It had been incredible. The best sex, no, the best lovemaking she had ever had. Lynni lay on an extravagant, silk covered bed. Next to her laid the love of her life. One day they would be together in more ways than just the flesh. She was sure of it. She just didn’t know how. Lying there watching her loved one sleep, she began to think. Wonderful memories of the first time they had met. Back when Lynni was working in the kitchens.
“Are you all right child?” A man asked gently.
“Wha…” The girl asked looking around, her long, black, tangled hair swinging back and forth as she did. She had just woken up from a nice dream about...she couldn’t remember what it was about. All she remembered was that it was nice. She wiped the rest of the sleep from her eyes and gazed into the flour-dusted face of The Master Baker.
“Are you all right?” he repeated.
“Yes. I’m fine.”
“What’s your name?”
“Do you know who I am Lynni?”
“I’m The Master Baker. Get back to work!” he yelled. Grabbing her by the wrist with his right hand. He was left-handed; he pulled her off the soft and comfortable flour sacks she had been sleeping in and drug her towards the oven. His right hand didn’t have his two middle fingers. Yet somehow even with only the use of his thumb, his pinkie, and his forefinger he managed to have the strongest grip of anyone in the kitchens, and quite possibly anyone in the castle.
The Master Baker had no name. He was referred to as The Master Baker ever since she could remember. The rumors about him flew around the kitchens like scavengers searching for food. Lynni wasn’t sure what to believe. Some rumors referred to him as a pompous ass with a temper and other rumors said he was the most lovable man in the kingdom. With her he was both, so she was always nervous around him.
One thing about The Master Baker that was an actual fact was how he lost his fingers. Lynni knew how this happened because she was the one who had done it, unbeknownst to him. They were alone in a particular room of the kitchens. He was shaping dough while she was cutting the baked bread. Next thing she knew she was slicing through his fingers. The specific details he will never remember. During this incident Lynni had found out that he had a memory problem of some sort. After running out of there so fast she was afraid of tripping over her tattered and worn dress she realized he wasn’t chasing her. She slowly went back and peeked around the corner without being seen. She watched as Theodore, the baker’s apprentice, tried his best to bandage his Master’s fingers while the baker’s boy, who was the apprentice’s apprentice cleaned up the blood that had covered The Master Baker’s white shirt, pants and even his bakers hat. The Master Baker was telling them he didn’t know how he had done it. Lynni thought this was odd since he had seen her do it. She never mentioned the incident to anybody.
“You’re going to scrub the oven clean. And be quick. Dinner needs to be started soon.” Lynni was forced out of her thoughts by The Master Baker’s orders. “After you’re done with that, the stove needs a good scrubbing too.” He picked up a brush and threw it at her feet then he turned and stormed off about to leave her alone, but turned around just before leaving and said in a much more soothing voice, “When you finish here. You’re welcome to leave. I’ll have Theodore finish up.”
For the next few hours she scrubbed until she thought her hands would bleed. “Excuse me, miss?” A soft melodic woman’s voice behind her asked with authority.
Lynni had never heard this voice before. She turned to see the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. She was a noblewoman from the looks of it. Dressed in the finest clothing she had ever seen. Reddish brown hair pulled into a bun to go with a bright red silk dress. Behind her stood a trembling Master Baker. Trembling? This woman must be important. She glanced one more time at The Master Baker and giggled. “What’s so funny?” The woman asked kindly but still holding the air of authority. Before Lynni could say anything the noblewoman answered her own question with a small smile, “He amuses me too.” She turned to him and said with even more authority than she had before, “Leave us. I wish to speak with her alone.” Lynni had never seen anyone move that fast before.
“Who are you? What do you want?” Lynni asked.
The noblewoman standing before her answered with a question, “How old are you?”
“I’m twenty summers.” In The Known Lands, people always answered this question with the season they were born in. Lynni wasn’t sure why. She actually thought it was odd, but it would have been even more odd to say something someone might not understand. “Who are you? What do you want?” She asked again, ignoring the fact that her questions were inappropriate.
“I’m twenty-five summers. My name is Rowan. What is your name?”
Lynni ignored the question entirely this time. Her eyes went wide. Rowan? Rowan was the only widowed noblewoman in all The Known Lands. Rumors around the kitchens told of how men not only in the castle but also throughout The Known Lands traveled for miles to try and win her heart. Her husband had been one of the richest men to ever be recorded in history books. When he died he left everything to her. It always left her wondering whether the men were after the money or her. Now she knew. It was her. It had to be.
“Hey.” Rowan said gently bringing her out of her thoughts, “Are you okay?” When Lynni nodded gently still unable to speak Rowan asked her what her name was again. It took her a couple more seconds but she finally choked out, “Lynni.”
