Lord Bancroft threw me across the glistening floor, causing pain to explode inside me. Before I could force myself to get up, he grabbed me and pulled me up before slapping me hard enough to break my neck.
“You thought you can get away from me?” His words struck me with the force of a whip. “You thought you could escape?” I screamed when he tugged me up harshly by my hair. My head exploded with fiery anguish as my hair was pulled to the extent of being ripped off. “Well?! Answer me!”
Tears fell from my eyes as pain and terror made it impossible for me to think. What kind of an answer was he expecting me to give him? He already knew what I was trying to do, and I knew he was going to kill me now. He had been merciful before but not anymore. I did exactly what he told me not to do, and now he was going to make me pay.
“M—My L—Lord—“ I sobbed, unable to form the words. I just wished for him to leave so I could die in peace. I knew after what I did that Lord Aboloft would no longer let me stay under his roof, and no woman would accept me in this harem anymore; I could feel their disgust and disapproval surrounding me like a bitter cloak.
“Have you lost the ability to speak, you little witch?!” King Bancroft tugged on my hair with more force, causing me to cry out. “Where is your bravado now? Where is the courage that always flared up in my presence?”
“H—Ha—Have—“ How could I beg him for mercy when I’d committed the ultimate act of disobedience. The only mercy he could show me now was to kill me quickly.
“Mercy? You expect mercy from me after what you’ve done? Oh, you audacious witch,” he seethed. It was a blessing that my vision was blurred, which made it difficult to see the fury—that no doubt—was blazing in those green eyes. I couldn’t see the women gathered around me, due to the terror and tears currently controlling my entire being, but I could feel their presence, and I knew that no one would step forward to help me.
Before I could dare to utter a response, Lord Bancroft struck me once again, causing me to fall down hard enough to hit my head on the cold floor. I could feel something trickling down the side of my head and my mouth, and when I saw crimson drops on the floor did I realize that I was bleeding.
“Let this be an example to every single whore present inside the walls of this harem.” Lord Bancroft’s voice echoed inside the room, causing every woman to freeze in fear. “Tomorrow, the final punishment will be handed out to this whore who dared to escape.”
Tomorrow? Tomorrow? He would make me wait for hours until he finally sentenced me to death? I wouldn’t be able to sleep with the thought of my impending death looming over my head. Oh God, what was I going to do? I shouldn’t be afraid of death considering how much I’d been suffering since King Bancroft arrived, but I was.
As I laid there, sprawled across the hard floor, I heard Lord Bancroft marching out of the harem; his heavy footsteps fading with every numbered beat of my heart. He was leaving for now, only to come tomorrow as my judge, jury and executioner. Would he hang me in front of the whole of Quopia? Or would he stab me until every last drop of blood left my body? The scenarios of my death were endless because a King was going to carry it out. I couldn’t believe my life was going to end with me being a prisoner to a King’s desires.
Once the footsteps faded away, I tried to fight through the agony throbbing in my head to look around, only to see not a single woman present except for Ethel. She was crying as she slowly walked over to me and sat down.
“Oh Hildred, I never meant for this to happen! I didn’t know how Lord Bancroft found out about your escape.” She sobbed as she placed a trembling hand on my shoulder, causing a fresh wave of pain to bloom in my body. “I should go and tell King Bancroft that it was me who helped you escape; he should punish me, not you.” I grabbed her hand before she could run off.
“N—No. Y—You won’t—you won’t—“ I took a deep breath, ignoring the torment stabbing my body. “You won’t te—tell him. I—I wi—will, I will endure whatever pun—punishment he dec—decides to gi—give me.”
Ethel cried harder, shaking her head. “No! No, Hildred I cannot lose you. I refuse to lose you. I shouldn’t have helped you escape! It’s my fault. Please, Hildred, I cannot lose my sister because of something I did.”
“No, Eth—Ethel. It’s not your fa—fault.” Darkness begun to color the edges of my vision, and I knew it would soon take over. “I woul—would’ve tried to run ev—even if y—you have—haven’t helped me.”
“Oh Hildred!” My heart broke for my friend. I never thought I would lose her like this. I never thought I would die like this.
“Ethel, i—if I die to—tomorrow I wa—want yo—you to know that I lo—love you, an—and death do—does not have the po—power to ch—change that.” I told her, as oblivion gathered thick and absolute around me. Soon there would be nothing. Soon I would be at peace.
For a few hours until they morphed into forever.
“Stop! Do—Don’t utter such nonsense! Come, I will take you to bed.” As soon as Ethel placed her hand on my broken body, I screamed before finally giving in to the darkness which was already possessing me.
Light hurt my eyes, but it was nothing compared to the pain blazing in my body. I forced my eyes open and when I saw the familiar walls of the harem I wondered if it would be the last time I would ever gaze at these walls.
Today was the day when Lord Bancroft would make an example out of me, so that no woman ever dared to escape like I had. I did not know how he would do it, but I knew it was going to be painful.
“Hildred! You are awake! Thank God!” Ethel’s voice seeped into my ears, causing tears to well up in my eyes. Would today be the last day I get to hear my friend’s voice? Would I see her for the last time today?
“Why are you thanking God?” I asked. “Why is the sun out? The sun shouldn’t be out on such a dreadful day; it’s not right.”
“I am grateful to God for giving you life and strength. And the rising of the sun is a hopeful omen, Hildred,” she replied.
“Do you not see death lingering in the air?” I questioned, feeling my heart slowing down as seconds crawled by.
Ethel frowned, clearly puzzled by my question. “No. I do not see death.”
I chuckled. “Perhaps you fail to see the black wings fluttering above us because death is not here for you. Mayhap it only shows itself to those it has come to take.” I paused. “It is beautiful.”
