To The Victor

                                                  TO THE VICTOR – THE SPOILS.

                                                      Roy Garde.

When the battle was over, at long last, I got worried when Arndt, my deputy and the best of my field commanders, didn’t show up and couldn’t be found anywhere.

We had fought our way up a slope and because of that there were dead and dying bodies – the vast majority of them weren’t ours – from its bottom, where a creek meandered through clumpy mud ridges, to its top where, nearby, a broad path led to the city. Because of all the hard fighting I was so exhausted that I couldn’t muster enough energy to pick my way through the grisly heaps of bloody bodies and parts to look for him.

I ordered some older men and messengers and the like, who were too weak or too unsuitable to have done any fighting, to go down and see if they could find him and, while doing so, retrieve the armor and weapons of our own dead. That last bit had to be done to keep them out of the hands of potential enemies because what could be worse than seeing our much superior equipment being used against us in a future war even though that eventuality is unlikely because this place will certainly get to be known as ‘The Killing Hill’ and will be shunned for a long, long time out of shame and fear and then, later on – because they feel that they should do something – they’ll build a stone memorial whose message won’t mention the inconvenient fact that the large number of dead, by dying, had failed to protect their kith and kin.

There would, however, be many visits for many months by cadaver eating animals and most of them, for the next few weeks, would get to sport potbellies for probably the first and only time in their lives.

The men who I’d sent out reported back to me an hour or so later and said that they’d seen no sign of Arndt and so I tried to counter my sorrow by telling myself that soldiers die in wars, even those on the winning side, and tried to find comfort in the fact that at least the war was over at last.

By then we, the victors, had rested enough to be able to move around again and we all walked down and upstream a little way to wash away the blood and gore that had spattered us repeatedly during the fighting. We’d all been amazed, yet again, that they seemed to be incapable of learning from history because they’d come at us, as had most of their countrymen in earlier battles, with leathern shields and headpieces and with long swords and spears which meant that they were no match for us with our bronze shields and helmets and breastplates and our short, sharp, stabbing swords that the ancients had called gladius.

The water in the little river ran red with blood again only this time it was with what we were washing off ourselves and off our equipment.

When that was done – and because they knew that they were no longer beholden to me or to the army seeing that the battle had been decisively won and, from that, it followed that the war had to be over – to a man all that they wanted to do was to find a means of getting to the city.

Their motivation was simple enough. The spoils of war were beckoning in that the city elders had to know already that all was lost and that they’d have to surrender and so they’d have had its gates flung open in an attempt at appeasement and to, perhaps, avoid wholesale slaughter – which would have been their certain fate if we’d been forced to break our way in – and consequently everything – everything – was ours for the taking. Sure, it was certain, as was usual under the same circumstances, that most of the inhabitants, and all of the girls over seven and the women under sixty, would have fled south already, trying to reach the border, but when all of the gold and silver and artifacts that they’d left behind in the buildings, because it had been too heavy to carry away, had been ‘liberated’ and had found new homes in knapsacks, or in boxes made up to suit, horsemen would be sent after the fleeing populace and they’d be easily caught up with because they’d only gotten a few hours start seeing that they’d had no way of knowing which side was going to win until towards the end of the battle. They’d be herded back to the city and when they got there they’d be picked clean of whatever they’d tried to escape with – no matter where they’d hidden it in their baggage or in their clothes or in their own body orifices or those of their children’s or by swallowing it (some of the more zealous victors would see to it that their excrement was collected and carefully checked over the next few days) – and then rape would be added to the mix. It would be savage and totally indiscriminate at first and then, after a day or two, a ‘bow-to-the-inevitable’ semi-polite pairing off to suit tastes

 After any other battle and at any other time I’d have been forced to follow protocol and go in and carry out scorched-earth policies on the hierarchical families but seeing that our victory meant that this war was definitely over I decided that that would be overkill and that general mayhem by all the troops – good luck with trying to stop that from happening – would be enough to discourage future insurrections by rebellion minded protectorates, and by nations with ideas about expanding their borders, from using force after detecting slackness and sensing possible weaknesses in our forces and hoping to take advantage of our unpreparedness. Also, the hierarchy in that particular city was very low key and their humiliating treatment – while certain – didn’t warrant my participation.

What we usually had to do – were ordered to do – was to follow custom, immediately after conquering a city, by rounding up the, by then female only, whole family of the widowed First Lady. We always called her that because we wanted to remain aware at all times of her status, for the cachet aspect, and it would have been ludicrous to try to remember to use her proper title, whether it was just, ‘Your Ladyship,’ or, ‘Countess,’ or, ‘Duchess,’ or whatever, knowing what we were going to do to her in short order.

When we’d gathered them all up in a large room we’d find out who was who – every one of them knew that she was going to get raped repeatedly for days on end no matter what else happened and so the highest ranking ones were prone to putting their maids’ clothes on to try to avoid being given special attention – which we did by finding a maid or a cook, or whatever, who was resentful from having been treated badly or meanly, or some such – there were always plenty holding a grudge – and setting up a simple code with her beforehand. Then, as Arndt positioned himself behind each woman in turn, the collaborator would pull at an ear or pat her hair or scratch her nose, or whatever, and that way we’d get to know who were the ones who were to be singled out. As a reward, the collaborator would get some kind of a break for her services but that was never certain if the coming melee got to be so frantic, as was usual, that mere gender determined each one’s role. The attractive ones knew that their only hope was to become one man’s protected property before it got to be way too late to care what happened.

The grieving women and girls would have all heard earlier that their husbands and sons and nephews had been killed in the battle and would have seen their grandfathers and their young sons taken away not long before and all of their jewelry and valuables would have been liberated by then so nearly always all of them would be red-eyed from hours of heavy crying and would be reduced to forlorn sobbing due to being well aware of the precarious position that they were in.

The established routine was that the First Lady and one of her daughters – there was never any nonsense about her protesting that the one picked was too young because the only law that was followed in those circumstances was the one that says that if a girl is big enough then she’s old enough – would be assigned to me and I was also allowed to pick any comely, strong servant woman or girl who took my fancy for my ‘long term’ servant and concubine.

When I’d escorted my three women to the master bedroom Arndt would take the next highest ranking woman and one of her daughters, along with the servant that he’d picked to be his own, permanent concubine, and he would go off with them to find a bedroom of his own.

The other three commanders, by seniority, would then do the same thing and then all of the women not selected would be shepherded out to another room to be shared out amongst the lieutenants and the aids and the non-combatant officials.

When I’d closed the door behind us I would ‘invite’ the three women to take their clothes off and it was rare indeed that the matriarch, if she was wearing her own clothes, didn’t need a whole lot of help to undo all of the clips and ties and fastenings, and whatever, to get to follow my order because she’d have doubled up on each item in an attempt to hang onto as much of it as she could. While that was going on I’d watch and say nothing no matter how long it took because it was intriguing to be able to see, from the changing expressions on her face, that she was undergoing a turmoil of disbelief about the huge, abrupt change in her fortune and was trying to cope with the demeaning aspect and with the brutishness along with the inevitability of the situation. She’d show the state that she was in physically by trying to use her hands to hide first her breasts and then her crotch as they got to be brought into view in succession and then she’d let her hands fall away when she’d forced herself to accept the fact that there was absolutely no way out for her and that, now that she was completely naked, she had to lie down and open up to be violated by a hairy barbarian and then, even worse, would have to witness her daughter receiving the same treatment.

There was poignancy present while that was going on due to the fact that she had almost certainly only ever let one man in her whole life see her naked before and – depending on the size of her dowry and thus her early position in society – not then without a wedding ring safely on her finger.

It couldn’t be allowed to matter to me how fat or gaunt or dauntingly old she was, or even if she was attractive, because under the extraordinary circumstances – helped by my having been forced to remain celibate for perhaps months, certainly for weeks, and under strict orders to follow the established customs – like all men I feel a strong urge to meld with any and all women for the first time, especially a titled one who wouldn’t have deigned to even shake hands with me only one day earlier.

The reason that the custom had to be followed was because she was The Woman who represented the enemy’s leading family and, notwithstanding her previous hauteur, she, like the lowliest peasant, was A Woman too whose essential and fundamental part was viable and utilizable and so I, as the victorious General, was duty-bound to ream it out and humiliate her to her core, that same core, and then do the same thing to her daughter and by doing so know that the word would get out to the wives and daughters of potential enemies who would shudder when they got to hear of it and they’d be very aware of their own fragility overall and of their, up-to-then, securely inviolable tender parts as they beseeched ‘Papa’ to spare them from ever being subjected to such an unimaginably harsh fate.

 The daughter would cling to her mother for as long as she could from the time that the door of the room got closed and then, when pulled away to allow for disrobing, would collapse in tears as it became clear to her that rape was no longer merely a threat but was about to take place.

Another piquant part of the ritual came when her mother and my concubine, when they were both naked, would have to combine forces to take the girl’s clothes off upon which time she’d come close to melting with shame and fear. When that was done the mother would then be free to come to the bed and lie down for me and the concubine, perhaps her ex-personal maid, would come over too to try to comfort her while it was going on. I was always amused to see that the daughter’s curiosity would invariably win over her fear and she would take a peep and then, wide-eyed from wonder, would take in everything and would realize that she was being introduced to the, unbelievably bestial, ultimate adult act directly – the one that had only been whispered about using ridiculous euphemisms up to then – and that her long-withheld questions about what went on were being answered in full right there and then and that the one about how it felt for the woman was going to be answered for her at first hand PDQ and without gentleness and certainly without hearing any endearments or getting any encouraging words as it was getting done.

However, the concubine had probably been a member of a large family and forced to live rough and work in the fields, or wherever, before she’d been sent to the city to become a maid and she wouldn’t be over traumatized because she’d have known, instinctively, ever since she’d seen that her brothers’ bodies were built differently from hers that sooner or later Nature was going to see to it that that difference was going to be fundamentally exploited and in a way that, almost certainly, boded ill for her and her sisters.

                               //                                                           //

The second to last city that we’d had to conquer had been sheltering the country’s King and Queen, no less. Minor ones to be sure, as Royals go, but nevertheless . . .

When the slaughtering was over the usual routines had been followed and I’d ended up in the royal chamber with the queen and her princess of a daughter, and one of her maids who was a small black woman who had taken my fancy for the novelty aspect, and I told them all to get undressed and I was well content when I got to see the well endowed body that the First Lady had and with the perfect proportions of my little concubine but when I got to see the daughter’s nakedness I got close to being repulsed.

I realized then why she’d been wearing a dress with long sleeves and whose skirt reached the floor. She was skeletal with arms and legs like pipes and, strangely, her elbows and knees were close to being twice the diameter of what was above and below them. Her nipples had little, peculiar, triangular mounds of flesh under them and she had an almost non-existent bush of pubic hair and her belly was concave between her prominent hipbones. Also, there was a big gap between her thighs due to there not being any flesh on them to speak of and that accentuated her gauntness and her freakiness no end and completely destroyed her appeal for any and all men because, as always, their eyes automatically went to, and locked onto, a naked woman’s, or girl’s, center before all else.

I knew that I’d have to do my duty and deflower her but I also knew two other things – it was going to be difficult to maintain an erection and I’d have to be careful about not letting my full weight come down on her if I didn’t want to break something other than her hymen.

However, at that time her mother broke protocol by bringing her quaking daughter close to the bed where I was sitting, and waiting, and she bravely and cleverly juxtaposed the girl’s body with her own and she turned her sideways as she did the same thing herself and then all the way around to show me her own lovely bottom and the girl’s almost complete lack of one.

Very astute, I thought. A good protective move to try to save her daughter and by not saying anything as she was doing it she’d strengthened her case but, even so, she had to know that it was a futile act in face of the established rituals.

