X. Raine

X. Raine

A Chapter by D.S. Dirck

X. Raine

Year: 643ALD

Fingers of  morning sunlight crept slowly over the bed until Raine could no longer sleep. She lay awake thinking of Marcus and their wonderful time together the previous evening. He'd told her marvelous stories of his adventures in Sargossia, sailing in his father’s fleet, fighting in tournaments, and his innumerable brushes with death. She was captivated by every story told and every word spoken.

The hour was late when he returned her to the apartments, making her promise to sneak out to see him again the next night. He would be waiting by the temple of The Father an hour after sundown. From there he promised to take her out again for what he claimed would be an evening she’d never forget.

She could hardly contain her excitement.

The door swung open, startling her as she lay in bed. Stewardess Berridia barged into the room with a neatly folded stack of towels and linens. “You were up awfully late last night. The castellan told me you were out with a young man?” Stewardess Berridia inquired.

“Don’t tell mother, please.” Raine begged.

“No need to worry, child,” the stewardess replied. “I was young once too, you know. Now, who was this charming young man who kept you so late?”

Raine hesitated in answering.

Marcus told me not to tell anyone, as word would no doubt reach mother. She would be enraged…

“His name was Sir Dawnfeather.”

“Oh my, a knight? What a beautiful name,” Stewardess Berridia replied, adjusting her headscarf in the mirror. “I’m afraid I am not familiar with the name Dawnfeather. What hold do they come from?”

Raine bit her lip for a moment as the lie grew deeper. She had never lied to Stewardess Berridia before and the falsehood felt as though she was wading into a mucky swamp; one wrong step and she might sink too far.

“He said they come from Roa.” She knew the stewardess was least familiar with the eastern hold. It seemed a safe enough falsehood.

“How lovely. What it was, to be so young. I envy you, child.” Stewardess Berridia finished examining herself in the mirror. The old woman handed a small piece of paper to Raine. “Lord Felix has invited you to breakfast with him.”

She quickly read the message, setting it on the nightstand. “Oh, thank you for bringing it to me. Do you know the nature of this?”

“He probably wants your hand in marriage,” the stewardess teased. “He is a bit older than you, but he is better-behaved than his younger brother. As you know, he’s been alone since Lady Thelina died in childbirth.”

Raine recalled it being one of the darker days of New Astermark in recent memory; Lord Felix’s wife, Thelina, dying in childbirth. She remembered how the city mourned for an entire month at the loss of its future queen and prince.

She slipped on a short sleeved tan dress with an embroidered vine pattern around the neckline. The attire seemed a balance between casual and elegant. Stewardess Berridia helped to fix her hair as she gave herself a quick look in the mirror. “How do I look?”

“Marvelous, child.”

The air felt comfortably humid as the sun rose into the cloudless sky. Birds chirped and bees buzzed from flower to flower in the garden plaza as Raine passed through.

Climbing the steps of the main keep, she was greeted by a man in steward’s robes. “Hello Steward Gregory.”

“Hello, Lady Raine,” the steward bowed.

She’d forgotten how short the man was, being nearly a half-head shorter than herself. “How is Lord Felix today?”

“He is well, and awaiting you in the Banquet Hall.” The steward held his arm out as she took hold of it, allowing him to escort her inside. “You do look lovely, if I may say.”

“You may,” she smiled.

“Please, call me Gregory.”

A cool breeze blew in where the cold air rising off the granite floor met the humid air from outside. A slight damp sheen covered the floor, making it slippery as an army of servants pushed mops over the stone, fighting to keep it dry. The main foyer of the manor was congested with people sweeping, watering plants, and dusting.

Steward Gregory led her through a set of large double doors, where she found Felix sitting alone at the head of the table, elegantly dressed for a mere breakfast meeting. He smiled as their eyes met.

“My lord, may I present to you Lady Raine Hathaway.” The steward formally bowed and left the room, closing the doors behind him.

“Good morning Raine.” Rushing to his feet, Felix moved to pull out a chair for her. “Please, sit, have something to eat.”

“Thank you, my lord.” Taking a seat, her mind methodically ran through etiquette rules, neatly unfolding the napkin and checking the placement of her fork, spoon and knife. She quickly stiffened in her chair, realizing she’d been slouching.

