***Disclaimer*** This is not my story. It is the work of Ka Hmnd AKA Kenneth Hammond. I have not changed or edited this in anyway. _________________________________________________________________________ I took another sip of coffee as I looked out over the square. I had been in or with one military unit or another most my life. I was twenty five and had finally decided to settle down.
That meant finding a wife and a job I could expect to survive in. I was the youngest son of the youngest son of a minor noble so the only thing I got was a good education and weapons teachers that were more than willing to give me lumps while they taught me. Whitecliff was a large port city and seemed like the place to start. I was trying to think of how I could get in to see the duke to see about a job as one of his officers in the city Militia.
I shook my head and stood, the young serving girl appeared at my side and I smiled at her pretty face and handed her the money for the meal and coffee. I crossed the square and walked quickly down a small side street.
At my small set of rooms I stopped at the door, I looked at the open door and pulled my dagger before stepping in. The first thing that struck me was that my weapons were missing.
My bags had been dumped on the bed and gone through as well. I stepped out and looked around, several people working on the street seemed to avoid looking at me and I nodded as I memorized them. I turned and walked back to the square and crossed to the City Guard building. I nodded to the guard as I entered and stopped at a desk with a sergeant behind it.
I told him what had happened and he just looked at me, "What do you want me to do about it?" I looked him up and down, "How about finding the thief that stole my weapons?" He sneered, "You probably don't even know how to use them. Leave it alone kid, find another line of work." I looked at him for a minute and nodded to myself, "So you aren't going to look." He growled, "Listen punk, the Guard has better things to do than look for your toys." I nodded, "Fine, I will find them myself and on your head will rest the fallout." I turned and walked out and back to my set of rooms.
I crossed the street to a couple of toughs standing on the corner. I had seen their type before, bullies and lookouts for the thieves guild. I stepped up to them, "You made a mistake." The bigger one laughed, "beat it kid before you get hurt." I was done talking, I kicked his kneecap from the side shattering it and struck the other man in the throat. I knelt beside the man on the ground screaming and holding his knee. I drew my dagger and put it against his throat, "I will count to three and if you haven't told me where my stuff is I will cut your throat and find someone else to tell me." I looked at him as he glared at me, "One." "Two." He screamed, "The Silver Swan." I sliced both his cheeks, "If I ever see you again, I will kill you." I stood and walked away, not even glancing at the second man as he died.
I stopped a Cartier and got directions to the Silver Swan. It was on a street that was poorly cared for, the front of the shop was dirty and three men lounged against the door. As I approached they looked at me and one of them stood away from the wall.
I kicked him in the groin and stepped to the side as another pulled a dagger and lunged. I grabbed his hand and twisted. I spun him into the other man that had just started to move.
I whipped his arm around and brought my other hand down in a strike that broke his arm at the elbow. Taking his dagger, I stabbed the other man through the eye and then pulled the dagger back to cut his throat.
I knelt by the one on the ground and stabbed him through both thighs. I stood and walked through the door and into the shop. The two men in the shop had been watching and held their hands up. I stopped a few feet from them, "Your guild stole my weapons.
I want them back, now." The one on the right had narrow eyes, he looked me up and down, "Don't know what you're talking about." My quick step as I closed surprised him, as did my dagger as it sliced across his stomach. He dropped to his knees screaming until I kicked him in the face. I looked at the other man, "My weapons, now!" He nodded and quickly opened a chest beside him.
I stopped him before he could reach inside. I reached in and pulled my weapons out and a small bundle that I recognized as mine. I turned and started walking towards the door. The man I had left was feeling braver, "The Guild will kill you for this." I turned at the door, "If they want to try they can, but if they do, you tell them I will do more than kill a few replaceable punks." I walked out and started back to my rooms.
I buckled on my sword and slipped the other weapons into their place. When I got to my rooms there were ten guards and that sergeant across the street.
When I stopped at my door and looked across the street the sergeant was staring at me. He stood and gestured as he started walking towards me, I turned and waited for him. When he stepped close he gestured again, "Take his weapons." I smiled as my hand pulled the sword a couple of inches free of the scabbard, "That wouldn't be wise." He looked me up and down, "You killed a man, boy." I nodded, "I killed three men.
If you had done your job, I wouldn't have. If you want to take my weapons, it will be a lot more." He looked at his men and could see none of them were going to try to take me. He looked back at me, "we'll be back." I smiled thinly, "Make sure you tell the men that come with you, that it is an Armsmaster they face." I turned and went into my room, in the small side room I stripped and washed.
Back in the main room I put my light padding on and lifted the mattress to remove the steel chain shirt. I slipped one of my good shirts over that and replaced my weapons. I straightened up the bed and cleaned the room. I sat at the table and pulled out a clean parchment and began writing to the duke. I had just finished when someone knocked on the door. I turned in the chair and called for them to enter.
The door opened and three men entered, the first was a guard lieutenant, the second a captain and the third. the third man was older and wore the tunic of a sworn man with the duke's crest on his chest.
I smiled and gestured toward the bed, "I'm sorry, but I don't have anywhere else for you to sit." The lieutenant and captain stood but the older man smiled as he sat, "It seems I have a problem." I looked at him and he glanced at the captain, "My Captain and Lieutenant think they wouldn't have that much of a problem in arresting you.
I on the other hand know what a trained Armsmaster is capable of. So tell me, are you a capable Armsmaster?" I grinned, "Very." He nodded, "So how do I resolve this?" I smiled, "How about with courtesy?" He blinked and glanced at my shirt, his eyes lingering on the small gold crest sown into the left shoulder. His smile was more relaxed, "My apologizes. I am Jonathan Whittel, Sheriff of Whitecliff and the surrounding county.
This is Captain Hurst and Lieutenant Belet." I nodded, "My pleasure gentlemen.
My name is Charles Edward Simon Winston." All three men started and Jonathan smiled, "It seems I was right to come speak to you first. What is the highest regarded Armsmaster doing in Whitecliff?" I smiled and leaned back in the chair, "Looking for a wife and someplace to work away from the mercenary companies." Jonathan smiled again, "Retiring already?" I nodded, "A request from my grandfather." He again looked at my crest, "To far away to be in the line." I nodded, "My grandfather and I have always been close.
