Roberta had wanted to become a Golden Guard from as far back as she could remember. Her parents had given her up to be trained at the age of twelve when it had already become obvious that the blonde girl had great potential.
At eighteen she had first been fully enrolled into the elite unit that guarded the King with their naked bodies, their skill as archers and their prowess with the sword. She had served for one year as one of the reserves, spending much time on patrol in the troubled hills to the North and earning high praise for hardihood, skill and courage. She had been wounded twice and bore her scars proudly. At nineteen she was a fully trained member of the Inner Golden Guard, skilled in sword fighting and a deadly archer. Like all other members of the Golden Guard, she was tall, strong and, apart from her sword belt, bow and quiver, totally naked.
Roberta had worn no clothes now for seven years and would never wear them again as long as she was one of the King's Protectresses. If she lived long enough, she would retire at thirty-five. But few indeed of the Golden Guard lived that long, and hardly any of the elite Inner Guard that Roberta had now joined. It was a rarity for one of this group to see her twenty-fifth birthday. These were dangerous times and a Golden Guard would far sooner die than see harm come to her beloved King. Many did perish, throwing themselves upon the swords of those who attacked the royal progress around the troubled kingdom. But no attack upon the monarch had ever succeeded in harming his person - not in all the thirty years of the Golden Guard's existence.
When Roberta had been put forward by her proud parents, she had been one of twelve from her village and the only one to succeed. She had not seen or heard from her family since leaving them and she never would. The Guards were all the family she had or needed these days.
Each day the one hundred members of the Inner Guard were inspected at first light. The Commander would walk down the three rows of tall and sturdy women and inspect them closely. Each sword belt must be immaculately polished and the brasswork shining. The buckle must exactly be one inch above the navel and precisely vertical above it. Even the merest fraction out and the defaulting Guard would be punished at dusk. The bow must be slung over the right shoulder and at an angle of forty five degrees to the line of the body, passing exactly halfway between the breasts. The slightest error would be punished. The quiver must also be worn with total correctness, the top coming one inch over the left shoulder. All items must be spotlessly clean, as must the naked bodies of the Guards themselves. A speck of dirt on any bare foot would mean big trouble for the careless girl in question. Hair was worn long and straight, and must be spotless and perfectly brushed.
Roberta had endured one hundred inspections by this time and had never been found to be at fault. This was lucky, for all faults were punished and there was only one way to punish a defaulting Guard for any offence, no matter how trivial. The whip! Each evening, except when in action, the day's defaulters were lined up and flogged one by one. A dirty sword would get twelve lashes, a dirty belt, ten, a wrongly worn bow, quiver or belt thirty. Dirty feet were punished with ten lashes and untidy hair by twenty. To be picked up on all these would not get one hundred and twelve lashes! For such gross inattention to detail, the penalty was doubled. But this had never been known to happen. The girls were far too proud of their tradition ever to fail on so many points - even the sloppiest of them - such as Bertha!
Last night, Roberta's closest friend - and lover - Bertha had been whipped for having her bow at the wrong angle. Roberta had listened to and watched the heavy whip fall thirty times on that strong back. It was hardly a novel experience for Bertha! A thirty year old veteran had given Bertha her lashes. This woman was incredibly strong and had arms the thickness of Bertha's thighs - and Bertha was a strong woman, like all the Guards. Bertha had cried out near the end of her whipping and received all thirty again for cowardice. Bertha stood next to Roberta this morning, her back was raw and she was in agony as the bow and quiver rested on her torn flesh. But Bertha stood straight and motionless as the merciless and all seeing eyes of the Commandant bored into her. Roberta knew that any fault found today would be punished. Even if Bertha were whipped every day for a month she would never find mercy here! But Bertha had been very careful not to err again!
Roberta stood as the Commandant eyed her up and down. As ever, her heart was racing and her stomach contracted with fear. As yet, she had never been whipped but she knew that sometime, maybe soon, she was going to go through what she had seen happen to so many others many times before!
The time for her first whipping was obviously not today! Once again the Commandant passed down the line. Roberta allowed herself a congratulatory sigh of relief! Then the Commandant stopped behind her.
"Your sword belt is twisted, Guard Roberta! I am surprised at you! Report for punishment at dusk. You will be our sole entertainment today! The turn out is very good this morning."
"So they finally got you for something, Bobby," said Bertha as the two reported for duty. They were to be on guard outside the Royal apartments.
"I can't think how I was so careless, Bertha! I go over every little thing a dozen times before morning parade. But she was right enough! My belt was twisted and now I'm going to get thirty, just like you did last night! At least I won't be just about the only one with a smooth back after today! Let's face it! It had to happen some time! I suppose it won't be that bad. I mean to say, I've been badly wounded before now!"
"It's not the same, Bobby. In the heat of battle it's one thing. Tied up and helpless it's another! You'll see! And feel! How you will feel!"
Being on guard meant standing utterly motionless for eight hours with one hour long break, followed by six more hours of standing like a statue. Then Roberta reported to the camp prison for punishment. Her heart was pounding with excitement and fear. She had always known this moment would come and was pleased in a sense that she was finally about to be initiated!
"Remove your equipment, Guard Roberta! I suppose you know what I am about to say?"
Roberta slipped off her sword and belt and the quiver and bow. She laid them on the table in front of the Commandant and stood at attention and totally naked. She replied to the Commandant's question.
"I am to be well whipped, Madam Commandant!"
"Yes. You wore your sword belt incorrectly on parade. I was very disappointed in you! I expect nothing but perfection from you, Guardswoman Roberta! And I will have perfection in future! Do you understand?"
"Yes, Madam Commandant!"
"And you were seen to move today when on Palace Guard." Roberta had expected this. Someone would have noticed. Someone always did!
"What have you to say to that?" asked the Commandant.
"I did move, Madam Commandant! I flinched like a baby after being stung by a wasp and I am deeply ashamed!"
"In a few minutes, you will be stung by more than a mere wasp! Very badly stung indeed!"
"Yes, Madam Commandant!"
Roberta felt totally wretched. She had disgraced herself twice in one day. She swore to herself that if she survived the impending marathon whipping she would never again let the Golden Guards down in such a woeful fashion. Flinching from a wasp sting! How utterly, but utterly, pathetic! And she had been badly wounded twice and kept fighting until loss of blood made her faint! She'd be shedding more blood soon and deservedly so! She was nineteen now - not a nine year old!
"I award one hundred lashes for your lapse on duty and a further seventy for the belt. I know thirty is the normal tariff for the belt but you should know better, Guard Roberta. I expect so much more from you than from the others and I will make your punishments far more severe than theirs when you fall so badly by the wayside. Put up your hair so that your bare back may escape not an iota of the pain that it so richly deserves! Then report to Senior Guardswoman Felicity!"
Senior Guardswoman Felicity was the strongest of the Golden Guard. She was a giant of a woman and stronger even than the Amazon who had made Bertha cry out the day before. Roberta was to be punished with all the severity the Guards could bring to bear upon her, so deep was her disgrace. A hundred and seventy! That was something of a record for a first offence! In fact it was a record for any punishment since Roberta had been a member of the Guards. Only three Guards had ever been punished so severely and one of those had died under the lash, long before her punishment was complete.
Walking behind the massive Felicity, Roberta reflected that she was maybe half an inch taller than the woman who was about to more than half kill her. And she had easily as much muscle as her Punisher. If she lived long enough then she herself would one day be wielding a whip on future generations of raw recruits. But Roberta knew she had much to learn before she rose high enough to be giving rather than receiving lashes!
"Can I trust you not to move?" asked Punisher Felicity "I mean - do I have to secure you or will you take your lashes bravely?"
"I-I'll try to be brave, Madam Punisher!" Roberta would sooner die than not be brave!
"Good girl! My! But you're a strong one! I've never seen you this close before, Golden Guard Roberta! We must have a test of strength - you and I - when you have recovered! Don't worry! You will walk away from this flogging with your head high and proud. And I will not humiliate you by securing you!"
Roberta stepped to the whipping post, raised both arms as high as they would go and placed her feet wide apart. She nodded and said "yes" in a clear and confident voice when asked if she were ready.
"ONE" Called out the Commandant.
The whip hissed through the air and the watching Guards saw that smooth and powerful back being flayed for the first time. Roberta almost bit her tongue to stop herself crying. Bertha had been so right! This was nothing like being wounded in battle! This was sheer hellish agony made even worse by the knowledge that she was abysmally disgraced and justly condemned. And she had one hundred and sixty nine more lashes to take before she could lower her arms and walk away.
If Roberta had found the first lash hellish, then this second one was double hell! She pressed her hands against the post and gripped hard to stop herself lowering them and trying to escape this torment. She had promised to be brave and brave she must be!
Could it really only be three? Did she really have virtually all of her ordeal still ahead of her? She would never make it! But still her arms were raised and her hands clutched the post. Still her feet were apart and still she moved not a muscle as the whip came down a fourth, fifth six, seventh and eighth time on that already bloody back.
Bertha, who had received sixty the previous night stood with all the other woman as the Golden Guard's most highly decorated heroine was punished. Bertha had helped Roberta put her belt on that morning. Bertha had made sure it was twisted! But Bertha had not reckoned on that wasp! As the Commandant's voice signalled the thirtieth lash and the flesh of her dearest friend was torn into yet again, she felt the tears pricking her eyes and she swallowed hard. It was unheard of for a Golden Guard to show emotion as she watched a sister Guard being punished. At this rate she would be getting another whipping tomorrow. She forced herself to look straight ahead.
By this time Roberta was convinced that she had been very wrong not to have her arms secured. The effort of will required to keep them above her head was becoming far more than she could have ever imagined.
"What if she moves?" whispered Bertha to Rosemary who stood next to her.
"They tie her up and finish the one hundred and seventy and then give her them all over again. She's going to move soon! Poor kid!"
The one hundredth lash descended on to the soggy back. Roberta had never been whipped before and she was suffering far more than a more hardened Golden Guard would have been. But she had kept her position and not moved once. The watching women all admired her. This was courage of the highest order!
"SECURE THE PRISONER!" shouted the Commandant.
So Roberta's arms were to be tied and she was to receive the rest of her lashes unable to move even if she had wished to. Why had they been so merciful to her? She could scarcely believe her good fortune. But she knew what she must do!
"Permission for the prisoner to speak under punishment, Madam Commandant!" Roberta called out.
"What is it, Guardswoman?"
"I can take the rest of my lashes without moving, Madam Commandant!"
"Very well! Order to secure is withdrawn!"
"ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY"
The final lash fell, as heavily laid on as the first. Not once had Felicity eased up on the errant Golden Guard. Roberta was ordered to return to her barracks. She would receive no treatment for her horribly injured back and would be on duty again next morning, expected to do a full day's Palace Guard duty. And if she moved again, it would be one hundred more lashes on a torn back.
"I am so sorry, Roberta!" sobbed Bertha. "I was so angry at you for always being Miss Goody Two Shoes that I twisted your belt. I thought you'd only get thirty, Roberta. I had no idea a wasp would sting you!"
"Forget it, Bertha. I ought to have dressed myself! If they had known you had helped me I dread to think what would have happened! You did well to get me whipped! It was high time for me to feel the lash on my back. And I'd have got it for the wasp in any case! As you see, I'm fine! In a week I'll have healed. You spoke the truth about the pain, mind you! It was like nothing I've ever experienced or imagined before! But I'm still here, although I think I'll sleep on my stomach for a few nights."
And Roberta lay face down on the cold stone slab which was all any of the Inner Guard slept on for their entire service, no matter how high they might rise. Even the Commandant slept thus!
Paula had lived in the same village for nineteen years and now she had come to the capital city to live with her aunt and uncle for a short time. She was due to become a servant at the Royal Palace. But first she was to see the sights of the big town and take a trip to the coast. It would be the first time Paula had seen the sea. She was immensely excited! All Paula's family had been servants at one time or another. Her father had recently retired as a head footman and her mother had been a cook. Paula was to be a chamber maid.
Her Uncle drove the wagon and Paula and her Aunt sat and admired the view as the sea came in sight. It was blue in the Spring sunshine and the Winter cold was already tinged with a bit of warmth. Although Paula still wore her winter clothes and was glad of them.
"I feel so sorry for the King's Golden Guards in this weather!" said Paula. "How can they stand being bare in this cold, I wonder?"
"They have been bare since childhood, Paula! By the time they enter the King's service they are well used to it!"
"I bet they still feel cold! Poor girls! So awfully young and likely to die at any time! They say that eight out of fifteen were killed in the last attempt on the King! They are so brave, and to think they are all women like me!"
"Even as a servant, you will be safe, Paula! The Guards protect all in the Palace - not only the King. Although it is their prime duty to shield His Majesty!"
They moved into the seaside cottage where her uncle had been born and Paula slept. In the morning they all walked up to the top of the hill overlooking the village.
"What is that out there?" asked Paula, pointing at an island several miles out to sea. It rose straight out of the sea and was surrounded by rocks. A castle like building dominated the highest point.
"It is the place they take bad women. Several miles further out, where it can only be seen on really clear days, is a bigger fortress where they imprison male criminals. No one taken to those two islands ever comes back. They are for the very worst offenders."
Paula looked fascinated at the distant and grim island prison.
"Do people not sometimes escape?"
"Never. It is surrounded by rocks and can only be approached through one gap which is guarded night and day by the best archers in the King's Army. A boat goes once a month to take provisions and carry new prisoners over there. The currents are far too strong even for the best swimmers. Once a woman is sent there she never comes back."
Paula shivered. Suddenly it seemed less mild and more wintry and she was glad of her warm furs. She couldn't bear to think of all those poor women trapped in that ghastly place, probably in some horrible dungeon, for the rest of their lives, while she was free to breathe the fresh air, just a few miles away from such misery. She was curious, though, to know more of how the prisoners spent their time.
On the way back to the cottage Paula pointed to the road. In the distance was a cloud of dust as though many travellers were approaching.
"What is that, Uncle?"
"It's the King's carriage, Paula. We shall see him pass soon. And you will see the Golden Guard, surrounding him and keeping him safe from harm."
Soon the carriage was in sight. It was pulled by a team of six white horses and Paula had never seen such fine beasts. In front, running to keep ahead of the horses, were three naked women. Six more of the golden haired Amazons ran on each side of the carriage and three ran behind. All were tall and fair haired. All wore swords and had bows across their shoulders. Paula had never seen so beautiful a sight as these tall and powerfully built women, none older than twenty-four and all long of limb and barefoot, running easily and perfectly in step over the stony highway. As the procession drew level, Paula felt herself watched by eighteen pairs of cold, blue eyes as the vigilant Guards kept her under constant scrutiny until they were past, still running mile after mile over a surface which must be incredibly punishing for those bare feet.
"What amazing and beautiful women they all are," said Paula, "and so tall and strong! But could they really fight off an attack of bandits?"
"No robbers or assassins have broken through their ranks yet, Paula! They are brave as lions and can fight like tigers. Few men have the strength to bend those mighty bows and fewer can do such damage with the sword! No King need fear when he is protected by the Golden Guard."
"And they are always in danger, Uncle. Always liable to be called upon to give their lives. Is it worth it, just for the honour of being part of the Golden Guard?"
"Many women plead to be allowed to join, Paula. Every year they turn away many volunteers. There will never be a shortage of brave girls who will gladly die for their King and who prefer death in battle to dishonour."
"It makes me feel very small!" said Paula regretfully. She was dark haired in any case, and would never be able to join. And she was small and dainty where those wonderful tireless women had all been big boned and strong.
