The Long Road to Ruin Ch. 07byLady_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, Narev, and Essex are property of Valine.
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Little Beggar Girl
Shiloh made her way down Acorn Street, returning to the Bear Pit. She sneaked through the common room, careful not to bump into any of the tables. She didn't want anyone to know she wore so little beneath the concealing cloak. Up the stairs she crept, passing by Nelina and noting that Caron wasn't there as of yet. She exhaled deeply, not realizing that she had been holding her breath.
Upon reaching her room, Shiloh closed the door and threw off the cloak. She removed the lingerie and changed into a set of work clothes. The drab brown garment hugged her curves quite nicely. She brushed her long hair out, removing the many snarls and tangles then began to plait it into several long braids that she wound around her head. After securing each with a short length of leather string, she checked her handy work in one of Chella's mirrors. Then she headed out into the kitchen and stopped at one of the big ovens that hadn't been fired up as of yet. She cautiously stuck her hand inside, checking for any sign of heat. When she found none, she scooped up a small handful of ashes. Then she returned to Chella's room.
Artfully she applied the ash to her cheeks and even smeared some through her hair. This would do nicely. She grabbed the heavy cloak and made her way back down to the common room; intent on heading to Gaston's to pick up her beggar's costume.
Shiloh strolled through the streets, splashing through the puddles of rainwater that had gathered in the divots of the cobblestone thoroughfares. She giggled happily like a child, recalling the few times she had done that as a little girl before her governess had caught her and forced her back inside the castle. She noticed the disapproval on the faces of some of the commoners that she passed at her frivolity and continued on her merry way.
Crossing over a few side streets, she soon reached her destination and entered the building that housed the tailor shop. She meekly shuffled her way up to the tailor.
Gaston sniffed the air in a haughty manner and raised an eyebrow at her.
"You had best have a reason for befouling my shop, girl."
Shiloh poked her nose out from inside the hooded cloak and eyed him timidly before curtsying to him. She hoped her disguise had worked. "I am here on behalf of my mistress, Lady Belara," she spoke softly before lowering her eyes to the ground.
"Lady Belara, yes. I have her exemplar right here. Just put the finishing touches on it this morning."
"An exemplar?" She repeated, giving him a feigned look of ignorance. "I must have her costume or else she'll switch me terribly."
"An exemplar is a costume, stupid girl. Tell me, does she switch you often?" A look of interest entered Gaston's beady little eyes.
"Nearly every day. She says I am clumsy and lazy. I usually have many bruises. And my master is worse," she whispered and shuddered visibly.
Gaston sniffed the air as if he smelled something foul indeed. "Good help is so hard to find."
"Do you have the costume finished, Master Gaston?" Shiloh asked as she held out her dirty hand.
"I told you I have it right here," he huffed and muttered something under his breath about dim-witted servants.
"May I have it?"
"Yes, yes, girl, but be careful not to get it dirty. It is a masterpiece."
Shiloh accepted the garment from him and curtsied before him. Then she turned and plodded away to the door. She made a show of stumbling over her own feet and clumsily falling to her knees. She faked a cry and pulled herself up, knocking over a display of rich fabrics.
Master Gaston hissed at her and gave chase, intimidating her into picking the fallen bolts of cloth up. Once Shiloh had placed them in their rightful spot, she fearfully glanced at the tailor. "You won't tell me mistress, will you?" She rubbed her bottom with one hand while clutching the costume to her breasts with the other. Lifting the back of her skirt, she revealed the greenish purple bruises still marring her skin.
Gaston clucked his tongue and yanked her skirt back down. "Shameless wench! I shall indeed be informing your mistress! Now out with you," he grabbed her by one of her arms and dragged her to the door, pushing her out into the rain unceremoniously. She slipped on the wet pavement and landed on her bottom. The cry that came from her lips this time, however, was real. Her bottom smarted from the impact. Picking herself up, she headed back to the Bear Pit, ready to try out her beggar girl disguise.
Once back in her room again, she giggled and danced with glee over her success of fooling the tailor with her act. She must be getting good at this. Now she hoped she would have the same success of fooling the bodyguards upstairs and passing Chella's lesson.
