Queen Captured – Act III: Knight (scene i)

fobq_cover2

Sixth Chapter of W.H. Collins’s dark erotic fantasyAll fourteen chapters are now available from Amazon under the title The Fall of the Black Queen.

Note that this story is intended for mature audiences only and contains extremely graphic depictions of material that many audiences will find disturbing, including spanking and forced nudity. Nothing herein is intended to glorify or condone the horrific experiences which the protagonist endures, and the reader is strictly instructed not to take any prurient interest in this tale of medieval violence and sexual exploitation.

“I’m to be given a triumph, you know.”

Isabella knew. The White Knight had not stopped talking about it since he had taken her from Evanshire Abbey, releasing her from the Bishop’s clutches and grasping her firmly in his own.

It was fleeting, the satisfaction she had felt stepping over the slain body of Brother Duncan and later walking past the similarly lifeless Brother Theodore lying in the hall outside the interrogation chamber. She was glad they were dead. She was glad to have left the Bishop’s flail behind and to no longer spend her nights chained to the floor of the Abbey’s cold tower. But there had been moments over the last two days, as the wagon train made its way towards the capital that she would almost have preferred the agony and fear that had previously gripped her to the aching despair she now felt.

“Acrobats. Moorish dancers. No expense spared. The Kingdom’ll not have seen its like in a generation, I dare say.”

Isabella knew all this as well. But it was not her that Sir Stewart was addressing. There was another man standing beside the White Knight, just outside the spacious canvas dome that surrounded her. A big man, both tall and fat. Isabella only had his silhouette to go by, projected up against the linen walls of Sir Stewart’s tent by the light of the campfire outside, but Isabella concluded that the shadow likely belonged to Baldwin d’Carrick, a local lord of the Vale of East Dentshire, where the caravan had camped for the night.

“. . . with a most exquisite saddle that’s being crafted just for the occasion. And monkeys, if you’ll believe it. Quite a collection of them, taken from Old Aardmore’s private menagerie. Say what you will about the Black Duke, he had an eye for curious beasts . . .”

As Sir Stewart continued to describe the grand celebration in his honor that awaited him in the capital, the flaps of the tent parted. The White Knight entered, followed by Lord d’Carrick, stooping to pass through the entryway.

“. . . But of course here we have the centerpiece of the whole affair. I just have to sort out where to place her. For maximum effect, you see, but without drawing undue focus . . .”

Lord d’Carrick made eye contact with Isabella. He appeared to catch his breath, hesitating at the tent’s threshold for a moment before following Sir Stewart’s lead and approaching her cage.

It was literally a cage. Stewart had ordered it constructed as soon as he and his men had ridden back into camp with their prize captive in tow, having sorted out at swordpoint the jurisdictional disagreement that had apparently arisen between the Tribunal of Heresies and the crown. The cage was rectangular, with iron bars sunk into its wooden base at intervals wide enough that Isabella could almost slip her head through. Almost but not quite. It was too short heightwise for her to stand upright, too short lengthwise for her to lay fully prone. So she sat or knelt or curled herself up into a ball on the straw bedding that lined the cage floor.

By day, the cage was mounted onto a wagon, and she was pulled like a circus animal along with the caravan’s other spoils of war, inching inexorably down the long road that led to the capital. By night, Sir Stewart had her placed in his tent, a spacious pavilion that the Knight’s servants filled with velvet rugs and other luxuries each night after the company made camp. He had arranged his wine casks and his tableware on top of the cage, as if the enclosure holding the Queen were simply furniture, an interesting conversation piece to entertain visitors.

He talked to her sometimes, particularly after he’d refilled his cup several times from the bar above Isabella’s head. To Isabella’s great relief, his banter seldom called for a response, and she was for the most part allowed to meet his japes and his self-absorbed proclamations with silent despondency.

It was a notable change from the repartee in which the two had sometimes engaged back before King Harold’s death. There had been no love lost between Princess Isabella and the young noble not yet known as the White Knight, her cousin once removed on her father’s side. She’d had no patience for his foppish excesses or his empty chivalry, and she made her disdain known at every opportunity. She’d spread rumors about him, and more than once their hostility had erupted in public verbal bouts that breached court decorum.

Though vain and frivolous, Isabella could not deny that Sir Stewart was capable of sporadic displays of wit, and before the war she might even have admitted to enjoying their spirited rivalry on some level. But that was before the Battle of St. Anthony’s Hill had established his reputation as a military commander of unquestionable brutality and, in Isabella’s opinion, a total lack of basic honor.

If Sir Stewart was disappointed by his inability to get a rise from his formerly feisty sparring partner, he didn’t show it. If anything, he seemed pleased, or fascinated perhaps, by his prisoner’s newfound servility. Even when he wasn’t lecturing her on the shortcomings of her battle tactics or discoursing on the minutia of planning his coming parade, he seemed to take satisfaction in simply putting his feet up and watching the silent Queen in her cage.

“Join me in a stoup of wine, My Lord?”

Lord d’Carrick did not answer. He leaned down to peer into Isabella’s cage, as if incredulous that the woman in the box was really King Harold’s eldest daughter. They had met on several occasions, and Isabella regarded him as a good man. He was tied to the House of Aardmore by marriage and would likely have declared for the Blacks if his estates had not been so close to the capital, surrounded by lands controlled by Queen Joan and her allies.

“Your Ma—” he began, before catching himself. “Lady Isabella. An . . . urm . . . an honor to . . .”

He trailed off. Sir Stewart thrust a cup of wine into the lord’s hand and then crouched next to him, staring alongside him at the woman in the cage. He clinked the wine bottle slowly across the bars.

Isabella adjusted her position, rising from a cross-legged squat to kneeling. Her corset squeezed her torso painfully as she did so. After so many days chained up naked in the Bishop’s interrogation chamber, it should have been a relief to at least endure this latest humiliation fully clothed.

It had, in fact, been one of Sir Stewart’s first priorities upon escorting her back to his encampment. Tsking his tongue in disapproval as she stood before him in his tent, her rough-spun penitent’s vestment hanging off her like a sack of turnips, he ordered garments brought befitting a lady of royal birth. To Isabella’s surprise, his men had immediately returned with several trunks of gowns and other elegant apparel. She could not comprehend what need a cavalry regiment in the field would have for such a wide selection of women’s finery. Only later did she learn the extent of the loot that Sir Stewart’s soldiers were escorting or whence it was plundered.

It was not the outfit she would have selected. She recognized the cut as one that had recently come into fashion, especially among young noblewomen who had spent time abroad, but the scandalous way it hugged her curves and the coquettish flashes of skin it revealed would never have passed muster at court in her father’s day. But she had no say in the matter. Sir Stewart seemed to enjoy picking out what she would wear, dressing her up to his liking as if she were some sort of doll.

Every morning, he would bring in a pair of female camp followers (prostitutes, Isabella was certain) to brush and braid her hair before placing her back in cage, ensuring that she looked appropriately regal as her mobile jail was wheeled across the countryside. Even her chains were polished and delicate, more like jewelry than like the heavy shackles which had bound her in the Abbey tower. A short strand of metal hanging between two bracelets kept her wrists close together. A similar chain ran between her ankles.

At least the dress was black.