“Wh—What is beautiful?” Enquired Ethel.
“Death. It is terrifying, yet it has a strange allure to it,” I answered, wondering what form would death take while pulling my soul out of my body.
“Hildred, I beg you, please stop! Pray, have mercy on my poor heart, for I cannot endure such talk of death from your lips. Lord Bancroft is kind, he will show mercy,” Ethel stated.
Tears fell from my eyes as I tried to fight the fear mixing with my blood. King Bancroft was cruel, he would never show mercy. He had been showing mercy since he came here, not anymore. Ethel’s hope had no meaning or reason. I was going to die today; it was the only way an example for the rest of the whores would be set.
“Wh—What time wi—will he co—come?” I asked, wondering how much time and heart beats I was left with.
“I have been given the orders to prepare you.” Her words were like the initial nails on my nonexistent coffin.
I took a deep breath of courage, forcing my body to endure the pain. “Let’s go then. Perhaps he will lessen my punishment if I do not make him wait.”
“I hope he forgives you instead of brutally punishing you,” she said.
“Learn to hope for something that can one day be a reality; this will never become a reality.” I told her before forcing myself to sit up as my body screamed at me to lie back down.
“It will become a reality. I will not let Lord Bancroft take you away from me. You might be his woman but he is not God—he does not possess the right to kill you!” She cried.
“A King is equal to God in this world, Ethel. There is nothing he cannot do,” I argued as Ethel removed my tattered dress.
“He can listen to our pleas. And he cannot do anything without Lord Aboloft’s consent,” she responded, running a wet cloth over my bare body, cleaning my wounds. I dreaded the mask that would come next; which would hide my face from everybody around me, because no one was supposed to see a whore when she was being sentenced to death; it was considered bad luck.
“Lord Aboloft will agree to whatever King Bancroft desires.” I told her.
“No. Have hope, my dear friend. God is with those who have hope in Him,” she said before coming to stand in front of me with the mask in her hands.
A sob escaped me as I eyed the piece of cloth. “There is no God.” I shook my head.
“Hush, dear sister.” Ethel wrapped gentle arms around me, pressing my head to the comfort of her bosom, allowing me to shed my tears and keeping them safe in her heart.
“I love you, Ethel, and I will forever be grateful to you for what you did for me. Forgive me for being a terrible friend to you,” I pleaded. If I died today, I would be at peace knowing that my friend—my sister—did not hold anything against me which would have me suffering in the afterlife.
“Do not be foolish, Hildred. I love you. God sent you to me as a blessing, and I know He will not take you away from me. I know that,” she responded.
Before I could reply, the sound of the door opening echoed throughout the room, causing my heart to shiver in terror. This was it. Lord Bancroft was here and he was going to announce my death. How would he kill me? Would he do it himself or would he order the guards to suck the life out of my body and throw it in the river?
“We should go. There is no time for hope. Death is here for me and I want to look it in the eyes when it takes me,” I stated before standing up, and walking towards where King Bancroft stood waiting for me.
When my eyes landed on his imposing figure, I chuckled internally knowing that death indeed had come for me. King Bancroft was dressed in black robes with hints of gray enhancing his deadly aura. Mayhap he wanted me to know that he truly owned me because he would not be the one to kill me.
“Kneel, oh distrustful whore,” King Bancroft ordered.
With my body trembling with dread and anticipation, I lowered myself in front of him, trying to disregard my lack of clothing as I knelt in front of him. When would he announce my sentence? Would anyone try to stop him? He said he claimed me when he saw me for the first time, did that mean he wouldn’t decide to end my life?
I gasped when Lord Bancroft lowered himself to my level. What was he intending to do? A King never lowered himself to the level of a whore, how could he do this?
A sharp moan escaped me when Lord Bancroft cupped my face with his hand. His green eyes flashed with darkness and death before crushing his lips to mine. I could hear the other whores gasping in surprise, but I couldn’t focus on anything except the dominance which was being exerted upon my body and soul by the ruthless King.
The kiss had tears spilling forth, soaking my cheeks as life and death battled inside me. Lord Bancroft’s kiss was a kiss of life and death; killing everything inside me, yet giving birth to new emotions and sentiments that only he had the power to invoke in me.
He pulled away after a few minutes, leaving me gasping for air. It became difficult for me to breathe when the realization of Lord Bancroft’s power and ownership seeped into the very core of my being. I was foolish to think I could escape him. With just one kiss, Lord Bancroft made me see what I refused to acknowledge all along.
I was his, and there was nothing I could do about it.
Do not think like that! You can still escape. You just need to be clever about it.
My mind was telling me one thing while my body was doing the opposite. I lowered my head, awaiting my punished as King Bancroft stood above me in all his power and glory.
“Bring the mask! It’s time to punish the one who dared to run when she was not supposed to,” Lord Bancroft commanded. His command had one of the common whores grabbing the mask and hurrying over to where I knelt and quickly tying the mask around my face, covering everything below my eyes.
Once the mask was secure, the woman stepped back and Lord Bancroft once again became the entity of my focus. I took a deep breath, getting ready to hear my sentence when Lord Bancroft raised his hand, no doubt getting ready to strike me.
“Do you repent for your misdeeds?” He asked.
I wished to tell him that I had no regrets over what I had done, but I knew that would get me killed. I desired to tell him how I would repeat my actions again and again until I succeeded, but I couldn’t do that. I was his now, there was no denying it.
So with tears streaming down my eyes, I waited for Lord Bancroft to strike me. And just as I was expecting the sting of pain to burn me, a soft voice resonated throughout the harem…
Silencing death forever.