I think he just wanted to know I wasn't in the middle of a battle every other week." Jonathan grinned, "I think I understand, but that brings us back to what has happened here. You killed three men." I nodded, "Yes. I asked the Guard for help and was told the Guard had better things to do than find thieves and stolen property.
The sergeant told me to leave it alone and find another line of work." He looked at Captain Hurst, "Who was the sergeant?" Captain Hurst's face was red but I don't think he was angry with me, "Harris." Jonathan sighed, "Take his strips and have him walked to the edge of the duchy.
We don't need that kind of man." He looked at me, "Are you looking for the Armsmaster's job or something else?" I smiled sourly, "Armsmaster Henry has been with the duke for a long time.
I won't try to push him out. I was thinking of an Officer posting." Jonathan looked at the captain and lieutenant, "Would you gentlemen excuse us for a minute?" He waited until they had closed the door behind them and then looked at me, "Armsmaster Winston, have you submitted your letter yet?" I handed him my letter, he read it through and sat back looking at me thoughtfully, "I know you aren't trained as a city guard but how would you like a job?" I smiled, "As one of your Guardsmen?
I don't think so." He smiled, "How about as the Duke's Kristin." I looked at him in surprise, Kristin was an old term. It meant Judge and fact finder and a lot more, "Why?" He knew what I was asking and smiled, "The Guard is good for what it was meant for, but now we are getting new types of thieves and killings. Ones that take someone that has a different outlook I think." I looked down at my hands thinking, it wasn't what I expected and not really what I had trained myself for.
I looked at Jonathan, "Will I be working alone or do I get someone to help?" He sat forward, "Charles, listen to me, some of these people have to have had inside knowledge." I nodded, "Do I get help?" He nodded, "Fine, I'll put anyone you want in uniform." I shook my head, "Give my letter to the duke and if he agrees then we can talk." Jonathan stood, "Some of the Guard were not happy about the way you threatened them." I grinned, "They would have been a lot less happy if I hadn't." He smiled and turned for the door.
I rose and opened it for him, there were six guards standing outside the door waiting for him. He turned, "It was a pleasure to meet you Armsmaster and I hope the duke sees things my way." I nodded and watched as he walked off with the guards around him.
I shook my head, Jonathan was something else, something I hadn't figured out yet. I walked out and closed the door before walking back towards the square. I sat at one of the small tables in the open front of the tavern. The pretty girl from this morning appeared just as quickly as she had this morning.
I ordered a light meal and another coffee. When she brought it I stopped her and got direction to a banking house. When I finished eating and stood, she appeared and I smiled, "You wouldn't be single would you?" She grinned and an older man at the next table laughed. She shook her head, "Sorry." I sighed, "All the best girls are taken." She laughed and I started off to the banking house and then it was to a tailor and boot maker.
I was walking back across the square towards the tavern when the attack came. When I felt a man suddenly move towards my back, I turned and then side stepped his lunge. I struck his throat with a knife hand blow and the crowd around me cleared to revealed a dozen men with daggers.
I drew my fighting knife and my other hand made a throwing motion and a man fell back with a small dagger in his throat. I drew my sword and smiled as they backed away, "Tell your guild I will come for them." I sheathed my sword and they turned to walk into the crowd.
One man turned quickly, throwing his dagger. My fighting knife knocked it away as my other hand flicked out. The man stumbled and fell with another small dagger in his throat. The dozen guardsmen that broke through the crowd caused the men to melt into the crowd faster. Lieutenant Belet led the guardsmen and another captain joined him shortly, as well as another half dozen guards. He walked up to me, "The guild has decided to settle the score." I smiled as I put my knife away and walked with him and the new captain, "apparently so.
Would you like to take care of it or should I?" Lieutenant Belet smiled crookedly, "I wish I could, we don't have any idea who is running the guild." I knelt and pulled my small dagger out before moving to the other man and removed my other dagger from him as well.
I stood to face him, "I could let some of your men tag along I guess." He grinned and looked at the captain and back at me. In a loud voice, "Captain Able, this is Charles Edward Simon Winston, Armsmaster." Captain Able smiled and bowed, "Armsmaster." I looked around and gestured to the tavern, "Would you care to join me for dinner?" The captain nodded and looked at a nearby sergeant, "Sergeant, have this mess cleaned up and send the sheriff a message about the incident." The sergeant started giving orders as we walked towards the tavern.
When we reached a table and sat, the same girl was there to get our order. She didn't seem too happy though and kept looking at the captain.
I looked at him, "I think she wants to speak to you." He looked up, "Tess?" She frowned, "William. Teresa is missing. We thought she went to her classes this morning but she never arrived. Could you have the guards look for her?" Captain Able nodded, "Of course dear." He stood and called to one of his guards nearby. I looked at Lieutenant Belet, "Dear?" He smiled, "Their married." I smiled and nodded and pulled a small scrap of parchment out of a pocket, "Tess? Would you ask your cook if he or she can make a small pot of coffee using this recipe?" She took the parchment and nodded, "Of course.
I'll have your dinner sent out." Captain Able returned to the table with a frown, "That is the sixth girl today. I didn't want to say anything to Tess, but this is happening more often. I doubt if we will find these girls." We ate quietly and Tess brought out a small pot of coffee.
She grinned at me, "Momma said to tell you thanks for the recipe. She tasted it and fell in love, she said that if she were single, she would have grabbed you up just for this recipe." I sighed, "The story of my life." Tess laughed, but there was still a shadow in her eyes, I poured a cup and sipped. The square was getting thinner so I saw the group of guards enter with the sheriff in the middle.
Lieutenant Belet sighed, "William, time for me to be off. I have a young lady waiting." The captain nodded and stood as the sheriff approached. Jonathan smiled at me and sat in Lieutenant Belet's seat, "Charles, it seems things have escalated. The duke is on his way here.
