The Long Road to Ruin Ch. 02byLady_Blackhawk©
Disclaimer: This work of fan fiction 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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The Bear Pit
"Several months have passed since that night that shattered my world into pieces. Yet I still recall every detail...as if it were yesterday. The shouts, the fighting. The dead. Vico...
"They put me into the kitchen where I have to scrub pots and dishes, clean vegetables and wipe the floor. Every day. My world has been reduced from living in a castle to the few rooms I am working and sleeping in.
"At first I only wanted to run and hide. The nights were terrible, with nightmares haunting my sleep. It made me glad that I was so exhausted after the long hours of work because I was too tired to think about what happened and what has become of my life.
"I miss my family more than words can say. Though I never spent very much time with my mother and father, I always knew they loved me. They were always busy with state affairs and the rigors of ruling a kingdom. Even now, there are nights when I lie awake and picture their faces. It's so real, almost like I can touch them in the dark.
"The people in the kitchen treat me well enough. Most of the times, anyway, as long as I do my chores. First off, there's Chella. She seems to be the ruler of the kitchen and swings her spoon like a scepter, thus everyone obeys her. She's a really big woman, too. She was very kind to me the night Vico brought me in. Though I was somewhat afraid of her in the beginning, now I think she's very nice. She does tend to complain that I do not eat enough and that I am far too skinny.
"Then there are the two cooks, Wally and Denny. They are constantly picking on each other. It is no small wonder that they haven't started a fight with each other yet. Chella tends to box their ears every now and then and it seems to bring them back into line. For a while, anyway.
"Trissa, Silia, and Kellia also work in the kitchens. Chella told me that much like me they lost their families during the Dhorn invasion. Trissa is about the same age as I am. She spends most of her time flirting with the cooks. A couple times I've caught her behind the crates with a stranger busying himself between her legs. But all in all, she doesn't pay much attention to me.
"Silia and Kellia, the other two girls, are twins. They are in their early teens, a few years younger than I am. Both girls do not speak very much. I think something terrible happened to them, at least that is what Chella hinted at.
"I have even seen Vico a few times when he's stopped by the kitchens for a bite to eat or when he's had to visit with Master Nathan. I can feel his eyes upon me, watching every move I make. He flirts a lot with Trissa, but to my knowledge, she hasn't yet managed to convince him to join her behind the crates.
"Finally there is Caron. He's a bit older than I am, perhaps in his early twenties. Unlike the rest, he's really not working in the kitchen, but he's around every now and then, running errands for Chella and the cooks. Trissa usually makes a pretty face at him when she spots him and I believe I've heard them once behind the crates. I'm not sure if Caron knows who I am, but he's always been quite friendly with me. He showed me a couple of tricks, like stealing a plum from someone's pocket and how to pick a lock using needle and twine.
"I have applied that knowledge a few times since Caron taught me. I'm not allowed to leave the kitchen and adjacent rooms. For reasons of my own safety, they tell me. I just don't want to feel like I'm in a cage. I waited until Chella and the girls had gone to bed and the cooks had left for the night then snuck out of my room and down the corridor. Unfortunately Vico was paying a late visit to Master Nathan and caught me. He was very angry at me and spanked my bottom as hard as he could. Chella rescued me and put me back into bed without saying a word to me."
Shiloh shook with anxiety as thoughts of the previous night's escapades rattled around in her brain. She rubbed her bottom gingerly as she made her bed up and pulled on a pair of shoes. Usually Chella woke her up in the mornings, but she had yet to speak to her. She chewed on her lip and let out a ragged sigh. Dear gods, I hope that she is not too mad at me.
Taking in a deep breath, Shiloh opened the door that led from her room. She stepped in to the kitchen, scanning the room quickly. Wally was standing at one of the ovens, checking the bread. Denny was working on what smelled like a pot of stew. She noticed Trissa was bending over to pick up another pot, showing off her bottom. Shiloh watched as Wally dropped a loaf of fresh bread and turned red as Chella scolded him and Trissa. The twins seemed to be drying a few dishes near one of the sinks.
Chella smiled as she noticed Shiloh walking towards the table where a plate of breakfast for her sat. She grabbed a slice of bread and a few slices of bacon, making it into a sandwich. She quickly ate it and walked over to Chella.
