James led me outside into the fields, wheat and other crops rising high above their roots, a whip hanging from a belt. He smirked as I eyed the cat-o'-nine-tails warily, stepping up the iron water pump and placing the bucket under the faucet. "I'm sure you're very aware of what this can do. Don't give me reason to use it-and trust me when I say that a flogging is the least of my punishments. I hope you understand, slave, that I may do what I please with my possessions."
The salacious glint in his eyes made a shudder run down my back and I turned away from him to avoid it, the metal shackles barely allowing me to part my wrists, much less let me grasp the long, S-shaped lever. I heard James' breath hitch in anger. "You will not turn your back on me!"
I pulled up, and then pushed back down-water rushed into the bucket, and I yearned to splash it on my hot, reddened cheeks from the midday sun.
"Then how am I to do as you ask?" I mumbled, pumping more water into the flooding bucket. Tension radiated off James so much that I half expected to see a halo of red surrounding him when I did finally spin around. "Forgive me, but I have no idea what you wish me to do and how to please you most."
Auburn eyebrows rose. "It would please me most if you obeyed orders!" He barked angrily, fingers tightening around the nine leather strands.
I stifled a gulp, noting the slight widening of my eyes. I turned back to the pump, the liquid splashing gently on my thighs and shins. I eyed the waterline. Just one more.
I gripped the handle firmly, pulled up as far as I was allowed, aiming to get as much water I could out of the one movement. Arms slightly aching, I pushed down.
I frowned, the pump suddenly shaking before a huge spray of water shot across, towards James, instantly drenching him. His mouth hung open in shock and surprise, dripping auburn hair stuck to his fair-skinned forehead, and the expression was priceless. I bawled fervently and hysterically with laughter, grinning like a fool.
That's because you are! I heard several grumble in warning. He's like a bull seen red, and if you don't run, you'll be killed!
"Is something funny?" James snarled darkly, staring bloody red death into me, silently unhooking the cat-o'-nine-tails. I scrambled back, falling on my behind from the slippery grass. James towered over me, glaring and irate. Fear was pumped in, my heart racing as I gazed wide-eyed up, praying to the gods' that he would show mercy. "Mercy, please." I whimpered, cowering in my own shadow.
My master sneered. "I do not forgive those who laugh at and humiliate me."
More terror spiked into me, my heart hammering. "I did not mean it. I'm sorry. Please Master," I begged, adding the latter with hopes of pacifying his anger.
His eyes flared, and I knew I'd slipped into the gorge, tumbling helplessly down, a foolish mistake my downfall, even with careful, cautious treading. In a second, the leather knots sunk its claws into my flesh, ploughing through like a tiger would do to a tree to sharpen its talons. The shock and silence hung for a few moments, blood tickling out lazily. Then a ripping scream resonated out of my voice box, the pain indescribable, incomparable. The was nothing in all my life that neared even close to the pain I was experiencing, tiny chunks of skin-my bloodied flesh, that of which had been torn away from my right thigh-lying on the blood-dampened grass. There were no tears that rolled down my cheeks; the agony took much of a shock for my body to register the reaction. Set in a permanent, gaping O, I screamed, the ringing, deafening sound echoing through the fields. But a swift kick to my ribs knocked the air out of my lungs, and I was left gasping, rolling and moaning.
Behind me, I felt James' body. "Quiet," he whispered darkly into my ears, his cool breath so close to my skin that it made it crawl, "you little bitch."
My heart burned hot, every thought concerning my new master irate, with every mental voice throwing the most horrifying words known at him.
Call me a bitch, you animal! I screamed, finding new hatred, my hopes of a caring, concerned owner-the prospect, the very seams of the idea, disgusted me-shattered; even the fragments themselves unsalvageable. I withered in an attempt to absorb the excruciating pain, to no avail. My lips quivered, tears now running down my cheeks, my nose dripping mucus. More wails escaped out, James rolling me over like one would do to a puppy, his eyes still blazing like the severe wounds, his eyes red like the blood that streamed out. "You're lucky that I'm being lenient, little slave."
Clicking his fingers impatiently, Master gestured to the small, two-story manor, logs forming the exterior, with large, white-panelled windows and a porch looking out to the capital city, the limestone palace glistening and glittering under the afternoon sunlight in the near distance.
You want me to stand? With this bloody dammed leg!
The bastard, I heard contemptuously.
Still, a voice whispered something tantalizing into my mental ear: You could escape Angia. It's just a cut. It's just a cut. You could escape. You could escape. You could escape. Run. Run. It's just a cut.
James spun on his heels, the grass twisting and uprooting with the movement under his weight, impatiently clicking his fingers once more as my Master started towards the building. I sneered behind his back, and-clenching my jaw to confine a groan of pain, rather let James have to satisfaction of knowing my discomfort-pushed on one knee to standing, but the movement was too unbearable. "Uh," I moaned as discreetly as possible, as his back to me, with once final burst of determination and a streak of exhilaration, I spun around and gave in to the Voice's tantalizing words.
