Maidens and Drakels Ch. 03bymagicsplash©
Edward set a huge stack of papers down on Conrad's desk with a thump.
"Here are the reports you asked for, sir. From what I've gathered, nearly a dozen of your employees have been the targets of gas explosions in the past two days."
Conrad took a long sip of coffee as he sifted through the reports, skimming briefly over each of the eye witness accounts. He jotted down in pen the exact time and place of each incident on a fresh, separate sheet of paper, setting things out chronologically.
"How many are dead?" He asked as he worked.
"Seven, and three more are injured."
Conrad tapped his pen against his chin "Okay, schedule the survivors to see me this week, but try do so quietly that whoever is responsible for this doesn't catch wind."
From his seat by the window, Conrad could see the entirety of Lux Lane laid out before him as he worked. It wouldn't be dawn for another few hours, but his was the only house with lights on. No doubt his neighbours were content to sleep well into the day.
Though he would have liked nothing more than to have joined them, his responsibilities meant that he could barely afford to rest for any substantial amount of time on a normal work week, much less in middle of a crisis, and he had learned to live without.
Edward nodded, "Right away sir. Just one thing." He reached into his pocket and produced a large, bulky looking envelope sealed with a wax imprint of a crown. "Apparently the palace is holding another party in Pentecost's honour."
Conrad growled and snatched the envelope out of Edward's hands. "Now of all times!" He ripped it open and unfolded the thin, glossy sheet of paper inside.
"Lord Conrad Faulkner," he intoned, pinching the letter between his fingers as he held it up to the light in distaste, "you are hereby invited to the annual Victory Day celebrations of his Majesty George Emmanuel Pentecost, by the Grace of God Emperor of Arcadia, Protector of the Realm, first Cardinal of the Holy Church, King of Leyland and Emestris, Duke of Honenberg, Count of Tahiti, Margrave of the Siles...."
He trailed off as the list of titles went on, letting out a tired sigh.
"That's quite a mouthful, sir." said Edward, with a quiet chuckle.
"There's more," Conrad said, inspecting the letter, "but I'll spare you. It goes on to say this: the festivities will begin with the lighting of the victory fireworks. Participation in many of the provided activities will require you to bring a slave. It's signed by the ugly old Lord Chamberlain, Rupert Neville. I'm always surprised when I find out he's still alive."
Conrad let out a snort of derision as he put the letter down and stretched. "God, I'm tired of these never-ending celebrations. It's been years, stop gloating and move on."
"Shall I send a messenger boy to inform his Almightiness you won't be attending?"
Conrad smiled with his eyes closed, "No don't. Nobody in their right mind misses the Emperor's parties," He glanced down at the papers on his desk. "and besides, it isn't for another two nights. If all goes well, I may have already caught our culprit by then."
Edward raised one of his eyebrows sceptically, but said nothing.
"Don't look at me like that," Conrad muttered, waving a finger at his butler warningly, "I'm in a bad mood right now, and you won't be in my good graces again until you prove that you can do your job as a professional, and not some gentlemanly pussy cat who'll go weak in the knees for some pretty girl shedding a few crocodile tears."
The butler winced. Despite the fact that he had asked May to keep it hidden, Conrad had still discovered the mug of cocoa Edward had slipped her out of sympathy the night before, and given him quite the tongue lashing for it. It was not an experience he was particularly keen to repeat: strokes with a real whip would have been almost preferable.
"Are you going to bring the girl to the party with you?" Edward asked, changing the topic. Though he doubted the defiant beauty would make a suitable companion at one of the Emperor's famously hedonistic dinners, he suspected Conrad would think otherwise.
"That depends," Conrad leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers as he stared at the ceiling, "I hadn't really planned to work on a deadline, so I don't know if we can have her trained right up to the way I would like, but you know, assuming we can all work together on this one, I can probably have her obedient enough to be seen in public in one or two day's time," he shot Edward a meaningful glance, "Can we agree to work together?"
Edward inclined his head. "I won't make the same mistake again, sir."
"Is that so?" Conrad smiled wryly, "Good. Then we'll start right away. Feed the slave and have her clothed the way we discussed. I'll see her at noon. You're dismissed."
