Shona clenched her teeth against the searing pain. A narrow line of fiery torment burned across the middle of her bare back, adding its agony to the others that simmered on her skin. She sagged in her bonds, her wrists tugging at the ropes that stretched her arms taut between two vertical posts.
Her spine arched and her body stiffened as her limbs tensed against the lash. She cried out, but the yell was cut short by a gasp of pain as the whip whistled and cracked behind her. Looking down, she saw her naked breasts glistening with sweat, her nipples curiously hard and shiny as though displaying some kind of strange arousal. Looking up and straight ahead she saw three villagers, two men and a woman, standing barely six feet from the whipping posts. Like her, they were in their early twenties and of peasant stock.
The flogging was being delivered to Shona's back by a burly soldier from the village militia, but the three spectators were more interested in the front of her body. The two men were tall, bronzed and muscular: shirtless farm laborers in shabby brown trousers. Their faces were clean-shaven but their black hair was tousled and dirty. Their female companion was petite and extremely pretty: a delicate suntanned beauty whose raven mane tumbled around the low-cut neckline of her long white dress.
The trio stood grinning and chuckling, staring excitedly at the sight of Shona being whipped. The woman tried to count the strokes, losing the tally in a fit of giggles after the forty-fifth lash.
"Stop it, Farnel!" she squealed, feigning coyness when one of the men grabbed her around the waist from behind. She pretended to struggle as the other man unbuttoned the front of her dress.
The antics of the three spectators failed to distract the stern-faced soldier whose task it was to deliver Shona's punishment. So engrossed was he in his duty that he barely blinked when the village woman's dress fell open to her slim hips, revealing pert breasts that seemed over-large for her tiny form. Through a haze of pain Shona saw the uncovered bosom but paid no attention to it: her mind was absorbed by a frantic determination to survive the merciless flogging. She knew, however, that the odds were stacked against her, and that the promised two hundred lashes might take her to the brink of death. Her back was already a mass of crimson welts, and still the whip snaked across her skin as the soldier swung each stroke with deadly precision.
"Why don't you whip her ass and legs?" the female spectator inquired.
Her question remained unanswered, but she persisted nonetheless, standing on her tiptoes as the tall man who stood behind her reached around to cup and squeeze her breasts.
"What about the front of her body?" she asked. "Aren't you going to lay the whip on her belly?"
Again the soldier ignored her, so she swore under her breath and whispered in the ear of the man standing behind her. He laughed, squeezing her breasts even tighter and stooping to kiss her face. The other man stood to one side, watching Shona's naked body as it writhed and squirmed under the lash. A large bulge poked against the crotch of his trousers.
"The law of the village forbids it, Karla," he said, answering the woman but keeping his gaze fixed on the flogging. "It is regarded as an insult to public decency if the front of a female body is subjected to the lash. The same law demands that Shona is whipped here, near the forest, far from the sight of any villager who might be distressed by the brutal spectacle."
"It's a stupid law!" Karla retorted. "In the neighboring villages a bandit girl would be flogged in the marketplace, in full public view, and the front of her body would not be spared. I tell you, Morling, the elders of our village are too soft."
"I agree with Karla," said the man standing behind her. "Shona's cattle-thieving has surely earned her the special humiliation of a public whipping. The elders are fools!"
He ran his fingers over Karla's nipples, hearing her sigh as the teats stiffened under his thumbs. "The whole village has gone soft," he added. "We three are the only citizens prepared to give up our valuable time to witness the punishment of a bandit. The others are either too faint-hearted to watch a flogging, or too lazy to walk the long mile to this place."
"You speak truly, Farnel," said Morling. "And you are right about the need for humiliation, for Shona is a wicked wench who deserves every type of torment."
All three now stared at the whipping posts to observe Shona whimpering in pain as the agony of the terrible flogging began to overwhelm her.
"Sixty-eight," said Farnel, counting aloud the strokes. "Sixty-nine. Seventy. Seventy-one."
"After the hundredth stroke he'll pause," Morling explained. "Then he'll put fifty lashes on her ass and the final fifty on the back of her legs, unless she dies first."
Farnel's hands continued to maul Karla's bare bosom while his fingers caressed her nipples to stiffness. She moaned softly, her eyes narrowing as she stared at Shona. The bandit girl's flanks were patterned with red stripes, where the cruel whip had curled around her slender body. Smaller welts flecked the sides of her breasts, which heaved as her tightly-stretched torso trembled in terror. Karla licked her lips as she savored the helpless captive's pain and distress. Farnel followed her leering gaze and chuckled.