Stewardess Berridia would scold me badly for that one…

“Raine,” Felix blurted out.

She glanced over to him from the table. His short blond hair, blue eyes, and chiseled jawline made him a handsome prospect for a husband.  

He may be twice my age, but he does look good. I’m sure mother would certainly approve, and our sons would be handsome as well.


“Relax,” he softly commanded. “Don’t look so uptight.”

She let out a breath and smiled back. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize, this isn’t some formal engagement I’ve summoned you to.” He snapped a finger and a serving girl appeared through the door with a platter of fruit and cheese. “Please help yourself to whatever you like. There’s fresh milk and cider, a cup of tea, or spiced wine, if you like.”

Raine smiled. “You are too kind, my lord.”

“I’ve known you your whole life. Call me Felix.” He grabbed the flagon of wine and filled his cup high.

She nodded, biting into a strawberry. “How have you been?”

The serving girl reappeared with another platter, of roasted swan with fried sausage. The smell of the bird filled the room, making her stomach growl.

“I’ve been well. Father left before sunrise, as you probably know, so I’m taking over his responsibilities as Overlord until he returns.” He cut a small portion from the breast of the swan, placing it on Raine’s plate. “So it’s my job to make sure things run smoothly, as well as keeping my brother out of trouble.”

“I’m sorry to hear,” Raine replied.

He trimmed another slice from the bird, putting it on his own plate. “Not as sorry as I am. Luckily, I have eyes and ears who keep up with the comings and goings around the city.”

She lifted the fork to her mouth and paused.

Does he know about Marcus?

His blue eyes stared until she took a bite.

“How does it taste?”

She chewed the meat for a second.

It was a bit dry.

“It’s really good my lo�"I mean Felix.”

“It’s too dry. You don’t have to lie.” He snapped his finger and the serving girl reappeared and removed the bird from the table. “Leave the sausages, they are fine.” He lifted his wine cup and took a long drink. “Raine, I think you know why I called you here.”

Oh no, here it comes.

The atmosphere in the room became hot and uncomfortable in an instant.

“Let me have your hand in marriage, Raine. I know I’m a bit older, but you could live here forever. I could give you sons. I could make you happy.” Felix stared at her for a moment and she stared back with a blank expression. “I know marriage proposals must be pouring in already.”

She sighed, putting her knife and fork down. “A few, yes. I haven’t replied to any of them yet.”

“I see...” His eyes glimmered as he reached for her hand across the table and she reluctantly gave it to him. “I would hate to see you go. You’ve spent your whole life here. New Astermark is your home.”

“I love it here, and you’re right, I’ve always thought of this place as my home, but my future is in Brightshore. That’s where I belong.”

“You belong here with me, Raine,” he confessed. His hands felt strong but cold to the touch.

But your mother… She hates me.

“If I were to marry you, what would happen to the seat at Brightshore,” she asked.

“You still have cousins. That rude one you speak of, Kevyn? He could take the seat. And of course the seat could always go to Lucious Falger. He’s been castellan of the city for fifteen years already and has served your family loyally.”

His argument was valid and it took her by surprise that he displayed little interest in the rule of Brightshore for himself. In theory, a marriage to her could make him the Overlord of the Ashlands as well as Allyoria.

While a hundred years had passed since any man served as overlord of two holds, it seemed of little concern to Felix to wield such a power.

He must truly want me for me.

“I will need to think about it.”

He slowly released her hand. “That is all I ask. Just take my offer into consideration. You can be the queen of New Astermark. Think about that.”

“Can I ask you something?”


“Your mother doesn’t seem to like me much. I can’t seem to understand why.”

“My mother,” Felix stiffened in his chair, giving a pointed stare at the plate in front of him, “is a bitter woman. The Queen of Winter they mockingly call her.”

“I’m sorry,” Raine quickly apologized. “I didn’t mean to�"”

“�"I can’t say my father has done much to help her chilly disposition, with his occasional indiscreet philandering. She sadly can’t do much about it, though I imagine she chooses to take her frustrations out on any and all below her standing.” His fingers danced around the rim of his wine cup as he fumbled for a better explanation. “It doesn’t matter. I won’t let her harm you, and if she ever says or does anything that displeases you, you need only tell me, and I’ll… I’ll… I’ll deal with it.

