This time listen to Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman”.
For the trip back to the empire, empress decided to dress like a man. She will be traveling alone with her old bodyguard and it is much safer for two men to travel together than it is for an old man and a woman. The two of them will travel much faster than the whole suite of manly protectors.
They traveled during the day and for the nights they were settling in some inns near the road. Somewhat 200 km from the empire’s border, they had to sleep under the sky because the night caught them nowhere near the inn they planned to sleep in. They probably lost a lot of time on her swimming escapade. Old bodyguard noticed that lake and the day was really hot. She told him it was worth it. She loved sleeping outdoors anyway. Her father made sure of that when she was a little girl.
They set up a fire and sat next to it. Old bodyguard has been drinking most of the night.
“I wish you didn’t drink tonight, old man. You should act like a man, not a chicken.”
“Oh what do you know little girl?! I am thirsty, I drink!”
Old bodyguard laid on one blanket and tried to cover himself by the other. She saw he is too drunk to do it so she knelt next to him, covered him and kissed his forehead.
“How much time do I have before they come for me?”
“Oh, ma’am, come who?”
“You know who, do not insult my intelligence!”
“Ma’am, no one is coming.”
“How much time, I asked?”
“Half an hour….maybe…maybe less.”
She put a knife in his hand, “Here, use your own knife! Do it!”
He thrust a knife in his belly. His blood started to pour out of the wound as soon as she took out the knife and put it in his hand again.
“You old fool, I don’t want you to suffer! Cut your wrists!”
When he cut both of the wrists, she stuck her two fingers in his belly wound. Her smile revealed she was recalling some pleasant memories.
“Ma’am…I had to do it…I am sorry ma’am.”
“Shhhhh, just tell me who am I dealing with.”
“It’s…ma’am…family of that man your husband killed in your bedchamber after the hunt…it was one of the conditions…I am sorry ma’am…”
“Just close your eyes and die…this is not your fault.”
“But…ma’am…you knew…you didn’t stop me…you didn’t…why didn’t you ma’am?”
“I believe people should always strive to accomplish everything they are willing to accomplish. That’s why they have that thing called own will. People choose to do things taking into account all or only some of the facts they have at their disposal. I love to observe which facts they disregard and where that leads them.”
Old man was already dead, shadows took him in. She pulled out her fingers and sniffed them…sweet scent of blood. Her lips touched bloody fingers. She opened her lips just enough for her tongue to slip between them. One small lick brought the taste of blood into her mouth. Her heart started to beat faster. She wanted more. One more lick but this time from the root of the fingers to the top. Now her hunger was fully awaken. She put them in her mouth and sucked all the blood off them. Her whisper “Love the way you taste!” was heard by night creatures but they didn’t care much about it.
She started running towards the border. When she heard the dogs, she knew there is no way out of the situation but she just kept running. Next to the ruins of an old inn she thrust the knife into an old oak as high as she could reach and then she hid behind it. She was shivering when dogs found her. Her captors tied her wrists and sat her on the horse being very careful not to hurt her. They knew who they are dealing with.
In the cell, there was a washbowl and a chair. Moonlight was getting in through a small window. Empress sat on the chair with her hands tied behind her back and waited. She has all the time in the world but somebody’s revenge can’t wait much longer. Soon into the cell stepped a woman. Empress never saw her before so she allowed her to lead for a little while. Apparently, this woman was ladies’ man’s sister and was full of rage. After few soft fists greeted empress’ face, rage was put under control. Empress looked a woman in the eyes and allowed her to see contempt on her face. Contempt obviously wasn’t the emotion woman expected.
“Bring it in!”, she commanded.
Guard brought in scissors and razor. Woman cut empress’s beautiful hair off.
“Who will you look at with contempt now?”
Empress was quiet, looking at the floor and her hair locks that fell there. When the woman was done with scissors, she took a razor in her hands. Woman wasn’t careful though and she cut empress’ skin each time she pressed razor on her skin. One hour later, water in washbowl was red and empress was bald.
“No one will recognize you now! Maybe I should do something to your face too.”
Empress started to laugh.
“What is so funny? Why are you laughing?”
“I hoped I will have fun here but all they got was you.”
“My empress, you will see that I am fun. Very fun indeed! I will release you of all your feminine features. You will become a sexless creature. For a woman of your vanity this will be very hard.”
“Little girl, no one told you that sensuality is not in the way you look but in the way you behave. It comes from within. Exterior is less important, little girl!”
Woman got furious
“Oh, by the time I finish with you, you will have no interior nor exterior!”
“You already finished with me. Now run for your dad, I want to talk to him.”
A hand with the razor flew in the air but didn’t reach the target. Empress hit woman’s tibia and woman lost the balance. Woman’s father entered the cell in that very moment and saw his daughter on the floor.
“I warned you to be careful!”
Guard helped the woman to get up and leave the cell.
“I promised your husband I wont torture you. Still, I do not want anyone to recognize you so, unfortunately, you will have to be whipped from the front and the back.”
“When will you take me to your king? I am sure he has some plans for me too.”
“Yes, your husband had to…”
“Please, do not waste your words, I am aware of everything he had to promise. When I heard what a good deal he negotiated, I knew he had to agree to pay a high price for that. Not even him can be that good of a negotiator.”
“Yes, our king knew you planted an assassination attempt to our official. He wanted to..”
“I asked you politely not to waste your words. We are not in some story made for superficial audience. We are the only two people in this cell and we both know how I got here.”
“There is one thing I don’t know though. If you knew everything, why did you allow us to catch you?”
“I tried to escape sir.”
“Have you? I am quite sure you allowed us to catch you.”
“As I said, I tried to escape but when I heard the dogs, I gave up. I know I cannot escape the dogs. Who thought of using them? You? It was a wise call, sir.”
Man nodded and ordered the executioner to get in.
“You and your husband are very alike, you deserve each other.”
Executioner untied her hands so she can hug the back of the chair.
“Please, take off top part of your outfit. We will start with your back, I am sure you know the drill.”
She did what he told her to do. At first, whip was licking her back., it was was as hungry as she was, licking turned into snapping and biting. Executioner had a good whipping rhythm, a predictable rhythm. When the impact force of the whip was high enough and he swung the whip, empress put her hands on her back, inner part of her wrists turned towards the executioner. Impact was inevitable and strong. Whip cut her wrists and they started to bleed. She put her hands in front of her. The sight of her blood excited her and made her tremble. Man jumped in front of her, trying to stop the bleeding. Executioner went to fetch the doctor.
“I never answered your question, you are reckless, sir.”
“What question? What are you talking about? Why did you do this? We promised not to torture you!”
Her lips formed a word tedium but he didn’t see it. Empress did what was expected from a person that lost that much blood, she lost consciousness.
Our heroine woke up in the other cell. One might even call it a room but, basically, it was a cell. Her wrists were bandaged. Man grinned:
“Don’t run to the devil’s shadow child, he has enough time to wait for you.”
She bit her lip and lost consciousness again.