|Knights of Honor
Author: katmom PM
"Age of Edward" contest entry. Lord Edward is an Honorable Knight on a secret mission, Bella is offered to him as a gift from the Evil Duke Aro. AH/AU/Lemon/M rating/OneShot/MedievalRated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Drama - Edward & Bella - Chapters: 2 - Words: 15,638 - Reviews: 218 - Favs: 458 - Follows: 147 - Updated: 01-10-11 - Published: 07-09-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5203210
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Age of Edward Contest~2009
Title: Knights of Honor
Your pen name: katmom
Type of Edward: Medieval Edward
If you would like to see all the stories that are a part of this contest visit: The Age of Edward C2 Community:
A/N…I had help from Kris, kejce, when writing my lemon. I got STUCK and first she laughed and then sent me some LEMON BONES that helped immensely. Also, she and AMayes helped me cut more than 400 words out of this story. I tend to chat a LOT, and they reined me in. Thank you Ladies!
~~~Knights of Honor~~~
I kept searching out the sliver of light that shone beneath the door. It was the only way I could tell if my eyes were open. My arms were tight around Alice and I could feel Rosalie's arms beneath mine. Alice's shivers had finally subsided. She shifted beneath my arm and whispered, "Rosalie, it's your turn to get in the middle." We all shuffled about a little to get Rose between us. It was the only way we could avoid freezing in the damp dark hole we were locked in.
As Rosalie snuggled into the little bit of warmth that she could find in my side, I leaned my face down onto her head. How much longer could we survive here? How long had we been here? It felt like days, but surely that couldn't be. Thinking back, I tried to remember…
We had been in the corn field just outside of the village. Alice, Rosalie, Sir Michael and I. The work was hard, but we kept our spirits up with laughter. The end of the last row we were hoeing was in sight when we all heard the rapid beat of horses' hooves coming towards us. Sir Michael quickly had his sword out of its sheath and he motioned for us to get behind him. He was backing us towards the woods surrounding the field. I knew he was hoping that we could find cover there. Before we could get to the trees a group of five horsemen were upon us.
"Hold!" The first one yelled as he pulled his stallion into a rearing stop before us. He was wearing a thick, red cloak that was richly adorned with shimmering threads of embroidery. The rest circled around us as their horses kicked up clods of dirt and destroyed the neat rows of growing corn. Sir Michael kept turning to keep his eyes on the one that appeared to be the leader. I kept near his back, trying to stay away from his sword arm. Alice and Rosalie pressed themselves close behind as we cowered behind our knight.
I call him our knight because that is what he had pledged himself as. Two years ago one of the villagers had found him sorely wounded along the road. He had brought him into the village in his cart. My mother had nursed him back to health. After he healed, he went before my father, the Magistrate of our village, and pledged his sword to protect us. Last month he had married Jessica, the daughter of our baker. They were gloriously happy.
"Hold," the other man called out again. The men attending him brought their horses to a stop close to us. We were surrounded.
"Duke Aro has need of more servants," a leer crossed the man's face as he said this. "My men and I will be taking those three behind you."
Sir Michael's sword did not lower an inch as he answered the man. "The Duke has no need of these three, and he has no right to them either." His voice was strong and powerful and I hoped that the motley crew that encircled us would ride on.
The leader of the group threw his head back and laughed while his men snickered and guffawed behind us. "You have no say here, Knight." And then he pushed his destrier forward in a sprint, having pulled his own sword.
Sir Michael glanced over his shoulder at us. His face was a mask of pain. He knew what the outcome of this fight would be. He yelled for us to run and then squaring his shoulders he turned back to the man on horseback as he closed in on him. Instead of trying to take the man off the horse with his sword he tucked and rolled just as they closed the distance. He held his sword out to his side and quickly cut the legs of the massive warhorse as he passed. The great beast crumpled into the ground just as the rider threw himself to the side. He also rolled as he hit the ground. I saw Sir Michael leap to his feet and run towards the fallen rider as we ran towards the woods.
The leader's men rode between the woods and us. I heard screams coming from both Alice and Rosalie as they were swept up and before the riders. I tried to evade the grabbing hands of the rider nearest to me but he got his hand snagged into the back of my dress and I was yanked off of my feet and slung across his lap. His horse reared and I nearly came off, headfirst. But the man got a better grip on me and turned his horse so that he could watch the fight going on behind us.
Sir Michael was on the offensive. He was giving no quarter and the other man was working very hard to keep the sword from his body. Just as I thought that Sir Michael was going to be able to take him down, the man screeched, "Enough!" and gave a signal with his hand. The one rider who was not holding one of us spurred his mount forward and before I could call out a warning, he crashed into Sir Michael, knocking him to the ground. The first man laughed and stepped forward to where our knight was striving to regain his feet. With another laugh he held his sword up and crashed it down and across Sir Michael's back, effectively knocking him flat to the ground and leaving a gaping hole in his back. He did not move again. Rosalie and Alice were sobbing hysterically. But I could barely hear them over my own screams.
The man stepped forward and wiped his sword off on Sir Michael's clothes. He walked over to his injured horse. Pausing a moment, he then hefted his sword and struck the horse through the jugular vein. The beast stopped moving, blood pouring from the gaping wound at its throat. The man kicked Michael in the side as he walked passed him.
The man who had knocked Sir Michael to the ground leaped from his horse and let the leader mount. Then he got on behind him.
"We're done here; let's head back to the castle now. Keep those women quiet." He spun his horse and the rest of the group fell in behind him as we all galloped away from my home.
My mind was spinning. He called us women. Had he not looked at us? Rosalie was 15, just growing into early womanhood. And Alice! Alice was 13 and just a little sprite. I guess at 17 I could be called a woman, but there was nothing womanly about me at all. I looked more like a boy than a girl, as some of the meaner girls in the village pointed out to me on occasion.
The man I was riding with held me clasped before him. He had sat me up on the saddle just before we began to gallop. I was grateful that I wasn't still slung across the saddle on my stomach. That would have been even more horrible than just riding away from my home, leaving Sir Michael lying on the ground behind us.
It was just beyond twilight as we approached the castle of Duke Aro. I had seen it once before, when I was just a child. My father had spit on the ground as we passed the road leading to the drawbridge.
I asked him why and he replied that a Duke should be a good man, one who looked out for his people, not a man who used his position to abuse his people and properties.