One of his daughters has gone missing. She has been missing since this morning. How they could not miss her for this long I don't know." He looked at the captain, "How many reports of missing girls so far?" Captain Able frowned, "Seven with the duke's daughter." Jonathan reached out and poured coffee into a cup that Tess set down as she picked up plates, "Would you like something to eat?" He smiled up at her, "No Tess, my wife is waiting dinner on me.
If I ate here she would lock me out." She smiled and moved off. Jonathan took a sip and looked at the cup, he looked at me, "Your recipe?" I nodded and filled my cup and sat back, "Tell me all you can about these missing girls.
While I am out… visiting tonight, I'll look into it." Jonathan smiled and looked at Captain Able, the captain shifted in his seat, "There's not a lot to tell.
We never find where they are taken from. No one sees anything and we have never found a single girl that has gone missing." Tess gasped from behind him and he turned quickly and went to her.
I looked at Jonathan, "Tess's sister is missing." He slammed his hand onto the table, "Damm it, Charles. I want this to be a priority." I sipped my coffee and watched as a dozen militia entered the square and change direction from the city Guard building to us.
Jonathan stood as they approached and Captain Able turned towards them as well. Jonathan bowed and the captain knelt. One of the militia guards stepped towards me, "Kneel." I smiled, "I'm not one of the duke's subjects yet." He started to take another step when a richly dressed noble stepped out of the crowd of guards, "Jacob? I wouldn't push it. The Armsmaster is correct and I don't feel like finding someone new to spar with." The guard froze and then hesitantly bowed, "My apologizes Armsmaster." I nodded, "accepted." The duke sat in Jonathan's chair, "Jonathan said your grandfather wanted you to retire from the mercenary companies.
Did he tell you to come here?" I nodded, "Yes, I don't know why, he was so… cryptic." The duke looked over his shoulder at Jonathan and back to me, "What do you know about my family?" I shrugged, "Not much, we never worked in your duchy so there was no reason to find out.
I do know about Armsmaster Henry." The duke nodded, "most Armsmaster's know about Henry. The reason I asked was that I have one son and four young unmarried daughters." I sighed and shook my head, "Grandfather is playing matchmaker.
I am sorry my lord, I had no idea." He smiled, "I believe you. Your grandfather is a very smart and capable man." He looked at Jonathan, "I have seen enough. I'll schedule his oath for the morning." He looked at me as he stood, "Jonathan should have told you about my daughter Samantha. Find her! The sooner the better." He turned and walked off with his guards surrounding him again.
I looked at Jonathan, "Would you like to accompany me to pick some guards?" He shook his head, "Time for me to get home. Send a runner if you find out anything. Be here tomorrow morning and we'll walk up to court together." I nodded and finished my coffee. Standing I looked at Captain Able, "I'll need a few men." He looked at Jonathan and he nodded, "He's the duke's new Kristin." Captain Able's eyes widened and he nodded, "I'll see he gets whatever he needs." I gave Jonathan a slight bow and started for the Guard building.
The captain matched steps with me and the guard opened the door as we arrived. When I walked in this time it seemed like a different atmosphere. I stopped inside the door for a minute and watched all the guards. Finally I walked over to a dark haired slim man, "Tracker?" He didn't turn towards me, only giving a short nod.
I looked at another guard about five feet away. He was short but very stocky, he was sharpening a dagger that was already sharp.
"Hunter?" He gave me a glance and nodded. I looked at a guard across the room, he seemed to just blend into the surroundings. He was leaning against the wall and after a minute he nodded. I glanced at a huge blond guard sitting alone at the next table. After a minute he sighed and turned towards me, "No half ways Armsmaster." I smiled, "It's Kristin and I don't do things halfway, you know that." The guardroom stilled as all the guards looked at me. The man I was talking to stood and walked to a weapons rack along the wall and pulled a worn sword belt down from above it.
I looked at the captain, "Send runners out and tell all your guards. I'll be leaving a trail a blind man could follow. Have runners ready at your guard meeting places." I started for the door and the four men fell in with me. Once outside I looked at the men, "If you need to speak, call me Charles." The Tracker nodded, "Dett" The hunter was scanning the square, "Edward." My assassin shrugged, "Chris." The large man only returned my smile, "Sergeant Joules sent word you were coming." I nodded, "It wasn't a secret.
It's been awhile Peter." He nodded, "Mona will want to say hello." I laughed, "Did she get on with the militia?" He grinned, "She's a sergeant." I nodded, "This is going to be a dirty, no holds run. I need a starting place, do you know of any guild houses or people?" Peter nodded, "Dett?
Let's take it to McSire." Dett smiled thinly, "My pleasure." As soon as we reached a street I signaled and our group seemed to dissolve into the shadows. All except for Dett, he walked on as if unconcerned. He stopped at a door and we melted out of the shadows. I nodded to Peter and we followed him through the door as he kicked it out of its frame. I slammed the first man that I came to into a wall and let him fall to the floor.
Chris followed me in and Edward followed him. I let them take the lead, they knew this McSire and I didn't. There was only one woman in the house and seven men, three were still alive when we stopped, two men and the woman.
I knelt by a struggling McSire, "I need information and you are going to give it." He spit at me, "I know the law, take me to the goal." I smiled, "Unfortunately your guild declared war or me so that is out.
You also messed your bed when you took the duke's daughter and that is treason." His face went pale, "We didn't touch her." I pulled a wicked looking knife from the small of my back, "To bad we can't take your word for it. I will start off by removing your manhood and then I will start asking questions.
Each question you can't or won't answer will be another part of your body. Hand, foot, arm, and so on. I'm sure you get the picture." I looked at Peter, "Would you cut his clothes off please?" Peter's grin was very sinister, "Want us to tie him up?" I shook my head, "I don't have time to be fancy, just cut them off so we can get on with it." He pulled his dagger and McShire screamed, "WAIT!
I'll tell you everything." I looked at him as I tested the blade of the knife I held, "Where is the guild master and where are the girls being kept?" He swallowed, "The… the guild master is in Hermon's. I'm not sure where the girls are.
