I willed my body not to tremble as Lord Bancroft held me in his arms. The vice-like grip around my body told me I was in trouble. Why did that man utter such lies? I would tell Lord Bancroft the truth, he had to believe me.
“She offered herself to you?” Lord Bancroft’s tone was like ice slicing my heart. Oh God, please make him believe me. I knew that if he didn’t believe me then he would punish me and I would once again see the monster that resided inside the powerful King.
“Yes, my Lord. As you know I will never touch a woman who has been claimed by a King. She did not tell me she has been claimed, so I thought she was free.” My heart sunk at the web of lies the man weaved so smoothly, and with it came the realization that Lord Bancroft would never believe a whore over a guard. Tears burned my eyes as I prepared my body for the agony it was no doubt about to endure.
“Is that so?” Those words were enough to tell me that Lord Bancroft would not believe me. But I couldn’t give up. I had to try and tell him what really happened. He had to listen to me. I would never lie about something like this.
“Of course my Lord. I am well aware of the consequences of touching a claimed woman,” he stated.
Silence reigned like death waiting for the right moment to attack my soul. What would Lord Bancroft do to me? Would he punish me in front of everybody like he’d done before or would he do it in the privacy of his chambers?
Lord Bancroft likes to make a spectacle of you. He would never punish you in private.
My inner voice was cruel but it was right. Would he try to kill me? No, he had to take me to Sodora, he would not kill me. But perhaps he could injure me to the point where I no longer had the ability to walk or move. The scenario stopped my heart and made me wish for death. I would rather die than be bed ridden forever.
“Very well. You must go now. And next time, be careful,” Lord Bancroft told the man who had sealed my fate. He was going to live while I would suffer. Lord Bancroft would punish me for something I did not do.
I could hear the man walking away, his footsteps fading until all was silent once more. I waited with bated breath, wondering when the first strike would come. I wished Lord Aboloft were here or Lady Sabina, they would’ve prevented Lord Bancroft from injuring me.
“What did you do, rose?” I shuddered at how soft his voice was as the fury in those words lashed at my soul like a whip. I knew death was coming; I could smell it in the air. My time here was coming to an end as death surrounded me in the form of a powerful King.
“My Lord, please. You must listen to me,” I pleaded, hoping against hope that he would at least hear what I had to say.
“Listen to your lies, you mean?” What was the point of trying? Would it achieve anything? Lord Bancroft would believe what that man said, did I still need to tell him the truth?
I shook my head. “No, my Lord. It is not true. That man, he…he touched me and I swear I told him that I have been claimed. He did not pay heed to my words, my Lord. It did not matter to him in the slightest that a King has claimed me. My Lord, he refused to believe me. I swear, I speak the truth.”
He did not say anything for a long time. Did that mean he would believe me? He had been so kind to me these past few days; he took me out to the gardens, gave me coins for purchasing things that I liked. Would I lose the man who had been so kind to me? Would I see the monster that reigned my nightmares?
“And why should I believe you, my fiery nymph?” He questioned.
I thought about his question but couldn’t form an answer. What reason did he have to believe me? I was a whore, my words had no value, then why would he believe me? I should just let him do whatever it was he intended to do.
“My Lord, I am aware of my position and I know my words do not matter but…”
“My Lord, if you refuse to believe Hildred then believe me. I bear witness to the events that happened before your arrival and I am telling the truth when I say that Hildred is innocent. She indeed told him that she has been claimed but that man said that he did not care if a King has claimed her, he only cared about his desires.” My eyes widened when I heard Ethel’s voice. What was she doing? Did she not understand that this was my battle to fight? Lord Bancroft would be furious due to her interference.
King Bancroft turned to look at my friend who kneeled in front of him with her head bowed. When did she come so close to us?
“You are Ethel, are you not?” He asked.
“Yes, my Lord,” Ethel replied.