His answer was of little comfort as she finished her breakfast, letting the conversation drift to less important matters before bidding him farewell.

Steward Gregory waited as she exited the double doors. “How was your breakfast my dear?” he asked.

“It was very nice, thank you,” she replied as the steward walked her out.

She spent the remainder of the morning wandering the gardens, pondering Felix’s offer.

Raine Goodnorth they would call me. The Queen of New Astermark. Palm trees and paradise could be mine forever.

Yet in the moment, thoughts of Marcus slipped back into her mind.

If only somehow I could convince mother of him. Sargossia is right across the bay from Brightshore. A pity she still blames my father’s death on Troy Law. But Marcus was just a babe then, having nothing to do with it. It just isn’t fair.  

As the morning sun rose higher, the flowers of the garden plaza exploded in full bloom. She navigated hedgerows punctuated with hundreds of varieties of exotic flowers in every color and pattern imaginable.

Charlene was noticeably absent at the fountain when Raine seated herself along the edge. The fish in the fountain swam to the surface as if they recognized her, expecting to be fed.

Thoughts of Felix, Marcus, and her mother stirred a discord within her.

What if I make the wrong choice? Will mother hate me? Perhaps there is yet a better, safer match out there for me?

The fear of uncertainty took hold, and she struggled to bury it deep inside her heart.

Stewardess Berridia appeared a few moments later with the unfortunate news Charlene was ill, being confined to bed. Raine resolved to write a letter, sending her prayers and well wishes to her friend.

“We will continue our lessons without her,” Stewardess Berridia remarked, leading Raine inside to the main Banquet Hall of the keep. Much to her dismay, the stewardess chose to review the finer points of dinner etiquette, again.  

Raine was beginning to excel at etiquette to the point where properly folding a fine silk napkin was as second nature as breathing. Amidst the lesson, she mentioned Felix’s marriage proposal to the stewardess to get her opinion.

“You were right about Felix.”

“How so,” the stewardess asked.

“He wants me to marry him. Do you think he’d make a good husband?”

“Lord Felix would make a fine husband,” the stewardess replied. “Lady Julia herself was half the age of Lord Attican when they married.”

“They don’t seem very happy, though,” Raine remarked.

“Marriage is not about always being happy. ‘The gift of the commoner’ is they can marry for love and love alone. It is one luxury the nobility are sometimes not afforded. You need look no farther than the tale of Lord Richard Goodson, who married for love and lost half of Allyoria because of it.”

“You mean Goodnorth, not Goodson,” Raine corrected.

Oh no,” the old woman shook her head. “Listen and I will tell you. Long ago the seat of Allyoria was not in New Astermark, but in the city of Dawnfax.”

“Are you talking about the Ruins of Dawnfax?”

“Yes, only then it was the capital of Allyoria. There the Goodsons presided over the largest of all the holds in the Empire, stretching from the Vertanian Ocean all the way to the Westwoods. When Lord Richard came of age, he shunned the marriage proposals which came to him from the most powerful families in the Empire, choosing instead to wed a maiden from the lesser family of Smyth. The girl’s family hailed from the city of Duscany which bordered the Westwoods.”

Raine listened intently. “How did Goodson become Goodnorth, though?”

“Hush child. I’m getting to that part,” Stewardess Berridia chided. “As I said, Lord Richard married a young Smyth girl, and many of the overlords from around the Empire took great offense to this. Yet this was not the worst of Lord Goodson’s missteps. As things would have it, the city of Duscany, being built on the edge of the Westwoods, fell victim to blood wraiths in the night. Much to Lord Richard’s grief, his wife happened to be in the city when it fell.”

Raine gasped. “By the Father! Was she turned?”

The stewardess resumed spreading the silver utensils over the table, putting each one in its proper place. “All we know is that she was lost. The manner of her end was never known outside of rumors. Yet Lord Richard, stricken by grief, led the vanguard of the entire Allyorian Army, marching on the Westwoods with fire and steel in search of her. They say he burned the entirety of the Westwoods to the ground in retribution. We do not speak of such things lightly, but it is a tale that should not be forgotten. The burning of the Westwoods was the catalyst for the first Great War nearly eight hundred years ago. Lord Richard’s slaughter of the sundowners was taken as an act of war on the part of Reysia, and the rest is history.”

