a Short Story by Kellis
Copyright © September, 1999
“Daughter, set your mending aside and look into my eyes. I have a question for you, the most serious I ever posed.”
With an eloquent sigh of impatience the winsome girl obeyed. Her large, pale eyes dwelt on the older woman. “I’m waiting, Mother.”
“Then answer me true: have you ever put anything up your cunny?”
“Mother!” The great eyes grew even larger. “I’ve had my courses for two years now. I’m no longer a child to be asked such a question.”
“Believe me, daughter, I do not ask idly. Your father and brothers have at last left us alone, and I have sent the servants out. We have a while for private talk.”
The girl tossed her flaxen head. “Even so.”
“I have to know, daughter, for all our sakes.”
Pink young lips suddenly parted in a grin. “In three days’ time I shall be a married woman. Ask me then what I have put there!”
“Perhaps you will be a married woman! Whether or not that comes to be may depend on how you answer now.”
The girl studied the woman, who returned her gaze unblinkingly. “Mother, what difference could it make? Didn’t you notice Nana’s wedding? Her new husband was so drunk on his wedding night the baron’s guards need bear him to the bedchamber.”
The mother sighed. “It’s not your wedding night that concerns me. It’s the night before.”
The girl frowned. “The night before?”
“Surely you haven’t forgot! That is the baron’s night of privilege.”
The girl’s eyes widened again, then narrowed. She laughed scornfully. “Night of privilege, indeed! Mother, the baron is too old.”
“Too old?” The elder sniffed. “Whatever do you mean?”
“Nana told me. On her night he couldn’t get it up. She took him in her mouth.”
“Val …” The mother shook her head. “Nana was a fat sow even then, whereas many call you the belle of the shire. That is one difference. The other is the silver vein that is your dowry.”
“The silver vein?”
“I know you don’t attend to such matters. The serfs have opened a rich new vein that the duke has confirmed as part of your father’s holdings. Though you are comely, your beauty is not the reason a lord’s son wants you. He has many lovely girls. It is the use of that silver vein, so long as he treats you well, that attracts him to you.”
The girl shrugged. “So? He’ll have that silver whether he finds me virgin or not.”
The elder’s eyes flashed. “He won’t if you don’t bleed for the baron!”
“Oh, Mother, you always worry so much!”
“Yes, Val, I worry. Have you thought what will happen to you and to us if the baron prohibits your marriage?”
The girl’s face sobered. “What?”
“The family of your betrothed will accuse us of breach of contract. The baron, who covets the whole mine, will cite that as cause to remove it from our control. If the duke, seeing a way to increase his share of the silver, rules against us and if your father submits, we become paupers. If not, we, with no ally, will be at war with baron and duke.”
“War?” The girl’s mouth fell open.
“Yes, war, and the ruination of us all!” The elder’s hands gripped the arms of her chair. She continued grimly, “Too much depends on this, Val. Your father told me over luncheon to verify your intactness. Come and seat yourself on this table.”
The young eyes flashed. “I’ll do no such thing!”
The mother shook her head. “This is too important. If you will not submit to me, your brothers will be called to force you onto the table.”
The girl gaped, then laughed harshly. “Force me! They are the reason I may not bleed for the baron.”
The elder, who had risen to her feet, sank back into the chair. “What?” she asked weakly.
The girl sighed. “I bled for Roland, Mother.”
“Oh, Val! I warned you!”
“I know you did, Mother. It happened at haying time. We were playing hide and seek in the summer twilight.”
The mother sighed. “You were always so headstrong!”
“He found me in a haystack and tickled me. I let him think I was but one of the serving girls.”
“Ha! Did you expect to fool him?”
“Of course he knew finally.”
“Why didn’t you heed me?”
“Oh, but Mother … He was so sweet! I could not imagine such sweetness!”
“Which of your brothers have lain with you?”
The girl took a deep breath. “All three.”
The woman nodded. “I feared as much.”
“I am so sorry it pains you, Mother.”
The woman sat quietly, her thoughts turned inward. The girl watched her anxiously. At last she asked, “Must I flee to the forest? What will you tell Father?”
The woman’s face cleared. To the girl’s surprise the older eyes twinkled. “In a haystack, did you say?”
“Yes, Mother. Last summer on the high field.”
“On the high field,” the elder repeated. The twinkle became a smile. “I, too, bled for a man in a haystack in the summer twilight, also on the high field, but not the same haystack and certainly not the same man.”
The girl chuckled slightly. “Of course not: Roland is your son! Then the baron let you suckle, too.”
“No, he didn’t. Though older than the present baron, that was a vigorous man: as this one will be, Val. Don’t you realize how quickly a lord is replaced when any of his powers begins to fail?” Her tone became smug. “I bled nicely for my baron.”
