Slaves of the Sword - Kristine Lichtlider - ebook
Opis

DESCRIPTIONPowerful knights ravish beautiful slave girls in a richly detailed fantasy world populated by dragons and faerie women. Return to the Kingdom where Sir Bruno and his allies hack their way back north, Lady Katherine Mannix is defiled publicly yet again, and a sneaky thief gets caught and pays the price with her own naked body...Fantasy politics collide with steamy bdsm action for an explosive thriller you can't put down.EXCERPTThe guards argued for several moments as to who would do the searching. While they argued she was carried across the room and shoved down onto her bottom. She winced as they applied thumbscrews, trapping her digits inside of the cruel devices. This was bad. Normally the Roach was a master escape artist, but with her fingers trapped it would be almost impossible to free herself.Worse, they applied the thumbscrews in such a way so as to bind her hands behind her back. There was little point in resisting when one of the guards rudely shoved his hand down her trousers, searching for and finding everything but the pocket.“Say now!' she yelped. “That's not the secret pocket—ooooh!”“This is no child,” said the first guard. “And no virgin either.”“That's rather personal—aaah! Your fingers are very rough, sir!”“Sorry,” he said in a tone that implied that he was not, in fact, the least bit sorry. He used his index and ring fingers to spread her pussy open, and Roach pulled in vain at the thumbscrews. “I sure haven't found a ruby.”“That's because you're not looking in the right place,” the Roach said. “I told you—by the Allfather!--it's in my wa-waistband...”Roach's head tilted back as the guard shoved his fingers the rest of the way into her twat. His compatriot removed her trousers with an efficient jerk. Her naked skin now exposed to the heat of the flame, she felt intensely vulnerable.“That will be quite enough!” she shouted. “This violates my rights to a fair trial under kingdom law!”“Uh,” said the second guard, scratching his greasy beard “does it?”“I don't know,” said the first “and I don't give a bloody fuck!”He motioned toward the wall bearing chains and implements of torture.“Go get that Scold’s bridle,” he said. “That will shut her up.”“Oh dear,” the Roach said as the man approached her with the metal contraption. It bore steel straps that would be screwed around her head, and a wide metal plate where her mouth would be. There was a socket on the inside which could bear a variety of implements, none of them pleasant.The guard picked up a nasty bit of spiked metal. The Roach winced as he screwed it into place. Once the mask was on, she would be unable to move her tongue so much as an inch without causing herself pain and misery.Her chin was cradled and the mask shoved toward her. Roach tried keeping her mouth tightly shut, but then the guard—fingers still buried in her dripping wet twat—made her mouth fly open as he toyed with her nether holes. The metal gag went inside, and the mask was fitted to her face.“Strip her,” said the first guard “she might have a concealed weapon. Using his knife, the second guard cut her clothing free, revealing pointed throwing stars, caltrops, a collapsible crossbow and her climbing gear. It also revealed the ruby, which had been a real enough attempt to bribe the guards.“Look at that,” said the first guard, picking up the gem. “She was telling the truth.”

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Kristine Lichtlider’s

Kingdom of Pain 4

Published by Lot’s Cave

Kingdom of Pain No.4

Slaves of the Sword, © 2017, by Kristine Lichtlider

All Rights Reserved

All Characters In This Book Are Age 18 Or Older

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only and may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this ebook with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this ebook and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to the Lot’s Cave website and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

