Assassin's Tale

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Chapter 11

Once Dannia was back in the hut she quickly and quietly made her way to her bunk, dropping down on to the bedding without a sound. She hid the apple ready to share it when the morning came under her pillow and was just drifting off when she heard a commotion outside. She peered out through the little window and what she saw made her stomach constrict with fear and horror.

The occupants from the hut that was sealed up earlier had been freed and herded out into the moonlight to stand in front of a bloodied figure nailed to a cross; it was their guard she was being crucified. Each woman was crying and wailing as the dead body of their hut mate was brought out and tied to a spit over a fire. Dannia felt physically sick when she realised what was happening. They were being forced to cook and eat their murdered friend! The other guards were beating them and calling them foul names as they worked. As far as the guards were concerned the women were no more important than the beasts of the field probably less. It was like looking into the gates of hell as the guards moved around the pleading women their leather armour flickering in the distorted firelight.

A female guard pulled the nude shape of a young woman of no more than sixteen from the others unbuckled her tunic bottoms and dropped them to the floor revealing naked flesh for the child to service.

“What’s going on Angel?” Juliet asked from her bunk.

“They’re forcing the women from the hut opposite to cook and eat the body of the one the guards murdered.” The green look on Dannia’s face was enough to convey the horror outside.

“Oh god!” Beatrix exclaimed as she crossed to join them. Fran joined Dannia on her bunk to look out of the window but had to look away as the women were made to cut lumps of partly cooked flesh off and eat it. Two guards were now holding the poor girl down by this time whilst the original raped her in some fashion, making her squeal like a suckling pig before it’s slaughtered. In the flickering light Dannia caught sight of the camp commander watching from the shadows, the devil dogs by her side as usual, a sickly smile on her lips.

The women were then dragged to posts driven into the soil and tied in place between them to form an ‘x’ shape before being whipped; beaten, burned and abused then Dannia heard faintly a command that made her bury her head in Fran’s bosom crying hot tears of hate and rage. The command was simply the words ‘Burn them’.

“Shush Angel you’re alright, your safe with me, with all of us here.” Fran said with a broken voice, her cheek pressed against Dannia’s head while she rocked her like a frightened child in need of comfort from a nightmare, as burning faggots were brought up and placed between the women’s splayed legs as they began screaming in realisation of what was occurring.

For an hour they all huddled together for comfort as they listened to the women screaming in agony and suffered the strange cooked pork smell of their roasted flesh as it filled the huts interior. And then it was over and all they could hear was the crackling and popping of the fires as the fat from the bodies dripped into them. None of them slept that night and when they dozed from exhaustion their dreams were filled with the images of the women burning. Before they tried to rest Dannia retrieved the apple from under her pillow and placed it on the desk before everyone.

“I managed to smuggle this in from the lieutenant, don’t ask how but suffice to say it’ll need a wash just like the other one. Is there any way we can split it between us. We could all take a bite like last time but with Juliet’s jaws there wouldn’t be much left after her turn like, no offence meant Juliet.” She said.

“None taken Angel and I think I have the answer. Leave it with me.” Juliet picked up the apple and vanished into the waterfall area only to reappear a short time later with wet hands and apple. She gave a tight smile and placed the apple in the centre of the table before stretching her hands over the top of it. Dannia watched fascinated as long sharp craws extended out of the nail beds of Juliet’s fingers to curl a good inch out from her finger tips.

“From my father’s heritage, the sod!” She said ashamed hanging her head low.

Dannia touched the half human woman’s hand gently and said softly.

“If that hadn’t happened we wouldn’t have you and that would be something we would all regret. Never be ashamed of what you are that can not be changed but be proud of who you are as we are.”

The huge woman lifted her head and nodded her thanks before meticulously and scrupulously cutting the apple with a claw into equal pieces and sharing it out.

“My sister Dannia always kept banging on about playing to your strengths so what strengths have we?” Dannia asked while sucking as much juice as possible out of the fruit.

“You never mentioned you had a sister Angel, not before we ended up in here that is nor did your brother Simon come to that.” Fran said as she washed her sticky fingers in her wash bowl.

“Simon was too flattered by all the attention you girls were giving him and to be truthful she and I don’t really get along that well.” Dannia sighed a mock sigh. She needed to rally this group and her alter ego ‘Dannia’ might be just the person to do it and strangely enough she didn’t feel like Dannia she actually felt more like ‘Angel’ which scared her a little. “She’s in the guard as a scout, and a dam good one at that, but she never approved of my life style. She said I was frittering my days away when I could be doing something useful. She may have a point but at least I know she’ll approve of my hair style.” She ran her hand over the slight red stubble that had started to grow once more on her head. “But she did teach me how to open locks and disarm simple traps in her attempt to get me to join her in the military. She was furious when I turned her offer down and we have barely spoken since. We both love each other to bits, though she would never say it, but we just don’t get on.” Dannia laid her ring with its lock picks on to the table.

“You showed that to us earlier don’t tell me you normally hide that up there as well?” Beatrix said with an upward motion of a finger.

“Good lord no; I swallowed it and brought it up later, as Dannia had taught me.” Dannia replied thinking that having these two separate persona’s was going to get confusing as several of the women moaned at the thought.

Hattie sat at the table and brought her fingers up to touch each other in a steeple shape and let out a sigh.