Shiloh removed the cloak and her plain work dress and held the costume up in front of her body. By the gods, it was skimpy. Shiloh frowned and wondered why it had taken so long to be sewn. Perhaps it was not so much the sewing, but the dilemma of what to remove next.
She pulled on the tiny one sleeved shirt and looked herself over in the mirror. It barely covered her ample breasts, exposing her cleavage to the world. She couldn't have that. Surely Wesh and Warent would recognize her. So she removed the top and made strips of cloth out of the brown tunic Vico had made her wear the night he had taken her from the castle. Wrapping them around her chest, she bound her breasts, flattening them down until her large chest looked rather diminished. Then she pulled the top over it. She smiled out at her handy work. It looked so much better.
Next she grabbed the scrap of cloth that barely covered her bottom and slid it on. The red silken panties left half of her cheeks exposed. So much for modesty, she scoffed to herself.
To complete her disguise, she returned to the oven and grabbed another handful of cold ash from it. She smeared it all over herself and then checked her look in the mirror. She now felt fairly confident with her disguise.
She strutted over to Chella, noting the raised eyebrows of the other kitchen workers.
"How do you like my disguise, Chella?" Shiloh preened before her.
Chella eyed Shiloh, scrutinizing her very carefully. "Hmm....let me see...Yes, I think your disguise will do nicely. I think it will work quite well. Now let's go upstairs and test it."
Chella smiled at Shiloh and grabbed her arm, leading her upstairs. Shiloh followed dutifully, hoping she could pull off her beggar disguise in front of Wesh and Warent. A part of her fluttered at the thought of seeing Warent again.
As they entered the hallway, and headed to the doorway into Master Nathan's office, Shiloh kept her head down, staring at the floor. She fidgeted nervously, as if trying to hide from view.
Warent spoke up first as he saw them. "What do you want, Chella?" His sharp eyes flicked over the head of the kitchen then moved to the cowering girl beside her. He noted how dirty she was and the grip Chella seemed to have on the urchin's arm.
"I caught this little rat stealing from the patrons. We can't have that going on in the common room. So I figured I'd bring her to Master Nathan."
As if on cue, Shiloh whimpered and struggled to break free from the large woman.
"Don't be silly, Chella. You know the rules. No one goes inside that does not have an invitation." Wesh added, watching the little street rat's attempt to pull her arm away from Chella.
"Let me go!" Shiloh squeaked and continued to struggle, hoping the act seemed real.
Chella tightened her hold on her. "I'm sure Master Nathan would be delighted to see her. Let me pass."
"The moment she tries to step through the door, she's dead. No second warning. You know the rules." Warent threatened, causing a cry to escape from Shiloh's lips. She yanked her arm and pulled free of Chella's grasp. She made a dash for the stairs, but found herself being tackled by Warent. He lifted her from the ground and dragged her back to Chella, despite her kicking and flailing.
Chella chuckled aloud, a wide grin plastered on her face. She reached for Shiloh who had ceased her struggle and rubbed the ash off Shiloh's face. "Know her now?"
Both Wesh and Warent looked from Chella to Shiloh and burst out in laughter. "Too funny, Chella." Wesh chuckled.
"Good job, Shiloh." Warent praised her as a bright smile crossed his lips.
"Thank you, but next time, take it a little easier on the tackle. I'm bruised enough." Shiloh replied, her eyes devouring the handsome blond guard.
Chella took note of the body language between the guard and her little Shiloh. She assumed she would have to have a talk with her. The young princess was growing more and more man hungry than she ever would have expected. Chella touched Shiloh on the shoulder, drawing her attention. She smiled and hugged the younger girl. "Well done, my little dear. You can be sure I'll tell Master Nathan that you have passed my lesson. Now leave the guards to their work and come along with me."
Noting the tone in Chella's voice, Shiloh cocked an eyebrow at her and followed her quickly, but not before she looked back at Warent and leveled one last longing glance upon him. She smiled and winked and took note of the smile he returned.
Chella led her back down to the kitchens and into the bedrooms. She promptly shut the door. "Have a seat, little Shiloh."
Shiloh gave her a look of surprise and sat down on her bed. "Yes, Chella?"
"You and I need to have a talk, young lady. Your behavior and shameless flirting with the guards has to stop," Chella scolded.