“Queen Joan wished her sent ahead,” said Sir Stewart, tapping the neck of his bottle nonchalantly back and forth between two bars, “but I persuaded her to be patient. A cunning woman, our queen, but no sense of showmanship. Would have undermined entirely the suspense of my triumph, ruined the whole effect. It must be the city’s first look at the commander whose defeat has brought the Kingdom peace. The people will throng to see with their own eyes what’s become of the Black Queen.”$*Lord d’Carrick furrowed his brow quizzically, as if waiting for the Black Queen to respond. Isabella found herself forced to look away. Despite the fine black gown, despite the noble bearing that animated her instinctively, she did not feel much like a queen. The torture she had endured at Evanshire Abbey had broken something within her that was not easily repaired. A sense of powerlessness had permeated her, a lack of agency so foreign to her previous sense of self that she now struggled to retain a grip on who she was.

As shattered as her psyche had been, there were moments while riding away from the Abbey, the tower of its sinister inner sanctum receding in the distance, when she had tried to kindle the embers of hope that still flickered here and there within her. There was a time, after all—no more than a week or two ago, though it seemed a lifetime away now, before she’d been stripped naked in front of the Bishop and his men, before her body had been whipped and abused, before she’d been chained for days on end in the dark, violated repeatedly according to her captors’ whims—when this had been exactly what she had demanded: to be taken to the capital that she might negotiate a peace.

What Sir Stewart told her shortly thereafter was what had finally strangled these last fragile vestiges of hope, disposing of their mutilated husks to make room for the billowing despair that now stretched endlessly before her. From the moment Isabella had carelessly allowed herself to be captured in Malburgh Woods by the vile pair of White foot soldiers, she had been isolated. The White Knight’s boastful running commentary, as he sorted through chests of clothes and played dress-up with his new captive, was therefore the first news she’d had in days concerning the war’s progress.

The news was devastating. Shortly after her abduction, the White forces had managed to breach the walls of Malburgh Castle. Stewart had hinted that several members of the night’s garrison had been paid to open the gates. In any case, the castle had fallen. With the ancient fortress in their control, Queen Joan’s forces had quickly swept southward, burning and pillaging a path across the once-fertile lands the Duchy of Aardmore. Her uncle and his men had been forced to flee, and Aardmore Castle too had been ransacked and stripped of anything of value.

Meanwhile, the Black King had been surrounded. Cut off from his allies, his army had been cornered. Pinned against the sea and with White banners descending on his position from different directions, Isabella’s husband had surrendered. In exchange for amnesty for himself and his men, he had renounced his claim to the throne and pledged the swords at his command to the service of the White Queen and King.

In one spineless, selfish stroke, the Baron of the East Midlands, the old man that Isabella had married out of cold strategic calculation, had brought the conflict effectively to a close. The captured Queen felt her leverage evaporate. Suddenly, she was no longer a prisoner of war; she was a trophy of victory.

This news, as much as anything else, had knocked the fight out of the Grey Lion’s proud daughter. It was why she knelt silently on the floor of her cage as Lord d’Carrick stared at her incredulously through the bars, the White Knight smirking insufferably behind him.

“Between the two of us, it always seemed to me as if she might have the better claim,” offered Sir Stewart, continuing to speak about Isabella as if she wasn’t there as he rose to carve a hunk of bread from a platter of food that sat on top of the cage. “But then I’m no legal scholar. Something to soak up the wine, My Lord? This bread really is quite passable. Of course, you would know. It’s from your ovens, is it not? The crown thanks you warmly for your hospitality.”

Lord d’Carrick straightened upright, stepping back so that he could keep his eye on the caged Queen. He declined the outstretched bread with a mutter and a shake of his head. Sir Stewart shrugged and tore off a piece for himself, stuffing it into his cheek with relish. He then tore off a smaller piece and proffered it between the bars of the cage.

It was not the first time during her captivity that the knight had insisted on feeding her by hand. Isabella warily eyed the hand bobbing in front of her face in a theatrical display of enticement. She hazarded a swift sideways glance towards d’Carrick. Her impulse was to reject the humiliating offer, spit on the bread, bite the hand perhaps. But as the spongy white morsel danced before her, she realized how long it had been since she had eaten, and more primal instincts took over. She reached out for it.

Sir Stewart gently slapped her hand away, pulling the bread back. She had forgotten herself. Isabella’s anger and resentment flared for a moment but subsided with surprising speed, subdued in part by hunger. So quickly that it was one fluid movement, her hands tensed into tight fists, nails digging into her palms, and then relaxed, dropping demurely into her lap. Sir Stewart smiled and once more extended the tiny bite of bread. Isabella leaned forward and opened her mouth. The White Knight plopped his offering inside.

Glancing back at d’Carrick with a suppressed smile that might as well have been a wink, Sir Stewart tore off another small piece and fed it through the bars, straight into Isabella’s mouth. Tiny bite by tiny bite, the kneeling queen accepted the nourishment. She could only imagine how peculiar the scene must look to the knight’s guest: the notorious Lady Isabella of Aardmore, renowned throughout the Kingdom for both her beauty and her ferocity, kept like piece personal chattel in this army tent, clothed in a lavish if somewhat immodest gown while eating tamely from the cavalry commander’s hand like a baby goat.

The large nobleman touched his beard thoughtfully as, with a faintly furrowed brow, he watched the demeaning interaction.

“Shall I . . . Shall I send men to escort Lady Isabella to the banquet as well? We would be most honored to welcome her royal personage to our humble table along with the other gentlefolk among your party. Surely, this . . . this . . .”

Trailing off, he waved a meaty hand at the cramped cage, at the chains pooling around Isabella’s knees, at the small glob of bread pinched between Sir Stewart’s fingers.

“. . . all this is not necessary. In spite of all, Sir, she is the trueborn daughter of King Harold, is she not?”

“Nothing would please me more, My Lord,” answered Sir Stewart, tearing off another bite of bread. It bumped up against Isabella’s closed mouth, whose focus had shifted to the men’s conversation. After a few insistent taps against her lips, though, she opened up and accepted the food. “But it’s too dangerous I’m afraid.”

“Dangerous . . .?” scoffed Lord d’Carrick. “I assure you, my men . . .”

“I do not doubt your men’s competence, sir, nor their loyalty. But you underestimate the Black Queen’s powers. Sorcery and so on. You must have heard?”

“Rumors, surely . . .”

“I might have thought so too, My Lord. But she confessed all to the Tribunal of Heresies. I have the documents here . . .”

Sir Stewart set down the loaf of bread on top of the cage and picked up a roll of parchment. He unfurled it and handed it to his guest.

“Scandalous stuff. Fucked nearly every man at court. Satanic orgies with her serving girls. Tried to seduce her own father, apparently. But you’ll have to skip down towards the end for the truly titillating bits. Tasted the seed of the Devil himself, she says. Her and her mother both, on many occasions. It’s the source of the Aardmore women’s black magic, Satan’s gift for willingly yielding their bodies for his depraved pleasures. And those of his foul minions, whenever he chooses to favor one with the use of his finest whores.”

Lord d’Carrick blanched as he skimmed across the long list of admissions. Isabella doubted that he actually believed any of the ludicrous charges, any more than Sir Stewart did. But the signed confession had a momentum of its own. It would make it that much more dangerous for any would-be allies to defend or protect her. And it would be used to justify whatever sentence her enemies wished to pass upon her. d’Carrick stared hard at the line where Isabella had been forced to scrawl her assent and at the signatures of the witnesses who affirmed the veracity of the confession. Eventually, he rolled the parchment back up, looking down at the caged queen with a solemn expression full of impotent pity.

“Most shocking . . .” he muttered.

