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Author Topic: Possessed--Part Seven  (Read 3256 times)

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Offline Evie

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Possessed--Part Seven
« on: February 16, 2011, 12:48:04 pm »
   Part Seven—Descent into Hell

   May 22, 1126
   Duchy of Haldane, en route to the Kheldish Riding

   
   Javana stared stonily at the path ahead as Walter spoke, her ears registering what he had to say, but her mind mutinous.

   “You must realize, my dear, that things will go so much easier for you if you stop trying to resist me.  Surely you do wish for us to have an amiable relationship, do you not, my darling?”  He chuckled. “Learn what is expected of you, be a good wife to me, and you shall find I can make your life quite pleasant.  I do long to please you, my sweet, but first you must understand my expectations and learn to live by them.  That's why the training bond is necessary.”  Walter grinned.  “You are by far the most beautiful woman I have ever had, but I'm afraid you are far from biddable.”

   “Though quite beddable,” Aylmer observed.  Javana shuddered as the man raked her with his eyes.

   “Quite,” her husband agreed, “though not for you, I'm afraid, Aylmer.  This one, I don't share.”

   Thank Jesú for small mercies, then!
Javana thought, feeling a sudden surge of nausea.  She'd not thought to consider that matters might get worse than they already were.

   “Aye.  Pity, though, that I didn't think to inquire after her sister.”  Aylmer shrugged.  “Not that I'm really looking for a wife at present.”

   “Well, you should, Aylmer.  Marriage is a sacrament, and like all sacraments, given to man for the betterment of his soul.”  Walter gave his lieutenant a sardonic smile.  “I certainly feel the better for it already!”

   While the two men bantered, Javana considered her escape options.  Her compulsion would not allow her to urge her horse to flee, yet as far as she knew, the horse itself was not under any compulsion.  It followed her commands as well as any trained beast; she simply was not able to command it to do anything but follow along with Walter and his odious knight.   She wondered, if she were to lay down the reins and simply let the beast have its head, if there were some way to engineer a situation which might provoke it to flight.  But no, even if she could figure out how to manage such a thing, and was able to remain in the saddle while it made its wild run, once she took the reins in hand again, doubtless the compulsion would simply force her to direct her mount back towards Walter.  No, that was no way out, then.  She'd have to wait for a more likely opportunity, and preferably one less likely to get her killed in the process of trying it.

   “You know, my precious, I am only being so harsh with you now because you have proven faithless and fickle.  Once you have convinced me of your loyalty, you'll find me a far more indulgent husband.  I'll not brook infidelity, Javana.”

   Javana turned an incredulous look towards her husband.  “When have I proved faithless, my lord?  We've only been wed two days, and before that I had mere days between our betrothal and my parting for Andelon!  Surely you're not thinking I went abroad for a nine-month tryst?!”

   “Of course not.  You were most carefully chaperoned, I'm assured.  I'm speaking of before that.  You know of whom I speak.”

   Javana's face flamed as she realized what he was obliquely referring to.  “That's hardly fair, my lord; my acquaintance with...with the man in question ended before you and I ever met.  I can hardly be charged with infidelity to you then, considering I had no idea I would end up as your wife!  I cannot think of how you even know about that...very brief relationship.”

   “Can you not, dear?”  Walter glanced at Aylmer with a wry smile, then turned back to face his bride.  “You were mine, my dove; you always were, whether you knew it or not.  And you may not have known you'd be my wife, but surely you knew you'd be someone's wife someday!  You had no business dallying with the likes of him.”

   “Yes, I had every expectation of being someone's wife someday.... His!”  Javana's eyes flashed angry fire.  

   “It's fortunate he wasn't so foolish as to offer, then,” Walter said coolly.  “I’d hate to have to kill a knight of the Kingdom.  He'd surely be missed.”  He gave his new wife a cold appraisal, his eyes traveling slowly down her and back up to his face.  “You were naught but a strumpet to him, you know; nothing but a plaything to be enjoyed and then cast thoughtlessly aside.  You deserved better, and I was ready to give it to you.  And I still may....once you've earned it back.”

