IRE Scoville Scale: Shameless Indulgence
Warning: This story involves owner/property themes, and a woman being bound and beaten with a belt. This couple has a consensual love affair, but this story opens with non-consensual discipline, as this is a tale from a feudal society.
On the way home from his victory in Laluth, Erec considered giving his hard-won kestrel to Edin instead of to the queen. Her highness surely would be satisfied with Sir Yeder himself as a trophy. Erec grinned and glanced behind his horse.
Bound and gagged, Yeder bounced along on the back of a mule.
Erec cocked his head and waved. “Alright?” The defeated knight scowled, and Erec laughed loudly. “It's not far to Camelot. I'm very much looking forward to your grand entrance, Sir Ass. Pardon! Your entrance upon an ass, Sir Yeder.”
He had spared the man's life only to please the queen. In the heat of the contest, Erec had swung his sword for Edin, and the blows had been mighty. When it had become known where he was lodging, many nosy townspeople had spun ugly tales about her. Laluth's general consensus believed that she was the count's daughter and duly cast out because she was Moorish, for the count had several other bastard children that he had elevated to the merchant class. Even a whore was better than the sinister and suspicious animal that they made her out to be.
Such snobbery rubbed against his grain. Being heathen, only nobility spared him the same in some circles of Christian Camelot. He rejoiced that he had sent Edin to the haven of his home, and entertained a brief fantasy that she would never leave it.
When they arrived at the palace, Erec paraded his prize through the market and across the fortified ward. Left and right, guards gaped as he passed. He smiled until he arrived at the prison.
A guard held up his hand, bidding Erec to stop. “Fetch the queen!”
The guard's alarmed tone drew a puzzled smile on Erec's lips. He dismounted from his horse and stepped forward. “Some welcome.”
The guard bowed to him. “Pardon, my lord. I rejoice in your unexpected return. The queen, I believe, is nearby and will wish to see you.”
“Unexpected?” He raised a brow.
“You are believed to be dead, my lord, at the hands of a Moor.”
Erec laughed, but the guard seemed entirely serious. “Secure the prisoner.” Erec nodded to Yeder. “Where is the queen?”
Through the prison door, Guinevere rushed forward in a swirl of bloodstained gold skirts. “Erec!”
He made to bow, but the queen grasped him about the neck in an embrace. Alarmed, he pulled her away to look at her. “My lady, what troubles you?”
“In my heart, I knew that you were well. I never believed that she had harmed you, but I was alone in that.”
Erec's eyes widened, and his heart stopped cold. “She? Do you mean Edin?”
“Is that her name? She could not speak when they brought her to the prison.”
“Your sister has not disclosed the whole story, but the girl was savagely beaten and then imprisoned on suspicion of theft and murder. Arthur dispatched Percival and a few others to find you.”
“I sent word that I was in Laluth! I sent a sealed letter to you, by my sister.”
“I have received no such letter.”
Grieved and furious, Erec took in the queen's bloody garment. He side-stepped her to the prison door.
His murderous gaze frightened Guinevere, and she followed.
“Where is she?” Erec demanded of the first guard he saw. Directed to the left, he picked up his feet. Erec peered into every cell, until he saw a distinctly female form heaped on the stone floor beneath a ragged cloak. He yanked at the bars of the cell and then turned to the guard at his flank. “Open the door.”
“My lord, the king declared—”
“Do it now, or I will take the keys from your broken fingers.” The guard did as he was bidden, and Erec lunged into the cell and cast aside his sword. On his knees, he carefully turned Edin over into his arms. A pained breath escaped him at the sight of her face and bosom caked in blood. “Edin?”
She neither spoke nor opened her eyes.
“Wake, lass.” Erec tore the cloak closure from her throat. He turned her jaw and felt her head for injuries, but her hair was too matted to tell. Reluctantly, he shook her. “Edin!”
Her lips parted to wheeze and cough.
“Are you injured?” His hands went to her ribs to check for fractures, then he tore at her bodice.
Edin roused to the feel of a man's hands yanking at her clothes. A fear colder than the grave gripped her to think that she had put off death just long enough to be violated again. She tried to move, but her head exploded with nauseating pain. “Stop.”
“Edin?” He grasped the gritty, cold hand that she threw up against him. “It is Erec. Can you tell me where you are hurt?”
His voice brought sweet relief. “Water.” Edin hoped that he understood her better than she could hear him through the haze in her head. Suddenly, she was gripped with coarse coughs.
Erec yelled for water while he pulled her head to his shoulder. He removed her kirtle and loosened her tunic.
The queen handed him a dipper.
He poured water between her lips, but she quickly spit it out all over her bosom. Fearful that she would choke to death, Erec abandoned the water, shifted onto his haunches, and picked her up. A sleeve felt from her delicate shoulder, and he could see that her breast had been bruised with blows. The sight made him inhumanly furious, as though another man had stolen what was his. When he turned to the door, the guard blocked his way.
