Friday, October 30, 2009


"I do not know this woman," said Hyd, "and I did not kidnap her. Tell them." Hyd addressed Ranee without looking at her.

"Yes, daughter, tell us what happened," said the Margrave. "Be not afraid to tell us this man abducted you." Ranee's father did look at her, quite closely. "Any other explanation would be unimaginable, would it not?"

Ranee noticed her father's hands balled into tight fists as he moved half a step closer to her. The chords of his tendons jumped and moved under his skin, betraying his anger and his tension. Ranee knew if she did not give her father the correct answer, his fists would showed her his displeasure in a very physical way.

"Margrave Uradel, why don't I handle this situation," said the Baron. "Your daughter will soon be my wife." The Baron plucked some straw from Ranee's hair. His upper lip curled slightly and his brows drew together. He moved away from Ranee.

"I suggest your lovely daughter be cleaned and clothed and fed and then we can meet under more favorable conditions." He nodded to a someone standing behind Ranee and Hyd.

When Ranee turned to see who it was, Ranee saw Hyd staring at her. A woman took hold of Ranee's arm and steered her away from the others.

"You, dear cousin, will be held in the cellars until we settle this matter." Ranee did not hear anyone respond and the woman with a grip on her arm was pulling her along so fast, Ranee stumbled across the ground.

"Slow down," Ranee said.

"Surat wants you cleaned up," said the woman. "You are not fit to be around other people. You stink."

Ranee jerked her arm from the woman's grasp.

"I can walk on my own."

"You can't even escape your father for more than a day."


"I followed you from your father's keep. I know you were running away." She reached to grab Ranee's arm again, but Ranee avoided her.

"Who are you?"

"I am not surprised you don't know me. Why would a spoiled girl like you notice a mere servant?" The woman smoothed her hands down the bodice of her dress.

Ranee looked more closely at the woman, squinting through the darkness, the woman's gesture triggering a memory of someone she knew.

"I've never heard your voice before," said Ranee.

"Why should you? It would not be appropriate for someone like me to talk to you."

"What is your name?"

"Jyll, but do not think knowing my name will make us any closer." Jyll reached for Ranee again and got her wrist. She held on tight and pulled ranee along behind her.

"Sucat wants you cleaned up and I always give him what he wants."

Jyll's grasp on Ranee was unrelenting. They got to the hall and Jyll dragged Ranee into the bathing room off of the kitchen. Jyll told a sleeping scullery to bring in hot water. Jyll began yanking Ranee's dress over her head. Ranee struggled with Jyll, but Jyll was quite strong and was able to get Ranee's clothes from her, both her over dress and her chemise. Jyll threw them at a second scullery that arrived.

"Get the tub filled and bring some strong soap," said Jyll. She ordered the sculleries around as if she had been here many times before. Jyll turned to Ranee.

"You get clean. I will get you some fresh clothes." Jyll left the room.

The sculleries scurried around the room hurrying to get their orders filled. They did not look at Ranee's naked body. Ranee stood in a corner hoping they could get the tub filled quickly so she could get in. If she was honest with herself, she would admit she dearly wanted to get her hair clean and even she could tell she smelled awful. Her brief brush with freedom did not go well, but she did not believe that was her fault. If she had not run into the man called Hyd and he had not molested her, she could have gotten away. Why was he out near the building she was at? Was he following her, too for some reason?

Jyll came back into the room with a bundle in her arms. She placed the clothes on a table. Jyll went over to one of the sculleries and look in the pail the girl was carrying.

"This would go much faster if you actually put some water in there." Jyll slapped the girl who was only about twelve years old. The girl dropped the bucket, sloshing water water on Jyll's dress. Jyll hit the girl again.

"You are worthless," said Jyll, her face close to the child's. "You can be sure I will tell the Baron about your behavior. Be prepared to go back to shoveling dung."

The girl burst into tears and ran from the room, leaving her bucket and the spilled water for the other girl to clean up.

"Do you often make promises for the Baron?" said Ranee.

"You will find I have a special place in the Baron's life," said Jyll. "It would be best for you to understand this now."

Jyll stood in front of Ranee, her hands on her hips.

"I am more beautiful than you are," said Jyll. She lifted some of Ranee's hair.

"Your hair is a plain black." She combed her fingers through her own hair. "Mine is a beautiful golden red and thick and curly. I am tall and well rounded. You barely reach up to my chin."

Jyll stroked Ranee's neck, down across her collar bone and over the top of Ranee's breasts.