I heard they take them to one of the Inn's on the docks." I looked at Edward, "Tie them up." I stepped to the side with Chris, "Go to one of the meeting places and send a runner.
I want a platoon of militia just back from the docks, not Guards. Met us at this Hermon's." Chris nodded and left at a trot while I looked at Peter, "Is there someplace close we can put them without anyone finding them?" Twenty minutes later we were in the shadows across from a tiny unknown tavern. Chris slipped out of the shadows and we crossed the street. Edward drifted to one side of the building while Dett went to the other, Peter didn't even slow down at the door.
It splintered and flew across the room as we entered. Edward pushed two old women out of the kitchen as he came in and Dett shoved a stunned young man into the room from a back door. There were six men in the room at the only two tables. I pulled my sword, "Gentlemen, the guild has committed treason by taking the duke's daughter. I want the guild master and I want him now.
If you don't give him to me or tell me where he is, I will start cutting pieces off you until you do." A man that was a little better dressed than the others stepped away from his table with his hand on his dagger, "The guard doesn't have the authority to do that." I smiled, "I am not the Guard.
I am the Duke's Kristin and if you don't remove your hand from that dagger, I will remove it permanently." His hand jerked away from the dagger as his face paled, "I didn't know this was a guild house." I walked up to him and touched his hand with the tip of my sword, "These tell me you are lying." My sword swung up to his face and touch him next to one of his eyes, "These tell me you are lying.
Which would you like me to remove first?" He shuddered and glanced at a man across the table, "The guild master left. The night master knows where he went." I smiled and pushed against his chest with the point of my sword. When he had stepped away, I faced the man across the table, "Talk!" He smiled, "I am not as gullible as he is." I walked around the table and kicked him off the bench. I stepped on his wrist as Chris knelt on the other side.
I knelt, pulling my fighting knife and cut his fingers off. While he screamed, I looked at the men, "I will have the guild master, the duke's daughter and everyone else that had a hand in it or you will be in small pieces when I leave." I slapped the night master, "Where is he!" "The Sharks Fin!" I put the knife at his throat, "The girl." He swallowed, "She's there too.
They have a shipment going out in the morning though." I looked around the room, "If you are in the city tomorrow your lives will be forfeit." I looked at Chris and tilted my head, he left without glancing back.
I looked around the room, "If word of this gets there ahead of me, I will hunt you down and use you as bait." I turned and walked out. Outside I looked at Dett, "We need to get there as soon as possible." I looked at the others, "When we get there, no one goes in and no one comes out." Dett turned and started off at a trot.
I stopped when we came to a runner, "I am Armsmaster Winston. Go to the sheriff and no one else. Tell him, The Sharks Fin and the Militia. Now go, run." I didn't even wait to see him off. I turned and started after Dett and the others. They had slowed but did not stop. Five minutes later Dett was pointing out a rundown two story tavern across the street. I signaled to Peter about a man leaning against one corner of the building and he slipped away.
Dett and Edward slipped along side the building and then around back. I watched as the man leaning against the wall suddenly jerked back into the shadows. "About time he started using his skills." I smiled, "You know why he stopped." Mona stepped forward and put her hand on my shoulder, "I know. I just don't like admitting he was right." I turned my head and smiled, "Mona, you were always a bloodthirsty bitch.
If he didn't love you so much he would have gone back to the farm we found him on." She grinned, "It goes both way Charles." I nodded, "We are going to have a lot of company soon. I want this settled before they get here. Split your people and don't let anyone get away. Make sure they watch their backs and the windows." I watched as they split up crossing the street to surround the tavern.
I nodded to Chris as he stepped out of the shadows, "You four hold the main floor, I'll take the upper floor. Bring the militia in if you need them." I walked across the street and opened the door, Chris was right behind me. The room fell silent as I continued across the floor.
A large man stepped in front of me at the stairs, I didn't hesitate. My knife swept up and across and I continued up the stairs as he fell to his knee trying to stop the blood that flowed from his cut throat.
Peter and Edward stepped in the back door before I was halfway up and I heard Dett chasing people into the room from the kitchen. At the top of the stairs another man stepped out, this one I stab through the gut and shoved out of my way. There were four men in the hall and then there was none.
I walked to the end and opened a door, a large man was raping a struggling girl. I quietly stepped next to him and grabbed his hair and cut his throat as I threw him onto the floor, "Stay where you are girl and be quiet." That was the way it went until the last room. When I stepped into the last room a man was crouched next to the bed holding a dagger to the girl's throat, "Let me go or she dies." I smiled as I stepped further into the room, "You would be the guild master.
I am afraid you aren't going anywhere." He tilted the dagger, "This is the duke's daughter, let me go or she is dead." I pulled my sword, "I'll make you a better deal. You let her go and I will kill you quick and painless." I was moving from side to side in such a way that he didn't even realize I was moving closer until my sword struck and his dagger fell. I twisted the blade up and away and since the blade had pierced his hand it went with it. I stepped forward as he fell to the floor.
He glare up at me, "You don't know who you are dealing with." I smiled as I struck him with the pummel of the sword knocking him unconscious, "A dead man." I looked at the girl, she had bruises on her face and body. Even though she had been beaten there was something else there, "Samantha?" She nodded and I smiled gently, "I will get you home as soon as I can." She shook her head, "No." I looked at her, "Why not?" She looked down as silent tears fell, "They used me.
I am no longer fit to be my father's daughter. Just leave me." She looked down at the dagger on the bed next to her. I stepped closer and took the dagger, "You are still your father's daughter and it is his decision to make that choice." I called down the stairs and Dett appeared at the top, "All done?
We have a platoon of Guards here all of the sudden. The Militia have kept them back, but Lieutenant Harris is getting mighty anxious." "Lieutenant Harris?" "I don't trust him and half the men with him aren't even supposed to be on duty." I looked at Samantha and back at Dett, "I need you to watch this girl.
