I’d always known I might be arrested some day, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a criminal. I was doing something patriotic. But the people in charge of things disagreed.
That can be a problem.
In those days I was running the newspaper from a little dressmaking shop in Tull.
I worked the shop in the mornings, cutting and draping and stitching gowns for Tull’s most fashionable ladies, and in return I got three squares and a bed in the attic with the other two seamstresses, Elena and Tarri. Elena was working because she had been widowed, and her husband’s brother had thrown her off the estate. Tarri was an irrepressibly adventurous thing of seventeen, who had run away from home with nothing but the clothes she stood up in, and was nevertheless making a life for herself with great enthusiasm.
And then, when I wasn’t working, I ran the paper. It really wasn’t much, mostly just accounts of unethical behavior by government leaders, or of people being abused by those in power. An officer who raped a pretty farmgirl – a judge who took bribes – persecution of the Soralites in a border town. Many of the rural counties still held to a landowner-tenant system just one step away from fealty-and-fiefdom, and there were too many opportunities for an unscrupulous landowner to take advantage of his farmers. I didn’t have a problem with our system of government. I didn’t even have a problem with Lord Maven; in fact, I rather admired him. I just wanted people to have an opportunity to know about the instances of oppression around them.
That afternoon, I was delivering a draft to my printer. Well, actually, Jaki was just an journeyman printer, but Master Lacey had known my mother, and he had a bit of a revolutionary streak himself, so he turned a blind eye. Of course, the guard knew that the paper must be printed somewhere, and they watched the printshops. Fortunately, the guard did *not* know that Master Lacey had a second press in the cellar, and so Jaki practiced his trade for me by candlelight once a month.
Today, Jaki was in the back room mixing ink colors, his hands full of pots and spoons and packets of dye. Master Lacey specialized in colored woodcut printing, and Jaki was well on his way to becoming the best colorist in Tull. I put the folded draft in his apron pocket, and as I leaned forward he gave me a quick little kiss, with a wink afterwards. He never lost an opportunity to sneak a kiss. I told myself that I was far too busy to worry about a lover. And also, he was far too young. And also, it would put him in danger. And also, I didn’t want to jeopardize our professional relationship.
In other words, I was close to kissing him back. I’d had lovers before, and Jaki was sweet and funny and attractive. But we hadn’t quite got there yet.
“I heard about a riot in Westerville,” Jaki said, stirring some blue and adding a touch of yellow. “The West Elders doubled the price of wheat, because of the shortage, but they didn’t consult with the Farmers’ Council. They say someone died.”
“Have we heard anything about it from Cy?”
“Then it can wait. We don’t publish rumors. Cy will let us know if it’s true.”
Jaki nodded. “Just thought you’d like to know.”
I leaned against the counter. “Anything new about Lord Randall?”
Jaki snorted in disgust. Lord Randall had explicitly deviant sexual tastes. Normally I wouldn’t be interested in that kind of scandal, not for the paper at least, but in this case the activity was illegal as well as immoral. Girls of sixteen are one thing. Girls of eleven are quite another.
“We got two more reports that the children Mackinal bought last Friday were actually for Randall. But Damien still says he doesn’t know anything about it.”
“Three independent reports are good enough. And that makes four separate incidents of Randall abusing children. We can publish it next month. What’s Damien doing in the capital, anyway? He hasn’t sent any news our way for a good while now.”
“He’s busy,” said Jaki shortly. I didn’t push it. Damien and Jaki were cousins, and if Jaki needed to keep a secret, that was fine.
“I’d better get back,” I said. “That wedding dress is due tomorrow, so it’s all-hands until it’s finished.”
“That’s been quite a project,” said Jaki. “You’d better let me take you out for a celebratory dinner afterwards.”
I gave him a quick smile. “We’ll see.”
Of course, that dinner never happened. I was arrested within the hour.
I’d been made before. Three times, actually. No one’s perfect. But I’d always had some warning, at least enough to get out of town. This time, I didn’t even hear a whisper of danger. It turned out that there was a reason for that, but I didn’t find out until later.
I’d just barely got back to the shop. I came in the back way, and I was hanging up my shawl on a hook when I heard the front door slam open. There were the usual noises of feet and voices tending to a customer, and then a voice called out loudly, “I have a warrant for the arrest of Marja Pala Mansard!”