“Fran you’re a druid are you sure you can you turn yourself into a bear or something like that, it would be very useful?” She asked wearily trying hard like the rest of them to ignore the sound of the fires and the all pervasive smell of burning flesh.

The young woman coughed in embarrassment.

“No I’m afraid I can’t I haven’t reached that level of study yet. As I said earlier I’m pretty limited”

“What can you do then?” Beatrix asked seeing where Hattie was going with the conversation.

“I can communicate with the animals to some degree and I can make plants grow really fast. I’ve had to use that to stop a wolf from attacking the sheep. He wouldn’t listen so I entangled him in briars for awhile. Oh and I can effect the weather a little, enough to make it rain on the right fields and I can control lightning. And I can do this.” She stood up and dropped her dress to reveal her naked form and suddenly quills pushed through her skin until she looked like a human version of the porcupine Dannia had seen in the cities menagerie. She extended a hand to touch one of the red tipped spines when Fran slapped her hand away. “Don’t touch! Sorry Angel but they are poisoned, not enough to kill you but enough to make you really sick.” The spines retracted into her body once more. “They are a defence thing but I try not to use them as it hurts when they come through.”

“I’m not surprised.” Dannia replied with a warm smile as Fran got dressed again. She could quite happily take the young woman to her bed at that moment but had to content herself with a kiss instead. Dannia had quite a liberal view of sex, to her it was as natural as breathing and if the partner was attractive why not. She was fiercely loyal to Simieon on most things and loved him dearly but saw no real problems with satisfying her physical needs elsewhere, mind you since the sexual partner tended to die shortly after it hardly mattered, besides which she made love to Simieon not sex. To Dannia the two things were totally separate, in having sex you were out to gratify yourself but in making love your aim was to give your loved one pleasure, to her it was that simple.

“I’m strong enough to break some necks.” Juliet said drawing Dannia out of her muse.

“I’m not as strong as Juliet but strong enough. I used to work on my husbands ship pulling in the nets.” The fishmonger’s wife Bella said flexing her muscles. “If we can get to a boat I can sail her.”

“We’ve been over all this before Hattie and we didn’t get anywhere then.” Bella said a little irritated.

“Yes I know but we may have missed something like Fran’s quills.” She replied just as hotly.

“I can do a little magic.” Said a sad little voice.

“Pardon, what was that Alice?” Hattie said with a raised eyebrow at the normally quiet young woman from the other village.

“I can do magic. I’m a sorceress but my father didn’t like it and had me hide it for my own sake, or so he said.” The girl looked frightened as she looked from one face to another.

“You’re not in trouble Alice.” Dannia said gently. “Tell us what you can do. No don’t show us just tell us.” The last thing they needed to do was attract the attention of the guards with some pyrotechnic display.

“I can make a fan of rainbow colours come from my fingers. When I did it at my sixteenth it put Jordan asleep, made Leeann sick and her sister Joann stand swaying as if stunned. She said she didn’t know what was going on and felt confused.” The girl told them feeling less fearful. “I can even make fans of flame and ice and a stinking cloud to that can make people feel sick.”

“Well done girl that could be useful.” Hattie told her patting her on the shoulder.

“Hattie the young lieutenant seems to be interested in me, hence the apple, and it would be churlish for me not to return the interest don’t you agree?” Dannia said putting her arm around Fran and kissing the young woman once more. “If nothing else it may get us some more food.”

“We certainly could do with some more of that that’s true. If we are going to act it will have to be relatively soon while we still have the energy. Very well Angel befriend our hansom officer but be careful and while you do that I have an idea on what we can do to our guard to give her the needle.” The woman actually smiled for the first time. “Listen.” She explained her plan and each one of them returned to their bunk in better spirits having at last a plan of action even though they could still hear the flames outside.

The guard Caroline was in a foul mood this morning and was looking forward to inflicting pain on the inhuman scum in the hut she was in charge off. Like the rest of the guards and the lieutenant they were forced to confront the crucified body of one of there number as a reminder of the punishment for failure. It was a sobering sight and a fate she was going to do everything in her power to avoid.

She unlocked the door and crashed through with her usual bellow her cane firmly in her hand but she got a shock of her life time. Every one was up and ready. Juliet and Bella stood with arms crossed on either side of the door while Hattie sat at the desk with Dannia sitting cross legged on its surface, the others sat on the ends of their bunks or stood around but all of them stared silently, menacingly, at the woman.

“What are you up to you snivelling freaks. You’re not even human.” She lashed out with considerable force at the nearest target with utter venom only to have the cane whipped out of her hand and thrust into her belt loop.

“We don’t need that today Caroline.” Juliet growled in a low voice. “We’re all ready see.”

Hattie signalled with a raised hand and everyone trooped silently out leaving the bewildered guard to bring up the rear.

Outside they formed a neat rank ranging from the tallest down to the smallest.

“It seems that they are responding to your discipline Caroline a very neat turn out.” The lieutenant said laconically as he joined the end of the line. “I shall be joining you for the trip to the tannery and will be most interested in how you have done it.” He added sarcastically as they watched the occupants of the other huts shuffle out to form ragged groups.