I think she will try to…" Dett nodded, "I'll watch." I walked downstairs and out the front door. A Guard lieutenant was yelling at Mona as she stood there calmly listening. I stopped next to her, "Lieutenant shut up. I am Kristin Winston and this is my business." He sputtered and turned red reaching for his officer sword.
My sword came out in one move and took his hand off, "You guards listen close! I am the duke's Kristin and I am an Armsmaster! You will break this up and leave right now or you will pay for your treachery with your life!" The lieutenant was on the ground holding his arm screaming. I looked at Mona, "Sergeant! If these men are still here after a minute is up, have your men kill them." Mona smiled and snapped to attention, "Yes SIR!
PLATOON!" The guards looked at one another, turned and ran. Mona laughed, "Damm, Charles I missed you." I smiled, "The real guard will show up soon enough, along with the sheriff and probably the duke." Mona groaned, "Great." I looked at her and she shrugged, "I don't let him win when we spar." I grinned, "The righteous suffer for their virtue." She stuck her tongue out at me and turned to her people, "All right the show is over, get back in place." I walked back inside the inn.
Everyone was sitting quietly at the tables. I nodded to Peter, "When the Sheriff and the others get here send them up. Hopefully Captain Able will be with them." I walked up the stairs and in the first room I grabbed the body and pulled it out into the hall.
I looked at the girl, "I'll get you home as soon as I can." She had wrapped the blanket around herself but nodded. I found Tess's sister in the third room.
After I took the body out, I stopped next to the bed, "Teresa? Tess sent me, as soon as we get the rest of this place straitened out and get some answers, I'll get you home." She was a lot like Tess.
she sat up straight, "Tess sent you? Maybe I can help?" I looked at her, "Do you know if there are any other girls?
We heard something about a shipment." She nodded, "It's a ship, The Yellow Minnow. They were taking us to Shermerez." I smiled, "Thank you." I finished the rooms and went back into Samantha's room, Dett nodded and left. She finally seemed to come to a decision and got out of bed. She didn't even bother to cover herself as she walked up to me, "What's your name?" I smiled, "Charles." She looked at my body closely, "Are you married Charles?" I shook my head and crossed the room as the Guild Master began to stir.
I used strips from his shirt to bind him before I gagged him. I heard the commotion from downstairs and tried to get Samantha to put her clothes back on but she would have none of it. The sheriff and the duke appeared in the doorway. There was a third man that I recognized from the way he moved.
I nodded to the Duke and handed him her dress, "You talk to her." I stepped out of the room as the startled duke held the dress. He held it out to Samantha, "Put it on." She shook her head as she cried quietly, "I can't daddy. They… I'm spoiled." He tried to hug her, but she stepped back, "No." He was very quiet, "Samantha it doesn't matter." She turned, "Yes it does. I am worth nothing now. You could give me to that commoner… Charles and he could refuse." The duke sighed and looked at me.
I looked at him and shrugged, "Fine, I except. Samantha Fargrove, under the king's law, I except your offer." I walked to her and turned her surprised face to mine, "And I am not a commoner. I am Baron Thrustin's grandson, an Armsmaster and if your father still wants me, his Kristin." I turned her to her father, "you know the law, tell him what you have to do." She looked at me still surprised, she shook her head and her eyes narrowed.
She looked at her surprised father and back at me. Her shoulders straightened and I groaned as I sat down. She smiled, "Nice try Armsmaster. Father, he accepted my offer.
He thinks I won't do it, he's wrong. I have to stay with my husband to be until I am pregnant or proven unable to bear a child." The old man in the hall laughed, "Wait until I tell this one." I glared at him, "Very funny Henry." The duke looked at me thoughtfully and then grinned at Henry, "This is the first time I have seen anyone out fox one of you maniacs and it was my daughter.
Elizabeth is going to beat me senseless until she thinks about it though." I sighed and stood up, "Very well my future wife, but you will have to wait a month before you get to torment me." She looked at me and I kicked the man at my feet.
She blushed and nodded, "Very well, but I will still stay with you." I shrugged and turned to the duke, "I apologize my lord. I thought that after her… trial, she would back down. We have another piece of business tonight." I bent and stripped the Guild Master's pants from him. I pulled a startled Samantha to the bed and made her sit. I bent and pushed her legs into the pants. She tapped me on the shoulder, "What do you think you are doing?" I looked at her, "You wouldn't wear the dress and I am not parading my wife all over town naked.
You will put this on or I will spank your butt black and blue." She smiled and bent her head timidly, "Yes my husband." I shook my head, "Why do I get the feeling that there was something you didn't say." All three men laughed and I turned to Armsmaster Henry, "If you would be so kind, see if one of those shirts managed to escape getting bloody." I looked at the sheriff, "There are more girls aboard a ship called the Yellow Minnow.
It was the transport for all the missing girls and was supposed to sail in the morning." The three men were silent as Jonathan and the duke looked at each other. Finally the Duke sighed, "Do it Jonathan, if he comes complaining tomorrow, I'll hand him his balls." Jonathan nodded and left, Henry handed me a shirt and I helped Samantha put it on and absently buttoned it while she watched me.
I looked at the duke, "Do you want me and my team to help with the ship?" He shook his head, "Why don't you take all the girls home.
We'll take it from here." He looked at the Guild Master on the floor. I cleared my throat, "If you don't kill him let me know, he owes a debt." The duke smiled, "You won't have to worry about that." I stepped into the hall and got all the girls wrapped in blankets. When we went downstairs, things were really subdued. Captain Able looked up from talking to a lieutenant. He crossed the room and hugged Teresa, "Teresa!" She cried and held him, I signal to my men and when Captain Able finally pulled away from Teresa I touched his shoulder, "I am done for the night.
The duke asked me to take them home." He smiled, "Tess is going to love you for this, not to mention her mother." I looked around the room, "Don't let any of these… people sweet talk you." He shook his head, "I won't, go ahead and get these girls home." I turned and only took one step before turning, "William, I want these four men assigned to me permanently." It took almost two hours to get all the girls home.