My mother had looked around with a terrified look on her face as she hushed him. "Please, my husband, do not speak of this. We are too near his doorstep for you to speak these words."
My father had spat again and urged the horse to move along faster. As we had passed the road I could see the castle looming at the end of it. It was a dark and foreboding place.
And now I approached it again. The horses' hooves were loud as they cantered across the wooden drawbridge. The riders pulled to a stop before an open door. A woman, with wild red hair stood there. She was thin through her hips, but her bust was almost overflowing the dark green gown she wore.
"Felix, have you lost your horse?" She asked with a sneer on her face as the leader came to a stop before her. The man behind him leaped lightly to the ground and he swung from the saddle.
The man, apparently called Felix, threw his reins to a stable boy and strode up the steps to where the woman awaited him. "Lady Victoria, I don't question how you do your job; you don't question how I do mine." She nodded her head briefly before they turned to face us.
"You found these in Keddington? The Duke will be pleased. He will gift them to his nephew soon." She looked up at the men on the horses and commanded them to release us. Before I could steady myself I was flung off the horse and to the hard earth. I heard both Alice and Rosalie gasp as they hit the ground too. The war horses stood in place and didn't shift their feet. If they had moved at all we would have been crushed.
I got to my feet and rushed to help Rosalie up from the ground. Alice quickly joined us as we wound our arms around each other. Victoria motioned us to stand before her. With trepidation we approached. Our trembling limbs almost made it impossible to stand before her. Her bright blue eyes looked us up and down in disdain.
"Well, I guess they will have to do." She turned and gestured to a giant of a man standing behind her. "Demetri, bring them." The huge man came forward and grabbed me by the arm, dragging me up the stairs. Alice and Rosalie came with me, holding on to me tightly. When we were inside he pushed us to follow Victoria down a dimly lit corridor. She opened a door and descended a long rock staircase. We paused at the top, fearful of what the stair would lead down to. Demetri gave me a sharp shove in the back to make me move. I was afraid of falling so moved down slowly. My arms were so tightly wound around the girls that I was worried that I was bruising them. I found myself scoffing in my mind. Like bruises from me would be the worst of our fears.
We finally reached the bottom of the staircase and continued behind Victoria, going deeper and deeper beneath the castle. There were only a couple of torches to light our way along the rock corridor. Victoria finally stopped before a door that was slightly ajar. She pulled it open and gestured to us to enter. I stood my ground, pulling the girls behind me and away from her.
"What do you want of us?" I tried to make my voice strong, but it quavered slightly with fear. Victoria looked amused at my show of defiance, before she stepped forward and slapped me, hard, across the cheek. Rose and Alice gasped from behind me as Demetri chuckled darkly.
"You will ask no questions of me, or anyone here." She stepped back, looking into my face to see if I understood her. "You are here at the behest of your Duke. He will use you as he sees fit. That is all you need to know."
Demetri removed a torch from the wall and as he pushed us into the room he waved it around so we could see what was there. The floor was dirt, with a pile of dirty rushes piled in one corner. I heard rustling as we entered. It was probably rats. The walls were rough rock and there was a set of rings set halfway up into one wall. Rusty chains hung from the rings and a shackle hung from each of them. I saw a slops pot in the farthest corner of the room and nothing else.
The look on Demetri's face as he stepped back and out the door was amused. "Don't go anywhere." And then the door slammed shut, a lock clicking into place, enveloping us in darkness.
We received water and moldy bread rinds three times, through a plank that slid open at the base of the door. There wasn't nearly enough water for all three of us and after we had drunk it down quickly the first time, we had hoarded the next two jars…taking sips when we couldn't bear the discomfort any longer. The bread was dry and almost impossible to chew, especially combined with the lack of moisture in our bodies. When hunger finally overcame us, we had soaked some of the bread in the remaining water, trying to get it soft enough to get our teeth into it. It was not very filling.
I had run my hands over the walls after our second jar of water had run out. As damp as it felt, I actually hoped to find some water dripping somewhere…but there wasn't any, just bone-chilling dampness that could not be lapped up. It was hard to believe how cold it was down here in the bowels of the castle. It was nearly summer outside…we had been sweating under the sun just hours ago.
We tried to keep the dirty rushes beneath and piled behind us on the clammy wall. That gave us some insulation. If any one of us had been in here alone, she might have succumbed to freezing by now. As it was, we took turns being in the middle, trying to keep each other warm.
The stench from the slops bucket was almost overwhelming to begin with. It concerned me that I no longer noticed it.
We heard no other voices during our time in the dark. Only the guard bringing the bread and water had approached us. He did not speak; he'd just bang on the door and slide the jar and bread through the opening.
I finally decided we must have been here for about three days when I heard the sounds of two people approaching us. The light under the door grew brighter and we all stood huddled together, waiting to see what would happen.
The lock clicked heavily and the door swung open. The glare from the torch nearly blinded me as I tried to take in who was there. Finally my eyes adjusted and I saw Victoria, with Demetri behind her.
She looked us over before she pointed at Rosalie and motioned her forward. I kept her behind me. "Where are you taking her? And why?" I asked. The swelling had finally left my cheek from her answer when I had last asked a question.
Victoria's eyes narrowed. "Please…" I asked again.
She shrugged her thin shoulders and replied, "I guess you can know, because it won't make a difference. The Duke acquired you to gift to his nephew. The boy has arrived and the Duke bids me make you ready. He will give one of you to him each night for the next three evenings, to do with as he sees fit…"
My chest tightened as I realized what she was saying. Alice and Rosalie were shaking so hard I was afraid they would fall. I had to protect them any way that I could.
I stepped forward, pushing them behind me. "If each one of us is to meet this fate, please take me first." Rose and Alice both gasped as they clutched each other. I looked down in what I hoped was a humble way, and added, "Mistress, I will be compliant and obey."
Victoria seemed to weigh my words. She shrugged again and said, "Makes no difference to me. You all will comply, but I will take you first."
I turned quickly to my sweet friends and clasped them to me tightly. "Try not to be afraid, I will do whatever I can to save you," I whispered as quietly as I could. Their shoulders were shaking with sobs as I loosened myself from them and turned back to the door.
Demetri grabbed me by the arm and yanked me out before slamming the door behind us. Victoria had already begun walking back to the stairs. Demetri finally let my feet get beneath me and pushed me ahead of him up the stairs. It felt like we walked miles through random corridors before Victoria opened a door and stepped into a warmly lit room. Demetri shoved me through the door and took a stance outside, his back to us. A bathtub was set before the blazing fire and two women, one young and one much older, stood there, waiting for us.