A Lot’s Cave Novel

www.LotsCave.com

CONTENTS

Prelude

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Dramatis Personae

~~~~~~~~~

Author’s Note

Taboo Exotica

BDSM Erotica

Other Novels

Kingdom of Pain

THE STORY SO FAR

Welcome to the Northern Kingdom, where sword fights and political intrigue are nearly as common as naked bound wenches waiting to serve their masters (or mistresses.) Bruno Cromwell, Knight Templar, is dispatched with his squire to the small village of Ravensford, where he encounters Faerie woman Aven of Still Hollow. Bruno learns of a rebellion brewing and takes steps to stop it, with some meddling by an Imperial Assassin named the Grey Death.

Meanwhile, in the south, a petty dragonslayer—who hunts dragons the size of chickens—is put to the test when he must contend with a full grown, fire breathing monster. Aided by powerful but enslaved wizard Stella (who is never allowed clothing) he must contend with both supernatural forces and the machinations of city politics.

And in the city of Fort Drakken, oft-chastised noblewoman Katherine of Mannix witnesses her father lose a duel to the cruel King Drakken himself. Forced to accept the King's proposal of marriage, she plots in secret with master thief the Roach to free her father from captivity.

Bruno, Aven, and his squire continue north, intending Regicide to fulfill the Thirteenth Order. They are beset by half dragon, half dog monstrosities and meet a pair of local woodsmen.

Oblittero the mage, who had been content to sit on the sidelines, begins to take an active role, playing both sides of the rebellion. Along the way he kidnaps a barbarian girl and holds her as his Hell Pony. Seamus and his slave-wizard Stella charter a boat and sail after his mortal enemy—the dragon.

Return to the Northern Kingdom, where master spelunker the Roach attempts a daring rescue...

Chapter 1

The burly guard stood splay legged on the edge of the moat, adding his own filth to that already swirling in the murky waters below. It was a good twelve feet from his boots to the water, and the splashing echoed loudly throughout the courtyard. It was more than sufficient to drown out the whisper quiet sound that the Roach's feet made as they flashed over the flagstones. She got to the edge of the moat and sprang nimbly across the ten foot span, hitting the other side with only a slight sound. Roach rolled into a somersault to absorb the momentum and landed in a crouch, concealed by the moon shadow of the Tower. The guard shook himself twice and re-sheathed his weapon, turning about to continue on his rounds. He passed within a few feet of the diminutive woman, but her dark clothing and low profile caused his eyes to roam right past her.

As soon as he had disappeared around the circumference of the Tower, the Roach went to work. Digging within the loose folds of her midnight hued garments, she withdrew a pair of leather thongs with small curved spikes in the center. She slipped them onto her hands, with the spikes arranged in her palms. In a few seconds she had similar devices hooked onto her feet.

Stretching out, she found purchase by digging the spikes into the mortar between the massive blocks used to construct the tower. Keeping herself plastered tight against the cool stone, she began to rise into the humid night air. It was painfully slow progress, as she strove for silence. Twice she had to stop her progress completely as the guard came back around her side of the Tower. She clung to the rough hewn surface, tenacious as her namesake, until the man was past.

It was nearly fifty feet up the tower when she got to the lowest window. Finding the shutters open in an attempt to cool the structure off, she crept silently into the room beyond. The door was closed, but a few seconds of prying at the jamb with a thin bar of metal and she was standing in the hallway that ran between the twin cells. She began to pad up the spiral staircase at the eastern end when footsteps made her scramble for cover. She had not time to run back down the hall to the cell she had broken out of, and the bare hallway was bereft of anything for her to wedge herself behind. She bent her knees in a crouch and leaped straight up, grasping the narrow edge of the door frame with her tiny fingers. In a moment she had pulled herself up into the ceiling corner adjacent to the door, scrunching herself into a ball.

The footsteps belonged to another guard, this one yawning sleepily. He shuffled down the stairs past the floor she hid on, drawing a sigh of relief from the little woman. Adroitly she dropped to the floor when his footsteps no longer echoed in the still air.

“Who the hell are you?” called a gruff voice from behind her. “The chamber pot boy?”