Besides Sam, (Samantha) Teresa was the last. When I opened the door into the Guard Tavern, it was full of subdued clatter and a middle aged man and woman turned as we entered.
The woman cried out and Teresa stumbled towards her. I quietly pulled the man aside and explained what had happened to his daughter. He was furious, until I told him the ones responsible were already dead or on their way. I finally broke free and we stepped out of the tavern. I sent my men home with directions to return at midmorning. I took Sam's hand and we walked the few blocks to my set of rooms. At the door I hesitated and looked at a nervous Sam, "You know as well as I do, that you don't have to do this." She smiled a little sadly, "Yes I do Charles." I looked at her and then open the door, I stepped in and moved to the table.
It took a moment but the small lamp finally started and Sam came in and looked around. She frowned, "It could be worse." I nodded, "You could still be in that room, servicing men, or you could be on that ship headed south." She nodded, "Yes." She shuddered and I crossed the room to close the door.
I pulled her to the bed and sat her down. In the side room, I pumped some water into a large pot. I pulled out the wash basin and pitcher. I filled the pitcher and walked back to Sam. I stood on the chair and lifted a board in the ceiling. I pulled down a small satchel made of soft leather. I walked back into the small room and returned with a cup of water. I took a paper packet out of the satchel and poured it into the water. I stirred it with my finger and handed it to Sam, "Drink this, it will help with the pain." I took a small glass pot out and set it on the table.
I pulled the table and chair closer to the bed and had Sam sit in the chair. I set the basin in her lap and bent her forward. I put my towel around her shoulders and gently washed her hair. When I was done I brushed it for her, I took the basin and emptied it. I removed her borrowed clothes and gently washed her with the warm water.
Treating each of her bruises and abrasions with the soft cream in the glass pot. I took her to the tiny bathroom and helped her wash herself and brought her back to bed. I pulled out an old soft shirt and helped her put it on. Another search in the satchel and another cup of water.
I put the herbs into water and held the cup, "Sam? I know you are not all here, but try to listen. I need you to make a decision, these herb are very strong. If you are already pregnant, it will kill the child and end the pregnancy. I can't make this decision for you." Sam looked at me, her eyes dazed from the pain medicine. She looked down at the cup and whispered, "I would have a fresh start." She looked at me, "If I am not pregnant?" I smiled, "It won't hurt anything.
We still have to wait for your next cycle." She looked into my eyes, "If I do this, what kind of mother could I be?" I smiled, "Sam, what they did to you was not your choice. It was done against your will. There is no fault to you and you are not to blame." Sam looked down, "Maybe not at first… but later…" I reached out and lifted her face, "Sam? That is a natural reaction. First you felt pain and gradually it became pleasure.
That does not mean you are to blame." She looked at the cup and into my face, "What about how you will feel." I caressed her face, "Sam, I am an Armsmaster. I started training when I was three. I offer this to you so you will have the option. If you are pregnant it is not even a baby yet, only a man's seed and your egg." Sam looked at me, "But you want me to take it." I sighed, looking at my own feelings and finally I nodded, "Yes, I guess I do.
It will give you and I a fresh start. Even though I did this to get you to go back to your father, the longer you are with me, the more I like the idea of you being with me.
I have been alone a long time Sam." She looked at me and slowly took the cup and drank it down. I took the cup and set it on the table before I moved the table and chair back and put the lamp out. I removed my weapons and chain shirt and walked back to the bed.
I eased Sam into the bed and lay beside her and held her against me, "Sam? Do you feel me holding you?" I could feel her trembling, "Yes." I gave her a slight squeeze, "Nothing can hurt you while I hold you." It was a minute before she seemed to relax, "Charles?" "Yes." "Is it always like that…" I kissed the back of her neck, "No Sam.
When we are ready, I will show you how it should be." Slowly her breathing slowed and she slept. She woke before dawn crying uncontrollably. I held her against my chest until she had cried herself out.
She stirred and looked up, "I have to…" I caressed her face, "Go ahead, its light enough to see." She slipped out of bed and walked to the tiny bathroom. When she came back she climbed timidly into bed. She hesitated and then moved closer and held me. I looked at her tense face and caressed her, "It's finally started." She looked into my face, "What?" "The fear and loathing. The feeling of not being clean." She looked at me for a minute and then nodded.
I sighed and caressed her face, "Sam, this is the part I can't help you with. I will hold you, when you let me. I will try and make sure no man touches you. But this is a fight you have to make to return your life to something that you will be able to live with. Face your fears my Sam." She put her head back on my chest and we watched the light grow in the one tiny window. I sighed and slipped out of bed, I looked at her facing away from me, "Sam, turn around and watch me." When she had turned, I slowly undressed the rest of the way.
I looked at her, "This is my body Sam, the one you will have to accept if we are to marry. I will not force you to accept me. This is the fear you have to face. The fight you face is yours, but in the end it is for both of us." I walked into the small room and returned with the basin full of clean water. I sat in the chair and washed with her watching, when I started shaving she stirred, "Charles?
Can you show me how to do that for you?" I smiled and held out the razor. She came to me and after a few false starts and nicks, she finished. When the bleeding stopped, I dressed in my best clothes and then looked at Sam thoughtfully and she smiled, "What?" I smiled at her, "Unless you want to walk around the city wearing nothing but my shirt, we need to find something for you to wear." She looked down at the pants and shirt she had worn the night before.
I shook my head, "You are not putting those back on." After digging in my pack, I found what I thought would work for now. I sat her down and started to help her put them on. When I touched her, she started shaking and I looked into her face, "Part of fighting the fear is learning to trust; yourself, me and others." She nodded and I waited, after a minute she relaxed and I finished.
I was going to get her a newer shirt, but she said she liked the one she already had on. I looked at her feet and pulled the only piece of leather I had out. I outlined her feet and sat down to cut it out. When I started sewing she stirred, "I can do that." I showed her where to sew and a little while later they were finished. I put them on her, "This will have to do until we can get you shoes." She smiled as she stood, "I like these." I took my satchel when we left. We started walking towards the square and I was thinking all the way.