I was impatient to get started with a real live Queen – never a casual, everyday thing to do for any man after all – and so I told her that surely she knew that it wasn’t personal but only policy and because that policy was written-in-stone the girl would have to take her turn which would come directly after hers.

She looked crestfallen, as well she might, but she saw that there was nothing for it but to submit and so she kissed her daughter and murmured something like “have courage” into her ear and then gestured to the black girl that she was to comfort her for as long as was possible. She then climbed onto the bed and resignedly lay on her back and prepared herself to receive me.

When I’d mounted her I lifted my hips up a little to give her space to reach a hand in and guide me and as soon as she touched it she gasped in disbelief and then she used both hands to assess its size properly and then she said, involuntarily and mostly to herself, “Mon Dieu! I’m dealing with a stallion not a man. The thing is way too much for my little darling to cope with.”

And then something way out of the ordinary happened.

She started to manipulate my member so expertly that I felt placated somehow and so my urgency shifted from wanting to ram it into her, post haste, to wanting her to keep on doing what she was doing with her clever hands and fingers.

 She began to coo and murmur admiration about its large size and more nonsense about her having a real man in her bed “at last” but after a while she squeezed it hard enough to get my full attention as she whispered into my ear, “General, if you’ll spare my daughter I’ll delight you like you’ve never before believed possible.”

She then let go of me and without that diversion my urge to merge poured back and I needed relief so badly that I lost the use of my other faculties and so I disregarded her words and I reached down to brush her hands away and then I located her entrance unaided and drove into it.

When I was all the way in, which took a good deal of force and was aided immeasurably when she put her ankles up onto my hips, I held back somewhat to do some savoring and she promptly took advantage of the pause to whisper urgently, “I know that this first time you’ll have little control but I promise that next time, if you’ll let me, I’ll pleasure you like no other woman has ever done before.”

Those words got through to me – loud and clear even though my whole being wanted to get on with it and not hold back – and that meant that I was able to over-rule my need for long enough to be able to register her proposal before Nature over-ruled all and every nicety and made me move my hips as fast as the elbow of a fiddler playing a mazurka. After maybe ten seconds I exploded into her with little satisfaction but with a degree of relief that I hadn’t felt since my teens and I put that down to the fact that this was the first bona fide Queen that I’d ever been with. However, a little later I found out that I was wrong about that – it was the woman not her title who had been responsible for giving me that huge, extra amount of release.

I collapsed on top of her and she lowered her legs and then started in on kissing what her mouth could reach and she caressed all of my body that was in range of her hands as she crooned softly and again whispered how happy she was to have a real man in her bed at last, which was, of course, pure moonshine but it was nice to hear, nevertheless.

I knew that it would take some time before I could expect delivery of another weapon to smite the enemy with so I let myself wallow in her sweet-smelling, soft, smooth flesh and I reveled in the feeling of contentment that comes from having no, zero, none at all, sexual tension, which was a welcome change.

She kept her center absolutely still for me, as I needed her to do to get in some proper soaking and for the tranquility that the shrinking process likes best, and time ceased to matter much which, of course, went along with her plan in that it meant that while I was inside her I couldn’t be getting ready to get inside her, ‘little darling.’

But then, on feeling the first twinge of my re-arousal – and how could she not have? – she whispered, “Ah ha! It’ll soon be time for another go-round! Splendid, what a man! I feel so special. Now, General, will you please let me show you what I can do? Just stay still and I’ll give you a sample. Please?”

How could I lose? I grunted, “Hmmmph.”

She had to content herself with some hip squirming – sideways and up and down a little – until I could give her something substantial to work with and then, when I was more than a halfway into her again, I felt her belly start churning which made her vagina act as if it was trying to draw me in and eat me all up and soon after that I felt a rippling sensation all along my shaft and then, when I got to be big enough to be all the way inside her again, something in there started fluttering around its head!

The three things together were incredible and I wanted it to go on and on and, you can be sure, it made the swelling process continue to unprecedented heights – which strengthened my need in direct proportion and that easily obliterated any concerns of mine about calls of duty regarding using it as a weapon elsewhere – and then she whispered, “There, you see? That was just to make it big and you haven’t yet experienced even a fraction of what I can do for you. So, knowing that, will you please let me tell the maid to take my daughter into the annex and help her get dressed again and in return I’ll start in with doing some more of the basic, down-to-earth moves that will delight you.”

I was in awe of her by then so, only somewhat guiltily, I gave in to her request and the maid hustled the ‘little darling’ away.

Well now. Her “basic, down-to-earth” moves were so spectacularly successful that, there and then, I went so far as to drop all thoughts of wasting any part of my libido on anyone else, ever!

Just how far enamored I was with her skills can be judged by my allowing myself to harbor for even one minute the idea that a future together for us was even remotely possible.

I found out later – from a high-society Madam who had found a good hiding place and had thus evaded capture for a whole week and who was pleading to be spared from her grisly fate in exchange for some “amazing facts about the intimate habits of the local high class gentry” which, as she must have known, were of little or no interest to us and, in any case, were no longer of value seeing that the gentry involved were all dead or dying by then – that while those first two attributes of the Queen’s can be taught and practiced by any woman the third one – the clincher, which is the fluttering effect on the head of the fully-at-home penis – is not all that uncommon and it is entirely dependent on the intruding member being exactly compatible, in both length and width, with the woman’s inherited physiological characteristics. The action is automatic in that the entrance to every woman’s uterus has a kind of hinged cap that automatically fluctuates, under the right conditions, to facilitate the onward and upward flow of spermatozoa and the fact that it gives the male exquisite pleasure is incidental. That is, incidental to Nature’s basic demands – in that, by then, the deed has already been done – but not, by any means, to the lucky male in question.   

Over time it turned out that the Queen, her name was Gemma, was a remarkable woman in many other ways too. She played a good game of chess and knew how to make indifferent or vinegary wine drinkable and could carry a conversation on most subjects and . . . well, much more in that vein besides being good to look at all times and so the fact that she was very good in bed turned out to be only the first of the reasons that made me love her more and more the longer I knew her.

I knew, of course, that that wouldn’t be allowed to go on for long because a Queen is, when all’s said and done, a Queen and I knew as well as any man that matters of State have an imperious way of interposing and then brushing aside individual concerns as having little or no bearing on what has to be made to happen.

However, that aside and to get back to the time that we resting after our second bout on the first time that were in bed together, I knew that to be able to keep her for myself for any time at all I’d have to find a way to placate the men who were waiting outside the door to get their chance to mount a real live Queen and get life-long bragging rights for themselves besides being able to make a good deal of money by selling those same rights to others, later. Imagine, authentic Royal ass no less – in the flesh – up for sale to anyone who could come up with the asking price. They wouldn’t have had to do much pimping to bring in the customers even if she’d been old and plain.

  When I’d gotten some strength back I pulled up a sheet to cover Gemma and I put a robe on and then I called her daughter and the serving girl to come back in and I told them all what our dilemma was.

Gemma’s immediate response was a question. Wasn’t I the Supreme Commander and top General of the Army and thus able to issue commands and get them obeyed without question?

I told her that what she’d said would have been true in just about any other situation but not this one. The whole army knew that The Man had given explicit instructions, in his Standing Orders, on what he wanted done to all prisoners, viz – in every city that had refused to surrender to us at once the heads of the top highest official and his immediate lieutenants along with those of the top echelons were to be cut off and sent to him in boxes; all soldiers, whether wounded or not, and all men who had carried arms against us were to be killed immediately with no exceptions; all other males – youths and old men – who were found in cities that had had to be taken by force were to be reduced to servant status no matter what their station in life had been and castration of the young ones was, in most cases, appropriate; the wives and female family members of the ex-rulers of the cities were to be used, according to rank, by the General and his Field Commanders and then handed down to the platoon leaders – and so on, rank by rank – and zeal was to be employed to be sure that few of them survived the ordeal; all ordinary working women and girls who were found in those same cities were to be put at the disposal of all of our men, without regard for rank, for the first three days and after that, if they were still viable, they could be claimed by individuals and reserved for their own use alone as concubines and/or servants.

I told Gemma and her daughter that those orders were close to the accepted current practices in most armies and that they had already been followed by us, word for word, at least a dozen times and, as far as I could tell, had been followed for many generations before mine.

Both of them were horrified, of course, so, in an effort to lessen the slur on my King and Country, I told them that I’d heard about their own husband and father’s Standing Orders and they were very similar except that he’d added another one regarding the taking of slaves. It stipulated that all captured healthy and able bodied civilian men were to be castrated and have their left ears sliced off and have one of their Achilles tendons cut through and then they were to be distributed fairly among the farmers, those who had remained loyal, of course, as slaves.

The Princess couldn’t accept what I’d told her as being the truth – “Hah! You lie, Sir. My Papa would never – etc.”

Gemma didn’t want to believe me either but, being a practical pragmatic woman, she brushed that aside and sensibly got the maid to take her sobbing daughter into the other room again – this time so that she could concentrate her best efforts on helping me to come up with something that would save them both because, for a reason that quite escaped me, she didn’t want her daughter and herself to end up being pounded to death by a hundred soldiers or however many it would take to carry out The Man’s Standing Order about not letting any of them ‘survive and remain viable.’

We eventually came up with a worthwhile plan and we agreed that, first, she had to explain the facts, modified a little, to her daughter and get her to co-operate fully. Also the black girl would have to play her part although it wouldn’t have to be a big one because she was my property alone and I could do anything I wanted with her.

When the Princess had been brought back and was up to date on what was happening – that is, when she’d stopped sobbing at the barbarity of it all and could listen and absorb new information – we went through the plan several times and then we decided that we’d better have a ‘full-dress undressed rehearsal.’

While that was underway I became aware that the usual time for the hand-over had already long gone and that we’d need more time if we were to have a chance of fooling whoever’s turn it was to have the First Lady next. To that end I went out into the corridor to attempt to negotiate and I found that only one boy, he was around ten-years old, was there. I presumed that he’d been ordered to maintain vigil when the others had gotten too impatient and couldn’t wait any longer to go and join in the general festivities and the chances for direct and immediate enrichment.

The boy was sitting on the carpeted floor with his back against the wall and in one of his hands was a dagger that was in a silvered sheath and had a jewel-embedded handle and he had a ruby and pearl broach hanging from a silver chain around his neck and he was jiggling, with evident pleasure, several thick and shiny silver coins in his free hand. I guessed that he’d been given those things to placate him for not being allowed to join in the pillaging and that he’d probably been sitting there dreaming of the time when he’d get home and could give his mother the broach and his father the dagger and could put the coins in the family coffers. Well, I thought to myself, good luck with that! This war is by no means over and . . . .

When he saw me appear in the doorway he jumped to his feet and spluttered something that was unintelligible because he was nearly completely tongue-tied.

I asked him who he worked for and he said something else that was also unintelligible except that I heard the name ‘Betnic.’ Well, I recognized that name, with a sinking heart, as belonging to a singularly stupid man who had been promoted several times solely on the strength of his fearlessness in battle. No commander in his right mind would want to lose his services in a fight in wartime so he was constantly being cosseted but no man in his right mind would want to have him in his life for very long at any other time.

I told the boy to go and find him and have him to report to me.

When he’d run off I went back into the royal chambers and we conferred on the changes that we’d have to make in our plan to best accommodate the fact that it was Betnic who we’d have to deal with. I knew that, seeing that he hadn’t been waiting outside the door, he’d been busy looting and fornicating elsewhere and so his main interest by then, when satiety had let him tear himself away from the flood of available flesh, would be the plunder aspect rather than the carnal and trophy hunting ones. I also knew that his desire for gold would be continuously voracious no matter how much he already had because it is not possible for a man like him to ever have enough.

