Queen Captured – Act III: Knight (scene ii)

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Eighth 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.

The main road had been new paved since the last time Isabella had visited the lands west of the capital. It was leveler than she remembered, and a fresh coat of gravel coated its surface. The wagon train made good time, and, by the time the sun had cleared the tops of the trees that lined the southward side of the road, they were already passing by farms and through small villages that could reasonably be said to fall within the capital’s outskirts.

Their procession drew considerable attention, farmers and townsfolk coming out to stand in doorways and lean against fences to watch the flapping banners of the returning White cavalry and their long convoy. Isabella tried to keep her head down, shielding her face beneath cascades of black hair, but there was nowhere in her small crate to hide, and, like a leading circus attraction, the sight of the caged woman in the elegant black dress, prominently drawn in a wagon all her own, became an object of special interest.

Several times, she heard exclamations as she passed, sometimes questioning sometimes insistent, sometimes whispers sometimes shouts, sometimes referring to “Princess Isabella” or “the Black Queen” but more often to a nebulous “her.” Head down, she could not see them pointing, but she felt it.

They had just moved through a village, its general hubbub fading, when a particularly close voice caused her to look up.

“Then how come she ain’t movin’?” piped a small voice right beside her.

Isabella lifted her head for long enough to see a small boy—or possibly a girl, it was difficult to tell beneath the tangled hair and dirt-encrusted face—trotting alongside the wagon, breaking out into a periodic run to keep up. Matching his (or her) uneven pace were two older boys, perhaps 11 or 12 years of age to her (or his) 7 or 8. Looking around, she saw that several other village children had been drawn to her wagon and were jogging along the other side.

At Isabella’s sudden movement, some of them jumped back, falling behind the wagon temporarily before scampering to catch up.

“See? I told you she weren’t dead, dummy!” said one.

“Is it the queen? How come she inna cage?” the smaller child asked in a high, wobbly voice.

“She ain’t queen no more!” said another child. “That’s the Black Witch. Isabella of . . . of Mardmom. They catched ‘er during the fightin’ up north. I ‘erd Tawny Bill n’ ‘em talkin’ of it at the tavern yesternight.”

“Nuh-uh,” another responded. “My Pa says she weren’t queen and never was. Queen Joan’s the true queen. Lady Isabel jus’ used ‘er magic so as some folks got confuse.”

“Where they takin’ ‘er?”

Isabella closed her eyes, trying to ignore the urchins’ shrill gabbling. She had almost succeeded in shutting them out, their sing-song chatter fading into background along with the scrape of wheels on gravel and the clopping and snorting of horses, when a sharp pain in her side jolted her into abrupt alertness. Her eyes flew open with a yelp of shock, and her head jerked upright, clanging against the bars. She scrambled towards the other side of the cage, away from the source of the sudden pain.

Isabella looked behind her wild-eyed. One of the boys was holding what looked to be a tree branch. It was more than half the child’s height, its extraneous limbs crudely broken off and its end whittled into a sharp point.

Once more, the children fell back in momentary apprehension at Isabella’s stirring. Seeing no immediate fallout from their companion’s audacious actions, however, they quickly regained their confidence, scurrying to catch up with the wagon with renewed enthusiasm, giggling and chattering excitedly now that it seemed like a game was truly underway.

Up ahead, the white-uniformed horseman driving the wagon remained focused on the road, having either failed to hear his prisoner’s scream over the general clatter of the procession or else willfully ignoring her distress.

The boy with the pointed stick approached the cage once again, flaunting his audacity for the benefit of his companions. Skipping along to stay even with the wagon while dodging the gravel being kicked up by its tall wheels, he leaned in as close as he could to the moving cage in order to take aim at the far corner where the exotic captive had retreated.

He poked his stick through the bars. The pointed end waggled in front of Isabella as the boy gauged where to strike. The young hooligan’s impudence awoke a dormant ferocity in the Black Queen. With a snarl, she seized the stick, snapping off the end with a splintery crunch. Grabbing the remaining stem in both hands, she tugged, pulling the branch hand over hand towards her.

The boy, too surprised or too stupid to let go, soon found his arm yanked through the bars. Isabella snatched his forearm, sinking her nails into his skin. She twisted his arm until he cried out. His face smashed against one of the metal bars, and he lost his footing. Isabella released him, and he fell backwards into the gravel.

Far from being cowed, the rest of the children seemed invigorated by this drama. They laughed and clapped their hands, dancing around the wagon. There seemed to be more and more of them, the excitement drawing them out of the passing fields and woods like iron filings to a lodestone, or else summoned by some secret communication network for grubby-faced truants.

One of the soldiers barked half-heartedly at the rascals to go home, but the children, well-schooled in gauging the toothlessness of authority figures’ commands, ignored him.

Isabella felt a pudgy forefinger jab into her back. She whirled around, but the brat had already retreated out of arm’s reach, tittering to his comrades. While her head was turned, another tree branch slipped through the bars on the other side of the cage and jabbed her in the thigh. She snatched at it, but it slid away before she could lay her fingers on it.

There was more laughter and playful shouting. Isabella realized she was giving the little hoodlums exactly what they wanted, and, in desperation, resolved to switch back to her failed strategy of non-engagement. She scooted towards the center of the cage and pulled her limbs close. When a child reached through the bars to touch her, she pretended not to notice. When another took aim at her with a stick, she did her best to deflect and dodge it.

This passive tactic worked not at all. Within moments, the threshold for mischief had been so lowered that even the young mob’s most timid participants felt they’d been given permission to score a point or two by touching the woman in the cage. And the ringleaders, seeing their social cachet diluted, began to ratchet up the aggressiveness of their attacks.

Soon, half a dozen hands were reaching towards her from all sides, prodding and groping. Some couldn’t reach, but a few of the older boys had arms’ span to spare. One of them grabbed a fistful of her gown. Another managed to get his fingers around the thin chain that drooped between her wrists. Isabella swatted at their hands, but as soon as she convinced one to relinquish its grasp, another seized a different part of her body. She screamed in pain as one boy, a lanky, red-headed lad with a lazy eye, snatched ahold of her hair and pulled forcefully, causing her to topple over on her side.

There were a dozen or more of them now, mostly boys, some barely out of swaddling clothes, some at the cusp of manhood with wispy moustaches and burgeoning Adam’s apples beneath the grime that universally caked their faces. The littler ones danced around the cart laughing, joining one another in rhyming nursery chants and darting in opportunistically whenever the chance to pinch or prod the object of their fun presented itself. The older boys, meanwhile, seemed to take their game more seriously. Behind their leering grins, their eyes were focused, fixated on pinning down their slippery prey.

“See ‘ere, Charley, you go round thatta side ‘n grab ‘er other leg,” one boy was saying, raising his voice to be heard over the rest of the swarm, whose sing-song patter had coalesced into a single refrain:

“Ol’ Black Queen! ‘Ere she come! Wif a stick stuck up ‘er bum! Picks ‘er nose! Smells ‘er feets! Lets the farmboys milk ‘er teats!”