“What? How can a woman bleed twice? Did the priest mistake your course time?”
The elder’s smile widened. “A woman can bleed again if she finds another maidenhead.”
The girl stared. “Where can she find that?”
“I shall show you as your grandmother showed me.”
The woman stood again. “We have much to do. Go tell the swineherd to slaughter a young boar immediately and catch the blood in a gourd. He can have the meat. While he does that, find two smooth hand-sized pebbles in the stream. Fetch them, the pig’s bladder and blood to me immediately. Do you understand?”
The girl responded to the tone of command. She jumped to her feet, repeating, “Kill a boar, blood in gourd, find two pebbles, fetch blood and bladder. Yes, ma’am.”
“And tell him to send me his boy straight away, ready to bear a message to Roland. Your brother it was that caused this hazard; he can help relieve it.”
* * * *
“You sent for me, Mother?”
“Indeed I did, Roland. Come in here and close the door.”
“Close the door?”
“Yes. Snugly, if you please.”
The husky young man obeyed with some difficulty. The hand-made hinges of the heavy iron-bound door sagged so that the bottom edge scraped eerily upon the flagstones. When it was well closed, he dropped the oaken crossbar into the iron grooves before advancing into the room.
“Hail, sweet sister!” he offered in greeting. “Mother, are you expecting attack?”
“Of a kind,” she admitted.
“May it be soon repelled. I must return to oversee Nana’s new apartment.”
“I regret, son, that Nana must wait. You will abide with us for awhile.”
“A serious matter, is it? Why is Val dressed in her night gown?”
“Because she is about to remove even that.”
“Roland … Your sister spends tomorrow night in the baron’s arms.”
The young man’s eyes narrowed. “It is his privilege.”
“Yes, it is. Have you thought on the consequences to us when he finds her spoilt?”
“When he … Surely a woman — even Val — can fool any man on that!”
“The blood, Roland, the blood!”
The man frowned. “You think he’ll look for it?”
“Of course he’ll look for it! You know what he wants from us. He’ll show her shroud to the whole shire if it should end unstained.”
“Couldn’t she … cut her finger?”
“With what? Perhaps you’ve forgot the rule — or never knew it. Girls have stabbed lords, you know. She must go to him short-nailed and birth naked.”
He studied her earnest face. “What can I do about it?”
The eldest’s eyes glittered. “I notice you express no surprise to hear her spoilt.”
The man glared at his sister, who stood apart with head tilted askance. “You have told the tale, haven’t you?”
“Only to our mother,” the girl answered calmly. Did her eyes twinkle?
The man’s chin rose. His glare turned to the eldest. “And now you mean to tell Father?”
“Good lord, no!” cried the mother. “He would have your head!”
“Then … I repeat: what can I do about it?”
“Swive your sister one last time.”
That answer clearly astonished him. His chin sagged as he looked from old to young and back. He took a breath. “And just how will that help?”
“It will prove her new maidenhead.”
His expression went from surprise to incredulity. “Her new what?”
“Drop your breeches, son. Val, disrobe.”
The man stood as if frozen while the girl stooped, took her gown by its hem and drew it easily over her head to fall upon the floor. She stood forth in the slim beauty of youth, facing her brother without shame.
The mother repeated, “Your breeches, Roland! Val, up on the table, please.”
His eyes followed the girl to the table, where she turned about, sat upon it, leaned back and raised her heels to its edge, letting her knees fall apart. The vulva gaped upon a red interior among flaxen curls.
He paused, hands on belt, looking around at the old woman. “And you’ll watch?”
“I must watch!”
He shook his head but abandoned further protest until he stood before the girl, breeches sagging about boots, and looked around helplessly at the old woman, who sniffed.
“Kneel and lick her.”
His eyes widened. “Lick her! I have never licked her.”
“Perhaps not. But you know its effect. And I know you know. The whole keep has heard Nana’s screams.”
“Her … screams?”
“‘Lick faster, Roland! Lick higher, Roland!’”
His face and thighs flamed. “God damn her!”
The old woman smiled. “Do not curse her when you were the cause. Though the listeners laughed, you may be sure that every one envied the lovers. Now lick your sister as you lick your wife.”
He shook his head. “Mother, I have no complaint at licking her, only at your watching.”
“I must watch to see the maidenhead’s behavior. Pay me no attention.”
His hands went to the pouting lips and pulled them wide. “What maidenhead?”
Indeed no obstruction whatsoever appeared in the glistening red depth.
“She has a new one, nevertheless,” asserted the eldest. “Kneel!”
Knees at last on the flagstones, the young man lowered his face to the girl. She twitched at the first touch but immediately stilled. Her hips creaked as she spread her feet farther.
Elder hands reached past the man’s neck and grasped both ankles. “Over his shoulders, Val.”