But most eyes were not on the carefully arranged line of Dannia’s group but on the horrifying vision at the end of the central area. A guard hung from a cross barely alive in front of a group of stretched charred bodies that hung between adjacent posts. Their flesh was blackened and puckered and in places completely burnt away to reveal the bones beneath. The skin of one’s head had been sheared away to reveal a grinning skull beneath. Dannia was proud of her group as they didn’t react, even though she knew they must have felt as sick as she did, even when several of the women of the other huts threw up and began wailing in fear.

“Silence!!!” The commander was at her spot once again and had a grim smile of satisfaction on her face. “Look long and hard at them and understand I will not tolerate failure of any kind. There will be no excuses. You are lesser beings, the Borland, and as such your lives are forfeit and ours to do with as we will.” She curled her lip in disgust. “Guards take them to their tasks.” With that she stalked away her damaged face mute testimony to hate.

As Dannia’s group was marched away out of the gate Dannia carefully but subtlety examined the building where the food was prepared for both the camp and the guards. It was a two story wooden building with a veranda and a pair of large bay windows on the upper floor. Perhaps that is were the cooks sleep she wondered as they were led up the path.

They were half way to their working area before she had the chance to speak to the lieutenant who it seemed was trying hard to avoid her.

“Lieutenant Sir could you tell us how our men folk and children are faring as many of the women are worried about their love ones as I’m sure you understand sir?” She said peaking at him from under the hat she had made from her course dress leaving her shapely legs bare to the just above the knees.

“Silence scum!” Caroline screamed.

The lieutenant ignored her and replied in a soft gentle voice.

“The men folk are in a labour camp not far from yours but they are not so fortunate as to have such a lenient system. As for the children they are being re-educated in a correction institute ready to become servants and suicide troops for the first wave of attacks.” His eyes more than his words displayed clearly the horrors of those places and it made Dannia shiver involuntarily at the thought.

“Thank you sir.” She said wondering how she was going to tell the others and if it was worthwhile even telling them at all.

As they neared the tannery Dannia piped up once again.

“Do you know I’d rather work in a brothel than in that stinking hole?” She said to no one in particular. “At least I’d get properly fed and clothed.”

Fran looked horrified.

“What do mean clothed you’d spend most of the time naked fighting off the groping of the clients.” She said in a heated whisper.

“They wouldn’t want me would they?” Juliet said in her slow seemingly dense way.

“They would probably have you flog them or they would flog you.” Dannia mused. “They’d have me dress up as a little girl I shouldn’t wonder.”

“And what would happen when you grew too old or heaven forbid pregnant.” Hattie said. “They’d probably kill you.”

“True. Your right perhaps it’s better to die in honest labour than to sell your body at least that way you at least keep your dignity.” Dannia replied getting the cane across her shoulders for her pains.

“Shut up mouthy!” Caroline spat.

“Enough ladies none of you will be sent to a brothel I can personally vouch for that.” The lieutenant attested getting a queer old fashion look from the guard.

It was midmorning before Dannia had to go and collect the urine buckets to soak the hide in and Caroline was waiting for her. The woman’s face was suffused with blood and her eyes bulged out of her head with repressed rage.

“You filthy little whore you think you can avoid my authority by sucking up to the officer just because he’s the generals bastard son, well think again.” The cane whipped out and slashed at her shoulder. Dannia rolled with the blow relieving most of the impact. “I’m going to kill you like all the others should be killed.” The weapon flashed out again seemingly driving Dannia to the floor where she rolled up into a ball to avoid the worst of the blows. Caroline cackled in almost manic laughter as she aimed a metal studded boot at Dannia’s head. The acrobatic assassin just managed to move out of the way in time but still the boot tip touched her. For the next couple of minutes Dannia rolled back and forth screaming in agony as she dodged the torrent of blows aimed at her person. The fact that she knew in her heart of hearts that she could take on and defeat the paranoid woman easily even with out a weapon of her own galled her even though she had a plan of her own to administer. As the cane rose and fell once more Dannia managed to slap the woman’s arm with her closed fist hard enough to divert the blow away giving her giving her time to shakily regain her feet.

“You dare to strike one of your betters! Now I can kill you for that!” The woman was starting to foam at the mouth.

“Stop that corporal, stop that now.” The lieutenant yelled as he came out of the hut opposite. Within a second he had crossed the distance between them and had gripped the wrist of the woman driving the sword she was trying to pull out of her scabbard back down into place. His face was level with hers and almost touching when he yelled at her again. “What do you think you are doing? Do you want to get yourself crucified like Varda, well do you? That’s what will happen if we don’t meet the output and don’t think just because I’m the Generals son and the camp commander’s nephew I can stop it happening. They hate me and the feeling is mutual.”

“Caroline if you’re so brave, pick on someone your own size, like me.” Hattie said bravely as she saw Dannia behind them give her a swift thumbs up sign and exposing one of Fran’s quills in her fist with a watery smile. “I’m unarmed but are you brave enough to take me on?”

“That’s enough all of you there will be no brawling today. You Mayoress or what ever you call yourself take Angel and tend to her wounds. You have five minutes then I want production up and running again. You Corporal get yourself some food and cool off. I’ll take guard duty.” The woman stood there for a moment and looked as if she would defy him. “Did you hear me?” The woman nodded and walked sulkily away.

Inside the tannery Dannia on Beatrix instructions had lifted her dress revealing her naked body and the growing yellow black bruises on her side and arm from the assault.

