For years I've intended on doing this, but not really gotten around to it. It's time for a rewrite, but at the same time the selfish, self aggrandizing little sot that I am, wants to keep the old one around for public view. Warts, ranting and all. For those who have this on update...this is chapter one revamped. Same story, written with the accumulated space and experience five years grants.
There is more to the revamp, I'm almost done with chapter three, each day going through a punishing pace of rewrite, including the intent of the original, but not much in the way of actual copy-paste from the original documents.
Revamp - Chapter One:
Susan looked about, confused, her head ringing. She hadn't a clue as to how she had gotten here. As to where 'here' was, it was a pool, a very pretty pool, in a clearing, with very picturesque sunlight and little butterflies - well, it just looked like out of some fairy tale painting. And she hadn't the vaguest notion as to how she had gotten there.
...Actually, that wasn't quite true. Not entirely. But really how was jumping out of the way of an automobile being driven by a moron with a bunch of idiotic, reckless boys in the backseat, causing the automobile to jump the curb quite violently, leading to her jumping out of the way...only to then subsequently roll and fall down a hill in a most undignified manner, and then only to bump and tumble to a halt...and open her eyes to seethis place...how was any of that logical at all?
With a huff, Susan rubbed her head, frowning, utterly put out, and scanned her surroundings. Trees, trees, a few rocks, oh look some bushes - this was certainly not anywhere familiar to her. If this was London, she would eat her hat. Not that she was wearing a hat, and Susan reached for her satchel, still frowning as she tried to get her bearings, still dizzy from all the rolling and tumbling, her knees and legs smarting since her uniform's skirt hadn't done much to protect them.
A rustle and she tensed, turning, only to have everything go funny again, everything swimming, as pain struck her head a dozen times harder than it had during her uncontrolled tumble.
Swinging resolved itself into being trussed like a holiday hog on a spit, hanging from bound wrists, knees, and ankles. Susan blinked and blinked, seeking some sort of sense in it all, and decided it must be like Lewis Carroll's book, Alice In Wonderland which she had been reading to Lucy lately. A dream, it was all a dream, just a bad figment of a knock to the head and the tinned meat sandwich she'd had for lunch going all funny and off in her stomach. Indigestion born hallucinations, that's all.
It was the only thing that made sense as her gaze was focused, upside down, on a furry set of goat legs and rump that faded up into vaguely humanoid torso, which she decided must belong to a very mythical (present view notwithstanding) satyr. Or were they called fauns? What with her head ringing so, it was difficult to recall. Still, indignity of indignities, she was trussed like a pig, being carted about like some prize hunt piece, no doubt showing off her knickers to all and sundry... But it was a dream, and as irritating as that was -
Dreams don't hurt, part of her mind scrambled and hooked onto that.
Well, not quite true - dreams did hurt, but it wasn't so nasty. Head to toe she was strained and bruised feeling, stomach all queasy, and a whimper broke free. Going lax, because keeping tense was doing more to hurt, Susan's swinging, swaying vision saw an upside down mountain-pyramid spotted with trees. Earthworks seemed to be every which way - at least, that's what she assumed, trying not to lose that nasty lunch of her sandwich with every lurch, forcing her mind to absorb details.
Torchlight and pale yellow stone, sandstone perhaps, clanging, banging sounds, and onwards into that edifice, Susan was carried. Eventually there came a halt, and one of the creatures waddled forward in rapid and awkward steps, swaying side to side, rats' nest snarl of salt and pepper mane, Susan only got a glimpse before she was dropped onto the hard floor, forcing air and an indignant and muffled 'oomph!' from her, garbled by the gag in her mouth.
Soft striding taps of boot heels heralded the snapping of an accented voice, "What is this?" and Susan blinked dazedly as the dark skinned, dark haired man grabbed her chin, forcing her to look up at him, leather biting her face from his gloves. "Interesting, where did you find her, Nikabrik?"
The dwarf - Susan decided the waddling man must be one, he certainly seemed like one, what with the bulbous nose, the natty hair, and diminutive stature (and she was as far from 'tall' as possible herself) - bowed low before speaking. "Your Highness, she was wandering around, muttering near one of the springs." Her satchel was held out, "She carried this with her, Your Highness."
The man straightened, showing off an impressive height, the many braziers and torches that filled the cavernous space only making his clearly sun-baked skin even darker, and as he fell to a squat, inspecting her with those glittering obsidian eyes, leaning even closer, so she could almost feel his breath, she got more than a whiff of sweat and horse. "You are not Telmarine, nor are you Narnian. Archenlander perhaps," tugging off a glove, thumb running over her cheek before calloused fingers took cruel hold of her face again, twisting and jerking her head to the side, "though your colouring is off." Narrowed gaze, "I have never seen someone so fair with dark hair, yet possessing eyes the colour of sapphires." Sniffing once before sighing, the man smacked his hands together, dusting them free of imaginary dust as he stood again, "Nevermind anyway, I have not the time to question her at the moment."
"What would you have us do with her, m'Lord?" Nikabrik jabbed Susan in the side with a grotesquely long finger, grinning, and Susan was still held somehow silent and immobile, rather than thrashing and trying to talk through the nasty tasty rawhide gag, "I'm sure the lads could figure out some fun for her."
Now that frightened her, and renewed her struggling, awakening the need to do something. Susan may not know much about boys, but she'd heard enough stories about men - particularly soldiers - to last her a lifetime. Sure it was spoken of in whispers, but even Peter had warned her away from soldiers on leave, even ones who seemed nice were to be kept at distance. That...and satyrs according to Greek mythology - well she remembered enough of it to know that being at their tender mercies wouldn't be good at all. The man who was in charge turned to look at her once more, head cocked, then leaned down with a snort as though amused by her struggles and gave her a lazy backhand that made her see stars.