He was strangely caught up in the love of the yellow metal and was renowned for prying out jewels from exquisitely fashioned gold items and then melting the gold down into ingots. Over the years many people had pointed out to him that the finished pieces, some with a long history and some that were intricate and cleverly made and all of them beautiful, were worth far more if left intact than what he could get for the individual parts and he always answered that all that he, and his entire family and clan, put their trust in was solid gold.

When I’d told Gemma about his unquenchable need for the metal she knew exactly what had to be done.

She put her robe back on – she’d taken it off for the ‘full-dress undressed rehearsal’ of the role that she’d worked out for herself – and she asked me to go with her to the fireplace – it was late summer and fires weren’t needed yet – and she reached up the chimney and located a loop of light chain that had been secreted up there and she let it fall to the hearth and then she pulled on one side of it and braced herself and when weight came on it she held firm before letting it out hand-over-hand. A few seconds later a large leather bag with rope handles came into view.

She asked me to carry it over to a table and when she opened it I saw that there were two crowns in it and some jewelry and many small cloth bags.

One of the crowns was heavy and was embedded with dazzlingly large diamonds and rubies and emeralds and the other one was smaller and lighter and its stones were more modest and it had several swirls made with luscious-looking graded-by-size pearls.

She told me that they had been used for centuries to crown each new king and queen and had, as usual, been used at her and her husband’s coronation ceremony and in normal times they would have been locked away in a strong room but “just before going out to – uh – to do battle” her husband had handed them to her, along with several tiaras and some ultra-valuable necklaces and large-stoned broaches and draw-string purses of heavy gold coins, and he’d told her to hide them somewhere, “Just in case.”

She’d put them all in the bag that I was looking at, along with some of her own jewelry, and had cleverly found a way to hide them all on a ledge up the chimney.

She suggested that because gold was what most appealed to “this Betnic person” we should select some items that had a lot of it and arrange them so that he’d be dazzled by the combined effect.

She decided, with a lot of regret, that she’d have to part with the smaller crown but she knew that her very life depended on inducing Betnic to divert his attention away from her and her daughter. She put it on a small table and then she asked me to move it closer to a window that had beams of sunlight streaming through its glass. She then placed bangles and necklaces, all of them predominantly gold, around the crown and then she emptied the gold coins out of one of the purses and she placed them, seemingly haphazardly but actually cleverly, so that they all caught the light and reflected it towards the viewer. She stepped back to check her handiwork and then decided that another purse of coins, with just a few of them spilling out, would add the final touch that she was looking for.

She replaced the other crown, along with the rest of the items, in the leather bag and she asked me to lift it up and put it back on the ledge that was above the damper in the chimney. When I’d done so I put the end of the chain up there too.

We then got on with the other preparations that we’d dreamed up.

Right at the beginning Gemma had commented that obviously there had to be a lot of blood everywhere otherwise no matter what we did wouldn’t look authentic and I’d told her that she was to leave that to me.

She mentioned it again as we were getting started with the actual arrangement of bodies but when she saw that she’d annoyed me she turned away and busied herself with getting her hair to look suitably disheveled.

I’m not used to having my orders questioned and so I turned away too, to hide the fury on my face, and I tried to stay calm by telling myself that not only was I dealing with a woman but with a foreign one at that but when that didn’t work I cast about for something that would work and I found that by reminding myself about, and dwelling on for a few seconds, the recent events that had taken place between the sheets easily subdued my wrath.

 The servant girl, her name was ‘Trula,’ was easiest so we started with her.

We’d seen that she was inordinately shy but because she’d already seen both Queen and Princess get naked in front of a strange male she knew that she would have to do the same thing but we saw how difficult it was for her so we told her that she could keep an undergarment on seeing that she wasn’t ‘a prize’ but should slip it off just before Betnic came in because that would contribute to the air of total debauchery that we were looking for.

We got her to lie down on the carpet again, near the inner door, and decided that the fetal position would be most effective and so we arranged her body like that and adjusted her head just so and Gemma made her try out various facial expressions until she found the one that made her look as if it was all too much for her and that she’d given up the struggle to go on living.

Gemma then told her to remember the pose and the expression and then she told her to sit on a chair while she schooled her in letting out heart-breaking whining and piteous sobbing.

I got the Princess, in the family her name was ‘Petra,’ to lie down again on the carpet so that she was facing towards the door but I had great difficulty with getting her to look as if she was dying until her mother came over to help. She saw what the problem was at once – it was that she looked like what she was, an innocent adolescent – and so she helped her to undress and then she arranged her body so that her blade of a hip bone was sticking up in the air and her nearly non-existent belly was falling away from it which left a strange looking cavity. The rest of it, making her close to repellent to men, was easy enough because we knew that her crotch would attract their attention no matter what and, as already stated, hers was close to being freakish so we got her to put both of her hands on her lower belly in such a way that her spread fingers emphasized the amount of off-putting space that there was between her thighs which made her look, if not sub-human exactly, even less appealing than before.

Her mother then put powder on her face and neck and told her that she was to either whine or cry the whole time, like Trula had just learned to do, but was to remember that hers had to be from pain and despair not from bewilderment and fear.

Then it was Gemma’s turn.

I’d been thinking of using a dagger but she came up with the brilliant idea of using a pair of scissors. I was skeptical when she suggested it so she told Trula to go into the other room and look into a certain drawer and bring back the biggest ones in there.

The pair that she brought back was so big that I’d call it shears rather than scissors and as soon as I saw them I knew that they’d do the job much better than any dagger.

I took them over to where there was a heavy oak table against a wall and I put one of the blades between the two and snapped off most of it with one, savage, this-is-going-to-get-it-done jerk.

I took it back to Gemma and had her take off her robe and then lie back on the pile of cushions on the bed as we’d rehearsed.

We experimented and found that the best and most practical way to get an authentic look was to have her lift her left breast and put the broken end of the scissor blade in the fold underneath it and then let her breast drop onto the blade. To get it to stay in place and at the right angle she tried various things until we lit on having it rest on some of the fingers of her right hand and have her other hand rest, loosely, on the same breast which would allowed her to press down on it a little and thus help anchor the ‘life-ending instrument.’

We re-arranged the cushions until her head could loll back so that only by coming up close could her open eyes be seen. She practiced with not focusing nor blinking them and with taking quiet, rapid and shallow breaths through her nostrils so that her chest didn’t rise and fall.

When that was done we were ready and I could see that she badly wanted to bring up the question of where the blood was coming from but was forcing herself to keep quiet about it.  She was sure, and rightly so, that lots of it was essential if we were to have the slightest chance of convincing Betnic that his best chance ever of mounting a bona fide Queen was gone.

I knew very well where the blood was coming from because it was going to be mine.

                                             //                                         //

 When we knew that we’d be fighting on level ground and that the enemy had around eight hundred cavalry troops – which was close to the number that we were mustering ourselves – and that many of them were mercenaries who favored short swords and had bronze armor, as did we, we knew that the fighting was going to be long and arduous but we also knew that this was a must-win battle and seeing that we’d been getting a whole lot of valuable training in lately and, also, that we’d been the ones who’d been invaded without warning and had lost hundreds of our men, women and children before we could put our army into the field in sufficient numbers to retaliate.

Arndt and I had been in a similar situation to that one several times over the years – me a few times more often than he had, of course, due to his youth – and I’d perfected a maneuver that helped to demoralize the opposing army right at the start.    

We’d ride out fifty feet in front of our line of cavalry and stop there and wait until the opposing leaders, not wanting to appear ‘shy,’ had done the same. I’d then give the order for a slow general advance and after my opponent had done the same thing Arndt and I would canter forward.

I’m naturally left handed but I’d be holding my shield with my left hand and forearm and my sword would be in my right hand. Arndt is right handed but he’d hold his shield with his right hand and forearm and have his sword in his left hand.

When we’d get to be within around a hundred feet we’d speed up and Arndt, who would always be to my right, would veer away to his right until he’d put about forty feet between us and so his opposite number would do the same to get to meet him head on and thus parry the chance of any kind of pincer attempt by us.

We’d practiced the maneuver many times, besides actually doing it, and so we, and our horses, had it down pat.

The two men coming at us would hurl their spears from about fifty feet – we didn’t carry any because our plan called for precise sword handling at exactly the right time and having a spear would hinder it – and we’d use our shields to knock them away if they came close enough to threaten us or our horses. I’d then let my shield fall away onto its lanyard and I’d pass my sword to my left hand as I signaled with my knees to get my horse to veer sharply to the right as we closed. Then, as my opponent was frantically trying to counter my new line of attack, I’d aim my sword directly under his breast plate and hold firm and let our momentum drive it into his belly and then on through.  

He would be as good as dead before he’d fallen to the ground.

Arndt would have done the same, only in reverse, and we’d have both left our swords in the bodies, because we’d had to, and then we’d both make a full turn and gallop back to the safety of our own line of cavalry. We did that because we weren’t fools in that we knew that if we’d stayed that far in the vanguard we would have drawn an almost certainly lethal rain of spears and arrows at and down on us.

We’d be handed our spare swords and then I’d give the order to the cavalry squads to make blocks of eight by two and I’d lead my contingent and Arndt would do the same with his and the real battle would begin.

By then two roars would have been heard. One of them by our side, in approval, and one of despair from theirs when they’d seen their two leaders get killed before the fighting had fairly began.

It was Gemma’s husband who had led his troops in the last battle and although she knew, of course, that I’d been responsible, overall, for the defeat of his army and for getting him killed she couldn’t know that I’d been the one who’d actually run my sword through him. Even though we learned to like each other a great deal I was pretty sure that if she ever found that out I wouldn’t be allowed to have any pleasant visiting rights to her despite the fact that I’d subsequently been the one who had saved her and her daughter’s lives.

In the battle we’d had the better-trained men, as I said, and so we eventually prevailed although there was some doubt as to that several times through the day.

Well, during the heavy, hot work I received a blow from another horseman who had come up behind me, and his broad sword had landed on the side of my helmet and then it had slid down and finished up on my shoulder. It would have nearly taken my arm off if it hadn’t been for the thick chain mail that I was wearing and although it hurt a good deal it was my right shoulder that got hit and so I was able to carry on fighting. I tried to ignore it and from then on I employed my shield only when it was absolutely essential to do so.

When it was all over Arndt came to find me to congratulate me on the victory and he saw that there was blood running down my arm and more of it coming out from under my breastplate and so he took me back to the tent that had been my quarters the day before and had been made into the first-aid station. He got a medic to tend to me and when they’d taken my armor off we saw that the blow that I’d taken had forced chain mail mesh into my shoulder and that it was still embedded there. When they pulled it out it caused me a great deal of pain and lots of blood gushed out.

They washed the wound and then bandaged a pad in place and after a brandy or two I was able to get back on my horse and go and supervise the myriad requirements and proceedings that have to be followed after a battle has been won. If you lose a battle there is none of that, and no paperwork at all, so I didn’t do overmuch complaining.   


When it got close to the time that Betnic could be expected to come calling I made the three women undress and take their places and then I went into the anti-chamber where there was a large mirror and I undid the bandage on my arm and shoulder and when I got down to the pad I ripped it off, rather than easing it off, and sure enough the scab came off with it and blood started flowing again.

I went back to the women and I put the bloody pad on the carpet between Petra’s legs and tucked a part of it into the cleft of her buttocks so as to anchor it when she went into her ‘writhing in agony’ mode. I then daubed her hands and belly and thighs, especially the one that was nearest the floor, with fresh blood from my wound.

Then I went over to Gemma and I put blood on the broken scissor blade and on her hands and the underside of her left breast and made a trail of it from the wound on down her belly to her thighs and then I smeared some onto the cushions that were under her.

I did a final survey and then I got Trula to look for clean linen that we could make a pad with and I got her to cut off the stained part of my bandage and she helped me apply the pad to my wound and then wind the rest of the bandage around my shoulder as it had been before.