* ~ * ~ *
Pain slicing hot across my back knocked me down, grass mixing with my saliva. "Think you could run, bitch?" I heard him snarl. "Think you could dare run from me?"
I cried out when his foot smashed into my ribcage, definitely bruising a few bones. "I wouldn't need to-"
I winced when he kicked me. "Did I give you permission to speak, bitch, you little, dirty whore?"
The words cut deeper this time, every insult running laps around my head: Bitch. Whore. Slut. Sow. Slave. Worthless. Nothing. Useless. Bitch. Whore. Slut. Sow. Slave. Worthless. Noth-
Shut up! I heard scream into my thoughts, cutting off the oppressing words, obviously protesting such ideas, even more so when I barely considered them to be perhaps true. How dare you say such things? How dare you self-loathe, Angia? Don't you think, for one second, that you're-
A ripping scream erupted out of my voice box, vibrating the very air around us, as James' started a ruthless attack with his leather weapon. Seeing the using my arms as a protection was no use, I scrambled away, only for the cat-'o-nine-tails to follow. Another lash tore across my torso, the leather ploughing through skin, followed by my replying yelp of pain. Instinctively trying to protect myself, I balled up on my side, tucking my head towards my weeping red torso, a sharp sting blazing through me at the movement. "Stop! I beg of you!"
Suddenly, the thump of a whip hitting the dampened soil amazed me-but another stab of excruciating pain washed away any thought instantly as my Master roughly hauled me up and pushed me towards the house. Ignoring my body's screaming and bawling-something so vexing, like disregarding an orphan baby as it begged for a shelter in someone's arms-I obeyed, feebly and gingerly proceeding through the fields, trying my very best to block out James' whispered abuse.
* ~ * ~ *
Hands threw me into onto hard boards, hardly softened by dry, old hay. I groaned, weeping as I rolled on the floorboards of the abandoned barn, the doors crashing shut, a scrape informing of my imprisonment.
Fear spiked into me as I noted the darkness, everything black. With every breath, my chest stung and ached, the effort to even do such a thing tiring. I felt more tears stream down my face, but could hardly locate any energy or rather risk myself the feel of overworked, aching arms-James hard forced me to clean much of the manor, an observing servant ordered to kick me every time I stopped. The memory made me wince, despair forcing me to gasp along with my crying, my throat constricting from the tears. "You little bitch. Bitch. Whore. I'd payed good money to save you, slave! A pig in a poke!"
James' words-my Master's words-seemed to be the law for me now. I had to do as he said, even more so with the fact that it was legally allowed. My fist clenched from anger, but a wail escaped from the harsh ache. "Damn you, King! You attacked my village," I screamed angrily, my voice resonating around the room, "when we had done nothing! No wrong! Because you are unjust!"
My mother's dead expression flashed into my mind suddenly, the memory forcing my grip that held back rounds of screams from anguish and desperation to break. Sobbing fervently, withering in pain on the dry hay, I screamed, the noise pulsing around the room, vibrating everything until my voice broke and I drowned in my need to sleep, sinking down into deep waters.
* ~ * ~ *
Again, I knelt at a throne, my dreams of freedom forcing the fantasy. But, how contradictory, considering I had wished the King the punishment of Hell last night when he died-hopefully soon. Still, when I gazed up, there was that same tanned face, a backdrop to a pair of ocean-blue eyes, golden hair like a patch of caramel grass atop his head. Hope bubbled inside as I gazed up, seeing the approval and love for me in his eyes. And suddenly, fingers clamped around my arms, dragging me back…back…
I clawed and struggled, begging the King to order them-these terrible hands-to let go of me. His smile was my reply, the love dropping below zero to an icy, cutting smirk. "No! No!" I screamed, my voice vibrating around the cold, dark Throne Room.
And everything was black.
My eyes searched-where was I? Panic rose in my throat, constricting my windpipe, pushing tears up and out as I finally remembered-slavery. James.
Now it was bile's turn to rise, as I recalled his words and the devastating whip that he wielded as to make me obey in fear.
Tyrants, Voices spat. Aren't they all?
At least I didn't wake up in a cage, I mumbled inwardly back, taking in the dim surroundings; sure my pupils were large from such an absence of light.
Well, we didn't wake up in a five-star hotel, either.
A slither of light caught my attention-daylight, of course. It was my exhaustion that had forced me into sleep, dry tears-I realised as I lifted my hand weakly to my face-still there on the curve of my nose. An image of feet running unexpectedly flashed mentally-I pushed it away, reminding the Voices.
I've quit. I'm not running anymore-
But you can't just give up!
I can, actually, I pressed mentally, glaring upwards, attempting to stare exasperation at my forehead. I'm tired of cowardice-running from what I'm scared of, running as a whole. My Master, James, he can do what he pleases with me, legally and without limits.
I heard wails of despair and irate anger. No! No! Never, Angia! Never!