I froze. I couldn’t see the officer – it must be an officer – and he couldn’t see me. But I couldn’t leave; if I opened the back door again, the light from the setting sun would give me away. I took a step forward.
“Don’t you dare go out there!” Tarri hissed. I glanced over; she was just a few yards from me, in the back storeroom. She knew what I did after work – indeed, the whole shop did, or the arrangement wouldn’t have worked. “He can’t possibly know whether you’re here or not. I’ll tell him you’re out.” And indeed, she crept into the front room with a passable display of fearfulness, and stammered that Marja had gone to the market, and no one knew when she would return.
“I’m afraid I can’t take your word for that,” I heard, and then the singing scrape of a sword being pulled out of its scabbard, and a muffled sort of gasp from Tarri.
“Search the building,” he said, presumably to other officers. And then he called out, “And Marja, if my men find you before you show yourself, I’ll slice this girl’s pretty throat wide open!”
I didn’t even think. I just ran into the front room, and I practically ran into the counter that divided the store from the storerooms, and I stopped there and tried to breathe, not knowing what to do next now that I’d shown myself.
This was the scene:
The officer who had spoken was standing in the middle of the room, with one hand in Tarri’s hair, pulling her head back, and the other holding a sword to her throat. Tarri had her eyes closed and her hands were clenched around his wrist, her knuckles white. Irrelevantly, I noticed three stripes on his shoulder; he was a captain. Elena was standing with a customer off to one side, both frozen to the spot. At the back were two more guards.
“Come here,” said the Captain. “Right now. And kneel.”
The human brain doesn’t like to be in terrifying situations, and it has developed lots of defense mechanisms against them. I don’t remember walking forwards, past the counter. I don’t remember kneeling down. I must have done it, because there I was. But the only thing I remember is a feeling that the air around me had turned to glue.
“Please let her go,” I whispered.
“Funny,” he said, tightening his grip, and Tarri made a little noise, “but it seems to me that I’m the one in charge here.”
“Please,” I said, desperately, “if you let her go, I will do anything you ask of me.”
The Captain looked at me for a long moment. It was a bit of a bluff on my part, and we both knew it. I would already do anything he asked, so long as he threatened a friend of mine. It was a given that I would, eventually, comply. I was essentially offering to skip whatever battle of wills might lie ahead – giving my immediate willing compliance in exchange for her safety.
“You will obey me, fully and completely?” he asked. “No annoying little displays of resistance to try my patience?”
“If you let her go, I will obey you, fully and completely.”
In one movement, he drew his hands away. Tarri fell to the floor, sobbing, and I dove towards her, hugging her, kissing her, trying to console her, for I was full of fear and guilt and misery that I had put her in danger. “Tarri, please, please, please know that is isn’t your fault, Tarri, it isn’t your fault –”
And then the Captain pulled me away from her, and I was on my knees in front of him. I looked up, and he backhanded me across the face and I fell to the floor, my head ringing.
A set of handcuffs clattered onto the ground in front of me.
“Behind your back,” he commanded. I had no intention of resisting, but I was still dazed and trying to catch my breath, so he pinned my hands behind me and clicked the cuffs into place. Then he dragged me up and pushed me against the wall.
“Marja Pala Mansard, you are under arrest for the crimes of conspiracy and incitement to unrest.” He paused a moment before adding, “and treason.”
A wave of terror washed over me. Someone gasped. Treason was an awfully strong word for what I was doing.
I must have upset somebody important.
More to the point, I was now facing something much worse than imprisonment.
“Your sentence will be pronounced by the Magistrate at the Capitol,” said the Captain. He took my elbow and headed for the door, and I stumbled with him, trying not to fall. There was a carriage outside, and he threw me into it, climbed in after me, and slammed the door shut.
And that is how I was arrested for treason.
The carriage was wide enough to seat three, and it had two benches inside, facing each other. I worked myself into a sitting position in one corner, shaking, my hands still cuffed behind my back, the carriage swaying back and forth as we drove out of town. The Captain sat opposite me, gazing out the window. I struggled to fight my panic, but the word “treason” echoed over and over in my head.