When she was back in her place I checked all three of them again and saw that they were as ready as they’d ever be.

When Betnic arrived, about ten minutes later, he called out “General” after knocking and Petra and Trula started up with their assigned vocalizations of distress as I went to the door to let him in. When he came into the foyer I stood in front of him and physically stopped him from pushing his way past me.

“Listen, Betnic,” I said, “something unfortunate has happened. This time we won’t be able to follow the usual routines.

“Come and see.”

I took him into the main room and the first thing that he saw was the maid lying on the carpet, sobbing piteously and rolling her eyes, and she seemed to have difficulty catching her breath because of sheer terror.

We walked on past her and I tried to see what he was seeing as if for the first time.

We saw that the young, gaunt, naked Princess was also down on the carpet and she was both sobbing and whining and, because she was lying on her side, her hipbone was sticking up in the air, blade like, and it was so prominent that it looked as if it belonged on a skeleton. She was comforting her far-from-attractive center with both hands and there was blood on the back of them and on her belly and on her spindly thighs and there was a discarded bloody pad and a pool of blood on the carpet between her legs. Her face was deathly pale and she looked to be close to succumbing.

Next, we saw that the First Lady had already succeeded in that endeavor.

She was naked and was lying back on the cushions of her bed. Her head was thrown back and when we moved to be able to see her face in full we saw that her eyes were staring at the ceiling, unblinkingly.

We saw that her right hand was partly touching a pair of scissors and that one blade of it had penetrated her chest just under her left breast. Blood had run down from the wound and some of it was on the fingers of her other hand that she’d evidently used to lift her breast up and out of the way and some was on the exposed blade and the handles of the scissors and a lot more was drying on her belly.

All in all, it was a discouraging sight even for battle hardened veterans but evidently not all that much for Betnic because his only reaction was one of disgust which he showed by hawking up phlegm and spitting it in the direction of the ‘corpse.’

He then shook his head and said, “Shit, what a waste! She’s got a real nice body and I was looking forward to fucking her no matter about her being a Queen as well. Huh! And besides that, I see that her daughter isn’t long for this world either. My God, the skinny kid must have been as tight as a sewer rat’s asshole. Fucking waste all around except for the pleasure that breaking her in must have given you!”

I said, still looking at Gemma, “She must have hidden the scissors somewhere nearby earlier on. When I’d finished with her and was pulling her daughter over to the bed even though she was crying and pleading and screaming she must have searched them out and used them because she couldn’t bear to see what was about to happen.

“And, as you said, it was indeed good breaking the princess in but I’m afraid that you’re right about the rest of it. She’s no good to man nor beast any more. I probably damaged some of her internal organs and when I lost control towards the end I think that I might have broken some of her ribs too. She won’t last long, not with the amount of blood that poured out of her when I pulled out.”

Betnic looked over to Petra again and then back at Gemma and was about to say something else when the glint of gold, lots of gold, caught his eye.

“What the fuck! Will you look at what’s over there? Do my old eyes fucking deceive me?”

He hurried over to it and he picked up and examined every piece in turn, ‘ooohing’ and ‘aaahing’ as he went at it, and then he automatically stacked and counted the spilled coins.

Both of us knew that the situation was now vastly different from what it had been a little earlier seeing that the Queen was dead and the Princess was useless and close to dying too. It meant that The Man’s Standing Orders couldn’t apply anymore and because of that my orders took precedence again and so he had to defer to me as to what came next.

But ‘first things first’ he must have told himself as he turned to face me, and I saw that his face had taken on a furtive look.

“General. Is this – ?” he half asked as he gestured towards the heap of gold.

“Is this – what? Is it up for grabs, d’you mean?”

“Uh, well, yes General.”

“No, it’s not ‘up for grabs’ because it’s all yours, Bentic. I’ve already got the other crown, the one that was the King’s, and the scepter and the gold chain and pendant that goes with it for the coronation and state balls and all that. I might have to give all of that to The Man but I hope not. What you’re looking at is all the Queen’s stuff. She tried to use it to bargain with me and I out smarted her.

“So. Seeing that you can’t have the Queen I thought it fitting that you should have her trinkets instead. Take them all if you want.”

He did want. All of them.

He said, as he was raking it all up and packing the larger pieces into his doublet, “I wondered where the two crowns might be seeing that they weren’t in the vaults down in the cellar.”

He was all smiles and it was a wonder that he didn’t trip over all the flattery and the thanks that poured out of him as I escorted him to the door with what he treasured most in the world bulging out of his doublet and under his arms and in his hands.

He didn’t give any of the women so much as a glance as he went past them but at the door he paused to ask, “Does the General want me to slit these two women’s throats to stop their terrible caterwauling?” When I told him that I’d take care of it he shrugged and then asked, “Well then, does the General want me to send some men up to take the bodies away?” I told him that I’d take care of that too.

Greed and gloating showed up on his face again as he thanked me yet again and then he turned and hurried away down the corridor no doubt to find a private place where he could do some more gloating and could congratulate himself on his good luck.

I closed the door and then quietly told Trula that she was to get up and help the princess to her feet and then take her into the alcove where a water jug and bowl was and clean her up.

When I’d walked over to Gemma I saw that she was both crying from tension and smiling with relief.

“What a brute of a man,” she managed to get out between sobs, “ ‘Shall I slit their throats for you?’ How can you have anything to do with such a pig?”

“He has other attributes and he was magnificent on the battlefield but I agree with you as to the ‘brute’ part. But come, let’s put him out of our minds. Let’s get you cleaned up too.”

I insisted on doing the cleaning up myself and when I’d finished with all of her nooks and crannies she was as clean as a whistle all over and I was as hard as a baton again and she couldn’t help but know it too and so she told her daughter that she should go and lie down on the chaise lounge in the other room, “You need to rest for a while, darling.”

I got undressed again and I let her show me how grateful she was and having been ‘introduced’ to Bentic and knowing what could have happened she was truly grateful.


I let the men have another day of undisciplined rampaging but our bugles called them to muster the day after that and the work of putting the city in order started.

I had to appoint an administrator along with some assistants for him and then clerks and specialists to dozens of other posts so I was kept busy from dawn ‘til sundown.

When I could get away I beckoned to Arndt and we collected some plates of food and several bottles of wine and I took him up to the royal chambers where I introduced him to Gemma and to Petra.

He wasn’t very surprised to see them alive because he knew it wasn’t like me to spurn the festivities in the days after a battle – also, he’d seen how beautiful Gemma was – but, as we all ate, he wanted to know how I’d fooled Betnic into believing that they were both either dead ‘or broken and useless’ as he’d told everybody they were.

He stayed attentive to my words until I got to the part about ‘gold’ and then he said, “Ah Ha, there you have it. The man fairly worships the stuff.” and then he let me drop the subject because he knew that it must have been painful for the two women to have to hear it all again and think, once again, about what might have been.

It took us nearly a week to get things sorted out and to put the city in good enough shape to hand it over to the governor and his staff that The Man had sent down.

That left us free to get on with the war.

The night before we were set to march on to the next city I got Arndt – I hadn’t dared trust anybody else because what I wanted to do was serious stuff indeed, bordering on treason in fact, – to position a wagon filled with straw underneath the window that Gemma had suggested as being the best one to use in that it was little known and was overlooked by nothing but brick walls.

Things went smoothly and when all three women had been helped down into the wagon – along with a stuffed leather bag that Gemma wouldn’t let go of for any reason and a few big boxes of clothes that she’d told me were essential to her welfare – and had burrowed beneath the straw, Arndt drove it out of the city and on to our rendezvous which was to be the army’s next over-night stop.

We smuggled the women into my tent and, after we’d eaten, Arndt – he knew that Gemma was my woman and that Petra was far too young and way too gaunt to give much pleasure to a man – asked me if he could have Trula – he’d had to let his own concubine go back to her family before we’d moved out because there was no room on the wagon for her – and, although I’d intended to keep her for myself for the future because of the novelty aspect, I felt bound to let him have her.

We both knew that she couldn’t be seen leaving my tent so he rigged a kind of lean-to and took her into it and a few minutes later we all heard her initial cries of distress change into moaning and then into a kind of purring.

The next morning she couldn’t bear to let go of him and Gemma had to speak sternly to get her to “stop your nonsense and let go of him so that he can get on with his duties.”

Later, when we met up again, I asked Arndt how the night had gone for him and the rapturous look that he’d had on his face that morning came back and he told me that he couldn’t understand how such a shy, slip of a young woman could possibly know as much about love making as Trula did. “When she found out that I wasn’t going to hurt her she let herself enjoy it and – wow! She told me that she’d been taught the techniques by a fellow servant of hers who’d said that in his home-country sex was just about the only pleasure that the men folk got and so all the women had to be very good at it if they wanted to keep their mate faithful.”

I guessed that Trula must have taught the Queen many of those techniques and I remember wishing that I’d been within listening range when that was going on.

All the way to the next city, about six days travel, I slept with Gemma and Arndt slept with Trula and I got to be delighted and astonished every night and both Arndt and the girl were all smiles whenever I saw them whether they were together or not. Petra was understandably unhappy due to being the only one without a mate, especially seeing that her access to her mother was severely limited due to my presence, but I knew that she’d only have to think back on what might have been her fate to accept her present status and be thankful that her mother possessed the ability to hold me in her spell enough to want me to keep them both under my protection.

We found that the inhabitants of the next and penultimate city that we had to take – so we thought then – hadn’t organized an opposing army nor had they hired mercenaries and had sealed themselves up tight. They wouldn’t so much as agree to listen to my proposals because they’d heard of what had happened to all of their countrymen and women after earlier battles and sieges. From the inside information we got regarding their food supplies we guessed that the siege would probably last for months and no one wanted that so we sent out word that our catapults were to be brought up.

Arndt and I were probably the only men in the whole army who thought with pleasurable anticipation of being forced to wait there because we were, as stated, in no hurry to have it end.

Gemma continued to play her role superbly but, as I well understood, there was a limit to her gratitude, and to her generosity, and after a few weeks she began to point out to no one in particular that if a boat was hired “it could easily take a person around the Aegean and into the Black Sea.” We all knew where she’d been born and what country was north of the Black Sea.

I had to be realistic and face the facts – we were talking about a bona fide Queen and Princess here – and so, eventually, Arndt and I gave in to the inevitable and he rode off one day to try to arrange for a boat that would take ‘three persons’ to Russia.

We finagled it to keep ‘our’ women with us for an extra few weeks – we told them that the city wasn’t yet totally bottled-up and so our presence was still required and although that was patently absurd they, not knowing a siege from a picnic, had to accept the delay – and those last weeks, and especially the last night, were sweetness and light personified due to Gemma’s and Trula’s gratefulness combined with their bona fide animal lust and the fact that they’d learned to like us.

When it was still dark on the morning of the day on which we could procrastinate no longer we loaded all three of them – however reluctant he was to accept it even Arndt understood that Trula had to go with the other two because they were as useless as children as far as doing practical things were concerned due to their having had dozens of servants looking after them all of their lives – and their baggage into the self-same straw-filled wagon and both of us disguised ourselves with big hats and long cloaks and we drove down to the border. We bribed our way across it and then went on to the port where we’d arranged to meet up with the fisherman, and his crew of three, that Arndt had hired weeks before and had sent a message to the day before about their having to be ready to sail the next day. He had been picked out because his boat was big enough to allow the women some privacy on the long journey.

Gemma took me aside just before going aboard and told me that she was pregnant and I was so taken aback with the news that I couldn’t find the words that she wanted to hear because my brain was reeling as it went through the implications and the action that would have to be taken.