As quietly as a mouse creeping under a farm cat's nose, May slipped off her bed and tiptoed to the far side of the room, pressing her ear to door and listening.
The hallway on the other side was silent.
Scurrying back to the bed, she yanked the brown, worn paper book out from out from underneath the mattress and plopped it into her lap, gazing at it apprehensively.
It was the morning after Conrad had raped her. The night previous, she had smothered her face in her pillow and cried until she had passed out from exhaustion. But with sleep had come escape, and she had awoken the next morning feeling curiously serene, as if all guilt and frustration had been washed out of her while she slept. Things were clear now. She had her plan, she had foe, and she had her purpose.
"I'll fight him," she had whispered to herself then, "I promised Sophia."
The sentiment came back to her now, and hand trembling in anticipation, she licked her finger and opened the book to its first page. Dark spots stained the yellowed paper, and the words were scrawled in handwriting that seemed to have been punched into the page.
This is the journal of Lydia Emilia Faulkner.
Today for my fourteenth birthday, I received this book as a gift from Marianne, my brother's concubine and probably the nicest woman in the entire world. I'm sure it would prefer to be the journal of somebody interesting instead of me, but life isn't always fair, not for books or girls. I am, on the whole, a weak and useless and stupid and cowardly and ugly and lousy disgrace to the family name. I faint at the sight of blood. I am literally allergic to processed gunpowder. My asthma is so bad I collapse after running just twenty feet. And last night, I couldn't even bring myself to utter a word of protest when my amazing, "too-good-to-be-true" prodigy of a big brother murdered both my parents right in front of my eyes.
The only way to describe May's reaction was stunned. She read the last sentence again just to make sure she hadn't made a mistake, her brain whirling in circles as she tried to make sense of what she had just read. Conrad had murdered his own parents?
...That explained ... No that confirmed what a fucked up son of a bitch he was. Was it true? It was written in the journal plain as day, but if Lydia was suffering from dementia, was it just a fabrication of her mind, the wild hallucinations of a tragically disturbed young woman?
There was knock on the door, and May cursed under her breath.
She pulled the covers up around her to hide her nakedness and slipped the diary between her legs, adjusting her position on the bed so that it became invisible.
"Come in!" she shouted.
The door swung open and Edward stepped inside carrying a glass of water and a plate with scrambled eggs, a large helping of bacon, and two slices of toasted bread. The smell hit May like a cannonball tossed out a window, and her mouth started to water. Real food!
The butler set the plate down at the end of her bed. "Eat, and don't make a mess."
May didn't need to be told twice. Scooting closer, she picked up her fork with gusto and began stuffing the plate's contents into her mouth, groaning in pleasure. It tasted so much better than the stale, gooey mush they'd been served on board the Aurorus.
"Fank you," she mumbled through a mouthful of bacon, looking brightly up at Edward as she chewed, the jounal and its dark secret pushed temporarily to the back of her mind. Right now, she was more than happy to oblige her stomach's plea for her attention.
Edward cleared his throat and avoided her gaze, "After you've finished Lord Falkner expects you to wash, dress, and make your way down to his study. He has graciously allotted you twenty minutes to do so. Clothes will be delivered to this room in ten."
Brushing off his coat self-consciously, the butler turned to leave. May watched him go, chewing a corner of toast with a thoughtful look playing across her face. Judging by his behaviour, she surmised that after last night's events, Conrad had probably taken him aside and said some suitably nasty things to him. Well hurray! Her only potential ally had turned out to have a backbone made of butter. It was as depressing as it was unexpected.
After finishing her breakfast, May discovered that the clay basin at the foot of her bed had been filled with clean water overnight, and a selection of pink and yellow soaps and wash clothes had been laid out for her by its side. She couldn't tell if the colours had been chosen deliberately to humiliate her by making her feel like a little girl at a sleepover, or if she was paranoid and it was really just the handiwork of some inattentive servant.
In the end, she decided it hardly mattered. As tempting as it was to spite Conrad by letting herself become a dirty wreck, she just couldn't bring herself to try it, not only because she suspected he would force her to bathe if things got too out of hand, but also because despite what she had undergone in the past few weeks, she knew wouldn't be able to stand the greasy feeling she'd get if she missed any chance she got to wash.