Victoria began barking orders. "Strip her and throw her clothes away, wash her completely and brush out her hair. I'll be back shortly." She turned to me, a wicked smile upon her face. "You promised me compliance and I hold your friends hostage for the same."
I nodded my head, keeping my eyes on the floor. She turned and left the room, slamming the door behind her. I heard her order Demetri to guard us all. The younger woman approached me and helped me to loosen the laces of my filthy dress. It fell into a heap at my feet. She sniffed in disdain at the odor that arose from the mess. My face flamed in shame.
The other woman beckoned me close to the tub and for the first time spoke. "Here, Missy, step into the tub and we'll get you clean. I'm sorry the water isn't warmer, but we did the best we could with the short notice we had. The young Lord arrived unannounced."
The other woman shushed her sternly. "We are not to speak! We'll be punished!" She hissed.
The older woman waved aside her words. "We'll whisper then…this young one is frightened and I won't add to her fear." She looked into my eyes and slipped her hand gently across my cheek, wiping the silent tears away. "Now sit and we'll get you cleaned up."
I sat down gingerly into the lukewarm water, actually wishing that I could drink it as it covered my thighs. I decided to be brave and ask for a sip. "I'm sorry, but could I have a drink of water?" The older woman rushed for a cup from the sideboard and brought it to me. The water was clean, in a clean cup. I held it almost reverently before sipping it slowly. I was amazed at how much I relished this drink. The past couple of days made me appreciate a simple drink much more than I ever had.
After I handed my cup back to the older woman, I took up the sponge in the water and washed my body. I hated to think about what this was preparing me for. I tried to just enjoy being clean, as I had enjoyed drinking the water. After washing my hair I was more than startled when the young woman poured a bucket of cold water over me, sluicing the suds from my hair and my body. I gasped as the cold enveloped me and my skin raised in gooseflesh. The older woman turned and slapped the younger one.
"I told you to be kind and I meant it." She pushed her aside and came to me with a towel in her hand. "Here, Missy, let me help you dry." I stood up and stepped out onto the fire side of the tub. The heat was so very welcome. When my body was dry, the woman handed me a thin white shift to slip over my body. It fluttered around my feet. She motioned for me to sit on a stool before the fire and she began to brush my hair, slowly and gently. The other woman huffed and complained beneath her breath as she started to tidy away the bath items.
"Your hair is so pretty, Missy. Tis a joy to be brushing it for you," she breathed quietly to me as she smoothed her hand from the crown of my head to the ends of it at my waist.
The old woman's words touched me and I turned to thank her, my eyes brimming with tears. "My name is Bella, Mistress."
The woman's eyes crinkled merrily as she leaned towards me and gave me her own name in a whisper, "I'm Widow Cope." She went back to brushing my hair.
We all heard the sharp tapping of heels approaching the room. I heard Victoria address Demetri before the door was opened.
I came to my feet, hoping that I would be brave enough for whatever the night might bring.
"Step forward," she ordered. I did and she motioned for me to turn around in a circle. "Well, at least you clean up fine enough. You two clean this room and return to the kitchens." She strode to the door, expecting me to follow on her heels. I paused to give Widow Cope a teary smile and a nod. She nodded back to me and cupped my cheek in her worn hand. Her eyes spoke volumes and my own filled with tears.
I turned and walked from the room, my bare feet stumbling on the rough hewn rocks beneath me. Victoria walked ahead of me again, with Demetri behind me. As we made our way from the washroom, I discovered that the floor began to get smoother the farther away from the kitchens we walked. We came to a large open area. I could hear music, voices and laughter coming from the hall to my left. I glanced into the room to see it was crowded with people dining. My stomach rumbled when I smelled the food that was spread about on the tables. Victoria didn't pause as she swept up the wide stairs to the right. I lowered my head and continued to follow her. The thought of screaming for help fluttered through my head briefly. But with Demetri behind to silence me, I knew that there would be no help for me here.
Victoria was waiting at a door at the far end of the long hallway. She pushed the door open and I stumbled to a stop behind her as I saw the massive bed that took up the middle of the room.
The bed was hung with deep red curtains. I knew the curtains were there so that the occupants would be shielded from drafts during the long cold nights of our winters. Summer was swiftly taking over spring and now the drapes were tied back to the four posts at the corners. The blankets were pushed to the foot of the bed.
Victoria appeared to take pleasure in the frightened look on my face as she looked me over.
"Duke Aro told me to prepare you. He likes how I prepare his servants for him…and he feels that his nephew will enjoy the benefits of my skills too." She walked towards the bed and pointed towards it. "Strip and lie in the middle of the bed with your arms and legs spread."
All color left my face and I couldn't move, I could barely breathe. A cruel smile lit her face as she motioned Demetri closer. "Ah, I do love it when servants are slow to obey my orders. Demetri, you know what to do…"
I gasped in shock as Demetri leaned down and lifted my shift up and over my head. He immediately pushed a hand between my shoulder blades and I found myself stumbling into the edge of the bed. "If you don't wish Demetri's help, you will get on the bed now." Victoria's eyes were sharp…I think she wanted me to balk further.
My limbs were shaking as I moved to the middle of the bed. The mattress was soft beneath my hands and knees. I was embarrassed knowing that Demetri and Victoria were watching me. When I reached the middle, even though my body was shaking, I turned and lay down on my back. I closed my eyes, wondering if I would be able to stretch my arms out as she had ordered me to. A sob left my lips even though I tried to hold it back.
Victoria grabbed my right hand and secured it to the post at the top of the bed with a red silken scarf. She then moved to the other side and tied my left hand with another scarf. More sobs left me as I tried to keep my legs together, but after she glanced from me and then to Demetri, I complied. I had never felt more vulnerable in my life.
"Control your sobs, girl, or I will gag you…" Victoria threatened me. She and Demetri had their heads together at the foot of the bed. I couldn't hear what they were saying but I felt that they were arguing. Demetri's voice rose a little louder.
"He won't even know, just let me be the one to touch her…to prepare her. You always get to touch them…" I had been wrong moments before, now was the most vulnerable that I had ever been. Another sob left my throat and Victoria smirked as she climbed on the bed and sat beside me. She had another scarf in her hand that she quickly used to gag me, effectively silencing my cries.