"She would be ruined if left to you, I may have time for her later. Send her to my quarters," limp, dazed to stupidity once more, and unable to even voice protest or struggle, too addled to.
Never in her life had she been hit so many times in one go - even when she'd broken the large antique mirror that belonged to her mother and had had to go outside to pick her own switch. So never in her life had she been treated like so. Huddling as best she could while being hauled through the cavernous hallways, torches lighting the sandstone and granite of their route, Susan just didn't know what to do. It didn't help that she hurt so badly from head to toe, or that feeling in her fingers and toes was all off, or that she was sick to her stomach, or that she wanted to cry, all of her customary sensibility and logic having fled.
Eventually, and completely unceremonious, the fauns jerked the pole from her bindings, but still left her tied up. All she could do was glare evilly at them as they left her heaped on the floor, having collected her wits enough for that. Wriggling around ignoring her aches and pains, Susan tried to figure out how to get out of this mess. If this was a dream maybe she could change how things were working by positive thinking. And that was ignoring her fear that maybe this wasn't a dream, what with all the pain and the striking going on.
Scooting about on the cold floor, Susan squirmed and wriggled to get her back up against the rough wall, which dug into her back through her coat and blouse. As she worked at loosening some of her bindings, at least enough so she didn't need to worry about lost blood flow, Susan took stock. The room didn't look like it belonged to a castle or any sort of fortification, but more like a cave that had been altered just enough to be somewhat habitable. The walls weren't smooth, and the room was certainly not a perfect square, though maybe with work it could be. More like a lopsided and uneven height shoebox, with an extra little dip where the door was, made of heavy wood and black, banded iron with rivets, and what looked to be a sliding bolt on the inside. The ceiling was high, plenty of soot marks from torches left their residue as they lit the room. If it weren't for the slits here and there in the rock, Susan would worry for the air quality, but even then, she was wary, questioning whomever thought it was wise to use light sources that shed so much smoke in such a space, even though it was fairly open for a room without windows and only a single door. A smallish table, bigger than a desk, smaller than a dining table for two, with a rough cobbled together chair sat not too far off, several small clay bowls on it, along with a wooden tankard, piles of messy paper, and a tray with what looked like feathers and pots. Maybe it was someone's idea of a place to work and eat at the same time? That was the closest bit of furniture to her, unless of course she wanted to count the nasty, ratty pile of hay shoved up against a wall, covered with a few blankets and furs haphazardly. Otherwise, there was only one piece of furniture in the room - a washstand, as rickety as the table and chair, but for the fact that it had a rather shiny mirror suspended from a wooden post that was attached to the stand, all at angles and heights suited to a fairly tall man.
Beyond that, there was a collection of strewn bits of clothes, leather, discarded and bloodied linen, and a very finely made set of...saddlebags? Or satchels, Susan couldn't tell, and they were by the door. Well, and that bucket, there's a bucket, Su, so that's one other thing...
With a sigh, Susan frowned, concentrating on keeping her breathing steady, repeating that she needed to stay calm, think positive, and that those things should make the unpleasant and peculiar dream change.
Several hours later positive thinking hadn't helped one iota. She was still stuck with her wrists and ankles bound, and she really had to pee. Not only that, but Susan was incredibly tired. Before her tumble, she had been walking home after a particularly nasty day at school where she got detention for no understandable reason. All she wanted right now was to be home, making dinner for her siblings in the little house in Finchley, trying to do well enough with their rations. Curling up into a tight ball, she was too fatigued to fight the tears that had been threatening to fall for the last while.
So engrossed was she in being miserable, gaze and mind turned inwards, that she didn't notice the scuff of a boot, or the jangling of armour. Not until it was too late. A hand clamped on her shoulder, rolling Susan over from where she had curled on her side, face towards the wall, and there he was. The man who'd had her thrown into this room, who'd hit her, and who stank of sweat, wine, stables and leather.
"Wonderful, a sniveler," he sounded bored, black eyes in his dark face, accented words - he was everything she'd thought a villain should be. "I am going to remove the gag - but if you begin screaming, crying excessively, or being generally bothersome - I will replace it. And it will come out of your hide," he listed, brows up. "Do you understand? Nod if you do."
Shivering, Susan managed a nod, her stomach roiling.
"Good," and the filthy cloth was finally removed with ungentle yanking and prying. "Now -"
"I need to pee," in a rush, interrupting. At his glare, Susan began to get angry, but something about him advised her against telling him what was what right then and there. "I really do..."
With a growl, the rangey man hauled her up bodily, the strength in the motion startling, terrifying, as she was hoisted to her feet, then made to hop-hobble as he dragged her to the corner where the bucket she had noticed earlier sat. The halt at the bucket wasn't any fun, as it sort of smelled, and Susan didn't want to think about that as the man squatted long enough to unbind her feet. When she didn't move, still staring dubiously at the bucket, he gave her a shove, "If you have to go, go, this is not an inn where your comforts are seen to."
Finally unable to continue denying the purpose for that bucket, Susan looked at him, mortified, "Ugh! That's disgusting!"
Muscle ticking in his jaw, "I do not have patience to deal with this - if you soil yourself, it is none of my concern," a hand like iron clamped back around her arm, his muscles tensing in readiness to haul her about once more.
Digging her feet in, she blurted unthinking, just in sore need of the loo and upset from her ugly day, "Hey! Fine - I'll do it your way, you villainous barbarian!" In response his hand rose as it had earlier, and Susan instantly shrank in on herself, not wanting to be struck again, "I'm sorry - wait, wait, I'm just...not used to this. I'll behave!"