I’d known from the beginning of our hopelessly ill-fated relationship that I’d eventually have to contact a discrete friend back home who was a senior advisor to The Man himself and tell him about the Queen’s ‘mysterious and miraculous’ escape with her daughter. I’d also known that because of my message a fatal accident would befall the Princess a year or two down the line – to eradicate the threat of a future claim by her to the territory that we’d captured – but I also knew then that the letter that I was going to send to him would have to include the news about the Queen’s unborn child who, if it turned out to be another girl, would pose the same threat but if it was a boy then the danger would be multiplied exponentially when he came of age and so his fate, as they say, had been sealed with his very conception.

Such is the brutality inherent in high politics and I knew that I had to go along with it even though I was now personally and directly involved.             

We loaded the baggage and then helped the three women on board and get settled-in and because the wind was favorable – everybody knows that it’s useless to argue with professional sailors when that is the case – the captain urged us to go ashore at once and when Arndt had untied and thrown the last of their ropes to one of the crew they raised their sails and pulled away from the jetty.

We hadn’t told the boat’s owner who the women were, nor who their father or grandfather was, but we did tell him who I was. He was suitably impressed but, even so, for obvious security reasons we made him agree to being paid a half of his fee right then and the second half of it on his return so long as he brought with him a letter from Gemma, written in a code that we’d agreed on earlier, that would tell me that they’d been delivered safely ashore in Odessa and hadn’t been molested nor robbed. For good measure I also spelled out to him that if anything at all bad happened to any of the women or if they found that they’d ‘lost’ any of their property then, border or no border, I’d come back with a dozen cavalry troops and deal severely with him and all of his family and I’d burn his house to the ground and then sink his boat.

It was a dark time indeed for Arndt and me when we stood there and watched all three women wave goodbye until they were out of sight.

Neither of us has ever found a woman who came even close to having those two’s skill between the sheets but, of course, even so and nevertheless, we tried hard.

                      //                                                                                              //

After the last battle of the war I didn’t want to go into the city with all the rest of them but not because I’d lost my appetite for treasure and debauchery – there’s a very definite and deeply ingrained and highly gratifying added edge that comes to a soldier when he is fornicating with a woman, Duchess or Countess or whatever, heretofore unknown to him when he knows that he might well be the one who’d made her a widow a few hours earlier and had thus, as appropriately as anything can be in the convoluted rules of war- time, earned the primitive right to do so – but because I knew that the farm that was situated a few miles from the battlefield, that is the estate that I’d taken over a few weeks earlier for my headquarters, was stocked with great piles of most kinds of supplies, and also many cows and horses and mules in several of the fields, and it was all there for whoever declared ownership although whoever it was would have to stay on site to defend his claim for a while. Clearly, it had been set up as a back-up supply and distribution center for the enemy army and we’d astonished them by over-running the place before much of it could be utilized or carried off or driven away.

Moreover, I knew that no matter who the new owner was he wouldn’t have to deal with overmuch dissension, immediately nor in the future, because of another cruel but absolute rule that concerns spoils of war.

The day after we’d moved in one of the women told me about the place’s recent history.

The Quartermaster had decided to take advantage of the state of war that the country was in to ‘requisition’ the estate, it was one that he’d long admired, for his supply depot and then, when peace was declared, he intended to keep it for his own use by making the present owners and their heirs ‘disappear.’ To that end he’d shown up one day with some cavalry troops, and with what he said was a warrant from the King to seize the entire property for the ‘duration,’ and when he’d hammered on the huge oaken doors of the mansion to be let in to take possession the owner refused point blank to recognize his right to do so and he said that his family had owned the house and the estate for generations and so he should take the warrant and – uh – use it to clean up after carrying out a certain bodily function.

The Quartermaster then, craftily, shouted back that there was a clause on the warrant that promised to give back the entire estate, “in prime condition in addition to reasonable compensation,” to the original owners when the war was over and he invited him to look through the little porthole that was in one of the doors and read it for himself.

 As soon as the Quartermaster saw movement on the other side of the opening he rammed his rapier into it and that was it for the ‘original owner’ and ownership was transferred in perpetuity forthwith and with no need of a lawyer.

The new ‘owner’ didn’t want to damage what were now his own heavy oaken doors so he took all of his men on a walkabout (literally) and they spotted a half open window up in the eaves and they made a long ladder out of a tall, thin pine tree by judiciously cutting it to make it lean over until it was touching the roof and then he sent the most agile man up it.

When he’d gained entrance he came down the stairs and opened up the front doors and they’d quickly found the ex-owner’s family – his widow and her mother and two young daughters and one son, a toddler, and two retainers – cowering in a small guest room on the top floor and they’d thrown the old woman and all three children and the servants over the balustrade and down onto the stone floor of the entrance hall and had then taken the wife into the main bedroom where they took turns with her.

The Quartermaster went first, of course, and when he was giving up his place to his aide he told him to see to it that the Slav was last in line. On hearing that the other men understood the significance immediately but the poor woman didn’t and so when it got to be the Slav’s turn she saw that, just before he mounted her, he’d put stilettos on the mattress, one on each side of her body, and she wondered about it but not with much interest because by then she wanted to die anyway.

The Quartermaster thus saw to it that there’d be no direct witnesses, ever, and that there were no heirs left to challenge his ownership rights after the war. 

 Unfortunately for the Quartermaster things didn’t work out very well for him in that he didn’t get word of the fall of his sister city until far too late and my scouts showed up at his place before he could flee. He’d told them that he was the civilian owner of the estate and they’d believed him and they’d treated him well and even let him drink some of the wine that they’d ‘found’ in the cellar but, notwithstanding that, he got his throat cut one night by one of the men – clearly a ruffian but what else is new as regards army recruits? – because he’d developed the dangerous habit of tossing and catching, hand to hand, his drawstring purse – he liked to hear the distinctively heavy rattle of the gold coins inside it  – and he paused for a few seconds every time to weigh it because he liked the heft of them too.

On hearing that they’d lost his protection three women who were in his entourage hid in the woods for several days – until things had settled down somewhat – but hunger made them return and they locked themselves, with some provisions, in a strong room intending to come out when the winner of the final battle was determined.

They were still there when I found them and they were fearful when I forced their door open but on finding out who I was they gladly, as is their kind’s wont, transferred their welfare, and allegiance, to me.

Besides the big, well-set-up house the property had fine barns and cottages and there were rolling acres of good pasture and several orchards and plenty of sweet water and its fields were far more fertile than what I have at home on my family’s farm.

Also, and only I knew this, while the Quartermaster had legitimately assembled many supplies for the army there he’d also accumulated from somewhere what amounted to wagon-loads of plunder, in the time-honored manner of all men in his position, and he’d put it all in one of the triple-locked stone-walled storage buildings that were behind the main house. One night I, personally, picked two of the locks and then cut through a chain whose padlock defied my efforts and after doing a quick inventory inside I put some big, un-pickable locks on the door along with chains that would take forever to cut through.

As for his taste in women, ‘eclectic’ was the appropriate word in that one of them was black and lithe and another was big and blonde and the other one was a native girl who was only about thirteen years old and clearly still under training but already showing promise.

I was especially pleased to find the estate because I’d long been searching for a way to get away from the constant squabbling with my wife and the demands of my children and the ‘requests’ from a myriad distant relatives that I’d been subjected to at my home up north ever since I’d tried to retire from the army after the last war.

After a few years of enduring such ‘home-based bliss’ it didn’t take much coercing by The Man himself to get me to take up arms again when he’d realized, once again, that war was the only course of diplomatic action that was left to him.

As soon as I’d clapped eyes on the farmhouse and its surrounds I saw the quality of it and I let an idea about my future form up and when I saw the amount of booty that I’d ‘inherited’ the idea became established and when I saw the three women, all huddled together in fear on seeing the barbarian who’d broken their door down and was staring at them with shining eyes and with a delighted grin on his face, it got to be chiseled in stone.

I’d gotten to be fairly sure of the outcome of our final battle when one of my scouts told me that they’d evidently learned very little indeed from their northern countrymen and were intending to fight us with their usual lack of effectively protective armor and with poorly selected weapons for face to face combat and because of that I’d been able to work out general strategies and some localized, personal ones. I’d told the guards who I was leaving behind at the farm – five men who’d been wounded in one way or another that made them useless in battle – that they were to wait until we’d all marched off and then begin hitching two draft horses, or mules, to fifty wagons – as I’ve said, there were hundreds of horses and mules grazing in the fields and there were about sixty wagons parked in paddocks – and then put two sacks of potatoes and one barrel of flour and a 10 pound bag of salt and a half barrel of wine in all of them and then tie a bullock to each tailgate and then bring them, five at a time, to the safe side of a hill that was close to the battlefield and then go back for more until they’d brought them all up.

So, when the battle was over, on my signal they started ferrying them across a field and up to the path that led to the city and they left them there and went back to get five more. By the time that we’d all had enough time to recuperate some – by then all of my soldiers had become ex-soldiers because seeing that it had been the last battle it meant that the war was over – all of the wagons were drawn up as I’d ordered. I then sent the five men and some boys to load my own wagon, the last one in line, with the weapons that had been recovered from the field.

Earlier, I’d assured myself of the three women’s fidelity to me by locking them in their hut so that they wouldn’t be tempted to load up their ‘presents’ and accumulated loot in the splendid new two-wheeled carriage, that had been ‘inherited’ by their ex-protector, and then run away someplace in it.

When the time was right I stood on a stump and I called the men to close on me and then I shouted to tell them that those there wagons with provisions in them were for transporting all of them and our wounded to the city and that when that was done they’d become their property to do whatever they wanted with. I pointed out that our enemy’s – now our ex-enemy’s – brands were on all the horses and mules and were burned into the sides of the wagons and would be rightly seen as symbols of honor when they got them back home.

I knew that every last man who heard me was positive sure what the wagons would be loaded with when they left for home after ‘liberating’ many valuables and after many days of rampaging and general drunkenness and debauchery and I hoped that none of them would realize that I’d given them the provisions to see to it that they wouldn’t get hungry before leaving for home in a week, or so, and would thus not need to bother with remembering that there was a huge supply of food and other supplies in ‘headquarters.’

I called in my remaining three commanders and I allotted them tasks in the city that would help stabilize it – when relative calmness had returned – until the administrators from The Man got there and then I waved goodbye to them all, and to my status as General, and to all paperwork and to all the infuriating bureaucracy that all armies get close to being stifled with – and always will. The three commanders would have to cope with all of that as best they could.

I was rather abrupt with my leave taking because I knew that it was imperative to not leave the farm unoccupied and unguarded for one minute longer than was necessary and I also knew that the five wounded men would have either loaded some of the best wagons, the ones that they wanted for themselves, with many choice provisions, and God knows what else, and were well on their way to the city already or were back at the farm trying to break into every locked up building to purloin whatever they found that was worth anything and, maybe, were entertaining thoughts about taking over the place for themselves – they were ex-soldiers now, too, and knew as well as anybody that my effective authority over them had ended the minute that the last man standing against us had been killed – so I climbed into my wagon, which was at the end of the line, and then made as if I was going to follow them all into the city but I hung back and then I turned around and headed for ‘headquarters’ as soon as the last hastening-to-begin-pillaging-before-it-was-all-gone driver had beaten his horses into moving as fast as they could go and had pulled out of sight.

Nobody was around, except for the three women, when I got ‘home’ and my locks were all unbroken so I surmised it had been the delights that the city would have to offer them as victors that had won out over the men’s other possible choices. I understood perfectly and in their place, if I’d been their age, I would have probably done the same thing seeing the amount of potential gain that was there for the taking and seeing that it had been weeks since they’d last had a woman.

The fact that I’d hidden all of the tools that would have helped them break doors down had probably influenced their decision too.

