpkin,” Baethan whispered. “Why did you fight so hard when it's our turn, but not fight when it was yours?” He truly couldn't understand. It would make far more sense to him if it was the other way around.
Ando put a hand on his shoulder. “If you had a choice... If Lord Willow came up to you and asked you to choose between being beaten yourself or watching Yalera being beaten in front of you, which would you choose?”
“Me, of course!” Baethan blurted out without even having to think about it.
Ando gave him a significant look.
“What?” Baethan wondered.
“Well there's your answer,” Ando stated. “Yalera was fighting to protect us because that's the kind of person she is.”
“Oh,” Baethan stated, finally understanding.
The minutes passed so slowly that they'd swear an hour came and went before the Lord sent for them. In reality, it was close to ten minutes. The guards came and stared at them warily.
“Are we going to have to fight you too?”
Ando shook his head. “I want nothing more than to protect my Princess. If you plan to take me to her, I will not fight.”
“Yeah...” Baethan agreed softly, finding his body shaking just slightly now that the time had come. He had never been tortured before and he was afraid that he would break down and cry like a baby.
One of the guards accurately read the expression on his face. Compassion filled him, even though he couldn't do anything to stop what was to come. He put a hand on Baethan's shoulder after the cell door was opened.
“Hey... there's no shame in crying during torture. Almost all of us have been through it at one time or another, so we know...”
Another guard shrugged and added. “And crying is not the worst thing you will do. Even the Princess has vomited and... other things...during torture.”
“Oh...” Baethan murmured, feeling almost ready to vomit himself now.
They were led to the torture room. The fact was that Lord Willow had created that particular room a very long time ago, and he loved to use it as often as possible. Ando and Baethan looked around the room in numb horror, both heartsick that this was where Yalera had spent the majority of her last several days.
Yalera started crying when she saw them, however, there was a gag in her mouth, so it was muffled. True to the Lord's word, she was sitting in a comfortable overstuffed chair. On the other hand, she had fought so much that she was bound by the hands, by the feet, and by the torso. This made it nearly impossible to move, not even to slide off the chair since she was also tied to it.
Lord Willow gestured for his guards to clamp Ando and Baethan to the wall, but first, they were given the choice to strip willingly, or by force, which would leave them with no clothing to put back on when they were done. Facing the wall they would soon be clamped to, both men chose to strip on their own rather than be left naked for who knew how long.
Yalera continually shook her head, whimpering a plea for Lord Willow to have mercy. The Lord circled her chair menacingly. “Please try to find that steely resolve of yours,” he suggested with an amused smile. “If you try to close your eyes or if you don't stop whining, I'll make you watch from the rack. Only this time, I won't stop until it dislocates at least one joint...”
Yalera nodded in understanding, and then took several long and deep breaths. She couldn't stop the silent tears, but at least she managed to stop whimpering. Lord Willow patted her head like a good little dog, and then turned his attention to the two men clamped to his wall.
“Now, my dear,” he addressed Yalera even though he was looking at the men. “I want you to pay close attention as I whip them. Think about all the lashes I've given you and see if you can figure out which ones merely sting your companions, and which ones truly burn. Maybe I'll make you whip them yourself later.”
“You're the most sadistically evil bastard I've ever heard of!” Baethan informed him hotly.
“Why thank you!” Lord Willow cried out in delight. He picked up his favorite whip and gave them a few light test lashes. He wanted them to be lulled into a false sense that this wasn't so bad before he really laid into them.
About twenty minutes later, both backs were bright red, but not bleeding. Yalera well knew that he liked to prolong the experience as long as possible, and usually saved the hard ones that bled until the very end. Judging by his mood, he probably wouldn't get around to the end for many long hours.
Yalera sighed, finding the experience of watching strangely cathartic. She knew exactly how much pain they were in, but also knew that they weren't truly hurt yet. They both gasped and cried out, but they hadn't started begging or crying yet. A terrible part of her was curious to see if they would start to beg and cry, or if they would be rather stoic like she usually was.
Suddenly, the door was flung open. “I am so very sorry to interrupt you, M'lord!” A guard cried out in anguish – which made Yalera wonder if one of his family members would be tortured for his transgression. “But His Majesty has just arrived!”
“What?!” Lord Willow demanded incredulously. Flinging his whip onto a table, the Lord rushed off to see what the King wanted. He called over his shoulder: “Don't bother returning them to their cell. I'll be back to finish this the moment that His Majesty has stated his business and left!”