Being the King's Headsman is the only employment that I have known since I was 18 summers old.
I had been with a group of people from our village returning from a market fair in the next town over when we were accosted by a band of highwaymen.
The robbers were too busy pawing the women and intimidating the others to pay much attention to the skinny lad who obviously didn't have anything of value.
What I did have though, was my axe.
When the leader of the robbers pawed my mother’s breast through her clothes, I brought my axe up from where I had hooked it for easy carrying and took his head off with a single swing.
When the leader fell, my father slit the belly of another with his belt knife.
The rest of the robbers tried to flee, but we brought them down before they could do more than take a few steps.
We lost Tom the miller's son, and Anne, the daughter of baker. None of the outlaws got away, and only 3 survived to be turned over to the Baron's men.
The word of the fight reached the Baron's ear, and he in turn told King Martin.
A few weeks later, I was summoned to the King's court.
I knelt nervously in front of the King while he studied me at length before he spoke.
"I have heard much about your prowess with your axe." He said. "I am sure the tales have lost nothing in the telling." He rubbed his chin. "Tell me about the fight with the outlaws."
I told him what had happened, not daring to leave anything out or to embellish any part of the tale.
When I had finished, the king smiled. "I am in need of a Royal Headsman,” he said. "I hereby appoint you to that post. You will receive quarters and sustenance suitable to your station here at the castle. Further you will receive 1 gold coin for each execution that you carry out."
I bowed my head. "Thank you Sire."
I was lead out of the room and taken to the Head of the Guard.
The head of the Guard, a fatherly man named Miles, arranged for a room and clothing for me. Then he showed me the tool I would use for the next 10 years.
A headsman’s axe designed and made for the sole purpose of separating a person’s head from the rest of him.
"There's not a lot of work for an executioner here," Miles told me that night as we dined in his quarters. "King Martin keeps his kingdom well ordered, and by and large, the people are happy with their lot."
That night, a serving girl came to my room as I was preparing for bed. "The Captain of the Guard thought that you might like some company tonight." she said with a smile.
She a couple of years older than I and was comely enough. Long brown hair and a slender figure. wearing only a simple shift.
I was tired, and too inexperienced to know what was being offered, so I said, "What I am really in need of is bed."
"I was hoping that you would say that." she responded with a smile.
Moments later, her shift hit the floor, and she had slipped nude into my bed.
I wasted no time in getting out of my clothes and joining her. I was inexperienced, not stupid.
She toyed with my manhood and casually asked how old I was. I told her that I had just turned 18 the day before.
She kissed me and said, "Then this is a celebration for you in more than one way."
My manhood was now as hard as it had ever been, and she forked a leg over me and lowered herself down onto my shaft with a contented sigh.
I nearly sent my seed into her as soon as her moist cunny came down to surround and clasp my member with the most delicious sensation I had ever known.
"Mmmmm, you will be quite popular with the maids here,” she said with a roguish grin. "There's quite a lot of you isn’t there?"
She saw that I had no idea what to do, so she took my hands and brought them to her breasts as she began rocking back and forth atop me.
That did it. I felt my seed flow up from my groin and shoot into her. I could not have stopped or delayed it to save my life.
She caught the look on my face and smiled again. "You are young," she said. "And we have all night."
I was still as hard as ever, and when she lay down against me and rolled us so that I was now atop her, we were still joined.
She wrapped her arms and legs around me, then nibbled on my collarbone. "What are you waiting for?" she teased.
My body took over then, thrusting into her, skewering her cunny with my shaft until she bucked under me and cried out.
I could feel her cunny clenching and releasing my member, and that made me spend inside her yet again.
I moved to withdraw from her, but she murmured a protest, running her hands up and down my back as her legs fell out to the sides.
I stayed on her and in her until my member was soft and slipped out on it's own.
She slept next to me all night, her head pillowed on my shoulder, and a smile on her lips.
She slipped out of the room at dawn before I could even ask her name. I found out later that her name was Miriam, and that she was the gatekeeper’s daughter.
My first official duty was the next week, a rogue who had raped a young girl near her home and then slit her throat when he was finished with her.
I had been sharpening and polishing my new axe until it shone like the sun and could split a feather dropped upon the edge.
The condemned man was lead to the block in the courtyard and bound in place securely. He soiled himself as he saw me approaching, carrying my axe and wearing the black mask of my trade.
I wasted no time, but swung the axe as soon as the King nodded to me.
The rapist's head fell to the front of the block, and his body flopped to the ground, twitching as blood fountained from the stump of his neck.
I rocked the axe free from where it had sunk into the oak block, and then held the axe high for the crowd to see.
Later, the King took me aside. "A good clean execution." he said. "And a nice touch at the end, showing the people what awaits outlaws and traitors."
That first year, I took the heads of 20 men and one woman. A spiteful shrew that had poisoned her husband and children.
She went to her death, screaming and reviling all of us with the most horrid curses.
I did not wait for the King to give the nod, or even for her to be tied at the block. Instead, I swung the axe level with the ground, just above her shoulders, ending her words in mid curse.
Her head flew to land nearly at he King's feet as her body fell, spouting blood everywhere as she flopped around in her death throes.
The King’s Clergyman was crossing himself and looking quite pale as the King kicked the head back toward the corpse.
"Headsman, I thank you for saving us from whatever horrible curse that witch was trying to cast upon us." He said so that everyone could hear.