Sam finally reached out and took my hand, I smiled but didn't say anything. When we got to the square, there was a line of posts with dead men hanging from them. I saw the Guild Master and the Guard lieutenant on the center posts. As we crossed towards the tavern, I saw Mona sitting at a table.
She grinned as I got to the table and gesture for Sam to sit, "Armsmaster Henry told us what happened. I was going to send a letter to the company." I smiled as I sat down, "You're so thoughtful." I turned as a serving girl stopped. She was an older version of Tess and Teresa, "How is Teresa this morning?" She started, "Better. Afraid to let… you're Armsmaster Winston?" I nodded, "Yes, tell her I asked about her and said to have patients." She smiled, "I'll tell her.
Momma said you only have bread and cheese with coffee?" I nodded and looked at Sam, "If you have it, Sam could use a larger breakfast though." She looked at Sam, "We heard… of course." Mona looked at Sam, "You don't have to let him tell you what to do.
He may be an Armsmaster, but he is only a man." Sam looked at her shyly and Mona grinned, "Of course, he has given me more bruises and lumps then I care to count, but at least he knows I am my own person." I grinned, "Care for another lesson?" She shook her head grinning, "I don't think so, the last one is still fresh in my mind." I watched the Guard building as Peter and Captain Able came out.
I frowned, "I thought I sent Peter home." Mona glanced over, "He stayed to help out, all those guards that tried to interfere last night, left." I looked at Mona as she watched Peter walk towards us, "When are you going to give him what he wants? Don't give me that, I'm not a farm wench bit. We both know that is just an excuse." She looked at me, "Charles, it's none of… ok, maybe it is your concern in a way." She looked up as Peter and the captain joined us.
When she looked back she sighed, "I wouldn't have the time and with being in the militia… I don't think he deserves the heartache." Out of the corner of my eye I saw Peter open his mouth.
I held up my hand to stop him, this was something between Mona and I. Peter, had taken two arrows meant for me and I owed him a debt, "That is an excuse Mona. We both know what the problem is." She looked away as the serving girl brought the food and a small pot of coffee. When she left, Mona nodded, "Since we left the company I have thought about it, but I am not… I wouldn't know how…" I smiled, "Being a wife would not change who or what you are.
It doesn't have to mean giving up your life for his. I don't think he would want or accept that." Mona looked down, "I'm in the militia, Charles. What about the danger?" I looked at Captain Able, "You have an opening for a lieutenant, right?" He looked at Mona's surprised face, "I met the sergeant last night.
She seemed a capable leader." He looked at me, "From the way you have been talking, you know her background. Do you think she could do the job and more importantly, are you giving her your recommendation?" I smiled, "Yes and yes." He nodded and turned as we heard a group of people enter the square.
The sheriff only had two guards, the rest seemed like clerks. He left the clerks and crossed to us and sat in the last seat and gestured for his guards to sit at the next table.
He looked at Sam, "Changed your mind?" Mona and Peter both grinned as they tasted the coffee. Sam looked at the sheriff, "Why would I change my mind? For the position I am in, his was and probably would always be, better than anything I could expect." He looked at her and then at me, I shrugged, "I opened my mouth one to many times already." He grinned, "You have no idea how the duke's militia reacted to this." I nodded to Mona, "Yes I do." He grinned and Captain Able cleared his throat, "He just recommended her for the lieutenant's spot." Jonathan looked at Mona and grinned again, "We could do worse.
The duke will like it, she won't be tossing his noble bu… backside around the salle." Sam laughed suddenly and looked at Mona, "You were the one? Wait until I tell momma." I looked up as Tess and the woman from last night, her mother, stopped at our table.
Tess went to Captain Able and hugged him. Her mother hugged me, "I don't know how to thank you." When she released me, she saw Sam, "Oh, you poor thing. Why didn't they take you home? You come with me and we'll get you out of those man's cloths." Sam pulled back shocked, "Mistress, Wait!" When she stopped pulling, Sam moved closer to me, "I have been spoiled. No noble would take me now, my father would be shamed. The Armsmaster has accepted my offer of common law marriage.
He thought to scare me back to my father, but I have accepted my fate and him. He is a good and kind man and… and I don't deserve him." Tess's mother looked at her, wringing her hands, "But it wasn't your fault. You don't have to… to do this." Sam sighed, "Mistress, I am a noble. It doesn't matter if it was my fault. This match is better than I could have hoped for and now better then I deserve.
My… my husband to be will teach me what I need to know." Tess's mother looked at the sheriff and he sighed, "Maria, she is probably more right then the Duke and I realized at the time." She looked at me for a long time before sighing, "If you need anything let me know." I coughed, "Now that you offer.
I was wondering if you had a set of rooms you could rent us?" She blinked and looked at Tess, "The big suite of rooms next to you is empty." She looked at me, I knew she was thinking of just giving them to me, "Would two gold pieces a month cover it?" She shook her head, "I couldn't." The sheriff broke in, "Maria accept it.
The duke will pick up the bill. He is going to be the duke's new Kristin." She smiled and nodded to me. I looked at the sheriff, "When is the duke expecting me?" Jonathan grinned, "When you get there. He said to wake him, we didn't get much sleep." I nodded, "How did it go with the ship?" He stirred, "It was bad. We took the ship without resistance. The girls that were being held there were… they were not in good shape.
The duke ordered the crew hung right there on the ship. He would have ordered the ship burned if it hadn't been at the dock." I thought about what the girls might have gone through and quietly squeezed Sam's hand, "What did he do with the ship?" Jonathan shrugged, "Nothing yet." My smile was thin and Mona chuckled.
Peter laughed out loud and both Captain Able and Jonathan looked at us funny. I looked at Jonathan, "Take the ship and put it up for sale. Split the money and give it to the girls for a dowry." Jonathan and Captain Able both laughed and Sam squeezed my hand, "Do it uncle Jonathan." I looked at Maria, "Maria? How busy does your tavern get? Could you use all the girls that were saved?