"Well, good morning, little Shiloh." Chella smiled brightly once more. Shiloh returned the smile, relieved that she didn't seem to be angry with her at all.
"Good morning, Chella."
"Master Nathan was here earlier and told me that he wishes to speak with you. He's upstairs, in his rooms. But first, you need to get some food in your belly, child. You've been losing weight again," she disapprovingly studied her.
"I have eaten. I'm really not hungry." Shiloh replied, wondering what Master Nathan wanted with her.
"Hm, maybe you think you are really not hungry, but I think you should eat everything on that plate I set out for you. What will Master Nathan say if your belly rumbles all the time while he speaks with you?" Chella scolded with a smile.
"Maybe he'll forget about barking at me," Shiloh quipped with a snort.
Chella giggled, "I doubt he's that easily distracted. But don't worry. He won't bite your head off. And if he tries, I'll box his ears until that silly idea falls out of his head."
"Do you think he'll...punish me?" Shiloh rubbed her bottom again. She knew she had to have bruises. Vico had been very rough with her.
"Awww, no, dear child. He won't hurt you like Vico did last night. I think what he wants to do is explain a few things to you. But if you are nervous, best get it over with and see him." Chella gave Shiloh an encouraging smile then turned back to her work.
Shiloh took a deep breath, wondering what would happen to her now. There was only one thing she could do at this point. She took Chella's suggestion to heart and decided to just get it over with. Master Nathan had summoned her and she knew she must go. As she headed to the door, she noticed the glare that Trissa directed at her. Shiloh cocked an eyebrow at her, her brow furrowing. Trissa had never paid any attention to her. She couldn't figure out why the older girl was so cross with her this morning.
Trissa marched over to her, meeting Shiloh near the kitchen door. "Stay away from Caron, okay!?" Trissa hissed furiously.
"Why should I?" Shiloh chuckled and stuck her tongue out at the other girl.
"I don't find this funny!?"
"I find it quite funny that you are all puffed up about it. Plus I really don't think Caron's all that interested in you," Shiloh taunted.
"I know he likes me! Everything was fine until you came and wiggled your ass under his nose." Trissa's face turned red from anger as she shook her fist at Shiloh.
The imp inside Shiloh surged within her and she snorted at Trissa, "Well, perhaps you were wrong. Perhaps he likes me better than you. After all, I am a princess and you are not. No man in his right mind would prefer you to me." An evil grin crossed her face as she tossed her silky long hair over her shoulder.
"Pfft...you are no more of a princess than I am and it's probably just because of your shameless behavior. I saw you the other night. Caron had his fingers under your skirt!"
Shiloh shrugged and laughed at her. "You are delusional and furthermore, what Caron and I do is none of your business, honey pie!"
Trissa's color turned from red to near purple and she flashed Shiloh an even more furious look. "You keep your hands off him or else! You hear me?!?!"
"They can probably hear you half a mile away from here, but you know, Trissa, you can threaten me all you want. Who's to say that Caron won't keep his hands off me?"
"We'll see about that. I'll tell Vico and he'll put an end to it!" Trissa shot back, watching as Shiloh's eyes grew big. "Maybe he'll spank you again."
Shiloh gasped, "How dare you!"
Then Trissa leveled another glare at her and turned away, returning to her work. Shiloh made a rude gesture at Trissa's back and placed her hand on the door. She opened it, feeling a rush of cooler air upon her skin. The kitchen could become quite stifling at times.
She stepped out into the corridor and came face to face with Caron. He smiled at her warmly. "Morning, Shiloh! How's it going?"
She smiled back, lifting her hand to softly caress his handsome face. "Good morning to you, Caron. I am fine."
He gave her a pondering look with an eyebrow cocked. "Chella told me that you tried to sneak away again last night. And you didn't even say goodbye. Tsk, tsk."
She lowered her eyes then looked back up at him innocently, still caressing his jawline. "Honestly, Caron, I wasn't trying to run away. I just wanted to get some fresh air."
He grinned at her, and chuckled, "Actually, I was just kidding you. So, are you going to work late tonight?"
Shiloh shrugged, "Chella didn't tell me what I'd be doing today. Right now I have to go upstairs and see Master Nathan. I hope I'm not in trouble. My bottom hurts badly enough as it is."