Roach froze, cursing herself. She should have checked both ways before dropping back to the floor. Her mind raced, heart thumping in her chest, as she tried to think of a way out of her situation.

“Why are you wearing a mask?” the guard asked, bringing his torch closer. His eyes narrowed as he took in the curves of Roach's body, evident beneath her tight fitting garment.

Roach had heard enough. She balled up her fist and drove it full bore into the man's crotch. A hard metallic clank preceded a sharp pain in her knuckle. The bastard was wearing a codpiece under his loincloth!

“What are you about?” he snapped. Roach turned on her heel and dashed down the hallway. She skidded to a halt when another hairy, huge guard staggered out of the darkness. Head on a swivel, she checked both ways down the hall but there was no getting past either man.

“Grab her!” shouted the first guard. “She's a sneak-thief!”

“This is all a terrible misunderstanding,” the Roach said, holding up her arms. Each of the guards seized her by the bicep, picking her bodily up off the floor and dragging her back up the hall.

“We'll get it sorted out,” said the first guard “don't you worry none, lass.”

There was a lascivious edge to his voice that made Roach cringe, but before she could even begin to struggle the two guards pushed their way past a heavy oaken door and shoved her inside. A large fire had been built in the center of the room, the thick smoke funneling out through slits in the ceiling. Chains hung from the hot stone walls, and Roach had little doubt on how they wished to extract their information.

“Look, fellows,” the Roach said “if you'll reach inside my trousers, you'll find a hidden pocket along the waistband. Therein lies a ruby worth more than you would make in ten years, combined. It is yours, as well as another like it, if you release me.”

The guards argued for several moments as to who would do the searching. While they argued she was carried across the room and shoved down onto her bottom. She winced as they applied thumbscrews, trapping her digits inside of the cruel devices. This was bad. Normally the Roach was a master escape artist, but with her fingers trapped it would be almost impossible to free herself.

Worse, they applied the thumbscrews in such a way so as to bind her hands behind her back. There was little point in resisting when one of the guards rudely shoved his hand down her trousers, searching for and finding everything but the pocket.

“Say now!' she yelped. “That's not the secret pocket—ooooh!”

“This is no child,” said the first guard. “And no virgin either.”

“That's rather personal—aaah! Your fingers are very rough, sir!”

“Sorry,” he said in a tone that implied that he was not, in fact, the least bit sorry. He used his index and ring fingers to spread her pussy open, and Roach pulled in vain at the thumbscrews. “I sure haven't found a ruby.”

“That's because you're not looking in the right place,” the Roach said. “I told you—by the Allfather!—it's in my wa-waistband...”

Roach's head tilted back as the guard shoved his fingers the rest of the way into her twat. His compatriot removed her trousers with an efficient jerk. Her naked skin now exposed to the heat of the flame, she felt intensely vulnerable.

“That will be quite enough!” she shouted. “This violates my rights to a fair trial under kingdom law!”

“Uh,” said the second guard, scratching his greasy beard “does it?”

“I don't know,” said the first “and I don't give a bloody fuck!”

He motioned toward the wall bearing chains and implements of torture.

“Go get that Scold’s bridle,” he said. “That will shut her up.”

“Oh dear,” the Roach said as the man approached her with the metal contraption. It bore steel straps that would be screwed around her head, and a wide metal plate where her mouth would be. There was a socket on the inside which could bear a variety of implements, none of them pleasant.

The guard picked up a nasty bit of spiked metal. The Roach winced as he screwed it into place. Once the mask was on, she would be unable to move her tongue so much as an inch without causing herself pain and misery.

Her chin was cradled and the mask shoved toward her. Roach tried keeping her mouth tightly shut, but then the guard—fingers still buried in her dripping wet twat—made her mouth fly open as he toyed with her nether holes. The metal gag went inside, and the mask was fitted to her face.

“Strip her,” said the first guard “she might have a concealed weapon. Using his knife, the second guard cut her clothing free, revealing pointed throwing stars, caltrops, a collapsible crossbow and her climbing gear. It also revealed the ruby, which had been a real enough attempt to bribe the guards.

“Look at that,” said the first guard, picking up the gem. “She was telling the truth.”