“Indeed,” agreed Sir Stewart, “So as you can see, the circumstances of the Black Lady’s confinement are strict but warranted. Who knows what witchcraft she might manage if we let her run loose, conjuring spirits and gathering reagents and whatnot? Summoning up one of her demonic paramours to her aid? No no, I’m afraid Lady Isabella will not be able to attend your banquet. She sends her regrets.”

Sir Stewart rapped his fist sharply against the top of Isabella’s cage for emphasis before pivoting back towards the entrance of the tent.

“But speaking of banquets, the evening grows late. Shall we ride, My Lord?”

The nobleman gave a sad silent nod before bowing respectfully towards Isabella.

“You have my prayers, My Lady.”

He turned and followed the knight out of the tent. Sir Stewart’s chatter resumed as the two men walked towards their horses.

“ . . . the bars are coated with holy water I’m told. And the frame is peachwood or some such. All quite resistant to enchantment. My scribe, Brother Joseph, supervised the particulars . . .”

Isabella listened as the voice faded, mingling with the other sounds of camp until it became indistinct. She shut her eyes and curled up on the floor of the cage. She tried to muster prayers of her own, but the words eluded her.

Sir Stewart did not return to his tent that night, having no doubt found more comfortable sleeping arrangements in Lord d’Carrick’s keep. When daybreak came, it was not the White Knight but his page who threw open the flaps of the canvas pavilion, followed by several soldiers from his regiment. Wearily, with frequent breaks to crack stiff joints and muscles, they set about dismantling the tent and gathering their commander’s things, his caged noblewoman included.

Isabella pretended to remain asleep, curled up amid her straw bedding, as the tent roof gave way to a pinkish dawn sky, the sounds and smells of camp suddenly washing over her unimpeded, smoke from breakfast fires and the shouts and clatter of men preparing for the day’s march.

She tried to think back to the last time she had passed through East Dentshire. The Vale couldn’t possibly be more than three or four hours’ ride from the capital, though the White Knight’s ponderous wagon train would obviously take longer to arrive. Even at this slower pace, however, their journey was almost certainly coming to an end. Isabella had no idea what could possibly await her thereafter, and her stomach knotted with the amorphous dread of it.

Sir Stewart’s troops were better disciplined than the pair of White peasant conscripts who had assaulted her in the woods. Aside from the lecherous stares and an occasional crude joke, they tended their prisoner with relative professionalism. Her crate had been loaded onto its wagon by the same four soldiers every morning since their journey began, and the men by now had their system down. Each knew his corner, and with no more than a gruff “hup hup hup” by way of coordination, they hefted the queen’s cage into the air and hauled it across the camp to its waiting undercarriage.

The jostling cut short Isabella’s stubborn feigned slumber. As the cage floor beneath her rocked unsteadily, she slid against the bars, rolling partly onto her back with a tinkling of chains. Before she could right herself, her enclosure was dropped suddenly into place, causing her stomach to lurch with the momentary sensation of freefall before the impact knocked her skull and the floor against one another with a resounding pop.

Isabella groaned and sat up. All around her, the camp was being struck: saddlebags packed, fires doused, horses mounted. The wagon carrying her mobile jail cell had already been hitched, and someone was already taking the reins of the speckled brown mare that would pull her down the uneven stone road that led to the capital.

As the driver whistled and the wheels beneath her creaked, Isabella grasped the bars of her cage and pulled her face between them until the iron squeezed against her cheekbones and temples, wondering if this would be the last sunrise she would see.

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Queen Captured – Act II: Bishop (scene i)

fobq_cover2

Second Chapter of W.H. Collins’s dark erotic fantasy. All fourteen chapters are now available from Amazon under the title The Fall of the Black Queen.

Note that this story is intended for mature audiences only and contains extremely graphic depictions of material that many audiences will find disturbing, including spanking and forced nudity. Nothing herein is intended to glorify or condone the horrific experiences which the protagonist endures, and the reader is strictly instructed not to take any prurient interest in this tale of medieval violence and sexual exploitation.

“I heard she’s been w’ every man at court. ‘Er father the Old King and her uncle the duke included. Can you imagine? God save us from such wantonness.”

“It’s the Devil gives her her beauty. And her dark powers, so they say. Every night a demon slips into her bedchambers, hooves and horns and scaley skin and all, and the princess she lunges for the foul creature’s manhood like a woman starving—beg me pardon, sisters, but I’m only telling what I’ve heard—she puts the demon’s bulging black prick into her mouth and she swallows its seed, what keeps her skin fair and her bosom so unnatural buoyant. It’s true. I had it from a page who heard it from the Black Lady’s own chambermaid who seen it happen night after night . . .”

“God preserve us . . .”

Once again, the Black Queen found herself badly disoriented as to her location. She remembered the events that brought her here in jumbled bits and pieces. The White soldiers with their throats slit, dropping to the ground beside her. The beak-like nose and beady eyes of Bishop Trolwick, drawing close in the firelight. The bishop’s men lifting her roughly to her feet, her blanket falling, exposing her nakedness. Her tattered black gown slipped over her shoulders, providing some small measure of modesty before she was draped across the back of a horse like a sack of millet, her body secured tightly to the saddlebags with lengths of rope like so much luggage.

Somewhere during the long uncomfortable journey, amid the painful bouncing and jostling, her naked breasts swinging freely out from the tears in her shredded dress, she had drifted into something like sleep. Now she was elsewhere.

She was upright, seated on some sort of hard, unforgiving chair. The rigid wood beneath her magnified the pain emanating from her buttocks where the two White ruffians had beaten her with their makeshift rod. She groaned and shifted her weight and found her wrists bound to the stiff arms of the chair with iron bands.

She was no longer wearing the remnants of her shredded gown. Instead, she was covered with a straight brown cassock, little more than a bag with holes for head and arms, woven from a coarse cloth that scratched and irritated her bare skin. The uniform of a penitent.

Blinking forcefully to dislodge the dirt and sleep from her eyes, she lifted her head and squinted out at her surroundings. She was seated in the middle of a stark, bare room. A cell of some sort, though it was no dungeon if the narrow beams of sunlight slicing slim patterns across the stone floor were any indication. Before her stood three women, all wearing the simple brown habits of the Order of St. Martinette.

“Ah. The harlot wakes . . .” muttered one of the nuns, a stout matronly figure with a prominent, hairy mole high on her left cheek.

The Black Queen met the woman’s eyes, and she seemed to shrink back under the force of the regal gaze, shuffling her feet. Her mouth twitched with the effort to maintain her confident sneer. The Queen’s gaze swept slowly down the line. The woman in the center was both taller and older, with an angular face and a pinched, judgmental mouth. The Queen stared hard at the nun, but the woman did not seem as easily cowed as her fat companion. Stiff-backed and impassive, she stared right back at the Queen with unblinking gray eyes. There was a haughtiness to her that both infuriated and frightened the shackled monarch.

“You are to come with us, My Lady,” said old nun without changing expression. “Can you walk?”

The Queen ran her tongue around a raw dry mouth, gauging her ability to produce intelligible speech.

“Where . . .?” she finally croaked.

“Evanshire Abbey, My Lady,” the woman responded. “Home to the holy relic of the ears of St. Bartleby as well as the tomb of King Francis the Repentant.”

Under different circumstances, the Black Queen might have laughed. She had visited the Abbey as a young princess and been forced to pay her respects to the ridiculous shriveled flaps of skin that the Evanshire monks kept in a velvet box. She had openly snickered about it afterwards, with the encouragement of her uncle, the future Duke Aardmore.

