March, anno 1268
Her headscarf has slipped. The March wind hunting through the woods grabbed and dragged her chestnut red curls and drove them before her eyes. It snatched the coat she held together with her hands. She startled up and tried to pierce with her eyes through the copse wood. A gust flung limbs against tree trunks; branches cracked somewhere next to the forests path. She jerked, just as her two companions presenting their wooden maces before their bodies. The redhead gazed around, and her hand flipped to the rusty knife on her belt; she saw the knuckles at the hands of the boys and saw the hairs on their arms lifted.
Scrawny trunks of young oaks, dead shrubs lining the way the dark gray clouds watched from above the sky. The house cusps of their parents homesteads had disappeared behind the trees a while ago. For the castle of their Count coming in sight there were a few yards to go. Another crack in the woods.
Even faster the wooden shoes rattled on the forest path. Blaming the coarse woolen stockings she slipped a little back and forth with every step, but at least she was as fast as her companions and she hardly felt the cold that drove under her skirt. She wore her best dress; and her apron concealed halfway that her day's work didn´t allow her to mend the torn seams. About the boys trousers at least their mothers had been concerned patching them.
The three of them passed a few bare shrubs, a single birch. Four wooden soles groped a little further.
The vise of an arm encompassed the girl, a dirty paw sealed her mouth. Her knife banged on the pebbles out of her reach. A shadow blustered before the guys out of the bushes and sent the left of the two with his club to the ground. Metal jingled, and in the black smeared face a gap opened and tawny tooth stubs formed a grin.
The second boy plunged against the assaulter. He missed him, lost his balance and overlooked the knife in his hand. The incision from the navel to the ribs soaked the rags of his shirt with dark red. The hands protectively in front of his head, he went to his knees.
"Stop!" Clearly the word echoed across the glade, and the boy looked up, looked around.
In the middle of the forestpath the girl stood, and the blade at her chest left little questions. Behind her, another shadow. Larger, darker. Parts of an armor, chausses, arm sleeves, chainmail were recognizable - unlike the smaller abetter in his simple garb. Earth and mud in this face distorted the look. The grimace´s dirt matched that of his garments.
The demon leaned even closer to the ear of the girl, breathed his breath into, then words that couldn´t be understood by the gofer. She even moved and he touched her with his lips. She smelled of milk, according to straw and her hair to herbs and forest. Her body tensed, her eyes gleamed moistly, fluttering anxious, even faster with every single of his words devouring her. A tear sneaked down her cheek.
A jerk. In a tangle of beating hands and feet, she threw herself against him, pushed her arms against his, struggled, failed and earned just a heartless laugh. For a while she went on writhing.
He grinned, lowered his mouth from her ear to her soft neck, on his lips he felt the throbbing in her body. The expression on the face of her companion soothed his relish. As far as possible she stretched away from him, when his teeth teased the skin. With her next jolt the pinch separated threads and fabric of her dress, a bloody rivulet ran down. She wailed.
The boy jumped up, and the next struck sent him as quickly back to the ground. "What do you want from us?" He groaned.
"Well, look at it. It speaks!" The leader turned to his companion. "Whether he finds out himself?" He portened his assistant to step back. "Since your life is doesn´t mean anything to us, we care rather about what you carry with you!"
"Our weapons?" The mace smashed against the shoulder of the boy. Something crashed, he slumped down."Do you want to try again?" The leader led the blade over the skin of the girl, his eyes fixed the boy."You have not killed us," coughed the injured.
"Ah, look at him! Is your helpmeet as clever as you? Pretty in any case she is, and pretty her curves also are. "
"Leave her be!" The leader realized his assistant was staring at the girl. He only had to lean a little forward to see the reason: Tears filled her eyes, more tears ran down her cheeks.
"But it's not our money. We are just messengers, so that our village can even up the owed rents to the Count." Her voice was trembling.
He pressed her closer against his body. The heat of her youth he felt all over his body, like the quake every time he rubbed against her, when his breathing stroked her neck or her ear. He was sure she was feeling him the same way everytime she squirmed, every knife he wore. "Your Duke doesn´t even need this." Just a few inches separated his hand from her breasts. He stared at the boy. "And what do you think: How would the money arrive to your Lord when you'ld be dead?" Her head jerked. His hand stroke over the rough fabric, felt her bony ribs, the chest, rising only lightly and in spurts, her soft flesh. He pushed his thumb and fingers along to the middle. She drew a sharp breath, froze.
"Leave her alone!" The boy bared his teeth.
The laces of her bodice were easily to dissolve, the fabric of her woolen shirt lay exposed. "What about the money. Will you put it voluntarily out, or are we to take first your lives - and more or less." He smiled a crooked smile.
"We can´t collect the same amount again," she sobbed, "and it belongs to the Lord. Please! Pity us. The Lord God will reward you. Please!"
He yanked her chin in the direction of her companion, the cold metal kissed her cheek. "Look over there! One of your companions is injured, the other will sleep for a very, very long time at least. Either the coins, or all of you will fall into the most deepest dreams." The cold grin in the face of his abetter was only to be seen by him, as he took the dagger from the side of the girl and held it up. "Do you think, I take care about God? He won´t send an angel down to save you or to banish me to hell." Ten breaths he enjoyed her racing heartbeat and the anger on the face of the lad. Then he pushed the sleeve of her robe up. He turned her arm, the tip of his dagger was firmly pressed to the skin and endowed her a strip of dark red pearls.
"Stop it!" Hissed the boy. "You will get the money, let her." His one arm hung useless at his side, with the other he rolled his waistband down and revealed a thick ring of cloth around his hips. Quickly the joined ends were severed, dissolved from his burden he became.
"Where's the remaining?"