Roach nodded her head, trying to speak. Unfortunately, the terrible gag dug into her mouth and she only managed to whimper.

“By the Allfather,” said the first guard “but she is a looker! She may be near the height of a child, but her body speaks to her womanhood.”

He sat down on the rim of the fire pit. Roach kicked her legs as he removed his codpiece and dragged her backward. The shaft of his stiff, hairy cock slid along her asshole as he struggled to penetrate her. Roach rolled her eyes at his ineptitude. Why were men so bad at this? Grunting, she moved her hips about and helped guide the head of his cock past her pussy lips. As her weight came down fully, she gasped, drool running out the bottom of her cruel metal gag to pool on her breasts. She was near to cumming, but the awful spiked gag made each jolt unbearable.

“Such a tight little twat,” he said. “I wonder what her asshole is like?”

Roach shook her head in alarm as he pulled out of her with a wet pop and repositioned her slightly. Her eyes squeezed shut tight, she could only groan and weep as he slid slowly but surely inside her arse. Dimly, through a haze of agony and ecstasy, she could hear the other guard removing his codpiece.

Roach snapped her eyes open as soon as she felt the second guard take the full measure of her pussy, shoving his member into her well oiled cunt. The bulbous head of the men's cock's rubbed against each other, the thin membrane of flesh separating them no obstacle. Blood trickled off her fingers as she could not help reflexively fighting the thumbscrews. The spikes in her mouth weren't sufficiently sharp to pierce her flesh, but they were terribly painful.

The second guard was the first to come, gasping and shaking as his seed spilled into her twat.

“Don't come inside her, fool!” the first guard yelled. “You'll get her pregnant and destroy the resale value!”

The second guard gasped and pulled out quickly. So quickly he sent a stream of sticky white goo all over her belly, breasts, and face. Roach closed her eyes, feeling the revolting sensation of his jizz hot on her face, dripping over one eyelid and getting sucked into her nostril with each breath.

“Grind your ass into me, little whore,” said the first guard, still thrusting his cock into her asshole. His hand grabbed her throat from behind and squeezed until she could barely wheeze in air. “Do it!”

Roach had little choice but to obey. She pushed against him like a lover. Though she hated her circumstances, his cock did feel amazing inside her ass…

“Oh Allfather!” the guard hollered, releasing his seed inside her asshole. Roach collapsed against him, covered in spooge and sweat. The guard pushed her off of him and she collapsed into a degraded pile on the stone floor, shivering with an orgasm of her own.

“Damn,” said the second guard, straining his ears. “That was the third bar. Our shift is over in an hour.”

“Shit,” said the first. “We haven't even asked her any questions yet.”

He glanced around and his eyes settled upon a rather vicious piece of equipment. It was a wooden pyramid, sharp at the top and not widening by much to the bottom. Standing upon four legs, it resembled a horse, a facade made more impressive by the horse's head someone had carved into the front. Straps along the bottom edge had an obvious purpose, and Roach squealed as they lifted her tiny body off of the floor and carried her toward it.

Shaking her head no, the Roach was helpless to resist as the guards settled her crotch over the sharp edge. The agony was terrible, and grew more so as they fitted her ankles into the straps. She tried holding on with her thighs to mitigate the agony, but it was little use.

I'll never be able to pee or have babies again! She despaired silently.

“All right then,” said the first guard. “What are you doing here? Are you a spy? An escapee? Well?”

Roach glared at him, struggling futilely in her restraints. Didn't the idiot know she was still gagged? She would have confessed to murdering the king if they would only get her pussy and asshole off the terrible sharp rail.

“She ain't cracking,” said the second guard. He picked up heavy iron weights and carried them to the horse, grunting with effort. “Help me tie these to her feet.”

Roach squealed, furiously struggling though it made the rail bite into her nether holes, as the weight increased. The cruel guards nodded with satisfaction as she strove in vain to pull her pussy away from the torture device.

“Tell us, lass,” growled the second guard. “Who are you? Why are you here?”

“Still won't budge,” said the first guard. “Tell you what; why don't we just leave her here until our next shift? Maybe some time on the horse will loosen her lips.”