"The tallest and strongest of them seemed to have a very sore back. In fact a few of them did. Maybe they have already been in battle!"
"They are whipped for the slightest offence, Paula. When I worked at the Palace, I heard one or more of them being flogged every night in the yard. I saw quite a few punishments in my time. And never did one of them cry out. Maybe the odd squeal or grunt, but I never heard one scream, even though they must have been suffering the pains of Hell!"
"How horrible to punish such brave women! Women who may be dead soon, fighting to save their King's life."
"That's how it is, Paula. In the villages where they recruit them they all know what to expect. They are not afraid of pain, Paula. They are afraid of nothing and nobody."
Roberta saw the trio standing by the roadside. A middle aged man and woman and a small and delicate girl. She had quickly satisfied herself that these three meant no harm and had been amused at the obvious adoration on the girl's face as she saw the eighteen splendid women run by. That girl would be dreaming of the Golden Guard tonight! It was three days since her first whipping and she still felt the effects. The escort had been keeping up with the horses for twelve miles now and there were still three more miles before they reached the hunting lodge where the King was to spend a few days.
Roberta would be glad when she could rest. Her torn feet throbbed and every step was almost unendurably painful as her sword belt, bow and quiver rubbed against her raw and bleeding back. The others were having no easier a time of it than Roberta, for the pace was punishing in the extreme. At the lodge would be a relief detail of twelve women who would partially replace Roberta's detachment. Roberta was not to be one of the replaced women, though. She was to stay with the King and return in three days time. She and six others were to accompany His Majesty wherever he went. If any of them did anything to earn their sovereign's disfavour, then woe betide that most wretched girl! A whipping to end all whippings would be her reward!
At last the lodge was in sight. Roberta had been here once before, a few months ago when there had been snow inches deep and she had possessed no feeling in her frozen bare feet when she arrived. There were times when the rigid no-clothes rule for the Golden Guard horrified many and the loss of one woman's toes from frostbite on that occasion had made even Roberta wonder if the rule might be impairing the Guard's fighting effectiveness. But the other seventeen members of that detachment had been unscathed, although thawing out had been agony for them all!
The King's grandfather had set up the Guard. He had loved tall, strong, golden haired (and naked) women and desired to be surrounded and protected by them. Such had been the success of that first guard that the tradition had survived both his and his son's deaths. The Golden Guard was a fixture these days.
All new entrants were told the story of how only three of that original hundred strong Guard had survived the first year, as a wave of attempts on the King's life had taken place. And at the end all plotters were either dead or on a distant island prison safely out of harm's way. And now Roberta was a fiercely proud part of this great tradition. She knew how slim her chances were of seeing another birthday. Later in the year the King was to tour the most troubled parts of the realm, taking all one hundred of the Inner Guard and three hundred of the reserve with him. Roberta was to be near His Majesty at all times and so in constant danger. She knew she would almost certainly not return alive, but so long as the King was safe, she was happy to die protecting him.
Nothing happened during the King's few days' hunting, except that Roberta had little chance to get her feet healed up before the return trip to the Palace. But her back was coming on nicely the whole time. She was near His Majesty all day and every day, keeping up with him and keeping at a safe distance so as not to spoil his sport. Two times she warned him to duck below a rock as she investigated a suspicious sign. But each time it was a false alarm.
"I beg Your Majesty's pardon for spoiling your sport," she said as the party prepared to return.
"Not at all, my dear! Your eyes are so much sharper that any of my other Guards! I want you near me at all times in future! Choose one other whom you trust and together one or other of you will be awake and close to me at all times. I leave it to you to make the choice. How is it that you have been flogged so horribly?"
"I moved on duty after being stung by a wasp and earlier that same day my sword belt was incorrectly put on. I was awarded one hundred and seventy lashes and they were given to me by the strongest of the Guards!"
"How could that be? You are the strongest Guard! I know them all well and none is stronger than you!"
"It was Senior Guardswoman Felicity who whipped me."
"Then she is always to whip you in future - if it becomes necessary! I hope it will not."
"I hope not, Your Majesty, but if I ever fail you, my back will have richly earned its flogging!"
"It will indeed! Report to my Chamberlain the morning after we return and bring your chosen one with you!"
All the long weary way back to the Palace Roberta had eyes and ears only for the road, the rocks along the way which might hide attackers and the passers by, all of whom she scrutinised with those piercing blue eyes - eyes that never missed a thing! What an honour had befallen her! And she had a choice to make. The choice must wait until the return. Roberta knew any inattention on the way back could be fatal.
In the morning, just before the Parade, she drew Bertha aside.
"I am to be the King's special guard, Bertha. He has told me to pick one other and together we will be his closest protectors. I cannot choose you! You know why! It would be unfair to you. So this is goodbye, Bertha. I sleep outside the Royal chamber every night from now onwards. I shall miss you!"
She kissed Bertha a fond farewell, for the two would never be together again. They would be on duty together, but when on duty no Golden Guard had ears or eyes for anything except her solemn and sacred task. Their mouths would never again meet and dissolve into the warmest and tenderest of kisses! No more would tongue meet tongue and no more would bodies writhe and clitorises be licked and sucked! Roberta decided that she would still be true to Bertha, though. If she could not have the one she loved, she would have nobody!
Roberta decided on Anna. Anna was a year older than she and had not been punished for months, being impeccable at all times. Anna would be the one to share the task of being closer to the King than any other Golden Guard.
But first there was the Morning Inspection. It was to be Roberta's last. In future there would be a separate inspection for her and Anna - and a far more rigorous one! Roberta knew she was about to be whipped again! Her feet had become caked with filth on the journey to the hunting lodge, during the three days scrambling after the King and on the journey back. She had spent all night scrubbing them until they were raw, and still there were signs of dirt!
The Commandant stopped and looked down at Roberta's bare feet.
"Dirty feet! We won't wait until evening to punish you! One hundred lashes! Find Senior Guardswoman Felicity!"
Even among the hardened women of the Golden Guard there was visible shock at this savage award. Ten lashes were the award for a dirty foot, twenty for both feet being dirty. Roberta was always to receive double punishments, but this still should have meant her getting no more than forty or fifty! Roberta too felt surprise, but she did not question the Commandant's right to make the award and stepped forward to be led to the whipping post.
Roberta received thirty lashes on a back which had only partly healed after the hundred and seventy of just over a week ago. Then the flogging stopped.
"Step down, Guardswoman Roberta," said the Commandant. "Report to the Chamberlain and take Anna with you! His Majesty has ordered your punishment to cease!"
Roberta stepped down from the whipping post and she and Anna reported to the Chamberlain. Soon they were being ushered into the Royal parlour.
"I thank your Majesty for stopping my punishment," said Roberta. "But I am strong enough to complete receiving it and still do my duty. I shall lose face with my sister guards unless I am allowed to receive the seventy remaining lashes. If your Majesty will forgive me!"
"Very well! Return and receive the rest. You comrade will be my closest guard for the next twelve hours. Rest after your punishment and be back in twelve hours! And wash those dirty feet! They will become clean if you persist with them!"
Only about twenty of Roberta's comrades saw her receive the seventy remaining lashes. Felicity tore into the still unhealed back and made the blood run down in rivulets so that a red pool had formed at her errant feet long before the punishment - a punishment that Roberta had demanded she receive in full - was over. Then she walked back to the Palace and her new and very Spartan accommodation, where she spent all day getting every last trace of grime from her feet.
The King looked at her freshly torn back when she reported for duty.
"Guardswoman Felicity did well! I hope she will not be needed again to punish you. Stand behind that partition, my dear! And stay alert! I trust nobody, except my faithful Golden Guards!"
Roberta stood for seven hours while the King received a succession of visitors. She had never before realised what a boring job the poor man had! But she kept alert and wakeful, her hand on her sword and ready to draw it at any time should any visitor appear about to threaten her royal master's life.
Finally she was dismissed duty for the day. For four hours she was trained on the square, being tested in swordsmanship and unarmed fighting. Then eight hours sleep, still lying on her front because of a back which seemed always to be sore these days! Her last waking thought was a fear that the whip would always be falling on her, never allowing her tortured and abused flesh time to heal again.
Rowena arrived in the capital a few days after Paula's visit to the seaside and at the same time that Roberta, bravest and best of the Golden Guard, was getting her second massive flogging in just over a week. If she had known about Roberta's misfortunes she would have been delighted. That young Amazon's eagle eye had been the cause of two recent attempts on the King's life having to be aborted and the Republican Revolutionary Army was not happy about it!
Furthermore, the same brave girl had killed seven of Rowena's comrades a year ago when still a mere reserve. Of all the Golden Guard, Roberta was already the most feared and the most hated among the King's enemies. Rowena had something very special lined up for Roberta!
In a week, Rowena was due to begin working as a junior parlour maid in the Queen's Household. It was when the King came to spend an evening with his wife at the end of a long day that she was to let seven well-armed confederates in through an unlocked passageway. Seven should be few enough to get in undetected and easily enough to overpower the only two Golden Guards in the actual living quarters. By the time help had arrived the King and Queen would be dead and a revolution well under way!
But Rowena still had a week to wait before the Great Assembly when new servants were enrolled. And the Golden Guard would be in evidence at the Great Assembly!
OH HOLY FUCKING SHIT!
The all too familiar lash came curling and whistling down again and another neat red line appeared as if by magic, joining the twenty four that had gone before, cutting transversely across the punishment hardened Roberta's leathery back. This one went from her right shoulder blade to her left buttock - and very pretty it looked too to the artistic Felicity, who took great pride in the decorative work she did on Roberta! Such a broad back to draw lots of lovely red lines on! There were to be many more crimson lines drawn on Roberta this evening before she would be free to leave, and she knew it! There was strength and skill in the arm that wielded that whip! Punishment hardened Roberta cursed again! What a way to spend a pleasant balmy summer evening! She could think of plenty better! Such as the way she had spent yesterday evening, for instance, even though that few minutes of heaven that had got her where she was tonight! Worth it, though!
The King's best guard simply couldn't keep her stupid self out of trouble these days, no matter how hard she tried - not that she ever tried particularly hard! Roberta was absolutely incorrigible lately! Last night she had not been trying at all to avoid trouble - and here she was!
Despite the familiarity of this experience, Roberta could hardly claim not to notice the pain any more. She noticed it alright and, on the whole, she hated it; but she could handle it just fine! No problems! She had discovered this ability to take pain during that first awful flogging back in the winter. That had taken away all fear of this particular form of retribution! Tonight she kept still and quiet as always. She might as well be sculpted in marble were it not for the straight red lines that kept appearing with every swish - and the blood that was seeping out of some of them. Strong armed Felicity continued efficiently to punish her, flaying her for the latest in a string of serious disciplinary offences. But, despite her outward calm, Roberta's foul mouthed inner reaction to each lash was such as would turn the air blue if she were to give verbal utterance to what was passing through her mind!
Nothing that had happened in the past three months had made her regret her good fortune in being chosen as one of two Guards in constant attendance on the King. Not even her regular, awesome and always well-merited floggings could make her regret her new and favoured status! Even so, she was giving Senior Guardswoman Felicity a lot of work since the King had appointed her to be Roberta's sole Punisher. The well behaved Anna got her occasional and far fewer lashes from a much less muscular lady. Roberta was a very big and incredibly strong girl and the King felt she should be chastised by someone as near her own prodigious size and strength as could be found!
Felicity and she had had that promised trial of strength a week ago, before the entire Inner Golden Guard, as soon as Roberta had completely healed after the last whipping. Roberta had won easily. Felicity had crumpled. Now she was having her revenge for that humiliation!
OUCH! FUCK! FUCK!! FUCK!!!
This was Roberta's fourth punishment since she had started her new job, not counting the transitional one hundred lashes of her second flogging. This time it was a pretty trivial lashing for her, but it would be very, very major for anyone else! Roberta had been pleasantly surprised when told how few stripes she was getting tonight! She'd really thought she would be breaking her own record after what she'd judged to be easily her worst offence to date! Why were they going so easy on her? Not that she was complaining. This stinging taste of leather was quite painful enough to be going on with, thank you very much!
Her first ever appearance at this whipping post had been for a marathon lashing and Roberta had carried on that way ever since! No small change - no piffling little tens and twenties for her! Roberta was into the big time! She'd never yet got less than a hundred and usually a great deal more! Despite the fact that she was back at the familiar post again, Roberta had a good, not to say splendid, record of service behind her. In her three months she had several successes to her credit.
She had spotted one of the King's visitors as being one of a group of scoundrels she had tangled with in her first year. His fellows had perished at the point of Roberta's sword, but he had escaped, fleeing from the wounded but still deadly golden haired warrior like the miserable coward he was. She had spotted the dagger concealed under his cloak, stepped out from behind the screen and disarmed him before he could harm her master. This rogue was now in his second month on the men's island prison, from whence he would not be returning - ever! The King had warmly congratulated Roberta.
FUCK YOU FELICITY! YOU FUCKING COW!
Some other would-be assassins had been spotted by the vigilant Roberta. Two had been visitors ostensibly presenting petitions from their villages. But Roberta had been to both villages several times and knew these villains had nothing to do with either place. The others had worried Roberta a lot, but her warning to the Commandant had not been followed up.
FUCK YOU, YOU CUNT! YOU FUCKING ARSEHOLE!
Roberta was watched like a hawk these days. Her sister Guard had fared better than she. Anna had received just two floggings, one of ten and one of twelve. Roberta quite envied her! But she was pretty well used to pain these days. Which was just as well because a lot of it seemed to be coming her way!
SHIT, SHIT, FUCKING SHIT!
It had been a week after her second flogging that she had been awarded one hundred more lashes for sloppy turnout. Her quiver had been the cause of her downfall on that occasion. Roberta had been allowed to look at herself in a mirror and been forced to admit that it stuck up a smidgeon more than the regulation inch. On the standard Morning Inspection she would have got away with it. But not now she was a Guard in the Royal Presence for the whole day!
OW!!! I'LL FUCKING KILL
YOU FOR THAT ONE! FUCKING FELICITY!
That one had got her down the entire length of her spine. Fucking wicked bitch!
The night when she had fallen asleep with a fear that her back would never heal came back into her memory. It had been a very prescient fear! Very prescient indeed!
HELL'S FUCKING BELLS!
Roberta sometimes felt that she could count on the fingers of one hand the days her back had not been sore. Her second punishment as a Palace Guard had been two hundred for yawning on duty. Felicity had been told to give that flogging everything she had and had been allowed to rest after every ten in order to recover her edge! And that had been richly deserved. The King didn't yawn at his visitors and he was every bit as bored as she! He was a clever man - even cleverer than the super intelligent Roberta.
SHIT AND FUCKING ARSEHOLES!
How much more of this agony had she to endure tonight? She knew, of course. But it was best not to think about it. It did no good to remember the precise amount of pain that was still to come! She knew the routine by this time. Just take each lash as it came, hang on in there and mouth ever more unladylike obscenities under her breath! This approach had got her through plenty worse floggings than this! Her third visit to the whipping post had been to receive another two hundred for untidy hair and a pubic bush which bore clear signs of something sticky and almost certainly nasty adhering to it. And other things!
Roberta had badly missed her glossal probing of Bertha's magnificently hirsute and juicily cavernous vagina. By way of comforting herself the sex-starved Golden Guard had indulged in one bit of masturbation too many. The juice was still oozing on the Morning Parade! Roberta had a lot of love to offer, and it was clearly visible. Major disgrace! She could hardly complain of being treated unjustly on that occasion! Caught bang to rights, as the saying goes!