The tune, plagiarized from an older song, was infectious, and the children seized upon the anthem with the single-mindedness typical to their age. When Isabella had held power, the insolent little ragamuffins could have been arrested for this treasonous disrespect alone, executed perhaps. Now, it was merely the soundtrack to what was becoming an increasingly desperate battle between the chained noblewoman and the horde of tiny grasping hands and leering faces that encircled her.

Isabella landed a swift kick deep into the elbow of a boy who was reaching for her exposed calf. It was the one called “Charley” most likely. The chain between her ankles limited her maneuverability, but, whipping her leg around in a tight arc, she managed to gather an impressive amount of force behind the counterattack. Charley (or whatever the little lowlife’s name was) screamed in pain as his arm bent the wrong direction, twisted between the iron railings of the cage like a pry bar.

“Ooooooh!” hooted some of the children. Others barely acknowledged the violence, too animated by their chants—“. . . Picks ‘er nose! Smells ‘er feets! . . .”—to let the distress of their comrade, who stumbled back into their midst clutching his arm and howling, shake them from their rhythm.

But they kept coming at her. There were too many. They had her surrounded. No sooner would she repulse one encroachment than another would close in from the opposite direction. To her dismay, Isabella realized her wagon was slowing. The children no longer had to jog as hard to keep up, and they began to reach through the bars with greater confidence.

Able to launch more sustained incursions from positions of greater leverage, their grasping hands became harder and harder to fend off. One boy scored a solid handhold around her ankle. At the same time, a set of greasy fingers had slipped between her shoulder blades beneath the neck of her dress, and she heard the material rip.

She lashed out, her body flailing in tight contortions like pinned insect, but the moment she’d managed to shake off the fist clenched around her ankle, two more hands darted forward, each gathering up bundles of black fabric from the flowing hem of Isabella’s gown and tugging her towards their side of the cage with all the strength they could muster. As she struggled to pull away, Isabella heard another tear open in her lavish costume.

Suddenly, the cart ground to a full stop, sending Isabella tumbling. Her child tormentors were also thrown off balance and released their grips on the captive queen’s clothes and body, stumbling away from the tottering cart. As the dust from the gravel road rose and settled, some of the boys turned back towards the cage, eager to pick up where they’d left off, but most stepped back, craning their heads up and down the column of soldiers, waiting to see what would happen next.

Sure enough, the White horseman who’d been pulling the wagon dismounted. Too distracted or indifferent while the caravan was in motion to deal with the little mob that had gathered around his cargo, he now stomped into their midst as if scattering a swarm of flies.

“Off with you now!” he growled, cuffing one youngster on the ear and reaching menacingly for his sword.

The children dispersed as the soldier waved his arms, but Isabella noticed they didn’t go far, hanging back just a few paces off the road.

She righted herself and tried her best to regather her composure. Assessing the damage to her dress, she traced her fingers up the long tear that began at the hem and forked off in multiple jagged directions as it rose above her knee. On the other side, a ragged flap the size of a deck of cards drooped diagonally across the front of her thigh, held on by a narrow edge. Her right shoulder and arm were bare, the black material of the gown falling in saggy tatters down her back.

Several knights clopped past her. There was activity both ahead and behind her along the road. Certain wagons were being rolled off to the side, and various elements of Sir Stewart’s retinue were rearranging themselves. Isabella craned her head, ducking to evade the low wood ceiling that obstructed her sightlines.

Squinting out towards the horizon, she scanned across a forest of spindly smoke trails. Such a dense cluster of soot-bearing plumes could only arise from the hundreds of wood-burning stoves and chimneys of the Kingdom’s capital, she thought. And, indeed, through the grey-black canopy, she could just make out the royal palace, sitting atop the Hill of St. Theobald, the city’s highest point.

As she was gauging their distance—at their current pace, they could be approaching the city gates within an hour—Sir Stewart’s page jogged up beside her.

“Follow me, sir,” he said, addressing the soldier assigned to Isabella’s cart. “My master has convened a meeting to discuss arrangements for our entry into the city. You are needed.”

The soldier let out a contemptuous grunt, as if he felt the arrangements for their entry into the city had already been adequately discussed.

“And who’ll guard the sorceress then?” he asked. “The White Knight’s already reassigned half the company to take care of those damned monkeys.”

“The Whore of Aardmore isn’t going anywhere,” the page responded, jangling the set of keys around his belt for emphasis.

“Seems to me . . .” began the soldier, but the page cut him off.

“I have orders directly from Sir Stewart, appointed High Marshal by the King himself, that you are to join him at once. How he provides for the security of his prisoners is not for you to dictate, sirrah.”

The soldier shrugged and marched after the page. Seeing him turn, Isabella was seized by a sudden dread. Glancing off to the side of the road, she made eye contact with the lazy-eyed red-headed boy. He was sprawled out on a grassy slope, a length of straw drooping from his mouth.

“Wait!” she called after the departing men, her voice soft and hoarse at first but rising in volume and clarity in proportion to her panic. “Wait! Don’t! Sir! Please! Wait! This place . . . It’s not safe! Wait!”

The irony of her position, begging her captors to stay with her, gave her pleas a strained, quavering quality. She scooted all the way over to the front of the cage, clutching the bars, watching them disappear from sight around a large group of riderless horses who’d been tethered together to a stake near the side of the road up ahead of her. She opened her mouth to cry out once more, but no sound emerged. Her jaw snapped closed in futility.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the village children begin to stir. They’d been milling about the woods beside the road, watching the activity or else resting from their chase on the side of a small knoll that rose softly towards the east. Now, in ones and twos, checking to see that the soldiers were occupied at the front of the line, they inched closer. Isabella whirled around. Everywhere she looked, they were closing in.

“Stay back!” she spat at them, scrambling around her cage for some sort of weapon, something to throw at them. Finally, in wild-eyed desperation, she raised her clothed arm in front of her. “I’ll . . . I’ll cast a spell on you! I’ll curse you all!”

A few of the children stopped, alarm spreading across their small faces. Some of them, however, apparently found the performance unconvincing. Or perhaps the swarm had simply developed a will of its own, transcending the individual fears and desires of its members. In any case, they kept moving forward, coalescing into a tight ring around the cart, and soon the boldest boys had their faces pressed against the bars of cage. The young rabble’s excited chatter and laughing began to build again, and the staccato lyrics of their song were taken up in fits and starts, fortifying the confidence of the mob.

“. . . Here she come! Wif a stick stuck up ‘er bum! . . .”

One of the boys reached for her. Isabella tried deliver a kick to his face, but she was thrown off balance by someone yanking at her dress from the other side. Instead, her foot awkwardly slapped against the bars of the cage, and another boy reached through and grabbed her ankle with both hands. He pulled it through the bars, knocking Isabella unto her back.

Her head slammed against the cage floor. Immediately, several hands closed in on her hair, seizing bundles of black curls and greedily dragging them in different directions, as if each trying to tear off their own souvenir. Isabella gasped, emitting a high, girlish shriek, the register of which sounded totally unfamiliar to her.