Her eyes were bright as she raked them down my naked form. "I do like this part of the preparations…" She dragged her fingernails down my throat and over my chest. Then she cupped my breast in her hand, as my silent screams boiled in my throat…
I lifted the cup to my lips, pretending to drink deeply of the wine there. In reality I only sipped lightly, just as I had for the duration of the eternally long evening. Most of the wine was in a puddle beneath my chair, hidden beneath the rushes. The hounds that waited there had turned their nose up at the offering, hoping, I'm sure that I would drop something tastier at some point.
Duke Aro, my uncle, sat several seats beyond me, at the head of the U-shaped table. Felix, his knight, sat at his right hand. Knight my ass! The man had no sense of honor and was not worthy of the title. The Duke shook his cup and a manservant topped it off from a new skin of wine. His wine cup had been filled several times already this evening, and I knew that the hounds had not been given any. He face was red and blotchy. I knew that this was not the first time that he had been deep in his cups.
When I had arrived late this afternoon, he had been surprised to see me. Of course, that's the way I had planned my arrival. I had sent word that I'd be arriving later in the week, but wanted to keep him off balance, so had arrived today instead. After he had clasped me to his chest and inquired as to my father's health, he had immediately announced a dinner to welcome me and my knights. He had also told me that he had three gifts for me, one to be given to me after dinner this evening, and one for each of the next two evenings. The look on his face as he mentioned these gifts told me all that I needed to know. The intelligence that had been brought to me over the past two years was correct, unfortunately. The King would be appalled to know it was true.
I had chosen my seat so that I could keep my eyes on my uncle, on the hall and on the door to the entryway. My good friends and fellow knights had also chosen their seats with these things in common. They sat across the U from me.
I suddenly spotted that she-devil, Victoria, leading a little slip of a girl up the stairs. Her feet were bare and her long brown hair hung almost to her hips over the plain white shift that she wore. The light from the lamps in the entryway caught her face as she glanced towards the hall where I sat. My breath caught in my throat at how lovely, how fragile, she looked. The despair in the way the young girl carried herself was clear to me. I felt a growl start to grow in my chest as I saw that Demetri was walking behind the two women.
I caught Emmett's eye and with a flick of my own sent his attention to the door. For a brief moment Emmett's face tightened as he saw the trio making their way up the stairs; then he relaxed and put a laughing face on for his seatmate. I could tell from the way she kept touching him that she hoped for a tryst with my hearty liegeman after the dinner ended.
And surely it would end soon. Just in case my Uncle had other plans, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Standing and swaying, as if I were trying to find my balance, I took my knife and tapped it loudly on the side of my cup.
When most of those assembled, including my uncle, turned to look in my direction, I raised my cup to him. "Uncle!" I exclaimed in a slurred voice. "I cannot thank you enough for this feast. Let me toast you: To Good food, good company and good Host!" And I pretended to swig down the remainder of my wine. Everyone there raised their cups and drank with me.
My uncle pulled himself to his feet where he swayed from side to side; he was seriously unsteady. He waved me close to him and pointed towards the stairs. "Go, boy, your gift awaits you in your chambers. Enjoy! I know I would if you weren't here…" As he began to topple to one side, his man stepped forward and helped him back to his seat.
My knights both approached me, pretending to help me out the door and up the stairs. The hall was busy with people leaving the feast. The woman who had sat next to Emmett smiled at him with an enticing look upon her face. He smiled ruefully at her and said in an undertone, "I'm sorry, M'Lady, I must see to my Lord before I can find my own fun…" He was half carrying me by this point, and I let my legs slide further from beneath me so that he had to make a show of carrying more of my weight.
This was the only part of our subterfuge that any of us found amusing; pretending to be drunk and disorderly. But pretending to be men of poor quality, knights who did not hold the Code close to our hearts, weighed heavily on each of us. It had been a long two years to get this invitation to my uncle's castle. We would not let ourselves waste the opportunity to take him down.
Once we were in the upper hallway and had left the crowd behind, Jasper looked back over his shoulder to survey the corridor. He whispered, "All clear," and I stood up on my own feet. The door to my chamber was slightly ajar. I could see that Demetri was beside the bed, staring down at the young woman who was tied there. I was shocked to see that she was attached to the four corners of the bed, tied with red scarves. I could hear her sobs through the cloth that was tied around her mouth, clenched between her teeth. Victoria was kneeling on the bed, her hand hovering over her body. I felt a growl start to leave my chest as I stood tall, intent upon stopping this outrage. Jasper held me back, hissing in my ear, "Wait, you mustn't let them know how this angers you. You will set our plan back by months…"
I nodded stiffly before setting my shoulders and pretending to stumble into the room in front of Emmett and Jasper. I let a slur slip into my voice as I stated, "What have we here? Ah, is it the gift from my Uncle? I've heard of his gifts to guests…and have been anxious to see what sort that would be."
Victoria had stopped touching the girl at my approach. I could see the wetness of the girl's tears on her face. I know my eyes darkened at what I was seeing. At first glance this wasn't a woman at all, but a girl who had to bear more than she should, no matter her age. Another growl threatened to leave my chest and I fought to suppress it.
Demetri had backed away from the bed as we entered, his eyes taking in Emmett at the door, sizing him up. I believe he found himself to be shorter by a hand and not nearly as wide at the shoulder as my good knight.
Victoria slipped off the bed and bowed low before me, wiping her wet hand surreptitiously down her dress. "Lord Edward, your Uncle, the Duke, commanded I prepare this gift, the first of three, for you." She put her hand up as if to present the young woman to me. "This is the way that he finds enjoyment from the serfs, and he thought you would enjoy it as well. He has heard the rumors of you and your men." Her words confirmed the stories that were being told about this castle and they caused my anger to fire even higher.
And to think that he had three of these young women on hand…for me! Jasper caught my eyes from where he was standing behind Victoria, a warning in his own. I had to clamp down my anger and play my part. "Uncle told you that he had more women, besides this one, for me?" I leered at her and played my next card, "I want all three of them here…now." I leaned my head back and thumped myself on the chest. "I'm man enough for them all."
Victoria looked completely taken aback. She stammered, "But, Lord Edward, this one is ready, the others…well, they aren't ready yet. They haven't been washed…" She clamped her lips closed.