And now she had been apprehended in flagrante: very passionately kissing the sweet new parlour maid. More than just kissing, actually. A whole lovely delightful lot more! She'd explored, groped, fingered and slobbered over every delicious inch of that piece of pure, sweet honey before being caught! No! She was a very bad girl these days and this was the result. The very painful result. It had been worth it, though! Had it ever been worth it! That Paula was a darling! A juicy little darling! Yes!!
Roberta was one heck of a hard bitch these days! Hard as fucking nails, she would tell herself! Every day she worked on her body, building up muscle. She was a deadly fighter who had taken on and slaughtered seven enemies at once on one famous occasion. And now she had learned to take a whipping that would kill some of her comrades and still do her job. And still have her fun and games on the side with Paula - and any other pretty girl she wanted! Life was pretty damned good these days, even though her back was being sliced up yet again!
It was always the job that came first, though. She never forgot she was a Golden Guard, even if she were a very wild one nowadays!
Paula was well used to her new life by this time. She rose every day at dawn and swept the King's chamber. A neat and nimble worker, she had the room looking spotless and shining long before His Majesty came into the chamber to receive the unending succession of visitors with all their myriad petitions.
She was resting now that it was late evening. It had been a long day, as ever, and she would soon be thinking of going to bed. It might be resting time for Paula but it was punishment time for errant Golden Guards. She listened to the meaty sound of hard leather falling upon Roberta's not so hard flesh. She still hated that sound, preceded as ever by the stern voice of the Commandant. As long as she lived she would hate that dreadful noise, and the thought of the horrible pain it was causing to a fine and wonderful woman. For all the Golden Guards were wonderful women and this particular one was the finest of them all. It came drifting through the window. Why didn't she shut it and banish that awful noise from her room?
"THIRTY THREE" - CRACK!
How cruel, and how utterly stupid, to punish the bravest of the brave in this way! Where was the sense, the justice, in such savagery?
"THIRTY FOUR" - CRACK
The poor girl, Roberta, had been exhausted after accompanying the King on a trip to his hunting lodge. With Anna unable to make the journey because of a high fever and delirium, Roberta had been on her feet for three days, commanding an escort of thirty other Golden Guards. And the danger to the King had been real enough. She had killed three enemies with expertly aimed arrows and tracked another through the rugged terrain and killed him with her bare hands! But she had discarded her sword, arrows and quiver in order to track him more silently. One of the others had reported her for not wearing her proper uniform! What utter idiocy! At least that charge had been thrown out and the idiot who had made it been given ten lashes! Not that Roberta ever received so few! Roberta, who was better than all the others put together!
"THIRTY FIVE" - CRACK
How many more lashes was the poor woman to get before she could stagger away to lick her wounds and prepare for another day of loyally serving her beloved King?
"THIRTY SIX" - CRACK
Roberta had been on duty only hours after returning from the hunting trip and been given her latest award. Poor brave Roberta! And it was her, Paula's, fault! No one was punishing her for being in love with Roberta. But Roberta was being whipped until the blood ran for loving her. It was all so terribly unfair! Anna had been covering for Roberta when she and Paula had made love for the first time. Maybe it would be the last time. The two would be watched closely from now on!
Rowena had also been working at the Palace for three months. She had listened gleefully to Roberta being punished for what she considered to be one trifling and insignificant offence after another. What idiots they were to treat the King's most faithful and efficient servant in this way. But she rejoiced to hear Roberta being flayed! It did Rowena a power of good and she cheered inwardly every time she heard that piece of blonde shit getting its hide shredded yet again! She hated the woman who had killed her two brothers.
And now her schemes were getting under way at last. Three of her comrades were with her in the Palace Yard. They heard the daily punishment as it proceeded its painful way.
"How many more is the bitch due to get today?" asked Rowena's cousin. He had lost a brother to that ghastly woman. Hearing her get it was music to his ears. As far as he was concerned, the flogging couldn't go on for too long!
"No idea! My contact in the Guard seems afraid to be seen talking to me right now. Getting edgy these days - because of Roberta who is supposed to have eyes in the back of her head! But on past performance I doubt her ordeal is over yet awhile! They seem to have an obsession about flogging her big time! What idiots! What total dickheads! The only one of that bunch of blonde dykes we really fear, and they torture the cow like that, never letting her heal before the next time! If only the fools knew they were doing our work for us! But you have me to thank for that! Me and my special friend who set the ball rolling!"
" I suppose you aren't about to let on as to who that is?" asked the oldest of her visitors, a man of about fifty.
"It's best not to let too many into a secret. The only true secret is one that only one person is privy to!"
"I'll say this for that fucking bitch. She's pretty damned hard! If only we had a few like her," said the youngest of Rowena's co conspirators. "She can sure take a mighty licking! And she's still dangerous, even when half dead after what they do to her!"
"But her brain is as thick as her filthy rotten skin!" scoffed Rowena. She badly underestimated Roberta here! "This is getting boring. On past form it could go on for ages. They're beginning to slow the pace down so that Felicity doesn't get tired and let the cow off too easily. Let's go inside!"
(We will take Roberta's continuing litany of obscenities as read from now on! She did tend to repeat herself somewhat! And I think I have made my point - that her mind is like a sewer! It would seem that she is not being purified by pain!)
Roberta was still concerned about what she had seen at the Great Assembly. On that occasion her back had been almost healed but it made no difference to Roberta how much pain she still suffered. Her eyes missed nothing. Two of the relatives who had come to watch a family member being received into the Royal Service had reminded her of someone. She had hastened to the Commandant's side.
"Madam Commandant! I recognise two rebels. See! Over there by the pillar!"
But the Commandant had ordered her back to her post. Roberta wished she were Commandant at times! She could see how the Guard was falling down on the job. If only she could smarten herself up and stop getting these floggings! She had successfully avoided being at fault for fifteen months and now, after that first offence she was getting into worse trouble all the time. It was all her own doing, though and she simply had to dig herself out of this and make a great effort to be all that she wanted to be and knew she could be.
Roberta had long missed her darling Bertha. They hardly saw each other these days. Bertha was still punished frequently, although never as severely as Roberta was being right now. Bertha got about twenty lashes a month and would never improve. Poor Bertha! At least Roberta was rising in the King's service. She might be punished severely for the slightest fault, but she was a trusted and valued Guard these days even she was still whipped with painful frequency!
That Great Assembly still worried her! Roberta knew in her bones that some new and potent danger was associated with that ceremony. If only she could avoid being punished so often! Her mind needed to be clear and her ever present pain was no aid to thought!
At least tonight's flogging was no two-hundred affair. It had been all but impossible to perform her duties to the high standards she set herself when in such crippling agony as she had been on those two occasions and for days after. She was glad she was getting a lesser punishment, not only for herself but because she wanted to be fully alert in the coming weeks. She knew something was brewing and nobody would listen to her. Even the King dismissed her fears as stemming from an over zealous imagination.
The new maid tried to sleep, but it was no use.
That woman, Felicity, was tireless! It was inhuman the way her arm rose and fell in answer to the Commandant's remorseless counting. It was no use! She had to watch! The window was open these days now that the weather was so sultry. Paula saw the ranks of tall, fair haired and naked women lined up to watch the evening punishments. Roberta was the third and last defaulter tonight. Bertha had received ten for a dirty foot and Rosemary had been given twelve. Roberta should be so lucky! Why did they pick on her? She wasn't that bad - except for last night! And she was brave, cool-headed and capable. Her lapses were trivial when set beside her achievements and her total loyalty. Paula sensed something gravely amiss. She wondered what Roberta was thinking - if she could think under Felicity's ferocious onslaught.
Roberta certainly knew how to take her punishment! She hadn't moved a muscle so far! All the other defaulters twitched and jerked around, but not her Roberta!
Yes! Her Roberta! For she had fallen hopelessly in love with the tallest of the Golden Guards on that crisp day in late winter. And Roberta had confided to her that she had been strangely affected at the time by the look in Paula's eyes as she ran past, her feet hurting and her back still on fire from her first ever flogging. And last night they had taken advantage of a ten minute break in Roberta's duties to make love. And the Commandant had burst in on them and ordered Paula out of the room. She wondered how many lashes Roberta had been awarded. No one seemed to know. She had heard that Roberta had immediately apologised for her lapse and supposed she would avoid Paula in future.
Maybe that was the last lash?
Damn! That meant at least ten more. All Roberta's awards were in multiples of ten. She knew that much. Despite herself she was finding this scene quite fascinating! The whole Inner Guard was out there to see Roberta - her Roberta - pay her dues for stepping out of line. And they were a wonderful sight. And stoic bloody-backed Roberta was the bravest of them all. Everyone said that of her first female lover. She was afraid of nothing.
Paula watched with increasing admiration as Roberta received twenty more lashes on that strong back. With a shock she realised that she was becoming very sexually aroused! She wondered if Roberta was also getting off on her flogging. Could that be why she courted trouble so recklessly? Maybe she liked it! Paula felt an orgasm coming on, her hand went to her cunt and worked at it feverishly. The young maid was lost for many seconds of sheer ecstasy.
Rowena had seen off her three confederates and was coming back into the Palace yard. She wondered if that bitch Roberta were still getting it. She certainly hoped so! As she stepped into the yard she heard a lash crack out loud and clear as it landed on Roberta's naked back.
Good, thought the malicious traitress. They will give her at least a hundred. Almost certainly more for fucking another woman, and in the King's own apartments. How disgusting! One of those brutal and predatory butch Guards corrupting a sweet young maid. She'd flog the cow to death if she had her way! She listened to the eightieth lash, expecting the entertainment to continue for a while yet.
Rowena almost spat with rage! Only eighty? What the fuck was happening? She saw Felicity apply salt to the raw back. Roberta smiled and shook hands with the sweating Senior Guardswoman, who had just whipped her. She replaced her sword belt, etc., saluted the Commandant and marched smartly away to resume her duties. She had to hand it to that bitch! She was one tough cow!
She went to her bed in a foul mood. It would have rounded off her day very nicely to have seen Roberta get two hundred plus. Eighty wouldn't be nearly enough to slow that Amazon down. She'd hardly have noticed so few! No wonder she had smiled at the end!
Because of a crackdown by the Army and the cursed vigilance of that bitch Roberta the plans had been put back yet again and Rowena had many more weeks as a maid in the Queen's apartments. What a bitch the Queen was! Nag, nag, nag! She understood why the King liked to have a pair of naked young blondes about the place all day, even if they were a pair of inveterate dykes, one of whom had a back that looked like raw meat most of the time! But she could see that the Queen was less happy at Anna and Roberta seeing more of the King than she did. And he got to see everything of them - the dirty old man! After the Revolution women's bodies would never again be exploited like this. No more Golden Guard in tomorrow's bright new world!
It was His Majesty who had very firmly ordered Roberta to receive only a quarter of the lashes the Commandant had wanted for the persistently re-offending young Inner Guard. He saw little, if anything, wrong with what Roberta had done this time. He laughed whenever he thought about it! Paula was a dainty and sweet little girl who worshipped the blonde muscle goddess and Roberta seemed to return her affection with something more and better than pure lust. He knew that pretty well all of the Golden Guard were far keener on their own sex than on men. Roberta was a healthy young woman - and how! - and she needed an outlet for her lust and passion.
He had decided that Paula must be assigned to Roberta on an official basis. It might help his favourite Guard get herself on an even keel and stop getting all these massive punishments. He doubted, sadly, that the high spirited and rather wayward Roberta would stay unflogged for long. Once that madam had discovered that she could withstand her whippings she had no more fear of them and would be satisfied to earn herself plenty more in pursuit of her pleasures. But the floggings might be reduced to something more acceptable. He had seen for himself how hard even she found it to cope when suffering from the after-effects of a two-hundred lash punishment. And the three-hundred and fifty the Commandant had wished to give for her dalliance with Paula would most likely have killed her - certainly put her out of action for weeks. Even Roberta had limits to her endurance.
He wondered whether the Commandant was jealous! According to rumour, she was a notoriously predatory dyke with an appetite to (almost) rival Roberta's! Perhaps she had been seeking Paula with a view to seducing her when she found to her extreme annoyance that the much younger and much stronger Roberta had got there first! Roberta had a magnificent physique and her many scars, both those acquired in battle and those received at the whipping post were quite a turn on for many impressionable young things - like Paula, for instance! And the Commandant had enjoyed a fairly easy rise to the top, being wounded only once and slightly at that. And Madam Commandant was sagging these days! Her tits and belly grew flabbier by the week! And as for her thighs! They wobbled where Roberta's rippled! In five years she would retire and that day could not come soon enough for the King!
If he could replace the Commandant today he would - with Roberta! Roberta would lead by example, always at the point of maximum danger in a battle. She would inspire the rest in the way the present incumbent never could. And she'd not dish out too many heavy floggings. She'd be fair and tolerant as far as minor offences were concerned, whilst showing no mercy to Guardswomen who really fell down on the job. There'd be less spit and polish under Roberta, but a lot more sharpness in battle. And with the responsibility she would stop fooling around. Command would be the making of her.
But his grandfather, in setting up the founding charter of the Golden Guard, had given much power to the Commandant of the day. It was not easy to replace her. Even the King could not always do as he wished. And in five years time the brave and reckless Roberta would almost certainly have long since fallen in battle.
So he called the still bleeding Roberta and the still sleepless Paula into his private office. He asked Paula to be seated. Roberta, who had been hoping for a few hours of rest, was ordered to remain standing to attention and to keep perfectly still if she knew what was good for her. She obeyed!
"How would you two like to see more of each other? Without having to sneak away for a quick bit of illicit love when you think no one is looking - which, alas for Roberta, they were last night! I am willing to sanction your sleeping together. You will have to sleep on cold stone, Paula, and with no covering for your body either in winter or summer. What do you say?"
"I love Roberta, Your Majesty. I would be proud to share the same hardships as she."
"Very well. I also expect you to assist my best Guard in maintaining her equipment and being always immaculately turned out. Keep her smart and up to the mark and she will be flogged less often - if at all. I hate to hear her being punished as much as she has been lately and I am sure you do. You are both free to go. Enjoy your first night together!"
Paula got to her feet. Roberta saluted smartly, did an about turn, and marched out of the room. Once outside they embraced, hardly able to credit their good fortune. Roberta felt only happiness and all the pain from her wounds had gone. Paula left her clothes in her own room. Soon they were in Roberta's small and bare cell. Paula lay on her back and the much larger Golden Guard lay on top of her. The stone floor was cold to her skin but the soft bulk of her muscular lover soon warmed her.
An hour before dawn Paula woke up and went to fill a bucket with water. She was still naked and wondered whether she was to stay this way all the time. She washed the now waking Roberta, making sure she was spotless for the morning inspection when she and Anna were given an appraisal far more probing than the rest of the Golden Guard. She dressed her in her few bits of equipment and saw that not one item was the slightest bit out of place. Then she kissed the long scar on the statuesque Roberta's massive right thigh. The wound went from just above her knee to her buttock.
"How did you get that wound, my darling?"
"I'll tell you the full story tonight. And now you'd best go and see about getting dressed. Unless you want to be naked like me all the time? Come to think of it you may have to be!"
"I would love to be as bare as you all day! But will the King allow it?"
"I think the question you should be asking is 'will the King allow me not to be nude!' You are attached to the Golden Guard now, as my assistant, Paula! No more clothes for you is my guess!"
And so it proved. Paula's small but comfortable room was locked and she was told that she would share Roberta's quarters from now on and be for ever naked like her new Mistress. She was assured that she would never be flogged upon her back - only caned on her dainty little buttocks in extreme cases of misconduct. This came as a relief!