She sat down cross-legged on the floor in front of the basin, and gazed momentarily at her reflection in the water, giving herself a brave little smile. The image shattered when she dipped one of the yellow wash clothes and tremors shot through the water. Taking a bar of soap, she lathered herself up and proceeded to scrub her thighs clean of every last speck of dried semen and blood that stained her from the night before, taking such an absurd pleasure in small and the completely insignificant act of vengeance that she wasted a good few minutes doing this before she reluctantly moved to wash the rest of her body.
A few minutes later, there was another knock on the door.
Expecting it to be Edward again, May contemplated getting back under her covers, but then changed her mind. Let the coward look at her body all he wanted, knowing he could never touch a single part of it. If it made him want to help her, all the better. If it didn't, he deserved to be tormented for as long as he continued to obey his evil master.
But when she opened the door, she was met with the unfamiliar face of a young woman perhaps five or six years older than herself, carrying a small bundle of lace and fabric in her arms. She wore a plain white dress with short black hair, was quite tall, perhaps a little too thin, and had a face like a stork.
"Hello?" May said uncertainly, carefully putting her hands over her breasts and between her legs, instantly regretting her choice to come to the door with no clothes on.
"Hello there girl," the young woman said, pushing past May into the room. She tutted loudly when she saw the plate lying in grease on the bed and the discarded wash cloth May had left in the basin. "I see you had no trouble making yourself at home here."
There was dead, graveyard-like silence as May looked the young woman up and down, taken aback by her blatant hostility. She narrowed her eyes, "Who are you?"
The young woman turned back to May and put her hands on her hips, "My name is Ellise, girl, but you can address me as Ma'am. I am the lucky soul who gets to take care of your needs, wash your clothes, and clean up after you until you're trusted to do these things on your own. Really, I'm mostly here to keep you out of Mr. Edward's way when Lord Faulkner isn't fucking you, or whipping your arrogant little ass raw."
The way Ellise's voice went reverent when she mentioned 'Lord Faulkner' irked May probably even more than what she had said, but she took a breath and tried to be civil.
"Sorry, Ellise, but have I done something to offend you?"
"Indeed," Ellise's upper lip twisted derisively, "Slaves in general are rude and messy creatures, but like you take the cake, don't you girl? Or should I call you piggy?"
"My name's May, thank you. You're awfully haughty for a servant."
Ellise let out a scoffing laugh, "Oh, just servant am I?" She stabbed an accusing finger into May's chest, "That's the problem with spoiled little princesses like you," she hissed, clenching her teeth as she leaned close to May's face,"You still think people should kiss your boots just because you were born with blue blood in your veins. Well guess what darling? Here all you are is merchandise. Nobody cares what colour your blood is except when they're trying to figure out how much they can trick people into buying you for.
May pushed Ellise away roughly, "That's because Arcadia is fucked up, you bitch! And next to Lord Faulkner, you're the second best proof of why I've met so far."
For the next few moments, the two woman stood staring at one another as their minds seethed in blurringly hot anger, each one ready to leap at the other and kill her.
"Just do whatever it is you came to do and get out." May spat, deciding that the sooner this iniquitous hag of a servant left, the better it would be for both of them.
Ellise sniffed, and held out the lacy bundle in her arms, "These are your clothes."
May glanced down, and her mouth fell open as she got a good look at them. There was a hot pink bra with a matching pair of panties, a tiny black skirt literally less than a few inches long, and a lacy black top so tight it looked like it would be difficult to just fit over her admittedly rather large breasts without tearing the fabric, bound to painful.
"These are..." She began, looking up at Ellise in shock, "No way, I can't.... Is this a joke? These are ridiculous. If that's how he wants me dressed... why clothes at all?"
Ellise smirked, and when she next spoke, her voice was laced with so malicious triumph she could have made a kitten crawl into a corner and die, "Lord Faulkner is a smart man. There are many reasons he might choose to dress you like this.
"Name one." May half-shouted, bristling as she stared at the other woman.
