Pain surrounded me from inside and out. Agony simmered in my blood, the kind of anguish which made me wish for death. What happened to me? Why was I in such intense pain? And why didn’t it lessen?
A cool cloth was pressed to the side of my face, which gave me relief like no other. Who was this merciful angel that was taking away my pain? I was utterly grateful to him for relieving me from the fire of agony blazing inside me.
However, when that angel spoke to me, it took everything in me not to tremble in terror. For this was no angel, it was the Devil himself who was tending to my pain.
“Open your eyes, my fiery nymph. Open your eyes for your King,” the Devil commanded, pressing his lips to the corner of my mouth.
I did not wish to obey him, and neither did my heart. But the command was one that required obedience. I knew in my heart that if I disobeyed hell would strike and I was already broken.
With slow movements, I forced my eyes to open, taking in my new, unfamiliar surroundings. The room I was in was dark, the curtains drawn to prevent any light from entering except for a small ray which was enough for me to look around. The bed I was lying in was the softest I’ve ever laid on and the amount of pillows covered in purple silk made me wonder who would want so many pillows.
“Good girl. You are such a good girl for obeying me.” King Bancroft’s voice felt like darkness surrounding my heart. Where was I? How did I get here? I did not want to stay here with him. He hurt me. He made an effort to steal my life.
“W—Wh—Where?” That was the only word I could manage to utter. My throat was parched and pain hissed and bit my body, causing tears to burn my eyes. I needed to get away from here, from him. I would die if he continued to do what he’d done before I lost consciousness.
“Shh, do not speak. You must calm yourself and rest as much as you can. Do not fear, for I am here to protect you,” Lord Bancroft said, brushing my hair from my forehead.
His words made me wonder if he was mad. How could he protect me when he was the cause of my anguish? I didn’t need him to protect me, I needed to be protected from him.
However, I couldn’t escape him; I couldn’t move. Why was God doing this to me? I just wished for freedom. I desired to be free so I could do whatever made me happy. I just wanted a roof over my head and wished to sew for people who desired pretty dresses. I had no desire for wealth or power.
“You’ve sustained a lot of injuries,” he said. Did he know he was the cause of all those injuries? I knew disobeying him was not an option anymore. He wanted to teach me a lesson and he had succeeded. I wanted nothing to do with him. I wished he would leave me by myself as fear was the only thing I felt around him now.
When I did not respond, King Bancroft gently turned my face until I had no choice but to gaze into those menacing, green eyes. Oh how I feared him. I would do whatever he commanded as long as he didn’t hurt me anymore.
“You are afraid of me, dear one,” he stated before brushing his lips over mine. The kiss was soft and fleeting, yet it conveyed everything I knew he wanted to say to me. He had won while I lost. And he reveled in the power he held over me. “You will no longer defy me.” He knew it just by looking in my eyes.
I wanted to claw his face off. I desired to hurt him the same way he hurt me. How could he be happy over hurting someone? Were all the Kings like this? Was King Aboloft like this? Escaping King Bancroft was going to be a difficult task, but I would do it.
“I will take you to Sodora in a few weeks. Then we will start a new life, together. I have already informed the people that you are coming and I must say they are eager to receive you,” he said as if he was fulfilling my biggest fantasy.
The thought of spending my life with a cruel King made me wonder if there was a cliff nearby where I could jump off and take my own life. That was the only way I could escape from his control.
I tried to get up but King Bancroft easily pushed me back down. “You can’t leave this room unless I wish for you to leave, little nymph. Your body needs time to heal, so you will stay here until then.”
I shook my head. “No. I—I ha—have to g—go.”
“You are not going anywhere. You should get used to being here, in my bed, because your future lies in my arms,” he murmured before kissing me tenderly. The kiss touched parts of me that no man had ever dared to reach, and I hated it. I despised him for making me feel things I had no desire to feel. “Your injuries leave you vulnerable for me to do whatever I please.”
Even when I was not injured, you still did whatever you pleased!
Not having the strength to physically escape him, I glared at him to show him how I felt about being in his bed. I wished my eyes had the ability to incinerate a person. I wanted Lord Bancroft to turn to ash right in front of me.
“Now, now, no need to be angry, my fierce nymph. You should know that I will find ways to control you in ways you could’ve never imagined,” he stated, kissing me yet again.
Why couldn’t death come for me when I most needed it to? Would Lord Bancroft ever be punished for doing what he did? I prayed to God to punish him; to make him more human, for he was nothing but a monster, a monster who was ruling over all of us.
“And I will find ways to evade you as long as there is breath in my body,” I hissed. He could kill me if he wished so, but he must know that I would never truly belong to him.
“Are you challenging me, my fiery nymph?” He chuckled as if I was a fool for thinking such things.
“If you consider it a challenge, then challenge you I must. And rest assured, for I will win,” I said with as much courage as my broken body would allow.
“Do not be foolish, little nymph, for challenging me is a mistake that will cost you dearly; and trust me, your body is in no condition to pay back that loss.” His eyes glittered with victory, a victory he believed he’d earned without going to battle. But I was not going to surrender. King Bancroft must know that inflicting pain on me was not a way to achieve victory over me.