Paula might thrill with pride and sensual delight as she witnessed Roberta's courage whilst being punished. It had excited her last night to think that her lover was going through all that on her account. But she knew the same experience would kill her.
That night, before they fell asleep, Roberta told Paula of the fight in which she had received the wound to her thigh. Paula was thrilled and snuggled as close as she could, biting in her excitement on Roberta's hard nipple until sharply told to stop!
"It was in the mountain territory about two hundred miles away, Paula. I had been sent out with three others to check on reports of rebel activity. We were ambushed and two of us were killed in the first seconds. The remaining two of us cut down three of the bastards and then Ellen, my surviving comrade, was also killed. That left me against seven others. I was in a good position, Paula, with my back shielded by the rocks. Only two of them could get at me at once and I gradually cut them down one by one until finally I was standing there surrounded by dead bodies, three of them my dear comrades. But I had been hurt and when I limped into our camp hours later I fainted."
"I still can't believe you love me, Roberta! A super heroine like you! I just can't believe my luck in having the bravest ever Golden Guard as my Mistress and lover. I'll always be true to you, Roberta!"
"And I'm the luckiest girl in the world to have found you, Paula. If I last until I retire, we'll spend the rest of our days living together. But that's highly unlikely. I may not even live the year out! I've been pretty lucky to last this long."
"You all take so many risks, Roberta!"
"It's our job. None of us care for our own lives, Paula. We are here to preserve the King and we know how dangerous that can be. But we will never allow harm to come to him. Not if it means all of us dying!"
In her room, the spiteful, Left Wing Republican Rowena was planning just such a universally fatal outcome. All the Guards dead and a very dead King - and his bitch of a wife!
Roberta escaped all further punishment for seven long and very happy weeks. She accompanied the King on a trip to the troubled Northern Province and was involved in several minor scuffles, being wounded again in her shoulder. The King had given her command of all fifty Guards who accompanied him.
As he had correctly forecast, Roberta led by example and from the front. She would make sure she was always where the fighting was thickest and hardest. If only he could find a way of placing her in full command of the entire Golden Guard. But the Commandant was immovable.
Paula had pleaded to be allowed to go with her beloved Mistress and her request had finally been granted. She proved to be invaluable as a general help to all the Guards, cooking, cleaning and repairing damaged equipment. And at night, when Roberta was free, she was enfolded by those massively strong arms. Although she was so strong, Roberta was incredibly gentle when she embraced Paula. It thrilled the little girl to think that the hands that caressed her so gently had squeezed the life out of so many of the King's enemies!
"Why do they let me treat your wound, Roberta?" she asked her one evening as she was applying a herbal salve to her Mistress's shoulder. "Yet when you were whipped you were denied treatment?"
"This is a wound of honour, Paula. But when I am whipped it is another matter! Part of the punishment is that those wounds get absolutely no treatment at all - apart from the salt they rub in! It's so good to be honourably wounded for a change after so many wounds of dishonour! I'll never go out of my way to be whipped again, Paula. You're looking at a reformed character!"
"So you did like it, Roberta! At least you sort of liked it. I wondered! I sort of liked it, too - seeing you being punished. Made me go all wet! Sick - eh?"
"Maybe, Paula! But my spell as a chronic defaulter is over! And, as you say, it might have hurt like hell but in a way it was fun while it lasted!"
By the time the tour was over, no Guards had been killed. Only Roberta had been wounded and thirty rebels were slain. Rowena cursed the fair Roberta and she cursed this little naked maid who had so providentially come to Roberta's rescue, giving her the emotional stability she needed to rise to the very top.
Something must be done to get that cow out of the way - permanently!
Paula shivered in the November cold. Perhaps it was just her imagination, but winter seemed to have started early this year! Much earlier than last year. But, of course, last year she had been wearing her warm winter coat. She was standing, breathless, at the top of the hill which overlooked her Uncle's house below and the grim and forbidding shape of Hell's Island Prison for Women, just visible through the dank mists, in the distance. She shivered from more than just the premature winter cold as she stared at that grim piece of rock. And the tears in her eyes were caused by more than just the keen wind.
Her revered and beloved Roberta was over there! She had been on that bleak island since late July, serving a sentence of imprisonment with regular mandatory whippings and ultra hard labour for the remainder of her natural life. If she lived to be eighty, she would still be receiving the same harsh treatment that she was getting at this very minute! Poor unjustly imprisoned Roberta! Paula would give anything to be by her side and sharing her undeserved misfortunes!
Paula still considered herself to be Roberta's servant and thus an auxiliary of the Golden Guard. For this reason she was still naked - hence her extreme discomfort in the cold weather. The King, who had no reason to suspect Paula of any wrongdoing and who still liked her, had given her permission to remain unclothed if she so wished.
"If it makes the poor girl happy, after losing her friend and lover in such a terrible way, then what harm can it do," he had said.
Then the King had sent her to her Uncle's to recover from the distress of seeing Roberta's formal degradation and huge flogging, which as an auxiliary member of the Guard, she had been obliged to watch, lined up with all the other members of the Golden Guard as Roberta had been brought up from the dungeon, already more dead than alive after being tortured for many hours. They had brought Paula especially back from her uncle's, where she had been at the time, to be made to watch.
As a disgraced Golden Guard, Roberta had been hung upside down, after having her head shaved. She had then been whipped by four other Guards, all aiming at her back from different angles and each giving her a hundred lashes. It was a ghastly ordeal even for Roberta, the toughest of the tough. They had cut her to the bone a hundred times long before they had finished with her and a half-demented Roberta had screamed for mercy long before the end. But she had been so weak by that time that no one had heard - not that it would have made any difference if they could.
That ordeal had left her unconscious and hovering between life and death for six days. But, to everyone's surprise, she had recovered strongly thereafter and she had finally been considered fit enough to start her sentence after ten more days. The Commandant had thought that the horrible punishment would surely have killed her, and such had been her intention and fervent hope. But Roberta was strong and had survived - just. Her continuing survival still gave the Commandant sleepless nights, even if she were safely marooned for all time on a barren rock surrounded by swirling tides and fierce currents.
Despite her amazing recovery she was no longer the old Roberta, but a broken and chastened wreck, convinced by her tormentors that she must in some way be guilty even if she had no idea how or why.
Paula was already at her Uncle's house, still sobbing dementedly for hours at a time, when Roberta had been sent off to start her life sentence. She had thus not been there to see her friend escorted out of the Palace, shuffling in clanking chains, naked still, but with her golden hair no more than a stubble after it had been ritually shaved off. After leaving the Palace and the city behind her, Roberta still had ahead of her the ordeal of walking the entire twenty miles to the port from which she was to be embarked. This ordeal was made infinitely worse by the fact that as a parting gesture from the Golden Guard, Roberta had been badly whipped on the soles of her feet,
Paula had seen her, loaded with chains and hobbling painfully, pass by her Uncle's cottage, escorted by a troop of her former colleagues, a bowed, fallen and tragically shrunken figure compared to the imperious Golden Guard who had run past this very spot a few short months ago.
She had wept to see this once proud figure, surrounded by contemptuous former comrades, being pushed, prodded and struck on all parts of her bruised body as a way of encouraging her to keep moving, stumbling and staggering the last few painful yards to the port. But she made it all the way, which nobody had thought she would.
Paula had heard from friends who worked at the port how Roberta had collapsed as she reached the boat and been unceremoniously thrown into the hold with the cargo. She did not blame the escort for their cruelty. The people who had put her through this were not the escorting Guards, who honestly thought her a traitor, but those who had so foully blackened her reputation and robbed her of her good name, and with it all she held most precious. For Roberta prized honour above all.
Paula refused to believe Roberta to be guilty. She had made it plain to everyone that she still stood by her Mistress, but her words had been dismissed as mere blind loyalty. No one else had ever had the slightest doubt, even though it had chiefly been the dying words of that treacherous maid Rowena that had condemned her to any more than a severe flogging. Roberta would most certainly have got the flogging in any case for the cardinal sin of losing her weapons.
Rowena had let seven fellow conspirators into the Queen's apartments. Anna had given the alarm and frantically ordered the King and Queen into a corner where she could the better protect them. In a fierce struggle she had killed four of the intruders. The King, insisting on fighting side by side with Anna, had killed two. The remaining one had fled and was still at large. Rowena had thrown a knife, taken from the corpse of one of the assailants, at the King. But Anna moving with incredible speed had thrown herself in front of him and taken the knife in her belly. The mortally wounded Anna had fatally injured the evil Rowena before dying herself.
When Roberta had been found, she was asleep and her sword, bow and arrows were not with her. Allowing herself to be disarmed was serious enough, of course. That alone would have got her dismissed in disgrace after an upside down flogging. But Rowena, in almost her dying breath, had named Roberta as the Golden Guard who had helped her smuggle her co-conspirators into the Royal Apartments. Paula had been away at the time, having been given leave for a few days to visit her Uncle, who had been unwell.
It was clear that someone in the Golden Guard must have been in league with Rowena. All the signs pointed to Roberta. Even the King, who loved her dearly by this time, had been constrained to agree that she must be punished by perpetual imprisonment of the harshest kind.
During her brutal interrogation and torture immediately after the incident, Roberta had seemed evasive and confused. She had been beaten savagely over her whole body and especially so about the groin area, scorched with hot irons and stretched on the rack until her joints cracked. When they had tired of this, they had secured her hands behind her and hung her from her feet, attached to a mechanism that slowly lowered and as slowly raised her, head first, into a tank of freezing cold water. Her head would be underwater for many long seconds, running into minutes until she was raised, gasping and spluttering, just in time to stop her drowning. She scarcely had time to draw breath before the mechanism sent her back down into the bath again. This went on for hours. The Head Torturer was very proud of this piece of equipment, which had only recently been installed. Roberta's interrogation was his first opportunity to play with his latest toy!
Through all these horrors - and more - she had scarcely seemed to know or care what was happening to her. After twelve hours they had given up on her and had then handed what was left of the poor girl, after their grisly work, over to the Commandant of the Golden Guard to sentence and punish. Both punishment and sentence were foregone conclusions.
Nobody had believed her when she said that she had gone to her quarters with her sword, bow and quiver by her side. The whole excuse that she had mysteriously been robbed was seen as nonsense. She had clearly handed her weapons to be used by one of the conspirators and gone to her room and slept through what she hoped would be her royal master's murder. But Anna had been too good for them - as had the King, who had helped save himself and his wife from certain death.
But Roberta had chosen Anna to be her fellow Personal Guard. Paula, who was going over the entire horrible episode for the millionth time. She found this the strongest objection to the charges against her. Roberta had considered that quiet and devoted girl to have been the most fitted of all the Golden Guard to be her companion. And Anna had been almost superhuman that night, more than justifying the trust Roberta had placed in her! Her family had been richly rewarded and would never be in want as long as they and their descendants lived! If Roberta were a traitor, she would hardly have chosen as her colleague such a skilled fighter, such an epic heroine, as Anna. Because Roberta was a superb judge of her comrades' abilities.
And the idea that Roberta would have handed her prized weapons to anyone else was nonsense. Paula had seen a thousand times, just how highly her Mistress prized them. And they had never been found. Paula had a pretty good idea where to look for them. She had been thinking these events every second of every day for the past five months.
She ran, barefooted and naked, down the hill and back up again three times. For whatever reason, Paula wanted to be ready for anything she might need to do in order to help the toiling and disgraced Roberta. She might not be able to match her friend in terms of size and strength but she wanted to be as fit as the tallest and bravest of the Golden Guard.
Because she was utterly determined that Roberta would not rot on that island for ever. By some means, that innocent girl, still only twenty years old, must be rescued! The very idea was too awful to contemplate that she should not be! She might be home sooner than anyone thought possible! And Paula intended to be the one who got her back from the dead, her honour vindicated and every last one of her enemies punished a hundred times more horribly than Roberta had been.
Another consideration was that all this violent exercise helped warm her up! Roberta and her comrades' bodies had all been well hardened by years of exposure to all weathers, but Paula had enjoyed a normal sheltered upbringing and her first winter without clothes promised to be a very testing time for her. But she was determined to stick it out. Her nudity was her one remaining link with her beloved Roberta.
About to go into her Uncle's house, she saw the same sight as in late February, half an age ago. The King's carriage, with its escort of naked blonde beauties was coming her way. It must be that His Majesty was on his way to the hunting lodge.
Paula was surprised. Rebel activity was at one of its periodic high points just lately and that Lodge was terribly hard to protect. There were a hundred places a sniper might use for cover. It had taken Roberta all her best efforts to stop the King being attacked the last time he had been there. Without his best Guard he was taking a very serious risk!
The carriage drew nearer and nearer. Once again she saw the magnificent team of horses and the eighteen running Guards, all of whom she knew and liked by this time. They were all her friends except for two.
She hated that despicable and incompetent Bertha. And she didn't trust the Commandant. Paula had never understood the respect Roberta had had for that woman. She understood that the King wanted her out and Roberta put in her place.
This would be the first glimpse Paula had had of His Majesty since she had seen him looking from a window at Roberta's degradation and near fatal flogging. The look on his face on that day had almost made Paula forgive him for what he was allowing to be done. He had been weeping and had turned away, unable to look at what they were doing to Roberta.
To Paula's surprise the carriage slowed down as it neared her house. Finally it stopped and the King climbed down, helped out by two Guards, Rosemary and Charlotte. Paula guessed that these were His Majesty's replacements for Roberta and poor dead, heroic Anna. Not a bad choice! Next to the original pair, they were the ones Paula would have chosen.
"Paula! I came especially to see you! May we come in to your Uncle's house?” Paula knelt before him.
"Your Majesty is welcome. Our house is honoured by your presence, Sir!"
"Get up, please, my dear! We're old friends, you and I! No need to kneel! Get those pretty knees off those sharp stones at once! Let's go inside!"
The King, Rosemary, Charlotte and Paula went inside.
An hour later Paula was on her way back to the Palace. She’d asked to be allowed to run beside the carriage and surprised everyone by keeping up with the other Golden Guards all the way back!
The King had reinstated her as an active assistant to the Guard. She was told once again that she need not fear ever being flogged on her back. But there was always the remote possibility of the very occasional caning.
"But you are so good, Paula and so capable, that you need have no fears about that sweet bottom ever being made red," said the King.
"Except when you pinch it, Your Majesty," she didn't say!
But she guessed, rightly, that he would not be able to keep his hands off those sweet rounded buttocks for long! She only hoped she'd be able to fend off Bertha and the Commandant, both of whom were becoming more predatory and insatiable by the day!
It was all in a good cause, though. Now that she was back in the Palace and the Golden Guard's quarters, she could try to work out exactly what had happened and just precisely how Roberta had been framed.
It proved easy enough to rebuff the Commandant, who had long lusted after her, and had come to be beside herself with desire once petite Paula's exciting buttocks had become bare for all to see. She had gnashed her teeth in a horrible paroxysm of blind and primitive rage night after night when the King had sanctioned her affair with Roberta.
"What a shame that you and I cannot be lovers, Madam Commandant," said Paula the first time that the Chief Golden Guard's hot and clammy hand had stroked her flawless posterior's delectable hemispheres! "But we are too much apart in rank and it would ruin your career if anything ever came out about us!"
The Commandant had taken to heart this far from subtle hint that Paula would make sure any impropriety got to reach the King's ears. So from that day on her lust had turned to hate. Despite the King's solemn assurance to the contrary, Paula was up before the Commandant on a succession of petty charges and her sweet little buttocks were blistered and made extremely red many times, thanks to the Commandant being on her back day in and day out.