The boy pointed to the waistband of his unconscious companion and to the girl's skirt. The smaller dark mate rammed his fist into the shoulder of the injured, occurred behind him and pushed the dagger to his throat. With his free hand he turned the boy´s head towards her.
The hands of the leader were gliding over her torso, her middle, her thighs. "Lift your skirt up slowly and hold it ´til I'm done!" He licked his lips, then the girl's neck, and felt her shivering. He stepped back. At her bare legs he saw the bag with the coins, tied to her upper legs. He ran his hand over his mouth, approached her, touched her bare skin. She trembled. Quickly the blade was again at her battered side.
"Keep still, I said. Haven´t you learned it yet? "His right hand went up. He allowed himself a glance at his audience. Fury stared at him from the boys; the face of his abetter drew something else.
His own desire grew. The presence of others was stimulating him. The more when his hand cupped her firm ass. She sobbed. He rubbed against her, felt her anxiety, as well as the warmth of her body, her spicy scent. She was in his hands. Everything was in his hand. A curse, a whimper, a groan."Keep still! Or you will get yet another lesson from me." This time his hand ran roughly across her chest, a quick cut severed the wool fibers of her shirt. The skin underneath felt so warm in his fingers, so delicate and tight the curve of her breasts. As she quivered every time the cold blade stuck scratching on her way over her skin at one point.
He reached for the waistband of his trousers, buttoned it up, took stock of relief. His eyes roamed the round, and he took a deep, full swig of his power.
"Leave her alone!" The lad croaked. His eyes were narrow, became even narrower when the dagger was pressed against his throat and the girls sobbing filled the glade. Even a moment, then it was over. The leader finally cut the bags of the girl´s legs and took a deep breath. He gave his prisoner to understand that she was allowed to let her skirts down. The blade regained its place on her side. He was not ready to gave up their attention.
"Now that we have the money, you can move on to the castle."
"Without the coins to pay off our debt? What ought we doing there?" The redhead whimpered.
"If you ought to prefer to make your way home, of course you are free. However, the Count could get the idea, you wanted to refuse the paying. Certainly given the idea he would´t turn into indulgence towards your village. What do you think?
And don´t bother about your friend here. In these cold days there won´t be much beast around to harm him.Your generous Earl surely will grant his help on your request to bring your companion back. Especially if you were able to tell him this words: Tell him that this was only the beginning. Now the time has come when his family receives their just reward!"
The boys stared at him. "What does this mean?"
"Swain." One word was enough to silence the boy. "Are you able to remember that?" Snapped the leader. "Get up. Move ahead out of my sight. Here is nothing more for you! "A quick glance and he added some more. "Do not waste any more of my time."
The injured tried to stand up from kneeling.
"Look out!" The robber baron raised his dagger into the air. "I'm going to ease your way to the castle."
"Will you probably leave us a horse?" Replied the wounded.
"You're lucky that I left you your own feet." The first of the thieves pushed the girl towards the lad. He waited for a moment, "I'll make you another gift. Look here!" He urged. The girl stumbled closer to the boy, from whose face faded any color.
"You'll be much faster if you are traveling on your own." With a set of leader was behind her. He tore her coat to the side, and stabbed out. The dagger digged through her clothes and skin, the blade buried itself between the ribs. Her big brown eyes became wide. Someone screamed. Not the girl.
From her lips a breath flew as she exhaled the light of their lives. Smacking the blade left the body, the boy writhed under the blow that had sent him to the ground again. Slowly he pulled himself to his knees.
"You were careless," muttered the leader. "Unforgivable careless, don´t you were?" He pointed at the boy, shook his head, then nodded to his companion.
Shadow fell on the doll that was broken while playing. The predator looked at the prey of his hunting, the wreath of her lashes, her heart-shaped face. With long fingers he stroked the curl from her forehead, brushed her cheek, and drew them with earth-brown stripes. On her bed of trampled brown winter grass stalks she looked beautiful as she lay there.
He scratched his cheek. The mud he wiped on her bodice. His gaze slid over the slender neck to the neckline of her dress, continuing to the breasts, which hinted underneath. With his knife point he pushed the fabric back a bit and put the cut-free. If she suffered? Perhaps in her live, in her work, he did not know. Within her death? He assumed not. His engraving came unexpectedly and quickly and from behind between her ribs. No, really, he thought not. When he drew his dagger from the wound, the red life pulsed out and ran over his hand, she was already dead. Not even a last cry she had the chance for.
Did he regret it? In her eyes he would have liked to look, as the spark of life extinguished. Maybe.
Finally, he caressed the snow-covered landscape of her décolleté, before he wiped the blade on her dress and stood up.
"I already told you, there is nothing left for you! Better you find yourself on the way to the castle, or you will reunite with them more quickly, than you want."
With the knife he meant the boy to get up. "Leave and do not forget to pass on the message to your count!" The robber recalled.
Although the lad limped, the shoulder strangely fell down, another call he didn´t need to slink away.
One last time he looked down at her. Almost he regretted the waste. Then he spat, wiped his mouth, and he stepped over her body. His assistant grunted and shouldered the two sacks and trotted ahead. After a few steps he reached his companion. Silently they held their direction across the forest. At the brink of woods their horses whinnied and snorted while their riders were seating up.
They rode across fields. A good piece uprivers or downrivers there were bridges, more crowded, more people. They had chosen this path to narrow point. Beeches and birches stood on the bank trellis bushes lined the river, offered them protection. Little enough, but here - asides from the ways and far outside any pacification - there were no prying eyes, which would have taken care of two man changing their clothes in the middle of nowhere. Their shoes sank a little into the ground, ice water flowed over their faces and hands, carrying away the dark mud leaving goose bumps behind. The used drapery they stuffed into the saddlebags, sat on. A final nod. For a while they rode in the river behind each other before they parted ways.