Beauty's Punishment

Page 24


It was hours later.
She sat curled in the Captain's lap, her head against his chest, her arms about his neck, half sleeping. Like a lion he stretched under her, his voice a low rumble from his broad chest, as he spoke to the man opposite. He cradled her head in his left hand, his arm feeling immense, effortlessly powerful.
Only now and then did she open her eyes on the smoky glare of the whole tavern.
Quieter, more orderly than before. The Captain talked on and on. The words "runaway Princess" came clear to her.
"Runaway Princess," Beauty thought drowsily. She couldn't worry about such things. She closed her eyes again, burrowing into the Captain, who tightened his left arm about her.
"How splendid he is," she thought. "How coarsely beautiful." She loved the deep creases of his tanned face, the luster of his eyes. An odd thought came to her. She had no more care what his conversation was about than he had care to talk to her. She smiled to herself. She was his nude and shuddering slave. And he was her coarse and bestial Captain.
But her thoughts drifted to Tristan. She had declared herself such a rebel to Tristan.
What had happened to him with Nicolas the Chronicler? How would she ever find out? Maybe Prince Roger could tell her some news. Perhaps the dense little world of the village had its secret arteries of information. She had to know if Tristan was all right. She wished she could just see him. And dreaming of Tristan, she drifted into sleep again.
Without the dread pony harnesses, I felt rudely bare and vulnerable as I marched fast towards the end of the road, expecting any second the tug of the reins as if I still wore them. Many coaches roared by us now, decorated with lanterns, the slaves clopping fast, heads high, just as mine had been. Did I like it better that way? Or this way? I didn't know! I only knew fear and desire, and an absolute awareness that my handsome Master Nicolas, my Master who was stricter than so many others, was walking behind me.
A brilliant light poured into the road ahead. We were coming to the end of the village. But as I marched around the last of the high buildings to my left, I saw, not the marketplace, but some other open place, immensely crowded and full of torchlight and lantern light. I could smell the wine in the air and hear the loud, drunken laughter. Couples danced arm in arm, and winesellers with full wineskins over their shoulders pushed through the crowd offering cups to all comers.
My Master stopped suddenly and gave a coin to one of these and held the cup before me to lap the wine from it. I flushed to the roots of my hair at the kindness of it, drinking the wine greedily but as neatly as I could. My throat had been burning.
And when I looked up I saw clearly that this was some sort of fairgrounds of punishments. Surely it was what the auctioneer had called the Place of Public Punishment.
Slaves were pilloried in a long row to one side, others were tethered in dimly lit tents with the entrances open for villagers to go and come, paying a coin to an attendant. Other tethered slaves ran in a circle around a high Maypole, punished by four paddlers. Here and there a pair of slaves scampered in the dust to retrieve some object tossed before them, while young men and women urged them on, obviously having placed some bet on the hoped-for winner. Against the ramparts far to the right, giant wheels turned slowly, spread-eagle slaves going round and round, their enflamed thighs and bu**ocks targets for apple cores, peach stones, and even raw eggs from the crowd, while several other slaves hobbled along at a squat behind their Masters, necks tethered by two short leather chains to their widespread knees, their arms stretched out to support long poles with baskets of apples for sale dangling from the ends of them. Two pink, plump-breasted little Princesses, glistening with sweat, rode wooden horses with wild rocking gestures, their vaginas obviously impaled by wooden cocks. And as I watched astonished, my Master walking me slowly now, his own eyes sweeping the fair, one Princess reached her flushing, red-faced climax for the crowd and was obviously applauded the winner of the contest. The other was paddled, castigated, and scolded by those who had laid down bets on her.
But the grand entertainment was the high turntable where a slave was being thrashed by a long rectangular leather paddle. My heart sank when I saw it. I remembered the Mistress's words, threatening me with the Public Turntable.
And I was being forced steadily towards it. We were pushing right through the sea of howling, whooping spectators that radiated out some fifty feet from the high platform and right towards the slaves who knelt up with their hands behind their necks, much berated by the onlookers, as they waited obviously at the wooden steps to be taken up and paddled.
As I stared in disbelief my Master forced me directly into place at the end of this line. Coins were passed to an attendant. I was pushed to my knees, unable to conceal my fear, the tears stinging my eyes at once, my whole frame shuddering. What had I done? Dozens of round faces turned towards me. I could hear their taunts:
"Oh, is the castle slave too good for the Public Turntable? Look at that cock." "Has that c**k been a bad boy?" "What's he being whipped for, Master Nicolas?"
"His good looks," said my Master with a soft touch of dark humor. I looked towards the steps and the high platform in horror. But I could see almost nothing but the lower steps now, as I knelt, the crowd some twenty or thirty deep in all directions. But laughter exploded at my Master's answer, the light of torches glinting on moist cheeks and eyes. The slave in front of me struggled forward as another was rushed up the steps. From somewhere came the loud roll of a drum and renewed screams from the crowd. I twisted around to face my Master frantically. I went down kissing his boots. The crowd pointed and laughed. "Poor desperate Prince," a man taunted. "Do you miss your nice perfumed bath at the castle?" "Did the Queen paddle you over her knee?" "Look at that cock, that c**k needs a good Master or Mistress."
I felt a firm hand grasp my hair and raise my head, and I saw through my tears that handsome face above me, smooth and a little hard. The blue eyes narrowed very slowly, their dark centers seeming to expand, as the right hand was raised, the first finger wagging back and forth stiffly, the lips forming the word "no" silently. The breath went out of me. The eyes grew still and stone-cold and the left hand let me go. I turned back in line of my own accord, clamping my hands to the back of my neck, again shuddering and swallowing as the crowd gave exaggerated "ooooh's" and "awwww's" of mock sympathy.
"That's a good boy," shouted a man in my ear, "you don't want to disappoint this crowd, now, do you?" I felt his boot touch my bu**ocks. "I'm betting ten pence he puts on the best show tonight."