We were all four so pleased with our new home – I’d let each one of them pick out a bedroom in the main house for her own private use – that, after eating well and drinking several bottles of the best wine from the cellar, we opted to take a bath in the fountain that was in courtyard. The attraction of nude bodies in daylight and the wonderfully strong aphrodisiac that success in war brings, along with the elation of knowing that I’d come through yet another one of them alive, meant that although I still felt the loss of Arndt deeply the plusses and the positive aspects over-rode my sadness and it got to be dark already before we stopped our love playing and our love making but that was mostly due to the fact that I couldn’t have risen to the occasion again even if offered all of the treasure in the city along with all of the women in it.

The resilience of the human body is astounding as I found out once again when there came a hallooing at the front gate that woke us all up at around midnight on that same first night in our new home.

I took up a lantern and my sword and I went down to the gate and when I got there I was truly happy when I recognized the voice as belonging to Arndt even as it became clear that he was weak and in a lot of pain.

As soon as I’d answered him by calling out his name he knew that he was going to be taken care of and so he allowed himself to collapse into a heap right where he was. I had to call for the women to help me carry him inside to a couch because he’s as heavy as I am and the three of them had weakened my knees so thoroughly that they weren’t nearly up to the task.

We dealt with his wounds as best we could and we got some watered-down wine and then some thick, hot soup into him.

He’d clearly lost a lot of blood and was as weak as a kitten.

When we’d covered him up with blankets he fell asleep, or went into a faint, and we left him where he was and went back to our beds, our separate beds.

In the morning we fed him again and he soon regained enough strength to be able to talk and as he prepared his thoughts I told him that I’d seen him leading his troops forwards ahead of the others but had disappeared from my sight when he’d driven into the breach that he’d made in the front ranks of the enemy.

He told us that he’d been struck with a spear after a half hour or so of fighting and it had found its way through a gap in his armor and had gone into his side. He’d turned to retaliate and had managed to decapitate the spearman but that had been the last blow that he’d been capable of giving because while he was delivering it he’d taken a massive blow on the top of his helmet by one of those effective, in trained and capable hands, spiked balls on the end of a chain.

He’d fallen down and knew no more about anything until it was beginning to get dark and wolves and feral dogs had started tearing at the bodies piled on top of him and, when they’d exposed him and were sniffing at his face and licking at his bloody wounds preparatory to biting off chunks of his flesh, he’d found that he had neither his sword nor his dagger and so he’d driven the nearest animal away by shouting at it and he’d made enough space to be able to feel around for a sword but the movement caused so much pain that it made him scream loudly and that drove all the others away. He told us that he figured that they’d left him alone because not only were they no longer very hungry but seeing that there was plenty of non-resistant non-protesting dead meat all around they decided to settle for that.

When he’d mustered some strength he sat up which put him back in control and ended the threat of dog bites altogether – they were only curs who had never in their lives so much as thought about defying humans no matter about attacking one of them – which meant that he could do some more resting until he felt strong enough to get to his feet. He tried to ignore all the snarling and chomping and slavering that was going on all around him and made a point of not looking too closely at what was happening to the individual bodies in case he recognized one of them as needing help and he knew that, right then, saving himself was as much as he could possibly hope to accomplish.

He’d made his way down to the stream and had washed his wounds as well as he could and then he’d used his shirt as a bandage and he’d drunk some water and then he’d forced himself to walk away from the charnel.

He was able to see the hill that the path skirted, the one that he’d marched along that morning, and he got to it just before darkness destroyed his sense of direction but he knew that he only had to follow the path and it would bring him to our front gates.

Our invalid stayed that way – that is, no infection set in – and he could walk around a little within a week and do light chores a week after that. Not long after that he began to look at my women – especially the black one, Olga, and I guess that that was because of his earlier, happy experience with Trula – in a menacing way. Menacing to me that is but probably something entirely different to them.

I took his unwelcome attention to my harem badly. I had come to believe by then that all three members of it were irrevocably mine alone because they’d come as a set – that was how I felt about them, my set of women – and so none of them were share-able no matter about expendable.

I told him, categorically, that he wasn’t to even talk to Olga and seeing that it was Arndt – up to then what was mine had for the most part been his too – it made for an unfortunate stand-off between us.

So, to stave off what could have become a nasty situation which might well have led to a decidedly unwelcome confrontation, it was essential that I did something at once to alleviate the situation before he got to be fit enough to try to take what he needed by main force. Long friendship and deep and sincere esteem are as of naught when confronted with nature’s most powerful drive.

My having to make a move right away turned out to be a good thing in that it necessarily ended my procrastination about going to the city to find farmhands to hire to bring in the coming harvest and, at the same time, to try to obtain an outlet for the farm’s produce right away and far into the future. So, later on in that same day, I made my decision and I told them all that the next morning I was going into the city and I explained why and I told them that I’d be back long before dark.

As promised, after breakfast I saddled my horse and rode off.

The only inhabitants of the city by then were women and children and old men but the latter had put a council together and they’d worked out a system of patrols that made the women feel a little more secure and they’d also set up a method of rationing that saw to it that none of them went hungry.

Even so they were rapidly running out of those rations and had little fuel left and only enough milk for the babies and they didn’t want to think about how they were going to get through fall and winter.

When they’d called the council together for a session with me I told them what my position was and how I could help them and, because of that, while they could hardly be expected to be friendly to me they all recognized my worth and they asked me what I wanted in return.

“Labor to work the fields and get the crops in starting this week and then, when you’ve had enough time to get normal trade and commerce going here again, I want a guaranteed market for my wine and my milk and corn and wheat and beef and vegetables and oil and horses and mules.”

The leader, an old gray bearded man who was sitting in the center of the long table and almost directly across from me, answered me scornfully, “We have no field hands for you or for anybody else – as you ought to know seeing that it was you who killed all of our able-bodied men – so why are you coming here with impossible demands and empty promises? The ones you see here, at this table and assembled in the hall behind you, are the only males left in the entire city and how long do you think any of us could work in the fields? It would have to be ten minutes of work and then an hour to rest up!”

There were murmurs of concurrence all around the hall and when that had died down I said, “There’s a big shortage of able bodied men, sure, but in wars that’s what happens. Always has and always will.

“However, I want you to remember that I’m not the one who gets to decide when there’s going to be a war. I only fight in it when one has been declared. Now, as for the labor question, I saw lots of women walking around outside in the streets and many of them look healthy enough to work so what’s wrong with sending me fifty or so of those? They can live on my farm until the crops are in – that will be in November when the last of the root vegetables have been lifted – and I’ll pay them the usual rates and I’ll also send you free supplies immediately as a friendly gesture. If you agree with me on that then we can meet up again in November and talk about quantities and prices for provisions to see you through the winter and on a regular basis from then on. What do you say?”

Who could possibly argue with that logic and so in short order it was agreed that the first ten of a total of fifty comely – uh – that is, strong women would be picked to come with me the next day when I’d returned with a wagon loaded with oil and potatoes and flour and with a dozen bullocks tied to the tailgate.

They tried, and failed, to hide their relief and soon after that, and after a glass of the last of their wine, we made up lists and they got down to details so fine that they included promising to provide enough hay to smooth out the ride for my passengers on the way back.

When I got home there was vast relief all around, especially for Arndt, when I told them what I was going to bring back with me from the city the next day.

I got to know the histories of my three women during the long nights of fall after Arndt had left us after dinner every night to see to it that his field hands were – uh – properly taken care of through the night and we could take advantage of that to become a, well, a warmly content and secure family in the big bed.

The Quartermaster had met up with Helga in a normal, friendly way on one of his northern travels as a purchaser for the Army and had eventually persuaded her to let him live with her whenever he was visiting the area. They got on so well that when he’d been promoted to Quartermaster he’d brought her back south with him after his last trip. Her real name had around ten syllables in it, with only one vowel as far as he could make out, so he’d picked the name ‘Helga’ for her.

The black woman had become orphaned when her parents had gotten caught trying to steal four piglets from the city’s Police Chief and both of them had been hanged the next morning. She’d survived on the streets that summer and fall but when the winter set in she knew that she’d have to do something drastic so she’d dressed herself in men’s rags and tried to join the army – she’d suspected that her attempt wouldn’t be successful but she hadn’t eaten anything for days and hadn’t felt warm for weeks so she was desperate – and the recruiting sergeant had sniffed out the fact that she was female in about two seconds and had accepted her into the private army that he’d just that minute decided to put together. However, that same night he got drunk and boasted about having ‘signed-up a young and lovely black split-arse as a recruit for his private army’ and it got to the ears of the Quartermaster and, black women being so scarce in those parts that they were considered exotic, he’d strong-armed her for himself before the sergeant had even had enough time to delouse her and clean her up enough to become a suitable bed mate. He – the Quartermaster – made her join his own private army in which Helga was the only other member. The change in status was lucky for her because otherwise, after a few weeks or months, the sergeant would have tired of her and she would have become his company’s ‘mascot’ and thus, ‘anybody’s.’

In spite of her color she had an unmistakably Romano name so, in an attempt to appease his own ethnic prejudices and to make life easier for her, her new protector came up with the name ‘Olga’ to match ‘Helga.’

His third female recruit, the local girl, was forced on him in that she’d somehow managed to slip into one of the tents in his supply area with the intention of stealing anything of value that wasn’t tied down and she’d been brought to him by two sentries who had caught her when she was on the way out with a sack full of goodies. Before he could order a beating for her, prior to sending her back out onto the streets, Helga and Olga heard about her and when they’d questioned her they’d found out what had happened to her parents and that she had no home to go to and had no relatives to speak of and so that was that in that the Quartermaster had had to accept their decision with all the good grace that he could muster because he was by then putty in their hands seeing that they’d joined forces to give him the best loving that he’d ever known.

After letting her ‘join his ranks’ he decided to call her ‘Hilda.’

Olga, the black eighteen year old, rapidly filled out and her body caught up with her actual age a few months after getting nutritious food on a regular basis and the Quartermaster was delighted when it became obvious that she’d be able to share the work load between the sheets with Helga instead of just lending a judicious hand now and again as the opportunity arose or was made to arise.

Hilda got trained to take over Olga’s light duties and although she was only around twelve years old she, too, began to show signs of puberty a-coming on because peasant girls in southern countries, who get fed adequately, fill out quickly and come into maturity early.

She was even more pleased than the Quartermaster was when her breasts had swelled enough to provide a nice handful for him and when she showed blood the first time she shouted out the news to the rest of them that very minute and was promised that after the next time, following the universal practice, she’d be allowed to join the party every night as a fully participating member.

It took some time before Helga genuinely wanted me to get between her legs – wanted me to rather than merely allowing me to – and when that became obvious it didn’t take long before Olga mellowed a little and became a bit more open to the drastic change in her life and then she acquiesced too. She didn’t truly accept me as a lover rather than a master until she’d finally realized that I did in fact respect all three of them equally. Besides that, she loved having her own room in such a beautiful house and on the grounds of the picturesque and bountiful farm.

Hilda, however, couldn’t get herself to accept the fact that the man who had saved her from a truly nasty fate – the Quartermaster – was gone and wasn’t coming back so how could she be expected to transfer her loyalty to me because, she must have figured, surely it was only a matter of time before I too, in my turn, would either be killed or would go away? Because of that she decided to simply do what was expected of her but there was no love involved.

By then she was already big enough to have her cherry plucked, as it were, but she was small-boned and fragile and so I contented myself with being only playful with her because I knew that if I was patient she would eventually come around and initiate the act and by waiting until that happened I’d gain a good deal, overall. I’d be able to train her and custom fit her and she’d then stay special for me for many years. I figured that maybe I’d keep her for Sundays and, in the long term, for when the edge had gone off as far as the other two were concerned.

 What finally made her ask if she could really share my bed, and not just be a plaything, was what happened when a Gypsy caravan of four covered wagons came by and the leader asked me for permission to camp on my land for a few days and nights.