"Your skin is soft but you have had a soft life." She pinched Ranee's left nipple.

Ranee backed away and covered what she could of her naked body with her hands.

"That will be over when Sucat marries you. You will know your worth then." Jyll tested the water in the now full bathing tub. "Get in and get clean for your future husband." She shoved Ranee towards the tub.

"My father is the Grand Duke. If my mother had been a little higher on the social ladder, not the wife of a serf, Baron Sucat would be marrying me and not you."

Ranee stepped into the bath, losing some of what Jyll was saying when she ducked under the water. She had no idea what to think of what Jyll was saying to her but it was obvious the girl knew the Baron well and seemed very comfortable in his hall. If the Baron really thought as highly of Jyll as Jyll seemed to think, she would be a problem in Ranee's new household. She was sure she would not be given another chance to escape her fate. When she rose up from the water, Jyll was still speaking.

"He may marry you but it is only for your title. He knows your father is after his land but no one, not even your father, can out wit him." Jyll was rummaging through the clothes she had placed on the table, holding each dress up for inspection. She chose one and turned back to Ranee.

"Hurry up," she said, "You have wasted enough of every one's time already. Sucat will be waiting in the hall."

"The Baron allows you to use his given name?" Ranee stood and stepped out of the bath. The scullery handed her a towel.

"Thank-you," Ranee said to the girl, who smiled shyly in response.

"Get out," Jyll said. She kicked one of the water buckets at the girl, who ran out of the room.

"Get dressed. Comb out your hair. I will be back shortly after I see to the Baron's afternoon repast."

Ranee watched Jyll leave. Ranee recalled seeing her at her father's keep when they were younger, but did not recall ever seeing her during the last few years. Jyll must have come to Baron Briefadel's keep then. No wonder Ranee did not recognize her at first. If Jyll had spent the last three years in the Baron's bed, Ranee cold well understand why the girl felt secure in her position. This would definitely be a challenge for Ranee. Even though they were the same age, it seemed Jyll had far more knowledge and experience than Ranee had.

A male servant knocked on the wall just outside of the washroom.

"The Baron waits upon you mistress if you are now ready to be seen."

"I am ready if you will show me the way." Ranee padded down the hallway in her bare feet, following closely behind the man who was sent to fetch her. He showed her into the main hall and left her standing before a seated Baron Sucat Briefadel, her future husband and Jyll, who sat at his right hand. The room was empty except for her and these two.

"You smell much better," said the Baron. He took a sip from his wine cup and stroked Jyll's cheek in an affectionate way.

"Since we are to be married tomorrow..."

"We are not to marry for three fortnights," said Ranee.

"Do not interrupt me again," said the Baron. "Learn your manners now and you will find life much easier for yourself." He drained his cup and Jyll refilled it.

"Jyll, as you see, has a special place in my home because she knows what I want from her. While I will want different things from you, it is still possible for you to live well here, if you, too, give me what I want." He took his time sorting through some dried fruit and nuts in a bowl in front of him. When he found one to his liking, he chewed it slowly savoring the morsel.

"We will marry on the morrow. Your father and I agreed it would be best, although we each thought so for different reasons. You see, I know my dear cousin did not kidnap you or molest you. He would never do such things. But you will say he did and Jyll will be a witness to my cousin's foul deeds."

"No. I will not lie. He will be punished. How can you want that for your cousin."

"You will say what I tell you to say. You think what your father has done to your mother was bad. Yes, everyone knows how he treats her but believe me that will be nothing as to what I will do if you do not obey me. I have much better ways to hurt you and give myself pleasure at the same time. I love an unwilling partner." The Baron rose from his chair and approached Ranee. When he raised his hand to touch her hair she could not help but flinch from him. He wrapped his fingers in her hair, tugged and pulled her close to his face.

"You will do as I say. I am good at hiding the bruises and I will not allow you to lose yourself in potent herbs." The Baron yanked her closer and brutally kissed her, biting down on her tongue. Ranee whimpered in her throat.

"Do you understand me?"

She nodded her head.

"I will make it easy on you." He clapped his hands together and two soldiers appeared.

"Escort my bride to my chambers and make sure she does not get out and no one gets in, for any reason, until I come back."

One soldier moved to each side of her, each taking an arm and steering her to a set of rooms at the top of the stairs above the main hall. They escorted her in, left closing the door behind her. When she cracked the door open and peered out they had stationed themselves on each side of the door, their lances blocking the exit.

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