But Paula, like Roberta before her, pretty soon found that the pain was not only bearable, but actually almost pleasant. A special caning frame was erected especially for Paula and a few other auxiliaries recruited by other Guards anxious for pretty assistants and lovers. She was bent almost double with her bottom high in the air and ready to receive the swishy cane. She came to love the sound of it whooshing down upon her! Many were the delightful orgasms Paula experienced as the cane swished through the air and landed with a satisfying cracking sound on her bare arse!
Three months into her resumed service, Paula noticed, with some regret, that her punishments were getting fewer and lesser. After four months they ceased altogether. The King had finally tired of the Commandant's sexual sadism and ordered her to leave the little girl alone - or else! Paula knew His Majesty meant well and was grateful up to a point - but she still wished that he would mind his own business and get on with running the country, as if that wasn't enough for him to be doing in these difficult times!
And if Paula were to find someone else to spank her, the King would start asking questions again. By this time he had become very possessive where Paula and her adorable bum cheeks were concerned, following their sweetly undulating progress about the Palace and its environs with increasing appreciative ness. He made it very plain that he wanted to see no marks whatsoever on this particular posterior - unless they were of his making! So her bottom, whilst crying out for more lovely swishing, pain-filled cuts of a lustily wielded and painfully flexible stick, was forced to cry out in vain! Poor pain-denied bottom!
Bertha was less easy to fend off - a whole lot less easy. Finally Paula decided to swallow her pride (and much else besides) and allow herself to be taken by the ravenous and sexually insatiable Golden Guard one night in late January, with the wind howling and the snow falling outside. Paula thought of Roberta, possibly outside in that awful weather, and told herself that all this was only being done in order to help her to recover her liberty and her honour. She dutifully forced her head between those mighty thighs and plunged her tongue deep into Bertha's vagina. As she did so, she reminded herself that she was only doing it for her friend and Mistress's liberty.
As she tasted the succulent juices of Bertha's incredibly hairy and phenomenally large cunt for the first time she was forced to admit that Roberta had had a point when she had once described the experience as a gourmet's delight to be ranked right up there among the very best!
There was at least one thing this useless piece of shit was good at! She certainly knew how to give a girl a good time! Soon she was enthusiastically throwing herself into this surprisingly enjoyable aspect of her role of double agent, becoming yet another Golden Guard's toy.
Despite the increasingly strenuous and guiltily pleasurable activities in which she and Bertha participated, she kept her eyes and ears open at all times. She began to see and hear a lot!
Notwithstanding Bertha's astounding proficiency as a lover, Paula came increasingly to despise her failings as a human being. And she was ever more amazed at each succeeding demonstration of her incompetence. Bertha still found herself on the whipping platform with great regularity, but she never got more that ten or twelve lashes at a time these days. Roberta would have collected many times that for the things that useless arsehole Bertha was always being pulled up for. How had she ever been allowed to enrol in the first place? And why, oh why, had she not been kicked out on her ear months ago?
The fort at the island's summit was where the Royal officials in charge of the prison lived. None of the prisoners ever got to visit those luxurious apartments. Roberta soon discovered that the prisoners lived at night in a prison building on the seaward side of the Island. There was a yard in the middle of this prison building, overlooked by row after row of tiny barred windows. Roberta was not put in a cell, but chained to an iron ring in the yard. Her still naked body was never to know shelter from the elements.
The prisoners spent their days in a series of quarries, breaking chunks of rock away from the hillside and reducing them to rubble. A lot of the work was dangerous and all of it was arduous. Roberta had all of the most dangerous jobs, as well as the most arduous.
At the same time that Paula was looking across from her own vantage point on the mainland, a still physically formidable but mentally cowed Roberta brought the heavy hammer down on the rock again. Splinters flew off in all directions. A crack appeared and she knew her efforts were being rewarded. Once again she lifted the twenty-pound metal-headed wooden hammer and brought it back down hard on the boulder, which split neatly in two. This was the twentieth rock she had demolished in this four hour shift and there were at least thirty more lined up for her attention. She was dripping with sweat, despite the freezing temperature.
She resisted the temptation to pause and wipe the sweat off her face - that would get her a free whipping! After her appalling near fatal experiences she had got more than a little tired of being whipped, even though she had once almost enjoyed it - and she was due to be given one in a day or two in any case. Once more, for the hundredth time, she sent the hammer crashing into the rock. When it was reduced to manageable fragments, her fellow prisoners would have the task of gathering up the stones and taking them to the harbour, where they were used for adding to the fortifications.
Roberta was an ace with the hammer! She went on and on for hours - four hours at a time - raising it high above her head, her arms as high as they would go and her muscles standing out like ropes, and bringing it down hard on the rock. Now that it was November and the days were shorter, she worked here in the quarry for just under ten hours each day and it would be even less than that soon, before her days of toil lengthened again with the new year. Back in late July when she had first been put to work after a miraculous recovery from atrocious torture and a near fatal whipping, she had worked fifteen hours each day, amazing the overseers by her tireless capacity for hard and back-breaking work.
She wanted to do well at her work, as this might make up for some of the wrong she had done. She was a traitor - so they said. And she had certainly lost her sword and bow, which was a bad enough offence in all conscience! She had disgraced herself - just when she had thought she had turned the corner and become a responsible Golden Guard and future Commandant. (The King had dropped more than just the odd hint concerning his hopes for her future!)
The exact details of what had happened were still hazy in her mind - a mind still reeling from the knowledge that she must end her days sweating in this barren hell on earth. There were other women who had been here for many years now and were still being brutally worked both hard and long, even though they were old and bent with extreme age. In this place you worked until you dropped. And she had seen a few old crones keel over and die in the last few months. But they, like her, were the King's enemies and deserved no better.
But she loved her King! She had been brought up to serve him to the death if need be. Year after year, day in and day out, it had been dinned into her that her life was hers only to devote to protecting the King and that she must be glad at any time to sacrifice it for him. All her training for eight years had been to make her a Golden Guard. How could she have sunk so low? She lifted the heavy hammer again and started on another large boulder. Soon that was reduced to tiny fragments. She was getting good at this! In twenty years she would be even better, but after that she would most likely tail off!
When she had actually met her Sovereign Lord the King she had come to know him as a man and not as some idealised focus of loyalty. And she had liked him straight away. The more she had seen of him as a flesh and blood human being, the more utterly devoted to him she had become. Roberta knew that her regard was returned by her royal master and that, but for him, her whippings would have been far more horrific even than those she had endured. And finally, in an effort to help her avoid further pain and straighten her out, he had given her Paula to live with and love. But she had still let him down and, thanks to her negligence, Anna, that finest and noblest of young women, was dead. She wished she could join Anna!
However much Roberta might despair and however much she might desire to die, there was something inside her that told her she might still have something to offer her King. Despite being here for all her days there might, even in this desolation, it might be an opportunity for her to redeem herself. So she slaved away all day and every day, setting herself and achieving more and more awesome targets.
When it became too dark to work outside she would be taken back, loaded with chains, to the prison yard. There, with flaming torches lighting the grim rectangle, she would be placed chained to a treadmill and made to work it for five hours until finally allowed to sleep, still chained, for seven hours. At dawn she would be fed and watered and made to work on the mill until light. Then back in chains to the quarry.
At the quarry her manacles would be removed and she would be handed whatever implement was to be hers for the day. Whatever it was, it would be heavy and she would wield it as though it were no lighter than the proverbial feather. She would work hard for four hours and get a two minute break to eat and drink. Then four more hours hard work. It was cold now, but Roberta still sweated all day. At night she was too dog tired to notice the cold!
If she had thought of escape, not that there was anywhere to escape to, the day period was her only chance. But there were never less than five guards, all armed with bows and all watching her closely every second. And her taskmaster stood close to her, his whip always ready to punish any real or imagined slackness. There had never been any real, but plenty of imagined slackness. For the taskmaster had a vivid imagination! Some days she collected as many as thirty slashes across her strong shoulders. For a girl who had shrugged off hundreds of lashes, laid on far better than this man could even begin to lay them on, this was no more than a fleabite!
Once every three months she was flogged in front of all the other prisoners. This was something that had been decreed at the time she was sentenced, still confused and bewildered by the sudden horror of all that was going on around her. She was to receive fifty lashes, plus any awards that had been incurred as a result of offences against prison rules since her last flogging. So far she had received flogging number one and no extra lashes had been added. Because she was a woman her lashes were given to her by a woman prisoner. This lady would be full of hate for Roberta (for reasons that will become clear later) but had no skill and no strength. The woman hardly managed to break her tough skin, even when nearing the end of the punishment.
Her next public flogging was due for the day after next and she welcomed the break from the deadly monotony! The procedure was different these days. No longer was Roberta trusted to remain still without being secured. Each foot was tied to a rail, parallel to the ground and her arms tied to a cross beam at the top of the whipping frame so that the victim was spread eagled. She was suspended from the ground until the ordeal was over. But she didn't suffer such grievous pain as she had when a proud Golden Guard. Poor Roberta would give a great deal to return to her former proud status - mammoth whippings and all.
Soon the light began to fail. Her legs were manacled and her hands chained behind her back. Slowly and awkwardly she shuffled the mile back to the yard where she was to spend the night. A few jeers and hoots of derision came from the cell windows as the other woman, free from work until daybreak, saw the despised Roberta, still naked, chained to the treadmill to begin her long hours of hard labour. She slept like a log when they finally fed her and left her for a few precious and all too brief hours sleep. Sadly she reflected that she could take maybe forty more years of this before succumbing. Roberta had been built to last!
The next day passed much as usual and then it was time for the flogging! When she woke up on this day, there was almost a sort of joy in her heart. It was as if she were back in the Golden Guards and preparing to pay the penalty for yet another of her idiotic escapades by being flayed once more by Senior Guardswoman Felicity. Then she remembered where she was - and why- and gloom and shame returned.
As she had expected, there were no lashes to add to her fifty. The broken-spirited Roberta was a very good girl these days. The other women were herded into the yard, gratefully released from their duties to see a disgraced enemy of the King being given part of her continuing punishment. The female they chose this time was better than the one who had seen to her three months ago - but not a lot! Even the most bitter of Roberta's enemies conceded that she was a very brave young woman as her back was criss-crossed with red marks and she kept totally still. They had all been punished this way themselves often enough and not one could have taken fifty lashes without moving and crying out towards the end.
If only they had known how much worse she had endured earlier in the year, and would willingly endure again if she had the chance to go back!
She prayed for the chance to be given the task of whipping a defaulter herself one day. She'd show them how it ought to be done! And she despised them as much as they all hated her. Then it was over, too soon for all concerned, including Roberta, and all went back to work.
November gave way to December and December to January. January saw the first serious snowfall and the quarry was closed, not out of consideration for the naked Roberta and the other prisoners, but because the prison staff disliked the discomfort. Roberta operated her treadmill all day and surprised everybody except herself by still being alive each frosty morning.
February was a rainy month and also the time for her third fifty lash flogging. She hardly felt a thing. Roberta's long hair, now that it had grown back again, was perpetually soaked. At least it was clean when it rained! In the height of summer when it hardly rained for months on end, her hair was indescribably dirty what with all the dust.
March came and went and her day lengthened. The treadmill began to give way to the quarry. The winter frosts had opened up many cracks on the quarry face and Roberta was sent up the dangerously unstable cliff face to hammer away at the surface, sending huge boulders crashing down to the quarry floor. Her wish to be swept away in a landslide was not granted. It seemed that she had some sort of charmed life.
Except that Roberta would have called herself cursed. Doomed to live like this for maybe another fifty years, becoming bent and withered like so many of the older women. And, frail and withered or not, she'd still get her quarterly whippings!
May came and with it flogging number four, which was given by the strongest of the women and stung a lot more than the first three. As ever there were cheers as she was secured to the frame and fresh cheers every time the whip struck her. When this woman started drawing blood from Roberta's broad back, and in appreciable quantities after the thirtieth lash, the result was near hysteria! The flogger took a bow at the end and walked off to tumultuous applause.
May, a dry and hot month, finally gave way to June which was hotter still. Roberta was toiling for eighteen hours a day in the pitiless heat.
At night she was allowed to sleep in a hut near the quarry. Since there was nowhere to run, Roberta was allowed to sleep unchained and unsupervised. She was so docile these days that one of the guards, Raymond, had dubbed her "The Gentle Giant".
Other prisoners, if they were near enough, would throw stones at her, often hitting her and making her bleed, but she carried on working as though nothing had happened. Those who had known the fearsome warrior of a year ago would scarcely be able to recognise her in this cowed and obedient prisoner. They might have noticed, though, that her body was as incredible as ever! She was still a muscle goddess!
Then one day as she had finally finished her work and was eating her disgusting meal, she saw a familiar small figure being led towards her in the fading light. Like her, the newcomer was nude. Unlike her she was small and dark haired. And she was not chained! And the guard escorting her seemed to be treating her with some respect and consideration, pointing out the best way to avoid tripping up over the rough ground.
It was Paula! Her darling Paula.
"What are you doing in this dreadful place, Paula?"
Roberta could hardly believe it was her darling Paula who had just loomed up out of the gloom., She had a vague memory of having last seen her when she was watching her being flogged to death - or so the subsequently disappointed Commandant had hoped - almost exactly one year ago.
"I have been sent here by the King for a few weeks. I did him a favour and asked that I be allowed to see you. I shall be staying in one of the apartments in the Castle mostly, although I can come and see you as long as I don't make love to you. He will increase your whippings as a kind of payment for seeing me. My company will perhaps make things easier for you, so you must pay by having your conditions made worse in other ways. He is only doing this for me, Roberta - not for you. He still considers you to be a traitor. Do you agree to having seventy lashes in future, once every month instead of fifty every three months? This will be for keeps, Roberta - not just for a month or two, but for the rest of your life. It's for you to decide."
"I don't care how many extra lashes I get. It's just so wonderful to see you. How long will you be here for?"
"A few weeks. No longer. His Majesty likes to see me around the place these days - especially now the poor Queen is so ill."
"You seem to have done pretty well for yourself, darling! I am glad for you! And a few more lashes are neither here nor there. I don't enjoy my whippings like I used to in the good old days, but I still have no fear of pain."
"Good. You may leave us alone for a while, Raymond! We have a lot to talk about after a year apart. You know how we women are!"
As soon as they were alone, tears started flowing down Roberta's face and she started shaking and sobbing.
SLAP! SLAP!! SLAP!!
Paula amazed the prisoner by slapping her hard on the face many times. The sobs ceased.
"That's better! I was so ashamed of you! Crying like a baby! Really Roberta! What ever became of the bravest and best of the Golden Guard?"
"That nice guard, Raymond was telling me how quiet you are these days. He knows of your brave exploits, Roberta and can hardly believe someone like you can be so broken spirited. Why are you still like this? It's been a year, Roberta! You've had plenty of time to get over all that!"
"A year! It might seem a long time for you Paula, but for me it's just the start of a very long road. I may live this life that is no life for forty or even fifty more years. I, who was born and trained to fight hard and to die young and gloriously in battle! You have no idea what it is to rot here and know yourself to be a traitor like me - full of shame and self hate!"