“The king has not released her.”
Erec rolled his eyes to the queen. “My lady, please! This girl helped me to avenge you. This mistreatment is grievous, and I cannot abide her suffering a moment longer. She can easily be a prisoner in a physician's bed, if you will allow it.”
“I will escort you.” Guinevere faced the guard and lifted her chin. “Lead the way for your prisoner.”
In an unfamiliar bed the next morning, Edin startled awake with a painfully dry throat, a hazy head, and tender spots on her body that harkened back to childhood beatings. She pushed loose curls from her face and noticed that she was clean. Jagged pieces of the days prior collided with the fact that she was draped in a fine white nightshirt that smelled of Erec. She couldn't tell which was a dream, the memories or the scent. Edin sat up slowly, and her head ached.
“You should rest.” Guinevere approached from the window seat of a sun drenched room in Erec's home. She had remained overnight to tend to the girl, while Erec sorted out her release with the king.
Edin's eyes widened to see the queen of Camelot. “I—ahem!” She couldn't speak and looked alarmed.
“It'll pass. You haven't had water for days. Take a teaspoon of this.” Guinevere sat down on the bed and took up a small vial and a spoon. “It's a healing oil, with citrus to soothe the bitterness. I expect you shall have a headache for a day or so. Drink lots of water, my dear.” She filled the spoon and held it up.
Edin flinched as soon as the queen's hands came near her.
Guinevere sighed. “And so it has been since I first found you in the prison. You wouldn't even take water from my hand. What was done to you?”
The jagged pieces in Edin's mind tried to form a picture, but it was too bleak and menacing. She shook her head.
“Do you not remember?”
She said nothing.
“Perhaps it is too soon to speak of it.” She studied the girl's flat black eyes and wondered whether the right time would ever come. “You have a confidant in me, if you wish to.”
Edin nodded and forced a few words. “Thanks, lady.”
Guinevere smiled and reached toward the girl's hand, but Edin withdrew. “I will leave you to rest.”
The queen crossed the room into a quiet hall in the family wing of that great house. It was inappropriate to keep a female guest right down from his own room, but Guinevere knew Erec to be too grieved to think of that. Resolved to speak to him about the girl's fate, she went toward his private study. Loud voices from behind another door stopped the queen in her tracks.
Inside his sister's chamber, Erec leaned against the door to prevent her escape from his tirade. “Explain to me again how you arrived at this treachery, Dyan! For I cannot comprehend it.”
“I thought of you! Disappeared from the queen's side? Gone for a day with no word? Then this creature turns up demanding money for your ring, stolen no doubt. You did not hear how the wench spoke to me.”
“Stolen?” Erec held his massive gold ring up to her face. “Then brought here to be exchanged for a few paltry coins? No, sister, even you cannot be that stupid. And what became of the letters that I sent?”
Dyan flushed but said nothing.
“So I am left to assume that you chose to be cruel.” His eyes were ocher with disgust. “I thought that a season in this queen's court would improve you, but I was wrong. Prepare your things. You will return to our father in Ester-Gale at once.”
“I can, and I will.” Erec grasped her arm when she attempted to brush past him. “Prepare your things, or I will do it for you!”
Dyan yanked free of his hold. “For a Moor, you would do this? Do not you knights fight against their tyranny?”
“Against tyranny, yes! Against culture, no. Do not pretend to misunderstand, for our circumstances are similar,” he said of their heathen heritage. “I have long tried to elevate your petty character, but you refuse.”
“Pardon me, sir knight.” Her voice was as icy as her grey eyes. “We are not all enchanted with the king's intended utopia. Some say that you are only enchanted with its queen.”
Incensed, Erec grabbed her, and she flinched from being struck. He yanked the door knob and thrust her forward. “Go! Hie thee hence before I do you an injury for such impudence.”
She stormed out in a swirl of strawberry blonde hair and green skirts.
A foul temper never held Erec for long. He scrubbed his face and went into the hall to pursue his sister, but stopped short upon seeing the queen. “My lady.”
Guinevere nodded. “I will not pretend that I could ignore your voices.”
“If you will take my advice, be cautious of dismissing your sister. She is young, and will lose face at court if you do.”
“This is far beyond youthful foolishness!” Erec's jaw clenched. “You must forgive me, but I know her character, and you do not. She has a malicious streak that cannot be tamed, it seems.”
“If you send her away, her disposition will only worsen, as will your reputation. Already, tongues wag over the spectacle that you made at the prison.”
Erec's laugh was bitter. “Kindness has become a spectacle?”
