Full Confession Ch. 02byMickJay©
I will leave it to you, my Dear Reader, to imagine the welter of emotions I endured in the aftermath of Satta's sale to the goblins -- an agony of love outraged and of vengeance sickeningly fulfilled; of a humiliation endured and a destiny -- my noble destiny -- attained.
Through the long weeks of summer I visited Graydon Zamp's establishment on several occasions, determined to forget Satta and her counterfeit allure; but I found to my chagrin that none of Zamp's trulls could satisfy me as Satta had. I felt her absence from the familiar routines of my daily life as an oppression, an unfillable void. Without her there to nourish my spirit I withered within, my soul perishing by slow degrees.
For three months I struggled with this disquieting unease, telling myself it was no more than a lingering aftereffect of my ensorcellment; I even went so far as to visit an herbwoman in Edgewater when it became clear that no amount of coitus with Zamp's girls would suffice to cure me of my enthrallment. But the doddering crone's pricey philters had no curative effect whatsoever, though they induced many disorienting and erotic visions.
Ultimately, my only hope was that with the passage of enough time my noble spirit would one day be cleansed of that magical taint. Then would I be free to embrace that grand destiny which the Countess envisioned for me.
The Countess for her part had no sympathy for my emotional turmoil. Her natural intolerance for torpor and sentimentality was exacerbated by her deepening relationship with Berjamin Rucker, who now visited our home two or three nights a week. I avoided the Countess as much as I could because I found her company vexing, but she insisted that we always eat our evening meal together. Invariably, she would devote much time and enthusiasm to remonstrations of my extravagant emotionalism and lack of perspective.
"You are well rid of that crafty meretrix, Dominus," she assured me one evening in late summer, while I picked listlessly at an overspiced meat pie on my dinner plate. "I shudder to think what her ultimate intentions may have been."
I glanced sullenly at Ruck, who watched me with his usual inscrutable intensity. "I do not care to have my situation discussed in front of a stranger," I murmured.
"You are ill-mannered, Dominus," said the Countess, her tone uncustomarily blithe; Ruck's visits always imparted a jocularity to the Countess's moods which were neither familiar nor comforting to me. "Berjamin is no stranger in this house."
I sighed heavily, letting my silence speak for me.
"Such a sensitive boy," continued the Countess, taking a large gulp of her wine. She had drunk two glasses already, another consequence of Ruck's presence. When she smiled, her pointed teeth were stained red with wine. "Have you ever considered taking up poesy, Dominus? Limning your mawkish miseries for all the world to witness? Your temperament seems unsuited for anything more constructive or practical than balladry."
I replied with all the dignity I could muster: "Satta's passionate nature may have caused her to make misguided choices, but I do not see why you persist in your delusion that she was sent here by the hand of the Wizard-King himself."
"You take altogether too lighthearted a view of his powers, Dominus," said the Countess, a little sharply. "And of his animosity towards this family. He would stop at nothing to destroy both you and me."
"What reason could he possibly have to despise us? We have nothing. We are nothing."
"Because you are his heir, Dominus, and he knows it."
"Then why has he not come for us? If he has so much to fear, and wields so much power, surely he would have found us by now." I looked to Ruck for an expression of support.
"What say you to that, Berjamin?" asked the Countess. "Dominus doubts the complicity of the Wizard-King."
Ruck was gazing at the wine in his goblet, which he had scarcely touched. "His Majesty's motivations are often hard to fathom. I know only that he is capable of the most inhuman atrocities, which he inflicts with no more compunction than you or I in swatting a gnat. It is said that he has been deeply corrupted by the demonic powers he has tapped."
The Countess shuddered, leveling a significant gaze at me. "Berjamin is entirely correct, Dominus. By the grace of Lud, we are yet alive and well. But we must remain ever vigilant."
I noted, silently, that Ruck had made no attempt to answer my challenge. "I do not believe that Satta deserved her fate, My Lady," I said.
"It is much too late for your regrets, Dominus," snapped the Countess. "What is done is done."
I ignored her. "What do you suppose the goblins did with her, Ruck?"
Ruck swirled his goblet of wine, frowning in contemplation. He took a very large swallow from his goblet and said, "I expect they sold her to the orcs, My Lord. Or kept her to themselves. They seem to be keeping more of their captives these days."