Despite the painful gag, she tried to protest, to tell them she would confess to anything to stop the pain. The second guard merely nodded, indifferent to her suffering.

“Good idea,” he said. “C'mon, let's go; I'm starving!”

They argued about which tavern had the prettiest wenches on their way out the door. It slammed shut with finality, though she noted they did not lock it.

Howling in pain, the Roach knew she had no choice but to escape the thumbscrews. She would go mad if she had to remain here overnight. Besides, she still had to free her quarry. The contract must be fulfilled.

With terrible effort, she managed to free the fingers of one hand from the terrible thumbscrews. Had she not been born with her dwarfish frame, there would likely have been no escape. Blood trickled down over her bare skin as she reached down and untied her ankle. So great was the pain, the Roach got off the horse before she freed her other hand or foot.

Panting in agony, the Roach freed herself completely and salvaged a small vial of healing droughts from her torn garment. Once her fingers no longer bled but merely ached, she set about repairing the rents in her clothing as best she could.

Undaunted, she returned to her task at hand, her aching nether region the only reminder of her failure.

Except of course for her shame. She'd been violated by two brainless thugs and left to rot in a dungeon. Perhaps it would be best if she didn’t' mention this to anyone. The Roach needed to maintain her rep, after all.

Creeping cautiously up the stairs, the Roach flitted from shadow to shadow, never allowing herself to be in the torchlight for more than an instant despite the lack of any other eyes present. Her twat and asshole were quite sore, and her fingers were a source of misery. Still, she made impressive time up the stairs, coming to the top floor where her quarry was being held in less than a dozen minutes.

There was a guard on duty here as well. He sat in a chair positioned next to an arched window, taking tokes on a corn cob pipe. Once in a while he would send a stream of white smoke out the window, seeming to amuse himself by watching the way the wind tore it away. The man had a mug of mead sitting on the windowsill, which he took a drink from as she watched.

She crouched in the shadows and waited. Not desiring to be raped again, she figured on avoiding conflict. Besides, she knew his type, and sure enough her patience was rewarded when the man was loudly snoring in the chair.

Carefully walking heel to toe, she trod on her soft shoes to the sleeping guard's side. She filched the key from his belt ring without a sound, aided as much by her small fingers as diligent practice. Using a thin piece of wire, she also wrapped the crosspiece of the guard's sword to its sheath. Though the man could probably free it eventually it might buy her a few seconds, and a few seconds were often the difference between life and death.

The Roach padded before the cell she believed held Lord Mannix. She extracted a small flat flask and opened it, dribbling a few viscous drops of liquid onto the door's metal hinges. Another dollop went on the key she bore, and in a few seconds the massive door was unlocked with only a slight click, and swung open slowly with nary a creak.

Within, Lord Mannix stirred as the light spilled into the otherwise dark chamber. He rose into a sitting position, rubbing his tired eyes as the Roach entered the room and shut the door behind her, grimacing at the pain of her recent buggering.

“Hello?” he said, his voice making her wince. “Is someone the-”

Lord Mannix felt the bed stir ever so slightly and then there was a hand clasped over his mouth.

“Silence, old fool,” said the Roach. “You are being rescued, but I will leave you here to rot if you awaken the guard.”

Mannix tried to struggle against the grip, his sleepy brain not quite comprehending. A sharp poke in his ribs ended his movements.

“I will say this once more,” said the Roach “you are being rescued. Make a sound and I will leave you here. Nod if you understand.”

Mannix, his eyes unable to make out much in the dark, nodded as best he could.

Once he was released he turned about on the bed, fixing the little figure in black with an incredulous stare. Squinting in the meager light, he managed to make out enough details to note her diminutive size.

“Are you a child?” he said in a whisper.

“Don't whisper, fool,” said the Roach. “It carries further than speaking softly. Get dressed.”

“But I'm naked beneath this sheet-” he said.

“Shut up, fool!” The Roach hissed. “Think you I've not seen a man without clothing before? I am no child. I am the famous Roach and unless you wish your daughter to marry that prick of a King you'd best silence your tongue and get dressed.”