She raised her arms up over her head and began pounding blindly with her fists. One hand after another let go as she pummeled them from knuckles to forearm. When one particularly tenacious boy wouldn’t let go, she grabbed his hand in hers, struggling to at least relieve the pressure on her scalp. It was a mistake. Someone reached through the bars and took ahold of her wrist. A moment later, someone else had snatched her other wrist.

“. . . Lets the farmboys milk ‘er teats! . . .”

The boy holding her foot dug his heels into the gravel road and leaned back, attempting to tug her leg further through the bars. Isabella resisted, straining to draw her knee up towards her chest. She bucked and floundered on the floor of the cage, grunting in exertion, trying simultaneously to fend off the attacks above and below.

Meanwhile, as the older boys attempted to pin down her hands and feet, the younger children continued darting in and out between them, jabbing the noblewoman opportunistically with sticks or snatching at whatever loose bits of clothing were swept their way by the undulations of Isabella’s struggle. The tear in her dress opened further. A few of the diminutive creeps managed to get their grubby fingers on her petticoat, and this too began to rip.

In her fight to keep her arms and legs inside the cart, she was forced to plant her other foot against the bars for leverage. Another mistake. Before she could push against the side of the cage, try to yank her right leg free, her left leg was pounced upon. From her position flat on her back, Isabella’s head jolted up in alarm.

It was the redhead. Both of his grubby hands were squeezed tight around her ankle. When he saw her look up at him, he grinned broadly. Like many of the children, he was missing half his teeth, but, unlike some of the others, it was clear from the lad’s age that in his case the gaps in his smile were never going to be filled.

“. . . Ol’ Black Queen. ‘Ere she come . . .” he sang along under his breath.

She tried to jerk away, but the boy held fast. At his twisting and nudging, her bare sole slipped off the smooth iron bars and into the space between. He yanked her foot through, adjusting his grip along her calf like a mariner taking charge of the ship’s rigging.

Isabella now found both her legs sticking out of the cage, a single metal pole between them. The two adolescent boys pulling her forward shared a look, a conspiratorial smirk that also conveyed the boys’ sheer amazement at their circumstances, the twist of fortune that had dropped these long, slender legs literally into their hands.

Isabella kicked, and the boys were bucked about, wrestling for control of the royal limbs as if subduing a pair of ferocious serpents. The boy on the right turned his back to the cage, tucking Isabella’s shin beneath his armpit for better leverage.

They continued to tug. Isabella found herself sliding on her back towards the side of the cage, her dress bunching up around the bars while, outside, the soft white skin of her legs—still smooth from the most recent grooming imposed upon her by Sir Stewart’s camp followers—emerged inch by inch into the sunlight. First her calves and then her knees and finally the beginnings of her thighs, their supple flesh pinched ever so slightly as they squeezed between the metal posts.

They would have pulled her even further outside were it not for the children on the other side of the wagon. Isabella’s arms, crossed at the wrists above her head, had been yanked through the bars. Other sets of hands had reached into the cage as well, gripping her biceps and shoulders. Her body was now stretched between the two groups as if upon a rack.

“ . . .Picks ‘er nose! Smells ‘er feets! . . .” they clapped and sang.

Isabella watched helplessly as a grimy adolescent hand appeared from somewhere behind her ear and worked its way underneath the front of her corset. Apparently straining the limits of his reach, the unseen boy stretched his greedy fingers as far as they could down Isabella’s chest, groping and fondling as he went. Isabella turned her head to try to bite his arm, but a yank to her hair made her snap her neck back with an anguished cry.

Pulling and nudging and rolling, the boy managed to coax her left tit towards him, directing it upwards until it finally spilled out over the lip of her corset, where it remained propped in an unnatural erection. Now in nearer arms’ reach, several other young hands closed in to poke or pinch her nude breast. Isabella gasped in pain as one of them snatched her nipple between thumb and forefinger and gave it a sudden wrenching twist. Peals of laughter followed.

Meanwhile, determined to win their tug-of-war, the children on the other side of the wagon had managed to pull her legs through the bars all the way to mid-thigh.

“How come her thingy got no hair?” she heard a small voice ask.

“She royalty ain’t she, dummy?” answered one of the older boys. “Whud you expect her cunt to look jus’ like your ma?”

“Don’ look like nuffin special to me!” offered another voice.

“Hey, come’n take a look!” called another.

Isabella lifted her head. A group of children had gathered close to look up her dress, beneath which she was wearing nothing. They leaned in to gawk at her bald cunny, lying exposed just a few inches from bars, as if it were a sideshow exhibit.

A pair of them reached through the bars to grab the hems of the bunched-up dress and petticoat that were partially obstructing the view. They first lifted the material up towards the top of the cage, forming a billowing tent to surround the circus attraction that was the captive queen’s naked groin. Then, with a coordinated heave-ho, they flung it backwards towards the other side of the cage.

It was an impressive toss. The flowing black skirt fell around Isabella’s face, and everything suddenly went dark. The children on the other side of the wagon grabbed the skirt and pulled it further upwards until the upper half of her body was totally engulfed, drowning in black cloth, while the lower half of her body, from her belly button down, was left completely naked.

The feeling of total exposure overwhelmed her. Unable to see what was happening, she could feel the hands on her bare legs and feel the eyes on her bare crotch. She squirmed helplessly.

Through the partial sensory deprivation of her black cocoon, she could hear the muffled sounds of laughter and the monotonous meter of their ceaseless juvenile chant:

“. . . Smells her feets! Lets the farmboys milk ‘er teats! The ol’ Black Queen! ‘Ere she come! . . .”

The hands touching her legs grew more numerous and worked their way further upwards, but it took a moment for the young mob to overcome its apparent awe and explore the mysterious bits of flesh waiting inside the cage. Finally, amid a chorus of giggles, she felt someone reach through the bars and softly pinch her labia. This opened the floodgates. Suddenly, half a dozen hands were clamoring to claim a piece of the most private areas of her body, prodding her, squeezing her thighs, burrowing beneath her buttocks. With a sense of overpowering disgust, she felt one of their thumbs work its way inside her.

She moaned in humiliation, the shame of enduring such domination from mere boys bringing tears to her eyes beneath the suffocating blanket of her dress.

“’Ere! ‘Ere! Use dis!” she heard someone call out.

“Oh ho ho!” answered another, and there was the sound of general laughter.

The adolescent hands exploring her body withdrew all at once. At the same time, they pulled her legs further apart and forced them upwards, raising them so high that the boys grasping her ankles must have been holding them above their heads. Again, she tried to kick, but her range of movement was limited, and she couldn’t shake the little monsters off.

It was then that she felt an object, ribbed with soft bumps but otherwise smooth and tapering into a blunted point, press between the cheeks of her upturned bottom. The cold, mysterious object fumbled up and down the cleft of her ass until, finally feeling out a pliant slot, it attempted to twist its way inside her.

“Errrrnnnnnnnnnggggh!!” Isabella screeched from beneath the tattered encasement of her dress.