I leaned over the bed, trying not to notice that the young naked girl below me tried to cringe away from me, and spoke directly to Victoria. "If it's a matter of washing, I see that there is tub here. I like a nice bath before bed. Have your servants bring water. My good knights will go with you and bring them to me…now." I winked at her before continuing, "You don't want my Uncle to know that I was displeased, now do you?"
Victoria and Demetri looked at each other, communicating silently, before she nodded and they made their way to the door. I had also heard how my Uncle punished those that worked for him. I had seen that a few of the serfs at dinner tonight were missing a tooth…or a finger. These two certainly didn't want him to hear that they had displeased me in any way. Jasper and Emmett both turned and looked at me before they hurried out after the two of them.
I closed my eyes, waiting for the sound of the door closing before I turned to the girl on the bed before me. When I heard the door click shut, I opened my eyes and found myself drowning in a pair of terrified brown ones. Tears still seeped from the corners of her eyes. The growl that I had been holding erupted from my chest. I didn't realize until the sound left me that the girl might think that I was angry with her. A shudder ran through her and she tried to tear her hands from the scarves holding her.
Even though the door was closed, I was worried about eavesdroppers. I lifted my finger to my lips as I looked into her face. As quietly as I could I whispered, "Please don't be afraid, I can't explain now, but everything will be okay." I could tell that she had no trust for me in her heart. How could she? She'd been stolen from her family, held for who knows how long and in what conditions, then tied to a bed and been molested by a woman, with a man looking on. I quickly removed the long knife from the sheath at my leg and held it up.
A strangled sound came from her throat as she cringed as far away from me as she could. I placed my hand on her shoulder, trying to calm her. The feel of her silky skin beneath my hand was a total surprise. A charge ran up my arm from where I touched her. Amazement colored my mind, and without thinking, I glanced down at her body spread before me. My breath caught in my throat once again. She was more mature than I had thought at first glance. There was a fullness to her breasts that was pleasing to my eye. And the way her hip flared out from her slender waist…I immediately had to stop looking. My mother would have been appalled at the place my thoughts were going. I was appalled! I worked hard to stop myself from looking more and held my tongue between my teeth. Knowing that there was no way for her to see reason at this moment, I quickly went about my work, untying the gag in her mouth, slitting the silk at her left wrist and then leaning over her to slit the silk at her right one. I rushed to her feet and slit the silk there too. She tried to move, but her limbs seemed locked in place. Having been tied to a rack at one point in my early teens, I knew what had to be done, but dreaded having to touch her in the midst of her fear.
Sighing deeply I told her in a quiet voice that I would massage her arms to help her to regain the sensation there. She had enough strength left to flinch away from me again. I kept my voice quiet and continued stroking her arms firmly; telling her again that she had nothing to fear from me. As I finished massaging her first arm, I settled it across her chest. When she could move them on her own, she wrapped them both around her nakedness. I had spotted the white gown on the floor next to the bed when I had entered. I picked it up and held it for her to place her arms in it.
For the first time since I entered the room, she looked and really seemed to see my face. I smiled just a little. Maybe she could trust me at some point. I found myself hoping that she would. A timid knock on the door told me that the servants had arrived with the water for the bath. The terror on the girl's face made my heart clench in my chest. I hated that she felt this way.
Again telling her that there was nothing to fear, I scooped her stiff form up in my arms and rushed her to the window seat. I thought that if she was semi hidden in the room it may ease her embarrassment and fears.
The knock came again, slightly louder and I called a gruff, "Come in." I stood between the door and the girl at the window seat.
Four servants came into the room, each carrying two buckets of water. Three of the men poured hot water into the tub and the fourth set his buckets of cool water beside the tub.
The eldest of the four ducked his head and asked if there was anything else that I needed. I pondered for a moment, wondering just what conditions these girls might have been held in, if the other two were not washed yet. I came to a decision and asked them to have food sent up, enough for four. That would make sense, food for the three girls and me.
The man nodded his head, saying that he would inform the kitchen. They shuffled out, leaving us alone.
I looked at her. She had pulled herself as close to the window as she could get. Tears no longer streamed down her face, but terror was still stark in her eyes.
At least she wasn't screaming, although my guess was that screams were not strangers to these rooms that my Uncle used as guest rooms. I shook my head to clear my murderous thoughts.
I approached her slowly, holding my arms out before me in a sign for peace. Dropping to my knees before her, I held my finger to my lips, asking her to remain quiet. She leaned back as I began to whisper, "I am Lord Edward, a Knight of the good King John. I am not here to harm you. I am here to find information on the Duke, information to take back to the King. He has heard many hideous tales from this region and he wants facts."
Some of the terror seemed to be leaving her as I explained my presence here, so I asked, "What is your name?"
The young woman's tongue came out and licked her upper lip. I found that I couldn't take my eyes from her face. Her mouth appeared to be dry. It took her a couple of tries before her whispered voice could be heard, "Bella…I am Isabella Swan. My father is the magistrate in Keddington."
I sucked in a breath of surprise before exclaiming, "Keddington? I have a good friend there, a Knight of King John's court! Sir Michael, do you know of him?"
A look of profound sadness crossed Bella's face. Her eyes searched mine as she tried to form words. Leaping to my feet, which startled her, I went to the sideboard where a ewer of water sat. I poured a generous amount into a cup and brought it back to where she sat. She took the cup gratefully and drank a good measure before she began speaking.
"Sir Michael was with us as we worked just outside of the village. We heard horses galloping towards us. He tried to get us under the cover of the trees, but we were quickly surrounded by five men on horses. When the leader, Felix, said that he was taking us for the Duke, Sir Michael told him nay, and they fought. He was winning when Felix called out and another of the riders knocked Sir Michael to the ground. Felix came near to him and smote him in the back with his sword. He was not moving when they carried us away. I am so sorry." Tears were streaming down her face again and I could see that she truly was sorry at what had befallen my friend.
I rose to my feet and paced away. The anger I had felt at seeing this lovely creature being abused was now compounded. Felix had struck down a true knight, a man full of Honor and the Grace of God. My mind was set even stronger on the course that I walked. Felix and my Uncle would pay…and pay dearly for what they had done.
Bella let out a small scream as the door flew back on its hinges. I threw myself before her, my knife immediately in my hand, as I crouched to protect her from whatever was coming through the portal.