   Javana turned away, feeling shamed and humiliated.  After a moment, she asked, “How may I earn it back?”  She truly cared nothing about pleasing him—he could jump into the Lake of Fire, for all she cared!—but as Seisyll had once explained to her about war strategy, one of the most important rules to remember was to know one's enemy.  Walter was most certainly her enemy, and in her two days of marriage to him, Javana had become convinced she was now engaged in a war against him to save her own body, mind, and soul.  Seisyll had also told her that warfare is based on deception of the enemy.  Walter might have control over what she was able to do, but he had not, so far at least, managed to control what she thought, nor had he stripped away her ability to keep her innermost thoughts shielded from him.  Had he been able to, she was fairly certain, he'd have done so by now.  Since he had not, this was a potential weakness in his control over her that she must find some way to exploit.  And because she still retained the freedom to think freely, she must carefully guard those thoughts and plans which he might consider disloyal until she could find some way to get around his compulsions and put them into play.

   Her compulsion might not allow her to tell Walter any outright lies, and even if it did, Javana hardly dared do so, for he could surely detect any such lies by means of simple Truth-Reading.  But lies of omission certainly seemed possible.  So far, her compulsion had not forced her to tell Walter anything she wished to keep unsaid.  Another chink in his control that she must figure out how to use to her own advantage.

   Walter looked pleased by her question.  Javana forced her mind back to what he was saying.  “How may you earn it back?  By being a docile and dutiful wife to me, of course; that shall be the start.  After that...well, you've broken my trust, darling, so you must realize it shall take some time to win it back.  You must prove to my satisfaction that I have your unfailing loyalty in all things for all our days together.”

   Which shall be short!
Javana prayed.  “And how must I prove that?”

   Walter smiled.  “By being unquestionably obedient in all things that I may ask of you.  Attempt to resist me, and you will bring unnecessary pain and sorrow upon yourself.   Honor and aid me as a loyal wife should, and you prove yourself worthy of trust.  Earn enough trust, and I may someday be persuaded to remove your controls.”

   He lied.  Oh, he had been telling the truth until the last, but his final words were a lie; she'd not dared to Truth-Read him as he spoke, knowing he would detect any such effort, but her gut instinct told her so nonetheless.  Walter, she was certain, was not the sort of man to give up any power which was already in his grasp.  He would never willingly break the hold he had on her; she was even more convinced of that now.

   She rode in silence behind him, trying not to fall into utter despair.

#

   May 30
   Barony of Caerdraig, the Kheldish Mountains


   The road to Caerdraig Castle wound its way up the side of a mountain, twisting back and forth upon itself in serpentine undulations, making its way inexorably upwards towards the castle itself.  Along the way, Javana spotted several small cavern-like openings in the rocky mountain face, bolstered with wooden supports, and also several unfamiliar wooden structures and mechanical equipment visible from the main route.  Walter noticed the direction of her curious gaze at one point and smiled.  “My mines,” he said proudly.  “The primary source of Caerdraig's wealth.  The soil is rich enough, but rocky and hard to till, so we only produce enough crop goods for our own use with little surplus left over to sell.  But the mines more than make up for that.”

   “Those openings are mine entrances, then?”

   “Yes; those lead into mine tunnels.  There are mine shafts as well...see that structure higher up the slope?”  Walter pointed out what looked to be a roof on support pillars and some sort of wheel and crank mechanism beneath it the likes of which Javana had never seen before.  “There's a mine shaft beneath that shelter; the roof helps keep the rain out so it won't flood, though of course mines tend to fill with ground water as well, so we have equipment to drain water out or draw it up, as from a well, so it's safe for the miners to go down below.”  He chuckled drily.  “Well, as safe as mining ever gets, that is.  It's inherently hazardous work, but well worth the effort.”