"Traitor - rubbish. You are no traitor, Roberta! I have spent the last six months and more, a considerable part of it with my face stuck not entirely unwillingly up Bertha's large and exceedingly juicy cunt, proving it to my complete satisfaction. You were drugged, Roberta. Something was put into your evening meal. I know who supplied the potion and I know who put it into your drink that night. And you must go back to the Palace and unmask her! Then go and get your glorious death - if that's what you really want! Speaking for myself I'd opt for the glory without the death!"
"And how do you propose that I do that? Are you going to put me in your trunk and take me back on the boat with you in a few weeks? I hardly think they will take too kindly to that! These people weren't born fucking yesterday, Paula!"
"No. You must swim back to the mainland. It's not that far. You can easily see the land from here. You CAN swim, I hope?"
"Very well indeed. We were trained to excel in all forms of physical activity. I was the best of my intake at everything - especially swimming. But that stretch of sea is impossible even for the strongest swimmer. You should know. Your family come from the coast opposite. How many corpses have been washed up of idiots who thought they could make it? Dozens. And how many succeeded. Fucking nobody!"
"Not impossible for you, my dear! Remember this. Don't fight the current. Use it to carry you away from the island and try gradually to edge yourself towards land. I estimate that you will come ashore twenty miles northwest of my Uncle's cottage. You'll be tired and need a day to rest up.
"There is a cape that juts out like two fingers. On the shore to the east of it is a simple fisherman's hut, full of nets and other gear. It's been deserted for years. I have left clothes and food for you there. You are big for a woman so I have left men's clothes. I know it will pain you to cover that noble and hardy body but it is for the King and his safety. For he is still in danger, Roberta and you must save him. You are his Chief Protectress still!"
"I am under observation all the time, Paula. I may not be watched too closely at night these days because after eighteen hours work I only wish to sleep and am fit for nothing else. I can hardly keep my eyes open as it is, even with the pleasure of being with you again so unexpectedly. As soon as it is light they will be here to rouse me and put me to work. I work very hard!"
"I know how hard you work, Roberta! I have been watching you all day. It must be pretty grim for you in this heat! I felt tired and very thirsty just watching!"
"I can take it, Paula. A Golden Guard is trained to endure infinitely worse hardship than this!"
"I'm sure! One thing I noticed. The other women seem to really hate you. Why is this"?
"They are all rebels, Paula. As a Golden Guard, even a disgraced one, they would be bound to hate me. At first some of them were willing to be friendly. But as soon as I made clear to them my total remorse at what I had done and my continuing love for the King, they turned against me to a woman!"
"Well, next time one of them throws a stone at you, throw one back. And as for remorse! Remorse for what! You did nothing wrong, Roberta. Don't take that shit from then any more! Even if they punish you, you mustn't let them treat you like that without fighting back!
"I am serious, Roberta! You are totally innocent of all the charges they made. That evil bitch Rowena lied about you when she made that dying accusation. You've simply got to start believing in yourself again. And you start as of now!"
"I lost my weapons, Paula. There can be no doubt about that!"
"Because your food and drink had been poisoned, Roberta. You are a very light sleeper. I, who slept so happily by your side for those wonderful weeks know just how light! Nobody could have disarmed you if you had not been deeply drugged. What do you remember of that night?
"Very little, Paula. I was due to join Anna on duty in the Queen's apartment. We were to overlap for four hours and I was to escort the King and Queen to their bedchamber and be on duty outside all night. I had my supper.
"Next thing I recall was that I was being dragged down to the cellars by a half dozen of the Guard and given over to the Chief Torturer. Charming man! Good to his wife and family and kind to animals! He wasn't kind to me, though!
"I was tortured for a long time. But all appeared to be happening such a long way away. Even when they were dipping me into the cold water and nearly drowning me it seemed like it was someone else they were doing it to."
"When did you start to feel more connected to reality, Roberta?"
"When they hung me upside down and started whipping me. I knew I was in the deepest possible disgrace to be punished like that. I felt total despair at that moment. Then I remember nothing until I was conscious again and told I was to be imprisoned here for the rest of my life."
"And all these months you have continued to believe yourself guilty? When you must have known all along that you did no wrong? Well, you had better start believing differently from now on! I haven't come to this arsehole of the universe for the sake of my health, Roberta!"
"Please leave me for now, Paula. I need to sleep. Tomorrow is the longest day of the year. I shall be nearly nineteen hours at work and I need rest. And I need to think. My mind is in quite a state after what you have said. Are you sure about what all this? You're not just trying to make me feel better. You have proof?"
"I have enough proof to satisfy me. And you must produce the proof that will satisfy the King and everyone else. Good night my darling!"
Paula went up to her quarters, guided by Raymond, who tried his best to ignore the fact that this guest, here by permission of the King himself, was very naked and very pretty. He kept his hands off that luscious flesh but only after a massive exercise of self restraint. He only got to look at one other naked woman these days and that was Roberta, who did not attract him as powerfully as Paula did.
Paula was small and flawless in every way, but Roberta had been wounded several times. There was an ugly scar on her right thigh and one across her stomach, both souvenirs of deadly fighting as a Golden Guard. Her back was a ghastly mess after all the floggings she had been given during the past eighteen months. And there were the burn scars on her chest where the torturers had branded her so horribly painfully a year ago. She might be strong and have a wonderful physique, but she was hardly a beauty these days, although her face was still lovely as well as her golden hair which once more reached almost to her waist.
He was tremendously impressed by Roberta, though. Her strength was more than just physical. He knew of her incredible record in her first year as a Reserve Guard and that she had been marked for a high position, eventually succeeding the Commandant. Then she had started to go completely off the rails, being awarded several incredible floggings before seemingly abandoning her wild behaviour for a time and then betraying her King and her colleague Anna, who had been left to die, fighting against seven intruders that she, Roberta, had let into the Queen's apartments by some kind of arrangement with a maid called Rowena.
He still found Roberta's treachery hard to fathom out and was more than half inclined to wonder if a mistake had not been made. He kept these doubts to himself.
Paula sensed that Raymond might be sympathetic to Roberta. It might be useful to get to know him a little better. And his uniform was very tight fitting about the groin area. She saw that Raymond was very well endowed there. Here might be an opportunity both to broaden her experience and see if he might be willing to help get Roberta off the island. She guessed he would be unable to do much, but it was worth trying.
"Feel like a chat before going to your room, Raymond? I kept you waiting while I caught up with Roberta's sad story this last year. Maybe I can make up for that!"
The pair talked for hours until Raymond finally went to his own rather bare room, leaving Paula to snatch a few hours sleep.
One of the things Raymond had said was that Roberta was to be whipped the day after tomorrow. If her friend took her advice and retaliated next time a stone was tossed in the general direction of her head, this would mean extra lashes. Raymond said twenty extra.
"Ninety lovely lashes!" moaned Paula as she writhed on her bed, feverishly massaging her cunt. "I can hardly wait!"
Her mind seethed with all manner of thoughts. Was Paula being serious? She remembered eating a meal brought up from the kitchens by one of the servants on that horrible night. Had Paula not been visiting her uncle, she would have fetched the meal. Who had brought it to her? It was just far too long ago to remember. And the turmoil she had been plunged into only a few hours later had caused all the events of that day to be confused inextricably in her mind.
But she was Roberta! She was the cleverest of all the Golden Guard. Must concentrate. But she was too tired to think. If she got tired during the day, they would punish her. So Roberta put all thoughts out of her mind and slept.
"Do you wish to speak with Roberta again today?" asked Raymond in the morning.
He and Paula were sitting in the dining hall, being waited on by a couple of the more privileged prisoners.
"I think I'd like to see around the island first. We mustn't interfere with the work the convicts do!"
Later on she was escorted around the island. It was certainly a grim place! There seemed to be hardly a blade of grass or a green shoot anywhere in the entire area. It was just a bare rock rising up out of the sea. In the fierce summer heat the ground under her bare feet was scorching hot. Paula could not think of a more desolate place to work for even a few months, let alone live in servitude for the rest of one's life.
Raymond showed her the well from which the water supply was raised. He told her that the winch was operated at night in the very early hours, by a team of three prisoners, who then transported the water tanks to the cellars in time for the coming day. Apparently this nocturnal duty was one that prisoners greatly desired to be on, being extremely light in comparison to the work in the quarry, which was back-breaking and the very worst place to be sent. Roberta had been in the quarry since Day One and would never work anywhere else even if she lived to be a hundred.
It was quickly apparent to the observant Paula that nobody could possibly hope to get to the port and board a boat without being seen and stopped. The tiny jetty was only accessible through a narrow gap in the rocks and was covered by several dozen soldiers, all of whom looked to be extremely vigilant. Raymond told her they were instructed to shoot to kill if any prisoner tried to reach the port.
"Has anyone ever tried," asked Paula.
"Yes. People get pretty desperate after a year or two here! They'll try anything to get away! Even the staff members are glad to be finished with their tours of duty! I'm going home in five months and believe me, it can't be soon enough!"
"Do you have a girl on the mainland, Raymond?"
He looked for the hundredth time at that trim body. He did have a girl on the mainland, but she was nothing like Paula. She was over thirty and somewhat obese.
"Yes. I am married, Paula."
"I am single, Raymond. As an auxiliary to the Golden Guard, I only have the bodies of other women to comfort me. Sometimes I regret this. Like now, for instance."
Paula giggled and moved closer to her escort. She looked down at his tunic and smiles inwardly. He was obviously one very frustrated young man!
"Let's go and see Roberta working, shall we? I think she might be slacking today. Just a feeling. We can't have the most evil of the King's enemies getting it easy!"
Raymond once more assisted Paula over the rough ground, putting his arm around that exciting naked body at one stage. His had felt the touch of her breast, firm and warm against it. More excitement!
"Golly, Raymond! Something's growing down there," tittered Paula. Paula was getting slightly excited herself. But her excitement was caused by the prospect of seeing Roberta sweating as she did a job most men would find killing. She was determined to get her Mistress out of here, but watching her slaving away and getting whipped would be sexually very stimulating.
She stood, with Raymond keeping his arm around her and watched Roberta raising and lowering the heavy pick axe. Apparently she kept up this rhythm for four hours at a time. Paula knew Roberta would be aware of her watching and also aware that Raymond was busily groping her! She would have good reason to dislike Raymond after today!
Other convicts were shovelling the rubble away and still others putting into barrows to be wheeled away to the harbour, where much of it was merely thrown into the sea. The chief aim of all this hot, dusty work was to keep the women busy. Then one of the women threw a rock at Roberta, hitting her on her side and drawing blood. Paula froze. Would her friend retaliate?
She did. Roberta calmly picked up a large stone and threw it at her tormentor. It struck the woman on the head and she dropped to the ground, stunned.
"Did you see that, Raymond?" asked Paula. "I though you said Roberta was a gentle and repentant prisoner? She didn't look too gentle to me! I suppose you will tell the Prison Commander?"
"No, Paula. The other women have been asking for something like that. Serve the bitch right!"
"I wish to speak with her again, Raymond. I wish you to be with us. Keep silent but mark well what is said."
Roberta came to the end of her four hour shift and Raymond called her aside.
"Paula wishes to speak with you. I am to hear all that is said."
"When did your troubles start Roberta? When were you first whipped?"
"Not long before you first saw me, Paula. I put on my sword belt wrongly and later in the day I flinched on duty when stung by a wasp."
"A wasp," sneered Paula. "In February? Who ever heard of wasps being about so soon in the year? Did you not wonder at the time?"
"I know what a wasp sting feels like, Paula! Once when being trained I had to pick up a wasp's nest and carry it out of the camp and throw into a lake. I had many chances to learn what it was to be stung on that day. I was in agony for days afterwards!"
"That is as may be," said Paula. "Where on your body, were you stung - if stung you were?"
"On the back. Just between the shoulder blades."
"And you were standing on one side of the Great Door. You would have been facing your fellow Guard. Who was your fellow Guard on that day?"
"It was Bertha."
"I knew it," shouted Paula triumphantly. "She got you into trouble earlier. And she saw someone use maybe a blow pipe to fire a dart at your back. She wanted you whipped, Roberta. It was she and one other who got you into such trouble on that day. But they picked the wrong girl! Because you thrived on pain and won the King's favour. Even so, they thought to use your position to discredit you. And you helped them by being such a fool as to keep getting into trouble time and time again. But you are no traitor, Roberta. Are you listening to all this, Raymond?"
Raymond nodded. He had never really believed Roberta to be guilty. He knew the area she came from. It was probably the most loyal region in the Kingdom. He had always been amazed that anyone from such a fervently loyal part of the country should be a traitor.
"When they whipped you," continued Paula, "the mark on your back would have been whipped away, along with much of your skin. And you never had a chance to examine the mark because you were obliged to report for punishment as soon as you came off duty. I know what the poison was that they used to make you think you had been stung. A mere trace was all it took to hurt like being set on fire! Any more than a trace and you would have died."
"I don't know what to say!" Roberta gasped. "But Bertha was so upset about the trouble she had got me into. She was terribly upset. You should have seen her tears."
"Maybe she was - at the time. Perhaps she was not in all that deep at the time. Bertha is weak, Roberta. She would be an ideal person to work on and encourage to betray. My guess is that someone knew something to her discredit and was blackmailing her. And I know who it was. The person who fired the dart at you. I know the sorceress who sold her the poison and also the poison they used to drug your meal. And I know where you can find your sword and other equipment."
"She won't find them on this island, Paula," said Raymond. "And there's no way she gets to leave. I'm inclined to believe you both, but I have a job and it's to keep Roberta here. You must be the one to restore your friend's good name, Paula. Go back to the Palace and convince the King. Until then, Roberta stays where she is being very, very busy! Will you stay to see the whipping tomorrow, Paula? I imagine it may be less painful for you if you left before."
"I shall stay for another day. The King wishes me to make sure her life is as hard as it can be. Who will whip her in the morning?"
"The whipping will be in the evening, Paula. And Ethelberta will be the one to wields the whip. She did very well last time. It was very bloody. I'm sure you'd sooner not see."
"You know neither of us that well, Raymond. I love to watch a good whipping, even if it is of my dearest friend!"
Paula was up early next morning. She had been more than a little concerned at the looks Raymond had been giving her and decided to wear some clothes for a change. There was no compulsion in her nudity these days and she had recently been given a very beautiful gown to wear by her most fervent admirer. She wore a pair of shoes with turned up toes and a necklace made of some of the finest jewels the gold and emerald mines had ever yielded up from their dark and dangerous depths.
Roberta was also up early, but she always was - or else! This morning she was told that her whipping was scheduled for ten o'clock and that she must work on the treadmill for five hours until it was time for Ethelberta to whip her.
Ethelberta was up early. As a fanatic opponent of the King she couldn't wait to get stuck into Roberta again! Like the late Rowena - a distant cousin - she had lost a brother to the Golden Guard and was full of hate for Roberta. Ethelberta had been practising ever since the last time she had given the hated Golden Guard fifty lashes, finally getting through that thick hide after thirty lashes and making the blood run down her thereafter until a puddle formed beneath her suspended feet. This time she was due to give the bitch seventy!
All the other women, some seventy in number, were also up early. Like Ethelberta they were rabid enemies of the State in general and the King in particular. They couldn't wait to see Roberta punished again.
Raymond was also an early riser. He had not had a good night's sleep. In the morning the lovely Paula was due to leave, cutting short a stay that had originally been scheduled to last another twenty days. And he was to supervise Roberta's routine flogging. He hated the idea of punishing an innocent woman. Despite what he had said to Roberta and Paula the day before, he was convinced that Roberta was no traitor, but the victim of a terrible injustice. And Paula, despite her professed love for Roberta, was looking forward to seeing her whipped!