For what seemed like an eternity of discomfort, the malicious pack of boys probed her with whatever crude item they’d found, all the while laughing and chanting. They tried several times to shove the pointed object further inside her but were unable to insert it much past its tip. To Isabella’s relief, after a final rough thrust, it was removed.

“’s too dry!” she heard one of the boys shout. “’Ere! Spit on’t!”

“Yeah! Spit on’t! Spit on’t!” came a chorus of mirthful echoes.

Even under the layers of fabric, Isabella could vaguely make out the loud, theatrical noises of spitting. One after another, the children appeared to be taking turns noisily adding their saliva to whatever disgusting reservoir they were building. P’tooooo. P’tooooo. P’toooooo.

When there had been enough spitting to seemingly coat a whole arsenal of makeshift phalluses, the sounds stopped. Isabella held her breath. Then, she felt the tip of the object return, this time unmistakably slimy and slick. Her stomach churned. She thought she might vomit as she imagined the collective phlegm of these filthy urchins being smeared over and in her.

Their nauseating methods worked. The tool slid more easily, lubricated by the film of adolescent spittle.

“Ah! Ah!” Isabella cried as they twisted and shoved the object deeper and deeper, deeper than she thought it could possibly go, so deep that she could soon feel the knuckles of the boy conducting the humiliating intrusion between the cheeks of her buttocks as he continued to work with the small nub that still remained outside her.

“What in God’s name . . . ?!”

This exclamation of utter astonishment came wrapped in Sir Stewart’s unmistakable haughty tenor. At the sound of the White Knight’s voice, the activity in and around Isabella’s bottom abruptly froze. The knuckles withdrew, leaving whatever the juvenile thugs had stuffed inside her poking lewdly out.

A commotion followed, shouting and clanging of metal. The cluster of small hands entwining her wrists and pinning her shoulders and elbows above her head all abruptly released her. Like a drowning victim bursting through the surface of her translucent tomb, Isabella sprang upright, knocking her tattered dress out of her face with a fierce backhand.

All around her, the mob of children were scattering as Sir Stewart and two of his knights, swords drawn, circled the cage, boxing whatever ears and kicking whatever backsides fell within their reach. Isabella emerged just in time to see the red-headed boy, who had held tight to her shapely white leg despite the violence around him, ripped from his cherished possession as the White Knight grabbed him by his collar and flung him to the ground.

The boy scrambled away piteously, lazy eye wide with fear, gap-toothed mouth open with a half-formulated plea. In an act of almost casual whimsy, Sir Stewart snapped up a short, one-handed mace from his belt and, with an offhanded flick of his wrist, smashed in the boy’s skull. There was a sharp crack, and a slurry of brain and bone chips splurted off to the side as the lad collapsed motionless, face-down in the grass beside the road.

Sir Stewart pivoted back around towards the cage, spinning the mace absent-mindedly in his hand.

“Peasant trash,” he sniffed, though his tone carried a hint of reluctant admiration. “Leave a morsel of meat lying about, it’s remarkable how swiftly the maggots gather.”

He peered closer at Isabella, looking her ruffled, manhandled form up and down, and a smile of surprise and amusement began to build across his face that he made only the most superficial show of repressing. His knights joined his side to share in the sorrowful sight, both wearing similar expressions of restrained mirth.

Under their gaze, Isabella did her best to collect herself, head still spinning from the ordeal. She pulled her legs back inside the cage and brushed her frazzled and tangled hair out of her face. Glancing down at her left breast, still squishing out obscenely over the top of her mangled corset, she tried to stuff it back into her dress. When the hefty mound of flesh refused to cooperate, she crossed her arm across her chest before looking up to meet Sir Stewart’s eyes.

“How . . . How could you . . .” she croaked out, trying to stop her chin from trembling. “How could you let them? Have you no . . . no honor? No honor at all, Sir?”

“Deepest apologies, My Lady,” answered the White Knight, his smirk broadcasting anything but sincerity. “But, after all, mere children . . . Who could have known they would dare molest the infamous Black Queen, warrior maid, storied butcher of the Battle of the Fens?”

The two other knights exchanged a look of merriment that made Isabella furious. Battle of the Fens. Had these two been part of the White cavalry she had defeated in that savage engagement last autumn amid the marshes? She should have slaughtered every one of them.

She shifted her weight, and a sudden, wrenching discomfort made her gasp. An awareness that had somehow been compartmentalized amid the tumult of Sir Stewart’s bloody arrival now came surging back to the fore of her consciousness. Gulping down quick shallow breaths, her eyes flitted back and forth among the three men staring at her in amused curiosity.

She reached down as discreetly as she could manage and fumbled underneath her skirt until she found the blunt shaft protruding from her bottom. Unable to get a firm grip, she was forced to roll to her side and hike the dress up her naked hips. Reaching around her back, she dug her nails into the soft sides of the object and pulled.

“Uuuuunnnnnnngggggh,” she groaned as the saliva-coated shaft slid painfully out of her.

She held up the disgusting object to finally see what humiliating device her young tormentors had found to fuck her with. It was a carrot.

It was too much for the three knights. Seeing the captive noblewoman’s dumbfounded expression as she held up the slimy orange vegetable she’d just pulled from her rectum, all three burst into open guffaws. One of them planted his sword into the earth and turned away doubled over in laughter, so delighted was he by the former monarch’s distress.

Sir Stewart, however, quickly suppressed his grin beneath a mask of dutiful solemnity. He approached the cage and grasped the bars. Reaching through, he pulled a corner of Isabella’s mutilated dress towards him, shaking his head.

“What puerile imaginations these farmboys have. I worry for the morals of our Kingdom’s youth. Truly. And this dress! Imported! Impossible to replicate such needlework. Such a waste! Ah well. It wasn’t to be featured in my triumph in any event. Not according to Queen Joan’s messengers. But musn’t keep griping over Her Majesty’s micromanagement. The show must go on!”

Sir Stewart turned back to the knights. Though addressed to his men, his orders seemed more for Isabella’s benefit.

“Well, no harm done, it doesn’t seem. Proceed as discussed, sirs. Escort the lady from her carriage and bring her to the back of the procession. Secure her directly behind my horse. Per Her Majesty’s express instructions, her sister is to enter the city on foot and unrobed. Not the effect I had in mind, but it sends a message of sorts, I suppose. Strip her of her clothes immediately. I wish to leave at once. We must pass through the city gates within the hour if we wish to reach the palace steps by dusk.”

The White Knight turned to go while his men approached the wagon. Isabella watched them in trepidation, trying to process what had happened and what was in store for her. Realizing that she was still holding the carrot, she flung it through the bars in disgust. Suddenly, one of the soldiers halted and called out to his commander.

“What have we here? Sir!”

The knight disappeared beneath the wagon and came up dragging a shifty-eyed boy of twelve or thirteen by the scruff of his neck. It looked to be the boy whose arm Isabella had likely broken with her kick, the one the other urchins had called Charley. Sir Stewart turned back with a sigh.

“They really are like fleas. Crush as many as you like, you’ll never clear the infestation entirely.”