“My dear Erec.” Shaking her head, Guinevere approached and grasped his hand. “You found my favor because you are truly good, and do not realize how exceptional that is. Take time to reconsider both your sister and this girl's presence in your home. Cannot she return to Laluth?”
“Am I to send her back damaged?” He recoiled. “I sent her on a simple errand. Simple!” His voice was anguished. “A favor to repay a favor. I knew her to be a well-meaning girl and certainly not deserving of this.”
“Was that the only way in which you knew her?”
Erec flushed and could not meet her eye.
“You betray yourself, and will to others, if you are not more cautious.” With a long last look, the queen patted his hand and excused herself.
For a month, Erec attempted caution, and caught hell for his effort. He was rarely seen at court, so busy was he attempting to keep peace at home. Between Dyan and Edin, there was open war. His sister fought with viciousness, and his ward with defiance. Though she never spoke a word in reply to Dyan's shrill tirades, Edin made a point of doing the exact opposite of what she was commanded. She heeded no one but Erec.
Guilt made him lenient, until he was pulled from a council meeting with word that Edin had fled on the back of his sister's steed. Furious, he went after her, only to return home empty handed and with unsettling thoughts of Edin spending the night in another man's bed. However, he discovered that she had returned on her own.
His sister's personal guard waited inside the front door of his house. “Sire, the wench has been taken to the dungeon, at the Lady Dyan's command.”
Erec sighed, for he had no choice but to punish Edin. Heavy hearted, he went to the dungeon, and excused the night watchman. He entered a small iron cell, and shut the door of a room that he'd hoped never to use when he'd moved from Ester-Gale years ago.
Edin's wrists had been bound with a rope that pulled through a metal ring over her head. Feet on the ground, she faced a corner. Her dress had been rent, and her back exposed for a lashing.
Erec crossed the cell, recalling how honeyed and flawless her skin had been in Laluth. She had since acquired nearly as many pale scars as he had. He sighed. “Why do you persist in this defiance, when the consequences wound us both?”
She did not answer.
Her hair hung in a black curtain down to the blue tunic fabric that pooled precariously around her hips. Resolve momentarily deserted Erec, and a natural instinct laid his hand upon her back.
Edin jumped, but she did not flinch as she did with others, perhaps because he had not touched her since their first night. Her torment at Dyan's hands had bled together with memories of those who had used her before. Her memory of Erec's hands had been elevated to fantasy.
“This cannot go on.” His eyes were dark and determined in the candlelight. “Do you understand?”
She would not speak.
Frustrated, Erec reached over her shoulder and leaned heavily into his palm on the wall. “Edin, have you heard me?” He could barely hear himself over his roaring blood pressure. Towering over her, he could see her breasts standing up firm and erect in the cool evening air.
He stood so close that Edin shivered when the soft suede of his jacket brushed her spine. She gasped when he grasped her cheeks and turned her to face him.
“This cannot go on.” He searched her eyes, and only a glimmer of light was in them. “You will obey me, for I paid a handsome price to the old man for you to remain here. I am your lord, and you must heed my command to cease this defiance. Unless you wish to return penniless and outcast to Laluth,” Erec lied.
He didn't have it in him to throw her out, and she knew it, for she said not a word.
He scowled. “Do you know your answer? It is 'Yes, sire'. Say it.”
Edin gazed impassively at him, just as she had the last time that he'd ordered her to the dungeon, and nothing had come of it.
“I am at my wit's end!” He grabbed a fistful of her hair and yanked her neck to an uncomfortable stretch, praying that he would not have to do more. “Tonight there will be discipline, though I know you do not believe it. I will master this menace in you, unless I have your word that you can do so yourself.” He twisted her hair, and tears sprang to her eyes. “Answer.”
Edin licked her lips, but there was no use opening her mouth. The sight of his sister set fire to her spirit. Seething was trapped under her skin. She could not help it.
Erec tossed her hair over her shoulder, then turned to the instruments pegged to the wall. They were all meant to rip the skin from a man's back. He took off his belt instead.
Sight obscured by her hair, Edin was all the more aware of what she felt: the coolness of the room; the rope holding her body taut; her dress tightly clasped between her thighs to prevent it falling off entirely; Erec's shadow at her back both authoritative and threatening.
He snapped his belt next to her ear. “Two words can stop this. Do you know them?”
The leather jolted Edin's hip, and a gasp jumped from her lips. So near her backside, the sting wasn't quite pain.
Erec hit her again, then again when she clearly restrained her reaction. “Speak!”
Crack! She tried to bite back a whimper, but he heard it.
He crowded her and watched the side of her face while he hit her harder. She winced mightily but her lips would not move. Erec's jaw clenched. “Why do you bite your tongue, when you spoke so freely to me before? 'I like the look of you'.” He beat her backside, and she yelped. “'Please. I need'.” Crack! “'I want you'.” Crack! CRACK! “Is it that you no longer need or want me, Edin?”