Lynni, I’m looking for a new Lady’s Maid. The king and queen offered to let me use their servant along with them but I politely turned them down. I preferred a hard worker that was female. I was told to see the kitchen staff in this case. I guess what I’m trying to ask is will you be my Lady’s Maid?
“Will I be your Lady’s Maid?” Lynni repeated, not believing what she was hearing.
“That’s what I’m asking you, yes. If your up to it.”
After a moment of thought to process everything that had happened in the last few moments, Lynni breathlessly replied, “Yes Milady.”
Ever since that day about a year ago Lynni has been Rowan’s Lady’s Maid. Everything about it had been wonderful. She turned to Rowan who was sleeping peacefully next to her. She and Rowan had been together since last summer six months ago. It wasn’t easy. The founder of Lavek, King Galin, made a law stating no member of the same sex was allowed to show any sign of affection towards each other. Neither she nor Rowan cared about that though and after a little resistance on both their parts, they gave in.
Lynni leaned over and planted a light kiss on the side of her lover’s head. Rowan woke up groggily until she stared into Lynni’s hazel eyes with her own. Smiling, she slid her hand beneath the sheets causing Lynni to let out a soft moan of pleasure. “Oh, Rowan.” She didn’t stop. “Milady.” That did it. Lynni had once tried to play a game she called master and servant, but Rowan didn’t like it, so every time they needed to put a stop to things, she played the “Milady” card. It was their safety word, in case things either went too far or they just weren’t in the mood.
“Why’d you do that baby?” Rowan asked.
“I need to be getting back to the servants quarters before anyone notices I’ve gone missing.” Rowan grunted her disapproval as Lynni got out of bed and started putting on her clothes. Lady’s Maid’s were the highest servant’s in the castle, but they still had to wear rags. After she finished dressing, she kissed her lady passionately on the mouth before exiting the chamber swinging her hips, knowing that her lover’s eyes were staring at her swaying buttocks.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Dressed entirely in black, the tall, portly figure slid gracefully down the hallway. It was almost sunrise so the figure had to make it quick. It didn’t matter who it was as long as the job got done. Moving through the shadows was something the figure was not accustomed to. The figure was usually followed everywhere. That was why this had to be done now, an hour before sunrise. None of the servants would be up fixing fires. The cooks wouldn’t be fixing breakfast and lovers would be hiding in more conspicuous spots than hallways and corridors. Hearing footsteps, the figure pressed against the wall in the darkest shadows and waited.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Walking through the halls each night was the worst part about Lynni’s relationship with Rowan. She always wanted to ask her to come along, but if anyone were to see them together this late at night it could mean anything from jail time to beheading. She didn’t mind though. It didn’t mean that it wasn’t scary.
The sound of flint could be heard down the corridor. After a couple more steps, she saw the sparks light a candle and a figure step away from the wall. He was dressed entirely in black from head to foot. “Wh-wh-who-who a-a-are y-y-yo-yo-you?” Without saying a word, the figure bent over to place the candle in the middle of the corridor and when he stood back up, he silently stared at her as if looking right through her. Lynni was near panic now, “Wh-wh-wha-what a-a-are y-y-yo-yo-you?”
With the speed of a castle guard-maybe that’s who he was, a castle guard-he was upon her. She was on the cold, wet, stone floor with a man nearly three times her size on top of her. He covered her mouth with his left hand and said in a hoarse but threatening voice, “Cooperate or I’ll cut you like a fish.” A cold, tingling sensation appeared at her throat. It was a dirk. She was going to die. “Do you understand?” The figure still had a hand on her mouth. He pulled it away. She began to reply when he told her to shut up. He still had the knife to her throat so she listened.
He moved his hand back to her mouth and the other hand, the hand that held the dirk, began cutting her ragged clothing into even more than the nothing it was. It took him a short amount of time to strip her completely naked. But unlike with Rowan, this wasn’t in a good way. He lifted the dirk back to her throat. The steel cut skin and drew blood making her gasp in shock and pain. Seconds later she felt something enter her womanhood roughly. The way she use to have sex with the cellar steward, only a little harder and without permission. Sheller, she swore in her thoughts. She was being raped.
Afraid for her life she did as she was told and didn’t move, or at least tried not to. It was hard considering how much it hurt. Tears began streaming down her face, blurring her vision. The pain was excruciating, but the entire time he held the dirk at her throat. She could do nothing.
After what seemed like hours, the figure pulled his manhood out of her and took his hand off her mouth to pull his leggings up. “Why?” Lynni sobbed. The dirk cut deeper into her throat.