He had paused long enough for her to finish speaking, but her words didn't stop the rocketing forth of his hand. Tears stung her eyes at the sharp crack of pain, yet she had an odd feeling that the blow had landed lighter than originally intended. Gasping at the stinging pain, Susan still scrunched her eyes closed, making herself use the bucket awkwardly, teeth grit at the humiliation of having to use it in front of him. Even though he did have enough manners to turn his head to the side, it wasn't much consolation all things considered. Straightening up as much as she could in spite of her bound hands - and the lack of amenities - Susan cleared her throat waiting for her apparent jailor to do whatever it was he intended to do. Though the thought did enter her mind (briefly) that if he knocked her out, she may wake up back in Finchley, and realize that the last hours were really and truly due to a concussion. That would be just lovely. On the other hand, she also didn't think inciting further abuse was wise, whether a blackout or not would allow her to go home.
His attention swung back to her, holding her immobile and she found herself hauled back to the spot he had yanked her up from earlier. "Mph, now, where are you from? Who sent you?" his grip was a vise as it shifted, twisting and cruel on the same place he had been holding earlier, as though she bore a sign that said 'Strangle My Arm Right Here, Please'. His presence loomed over her by more than a head and some, and in his rough linen shirt, the jangling grey-green of his riveted leather jerkin, turned him into a strange creature only bearing passing resemblance to a man. "The penalty for lying is not pleasant," tone brooking no argument as his black eyed gaze bored into her.
Biting her lip, swallowing, Susan managed to keep from shrinking in on herself entirely, "I'm from Finchley, and no one sent me. I don't even know where I am."
"Did I not just say that I will not tolerate lies?" nostrils flaring, voice harsh. Susan cringed instantly, expecting another blow as his free hand came out, but instead she was grabbed, and slammed into the rough hewn wall, lifted so that her toes were barely on the floor, fingers digging into the column of her neck, cutting off air, and she panicked, fighting with her own free hand, scrambling to grab him uselessly with her bound hands, terrified. "Things will go easier if you tell me who sent you."
Spots floated over her vision, lungs burning, body tingling from the rush of adrenaline, but his grasp relaxed enough for her feet to touch the floor more, and loosened from her throat so she could gasp a breath or two, the words struggling free, "Not - not lying!"
"You must like pain," the words muttered, his expression unmoved, turning to bored irritation. There was no warning beyond that, and Susan flailed as she was tossed aside several feet to impact the floor, skidding with the lazy force put into it. Rolling over she scooted and hissed in pain, frantic, but he was there in a few easy swift steps, her tormenter squatting before her, looking at her like a bug. His hand thrust its way into her hair, tight and deep, close to the scalp, ignoring the loosened braid she wore, and she was yanked backwards, forcing her back to arch. Disinterest in every flicker of him she could see, his words were delivered with the sort of aloofness of someone unconcerned by a change in weather, "I can keep this up longer than you can hold out on information, girl. My suggestion is to come clean, so I ask again - who sent you?"
Sobbing for air, startled and terrified from the casual assault and abuse, "No one! I come from Finchley, no one sent me."
Not that she had thought it would, but it was the truth - the truth didn't seem to sway him at all. It earned her no pity, and another strike landed over her face. The process was repeated, hoisted and lifted up like a bale of hay, slam her into a wall, strangling her, then toss her like a sack of potatoes. Not once did he seem moved by a single thing he did, he was blank, bored, as impervious as the stone she landed on or was slammed into. And with each repetition, he asked the same questions, to which she gave the same answers, because Susan still had no other answers for him but those truths. None of it would do, none of it was satisfactory to him, and if she just knew what she had to say to make it stop - Susan would say those things, no matter that they were lies, gladly, in hopes of making it stop.
Cold splash, startled, Susan sputtered, swimming back from darkness, and another splash - water. It had been thrown over her face, forcing her to return to the stone room, her uncaring gaoler and torturer was squatting over her again, his cleft chin set firm, "Who sent you? I can keep this up all night, as I have informed you several times already. Thus far, I have been taking it easy on you, as you are a woman." Long fingers curled, biting into her shoulder, the digging points of fingertips sending shooting bruising pain, "My patience is wearing thin, however. When it runs out, more persuasive measures can easily be employed if need be. This is the last warning you shall receive. Now, tell me the truth - who sent you?"
Scrunching her eyes closed, Susan shook her head weakly, whimpering, "I don't know...I don't know..."
"Miraz probably told you I was weak," the words said with an indelicate snort. Raking fingers through the shaggy, mangled curls of his dark hair, "Well my dearest uncle was wrong." Mouth settling into a grim line, "I do not take mercy upon spies. Be they female or male, adult or child, all is fair in war, girl, and I am not the weakling he supposes, not the ineffectual little boy he paints me as to the Council. I will reclaim my throne." His dark burning eyes bored into hers, "Even at the expense of women and children. If that is what Miraz sends, then that is what I shall kill."
Shuddering, Susan watched him, too weak to do more than whisper, "I still don't know."
Maybe death would be a relief at this point. Be this a dream (nightmare more like) or real, it was a blurry line she couldn't tell which was true or not. Susan had never experienced real pain in her life. Up until that moment, she had thought the worst thing was her monthly, which would frequently leave her doubled up, in agony, puking and tired. This systematic beating and abuse was different. Head to toe, she felt bruised, battered, ravaged, she was dizzy and the room kept spinning... Truthfully? Susan just didn't have any fight left.
