Bonds That Form
Kevin Levin took Michael Morningstar's Castle and Fief, and exacted cruel vengeance on the nobility he hated, but someone caught his eye, a young girl who wasn't like the rest of them, and he is drawn to her, a woman named Gwen Tennyson.
Chapter One: The Prisoner Underground
"These sorts of stories never end the way they're supposed to. The dashing knight never rescues the princess, he ransoms her for money. If they marry it's not for love. The minstrels change the ending to please the commoners. It never ends well in real life." –Gwen Tennyson.
They fought for hours, his arms ached and his armor was soaked in the blood of the knights that had defended the Castle, he unleashed feral screams as he slashed through knights, watching them fall as their blood splattered on his dirty armor.
"This place is finally mine, and Michael, I'm going to enjoy ransoming you for so much money, it'd make your head spin!"
"Just try it Levin, I'll be the one getting the ransom money this time!" Michael snarled.
"Have at thee, bastard!" Kevin slashed at him.
Their swords rang, but not above the din of chaos as their knights fought like animals, doing anything it took to kill or maim their opponent. There was nothing but pure chaos.
Michael managed to slice Kevin's arm where some of the chainmail had ripped, he screamed in pain and lost his concentration, instead of trying to kill him, Michael fled, "Don't let him escape!" he ordered. It was too late, Michael Morningstar had disappeared.
Far below in the dungeons of the castle, the other prisoners listened to the voice of a woman spoke to them, describing the battle above, how people died and what weapons were used to kill. Some prisoners thought she was a witch, but she was well versed in the ways of warfare, being a noble, she could recognize the sound of weapons.
"These sorts of stories never end the way they're supposed to. The dashing knight never rescues the princess, he ransoms her for money. If they marry it's not for love. The minstrels change the ending to please the commoners. It never ends well in real life." Gwen sighed.
"I can hear the screaming through the ceiling. They rape, they kill, they slaughter, men, women, and children, young, old. The irony of safety in a hole. The noble, chivalric knights wouldn't hesitate to kill me, even if I pleaded for my life. If I told them who my family was, they would spare me, but I wouldn't be able to say the words before I had a blade though my neck."
She shuddered, despite the fact that she was already cold from being in a cold, dark hole that Michael had imprisoned her in after dragging her from her home to ransom her to get out of debt.
He also had ulterior motives, he wanted to bed her for his own amusement, and he could hide behind chivalry because his belief in respecting a woman's honor was to sleep with her until he grew tired of her. She had rebuffed him multiple times, and not with panicked screams or cries for help, she'd beaten him with her fists and broken his arm and he had thrown her in the oubliette, a dungeon underground where the only opening was a trapdoor.
Gwen ate the cold, hard bread given to her for her daily rations, it had been lessened during the siege, but since she was being ransomed by her father for a great deal of money, she couldn't die.
Every day she would glimpse her jailor, but he would never speak to her, he would just bring her a cup of water and bread and leave.
Suddenly, everything became much quieter, Gwen spoke to the air. "The battle is over, invaders won."
"Hey Lady, any chance they've killed Michael Morningstar?" a prisoner shouted.
"No, he's too clever, but hopefully, the new lord will be kinder to us," Gwen called out. She didn't know whether it was day or night, but her body drifted off to sleep. She didn't dream, and for that, she was very grateful.
She heard the door to her cell open above her. Was it the next day already? She looked up, expecting her jailor to come down with bread and water.
"Who are you?" the man inquired, Gwen didn't recognize him.
"I am Gwendolyn Tennyson, my father is Lord Frank Tennyson of Bellwood."
"You are lucky then, My Lady, the new Lord, Kevin Levin is throwing a feast for all the nobles."
"He is very kind and generous, I didn't think he cared," the man helped her out and followed her.
He said something as she disappeared from sight, "Unfortunately, he doesn't care about nobles at all, and he is far from kind. Poor girl, I could pity you."
One of the prison guards looked at Kevin, "We found one last prisoner in the oubliette Sir. She claims she's a noble from the city of Bellwood."
"Fine," Kevin scowled. "Bring her in and give her a seat." He was going to enjoy tormenting these nobles with what they took for granted, their free food, fine drinks and their disgustingly opulent lifestyle.
He sat them down and he had deduced their value according to what he knew about them, they would be worth a great deal to him when he ransomed them back to their fiefs, but he intended to get as much out of them as he could.
"I am feeling generous to you, not only will I give you a feast, but I will hear any requests you have."
Immediately, demands for being moved from the dungeons to the apartments rang out. He ordered to them to be silent and whisper to the guards what they wanted. He would have one guard from every table come and give him their requests.
Gwen heard the guards laughing. "What are the odds the women will ask for a bath?"
"No, no, a castle apartment with a warm fire!" the other howled.
