I stood outside Lord Bancroft’s chambers, wondering if I should knock. Was he even present inside his chambers? Would he appreciate the gift I got for him? What would I do if he rejected it? Perhaps it was not ideal for me to give him a gift. He was a King after all, accepting gifts from a whore would be beneath him.
However, my heart refused to listen, forcing me to take the gift to him. I did not understand why my heart refused to see the darkness that was Lord Bancroft. He was a monster but my heart refused to fear him.
Taking a deep breath, I raised my hand and knocked on the wooden door and waited with bated breath for him to respond. But I was met with thick, absolute silence. King Bancroft was not in his chambers, where could he be? Was he with Lord Aboloft? Was it wise to wait for him or should I go and visit Ethel? I missed my dear friend and longed to see her.
Glancing at the door one last time, I walked away from it, in the direction of the harem, where my family was. Would Leela be happy to see me? She was not as dear to me as Ethel was but I could see she wanted to be my friend. And making new friends made me happy. Since the day Lord Bancroft claimed me as his, the women of the harem had been cold towards me. I did not understand the reason for their hostility and I despised it. So if Leela was trying to be friend, I would not shun her, but would embrace her with open arms.
The harem stood before me and unlike Lord Bancroft’s chambers, I did not have to worry about knocking for permission to enter. I pushed open the doors and stepped inside with a smile on my face. My eyes immediately found Ethel who was sitting on her bed, her eyes downcast as she traced patterns with her finger.
“Hello, Ethel. How are you, my dear friend?” I asked as I sat down on her bed.
She looked up at me and her lips widened in a smile. She threw her arms around me and I thought she would squeeze the life out of me with how tightly she held me.
“Oh, Hildred, how I missed you. Do you even have an inkling of how lonely I have been without you? God knows what will happen once you leave this Kingdom. Oh, just the mere thought of you leaving brings tears to my eyes and rips my heart in two,” she said.
“Ethel, calm yourself. I convinced Lord Bancroft to delay our departure from Quopia. Since I missed you so much, I told him to go some other day.” I told her, my heart soaring in bliss after being reunited with my friend.
“My goodness! Is it true?! Do not lie to me, Hildred, or else I shall curse you to stay with me forever,” she threatened.
I couldn’t help but laugh. “Ethel, I am not lying to you. Have you lost faith in me so soon? You know I cannot lie to you; my heart cannot bear it.”
She smiled. “Well this shall not change when you leave because I cannot bear it if you hide anything from me.”
“Rest assured, dear friend, that will never happen. Now stop with this, tell me what you have been doing since I’ve been gone from the harem,” I demanded. Mayhap I should tell Ethel what I intended to do with Lord Bancroft. She was my only friend and she just told me how she did not wish for me to hide anything from her.
Hiding your intention is what is best for Ethel. Revealing them can lead to your downfall.
It was a displeasing thought but one I could not ignore. My inner voice was right, I had to keep Ethel in the dark for her own safety. God knows what Lord Bancroft would do if he discovered my intentions from Ethel or someone else. I knew Ethel would never betray my confidence but there were others who could hear; we’d already been caught once before and I did not know how.
“Nothing. No one talks to me because the only friend I ever made here was you. And since I helped you escape, all the women here loathe my existence. They believe me to be a witch of some sort. I do not know what makes them think like this but I am not welcomed in their company,” she replied, sounding forlorn.
“A witch? Good Lord, how can they say that. Do they not see that you are not what they think you are? I shall have a word with them.” Just as I stood up, Ethel pulled me back down, her fingers tightly wound around my arm.
“No! You will not go to them. I do not care what they think about me. I only care about you. My life has little meaning without you in it,” she stated, causing me to frown in disapproval.
“Do not say that. You will not harm yourself in any way once I am gone, promise me, Ethel,” I said, forcing her to accept my demand.
“Hilded, you worry for no reason. I will not harm myself; you should know me better than that,” she chastised.
“Ethel, I know when a person is desperate he will do things no one expects.” I knew this because I was desperate these days, desperate for power. And that desire had forced me to contemplate murder—something I never thought I would think about doing and now I already had a knife with which I would commit the act.
“But I shall not. I am stronger than the hatred surrounding me. And I know you are stronger than what others believe. I know you can live with Lord Bancroft and you will change him. I believe in you, dear friend. I have faith in you.” Her words had tears welling in my eyes. I could not believe I would be leaving her and going away with a monster who only cared about his own happiness.
“Thank you. I promise I will never let you down.” I smiled at her just as the doors of the harem were thrown open and in barged a man I had never seen in my life before. Who was he? And what was he doing here? Was he a knight or a guard?
The man had brown hair which fell down to his shoulders and eyes so blue and cruel that it took me moment to realize that he was not someone who meant well. He was probably here to get pleasure out of a whore and I knew whoever he chose would be in serious danger.
His presence had the women of the harem in confusion. And I understood it was because they were unfamiliar with this man just like I was and so they did not know whether to kneel or not even though they were required to kneel in front of every man who entered the harem.