“I told you to shut your mouth!” he said in a loud whisper. With one quick motion he tore the mask off his head. The pain from between Lynni’s legs was forgotten, momentarily replaced by shock. Her mouth was gaping slightly. Even through her blurred vision she could tell who it was. Anyone who couldn’t shouldn’t be living in this city. The figure was King Fredrick Dartmouth. If the small whiskers (not quite a beard) on his chin didn’t give him away, the jeweled crown certainly did. What was he raping her, or anyone for? Most people would want him anyway. Wouldn’t they? Except her for obvious reasons. Did the queen know about this? “You will tell no one about this. They would never believe you. Do you know what treason is?” She was still in shock so she didn’t answer. “Do you?” The king asked with a little more force. She hesitantly nodded. “Good. Because I’m the one who decides the punishments and if someone were to accuse me of such a crime it wouldn’t go well for them.”
The king thrust his hood back on in one quick motion, adjusted the eye holes to his eyes, then walked back over to the candle, picked it up and walked away leaving her in the dark.
Lynni couldn’t see anything. The shock hadn’t worn off, but the pain was returning. She couldn’t stay here. She couldn’t return to the servant’s quarters either. All the servants slept in the same room. They would all wonder what happened. She had to get up and get back to Rowan’s chambers. She dreaded telling Rowan what had happened. She didn’t want her to have to see her like this. But there was no other way. She slowly lifted herself up using the support of a large crack in the stone wall. Pain coursed throughout her entire body. It was going to be a long trip back.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Rowan was in a dreamlike state. She was lying on top of the covers, still fully naked, staring at the ceiling, while running her fingers through her hair. Rowan loved this time of day just after Lynni left. She was alone in her room for another hour before Lynni would come back into the room and be forced by the law to act proper instead of how they both wanted to act, like lovers free of the law that said that two women couldn’t be together. “Damn Galin and his cursed law. Anyone who loved each other should be able to have a relationship. Anyone.” She whispered. Her thoughts started to drift to the happiest day of her life six months ago. During the biggest festival in Lavek’s history. The Day of First Breaking.
Rowan was excited. The Day of First Breaking was a festival celebrating the day that Lavek became a part of the Known Lands. The first city in the Known Lands. Every city had their own festival with their own name. Anlet celebrated The Day of Light, Suffolk celebrated The First of it All, and even the biggest and wealthiest city in the Known Lands, Wren, dedicated an entire week to The Week of the Richest.
Every city and town was proudest of their own festivals for their own reasons. Oglen was proudest because their city came first. During this particular festival Rowan had picked out a special dress, but not for her, for her Lady’s Maid Lynni. She had been doing the best job any Lady’s Maid had ever done for her and was a little reluctant to admit that if the law allowed, this would be more than just a friendship gift.
Three loud, long raps followed by three short, fast raps made a presence at the door known. Lynni had been purposely sent away to see to other business just so that she would not be here for this visitor. “Enter.”
Roland, the servant to the royal family entered carrying a servant’s dress that was sky blue and floor length. “M’lady,” he announced as he handed her the dress without wrinkling it. A difficult task even for servants and Maids. She always wondered how Roland managed it considering his hands looked so worn and old. Like her grandfather’s did. Most servants would usually put a permanent wrinkle of some sort in it by carrying it the wrong way. Roland didn’t. It was probably because he was the oldest servant in the castle. She could see why the royal family kept him around. There was no fancy ruffles or hoops. It was standard in everything except color. The standard color for servant’s dresses was brown, but Rowan assured the king that by the time she started working hard it would be as brown as all the others. She looked over the dress while dismissing Roland with a wave of her hand, catching a glimpse of the sunset in his bald head. Crazy or not, the queen still knew her fashion.
Rowan heard a single and gentle rap on the door. She put the dress on her bed before bidding Lynni enter. Most servants and maids had their own particular way of knocking on a door and Rowan was pretty sure that she had gotten all the servants knocks she knew down.
“Milady?” Lynni asked as she entered, “You asked me to come back once I was finished? A final task for the day?”
“Yes Lynni. I have something to give you.” Rowan picked the dress off the bed and gave it to Lynni.
Lynni went into shock. “No Milady, I mustn’t.” Rowan’s face fell. She had hoped that Lynni would like the dress. “Oh. That’s all right. If you don’t want…”
“It’s not that,” Lynni interrupted. Rowan was one of the few masters who would allow servants to interrupt her. Most slapped them if they did. She had never slapped a servant and she without a doubt knew Lynni would never be slapped as long as she was her servant. “It’s just that…well…I haven’t done anything to deserve it and I don’t wish to make the other servants jealous. And…are not servants suppose to wear brown?”