"Oh, indeed?" interjected the Countess. The wine appeared to have sharpened her interest in the unsavory topic. "I noticed that the goblins had a number of fascinating customs in regard to their goblingirls. The hetman's girl had been mutilated in a most distinctive way, her bosoms cleaved. What might have been the significance of that, Berjamin?"
"It was indeed peculiar, My Lady, and I can only hazard a guess as to the meaning of it. I know that the goblins worship some manner of god or demon which is often depicted with four prominent teats. Perhaps Grikka altered his girl as a token of gratitude to this deity."
The Countess would not normally have found such a repulsive subject suitable for dinner table conversation, but now it seemed to have riveted her attention -- doubtless another consequence of her overindulgence in wine. "Is it normal for them to disfigure their girls?"
"They generally mutilate the ones they don't sell to the orcs. It is well to remember that there is no blood taint in regard to the goblingirls, as there is among the orcpets. A girl might be owned by goblins for months, even years I suppose, and yet never undergo that degradation of the soul which prevents an orcpet from returning to humankind. The goblins must resort to extensive disfigurement to ensure that their girls will not be accepted back among us."
"Do they commonly ride about on their captives in that way? I had never heard of such a thing."
"It is a recent development, My Lady. But one which has spread rapidly among all the tribes."
"Why, do you suppose?"
"The goblins seem to have more human females at their disposal these days. I assume that they are either capturing more of them, or the orcs are buying fewer."
I spoke up then, bitterly: "Perhaps humans have glutted the market by selling too many of their own kind."
Ruck was unruffled. "Not likely, My Lord," he said equitably. "There is too much danger in that, and not enough money to be made. When we sold Satta, my men and I made only two rorrim apiece. Hardly worth the risk we run in dealing with savage beasts."
"Yet you obviously maintain regular contact with them," I said.
"They are, in a sense, business associates."
"But the goblin villages are so remote – how do you communicate with them?"
Suddenly, but belatedly, Ruck grew wary of my prodding. "I'm afraid that is none of My Lord's business."
"Quite right!" said the Countess. "You are being most ungentlemanly, Dominus. We do not discuss business at table."
Something about Ruck's discomfiture unsettled me. "I rather think it a question worth pursuing, My Lady. The day Satta was sold, I remember seeing a hand nailed to a tree. It must have been there for the better part of a day."
"Hard to tell," said Ruck. "I suspect that hand had been separated from its owner for at least a few days."
"But it came in response to a signal from you, requesting a meeting. And your signal must have been placed the day before."
"Our timing was fortuitous," said the Countess dismissively.
"I have never known you to rely on good fortune, My Lady."
"Just what are you suggesting, Dominus?"
"How could Mr Rucker have known that we would have a girl to sell to the goblins the day before Satta's charm was found?"
I awaited a response for several seconds, but the Countess remained silent, and so too did Ruck.
"The charm wasn't hers," I surmised, rising from my seat. I'd had a glass or two of the wine myself, and was feeling suddenly emboldened by it.
"Dominus," said the Countess. "What do you think you're doing? Sit down."
"I'm going back," I said, and rushed from the table.
"Back? Where? Berjamin, stop him!"
"The Countess is right, My Lord," called Ruck, rising. "You will certainly die if you go back there!"
I did not reply, did not look back as I plunged out the front door and bolted for the woods. Without weapons or armor I was determined to face the goblins and save my Satta, or die in the attempt.
The sun was already setting as I sprinted down the path away from the cottage. I had only the most general notion of which way I should go, and was very soon lost. For hours I struggled through the forest, gauging my course by dead reckoning. By late evening I had exhausted myself, and had not the vaguest notion of where I was. Wearily I sank to the ground, resting my back against the bole of an oak. I considered giving up my quest and returning home, but how could I face the rest of my life after having allowed Satta to be so cruelly misused? I resolved instead to remain in the forest, to wander in search of my servitrix until I rescued her or died.
But first I would rest and regain my strength. I closed my eyes and imagined a joyous reunion with Satta. She appeared vividly in my mind's eye, naked and beautiful, eager to please as always. She offered herself with boundless gratitude, and I took her blissfully into my arms, held her and fairly wept for joy at my wondrous good fortune -- I had found her so quickly, and with such ease! I held her close, my face in her hair, breathing deep the loamy scent of her . . . .