“You are extremely dear to my rose. You are also the woman who helped her escape, is my knowledge of your actions correct?” Fear sunk in my bones at the mention of my escape. Would he punish Ethel for standing up for me?
Ethel was silent for a few minutes but then she nodded and I gasped at her courage. “Yes, my Lord. It was me. Your knowledge is correct.”
“Then, prey, tell me why will I believe anything you have to say?” I didn’t dare breathe, for the fear of what Lord Bancroft might do to Ethel.
“I may have helped Hilred in the past, my Lord but that does not mean I will lie to you. What I say is the truth and nothing but the truth,” she stated. I was in awe of my friend. Not only was she speaking up to a King but she did not tremble nor did her voice waver as she told Lord Bancroft what he needed to hear.
“I am sure if circumstances permit, you will lie to me, especially when it concerns your dear friend,” he argued. I knew he would never believe us so what was he waiting for? Why couldn’t he just punish me?
“My Lord, those circumstances might by different but we are talking about the current situation and right now I am telling the truth. Hildred is innocent. She did not offer herself to that man; he took what did not belong to him. You have to see the truth, my Lord. Hildred would never do something as to offer herself to a man when she knows she has been claimed,” she responded. Ethel needed to stop talking; Lord Bancroft had decided who to believe and it was not me.
Silence descended once again like a thick cloak. I had the strongest desire to run away from Lord Bancroft but his arms kept me prisoner. His grip on my body held me in place, making it impossible for me to move. I wished I was in Lord Bancroft’s chambers, I did not like the fact that every woman present here was watching us. I wished I could remove their eyes.
“Is there anyone who wishes to step forward and support the claim made by Ethel?” Lord Bancroft enquired, and I realized how futile his question was. There was no one else who would stand up for me and agree with Ethel’s words. No one in the harem was particularly fond of me, so no one would dare to come and support me.
“Ye—Yes my Lord.” My eyes widened as Leela stepped forward, her eyes downcast.
I dared to look at Lord Bancroft to see him frowning at the new woman. What was she doing? And more importantly, why was she doing it?
“And who are you?” Lord Bancroft demanded.
“My name is Leela, my Lord.” I did not expect Leela to be here. She did not know me, but I could not deny that she was the only one who made an attempt at being my friend.
“And what do you have to say, Leela?” He asked.
“My Lord, I am grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to speak. I would just like to say that Ethel is indeed telling the truth. We all saw what happened prior to your arrival and Hildred is innocent, my Lord. She did not offer herself to that man,” she answered.
My heart drummed fear through my blood as I waited for Lord Bancroft to speak. Even if he didn’t believe us, I would forever be grateful to Leela for speaking up for me. She was brave enough to speak in front of a King and for that she had earned my respect.
“Be as it may, Hildred still needs to understand that she belongs to me, so that if somebody dares to touch her again—“ he locked his eyes with mine “—she would be more firm at telling them she is not a free woman.”
I swallowed before Lord Bancroft turned and dragged me out of the harem. I could hear Ethel scrambling to run after us but Leela’s voice stopped her. It was best if they stayed in the harem where it was safe; I did not wish for Ethel to be present at the time of my death.
“My Lord, I know I belong to you and everybody knows that. I swear on my life that I told that man I was not free, please believe me.” Even though I knew nothing I would say would make Lord Bancroft change his mind I couldn’t help it, I was desperate.
“But you were not firm and I believe it is high time that the whole Kingdom knows you belong to me.” He pushed me against the wall before kissing me like he desired to kill me. His hands gripped the top of my dress before I heard the unmistakable sound of cloth tearing. I tried to break free but his body kept me pinned against the brick wall.
“My Lord, please, I beg you. Have mercy,” I begged as his hands roamed over my naked flesh, branding his mark on me.
“Everybody must know. The whole Kingdom must know you have been claimed by me, my rose.” He bit my lip hard enough for me to cry out and immediately slipped his tongue in my mouth. How would he tell the whole Kingdom that I belonged to him? What was he intending to do?