“Cut the rascal’s throat, Sir?” asked the knight.

The boy squirmed under the soldier’s grip but looked more peeved than afraid.

“We done nothing wrong! You actin’ like that’s a good Christian woman you got caged up in there and not Lady Isabella of Aardmore, inn’it? Traitor to the Realm and hagent of Satan besides, I heard. So wus the problem, Sir? Why, we were jus’ defending them innocent young’uns from ‘er magic. She tried to lay curses on us an’ everything! You can’t imagine how afeared we all were!”

Sir Stewart snorted, amused by the boy’s boldness. With the same air nonchalance with which he’d bashed in the head of the youngster’s comrade, the White Knight strolled over and sized the lad up.

“I may have a job for this one. What do you think, boy? Instead of having your throat cut, how’d you like to be in a parade?”

The boy nodded warily.

“Good,” replied Sir Stewart. “Come with me. We’ll have you fitted for something more appropriate to a royal triumph.”

Without warning, he unsheathed his sword and stabbed at the ground. Isabella and the boy both flinched. When he brought the blade back up, impaled upon its tip was the spit-covered vegetable that had been forced up Isabella’s ass.

“If we must march Queen Joan’s trophy through the streets on foot, I daresay we may need to employ the stick as well as the carrot.”

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Queen Captured – Act II: Bishop (scene iv)

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Fifth 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.

The next morning the Bishop returned. Sister Agnes awoke Isabella from a dreamless stupor with a splash of cold water. She had with her a bucket and a sponge and proceeded to wash down her captive before unshackling her. If she noticed the dried semen on the Queen’s legs or anything else amiss, she said nothing.

Too exhausted and dispirited to resist, Isabella allowed herself to be dragged to her feet and led over to the wall, where another set of shackles closed around her wrists and held her standing, back flat against the stonework, with arms outstretched. With something that might have been mistaken for tenderness, Sister Agnes unhooked the leather strap that held the wooden rod in place between Isabella’s teeth. The bit was removed, and she flexed her stiff and aching jaw.

The old nun pressed a ladle to Isabella’s lips. The water had come from the same bucket that had been used in her perfunctory sponge bath, but the Queen was in no position to argue hygiene. Her throat raw and dry, she greedily slurped at the liquid, her heart sinking when the ladle was tossed back into the bucket without the offer of further respite.

Sister Agnes stepped aside. The Bishop approached. He looked Isabella up and down while running a palm contemplatively across his bald head.

“Good morning, Lady Isabella. Are you ready to confess your sins?”

Isabella opened and closed her mouth experimentally, unsure, between the soreness of her jaw and her dehydration, if she would be capable of producing sounds. Her head was cloudy, her vision blurry. She would have rubbed her eyes if she could. Instead, she blinked hard, jerking her head to the side to shake off the haze, her black hair, still surprisingly bouncy and lustrous despite her ordeal, whipping down across half her face.

She looked up, and her one uncovered eye fell upon the two guards, standing at attention behind the Bishop. Her muscles clenched in anger, and she swallowed hard, her rising fury seeming to somehow lubricate her parched throat.

“Your men . . .” she croaked, “. . . they came to me in the night . . . like beasts . . . used me . . .”

“The witch lies!” protested Brother Duncan. At the same time, Sister Agnes announced her view of the accusation with dismissive snort, full of derision and disappointment. But the Bishop raised his hand to silence them both.

“Once again, my child, you mistake this for a conversation. The only words that can save you are ones of repentance. I ask you again: are you ready to confess your sins before God?”

“God . . .” Isabella hissed bitterly, dropping her eyes to the floor in despair, “God has forsaken this place.”

The Bishop shook his head in a show of disappointment. He turned and plucked a metal object from a nearby workbench, an elongated, pear-shaped device of polished bronze. Holding it up before the chained queen, he tested a knob at its base. As he twisted, the head of the tool slowly flared, bursting into three pieces and yawning like the mouth of some unnatural creature.

“Very well,” said the Bishop. “The interrogation continues.”

The pattern continued for days. How many days, Isabella could not be certain, for the same mental defenses that allowed her to endure what was being done to her seemed to block her from counting how many times it happened.

By day, she was tortured. Sometimes for an hour, sometimes for ten. Sometimes in one long session, sometimes in shifts. Sometimes she was hounded for a confession, sometimes the Bishop and his assistants went about their work in silence. All according to her captors’ whims.

By night, the guards would come. It was just Duncan and Theodore at first, but then, growing bolder perhaps, they began to bring others, men that Isabella did not recognize, comrades from other details presumably. One night, they were accompanied by a tonsured monk, who wasted no time eagerly hiking up his habit to mount the bound noblewoman. On more than one occasion, Isabella saw coins exchanged between Brother Duncan and the visitors.

Somehow, however many days she had been locked in the tower, she remained intact. Physically intact, at any rate. She had been in peak health when she had been taken at Malburgh, and her body was remarkably resilient in the face of her tribulations. Her mind had its own battles to fight.

The torments devised for her were varied and endless. One day, she had been forced to sit for hours straddling a narrow wooden beam, set at a height just inches above where she could comfortably stand, its edges digging into her crotch whenever her muscles would no longer permit her to remain on tip toes.

Another cruel morning had seen her nipples placed into tiny vices which were closed crank by crank around the tender flesh.

She had been strapped to a table as the bottoms of her feet were beaten with a birch cane. Wet cloth had been pressed to her face to simulate the sensation of drowning. Hot wax had been dripped across every inch of her skin and into every crevice of her body. A procession of foreign objects had been shoved into her asshole, sometimes left there to protrude from her body like a flag planted deep in newly-conquered earth.

These were painful, agonizing ordeals, without question. Degrading, yes, beyond all imagining. But, based on what Isabella had knew of the interrogation techniques employed by the Tribunal of Heresies, the tortures the Bishop had selected for her seemed calculated not to inflict permanent injury, to leave no lasting scars or, indeed, marks of any kind. For a while, through the grim haze of her pain and humiliation and despair, this realization was some small hope. The Bishop needed her alive, in one piece and largely unblemished. Whatever his pronouncements about church prerogative, he must at some point still intend to turn her over to Queen Joan and her feeble White King.

Yet the unremitting nature of her torture and captivity took its toll. Though her bones remained unbroken, the cumulative trauma of such ceaseless pain and debasement was steadily breaking down her spirit. The diurnal rhythms of her existence were divided between the Bishop’s whip and his servants’ cocks, and the helplessness of her situation was wearing her down. She was losing her mind and with it her sense of self. Lady Isabella might remain bodily whole, but the Black Queen was dying.

One night, many days, weeks perhaps, after her confinement began, she lay face down in the darkness. Unusually, she had not been chained to the floor at the end of the day. Instead, she had been left strapped to the apparatus that had been the site of the day’s torture.