As for her great-grandfather King Francis I, Queen Isabella knew her histories well enough to know he was far from repentant; the concessions he had granted to the Church on his deathbed were pure political expediency, something she had not been shy about discussing upon her visit to his grandiose tomb.

Not for the first time, the Queen was forced to wonder whether the open contempt she had shown in her youth for the Church, for its silly rituals and superstitions no less than its myriad hypocrisies, had been her downfall. With the exception of a handful of local bishops who had close ties to the Duchy of Aardmore, the Kingdom’s clergy had overwhelmingly sided with the Whites. Several of the White bishops controlled key territory, including Evanshire.

Queen Isabella badly wished she could have earlier reconciled herself to the realm’s powerful religious interests, much as her ancestor King Francis had done, no matter how many boxes of disgusting severed ears she had to kneel before.

But it was too late now. She was captured. The war was effectively over. All that remained now was to negotiate a dignified peace, preferably one that allowed her to keep her head and perhaps some remnant of her grandfather’s lands. Paying fealty to her sister and her sister’s husband would be a difficult pill to swallow, but it must be endured.

And the reign of a monarch might see many changes of fortune. If she lived, the Black Cause might well be resurrected in the fullness of time. What had happened to her in the forest with those lowborn soldiers had been traumatic, but they were dead and she was alive. She was strong and would survive.

“Tell your . . . your Lord,” she said hoarsely, “I am . . . am ready . . . to discuss . . . terms.”

The fat nun snorted in derision but deferred to her elder, who merely pursed her lips tighter before answering.

“The righteous have no terms to discuss with the wicked but repentance,” she said. “But we are to take you before His Purity and Grace the Bishop soon enough. You are not yet fit to enter the Abbey’s Inner Sanctum. Once you have been cleansed and purified, then you may appear before His Purity and Grace and Our Lord God to confess your sins and plead mercy. Sister Genevieve, release the Lady Isabella from her restraints.”

“Yes, Sister Agnes.”

The Queen turned her head to regard the third nun, who had been standing deferentially behind her stern, gray-eyed sister. She was younger than the other two, perhaps no more than four or five years into womanhood. She was pretty, even beneath the drab brown coif that covered her hair and fell down around her cheeks and neck. As she came forward and crouched beside the wooden chair to which Isabella was bolted, the Queen found herself examining the young nun’s features, struck by something familiar in her pale blue eyes.

Sister Genevieve unlatched the lock at the Queen’s right wrist, and hinge of the restraint creaked as the metal band flipped open. The Queen lifted her arm experimentally. When the nun came around to her other side and released her other arm, the Queen thought briefly of lashing out. Unlike most women at court, her education had included training in basic combat techniques, and, in peak condition, she had no doubt that she could overwhelm the three nuns and make her escape.

But her body was still stiff and her mind still cloudy from her ordeal. She did not trust her reflexes. Besides, she could not imagine these nuns had been sent to retrieve her without the Bishop’s armed guards waiting nearby. A rash escape attempt now might foreclose a better opportunity down the line. The wise course was to gain access to the White Bishop as soon as possible. He would be able to relay treaty terms between her and Joan (“Queen Joan,” she reminded herself bitterly) setting her on the humiliating but necessary path that would take her back to Aardmore Castle in defeat.

Still, the urge to grab this sweet Genevieve girl by the hair and smash her head against the stone floor was powerful.

Instead, Isabella allowed the young nun to place her hands on the Queen’s elbow and help her to rise. Isabella winced, as the chafing of the cassock, as well as the stiffness of her legs and the blood rushing back to her injured bottom, all competed for the attention of her pain receptors. Wobbling uncertainly, she found her feet and straightened up with all the dignity she could muster. Her shapeless tunic came to rest just below her knees. A cool breeze from the cell’s narrow windows snaked beneath, reminding her that she had on nothing underneath the coarse penitent’s vestment.

Sister Agnes then rapped a fist against the cell door. It was promptly opened, and, indeed, on the other side stood a guard in full chainmail with an imposing halberd at his side. The Queen was glad she had refrained from breaking any of the nuns’ bones.

With the guard trailing behind, the three women led the Black Queen through the halls of the Abbey. As she stumbled along, mindful of her bare feet on the uneven stone walkways, Sister Genevieve addressed her in a soft tone that Isabella couldn’t immediately read.

“Do you remember me, My Lady?”

Isabella looked over her shoulder at the young nun, stubbing a toe as she did so. The fat nun yanked roughly at her arm when she paused.

“Keep moving, witch,” she growled under her breath.

“I served at the palace as a girl,” Sister Genevieve continued. “Before my vows.”

“That’s enough, Sister,” chastised Sister Agnes. “As we discussed, it is dangerous to engage the Lady Isabella in conversation. We do not know the extent of her corruption.”

The Queen did not look back again, but her memory had indeed been spurred. The girl had been one of her handmaidens. The association was hazy but not pleasant. The Queen had the vague sense that, like many of the young girls assigned to wait on then-Princess Isabella, Genevieve had not been treated with much kindness.

Though never intentionally cruel, Isabella had always been bossy and willful, both as a matter of nature and upbringing. She did not regard ignorance or incompetence within her household with any sort of charity. In her youth especially, she had been known to humiliate and belittle the women in her circle who were less well-read or quick-witted.

The effect would have been magnified with respect to the youngest girls at court, towards whom a certain amount of baseline bullying by the older cohorts was to be expected. It was a casual meanness that the Queen often looked back on with regret. She wondered how the young Genevieve, who had apparently since pledged herself to God, remembered her and how she was reacting to seeing her former mistress debased in this way, marched around like a common prisoner, barefoot and dressed in a dirty sack.

She was led down a flight of stone stairs and felt the air grow hot and humid. Sister Agnes opened a thick oak door, and steam drifted out of the room beyond. The Abbey’s baths. Of course. Purified for the Inner Sanctum. Despite herself, the Queen felt a wave of gratitude. She enjoyed bathing and had always done so with a frequency that her peers found eccentric. It had been many days since she had been able to wash herself. If ritual ablution meant the chance to rid herself of some of the sweat and grime that had accumulated on her body since she first set out for Malburgh, then she thanked God for His fussy approach to hygiene.

The nuns led her into the subterranean bathhouse. It was not as large as the cavernous rooms beneath the palace or even those of Aardmore Castle, but it was well kept. At the center was a tiled, recessed tub which looked to be about waist-deep. The room’s ample torchlight bounced off the surface of the water, casting shimmering reflections on the stone pillars and the wooden benches that ringed the square pool.

“Sister Ruth, stoke the furnace please. Sister Geneveive, fetch more water.”

Sister Agnes directed her subordinate sisters with crisp waves of her hands.

“Brother Duncan, please shut that door.”

To Isabella’s dismay, she saw that the guard had followed them into the chamber. He dutifully shut the door behind him and turned back around to regard the Queen with feigned disinterest.

Sister Ruth shortly returned and, in her thick-hipped waddle, sidled up to the Penitent Queen.

“Hot as she’s going to get, I wager. It’ll take more’n soap to wash this‘un clean, Sister. But shall we do as the Bishop bids?”

Sister Agnes nodded.

“Relieve Lady Isabella of her vestments, please.”

The Queen’s breath caught in her throat. She was used to bathing with the assistance of servants, of course. But she was generally afforded more modesty. Never would someone dare help disrobe her without the Queen’s express instruction. Never would one of her servingwomen watch her remove her clothes as Sister Agnes now appeared ready to do, without even pretending to avert her eyes.