By the time we left Tull, I had regained a little composure, at least enough that I could think, and breathe, although tears still welled up in my eyes. The Captain crossed his arms across his chest, and, catching the movement, my eyes darted in his direction.
“Feeling a little calmer?” he asked.
“Good. Then come here.”
I must have looked confused, because he reached forward and pulled me off the seat, onto my knees on the floor of the carriage, right in front of him and pinned between his legs. He let his hands drift from my shoulders, down my body, with an appraising look in his eyes, and I suddenly realized what sort of thing was about to come next.
And I had promised to obey him.
“Hold still,” he said.
His thighs were pressed hard against my waist, his knees holding me tight, and my hands were helpless behind me. I wanted to throw myself away from him, I wanted to flail and thrash, I wanted to scream and sob and kick and bite, and, above all, I wanted to get away. But anything like that would only make it worse.
I nodded. I didn’t trust my voice.
The Captain pulled a small dagger from his boot and placed the point on my temple, not hard enough to draw blood, but enough to feel it sting. I flinched. Then, with agonizing slowness, he drew the point down my face, curving around my jawline. The knife nicked my collarbone as the carriage bumped over a rock, and I gasped. The Captain waited until a line of blood had trickled down to my breasts, and then he carefully followed that line with the knife point. I was trembling with the effort of staying still.
The dress I was wearing buttoned down the front, and he began to flick the buttons off with his dagger, first one, and then the next, and then the next. Then, with a sudden movement, he pulled the dress down to my waist, ripping the fabric and pinning my elbows to my sides. Underneath I was wearing a plain white corset with a chemise underneath, with a tiny ruffle now fluttering on my breasts.
“Please don’t,” I pleaded as he slid his hands down my skin, cupping my breasts and pulling them up out of the corset, so that little rosebud nipples were peeking over the top of the lace. Panic was getting the better of my promise to obey, and my voice got louder as I became more frantic. “Please don’t – please – please – NO!” I shrieked, trying to pull away from him. And he pinched one nipple, hard, pulling me towards him, and he leaned over me until our faces almost touched.
“Listen carefully, sweetness, because I am only going to say this once,” he murmured, keeping his grip tight and painful on my nipple. “We have a few hours’ journey in front of us, and you are going to do everything I tell you to, and you are going to do it with enthusiasm. You are going to do this for two reasons. Firstly, because you promised to obey me. And secondly, because if you fail to satisfy me in any particular, I will go back to your little shop and see if that girl can do it better than you.”
With that, the Captain let me go, and I fell backwards against the other bench, my torn bodice around me and my breasts exposed to his commanding gaze.
“Wh-what… what do you want me to do?” I whispered, and I wasn’t at all ashamed that my voice trembled.
He said, very slowly and deliberately, “I want you to caress and lick and suck my cock until I come all over your face.”
I flushed with humiliation. “I don’t… I don’t…” I stammered.
He pulled me towards him, pinning me between his knees once again. “Unfasten my breeches.”
“But, I… my hands…”
“With. Your. Teeth.”
I think I let out a whimper at that point.
He pushed my head down into his crotch, and with a little sob, I took the edge of his waistband between my teeth, and I pulled it against the top button, trying to slide the button out. I couldn’t find the right angle, and I twisted and tugged at the buttonholes with my mouth and lips and teeth, crying in frustration.
And then I flushed with humiliation, because could feel him getting more and more aroused from my cheek rubbing against his cock, as my teeth bit and my tongue licked and my mouth pulled at the buttons, and I realized that I was kneeling before him, exposed to him, desperately trying to get his pants open so I could suck his cock like a whore. I’d never before felt so degraded, and I clenched my bound fists behind me in frustration even as I tugged at the buttons with my teeth.
Suddenly I caught the trick of it, and the buttons popped open, and his shaft was there in front of me, erect and hard and glistening at the tip. I hesitated, and the Captain shoved my face down, so that all at once my mouth was full of him. Choking back tears, I started to move my lips up and down along his shaft. I started slowly, until he became slick with my saliva and his own juices, and then I began working him faster, and he let out a grunt of pleasure and thrust his hips forward to meet me.
Startled, I let go of him, gasping for breath, and he slapped me, hard. “Those luscious little lips belong wrapped around me, and you can expect more of the same if they leave it again.”
