I awoke in utter darkness, confused and in pain. My head was throbbing and I reached up to explore a tender spot in the back with my fingers. At least, I tried to reach up. My arm did not move and I realized that my hands had been tied together around a post or column of some sort that I was seated against. Fighting a rising panic, I tried to move my hands again, testing my bonds, but they were secure. I tried my legs next. My ankles were also bound together, although the rest of my lower body appeared to be free.
My eyes were starting to adjust to the darkness around me and I turned my head from side to side, trying to make out what I could of my surroundings. I thought that I might be in a warehouse of some sort--as far as I could tell I was in a very large open room filled with crates and boxes. That explains the column. Such a large open space would need supports throughout the room to keep the roof stable. That meant I was likely in the Quarter of Industry. I supposed the Quarter of Trade was possible as well, although the warehouses numbered far fewer in that part of Pelos. Assuming I was still in Pelos. There was also that to consider.
I tried to remember how I had ended up in this rather dubious position but I could not come up with anything past parting ways with Sebastian and Nathaniel at the party. Could they be responsible for this? It was possible, I supposed, but did not really believe it. I don't know why, but I had truly believed what they had told me, and that they meant it when they said they would leave me out of their games. They could have been just stringing me along, but some instinct told me this was not the case.
As I sat there, pondering my situation, the room began to gradually lighten. I looked around once more and saw that high up on the walls ran lines of windows to my left and right. The light seemed to be stronger to the right, but that told me little about my location, as the building could have been located anywhere in the Quarter regardless of its orientation to the rising sun. I did know now that it was early morning. But of which morning, I had no way to be certain. Had I been unconscious for one evening? More? As I could see more clearly I was able to better judge my location within the building itself. I could not discern whatever might be behind me, but I thought I was right about in the center of the warehouse. If I craned my neck all the way to left I could just make out a walled off room extending into the rest of the warehouse, likely the supervisor's office.
A door clanged open behind me, echoing softly throughout the open space. I grew very still, afraid once more, and waited. The fall of footsteps moved toward me, accompanied by voices, two of them from the sound of it. I did not recognize them. I was unsure if that boded well for me or not. I strained my ears and was able to make out some of what they were saying.
"...well he says to sit tight and keep an eye on her until we know the message has been received."
"How long does he think that will take, Jonah?"
"How am I supposed to know? And keep your voice down you idiot! What if she's awake?"
"Relax! She should be out cold for a while longer. You knocked her out pretty good, and that concoction he gave us was supposed to last until past sunup."
The footsteps had stopped just behind the post and I could hear them clearly now. I closed my eyes and tried to relax my body, evening out my breathing in case they decided to check on me. The more of their scheme that I could overhear, the better I would be able to assess my own position. Already I was fairly certain it was only the morning after the party. I did not know what to do with that information, but having it comforted me nonetheless.
"Are we gonna have to end up killing her, do y'think?" It took all I had to repress the shudder of fear brought on by that simple question.
"I dunno," the one called Jonah replied. "There's no telling with him. He just wants to send a message this time, I think, so that might be better accomplished if she leaves here alive." I was flooded with relief at that. I had no idea who the mysterious "he" calling the shots might be, but it sounded like I might have a chance to survive this ordeal.
"But what if we let her go and she tells them who we are? I've heard stories about that Roslyn bitch, she'll hunt us down."
"She's not going to know who we are if you can remember to be careful! No names, stay in the shadows, and we bide our time until he tells us what to do next. Although..." Jonah sounded as if he had just had an idea.
"What?" His friend asked.
"If we do end up letting her go alive, I bet we can make a tidy profit for ourselves."
"Why not? I bet the Stag would pay handsomely to have their prize breeding filly back." The words stung, but I didn't have the luxury of being able to react to them. Besides, after last night, I feared that the description was accurate enough. I had little time to think about the comment though because Jonah barked out a command to his companion, "Go check on her. Make sure the bonds are holding, and then we'll wake her up, eh?"
