Ok, this is getting long enough that I’m going to have to break it into chapters.-jb
Carolina del Norte wasn’t such a bad place. If one had to be a prisoner in a foreign kingdom, there were certainly worse kingdoms out there, with much worse rulers. I was free to wander as I chose, within the realm and under guard of course, but free to come and go as I pleased. My only other real restriction was that I was required to appear before him when summoned for whatever reason, at any time of day or night. He didn’t call often during the day, so that was a minor inconvenience for the most part. I slept in his bed, so I didn’t have far to go when he called in the night.
Still, it wasn’t home. No matter how well he treated me, no matter how well he fucked me, I was still a prisoner in the end. Long nights of physical pleasure would never fill the hole drilled in my heart by the memories of my frozen homeland. I was born to rule the hinterland, not the warm shores of the land by the sea.
I was out in the rolling hills of the countryside on the day I heard the news about my father. Having decided to bathe in the fresh, clear water of Lake Destiny, I had dismounted my horse, and was just contemplating whether I could swim to the far shore faster than my guards’ horses could race around when they first noticed the messenger at a full gallop coming over a distant hill.
“I suppose that is a summons to appear at court,” I intoned. “Your liege will just have to wait this day until I’ve finished bathing.” I paused and gave my watchers the customary icy stare, waiting futilely for a moment for them to turn their heads. They were new to my detail, but had apparently been forewarned about me. They stared back, unconcerned with my belligerence. They were definitely better prepared than my last detail was on their first day.
(Continued below the fold)
“Then be jealous of your master’s plaything.” I began to strip without grace or shame, intending to stand for a moment to let them have their eyes full, when the captain of the guard removed her helmet and barked at her male companions. A woman! Well, this was a first. I had never gotten the impression that the Baron thought much of women. He even denied me my own battle raiment, allowing me only the gowns and trappings of a useless doll at a royal court.
“Avert your eyes, swine! She is a royal prisoner of the Baron, not a common dog for your entertainment!” One of them began to protest, but she would have none of it. He was picking himself from the ground and reaching for the reins of his horse before his protest was barely begun.
“Thank you, Captain, but it was unnecessary. I’m really quite used to it by now.”
“Nevertheless, while I am assigned to you, you shall be properly respected. If my liege is unhappy with that, he can find a new Captain of this detail. And thank you, Your Highness, for addressing me by my rank.”
“It is a rank you have no doubt earned, Captain. A thing all too rare in this kingdom for a woman to be allowed to earn anything. I could not do otherwise.”
Her voice picked up an edge. “I have been allowed nothing. I fought twice as hard and twice as long for this badge as any man in this kingdom would be required. I did indeed earn my title.” As quickly as it came, the harsh tone disappeared as she checked herself. “Your time for bathing does grow short m’lady. The rider will be here within the quarter hour. If you would be so kind as to be about tending to that, I would appreciate not having to incur any more of the wrath of my liege.”
I felt a bit of a smile come to my lips at this unexpected decency, and decided I would not repay her graciousness with an escape attempt. I stripped where I stood, dropping the doll gown to the ground unceremoniously about my feet, and allowing the Captain the perusal she had denied her troops. After a moment, I turned and strode into the lake, and went about my bathing. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the view of two knights of the realm being forced to turn their horses ’round away from me, while the Captain faced me from just beyond, the reins of my horse across her lap, her eyes never leaving my self-ministrations.
Without ever turning away her eyes, I watched her give orders to one of the knights, who promptly rode off in the direction of the approaching messenger.
I finished my bath, and waded out to the water’s edge. In a moment of whimsy, I turned back to the center of the lake, and bent over for one last scoop of water to rinse my face. It was the least I could do for the Captain who had shown me such respect and kindness. I hoped she would take the gesture in the spirit in which it was intended.
As I stood and turned back to my guards, the Captain’s face told me quite subtly, but unmistakably, that she had. I was rather pleased with that, and not a little warm, suddenly. As I approached, she walked her horse and mine around the remaining guard, and pulled from her saddlebag a large, luxurious towel which she leaned down to hand to me. As I took it from her, she put her lips close to my ear and whispered, “Were I more than but a Captain of the Guard, m’lady…” and then straightened herself back in her saddle.
The flush that ran through my body at her words found every crack and crevice in me. I had no verbal reply for her, and could only offer a reciprocating smile. Were I home, her rank would have mattered not one whit.
I finished drying and dressing shortly before the guard dispatched to meet the messenger returned. He obviously had news of some import, as he rode right up to the Captain and spoke to her animatedly but quietly.
“Highness, we must dash for the castle grounds. News comes that your father is gravely ill, and time is of the essence. I make no promises, but if you will trust me, do exactly as I say, I will urge the Baron to allow you to return to your home to see him.”
I had no time for the usual gentility expected of me. I had no patience for the dress I threw back to the ground or the pretty side saddle I left lying by the dress. My bare thighs met the bare mare, and me in naught but a corset, my ride in naught but her shoes, we bolted for all she was worth back toward the castle. The Captain rode beside, and one guard well behind. The other had been thrown when he dug his spurs into his mount, and he was left lying beside my clothes and my riding tack.
It had been months since I had been riding this way, bareback and free, since before the invasion of our land, before my capture. My fingers were knotted in the mane of this beast, this horse who ran like smooth fury, graceful and obedient. She matched me perfectly in her stride and her rhythm. I would keep this one.
I fully intended to pass the castle by, leaving this land behind. I had no wish to trouble the Captain, but I was not about to stand around waiting for her to plead my case before the Baron. I was going home, and I couldn’t care less about his stupid little war or his stupid little kingdom. The Captain kept pace beside me as I waited for the last possible moment to veer onto the road that led from this kingdom toward my own. I gave no indication of my intention to escape, no warning to the Captain.
Nevertheless, she was not an idiot. The instant my thighs gave the horse its wayward command, I was yanked by the hair of my head so suddenly that I lost my seat, and found myself tumbling and sprawling across the ground. I heard the sickening snap of my leg before I felt the bone break. I remember the rock speeding uncontrollably toward my face just before the world went instantly black.
(To be continued)
From whence came the art:
That image is titled Knight Horse and Sword, by h.koppdelaney, and is licensed by the artist under the Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 license.