The girl allowed her feet and calves to be drawn upon his woolen shirt. Soon her thighs closed about his head and her hips began a gentle rotation. The old woman bent below the table edge. Finding him concealed by breeches bunched at the knees, she put forth a seeking hand. He quivered at her touch but remained intent upon his work. Her hand lingered longer than strictly necessary but shortly she straightened and stood erect.
“Enough, Roland. Rise to your feet.”
But the girl was groaning between gasps, hips rolling violently, thighs completely blocking the man’s ears. The mother raised a hand to strike the busy head but thought better of it.
Finally the thighs parted and the girl’s hands left the table edge to push the face with its unbearable tongue away.
The young man raised his sopping beard and looked over his shoulder. “Did you say something?”
“Yes. Wipe yourself with this cloth, then rise up and do her properly. Val, you know what to do… Val, do you hear me?”
“Y-yes, Mother. Oh, god, Rolie! Why did you never lick me before?”
“I didn’t know how,” he admitted, coming fully erect. Her heels caught on the tops of his shoulders. He leaned forward upon her thighs, manhood entering without the need for guidance.
The hovering woman ordered, “Val, wiggle your butt. Work it all the way. Roland, do you feel anything?”
“Yes, there is something a bit like — Ah! Now it’s gone.”
The mother’s hand slipped between them from behind. After a moment she withdrew it, held it up and smiled at what she saw. She leaned in beside the couple and grinned up at the man. “Back up a little and look down.”
His eyes widened. “Blood!”
“Oh, yes!” the mother agreed.
“Val, Val, have I hurt you again?”
“This time it’s not her blood! But thank you! This is our proof. If you want to quit, you may; you’ve done enough for us.”
“No, no!” Both son and daughter glared at the mother. She laughed and backed away, still holding up her bloody hand. “Well, enjoy yourselves, then, one last time.”
Listening to their gasps and exclamations, she retained her smile while washing her hand in the stone basin. She took a seat in the high-backed chair beside the one reserved for her husband and watched their shuddering climax. Breathing heavily, the man stepped back, momentarily connected to the girl by a single white thread. Her heels came down to the floor and she raised herself to a sitting position on the table edge.
She sighed in satiety and grinned cheerfully at her brother. “You are a good poke, Rolie. Nana is fortunate.”
But the man had bent to inspect both sets of genitals. “How can you be so happy? Look at all this blood!”
The mother left her chair and approached them. “I told you: it’s not her blood!”
“It is blood, isn’t it?”
“Oh, yes, and fresh, too! The pig died this same afternoon.”
“Pig! How did you get it in her?”
“That is indeed the question. Roland, my son, you have proven that my artifice will serve our purpose. Both Val and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts —” She grinned. “— Val, perhaps, from a different bottom. If I were to tell your father of it, I’m sure he would thank you, too, even while your head was rolling in the courtyard.”
She paused significantly. He stooped to pull up his breeches, grumbling, “Does that mean you won’t say how you did it?”
“Wait, son, let me wipe you clean.” Quickly she fetched a wet cloth to swab genitals and thighs. She sniffed. “I don’t want Nana curious about this blood, too.”
When his breeches were fastened, he asked, “Will you say?”
“No, son. This is woman’s craft, of no use to men.”
He sighed, then brightened. “It will fool the baron.”
“I believe so. Now attend to Nana’s apartment, and please pull the door closed again behind you.”
When he had departed, the mother approached her daughter bearing a hand-carved crotchet needle. She commanded, “Lean back on your elbows.”
Complying, the girl wondered, “Who will get it out of me when the baron has finished?”
“Spread your legs wider.” Carefully the woman inserted the long wooden needle into the delicate aperture laced now with blood and semen. “I shall fetch this same needle to your wedding-day bath.”
“But I’ll be surrounded by other women!”
“Don’t worry. We’ll find a private moment. Ah, here it is!”
She withdrew the needle, its hooked point dragging a wrinkled, very bloody lump of collapsed flesh about the size of a bantam egg. She took it in hand, ignoring the fluids that coated it, and stretched it out. “Do you see? It split among the folds where the wrapping thread closed it off, just as I predicted. Bladder skin is strong, even after scraping thin, but not too strong. This should give you confidence.”
“It does, Mother. My stars, Rolie was full of it, wasn’t he! Has he quarreled with Nana?”
“Her courses began this week. Not that they explain this; the serving wenches would welcome him.” The mother’s lip curled. “You learned so much of men from only your brothers?”
The girl glanced up, eyes sparkling, but compressed her lips.
The woman shook her head. “What a wonder your belly never swelled!”
The girl sniffed. “Because I chewed bairnbane faithfully.”
“You must have! Didn’t its bitterness sicken you?”