“But why did the Reysians care what happened to the blood wraiths?” Raine asked.

The stewardess leaned closer, taking care not to have her words overheard. “Because the blood wraiths were Reysian. The Westwoods were the place where infected Reysians were sent. Legend says they were trying to find a cure, and some claim members of the Reysian nobility were amongst the afflicted. In reprisal, the Reysian Legion laid siege to Dawnfax. Lord Richard called for help, but the other overlords ignored his pleas. The Reysian Legion diverted the Volta River, starving the besieged city of water before they stormed it, killing everyone. Thus the Goodson line was extinguished. Were it not for a b*****d born of Lord Richard’s younger brother, who also died in Dawnfax, the family would have been completely extinguished. It was after the war that Emperor Calidrus Pelenoire legitimized the Goodson b*****d and married him to the last surviving member of the North family from Fort Enwar, which is now Sunterland. The two families were joined into what we now know as Goodnorth.”

“I was not aware such things occurred,” Raine said with mild astonishment. “The histories do not teach of this.”

“It is considered a mark of shame. That is but one reason why blood wraiths joined dragons as topics forbidden from discussion.”

“I see,” Raine nodded, glancing downward as she picked at her fingernails.

“The lesson to learn is perhaps if Lord Richard had made a more appropriate choice in marriage, the Great War may have turned out very differently for Allyoria. We could be sitting in the palace of Dawnfax right now.” The stewardess sighed. “Alas, I have no doubt Lord and Lady Goodnorth retain a deep love and admiration for one another. And even if they don’t, it’s not our business to question it.”

“I didn’t mean�"”

“�"Of course you did. And if I wasn’t a loyal servant to the Goodnorths, I would too.” Steward Berridia gave a warm smile. “When the time comes, and you meet the right person, you won’t need to ask anyone.”

As the day’s lessons ended early, Raine decided to make a brief jaunt to the markets to spend the rest of the afternoon. Making her way to the main road, the traffic on the streets thickened into a crowd.

Curious as ever, she weaved her way through the dense crowd, to find several city watch congregating around the brothel ran by Zwai Zadano. Pushing through, she caught a glimpse of Zwai as he was talking to the watch commander.

Two of the armed men held a young girl by the arms as she pulled and jerked in their grasp. The girl’s blond hair appeared a disheveled, tangled mess and her silk dress was torn to shreds, leaving her bruised left breast hanging out. She spit and snarled at the men in a brazen display of savagery.

Why is she acting like this? Was she mistreated by a patron? Did Zwai do something to her?

Thrashing about, she caught one of the guards, biting his forearm and drawing blood. He reeled back as the other guard struck her in the face. She cursed back at him as he struck her again, much harder than before. The other guard raised his bitten arm, as a bright red line of blood trickled from where her teeth marks had broken the skin.

The crowd gasped as a third strike knocked the girl out. She fell limp to her knees, as the watch commander stopped the men from beating her further. Leaving her face down on the gravel street, a tattoo on the courtesan’s back in the shape of a coin caught Raine’s attention. The mark was strange and called to her as she wondered its meaning. .

“I am so sorry for the trouble,” said Zwai.

“Commander Redfort won’t like this at all,” replied the watch commander. “Seems your establishment has been rubbing higher folks the wrong way again.”

Zwai apologized profusely, giving each of the men a gold coin in hopes of softening their report to Commander Redfort.

The girl slowly stirred, clutching handfuls of gravel as the guards hoisted her up. The rocks and dust slipped through her fingers, as the eyes in her broken face met Raine’s. For a second, the girl simply stared off with a blank look and bloodshot eyes. Her mouth slowly curled in a smile, broken lips and all. Several of her bottom teeth appeared gone either knocked out or missing from before, as blood oozed from her bleeding gums, running from her chin.


Raine looked on fearfully as the girl’s pointed gaze clutched her like the sharp talons of a condor, cutting into the parts of her which felt the most vulnerable. She felt like a terrified little girl seeing a dark reflection of one’s self. The exchange lasted only a second, but burned in her mind like a fire as bright as ten suns.


