The Courier Ch. 22bycaligula97236©
Chapter 22 -- Anyia's Transformation
As soon as Cecilia and Maria Elena departed for Merchant Victor Dukov's house, Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna asked Officer Vladik Dukov to drive her to the Central Police Station. She ran upstairs and returned to her office with a list of tasks that she needed to accomplish to be ready for the next day. She began by notifying the former servants' respective Spokespersons of their release and that they needed to show up to court the next morning to re-assume custody of their clients. The other Spokespersons, in turn, would have to notify their clients' family members and make sure each had a home to go to Monday night. Former employers also would have to be notified, to make sure each of the 30 criminals was gainfully employed within three days.
After notifying her co-workers, Kim called the Ministry of Justice doctors and the single psychiatrist who worked at the Central Police Station. Before returning to court the criminals needed to have their medical histories updated...and the women needed to be checked for pregnancy. Kim desperately hoped the Royal Couple or Anyia's two Lords had forced the female servants to take birth-control pills, but she had no way of knowing for sure without seeing whatever medical records had been kept at the Royal Residence.
The psychiatrist had a very busy night ahead of him, because he would have to interview all 30 criminals before 8:00 the next morning. There were a bunch of psychological issues to work out. Kim reflected that an outsider such as Cecilia might have felt that it was unfair to keep former servants locked up in holding cells in the Central Police Station, but she remained convinced that the Royal Servants needed to have at least one night of transition before returning to their previous lives. Some of Anyia's slaves had not used their voices for over a year, so even the simple act of talking or participating in a conversation would be difficult at the beginning. Most of them were traumatized and full of fear or hatred, some more than others. She knew that some would be full of self-loathing and might contemplate suicide.
Six of the former Royal Servants had been Kim's clients. She felt that she needed to see them right away, so for her there would be no rest upon finishing her phone calls. She went into her outer office, opened six case files, and asked one of the cops on duty to go to the holding cells and bring up her clients. All six were foreigners; five young women convicted of drug charges, and one young man who had been part of a clandestine missionary group and was convicted of proselytizing a foreign religion. The six clients quietly knelt while their Spokeswoman explained what had happened.
"I don't think anyone would have imagined that one person could have done so much harm in the position of Grand Duchess in such a short time as Anyia Dukov. I don't know what to say to you, because that woman's behavior went way beyond dishonorable. I'd like to be able to hold out some sort of reward for you, but I can't offer very much. I will tell you that the conditions of the remaining part of your sentences will improve. Tomorrow each of you will get a collar with a brass ring, which means you won't be restricted to the Danube City collar zone. Also, the Ministry thinks you've had enough whippings, so that's over as well. All of your scheduled switchings will be canceled."
Most criminals would have been elated to be told that they would be issued brass rings for their collars. Criminals who wore brass rings were the most privileged of anyone under ownership of the Ministry of Justice. The brass ring normally was issued under special circumstances to criminals considered exceptionally trustworthy or who had performed an act of heroism, or to criminals who in some way had assisted the Danubian police. Criminals who wore brass rings were forced to remain naked (nakedness was automatically required of anyone wearing a collar) but they were free to move about Danubia and did not have to worry about corporal punishments. A criminal wearing a brass ring essentially held the same position as a person performing Public Penance.
Kim looked at the reactions of her clients. The former servants looked at their Spokeswoman impassively, their faces devoid of any expression. She was not surprised, because Royal Servants were forced to hide their emotions. It would take several weeks and some counseling to convince them that it was all right to express themselves. She continued:
"You've been through a lot, and I think that issuing brass rings is the very least we can do to compensate you. Now, you will understand that in spite of your brass rings, you are still criminals serving sentences. I expect you to remember that. If any of you violates protocol, the conditions of your original conviction and sentencing will be restored."
The tall German girl with the tattoo on her ankle shyly raised her hand:
"Spokeswoman, Lee-Dolkivna, I request permission to speak."
"Yes Criminal # 100904?"
"What's going to happen to the Grand Duchess?"
