Hyd woke up in a cell in the basement of Sucat’s keep. He had been there before only a few days earlier although it seemed like years. He was chained tightly, unable to move, but he was alive. So far so good. His shoulder hurt and kept him awake. He had no idea how he would get out of this situation this time. If he was unlucky, Sucat would just have him killed but knowing his dear cousin, Sucat would not be able to resist punishing him and Eadward first and he would want to do it in public. His cousin’s vanity would be the only thing that would save them. Of course it was always possible that John and Stephan had escaped and were mounting a rescue even now but he could not count on that. While he had not seen them captured, it was possible Captain Kennard’s men had caught them and killed them before they could reach Stahlheim.
As he lay there he thought about Ranee and what she might be experiencing. She had fought strong and hard with them. He liked her. It was a shame the way things had turned out. She would have made him a good wife. The last he had seen of her before he passed out she had defiantly tried to fight off Sucat’s kisses in the court yard. Each time Sucat had slapped her she had raised her chin for more. She was a strong intelligent and beautiful woman. He sure would like to find a way to safe her from Sucat. He laughed out loud. The sound echoing in the basement. Imagine a man chained and jailed still thinking he was going to save anyone. His audacity amazed even himself.
He heard a noise from the cell next to his once the sound of his laughter had died down. It was quiet but he was sure he heard his brother’s voice. Hyd crawled over to the wall from where he heard the sound and called to his brother.
“Are you still alive?”
There was a cough and then he heard Eadward curse.
“I guess that was a yes then.”
“This sucks, brother,” said Eadward.
“I would agree with you.”
“Not yet,” said Hyd, “You?”
“Now that we are both conscious, I suggest we conserve our energy until we see what the day will bring our way.”
They lay in their respective cells watching the sunlight move across the walls. It was reflected light so they really had no idea what time of day it was but they could use it to mark the passage of time and distract themselves from their own thoughts.
Hyd knew his cousin, Sucat, Baron Briefadel, would not be able to resist the opportunity to come down into the cells and gloat. All they had to do was wait and before too long he would be there and then they would have some idea of what Sucat’s plans were for them and then they could make their own plans. Hyd lay on his side counting the stones in the wall. He was hungry. He was in pain. He was trying not to piss himself but soon he would not be able to stop himself. The trick would be not feeling humiliated by it. He knew he would not be able to hold out much longer so he decided to make the decision on his own to do it now rather than wait until his body betrayed him.
One needed to take whatever control one could of their situation. Maintaining some sense of power was important. He felt better even though he was laying in his own piss. And of course, it was at this time that Sucat chose to come into the basement. He had an uncanny ability to sense these things but that came from the years of abuse he had received from his father and his mother. He was an expert at inflicting pain and humiliation after being raised on both.
Sucat said something to Eadward that Hyd could not hear but he did hear Eadward call Sucat the son of a poxy whore and a dung collector. Sucat called for the cell door to Eadward’s cell opened. Eadward always knew what to say to get Sucat upset. It was well known that Sucat’s mother was as randy as his father had been and that she was infected with the Great Pox. It was rumored that Franck was not really Sucat’s father because he did not look like him in any way but because he was the only legitimate issue his father accepted him. Eadward’s cell door was opened and Hyd heard enter the room and begin kicking Eadward. Eadward grunted and laughed and Sucat became even more infuriated.
“You will not be laughing when I have the skin on your body stripped from you in the courtyard today.”
Sucat left Eadward’s cell and called for Hyd’s cell door to be opened. When he entered Hyd’s cell Sucat kicked him in the ribs. Hyd heard a commotion in Eadward’s cell but he could not tell what was going on over there as Sucat was walking around him and babbling something about how they were going to pay.
“You smell like piss,” said Sucat.
“You smell like a prostitute,” said Hyd.
Sucat kicked him again. Sucat’s kicks were easy to endure. Sucat really was not very strong but by antagonizing him Hyd might get some information. Sucat was usually easy to bait especially when he thought people were laughing at him and Eadward and Hyd were always laughing at him. They had stopped feeling sorry for him many years ago when they say him torturing small children and animals. He would not stop and seemed to get great enjoyment from the practice. When they caught him they could not do anything to stop it and he had just begun hiding it better.