The girl shuddered. “The taste is horrible. I hate it.”
The girl grinned. “But not so much as I love men.”
“Well, you’ll not need it again.” The woman smiled also. “Marriage contains bitterness, too, but not, thank heaven, of taste.”
“‘Of taste,’” the girl repeated. “Mother, why did you make Roland lick me?”
“He was not eager to take you with me watching. It was either that or make you lick him! But I had a better reason. A man of the baron’s age will grasp every opportunity to lick a fresh young cunny. I wanted to see if Roland would complain of the vinegar drops I added. If his finicky nose failed to notice, so will the baron’s.”
“Why did you add vinegar?”
“Tomorrow night you may be several hours in the baron’s quarters before he touches you. The vinegar prevents the blood from scabbing inside the bladder.”
“Oh! You think of everything.”
“So will you.” Mother studied daughter. “Do you understand all you must do tomorrow afternoon? I may not be able to help you.”
“I think so, Mother.”
“The trickiest part is pushing it all the way back — I stress, all the way back under your womb — without causing the bladder to rupture prematurely. Use your hairbrush handle if you must, but be very gentle. That is why I kept after you to note how it felt at every step. And make sure that the baron gets his prick far enough in you to do the job.”
“What if he’s too short?”
“Hmm. Didn’t Nana tell you she suckled him?”
“She even bragged that he praised her for not spitting.”
“Well, if she wasn’t lying, perhaps she’ll tell you how his prick compares to Roland’s.”
“Oh, I couldn’t ask her that!”
“Not in so many words. Remember, you are supposedly unspoilt — Huh! Have you confided in her?”
“I haven’t! I don’t know what Roland has said.”
“He wouldn’t brag of swiving his sister. With Nana pretend to fear your fate. Ask her which she would find more comfortable: the baron’s or her husband’s. Talk about it with her. She loves that subject. Sooner or later she’ll tell you.”
“I’ll try. What if she says the baron is shorter?”
“If she swears his to be much the shorter, put a chestnut in first.”
“Yes. Some remain under the roof from last fall. But I doubt you’ll need one. A small-pricked lord is the rarity.”
The girl smiled, then frowned at another worry. “Will the rest of the bladder keep?”
“Leave it spread out in the sun. Some drying will improve it. I’ll bring you a gourd of fresh blood just before you depart.”
The girl slipped off the table and stood erect. “Oh, Mother!” She flung her arms around the woman’s neck. “You gave me life and now you save it.”
The woman kissed her cheek. “You will do as much for your own child some day. Now swab away this stink. Your father will clatter over the drawbridge soon. I look forward to advising him that his only daughter is miraculously yet intact. Do you know what he’ll say?”
“‘Then it wasn’t her I almost caught with Jeremy in the glen!’”
The girl blushed.
* * * *
Waiting at a slit window in the tower’s silence enlivened only by the pen scratches behind her, Val murmured aloud, “My father’s fields and keep are just beyond yonder hill that looms darker than the cloudy sky. Yet they are far from me now as the moon that paints the clouds silver.”
“A poetic turn of phrase!” The deep male voice conveyed approval. When the man had entered the room, his glance had flicked once across her dim corner before he took seat at table, spread a parchment and dipped quill in inkwell. He had ignored her presence thereafter. Now she turned about in surprise, but his dark eyes remained on the scratching quill point.
“Pardon me, lord,” she said a bit louder. “I meant no interruption.”
“This record of rents and payments is easily interrupted.” He did not glance up. “And I must finish it before I forget the details. Bear with me a bit longer.”
She left the stone corner whose retained heat had warmed her nakedness and strolled into the light of his torches. She said in wonder, “A baron with no scribe to keep his accounts?”
She detected a grin behind the heavy black beard, shot with gray. “I have several scribes, but this is the account that keeps theirs honest!”
Her voice showed her interest. “Can you not read what they write?”
She saw his grin deepen. “Months later, without this private summary, I should not remember if what they wrote was true.”
She exclaimed softly in comprehension and agreement. He glanced briefly at her wide eyes and chuckled. “Did you think a baron’s work was only swordplay and broaching wives-to-be?”
“Now I think a baron who can read and write is hard to fool.”
“And no little strange, eh? But I hope you think rightly, my sweet. Tarry there another moment while I finish this declaration.”
After dipping the quill once more, he scratched it in sweeping loops across the parchment. Her eyes lingered on the broad, mail-clad shoulders and muscles bulging under the tunic arms. The crown of his head was bald, its skin seen to be sun-burnt in the trembling torch light, but the grizzled fringe was thick at forehead, nape and temple, where it blended with the well-trimmed beard. As he wrote, a pink tip of tongue showed below the mustache and twitched side-to-side in time with the turns of the quill.