And this was to say nothing of the impropriety of having a male attendant present. She glanced over at the Abbey guardsman Duncan, who had remained silent and stoic but who Isabella had noticed licking his lips, his hands fidgeting up and down the pole of his halberd as he waited for the beautiful Black Queen to be stripped of her sole garment.

By now Sister Genevieve had returned, carrying two brimming buckets. Queen Isabella faced the three nuns and the male sentry, her back to tub. The reflections off the water caused her black hair to flicker and flare. Marshaling her tone of command, she prepared to berate them all for their impertinence.

Before she could form the words, Sister Ruth grabbed the hem of her cassock and yanked it upward with a surprising force. And, with the unexpected assault, Isabella’s regal address disintegrated into a shrill gasp.

She was thrown off balance as the fabric suddenly brushed and bunched its way up her thighs, tugged violently left and right by the nun as she sought to lift the garment free of the Queen’s curves. Before Isabella could process what was happening, the simple brown frock was bunched up around her torso, and the trim patch of black hair that covered her royal crotch was exposed to the room, dancing back and forth as Isabella stumbled to regain her balance.

The stout nun continued to tug upwards, but the friction around the Queen’s chest, where her breasts—which were much more robust than the makers of the simple penitent’s tunic clearly anticipated—pulled the material taut. Suddenly, Isabella regained her footing and grabbed at Sister Ruth’s wrist, wrenching it away from her clothes. With her other hand, she landed a swift slap across the nun’s face. Sister Ruth dropped the hem of the vestment and staggered backwards in surprise.

The Black Queen swiftly covered herself once again, smoothing the brown tunic back down over her thighs. She faced them defiantly. Sister Ruth looked as if she was about to make a run at her when she was stopped by a wave of Sister Agnes’s hand.

“Lady Isabella, you forget yourself. You are here to learn humility and repentance. I’m afraid that sort of behavior will not be tolerated. Brother Duncan?”

The guard set his weapon down against the wall and stepped toward the Queen menacingly. Isabella took an involuntary step backward, the steaming tub of water at her back cutting off any further retreat. A sense of powerlessness crawled up her skin like a winter chill. There was nowhere to run or dodge. And to fight bare-fisted against the Bishop’s thug, clad as he was in leather and mail, was clear folly. Yet she could not let herself be cowed. Only by firm resistance would these impudent rogues learn to treat her with due deference. She glanced behind her again at the water. Perhaps if she . . .

Too late! With unexpected agility, a thick leather glove lunged out from her periphery and snapped shut around her bicep. The Queen twisted and tried to jerk free even as she whipped her other arm around in long arc, fingers taloned, towards the guard’s exposed face. But either Brother Duncan’s reflexes were especially keen or her own especially dulled; the guard easily caught her left wrist in his left glove before it could cause any damage.

Manipulating her like a rag doll, the burley guard spun the Black Queen back around to face the three nuns, causing her to gasp in pain at the brutal contortion of her shoulders. He positioned himself behind her, the crushing force of his leather grip finding its way to her elbows as he pinned her arms to her sides. She tried to kick, but her naked heel merely connected painfully with the iron buckles of the guard’s high boot. Her struggles gradually decreased and dimmed, muffled by their own futility.

She faced the three women, immobile but for her heavy breathing, her chest rising and falling in exaggerated waves as the pressure from her pinioned arm squeezed her ribcage from both sides. Sister Agnes stepped forward.

“When we defy and disobey God’s will, Lady Isabella, we only bring unnecessary suffering on ourselves. Your sinfulness must surely have blinded you if you cannot see that.”

From within the folds of her habit, the old nun produced a small, curved knife. She leaned in close and rested the blade against the Queen’s collarbone.

“You may now add to your transgressions the unnecessary needlework you have created for the Abbey’s seamstresses.”

With that, Sister Agnes sawed a notch into the center of the brown cassock’s collar and drew her knife downward. The crudely-woven cloth gave way easily. With a satisfying riiiiip, its threads parted rapidly, following the jagged path of the nun’s blade down Isabella’s paralyzed body.

As the tear in the garment cleared her chest, the Black Queen’s ample tits bounced free, pushing the severed flaps of fabric to either side. The monarch let out an audible gasp of surprise and shame but was careful to remain motionless lest the knife cut more than her clothes.

Sister Agnes grabbed half of the torn vestment and pulled upward to bring greater leverage to bear on her blade. The rip quickly zig-zagged its way down past Isabella’s stomach and crotch before freeing itself at the brown garment’s hem. The sides of the dress dropped away, exposing the Queen’s front from top to bottom.

Promptly, the nun turned her attention to the sleeves, slicing one away, then the other, and the entire penitent’s robe fell to the floor in one piece, leaving the Queen completely naked, still pinned firmly by the guard’s iron handhold to the front of his body.

“I had hoped for better from you, Lady Isabella,” Sister Agnes lectured with a tone of infuriating superiority. “The Bishop will be disappointed to hear how difficult you’ve made this.”

The Bishop. In her resolve to teach these impertinent women that she was not some common prisoner, Queen Isabella had nearly lost sight of her only way forward. The sooner she could find audience with the Bishop, the sooner she could negotiate her freedom.

“I had hoped our pious brother might be able to keep his clothes dry, but if the only way to make you fit to enter the Inner Sanctum is to have Brother Duncan bathe you, that is what we must do.”

“I will do as duty requires, Sister,” came a gravelly mumble just above Isabella’s ear.

She involuntarily squirmed. As she did, her naked thighs and bottom rubbed against the craggy ringlets of the guard’s chainmail tunic. Suddenly, she could feel something swelling, even from beneath the guard’s layer of armor, something pushing with sickening insistence into her lower back. With a sense of nausea, she began to imagine herself pinned down as this Church thug ran his hands all over her, soaping her, scrubbing her, wiping her dry.

Sister Agnes folded her arms behind her back and met the Queen’s frightened eyes with a stern, patronizing look.

“Is that what you want? . . .”

There was an awkward silence as the two women stared at one another. The Queen’s naked breasts heaved up and down as she panted in discomfort and desperation. The bulge in Brother Duncan’s trousers grew steadily more prominent, pressing against her bare skin with a lewdness that was now impossible to ignore.

“. . . Or are you calm enough that Sisters Geneveive and Ruth can manage your ablutions unaided?”

The Black Queen swallowed hard. To humble herself before this pompous nun was unendurable. But having her body forcibly washed by Brother Duncan as these women watched would do nothing for her pride. To subject herself to further agony and debasement for no purpose was foolish.

“Very well. Let’s get on with it . . .” she whispered, lowering her eyes.

When there was no response, the Queen looked back up to find Sister Agnes looking at her with one raised eyebrow and pursed lips, as if Isabella’s words had been ambiguous.

“I . . . I will bathe . . . bathe myself. . .” she stammered desperately.

The old nun continued to look at her silently, her expression unchanged.

” . . . with Sister . . . Sister Genevieve’s assistance . . .” the Queen offered.

Finally, Sister Agnes grunted and shrugged, as if placated but not entirely satisfied.

“You may release her, Brother Duncan,” she said. “Lady Isabella appears chastened.”

With what felt like some reluctance, the guard’s gloved fists unclenched. He shuffled back towards his post at the doorway as Isabella brought a newly-liberated arm up over her breasts in an attempt to cover herself, while her other hand sank demurely down in front of her prim triangle of black hair.

For a moment, the three women and their male escort stared silently at the naked queen, as if none were quite sure what came next. Isabella, for her part, kept her eyes fixed on the tiled floor, trying not to let her captors see her discomfited, even as rage and humiliation drove warm blood to her face.