Susan must have passed out again, because she awoke in pain, but it was mostly quiet. A shiver moved through her, limbs tensing, and she bit her lip - still tied up. Still tied up meant she was still in that nightmare place. Swallowing, she whimpered as she tried to move, to roll over, to do something to find a position that lessened the pain. Before she could move much, something icy cold was pressed to her throat, making her eyes snap open.
"So you are awake. Now, who sent you?" Unbearably close, his breath on her face, he was someone peering through a window he was so in her face, near enough she could count his pores if given a moment to do so. As she swallowed, his scrutiny didn't lessen, but he moved back incrementally, and she realized the icy cold thing touching her neck was a wicked dagger as the shift drew her eye to his arm, then down to his wrist, and the hilt there in his hand, leading to a long blade whose tip she couldn't see...but she could feel it.
Closing her eyes, Susan gave up, unable to summon tears or anything, just empty resignation. "Look, no one sent me, if you're going to kill me, kill me. I'm too tired to deal with this anymore. Just...get it over with already."
"You believe I will not do it, is that what this is?" hissing at her, the pressure increased, a pinprick of burning, and the track of something hot slipped as she breathed shallowly.
Uncaring for the blade's pressure, Susan wriggled until she was a little ball of misery. Likely she wouldn't have been able to move far if he hadn't released the pressure, pulling back, but Susan didn't care or pay it any mind, she was done. "I don't care, I don't know where I am, I don't know who you are, why there are creatures straight out of the mythology books everywhere, or anything. Just...stop hitting me or kill me already. I don't care anymore, I just...I just want the pain to stop. There isn't anything else left."
"I barely did anything to you, nothing more than a bit of softening up." Muttering, "I am beginning to wonder if creative methods will work..."
"Whatever, I don't care, do whatever you want you cowardly cretin," it came out empty and there was no spite or heat to it, as unmoved by the threat of violence and further abuse as he had been while doling it out. Susan just wanted to go home.
Comparatively it was bordering on kind, seeking to draw her out no doubt, "Where is your home then, girl?"
Susan hadn't realized she had spoken of her wish aloud. It should have stayed in her head. This place should just go away along with everything else, too.
Exasperated, "I told you already. Finchley. It's a large neighbourhood to the northerly side of London. You know, London? In England. It's a big island off the coast of Europe. Difficult to miss on the maps, even for the illiterate."
After a few moments of deep silence, weighty with almost audible thought. Then, the names tripped over, bungled, "Finch-lay? Loon-dune? Eeg-land? Urope? Where are these places?"
"Are you a simpleton as well as barbaric?" put out, huffing softly, her eyes still closed. The lack of blows thus far was unexpected, though not exactly encouraging either, so Susan gathered up the energy to open her eyes once more. Ruler of the Arseholes, King Cretin - as she thought of the nameless man now - was sitting there, legs crossed, holding his chin in a hand, elbow propped on a bony knee, brows drawn low over his midnight black eyes as he watched her, the dagger laying at rest over the other knee. Scoffing at him, "I didn't think you could get any worse. You really are simple as well as an ugly oaf. Is it so difficult to think of a response to that other than striking an unarmed girl?"
Sternly, gaze sharpening in focus on her once more, "You do realize that most would kill you for such words?" Face twisting into an ugly grimace, "I am the Crown Prince of Telmar and Narnia, and you have the audacity to insult me. Interesting - you are either incredibly brave, or even simpler than you dare to accuse me of being."
Releasing a sound of disgust, "Oh, that explains everything - you're some moron prince of a little no name place. That's rich." The strength to turn her back on him was scrounged up, "I always wanted to meet a prince, and it just figures that the first one I meet, beats the stuffing out of me because he's too stupid to know the truth when it racks him right in the balls, ugh, what a vile little wanker."
Out of the other things she had said, that must have been too far, for he snarled, and Susan found herself being pinned, squashed under his greater weight, straddled, a hand around her neck but not squeezing, the other yanking her hair, "You will not speak to me thusly!"
Irrationally fire scorched her veins. "Or what? You'll hit me? Defenseless little old me? Quite princely of you, very brave and regal, ever so chivalrous of you. Does that make you feel like a man?" hissing at him like an angry feline, teeth bared, animalistic. "Threatening little girls get you your jollies? Rot in hell, you poxy wog." Susan hadn't a single notion as to where the anger came from, she was good at being put out sometimes, but this took the cake. Especially considering the hazardous nature of her situation. She was just so bloody tired that even having the strength to breathe was difficult to come by. Yet she was egging the obviously deranged and violent man on as though it were little more than a game. "News flash, Dickless Wonder - you've already done your uncreative worst, and even if you had the brainpower to come up with something more, it won't work. There's nothing more to tell, there's nothing more you can do to me, there's just nothing! I already want to die and I no longer give a damn! I couldn't care less at all about it, you, your questions, or a steaming pile of horseshite! It's all the same! So why don't you remove yourfilthy hands from me, and go foist yourself on your favourite goat like the greasy dago you are!"
Surprise, shock, overcame the rage twisting his face, and he recoiled as though struck by a brand. Sputtering as his grip on her throat and in her hair relaxed, "You - you - you!"
"What?" primly she questioned, sneering at him. "Cat got your tongue? Go away! Or do your worst, it won't impress me. You've already proven you're little more than a pisspot nancy! Utterly pathetic," snapping at him softly, each word like a nail in a coffin being hammered with gross finality. For all the lack of force to her voice, the disdain poured, dripped, ran in flowing rivers of bitter, hateful rancor, "It's obvious that the better part of you was an unpleasant stain on the sheets of your parents' bed on the night of your conception. Too bad the rest of you didn't wind up in the wash, as well, it would have spared me your presence."
