This story is a serial that started with part 1 in our Spring 2022 issue.

Part 2

Content Warning: Sexual assault, abduction, torture, murder, blood.

There was a light rain and the mist projected the purple hue of the setting sun. Kyra reigned in her horse. “We should camp here for the night.”

Leah looked at her in bewilderment.

“You want to stop? Here? I’ve heard rumors of the Condor army patrolling this area. Wouldn’t it be wise to keep going?”

“The horses need rest and there’s a stream nearby. We’d be wise not to push farther.”

“But—” Leah did not have a chance to protest. With a jolt, she was thrown from her horse, its white coat stained red from the protruding spear. Kyra reached for her sword but was pulled from her saddle before she could grasp it. Kyra struggled with the hand around her throat. She could feel the man’s rough fingers tear the silver pendants from her neck before pummeling her with the hilt of his sword.

Kyra woke to find herself trapped. Like a tiger in a cage, she paced back and forth looking for a way out, but the bars were steel and the walls were stone. From outside she could hear the shouts of many men. She peered through her only window, not quite her body length but only as wide as the hilt of a sword. She could make out the bloody image of the girl she met on the trail. She could hear the echoes of the general.

“Tomorrow she will make a fine addition to Lord Corrin’s brothel, but tonight, men, she’s all yours!” The men cheered as they pulled her screaming to the ground. Kyra’s disgust did not have time to fester. Two soldiers entered, one came and pulled her from the cell. The other stood at the door.

“Your turn,” one of them snickered, squeezing Kyra’s breast. She solemnly walked with the man and made no protest to his actions. Carefully, she eyed her opponents before making her defense. Kyra quickly unsheathed the soldier’s dagger from his belt and plunged it deep into his ribs. She started to run. The second guard caught her, slamming her head into the wall. The man quickly threw her to the ground, kneeling on her back. He tied her hands and slipped a rope around her neck. Leashed like a dog, she was dragged to the general.

“Sir! Sir,” the man shouted, “William is dead! The harlot stabbed him!”

“What!” The general’s voice boomed with anger.

“With his own knife, Sir. She tried to flee, but I got her.”

“I will see to this one personally. She will suffer before going to Lord Corrin. Take her to my barracks.” Kyra stumbled behind the men to a small single room that contained nothing more than a bed, a desk with papers and candles, and a traveling chest. There were four additional guards present as the men stripped off her clothes and tied her to the bed. The men left as General Alexander Mark entered the room.

“You remind me so much of your sister. At least, I assume she was your sister. I remember this pendant.” General Mark laughed as he pulled two silver pendants from his pocket. “Oh, how it sparkled when I slit her throat. It’s only my good fortune to have acquired its mate.” He grinned as he placed the two pendants around his neck. He then walked across the room and lifted his whip from the chest.

“You bastard! You’ll die as a dog! I hope you burn in the eternal fire for what you’ve done. You are noth— Ah!” Kyra yelled as General Mark’s hand fell hard on her cheek. She stared at his gruesome, monstrous, battle-mangled face.

“You killed one of my men. I let you go when you freed the wenches, but my mercy is gone.” General Mark cracked his whip against Kyra’s bare stomach. Kyra’s muscles were tight with pain, but no noise escaped her lips. Anger glared in the General’s eyes. “Too proud to scream are we?” Kyra spat in his face. General Mark laid another lash and another, each holding the force and power of Satan himself. Kyra closed her eyes in preparation for each blow as she was taught, and kept silent through her agony. General Mark’s rage boiled with every lash not responded to. “So you think you can hold in the pain? We’ll see about that.” He threw down his bull whip and reached into the desk drawer and retrieved a metal studded cat of nine tails. Kyra stared at pure evil masquerading as this wretched excuse for a man. She watched him jerk the whip above his head and bring it down hard upon her chest, tearing the tender flesh. After the second lash Kyra could not withstand the agony. She eased the pain with a scream and a plea of mercy.