"Sure thing, boss." I heard one set of footsteps move off toward the office and another came around the column towards me. It was harder than I would have believed to continue feigning unconsciousness, but I knew that my life likely depended upon doing so. I heard a soft rustling and then felt the man's presence very close to me. He had knelt down for a better look. Apparently he was satisfied with what he saw. I heard him stand up again and a few moments later more footsteps as Jonah rejoined him.
"Yes boss. Why do you wanna wake her up?" I was wondering the same thing. Jonah obligingly answered us both.
"She's gonna wake up sooner or later. If we control when and how, then we establish our control right at the start. We put the fear in her real good and she's less likely to cause any trouble for us." I heard more rustling and felt another presence. It was different from the first, this must be Jonah.
I steeled myself. There was no hope that any part of this experience would be pleasant. A few moments later I gasped in shock as an entire bucket full of icy cold water was dumped over my head. My eyes flew open and I shook my head, forgetting my bonds for a moment in an effort to sit forward. Remembering I was supposed to be only just waking up, I looked around frantically, and upon seeing the two men looming over me and chuckling I began to struggle against my bonds as if I was wriggling to get free.
"Now, now, none of that my lady." Jonah knelt back down and placed a hand firmly against my mouth, pressing my head back to the column. Despite the light from the windows, the warehouse was still dim and gloomy and I could make out very little of his face. I subsided a little, staring at him with widened eyes, darting my gaze at the other man a few times. I could make out even less of Jonah's companion. Damnation! "I'm going to remove my hand now, my lady, and you're going to sit there nice and quiet-like, you understand? Any screaming or other trouble and my friend and I are going to have to take measures to stop you. You don't want us to have to do that, now, do you?"
I shook my head no and stilled. He nodded and moved his head, standing back, well out of reach of kicking range, I noted. I had heard enough to believe that if I was patient, they would likely let me go. I had no intention of causing any sort of trouble or trying to escape unless a real opportunity presented itself. I was well aware of how defenseless I was and I had no desire to provoke them into harming me.
"Good girl," Jonah's companion said.
"I am very sorry for the inconvenience my lady," Jonah started up again, "but we have need of a little...leverage, and you are just the thing for it. But if you play nice and behave yourself, why, once we've gotten what we wanted from other parties, you'll be able to get back to your life. As long as you don't give us any excuse not to let you go, that is. Do you understand?" I nodded again. "Good," he said. "My colleague and I have some business to attend to for now, and we're going to step away, but we will be keeping an eye on you, so be on your best behavior."
He looked at me for a moment and I returned his gaze, my eyes still wide and frightened. I didn't exactly have to pretend to be terrified. Still, I had hope. If they really thought to ransom me back to the House of the Stag I was probably safe enough. Roslyn might not like being strong-armed, but she hated scandal even more. She would pay dearly if it meant she could keep such a breach in her security quiet. Jonah and his friend retreated into the office and I could just barely see them through its windows. They were far enough away that even with the lamps they lit, I could still not make out any details of their faces. I made every note I could of their builds, though. Just because I was willing to play along so that I could get home didn't mean I wasn't going to catalog as much information as possible to give Roslyn so that she could have them hunted down later.
Eventually my neck started to pain me from being craned at such an awkward angle and I turned my head back around. I moved my gaze to study the crates around me, looking for any labels I might be able to make out to give a hint of where I was being held. Any information I could gather might be important later. So I sat, and I looked, and I waited.
It was nearly impossible for me to judge the passing of time as I sat there tied to that column. The warehouse never got any brighter than it had at dawn. Outside the windows the sky was grey and overcast, and Jonah and his lackey never lit any lamps other than those in the office. I could find nothing in my surroundings to tell me where I was, or to point the way back here later. Frustrated, I let off searching and rested my head against the column, fighting back tears. I was scared, I was in pain, I was thirsty and hungry. I had no idea why these men had taken me or for whom they worked.