He practically hurled himself up and away from her bodily, limbs and body lurching, snarling to himself as he stomped from one end of the room to the other, flailing and gesticulating. "I should kill you - but you would like that would you not?" his breath was coming from him in short bursts, hands clenching and unclenching at his sides. "I could throw you to my men, or take you myself, but again you would like that would you not? Bitter, ugly little bitches like you love that sort of thing!"
"About as much as I'd like you to sit on a spear and spin," sighing, then studiously went about ignoring him, bored with the encounter.
Hours or minutes later, Susan couldn't rightly say, she kept losing time, and she came awake once more. Still on a cold stone floor. And still in pain all over her face. The stiffness was the worst. After the Crown Prince of Slimey Dago Wankers had finally ceased his pacing, Susan had gone to sleep. It was to find some escape from the horror and abuse of her day, futile and impermanent a flight it was, it was all she had to turn to for some semblance of succor. Yet now she was aware again, Susan still hated every minute of it.
Wiggling around, she decided to take stock of her surroundings once more. Maybe if she got enough energy to, she may be able to escape. And why hadn't she thought of that earlier, before the imbecile had come in to accost her? Oh, right, her legs had been completely bound, now it was just her hands, that was an improvement, not that it was much of one. On the pallet of straw - lucky bastard - her tormentor slept, the hilt of his sword grasped loosely in his hand. The blade was naked, another point of proof that he truly was an idiot, as, who the hell slept with a bared blade? Then again her opinion wasn't very high of him, it probably couldn't get any lower, even if he dragged in another hapless victim to show off how vile he was, it couldn't exceed her already set in stone estimation of his sewer quality. After all, he beat on lost girls, anyone who could do that, was able to do pretty much anything. In repose, perversely, his face lost almost all of its cruelty and he came close to looking innocent. Asleep, Susan's estimate of his age being mid twenties plummeted to late teens, or maybe even a little younger, for even Peter had more hair on his face, so perhaps he was her own age of seventeen. But how did one peg an age on such a monster, especially one so comfortable in that ugly skin? Besides, Susan hadn't any notion as to how southern Europeans aged, she just knew it was different than her own kind. A quiet noise broke her from her speculation, accompanied by a few twitches, and Susan had a moment where she felt very badly for him as he was clearly trapped in nightmare. That emotion fled very quickly though, over almost as soon as it started, as she had breathed deep, and the stabbing pain in her body reminded her to feel no pity for the rabid animal, one locked in bad dreams or not.
With a great deal of effort, Susan managed to lever herself into a sitting position, so she could better examine her bound wrists. A frown and she worried her lip, ignoring the pain that caused to her split lips, Susan was certain she recognized a few of the knots used. Peter had taught her a few things about knots when they were younger as they played, and she had found herself bound on several occasions. And of course her elder brother eventually learned that his little sister would hunt him down and return the favour in kind...with interest. Eventually he had stopped picking on her at some point. Sighing softly, despite the pain the deep breath caused, and set to work with her teeth. She was most of the way through the primary knot when her jailor sprang to his feet, sword point flicking in the air to press to her jugular.
Frozen, blinking, Susan hadn't ever seen anyone move so fast, and it took a moment for it all to register.
"Attempting to win free? To kill me?" it was soft, patient menace in the two small questions.
It was her turn to growl - she couldn't stand it when boys tried to intimidate her, and it didn't matter that nice girls didn't get into scrapes, Susan had found herself in enough of those situations to know that that was what he was trying to do. Well it wouldn't work. "While it'd be nice if you simply stopped existing, or if somehow you managed to up and finish yourself off, no. Killing you would be messy and annoying if I somehow was able to rid the world of you. And it would be far more effort than garbage like you is worth." Scooting back from him enough so she could return to chewing at the knot a bit more, mumbling around it, "But yes, I am trying to get loose. I'm sick of being tied up. You're an atrocious host, you know, your mother should take a switch to you for it."
"My mother is dead, and you will speak no ill of her," said with an odd reflexive manner, accompanied by a whack to her knuckles with the flat of his sword.
Eyes widening, Susan's mouth fell open, "Oh thats just tears it!" Clumsily she regained her feet, fumbling and bracing against the wall with an elbow, Susan brought herself up to her full height - just over five feet, barely coming to mid chest on the prince. And she let loose everything pent up, unleashing her incredulous anger, fear, and shock at all that had happened. "You are an ill mannered, disgusting, foul smelling, rude, horrid, distempered wanker! I don't care if your mother's dead - it doesn't give you license to treat me like this!" Taking another step towards him, ignoring the point of his blade that he held poised to run her through, calling his bluff enough so that he backed up minutely, his dark eyes wide in consternation, "There are no words in the English language for what you are! A menace, an idiot! A lout! A barbarian! Cretin, coward, jerk, oaf! Nothing fits you accurately, but maybe this is close enough - a selfish little, know nothing prick, who puts rocks to shame on the scales of common sense, decency and intelligence, a creature who should take that shiny stick and shove it up his goddamned arse! But whatever you do, leave me out of it, because you're less than a waste of my time! You're worth less than the spit and breath it's taking me to insult you! You just had to go and rile me up, didn't you?" With each word, Susan waved her bound hands about, following - chasing more like - him around the room as he slowly backed away from her, keeping a constant distance between them. Glaring mightily at him, "Why don't you just do everyone a favour and off yourself? It'd save the world time!"
"You have backbone," having found his own, or at least his own voice, which he lashed her with, "I will give you that. And you are somewhat entertaining, which is another point in your favour. But do not think that this allows you leeway -"
Screeching, disbelieving, head tipped back, Susan spoke to the ceiling, "Leeway? Gives me leeway? Oh that's just bloody rich, this sniveling piece of shite thinks I don't have every right to put him in his place!"