As the guards dragged the girl away, the crowd lost interest and dissipated, leaving Raine alone, not far from a stunned Zwai Zadano.

“Oh dear, Ms. Raine. I pray you did not see that unfortunateness.”

Raine took a moment, composing herself, then slowly looked to him. “What happened?”

“I’m sorry you witnessed such unpleasantness, my dearest lady. Commander Redfort already warned me once that I’m under his suspicion. I fear this latest incident may well be the end for me.”

“Who was that girl?”

“A new courtesan, sent from Durmont. I paid good coin for her,” Zwai confessed. “She tried to run away and was caught stealing from the markets. The master courtesans of Durmont usually send me better quality girls than that, but alas, these things have been known to happen.” Zwai’s typically spotless white tunic was speckled in blood. “And my shirt is ruined, of all things.”

Raine looked back with skepticism. “Why did she run? Did you not treat her fairly?”

The man gave a sincere look of confusion. “I treated her better than all the other girls. The truth is, my two matriarchs, Katia and Floresia, complained they were never treated so well. I gave her food, clothing, and her own bed. Forty percent of her earnings were hers to keep and I even gave her extra for the markets.”

“Why did you treat her better than the others?”

“She was…” he paused for a moment. “How can I say? Higher quality? Does that make sense to you?” Raine nodded. “But she cried constantly. She disrespected other girls. Made trouble. I gave her extra days off, and still nothing was enough. Then she ran, and they caught her in the markets.”

“Did she steal food? Do you feed them properly?”

“Of course I feed them,” Zwai replied half-offended at the question. “I’m a courtetsar, not a slaver. The watch claimed she tried to buy a weapon. A blade of some kind. Courtesans are not allowed to purchase or own weapons of any kind. I can only imagine what she intended to use it for.”

Raine glanced to the road; the guards were long gone. “What will be done with her?”

“She will be sent back to Durmont in chains, and her coin will be cut.” Zwai unbuttoned his ruined shirt, revealing his smooth-skinned chest covered in tattoos. “Now the matter of Commander Redfort. That is another problem, not easily fixed.”

“Commander Redfort left for Springhaven with Lord Attican,” Raine informed the courtesan master.

“Perhaps the day is not lost after all?” Zwai smiled a bit at the news. “Between you and I, Commander Redfort’s protégé happens to be one of my best customers.”

“You said her coin would be cut. What is the meaning?” Raine asked.

Zwai’s black eyebrows folded for a moment. “Oh, the coin?”

“Yes, the coin.”

“The coin is the mark of the courtesan,” he answered. “It is given to all who serve under the Courtesan Guild as a mark of protection and ownership. All courtesans are obligated by contract. Should one break the contract, her mark will be cut, usually with a knife or other small blade. The remaining scar is a message to other courtetsars that she is unfit for service.”

Raine nodded. “What happens to them afterwards?”

Zwai’s expression turned dark at the question. “We do not speak of what becomes of them afterwards. It is the highest dishonor.”

The image of the courtesan woman’s bloody smile still burned vivid in her mind. She quietly thanked the Father for sparing her the experience of such a life. The occurrence was a brutal reminder that the world can be an unforgiving place. Even the walls of New Astermark, which sheltered her for years, were not entirely impervious to the evil of the world.

One of life’s simple lessons.

The sun lowered over the horizon as she made her way back to the apartments. Her mother appeared, wearing a fine cream-colored dress. “Lady Julia has summoned me to have dinner with her tonight. You’ll be on your own for dinner, so I asked Martin down in the kitchens to prepare whatever you like.”

Raine nodded.

Perfect. Mother won’t see me leave.

“I’m feeling a bit tired. I think I’ll go to sleep early.” She bid goodbye to her mother and laid herself on the bed to rest, awaking just as the sun retreated below the horizon.

Fumbling through her closet, she fetched a plain work dress and a goatskin bonnet. A pair of flat-soled brown shoes completed the outfit.

I look just like a serving girl now. The guards will never know.

Earlier in the day, she had grabbed an empty potato sack from the kitchens, stuffing it with a finer dress to wear once she escaped the keep. She hoisted the bag over her shoulder and sat quietly on the bed, waiting.