Anger welled up inside of me and I wanted more than anything to lash out with it. But I had no target at hand, and an outburst from me would likely only tip my situation past precarious and into downright dangerous. I hated this feeling of helplessness. In the name of the Ancestors, what had I done to deserve this? Eventually I drifted into a fitful sleep. It was, at least, a way to pass the time.
When I woke again it was night once more. I could hear my captor's voices through the door to the office, which I saw had been left open. I could not make out what they were saying, but they seemed in rather good spirits about something. Jonah glanced over in my direction, and seeing that I was awake, he grinned at me. In that moment I almost had a clear view of his face, but I was too startled to pay attention. That grin chilled me to the bone. Something had changed, and whatever it was, I feared my circumstances were about to deteriorate rapidly. I glanced around frantically, looking for anything that might aid me in escaping whatever was to come. Jonah left the office and walked toward me. I caught a glint of light off of something in his hand. A knife.
"Well, my lady, we've received word. Our employer's message was received and he has gotten what he wanted. Not that there was ever any doubt. He almost always gets what he wants." He knelt down beside me, next to the column, but still out of kicking range. His companion came out of the office as well, stopping behind him. "Our orders are to let you go alive," I released a breath I didn't realize I had been holding in. Jonah smirked at that. "Of course, it wasn't specified what condition we leave you in, other than alive." My eyes widened. "You were so very troublesome to procure, you see," he went on, "that husband of yours so rarely lets you out of his sight." I turned my face away, ashamed at the flush that flooded my face when I remembered why Liam had been less than attentive the night before.
"It's only fair that we get some compensation for our trouble," the other man piped up.
"You could ransom me," I suggested frantically. I knew they had been considering it already, it had been my one reassuring hope. If they wanted to ransom me surely they wouldn't harm me. "I am sure that Roslyn would pay you handsomely for my return!"
"Oh, I am sure she will, too," Jonah replied. "And in return we'll see to it that you're still more or less whole for her to find in the morning." He leaned forward and I shrank back into the column as far as I could, terror mounting inside of me. "But just in case she decides to double-cross us, we're going to make sure we get our pay from you as well."
"Please, no..." I whimpered. Jonah laughed cruelly.
"Grab her hands!" He barked to his companion. I felt rough hands clamp down on my wrists like a vise and then Jonah sliced through the bonds holding me to the column. Before I could pull free, each had grabbed one of my wrists and pulled me back from the column. Then they started dragging me toward the wall, away from the office and the false safety promised by the light. I screamed then and struggled, but they held on and I could not break free. I tried to kick my legs, to get them under me so I could stand, but with my ankles tied together I could do little more than flop around as I was dragged. Both men were laughing now.
I was lifted onto a rough wooden surface of some sort--a table, or a bench perhaps. My arms were pulled over my head, each man tying down one of my hands. I continued to thrash and scream but my protests did little good. They took their time, clearly secure that no one would find us. They moved down to my legs and the bonds were cut, but as before I had no chance to break free, and they quickly spread my legs apart, tying each ankle separately down to keep them open.
I sobbed uncontrollably when my dress was torn away and discarded on the floor. My undergarments were similarly disposed of and then I felt a heavy weight settle on top of me. I turned my head and closed my eyes, refusing to look, but I did not need to in order to know that it was Jonah who took me first. He slammed into me and I screamed again and again, until my throat was raw and I could do no more than whimper. When he was done his friend took his place. He seemed angered that I did not scream anymore and slapped me roughly several times, unsatisfied until my face was bruised and bloody and swollen.
When they had both finished they wandered back to the office, laughing and clapping each other on the back. They left me where I was, naked and tied down and exposed. I felt as if I had been torn in two and my entire soul ached. I feared they were not finished with me and those fears proved to be true. They returned several times throughout the night, taking their turns with me, mocking me with their cruel laughter that I could not shut out no matter how hard I tried. Eventually they left and did not return. Every tiny sound in the warehouse made me twitch in fear, but sometime around dawn I finally succumbed to sleep again, overcome by sheer exhaustion and pain.