Now Rowan understood. She breathed a sigh of relief, “I thought you didn’t want it,” she replied when she saw Lynni’s startled look.
“No!” Lynni shouted causing Rowan to jump. “Sorry, I do…”
“Then take it, please, as a Day of First Breaking gift.”
“All right. Was that all?”
Rowan hesitated. Did she really want to tell her she loved her? Her husband died years ago. It had taken her longer than she expected to move on and when she did all the men were either too boring, too old, too young, too stupid and just not worth her time.
Friendships seemed to be more interesting. It was one of the reasons she started treating her servants so well, not that she didn’t treat them well before. But then Helga died. She had died while doing a simple task for her. That year she was in charge of Galin’s Day, Lavek’s second most important festival. It was more of a feast than a festival like The Day of First Breaking, and was in celebration of Galin, founder of Lavek. While lighting the candles with another, the flame got away from Helga and the fire spread too quickly for her to control. Once it was under control, she was dead.
It took Rowan a month to replace Helga, which was quickly in her mind but a month too long in most noble’s minds. Rowan found herself drawn to Lynni in a way she had never been drawn to anyone. Not even the way she had been drawn to her husband.
Lynni who seemed to be asking her a question brought Rowan out of her thoughts. She focused her attention on what it was she was saying, “Milady? Beg my pardon for asking but are you all right?” Rowan smiled. This was why she loved her. Her sweetness. Her sincerity.
“Yes Lynni I’m fine,” she replied. “I have something I’m going to say and it may shock you.” Without waiting for a response, she decided to just get it over with now. She leaned over and kissed her on the mouth. Worried when Lynni didn’t respond she pulled back and looked at her. She was standing there in shock. “Lynni?”
“Milady? If this is a practical joke it isn’t very funny. There are a lot of bad things that could come of this…” Rowan felt her heart sink. She was hoping that Lynni would return her feelings. She thought she had seen some signs. Throughout their time together as master and servant their had been glances, avoidable contact, and even extra time spent together at Lynni’s request.
“…so if this is a joke please tell me.”
Lynni stared directly into her lady’s eyes waiting for a response. “This is not a joke,” Rowan replied kissing her on the mouth once again. This time she felt Lynni hesitate before kissing back with just as much passion.
Rowan was surprised when Lynni started removing their dresses, but didn’t protest. “Rowan?” she asked playfully, “Do you own any dresses that aren’t red?”
Six months ago had been the start of the best thing in Rowan’s life. But they had to be careful. They were lovers by night and master and servant by day. One day that would be different. She swore by Sheller it would be different some day.
A moan brought Rowan out of her thoughts. She listened, thinking it was her imagination. After all, there was still half an hour until sunrise. After a few seconds she heard it again. It sounded like it was coming from right outside her door. She got out of bed, threw on her undergarments, pulled a thin cloak out of her closet and walked slowly and carefully towards the door
Throwing it open Rowan saw the most horrifying sight she had ever seen. Lynni was lying in a heap on the floor, nearly unconscious. Without another thought, she threw herself into the hallway, gathered her lover into her arms and as gently as she could carried her to the bed.
Her clothes were torn into nothing. Rowan wasn’t sure how they were still even on her body. They were so badly torn that her breast and her womanhood were both exposed. Her throat was labeled with a wound. It didn’t look life threatening, but there was no way to be sure. She turned to the washstand and wet a washcloth. Wincing, she pressed it gently to Lynni’s neck.
It wasn’t until sunrise that the wound stopped bleeding. Rowan carefully removed what was left of Lynni’s clothes and tossed them under her bed. She would dispose of them later. As she walked towards the closet she heard a soft moan. A pained moan. So different from the one she had been making an hour ago.
Rushing back to her side, she gently held her hand. Lynni shuttered in fright and mumbled.
“Shh baby, shh,” Rowan whispered, “It’s all right, I’m here.”
Lynni opened her eyes and Rowan met them lovingly. “Rowan?” she mumbled, this time audibly. Had she been without water? Had she been screaming? Or yelling? Her voice was hoarse. Why? What happened? At least she knew her name. And was using it. She only used it at night. If someone heard a servant using her master’s name, it would be very suspicious.
“Yeah baby, it’s me.”
“Stay with me, but…”
“But what baby?”
“But don’t touch me, I just…not right now, please. Not after…after…” Rowan watched as Lynni burst into tears. Slowly she put Lynni’s hand back onto the bed and watched as she cried herself to sleep. Someone did this to her. Rowan made herself a promise, whoever it was, was going to pay. She didn’t know who it was.
But whoever it was would pay.
With their life!