Every night at dusk, a bell rang out over the keep, signaling the servants to leave. For a brief period, the halls and walkways would be crowded with commoners in plain clothes scrambling to get home. She used the chaos to her advantage, blending right in. Weaving her way through the crowd, she breezed past the keep guards who were more concerned with those entering than with those leaving.

Two heavily-armed men stood on each side of the portcullis at the main castle gate, eyeing everyone who came and went. Knowing this would be more difficult, she approached the courtyard fountain and dipped her hand into the water. She knelt down, touching an unswept part of the brick walkway as the water on her fingers turned brown. With a flick of her hand, she touched her face, making a smudge on her left cheek.

With a little luck they’ll take me for a washerwoman.

She matched the speed of the others, keeping her head down. A quick glance revealed one of the younger guards staring at her through the crowd.  

“Evening, wench,” the guard grinned through his yellow teeth.

“Good evening, sir,” she softly replied.

The older guard on the other side scolded the younger one. “Knock it off, Hiles. Stop trying to bed every peasant girl in passing!”

Once through the gate, she washed her face in the nearest fountain and changed her dress behind a shut stall, taking care to evade any wandering eyes. Tucking her old dress behind the stall, she made her way west to the Temple of the Father.

The temple consisted of a large square structure with a tall pillar on each corner and a high spire in the center. The top of the center spire was decorated with a golden circle with an open hand in the center; the symbol of the Faith of the Father.

Raine approached as a lone priest stood outside sweeping the steps. “Why hello my dear,” the old priest greeted. “May I be of service to you?”

Raine shook her head. “I’m waiting for someone.”

The priest continued sweeping. “I see. May the Father bless you, child.”

On the other side of the steps, a shadowy figure emerged near a sconce on the brick wall of the temple. A flicker of flame illuminated a head of curly hair. She removed her bonnet and let her hair fall, as the figure turned to her and approached.

“You made it. I wasn’t sure you were coming,” greeted Marcus Law, as he took her hand and kissed it.

“Thank you, my lord.” She looked into his eyes as a tingling sensation crept into her stomach. “I was able to sneak out of the apartments. No one knows I left, so it would be best if we stayed away from there while we’re out.”

Marcus held her hand as they walked together. “I don’t think that’ll be a problem,” he grinned.

She smiled and looked deep into his blue eyes, and the scent of him made her heart flutter.

Is he the one? All I want is him right now.

She resolved then and there to remain a maiden, even as her body betrayed her.

“Let’s go see the ships at the docks,” she suggested. “They look beautiful at night with the torches lit.”

“I was going to say the same,” Marcus nodded. “I could show you my father’s ship. It’s the biggest one in the harbor.”

On their way, they passed by the brothel of Zwai Zadano. The master courtesan was nowhere to be seen, but one of his older girls stood against the wall in a silvery silk dress. The woman eyed both of them for a moment, before turning away.

The docks were much less crowded than the streets at night. Pelicans outnumbered sailors, two to one. A lone man fished off the edge of the pier, and the giant birds kept but a short distance in the hopes of getting a scrap of whatever he caught. A few drunken sailors could be heard laughing from a distance as they stumbled out of the tavern on the northern side of the docks.

Together they walked northward along the boardwalk, glancing at the different ships as Marcus pointed out each type, explaining their different purposes. The conversation was much too complicated for her to understand, but it made him sound intelligent, which in turn made her want him even more. As he blabbered on about cogs and longships, galleys and hulks, she understood little, simply taking pleasure in listening to his voice.

“Our ship is the third to the last one to the left.” The Strongbow was a large carrack vessel with three tall masts. A white flag flapped about at the top of the center mast, and the sign of his family was clearly visible--a shark with a harpoon crossing it. Marcus claimed the boat weighed six hundred tons.

Having no inkling how heavy a ton was, she reasoned it must be significant for a ship to weight six of them.

Two guards in tarnished bronze plate under yellow surcoats stood at the base of the ramp, their armor emblazoned with the vine leaf pattern, and their surcoats bearing the shark and harpoon. Marcus pointed at them as they passed. “Their armor represents our vineyards back home, where the finest wines in all the world are made.”

She clutched his hand tight as they climbed the ramp, making their way onto the deck. Once aboard, a large man in a leather coat approached them. A hooded cloak concealed his face, except for the grey stubble on his chin. He looked Raine up and down.