I eased my stance as I realized that it was Emmett and Jasper coming through the door. They both had young women held tightly in their arms. Emmett sat a young blonde down before him as he kicked the door shut. Bella gasped as she flew passed me and flung her arms around the girl. After a moment of shock the young woman began to cry and hug her back. I looked towards Jasper. His arms were still tight around the dark haired girl he was holding close to his chest. Their eyes were locked upon each other. Bella, who had seemed so quiet and subdued, raced to him, smacking his arm to get his attention. "Put her down!" she demanded.
Jasper tore his gaze from the little one in his arms and set her feet upon the floor. He towered over her frame by many hands. The girl, who appeared to be at the cusp of womanhood, returned his gaze with an intensity that I had seen before. It was a gaze that my parents shared on a daily basis.
When she finally turned to Bella, the little one shrieked and threw her arms around her neck. The blonde joined in the hug as tears and quick explanations were whispered from one to another.
All we could do was stand back and watch them in awe. Three such different women, not sisters, but who appeared to be connected by something beyond blood. Their attachment appeared to be as strong as the bond I shared with my knights. Just as we were brothers, they appeared to be sisters in the same manner.
At last Bella turned and looked at us. She put herself before the other two and asked, her voice quiet and serious, "What will become of us now?"
Before I could answer, another knock sounded at the door, causing the women to jump. The food had arrived. I ushered them to the far side of the room, to keep them out of the gaze of the servants as five of them entered. The one in the lead carried a covered tureen. He placed it on the sideboard and motioned for the others to place their dishes there too. The last one in line held trenchers and utensils. I made a show of looking over the food before giving my approval and pointing to the door, making it clear that I wanted them to remove themselves.
One of the younger men made the mistake of looking at the women and letting a sneer cover his face. He had no right to judge what these women were, or what they had almost been forced into doing. My anger was already looking for an outlet, and before I could even stop myself, I had my hand tight around his throat, holding him to the wall. His feet were dangling above the floor as I pressed my fingers deeper into his neck.
The women gasped and Emmett came forward, as did the head servant.
"My Lord, he is young, he meant no disrespect." I heard his words, but still wanted to throttle this boy.
Emmett cleared his throat and spoke, "My Lord, let the ratling go. We have food, wine and women. We don't want any blood sport to stay us from our fun this eventide."
Emmett was giving me an out, one that wouldn't jeopardize our mission. He was right. With a sigh I let the boy down, but couldn't control the urge to throw him towards the door. He scrambled several steps before he got his feet under him and made his way swiftly from the room. The head servant shuffled his feet in his nervousness and I let him do so for another minute.
"You may go. Do not disturb us…" I pointed towards the door and the man rushed to vacate the room. I slammed the door behind him and turned back to those staring at me.
"I am sorry, Emmett. You were right to make me see sense. I thank you." He nodded his head and turned back to the women where they huddled together near the window.
He was right again. They should be our first concern. I stepped forward, but not too near them, and introduced myself as I had to Bella. Jasper stepped beside me and gave his name. "I am Sir Jasper, Knight of King John's Court."
Then Emmett gave his name, "I am Sir Emmett, also a Knight of King John's Court."
Bella gave her name to Jasper and Emmett and told the other girls to give theirs.
The little one, her eyes intent upon Jasper's, stepped forward first. "I am Alice Brandon. My mother is a seamstress in our village."
Then the blonde stepped up beside Bella, "I am Rosalie Hale. My father is the smith in Keddington."
Jasper and Emmett both looked surprised at the name of the village. I quickly filled them in on what had transpired when the girls were taken.
They both felt the sadness that I had already experienced. Sir Michael had been a good man, and he had apparently given his life to save these three young women; he had given his all for them.
I decided that it was time for food when I noticed that the women couldn't keep their eyes off of the bounty on the side table. The aromas were enticing.
I asked Jasper and Emmett to fill plates for them as I ushered them to the window seat. Once they were seated, I pulled a small table before them. They could sit there and eat in comfort. While the men filled their plates and placed them on the table before them, I brought the ewer of water and several cups to the table. It hurt to see how thirsty they were. Bella kept telling them to drink slowly, that if they drank or ate too fast it would not be good for them. Once their thirst was slaked, they began to nibble on the victuals on the trenchers. There was soft bread to dip in the thick mutton stew, two roasted chickens and a chunk of yellow cheese. The way the girls' eyes lit up at the repast truly made it appear to be a feast.
We sat and watched them eat. As their stomachs filled some of their guard was let down and they answered some of our questions. They didn't know how long, exactly, they had been held captive. Bella thought it was about three days. Gentle questioning informed us of their lack of food and water…and sanitary facilities. I could sense that my men wanted nothing more than to seek out Victoria and Demetri right this minute. These were the same men that had told me to restrain myself. But now that they could see at first hand just what those heathens had done to these women, well, they wanted them to pay now, not later.
Once they were done eating, we cleared away the remains and spoke of our plans.
Emmett told how we had been acting for more than a year, acting like men of ill repute. We had started rumors about ourselves and pretended to drink and behave badly. All of this to get my uncle, the Duke, to notice us and to decide that he would like us to join his group of marauders.
The King said that once we had cold hard facts, he could move against Aro. It had taken us so long to get here, and now we had the women as witnesses. There were several other servants that were missing teeth or fingers that we could call as witnesses too.
Yes, we lived in a barbaric time, but King John was a man of vision. He wished for all to live in peace and that justice should prevail throughout the land. A Duke who was working against his wishes could not be allowed to stand.
After hearing our tale, Bella asked how I could move against my uncle, a man who was related by blood. I stood and paced the room. How to tell them that I was so very ashamed of the relation we shared? I finally found the words to tell them that he had tried to have my father, his own brother, killed. Just so that he could have my mother as his own. My uncle had hired men to capture and torture me when I was 14...it was only by the grace of God that I had been found before being permanently injured.
The women gasped at the story I told and were very concerned about me. I told them that that event in my life had stiffened my resolve to become a knight, and to live by the Code.
Bella spoke up again, "What are we to do now? You three can walk out, but I'm sure that Duke Aro will not want us leaving here, especially if he knows that we are on our way to the King."
My pacing brought me to the cooling water in the tub, which reminded me why I had called for it. I dipped my hand into the water, it was tepid, but would more than likely be welcome to the two who had not been able to bathe for days.