Finally, at a nod from the old nun, both Sister Genevieve and Sister Ruth began to hitch the hems of their habits up above their knees. Sister Ruth then marched towards Queen Isabella and grabbed her roughly by the elbow, tearing the Queen’s protective arm from her chest and spinning her around towards the shallow tub. The jerking motion caused the Queen to lose her footing and she tumbled over the lip of the tub and hit the water with an undignified splash.

The Queen was briefly submerged. The bath was not nearly as warm as it looked, and the shock of the sudden impact caused Isabella to flail until she found her footing and was able to raise herself, water dripping off her luxurious black hair like a soaked sponge, cascading in streams and waterfalls down her shoulders and over her naked breasts. Once she had wobbled uncertainly to her feet, the water came up only to mid-thigh, leaving the rest of her glistening body exposed to the air.

Sounds of laughter filled the bath chamber. The Queen angrily brushed a damp mop of hair from her face and wiped water from her eyes. She turned towards Sister Ruth in fury, but the fat nun was already wading into the tub, barreling towards her. Behind Sister Ruth was Sister Genevieve, carrying a bucket. She was giggling unabashedly at her former mistress’s pratfall.

The Queen gave token resistance when Sister Ruth reached for her, her slick skin easily slipping from the nun’s grip, but a harsh reprimand from Sister Agnes—”Lady Isabella, be still!”—caused her to hesitate. The next thing she knew, a bucket of water had been emptied over her head, accompanied by a stifled snort of merriment from Sister Genevieve. Isabella was once again blind and disoriented as the sudden torrent of water rushed over her face, leaving her sputtering and gasping.

“Lift your arms, witch,” Sister Ruth growled.

Too stunned to do otherwise, the Black Queen complied. After wiping the water from her face once again, she hesitantly raised her arms out to her sides, stealing a glance as she did so at the White guardsman, who leaned against his halberd, drinking in every moment of this performance. Meanwhile, Sister Genevieve had produced a thick slab of soap and was busily lathering a large, coarse-bristled brush of the sort that the Queen associated more with the scullery than the bathhouse.

Sister Genevieve handed the brush off to her sister, who roughly yanked the Queen’s left arm even higher and began to scrub beneath her armpit. Isabella bit her lip, willing herself to remain still while the nun manhandled her like a farm animal.

At the same time as Sister Ruth was scouring under the Queen’s arms, Sister Genevieve began applying her chunk of soap directly to the Queen’s skin. She began by swiping from shoulder to shoulder, leaving a frothy, filmy trail across the Queen’s collarbone. Then, the young nun dragged the soap down across the Queen’s naked breasts. The waxy block circled one teat and then the other, tracing the circumference of the perky white mounds from their apex down into the delicate cleft where they rested against her torso.

“Keep those arms up, Whore of Aardmore,” the fat nun hissed in her ear. “Or we’ll never get that stink off you.”

Once a layer of foam had coated the Queen’s bosom, the young nun set the soap aside and engaged the nude sovereign’s glistening orbs with her hands. Rubbing her palms over the spongy flesh in tight circles, Sister Genevieve quickly worked up a lather. Seemingly fascinated with the older woman’s magnificent endowment, the young nun’s hands lingered, squeezing and lifting the Queen’s soapy breasts in an exploratory fashion, shyly at first and then with ever greater boldness.

The Queen, however, barely had time to register this lewd molestation. As Sister Ruth moved onto the monarch’s other armpit, the brush’s sharp bristles bit into a tender new swath of skin, drawing the Queen’s attention away from the degrading activity at her chest.

“Unnnh! Softer, you pig-faced cunt!” the Queen grunted before she could stop herself.

Sister Genevieve, whose fingers had found their way to the Queen’s nipples, suddenly paused, her thumbs resting just below the puckered nubs.

“Ooooooo . . .” the young nun gasped in scandalized excitement.

Outside the pool, Sister Agnes clacked her tongue.

“It seems it is the Black Lady’s mouth that is in need of the most urgent cleansing,” the old nun said. “Sister Genevieve?”

“Yes, Sister,” the young nun answered with suppressed eagerness. She gave Isabella’s nipples a swift pinch before turning around and grabbing the soap block.

As she did so, Sister Ruth took hold of the Queen’s wrists and pulled them behind her back. Sister Genevieve then turned around shoved the soap in the Queen’s face, rubbing it all around her clenched lips. Isabella squirmed and tried to twist her face away from the foul-tasting soap.

“Open up, My Lady,” the young nun said.

“Lady Isabella . . .” Sister Agnes added in a tone of warning.

Foolishly, the Queen tried to protest. No sooner had the outrage parted her lips than Sister Genevieve managed to press the soap inside her mouth. Jiggling the slippery brick this way and that, the girl was able to wedge it past the Queen’s teeth. Isabella squealed in muffled fury. She tried to jerk away, but Sister Ruth held fast to her wrists. She kicked impotently at the water.

“The sooner we clean out that nasty mouth, My Lady, the sooner you can appear before the Bishop and be forgiven your sins.”

Whether it was the persistent prying of the soap against her teeth or whether it was her own subconscious, willing this ordeal towards a swifter conclusion, the Queen found her jaw giving way. With relish, the young nun jammed the soap deeper. The bitter taste of pig’s fat and lye flooded the Queen’s mouth. She gagged.

Ignoring the moist choking sounds burbling from her naked prisoner, Sister Genevieve gleefully wiggled the soap around the captive queen’s helpless mouth, coating the inside of her cheeks before ramming the fat, slippery brick in and out of the Queen’s thoroughly-lubricated orifice. Foam began to spill out the sides, oozing down her chin and dripping off her face in thick frothy gobs.

“That’s enough, Sister Genevieve,” Sister Agnes instructed. “Lady Isabella, we will leave that soap in place for the time being lest you undo your cleanliness with the pollution of your tongue. You may hold onto it by your own power or we will have Brother Duncan hold it in for you.”

Sister Genevieve looked up at Isabella with curiosity and very slowly removed her hand from the block of soap, watching expectantly to see if the humiliated queen would spit it out. Isabella felt the penetrating bitterness of the soap sting the back of her throat, and she wanted desperately to purge the frothy residue from her mouth. But what would happen if she continued to fight?

As a girl, she had witnessed an emotional conversation between her mother and grandfather. It was shortly after court machinations had forced the former Queen to flee the capital for Aardmore Castle.

“What can I do?” the young princess overheard her mother ask tearfully.

“You can endure,” Duke Aardmore had replied. “Sufferance is a tactic. Those who can endure remain poised to exploit whatever openings their enemies inevitably provide.”

Gain audience with the bishop. Negotiate her release. Return to her supporters. Wait for an opening. That was the way forward. A tactical withdrawal. Whatever else happened along that path was irrelevant. Something to be endured. She bit down into the soap.

For an instant, her eyes met Sister Geneveive’s. The hint of a smirk tugged at her former handmaid’s mouth, and the Black Queen was forced to look away, lifting her chin and gazing blankly into the middle-distance. She hoped the expression might pass for dignified, until a suppressed gag reflex caused her torso to shudder and a sudsy whimper to burble involuntarily from her soap-stuffed face.

“Have you learned by now your dark powers are useless in this stronghold of God?” Sister Ruth grunted at her triumphantly as she released the Queen’s wrists. “Now put your hands on your head and keep them there. The bishop’s waiting.”

The Queen did as she was told.