Beatrix called for water but was forestalled by Dannia who was concerned as to what their foes would do to the women if they found out she was a cleric. It was at this point that the young officer decided to enter the workshop only to be confronted by Dannia’s naked form. Dannia slowly lowered the dress grimacing in pain but still making sure the young man got a good view of her body.

“Thank you for intervening Lieutenant it without a doubt saved our Little Angels life.” Hattie said with the tone of a Royal personage bestowing kind words to a particularly brave soldier at a parade.

The lieutenant tried to curl his lip in disgust but failed miserably.

“If you think I did that to save your ‘Angel’ then you’re very much mistaken. We need to meet our quota and that is all that concerns me. Now get on with it ladies.” His attempt at anger was far from convincing sounding more like a child’s confrontation chant and tantrum.

Dannia went outside to fetch the buckets of pee only to find that the lieutenant had followed her.

“Are you alright Angel?” He asked with genuine concern.

Dannia lifted the dress once more and probed the ribs area under the growing bruise once more.

“Yes it’s just bruising and not broken ribs thank the gods.” She wiggled her hips seductively. “Yes there’s no permanent damage I can still move.”

As she lowered her dress she became aware of the young mans real concern and his embarrassment.

“Thank you for helping me sir.” She said waving him down to hear her.

“I’m glad you’re not too hurt.” He said blushingly.

Dannia cup his chin in her hand and kissed him on the lips tenderly and was secretly pleased when he responded.

They quickly parted and with a cough he bid her on her way. Soon the bucket had been collected and the work began again with Caroline once more watching over them. The fact that Caroline was irritated with Dannia was hardly surprising as she had managed to bump into the woman twice when she was bringing in fresh skins for scraping and cleaning. The first time Dannia relieved her of her keys with out her knowing and passed them to Juliet at the forge where she swiftly made some moulds, the second time was to replace the keys with the guard none the wiser. It was the fact that she got smeared with the muck from the skins that enraged her especially since she was sure in her own mind that Dannia had done it on purpose to undermine her ignoring the fact that Dannia could hardly see over the skin she was carrying.

Before they finished for the evening Dannia removed her hat and laid it on the table before the forge that was near where she sat cleaning the skins. She lifted her dress up and used it to dry her sweat soaked face and head exposing her naked body for all to see. The two old men that supervised the tannery work looked on appreciatively totally distracted from what they were doing.

“Cover yourself up you little freak!” Caroline screamed in rage as she became aware of the old men’s reactions. To avoid another beating Dannia swiftly covered up and was grateful when Juliet plonks her hat back on her head.

The atmosphere was strained enough on the return trip to the camp with out Caroline giving Dannia an icy stare such that for once they were glad to be back in their hot smelly hut.

“Let’s have a look at those bruises Angel?” Beatrix asked gently helping her remove her dress. The one on her side was livid picked out as it was in shades of red, yellow and black covering her body from breast to buttock but the ones on her arms and legs were less savage in comparison.

Fran sucked air through her teeth in a painful hiss as she caught sight of the battered body of her lover.

“Oh my poor baby.” She wept moving forward to give a consoling embrace.

“No, no cuddling Fran it’s too painful.” Dannia said in warning. “Beatrix can you help with the pain without loosing the bruise, It’ll look suspicious if it suddenly vanishes.”

“If I had access to my medical supplies then I could but all I can do in here is dull it a bit by the laying on of hands.” The cleric said bitterly unaware that Dannia had used her training in ignoring pain for most of the day anyway but anything the woman could achieve would be useful and would mean that she wouldn’t need to use so much effort herself.

After Beatrix had tended to her bruises Dannia took off her floppy hat and turned it inside out to reveal a small opening to the inside of the lining, a sort of pocket affair. It was from here that she successfully removed six small pieces of metal each with a different set of bits of the edging missing; they were six perfect heads of six keys.

“You were amazing Angel.” Juliet said with pride. “She stole Caroline’s keys from under her nose passed them to me to make moulds and then put them back with out anyone knowing. Then she distracted everyone so I could put the finished keys in her hat. You are wonderful Angel absolutely wonderful.”

“Tell my side that.” Dannia replied grumpily.

“Yes Caroline has decided you’re going to be the target of her venom and I don’t think today’s events are going to moderate her view.” Hattie observed as she shared out the evening gruel. “I think it would be a good idea if you don’t wander off on your own just in case she gets it into her thick head to try again.”

Dannia wasn’t going to argue about that as she removed carefully Fran’s poisonous quill tip out of the hats brim.

“I’ve got my revenge though. I managed to prick her with this.” She said showing it to the others. “Fran and I managed to dilute the poison down such that it would give her a bad time of it tonight with out being too severe. We want her irritated and tired but not replaced. We want her in a state so she doesn’t notice what we are doing but not so bad she gets a sick bed. We better hide the keys just in case they decide to do a search while we are out working.”

Everyone was exhausted and before long they were in their bunks trying to get some sleep ready for tomorrows toil once again.

