Looking around the luxurious walls of the harem, I began to wonder just how much time I had until these walls would no longer be my home. The way King Bancroft was treating me, hot one moment and cold the next, I doubted I had a lot of time left. But I couldn’t help thinking about it. I would miss these women; I would miss them all, especially my dear friend Ethel.
The last time King Bancroft was here, I had given in to his commands, simply because I was in too much pain to defy him. Try as I might, I couldn’t do much to keep him away from me. He knew what he desired and was going to do whatever it took to achieve it.
However, I couldn’t help thinking why he wanted me. He waited for nine years, why? He could’ve claimed me as his, the moment he saw me but he didn’t. Why did he wait? Surely he must’ve had his reasons, but I didn’t know what they were.
The sound of footsteps ripped me from my thoughts, leaving me no choice but to acknowledge the person standing before. It was one of the servant girls. Her golden hair was tied up in a tight bun while her eyes were downcast as she stood before me. Why was she not looking me in the eyes? We were both of the same rank.
“Hello. Can I help you?” I asked with a soft smile.
“How do you feel, today?” The girl asked me.
Her question surprised me. Why was she so concerned about my well-being? This was the first time I was meeting this woman, how did she even know about my scars and bruises?
“I am fine. You didn’t tell me your name,” I said.
“My name is of no importance. And forgive me for daring to speak to you like this but you do not look fine. Lord Bancroft would not be pleased to hear that you gave false information, as he is already in a volatile mood,” she replied.
I should’ve known that King Bancroft was behind this. Why else would she come and ask me about my health? Nobody cared about us in the harem. We were nothing but objects.
“Tell King Bancroft not to fret over my well-being. I am fine.” I told her.
“He will come after a short while. In the meantime, he has ordered me to give you this.” She placed a dress on my bed. “You must wear it before he comes. He will be furious if you do not comply and I will be punished.”
“Why will he punish you?” I question, already fearing for the woman’s fate which now rested on my aching shoulders.
“Because I have been assigned with the task to make sure you wear this dress before his arrival. So please, have mercy on my poor soul and wear it,” she answered.
Disobeying him now was not an option; this girl’s life depended on my compliance. With a sigh, I forced myself to get up from the bed, ignoring my body’s aches and protests. I smiled at the girl and picked up the dress from the bed.
“Thank you for bringing me the dress. I’ll put it on, don’t you worry,” I said, expecting her to leave me.
“I cannot take my leave until you wear the dress, Lord Bancroft has ordered me so,” she replied, her eyes still on the floor.
I sighed. “I will put the dress on, I promise you. You can go.”
“I have my orders; I cannot disobey the King.” Curse this King who was ruling over people as if he were King Aboloft himself. What was going on in Lord Bancroft’s head today?
“Fine. I will be back in a few minutes after putting on the dress.” As soon as she nodded in acknowledgment, I went behind the wall where I changed my clothes and quickly put on the dress. It looked as if the dress belonged to a queen or a princess. It was a soft gold and was made of the softest fabric I’ve ever had the privilege of touching. The dress fell down to my toes with silk flowers sewn on the bodice. The dress was beautiful; I doubted I had the right to wear it.
As soon as I emerged from behind the wall, the servant girl took one look at me and her jaw dropped. Her expression had me wondering if I looked beautiful or ugly.
“Is everything all right?” I asked the woman.
She blushed before replying, “Yes, of course. Forgive me, I shouldn’t have looked at you in that manner.” She paused. “You just look so beautiful.”
Her words had my face heating up. “Thank you, and do not fret your pretty head, I won’t tell Lord Bancroft.”
“Thank you for your kindness.” She bowed, which brought a huge wave of discomfort upon my shoulders. “I shall go and inform King Bancroft that his command has been fulfilled. He will see you soon.”
I didn’t bother responding and she didn’t wait for one either, just bowed and walked away, leaving me standing in the exquisite dress. Why did Lord Bancroft want me to wear this dress? Why did he give me a dress which was ten times my worth? I certainly didn’t deserve to wear it.
“Oh my goodness! Gracious! Hildred! You look absolutely beautiful.” My heart nearly jumped out of my chest when I heard Leela.
“Thank you, Leela. How are you?” Leela was one of the common whores in the harem, and one of the most desirable women for the men. Her big, blue eyes, full lips and long brown hair always had men coming to her. I pitied and envied her at the same time.
“I am fine; slightly sore from last night, one of the men was quite rough.” She winced before composing her features. “Anyways, enough about me, what are you doing? Where did you get such an exquisite dress from?”
“Uh, the dress…” I trailed off, not sure what to tell her. If I told her that King Bancroft ordered me to wear it, then God knows what she’d think and what she’d tell the other women present here. It wasn’t uncommon for men to give gifts to the whores they’d been with or were particularly fond of, but telling them I got a gift from a King would stir a whole pot of nonsense which I did not want.
“Oh come on, you can tell me. I won’t tell a single soul,” Leela stated, coming closer to me as if I was about to tell her a big secret.
“It’s not important. You tell me, how are you? Did you get a gift recently?” I tried to change the subject of discussion.
“One of the guards—I don’t remember his name—gave me a ring, but it had no real jewel on it; just a plain, old ring,” she answered. “Is this dress a gift?”
I thought about what to tell her. It was apparent that she wouldn’t let this go. “Uh, yes. Sort of a gift. But I do not know who sent it.”