Mannix had dozens of questions on the tip of his tongue, but the memory of sharp steel in his side kept them there. He put on a pair of trousers and a b lousy shirt. He was putting on his boots when the Roach gingerly opened the door a crack and looked out into the hallway. The guard still slumbered, head lolled to the side as a line of drool ran down his chin.

“Come quickly,” said the Roach, motioning him to follow. Mannix crept with as much stealth as he could muster, but his footfalls seemed jarringly loud to her. A nervous glance at the guard showed him to remain asleep.

The pair made their way to the stairs. The Roach went ahead first, her small feet moving in a blur. Mannix strove to keep pace while keeping his footfalls as quiet as possible. They passed by a landing, then another, and then a third.

“How far to the bottom?” said Mannix, breathing a bit harder than normal.

“Silence!” said the Roach. “Did you not count the floors on your way up?”

“I wasn't conscious at the time,” Mannix whispered.

“Did you hear that?” came a gravelly voice from one of the landings they had just passed.

“Sounded like someone in the stairs,” said another.

“Fool,” said the Roach as an armored man clanged to the doorway. She dragged Mannix out of sight, but not before the guard caught a glimpse of him.

“Stop!” yelled the guard. “Raise the alarm! The prisoner is loose!”

Their rapid footfalls were drowned out by the alarm bell that soon echoed throughout the stone walls. All pretense of silence flown, the Roach flew down the stairs, counting three more landings. When they were on what she hoped was the seventh floor she stopped, wildly gesturing for Mannix to follow.

“Come on!” she shouted.

“This is not the bottom,” he said.

“It is our path to freedom,” she said. “Come now, or I will leave you!”

The Roach spun about, facing a room full of kitchen equipment and an empty hearth. Two guards were rapidly standing up, knocking over the bottle of spirits they had been sharing as they fumbled to draw their swords. She took off at a run, dashing straight at her much larger adversaries. One of them managed to get his blade free and took a wild swing that would have taken her head from her slender shoulders. Tucking her chin to her chest, she rolled her body into a tight ball and somersaulted under the blow, rising to her feet nimbly. A small, curved blade appeared in her hand and slashed out once. The guard collapsed to the floor, legs spastic-ally jerking as he tried in vain to move them.

Mannix saw the other guard free his blade and bear down on the little woman. With a shout he flung himself at the man, crashing into his chest. The two of them went down in a heap and began struggling for the sword.

The Roach used a heavy iron pan to send the maimed guard to dreamless oblivion, then turned to help Mannix. The guard was much larger, and was getting the better of the noble. She leaped onto the table they had set their drinks upon and then jumped back down...right on the man's face. The back of his head cracked soundly on the stone floor and he went limp beneath Mannix's body.

“Let's go,” she said, dashing across the kitchen to a metal plate set flush against the wall. She heaved with all the might her impish body could muster and swung it open on a hinge. A foul odor greeted Mannix's nostrils as he approached the waist high opening.

“In there?” said Mannix, looking into the dark tunnel. It sloped almost immediately at a sharp angle, slick with greasy refuse. “You must be jesting!”

“Now, old fool,” she said, casting a nervous glance at the door. Booted feet tromped loudly in the stairway, and alarmed shouts joined the cacophony created by the ringing bell.

“Preposterous,” he said “they have used it as a garbage chute, and worse...to dump out chamberpots as well.”

“Fine,” said the Roach “I suppose we'll find another way out. Reach in there and get my rope, will you?”

Mannix bent at the waist and reluctantly thrust his torso into the opening. He braced his hands on the relatively clean outer edge, frowning as he strove not to breath through his nose.

“I don't see a rope,” he said.

“Of course not,” said the Roach, who had retreated a few feet away. Breaking into a run she sprang across the few feet separating them and leaped into the air. How her pussy and asshole ached with the movement! She drove both her feet into his rump and kicked hard with her legs. Mannix was shoved hard into the chute and began sliding rapidly down it, his mouth open in a terrified scream.

The nobleman slid through foulness he could not have imagined, including a muddy brown pile whose aroma left little doubt as to its origin. His torment was brief, as after a dozen feet he was suddenly sailing through the open sky, the flagstone courtyard more than sixty feet below him. He had only two seconds to appreciate his plight before he splashed down hard in the moat's murky waters.

