The Long Road to Ruin Ch. 01byLady_Blackhawk©
Disclaimer: This fanfic is based off the Neverwinter Nights community module by the name of "A Dance with Rogues" created by Valine. I fell in love with this story and felt compelled to write something that compliments it. This story is rated Mature (NC-17) for explicit content and graphic violence. All characters except Shiloh, Bastian, Rhys, Nicca, Essex, and Narev are property of Valine.
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"Well met, friend.
My name is Princess Shiloh, of House Aurelius. My family has been the ruling monarchy of Betancuria for the past three hundred years.
But that was before they came.
The armies arrived at the city several weeks ago. Before then, the Kingdom of Dhorn had been my father's closest ally. The Dhorn were well known for their fearsome and well-disciplined armies and that was the main reason why King Aurelius's reign had never been contested in over fifty years.
Now, they were besieging his capital.
I had never seen so many soldiers. My father had the city gates closed and had his men defending the walls, but four days ago, the unthinkable happened. The city fell. The King ordered his remaining forces into the castle while the Dhorn invaders plundered the city below. Still I felt safe. The castle had never been taken in its history of well over three hundred years. The Dhorn would never be able to storm it.
Yet they did. They broke through the main gate and although the price was high, the King's Guard managed to push them back temporarily. It now looked as if this was the beginning of the end of Castle Aurelius's grand history.
The armies of Dhorn stormed the castle. The King's Guards' were overwhelmed during this coup. My father ordered me to the safety of my room and warned me not to open the door for anyone I did not know. He ordered me to stay put and wait out the siege until I could be spirited away to safety. And so, I have been locked in my room with my maid ever since, praying that the Gods would give my father's soldiers the strength to repel the Dhorn attackers. But it was not to be. With every passing hour, the sounds of intense battle come closer and closer.
There was no safe harbor to shelter me from the storm that was the Dhorn. They bashed down the heavy door to my room, and barged inside, brutally killing Shira, my maid.
And I was next.
Afraid for my own life, I nimbly slipped out of the grasp of the Dhorn soldier who had tried to hold me and I ran. I ran faster and harder than I ever had before. Not a small feat to accomplish in full skirts and high heels. But I managed it because my life depended on it. I raced through the corridors of the castle, encountering more Dhorn soldiers on the way. The King's Guards' were in battle with them, but were losing badly as more and more of them succumbed to death at the hands of the red and black clad attackers. I watched helplessly as they cruelly murdered everyone in their path. A few of the soldiers caught sight of me as I ran and gave chase.
Then it happened.
A lone dark figure stepped out of the shadows, grabbing me, and changed my life forever. And the next thing I knew was darkness. As I came back to consciousness, I looked around, blinking. My head throbbed, feeling like it was full of a million buzzing bees and I realized I was on the floor in what looked to be a storage room. I could still hear the muffled shouts and cries of battle that continued to ring through the castle. They were getting weaker, though, as the fighting seemed to ebb away slowly.
I made the attempt to stagger to my feet, but to no avail. Dizziness and pain filled my head. I clutched a nearby crate and only then did I notice the dark figure looming over me. He was dark haired and scruffy, wearing black clothing and an evil grin on his face."
"Well, take a look at this. Look what a pretty little bird we have here." His eyes took a slow meandering waltz all over her body and Shiloh instinctively shied away from him. She didn't like the manner in which he studied her.
"Ouww..." she fingered the bump on her head that tingled and ached, "I guess I have YOU to thank for this, you blackguard."
"And the little bird even sings. I wonder what song she'd sing if the Dhorn chasing after her had caught her." He leered insolently, laughing at her.
"The Dhorn...I have to warn the guards! Let me go!"
He shook his head. "The Dhorn have taken over the castle. They've killed everyone. Did you know that there was a girl called Shanna, working in the kitchens? She was only sixteen years old with big brown eyes you could drown in. She wanted me to show her the sea one day."
Shiloh knew exactly who he was talking about. It was well rumored that her father had been having a two decade long affair with Shanna's mother and that Shanna was, if you were so inclined to believe said rumors, her younger half-sister. Illegitimate, of course. The same had been said about Shira, the princess's maid, for Shanna and Shira were twins. Shiloh scoffed at him regally. "What do I care for kitchen girls? Help me up."
His eyes narrowed dangerously. "The kitchens were amongst the first place the Dhorn plundered. Now Shanna will never see the ocean. But at least King and Queen Aurelius shared her fate."