"We will stand guard outside this chamber and you can refresh yourselves. That will give us time make our plans." They all looked worried about being left alone, which made me feel that they were beginning to trust us. "I swear to stay right outside the door. You will be safe. But first we need some clothes for you to wear once you've bathed. I have an idea about that…"
Walking to the window I pushed it open and gazed down at the tents and fires below. I whistled, sounding like a night bird. One of those sitting near the fire looked up at me. I motioned to him and he leaped to his feet, running towards the front of the castle.
"Bryce is on his way up." At the confused looks on the women's faces, I explained. "He's Jasper's squire. I'll send him to collect some clothes from the other squires. You women could wear those clothes as a disguise. That may be how we can spirit you out of the castle and away from here."
The knights agreed that it could work. Jasper opened the door at Bryce's quiet knock and we filled him in on what he needed to find. He asked that the ladies stand so that he could take their measure. His look, unlike that of the servant earlier, was filled with respect as he estimated the sizes that he would need. With a nod to Jasper, he said that he could return with clothes shortly and we let him out of the room.
"Bathe now and we'll be right outside the door. We'll let you know when Bryce returns with clothes." Emmett said as he stood and bowed to Rosalie. Jasper did the same with Alice and joined me at the door. Bella, who had been through the most this day, glanced shyly at us and gave me a small smile before nodding her head in farewell.
I closed the door firmly behind us and leaned against the frame. So many emotions flowed through me. Anger at my uncle and his evil servants; relief that we had been able to save these three young women from, at the very least, rape; and awe at getting to know Bella. She amazed me. Everything from the way her mind worked, how she was thinking about her friends before herself, to how lovely she was.
Judging by the dazed looks on their faces, both Emmett and Jasper were overwhelmed also. Something momentous was happening here tonight. I think we all knew it, but were afraid to name just what it was.
While we guarded the door we put our heads together to come up with a plan to get them safely from the castle and to the King. Our last report had told him of our plans to come here to my uncle's castle. The return message was to bring him news in Balmoral, where he would be for the summer months. That was a four day ride from here.
Footsteps approached us and we all took up a protective stance. We only relaxed when Bryce appeared, laden with clothing. We took the clothes and sent him back to the campsite, telling him to have the camp broken down and the horses saddled, quietly. He nodded. We had done this before and he and the other two squires knew what to do.
We decided that we didn't need to take any of the maimed servants with us as witnesses. It was agreed that once the King heard the witness of these three ladies, he would want to come himself to place the charges against the Duke.
I tapped lightly on the door and when Bella opened it a sliver I handed her the clothes. Her small smile of thanks warmed my heart much more than the action warranted. She said they'd let us in when they were dressed.
When the door opened we were all anxious to see the ladies again. The sight that met our eyes made us smile. They were all dressed as squires, and we could tell that they were somewhat uncomfortable wearing leggings and jerkins. Lady Alice looked much like a young boy in her garb. That didn't seem to make Jasper look at her any less intensely though.
Emmett couldn't keep his eyes off of Rosalie, the leggings fitting her much better than they had fit Bryce! And Bella…my own squire's good clothes looked amazing on her, much better than they ever had on Wesley.
The ladies gathered the remaining food and tied it into cloths. Hunger had made them appreciate the leftovers too much to leave them. They stuffed their hair underneath soft hats and nodded that they were ready.
We decided to leave two by two, thinking that it would garner less attention than leaving as a crowd.
Emmett and Rosalie left first. I watched from the window to see that they made it to our campfire safely. When they arrived, Emmett began helping the squires strike the camp. Jasper took Alice by the hand and slipped out the door next.
"Lord Edward, will they be okay?" Bella asked.
"Lady Bella, you have our word that we will do everything in our power to get you safely away. And once you have testified for the King, we will see you home safely." We decided that once we were away from the castle we would send Wesley on to Keddinton to inform their families of the ladies safety. He would then join us at Balmoral.
Bella weighed my words and then nodded. It was our turn to leave. I pulled the door firmly shut behind us and we were away.
The ladies were so slight, their weight would not hinder our warhorses and we each had taken one of them before us on our saddles. Bella had tried to remain upright, and awake, but the movement of my horse beneath her and the warmth of my cloak around her lulled her to sleep and she had relaxed upon my chest. The warmth of her body as she rested in my arms filled me with the urge to protect her from the hurts of this world. As I inhaled the sweet fragrance of her hair, I never wanted to let her go…I wanted to know what thoughts were forming behind her lovely brown eyes. I wanted to be with her for always.
We stopped to make camp after several hours of riding. The women barely stirred as we settled them next to a small fire. When the horses were tied with grain in their nosebags, each of us settled down close beside our charges.
I woke a few hours later, just before dawn, to find my nose pressed into silky brown hair. Bella had snuggled close to my chest during the night, her face pressed into my shoulder, her body flush with mine. I felt my manhood begin to stir and shifted so that I wouldn't be improper with her. Thoughts of her tied to the bed made my arousal harden immediately and I rolled away from her. I heard a small murmur and then felt her tuck herself close to my back, apparently seeking the heat of my body. Her arm came around my waist as she pulled herself closer.
I nearly growled with my discomfort. Opening my eyes, I swept the campsite. Our squires, Bryce and Aaron, were huddled beneath their blankets. But just as Bella had tucked herself close to me, I could see that Alice was twined into Jasper's body. It was the same with Emmett and Rosalie.
I was going to have to find strength to keep this woman at arms' length, as my honor as a knight called for. This was going to be a very long four days.
It was time to get moving. The Duke couldn't have known which direction we would take and the discovery of our escape probably wouldn't come for a few more hours, but I wanted to put as much distance between us as I could.
After breaking our fast with a warm drink and the leftovers from the meal the night before, we once again mounted our horses and began the trek to Balmoral.
The ladies were worried about their parents. We assured them that Wesley would deliver their messages and join us in Balmoral. He would be moving much faster than the eight of us could.
We were silent to begin with, but eventually Bella and I began to talk. We spoke of our lives before meeting. She soon relaxed against my chest and the time flew by in quiet conversation.
I found myself enjoying the time spent getting to know this woman. I know my knights enjoyed their time too. The attraction between each of us and the women was nearly palpable. I actually dreaded night coming, and worried that my body would betray me with her.
The second and third days passed nearly the same, riding, resting and talking. To my surprise, I found myself in love with this wonderful woman. She was so amazing. She and her friends never complained about the pace of the ride, they helped with the campsites and with the food each night. Then, as if it was perfectly normal, they would lay wrapped in our arms to sleep. My body was screaming for release, but I couldn't move on that urge. I was here to protect her, not to ravish her.