It was a whipping bench, and Isabella knelt on a raised plank with her legs spread at shoulder width, her thighs secured against the body of the apparatus with broad leather belts. She was bent forward over an elevated portion of the bench, the weight of her upper body resting on her stomach, her breasts hanging loose over the front. More leather bands wrapped around her elbows and wrists, tying her arms fast to the slanted legs of the bench. Her head dangled freely and would have been shrouded by the curtain of her black hair had Sister Agnes not gathered it up into a neat bun that bobbled atop her skull.

Whether it had been oversight or conscious disregard that had left her there, part of Isabella still had sufficient sense of agency to contemplate turning this carelessness to her advantage. She began to wriggle.

Very quickly, she despaired. The buckles around her arms and legs might not have the durability of the heavy iron chains that were her usual bedtime accommodations, but they would suffice to hold her. She had neither the strength nor the leverage to break or twist out of tight leather straps. Even if she could, how did she expect to get herself out of the tower, naked and alone and surrounded by the Bishop’s men and other loyalists of the White regime?

Somehow, even in her uncomfortable position, sleep eventually overcame the exhausted Isabella. At the creak of the chamber door, however, she immediately woke, her heart already racing in a learned fear response. She lifted her head but could not crane her neck around sufficiently to see the door. She listened, muscles tensing, as a single set of footsteps approached from behind her at a steady, unhurried pace. Eerie shadows arose from the darkness as the flickering glow of candlelight spilled across the chamber and then grew closer.

“Mmmmmpph . .  uuuuhhh.” Isabella mumbled into her bit, hoping pathetically to elicit some response that would at least break the tension and horrible anticipation.

The intruder’s footsteps stopped behind her. Isabella held her breath. Was it Duncan? Or Theodore? Or had they sold her off to some third person for tonight? She tucked her chin but could barely see her knees past the obstruction of her pendulous breasts, let alone make out the identity of the figure of looming over her upraised bottom.

To her surprise, Isabella heard the sound of soft, ritualistic murmuring. Someone was praying. The words came fast and only half-vocalized, such that the fettered queen could only catch snippets here and there.

“ . . . that the Lord may forgive my unclean thoughts . . . this temptress sent by the devil to test men’s weakness . . . and afterwards to purify myself in whatever manner Thou command . . . that Thy will be done . . .”

The breathy mutterings were so indistinct that it took Isabella a moment to recognize that it was the Bishop himself standing behind her. No sooner had she made this realization than she felt leather-gloved hands on her buttocks, a palm pressed flat against each cheek as if sizing up her backside. Isabella squirmed. Tied down, draped over this bench, she could not have felt more exposed, with her bottom sticking up in the air above her stooped torso and her legs parted just enough to offer up both her front and rear orifices for display.

From the leisurely, silent way that the Bishop ran his hands over her bottom, squeezing her cheeks gently together and pulling them apart as if evaluating the ripeness of a large piece of fruit, he seemed to be taking in with relish the spectacle of the Queen’s exhibited parts.

One hand brushed down between her legs and ran slowly across the folds of her vagina and then up the valley floor between the mounds of her ass. The Bishop then released her bottom, and Isabella heard a soft pop that sounded like a stopper being removed from a jar. A moment later, she lurched forward in surprise as two fingers, ungloved but covered in something cold and slippery, jabbed against her anus without warning.

“Fffffmmmmmm! . . .” Isabella squealed, wiggling her bottom reflexively in a futile attempt to evade the Bishop’s touch, but the leather straps held her in place.

Helplessly, she stared down at the stone floor, feeling the invasive fingers circle round and round her asshole, smearing it thoroughly with lubricant. Isabella didn’t know what was in the slimy tincture, but she had grown familiar with the cold, oily feeling of having it rubbed on her and in her. It was the same concoction Sister Agnes used when preparing her to have one of her holes plugged by some new instrument of torture or humiliation, be it the Flemish Pear or the Beaded Confessor.

Sure enough, the unseen hands at her backside wasted no time in pushing their way inside her. First one slick finger burrowed into her ass, then another. Rhythmically, they slid in and out. Isabella moaned at the indignity.

The fingers molesting her bottom slowed and then withdrew. Isabella felt a fleeting sense of relief, but a moment later she wished the Bishop had been more thorough in applying the ointment. A burst of pain coursed through her as she felt her interrogator’s stiff and dismayingly thick penis press against her asshole and then roughly shove its way in.

In silence, save for Isabella’s muffled grunts of pain, the White Bishop fucked the Black Queen’s ass. The ordeal didn’t take long, and after a final stoic thrust, the Bishop wordlessly removed himself from Isabella’s aching hole. The Queen felt several globs of hot semen splatter against her right butt cheek. She choked back a sob while, behind her, the sadistic clergyman muttered another hurried prayer, presumably stuffing his wet cock back inside his holy vestments.

The footsteps and the candlelight receded, and the door creaked and closed. Isabella was left once more in the darkness, naked and bound, waiting for what new torments the dawn would bring, wondering wretchedly how much more abuse she could compartmentalize before the woman she had been was strangled and drowned.

The heavy chamber door and its visceral engravings of damnation swung slowly open again, its shrill creak once again triggering an immediate anxiety reflex in the captive queen. It seemed like only a moment ago the Bishop had left, but perhaps she had dropped out of consciousness at some point, through sleep or simply her mind shutting down to help dull the trauma.

Sister Agnes came first, walking across the chamber and into Isabella’s field of vision, carrying the bucket of water for her prisoner’s morning bath. Though she could not see them, Isabella knew that Brother Duncan and Brother Theodore would no doubt be taking their stations flanking the entryway, settling in to enjoy another session watching their master torment and humiliate the Old King’s fallen daughter.

Sister Agnes loosened the straps around Isabella’s arms and legs but did not release her from the whipping bench. Isabella gingerly adjusted her stiff appendages but moved slowly and deliberately lest the nun think she was trying to struggle or fight. The old woman circled around her, sponging down her body. As usual, she gave no indication that she noticed the remnants of the night’s visitations sticking in crusty splotches to the fettered woman’s bottom and thighs.

Once Isabella had been wiped down, her surfaces and crevices dutifully polished like a well-kept piece of furniture or machinery, Sister Agnes removed the bit from between her teeth and gave her a ladle of water, which Isabella slurped at gratefully while the nun held a hand beneath her chin to support her dangling head. Then came the creak of the door and the steady, methodical footsteps that could only by the Bishop’s.

Isabella cringed with each footfall. There was a rustle of objects at a nearby table, and she imagined the grim-faced churchman musing over the day’s favored tools. Eventually, a flourish of white linen swooped past her face, and Isabella lifted her head, straining upwards to meet the eyes of the figure looming above and before her.

When she saw his expression, though, as cold and imperious as always, not the slightest flicker acknowledging what he had done to her during the night, she found that she could not hold his gaze. She allowed her head to sag back to its resting place between her stooped shoulders. Eyes fixed on the Bishop’s boots, she waited.

“Lady Isabella of Aardmore, you know well the charges against you. By the mercy of Almighty God, you are given this day a further opportunity to confess your sins and repent your wickedness. Will you take His proffered succor? What say you?”

