Chapter 9 "Unto the weary and all-watched night"
Cowering like a trapped fawn, Catherine D'Astier lay huddled and frozen with horror. Her slender wrists were still tied tightly behind her back and the cloth gag was still firmly between her lips, despite her weakened efforts to wrench free of their grasp. The fight in her had ebbed away. Helpless, she wormed her way to the back of the bed; away from the low, gasping breaths she could hear coming from the floor. Every time the wretched man coughed, she winced, fearing that he would awaken and the nightmare would never end.
Catherine prayed for it to end.
The Church had always been important to her father and thus, to everyone in her family. It was not faith, however, that brought Phillip D'Astier into the sparrow-quiet chambers of Notre Dame. It was the power that lay behind the incense and the albs and the carved saints upon the walls. It was that power that Phillip patiently cultivated to bloom and the reason he placed his youngest son Simon into the clergy. This is The Church that Catherine knew and it's God could be bought with silver; a hollow faith.
But now she prayed the prayers bred of faith and tears and fear. Catherine chanted the Latin words in her mind over and over again, a ward against the evil that lay beside the bed, a demon in the shape of a brutish man-at-arms. A groan came up from the floor like a chill wraith and Catherine's beseeching stopped. She whimpered from behind her gag and closed her eyes, hoping that this too was a dream like before.
However, from her self-imposed darkness, Catherine could hear every breath the man took. She could hear every creak of the floor and rustle of straw. Every cough. The young French captive knew, deep within her, that her demon was getting up.
She willed her eyes open.
The man's hand, gnarled and covered in his own blood, clawed at the edge of the bed. Slowly, as if Hades slowed the passage of time itself, the man rose. In the bloody ruins of the man's face, she could see the hatred branded into the man's dark, bloodshot eyes. His grin, teeth bloodied and broken from her kicks to his face, looked as viscous as any madden hound. Blood continued to trickle down from his crushed nose.
"Sow," he spat.
The man knew he would have her and then he would kill her. His lord's prize would be a corpse and a corpse was hard to ransom. It served Lord de Valence right for bringing him to this forsaken land of France while his wife was heavy with child. The Welsh borders were harsh; even cruel. He needed to be there, beside his wife's bedside, instead of being in France.
DeValence's ransom had the fight drained from her and now she cowered on the bed. Her ivory skin now flushed red with her exertions. Her long hair, the color of raven's wings, hung in a fray over her face and around her head. He could barely discern Catherine's dark eyes peering frightened from behind those tresses. He could see why his lord kept her for his own. And soon, the ruffian thought, he would taste the same fruits of his lord's.
"No" Catherine cried through her gag as the man grabbed one of the ropes that had tied her legs together and began to wrap it around her slender ankle. She tried to kick him, but now he was far too wary of her attempts at hurting him and he grabbed the other ankle with little problem. Catherine thrashed and cried and twisted in her bindings like a fish caught in a net. First one ankle was tied to a bedpost, than her other was similarly bound, spreading her open for this English troll. But still she weakly struggled.
"There'n, wench! Let'n me sees you fight me now," the rapist said.
"Ugggggghhhhhh!" Catherine screamed through her gag as the man picked up his dagger from his pile of clothes and grinned.
"I's will put'n this in you, wench, after I'n done wit you," he smiled as he positioned himself between her legs, "You'n will not forget'n this weapon, will'n you!"
The foul man began caressing her soft, black nest with the tip of the dagger; poking her here and there and laughing when Catherine winced. She had stopped struggling and dulled by fear she just lay there and watched as the dagger probed lower to her most sensitive parts. The cool tip of steel that touched her puffed lips felt like a viper's fang.
The man then set the dagger down and hovered over her, pushing his gnarled cock into her quim. With one hard thrust, he was in Catherine and started forcing himself in and out of her faster and faster. All Catherine could do is close her eyes and whimper at his demonic assault. His member tore at her, the pain it caused not nearly as much as in her imagination; chaffing her still sensitive lips. The man's sour breath engulfing her as he rammed into her as deeply as he could.
Then he stopped.
"One more thrust, Geoffry, and this blade will swyve through your arse."
Catherine saw past her grunting tormentor a tall, rain-soaked blonde knight with narrowed blue eyes, sword drawn and pointed between the ruffian's warty cheeks.
"This is Lord de Valence's ransom and you are violating his will," Richard Corfe continued to speak, his voice talon sharp.
"I'n was just havin' . . ." Geoffry started to explain, easing himself out of Catherine.
"Shut up!" The knight spat, "Is this how you repay our lord's generosity!"
"I'n. . ."
"Get your arse out!" Richard spat, withdrawing his sword a bit.
Geoffry slowly eased himself off of the bed, palming his dagger and keeping it out of sight of the knight. He was heedful of the tip of the broadsword pointed at him and, more importantly, the man wielding the weapon. Corfe was a fair man but he was not a man to cross for he could be as ruthless as Lord de Valence. Corfe was also very much battle-hardened; the death's of many a man were light upon Corfe's soul. Another would not bother Corfe at all.