   And the occasional lost man? Javana wondered, wondering if Walter had ever been down in one of his own mines.

   “They're paid handsomely enough for their labors,” Walter said with a faint smile, as if he'd been reading her thoughts, though his wife was careful to keep them well shielded.

   The horses rounded another bend in the road.  Javana caught her breath at the sight ahead of them. Caerdraig Castle seemed to shine like a jewel at the crown of the mountain.  Its Baron practically gleamed with pride himself.

   “Our home,” he said.

   It was beautiful, Javana had to admit, though its beauty was diminished greatly by the thought of the man she was compelled to share it with.  Lush forests carpeted the mountain slopes, where the trees had not been cut down to clear land for mining or for the occasional crop field (though most of the croplands, Walter had explained earlier, were lower down at the mountain's base), but the space immediately surrounding the castle walls was cleared of timber, so the castle was displayed in its full glory.

   Sir Aylmer rode up ahead, heralding the Baron's arrival with his new Baroness.  As they approached the outer gatehouse, the portcullis opened to let the travelers in.  The people of Caerdraig watched curiously as Javana rode into the outer bailey.  She studied the fortifications of the castle equally intently, knowing that the defenses of her new home might also serve as prison walls unless she could figure out some way to win over Lord Walter and persuade him to leniency.  His household guard was doubtless loyal to their Baron; she could count on no help from that quarter, at least not yet, even if she could somehow manage to make her plight known.  Not until she knew how deep their loyalties ran, at least, and if some might be willing to be swayed to aid their Baroness instead.

   The riders rode through the inner gatehouse.  A second portcullis lowered behind them, inexorably closing Javana off from the outside world.

#

   June 5
   The Dragon Inn, Village of Caerdraig


   “The Night Stalker's back again, is he?”

   The hushed voices at The Dragon discussed the latest grisly discovery in the forest just outside the village of Caerdraig.  She was barely into womanhood, this one, judging from the size of her remains, and appeared to have lain there undiscovered for some time.  Undiscovered by humans, that is, though what was left of her appeared to have been well picked over by predators.  Enough of her clothing and a few locks of hair remained for her discoverers to have ascertained that she was female, despite the ravaged condition of her body.

   “Nay, we don't know that,” said a second man, taking a deep quaff of his ale in an effort to rid himself of the images of the dead woman.  He had helped to bury her remains earlier that day.  “She's been out there in the forest only God knows how long.  He may have moved on by now, whoever done her in.”  He shook his head.  “I don't reckon any of you lot recognized her?”

   “A bit hard to recognize,” the first man replied.  “But I can't think of any blondes that have gone missing recently, can you?”

   “Not stayed missing, no,” another man spoke up, “though John Miller's daughter disappeared that one evening coming home from the fair last summer, and couldn't rightly say where she'd been when they found her wandering about up the mountain the day after, remember?”

   “Aye, I remember.  Fetching little piece, but never quite right in the head after that, as I recall.  She was betrothed to William Thatcher's lad before that, wasn't she, but the Church had to give him a dispensation on account of her not being of sound enough mind afterwards to give consent to marry?  Or am I thinking of the wrong girl?”

   “Nay, that's the one.”  The men fell silent as the sipped at their drinks.  

   “What's to be done about him?” one finally asked, wiping the foam off his mustache.

   “About who, the Night Stalker?” The second man snorted.  “Have to catch him at it first, if he's even still about.  No telling who he might be.  Could be one of us, for all I know.”  He glanced around at his companions.  “Not that I really believe that, mind, but who knows who the bastard is, after all?”

   “Aye.”  There was nothing that could be said against that, really.  They'd all just have to keep an eye out, and be ready to raise the hue and cry if any man saw anyone suspicious in the village or up at the mines.  The Baron would see justice done, they knew, if they could only find the guilty man and offer up the necessary evidence against him.  He had assured his people of that, and Baron Walter was a good man, if a bit reserved and not given to mingling with the common folk overmuch.  The Branigans had served the village of Caerdraig well over the generations, even as they'd served him.