Isabella’s head swam. She could no longer remember her stratagem, what she was holding out for, her reasons for defiance. She tried to focus, but the sober, calculating parts of her mind kept being disrupted by crazy thoughts. Perhaps she was a witch after all. Perhaps if she admitted her witchcraft, they would burn her. Burn her, yes, and the flames would caress her, soothe her, take her away from all this.

She shook her head, trying to brush off the wild imaginings. She opened her mouth, wincing at the stiffness in her jaw from days of being muzzled.

“Aahh . . .” she began, addressing the Bishop’s shins before swallowing, running her tongue across the dry roof of her mouth and trying again. “I . . . I . . .”

What had she been about to say? She didn’t know how to continue. All she could think about was leaving this awful tower, moving freely again, seeing the sun again. She moistened her lips once more as best she could. As she did so, her eyes were drawn to the braided cords that dangled beside the Bishop’s boot heel.

There were three of them, tightly woven and each ending in thick, uneven knots. She followed the cords up past the hem of the Bishop’s robes, all the way to where they came together, snaking out from an ivory handle clutched firmly in the Bishop’s gloved fist. Isabella hadn’t seen this particular flail before, but she’d learned enough of the varying qualities of such instruments during her prolonged interrogation to recognize pain when she saw it.

“I . . .” she stammered, as much to the flail as to the Bishop, “I . . .”

“Speak,” grumbled the Bishop impatiently.

But Isabella found she couldn’t bring her tongue under her command. She stared into the Bishop’s knees, mouth agape, breathing heavily.

“Her soul gasps for reconciliation with God, Your Purity and Grace,” Sister Agnes announced. “But the Devil stifles her. You must drive him out.”

“Sister Agnes speaks true,” replied the Bishop. “I can see you are close. We will help you break free of the final chains binding you to sin. Submit to God, Lady Isabella. You will see. Submission is conquest. Set down your defiance, your pride. Surrender yourself fully and be free. Sister, ready the cloth.”

The Bishop snapped his flail, which cracked the air with a horrifying pop. His boots marched past Isabella and out of her field of vision.

“No . . . Wait . . .” she cried, her voice quavering wildly in volume and pitch. “Wait no . . .”

She strained her head up to find Sister Agnes coming towards her fast, a dripping wet cloth in her hand.

“No . . . I . . . I . . . Mmmmmmmppphh”

The nun smashed the wet cloth into Isabella’s face and wrapped it around her head, pulling it taut with both hands clenched tight against the back of the noblewoman’s neck. Isabella sucked desperately against the damp fabric. What little air made it through was worse than none at all. She was suffocating slowly, a faithful recreation of the experience of drowning. She struggled frantically against her restraints, shaking the bench.

Suddenly, even through the deadening barrier of the cloth wrapped round her head, she heard the flail crack. A white hot line of pain erupted across her buttocks. She screamed, the sound largely absorbed by the wet fabric plastered across her mouth and nose.

Having wasted precious breath on her wail of agony, her lungs burned. She bucked hard. The leather straps around her arms and legs dug into her skin, but it barely registered. Then, there was another loud crack from behind her and the pain across her backside was overwhelming. She screamed again, but the reaction was weaker this time. Her struggles slowed. She felt like she was about to black out.

Just as she was readying herself to embrace unconsciousness, the cloth was whipped off her face. Isabella gasped and gasped. The streaks where the lash had fallen across her upturned ass sizzled, bringing tears to her eyes. Her body shuddered with a series of half-coughs, half-sobs. The Bishop stepped in front of her and slapped the side of her face to get her attention.

“Confess, Lady Isabella. Confess and taste God’s mercy.”

“I . . .” Isabella sputtered, not sure what she was saying. “I . . . Yes, I confess . . . I . . . Mercy . . . Please . . . no more . . . I surrender submit confess . . . I confess . . .”

“My heart gladdens,” said the Bishop in a cold, even tone. “God will grant you the mercy you seek, My Child. Sister, ink and parchment. Prepare to transcribe the declaration. What is it you confess, Lady Isabella?”

“All . . .” Isabella panted as Sister Agnes dragged a stool up beside the whipping bench and smoothed a piece of parchment, “I confess it all . . . Everything . . . Just no more . . .”

The Bishop cocked a skeptical eyebrow towards his assistant.

“I warn you that the Tribunal does not tolerate insincerity, My Child. Only open repentance, full and frank and genuine, can bring forgiveness. You must detail your sins.”

Isabella tried to remember the full litany of ridiculous charges that had been brought against her, searching for something to offer up. It was a list that had been repeatedly thrown at her, smeared across her, over the course of her torture and was by now etched firmly into her memory. It should have been easy for her to simply regurgitate the demeaning accusations, but at the moment Isabella wasn’t thinking straight.

When she tried to summon one of the disgraceful lies about her, to repeat and confirm the vile slander, she fumbled for the phrasing. Her words failed her. She could do nothing but gape dumbly at the Bishop’s knees. Was she too traumatized to form sentences? Or was there yet some defiant part of her holding her back?

“Her mendacity is palpable, Your Purity and Grace,” spat Sister Agnes in disgust, setting down her parchment, “She will not repent until her sins are dragged from her, bit by bit.”

The Bishop sighed and gave the nun a nod. With astonishing deftness for a woman her age, Sister Agnes snatched up the cloth from where she had deposited it in the water bucket and turned towards Isabella.

“No! . . . Wait! . . .” cried Isabella hoarsely. “I confess! . . . I confess!”

But it was too late. The wet cloth was wrapped around her face, stifling her pleas. Once more, Isabella felt herself suffocating, drowning. And then came the crack of the flail across her exposed bottom. Once. Twice. And just when she thought she might pass out from the pain and lack of air, the shroud was abruptly removed.

“Confess,” barked the Bishop, circling back in front of her and raising his flail threateningly. “Set forth your sins.”

“I . . . buuuuh . . b-books!” Isabella sputtered. “B-books of . . . of spells and potions! I . . . aaah . . . I had them! T-t-to practice witchcraft! I confess! I made the potions . . . the potions from the books! Dark ones! And spells! Dark spells! I cast them all! I . . . I confess! . . . Mercy . . .”

At a nod from the Bishop, Sister Agnes set down her cloth and picked up the parchment. Isabella stared down at the floor to hide the tears that had welled up in her eyes. Giving the braided cords of his instrument and satisfied flick, the Bishop paced before her.

“And to what ends did you employ these dark arts?” he prompted.

“To g-g-gain power at court? . . .” Isabella stammered, trying to recall the details of the accusations. “I . . . cast spells on men of influence . . . forced them to . . . forced them to lay with me . . .”

“And how many men did you fuck in this way?”

Isabella answered with a sob of humiliation before mustering control of her voice and continuing.

“Scores of men . . .” she answered, her voice quavering, “I . . . fuh . . . fucked countless men using my witchcraft . . . my . . . my father’s closest advisors . . . important barons . . . ambassadors from abroad . . . archbishops of the Church. . . I fucked them all. I confess!”