Maybe teach them cooking, cleaning, sewing. With the guards across the square they would be safe and it might help them get over what happen to them. I think I will ask some of the other shop keepers to help too. The baker and tailor and the like, I have money and could pay you for their meals and anything they might need." She opened her mouth but Jonathan stirred, "No Charles, it is a kind and generous thing but the duke will want to do that.
He was trying to find some way to help them." Maria smiled at me and then looked at Jonathan, "Have them brought to me. They won't want to come, but make them come anyway." She straightened and looked at Tess, "When you and William head up to bed, wake Teresa and send her down. If the duke's own daughter can face the light of day and what happened to her then she can too." Tess nodded and pulled the captain to his feet, "We'll send her down." I looked at Mona, "You've had time to think about it.
Do you want to talk it over with Peter?" She looked at Peter, "No." She took a breath, "Well lover, will you take me as your wife?" His face lit up as he smiled, "Yes, but I get to send the notice letter to your father." He paused and grinned as he looked at me, "And the company." I grinned as Mona groaned, "I knew there was a reason I was avoiding this." I stood, "Jonathan?
If we get Mona sworn in with the duke, she can get to the important stuff. Like teaching Peter she is still the one in charge." Everyone laughed and stood, I tried to hand Maria two silver pieces but she waved it off.
I held Sam's hand as we walked and after a while Mona sighed took Peter's hand as well. I kept my mouth shut, pretending not to notice his smile. When we got to the duke's manor, the militia guards opened the door as we walked up.
The duke's chamberlain showed us into a small study and said the duke would be there shortly. Sam had seemed to move closer to me as we came in.
We were only in the room a few moments when the door opened and an older version of Sam came in. A quick look and she headed straight for Sam, "Samantha, what is this nonsense. You come with me this instant." I felt Sam trembling as she held my arm, "No momma." The Duchess stopped in front of her, "Samantha!" Sam shook her head, "You know I can't momma, please don't.
I love you, but I can't." She tapped her foot and looked at me, "You're the one that started this?" I shrugged, "I didn't kidnap her. I thought that after what she had been through she would… I guess in a way I am.
I didn't think she would go through with it, but to tell the truth I am glad she did." She frowned, "You know she is the last in line to inherit?" I smiled and shrugged again, "You could remove her and I would be happier. After watching my grandfather and my uncle, I think being a noble is more trouble then it's worth." She blinked and then smiled, "I like you, you seem to have some sense." She sighed and looked at Sam, "At least let me check you." Sam's fingers tightened on my arm, "I… Charles already…" I looked at Sam and then at Jonathan, "Jonathan, would you give my apologies to his grace?" I looked at the duchess, "Where?" She looked from Sam to me and finally nodded to herself, "This way." The room she took us to was a small bedroom.
(Sam's bedroom) After she closed the door, I led Sam to the bed. I quietly unbuttoned her shirt as she blushed. After I had slipped it off, I got a good look at all the bruises. I shook my head and pulled my satchel off, "The light here is much better. Hold still Sam, this cream will feel cold." Her mother watched as I gently rubbed the same cream I had used the night before into the bruises on her upper body.
I removed her pants and started on the fresh bruises I found, when I finished I looked into her face, "Better?" She smiled and nodded as her mother cleared her throat. I turned to her blushing, she was not the only one there. I couldn't believe I had been so distracted as to not notice the duke coming into the room, "Sorry, I was distracted." The duchess smiled, "somehow I think you just did a better job than I could have." She looked at the duke and sighed, "You were right." Getting clothes back on Sam proved as difficult as before.
I finally put a stop to it, "Enough Sam, put the pants and shirt back on and have the dresses sent to our rooms at the Guards Tavern. Do it or I will put you over my knee and spank you right now. I don't have time for you to argue and neither do your parents." Sam stopped suddenly, "Yes my husband." Her mother looked at me and I just shook my head.
The duke walked us back to his study, the sheriff was still waiting with Mona and Peter. The duke accepted my oath and had just sworn Mona in as an officer when a loud argument broke out on the other side of the door.
The doors were thrown open and a man dressed like a southern noble strode in with two bodyguards following, "What do you think you're doing!" My reactions were swift, my fighting knife came out and around, stopping at his throat. His guards reached for weapons and I pressed harder, "Pull them and he's dead. You two get out now or I won't wait to see if the duke wants to speak to your lord." They hesitated and then backed out of the room as more of the duke's guards arrived. When the door closed, I looked at the noble, "I don't like southerners.
You threaten his grace again or so much as whisper disrespectfully to him and I will send your head back as a warning." I pulled my knife back and slid it back into its sheath.
He glared at me, "You're dead." I smiled, "Some of your kinsmen said that once on the plains of Albia." He paled as he looked at me, his whisper was to himself but everyone in the room heard. "Armsmaster Winston." I nodded to the duke as he stepped closer, "What do you want prince?" The prince looked at him and glared, "You boarded one of my ships and murdered its crew." The duke looked at him, "Your ship and crew were part of a slavery ring.
The ship has been confiscated and will be sold to compensate the women." The prince puffed up and I turned to him, "One of the duke's daughters, my wife, was taken. If I find out it was more than the crew of your ship…" He paled, "Are you threatening me?" I smiled a thin smile, "If you are involved, you can take it as a threat.
If you aren't involved then you can take it is a warning. I have been hearing about your veiled threats to the duke. I will be sending messages to some… friends. If you want to get aggressive here in the north, you go right ahead." He blanched as the duke suddenly smiled, "You can leave now prince, before my new Kristin changes his mind." We watched as he left, shoving his men out of his way. The duke looked at me, "You know he will send messages south as well as to the king." I smiled, "Let him, nothing will come of it.
Send a letter to the king explaining what happened." I looked at Sam and back to her father, "If you will excuse me, I have some shopping to do." I looked at Mona, "You're done playing your tricks on his grace, but now I am going to use your special… skills to teach Sam, Samantha." Mona grinned, "It will be my pleasure lord Kristin."