"Enough!" it was a roar. "What will it take to silence you, you evil shrew?"
Taken aback at the fact that he showed brains enough to realize that gagging her wouldn't work - she had it on good authority (chiefly her siblings) that a look from her was worse than anything she could actually say, a glower could peel paint. She hadn't thought he was capable of asking something so simple and sensible. Half of her had thought she'd have driven him to slay her by now. Mouth opening and closing, Susan tried to figure it all out, then went with a list of her ills, "I haven't eaten, I'm cold, I'm tired, and I want you to untie me!" Nodding briskly at him, as though it had been her plan all along, "That'll do for starters."
Releasing a harsh laugh, "Food is reasonable enough, but there is no way I shall unbind you - you can remain exactly as you are in that."
"Why not?" offended.
"Because, you will seek to claw my eyes out," the dark orbs widening briefly as he shrugged philosophically, and threw her own earlier sentiments back at her, "and killing you would make an awful mess of my room."
Saying as sweetly as she possibly could while fluttering lashes despite the fact that she was quite sure she looked like a bruised raccoon, which hurt anyway, "Well of course! Why ever wouldn't I do that? Seeing as you've yet to give me one reason not to do so at the first opportunity I can grasp, Your Cretinous Lordship, it'd be utterly logical for me to go for it when I can."
She was ignored with brisk efficiency, walking to the door and working it open, leaning out to speak to someone she couldn't see, "Hitastik - bring enough food for the prisoner, along with my breakfast." The door slammed shut afterwards, the leather of his brigandine jangling and clanking against itself as the rivets struck with the motion. With false graciousness, he gestured to the pallet he had been occupying not that long ago, "Be my guest and help yourself to my bed, then. Just keep quiet for a few seconds." With that he proceeded to shuck his brigandine and shirts, revealing a body that was mangled, abused and chewed up, slathered in horrific scars.
Stomach knotting, Susan's jaw dropped, as her bruised face stretched in shock, "Oh goodness me..."
Never had Susan seen something like that in her life, and she was held frozen, just...staring and standing in the middle of the room. He shot her a perturbed glance and went to the small basin, pouring a bit of water from the battered pitcher into the bowl. As he went about splashing some of it over himself, it was like he thought such minor ablutions would get him somewhat cleaner. After that single look, he ignored her, but Susan really couldn't tear her gaze away from the ravaged flesh of his broad shouldered back that narrowed rapidly into a swimmer's rangey build. The mat of scars disappeared into the top of his pants, long thick white lines, some freshly scarred, some ancient and healed, in layers to a point where there was little skin remaining that was unabused on his back. Just...great ugly lashing welts and furrows crisscrossed all over, shoulder to shoulder, and down, brushing his ribs and sides, halting at some unseen point. Sick, utterly ill, Susan's lips trembled in sympathy at the systematic, prolonged agony he must have gone through. About his chest and arms there were others, less measured, more ragged, and one or two looked like his skin had been torn in great flaps only to be sewn clumsily back in place with a child's level of skill at crosstitch.
Every single last one of them appeared to have healed badly. No one should be so beaten, tortured and gouged. A ragged creature of sinew, bone, muscle, and scars, held together with spite and violence.
The low, heavily accented voice lilted cold and arrogant, breaking through her horrified reverie, "See something you like?" Standing before her, crowding her, and Susan was the perfect height to see the life he'd had, all its evidence painting his flesh in ugly lines of venom and hate. He leaned in close, nose not far from hers, "If you are good, I may let you touch them."
Revolted by him for his attitude, "Not even if you were the last living being other than myself in the world! Ugh!"
Susan's intended venom and vitriol were missing, the levels vastly reduced from what she had summoned up earlier.
Unable to help it, Susan pitied him, not that there was anything she could actually do about it. Sniffing once to demonstrate how unruffled she was by his display, Susan turned on her heel, summoning what dignity she possessed in her scuffed up and battered uniform, to shuffle to his pallet with what little steadiness her wobbling legs could muster. Yes, she was tired - Exhausted, utterly done in - but he had ordered food brought. For the promise of food, Susan would remain awake long enough to pack it away in hopes that sleep and food would combine to be a healing thing for her body. From the corner of her eye, she watched the ruffian as he moistened and soaped his face, then began to draw the very same wicked knife he had threatened her with earlier over his skin. Wincing, Susan had a hard time looking as he scrapped it over his face in wet rasps travelling over neck, chin, jaw, cheeks, and even under his nose like it was a safety razor, or even an old fashioned straight razor. Madman, that's what he was, only explanation that was remotely sane.
Asking as he was rinsing the blade, "What's your name anyway? I could keep calling you Prince Wanker, or just Arsehole if I'm feeling overly familiar, but I have a feeling that there are more 'men' - term used loosely, mind - like you around just as deserving of those titles. So, just to keep it all straight, what do you call yourself? And do try to keep it light, because there's no way I'm going to call you 'His Majesty The Magnificent Manly Wonder of All Creation Henry' or some other mouthful of utter rubbish."
"Caspian," tilting his face to the side, making a fresh pass over one of the major veins in the neck. Susan couldn't contain a cringe at that - what if he slipped? Everyone would think she had killed him if that happened!
Dubiously, "No title of Prince Caspian, Lord of All He Surveys?"
Caspian flicked his gaze over to her, pausing his ministrations long enough to do so, "I thought we had a deal?"
Quizzically, "A deal? I don't remember any sort of agreement with you." Wrapping her arms around her legs, Susan shivered. She really wished she had something more to wear other than her damaged school uniform - she was awfully cold.
