I do not claim this story as my own because it is not. It is, in fact, a story that had been posted on this site starting in 2009 and completed in early '11. The amazing author of this brilliant story, Mockingbird Julia, had decided to take it down for reasons not known to me and her account sadly no longer exists and therefore I do not have any way to communicate with her, but she had granted her readers permission to have their own copies. I found this yesterday, which so happened to be the anniversary of the day this lovely story was completed. I believed it was high time for Satin Hostage to take readers on its remarkable journey once more. I hope you all enjoy this story as much as I did.
Satin Hostage – Chapter One
The Embrosse afternoon sun was warm on the courtyard's mosaic floor, bleaching the already dulled tiles to lighter hues of green, blue and orange. Willow trees fringing the gardens bowed in the soft breeze, bringing the scent of lilacs to servants beneath the arched pavilion. The laughter of half a dozen women drifted across the open expanse of yard to the moat.
The sound did not quite reach the man carefully observing the movements of one young woman in the courtyard.
Serena lounged on the estate's patio, watching the sun glint off the largest alabaster pool's aquamarine waters. The young Delucian native maid Viola braided the family's stone of carnelian into Serena's long blonde hair, a practice that made her mistress frown.
Not all Serena's grimace was for her hairstyle. Some she reserved for her secretly indifferent view of her impending marriage to the Embrosse-Cataduke continent's most prosperous heir, Zoicite Maeyen. The recent passing of her seventeenth birthday was the completion of her long engagement to him.
She was oblivious to the eyes that followed from a distance as she moved away from an older maid's reprimand of the Delucian girl.
"Leana," she called to the long-time servant, "leave Viola be. Take your old tongue into the house." She watched the discontented servant mutter and take her leave. Serena strolled through the fragrant garden, burying the carnelian weighted braids in her hair. Uncle Methuen's vast estate was secure with the moat completely circling the grand house and grounds. Her betrothal to Methuen's nephew Zoicite had made her accept as home the beautiful fortress-like palace, a striking combination of security and beauty.
In some ways her fiancé's country of Embrosse was easy in which to live. She loved its lush meadows and emerald frosts, but not the thundering rainstorm that left a new, wet world in its wake. Her homeland of Izramuth was mostly desert and she'd never seen rain until the voyage to Methuen's house.
The sun shone brightly off her hair as she removed her slippers and sat beside a small pool of exotic gold and purple fish. From afar she heard the growl of thunder, but the afternoon sky held no clouds. Sometimes storms swept in quickly from the sea half a day's ride west. Those were the worst storms.
The thunder grew louder as she felt it rumble in the ground. Voices within the house rose to shouts. She glanced at Viola standing at the patio, frowning as the servant girl called frantically to her in her native language.
Serena stood. Viola's eyes were wide and she was babbling something Serena could not understand. The Viola ran out of sight around the corner of the house.
A chorus of cries and screams from deep within the house prompted Serena to move. It was not the threat of rain she had heard, but the echo of horse hooves. At the end of the garden a horse and rider appeared. She looked there and the man spotted her immediately. With a whimper she darted across the garden into the maze of hedges. The man kicked the horse into motion behind her.
Invasion? she thought, her mind racing as fast as her feet. Who? How could it be?
She hurried into the high sculpted bushes, hearing the thick footfalls of the horse in pursuit. For several long moments she lost the man in the hedges. She turned a corner and crouched in an alcove of greenery, stifling cries of her own as screams of agony and begs for mercy reached her ears from the house.
She slowly sunk back into the hedge, her breath stuck in her throat as she watched the man round the corner, searching the maze. With only a turn of his head she would be found. He was a tall man, strongly built, a cloth tied around his head to keep his dark hair back. He was no one she'd seen before, a fact that made her heart sink.
She pushed her back against the tight hedges, ignoring the barbs biting into her flesh, until her hand felt empty space beyond the outside bush wall. Just as she broke through it she saw the man halt the horse and turn.
Serena was fleeing across the sloping lawn when she heard the horse crash through the hedge and a grunt from behind her, but she didn't look back. The trample of hooves grew louder, quicker. Her bare feet raced toward the deep moat. Suddenly the hot breath of the horse passed over her neck and an arm swept her from the ground.