“I thought I would come down here and tell you some stories,” said Sucat. “Stories that you would find entertaining. Well, maybe not so much entertaining as interesting. Yes, you will find these stories interesting.” Sucat leaned up against the wall facing Hyd. Sucat watched Hyd’s face.
“As you may know,” he said, “I have a new wife. Well of course you know this. You have spent much time with her. I have spent time with her also and I have to tell you I am well satisfied with her. I will keep her around for a while. I had not originally intended to keep her but it turns out she is quite a bit of fun, is my Ranee. And now that her father has left this world. Oh, this would be some news you have not heard. The Margrave loved to hunt. Did you know that? He also loved his drink and of course women. He loved his women so much that if I did not know for a fact that my wife was a virgin when I took her I might think that the Margrave had used his daughter but apparently that was one vice he did not have. I wonder why as I do not think he was very moral. But no matter. On the morning he died the Margrave had drunk much wine and ale. He was quite drunk but he insisted on going hunting and what do you know. He fell from his horse and died. I mean he really did fall from his horse all on his own. Not like my own dear father who I am sure you suspected I killed. I can tell you now as I do not think it matters anymore but I did have him killed. One needs to take these matters into ones own hands, do you not agree. And as Eadward pointed out earlier there was some question as to whether he really was my father any way. We are all much happier and better off this way. Well I am anyway.” Sucat laughed at his own joke.
“Are you listening?”
Hyd nodded. He wanted to keep Sucat talking. Sucat had sent the guards away. So the only people in the basement were Hyd and Sucat in Hyd’s cell and Eadward in his cell. He was not sure but he did not think the guards had closed Eadward’s cell door before they left and if this was true he hope Eadward could find a way to escape if Hyd could keep Sucat busy and talking. Hyd thought he heard some faint sort of scraping noises coming from Eadward’s direction.
“Do you really think the dung collector was your father? You have that sort of dung color about you.” Hyd braced himself as Sucat came over to him and kicked him again.
“You laugh now but I guarantee it will not last much longer.” Sucat went back to lean against the wall. He felt very secure in his dominant position.
“You should not be laughing now but you never did know when someone had the better of you. Now the full force of how I have bested you will be shown to you. I killed my father, Franck, and became Baron Briefadel and inherited these holdings. Unfortunately my father was not the best of managers. I needed more and now I have it. My marriage contract included a clause in which I would subject myself to the Margrave, taking his name, becoming an Uradel, becoming the Margrave’s male heir. He of course thought to get my land through my children but it is mine now that he has died. I had planned some sort of accident for him but he did me the great favor of killing himself all on his own. All in all, he was better to me than my own dear departed father. And then there is my lovely tasty wife. At first I did not think she would be an asset but I have to tell you she has turned out to be quite a delectable part of the deal. She fought very hard on our wedding day. I had to have her held down to complete the act she fought and struggle against me so hard. Jyll rather enjoyed the task. You know Jyll so I can imagine that you can imagine how much she enjoyed holding Ranee down while I raped her. She has taken every opportunity to hurt Ranee since, so much so that I have had to keep the two apart for awhile. I am saving Ranee for some very special pleasures I am thinking about for this evening after she watches you whipped raw, strung up by neck, gutted and ripped apart by four horses. Oh sorry I have let out the surprise. I meant to keep it a secret. I do apologize for ruining the anticipation. Oh well it can not be helped. Now where was I? Ah yes telling you about my wife. Right now she is being cleaned. She was quite dirty when Captain Kennard brought you all in so I could not bring myself to mount her but she was useful none the less as a receptacle. Once last night and then again this morning when I woke. She did not care for the experience much. To tell you the truth I think she wanted me inside her instead. What do you think, cousin?” Sucat paused in his monologue to look at Hyd.
“trying not to think of it I see. Well I guess I can understand that. I bet you became fond of her while on your little trip. Yes, I can see that you did. Well, not to worry. I will make sure she is well used by me and I will be sure to think of you as I use her. Does that satisfy you? No? Pity for you. I quite like the idea.” Sucat went over to Hyd and grabbed his hair forcing Hyd to look at him.