"Does she arouse you, little lady?" he asked.
"She's quite cute and sexy," Karla replied. "It turns me on to see her strung up and whipped. I hate the bitch, but she looks good without her clothes."
"You're not the only one feeling aroused," said Morling, pointing to the erection bulging in his trousers. "And no doubt Farnel feels much the same."
"He does indeed," said Karla. "His spike is pushing my dress into the cleft of my ass."
Morling sighed, shaking his head as he counted the ninetieth stroke. "I wish our lovely bandit would stop weeping and sobbing. It spoils the whole thing."
Farnel nodded. "I agree. Can't that surly fellow stuff a gag in her mouth?"
"There's the hundredth," said Morling, clapping his hands. "Now we'll see her twitch when the whip bites her perky little ass."
The soldier lowered his arm and stepped back, placing the whip on the grass near a fallen tree. He sat on an old stump to wipe sweat from his brow, breathing heavily as he surveyed his handiwork. Shona's back was a livid red patchwork of criss-crossing stripes. Her buttocks and the backs of her legs were streaked with numerous vicious welts. The soldier leaned back, yawning as he flexed his fingers.
He was about to call across to the trio of spectators when he suddenly toppled forward with a groan, falling heavily on the floor of the forest. There he sprawled among the grass and old leaves, lying face down and motionless.
"Run!" yelled Farnel, tugging Morling's shirt and grabbing Karla's hand.
"Bandits!" Morling shouted, spinning on his heels and dashing away from the scene.
"Hey! Wait for me!" cried Karla. Her eyes widened in panic as she stumbled after Farnel. She tripped on a tussock and let go of his hand, tumbling to her knees. The top of her dress still hung open and her bosom wobbled as she tried to stand upright. Farnel slowed to a halt and turned around, urging her to get to her feet.
An arrow whistled past Karla's head before thudding into the ground near Farnel's left boot. That proved too much for him, and his courage failed. He turned and sped off, running as fast as his legs would allow, yelling in terror as he fled towards the village.
"Don't leave me!" Karla screamed, but he ignored her cries and never looked back.
* * * * * * *
"Shall I give her another ten lashes?" one of the bandits asked of his leader.
"No. There isn't time. Fifty is more than sufficient. The bitch will not forget this day in a hurry!"
"We should leave this place," said another voice, more gruff than the other two. "Our comrades will be deep in the forest by now."
"They'll be traveling slowly," the leader replied. "They have to carry Shona all the way to the river. We'll easily catch up with them."
"Still, we ought to depart," said the gruff voice. "Those two farmboys are sure to raise the alarm when they reach the village."
"You're right," said the leader. "Let's go! Leave the woman. The villagers can cut her down when they find her."
The gruff voice snarled a curse and spat. Karla felt the spittle running down her face, but when she opened her eyes she saw nobody. Footsteps receded into the trees behind her as the three bandits hurried away to rejoin their companions.
She felt that her whole body was on fire. Never before had she experienced such terrible pain. She had fainted long before the fiftieth stroke of the whip seared across her belly. The unbearable agony of the flogging had mercifully hurled her into an unconsciousness that she welcomed. Now, as she reawakened, her senses sprang into life again: she whimpered in pain and horror, glancing down the front of her body to see livid crimson stripes criss-crossing her skin. Her breasts felt swollen and sore, their flesh having borne the brunt of more than a dozen vicious lashes. Her left nipple was purple and swollen where the whip had laid a savage stroke across the sensitive teat.
Her legs ached fiercely from the effort of trying to support her weight on her tiptoes. The bandits had stripped her naked, stretching her arms between the posts as cruelly as Shona had been bound. Karla remembered her own screams as they tore off her dress, and she recalled her pitiful pleas for mercy as they lifted her arms. They had tied hers wrists so tightly that her hands now felt numb and icy cold. Through her tears she strained her eyes towards the village, but it was hidden from view by a fold of land beyond the forest. Her spine shuddered uncontrollably, the nerve-endings stricken by spasms of pain. She wondered if her skin would bear the scars of the whipping to the end of her days.
"Somebody, please help me!" she whispered, but nobody heard her small voice. She was alone on the edge of the forest and could only pray that Farnel and Morling would soon bring help from the village.
* * * * * * *