Yvain endured the next eleven strokes, thanking Karl, who stood behind her, applying the strokes with a thick leather strap, for each one. Then she said, to the beldam, though her eyes were blurred with her tears when she looked up at her: “I’m sorry I spoke out of turn, beldam. I beg you to forgive me.”
The beldam smiled and took a step towards her. Yvain did not dare to change her position. The beldam brushed a finger across Yvain’s face, collected salty liquid from the flow of her tears. She put that finger in her mouth, tasting Yvain’s sorrow. “Your tears are sweet, little peasant slut. The Seigneur will enjoy them, I’m sure. How is she behind, Karl?”
“Very red, Beldam. And I’m sure very hot to the touch. But that’s for the Seigneur to judge. But that cunt of hers is weeping. Flowing. There must be a hot little stewpot in there. I’d like to flavour it with some white sauce.”
The beldam touched her own ear, considering, and looked past Yvain. “You may take one of the peasant women to your room tonight, Karl. I might recommend Gisela, the wife of the Mayor. She has been looking a trifle neglected, and grumpy with it, of late. And he could use the reminder of his place.”
“Gisela is a tasty girl, thank you, beldam. I shall return her far better behaved that she has been lately, well thrashed and fucked, but undamaged.”
“Excellent. Now, girl, what was your name again?”
“Good. It’s a little more noble than your station in life, but we’ll let you keep it for now. If I had my way all you peasant sluts would be re-named ‘Jane’. It’s a plain, unpretentious name, and a reminder that you’re all of you the same. Interchangeable. But the Seigneur prefers a little variety. Stand, slut.”
Yvain stood, and looked for the robe Karl had taken off her. The beldam’s hand cracked across her face. “You have no further need for covering, girl. The Seigneur is waiting. He heard your flogging. And I’m sure he noted the little squeal you made on the sixteenth stroke.”
“I couldn’t help it! I tried so hard!”
“And yet you were told to remain silent. Karl, the strap please – ”
The beldam took the strap and held it to Yvain’s mouth. Yvain opened obediently, and held the leather lightly between her teeth.
“Good,” said the beldam. “Now, what have I told you to tell the Seigneur when he allows you to speak?”
“Correct, slut. Not that your condition isn’t obvious, perverted little girl. Your thighs are dripping and you smell like a whorehouse.”
This, Yvain knew, was true. She couldn’t deny her feelings. There was fear, and shame, and … anticipation?
The beldam said, “But we’ve imposed on his patience for long enough. Follow me, slut.”
There was an arched doorway with a heavy wooden door ahead of them. The beldam knocked, and for the first time Yvain heard her Seigneur’s voice. “Enter,” he said.
The moment had come. Her heart beat hard and fast.