Gasping, he shoved his head above the water and spat out a fetid stream of brown water. He swam to the side and tried to find a handhold, but the green muck encrusting the rough stone made it impossible.

“Help!” he cried, but knew his voice would not carry far or be heard above the alarm bell.

A splash behind him covered him with more filth. He turned about to see the Roach's masked head sticking out of the water. She swam towards him and pushed both their bodies against the edge of the moat.

“Shh,” she said when he began a sputtering condemnation of her falsehood. “You are alive, and should you wish to remain so must do exactly as I tell you. Can you swim?”

“Aye,” said Mannix “I'll bloody well swim away from this filth!”

“There is a tunnel a hundred feet from here,” she said pointing roughly west. “It leads to the sewers that run below Fort Drakken. We will have to go beneath the moat to enter.”

Mannix wore a terrible, pained expression at the prospect of swimming beneath the fouled waters.

“It is that or you can return to you cell,” said the Roach.

Mannix almost took her up on it, but the thought of Katherine made him reconsider. For her, he'd swim a mile beneath a river of shit.

“Let us be done with it, then,” he said grimly.

They slowly swam towards the Roach's secret exit, aided by the current. He did not have to ask where the tunnel was, because he could feel it pulling water from the moat.

“It's bad to open your eyes under this kind of water,” said the Roach, taking his hand. “I will guide you through.”

“How will you see?” he said.

“I will not,” she said “I know the way well enough.”

Tightly clamping his eyes shut, Mannix allowed her to lead him beneath the fetid waves. He went with the current and found himself pulled along behind the slight woman. His head scraped against something wet and muddy, and then he felt stone beneath his feet. Standing up, he found that the water now reached only to his waist. He opened his eyes but still could not see.

“Where are we?” he said, his voice echoing in the dank darkness.

“In the sewers,” said the Roach.

“Have you a torch?” said Mannix, then winced. “Sorry, a foolish question, for it would be quite wet by now.”

He heard a hard scuffing sound, looked in amazement at a spark that flashed in the darkness. It flashed two more times and then he was blinking at the painful light from a burning brand.

“It would be,” she said with a trace of mirth “if I had not wrapped it in an oil cloth sack.”

Mannix scanned his new surroundings with gratefully restored vision. They were in a rounded tunnel, half submerged in water. The ceiling was a few inches above his head, the stones ancient and stained. He swallowed in apprehension as he realized that meant the water sometimes reached the top of the tunnel.

“The water will not rise, will it?” he said fearfully.

“Not unless it rains heavily,” said the Roach, pulling him along behind her. “Come, it is not safe to be covered in the shit of others, oddly enough. We must get you dry, clean and safe, my lord.”

“Who are you?” said Lord Mannix. “Who hired you to break me free?”

“The first question has no answer,” she said “though some call me the Roach. The second is easy enough; Your daughter.”

“I thought the Roach a legend,” he said. “I prefer it that way,” she said “and if you could not mention the Roach in your daring rescue, I would appreciate it greatly.”

“It was a daring rescue,” he said as they splashed through the darkness. He squinted down at her small figure, a look of concern on his face. “My, but you are a tiny one!”

She stopped in the tunnel, nearly causing him to crash into her. Her eyes were narrowed though the slits on her mask, and he found himself blanching a bit under her fierce, dark gaze.

“I am four feet, five inches tall, sir,” she said “more than the minimum height for entrance to the Royal Cavalry. You did not think me small when I was dragging you from prison.”

“No,” said Mannix “no, I did not. My apologies, lady, I will not be so rude again.”

The eyes softened just a little.

“Come,” she said “we must away. There are other dangers than shit and rats in the Fort Drakken sewers. Dark deeds are afoot beneath the castle walls, I fear.”

“You are more right than you will ever know,” said lord Mannix grimly.

Chapter 2

King Drakken sat upon his comfortable, padded throne, the heavy crown hung upon the armrest. He was rubbing his nose, his eyes tightly shut, as a nervous captain stammered through the tale of Lord Mannix's escape. The torches had burned low at the late hour, and his majesty had yet to call upon servants to replace them. The dim lighting served to cast the King in fearsome pall, even more so than his apparent discomfort at the bad news.