Raymond was a normal sort of person and found Paula's obvious depravity appalling, especially in one so young and lovely to look at. He had also noticed that Roberta had seemed far from anxious about her coming ordeal - far from it! Roberta's eyes had positively sparkled when Paula had announced that she wanted a ringside seat!
Roberta gave a slight start of surprise as Paul, looking quite a great lady, came and sat a few feet away from her. As they secured her to the frame, she saw Paula slip out of her gown and kick her shoes away. She heard her explain herself to Raymond.
"I don't want Roberta's blood over this nice new dress," she explained to Raymond, in a voice loud enough for the unfortunate soon to be flogged Roberta to hear clearly. Roberta allowed herself a smile as she waited for the seven foot long leather thong to fall on her for the first of seventy times.
Then Ethelberta was escorted into the courtyard. There was a great cheer for her from the assembled prisoners who couldn't wait to see Roberta suffer once again.
Ethelberta took the whip from the guard and swished it a few times. Paula wiped her brow. It was getting no cooler! She looked at Ethelberta. That strong young woman was sweating already and she hadn't started yet! By the time she had delivered seventy lashes onto Roberta's waiting back, she would be in almost as bad a state as her victim - worse, most likely!
"ONE" shouted the head guard.
WHOOSH! Went the whip through the air, hissing angrily on its busy way to that gloriously inviting expanse of bare skin!
CRACK! Went the whip as it landed, leaving a red line that cut into Roberta across her shoulders. The former Golden Guard did not move a muscle. As ever she showed no sign of the anger and pain she must be feeling at the continued injustices she was being subjected to.
Once again Roberta showed no sign that she had felt a thing. The second lash got her across the small of the back. Paula guessed that Ethelberta's aim was none too good.
Just as I thought, said Paula to herself. The woman was raising her arm and slashing away with no notion of directing her blows in any sort of methodical pattern. That third lash had almost missed its target, nicking Roberta's shoulder and coming down mainly on the frame to which she was tied. Paula yawned noisily!
Blood was beginning to seep from a few of Ethelberta's better directed cuts. But Paula still had no flecks of red on her skin. And the sun was very strong by now. Poor Ethelberta was visibly wilting, and she was only just over half way through!
Paula was getting a few spots of blood on her by now. Her vulva was throbbing away like mad and she was going seriously wet. She hoped that Roberta appreciated just how grateful she was to her for providing this superb entertainment! The brave girl was still immovable as the whip began to seriously cut her up. And to think she still had to do the better part of a full day's work when this was over. Sadly, Paula would be sailing back to the mainland soon and would not see the poor young woman toiling in the merciless heat, thirsty and tired with a sore back.
And then Ethelberta fainted. SHIT!
"Well, Raymond! Thanks for showing me around and generally looking after me. Maybe we'll meet again sometime over in civilisation."
"I hope so Paula. I'm glad you enjoyed this morning's entertainment!" There was sarcasm in Raymond's vice as he spoke these last words!
"It was pretty good. Especially after that silly girl fainted and they put a fresh woman on to her. She really did some damage! I bet Roberta will be sore for weeks after that. Then she'll be having to think about the next one! Poor girl. But she's strong. I bet she does as much work as ever today!"
Raymond waved goodbye to the departing Paula and watched until the boat was almost out of sight. Paula was wearing her gown again, after having washed the flecks of blood from her naked body when the whipping of Roberta was over. She looked so sweet and demure. But this delightful girl had just watched her best friend being whipped and obviously hugely enjoyed it. And Roberta had looked to be enjoying the experience herself.
Roberta was back at work as her friend was being escorted to the boat and she continued to sweat and toil until nightfall. This night, though, she did not fall asleep. She took the packet Paula had left in the hut and crept towards the well. After throwing the contents into the deep well she made for the cliff edge and jumped thirty feet into the sea.
At five-thirty in the morning they came to wake her up and found the hut empty. A search was organised and no trace was found of her anywhere on the island. But no one had reached the port. All three boats currently tied up on the jetty were searched and Roberta was not on any of them.
Then at about six o'clock prisoners and guards alike began to feel tired. By six-thirty everyone on the island was fast asleep. Not until late in the afternoon did people start to wake up. By this time Roberta was dragging herself ashore, more or less at the spot that Paula had calculated. She found the fisherman's hut and collapsed on the earthen floor.
When she woke up Paula was standing looking down at her.
"At last. You've been asleep for a whole day and two nights! We've things to do, Roberta!"
"What are you doing here, Paula? You didn't say anything about being here waiting for me! Won't you be missed at the Palace?"
"They will know by this time that I helped you, Roberta. We are both fugitives now! When will you be strong enough to make a move? We have no time to lose. We must be at the Palace by nightfall if possible!"
"I suppose we don't even have time to make love," asked Roberta who had her arm around Paula by now.
"There's always time for that, my angel!"
It was all right for Paula! Of course Roberta still loved the little girl. It was just that she was somewhat jealous of her right now. Here poor old Roberta was, in yet another fine old mess, and Paula was OK - as per usual! These days it always seemed to be alright for Paula! There was lucky old Paula sitting in a nice warm cave being befriended by the bandit leader while she languished in the bitter freezing cold. How did that girl do it? Why was it always she, Roberta, who seemed to draw the short straw? Not that Roberta wasn't capable of enduring hardship, pain and danger. She was more than capable of enduring her present discomfort and a lot more besides, and for as long as necessary. Roberta was as tough as ever - tougher, even. But it would just be so nice to have a rest from these things once in a while!
Roberta had been hanging upside down for ten days now, with her hands tied behind her and about thirty feet up in the air, lowered once a day to be fed and watered. She hoped and prayed that the rope which held her was strong and would not break! In all that long period of suspension she had not seen Paula more than half a dozen times. The little girl always smiled up at her when she did pass underneath. She would give Paula credit for that much. Her friend had not forgotten her - quite.
According to the withered old crone who sat in the innermost recesses of the cave, mouthing unintelligible imprecations and throwing disgusting looking stuff into a foully smelling cauldron, in two days time it would be the New Moon. The New Moon was apparently something pretty special to this venerable old woman and its advent might or might not see the end of Roberta's present predicament.
For some reason quite beyond Roberta's comprehension, the bandits showed great respect to the old hag, but Roberta wouldn't give her the time of day! Roberta was a dyed in the wool rationalist and disliked superstition. The only power our heroine believed in was the power of the sword and of her own wonderful body.
Speaking of that wonderful body, at least Roberta wasn't wearing those degrading and uncomfortable clothes any longer! Dressing had been a terrible experience for her after all her years of proud nudity. Once more she was bare arse naked just like a true Golden Guard should be! This almost made up for her present parlous situation up in the trees among the birds!
Perhaps the phrase "thirty feet up in the air" is misleading. Roberta was certainly thirty feet off the ground, swaying somewhat in the chill breeze. But the height above sea level was more like five thousand feet. Even the hardy Roberta felt the chill these days! Not that she couldn't take it, of course! Roberta could take anything!
Directly under her was what looked like a primitive fireplace but was actually an altar. On the day of the full moon a sacrifice was to be made. The said sacrifice was going to involve a great deal more pain for the much abused Roberta. Paula had explained in great detail what the crazy old sorceress had decreed.
What they were going to do to her was not that bad. Some people might be dreading it and pissing themselves with fear, but not Roberta! What was in store for her was just a routine bit of torture - the kind of thing she'd gone through plenty of times already! What got to her was the waiting and hanging around! Roberta was Action Woman personified and this enforced idleness was really beginning to piss her off!
The couple's plan to make for the Palace and a confrontation with those who had framed Roberta, and whose treachery still posed a threat to the King, had come adrift very quickly. Roberta's hard won liberty had lasted less than two days.
Roberta had been far more badly affected by her severe whipping followed by that seemingly interminable swim ashore than either girl realised. They had not gone more than a couple of miles before Roberta had fainted from loss of blood and total exhaustion.
Paula had dragged her off the main highway and managed to fashion a sort of shelter for the two of them before she herself had fallen asleep. When the two awoke they had been prisoners. Twenty fearsome looking ruffians were surrounding them and Roberta was quickly overcome, although not before giving a few of them some bruises they would sport for days to come.
Soon enough, though, even the warrior woman Roberta had been knocked unconscious and trussed to a pole to which she was tied hand and foot. Paula had been allowed to walk with them. They had no fear that such a tiny girl would get far if she ran for it.
After three days marching through the increasingly deserted countryside the party of brigands had paused to rest. It had been then, when they had released the trussed Roberta that they had discovered that she was not the lusty youth they had taken her for, but a woman.
"How does a woman get to be so strong?" the leader had asked. "It took six of us to knock you out!"
"I am one of the King's Golden Guard," replied Roberta. "I am unjustly accused of betraying the King whom I vowed to serve. I was on my way to clear my name when your people surprised us."
"You must be the famous Roberta," said the leader. He sounded greatly impressed and asked if he might have the privilege of looking at her bare back. He knew what he saw there would tell him that she was indeed the famous fugitive.
"Please take these clothes off me, altogether. I am so terribly ashamed to be dressed. I deserve a long and hard whipping for abandoning my nudity - no matter for what reason. I will get one in any case whether I clear my name or not!"
So Roberta was completely stripped, making her very happy, and the robber chief examined her back, running his finger along some of the more prominent scars.
"You are indeed the much whipped Roberta for whom the King's men were looking. There is not a back in all the Golden Guard to be compared to yours! I am proud to have seen it and touched it! But you are a wanted woman these days and although we are bandits here and with a price on our heads, but we are not scurvy rebels. We should hand you over to the Law. But first we must consult Philippa."
Roberta gave a solemn promise not to try to escape and was allowed to walk with the bandits. They accepted her offer to assist with the equipment, carrying on her strong back an enormous pack which seemed not to cause her the slightest distress. Mile after mile she strode, barefoot and naked, until the men had to ask her to slow down!
Paula revealed that she was an auxiliary Golden Guard and was permitted to remove her clothes. She felt more than slightly nervous as she felt twenty pairs of eyes boring into her miniaturised perfection. The buttocks that had so charmed the King were working their sensual magic on the twenty hardened rogues! But the chief told his men to keep their hands off her.
One of the brigands, though, a tall and powerfully built scoundrel, seemed disinclined to obey his leader. On the night before they were due to move on to their remote mountain lair, the dastardly ruffian burst in upon the petrified Paula and would have had his evil way with her, were it not that Roberta heard a scream and dashed into Paula's tent. The massively strong Roberta stood between his aroused manhood and the sweet innocent object of his base and lewdly primitive desires.
"Keep your distance, you bastard! And my friend will not surrender her virginity for such a one as you! Call that pitiful thing a dick?! Put it away you pathetic arsehole before I die laughing! Ye gods! My clit's almost as big as that!"
Before the situation could develop further the leader, a man called Rodolfo, came into the tent and ordered the would-be rapist Bernard back to his quarters. But the situation remained ugly. Roberta, her eyes blazing with a horrible fury, swore that no roughly lascivious hands should touch her Paula unless it was over her dead body!
"That's not a bad suggestion, Golden Guard Roberta," laughed the jovial Rodolfo. "If we hand you over to his Majesty in return for a free pardon, you'll soon enough be dead meat in any case. No more banishment to Hell Island for an escapee! It's the chop for you next time! After a long session in the Torture Chamber with my good cousin the Chief Torturer! You'll be begging to die long before the end! So we'll be extremely kind to you and give you a quick exit! That's the sort of decent chap I am! All heart!
"This is how it's going to be, my brave girl! In the morning you fight Bernard to the death and if you lose then Paula is his! Take her back to her tent, men!"
"I am happy to die fighting for Paula's honour. The dawn cannot come soon enough! That swine will never see another!"
"Gung-ho bitch, your friend," said an admiring Rodolfo to Paula as Roberta was led away to await her coming ordeal by battle.
"She's a Golden Guard, Rodolfo! All her life she's been trained to fight and fight hard. Point her in the direction of the enemy and the said enemy's history! Call off the fight! Call it off unless you can spare Bernard and won't really miss having him around! Roberta will eat him for breakfast! Roberta doesn't take prisoners, Rodolfo!"
"She fights with no weapons save her bare hands, Paula! No flashy swordsmanship tomorrow. No well aimed arrow. Just her bare hands! Something tells me she won't like that too much!"
"She'll still win! No one alive - neither man nor woman - can defeat Roberta!"
"We shall see soon enough, Paula. Try and get some sleep. You won't be disturbed again!"
Paula tried to get back to sleep, but excitement at the coming fight kept making her wake up. She couldn't wait to see her darling Roberta in action!
The two antagonists were led out to fight each other at dawn. All the bandits gathered in a circle to watch. A rudimentary ring was already in place, having been prepared overnight while the two fighters were resting and preparing themselves. Roberta was naked as usual and greatly impressive with it! There was a gasp of awed admiration as she stepped into the arena. But Bernard wore clothes, including heavy boots. Rodolfo, in order to be fair to both contestants, ordered Bernard to take off his footwear. He stripped off his shirt at the same time and displayed his massive hairy chest.
Bernard looked angrier than Paula could remember any person ever looking before. If any man was totally pissed off and ready to kick arse, it was Bernard on this crisp cold morning! Roberta had better be in good form today! She looked at her face, but as usual saw nothing other than the customary impassive and beautiful mask. The eyes were hard, though. Every bit as cold and hard as the eyes that had appraised her more than a year ago when the two had first seen each other by the roadside.
Paula wondered for a few heart stopping moments whether her confidence in Roberta might not have been somewhat disastrously misplaced, as the fight got under way! To start with, Bernard, clearly angered at Roberta's disdainful appraisal of his prized and nobly proportioned penis, opened the proceedings by sending Roberta flying with a prodigious blow of his mighty fist to her mouth. Blood seemed to be everywhere and Roberta looked stunned for a second. But only a second!
Paula need not have worried. It took Roberta a while, and she was to receive a stupendous amount of punishment over the next twenty minutes, but she came right back from that opening setback by blasting Bernard with a mighty kick to his chest. Roberta's arms pushed her body off the ground and her leg came up like a giant spring right into her opponent's body. He never saw it coming until too late. It was a magnificently delivered blow that audibly broke a couple of ribs. Bernard grunted in pain and Roberta, upright in a flash, stared at him for a split second with those cold blue eyes. There was death in that stare!
In retrospect, Paula could see that it was downhill all the way for Bernard after that. He fought like a tiger, using every dirty trick in the book, kicking and kneeing Roberta's crotch, stomach and breasts many times in a vain effort to slow her down. Roberta was, as ever, completely impervious to pain and gradually overcame Bernard, absorbing all his blows and contemptuously shrugging them off as if they had been delivered by a baby rather than a grown and powerfully built man.
There was something terrifying about Roberta that morning as she tamed her hapless opponent. She gave a demonstration to them all of what a magnificent and highly trained animal she was as Bernard was worn down and softened up for the kill.
Finally Bernard had no more to offer and stood bleeding and defeated, ashamed to have been defeated by a woman and with no more will to fight. Roberta launched herself at her antagonist, put her hands around his throat and squeezed the life out of him.
There was a round of applause for the brave Golden Guard, who wiped the blood off her mouth and put her pack on her back, preparatory to moving out for the last stage of the journey to the mountain hide out.
"I see what you meant last night, Paula!" said the Leader as they walked the final few miles. "Roberta is invincible! There can be no one who can prevail against her. What a magnificent, brave and beautiful woman! I desire her, Paula. I worship that girl! But if Philippa deems her to be a traitor we shall have no choice but to hand her over to His Majesty for torture and execution. It will break my heart but I will do it!"