My triumphant dream abruptly fragmented and faded, and I found myself lying with my face among the fronds of a plant growing at the foot of the oak. With a grunt of surprise and dismay I sat up, spitting dirt. I seemed to have dozed for hours; dawn had arrived, and I was now stiff and cold.
I continued on my way, roughly eastward, and within twenty minutes I was surprised to find myself on the edge of the very clearing where we had sold Satta to Grikka and the Broken Hands so many weeks before. It was deserted now, of course, by I was heartened nevertheless.
As I stood trying to determine which way I should go next, I heard movement in the undergrowth somewhere nearby -- footfalls, light and rapid, accompanied by steady, labored breathing. Peering into the forest, I could just make out a fast-moving figure off to my right, not more than twenty yards away. I ducked down into the cover of the brush, and watched from my place of concealment as a goblingirl bounded lithe as a deer into the clearing, urged on by a goblin who was riding her, its high-pitched gibbering now audible over her panting breaths.
She sprinted eastward through the clearing, and plunged back into the forest on the other side; on a desperate impulse I decided to follow them. I wondered if perhaps this was Satta herself -- or rather Rukka, as the goblins had named her – and with a swelling of hope in my chest I attempted to make sure of her identity as I followed, but I could not see well enough to identify her.
I strove to match the goblingirl's pace, but where she seemed able to avoid the saplings and underbrush with effortless grace, I repeatedly blundered through them. Her endurance astonished me. She stood no taller than my shoulder and could not have weighed more than one hundred pounds, while the goblin riding her must have weighed sixty or seventy, yet she sprinted altogether indefatigably through the woods. I followed them until my legs were leaden and my breathing pained my lungs. Gradually they drew further ahead, until even the sound of them was swallowed by the forest. I persisted in my pursuit, however, in despair lest the opportunity elude me.
Ultimately my perseverance was rewarded. I discovered that my quarry had halted far ahead of me, and the goblin had dismounted. I approached warily now, conscious of my heavy breathing, and saw it standing beside the goblingirl. She was on all fours, motionless, her breathing hardly less strenuous than my own. Only when I had edged much nearer, to within ten yards of them, did I realize the goblin was urinating on her, very deliberately directing its vile stream onto her back, her shoulders, her head – marking her, I suppose, as a dog might mark its territory. Then it spoke, or perhaps merely grunted; in either case its intentions were clear, and the girl immediately proffered her sex to it, breathing more raggedly than ever, her hips gyrating enthusiastically. The goblin did not hesitate to step up behind her.
I considered my options as I crouched there, watching. I had intended to follow the goblin to whatever destination it had in mind, hoping that it would lead me to the Broken Hand tribe. But now I saw an opportunity to eliminate one of the vile beasts with very little risk to myself -- I need only sneak up and bash its skull with a rock while it was wholly preoccupied with copulating.
I found myself goaded into action both by my natural distaste for goblins in general, and by my disgust at the loathsome act this particular goblin was perpetrating on its human mount. I grasped a stone, just larger than my fist, and slipped as quietly as possible through the heavy foliage toward the goblin. It was hammering away at the goblingirl, both of them gasping and grunting like animals in heat.
I crept directly behind them and raised the stone high, preparing to strike at that misshapen head. I must have made some noise then, though I was not aware of it, for the goblin suddenly looked back with a snarl and glared directly up at me. With a cry of alarm I swung the stone with all my might, and the blow connected with a most satisfying crack. The goblin sprawled atop its mount, knocking her flat on her stomach. It immediately rolled off of her, hissing and baring its fangs, but before it could recover I strode forward and hit it across the forehead. As it lay helpless I finished it off, crushing its skull with the rock.
I turned to find that the goblingirl had leaped to her feet, and was now brandishing her sharpened stake at me. Her skin had been dyed a deep blue, but it was her face which arrested my full attention. Its appearance was a terrible shock -- not simply because of the fearsome scowl she wore, though it betokened an unquenchable rage and hatred -- but rather because of the horrifying disfigurements rendered by the goblins. Her nose had been wholly cut from her face, and her lips as well, baring teeth which were filed to sharp points. I stared in absolute horror, wondering for some moments if this awful creature could indeed be my dear Satta -- but no, the eyes, the brows, the forehead were all distinctly unlike Satta's.