He hit her hard, and a cry replaced her answer.
“Have I been unkind, except as you've earned?”
Crack! Tears sprang to her eyes, for his words convicted her heart. CRACK! “No!”
In her ear, he hissed, “No, sire.”
CRACK! “No, sire!”
“No, you have not been unkind. Sire.” Her chest quaked with tears that she refused to shed.
Erec leaned into the wall again, and they seemed to breathe as one, deeply and heatedly despite the coolness of the room. Over her shoulder, he watched her nipples prick, and he fought an intense desire to hear his name from her lips. He dragged his belt down her back, then across her hip along the line where her dress was hanging on for dear life. “Once you were sweet tempered in my arms. Cannot it be that way again?”
“If you command it.”
He flinched as though she'd stabbed him. Angered, he loosed the rope that held her suspended and roughly spun her around. Erec glared at her while he untied her wrists. “You wound me, Edin.”
“As I have been wounded!”
“Not by me!” He freed her hands and flung them away. “If you wish to make true all of the ugly aspersions cast upon your character, you are free to go and do so! But not in my house. If you abide here, you will behave as one of mine.”
She was convicted anew, not by his angry tone but by the rule of fairness, which she could not demand from others if she did not practice it herself. Edin wept, for she had forgotten how. “You are honorable, sire, but this world has conspired to steal that from me. I cannot help this menace in me. You named it. Perhaps you can tame it.”
To his surprise, she turned and placed her hands on the wall.
“This is the closest I've come to peace in weeks.” She glanced over her shoulder. “Please, sire. I desire it.”
Erec's brow knotted. He recalled war wounded men who could not rest until they had drunk too much or brawled someone. Every life had a battle; was it for him to judge how peace was restored? He touched Edin, and her back curved into his hand. Still, he hesitated.
“Have not my actions been seeking this very moment? Please.”
Erec pushed away her tunic and squeezed her rump, testing the flesh. Though red, she did not flinch. He licked what looked like an abrasion.
Edin moaned and bent over further.
From a distance and with a steady stroke, he let the leather lick her backside, left then right in a rhythm that made her prance in time. The red shape that he made was like a falcon, and her angst was similarly fleet as the beating went on. Soon she leaned into every stroke wantonly. Lust came to him unbidden, and Erec approached.
He crowded her against the wall and squeezed her tender backside. “You enjoy this. I can smell it.”
“Yes, sire.” She nodded her consent to him kissing her neck and pinching her breasts. Edin's hand went to his hair and pulled his mouth to hers. Filled with a peaceful haze, she couldn't think over much, but she could feel a yearning for him that had been present since last they were together.
“Do you want me, lass?”
She backed up against the wall and threw her arms around his neck. “Yes.”
Erec cast down his pants, then drew her hips and legs up around his waist. “Yes, Erec. Say it.”
“Erec.” His name melted in her mouth, after his first thrust pushed her backbone flush against the wall.
In his hands, her flesh jiggled with the force of his strokes. He bit her earlobe. “Again.”
“Erec,” Edin whimpered.
He bit down hard on her breast.
“These yelps are not quite as loud as when I disciplined you. Do you prefer the belt?”
Crazed with pleasure, her laugh broke into panting pieces. “May I have both?”
“Can you behave, after this moment is over?” He let her slide a little down the wall, and filled her to the hilt.
Edin's eyes rolled back in her head. “I will try.”
“For your effort, I will be what you need. Misbehave, and you will be disciplined. That is the rule. Understand?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“Now that sounds good on your tongue. Does it taste so?” He pushed her hair from her cheek with a hot hand and kissed her lusciously, but with restraint enough to make an invitation of his mouth. Triumph shot through him like an arrow, for acceptance was in her kiss, and the taste was sweet indeed.
When he relinquished her, Edin felt bereft and dizzy. Her head swam from his kiss which was mighty and piercing as befitted a warrior. She stared at him, and he stared back without apology or shame. Exempt from those emotions, their barbarism became a new intimacy to which Edin tried to put words, but she only managed to lick her lips several times.
She nearly lost her senses, while he seemed to have endless self-control. He thought ahead of her pain and lifted her from the wall before her back was scratched against the stone. Over his lap on a wooden bench, he gave her a gentler pleasure. His control made her feel safe and cared for, while she hugged his neck and spilt cathartic tears into his hair.
Erec rejoiced in her tears as the crown jewels of an already splendid encounter. They fell from the cliff of pleasure together, and into Erec's wholly sensuous imaginings crept a vision of the emotional bliss of loving her. “Edin.” Her name filled his chest to bursting, but he kissed her forehead instead of saying those most precious and irrevocable of words. “Remember to look properly chastised when we return upstairs.”
She had to laugh.