Something about his face was familiar: the amused eyes, the long sharp nose … Suddenly her own eyes widened in horrified recognition. But her knees trembled only a moment before firming. Determination replaced fear in her face.
He laid the quill aside, scattered fine sand over the parchment then tilted it back into its bottle. When the sheet was rolled and stuffed into a bin alongside its fellows, he leaned back in his chair and looked up to her with a smile of anticipation. “Draw near, my sweet, and show me how fate has favored me tonight.”
When her pubes touched the table edge, he breathed in admiration, “Indeed your new husband is a fortunate man! Who is he, by the way?” At last his eyes rose to her face.
She began, “He is the first-born son of —”
But his mouth had fallen open below rounded eyes. “You!” he cried.
“Lord?” She drew back with an expression of surprise.
He jumped to his feet, leaning forward with hands on the table. “Can it truly be my woodsprite?”
Her body stiffened. Fists clenched at her sides, she raised her chin. “Woodsprite?”
“Gods, girl, do you know how I’ve longed for you?” With a rush he rounded the table and clasped her arms just below the shoulders. She flinched back in fear.
His happiness faded. “Don’t you know me, my darling?”
Pink spots appeared on her cheeks. “Of course I know you, sire! It seems to be you who does not know me!”
“You are not my woodsprite?” His tone was almost pitiable.
“Sire, I hight Valeria Christin Maria of Silvercourt, and tomorrow I wed the son of your guards captain, if it be your will.”
His countenance soured distinctly as he released her. “Do you have a twin sister?”
“No, sire. I am my father’s only daughter.”
A hand plucked at his beard. “Valeria of Silvercourt, are you?”
For a moment his eyes were coldly calculating, but then they softened. “In May I rode after a stag in the thick woods above your father’s high field. I misjudged a tangle of tree limbs and was knocked unconscious off my horse. When my senses returned, my head rested in a young woman’s lap. Her red cap touched my parched lips with cool water. She told me herself to call her my woodsprite. No Grecian nymph ever offered her satyr more favor than my woodsprite that day. I fell asleep. When I awoke she was gone. I’d have thought it a beautiful dream except that I found her red cap still tangled in my clothing. Did you have a red woolen cap, Miss Valeria?”
“I have many caps.”
“And do you play in the woods?”
“Since my courses began I am not permitted there.”
“No, of course not.” Again the look of calculation appeared, this time with a grin. “We shall soon see. Help me with my boots.”
He suspended sword belt and shirt of iron links on wall hooks but threw breeches and padded undershirt onto the table. He turned fully nude to face her in time to see the direction of her gaze. He chuckled. “Don’t worry. It will soon stand.”
She blushed lightly. “I don’t know whether to hope or not.”
He pulled aside the drapes that hid the bed chamber, reached into the dark alcove and took out a folded unbleached cloth. “Do you recognize this?”
“The mattress shroud.”
“Yes.” He began to unfold it, handing an end to her. “Spread yours in the far corners.”
Together they covered the down mattress. He was watching her when she raised up.
“Will you stain it, Valeria?”
The girl sniffed, “If you do your part, sire.”
“Do you know what it could mean if you don’t?”
“My mother told me.”
His face softened. “But your mother doesn’t know everything. No harm shall befall my woodsprite.”
“Then she is fortunate.”
He took a deep breath. “Is there no way I can recover her loving nature?”
“I am daughter and betrothed to your vassals, lord, to do with as you will.”
He smiled slightly. “Then let’s see what we can make of that.”
His big hands took her in the armpits and lifted her easily into the bedchamber. He knelt before her, parted her legs and threw them over his heavy shoulders. She leaned back on her hands and shuddered at the delicate touch of his tongue.
Earlier, while closing the bladder section, she had tasted the blood herself and found its character, though changed, to be unlike vinegar alone. Still she was anxious enough now that only the man’s continuing effort, directed ever closer to the thrilling center, finally aroused her as Roland had done. When at last he struck forcefully and directly, she cried out with delight and involuntarily pushed his head away.
He stood, pulling a drape near to wipe his beard. She saw that he was at least as much man as Roland. In her relief at Nana’s truthfulness, she smiled into his eyes. “And now the moment of truth, lord?”
He shook his head. “If you’ll be my woodsprite again, I’ll cut my own finger for you.”
For answer she clambered fully into the chamber and lay back with legs apart, arms stretched toward him. “Make love to me, lord.”
He poised between her legs. His eyes were wild. “I am smitten with you as ever was a stripling! If you’ll love me again, I’ll not disturb your father’s holdings.”
“Lord, of course I’ll love you!”
“Then have no worry of this outcome.”
He sank upon her with shivering intensity. Her hand caught him, guiding perfectly. The tongue work had prepared his way. She drew up her knees almost to his armpits, heels pressing his back, wriggling her bottom closer to his belly. She distinctly felt a release of pressure inside her, then deeper penetration.