I believe my friends felt the same about the women under their protection. We didn't need to speak of it, it just was.
The fourth night, our last on the road, everything changed for us. We made camp and then lay to sleep. I could tell that Bella was not falling asleep. After much shifting and sighing, she finally sat up and looked at me. She got to her feet and beckoned me to follow her. I swept my cape up and followed as she made her way out of the camp.
My mind was a seething mass of confusion. I tried to sleep, but touching Lord Edward had become a dangerous pleasure. It was all I could do to keep my hands to myself. I found my body pressed closely to his, and I wanted to be closer still. My face would flush when I thought about being this close, with no clothes between us. I had come to know him during our escape from the Duke's castle. He was a good man; caring, intelligent and honorable. He had saved me and now I was in love with him. I couldn't help myself. But who was I? I was just a simple village girl that he was taking to bear witness to the King…not one that could be worthy as one such as he.
Another sigh left my lips. There wasn't anything I could give him, no dowry and no land. There was only me…and in the moment that I realized that, I knew what I wanted to do, what I had to do. I stood and he watched me in the moonlight. I smiled and beckoned him to follow…he rose and did so.
When my sisters and I had taken a walk to stretch our legs after we made camp, I had discovered a small grassy spot deep inside the woods. That was where I was taking Edward now.
When we reached the place, I turned to face him. I knew just what I wanted to say, but the look in his eyes nearly made me forget my own name. Could he actually feel the same way that I felt? Taking a breath I began, "Lord Edward, you saved me when we first met. You saved me from having the one thing that I own, the one thing that I have to give, from being taken from me by force. I have come to care for you so much. This experience has shown me that nothing is safe, that I am not safe. I don't choose to have that gift just taken from me. I choose to give myself to you, if you will have me."
Holding his eyes with my own, I began to untie the bindings that held my jerkin closed. Edward's eyes darkened, they were nearly black. As the jerkin fell to the ground, his eyes fell also and raced over my form. I started to untie the cord at the top of my leggings, but he stepped forward and placed his hands on mine, stopping me. With a small smile he spread his cape on the ground and then knelt before me. Slowly he pulled me close before him and rested his head on my stomach. I could feel his heavy breath as he rested there a moment. I slipped my hands into his wonderfully wild hair. It was so soft and silky.
His breathing settled somewhat and he tilted his head up to look deeply into my eyes.
"Lady Bella, I am so grateful that I could be there for you. I give thanks to God that I was the one to find you, to rescue you, to spend this time with you. I have never felt this way before…I love you beyond what I ever thought possible." His grip around my waist tightened as I gasped in joy at his words.
"Tomorrow we reach Balmoral, and the King. You will give testimony and then I wish to take you home to your parents and ask them for your hand in marriage. Nothing would give me greater joy than to have you as my wife." The moon shone down on his gorgeous face and I could see the honesty and the love there.
Leaning down towards him, I touched my lips to his. The spark that had been lit days ago turned into a flame, hotter than any fire I had ever known. Edward gently pulled me down to my knees and pressed his mouth to my own. We both whispered words of love between our feverish kisses as our clothes came off.
As he laid me back against his cloak, the moon shone fully down upon my bare body and I suddenly felt shy. His words comforted me, "You are so beautiful, Bella. I love you, you are mine…" Then he began kissing me again as he pulled me closer and nearly beneath him. Our hands were touching everywhere and as mine came to surround his manhood, he growled low in his throat. It made me feel powerful to hear him sound so untamed. I wanted to hear the sound again, but before I could cup his manhood in my hand again, Edward's lips travelled down my body. My own growl rose from deep within my chest as my back arched up, giving him further access to my aching breasts. His soft laughter at my kitten sounds reverberated through my body, causing my stomach to tighten in pleasurable ways.
Suddenly he rolled on top of me, his legs between my knees and urging them apart. Edward placed his hands at either side of my head, running his fingers deep into my tresses. His eyes looked into mine and I felt the heat from our bodies mingle.
His mouth softly touched my own as he shifted his weight closer to me. His kisses worshipped my face and down the sides of my neck, melting my fears away.
I was not ignorant as to the pain that came with being with a man for the first time. My mother had spoken with me once about that which would occur on my wedding night. She said that it was my duty, no matter the pain that such a thing would entail, to service my husband. The feelings Edward stirred within me did not have me looking upon this experience as my duty. Right now all I was feeling was pleasure and heat and want and need…
Edward's mouth worked its way across my collarbone, leaving wet, open mouthed kisses there. He made his way back to my lips as I felt the tip of his member at my opening. I felt a moment of fear and tried not to react.
"Relax, my love," he whispered softly, his lips at my ear. The feeling of his hot breath upon me sent a pleasurable shiver through my body. "I will be as gentle as possible."
With excruciating slowness he entered me. When he met resistance, he hugged me tightly.
"I love you," he said as he pushed fully into me.
My eyes watered at the pain, but he remained still within me. His mouth peppered kisses over my face as his hands roamed my upper body, cupping my breasts and teasing my nipples. The tension building in my womanly core grew quickly. It reached a point when I needed to move.
My hips arched against him, and taking that as his cue, his hips lifted, pulling his member partially from me before driving back down and in again. I moaned and surprised myself by pulling him tighter and lifting my hips to meet his.
We fell into a rhythm as old as time. Our hips meeting and pulling away as our pleasure drove us closer to some unknown destination. As he moved faster and deeper, I suddenly fell over the edge into an abyss of ecstasy, panting and crying out his name. He followed not long after, collapsing upon me, my name reverently whispered over and over as he stroked my hair.
When we could speak again, he once again vowed to make me his wife in the eyes of the church at the soonest opportunity. "From this night forward, you are my life and I will hold you as my wife forever and for always."
"I will hold you as my husband from this night forward…I will love you forever." As Edward tucked me close beneath his chin, I knew that I could face giving testimony to the King on the morrow and whatever else my future would bring. As long as he was with me, I could face anything. What a long way I had come in a few short days. From being kidnapped and molested, to being loved and adored.
The coming days would bring hardships, danger, and change to my life, but with Edward by my side, I knew we could weather the coming storm.
A/N...I'd love to hear what you think of this story...What do you think? Want to see what happens to Duke Aro? Click NEXT!
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