"But why? I haven't done anything wrong!"
Chella glared down at her. "I do not want to see you turn out like many of the other girls around here. I know how most of these silly girls behave, inviting any man who peaks their fancy behind the crates in the hallway. You are so much better than that, Shiloh. I've noticed more than you think I have and I can tell you that you are playing with fire."
"I know you are looking out for my best interest, Chella, but there is so much I need to learn. I was so sheltered in the castle and now that I have the opportunity to experience so much, I can't help myself. I want to be like any other normal girl. What is so wrong with a little flirting?"
"There is nothing wrong with flirting, but I should tell you that Master Nathan put the word out that you are off limits."
"I know, but why?"
"He has his reasons, young lady. Maybe he wants to protect you from those who would use you for their own ends. There are many within the Family that does not know who you really are. We know what happened to you that night that Vico brought you in. Perhaps he wants to protect you from that ever happening again."
Shiloh's cheeks flushed red with indignation. "Must you remind me of that awful night? It is bad enough I am reminded of him every time I sit down. I swear if it the last thing I do I will get even with that damned Vico for treating me the way he has. He hurt me that night and again he hurt me the other night when he caught me trying to sneak out. No one said a damn thing to him about how harshly he beat me. I did not deserve that. He probably thinks he can do whatever he damn well pleases to me since the only punishment he ever received was a stern talking to from the boss.
"It's not fair, Chella. Why shouldn't I be allowed to live and learn? What makes me so special that I'm not allowed to explore what it feels like to fall in love and willingly share that with someone? Why is it that it's okay for someone to set up a test in order to see how I react in delicate situations that involves bedding another woman when what I really what to know what it's like to bed a man? I want to be normal."
Chella's expression softened, "I understand your feelings. I do, but I'm sure Master Nathan did not think it was a good idea to put you in bed with a man so soon. That is why Pia was chosen for the task."
The older woman eyed Shiloh carefully. "Tell me the truth, Shiloh. Have you bedded anyone besides Pia in the past few days?"
Shiloh met Chella's gaze. "Honestly, yes, I have. I met someone named Rhys and asked him to teach me. Please don't be mad at me, Chella. I felt so hopelessly ignorant and he was quite sympathetic."
Chella shook her head. "I'm not going to ask where you met him because my suspicions have already been confirmed. I thought you had been up to something when you came in and told me about what the beggar had alluded to. I had hoped you had more sense than that, but I suppose the damage is done. I'm not going to ask for details, young lady, but did he find release inside you?"
"Oh dear, I should have known. You had that flushed glow about your skin. Since your mother is gone and can no longer see to your well-being, it is up to me to fill those shoes. There are some precautions we must take. Now I want you to bathe and put on a clean dress. I am going to take you to see the healer. There would be the hells to pay if you get with child by dallying with a sailor."
Again Shiloh nodded, obeying Chella immediately and quickly slipped out of the costume. She ran the bathwater and slid into the warm depths, washing herself thoroughly, ridding her body of the ash she had used as part of her disguise. Then she unbraided her hair, allowing it to fall over her shoulders. She quickly ducked beneath the water and wet it. She grabbed the bar of rose scented soap and lathered it in her hair, hoping that would get all the ash out of it. Finally, she rinsed her hair free of the soap then stood up, reaching for a towel. She dried herself off and put on the blue outfit she had sewn for herself.
"I'm ready, Chella," Shiloh smiled, following the older woman out of the room, through the kitchen and down into the common room below. They crossed it and reached the door, stepping out into the streets of Betancuria. Chella led her around the building and across the square where a fountain overflowed with water. A young girl and boy merrily splashed about in it before being shooed away by a member of the Dhorn Patrol. Shiloh smirked at their antics. They looked so innocent and sweet. If only she could go back to those days when she was but a small child in the castle. When playing with her dolls and hearing grand stories of knights in shining armor kept her joyfully occupied for hours. Shiloh mourned that loss and sighed heavily.