Fran felt a light touch on her shoulder as she lay there in the oppressive heat trying to rest her racing mind. She turned over to see Dannia’s naked shadow by the bed, she pulled back the tatty cover and felt her climb in beside her, she felt her lips on her naked flesh and felt her ever so gentle touches over her body. Fran always thought her first time would be with one of the local boys, she never in her wildest dreams did she envision it would be with a woman and a tiny one at that in a squalid hut shared with six other women. Suddenly a thrill of energy whispered through her body as the area between her legs was explored by Dannia’s questing tongue and fingers. All thoughts of the squalid hut vanished as wave after wave of delight swept through her as Dannia began to resurface once more to receive her hot passionate kisses. Together intertwined they brought pleasure to each other in total silence before with a final sigh Fran dropped into a deep restful sleep.

Dannia satisfied that Fran was asleep returned to her own bunk and squirmed into the roof space to begin her nightly foray. This time she, now dressed in her black leathers, aimed for the strange building within the mages compound flitting to and from the shadows like a ghost. The building, when she reached it, was just as strange as she suspected. It had no windows in its solid brick walls save one in the only door and even then it was only small. As she made her way around the building to assess the best way in she suddenly heard muffled groaning a short distance off, what she saw made her want to laugh. Three guards were in the shadows naked from the waist down having a vigorous threesome sexual encounter with the female sandwich between the burly men enjoying having two orifices serviced at the same time. Keeping to the shadows she carefully circumnavigated the odd hexagonal building coming to the conclusion that the only way in was via the front door. Thankfully the door was in a shadowy recess that gave her the opportunity to work undetected. She had brought the key copies with her but none of them fitted and operated the hexagonal lock so she had to fall back on her old standby’s, her lock picks. She had been working for about two minutes making sure the door wasn’t trapped in anyway when she suddenly heard the foot falls of the three sexual experimenters. She suddenly realised there was no way she could escape from the doorway without being seen and had no option but to huddle on the floor in the darkest corner and pray she wasn’t spotted. As she lay there she cringed with horror to realise they were going to come into the doorway to continue their sexual aerobics. Unable to move she watched as the woman dropped her tunic bottoms and lent back against the door above Dannia’s curled body her legs thrust wide open before her.

“Come on Pierre I want you, fuck me!” Dannia could only watch mutely as the male in question dropped his bottoms and thrust his member into the somewhat gross naked flesh above her head. Groaning and moaning the woman lifted up a leg and wrapped it around his hip giving Dannia a clear view of the action above her head but now threatening her with being trampled on by the mans shuffling feet. Carefully removing the porcupine quill from the sleeve pocket of her leathers Dannia hardly daring to breathe waited for her chance as the woman’s arse was pounded and ground into the wood of the door. Waiting for the right moment Dannia scratched the woman’s bum with it as the guard quivered with ecstasy her backside grinding into the wooden doorframe as he erupted inside her, then she gently pierced the skin of a hairy, dirty testicle that swung above her head with a grin of pure venom.

Staying still she listened as they redressed themselves apparently totally unaware of her presence.

“I told the pair of you this was the best place to come.” Pierre laughed at his crude pun. “No one comes here and we can always say we were patrolling.”

“It’s all right for you; you didn’t get a splinter in your arse did you.” She rubbed her surprisingly full spotty rump unaware that Dannia was grinning as she lay huddled in the corner almost below her.

“Come on the pair of you this place gives me the creeps.” The other man said with a fearful voice. “I was sure we were being watched.” He shivered.

“You know your problem brother you’re such a coward.” Pierre said with a smirk. “No one will disturb us here. No one would ever think of us being here in the first place least of all screwing with Michelle.”

“We could be killed for screwing our own sister. We’d be branded as degenerates and hung.”

“Stop whining Françoise we all enjoyed it didn’t we, so where is the harm. I didn’t hear you complain when it was your turn.” The woman piped up liking arms with her two brothers. “But next time put some more life into it or you can go back to trying to screw Caroline and you know what a feeble ride she would be, the inhibited cow.”

Dannia lay there grinning to herself as the three guards disappeared from sight, so much for racial and moral purity she thought as she turned to the door once more. The door proved to be somewhat of a problem as none of the keys copied from Caroline’s set seemed to fit and she had to rely on her lock picks but eventually she managed to get in though she soon wished she hadn’t. The first room seemed a cross between a healing room in a monastery and a charnel house in the moonlight that was pouring through the translucent walls. These same walls were splattered with dry blood near where tubs containing severed limbs stood at the end of the benches, while under two sheets on tables in the centre of the room lay two partly dissected bodies of the women she had seen taken away earlier. She felt sick as she realised that the first women had being given war wounds for the healers to practice on. She had been slashed and pierced with swords before being cut and pinned open to show how the internal organs had been damaged whilst the other had been cut open and had her womb removed in an attempt to sterilise her, it lay by her head so she could see it as she expired.

Dannia padded forward on light feet as to leave no mark of her presence as she moved toward a door at the back of the room. It wasn’t locked so she carefully pushed it open and entered the room. Unlike the others the room was clean and cold with shelves of bottled human parts against the far wall. An eye floated in some form of preservative in one while next door was a set of male genitals. On the desk by the wall was a large book containing results of the experiments written in a florid hand. One of the latest entries caught her eye. “The removal of the reproductive organs of the test subject resulted in too savage a loss of blood.” It read. “Another attempt on another subject has been postponed in favour of just removing the egg producing sacs. These vermin must be sterilised in some fashion to prevent them breeding but keeping them alive for slave duties and to be displayed in the newly proposed menageries.”