As always with Romas, they tried to take advantage of my generosity by staying around for weeks rather than days and when I was told that they’d begun to openly collect some of our eggs I made it plain to them the next morning that they had to leave before the sun went down again.

When they were moving out Olga, who was a gypsy herself and who had made friends with some of the women and had gone down to say goodbye to them, heard a duck quacking in the lead wagon and because she was in charge of all of the poultry on the farm she was infuriated and she called out to tell me what was happening.

I came running and when I checked out the inside of the front wagon I found not only the quacking duck – a runny-nosed child was holding it and it was obviously intended to be a pet for her – but also the bodies of perhaps a dozen more that had had their necks broken and were hanging by their tied together legs.

Arndt had come down by then and when he looked in the second one he saw that they were hiding the body of a calf that they’d cut the throat of and in the third one we saw that there was a gaggle of geese that had had their heads chopped off and in the bed of the last one was a large basket that was half full of eggs.

Seeing that made me so angry that I knocked the driver of the leading wagon to the ground and then I told Arndt to keep them all where they were until I got my knife so that I could use it to castrate all the men because they were evidently a menace to society while intact.

I might well have done so too but Olga pleaded against it with such volume and concern that I contented myself with getting Arndt to help me to merely beat all the men up and then throw them into their wagons, after our women had rescued the stolen items, and then send them on their way.

Olga, surreptitiously, painted a convoluted sign on our front gate – it was truly amazing how much information she’d packed into a few hieroglyphics – that, she told me, warned their like to stay away: ‘You can’t expect hospitality here but you can expect rough treatment because they hold firmly to the ridiculous custom of wanting to keep what they own for themselves!’

Hilda had never seen leniency given to malefactors before so she was astonished that there had been no killing of proven, caught-red-handed thieves and even more so by the fact that it had been a mere woman who had been powerful enough to make me let them go with only a clobbering. Because of that, as she confessed to Helga, she finally reconciled herself to staying with us permanently so that she too could learn how to be able to have the kind of power that determined whether grown men lived or died, or got cut or not, and she’d decided to fully embrace the situation that she found herself in and learn how to be clever enough between the sheets to compete with Helga and Olga in the department of providing me with pleasure on the way to being given equal status.

Happily for me, when she’d learned enough to make that happen, the two older women recognized the threat to their own status and so they became more enthusiastic all around and, in the nature of things, by doing so they enjoyed themselves more which, in turn, generated even more effort and experimentation. I, of course, was by far the biggest winner.

Helga knew that she was barren, due, she told me, to having being horribly abused when very young, and so, not wanting to have to suffer with squalling brats ever again, I made a point of always using her to wind things up with. We’d all go through our favorite routines and I’d keep the love playing going until Nature saw to it that I had to bring an end to mere indulgence and then I’d mount Helga and, uh, deliver-unto-her.

Not enough can be said about how wonderful it is to be able to grab at a soft belly and clutch at charming breasts on both sides during the vinegar-strokes and how comforting it is to be able to smooth them afterwards. Knowing that they’re there throughout plays a big part too, no doubt.

Arndt, on the other hand, had never been married nor had he lived with one woman long enough to know about the drawbacks of having kids underfoot and consequently he didn’t establish any cautionary ground rules and so when he’d decided on which six women would be allowed to stay with us over the winter – he’d been diligent, during the two months of harvesting, with narrowing the fifty odd candidates down to the final half dozen who were both efficient at work and who satisfied his taste in women – and, knowing that they had some security at last, all six of them stopped whatever they’d been doing to keep from becoming with-child during the months of competition and they all found themselves pregnant soon after doing that.

When I was told about it I congratulated Arndt and told him that we, in the main house, would like having his women bring the brats around now and again but that he had to understand that none of them would ever be allowed to stay there for long and for no time at all if they were cranky due to teething or colic or whatever. He didn’t understand and was too proud of his prowess to let any of my warnings disconcert him and so I said no more about it but I knew that he’d probably be asking permission to escape to my place at night a few days after the first of the babies came along and would be begging to be allowed to stay there night and day after the third one had showed up.

When the last of the snow had melted on the second spring of our living on our new farm a messenger from the city came to us with a request from – I nearly jumped to attention when I saw who had sent it – The Man himself.

In it he said that he was visiting the area and asked would I be so kind as to come and see him in City Hall at eleven o’clock on the morning of the next day.

We had always liked each other – on my part, I liked him as a man although I didn’t think much of his diplomatic skills and he liked me because I’d never lost a battle under his banner nor had I ever balked at a request of his – and so, when I walked into the room as the church bell ringer was carrying out his, up to then, longest task that morning, he stood up and we embraced and we spent an hour catching up although my contribution, besides a summary of the last battle of the last war, took about two minutes to tell and then he brought me up to date on the happenings back home. As I listened to him I got to be even more thankful that I’d had the good sense to stay miles and miles away from the intrigues and the foolishness and the stupidities.

At noon we went into a side room where a vast spread was laid out and all of his aides joined us and we sat and ate. I was seated next to The Man.

“I’m told that most of this food and wine came from your farm. Is that right?” The Man asked after sampling a few of the vegetable appetizers that had been put in front of us.

“True indeed, Sire,” I answered, “and all of the oil that was used for its preparation and as far as I can see from here – excepting only the goat meat and the goat cheese because I never could stand having those creatures around any place of mine for a reason that I don’t like to remember – all of the meat and poultry and eggs and cheeses came from my place too.”

“Ah, ha! I have you there because I was told the whole story by your mother-in-law a couple of weeks ago when I went to your place back home to find out exactly where you’re living now. Still, if that’s how you want to play it then let’s by all means let it go.

“Tell me about this new place of yours. How far away from the city is it?”

We talked amiably about next to nothing until it got to be time to take some brandy into a small room and once inside it The Man signaled his entourage to see to it that we were left alone and then he shut the door.

“The thing of it is this,” he said when we’d given the good brandy that came from my cellar the respectful pause that was its due, “do you remember the siege of Mallois? It was the first of the cities that you took at the start of the last war. Yes?”

“Sure I remember it, sire. Its walls were too thick for our catapults to make much of an impression on them so we had to settle for a siege. We would have done it in relative comfort seeing that our supply lines were only around twenty miles long and so we could have stayed there for years if it had proved to be necessary but when Arndt found a way to cut off their only water supply it only took a couple of weeks before they asked for terms.”

“Ah, yes. Arndt. He didn’t come home either and when I asked about him I was told that he was seen being speared and then bludgeoned in the battle here. Pity. He was a good man.”

“What you heard was exactly true, Sire, but it didn’t kill him.”

I told him what had happened and he was pleased to hear that Arndt was still alive and was living at my place and then he smiled as he went on, “I’m especially glad to hear that he’s working with you because that surely means that you can leave him in charge of your precious new estate down here and come and be my General again. Am I right?”

“I’ve always found it difficult to say ‘no’ to you, Sire and, seeing that it’s a long way for you to have come in person, I presume that the job is going to be the usual one but I haven’t heard that you were contemplating going to war again. I didn’t think that there were any more countries left that could pose a threat to us – uh – that is, to you, Sire.”

“No, no. You got it right the first time. A threat to ‘us’ and it will always be to ‘us’ for as long as you’re still breathing. A man can leave his country as far as living there is concerned but he always knows exactly how long the road is that will take him back to it.

“No, I’m not talking about a new war I’m talking about the same one. The one that I’d thought we’d won nearly two years ago.”

“I don’t understand, Sire. I, above all men, should know if we won it or not, I think.”

“Yes. You won it and as decisively as always but something has come up that has nothing to do with whether you won the war or not.

“Let me tell you what has happened in Mallois since you took it.

“As you just said, the city is near our border and so it was easier than usual for me to send people there to run the place and allow you to take the army on to the next city.

“Uh, Pimpletisia I think?”

“Right, Sire.”

“Well. This is what happened – you no doubt remember my wife’s cousin, Tamakin?”

I had to keep my face inscrutable and didn’t trust myself to speak because I’d never liked the asshole and I didn’t know where The Man was headed with this but I needn’t have worried because he waved away my hesitation by saying, “It’s all right. I know that you two didn’t get along which confirms my opinion of you as being a good judge of character.

“Well, after around six months when the people that I’d sent to set up and get the place running properly had done their job, I made the mistake of letting my wife and her family coerce me into appointing Tamakin as Governor of Mallois along with some of the northern part of this country.

“Well, the unmitigated simpleton promptly came up with a pompous and ridiculous title for himself, which I don’t wish to form in my mind no matter about actually say it out loud, and off he went to his new appointment.

“Well now, you won’t believe this but before a year had gone by he had the gall to declare himself King Tamakin and also the Prince of Charenska and the Count of Mallois!

“You can imagine how that made me feel.

“When I sent to ask him if he’d gone out of his mind and that he was to come home immediately he sent my messenger back with the note that I’d addressed ‘To The Upstart Tamakin’ unopened, and along with another one that said that I had to use his full, proper title if I wanted to communicate with him!

“I made enquiries as to why he’d dared to be so arrogant and I subsequently found out that he’d become aware that the city’s walls had proved to be indestructible in spite of all that you’d tried in the siege and that the city had had to surrender only because its water supply had been cut off. And so, because of that, he’d had wells dug – deep, deep wells – and now he has water a-plenty which comes to him independently of the river supply. Also, I learned that he’s amassed enough food and supplies inside the walls to survive a siege for years and I guess that he thinks that in that time he’ll be able to form alliances with other countries to not only drive away a beleaguering army of mine but also combine with enough of them to get to be strong enough to defeat me in open battle with the aim of taking over my entire realm!

“Have you ever heard such stupidity? Who in his right mind would want to form an alliance with that upstart imbecile?”

“It’s hard to believe such a thing could happen, Sire, and even if there were other rulers in the known world who were of like mind – which there aren’t because we’ve beaten all of them – one five minute conversation with him by any greedy upstarts, face to face, would make them all decide against having anything to do with him. Ever.”

“Exactly. But the thing of it is that he’s there right now and he’s openly defying me and that can’t be allowed to go on so I’m here to ask you to come back and take the city again. Will you do it?”

I needed a moment to think and I came up with, “Sire, knowing him I going to assume that he’s already asked for something from you that, if granted, will let both sides ‘Graciously avoid confrontation and thus eliminate the need for rancor on either side.’ which is how I’ve heard blackmailers phrase it many times.”

“Ah, yes. My always astute General hasn’t been slowed down by his new status as a country gentleman farmer and, knowing that, I shouldn’t have expected to get a straight forward ‘Yes, Sire. At once, Sire.’ answer out of you this time. Right?”

I waited and he said, “Well yes, he has, in fact, asked for something. He wants me to hand over this whole newly conquered country to him so that he can re-name it ‘Tamarkia’ with, of course, himself as its King and by doing so, ‘We can then happily live side by side in perpetuity as equals and without rancor and do much profitable Inter-State trading.’

“Now, what have you got to say to me?”

“Holy Mother of Christ! King of Tamarkia! That idiot? In that case, here’s the answer you want to hear – Yes, Sire. At once, Sire. I’m your man!”

“Good! I didn’t doubt your loyalty for a second and I’m sure that you would have given me the same answer even if you and Arndt wouldn’t become his subjects if that happened and wouldn’t lose everything that you have, including your lives, a day or two after he was named King of this country!

“Well now, seeing that that’s settled, there’s no time to lose so I want you to wait on that farm of yours until I send one of your old field commanders, Melansk, to see you and he’ll tell you what’s been done up to now regarding the siege of that accursed city.

“There. Well, that’s been dealt with so tell me something. Will you stay here for the evening meal? I’m not leaving until tomorrow.”

“I’d rather get on with my preparations at once if that’s acceptable, Sire.”