He cocked an eyebrow at her. "Ahhh, I see. Vico caught you, didn't he?"
Shiloh nodded and blushed.
"Well, I was hoping to spend some time with you. I've got a new trick, juggling!"
"Yeah, it's not so difficult to learn. I'll show you if you want me to."
She beamed at him. She enjoyed spending time with Caron. "Sure, I'd like that."
"Great!" He smiled brightly in return and gingerly patted her bottom.
Shiloh winced as he touched a tender spot. "Caron..."
He chuckled and withdrew his hand, winking at her.
"Well, I suppose I'd better go upstairs and talk to Master Nathan. Will you be here when I get back?" She asked with a hopeful smile on her face.
"Not sure, but if not, I'll come back later." Caron gave her a look that promised more to come.
She smiled and returned it as she felt her skin grow hot. She knew she had to be blushing and spun quickly, heading for the stairs. She took them two by two, her long legs eating up the distance in a short time.
She hadn't been up here since that night and could feel her heart pound in anticipation. She rounded the corner and headed towards the door to the boss's working rooms. She flashed a shy smile at both Warent and Wesh, two of Master Nathan's body guards. She could feel their eyes upon her as she walked between them, crossing over the threshold into the room beyond. A tingle slipped down her spine and she shivered, noticing how Warent's eyes nearly devoured her. The blond bodyguard was quite attractive. Shiloh wouldn't mind getting to know him better.
She smiled to herself as she heard the imp's voice in her head coaxing her to be a shameless flirt with the blond. She knew that usually one of the cooks normally delivered their food. This time she would have to volunteer to help.
With that plan in her head, she schooled her features and approached Master Nathan most humbly with her gaze lowered. She stopped a few feet from him and dropped a curtsy. She licked her dry lips. Her mind racing was once more. What did the older gentleman who owned and ran the Bear Pit, who took her in after she'd lost everything, want with her after so many months? She hadn't seen him or spoken to him since that night that Vico brought her in, but she knew through Chella that he had occasionally asked about her.
Her eyes came up to meet his as he addressed her. "Shiloh." His eyes seemed to shine with that same green intensity she'd noticed once before, as if they were looking straight into one's innermost soul.
She dropped yet another curtsy.
"How do you like working in the kitchen?"
His question surprised her somewhat. She wasn't sure if he'd inquire to her well-being. She stammered a bit at first, and then cleared her throat. "It's not so bad. Chella is quite nice to me."
"If that is so then why did you try to sneak away last night?"
Shiloh sighed, her shoulders slumping as she studied her feet. "I just wanted to get some fresh air. Why was it necessary for Vico to spank me like he did? He bruised me!"
"I am sorry for the extreme measure Vico used. He most likely felt you needed to learn the lesson that keeping you inside is mainly for your own protection, Shiloh."
He gave her a disapproving look, firmly letting her know he didn't agree with Vico's method of punishment, but that it was their intention to keep her safe. Then he continued, "There are a few things you should know. While we've been hiding you, the Dhorn have established a governor who rules the city in their name. They have killed everyone who was in any way associated with your father. They have also killed the city guard, every single man. I shouldn't have to tell you what would happen should they learn of you."
Shiloh gulped and trembled. She wrapped her arms around herself, finding little comfort in the words Master Nathan had spoke.
"And although I firmly believe that working in the kitchen is good for you, I have a proposition for you."
Her eyes flew back up to his and she flinched visibly. A proposition? Uncertainty exploded in her brain, sending manic thoughts racing. What did he want of her? What did he expect her to do? And why did the thought turn her stomach into a churning eruption of revulsion?
"I'd like you to work for me." Nathan simply stated.
"What? I already work for you!"
"I don't mean in the kitchen, Shiloh."
"Please tell me more. What will I have to do? You aren't going to make me be a waitress, are you?" Shiloh scowled and lowered her eyes once more.
"No, Shiloh. What exactly you'll do depends on the talents you show, but you'll be out of the kitchen."
"I like the sounds of that."
Nathan nodded at her. "But first, there are a few things you have to learn."