For a terrible moment she thought she'd slip under the horse's pounding hooves as the man abruptly turned the animal. He lifted her higher, his arm tight around her still as she struggled against him. His other hand pulled her knee over the horse's back. Despite her elbowing, squirming, and cursing she found herself sitting in front of him. She twisted futilely again until she saw the moat looming before them. She forgot to fight as thoughts of colliding with the opposite stony bank entered her mind. The horse wouldn't make it, even with only one rider. The animal was spurred faster.
The horse gathered for the mighty leap and they landed solidly on the other grassy side. Instead of turning in the direction of the trade road, the man behind her headed the horse west to the hills.
The horse's pace hadn't slackened, but the man relaxed his hold on her. She sensed this and threw her leg over the horse's neck. She swung down, but not off, and failed to dislodge the man as she had hoped. She hung there, suspended and flailing, as he reined in the horse. He hoisted her back onto the horse, which danced and snorted at the movement.
"You left none?" the man behind her said, but he was not speaking to her. Serena sat still as more horsemen surrounded them. Their clothes were bloodstained, armaments hanging at belts and baldrics. Unconsciously she cringed from their leers, her back pressing against her captor.
"None alive." It came from a wiry, stringy haired lanky man to her left. She returned a frown to his look of amusement.
"Good," the man behind her said.
They moved off again at a canter, a mild gait compared to the previous mad gallop. Serena made no further attempts to leave the horse, knowing she would be trampled in the crowd before even regaining her feet.
She decided the men were not soldiers, but they moved with a certain unity, as if taking silent commands from the man behind her. It took an hour to leave the Sol Min Valley and another to clear through the forest of phyllia trees. The little used road they came upon was disappointingly void of traffic. Her hopes of drawing attention to her situation vanished.
She heard many slants of the Embrosse dialect from the men in those hours, but no one spoke of who they were or where they were going. She did not attempt to speak to her captor, half sick at the attack and what her immediate future might be. Her fingers were laced in the horse's mane and she now unclenched them, leaving purple nail marks in her palms.
The man noticed this movement. He took her hand in his own, his thumb turning the carnelian and onyx signet ring she wore. She snatched her hand from him.
"You'd best cooperate," he told her, but showed no further interest in the ring. Her hold on the horse tightened again.
They reached a small village on the coast before dark. The villagers warily eyed the score of sweaty horses and riders as they arrived. The men continued through town and halted at the pair of docks on the Bellarth Ocean. The smell of the sea mingled with pineapples and it reminded Serena how far she was from home. She didn't recognize the red and black flag raised over the only ship docked. Nervously she glanced again at the men in her escort. Pirates? On horseback?
The man behind her dismounted and offered her his hand. She kicked at him, but he easily eluded her as the other men chuckled. She tried to swing off the opposite side of the horse, but he wrenched her off his side, fingers tight on her wrist.
"Sell all the horses but this one," he was saying to the man he had spoken to earlier. "Divide the money among the crew, and be back by morning."
Men and horses dispersed back into town and the man towed Serena up the dock to the ship. She halted halfway, legs braced staunchly on the rough wooden planks. He looked at her with irritation, making her cringe.
"If you insist on being dragged," he said wearily, "at least wait until we're on board. The dock's not planed and you'll get more slivers than it's worth."
She frowned, pulling from him in vain. "You don't know what you're doing! My fiancé will have you flogged to death. He'll hang all your crew. You'll never get away with this!"
"I trust not."
His hand on her wrist snapped her into motion again and she found herself approaching the gangplank extended from the ship. Her other hand fastened on the deck's rail, jerking him to a stop. This time when he turned he didn't bother to argue with her. In one movement she was slung over his shoulder like a sack of grain.
Serena shrieked, arms waving, trying to reach the knife at his belt as they descended the short stair beneath the quarterdeck and entered the darkened cabin. He passed through the first section of this to a rear room, where he dumped her on the bed and abruptly left.