I bowed to him. "It is my duty, my honor, and my pleasure to protect Your Majesty from harm of any kind."
"Come forward lad, and kneel,” he commanded.
I did as I was bade, and the King drew his sword. He tapped me on both shoulders, then swatted me alongside the head with the flat of the blade. "For your quick thinking and prompt action, I give unto you this day, the rank and title of Knight."
He reached down and took my hand to pull me to my feet. "Arise Sir Paul of Wyndham."
I stood and turned to acknowledge the cheers of the crowd, holding my bloody axe high.
There were other executions over the next few years, but none as dramatic as the one that had earned me my knighthood.
Then, last year, King Martin died, and his son, Prince Eric, ascended the throne.
King Eric had made himself roundly hated while he was still a mere prince, and now that he was King, he was free to let his cruelty run rampant.
In the first year of his reign, I took more heads than I had done during my entire tenure under his father's rule.
Men and women went under the axe, many for what I considered spurious reasons.
But mine was not to question their fate. My job was to swing the axe cleanly and end their suffering quickly.
Then came the one who turned my whole life inside out.
When I heard that Rebecca of Wyndham was to be executed the next morning, I hurried down to the dungeons.
"I need to speak to this Rebecca of Wyndham." I told Miles. "She was a childhood friend, the youngest sister of my best friend, and I owe her that much courtesy."
"If you are sure." Miles said slowly. "It will be harder to carry out your task if you renew your acquaintance with her now."
"I will do my duty before God as I always have, my old friend." I assured him.
He let me into the cell where Rebecca was chained, then withdrew back to the guardroom.
"Paul? Is that really you?" she asked.
"It is," I replied. "What in God's name brings you here to be beheaded?"
She gave a shaky laugh. "God has nothing to do with this," she said. "I was being wedded to Alan the woodcutter when King Eric," she fairly spat the name." decided to attend the wedding feast as he passed through Wyndham."
I had a sour feeling in my gut, suspecting what was coming next.
"He decided that he wanted me. Alan objected, and the King had his men hold him while he ran his sword through Alan's belly." Rebecca said in a too calm voice. "Then he had his men hold me down on the table while he raped me. Then he let his men have their turns."
I tasted bile in the back of my throat and wanted to vomit. This was sounding all too familiar.
"As they were leaving," Rebecca continued, "I screamed that I would see him in Hell. He replied that I would be there before he was, and ordered his men to bind me and bring me along."
I sat down in the cot next to her. "Dear God," was all that I could say.
Rebecca leaned against me, and I put my arm around her by sheer instinct.
"I used to dream about marrying the Hero of Wyndham." she said softly, "Then my father betrothed me to Alan. We would have been happy enough I suppose."
"Alan was a good friend of mine, and a good man." I said. "He didn't deserve to die like that."
Rebecca turned her face up to mine. "Is it true? You are the one who will take my head in the morning?"
"Yes." I said. "It is my duty and my shame."
Rebecca laid her head against me again. "Please, make it quick and clean. I do not want to suffer."
I kissed the top of her head. "I never miss what I swing at." I told her softly. "You will not suffer."
She sat up and turned to face me. "I was virgin on my wedding night." she said. "And all I have known of love is brutality and rape. Will you grant a last request and show me what it feels like with love?"
She pressed my hand to her breast and I felt her tremble.
I stood and lifted her to her feet. I pulled her dress off over her head and gazed at her, as she stood nude before me.
She was still beautiful despite the bruises marring her skin. I leaned down and kissed her softly.
She moaned and threw her arms around me.
I laid her on the bed, and then shed my clothing as quickly as possible.
When I moved between her open thighs, my manhood slipped easily into her, bringing a gasp of pain from her.
I slowed down and began caressing her, using the tricks shown me by dozens of lovers through the years to arouse her and bring her to readiness.
As I finally began stroking in and out of her, she hooked her heels behind my thighs and slid her arms around my neck, drawing my face to hers. She kissed me hungrily as our bodies found and merged with the rhythm. When I spent my seed inside her, she cried out again, this time in pleasure as she own body shook with the force of her completion.
I stayed with her until it was time for me to prepare for my duties. "Remember your promise,” she said as I left. "Do not let me suffer."
Miles met me in the guardroom as I headed for my quarters. "I can assign another to take your place if you wish." he said kindly.
"I have never failed in my duty." I said. 'And today will be no different."
I spent the next few hours sharpening and polishing my axe, trying not to think of what lay ahead.
When the time came, I was standing beside the execution block with my axe grounded before me as they lead Rebecca out.
She walked proudly, her black hair shining in the sunlight like a raven's wing.
She knelt and laid her head on the block, her face turned toward me as they bound her in place.
I raised my axe and looked at King Eric. He was drunk and his cronies had to nudge him to get his attention.
"Well get on with it." he said.
I looked down at Rebecca and raised the axe a little higher. She nodded as best she could then closed her eyes.
King Eric stumbled to his feet and approached me. "What are you waiting for? Kill the slut so that I can get back to my friends."
Then he spat upon Rebecca as she knelt there. "We'll see who sees who in Hell, slut."
The king was only a few feet from me now, and the feeling of evil seemed to pour from him in waves.
How easy it would be to rid the world of his cruelty and senseless brutality with one swipe of my axe.
Ah, but he was the king, and I was a knight of the realm.
And yet Rebecca did not deserve to die.
I was torn between what I knew was right, and my duty to the crown. I hesitated a moment longer.
I made my decision and swung the axe.