I surfaced hazily from my sleep to find that hands were touching me, pulling me, gathering me up. Instinctively I tried to jerk free, despite knowing it would do no good. Though still not fully conscious, I was quite surprised when my limbs moved freely.
"It's alright, my lady, you're safe now, you're alright." I did not recognize the voice, but it was soft and reassuring. A blanket was wrapped around me and I felt myself gathered up into strong arms. "I've got you, my lady," he told me quietly, lifting me off of the table and carrying me away, "you're going to be alright. We're taking you home." Soothed by the soft voice and sweet promises, I buried my head into his shoulder and drifted once more back to sleep.
I resurfaced a few times during the carriage ride back to the House of the Stag. Each time I began to wake that soft voice was there, reassuring me that I was safe. He held me the entire way home, stroking my hair gently as one does with a frightened child whenever I started to wake once more. It seems strange to me to remember that I did not struggle more to find myself being held by a stranger, especially after the ordeal of the night before. Truth be told, I think was just too tired to disbelieve him. He told me I was safe, and he was kind and comforting, and that was all I needed in that moment to hold on to my sanity. He could have been carrying me off for his own nefarious purposes and I wouldn't have objected one bit at that point. Did I truly know I was safe, or had I just given up completely? I wonder about that, even now.
In the end, it didn't matter. I woke fully when the carriage came to a halt and when I was carried down its steps I looked around to find myself ensconced in the inner courtyard of the House of Stag. I quickly buried my face into the shoulder of the man carrying me, the bright light was painful to my eyes after so long in the gloom of the warehouse. I found myself wishing the carriage had not pulled inside of the estate but had instead stopped outside the main entrance. All of the windows around the courtyard seemed to be accusing eyes, watching me and taking in my shame, judging my inability to defend myself. At the very least, I was certain that most of the household stood behind those windows and balcony screens, observing my less than glorious return. New voices sounded around me, distracting me from my paranoia, and I turned my head toward the people rushing to meet the carriage.
"Laren!" Liam ran up and took me from the arms of my rescuer. I felt an irrational flicker of annoyance at that, but it passed almost before it had begun.
"My lord," the voice said respectfully and I finally thought to try look at its owner, but Liam had already turned back toward the manor, crossing the courtyard in great strides, and my rescuer had turned to the carriage. I caught a sight of short dark hair and broad shoulders and then I was inside the manor. I rested my head against Liam's shoulder, breathing in his familiar scent. I finally let myself believe that it was over.
"Are you alright, my dear?" Liam asked quietly. I tried to answer but found my voice was still gone and shook my head instead. "They should not have hurt you," he whispered, "Mother paid them every cent they asked for. There is no honor in this." I wanted to laugh. Or cry. Honor? He was worried about honor? The men had abducted me and held me for at least two nights, and his first thought was to be angry that the Stag had gotten the worse end of the deal?
"Laren! Ashes! What have they done to you?!" Roslyn had arrived, and I was relieved to hear the concern in her voice.
"What do you think they did to her, Mother?" Liam's voice shook with anger now. I wondered what he was actually angry about.
"There's no need for that," she told him sharply. Then, softening her voice, "Laren dear, I am glad to have you home safely once more." She reached out and stroked my hair. "Let's get you cleaned up and seen by the doctor, alright?" I nodded and she ordered Liam to take me to my bathing chamber. When we arrived a portly little man was waiting for us. I had met him once or twice since I had joined the household. Doctor Carson was always a friendly and boisterous man, though now he was quiet and his open face was serious.