He was gone before she got to her feet. The door closed behind him, its lock rattling. She stood shakily in the dim, alien room, barely breathing. The only light came from a flickering oil lamp bolted above the small table against one wall. She went there instinctively, knocking her shin on a wooden chest at the end of the bed. She frantically unplugged the small cleat holding the lamp to the wall with trembling fingers. She turned up the wick.
The light shown brighter on the spacious room, and she was surprised to find it orderly and clean. The bed was centered against the aft wall, its tall dark wood posts carved with figures from Luresian legends. Besides the small table at the starboard wall was an armoire, upholstered bench, washstand and chinoiserie screen near the aft corner. She touched the satin black lacquered finish on the last item, then the enameled orchid design.
She went to the end of the bed and tested the lid on the chest to find it locked. Across it was a fireplace in the wall shared by the first room. Below the mantle a shadowed light seeped in through the grate. She crouched, giving the opening more attention and found that the fireplace serviced both rooms. It was large enough to crawl through, but the lowered grate barred any passage. She set the lamp on the hearth and tried to lift the metal piece, in vain, and decided it was locked into place from the other room.
On either side of the mantle were closets built into the wall, but all were locked. She investigated the armoire with the lamp, and to her surprise found a rack of dresses and other clothes in the drawers. The left door opened to reveal a floor length mirror, making her start to see her own reflection.
The uneasy feeling in her stomach now turned into a spasm. Quickly she closed the armoire. Why a woman's clothes? The fears she had fought on the long ride now threatened her senses, but she knew not give in to them. She went to the washstand where a comb and brush and two small clay jars lay.
Although they held a certain familiarity, she did not touch them. Desperately she tried to open the window above the bench. It held tight, as did the ones at the table and other wall.
The trembling in her stomach made her legs weak, but she refused to sit down. The portside wall was much like the one with the armoire with a free-standing closet and washstand, but here the detailing was decidedly more common. A third cupboard rattled, a metal clanking sound, when she shook its case, but would not open. Inside the second wardrobe were more clothes - a man's clothes, and on the washstand basin were a few short light hairs from a recent shave.
Now Serena did sit down, slowly, on the bed. This was no hasty raid on an unsuspecting household. This had been planned well in advance. They had left no one else alive, only her, and they had traveled inland half a day to get her. Horses had been used and were now being sold. Except for his. She also recalled that nothing had been carried off from the house - no plunder. The men that accompanied her captor had no spoils, and there had been plenty to pillage from the Maeyen estate.
She looked back to the washstand with the comb and brush. Maybe they had belonged to another woman. Maybe she was only one in a long line of captives brought here.
The door opened suddenly and he stepped in, making Serena yelp and jump to her feet. She dropped the lamp, spilling oil on her skirt and catching it on fire. She winced and flinched as the heat clung to her leg. He set his own lamp on the chest and ripped off the lit length of her hem, stepping on the flames.
She increased the distance between them. "What are you going to do?"
"Sit down," he repeated more sharply.
She sat, biting her lip against the searing pain at her calf. She flinched from him when he reached for it. He threw her a dark look, and she resisted moving away when he took her bare foot. He examined the burns for a moment, and then retrieved a cork stopped jar from one of the locked cupboards. She watched him replace the key that hung from a chain at his neck. He handed her the jar.
"Caron oil. It'll take the sting away, and it won't scar."
She opened the jar, a strong almond smell coming from it. "We always use saffron."
"The caron is better." He collected the pieces of broken lamp and lit another candle lantern hanging from a ceiling beam.
She smoothed the oil on gingerly. Within seconds the pain had noticeably numbed.
He stripped off his headband and ran a hand through his dark hair, and she realized he was younger than she'd first thought. "When does your husband come back?"
"He's not my husband," she corrected. Lack of regret slipped into her tone.
"You're betrothed to him," he stated factually, his shadow falling over her. "What is it? A matter of months?"
She did not reply, but handed back the jar.
"When did he leave?"
"If you don't return me now, he'll have ten ships after you," she warned. "He has -"
"Eight ships," he told her, watching surprise slip over her face. "I sank two last month."