She let out a sob. No, she thought, it can't be true. "The King and Queen are dead?"
He nodded his head, still eyeing her. "The King refused to hand over the castle even after the city had fallen. It was a death sentence for everyone, including himself."
Tears flooded her face as she sobbed uncontrollably. It can't be. She could not, would not, believe that her mother and father had perished. The Gods would not be so cruel.
"So tell me, does the little bird have a name?" He wiped away her tears. She flinched as she felt his hand on her face.
"My name is Shira. I'm a maid."
His eyes grew dark and an insolent glare crossed his features. "Do not take me for a fool, little bird. Shira is Shanna's sister. I have seen her in the past. Now who are you?"
A small whimper escaped her lips. "I am Shiloh....Princess Shiloh of House Aurelius to you, you scoundrel!"
His darkened gaze studied her for a few intense moments. Shiloh felt very uncomfortable as she could not guess what he may have been thinking.
"So it's a dark day for both of us, little bird. You're the only one left alive. You and a few mice perhaps," he sneered insolently.
Another sob that she had so fiercely tried to hold back escaped her lips. "Why did you save me?"
"Perhaps I've seen too much blood shed tonight. Perhaps I want to pay them back for killing my little Shanna."
His gaze wandered all over her body once more. She tried to look away while pulling her dress even tighter around her body.
"You're pretty...not as pretty as my Shanna, but pretty enough."
Shiloh glared at him. How dare he! "Would you please avert your impertinent eyes, you unwashed scoundrel!?"
He snorted contemptuously. "Take off your dress."
"WHAT!?!" Of all the nerve!
"You heard me." He grabbed her clothes and with one fast cut with his dagger ripped it off her body.
"Don't you DARE?!?!" NEVER!!!!!!!!
"Or what?" Vico taunted.
She screamed out, forcing him to grab her hands. He locked his fingers around her wrist. "You are mine by rights of what your father did to Shanna. I promise you, I will open that pretty white throat of yours before you even realize what has happened to you if you do anything stupid."
Thoughts whirled through her mind. What did he mean when he spoke of what her father had done to Shanna? If rumors could be believed, Shanna was her half-sister. Shiloh balked at that idea. Surely father wouldn't do to Shanna what this scoundrel was doing to her, would he? His own daughter? She shivered at the thought.
He pressed his dagger to her throat and she could feel a trickle of blood running down her neck. Still pressing the knife firmly against her skin, he deftly unlaced his pants with his other hand. Then he pushed her to the floor, forcing his knee between her legs.
"I said do not do anything stupid!"
His dagger painfully cut into her flesh, like a blazing iron. Shiloh sobbed as the fear gripped her, paralyzing her. He lowered himself onto her, holding her firmly in place. His breath reeked of cheap wine and a wild expression filled his eyes, a haunting mixture of cruelty and loss, and of madness and lust. It frightened her terribly.
A scream ripped forth from Shiloh's mouth as he brutally thrust himself into her, taking her maidenhead and her innocence. She struggled and flailed about; trying to kick him, but his strength was too great to overcome. His dagger cut deeper into the tender flesh of her throat. Though it seemed like it lasted forever, it took only a few minutes before he finished pounding himself into her and unfeelingly tucked his cock back into his pants.
Shiloh continued to sob softly as her groin hurt worse than anything she'd ever felt. She'd never felt so filthy in her entire life. The dark clothed stranger scowled at her.
"Listen to me, little bird. I know this was rough and perhaps your tiny brain will never get over it, but think of it this way. Had I not been in this damned castle, this damned moment; you would either be up for a really busy night, or you would have been hacked to pieces. Either way, I'd say those few minutes on the floor were an okay price for your life," he told her as he searched through a nearby crate, producing some clothing. "Here, try these."
Shiloh nodded at him and accepted the worn tunic and skirt and pulled them over her petite frame. They were two sizes too big and hung on her, but they were clean and smelled of soap. She felt hopelessly numb at that moment.
"You could at least tell me your name before I go anywhere with you," Shiloh retorted coldly.
"Doesn't matter," he shrugged. "Now come with me, little bird. We'd best be off. I think I heard footsteps outside. No doubt your caterwauling attracted them to this room."