"And you, Lady, what do you want?" the guard who had laughed asked, she could tell he was pretending to be serious.
"Just a blanket, I want a lot of things, but it's all I need for now."
He immediately fell silent, that wasn't a particularly amusing request.
He left to inform Kevin of what had occurred.
"Kevin, I have found records of the nobles that Michael kept here for ransom, but there has to be a mistake in the records," his accountant, a young man by the name of Cooper Daniels gestured to a book.
Kevin took the book and read the entry, in clear writing, "The prisoner in the oubliette, Gwendolyn Tennyson, of Bellwood, daughter of Lord Frank Tennyson, 10,000,000 gold pieces."
"She must be beautiful if she's worth that much!" he joked.
"Have you seen Lord Tennyson's wife, Kevin?" Cooper asked. Kevin recalled that he had. She'd been very beautiful by anyone's standards.
"Yes," Kevin replied.
"His daughter Gwendolyn is quite lovely."
"I've never seen his daughter."
"She was invited as Michael's "guest" years ago."
"Am I reading this correctly that this ransom is ten million gold pieces?" Kevin was shocked. Such a ridiculous sum, he could never hope to have that much money in his entire life.
"Yes," Cooper looked at Kevin, "It's not that Michael didn't need the money, he wanted to pay you back, but he did it to spite Gwen."
"Shouldn't you call her "Lady" Gwendolyn?" he asked, mocking her title.
"I am close friends with her; I have the privilege of calling her Gwen."
"I know of Frank Tennyson, he doesn't have that much money," Kevin scoffed, "No one could afford to ransom anyone at this price, not around here anyway. I won't even receive half that for all the people in this room."
"Are you…going to ransom her for that much?" Cooper asked.
"Why should I care?"
"Kevin, please reconsider. I know her, she doesn't deserve to suffer. She's suffered enough at Michael's hands; I don't want her to suffer because of you too!"
"Nobles only deserve suffering!"
"Kevin, she's not like the others."
"I don't want to hear anymore about some noble slutte, don't talk about her to me again!"
Cooper accepted defeat and sighed.
"What are you going to do?" Cooper asked.
"I'm going to test them, see if they truly understand what it's like to truly suffer."
He went from table to table, asking the other nobles if they had suffered, they complained of the rats and the uncomfortable beds, of no light and being cold and no blankets and that they had suffered terribly and that their windows had such tiny views of the outside.
Kevin smirked and left them, he saw the woman he didn't recognize.
"Who are you?" he demanded gruffly.
"My name is Gwendolyn Tennyson," she replied. Kevin noticed she didn't add a title to her name, referring to herself as "Lady", but he knew that her father was a famous lord and had conquered several castles before he had settled down and gotten married to a woman he had made a childhood marriage promise with.
"Have you suffered?" he sneered.
"Yes I have," Gwen replied. He noticed her eyes, they were familiar to him, but they were filled with such melancholy it could break his heart. He stubbornly refused to let this girl affect his emotions.
Gwen exerted great effort in holding back tears; she'd seen the other noblewomen "cry" as they complained of their plight. She could tell they were insincere, he could tell it as well, he would just assume that she was acting like a stage performer like the rest of the rich, fat, bastards in the room.
"Yes, my lord…I…I…" Gwen fought for words, but the lump in her throat and the rush of emotions that she might actually speak to someone about her misery made her want to cry even more.
"In which way, is it the rats, the cold, no precious blanket or comfortable bed?" he spoke each word with a biting sarcasm that she recognized immediately.
She managed to regain her composure.
"I can't even walk in my cell; I have no view of the outside. There is no one to talk to, not even a jailor."
"One night in prison is hardly suffering," smirked.
"Yes, but I haven't seen the outside of the dungeon until tonight, and I don't know what year it is."
"It is the year 1248," Kevin replied. "You must be joking that you don't know that."
Gwen groaned miserably. The guards beside her were deeply moved.
"Five years of my life…gone…"
Gwen began to cry, it wasn't loud, hysterical cries like the other women, but a deep, low groan of agony. She visibly shuddered and her shoulders shook. She beat the table with her fist and screamed in despair.
"Damn it! DAMN IT!"
Kevin was momentarily startled by the outburst, but he wouldn't fall for it. He clapped his hands mockingly.
"Well done! Well done! You do put on quite a show, lovely Gwen," he sneered. Gwen visibly shuddered; she never wanted to hear another man call her that. It was one of Michael's many names for her; it was just the most pleasant one he used.
Kevin examined the table, expecting to see small drops of water where Gwen had splashed water from the cup onto her face, but he didn't find any.
He turned and left her, but not before he heard her say something.
"I am the most miserable creature on the face of the earth." She hung her head and turned her attention to the food she'd chosen to eat.