She studied him slowly, carefully, deciding she would not aid his cause with the slightest degree of help. Her chin tilted with distaste. "You're lying. You don't even know his name."
He put the jar on the washstand near the changing screen, watching her attention go to the door. "I sank the Ten Bells and Northern Hoshi," he recalled levelly. "And your husband's name is Zoicite Maeyen, relation to the late Ros dem Methuen Maeyen."
"And who are you?"
"Darien Montaro, captain of the Eliana Nor."
Serena shied, her courage wavering. She had expected him to be much older to have accumulated so many stories of ruthless conquest off the colder, northern ocean seaboards. Yes, she'd heard stories of him, but was unsure how many were true. But if even half held any truth she would have been better off slain at the house.
"No," she murmured to herself. "Captain, he'll pay whatever you ask, Zoicite will. Please, let me -"
"I plan on returning you, Ros Dey Maeyen, but -"
"It's Bella Ver," she corrected stiffly, then chided herself at making the distinction against what would become her married title.
He smiled at the interruption. "Dey Serena Bella Ver," he said deliberately, "if you wish to return to the Sol Min Valley, you will have to do as I say." From outside someone shouted. He took a key from his pocket and turned to the door. "There are clothes in the closet."
She remained on the bed after he was gone, her mind as numb as the burns on her leg. The day was too much. She took a deep, shaky breath. She could think of many stories of him and his crew, none flattering. Most placed the Eliana Nor in the brisk Northern Croa Sea around Nya Gakari and Mortania. He was easily seven or eight years her senior, not an age she thought a pirate captain to be. Perhaps some of the stories were confused with other pirates. She shook her head. It didn't matter.
He didn't plan to keep her. He was going to take her back. Or, that's what he said, she thought without consolation.
But it could not be any time soon, or there would be no need for those, she reconsidered with a glance at the armoire and screen.
She went to the washstand and took the hairbrush, holding it up to the lantern. It was clean, new. She examined the dresses in the armoire again. They were skillfully made of fine gauze and silks and their seams showed no wear. Everything was new.
Perhaps he would return her tomorrow, after - No, Serena thought with determination. Surely he hadn't raided and slaughtered an entire household for what could be readily obtained in the village. She had seen plenty of women on the street as they rode through. Then it was money. Zoicite's family was one of the wealthiest in Embrosse and Cataduke.
Her eyes rested on the floor length curtain on the aft wall she hadn't seen earlier. She investigated this more and learned it partitioned off the water closet. This small room was provided with a tiny barred window and out it she could see only the darkening horizon. Another lamp was pegged to the wall here, its candle short and the wax melted into a puddle in the bottom of the thick glass of the lamp.
She didn't change her clothes, nor continue to search for a weapon. The cabin was shut up; Darien had anticipated her actions. A means of escape would have to come when the door or window was unlocked.
He returned shortly and with him came a young teen boy who placed a plate of food on the small table. She couldn't determine his nationality, and his wariness of her conveyed no empathy for her imprisonment. He looked with curiosity at her under Darien's watchful eye, but took his leave without speaking. Darien shut the door and gestured to the table.
"Eat. It's sausage and anise, Serena," he added when she made no move from the bed post.
"I'm not hungry."
He shrugged, taking a dark bottle from a locked cupboard near the mantle. He took a long drink, and then held it out to her. She shook her head, looking with disdain at the bottle.
"Please yourself," he said indifferently. He took another bottle from the shelf and put it by the plate. "Gooseberry wine from Delucian. It's not strong."
She held his stare as he lit another hanging lamp.
"When will Zoicite be back?"
She stalled answering for a long moment, unwilling to aid in her own tragedy. He was about to ask again she said: "I don't know."
"I believe you do."
She stood her ground when he stepped nearer. "Think what you like, Captain, but I do not know." She watched his hard blue eyes drop over her slowly, making her both angry and blush deeply.
"We'll have to send him something. To prove you're here."
She frowned at the smell of the whiskey on his breath. "He'll have you drawn and quartered if you touch me."
He nodded, setting the bottle on the table. "And well he should too. At the very least."