"Roberta will never belong to any man, Rodolfo! All the Golden Guards are the same. They can be aroused to passion only by the sweet and firm young bodies of other women. I too am that way. Roberta and I are lovers - or were before she was arrested a year ago."
"You are a lucky girl, Paula! With Roberta to protect you, you need fear no one. But we will take her from you and hand her to His Majesty's tender mercies if we judge her to be guilty. All will be revealed in time. Truth will prevail and justice will be served. Philippa will see to that!"
Roberta and Paula were taken to see Philippa as soon as the brigand band arrived. Roberta was not impressed! This old lady stank like a pile of rotting fish! What a stench. She almost threw up! Paula, too, looked a bit pale about the gills.
"We must wait until the new moon before we know your innocence or guilt," wheezed the old hag. "Take her away and hang her by her feet from the Altar Tree high enough to keep the birds company. Feed her daily but do not release her bonds until the day of trial."
It was a relief to be out in the fresh air again after being so close to that horrible unwashed hag! The disgusting old woman stank out the entire cave. What were Rodolfo and Company doing by allowing her to be in such a dirty state?
After ten days, though, Roberta's relief was a thing of the past. She had been skilfully enough tied so as not to impede her circulation, which was pretty smart of these rough brigands considering that the circulation of the blood had not yet been discovered!
But she was bored and she was cold. And she was worried about Paula. The thought of any of that bunch of ruffians laying a hand on her virginal purity enraged her. Roberta wanted that virginal purity for herself and she was a very possessive woman! She struggled again to free herself, but it was hopeless.
Paula had come out one morning, as Roberta was being lowered for feeding, and explained to her tethered friend the nature of the test to which Philippa was to subject her. There was excitement in her voice as she told the hanging Roberta about her impending fate!
"On the day of the New Moon, Roberta, you are to be lowered to a couple of feet from the ground and whipped. I have seen the whip they will use and it is a good one, well worthy of you! Your blood will be collected in a ceremonial bowl and used by Philippa to see if you are innocent or not. It won't be a very big bowl, Roberta, and as soon as it is full to the brim they will stop whipping you and raise you up again. Philippa will sleep on her thoughts overnight and pronounce sentence in the morning. It shouldn't hurt too much, darling - not like that last terrible flogging on the Hell Island"
Roberta had been less than impressed by all this mumbo jumbo. Whatever happened to psychological interrogation? Where was the science in all this?
"Do you seriously believe this old bag is genuine, Paula? Come on Paula - please! Any fool can see she's just a crazy old woman who badly needs a bath! What does she intend doing with my blood after I've shed it so painfully? Drink it?"
"She will recite ancient and powerful spells over it. She will cast it on the Sacred Flame and read the messages in the smoke. And you are wrong to mock her, Roberta! Very wrong! I hope they really hurt you when they whip you. It will serve you right. It is a very wicked thing to mock the wisdom of people such as Philippa! I am horrified at you, Roberta! Horrified and sick! After your wicked words I'll enjoy watching every second of your whipping and I pray it will teach you to mend your ways!"
Paula had not spoken to her since that conversation and, although she smiled at her when passing underneath, Roberta knew that her friend would watch her next whipping with more than the usual satisfaction that these occasions gave her. Paula was a devout believer and she had clearly been shocked by Roberta's mocking words.
During the time they had spent together after her escape and before her collapse and capture, Paula had told of several meetings she had had with sundry sorceresses in the year they had been apart. If only a fraction of what the little girl had told her was true, then Roberta had indeed been very foolish to talk so disrespectfully about the old lady! And Philippa, by the exercise of her psychic powers, would surely know every unkind word that Roberta had uttered concerning her. And whatever other qualities the old hag might possess, she certainly looked to be capable of great vindictiveness!
Roberta prayed that the bitch was indeed a fake! But she prayed in vain! Philippa was the best! Sorceresses didn't come any more genuine! And Philippa had it in for Roberta! Did she ever have it in for her!
"Are you sure there is no more kind and painless way of collecting the blood you need from Roberta?" Paula was asking Philippa the night before the New Moon.
"She mocked me, Paula. That great muscle-bound, bone-headed female thug mocked me and she must pay! I shall see she is punished for that! But have no fear! If she is as innocent of treachery as she claims, I shall see that she is set free and enabled to pursue her enemies, who are also His Majesty's foes!"
"Roberta is not stupid, Philippa! She may have had her eyes closed to the truths that you and I both know, but she is not stupid. But you are right about her disbelief being a great sin. Her hide must indeed be cut into ribbons with the whip - again and again and again!"
"She has been a foolish and wayward young woman, Paula. Talk of her stupidity has even reached these remote hills. If she had not been so wild and not incurred so many whippings she would not have been such an obvious suspect after the attempt on the King's life. She has only herself to blame for much of her misfortunes!"
"You talk as if you already knew her to be guiltless! And yet you insist on shedding her blood!"
"I feel her to be a true and loyal servant of the King. You are closer to her and you know. But I must put her to the test, Paula. Her blood must be painfully shed and due process observed. And I won't be mocked - not even by the bravest and best of the Golden Guard! She will bitterly regret the things she said."
"She was wrong to say what she did, Philippa. But she will not regret her words. No matter what pain she suffers she is a wilful woman. It is her weakness and at the same time her strength. But I shall rejoice to see her punished."
"Whether you rejoice or not is immaterial, Paula. For Roberta will be horribly punished in the morning!"
"Good! Serve her right! Will you tell me my fortune, please Philippa? Before tomorrow?"
"I know your fortune and your future, Paula. It is one of happiness and great wealth. I also know Roberta's fortune. Hers is one of great danger and much terrible pain, but she will be doing what she loves to do and doing it well. Hers will also be a happy life, in her own way!"
"I will sleep now, Philippa."
Paula walked to her own quarters. Terrified to offend the old seer, she fought down her own innermost feeling of revulsion at the increasingly unwashed, verminous and noisome condition of the old woman. Roberta had more than just a point!
"The New Moon is here, Roberta," spoke Rodolfo as he superintended her lowering on the great day. "You are to be put to the test today. Depending on the outcome this morning, the evening of the next day will either see you on your way in chains to the Palace or being tended for your terrible wounds."
"I suppose it's useless asking you to take my word of honour - my sacred oath as a Golden Guard?"
"Quite useless, Roberta! Bernard had some friends among us and they have been looking forward to your whipping, I really can't disappoint them. A leader has responsibilities to entertain his men. You may be a leader yourself one day and will find these things out!"
"I didn't hear anyone cheering for him when we fought. And you all applauded my victory!"
"Save your breath and your strength, Roberta. You will need both - your breath to scream and your strength to stay alive under the relentless terror of the lash!"
"Bollocks! I can take a good, long and hard whipping - harder than any you weaklings can give me! You've seen my back! Do your worst! You won't make me scream and you won't kill me. And Philippa needs a bath, the dirty old cow!"
"You are brave, Roberta! Brave and foolish. Before the day is done you will be a wiser woman after your suffering. Clean her down, men! Make her sweet smelling and soft of skin for her torment!"
Once more Roberta's head was shaved completely smooth. It was explained that the blood might run into her hair if she were not once again denuded of her golden locks. She was thoroughly washed and a sweet smelling cream was rubbed thoroughly into her back. She felt the toughened skin melt and soften under its magical influence. With sick dread she knew that when her back was kissed by the fiery hot touch of the lash, her skin would be as soft and sensitive as that of a new born babe! But she had survived her first whipping with a soft skin and she would survive this!
Roberta hung suspended with her head several feet off the ground for several hours and then a group of brigands came out of the cave. They carried a wooden frame which they positioned above the Altar. Roberta's feet were untied, but only briefly. She was soon tied up again, this time with her powerful legs spread wide apart above her and her feet secured to opposite ends of a horizontal bar. Her thick, brawny arms were temporarily left hanging so that they almost touched the ground. They tied her hands to a bar at the base of the frame and her body was taut as a bowstring and she was spread-eagled in a vertical position. She told herself that it would all be over soon and prayed that her name might be cleared, no matter how agonising the means of doing it might be.
Then the witch came out carrying a bowl which she placed directly underneath her newly shaved head. The blood would drip into this receptacle which a very apprehensive Roberta observed to be quite large! She was about to shed much blood if that were to be full to the brim! The next move on the part of the old crone made Roberta's flesh creep!
Philippa stuck her bony finger into Roberta's juicy cunt. Then she sucked at the succulent fluid and smacked her lips greedily. She repeated this process twice and finally rubbed her finger around the rim of the sacrificial bowl.
"We would be happy with menstrual blood, Roberta! And we would need only a drop or two of that potent fluid to see into your heart and soul! It grieves me that you've already had this month's period!"
"Yeah! I bet you're all eaten up inside, you old bag! Why don't we get on with it? These creeps are getting horny waiting around to see me whipped. I can see how they get their kicks! Let's give them something great to jerk off about shall we, the sad bastards! FUCKING WANKERS!!"
"You do yourself no favours Roberta. But I suppose you must be pretty bloody stupid to be a member of the Golden Guard! Only sick masochist bitches who are tired of living would be in that outfit in the first place!"
"How dare you insult a fine body of women! We protect the King. We will die for him. Long Live the King!"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah! We've heard it all before Roberta! Why don't you grow up?"
"Fuck off you smelly old bag!"
"Sticks and stones, Roberta! Sticks and stones! And now for your sticks and stones. Leather sticks and leather stones. The finest hide our country can produce! And all to shred the newly softened skin of naughty Roberta who should learn to watch her dirty mouth!"
"Yeah! And you should wash your dirty body!"
"Very funny, Roberta. Quite a wit on the quiet, aren't we!"
Having failed to get the better of the exchange, the witch moved away from the victim. Roberta's nostrils ceased to wrinkle in disgust as a breath of clean air entered her lungs for the first time in minutes!
Rodolfo took the witch aside.
"I hate to raise this with you, Philippa! But Roberta has a point. You have been letting yourself go a bit these last two years or so. We can arrange privacy for you, if you like to have a bath. No one will see you. I promise you! And whatever you do, Roberta will be well whipped for her insolence! Very well whipped. We'll teach that young madam a very painful lesson in good manners today!"
Philippa grunted sourly. To be honest with herself she did realise that her personal hygiene was not of a particularly high standard these days. She recalled her days as a young apprentice witch, many years ago and how she had retched at the stink of her first Mistress Witch. Maybe she might take a shower later on.
Paula was brought out of the cave to watch. She looked astounded when she saw Roberta's smooth back.
"It's a miracle! She doesn't look like my Roberta at all! Could you let me have some of that ointment? It would be marvellous for my wrinkles! Not that I've many - just a few around the eyes where I smile because I'm such a happy girl! Don't give her any though. The sooner her back is back to its former scarred condition the better for her pride!"
"She won't have long to wait now," joked Rodolfo.
"Can I touch her back, please Rodolfo? Just once before it gets shredded?"
"Be my guest, Paula. I'm sure Roberta will thrill to your gentle touch!"
Roberta certainly did feel Paula's tiny warm hand caress her back. It was years since she could remember having that much feeling in that area of her body. Even before her first whipping she had been hardened by years of nakedness in all weathers. She was certainly going to feel the coming lashes! She looked down at the bowl. It looked depressingly large!
"Be brave, Roberta! Make me feel proud of you as they whip your hide to ribbons! And learn from this and try not to be rude to prophetesses in future! Let today's punishment be a lesson to you, my darling! I meant what I said the other day and I still hope this hurts worse than anything you've ever felt before!"
"Thanks Paula. Just what a girl needs! A loyal friend. I won't cry, Paula. But it's not to make you proud of me! It's to stop me being ashamed. And she DOES need a bath! I don't care how great a sorceress she is. Soap and water are plentiful enough. Admit it! She stinks!"
Paula withdrew and Rodolfo gave the whip to Antonio who, now that Bernard was dead, was the strongest of the band.
The others might not have noticed but Paula saw Roberta move under the first lash! That had really hurt her! The leather was cutting into her like a hot knife through butter. Blood had started to trickle out of the long vertical stripe even as the second landed. A trickle was already making its way down her back as the sixth lash struck at her. By the twelfth cruel blow, blood was dripping into the bowl. By the thirtieth lash the bowl was half full and the flow was increasing by the second.
The bowl was full after seventy lashes and Rodolfo ordered the whipping to stop. Roberta was put back on the original rope and hoisted back up into the air. She was told that she would learn her fate in the morning. Philippa took the full bowl into the cave, muttering mysteriously in her chanting voice as she did so.
Roberta might have managed to avoid crying out, but Paula had seen her move many, many times as the sacrificial flogging had proceeded. Philippa had been right when she had promised Roberta would have a day to remember! The Golden Guard had been writhing long before she was done with.
Paula, needless to say, had disgraced herself again! Her squirming and groaning had shocked even the hardened brigands who had all come to think of her as such a sweet and refined person! Many of the bandits had, as Roberta had mockingly predicted, been stuffing cloth into their breeches in a vain effort to keep the stains from their pumping semen showing through the material.
As the assembly moved back into the cave, leaving Roberta to suffer further torments as she hung and bled, a cry rang out from her defiant lips. "WANKERS! YOU TOO PAULA! YOU JUST CAN'T KEEP YOUR HANDS AWAY FROM YOUR CUNT, CAN YOU, YOU FUCKING SLUT!"
Blood continued to drip onto the ground for some minutes, gradually getting less and less until it finally stopped. Paula came out of the cave several times, and each time she looked up and saw that Roberta was conscious and with a look of satisfaction on her face. She had come through once more! But she might think twice before scoffing again at those with psychic powers!
Next day the brigands gathered at the altar and Roberta was lowered. Not a word was said as they awaited the arrival of the sage Philippa and her verdict. Finally the aged crone tottered out of the cave.
"Roberta is an innocent and wronged woman. She has always been a loyal servant of the King. We should send her back to the Palace to restore her good name!"
Roberta was untied and resumed a right way up posture for the first time in two weeks. She staggered a little at first as she readjusted to her regained freedom. Paula came and stood by her, ready to support her if necessary. But Roberta was a tough woman and indicated curtly that she needed no help. And she was still a bit sore with Paula!
"I see - and smell - that you took my advice about the bath, Philippa. It took a whipping for me to convince you, but it was worth it! Come on Paula! We have a long way to go and much to do!"
But everyone could see that Roberta was going nowhere just yet. Her back was too badly torn after the previous day's sacrifice and she had lost too much blood. Paula had little difficulty persuading her friend to delay her departure for at least a week.
"And your hair will be growing back a bit then. I'm not saying you don't still look great, but I prefer you hairy to bald."
Rodolfo offered to send some of his men to escort the couple part of the way and to tell the King of Philippa's findings. Roberta declined the proffered escort, angrily saying that she needed no protection and could look after herself once she was fit and well again. After what she had done to Bernard and in view of the mighty effort it had taken them to subdue her and beat her senseless in the first place, despite her weakened condition at the time, Rodolfo took her point.
"You must be armed for your trip - both of you. Yes, Paula! You are a Golden Guard now! Take your pick of our armoury, the pair of you!"
So Roberta buckled on a sword belt and chose the best sword the brigands had to offer. As she slung the bow and quiver over her shoulder she felt her old self once again. Soon she would expose the true traitor and be restored!
Paula also armed herself. She contented herself with a bow and arrows and a small knife instead of a sword. She guessed she would be little use in hand to hand combat.
As soon as Roberta was well enough, and with her hair already a couple of inches long, they set out.