Ellise didn't flinch. "Easy there girl. He's trying to break you so he needs to hurt you, shame you. Everybody is naked in the bath, but I'd be willing to wager on my father's grave that you've never worn clothes quite as awful and revealing as these. Isn't that right?"
There was a long silence while May thought this over, and then said bitterly, "If he wanted me to feel unusual, he could have just given me a top hat or something."
Ellise didn't laugh as she crossed the room to pick up May's dish, but she did say, "Keep it up, girl! They say slaves with a bad sense of humour take longer to break."
"Hopefully forever." May said, as Ellise headed towards the door.
Ellise glanced back on her on the way out, and this time she did laugh, like ice cubes tinkling in a glass, "Oh no, that's not going to happen. I might be just a servant, but I do know one thing: it might take a little while, but Lord Faulkner always gets what he wants."
"Oh, there you are May." Conrad greeted her, as the door to his study creaked open and his lovely slave reluctantly entered the room. "and with only a minute to spare!"
He set down his pen and glanced over his shoulder to make sure she was wearing the clothes he had chosen for her. To his satisfaction, she was, and she looked beautiful.
He rose from his desk to loom towards her. If he had seen a girl dressed like May on the street, he would have felt nothing but disgust, but somehow a slave's shame always made everything about her more alluring. There was something about making a whore out of a young, modest girl like May against her will that set his loins on fire.
"How are you feeling?" He asked, "Did you sleep well?"
"Not really, considering you had just raped me."
Conrad stopped walking, and leaned over to settle an arm on the wall behind her.
"Was I really that bad?" He asked, with an infuriating smirk, "You seemed to be enjoying it." There was the barest hint of accusation in his voice, like she had offended him.
May let out an angry hiss.
"You're sick if you thought I liked that." She clenched her hands into fists. "I was begging you to stop the entire time. It was the worst experience of my life."
"Oh really?" Conrad pretended to be taken aback. "But you sounded like you were having as much fun as I was! How was I supposed to know you weren't just playing coy?"
May felt the sudden urge to punch him in the face, but before she could, Conrad took a step back and held up his hands in a gesture of appeasement.
"So but hey, look, I get it. It wasn't very nice of me to rape you on your first time like that. You deserve better than that. In hindsight, I should have waited a few days."
May furrowed her brow in confusion, "What?"
"That's why I think we should start from the beginning," Conrad went on, eyes twinkling darkly, "It's a win win for both of us. I won't punish you for your nasty bout of disrespect last night, and you'll stop sulking about my little lapse in judgement."
It might not have made it into a professional trainer's handbook, but breaking a slave was an art, not a science, and this was not the first time Conrad had made this offer. For just a little kindness, his girls would start to feel like they owed him something, sending even the most stubborn bitch spiralling down the slippery slope to her surrender. It was one of his signature mind-fucking tricks, and never in all his life had it failed him.
May stared at him with her mouth gaped, "Are you kidding me?"
Conrad assumed a regal pose, and proffered his hand. "Shall we shake on it, darling?"
May slapped his hand away, flabbergasted, "No! I won't take your insane offer. Do you think I'm stupid? I'm not going to legitimize your right to rape me."
Conrad stared at his stinging hand in disbelief. Then he looked up at May, and his lip curled contemptuously, "Don't misunderstand me, slave. My right to rape you is already legitimate. You belong to me. As far as the law is concerned, you aren't even a person. I'm trying to do you a favour here, but I'm by no means obligated to be nice to you."
"It doesn't matter!" May said, trembling as she raised her fists, "My answer is still no!" Conrad gazed at her slightly, thrown a little off balance by her unusual behaviour. Then his expression darkened. He reached a hand over to his wardrobe, and pulled a short length of rope off the top. It suited him to have rope lying out so conveniently in his study.
"Fine." Conrad's voice was dangerously low, "On your hands and knees please."
May defiantly met his gaze. "How are you going to make me? You're no-"
Before she could even finish speaking, Conrad lunged towards her, and closed the already shallow gap between them with frightening speed. May quailed and took a step back, her knees suddenly so weak she was certain they were going to give out underneath her. Then she let out a war cry and charged at him, folding her arm like a buckler against her chest, intending to ram her elbow into his stomach with all her might.