"Well, her parents will have to deal with her. To be honest, with the way they feel about her, I wouldn't want to be in her shoes. The Prime Minister is so mad that he wanted her to be sentenced to Life without Honor. That won't happen, mainly because of the public scandal that it would cause. The Grand Duchess is going to have some restrictions in her life, however. A lot of restrictions, from what I understand."
Maritza Ortskt-Dukovna spent the afternoon locked in a guest bedroom with her daughter. She wanted to talk to Anyia about her situation, but the only thing the younger woman wanted was a dress and to be let out of the room. Several times Anyia demanded a dress and her crown, props that could have given back some of her self confidence and feeling of authority. However, Marizta repeated the ominous news that it was unlikely she would ever be allowed to get dressed again. The Grand Duchess found that hard to believe.
If Maritza was not willing to quit blocking the door, Anyia had nothing more to say to her. For a long time neither woman said anything, so the room was full of tense silence. Maritza finally gave up trying to communicate. She simply sat reading, with the hope that her presence would keep her daughter from trying anything stupid.
Anyia remained shocked and incredulous that her mother would have been capable of punishing her with a belt on her own whipping post in front of her household staff. Tears rolled down her cheeks and her soul burned with humiliation. She sat on a chair looking out the window, every so often shifting uncomfortably on her bruised backside. She hated her mother for the crime committed against her, but said nothing because for the time being she was concerned about suffering another punishment. She wanted to avoid that, but as soon as the Grand Duke got home and could straighten everything out, she fully planned to get even with her parents.
Maritza could tell by the girl's behavior that she did not feel any remorse over what she had done, but instead harbored a smoldering rage that fueled fantasies of revenge. She sadly shook her head. Anyia, you just don't get it...it's over.
Shortly after Cecilia and Maria Elena left the Royal Residence, Vladim Dukov approached the room where his wife was watching over his daughter. He knocked. When Maritza opened the door the Prime Minister whispered to her everything that had transpired that afternoon, concluding that he and the Clergy members were ready to confront Anyia. Maritza whispered back that it was obvious that she still did not recognize how serious her situation was. He pushed open the door and raised his voice.
"Our daughter does not think I am serious. Very well, I will persuade her otherwise."
The tone of her father's words unsettled Anyia. What happened next unsettled her much more. Vladik and his partner entered the room, grabbed the Grand Duchess, and cuffed her hands behind her back. Anyia struggled and screamed indignantly. Vladim stepped out for a moment and returned with a finely crafted leather switch. It was her favorite switch, the one she kept with her at all times so she could punish her servants on the spur of the moment. He held the switch to her face, touching it to her cheek like she had done so many times to her servants. Anyia took the warning and calmed down.
"Grand Duchess..." (He pronounced the title using a very contemptuous tone of voice...) "...you will come. I believe you wish to see your two advisors."
With her brother and his partner firmly grabbing her by the arms, Anyia was led out of the room and downstairs to the main entryway. She felt her heart stop when she saw two prostrate figures in burial robes lying near the door. She was terrified and did not want to go any closer. Vladim signaled to his son to force her forward. The Grand Duchess struggled to get away, but she was no match for Vladik and his partner. They lifted her off the floor and carried her to the bodies.
"NO! You murderer! You..."
Anger swept through the Prime Minister. He trembled with rage as his normally quiet demeanor snapped:
"Take a look at them, Anyia! Take a good look at the dead traitors! Take a look at my enemies, the enemies of my government, the enemies of our people, the enemies of Danubia! Take a good look at men who betrayed Danubia, who attempted to sell this country for Euros!"
"Take a good look, Anyia! These two are dead, because they wanted to sell our country! Sell it, Grand Duchess! They negotiated a selling price for Danubia and they signed a contract with Mega-Town Associates!"
Dukov grabbed a folder that had been taken out of the car belonging to one of the Lords. He pulled out a very official-looking document. He held it in front of Anyia and pointed to a figure in the text, an agreement that the two Lords would receive five hundred million Euros in exchange for conceding Danubia's natural resources to Mega-Town.