Vico grabbed her wrist and led her out of the storage room, sneaking past a few of the Dhorn invaders. They began passing through several corridors, sometimes up and sometimes down. Shiloh knew she was still in the castle, but had never been this far into the bowels of it. She had no idea where she was as they scrambled over a huge pile of rubbish. Finally he pushed her up a steep ladder and entered what looked to her to be a ruined house and out into the streets of Betancuria.
Shiloh followed him. Chilly air greeted her. It was dark with the smell of rain in the air. She stumbled after the tall dark man, lengthening her stride to keep up with him as the drops from a light rain began to fall upon them. Shiloh pulled her oversized ill-fitting clothing even tighter around herself. She shivered as the heels of her shoes clip-clopped on the cobblestone thoroughfares.
In the distance she could still hear garbled voices shouting angrily, but could not make out what it was all about. Yet the sky above the castle glowed as if a giant fire burned within the walls. Shiloh balked for a moment or two, hissing a curse at her captor. She wanted to see the castle one more time.
It was not to be.
He led her on, through dark empty streets. The two never once encountered anyone else. Misery assailed her heart, causing her to stop a few times. She sat down on the street and cried, stubbornly digging in her heels as he attempted to make her stand up and follow him. He let out a vile curse and scooped her up, tossing her like a sack of flour over his shoulder. Shiloh protested, flailing her legs and pounding on his back with her fists, but she couldn't break free of his hold. She unleashed an ear-splitting scream as he brought his hand down as hard as he could on her upturned bottom and then threw her down to the hard cobblestone street. She hit with a thud, skidding across the wet surface, and cried out pitifully. Vico glared at her, and wrenched her arm, forcing her to stand up. He dragged her along behind him, grumbling under his breath about spoiled princesses.
Shiloh had no idea where he was leading her. Finally they stopped in front of a tavern. Its windows were closed and its doors barred, but after a few knocks, someone opened the door, allowing them entrance. He led her up two flights of stairs until they entered what looked like a cozy office suite, their final destination.
Vico walked confidently into the room, nodding at the two guards that stood outside. He inclined his head at another and approached an older gentleman well over fifty years of age. His grey hair was receding, the top of it completely bald. Yet Shiloh noticed as she looked up at him his eyes shone with green intensity, as if he were looking into her innermost soul.
He turned to Vico, an eyebrow cocked as he noticed Shiloh, who stood with her eyes lowered.
"Nathan," Vico greeted, inclining his head.
"Ah, Vico, you're back," Nathan Geigers replied.
Vico flashed him a look that spoke volumes. "The Dhorn killed everyone in the castle. Nobles, cooks, pages, soldiers...everyone...didn't matter. They stripped them completely and were piling the corpses in the castle yard as I crept my way in. Not a pretty sight to see. The crows will be feasting rich tonight."
"What of the Royal family?" Nathan inquired, stroking his chin thoughtfully.
"Dead. The heads of the King and Queen have been mounted on the castle walls. The Queen committed suicide when the upper floors fell. The wrinkled bitty probably didn't relish spreading her legs for the invaders." Vico grinned, a maniacal glare filling his eyes.
"Hmmm..." The older man nodded.
"But this little bird stumbled into me while I was making my way out. You know who she is?"
"I'd say by the looks of her, that's Shiloh Aurelius," Nathan replied as he flicked his eyes over her and back to Vico. He noticed she had a few blackening bruises marring her skin and raised an eyebrow at Vico.
"I figured she might be useful to us. She may have relatives who might pay for her release."
Nathan shook his head, still examining the situation. Something had happened. He knew it. The princess seemed content to stare at the floor. She avoided all contact with his younger associate. What had Vico done? "Dead people don't pay."
Vico persisted. "Given time, perhaps some foreign noble will be interested in marrying her in order to claim the throne."
Vico scoffed. "The Dhorn didn't even take the time to rape the women. They slaughtered everyone, including Shanna."
Nathan shook his head, even more convinced Vico had done something to the young princess as he noticed she shuddered visibly at the mention of Shanna's name. He knew he would have to have words with Vico.
"But her..." Vico gestured, "She's a little cutie birdie. It would have been a shame to see her wasted like that."
Shiloh's head snapped up and she leveled a hateful glare at Vico. Her eyes moved to Nathan. "You do not have to talk about me like I am not even in the room!" She hissed like furious kitten.
Vico stifled a chuckle. She had spunk, that was for sure. Nathan ignored her outburst and called out to another large man standing near the door. "Get Chella."