“I will pound myself into her everyday, many times a day until she can not stand it any more and she tries to kill herself and I will not make that easy. And I will say your name in her ear as I take her from behind and when I no longer want her I will throw her in this very cell, naked, without food and no one to come to her and the only thing she will have to comfort her is a knife. And once she takes her life, I will leave her abused body for the animals to desecrate. How do you like that picture? Is that one you can not ignore?”
Hyd spit in Sucat’s face. Sucat struck Hyd. Hyd’s nose began to bleed. Sucat went back to his place at the wall.
“Once you are dead, all of your holdings will be mine. The first thing I plan on doing is killing Eadward’s mother. I think I will have her raped first. Of course I will not do it. She is too old for me but be sure that she will be raped repeatedly.”
Hyd closed his eyes. Sucat was getting to him. He did not know how much more he could take. He was afraid for Maryn. He was afraid for Ranee. He was afraid for all of the people he cared about. He hoped that John and Stephan would be able to get everyone away so that Sucat could not hurt them. Hyd was tired of this game.
“I see you finally understand how things are going to be. Good. If you had accepted the way things were sooner maybe you could have saved some of your people but now all of their deaths will be your fault.”
Sucat smiled at Hyd, who had tears in his eyes.
“Sentimentality is not a good thing in a man,” said Sucat. “You should have learned to harden your heart years ago.”
Sucat left Hyd in his misery. He closed the door placing the wooden bar across it. He was so satisfied with his work on Hyd that he did not noticed that Eadward’s cell door was slightly open, let alone that the bar did not have it locked. He went up the stairs and into the courtyard where he had earlier told his men to set up the posts to which Hyd and Eadward would be tied when they were whipped. The courtyard was ready.
It was time for the mid-day meal. He ordered a tray sent up to Ranee. He did not go up himself yet. He did not trust himself to wait with her he wanted her so badly. So he ate his meal in his hall with his men.
He was so happy with the way things were going that he allowed Jyll to sit next to him so she would forget his earlier slights. He allowed himself to drink several mugs of ale. He did not eat much food as he was so excited about the afternoon’s coming events.
After the meal was finished he had his people called to the courtyard for their entertainment. He was sure he would be the only one to really enjoy what was coming but the anxiety and fear of his people would be part of what he would enjoy. He had two women go upstairs to dress Ranee and escort her to the courtyard with the guards. He had his large chair placed in the courtyard in a place where he would be able to see the whipping posts and all of the people who would be standing around watching. He went out and sat in it to wait a mug of ale in his hand to sip while everything else was prepared.
The women who came upstairs to dress Ranee found her asleep in bed. They woke her. She sat up startled, not recognizing where she was. When she was fully awake, they dressed her in her wedding dress and combed and braided her hair. She asked them why she was being so well groomed. They looked at each other, then one of the women, speaking quietly so as not to be overheard by the guards outside, told Ranee what was to happen this afternoon. Ranee listened quietly, betraying no emotion. She stood as still as a statue while they finished her grooming. When they both turned away from her for a moment, Ranee put her sharp comb in her bodice. When she was fully dressed and groomed they escorted her to the door where two guards waited. They went downstairs, a guard leading the way with Ranee next followed by the second guard and the two women taking up the rear.
They walked into the courtyard where Sucat sat in his chair waiting. He had Ranee’s noose in his lap. When she was lead over to him, he stood and put the noose over her head and around her neck. He sat back down. Ranee stood to his right. Jyll took up the place to his left. He allowed her to stand there. It would not be much longer and he would be rid of her.
When Sucat determined that all of the people were present he told his guards to bring up the prisoners. It seemed to take longer than it should have to bring them up. Perhaps they could not walk. Sucat waited a bit longer. Just when he was ready to send down more men to set what the problem was, Hyd, smiling from ear to ear, was led into the courtyard. Sucat waited for Eadward and his guard to come too but only a second guard came.
The guard leaned down to whisper in Sucat’s ear. Sucat, his face red, his breathing labored, jump up from his chair and began bellowing for the men to begin searching for Eadward. Some how the man had escaped.