“God!” he groaned, beginning slow thrusts that soon grew faster. Still tingling from his tongue, she groaned in renewed orgasm. Within a minute his hands closed on her buttocks and his bones creaked as his rigid body ejaculated into the depths of hers.
Panting, he rolled off her, lying beside her only a moment before rising up and throwing the drape aside. Torch light spilled into the alcove.
“My, god, dear one! Are you injured?”
She smiled lazily. “With love.”
“This is too much blood!”
“No, lord. My mother warned me. The women of our line have unusually sanguinary maidenheads. She told me it would worry you. She told me to show you this.” The girl drew up both legs and turned her bloody pubes toward him. Her fingers opened herself. “See? No more is flowing.”
He studied the spectacle with wide eyes. “Spunk and blood. God, what a sight! Did it smart sorely?”
“Only at first, but your tongue had already filled me with delight.” She stretched out beside him. “Can babes be made by tongue, too?”
“No.” His face fell. “Then truly you are not my woodsprite. She loved me twice in her green bower.”
Her hand came up and nestled in the hair on his chest. “I could love you, too, except that tomorrow I wed another.”
He grunted. “Have you even been introduced to your new husband yet?”
“No, lord. To my knowledge I’ve never laid eyes on him.”
He shook his head. “I must think on this. So like my woodsprite, yet …”
After a moment he sighed and sprang out of the bed chamber. Reaching back, he took her hand and drew her out beside him. He arched his neck and shouted deafeningly, “Estelle!”
Val was not surprised at the almost instant response. Earlier she had noticed the padded chair placed just outside the room’s entrance drapery. The same middle-aged woman who had undressed her bustled through the curtain. “You called me, lord?”
He pointed to the bedchamber. “Take that shroud and hang it in the courtyard.”
“N-now, in the dark night, lord?”
“Well, take it off the mattress and keep it ready until morning. Then fetch another along with water pitcher and wash cloths.”
The woman peered from one set of pubes to the other. “She certainly did bleed! Does she need the chirurgeon?”
He answered dryly, “She has bled enough. Out of here with your questions!”
But the woman went instead to the bedchamber, emerging with the shroud. She paused to contemplate a glistening stain larger across than the length of a man’s foot. “Don’t you feel weak?” she asked Val incredulously.
Smiling, the girl clasped the man’s arm. “Only with love.”
The woman sniffed but hurried away on her errand.
While one young breast pressed his arm, the baron cupped the other in hand. “Your nipples are the same dark pink, on the same double cones, as hers,” he noted, “and even in this light I can see that your hair, above, below and under the arms, is identical to hers. Also eyes, nose and lips. Both sets. Only your taste is different, perhaps because you were virgin and she wasn’t. I wager in a month you’ll even taste the same. Valeria, where is this other woman exactly like you?”
She answered softly, “Lord, there can be no other woman exactly like me.”
“I suppose that’s true, but I tell you …” He cocked an eyebrow. “Meaning there was never another woman?”
“Meaning I can love you well as she might.”
His eyes lit. “Can you!”
“Every bit as well.”
“If it were only true! I’d go far not to loose you again.”
She laid her flaxen head on the edge of his shoulder. “I am not lost, lord.”
“Tomorrow you will be, if I am foolish enough to permit it.”
“Must you permit it?”
“It seems so. You were virgin, according to the shroud.”
“You could burn it.”
He grunted. “And forever silence the maidservant. Can you truly want that?”
“No, lord. My father needs that evidence, and so will my new husband. But it needn’t cost you so much as you think.”
“It costs me you.”
“Am I so important?”
“Valeria of Silvercourt, who cannot be my woodsprite though she is, I love you. God help me, that is the simple truth.”
She turned to face him, arms slipping around his neck. “Do you know the story of Baron Tintagel?”
“You mean his refusal to release that woman after his night of privilege?”
“His passion caused the bitter war that devastated his shire. My father’s father moved here to restart. In my mother’s opinion that war was unnecessary — and the woman’s fault.”
“The woman’s fault?”
“She was unwilling to serve both men.”
“But you are?” He shook his head. “No one can serve two masters.”
“Liege and vassal, lord.”
He studied her. “Your point is that her masters would not have been peers?”
“As neither would mine. Perhaps the woodsprite could serve you and Valeria serve her husband.”
“I hope you do, lord.” She raised her lips to his, murmuring just before contact, “Because I’d not want to lose you either.”
* * * *
Val slept fitfully. The torches burned down and went dark, one by one, until only the last showed a remaining tendril of flame. She lay beside the baron, head on his massive shoulder, breast and belly against his side, a leg over his thighs. She had taken his second emission in Nana’s manner, as her mother had recommended, ostensibly to avoid paining her “fresh wound,” and as Nana had suggested, was careful not to spit. His taste lingered.