   “St. Piran watch over us all, then,” the first speaker said finally, invoking Gwynedd's patron saint of miners, for many of the people of Caerdraig worked in its mines, though of course there were those who worked in its fields and forests, and quite a few trades-folk as well.

   “St. Piran, aye.  And Our Lady protect the womenfolk too,” said the second, crossing himself reverently.  “They need it most.”

   The men finished their drinks in silence, then left coin on the table for the innkeeper's wife, filing out into the darkness of night to return to their homes in the village.  Somewhere up on the mountain, close to the castle walls, a wolf howled.  The men shivered despite the warmth of the evening.


Part Eight:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=663.0
« Last Edit: February 19, 2011, 01:56:21 pm by Evie »
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Offline Jerusha

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Re: Possessed--Part Seven
« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2011, 03:07:26 pm »
I wonder who that Night Stalker just might be..........
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

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Offline Evie

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Re: Possessed--Part Seven
« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2011, 03:31:34 pm »
Let's hope the good people of Caerdraig can find the evil villain and bring him to their Baron for High Justice.

Um, wait a minute, maybe they'd better come up with a Plan B first....   ;D
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Offline Alkari

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Re: Possessed--Part Seven
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2011, 03:39:50 pm »
Poor Javana.   I hope she at least manages to retain her spirit as much and as long as possible.    Don't like her chances of escape though.

Plan B?  Hmmm - methinks probably Plan Arilan will be the only one that's successful  :(

Offline derynifanatic64

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Re: Possessed--Part Seven
« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2011, 06:36:05 pm »
With Alymer's leering look and remarks, I wonder if Walter can really trust him--unless he put controls on his aide too.   I have a feeling that Javana's salvation will probably come from a very unexpected direction.  Can't wait.
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Offline AnnieUK

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Re: Possessed--Part Seven
« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2011, 01:21:36 am »
*counts on fingers*

I don't think Javana had best count on salvation from any direction for a bit! ;)

Offline Evie

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Re: Possessed--Part Seven
« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2011, 08:52:26 am »
Yes, considering that Javana is still married in January of 1133 (cf The Arrangement--Part Two), I think it's safe to say it will take a few more chapters for us to get there.
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: Possessed--Part Seven
« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2011, 10:58:41 pm »
Smug Snakes like him usually have some fatal flaw in their plan, one that they have overlooked, thinking that it is something that the victim would either not see, or not be able to take advantage of.

I still want to see her standing over his corpse holding his still beating heart.

Offline derynifanatic64

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Re: Possessed--Part Seven
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2011, 06:38:50 pm »
Can't even imagine what horrors that Javana will have to endure from Walter for those 7 years.  And if she has children...
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: Possessed--Part Seven
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2011, 08:48:03 pm »
Can't even imagine what horrors that Javana will have to endure from Walter for those 7 years.  And if she has children...

Walter did say specifically that he did not want to get her pregnant.

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Possessed--Part Seven
« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2011, 08:52:46 pm »
And that may be the ultimate cruelty - to be the wife but not be allowed to be... except that do we really want descendants of Walter?
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Offline derynifanatic64

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Re: Possessed--Part Seven
« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2011, 07:51:42 am »
But how does Walter plan to do with his holdings after he passes?  (If he were to die an old man and not by other means?)  If he doesn't have children, who inherits from him?  Will he get another girl pregnant and use that child as his heir?
« Last Edit: February 19, 2011, 07:58:59 am by derynifanatic64 »
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Offline Evie

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Re: Possessed--Part Seven
« Reply #12 on: February 19, 2011, 01:21:48 pm »
Yes, as he told Aylmer in the Prologue (and you'll see more about this later in the story), he doesn't care what woman he uses to get heirs as long as they are his sons.  But he views Javana as more of a piece of art in his possession; he doesn't want to ruin his "collectable."
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