“My body may not be at peak health, but you shall go to battle against me, for I will fight you until I no longer can, and that will only happen when death has delivered its final kiss upon my soul,” I replied.
“Bold words for someone so broken,” he remarked before those green eyes hardened into gems. “You really wish to challenge me?”
“I do not jest when it comes to my life and survival,” I stated. Mayhap now he would realize that I was being serious and would prepare for battle.
“Your life and survival is in my hands,” he said.
“My life and survival is only in the hands of the one who was kind enough to give it to me,” I argued.
His eyes narrowed and I waited for the blow which I knew would come sooner or later. “You are one foolish woman. Challenging a King is the worst mistake you can make.”
“It’s a necessary mistake, my Lord.” Why had he not struck me uptil now? Did he finally decide to have mercy on me after nearly killing me?
“One you will regret dearly, my fiery nymph.”
“Death has no regrets.” I bit out.
Lord Bancroft didn’t say anything for quite some time. Perhaps he was thinking how best to injure me now that I was already bed ridden. Would he smother me with a pillow, stealing my last breaths just like he stole my freedom and my being? Or would he stab me in my sleep, stealing my life without letting me know?
“Your bravado is commendable. Only few have been foolish enough to challenge me, and they all lost in the worst way possible,” he informed me, kissing the side of my face.
“Stop kissing me,” I snarled. “You do not own my body, so stop taking liberties with it.”
“You do remember what happened the last time you said this same thing, right?” His statement made me thirsty for his blood. I would take my revenge. He would experience pain like no other.
“It matters not what you do to me, for the truth shall remain; you cannot ignore it,” I replied. I knew I was foolish for arguing with a King, but I just couldn’t stop. King Bancroft had the ability to bring out the worst in me.
“I think your body requires rest, for you do not know what you speak of,” he said. I could see he was barely containing his fury in the tightening of his jaw and the burning of his eyes. And though I didn’t want to accept it, I couldn’t deny his claim. I was tired, fatigue lay heavily upon me and I wanted nothing but darkness to consume me.
“Then leave me be. I refuse to sleep with your presence beside me.” I needed to stop talking, I would only be making matters worse for myself.
“That is not going to happen. You are sleeping in my bed, which means you will sleep beside me.” I wanted to cry, my tears were ready to spill.
You should give up. Arguing is futile. You’ve already lost.
Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes, not bothering to respond to him. I had no energy left to fight him. He was strong in every way possible. Why did I have to challenge him? Why couldn’t I just accept that I now belonged to him? Why was it so difficult for me to do so?
“I know it is difficult for you to accept this change, but this is something you cannot deny, my fierce nymph. Your fire makes me furious, yet I love its heat because this fire burning in your soul is what makes me want you in the most natural of ways.” I forced my eyes to remain closed when I felt King Bancroft kissing the top of my head. “I now realize that I shouldn’t have waited so long to claim you as mine, because then you wouldn’t be fighting me so much; you would know who your master is—who your King is.
“However, one cannot change the past, but one can surely play with the future. Which is why I’ve decided to own your future. You running from me would be like running from your future—the inevitable. I’m sure you don’t want that.”
After listening to his words, I knew I couldn’t keep my eyes shut. I looked at him, wondering what he saw in me that made it impossible for him to stay away.
“Why do you want me? I am nothing but a mere whore. How can you desire someone who is beneath you?” I questioned.
“You are only beneath me if I make you this way. If I put you on a throne, then you are not beneath me but my equal. It all depends on what I choose to do with you,” he answered, running his fingers over my neck, causing me to wince as his fingers grazed my wound. “Just like I’ve marked your body I’ve marked your destiny as well.”
“So you are saying there is no escape from you?” I queried.
“My fierce nymph, this is what I’ve been telling you all along. There is no escape for you, there never was after the moment I saw you.” His answer was one I knew already but it still caused pin pricks of frustration to stab my heart.
Give up. It’s a wise decision. He’ll kill you and you’ll never be able to fulfill your dreams of becoming a seamstress.
Perhaps I could invoke his mercy by being compliant, just until I got the chance to escape from his vile clutches. King Bancroft was gentle when I complied with his commands, maybe I could do this to achieve my own dreams. Even if he did take me to Sodora I could find a way to run and start a new life where I wouldn’t have to service a dozen men and be left with bruises every night.
If King Bancroft was happy then I was sure I would be happy as well. I just had to give him what he desired in return for an opportunity at freedom. I knew about a few towns which were present right outside the boundaries of the Kingdom of Sodora, mayhap I could hide in one of those towns and start a new life.
Suddenly, I could see a ray of hope in my otherwise dreary life. I could change my life. I didn’t dream of marriage and children, living like a spinster was a dream I yearned to accomplish. I didn’t need a man to love me, I just wished to make stunning dresses for women and earn some money through them.
Once I had everything in mind, I knew what I had to do. Complying to Lord Bancroft was crucial to my life and my freedom. I had to give him what he wanted in order to take from him what I desired. I would go to Sodora with him, and at the first opportunity I would escape.
Satisfied with the new course of my life, I gazed at Lord Bancroft and gave him a small smile. I couldn’t hate him for desiring my obedience, for I was going to take something in return…