I expected the man to shout out orders but he did no such thing. He just stood there, rooted to his spot but his eyes were moving. They darted left and right as if searching for their prey. My heart hammered against my chest, wanting to run away from this man who was looking around for his next meal. What would he do when he chose his woman? Who would the poor, unfortunate woman be?
However, as soon as his gaze locked on mine, a slow smile curved his lips as if it were a snake slithering about on his face. My heart stopped and fear settled deep in my belly as he slowly stalked over to me. Oh no, this was not supposed to happen. He could not choose me. Lord Bancroft had already claimed me and if some other man dared to touch me then that would be an invitation to war to Lord Bancroft.
The man stopped right in front of me. His presence made me forget about everything else. It was like I was trapped in his gaze which looked as if it would freeze my very existence. Beside me I could feel Ethel standing but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t tear my eyes from his.
“And who is this fragile beauty? I must say this is the first time I am seeing you here; what is your name?” The man asked. His voice was like insects crawling over my body and I had the strongest urge to get away from this man. I never felt this way with Lord Bancroft which meant this man did not mean well.
“My name is of no concern, my Lord.” I finally managed to tear my gaze from his and look away. What would he do if I tried to escape? Where was Lord Bancroft?
Silly woman! Why are you expecting Lord Bancroft to come? Just tell the man you have been claimed by a King and he will not harm you.
“I am interested to know the name of the woman who is new here. Since I know the name of every other whore here. But for some reason I do not know yours,” he replied, trailing a finger down my neck but I stepped away from him causing him to frown. He would inflict pain on me, I knew he would.
“Forgive me, but I have been claimed by a King; which is why no other man is allowed to touch me.” I told him, hoping he would understand and leave.
The man was silent for a few seconds, I thought he was looking around for some other whore to entertain him as I refused to look up at him for the fear that his intense gaze would once again capture me.
“I do not think you have been claimed by anyone, and certainly not a King. No King would claim a whore, unless of course he wants a slave. And even if you were claimed by someone, you should know that will not stop me from taking what I desire.” His statement terrified me, so much so that my eyes kept looking at the doors, trying to think of a way to run from here. Why did I choose to come here today? Why couldn’t I have stayed outside?
“My Lord, I would never lie about something like this. God condemn my soul if I utter falsehood,” I said, praying for him to believe me.
“God will not do anything because I will take what I desire.” The man stepped forward and captured my wrist in a possessive hold. I gasped and tried to wrench my arm out of his grasp but he only tightened his grip, causing pain to shoot up my arm.
“Please, my Lord, you cannot do this. Lord Bancroft will not be pleased.” Would Lord Bancroft even come here now that he’d claimed me? What if he did not come and this man did whatever he desired? Oh God, just the thought of him touching me shredded my heart. I had to get out of here. I would not let another man harm me like Lord Bancroft had done. And I had no desire for this man; his touch made me want to jump in the lake and drown.
He pulled me to him, wrapping both of his arms around my waist. He smiled down at me, a smile full of victory before he crushed his lips to mine. The kiss was aggressive with no hint of emotions; his teeth bit my lips causing me to cry out. I felt like I was drowning with the way he held me so tightly and exerted his power over me.
You have a knife. Use the knife on him.
For once I did not agree with my thoughts. If I harmed this man, then God knows what he would do to me in return. Lord Bancroft nearly killed me after I dared to talk back to him; I was sure this man would harm me in the worst of ways.
But I could not let him kiss me. I knew I was a whore but I did not choose this life and when freedom was so near, I would cut the strings tying me to this life. I desired to be a seamstress—who was free to live her life as she wished. Lord Bancroft would take me away from Quopia and then I would have to find a way to escape him and start a new life. Which was why I refused to stand here and let this man do whatever he desired.
With as much strength as I could gather, I placed my hands on his chest and pushed him away with all my might. He was so caught up in kissing me that I took him by surprise. Before he could do something, I ran towards the doors, towards the freedom that awaited me just beyond them. I could hear him running after me but I only focused on getting out of here. I would not let him catch me. I would not give him power over me.
However, the man was faster and stronger than me. Just as I reached the doors that would help me get away from him, he grabbed me arm and threw me across the harem. My back hit the wall and I fell down on the cold, hard floor. My vision became hazy and before I could get up he marched over to me and pulled me up by my arm. My whole body was screaming in pain but nobody cared.
Once he had me where he wanted me, the man bit my neck, causing me to cry out loud. I began fumbling around for the knife which was hidden inside my hood but he made it difficult for me to reach it.
“I told you just now, I take whatever I desire. No matter what.” Just when I thought he would kiss me again, the doors of the harem opened once again. I cried out in relief when I saw Lord Bancroft entering and all the women kneeling in submission. He was here. He was finally here.
Lord Bancroft looked around the harem until his eyes found me. The green gems that were his eyes hardened to the point where I thought they would shoot fire balls at the man and I. An animalistic growl left him as he marched over to where I was standing in the arms of the man who was going to kill me.
“How dare you touch what belongs to me!” Lord Bancroft’s voice resonated throughout the harem, loud enough for the walls to tremble. He pulled me away from the man, wrapping his thick arms around me.
I thought the man would cower and beg for mercy, but the words that left his mouth sealed my fate forever…
“I only touched her because she offered herself to me.”