It felt like Lord Bancroft had been possessed by a demon as he ravaged my mouth and imprinted himself on my body. He was brutal in his ministrations, igniting dark flames in my soul. He terrified me yet he made me feel things I’d never felt before; things I was afraid to feel.
“You are mine. The Crowning ceremony will take place as soon as we arrive at Sodora; there will be no delays.” He looked down at me, his eyes burning with black fire as they threatened to incinerate me. “And then no man will dare touch you.”
“My Lord, please believe me. I am innocent. I did not offer myself to him,” I repeated, breathing heavily as tears streamed down my face. My dress was torn but I was glad no one was here to see us.
“And you never will,” he said before grabbing my arm and dragging me towards the man who looked to be none other than Lord Aboloft himself. No, why was he taking me over to the King? As soon as we reached him, Lord Bancroft gave me a rough push, causing me to fall in front of King Aboloft and Lady Sabina who was standing next to him.
“Bancroft, what is the meaning of this?” Lord Aboloft asked.
“You promise me one woman from your Kingdom, and I want this one.” My heart shuddered at Lord Bancroft’s words. No, I would not let him take me to Sodora. I would do whatever it took to stay here and not go with him.
“She is from my harem, isn’t she?” Lord Aboloft said.
“Yes, she is. But now she will be something more than just a common whore. I want this woman, Aboloft, you promised me.” Why was he asking the King for permission when he’d already claimed me? With desperation clawing at me, I did the only thing I could. I begged.
“My Lord, please. I beg you. Do not give me to him, please, my Lord. You can do anything to me; I’ll do anything, but please do not give me to him.” I grabbed Lord Aboloft’s legs as I pleaded with him.
“She is afraid of you, Bancroft,” Lord Aboloft remarked as I cried. I did not care that Lord Bancroft was standing behind me and would most likely punish me once we were alone; I just hoped that fate would smile at me and spare me from the wraith of the King.
“It doesn’t matter. You gave Eldon a woman from your Kingdom, a woman of his choice, I want you to give me this one,” Lord Bancroft said.
“Eldon didn’t give me much of a choice when he took Lorelle from my Kingdom,” King Aboloft replied.
“In that case, I shall take her tonight. She will sleep in my quarters until I’m here. When I will leave for Sodora, she will come with me,” Lord Bancroft announced.
“My Lord, please, I beg you. Do not give me to him. I’ll do anything. I’ll be your slave if you wish, but please do not give me to him.” Why wasn’t Lady Sabina saying anything? I needed her to help me, to save me.
“I do not keep slaves, dear girl,” Lord Aboloft stated, causing my heart to sink. I was doomed.
“So? Is she mine now?” King Bancroft questioned. A few seconds passed as we all waited for King Aboloft to speak.
“Stand up, girl,” he ordered me. I stood up, my body trembling, grateful to my legs for supporting me. However, my gratitude was short lived as my legs gave out and I would’ve fallen had Lord Bancroft not caught me by the waist. “Good. Now tell me your name,” King Aboloft commanded.
“Hi—Hil—Hildred, my Lord,” I replied.
“All right, Hildred, now King Bancroft is going to take you back to Sodora. You are no longer a part of Quopia. You belong in Sodora now. Understood? You will do as King Bancroft says. You will not dare defy him. Is that clear?” King Aboloft said.
I shook my head. “Please, my Lord, do not do this to me. Please, I want to stay here. I do not want to go with him.”
“I said, is that clear?” He repeated, his voice hard.
Knowing he would never listen to me, I nodded. Lord Bancroft would take me away and he would destroy me unless I found a way to escape.
“Thank you, Aboloft,” King Bancroft said.
“Do not thank me, Bancroft. You gave me my happiness; it is only fair I return the favor. I shall see you both tomorrow at breakfast.” With that Lord Aboloft turned and walked away with Lady Sabina…
Leaving me at the hands of a monster.