"Hello there, my lady," he said kindly. "I know you've been through quite a lot these past few days, but I need to give you a quick examination to make sure we get you on the proper path to recovery. Is that alright with you?" I nodded and he indicated that Liam set me down on a bench over which a towel had been draped. My husband put me down gently and stepped back. The room was very well lit, more so than it usually was, and for the first time I could see that my wrists and ankles were raw and bloody from being bound. There was quite a bit of blood dried on my legs and thighs as well, and I could see where large bruises were beginning to form in many places on my body. Some of them were in the shape of handprints. I glanced away quickly upon spotting those.
"Liam," Roslyn's voice was quiet still, but there was no denying the hint of steel in it, "go back to your rooms. Get some sleep. I will let you know Laren's condition after the examination." Liam stiffened.
"I am staying," he said. "She is my wife, I have every right to know--"
"You do not need to see this!" Her voice was still calm, that same even hard tone. "I am not asking you, I am telling you. Go. You do yourself or her no good by staying. She's back where she belongs now. Go sleep. You look terrible." I glanced at him and realized that she was right. He was clearly freshly bathed, but other than that he looked as if he had been up for days. Maybe he had truly been worried about me. Maybe his earlier reaction was just a misdirected attempt to channel some of his own anger. He stood there for a moment, his hands clenched in fists at his sides. He looked at each of us and then bowed his head to Roslyn.
"As you wish, Mother." With that he whirled around and strode from the room without looking back. Roslyn walked to the door and shut it behind him, the corners of her mouth turned down in disapproval.
"May I, dear lady?" Doctor Carson asked after a moment, indicating the blanket still wrapped around my nakedness. I nodded and he unwound it gently from my torso, dropping it gently on the floor. Behind him Roslyn inhaled sharply.
"Blood and ashes!" She swore. Doctor Carson's reaction was not quite so acute, but it was clear he did not like what he saw either. His perennially jovial face now wore a large frown, and he tutted quietly to himself as he checked me over. I held myself as still as I was able, but could not help flinching several times as he probed a particularly bruised site or found another cut or scrape.
"Well nothing is broken, so at least there's that," he said after a while stepping back and surveying me with a sad look on his face. "There is, um, one more thing I'll need to check, my lady," he seemed embarrassed now. "If you would lie down, please." I realized what he was asking. I did not want to submit to this part of the exam, but I knew it was necessary. I moved as he had asked. Roslyn moved over to us and grabbed my hand. I was grateful for her presence. I knew that Doctor Carson intended me no harm, but I still jumped and flinched when his hands began to probe gently between my legs. My breath hitched in my throat but the doctor was quick and when he stepped back he picked up the blanket, handing it to me so I could cover myself back up.
"You'll be quite a sight for some time I'm afraid, my lady, but the good news is that I believe you will heal fully. If we treat those abrasions on your wrists and ankles properly you shouldn't even see any scarring." A small table had been brought into the chamber and was covered with bandages and other implements of the doctor's trade. He walked over to it and washed his hands in a basin on the table. "Let's get a bath running and I will step outside so you can clean yourself up. Once you've dressed, I can clean those abrasions and the cuts on your face more thoroughly and then see to bandaging them up for you."
"Thank you Doctor," Roslyn said, moving to open the valves that would fill the tub. We will let you know when we are finished in here. There should be a maid outside, please send her in." He nodded and left the chamber. A few moments later there was a discreet knock on the door. "Come in," Roslyn called. One of the maids who tended to my rooms entered carrying a bundle of clothing.
She and Roslyn guided me to the tub and set about bathing me. The water was hot enough that it stung my whole body, but I did not care. I sat there and let them get on with it, a feeling of numbness creeping up over my mind and body. They dried me off and dressed me in a loose sleeping gown and soft slippers were placed on my feet. I found myself sitting on the bench once more, the towel now gone. Doctor Carson returned and finished cleaning my wounds, stitching up cuts on my lip and over my eye, and wrapping my wrists and ankles in soft gauze bandages.