"These two tried to sell Danubia for five hundred million Euros! They tried to sell the Realm of the Ancients, the land of your ancestors, the home of the people who love you, who are naïve enough to think you care about them! If only the public knew, Anyia! If only they knew what a vile, contemptuous, dishonored creature you have become!"
The Prime Minister moved in front of his daughter and slapped her hard across the face.
"Oh! Did I defile your Divineness? Very well...just so there is no doubt...let me defile your Divineness again!"
Dukov laid a second fearsome slap across the young woman's face. Before she could react, he grabbed her by the back of the neck and forced her face within centimeters of the grayish face of Lord Vidmarkt.
"Maritza, go get her crown and bring it to me!"
A moment later Maritza returned with Anyia's finely-crafted crown. It was not the antiquity traditionally worn by Danubian Grand Duchesses; it had been special-ordered the year before from a jeweler in Monaco for a scandalous price.
Dukov released Anyia's neck, but Vladik and his partner still held her arms tight. What the Prime Minister did next shocked everyone in the room. He threw Anyia's crown on the floor and stomped on it. He kicked at the pieces, scattering diamonds and sapphires.
"If you think you will avenge yourself against me, Anyia, you are sadly mistaken! You will not have me killed, because no one will ever follow an order from you...ever! Dishonored traitors like you are not in a position to issue orders!"
To prove his point, Dukov grabbed Anyia's switch and viciously struck her across her thighs. Anyia screamed from pain and fright. The Prime Minister struck her four more times before tossing the implement across the room. As Anyia continued to sob with terror, her father screamed:
"And that's just the treason! How do you justify defiling your servants? How do you justify destroying Church documents? How do you justify trying to have your own parents killed? How do you justify spitting on your own mother? How do you justify all that? With your crown? Take a look at your crown! Take a look at what I did to it!"
Everyone present stood in terrified silence. In all the years he had served in public, first in the courtroom and then as Prime Minister, no one had ever seen Vladim Dukov lose his temper. He paused, noting the reddening welts crossing his daughter's bare thighs. He took a deep breath and tried to calm down. He felt ashamed of his behavior, but he knew there was no way to undo what he had just done.
Everyone then noticed a change in Anyia. She slumped in the grip of the two police officers. Tears were streaming down her face as she contemplated the corpses of her friends and the scattered jewels of her crushed crown. Her father may have felt ashamed of his outburst and striking her across her legs, but it turned out that was precisely what was needed to break her. The illusion she had of her own grandeur melted away in an instant. Dukov noted the change as well. He resumed his normal tone of voice.
"Take my daughter to the sitting room and present her to Grand Prophet # 4."
As Anyia was being led away the Prime Minister turned to the various servants and cops standing in the room
"Officers, please remove the corpses from this property and return them to their families. And gather up those jewels and crown pieces. They need to be taken to the Ministry of Finance and secured in the vault."
Vladik and his partner dragged Anyia into the smaller reception room where the Priestess, Grand Prophet # 4, and several other Clergy members were waiting. The Prime Minister and his wife followed. They immediately approached Grand Prophet # 4 and knelt, touching their heads to the floor. It was strange to see a man in a business suit and a woman in a formal dress kneeling before a member of the Clergy, because normally anyone not performing Penance would be wearing a prayer robe. However, under the circumstances at the moment prayer robes were the least of anyone's concerns. The Grand Prophet blessed the First Couple and told them to rise and take a seat.
Vladik and his partner forced Anyia to kneel. The Clergy members immediately noted the same change in Anyia that the cops and staff in the main reception hall had noticed, that the Grand Duchess's spirit had broken. She no longer was the cruel imperious mistress of the Royal Household, but instead a miserable and frightened young woman who was just beginning to understand the awful consequences of everything she had done over the past three years.
The Priestess rose, carrying a folder full of confession statements from the Royal Servants, as well as statements from several members of the salaried staff who also had requested interviews with the Clergy. She picked out five of the statements, the ones that she considered the worst examples of abuse that Anyia had inflicted on those tasked to serve her.