I prepared myself for a spar, which never came, light flooding the room as the barn doors flung open, the silhouette of a man ahead. My hand flung to my face to shield my startled eyes, shocked at the bright, sudden light. The dark figure approached me swiftly, their hand unfamiliar as they dragged me outside, my eyes finally getting a clear view. And ahead-a tall wooden post, alone and formidable, two iron rings attached about two-thirds high. I then noticed James, his smirk cruel; his eyes glaring down at me as I stumbled and crumbled, my legs giving out from both fear and exhaustion; his hand gripping that same cat-'o-nine-tails. He dismissed the large man, prowling around me, tutting in disapproval. "I received a complaint today. Your disturbances last night have made me less richer."
I wished I could just sink into the dirt ground, seeing the ropes and chains pooled at the base of he post, knowing of my to-be punishment. "Do you want me poor, my slave?" James snarled, his gaze painful, my heart pumping loudly in my ears.
James kicked me, my wince somehow pleasing him. "DO YOU WANT ME POOR, SLAVE?"
The shout frightened me, terrified me, my body groaning once more from the ache. "N-n-n-no, M-M-Ma-ster."
James' hand shot down to my shirt, using it to pull me up and throw me towards the post. I snaked my arms around it, the only support to stop me from sinking down, proving I was a lesser. "Why are you so cruel?" I whimpered, gazing helplessly into his eyes.
"Quiet!" He growled angrily, and I heard the telltale click of his whip unhooking. "Take off your shirt."
Fear pounded in my veins like ice-hard and freezing. I didn't dare look back, wary of any exaggerated punishments for even such a simple act. Hot breath tickled my ear, hands caressing my cheek from behind. "Take it off, Angia."
How did he find out my name? I wondered, my thoughtful mental tone surprising my emotions.
His hands left my cheeks, his body pressing mine into the post and trapping me-the prospect both claustrophobic and terrifying-his hands slipping underneath the hem of my shirt, reaching bare skin. "Do it now-or I will do it for you."
I felt husky breath-was this lust?
My lips quivered as I reached down and met his hands-he gripped them tightly, purring sinisterly into my ear. "Good girl. Perhaps I will reward your obedience with being gentler."
I felt my heart hammering against my ribs at a furious rate, my hands sweaty from not just another hot morning. Tears reared up in my throat, and I knew I was about to be, yet again, whipped for something insignificant, the penalty exorbitant. That didn't make it any easier, didn't make the pain-or the memories-any more tolerable.
I gasped in a sob, and Master noticed. "Angia," he purred, his sudden mercurial change such a surprise, "you must learn to be obedient. Screaming at night and disturbing mine and others sleep is inappropriate. If you take off your shirt and tie your arms to those metal rings, then perhaps I will be kinder." He repeated his possible reward to me one again, and I obeyed hurriedly, even though the words sounded as slippery and slimy as a snake.
Snakes aren't slimy, idiot, a voice snapped, but I imagined several personified Voices jumping to my defence and brutally beating down the insulter.
His hands ran down my back, and I'd realised how much of a grave mistake this may be; his hands wound close to my breasts, gentle and smooth. I turned and looked back at him-he noticed my line of sight, eyes thinning. "Master…" I pleaded, knowing he was well aware of my reasons.
A sly, and almost salacious smile curved on his lips, and he dropped his hands. My ears picked up the faintest trace of footsteps stepping discreetly backwards.
"Displeasing me will not be tolerated, my little slave."
Even though I expected it, my heart rate jumped at the sudden snap of his cat'. Fear forced hyperventilation, terror flooding in.
"Master," I begged, "please. Spare me."
I yelped as I felt a warm fire on my back, soon exploding in a line of intensive, excruciating pain.
Then the flames cooled, but instantly reared up once more as the leather slapped against my skin-over and over again. And suddenly, James was behind me, his exhales tickling my ear. "My dear, Angia. You did that well."
My lip quivered, liquid brimming my waterline. James untied me, and I collapsed to the ground, the pain oh-too familiar. A roll was thrown close, and I feebly grabbed it, sinking my teeth into the dry food. After a gulp, I looked up to see James' expectant gaze. "Thank you."
He smirked at my weak voice, bending down and scooping me up, walking over to a nearby tree-he set me down on the soft, long grass, my yearning stomach accepting the food joyfully. My sight drifted over to the post, unsurprised at the small streams of blood.
The sudden tut-tut made them flicker upwards, a frown evident. "So many scars…"
My hands flew over my chest-I realised with a shock that James' had a clear view-as an instinctive defence, the reminder both tiresome and sorrowful. My master cocked his head, kneeling, gently prying my arms away. My heart drummed, nervous, as I stared pleadingly, begging him to let me retain some of my dignity.
Still, I was weary and weak-no match for the muscles of males. His grip tightened ever so slightly when I fought, James' gaze warning. "Slave…"
Tears spilled over, but I complied, shocked when James tugged off his shirt and offered it to me-I stared at the vague chest muscles, but pulled it over, my head sliding easily though the widish neck hole.
James flashed me a smile-I was overly surprised: how could such mood swings happen so unexpectedly and rapidly?-before he stood, jogging off.
Leaving me stunned.