"Now, those are going to need to be changed regularly, and I will want to keep an eye on your stitches as well. It looks like a little bit of infection has set in, but I have a brew that will take care of that," he told me. The maid held out a robe to put over my sleeping gown and when I did not move to take it, she simply put it on me herself. "I am going to have some food and tea sent up to your room, along with a draught to fight that infection and help you sleep some more." I did not respond, but he continued as if I had. "Now, I know you might not feel too much like eating anything right now, or even sleeping, for that matter, but you will need to do as much of both as you can to aid your recovery. The tea will be good for that poor throat of yours." He seemed to have realized that I kept silent partly because of the damage I had done my throat by screaming. "Eat as much of the food and drink as much of the tea as you can, but you drink every last drop of that draught, before you take in anything else, do you understand me?"
"I'll see to it," Roslyn told him when I did not respond. She and the maid helped me up the private stairs to my rooms and seated me at the table. No one spoke, but Roslyn sat beside me and held my hand, stroking it softly. She appeared to be thinking very hard about something. Normally such a look from her directed at me would have me extremely worried, but I could not bring myself to care. I was withdrawing into myself.
Eventually the food came. Roslyn held the cup of medicine to my mouth and tilted it back so that I had to swallow or choke. I drank it all. She then fed me the soup that had been sent up, holding up the cup of tea for me to drink after every few spoonfuls. After a while she stopped giving me things to put in my mouth and pulled me away from the table. She guided me into my bedroom and tucked me into bed, giving me a small kiss on the forehead before turning to leave.
"I am truly sorry this happened, dear," she whispered from the doorway, "truly." Then she was gone.
I did not think that I would want to sleep. I feared what I would likely relive in my dreams. But Doctor Carson's draught had done its work and I quickly fell into a deep sleep, blessedly devoid of dreams or nightmares.
For three moons I did not leave my rooms, except to use the private stairs to go to my bathing chamber and return. I saw no one but Roslyn, Liam, Doctor Carson, and two maids. It was almost a moon before I spoke again. Even then, I only spoke when spoken to and said very little. My mind slowly began to clear and I started to return from wherever I had retreated to after my abduction. No one tried to convince me to come out of my self-imposed confinement. Roslyn and Liam, in fact, seemed relieved that I chose to stay shut up. As the doctor had feared, I was spectacularly covered with bruises and it was not pretty. My wrists and ankles healed slowly, the cuts on my face more quickly. My abduction had, I learned with little surprise, been kept quiet. No one outside of the household (and my abductors, of course) knew that I had been kidnapped. Fewer still knew about what had happened during the time I had been gone. Roslyn put out the story that I had fallen gravely ill and was undergoing a lengthy recovery.
Liam did not spend his evenings with me, but he did make sure to take every lunch and supper in my rooms. He spoke as little as I did, watching me with a curious sort of trepidation. Summer approached and with it the anniversary of our first cycle of marriage. There was no discussion about moving into shared apartments. Had I given it any thought, I would have known that there was no longer any chance of that happening. I spent most of my time on my balcony, with the screens closed until I knew that the angle of the light would shadow me from the sight of those in the courtyard. Then I would open the screens and watch them as they went about their lives, happy and secure. I envied them greatly. Perhaps if I had been forced to get back on with my life immediately, I would have been able to and things would have turned out much differently.
We all seemed to be waiting, Roslyn, Liam, and I, though I could not have told you for what until it had happened. I did not know I that I was with child until I miscarried. Had I been in my right mind I suppose that I would have realized sooner. Maybe something could have been changed--but maybe not. I had thought my growing appetite was a sign of my strength returning to me, and the fact that I could so often keep little of it down as my body's reaction to the sudden gluttony.
Roslyn was on hand when it happened, and perhaps I should have noticed how completely unsurprised she was. Within moments of the first pangs, Doctor Carson had arrived. He seemed concerned and angry and kept shooting disapproving looks at Roslyn. But I did not think anything of that until later. Afterwards, I lay curled up in my bed, crying over what had been lost, and I heard raised voices in my sitting room. The door between the rooms was shut but the argument carried through the fireplace that serviced both.