What followed was a formal hearing that would strip Anyia of her Royal Immunity. For the next two hours, the Priestess read the five statements in their entirety. She only interrupted when she came to a particularly grievous action or order the Grand Duchess had given, asking her if indeed the statement was true. Anyia, who knelt quietly with tears still streaming down her cheeks, repeatedly answered: "Yes, Priestess, that statement is true."
Anyia's parents and brother listened in appalled silence to the steady stream of protocol violations and bizarre behavior that had constituted Anyia's daily routine since she assumed the crown. Listening was especially painful to her parents. They had known for several weeks what was going on in the Royal Residence, but to hear the details made them physically sick.
After two hours, the Priestess concluded by asking:
"Anyia Dukov, do you feel that your servants did anything to deserve the way you treated them?"
"No, Priestess, they didn't. They didn't deserve it."
"Then...why? Why did you constantly beat and defile people whose only wish was to serve your desires and needs? Why were you so desperate to treat your servants as sexual toys and strip away their honor? How can you justify what you did to them?"
"I can't justify what I did them, Priestess. I just did it because it was what I enjoyed doing. That's the only answer I can give you."
The Priestess looked hard at the Grand Duchess. Anyia's simple response, along with her subdued behavior, indicated that the young woman's transformation already had begun. The shock of her detention, being punished by her parents, seeing her co-conspirators lying dead, and finally hearing her own actions read to her by a member of the Danubian Clergy, had broken the imperious view of herself that she had developed over the past decade. There was no need to break her any further.
The Priestess read a series of passages from the Texts of the Ancients concerning the plight of evil rulers. According to the Texts, it was clear that Anyia had violated the trust the Creator had placed in her. The violation of that trust superseded the Royal Protocol that had protected her up to that moment. Therefore Anyia's Royal Immunity would be canceled. She would return to being an ordinary citizen, and thus be subject to trial.
"There are two separate sets of violations that you have committed. The first is the one that has brought you before me, the way you treated your servants. The Church will cancel your Royal Immunity so your father can address the second issue, the fact that you provided assistance to the enemies of the Danubian people."
Dukov spoke next.
"Anyia, you will recall that four years ago Danubia was invaded by Mega-Town Associates. We placed the leaders of that operation on trial. Do you remember what happened to them?"
"They were sentenced to Life without Honor, Father."
"That is correct, Life without Honor. A life of serving the pig. Do you consider their crimes against this country any more heinous than what you and your confidants were planning? I consider what you planned worse, because your predecessors attempted to take over the Realm of the Ancients through an honest force of arms. Nations have done that since the beginning of time. But your plot was not through force of arms. Your confidants wanted to sell Danubia. Sell it. And you intended to use your title and your relationship with your husband to assist that sale. So, my daughter...answer the question. Can you think of any reason you should not be put on trial, your actions and intentions publicly exposed, and you sentenced to Life without Honor?"
Anyia cried. For the first time she truly understood what the two Lords had been planning. They had befriended her, but the purpose of that friendship was to use her to take over the country so it could be sold, for what was a paltry sum of money. Five hundred million Euros for an entire country...really that was nothing.
"I...I don't want to continue with my life, Father...I...couldn't...couldn't you have me executed instead?"
"But do you think you deserve something as simple as a clean execution? Because I don't. What you deserve is not a simple separation of your body from your soul, Anyia; what you deserve is to spend the rest of your life serving the pig."
Anyia sobbed and nodded. Dukov turned away, because his own eyes had filled with tears. He had said what he needed to say to his daughter, but it didn't make him feel any better.
The Priestess realized that Dukov would not be able to speak again without his voice cracking. She came to his aid...with the offer from the Church that would spare Anyia her life, her title, and most of her honor.
"Anyia Dukov, you need to listen to me. You need to fully comprehend what you have done, and the extent to which the Destroyer took over your life. You need to understand the fate that you deserve. I believe you do understand."