Vico blinked. "So we're going to keep her?"
"For now," Nathan stated as a plump motherly looking woman entered the room a few moments later. She curtsied before Nathan.
"Master Nathan. Vico."
"Chella, we have somebody here who needs our shelter for a while. Do you think you can arrange that she will be safe with us?"
Chella nodded, taking a long look at Shiloh. "Awww...such a sweet girl..." Then realization set in and a look of concern crossed her face. "Ohhh, but I know her. Isn't that...?"
"Yes, Chella. Put her to work in the kitchen, but under no circumstances are you to allow any of the customers to see her. Though, I doubt anybody will be recognizing her if she has ash on her face and broken nails from scrubbing pots."
"Awww, it would be a shame to ruin her pretty soft skin," Chella sighed.
"She'll survive that."
Vico took that moment to speak up. "What about her name?"
"It's a common enough name. People are always naming their daughters after the royal princess."
"Perhaps we should cut her hair or dye it another color?" Chella offered, glancing over at Shiloh, who balked at the mere mention of her blond thigh length hair being cut.
"NO!" Shiloh cried and slumped to the floor, curling herself into a ball.
Vico scooped her up once again and delivered another flesh-stinging slap to her bottom. "Stop behaving like a brat!" He scolded as his eyes darkened to match his scowl.
"That's not necessary, Vico." Nathan interjected as Shiloh sobbed pitifully as she rubbed her bruised posterior. Vico's harsh treatment of the girl had him even more convinced. He signaled to Chella to get the princess out of there while he had a word with the blackguard.
Chella leveled a glare at Vico as she coaxed Shiloh to follow her. "Come with Chella, sweet child. You look like you could use a nice hot bath."
Shiloh went along with her, still soothing her aching bottom while brushing her tears away. Chella led her down the stairs and into the kitchen. She took her into a set of rooms off the main kitchen. They were small and tidy. One of which had a blazing wood stove, a bath tub and two small beds while the other served as Chella's sleeping quarters.
"You'll sleep here from now on." Chella directed her to the bed across from the stove. "You'll keep nice and toasty warm here. This will be your armoire. I'm sure I can find you something a little more decent to wear than this old rag you are wearing. Surely this is not how a royal princess dresses."
"No..." Shiloh muttered. "My dress got ripped." She still felt so numb inside.
Chella nodded. She didn't have to guess how that happened. Somehow she instinctively knew. She suspected Vico had done something and now she knew for sure. She helped Shiloh removed the tunic and gasped as she noticed the dried blood on her neck. It looked like a knife wound on her tender skin. Other bruises could be picked out, including a nasty bump on her temple, but Chella gasped in outrage as Shiloh stripped off the skirt to reveal the bruises on her hips and the blood on her thighs.
"Vico hurt you, didn't he?" Chella stated.
"Yes..." Shiloh sobbed, as she sank into the warm water awaiting her in the bath.
"You were a maiden. It is quite obvious."
"Awww, sweet girl, fear not. You are safe here and Vico will not do that to you again. I give you my word. Master Nathan will see to it."
Shiloh cried brokenly while she allowed Chella to scrub her clean. The numbness settled in and Shiloh rocked herself back and forth, hugging her legs with her arms. She sang a childhood song her mother used to sing to her and mourned her loss with a heavy heart. She also mourned the loss of her child-like innocence. She hadn't been allowed to mingle with all that many young male nobles. She had visited a few who had lived on the Isle of Men. They were slightly older than she and had hoped to win her hand in marriage. Now that was not to be. The Dhorn and that damned Vico had ruined her chances at a royal marriage. As things were at this moment, she would never become a Queen. It left a poignant ache in her heart. There were a few things she would never be now. What she mourned the most was the loss of her freedom. Not that she'd had a whole lot to begin with, but she could go anywhere in the castle or on the grounds that she wanted. She'd spent most of her free time at the stables, riding horses. She enjoyed being near the animals. She warmly recalled Nibbles and her last litter of calico kittens. She would spend hours in one of the empty stalls petting Nibbles and playing with the rambunctious fur balls. She would miss Nibbles greatly. The plump mama cat had given her so many hours of joy. Her thoughts then moved to Snicker, the majestic blood bay gelding she rode on a daily basis for the past several years. She wondered what the Dhorn had done with the horses and the rest of the animals. She hoped that Snicker was alive.