"Yes," he grunted. "The one where you silence your harpy's tongue, and in return you are fed and can sleep." Patting his face dry, gaze piercing her through the mirror's reflection, "It is far more favourable than you deserve." Towel hung on the edge of the washstand, it was revealed he hadn't nicked himself once.
Studiously forcing herself to look away from the abyss that was his presence - which had its own gravitational pull, seeking to devour everything around him - Susan shrugged, eyeing the cloak that had been tossed at the foot of his makeshift bed. "I still don't recall there being any deal." Pointing out reasonably, "At least I'm not yelling at you, that should be plenty for your miniscule, delicate ego."
Susan swore she could hear his jaw being set into a hard line as he dressed himself in his creamy, stained and faded linen tunic, the weight of his eyes unpleasant as he attempted to pin her. "I could simply cut your tongue out."
"Oh, promises, promises from the well situated man in charge to his unwilling guest," snarking at him, rolling her eyes, untroubled by his weak threat. "Does that mean I get to cut off your manhood for fairsies? Oh, wait - that's right. You haven't got anything resembling that."
For a brief moment it seemed like Caspian would snipe back at her, but a knock came at his door, making him shake his head, a dismissive waved hand relegating her to an unimportant thought.
Caspian selected one of the many pages of supply lists brought to him by Glenstorm, debating. There were only so many raids his troops could pull off successfully, and their numbers were slight compared to the might that Miraz could bring to bear... And even if Caspian's own army quintuppled in size, if the entire Council of Lords actually put their might behind Miraz - which they would if Caspian made too much of a bother, too soon. No, he needed to eat away, erode at Miraz's foundations, while keeping his own army supplied, armed, and dig in deeper at the How. Sighing, it was a headache inducing quandary, or at least a conundrum that made the headache he had been struggling with for months so many times worse. Perhaps if he pounded his head into the wall, the headache would abate? The Shrew's presence didn't help, the air she put off was just another problem he had to cope with. Making a face as he gave up rubbing his forehead with one hand, he threw a glance in the Shrew's direction - he still didn't know her name, and he didn't want to, he scowled - it would please her to no end if he bashed his brains out. Probably would have her giggling and clapping, at least if her hands were unbound.
"Are you going to continue shifting about and huffing like a fussy two year old? I'm trying to sleep," his bane grumped from beneath his cloak.
Four days, four days he had been more than accommodating to her. She was his captive, and even if she didn't know anything about where she was, she had to know something of general value. Yet finding anything out from her was nigh impossible, he had an easier time carrying on meaningful conversations with walls and gaining responses from them. However, he was tempted to smack her around a bit more, see if that would loosen her tongue. Not that it had so far the other times he attempted it, but trying again couldn't hurt. Or maybe it could, her constitution was so weak she had blacked out on him quite a few times during his initial questioning. Which, unfortunately, meant he wouldn't even get a bit of amusement tossing her about either. Clearly, she was a pampered creature, even more so than some of the whores who held titles if she couldn't handle such a light beating. Biting his tongue, Caspian refrained from granting her the satisfaction of a fight - he didn't have the energy, and his temples yet throbbed.
Caspian was curious about that - just where did the creature come from that she had never been properly cowed? Eegland, Urope, Finch-lay, Loon-dune - these were odd names. Mayhap these kingdoms would welcome the Narnians? Truly, Caspian wasn't fond of the entire war business, if he had his way, it wouldn't have ever been an issue at all. But, it had to be done. His uncle had fired the first shots to the war, dozens of bolts tearing through his bed during a time he was supposed to be asleep, yet was instead hiding in his armoire, the secret passage he had discovered as a boy protecting him for long enough to see what had been his intended demise. Miraz ordered those shots fired, that volley would be countered, and Caspian would see it through to the end. With Miraz's head on a pike. Even so, it was a pleasant thought to think of a way to shelter the rest of his people, now that the Narnians were under his protection...besides, where else would he have gained an army if it weren't for the Narnians? Professor Cornelius had always taught him on a wide range of subjects before his death, including the forbidden topics of Narnian customs, and further than that - how to find them. Up until Caspian had needed an army, he wouldn't have bothered with them, though he had, once or twice, entertained the notion (while thoroughly in his cups) that when he took his throne at the Telmarine customary age of grand inheritance when he turned twenty-five, he would enact a policy courting Narnians to return to the kingdom's fold. When sober, back then, he of course dismissed such thoughts as silly day dreams born of too much drink. Yet, now, those thoughts and promises were all that had drummed up support from the people exiled from their own land. It was a shame that Miraz's current favourite Pruniprismia had managed to bear his uncle a son... Unfortunate for Caspian, when in a few short years he could have been on his throne and ensured Miraz's loyalty by holding his son captive. Too bad really, after Miraz was dealt with, Caspian would no doubt have to kill his cousin just to make certain of things.
Pressing his forehead into his palm, Caspian let out a short growl, his mind too busy at work as light strobed and flickered for a few moments, the pain deep shafts that burrowed into his brain - such a typical thing since leaving Castle Telmar.
"Again with the noise making - some people are busy trying to be miserable and sleep here, you know," came her griping from his pallet, and this time Caspian gave her an irritated glower, and saw that she had bundled up in the thick green black wool of his cloak, until just her nose and frightfully bright blue eyes were showing. Eerie things made his skin crawl.
"All you do is sleep," he snapped at her.
She huffed, "Well if someone hadn't been so slap happy and beaten the stuffing right out of me, I wouldn't need to heal so much! Besides," peeking more of her face out, busted lips showing, mottled bruises darkening the pale skin of her face, "it's not like there's anything for me to do. You haven't untied my hands yet."