"Oh! I had teachers at the castle who educated me as it fit my station. I am fluent in several languages, have learned difficult mathematics, history, and culture. I have been schooled in needlework and embroidery. I can play a few different musical instruments and I am well trained in proper horsemanship."
He cocked an eyebrow at her. "Then I am sure you'll have no trouble putting your knowledge to work. I am going to give you the names of seven people, and I'll tell you where to find them. They live in the city so you'll be allowed to roam freely within city limits. I need not remind you that it's a good idea to avoid any Dhorn you encounter. They have probably forgotten all about you, but still. No need to risk it."
Shiloh nodded dutifully. She didn't want anything to do with the Dhorn.
"Now it does not matter in which order you go through your lessons. I only ask you that you bring me proof that you have passed them. Now I trust you brought with you a notepad for writing down your teacher's names? Good."
Shiloh nodded again, pulling a small pad of paper from a pocket in her skirt.
"Lesson one is about disguising. You will see Chella for that."
Shiloh giggled softly as the imp inside of her urged her on. She found it to be quite humorous that she had to learn to disguise herself when she had been living under cover for all these past months. "Will I learn to disguise myself as a princess?"
"Funny," he raised an eyebrow and scoffed at her. "Lesson two will teach you how to fight and defend yourself. Go to the Tea Shop in Northern Betancuria and talk to Hatori."
Ewww, fighting, she cringed inwardly. Shiloh let out a sigh, trying to keep an open mind. She thought it over, mulling it through her head on why it was necessary that she know how to fight. She nodded and decided it would be a good idea to know how to fight and defend herself...if not against the Dhorn, then certainly Vico. She smiled as she understood the reasoning behind this lesson.
"Lesson three is about stealth. Drago will be your teacher. He's working at a warehouse at the harbor in South Betancuria. I want you to be especially careful around the docks. The Dhorn have closed all bordellos in the city so some of the sailors are...desperate."
Shiloh winced as she understood his meaning. "Stealth? Why do I need that?"
"So you'll not be the bride of every deckhand for a start," he stated sharply.
"Oh! As if I would lower myself to talk to a sailor!" Shiloh haughtily retorted.
"It's not talking to them that you should worry about, Shiloh." Nathan scolded her then continued on, "Joanna will explain what lesson four is about. She lives in the south district at 17 River Road, second floor. That is north of The Isle of Men."
"Oh! I have been there before, to The Isle of Men. My father took me there to introduce me to a nobleman he hoped would become a suitor."
Nathan nodded. "For lesson five, you'll see Yance. He can usually be found at the market in Northern Betancuria."
"And what's that lesson about?"
"He'll tell you."
"Yance. Marketplace. Got it." She repeated, wondering why he'd send her to the marketplace for a lesson. Hmmm, perhaps he's a trader?
"Lesson six is about how to deal with locks, disarming traps and the like. Your teacher will be Alfons. He can be found in the sewers."
"Ewww...sewers? I hope I'll find him," she balked, not really thrilled about the thought of heading down into a sewer. Until that moment, she wasn't even aware that Betancuria had sewers.
"Don't look so sour. You will find it is very handy to know your way around in the city's not so well known areas." He scolded her disapprovingly. "Now last but not least, lesson seven is about setting traps. Go to South Betancuria, to the One Thousand Steps Inn and see Innkeeper Kelten."
"Setting traps? As in being a trapper?" Shiloh eyed him warily, wondering what this had to do with the others and what she had gotten herself into.
Nathan inclined his head at her. "This will be all for now. I expect you to pay attention and pass these lessons. Afterwards, we shall speak about your future. Don't disappoint me, Shiloh."
Shiloh nodded and bobbed another curtsy. Groaning inwardly, she looked over her list. She knew she wasn't up to some of the lessons quite yet, like the stealth one and figured she could do some of the others first and try it when she was more experienced. A thought warmed her insides. Perhaps Caron would be willing to help her. She could learn things and spend time with him at the same time. An excited giggle escaped her lips causing Master Nathan to glare at her sternly. She curtsied one final time and dashed to the door, stopping only to wink at Warent. She wiggled her bottom, walking slowly and what she hoped was seductively as she headed away from him towards the stairs.
Warent let out a wolf whistle as Wesh laughed heartily. "She's off limits," Wesh reminded Warent, elbowing his fellow bodyguard.