Gwen stared sadly at the others who were gorging themselves on food like it was theirs. Kevin watch her eat, and all he saw was what he'd given prisoners as their daily rations and she ate it and didn't touch one bite of the rich food that surrounded her.
He left her, deeply disturbed. He couldn't take his eyes off her. She was beautiful, he could see it, even though she was gaunt and pale from prison, he felt blood rushing through his body and longing rushed through him, he willed himself to calm down. He wasn't one of those bastards that took women to his bed just because he could.
His lust had subsided for now; he had other business to attend to.
"Lords and Ladies, you have feasted on my food, now I shall tell you how much you owe me for this fine feast I've given you."
"Ah, we can pay it, we have money!" One of them shouted.
"It's double what its worth," Kevin stated, their cries of protest were music to his ears. He looked at the sums of money and noticed that Gwen hadn't even eaten a handful of coins worth of food. Why was her ransom so high if she didn't even have money to pay for the food he'd given her? Did she know he was planning on playing off their greed?
Kevin saw the others throw down their money, glaring at him. He saw Gwen place down her coins, not nearly enough for what he was asking. The guards around her seemed to take pity on her and paid the rest of it. He was shocked that she had any money at all; she stared at him but didn't say a word as the others threatened to make him pay for insulting them.
"You will have one hour to do whatever you wish in this castle, but try to escape and you will be shot."
He wandered out to the courtyard, gloating in his vengeance, they would pay for being greedy and he would enjoy hearing them complain.
"Sir, all the requests are in," one of his knights began naming off various lords and ladies and what they wanted. Kevin was becoming irritated when the requests are all similar.
"Just say that a bunch of them want the Castle apartment and be done with it! It's not even funny anymore."
"Lady Gwendolyn Tennyson requested a blanket."
Kevin was startled. "Of all the things she could ask for, you'd think she'd ask for something extravagant."
"I am a prisoner, prisoners don't receive special treatment," Gwen spoke up behind him.
He turned to her, "I have been good and generous to you, I spared your life when I could easily execute prisoners. I've given you food and I'm considering your request, along with the others."
"You have no intention of giving anyone anything."
"That's what you think, but I am good, kind and generous to my friends. I have won renown in battle and taken anything I've wanted."
Gwen had enough of his boasting and snapped.
"Save your chivalric bullshit! It's all a lie; knights only care about three things, glory, war and placing baubles in the holes of any pretty bitch they please. You're just like the rest of them!"
She braced herself for the stinging slap that she knew would come.
Kevin began to laugh. "You are just like me! You think just like I do!" his eyes were filled with mirth one second, then an angry rage.
He gripped her arm painfully and pulled her close. "But I don't like being insulted, and I won't forget what you said to me. I'll be going now."
He turned and began walking away.
"Please don't go!" she whispered in his ear, holding him against her, Kevin was startled by her actions. He instinctively wrapped his arms around her.
"Tell me you care about me, that you'll take care of me, that everything is all right."
"I don't mean those things!" he growled. "It'd be a lie."
"I don't care if you mean them or not, I just need you to say them."
He repeated the words, he tried to lie, but he knew that he meant them in a strange way. She was leaning against him, he backed up until he brushed against a tree, he settled down against it, holding her, whispering sweet nothings in her ear, he didn't even realize what he was saying to her.
She turned around so she could look up at the stars; they stayed that way for what seemed like forever.
"Why are you acting so strange?" he asked, puzzled. There was no mockery or malice in his voice and Gwen noticed.
"I have been alone for five years, for just one hour, I don't want to be alone, even if you hate me…I want to be with someone while I have one hour of freedom. My father will be here soon to take me home, just a little while longer…"
Kevin felt the shield of his resolve cracking under the strain of this woman's battered soul.
"Lady Gwendolyn, you have to go back," her guards approached her, she didn't protest, she just got up and walked to them.
"I'm ready to go back," she whispered. "Thank you."
"For what?" Kevin asked.
"You are the first person who has let me come outside in five years; you have been very kind to me. So thank you."
Kevin had always prided himself on being hard-hearted, but that resolve was crumbling. He had always been called cruel, but for her to call him kind, shattered any hatred he might have had towards her for being a noble.
"Take Gwen up to the castle apartments and let her sleep."
"You called me Gwen," she seemed to smile at him. "Only close friends call me that."
He didn't say a word, he watched her leave.
"Say Cooper, is she related to Ben Tennyson?" Kevin asked.
"You finally saw the resemblance?" Cooper asked, surprised. "She's his older cousin."
"Older?" Kevin raised his eyebrow surprised.
"By ten minutes, they were both born on the same day."
"She's what?" Cooper prodded.
"She's the most beautiful and extraordinary girl I've ever seen." He turned and walked away, not saying another word.