The goblingirl snapped and snarled at me, thrusting the end of her stake repeatedly at my midsection, and I knew that had the goblin still been astride her saddle, threatening me with its club, I would have been hard-pressed to fend off their combined attack and win my way to freedom; but facing only the goblingirl's sharpened stick I did not feel myself at a disadvantage. She rushed me, grunting with urgent acrimony, but I swatted her weapon aside and lunged forward, swinging my rock. It connected with her cheek and she staggered backward, howling. She gritted her sharp teeth at me, shaking her head violently side to side. I noted that her breasts were whole, not cloven in two like Grikka's mount; they swayed pendulously as she stood brandishing her stake. Mucus spilled from her gaping nostrils, to join the saliva which dribbled from her lipless mouth. A more repulsive visage I had never seen.
We glared at one another for many seconds, our weapons raised, but when she showed no inclination to attack again I called out to her: "What is your name?"
She growled and snapped at me, but still did not press her attack. I repeated my inquiry, and received a similar response.
"Grrrss'k!" I cried, echoing the sounds she had made. "This is your name?"
She snorted and her head bobbed in what I took to be a gesture of affirmation.
"How long have you been a captive of the goblins?" I asked.
Some measure of tension seemed to drain from her body, and the end of her stake drooped, though her expression was as wary as ever. "Ten," she rasped.
"Ten," I repeated. "Months?"
"Are you a member of the Broken Hand tribe?"
She indicated her fallen rider with a jab of her stake and spoke a few unintelligible words. I assumed at first that she was using the goblin tongue, but gradually realized her words were simply mangled by the hempen bit in her mouth and by her lack of lips.
"Your Master was a member of the Broken Hands," I said, puzzling out her meaning. "You were not?"
She shook her head, and gave me a peculiar grimace. "Veast," she said. "Ann'ul."
"The goblins considered you a beast. An animal. Not a member of their tribe."
"Grrrss'k good girl," she proclaimed, enunciating with care. "Grrrss'k vurk 'ard, vuck 'ard."
"Tell me, Grrrss'k: Do the Broken Hands own a human girl named Rukka?"
I waited with growing dread as Grrrss'k puzzled over my question for several seconds; if Satta had been kept by the goblins, what sort of wreckage might they have made of her?
"Rukka sold," said Grrrss'k, glowering. "T'orcs."
What answer had I been hoping to hear? My heart rose and fell in that same instant: My precious Satta had not been horribly mutilated; she had merely suffered an irreversible loss of her humanity. I almost laughed in my despair.
"W'at 'appen t'Grrrss'k?" asked the goblingirl.
I nearly let the stone drop from my nerveless fingers. "Do you want to go back to the goblins, Grrrss'k?"
Grrrss'k scowled and gnashed her teeth, eyes burning with anger. "'ere else Grrrss'k go? Grrrss'k a veast!"
"You're no beast, Grrrss'k. You're a human, like me. Wouldn't you like to come back to humanity? Sleep in a bed, wear pretty clothes? Laugh and love and live like other humans?"
I was thinking of Satta as I spoke, imagining that it was she who stood before me now. What would I do for her if she had been rendered so unbearably repulsive? The answer, I realized, was anything. Everything within my power.
The goblingirl shook her head angrily. "They'd kill Grrrss'k," she snarled, and jabbed the air before her with her stake.
I tightened my grip on the stone I was holding in expectation of another attack; but Grrrss'k merely glared at me, her forehead creased with misery. The gleam in her eye resolved itself into a glistening tear, which rolled languidly down her blue-dyed cheek.
"Would you rather continue to live among the goblins, Grrrss'k?" I asked softly. "To be abused and mistreated?"
"Hu'ans hate Grrrss'k," she muttered, bitterly.
"Am I not a human, Grrrss'k? Yet I don't hate you."
She looked at me more intently, still mistrustful. "Grrrss'k can't go 'ack," she murmured. " 'er vace cut."
"Do you wish to go back to the goblins then?"
Grrrss'k paid no attention to my question. Her expression was growing more anguished by the moment, which served only to heighten the hideous disfigurements. She took a tentative step forward and stood slightly straighter, as if testing the feasibility of adopting an upright posture. "Is Grrrss'k ugly?" she asked, gazing into my eyes.