It went on to say that castration of the men was a more successful route but wasn’t with out problems.

In a cage by the opposite wall was a creature she had seen in her previous town, one she hoped she would never see again. It was a monstrosity, a travesty of humanity, a construct made from human body parts, and it was called a Mutt. The creature was on all fours like a dog but where it would have legs it had four human arms with wide splayed eight fingered hands at the ends. The head had been rotated ninety degrees so it could face forward in this position, its eyes enlarged, huge and bulging in its face whilst its nose was splayed with wide nostrils. Its cranium had been sheared low above the eye brows and fused into the neck. It had been physically and magically moulded from human flesh and turned into the greatest tracking creature ever. It could smell one drop of blood, sweat or urine over many miles and be able to follow the faintest of spores to its originator. The creature fidgeted making its pendulous breasts and mighty testacies almost touch the ground as it scratched its vagina lips, and as Dannia knew from the bragging of their keepers both sets of sex organs worked very well.

Dannia knew she had to slay it otherwise it would lead the guards straight to her as soon as it was let out, which could resort in complications like her death which she could well do with out. Taking out a long porcupine like quill from the case in her pocket she approached the cage whilst making she hoped would be calming noises.

“That’s it my ugly one Dannia is a friend here to put you out of your misery.” The creature turned its back and began to defecate. “Well that’s what it thinks of you Dannia Darkhorn.” With great care she dipped the quill point into a vial of poison she took from her breast pocket. “If they investigate they are going to be very confused ugly one as both poisons are naturally occurring. They’ll think you’ve been stung by a scorpion with any luck. The creature had finished and had turned back around so it could eat its own droppings which it began to do with relish. Waiting her moment Dannia managed to prick its mouth as it yawned mightily after its feast. The creature surprisingly mewed softly and backed up in its cage shaking its head and then the venoms did their evil work. It tongue and cheek had swollen blocking its mouth as the quills poison made it vomit. With no way for the stomach contents to escape it poured into the creatures lungs drowning it. It thrashed and gurgled but to no avail as it vomited more and more and before long it was still and very dead.

“I’m sorry ugly but those who gave their parts to you wouldn’t have wanted to carry on existing this way.” She said carefully dropping a dead scorpion from her leg pouch and shoving it partially under the corpse. “Shame to lose it I was going to keep it back for the for someone more important.” Dannia then pointedly ignored the corpse and investigated the area making sure she didn’t disturb anything in the room.

“What is it about bookcases?” Dannia murmured to herself as she pulled a book forward to open the hidden door. The bookcase swung open to reveal an absolute chaotic jumble of spell books and scrolls. They had been taken from the mage’s, the wizards and Necromancers and had just been thrown into the room on to an ever growing pile.

Dannia removed the basket from her crutch bag and with great care removed a dozen scrolls, six books and two strange rod things in such a way as to give the appearance that nothing had been touched. The basket with its magical paraphernalia disappeared back into the slit on her leg once more.

In moments she was outside once more having made sure that no one would suspect anyone had been there at all. With incredible agility she was across to the hut housing the mages and sorceresses and in through the roof in mere moments. She crawled across the roof beams until she was over Louisa’s bed once more.

“Louisa!” She called hoarsely. Thankfully the young woman wasn’t in a deep sleep, she open her eyes to see the shadowy figure above her.

“Angel?” She said as if she expected to be still dreaming.

“Are you expecting someone else?” She asked rhetorically as she lowered the basketful of magical goodies down to her friend. “I’ve no idea what they are or even if they are any help at all but make sure they are well hidden.” She didn’t think the guards did any searches but it was better to be safe than sorry. “I’ll try and get back with some food if I can. If I managed to get some of that stuff they make you drink do you think you could counter its effects at all?” She asked hopefully.

“Normally I would say yes Angel but in our present state I’m not so sure, we can only but try. It will give us something to work on as we sit here doing nothing, though it may take us till eighth day to be successful.”

“Good.” Dannia said before vanishing into the darkness once again.

Getting to the kitchen where the food was prepared for both the prisoners and the guards was going to be difficult; for one thing it was outside the compound, the other side of the sharpened stakes that formed the walls, and for the other it would be crawling with guards. And there was one other problem, the whole area before the walls was covered with vicious traps that were in full sight of the archers in their towers. Dannia always liked a challenge and with perfect timing whilst the guards looked the other way somersaulted over the area to land silently on the ground in the shadows beneath them. She used the uprights and crossbars of the tower to quickly make her way over the wall to the other side well aware that she could have just as easily climbed up behind them and killed them both in a second, but also aware that that would achieve her nothing. Now on the other side she was aware she could slip into the forests and vanish away but she was equally aware that though she could use her field craft to avoid them for a few days she would eventually be caught and she dread to think what they would do with her then. The only way to escape was all together with active mages to protect them and even then it wouldn’t be easy.

She suddenly became aware of a sound just off to her right and froze in place. There was a latrine behind a wooden fence and someone was inside suffering badly. The woman moaned and swore as she writhed in extreme discomfort.

Dannia was about to move when she became aware of two other guards approaching and had to lie low once again.

“Of all the places to land,” She moaned to herself, “I had to pick the busiest, the shit hole.”

“Are you all right Caroline?” One of the guards called.

“No I’m not I’ve the worse case of gut rot I’ve ever had.” The occupant moaned.