"Why didn't you call for me?! I should have been here!" It was Liam, his voice was shaking with anger.
"You would have been no help, and it was no concern of yours," his mother answered with icy calm.
"No concern of--my wife just lost a child! I didn't even know that she was pregnant!"
"Of course you didn't, because the child wasn't yours." There was stunned silence from the other room. I closed my eyes, suddenly relieved, and then ashamed of the emotion. Liam's or not, the child had most certainly been mine. Still, if it wasn't his, that left only two other options. Could I have reared a child that had come out of such a horror? I still don't have an answer for that question. In the other room, Liam seemed to have recovered himself.
"Explain." The chill in his voice far outstripped his mother's.
"When she returned from her..." a slight hesitation as she sought for a delicate enough word, "ordeal, don't you think that was one of the first things I thought of? I asked her about her cycles and the last time you two had been together. She was not with child before she was taken." I furrowed my brow in thought. I vaguely remembered the conversation, it had been only a day or two after I had returned. I had still been in a haze then, too lost to think her questions odd or to be dishonest with her.
"You can't know that for certain Mother! Wait...is that why you ordered me not to...?" I had assumed Liam had been giving me space and time to heal mentally as well as physically before coming to my bed again. Apparently, that had not been the reason. I felt a stirring of annoyance at Roslyn's interference.
"I had to be certain, Liam." She answered.
"How long have you known?"
"Why didn't you tell me, Mother? Why didn't she tell me? How were you expecting to keep this hidden?"
"I don't believe Laren knew," Roslyn replied, "I've had Doctor Carson perform the tests regularly every moon since the incident. She likely didn't even realize what they were for. I didn't tell you because I had hoped you wouldn't find out. If you hadn't come back from your hunting trip early, you need never have known." That last statement fell like a glass shattering in silence. I think Liam realized what she meant in the same moment I did.
"I wouldn't have.... Mother, tell me you didn't." Silence. "You forced a miscarriage? Without telling either one of us? What if you were wrong? What if it was mine?"
"I couldn't take that chance. I am certain enough it belonged to one of her rapists. I did this for both of you, Liam, whatever you might want to believe. You could not have another man's child as your heir, and do you really think she could have lived with herself once she realized who the father actually was?"
"There are other ways. A discreet adoption, perhaps. That would have--"
"That would have meant keeping her hidden for moons more at the least. People are already starting to talk about her absence from society. Her father has been very insistent on seeing her. No, this was the best way. Doctor Carson says her body is as whole as it ever was. She is starting to come back into herself. Once she understands what really happened, she will accept that it was necessary and move on with her life." And if she doesn't, I will make her. The unspoken sentence hung in the air. Even in another room I could feel the tension between them. "You know I am right in this, Liam."
"You went too far this time, Mother." The words were quiet. There was no defiance in them, but there was resolve. "You should have at least told me what was going on." Just him? I buried my face in my pillow. I had heard enough. I knew now where I stood. Jonah's words about my role as a "breeding filly" came back to me, mocking me in their accuracy. Liam's next question reinforced this. "How long must I wait?"
"Two weeks before she will be recovered enough to venture out of the estate, a moon before you can return to her bed." Roslyn's voice was smug. She was satisfied that she had won. My reaction to the event was moot.
"Very well, then. Good evening, Mother." He did not slam the door as he left, but I could hear it close with decidedly more force than was necessary.
My mind raced. For the first time in moons I felt truly myself again. It had taken one horrible event to sink me into despair, and another to bring me back out. I felt hollowed out. Where did I go from here? Did I pretend I didn't know the truth? Did I confront either one of them? Both? Did I truly have any choices left to me from here on out?
Doctor Carson arrived a short while later with a draught to help me sleep. I drank every bit of it willingly and welcomed the dark abyss that it brought me with open arms.