She stepped back as he took the long knife from his belt. She lunged as his hand grabbed her hair, and then moved to her neck as she struggled to pull away. Her fingernails dug into his arm as he brought her closer.
"Hold still, Serena," he said when she resisted. "I just want the braid." She tried to push from him as the hand on her neck slid down her back, anchoring her against him.
"You can't cut my hair," she said through gritted teeth.
"Would you prefer an ear?"
She felt a tug and saw a thin braid in his hand. He released her and she backed quickly away. "He'll kill you!" she bit out, touching her neck and glaring at him.
"If he doesn't cooperate, we'll send him a finger next time."
She looked at him in horror as he holstered the knife, the red carnelian beads still attached to the braid.
He glanced back at her, stepping closer as she retreated. "Do you have another braid?"
She stepped away. "You don't need two. One is -"
He reached to the other side of her head and found the braid. "Take it out."
She tried to pull the braid from him. "Why do -"
"Take it out or I'll cut it out!" he bellowed.
She withdrew as he relinquished the braid, surprised at the venom in his tone over mere beads. Her fingers nimbly removed the stones and plait, leaving the blonde hair crimped.
He held out his hand. She hesitantly gave him the beads. He stepped away, appraising the braid.
"You should change your clothes," he said with more temperance. He put the braid on the mantle and finished the bottle of whiskey, watching her smooth her hair with nervous fingers. "You smell like a lamp wick."
When he had moved to the far end of the room, Serena sat timidly at the table, her eyes following him as her stomach knotted. She looked at the plate before her when his back was turned. The aroma of the anise and meat stirred her growing appetite. It was a strangely appealing meal, uncommon to her normal diet. She took a small bite, and then sampled the spinach and noodles as her hunger flourished. She broke open the roll of black bread.
He opened the window by the door, admitting a warm breeze into the stuffy room. She felt it immediately and looked up from her plate to see him drop the carnelian beads out the window.
With the breeze came the smell of pineapple groves and sounds of village night activity. She looked longingly past him at the small lights from the homes in town, wondering when knight had fallen.
Her attention flicked to him. "Will you open them all?"
He shook his head, pulled off his shirt and tossed it on a wall hook. "Not tonight. How long will Zoicite be gone?"
She swallowed the sausage and looked at the bottle on the table, keeping him in her peripheral view. "Is there any water?"
"Answer the question."
She ate in silence for a moment under his heavy scrutiny, making an effort not to look at him. He leaned against the window and crossed his arms.
"I told you already, Serena, how long you stay here depends partly on your participation."
She returned his attention and took a deep breath, consenting. A little cooperation may get her further than defiance. "He's been gone for almost a month. An Embrossen month," she added, figuring the difference between Embrosse's ten-day week and the seven-day week used by two other continents.
Darien nodded. "When is he to come back?"
"I told you already, I don't know." She saw that he did not believe her and her gaze went back to the plate. "I really don't know," she said tiredly.
Her eyes lifted as he went into the first room and returned with a jug of water that he set on the table, shaking his head when she withdrew.
"There's your water."
Serena poured her mug full after he'd gone back to the window. From the low-beamed ceiling he unlashed a hammock and tied it to a truss by the fireplace wall. It crossed the door effectively.
She watched this with a mixture of relief and hopefulness, her blue eyes resting on the small points of red her fingernails had left on his arm earlier. She finished eating and drank three cups of water before he extinguished both lights. Her eyes adjusted slowly to the darkened room. She heard the hammock creak under the beam.
In the scant light that fell from the clouded twin moons she could see him lying in the hammock. He stuffed a pillow behind him, watching her at the table. After a moment she went to the bed and sat at the head of it, drawing her knees close, and pulling at the top sheet. She could see his outline by the door.
"There are slips in the closet, and a pelisse," he said quietly as a bobwhite called through the still night.
She made no remark, curling against the headboard, watching him intently. Her back sagged at the black walnut wood, the mattress feeling especially comfortable despite the situation.
A soft breeze cooled the room slowly. Her thoughts turned to plans for escape, but sleep engulfed her within moments.