Chella ushered her forward and opened the door to a shop, allowing Shiloh to enter ahead of her. She glanced curiously around the interior of the small store. Black tapers in wrought candlestick holders were placed in intervals along the walls. A muted purple glow washed over the walls. The cloying scents of lavender, jasmine, vanilla, and honeysuckle saturated the main room. The heavy aroma clouded her senses and Shiloh coughed. It was almost overwhelming.
A silver haired woman wearing an elegant white frock walked from the back of the shop and smiled as she saw Chella. "Hello, Chella. How are you this fine day? I trust all is well."
"Yes, all is well, Angella."
"And how are things at the Bear Pit?"
"Going quite well. Business has been excellent."
"I hope that old goat Nathan is doing well."
"Cantankerous as usual," Chella laughed. "I have to box his ears good for him every once in a while to keep him in line."
"And who is this with you? I don't believe I have ever met her before." Angella eyed Shiloh curiously.
"This is my little Shiloh. You could say she's Nathan's adopted daughter. She's been with us for several months now."
Shiloh curtsied before the healer and flashed a sweet smile at her.
"That old goat always has had an eye for the pretty ones." Angella replied. "You are a beautiful child. May I assume that she is the reason for your visit this day?"
"Yes, she is. Though we have tried to shelter her somewhat from many things, she is no different from any other girl of her age. I brought her here in hopes to prevent her from ending up with a big belly. I trust you have the right herbs to prevent conception."
A blush colored Shiloh's cheeks and she lowered her eyes. She seemed intent to study her feet.
"Of course I do. Sweet child, do not be embarrassed by this. It is a natural thing to want to explore the opposite sex, but you are young still and Chella is only concerned about what is best for you. If you come to me, I will make sure you have a monthly supply of an herbal root that will work as a contraceptive against getting with child. I can also supply you with some herbs to regulate your moon blood."
Shiloh blushed again. She'd never heard of such things. "How does the herbal root work?"
"It suppresses fertilization. The herb is a tuber-like root that you chew once every three days. You must always remember to take it. It won't work if you don't take it."
"And how much does it cost?" Shiloh asked.
Angella laughed out loud. "A month's supply for someone in the Family is 2 gold pieces."
Shiloh dug into her coin pouch and pulled 2 gold coins out. She handed it to Angella who had motioned for her assistant to measure out the necessary supply of the root. She then handed Shiloh a small packet of herbs. "Drink this in your morning tea during your moon blood. It will help suppress the cramping and headaches."
Shiloh nodded. "Thank you," she smiled and took the package of herbal root from Angella's assistant.
"Will that be all?" Angella asked as she motioned to the tea kettle that began to whistle in that instant. "Would you like some tea?"
"Not this time. I have a kitchen to get back to. I can't turn my back on my lazy cooks for too long." Chella replied.
"Mistress Angella, when is the best time of day to take to root?" Shiloh inquired.
"In the morning is best. Be sure you have some food on your stomach." Angella advised.
"And when should I start taking it?"
"There's no greater time like the present."
"Let's go back to the Bear Pit and I'll make sure you have a hearty breakfast and you can take it then." Chella offered. "Have a good day, Angella. I'll come back for tea in the next few days, my friend."
"I'll be looking forward to that, dear Chella." The healer's voice took on an almost misty quality.
Chella smiled and escorted Shiloh out of the building and back to the Bear Pit. She made Shiloh sit down and eat a good breakfast before she let her run off to work on her lessons.
Shiloh was eager to be on her way. She had lessons to pass and part of her ached to see Rhys once more. Mmmm, yummy luscious Rhys. Her heart palpitated at the thought of him. But she knew she had to resist for a little while. Her lessons came first.
She left the kitchen and walked into her small bedroom, closing the door behind her. She changed into a set of old work clothes and decided to go to Hatori's Tea Shop for her fighting lesson. She thought it was odd, though, that she'd have a fighting lesson at a tea shop of all places. She never thought the two things had anything in common. Shiloh shrugged as she tied the laces on her shoes. Better to get it over with!
Leaving the kitchen, she walked into the hallway, and noticed Caron was still working on inventorying the contents of the crates. She sneaked up behind him and as she was about to grab him, Caron spun around and wrestled her to the floor. He straddled her hips, grinning wickedly as he tickled her mercilessly. Shiloh shrieked in laughter, struggling to buck him off. Caron was too strong for her.