He had soon snored lustily, beard writhing with each breath. Now the snoring had ceased, though his breathing remained heavy and regular. Carefully she extricated herself from contact and, rolling to the side, raised up to part the drapes, wondering if Estelle still hovered in the room. If so, Val meant to beckon her and whisper for a cup of wine to clear her throat. Probably the old woman would guess why. If Estelle had gone, Val must leave the chamber and find it herself.
The last torch was across the room from the bed chamber. Estelle remained present, seated just under the torch, her eyes huge.
A man’s hand was clasped over her mouth while the other held a dagger to her throat. As Val watched, her own eyes widening, two other men crept past the maid servant toward the bed chamber. They wore mail shirts and held swords stiffly before them.
Releasing the drape slowly, Val turned back to the baron and placed her hand over his mouth and nose, whispering fiercely, “Lord! Lord!”
When he failed to respond immediately, she shook his head violently side to side. “Lord, wake up!”
His eyes flew open and his hand suddenly clutched her arm. “Lord, armed men are in the outer room.”
She released him as he lifted his head. The light was barely enough to show the glitter of his eyes.
“Be ready, Lord. I shall dart for your sword.”
His hand caught her shoulder and he whispered, “Hold! They’ll kill you.”
To her astonishment he reached above her head and pulled on a decorated lever. With a click and a pop, the wall of the bed chamber behind the bedding swung up and out. The baron rolled into the void thus revealed. Immediately the wall thudded closed. To her amazement the man had simply vanished!
But mortal danger still threatened. She rose up on her knees, facing the opening, and threw back one of the drapes. She rubbed her flaxen head vigorously, calling “Ow! Ow!”
A sword hovered just before her. The shadowed man behind it demanded, “Silly girl, did you try to stand up?”
“I forgot where I be,” she retorted. “Who are you?”
With a whistle the flat of the sword struck her side, forcing her sideways out of the bed chamber. She fell painfully on hands and knees to the flagstones.
Above her a male voice roared, “My lord, your doom is upon you!” Bony shins pummeled her hip as swords whistled and thumped into the mattress. When she could catch her breath, she made to crawl away. Suddenly she was yanked to her feet by a powerful hand in her armpit.
A bearded face thrust into hers. “Where is he?”
She made no attempt to clear the terror from face or voice. “I-I was going to find him.”
“Don’t lie to me or I’ll cut your heart out. How long have you missed him?”
“I … I awoke and he was —”
A clatter across the room distracted the attention of her interrogators. Maid servant and captor had disappeared. In their place stood the baron, birth naked except for a glittering sword of his own.
“Who wants to know where I am? Is that you, Wallace? How true that doom awaits — but for whom?”
Val’s captor said quietly to the other, “We can take him if we act together, but be careful. That’s his damascene blade.”
The baron dared to chuckle. “Damascus steel! It will cut straight through your soft iron.”
He came upon them in a rush. Released, Val ducked away to her slit window. From that vantage she was privileged to witness the unleashed power of the arm that had so recently caressed her. The baron, clearly unwilling to let his foes “act together,” danced to the right and in one mighty blow completely severed the left arm of the nearer. In the same motion he spun behind the hapless man, away from the sword already launched in pursuit, and stabbed him in the middle back, straight through the chain mail as if it were spider web. The second man, Val’s erstwhile captor, advancing with sword raised around the first, stumbled over the fallen arm just in time to be knocked down by the first man’s torso, which had been propelled forward by the baron’s foot in its back.
Sword free, its patterned glimmer somewhat reduced by the stain of blood, the baron charged forward to kick the bodies apart. From the floor the second man thrust desperately upward along the baron’s hip. In the same instant a honed damascene tip struck between the man’s teeth and ground on through his brainpan. His back arched once before collapsing, sword clattering free on the flagstones.
The baron withdrew his glimmering sword and straightened up. He was not even breathing heavily. He bent over the first man, mildly surprised at first that the arm stump spurted no blood, then understanding the reason. Wild eyes glared around at Val. “Damn! I meant to spare one of them!”
Lights and clatter arose behind the main drapery. Suddenly two torch-bearing guardsmen dashed into the room, swords drawn. Upon spying the baron they came to halt and lowered their weapons. One asked, “Are you harmed, lord?”
“Only a scratch. Now a question for you: do you serve them or me?”
They went to their knees, heads bowed. The speaker said, “We have sworn fealty, lord.”
“So had Wallace, but he and his fellows would still have killed me in my sleep. As you see, thanks in no small measure to my lady’s loyalty, he failed. His knowledge of your rounds explains his near success.”
“What will you do with us, lord?”
