Friday, October 30, 2009


"You will not bring up your objection again," said Margrave Uradel. He backhanded Ranee to emphasize his statement as if yelling his demand would not be enough to make his point to his only daughter.

Ranee wiped the blood off of her split lip with one hand and the tears from her cheek with the other. Her father's mood this evening did not match her meager courage. She should have been more careful in watching him during the evening meal and she would have seen that he had consumed more ale than usual. Their guests did make put the Margrave in a favorable mood either. She only had herself to blame for her beating which she had to admit was lighter than she had expected once she realized her father's mood.

"Get yourself to your room and repair yourself," he said. The Margrave grasped Renee's chin in the rough grip of his fingers. "You know I dislike seeing you in a dishevelled state when we have guests." He let go of her face. "It is well for you that Baron Briefadel is satisfied with your looks, such as they are." The Margrave snorted into his ale cup before he gulped a mouthful of the brew. "You should be thankful that he does not know of your willfulness. It is a very unattractive trait, especially as you are not beautiful enough for a man to overlook such behavior."

When her father turned away from her to get his cup refilled, Ranee backed out of her father's room. He would forget about her soon. Ranee had seen her father's latest woman lurking in the doorway of his bedchamber. Ranee did not recognize the woman. Her father must have brought her to the keep from another town. He must have gone through all of the women in their own hamlet.

The woman had an eager look on her face, whether it was from the Margrave's treatment of Ranee or from anticipation of her father's attention, Ranee did not know. All Ranee knew was that she would have some peace while her father was being kept busy by his newest wench.

Ranee made her way to her room by passing through the kitchens. She had not eaten much at the midday meal. When her father was home, the Margrave insisted on meals heavy with fatty meats in bread trenchers and supplemented with heavy dark ales.

Cook always put more delicate vegetable pies and fruit tarts aside for Ranee. She made small pastries that Ranee could hide in her pockets and smuggle to her room. Cook had a daughter, Cate, that Ranee had helped hide from her father's attentions when Ranee was six and Cook's daughter was fifteen. Since that time when Ranee had shoved Cate into her clothes chest to keep Cate from the Margrave, Cook had made sure Ranee never went hungry, even during those times when Ranee's father kept her from table as punishment.

Once when Ranee was twelve, she spent three days locked in her room because she had dared to come between her father and her mother. The Margrave had appeared in her mother's solarium one afternoon, still clothed in his battle wear, covered in dirt and blood. All of the women in her mother's entourage removed themselves from the room, leaving Ranee sitting next to her trembling mother.

"Get out, girl." The Margrave approached Ranee and her mother. When Ranee didn't move, her father shouted so loud, Ranee felt the vibrations of his powerful voice within her lungs.

"Move or feel my mailed hand upon your body."

Ranee rose and her father grinned until he saw Ranee move in front of her frightened and immobile mother. Ranee watched as her father's brows drew together and his eyes squinted and her bared his teeth. He was upon them in two huge strides, his arm swinging back and forward, light glinting off of a metal covered finger. Her father hit her on the side of her skull just above her ear, knocking her back into her mother's lap. Her mother pulled back dumping Ranee on the floor and pushing Ranee away with her feet. Ranee crawled away in time to miss the kick of her father's booted foot.

When she reached the curtain hanging over the door she pulled herself up and looked back into the room in time to see her father grab her mother's hair in one hand and the neck of her bodice in his other hand. He pulled down on the neckline, ripping her mother's dress and exposing her mother's breasts. The Margrave bent his wife backwards taking one of her breasts in his mouth. She let out a weak cry until the Margrave flipped his wife over, raising her dress above her hips and over her head. Ranee heard her mother's muffled sobs and her father's laughter as she escaped her mother's solar.

Her father had come looking for her when he was done enforcing his will upon his wife.

"I own you and your mother," he said. He punctuated each word with a stroke of his riding whip on her back. "You will stay, alone and without food, in your room until I leave again in three days' time." He threw her to the floor. At the door, he turned back to her.

"I will punish anyone who brings you food." He smiled at her. His smiles broke her heart because his face was so beautiful when he smiled but she knew there was no warmth in him, smiling or not. "I know how much you care for the servants. Just remember, their punishments will be far worse than yours." He posted a guard outside her door and the only one allowed in was the chambermaid to clear the chamber pot each day. The chambermaid brought Ranee pasties from Cook secreted in her pockets. Ranee tried to get them to stop, but they would not. Ranee was grateful to them, but spent three days terrified that they would be caught.

Once Ranee was allowed out of her room again, she learned that her mother had to take to her bed because the Margrave had caused her to miscarry a child no one knew she was carrying. When he found out that his wife had been pregnant, he beat her while she lay defenseless and already weak. He beat her until her face was unrecognizable. She remained unseen for two months by everyone accept her closest women. When she finally emerged, her eyes were hooded and she seemed always to be on the verge of falling asleep. Cook explained to Ranee that her mother had begun to drink special teas throughout the day that dulled the senses and kept her in another world within her own mind.