"I'n a going, Master Corfe," Geoffry said, grabbing his leggings, shoes and leather jerkin from the floor.
"If I see you here again, Geoffry, I will make sure that your last dance is with a noose around your neck. That I can promise."
"If'n. . ."
"Go!" Robert spat.
Geoffry, with clothes in hand, disappeared out the door. Richard stepped over and closed the door before coming over to Catherine and sitting upon the bed beside her head.
"Are you hurt, my lady?" Richard spoke softly in Catherine's native tongue, combing his fingers through her long, dark hair.
All Catherine could do is weep and bury her head the wet sleeve of Richard's tunic. Gently, she felt her gag being untied and removed from between her lips. It was a relief to her, having the cloth not tugging at the corners of her mouth.
"There, my lady ransom, I should say that this is much better," Richard said in a voice as soft as lamb's wool.
The bound girl nodded her head but did not reply.
"You are safe now, dear lady ransom. Edward shall return at first light. His task this foul night is the devil's own work and he will be weary and in need of your magic. Sleep now. . ."
He continued to comb his fingers through her hair. Richard's touch was gentle and calming. Soon Catherine began to sleep again and Richard heard her whispers as her head lay upon his lap.
Outside, in the cold of the pre-dawn night, Edward waited and watched wrapped in his cloak as the last of the defenders of the first tower coughed and staggered out, the look of defeat deeply etched on their blackened faces. Arrows still were spat from the second tower, but they were few and Edward knew that the French in that tower were running short of them. It would only be a matter of a day or two before they too would be brought out by either smoke or starvation. The defenders defiance would wane like the moon. Edward's King Henry the V would have his precious port of Harfleur to winter in before his chevauchee the next spring. There would also be a French army to oppose His Majesty. However, Edward knew the French court was nearly in civil war and it would divide such an army. By Spring, Henry's army would be large and rested and ready to bury it's teeth into the flesh of the French which still refused recognize King Henry's right to the throne.
The smoke and the cold mist shrouded the skeleton ruins of buildings as Edward slowly made his way home. Few soldiers walked the streets, mostly one's like himself who were making their way back to their billets to rest their chilled bones. Out of the corner of his eye, the knight saw a naked soldier, clothes clutched to himself, scurry down the street and swallowed in the dark gray. Edward smiled, thinking that the man was probably cast out of a woman's arms by not enough coin or by a jealous husband.
There was no guard posted at Edward's building. No need. The walls were now guarded by the men of good King Harry's army. Inside, fires burned low, a warm and welcome light. Many of his men lay on the floor huddled under their blankets and cloaks, the noises of their sleep a cacophony of snores and grumbles and mutterings. Edward eased himself up the stairs into the living quarters, past more of his men, and to his private chamber.
Richard Corfe looked up as Edward swung open the door.
"My lord," he said in a harsh whisper.
"How now, dear Corfe," Edward asked, his anger at the intrusion into his chambers starting to boil.
"Your ransom is safe and asleep, my lord. . ."
Indeed, Catherine lay, still bound, curled up and asleep in the bed beside Corfe, lost in a deep sleep. Her captive wrists were still tethered behind her back but her ankle and crupper bindings were gone. Even her gag was gone from between her lips.
". . .There was an intruder," Corfe went on to say.
"Intruder?" Edward asked, the anger making his words clipped and gravely.
"Yes, my lord."
"One of the men. . .Geoffry Potterson . . .a man of little value. He was want to have his way with your ransom, lord deValence."
A silence hung between the two men as they looked into each others eyes. Edward saw no lies in his friend's face. Richard was not one to tell untruths. He was as true as a sword and just as unyielding.
"What of this Geoffry?" Edward asked, the anger still locked behind his frown.
"I banished him from the camp, my lord. He will not see it fit to return here, my lord, or he will know what it is like to be spitted by my father's steel."
Edward nodded. It was far from what he would have liked to have done to that foul cur, but, as always, Richard was thinking of all of Edward's command. Tempers were already ragged from the months of siege and mud and death. It would not do to have Richard killing one of his own here. Such things rotted away loyalty.
Richard got up from the bed slowly, as not to disturb the sleeping Catherine, "I shall leave you to your peace, my lord."
It was not until Richard reached the door that Edward spoke up.
"Yes, my Lord?"
"You have done me a grand service, Richard. One that will be hard to repay. . ."
"I do my duty, my lord, nothing less," Richard replied.
"no, no. . .listen to me, Richard," de Valence continued, "I want to give to you some thing I now hold very dear. I do not do so lightly, my friend. What I am about to give you is my most valuable treasure."
The blond Corfe just stood, cloaked in a silence.
Edward then bent down and kissed Catherine on the cheek. "Awaken," Edward whispered in French.
