The woman groaned and put her hand to her head. What had happened? Then she remembered. They had fed her some sort of juice to dull pain and keep her from moving. Then they had marked her. She groaned again as she realized that their ‘mark’ would keep her from ever fighting again. Though, come to think of it, that was probably their purpose.
‘She’ was a rebel archer. ‘They’ were the king’s men. Their ‘mark’ was the loss of her bow fingers. The thumb and first two fingers of her right hand. Curse them. Curse them, curse them, and curse them! Better to have killed her than to have done this! Just then, her cell door opened, and a tall, well-built young man walked in. “So then, mistress, what should we be doing with you?” She gaped at him, surprised, momentarily forgetting her pain. “How did you know I was a woman?” A tiny, nasty smile lifted the corners of his mouth as he raked her with his gaze. She looked down, realizing only then that she had been completely stripped.
The man spoke again, “Don’t look so angry, mistress. It was the only way we could be sure you were completely…unarmed.” She grimaced furiously at him. She couldn’t wait to get to her bow and… but even as she thought this, she recognized the futility of the thought. She was crippled. An archer without her fingers is as useless as earrings on a pig. She gritted her teeth, unwilling to show her grief to this…toady of the usurper king.
She tried to sit up, to clear her head, only to promptly fall back to the floor. The drugs they had given her to keep her complacent had not yet fully left her yet. The young man walked out, laughing cruelly. She tried once more, unsuccessfully, to sit up, then gave up, deciding to sleep the drugs off.
When she awoke, she found herself, still naked, but clean, in a bed. Cautiously, she sat up and looked around. She seemed to be in a very rich lady’s bedchamber. The door creaked open, and she snatched at the bedclothes to cover her nakedness. The man walked in, sneered at her attempts at modesty. “If you were truly worried about protecting your virtue,” he growled, as he pulled her out of the bed, “then you wouldn’t have become a warrior.” She blushed fiercely, and started to reply, but instead cried out in pain as he squeezed her maimed hand. He grinned and pushed her down on all fours before removing his clothes.
After that, he came every night. This went on for an interminable amount of time. Days blended with nights, and the only deviation from the monotony was if the man decided to share. Still, despite all this, the woman retained a small part of her that was determined to escape. So, inevitably, when she was deemed suitably—broken—to the will of her master, and was let out of her room, she tried to escape. All the men who were standing nearby were so shocked at her audacity that they simply stared at her as she stole a horse and rode out through the gates. She heard shouts and urged the horse to go faster as she entered the forest. Sadly, never having learned to ride without full use of her hands, she was unable to hold onto the reins as the horse jumped a fallen tree. She fell heavily and struck her head on something.
When she regained consciousness, she found herself lying on the stone floor of a tower. It was cold, and she shivered as she stood up. Once again, she was naked. She heard footsteps, and realized that he was back. Since she refused to cower, when he struck her, she fell all the harder. This time, he used her so hard that when he was done, it was all she could do to crawl into the corner to sleep. In the morning, she was awakened by the sunlight slanting across her face. She looked for its source, and to her joy, she saw a window. It was more than large enough for her to climb through. She slowly regained her feet and stumbled to the window. Looking out, she envisioned one of her white arrows flying swift and free through the air. She leaped.
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