“Mercy, I will show you no mercy.” General Mark laughed as he dropped the whip and battered Kyra repeatedly about the face till she could barely see. The last thing she remembered before slipping out of consciousness was General Alexander Mark forcibly taking what was privately hers to give.

Kyra woke to gentle hands cleansing her wounds.

“You’re awake. I was worried you wouldn’t come through it.” Leah’s soft voice was a comfort to Kyra.

“Me? Look at you.” Kyra took note of every bruise tinting her pale skin green and purple. Kyra saw the humiliation in Leah’s eyes as she dropped her gaze. “Are you all right? Who took care of you?”.

“No, I’m not well. Would you be?” Leah said with disgust. “One of the guardsmen tended to me. They couldn’t present me to Lord Corrin in the state I was in. We can’t let them take us to Corrin. I refuse to be another one of his whores. I swear I’ll die first!”

“I’ll bare the knife myself,” Kyra said, wincing in pain. “When are we to leave?”

“Today.” Leah tied the last bandage around Kyra’s chest.

“Ah,” Kyra grimaced. “So soon?”

“It’s been three days since—”

“I’ve slept that long?” Kyra blurted.

“Uh-huh,” Leah nodded. She stood up, reaching down to help Kyra sit up. Leah walked over to the front of the cell where a frock was left for Kyra. She faced Kyra. “This is for you.”

“Give it to me,” Kyra said, trying to extend her hand.

“Why don’t you let me help you?” Leah asked, stepping forward.

“You’re worse off than I am. I can do it,” Kyra snapped.

“Fine then, come get it,” Leah retorted.

Kyra tried to fight the blinding rush of pain as she struggled to stand. If not for Leah’s outstretched hands, she would have fallen to the ground.

“Let me help you,” Leah reprimanded her. Leah gently guided the sleeves of the frock down Kyra’s arms and over her head. Kyra couldn’t ignore the pain as Leah’s hand grazed her tender stomach as she pulled the frock down to her knees. “Sorry,” Leah muttered.

“It’s alright.” Kyra mumbled.

Leah looked at Kyra with a hint of awe. “I heard what you did, killing that guard. I could never have done anything like that.”

“I saw what they were doing to you. I’m just sorry I couldn’t have killed them all,” Kyra snarled viciously. There was a squeak at the door, and they both turned as a group of soldiers walked in.

“Good, she’s awake. Didn’t want to carry the wench!” one said as he and another guard pulled Leah from the cell. The other two escorted Kyra. She walked as best she could, struggling to keep her head up, her waist long hair floating with a gust of wind as she stepped fast outside. Something caught her attention as she stared past Leah. There, a guard was slipping something smaller than his hand into the belt of Leah’s frock. He then turned and said to the men holding Kyra, “General Mark wants this one near him.” He took a handful of Kyra’s hair and pulled her toward him. They proceeded to the general. As they walked, the guard went through the motions of binding Kyra’s hands, but left the ropes untied. Whispering to Kyra, “Use the dagger.”

“What? Who are you?”

“I have given Leah my dagger. She hasn’t the heart to kill anyone, but I know you do. I know who you are, Kyra of Verona. Leah is my brother’s daughter. I would release her myself, but my family would suffer for my insolence. Please, keep her safe, that is all I ask in return.” With that they reached the General.

“Put her on the horse,” General Mark said without turning his attention from his map.

“Yes Sir.” he lifted Kyra onto the saddle. Quietly whispering he said, “Go west. Lord Corrin’s boundaries end at the mountains. It’s a hard ride but Queen Jocelyn’s kingdom is not friendly territory for us, and you will not be followed.” The guard stepped back when the General’s hand gave the signal to move, and watched the small party disappear from camp.