“Train you to react faster, I think. Now get these bodies out into the courtyard, including the one in the hall. If Estelle has recovered her wits — ha! whether she has or not — send her in here with a mop to clean up this blood. The lady Valeria and I have the rest of this night to get through.”
* * * *
“Mother, while rubbing the scabbing powder on his hip, I must brush against his prick —”
“Of course you must.”
The girl smiled. “Well, it popped up so eagerly! He lifted me straight into the bed chamber, slammed the drapes behind him and was swiving me almost before I could get my legs open.”
“I can imagine,” the mother commented dryly. She brought the candle nearer. “Pull these lips apart, daughter.”
“For heaven’s sake, don’t singe me!” the girl exclaimed, hands to her groin but avoiding the hot candle. “My husband-to-be would surely miss the hair.”
“I won’t harm you,” the older woman assured her, reinserting the crotchet hook. “Don’t worry about what I do here. Tell me more of last night.”
“That is about all, until they came to dress us for breakfast. Except … Mother, I fear your only daughter is a terrible wanton.”
The woman grinned. “A wanton, no doubt. But with no ill effect, not so terrible. I’ll tell you a secret: in a my day I loved the men, too.”
“I hope not as I did this morning.”
“Oh? What terrible thing did you do this morning?”
“I lay in the arms of a man who had just slain three others, three armed and armored men who meant to slaughter him while he was naked and defenseless. I thought of the hands that cupped my nether cheeks so lovingly. They had just driven steel through three bodies. I thought how he was then driving into me with a far more tender sword. Mother, I became possessed. I would have taken his entire body into mine if I could. Estelle was still mopping the blood of three warm corpses lying in the courtyard, yet my passion was so strong that I swooned again and again. It was well my nails were cut close, else I would have made deep wounds on his back.”
“He would brag of those wounds!”
“Would he? I never knew that anything could feel so strong — anything good, I mean.”
“Aha! Look at this.” The woman held up a small knot of stained flesh wrapped many times with fine thread.
The girl frowned. “That’s only the neck, where I laced it closed after filling it with blood.”
“What about the rest of it?”
“It has been worn to small fragments.” The woman dropped the knot of flesh and pinched up a few small strips between thumb and forefinger. “These are the largest.”
The girl’s eyes widened. “Worn, you say?”
The mother asked thoughtfully, “He is larger than Roland, isn’t he?”
“The first time with him, when he ruptured the bladder, was quick, was it not — about the same as with Roland?”
The girl nodded.
“And his second you took by mouth.”
“And I didn’t spit!”
“Did he comment?”
“Well, you may be sure he noticed. When was his third?”
“That’s what I was telling you of. It began after the killings and seemed to last a blissful forever. I heard bells and saw flashes of light. I was a-tingle all over. I swooned several times. When I came to my senses after the last, he lay beside me, clasping my boobies. I wanted more even then, but when I reached for him, he but half stood.”
“Be not too demanding of the same man, daughter. Your charms may cloy.”
“Oh, I hope not!”
The woman smiled. “I think not in one night… His vigor is what shredded this bladder. Too old, did you say?”
“Oh, no, Mother. He is hardly old!”
The woman chuckled as she wiped the needle clean. “For the next good while, don’t let anyone else look into here. The stubs of your maidenhead, which should be readily detectable this morning, have long dissolved. You are indeed a wanton!”
“I told you so. Have you removed all the fragments?”
“All that I could find. Listen to me. Witnessing bloody death, especially when your lover triumphs at it, is known to stimulate a woman’s passions greatly. I think it is God’s way of assuring replacement for the dead. You must think no less of yourself for any part of your behavior last night.
“Instead, think on this. It is said that the baron gives you credit for warning him in time to arm himself. He has praised your unsworn fealty and declared your imminent husband the most fortunate man in the shire.”
“Further, he plans to give you an apartment in the safety of the tower keep, on the floor just below his own.”
“So they say. Hold still one moment longer.”
“What’s in that bottle? Vinegar?”
“Mostly a last bit of the pig’s blood. Lean back and raise your cunny high as you can.”
“More blood, Mother? Whatever for?”
“To release in your bath water, just as you get in the tub, while the water remains clear. It will impress the women mightily.”
“Won’t it leak?”
“Not much, if you hold your sphincters closed. Now take my hand. They are waiting for you. Limp a bit as you enter. They mustn’t believe you a wanton! While you let them bathe you, think on what you have learned this night and day. What is the most important lesson?”
“That even a literate lord can be fooled by the woman he loves.”
“What?” The mother laughed. “Anyone can be fooled. Surely you can do better than that!”
The girl shook her head. “I don’t think so, Mother. But let us go in while I can still fool the rest.”
Copyright © 1999, Kellis
Stories at http://www.dhp.com/~kellis