“Blasphemy . . .” whispered Sister Agnes to herself as she transcribed Isabella’s admissions.

Isabella hung her head in silence, hoping that she had given them enough for now, but the Bishop paced behind her and, when further confessions were not forthcoming, delivered a slap with his flail. It was a comparatively light blow, designed to grab her attention, but it still delivered a painful shock to her already-sore buttocks. Isabella yelped.

“Continue,” commanded the Bishop.

“I . . . my servingwomen! I made them . . . made them t-touch one another. I confess it! I made them . . . perform pagan rites! We would . . . would kiss and lick one another’s bodies and achieve unnatural ecstasies in mockery of God . . . I made them . . . Daily I made them pleasure me . . . their heads between my legs . . . caressing my breasts day and night . . . I confess!”

“Continue,” repeated the Bishop, prompting Isabella with another slap of the flail across her bottom.

“Aaaaaaah! . . . I . . . My mother and I . . . we worshipped the Devil . . . She initiated me among his followers . . . taught me witchcraft . . . She watched me . . . watched me pledge myself . . .” At this point, Isabella choked up, barely able to get the words out. “. . . g-give myself to the Devil. . . before my mother and . . . and all our . . . our f-fellow witches and . . . and . . .”

Isabella trailed off, and the Bishop hit her again.

“This ritual. What did it involve?”

“A d-demon! . . . A huge demon with claws and the face of a goat! . . . And I . . . I knelt before him . . . And I wrapped my mouth around his . . . his penis . . . And I pleasured him . . . for hours . . . for hours and hours . . . running my lips up and down its giant . . . giant p-penis . . And then . . . and then . . . I let it fuck me . . . I let the demon fuck me . . .”

“And you enjoyed these depraved, unholy acts?” demanded the Bishop.

“Yes!” Isabella sobbed. “I . . . I loved it . . . I confess . . . I confess it all! I’ve lain with men and women and animals and demons! I practice witchcraft and sorcery! I murdered my father! My mother . . . my mother is Satan’s whore! I confess!”

The Bishop continued to press her, making her repeat certain admissions and delve into greater, often graphic, detail for others. But eventually he seemed satisfied. Isabella was released from the whipping bench, and she was given a fresh penitent’s cassock before being shackled to the wall. As before, the vestments were roughly woven and ill-fitting, but after uncounted days lying naked in the tower, they felt positively dignified.

Her mouth was left ungagged. Yet the Queen remained passive and silent while her leather bindings were being loosened, while the simple brown frock was being fetched and pulled down over her head, while the iron cuffs closed around her wrists. She had no wish to provoke any renewed aggression from her captors. Besides, what was there to say? They left her hanging there, chained to the wall, the humiliation of her utter submission pulling down upon her like a deadweight.

Later, she was brought food and water. It was delivered by young Sister Geneveive, whom Isabella had not seen since the ordeal in the bathhouse, a disgrace that now seemed a world away. The Queen could see the change in herself reflected in the youthful nun’s shocked reaction, the look of fascination that could not decide between delight and horror. The gruel, lifted to Isabella’s lips spoonful by spoonful, tasted thicker than the stuff she’d been given to sustain her during her interrogation; the water, less corrupted.

Eventually, Sister Agnes returned. She had with her the transcript of the confession. Isabella was temporarily unchained, a quill thrust into her hand. Staring down at the document with bleary, unfocused eyes, she noted that it already bore the signatures of the Bishop, Sister Agnes, Brother Duncan and Brother Theodore, attesting as witnesses to the accuracy of the shameful declaration she’d been forced to give. Otherwise, she could not bear to read it. Swallowing her feelings of debasement, she swiftly made her mark at the bottom of the page.

After that, she was alone again, hanging there in the dark chamber, left to contemplate her fate. She had no illusions about the sort of “mercy” she could expect. Her understanding of the legal procedures followed by the Tribunal of Heresies was spotty, but she knew that confessions of the magnitude that she had just signed only led one place. She only hoped that she would have the chance to see the daylight sky again before the flames consumed her flesh.

A great commotion from the antechamber suddenly caused Isabella to lift her head and set aside some of her morbid reflections. Just outside the entrance to the interrogation room, there was shouting and then what sounded like the clanging of steel. Something heavy was thrown against the tall carved doors, and they shook. More shouting. Cries of pain.

Finally, the ruckus stopped. Then, after a momentary silence, the familiar sound of keys rattling in the chamber door, followed by the terrible creak that had awoken Isabella to so many nights and days of horror. When the door had opened a crack, it stopped. A figure stood motionless in the narrow opening. Though backlit, Isabella knew from his build that it was Brother Duncan, leaning forward with his mail-clad shoulder against the door frame, seemingly frozen at the room’s threshold.

Torchlight from the wall sconces fell upon the White Guardsman’s face, and as Isabella’s eyes adjusted she could make out his features. His eyes were wide in consternation, his lips parted in a comical little “o.” Suddenly, his shoulder began to slide down the doorway and he collapsed onto his stomach like a rag doll, his chin slamming down hard against the stone floor. From behind the door, a heavy boot appeared and clamped its heel down upon the limp Duncan’s head as if to steady it. Then, from the same direction, a sword blade flashed into view, glinting against the torchlight as it jabbed straight downward and into Brother Duncan’s neck.

Fluid splurted upwards like a wine skin squeezed too forcefully. Duncan emitted a pathetic gurgle that slowed and then faded away. Meanwhile, his killer pulled the sword free and stepped over the body. It was a soldier, dressed in the uniform of the Whites. A second soldier followed him, carefully avoiding the puddle of blood pooling around Duncan’s neck as he entered the interrogation chamber.

When they saw Isabella chained to the wall, both men stopped. The one who had finished off Brother Duncan sheathed his sword and approached her slowly, looking her up and down in apparent uncertainty and puzzlement.

“Is that . . .” he asked.

His comrade grunted in affirmation and called out towards the antechamber.

“She’s here!”

The first soldier brought a torch closer to better illuminate the shackled queen, barefoot and clad in coarse brown penitent’s garb. As he did so, they were joined by two more men. The first was the Bishop, who stepped over the crumpled body of his slaughtered goon with a look of loathing and trepidation. At his shoulder, nudging the cowed clergyman forward, swaggered a figure whose armor was polished to such a dazzling sheen that Isabella had to momentarily close her eyes against the reflected glare.

When she opened them, the shiny newcomer had left the Bishop glowering off to the side and was pacing casually in front of Isabella, regarding the captured queen with a smirk that seemed to animate his entire body. Contemplatively, he ran his fingers across the length of his long, curling moustache, the same light brown color and just as carefully groomed as the mane of hair of that fell in a neat arc around his shoulders. Isabella’s eyes narrowed and her heartbeat quickened.

“Well . . . Well well well . . .” hummed the dapper warrior.

“Sir Stewart,” hissed the Queen.

Sir Stewart, the White Knight himself, sauntered closer, eyeing Isabella’s ill-fitting cassock and uncovered calves with smug, pursed lips. He then gave her an elaborate courtly bow.

“Your Majesty . . .”