Slowly, Catherine awoke. A smile crossed her lips and her ebon eyes as she looked up into Edwards' rugged face. She struggled to nestle closer to her English captor, wanting to feel his body next to hers; the warmth of his touch. Her wrists were still bound behind her back, but her freed legs enwrapped themselves around Edward's as he sat beside her. Catherine felt her knights' fingertips gently brushing over the curves of her cheek, as soft as a swans' caress.
"How are you, my Catherine?" he asked, still using her native French tongue.
Catherine hugged herself closer to Edward. Her words were slow in coming, as if saying anything would make this dream swirl away into another abyss.
"So much the better now that you are beside me, English, "she replied. Catherine's voice was so much more musical now. It lacked the wicked barbs that had stung his ears earlier. It was a voice as soft and as inviting as a coney's pelt.
"I have heard, my captive ransom, that something wicked almost befell you."
Catherine turned her head away and barely whispered, "yes, m'lord."
Edward could feel her shiver as she held onto him, touch him with her icicle
"Richard rescued you, did he not?" he questioned.
Catherine nodded, "yes, m'lord."
"You should reward your savior, my dear Catherine, do you not think so?"
In almost a whisper, she replied, "yes, m'lord."
It was hard for Catherine to think that she indeed have two saviors. Edward being one of them, having saved her from the flames of Harfleur and from her previous life. The other being Richard, for having saved her from a horrid fate. It was as if admitting to the later would wilt the flower of the former. However, Edward de Valence was now her master and lord of her body as well as her soul, though she dared not admit it to him. It was mountain brook clear that her Edward wanted her to be Richard Corfe's reward. . .and she would indeed do what her lord would tell her to do.
"Catherine, my dear captive, I would have you drink of him as you have drank of me."
Again, Catherine nodded. The man with the cold blue eyes and wheat-yellow hair stood there, trying not to look at her. She had the beauty of a dark mulled wine. Rich and smooth with hints of rare spices. Her raven tresses flowed around her slender face in a soft, dark embrace. Her dark eyes, still reddened with her ordeals, were full of heated promises.
"Richard," Edward smiled, "Catherine would like to reward you for rescuing her. Please."
Richard watched as Catherine uncoiled herself from around Edward and gracefully stepped towards him. Her slender form seemed to be made from pale marble and even though her hands were bound behind her back, she still moved with the grace of a deer. One step at a time. Her eyes holding his. Then, when she was but a hands' breadth or two way from him, she knelt down before him and looked up at him.
Richard unbuckled his scabbard and belt and began to untie his leather leggings, all while Catherine was nuzzling at his manhood. The feel of her cheeks and lips against him through his leggings made him swell and soon his passion was all that he could think about. All the while, she looked into his eyes. It seemed like an eternity trying to undo the ties to his leggings and feel them slouch to the floor.
Richards' manhood pointed straight out at Catherine, it's purple head as inviting as a sweet summer plum. She leaned forward a bit, her gentle tongue began to lick around the head teasingly before easing her lips over it and up Richard's shaft. Sucking his shaft, Catherine eased her lips up and down his shaft, her tongue licking and teasing.
It seemed that Edward's captive beauty and Richard himself were the only two people in the world.
Catherine's pace quickened and Richard ran his fingers through her long, dark tresses. His hands gently cradled her head and helped her increase her pace. Catherine felt the blonde man's shaft swell and his seed came boiling up inside before spraying the back of Catherine's throat with it's sweet saltiness.
Edward's ransom licked Richard clean.
Catherine eased herself back and looked up at Richard with a slight smile on her lips, a drop of his seed, like a pearl, at the their corner. Richard reached down and wiped it with his fingertip, offering it to Catherine. She smiled and licked it off.
"Now, dear Richard, now that you have been properly thanked, my ward and I need some time alone together," Edward said, reclining on the bed.
"Yes, my Lord," Richard said awkwardly, pulling up his leggings.
"The second tower has yet to fall, dear Richard. Rest now and have a bite to eat. It will not be long before it too will be under our command. Have a man wake you if anything new happens. You have done a great service to me this night, dear friend, you deserve rest."
"Yes, my Lord," Richard repeated, tying the last knot on his leggings.
Without another word, Richard left. It wasn't as if they had not shared the same woman before on campaign. Margaret had had both of them in bed before. However, this was much different. It was a much deeper sharing than that of an ale-wife. Much more intimate, as if Edward was giving Richard a family sword or title to some of his prize land holdings. It was if he was sharing his wife, his love. It unnerved Richard a bit in a way that he had never expected. he would have to put this incident back into the dungeons of his mind, away from all other thoughts. To think about Catherine would be dangerous.
Inside, behind the closed door, Edward undressed and slipped under the covers and Catherine curled up beside him. The warmth of her skin soon eased the chill out of his bones and soon sleep overtook him as he cradled his captive in his arms.
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story continues in On French Soil 10 - "A peaceful and sweet retire"