The nun’s brush scoured her back, and Isabella winced in pain, biting down harder on the soap. Meanwhile, the captive monarch saw Sister Genevieve’s hands approaching her face, and she flinched instinctively. But the young initiate merely rubbed her palms across the waxy slab that protruded comically from the Queen’s mouth, working up a lather that she then conveyed downward to the unbathed portions of her prisoner’s skin.

Together, the two women worked the Queen’s body. The waifish young nun circled, running her soapy hands in eager arcs across her humbled mistress’s flesh, while her gruff colleague followed, scraping the tender skin pink and raw. Isabella closed her eyes and pressed her intertwined hands helplessly to the back of her head, sucking in breath through her nose and emitting little muffled moans, as the nuns’ ministrations weaved lower and lower.

When Sister Geneveive got to the thick patch of black hair that framed the Queen’s loins, she paused to recoat her hands in soap. Then, she plunged her fingers deep into the damp mop and began to work up a lather, massaging the sovereign’s pubis with intrusive thoroughness, twisting and tugging at individual clumps of hair as if forgetting that the downy object she was shampooing was attached to a woman of royal blood and not the lining of some soiled garment.

Lady Isabella had barely begun to register this invasion when Sister Ruth gave the back of her thigh a wet slap.

“Spread your legs, witch.”

With a readiness that surprised even herself, Isabella immediately adjusted her stance, shuffling her feet apart beneath the water.

“Wider,” demanded the corpulent nun, slapping her hand demonstratively between the insides of her naked charge’s thighs.

With a forlorn, soap-muffled moan and a powerless shake of her head, the Queen again suppressed her indignation and tried to heed the command of the White Bishop’s loathsome minions. Taking another deep nasal breath, she arched her back to keep her balance, her splayed elbows straining further aloft and her naked bosom rising to full attention, as she sank into an even wider stance. Her soapy crotch grazed the surface of the water with a gentle “plop.”

As Isabella obediently exposed herself, Sister Genevieve’s fingers quickly annexed new territory. Bent forward, her head even with the Queen’s abdomen, the young nun slid a cupped hand down from the Queen’s well-lathered bush in a tight curve all the way around the apex of her spread thighs.

Back and forth, she glided her slick palm between the nude monarch’s legs, covering the surface of Isabella’s obligingly open crotch with foam. To her dismay, the Black Queen heard another involuntary moan, this time less unambiguously one of pain, slip past the waxy block jammed crudely between her teeth.

Suddenly, Sister Genevieve’s caress slowed and then lingered. Her hand cupped Lady Isabella’s crotch firmly, lifting with such persistence that the queen was forced up onto the tips of her toes. A single thoroughly-lubricated digit began digging upwards, exploring between the inner folds of the Black Queen’s womanhood with accelerating aggressiveness. Isabella’s eyes grew wide in alarm just as the girl plunged a finger deep inside her former mistress’s vagina.

“Muuuhh-mmpphhth-th…” the Queen sputtered through the soap.

In no time, Sister Genevieve had managed to insert a second soapy finger and then a third inside the Black Queen’s increasingly slick hole. Whether it was stoic determination or simply stunned paralysis, the Queen remained in place—hands on her head, back arched, legs spread, jaw clamped firmly around a bar of soap—even as she was forcibly penetrated by this girl whom she remembered as the lowliest member of her entourage.

But clearly this purification charade had crossed an unendurable line, and Isabella turned her head towards Sister Agnes, lifting her eyebrows towards the senior nun in a half-pleading, half-accusatory grimace.

“Mmmmphfff-uuuuuh-muuuh…”

Whether Sister Agnes regarded the penitent’s animalistic burbling as plaintive or merely an angry outburst, the grim-faced woman did not break her stern pose, looking down upon the ritual cleansing with crossed arms and moving only her pursed lips when she spoke.

“All parts of your body must be cleansed, Lady Isabella. And Sister Genevieve is attending to a region that you have befouled most grievously of all, if what we have heard is true. Please continue, Sister. The Lady cannot enter the Abbey’s inner sanctum so long as any residue of her wickedness clings to her. Be thorough.”

Sister Geneveive’s fingers pushed their way deeper inside the Queen and began thrusting in and out of her cunny, causing her to gasp and wobble in her spread-eagled stance. Desperately, she searched Sister Agnes’s face for some acknowledgement that fingering prisoners in a tub was contrary to her order’s vows

“Mmmmuuutth?… Fffuuuh-ffffuuuuh!”

Soapy saliva oozed from the Black Queen’s mouth and dribbled down her chin as she tried to express herself. For the first time, Isabella felt tears of frustration well up in her eyes. Before looking away in humiliation, she caught a glimpse over Sister Agnes’s shoulder of the White guardsman Duncan, leaning forward attentively.

As instructed, the young nun continued to scour the Queen’s cunt with dutiful thoroughness, rubbing around the outside in forceful concentric circles before working her fingers back inside. A billowing foam began to build and creep down Isabella’s open thighs. She could hear her own heavy breathing sounding more and more labored as she struggled to suck in enough air through her nose, her senses increasingly overwhelmed by the intensity of the activity between her legs.

And then it stopped. Sister Genevieve withdrew her hand, shook off some of the froth and nodded up at the Queen with a brisk “hmmmm,” as if satisfied that her former mistress’s private parts were now sufficiently sanitary. Isabella found that her legs were shaking.

“Disgusting,” Sister Ruth growled behind her ear. “The Black Witch draws sinful pleasure from our touch.”

“That may be so, Sister,” intoned Sister Agnes, “but there are limits to what our purification ritual can achieve. We must leave it to the bishop to cleanse her soul.”

Suddenly, with a sharp splash, Sister Genevieve flung a bucketful of water against Isabella’s crotch, rinsing some of soap away while causing the Queen to stumble backwards with a muffled “oof.” At the same time, Sister Ruth grabbed her shoulder and gave it a swift shove.

“Bend over, witch. Grab your knees.”

Isabella hesitated, momentarily unable to fathom voluntarily adopting such a humiliating, submissive position in front of these three horrible women. Then, seeing no way out, she slowly unlaced her fingers from behind her head and reached falteringly towards her submerged knees, all the while telling herself the ordeal would be over soon.

The Black Queen’s plump tits skimmed buoyantly against the surface of the water as she bent forward. The tub was filmy with soap residue and shimmered in the glow of the bathchamber’s candlelight. Her face came to rest mere inches above the water, and she imagined with horror that she could make out her reflection: naked and bowed in supplication before a gang of common churchwomen, a greasy block of soap stuffed degradingly in her mouth like an apple in a roasted pig.

Worse, she knew what was coming, and indeed no sooner had she assumed her demeaning pose than she felt Sister Ruth’s brush make contact with her defenseless bottom. Roughly spreading the Queen’s cheeks apart with one hand, the fat nun scrubbed up and down and inside the tender valley of Isabella’s buttocks. Despite the bulkiness of the cleaning implement, she managed to wedge the brush deep into the cleft between the captive monarch’s spread cheeks, her thrusts finding their way into its furthest recesses.

“Muuuuuh…fuuuuuhmph…fuuuuhph” the Queen grunted while behind her rigid bristles scoured her asshole.

Finally, Sister Ruth withdrew the brush. Queen Isabella maintained her position, waiting for her next degradation as soap suds bubbled gradually out from her backside and dribbled down her thighs. Hands gripping her knees, she lifted her face apprehensively to find Sister Genevieve looking down at her with an insufferable smirk.

“Very good, My Lady. You’re looking so fresh and clean. Here. I’ll take that nasty soap. I’m sure you’ve learned your lesson about proper language.”