I bent again to my task, my ears ringing. I filled my mouth with his hot, firm flesh, rhythmically sliding my lips up and down. I fluttered my tongue around the glistening tip and ran it down the throbbing vein at the base. I licked all around to give me some moisture to work with, and then I took him into my mouth again, sucking back and forth, trying to please him, and hating myself for it.
And then, suddenly, in a moment of eternal clarity, everything fell away from me. I was no longer Marja. The entire universe was reduced to my mouth, and his cock, and my need to bring him to climax. It was an intoxicating freedom, to know exactly what I existed for, to know that there was nothing else I had to worry about or decide, nothing else I had to take responsibility for. There was nothing but the beautifully simple task of rhythmically licking and sucking, sliding his shaft in and out of my mouth, up and down, faster and faster, and I gloried in it.
The Captain was making noise, now, little short bursts of pleasure in rhythm with my movements. His hands slid down to cup my breasts, and he caressed my nipples, rolling them between his fingers so that he gently tweaked them every time my mouth was at the base of his shaft. I gave a little moan, and let the adrenaline thrill of mixed pain and pleasure wash over me.
He began teasing my nipples faster and faster, and I sped up to keep up with him, my head bouncing up and down, my breasts slapping against his hands. With a shout of frustration or exhilaration he grabbed my head from both sides, his fingers entwined in my hair, and slammed my face into him, rapidly, over and over. His rigid cock filled me, choking me; I was gagging but I could do nothing; I could barely breathe as he forced himself deeper and deeper into my throat, faster and faster –
With a load moan he pulled out of me, and he pulled my head back, and the semen burst from him, spurting out, spilling onto me, on my face and my shoulders, and trickling down my breasts. He held me there for a long moment, breathing raggedly, his eyes closed, lost in his ecstasy. When his breathing slowed, he opened his eyes and looked at me, his hands still gripping my head.
For a moment I felt flushed with success and I reveled in the feeling, but the trance slipped away from me and I was suffused with shame and humiliation. I was unable to wipe myself off with my hands still cuffed, my dress still shoved down to my waist, my breasts still exposed. Tears trickled down my cheeks and mingled with his cum.
“It looks good on you,” he panted, releasing my head and falling backwards against the bench, so that we were not touching for the first time since the episode began. I stayed where I was, afraid to move. His eyes roved over me, assessing his handiwork. “Yes, it looks very good on you.” He paused. “Lick your lips.”
I did, and my tongue encountered slick saltness, and I swallowed.
He smiled. “Good girl.”
He continued to gaze at me, and I dropped my eyes. I had been so eager to please him, so passionate — what the hell had I been thinking? I desperately wanted to cover myself.
After some time, he nudged me with a knee. “Lay down,” he said.
I darted away in panic. He snorted. “You’ll do what I say one way or the other, so don’t fight it. Lay down, on your stomach.” I complied, trembling. And then there was a click, and another click, and my hands were free, and when I scrambled up, rubbing my wrists, the Captain handed me a cloth to clean myself.
“You did well, sweetness,” he murmured.
I cleaned myself off as best I could, and rearranged my torn clothing to be as modest as I could make it. I started to sit as far away from the Captain as possible, but he asked me to come sit next to him, and as he gently stroked my shoulder I found myself relaxing into his arms.
“What’s your name?” I murmured sleepily.
He laughed softly. “Jonathan.”
“Jonathan,” I said, tasting the sound of it, and then I was asleep.
The noise of the carriage on cobblestones awoke me, and I darted into the opposite corner of the carriage, furious with myself for letting my tormenter comfort me.
Jonathan merely chuckled. “Yes, yes, you’ve still got your pride. Hang on to it, sweetness, if it makes you happy.”
Then the driver banged on the roof, to tell us we’d arrived, Jonathan’s face settled into a professional mask, and he was the Captain again.
“Hands behind your back,” he commanded, and even his voice was different.
I let him cuff me. There was no point in resisting. And I was filled with the leaden weight of despair. I wasn’t very knowledgeable about the law, but I did know that death was a possible sentence for traitors.
I caught his eyes. “Will they– will they–” I asked pleadingly, unable to finish the sentence.
“No idea,” he said, shortly. And I knew that he was no longer my ally, if indeed those few moments had meant we were allied in any way, and I had never in my life felt so alone.