Her strange, very fair skin still showed far too much of the evidence of his blows, even though they had been bare taps in his opinion. Turning around, leaning his elbows on his desk, "You could still service my men. That would be something for you to do."
Dripping fervent disdain and sarcasm, eyes rolling heavenwards, "Oh Mr. High And Mighty, please don't promise such great rewards, otherwise I fear I'll start to like you!"
"I do not care if you like me or not, woman, I am not here to make friends. I am trying to lead an army in a war," letting his head fall back, eyes closed, mentally ceding a point to her in their little contest of wills.
Rustling as she moved around, "What is this war about anyway? You said something about someone named Miraz, and you mentioned being a prince. Are you really so splendid that you think you're more qualified to lead than this other man?" More movement, more rustles, "Because from where I'm sitting, you don't seem worthy at all - what kind of leader beats someone for no reason?"
"I barely even touched you," grunting. "And it was for a reason, if you were a spy I had to find out what you knew."
Quiet stretched for awhile and he thought she may have fallen back asleep, "So you believe me finally? Then you should let me go. I just want to go home, Caspian."
"If you are a spy, you are either very good, or very bad, at it, that is what I think." Finally opening his eyes to look at her, his head lolled to the side, ear pressed to the top of his shoulder, "Where is this Eegland and Urope? What are the troop capabilities? Are they hostile? Do they seek to invade?"
"I told you, it's England and Europe. Europe's a continent, with many countries. England is an island nation, and frankly they wouldn't want this place at all - it's filthy and terrible. Just like you," it sounded worn out, nothing more than a reflexive bit of baiting. For a moment Caspian worried that he may have actually done her real harm, she shouldn't be so tired still, and she shouldn't sound so weak. "Besides, they have their own wars to deal with, why bother with a bunch of ingrates like you?"
Groaning Caspian got up, deciding to think about his supply lists in a little bit and went over to her. There was a tiny cringe from her when he was close enough to touch her, but she hid it well. Reaching out, Caspian tugged at the cloak, trying to get a look at her state. Her chin came up like she was about to resist, but his look of warning hopefully got through enough for her to realize she better not push him right now. No protests came from her until he started to unbutton her shirt to see if there was heavy bruising or not - if it was only faint, he knew he wouldn't have to worry, but if it was too dark it could mean internal bleeding. If so, then it could explain her exhaustion and weakness.
"What're you doing?" straining against his grip, struggle beginning.
"Cease your resistance," focusing on the small buttons and holes - he'd never seen their like before, and they were difficult to unhook due to their size.
"Then stop trying to undress me," whacking at his shoulder with her bound fists.
His eyes skipped up to hers, dismissing her, "You do not have anything I have not seen before. Stop fighting, I have no interest in bedding you. It would be a waste of time, probably catch something nasty from you anyway."
Her bottom lip trembled in leashed fury and no small amount of fear, "Then why are you taking my clothes off?"
Frowning when he saw what lay beneath her shirt - she wasn't wearing a corset, just some odd scrap of cloth over her breasts. "Assessing damage. You should be stronger than you are, more recovered. Not so tired." Out came his dagger, and he proceeded to cut the rest of her shirt off. There were yellow and black and purple mottled bruises everywhere. Chewing his lip, Caspian noted that there were no scars on her at all, just the harsh contrast of contusions and fair white skin. "No wonder you are such a bitch," mumbling.
"You have never been disciplined properly, look at you," jerking her around so he could eye her back, running a hand over it, startled at how very soft her flesh was, "smooth as the ass of a babe. Not a single scar. Hmph. Again, no wonder you are such a bitch, you never learned your place."
It was whispered, "No one whips their children to teach them. A few switches or slaps, but nothing to scar. It's barbaric!"
Caspian's fingers dug into her shoulder, even as he continued his survey, "You are awfully fond of that word. And is it not what you refer to me as? Your people are soft and useless it seems, only good with words." But her skin was very soft, like silk beneath his callused fingertips as he continued to stroke it, finding the texture to be curious, much like the contrast of his skin tone against hers. "You saw the evidence upon my own flesh anyway, unless you thought I was born that way?"
To that she had nothing to say, but then, "You were whipped?"
"Of course," grunting as he pressed on a nasty bruise to gauge her reaction. The muscle didn't feel spongy and that was good, but from her sharp cry it had hurt. "Twice a week, more if I was being difficult, atop my daily training regimen," so far it was the only bruise that may bear watching, and Caspian continued, pushing on her shoulder so her back muscles tightened. "It helps one become a man." She said something but he couldn't have heard her correctly, "What did you say?"
"I said I was sorry," a bit louder.
Puzzled, he paused in his examination, attempting to gauge what he could of her expression, "Why?"
Her face turned to look at him, "No one should be beaten like that. It's cruel. It...it must've hurt a lot. So...I'm sorry you went through that."
Not liking the feeling her words brought up, Caspian pressed another contusion, punishing her for pitying him. Finished with his inspection, Caspian wrapped her back in his cloak. Brushing his hands off, he started to turn away, saying, "Your wounds are not great, you should be well enough in a while. In fact you are just fine as is, so maybe it is time to find a use for you."
Huddling into the cloak, "Um...hello. You shredded my clothes."
"So?" picking the sheaf of paper up, finger sliding down the side of the words as he mentally checked off each thing.
"So - I'm naked," huffing.
"You are covered, so why should you care?" the wood of the camp chair squeaked as he sat heavily. "And we are alone in my chambers, so again - no reason for you to worry." Not that he gave a damn. Besides, maybe feeling exposed would break down more of the barriers she had up. She had to have a use, had to have information. Otherwise she would not have been found so close to the line of his camp.
Thank you for your interest and having taken the time to read this, I truly do appreciate it.