“If it’s any comfort Michelle and her brothers have got it too. They are crapping and spewing up all over the shop.” The guard paused as a moan came from the latrine. “Did you have the fish?”

“Yes, why?” Caroline asked.

“So did they, in fact you are the only four who did, so that backs up the cooks view that that was what it was. She’s dumped the lot just in case.”

The wicket gate opened and a green looking Caroline exited.

“So Michelle and the pug ugly brothers are suffering worse well it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving trio.”

Dannia waited until the trio had vanished before deciding to move.

“Both brothers but that doesn’t make sense I only pricked one, mind you the other one is such a wimp he probably came out in sympathy.” She mused as she dashed across to the comforting darkness of the kitchens wall. After a few moments she was inside listening for movement, the last thing she wanted to do was bump into any early morning bakers. The chance was slim after all she surmised they would buy it in there are not enough guards to warrant their own bakery. She had entered via an upper window into a small store room. On racks were bottles of wine and beer for the guards who would have their meals in the refectory below. Having ascertained that there was nothing of use in the room she crossed to the door and eased it open to listen once more. After a few moments to satisfy herself that there was no one around she padded into the kitchen itself. It was dominated by one long range against the near wall that still radiated heat even after all this time. She didn’t envy the cooks having to work in the heat the kitchen would generally be at and that was ignoring how hot the days were. Several fire pits in hearths were dotted around the room in which the huge kettles would be put on to do the vegetables. To Dannia the place smelt wonderful, redolent of spices and herbs with the odour of cooked meats, her stomach grumbled and her mouth became wet with saliva. She shook herself out of the fugue state she had allowed herself to drop into and cursed that she had let her concentration slip. In the corner was a large bin from which came the delicious smell of cooked fish. Dannia opened it and with a struggle peered in. She was right a multitude of filleted cooked fish lay within ready for disposal the next day. Balancing precariously she dropped her pants and removed the basket from the pouch. Not for the first time she cursed her lack of foresight in choosing that location for it especially as it had adhered to her skin making it impossible to remove. On one occasion while being intimate with Simieon she had cause to inform her passionate husband that he was in the wrong hole and that though she was appreciative of his exertions she had no wish to have a leg full of his seed. It had put a damper on proceedings after that, well she had used some ripe language at the time along with words like ‘fool’ and ‘cretin’, that sort of thing would destroy the ardour of any man.

She carefully laid four pieces of the fish in the basket and then in an encumbered waddle added four love apples from the work top where a good fifty or more lay ready for the morning. In another room she found a small mountain of long bread sticks and soft rolls, carefully she extracted a stick and two rolls which she added to the pile in the basket before slipping it back into the pouch.

Making sure that she left no evidence to show she had been there she began to leave the room when she noticed a vat full of a lumpy yellowy green thick liquid in a dark corner. When Dannia put her head over it she discovered it smelt as rancid as it looked. She hoped that she was right that this was the foul elixir that was being fed to the poor emaciated magic users as she searched for a container to put it in. She found a small empty earthenware jar in one of the store cupboards in the kitchen and used that to take a sample making sure as best she could that it didn’t contact her skin. She didn’t need to parade as a desiccated corpse the next day; it would slightly give the game away. Stoppering the bottle she tucked it away in a pocket of her leathers and then froze on the spot. She could hear voices coming from the room below and they were coming nearer, it was then that she saw her mistake, she had forgot to put the lid back on the bin of fish. She raced across the room back to the bin and replaced the lid but now her escape route was compromised she’d have to work fast and think even faster.

The door swung open and two male guards walked in embroiled in a deep discussion.

The taller one, Louis, was moaning vehemently to the smaller man, Claude.

“I tell you there was nothing wrong with the fish there couldn’t have been I inspected each piece myself when I filleted them. As for the sauce it was a simple white wine and parsley sauce there was nothing in that to cause such a violent reaction.”

“But it is the only common thing amongst them. One of the lads has died of a ruptured stomach and its touch and go with the other two. The only one that’s guaranteed to survive is Caroline and she said she didn’t eat all the fish.” Claude explained with an exasperated sigh. “The trouble with you Louis is that you will fiddle with things, all anyone wants is good plain food.”

“Plain food! Philistines!” Louis was far from happy. “You’ll see one day cooking will be considered a craft equal to painting and the cooks and chef will be proclaimed artists. There will be cooks who task it will be to produce just sauces, magnificent sauces of such texture and flavour; others who will create puddings and desserts so light and fine they will melt on the tongue.” His arms and hands flew about expressively as he imagined this epicurean heaven.

Claude who had heard all this before as he toiled in the kitchen shook his head sadly and placed a hand on his friends shoulder.

“I’m sorry Louis but it will never catch on, at least not here, it might in Engl or Ital where they like mucking about with their food but not here or in the Frank countries. Now give them bully beef now that’s a different thing.”

Claude signalled for Louis to grab the other handle to the waste bucket and its contents of fish.

“What a waste of good food!” Louis sighed as he complied.

“I noticed that you turned down the offer the commander gave you to try the fish just the same.”

“Can I help it if I’m allergic to fish?”

The conversation continued as they carried the bucket down stairs.

“Caroline wanted to feed the scum the fish to kill them off. Which wasn’t a bad suggestion when you come to think of it.” Claude offered.