Leela grinned and clapped her hands as if I’d given her the greatest of news. “Oh my goodness! You have an admirer! Oh how wonderful! Do you think he is handsome? Oh I am sure that he comes from a respectable family. And he is rich, because that dress is not something a pauper can afford.”
“No, no. It’s not like that. There is no admirer,” I disagreed.
“Don’t be modest, Hildred. You can tell me. I never disclose secrets,” she insisted. But no matter how trustworthy she claimed to be, I couldn’t tell her the dress was from Lord Bancroft.
“H—Have you seen Ethel? I can’t seem to find her,” I asked, desperate to see my friend.
“Oh she is busy servicing the cook since last night; he just can’t seem to get enough of her,” Leela answered. “Hildred, I know I’m not your friend like Ethel is, but I can keep your secrets safe.”
“I know you can, Leela. I do not have the slightest inkling of who sent me this dress,” I lied, wanting to get away from her.
“That’s alright, you will know soon. Men like this do not stay hidden for long,” she stated, taking me by surprise.
“Whatever do you mean, Leela?” I queried.
“Well, he sent you such an elegant dress, it’s obvious he wants you. Mayhap he is in search of a bride? If so, then it won’t be long before he comes here and takes you away,” she replied, a happy glint entering her eyes.
“Perhaps, I do not know for certain,” I said, wringing my hands and waiting for someone to come and take me away from her so I didn’t have to think about charming princes and courtly knights.
My wish came true in the form of a King who was planning to rip me from my home. King Bancroft entered the harem and Leela wasted no time in running away from me. The power he held over us made me envious of him. I wanted people to fear me enough to run from me when I entered a room. But men didn’t fear me, because they held all the power.
“Turn around.” His command sliced through my soul with a force of a whip.
I turned around slowly, wondering what kind of a mood he was in. He walked over to me, his large stride eating up the distance between us. It became difficult to breathe the closer he got to me. Did he know the effect he had on me? Did he relish the power?
“You obeyed me,” he said once he was as close as he could possible get.
“You didn’t leave me much of a choice. Sending an innocent maid in order to make me obey you; not something I expected from a King of your status,” I hissed, looking him in the eyes.
His eyes narrowed. “And, pray, tell me, what exactly is it that you expected from a man of my status?”
I shrugged, trying not to let his imposing figure bother me. “Just didn’t expect you to use an innocent to get what you want. I thought you were a King; perhaps you’re not a King.”
“Watch your tongue, fragile one,” he warned.
“If I was so fragile, then you need not to have used a servant girl in order to get me to obey you.” I dared to take a step closer to him. “If you were so powerful, you could’ve brought me to heel with just a look.” I paused, stepping back. “But alas! It is not so. Which means you are not powerful at all.”
King Bancroft tilted his head to the side as he scrutinized me. I didn’t look away from his hardened gaze. He’d done whatever he desired to me; inflicted all forms of pain on my body. I may not be strong enough to fight him physically, but I would bring war at his doorstep with my words. His silence told me that my words have affected him, and that was when I knew the power I had over him and the power I would inflict upon him.
I was so busy relishing my new found strength that I screamed when King Bancroft suddenly grabbed my arm and dragged me towards the back of the harem.
“Let me go!” I tried to break out of his hold but he only tightened his grip to the point of pain.
“No. You question the extent of my power, my fiery nymph, well I will show you what you are foolish enough to believe is not there.” He opened one of doors which were used only when a man wished to do things to a whore which were not for others to see. As soon as the door shut behind us King Bancroft gave me a rough push, causing me to fall down on the hard floor.
Darkness surrounded me which made it impossible for me to see where I was. I hoped Lord Bancroft would illuminate the room with a torch, otherwise I would be blind.
I screamed when I felt rough hands grabbing my arms and hauling me up. “Now you will experience the true extent of my power, my little nymph. You want me to scare you enough to have you cowering beneath me with just one look, well heavens have smiled down on you because you are about to have your wish granted.”
“No, please. Don’t.” I wanted hide in one of the dark corners of this room but Lord Bancroft kept a strong arm around my waist, preventing my escape.
“After tonight you will never dare to speak to me the way you just did. You will fear me with every breath you take,” he vowed.
His words had tears streaming from my eyes. I thought I could control him with my words, but I was terrified of him. He was the monster of my nightmares, and I couldn’t get away from him.
Pain had me screaming as King Bancroft sliced my stomach with a sharp knife. I could feel blood flowing from my body and soaking my dress, but I couldn’t think past the fire of agony which slowly spread throughout my body as King Bancroft sliced my arms and thighs.
I will die. He will kill me tonight.
“You feel this, my fiery nymph? Do you feel how easily I let your life spill from your body? This is the power I have; this is the power I have over you.
“I own your body and every drop of blood that spills belongs to me,” he stated. “I can you leave here and let you die, but what can I say, you are too precious to me. I have a lot of plans for you, my fragile girl, I can’t let you die.”
I didn’t care how important I was to him, I just wanted to die and escape the pain that was blazing through my body. Lord Bancroft was right, I needed to fear him. I was foolish to think I could disrespect him and get away with it.
“Please, ha—have me—mercy,” I pleaded as my eyes begun to get heavy.
“That’s like a good girl. Beg me. Fear me,” Lord Bancroft murmured, his lips brushing my neck, licking the blood which continued to flow from there.
King Bancroft had finally shown me how dangerous and cruel he could really be. And in return he had taken what he wanted from me. I had no choice but to do as he wanted.
For my survival.
I would beg him.
I would fear him.