The young initiate reached down and jostled the Queen’s makeshift gag. Isabella stretched her lips as wide as she could to allow the soap to slide free. Her jaw ached. A thick white film ringed her mouth like a fake beard. She choked and sputtered trying to rid her mouth of the bitter residue.

As she leaned over, coughing and spitting, a fat hand gripped the back of her head and shoved her under the water. Unprepared, Isabella flailed in panic. Twisting her body, she managed push her face above the surface just long enough to suck in a quick breath before being forced back down by both nuns. Fully submerged and too disoriented to mount an effective resistance, the Queen splashed impotently while two sets of hands fondled her body up and down in a final forcible rinse.

Then they grabbed her by the shoulders and dragged her to her feet. The Queen gasped for air. Her hair was plastered around her face like a wet mask, blinding her. Supporting her weight, they led her dripping out of the pool onto the tiled bathhouse floor.

“This way, Sisters,” she heard Sister Agnes say, “Help Lady Isabella up onto the bench. This one here”

Isabella tried feebly to shake some of the water and hair from her eyes, stumbling along guided by the women gripping her arms. After a few halting steps backwards, her hip struck the edge of one of the low wooden tables that ringed the central bath. The nuns forced her up onto the hard flat surface and swung her long slender legs off the floor. Positioning themselves on either side of the table, they pulled her down onto her back so that her nude body was draped across its surface like a ritual sacrifice upon an altar.

Through a break in the damp curtain of her disheveled hair, Isabella watched Sister Agnes approach. A small blade glinted in her hand, and, for a terrifying moment, Isabella feared that they really did mean to sacrifice her, cut her open and harvest her blood in fanatical tribute to their God.

But, recognizing the flat edge of a barber’s razor, the Queen’s panic ebbed. Sister Agnes placed the razor on the bench beside Isabella’s naked body. Next to the blade, she placed a small wooden bowl filled with a sweet-smelling balm. Then the old nun left for a moment, returning with a silver bowl filled with water.

Isabella watched with something approaching curiosity as the stern woman began to mix the sticky cream with a small brush. Then, with pursed-lipped efficiency, she began to spread the mixture over Isabella’s legs. The Queen flinched at the first cool touch but forced herself to remain still. Clearly, some tenet of this absurd ritual required her legs to be cleanly shaven.

Though some still regarded the practice as a mark of wantoness, shorn legs had long been in fashion amongst the younger noblewomen at court, and, in truth, Isabella had last shaved shortly before riding out for Malburgh. But if these zealous harpies wished to give her legs a fresh grooming, they were welcome to it, so long as they hurried up about it and took care not to nick her skin.

The cream tingled. Isabella made a conscious effort to slow her breathing while the humorless old nun took the razor and scraped off swath after swath of the sticky salve from the captive monarch’s legs, leaving only smooth white flesh. When she was done, Sister Agnes took a damp cloth and wiped off the remaining residue.

Thinking her humiliating “purification” might finally be nearing completion, Isabella made a tentative attempt to rise, but Ruth and Geneveive pulled her roughly back down onto the wood tabletop. Sister Agnes ran her brush around the bowl of ointment and then began spreading the cream under Isabella’s arms. The sensation tickled, and the pinioned noblewoman gasped and writhed involuntarily. In her impassive, businesslike manner, the old nun then scraped the Queen’s armpits clean before returning to her balm.

This time, the nun’s brush dove between Isabella’s legs. The Queen let out an undignified squeak of surprise and her torso jerked upwards as, without warning, Sister Agnes slapped a moist dollop of cream down on top of her naked crotch and began to slather the Queen’s pubic area with the frothy mixture. Scooping another glob of cream onto her prisoner’s exposed genitals, the nun swabbed the region around Isabella’s royal loins with what seemed like greater thoroughness than she had devoted to her legs and armpits.

Having meticulously saturated the Queen’s pubic hair with the white ointment, Sister Agnes spread Isabella’s thighs apart with a brusque yank and directed her brush strokes downward, leaning forward in the candlelight like a painter refining small details on her masterwork. The bristles tickled unbearably as they were dragged slowly and methodically up and down the tender lips of Isabella’s womanhood. The Black Queen squirmed.

Finally, Sister Agnes grabbed Isabella’s ankles and lifted her legs into the air like an infant having its soiled nappy removed. Holding her captive’s ankles aloft with one arm, the nun continued to spread the ointment, coating the remainder of the Queen’s lewdly exhibited vaginal region before sweeping lower with her brush down across Isabella’s taint and finally between the cheeks of her buttocks.

Briefly, the Queen caught the eyes of the two women who loomed over her, pinning her down. Both were wearing smiles of repressed mirth. Their gaze flitted back and forth between their prisoner’s shamed face and the long supple legs which their colleague held aloft as she continued her degrading ministrations. Lifting her head slightly, the Queen could just barely see, beyond the slope of her mountainous breasts and past the quavering wall of her hoisted thighs, the bathhouse entryway and, beside it, the Bishop’s guardsman, standing with the perfect view of the monarch’s upraised hindquarters. She let her head to fall back against the tabletop and squeezed shut her eyes, willing herself to endure the humiliation.

She felt the brush strokes swabbing her bottom slow and then cease. Sister Agnes released her ankles, allowing her legs to drop. Before her limbs even came to rest, she felt the sharp edge of nun’s razor against her pelvis. With continued precision, the old woman scraped the blade across the moistened tangle of the Queen’s pubic hair, ripping it free silky black clumps that she flicked deftly to the side before rinsing her instrument and returning for another pass.

Isabella gritted her teeth, ignoring the occasional flashes of pain. Having this hostile stranger wave this perilously sharp implement around such sensitive parts of her body, it was nothing short of terrifying, but she could do little but trust blindly that these women did not intend to maim her. She held her body as motionless as she could manage, trying to give the old nun no excuse to draw blood.

Isabella held her breath in alarm. Miraculously, her lead captor displayed remarkable dexterity with the razor, and none of her cuts broke skin, even as her attentions moved lower, carefully scraping stray hairs from around the lips of the Queen’s royal cunny. Finally, Sister Agnes once again lifted the Queen’s legs, curling her body back into the degrading, infantilizing posture that made Isabella feel so exposed.

Manhandling the monarch’s lower half like an unwieldy piece of furniture, the old woman reached all the way around Isabella’s suspended thighs and leaned in close in order to put the finishing touches on her shorn genitals before spreading the Queen’s bottom and scraping clean whatever sparse wisps of hair ringed her asshole. Then, after wiping her down with a damp rag, Sister Agnes ran a finger along the crack Isabella’s bottom, up through the crevice between her legs and down around to the flat expanse of her pelvis, gauging the smoothness. Satisfied, she set down her tools.

“Your purification is complete, Lady Isabella. You may rise.”

The two other nuns released her arms. Her face burning at the indignity to which she’d just been subjected, Queen Isabella slowly sat up, swinging her legs out to dangle from the table. She stole a brief glance downward and was confronted with the unfamiliar cleft of her womanhood, bare as the day she’d entered this cruel world.

The White guardsman approached, and Isabella instinctively placed a hand over her lap while drawing her other arm across her naked breasts, a ridiculous attempt at modesty after everything this man had witnessed. Suddenly, he tossed something at her.

A bundle of fabric struck her squarely in the face before tumbling down into her demurely shielded lap. She looked down. Another penitent’s vestment.

“Come, My Lady,” said Sister Genevieve, “We must hurry up and get you dressed. His Excellency the Bishop awaits.”