“How many more times must I tell you, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE FISH!!?”

“I hope not.” Dannia said quietly as she climbed out of one of the large bowl like kettles which would have been used for the vegetables. “Parsley sauce yuk what’s wrong with vinegar anyway.”

Following her previous route she soon found herself back in the shadows opposite the latrine again just in time to see an ashen looking Caroline enter rubbing her stomach. Dannia smiled at the fact that pure fate had helped her subterfuge, she certainly didn’t feel any sympathy for those that would possibly die, none what so ever.

Getting back into the camp was no more difficult than getting in; the only problem was getting across the mine field of traps since she couldn’t see where the guards were looking and that wasn’t helped by having to launch herself from just under their platform to give her enough height for the job. But she was helped by a sudden gust of wind that blew dust into their faces making them turn away at the crucial moment. She dashed through the shadows and delivered the food and the potion they have been forced to drink to the mages and just got back in time for the lieutenant’s nightly walk.

She laid against the warm wooden end of the hut her dress wide open to let what ever cool breeze was around cool her body.

As the officer drew level with her she coughed a quiet little cough.

“Angel?” The young man called softly. “What are doing out?”

“You said you would see me later, have I done wrong? Did I misunderstand you?” She said innocently.

“You know you have, but you’re here now.” He gave a couple of furtive glances about and having made sure no one would see him joined her in the dark shadow.

They sat side by side awkwardly for a moment before he spoke again.

“You get a lovely view of the stars from here. Look there’s the hunter. Can you see it Angel?” He pointed up at the three stars that made up a diagonal in the sky. “Look there is the three stars of his belt with his sword dangling down.” He lowered his arm to find Dannia nestled against his side. “See the bright red one, well that his eye and the orange one that’s up and over a bit is the eye of the deer he has caught. Legend has it that he killed the deer as a present for a noble and beautiful princess but when he got to her she had been killed by a lion. He slew the lion but suffered too many wounds to live himself so he entered the heavens to find the princess with the deer on his back and he follows her still across the universe for all time.”

“That’s sad sir.” Dannia mumbled as she laid her head upon his chest.

“Yes I suppose it is.” He replied bending his head to look into her eyes.

She reached up and drew his head down to hers and kissed him.

“Thank you for saving me.” She said hoarsely as her hand ruffled his hair before kissing him again, more passionately this time. She took his hand and put it under her open dress on to her right breast resisting his attempt to pull it away, making it squeeze the soft flesh and rotate the palm over the nipple. Her breathing changed to a mewling pant as she responded to the touch.

He was kissing her chin and neck even the valley between the out thrust mounds of her breasts before he drew away shaking his head.

“This is wrong, this shouldn’t be happening.” He rocked back on his heels. “This mustn’t happen Angel, we can’t do this, you’re my prisoner for the gods sake.”

He stood up and made as if to leave.

“I know its wrong sir, but I think I have fallen in love with you.” Though the words were quietly spoken Dannia conveyed all the confusion and passion into those simple syllables.

The officer’s head dropped onto his chest as he stood with his back to her.

“That’s the trouble my little Angel, I know I have fallen in love with you.” He turned swiftly and dropped onto one knee besides her sweeping up her hand to his lips. “I will get you out of here I promise, then we can disappear somewhere together.” He kissed her fingers tenderly before enfolding them in his own hands. “I will work something out you see. Till then be brave my little Angel my guiding star.”

“Will I see you tomorrow night?” Dannia asked.

“Yes. But be careful.” He got up straightened his jacket and walked away as if noting had happened.

When Dannia reviewed what had happened as she lay in the roof space munching on the roll she had managed to purloin from the kitchen she felt no feeling of success if anything she felt cruel and dirty in leading the young man on as well as a growing feeling of affection for him.

“Trying to do too much, that’s the problem, with out proper food inside me.” She concluded as she dropped onto her bed with a creak. She lay there naked for a moment before climbing down to Fays bunk beneath. She stood there a moment staring at the sleeping young woman, any number of emotions churning away inside her before tucking Fran’s arm under the threadbare cover and kissing her forehead.

“Its difficult living a lie isn’t it.” Rumbled Juliet from her bunk opposite.

Dannia’s stomach constricted. Had the blacksmith half Orc seen through her fantasy character Angel and what would she do if she had.

“I heard you with the Lieutenant when I went to the toilet a moment ago. You sounded so convincing.” Juliet continued.

Tears of relief ran down Dannia’s face and she realised for the first time how exhausted she truly was.

“I don’t know what’s happening Juliet, I think I’m falling in love with them both but that’s not possible is it. I don’t know if it’s just being in here that’s doing it or not.” That wasn’t far from the truth as far as Dannia was concerned since she was having a hard time working out her emotions for both of them, but the next thing she said was verging on the ridiculous as Dannia but was perfect for her alter ego Angel. “I’m going to die in here and I don’t want to go a virgin. I want to know what its like to be loved, what its like to be a woman not a child.”

“Oh my little Angel, my poor little Angel. I won’t let you die, none of us will. We will all get out of here together, you’ll see, Hattie will come up with something, don’t fret.” The big woman said consolingly. “You’re just tried that’s all. Go back to bed and try and get some sleep.”

Dannia climbed back into her bunk and fell into a deep sleep within moments unaware of the eyes that watched her in the dark.

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