Kyra kept a close eye on the mountains to her left. When she saw a spot that could be crossed with minor difficulty she turned her attention to Leah. It did not take long for Kyra’s gaze to be met. She peered over at the general to her right to be sure he was paying her no mind. She slightly parted her hands so that Leah could see they were free and Leah nodded her understanding. Kyra then gestured in the direction they should run. Leah nodded again. Kyra felt all her pain being pushed out as the thrill of battle rushed through.

“Stop!” Leah shouted as she slid herself sideways. “My saddle’s loose and I can’t keep my balance!”

“Halt!” came the order from Mark in an annoyed voice. “You there, fix it.”

“Yes, Sir.” When the guard knelt down to tighten the girth, Leah’s knee caught him hard under the chin.

“Kyra!” Leah screamed as she tossed her the dagger. Kyra turned, and snatched the dagger from the air. In one quick, backhanded motion, she slit the general’s throat. Kyra’s green eyes flared with satisfaction as she ripped the silver pendants from his neck.

“These belong to me,” she said before pushing her horse to join Leah in a sprint to the mountain’s edge. When they reached the grove in the foothills they paused to watch for a chase but there was none.

“So much for Niger Lee,” Kyra said with a painful sigh when they had reached the foot of the mountain.

“So what now?” Leah pressed. She could see the blood seeping through Kyra’s frock. “You are in no condition to ride for very long.”

“I was told to keep you safe,” Kyra said, dismounting her horse. Leah did the same. “And keep you, I will.” Kyra took Leah’s hand for support. “I appreciate you taking care of me back there. I should have trusted you when you wanted to keep going. And if it wasn’t for your uncle, I would not have been able to escape by myself.”

“What’s done is done,” Leah shook her head. “It’s no one’s fault. Besides, it was just luck that we were captured by my uncle’s regiment. Too bad he couldn’t free us sooner.”

“He saved us a lifetime of pain and asked nothing in return,” Kyra said absently.

“He did not ask ‘nothing.’ He attempted to burden you with me. I’m sorry for that. You don’t have to keep your word, I’d understand. I have no other family, and he cannot take care of me. He just doesn’t want me to be alone.”

“I’ll keep you for a bit I suppose.” Kyra let a grin escape her tired expression. “Besides, it will be better to have some company.” The melancholy grin disguised the pain within her. “My family was lost when Verona burned. I was heading to Niger Lee in search of an old friend.” She looked up at Leah, no longer seeing her as a girl seated upon a white horse, brilliantly glowing with innocence. She was aged now, not with years but with painful experience. It seemed so long ago that she herself was aged in such ways. “What brought you on the trail?”

“Good a place as any, I suppose.” The rustle of bushes caught Leah’s attention. Kyra turned, dagger at the ready. She lowered it along with her guard in response to a familiar voice. A tall, dark hooded man came into view accompanied by Thorn, the stallion, chewing at the man’s cloak.

“Are you well Kyra? I’ve been searching for you ever since I heard the tales in Niger Lee about a foolish rescue of three young women. The heroine matched your description.”

“Yes Byron, I was feeling foolish. I should have listened to what you’d have said.” After a moment she turned, “This is Leah. If not for her I would never have made it from General Mark’s camp. He was taking us to Lord Corrin.”

“Then you were wise to come through the mountains. General Mark will not stop searching for you.”

“General Mark won’t be doing anything thanks to Kyra,” Leah sarcastically chimed in.

“What did you do?” Byron glared at Kyra with a disapproving stare.

“I slit his throat, just as he did my sister.” Kyra tossed the silver chains to Byron. She could remember the day Byron had given them to her and Catalina . “He is responsible for Verona’s destruction.”

Byron took Kyra’s hand, “Yes, and I know why. But that is a matter for a different time. Come, you both will stay with me.” Kyra moaned in pain as Byron led her. “Tell me, what awful ordeals gave you such terrible wounds?”

“Maybe someday Byron, but now I’m tired and wish to go.”

“Come.” Byron helped Kyra onto Thorn’s back and waited for Leah before leading them through the mountain pass.

This story continues in part 3 in our Autumn 2022 issue.