Her mother had never given Ranee much care and attention but from that time forward, they saw each other rarely and no longer spoke to one another. Her mother's women stayed far from Ranee, too, blaming Ranee for the Margrave's last brutal treatment of his wife.

The Margrave for his part, never went near his wife again. He began bringing woman to the keep whenever he was in residence. They never stayed more than a few days and they never came back more than once and they were never in any part of the keep but her father's rooms. Sometimes when one was visiting, screams could be heard and everyone knew the Margrave was in a foul mood. That was when everyone took special care to never look the Margrave in the eye and to stay out of his way if they could.

At seventeen, Ranee rarely made the mistake of attracting her father's negative attention anymore. She had mistakenly read his mood this day. She thought that the representatives from her future husband would put her father in a good mood but obviously she had misread the Margrave. Ranee simply wanted time to get to know her future husband before marrying him. She hadn't even met him yet, although her father said Baron Briefadel had seen her. Considering the way her father felt about her, she should consider herself lucky that The Margrave had not promised her to some old toothless man. She had heard from others that Baron Sucat Briefadel was a young, healthy and attractive twenty years old with a large land holding. She was told that most women found him quite handsome in appearance. She should know better than to push her father for some sort of gentle sentiment and count herself lucky that she would not be bedded by some wrinkled elderly gent or a hideously fat man who would smoother her with his love making.

She knew her father was eager to get his hands on the Baron's land. The Margrave was so sure he would be able to control the Baron. Part of the Margrave's plan was for Ranee to captivate her new husband on their wedding night. He had sent one of his women to her on the night of the previous full moon to explain to Ranee exactly how he expected Ranee to captivate the Baron. Ranee was shocked and horrified when the woman showed her the trick her father expected her to use. Ranee could not bring herself to go near a broom handle from that moment on. But this was nothing compared to her father's questioning of her about what she had learned. She had tried to keep her eyes closed during his interrogation, but he would have none of it.

"Do not be a simpering maid like your worthless mother," he said.

"If she had been more of a whore, we would have had more children and I would not have had to beat her so often." He smiled to him self, looking all the world as if he were remembering fond moments of the past.

"Open your eyes, girl. A man likes to look at a woman and see she is enjoying having him within her. I tell you this for all of our benefit." He cupped Ranee's chin in the palm of his hand, for once not hurting her in the process.

"If you can use you tongue for something other than speaking your marriage may be a good one." The Margrave rubbed her lower lip with his thumb, slowly inserting it between her lips.

"Show me what you have learned." He spoke so softly, Ranee wasn't sure she had heard correctly, until he shoved his thumb further into her mouth.

"Do it now." This time he spoke quite clearly.

Ranee ran her tongue around her father's thumb, her face burning, her eyes looking into his until he pulled his hand from her and shoved her away from him.

"Get out," he said. He turned his back to her and she wasted no time in leaving his presence.

In her room, thinking about what her father expected of her, she began pacing the space she called home. If her choices were between becoming a body barely alive like her mother or becoming a whore like one of her father's women, she thought she could find herself a better choice. She began grabbing a few of her clothes together and tied them within her warmest cloak. Anything had to be better than the life she currently had or the one her father was selling her into. She would wait until the candles were dowsed and the fires banked for the night. Then she would leave through the kitchen, grabbing some traveling cakes and dried meat and leave under cover of the keeps many shadows.

Ranee laid down to get some rest in her warm room, probably the last warmth she would have in a long while.

She woke to the sound of the dogs fighting in the hall, which often happened when the day guards came in the rest the space in front of the fireplaces from the hounds. It was later than Ranee wanted to leave. She gathered her bundle and quietly made her way down the back stairs. In the kitchen, she tied hard cakes and dried meat into a piece of cloth and added them to her bundled. The food would be as valuable as the few coins she had managed to gather over the years. She took four meat pasties putting two in each of her pockets. These she would eat over the first two days of her escape.

She unlocked the outside door of the kitchen using the secret key Cook had for the door. Only the keep's chamberlain was to have keys to the outside doors for the safety of all enclosed in the keep but Cook had a special relationship with the chamberlain. He had given her an extra key to make her life easier. Ranee hoped Cook would be up early in the morn to lock up and hide her key so Cook would not get in trouble.

Ranee kept along the keep's wall, going slowly and listening for every sound. When she finally reached the end of the building directly across from the field leading to the forest, Ranee felt a cold wet touch on her hand. She yelped at the unexpected feeling and looked down to see one of the keep's many dog's sitting at her feet. He was sniffing at her skirts, a low growling in his throat. Ranee slowly reached into her pocket, hoping she had enough pasties to keep the hunting dog busy while she dashed across the field to the waiting darkness of the forest. She threw one of the pasties back towards the way she had come. The dog did not move. She threw a second after the first, followed by the third and then the forth. Finally, the hound trotted off after the food as if it knew exactly how many pies Ranee had. So much for the nice food for the start of her journey.

Without giving the pies any further thought, Ranee pushed herself away from the keep's wall and ran. She ran like she had never run before. She ran as if her father was just behind her. She had no doubt's he would follow as soon as he discovered her gone.

1 comment:

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