“This is her,” said Marcus.

Did he already tell them about me? How wonderful.

Raine curtseyed for the man, as he gave her a peculiar look.

“I see,” he said slowly.

I knew it! He must really like me too. This is perfect. Maybe with their help, we could convince mother that Marcus and I really would be a great match.

“You have a wonderful ship, my lord,” she said.

Aderyn pulled his hood back to reveal a head of greasy black and grey hair. “Are you sure this is her?” he asked.

“Yes, I’m sure,” Marcus laughed, pulling Raine by the hand. “Here let me show you below deck.”  

A guard stood near the steps leading to the holds below, as Marcus signaled to move out of the way.

“I want to show you something,” he said, holding her hand and gesturing her forward. “I don’t want to ruin it, so cover your eyes.”

Excitement filled her heart in that moment. “Oh, what is it? I love surprises!”

“Keep your eyes closed.” He gripped her hand tight as the light at the base of the steps dimmed.

Her excitement escalated.

What could it be? A cask of fine wine? A chest of gold, perhaps?  

“Okay, now stand here and don’t move.”

She did as he said, standing still. She felt his soft touch over her arms, working their way to her hands. His hands felt strong and warm, unlike Lord Felix’s, which were cold.

“What is the surprise?” she asked.

Beyond the door, the room ahead was black.

“Let me find a lantern. Just wait a moment and you’ll see.” He massaged her hands as he stood behind her. “Here, just give me your hands for a second.” She did as he asked and in an instant she felt the soft touch of something around her wrist.

A scarf? A bow? Lace, maybe?  

Then a sharp tightness pulled, digging into her skin and then she knew.

A rope? What?

She was dumbstruck for a moment as the rope burned deep into her wrists. She cried out, and was silenced as something pushed into her mouth. The taste of a dirty rag followed by the sensation of something being wrapped around her face.

She was being gagged, and panic ensued.

In the next moment, the feeling of excitement evaporated. The tingles of butterflies in her stomach turned to ashes, as her heart raced.

A hot breath over her shoulder whispered, “Don’t struggle. You’ll only make it worse.”

She fell to her knees, hitting the floor as her arms were bound tighter. She thrashed and struggled against the bonds, trying in vain to scream. Her normally high-pitched voice was reduced to muffled bursts, as she cried out in vain. Once the shock set in, her mind shut down. Her arms and legs went limp and a general feeling of numbness washed over her. All that remained of her was a tiny voice, deep inside, screaming to be free.

I’m not here… This isn’t happening. Not to me… Why? Why? Why!

Her last thoughts involved waking in her own bed. Stewardess Berridia was there. So was her mother. Charlene was feeling better and came to visit. All would be well, if only she could sleep. She was convinced none of this was real.

Another set of footsteps approached. “I can’t believe you talked her into coming aboard. Well done, lad,” said an older voice, belonging to Aderyn Law.

“She isn’t very bright,” Marcus replied.

Laying on the floor in shock, she twitched slightly.

“Looks like she’s a bit shaken up. Hang her on the rack so she doesn’t hurt herself.”

Marcus did as ordered, hoisting her off the floor and pinning her to the wall. She felt the cold touch of an iron chain as it was hooked to the bonds behind her back. The pulley above made a clicking sound until the chain pulled taut, lifting her off the ground. Her feet swung about over the wooden floor like a pendulum as she remained frozen in shock.

When he finished, he ran a hand over her face. “You truly are a thing of beauty, Raine Hathaway. It’s a shame you’re so stupid. But who needs brains when you have looks, am I right?”
He gave her a soft pat on the cheek before he walked away, leaving her bound and hanging.  

I’m not here. This isn’t happening. In a little while, I’ll be gone. I’m not here

The words echoed in her thoughts over and over again.

© 2016 D.S. Dirck

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Added on April 3, 2016
Last Updated on April 4, 2016
Tags: fantasy, fiction, novel


D.S. Dirck
D.S. Dirck

Fort Wayne, IN

I am an unpublished author searching for a literary agent and eventually publication. In the mean time, I'm here to network with other like-minded (and even non-like-minded) authors. I'm by no mea.. more..