“Good man. Very well then, go and our next meal together will probably be after you’ve brought me the head of that traitorous snake of a cousin-in-law of mine.

“So, good luck to you and here’s a final toast – to yet another glorious victory to add to your long string of them.”

On the second day after my meeting with The Man my old time friend and fellow soldier, Melansk, showed up at my place and when the niceties of greetings had been dealt with, and some agreeable reminiscences had been gone over, he told me the details as regards the new siege.

All four of our biggest catapults had been in position for weeks by then and were all lobbing forty-kilo rocks every half hour haphazardly over the city wall of Mallois onto the houses inside. As I already knew, and as Melansk had found out for himself, although catapulted rocks could smash and knock away the cut stones that formed a façade all around that city’s defensive walls, behind those stones was a twenty feet high and fifteen feet deep barricade of heavy rocks that had been roughly fitted together and then anchored with iron tie-rods and then cemented together so as to create a formidable barrier. And, of course, the huge, thick oak doors had an iron portcullis in front of them that shrugged off the largest projectiles that our catapults could hurl at it.

Because of that Melansk had wisely given up on trying to smash entrance holes in the walls and was content with merely harassing the populace until something better was thought up. To maximize the intimidating effect of having large, flying rocks drop in on the citizens’ houses and buildings our crews were keeping the catapults working all through every day for as long as there was enough light to see by. Teams of men were supplying them with the projectiles that they’d quarried out of a nearby hill, and could clearly be seen doing so by anyone standing on top of the city’s walls which had to be demoralizing in its own right, and each machine was flinging a rock once every hour on a staggered basis so that every fifteen minutes or so a missile was sent on its way. Every four hours the frames of the machines were moved a few degrees to give them new targets, to add to the discomfort of the recipients, and now and again the bucket would be filled with thirty or forty grapefruit sized rocks. It wasn’t feasible to keep up the firing through the night but the buckets would be loaded just before it got to be too dark to see and then all four catapults would have the tension put on them and, at haphazard times through the night, one of them, in turn, would be fired into the city just to spoil the sleep of the rebels and to keep them aware of their predicament.

After telling me all that Melansk went on to say that he’d found several of the men who’d been in Arndt’s group when I’d sent him to check out the possibility that the city’s water supply might be vulnerable and they’d told him the whole story.

At the time of the first siege it had been thought that there were wells inside the city walls that made them independent of the need for a river or a stream but I wanted to be sure so I’d asked Arndt to check it out and he started by going down river looking for a stream that might be joining it from the city.

He had no problem at all with identifying one of dozens of tributaries as being the right one because it was filled with garbage and it stank with the excrement of many people.

He followed it upstream until he found where it came out of some rocks that were a few hundred feet from the city’s walls and he knew from the volume of water that its source couldn’t be from wells alone.        

He decided to circle the whole city and to that end he made his way through the foothills that were to the north and he eventually found a sinkhole that was off to one side of the big river and into which was rushing approximately the same volume of water that he’d seen pouring out of the rocks at the south side.

He sent some of his men to bring axes and woodworking tools and before the next day was out they had cut down around twenty trees and had trimmed the trunks into rough beams and had dropped them into place, over and around the sinkhole, in anchored footings that they’d fashioned by repositioning rocks and using more horizontal timbers.

Consequently, when they’d filled in the spaces in the dam with branches and more rocks and rubble, only a trickle of water got to go down into the sinkhole and the gratifying result of Arndt’s initiative was a total surrender by the city’s inhabitants in a few weeks instead of months or even years.

Melansk told me that one of the men who’d been with Arndt on that sinkhole closing expedition had showed him where it was located and they’d found that the same timbers from the time before were exactly where they’d been dumped in the nearby forest after they’d been removed to re-supply the newly taken city.

It took only a few days to position them all again and close off the supply to the city once again but, to be sure, they sent out a scout and he reported back later that the lower stream of water had been reduced to a trickle and, because of that, it couldn’t possibly move much of the city’s sewage away and down to the river proper and it stood to reason that the stink inside would have to be increasing exponentially as each day went by. However, as we both knew, stink can be gotten used to and even ignored after a time especially when the only remedy would call for action that would lead to certain annihilation of the team that was sent out to do it and would, at best, give the city only fleeting relief, as it were. Also and besides that, who knew whether or not they’d already come up with ways of dealing with it; by having each individual bury his own waste or devising efficient latrines or . . . whatever.

“So,” Melansk said, “our forces are being subjected to a stalemate that might well continue for many months unless someone comes up with a clever way to end it.”

I didn’t tell him that a ‘clever way to end it’ was already at hand, as it were, but not because I didn’t trust him but because only two living people in the world knew about it and that, as the old saw has it, was already one too many to keep a secret so it would have been sheer folly to add another one.


What only Arndt and I knew, and what a handful of other men and women once knew, was that a few days after we’d taken the city – there was less barbarity than normal by our soldiers because we were only about twenty miles from our own border and so, all through the siege, I’d allowed one third of them, at any one time, to go home and be with their families – we’d checked the massive walls all around for vulnerable spots and because we hadn’t found any and because we knew that we might have to take the city again and by force instead of by cunning – which we cynically believed to be quite possible and maybe in our own life times at that because we are soldiers and we have total contempt for all politicians and know them to be nothing less than self-serving, overly-status-conscious, full-out-power-mad schemers – we took the time to think up a plan for the future.

When we were in full agreement, Arndt selected and then sequestered sixteen able bodied men from the city’s population, along with four women to cook for them and to – uh – accommodate them, and we made them collect timber, from the ruined and abandoned houses that had taken direct hits from our missiles, and use it to build a large barn up against the main wall in a sheltered place that was far from any houses and whose entrance was gained only through a lean-to alongside it.

The lean-to part was equipped with an anvil and a brazier and there were a few stalls in it and some horse armor and broken swords and spears and old saddles were lying in them which showed every passer-by that it was army property and was thus ‘off limits.’

The outer side of the big wall where the site was located ‘happened’ to face out onto a plain where a catapult could be set up outside the range of archers.

The men, concealed inside the barn, were then made to work around the clock in four-on eight-off shifts using chisels and mallets to chip away at the cement until they could get at the tie-rods that were holding the boulders in place.

What one bunch of men can construct another can de-construct.

The rocks themselves were far too hard for the available tools to make much of an impression on but when the tie rods were exposed and then cut through the freed up individual rocks could be levered out or pulled out. They used horses and ropes and blocks and tackles to help them do so and, for long term security, when they hauled away the freed-up rocks, which they did at night only, they took them to a quarry so that their presence there wouldn’t surprise anybody.   

They kept working until they’d formed a tunnel that was about six feet wide and five feet high – as determined by the size of the rocks that were removed – and it went all the way in until it came up against the façade of cut stone.

When that was done they covered up the mouth of the tunnel with wooden planks and loose rocks and dirt and then they smeared the surface with stucco and then put mud on top of that until the existence of the tunnel couldn’t be guessed at even if anyone, sometime in the future, dared to force entrance to the barn.

In the interest of security – obviously that was of paramount importance or the whole scheme would be rendered useless – when all the work was finished Arndt offered all of the workers the choice of having their throats cut there and then or ‘volunteering’ to join our army.

Surprisingly, every single one of them opted for the second choice.

Similarly, the four women were told to choose between being put to death where they stood or volunteering to become camp followers and they too found that they had a sudden, overwhelming ambition to become a part of our army. Because of those two things we not only ensured the secrecy of our little tunnel but we also won twice over because every army can always use more men and, especially when supply lines have lengthened, comfort women are almost as essential as food and good water for the troops’ morale and welfare.

The work had taken them over a month and, by then, I and the main body of my army was already marching south towards the next battle or the next siege – which ever one proved out – so Arndt had to ‘borrow’ wagons and horses to catch up.

I saw to it that the sixteen men all became front row troops and, sure enough, through lack of skill and practice they all perished before the war was over.

The women joined the professional camp followers who straggle along behind our troops as best they can and they and their children are given an evening meal. Because the four new recruits were young and attractive (what else seeing that it was Arndt who had picked them out?) in a matter of weeks they were all four pounded to the point where they had to concentrate on staying alive no matter about trying to sell state secrets. There was always a long line of horny, battle-hardened men looking for relief on every rest stop and the four women had to let dozens of them use them through every night. Life is hard for everybody in time of war but especially for providers of ephemeral products that aren’t directly essential to the war-effort. None of them made it to the end of the war.

When I’d waved goodbye to Malansk I told Arndt what had been said and when I told him about who wanted – no – who was demanding to be named king of the country where we were living, which would be renamed ‘Tamarkia,’ the first words out of his mouth, when he’d managed to stop laughing, were – “When do we leave to squash the Asshole Royal Pretender?”

It was difficult for me but I asked him to please stay behind and keep the farm running and I promised that I’d send someone with a message for him to come north if I found that I needed his expertise which, as we both knew well, was most unlikely remembering that the tunnel was patiently waiting to be opened up and utilized.

What got him to agree to stay behind was what would have made me do the same thing in his place which is that both of us have spilled enough blood and have seen enough blood spilled to last us several lifetimes and, also, on top of that, it made sense seeing that we now had a lot to protect and had already gotten used to living the good life.

                               //                                                                         //

When I got up to Mallois and had met up with all of my field commanders I took a walk around with them and I saw that all four catapults were still being deployed at lobbing rocks over the wall. When my inspection tour had ended and I’d been told about everything else that was going on I asked them to get the catapult crews to quit working for a while and come to the big tent.

When they were all there I told them that they were doing a good job – etc. etc. – but that I was going to interrupt their routines for a day or two because I wanted them all to take part in a challenge that would let us find the best crew as far as hitting a precise target was concerned.

We all went back to the catapults and I pointed out a turret that was in range of all of them and I told them to take the rest of the day over repositioning their rigs and to then take some practice shots at that particular turret.

The next morning I went back and I told them all to select three of the best rocks that they had in their stock-piles and take turns in trying to hit the turret with them. One of the crews got very close twice and the last one, luckily, slammed into one of the slit-like openings for archers so that team was the clear winner.

I told the others to go back to harrying the city’s inhabitants and I ordered the winning crew to dismantle their machine and get it towed or carried over to the northern plain.

They used a dozen draft horses to pull the timbers most of the way and they needed the services of a hundred men to first clear a straight path for the horses and then to occasionally manhandle everything where the terrain was too broken up for anything but foot traffic.

The crew was mystified when I explained what their new target was – it was fifty feet to the west of a copse of pine trees and seventeen feet down from the top of the wall – and they must have thought that I was either senile or going mad. However, their degree of unhappiness was probably a small fraction of what was felt by the men and the horses that had to long-haul rocks to the site because there was no suitable quarry nearby.

The crew had been successful at hitting a round turret that was about thirty feet high and ten feet wide but their new target was only around six feet by six and, when they were able to start firing missiles again, the day after they’d set everything up, they got nowhere close to hitting it squarely.

It wasn’t long after the first rocks got to be flung at the new target before scores of the inhabitants of the city climbed up onto the wall to see what we were up to and they sent out shouts of derision and jeers every time that a missile knocked only a few bits of cladding stones off their formidable barricade. After a few hours of that most of them got bored and drifted off which was, of course, a good thing for us.

The next morning the team’s third shot was a lucky one and it hit exactly right and when the crew saw that a mysterious hole in the main wall had been partially uncovered behind the cladding they got to be a great deal more enthusiastic about their task and they speeded up with the re-loading and the officer in charge took care to select near replicas of the rock that had hit the target.

Knowing that it would only take a few more hours to open up a sufficiently large breach I sent a message to the commander who I’d told the day before to put together an elite fighting squad that consisted of sixteen strong, proven soldiers – all of them were to be under twenty five years old – that he was to bring the squad to the vicinity and have them bivouac just outside arrow range from the wall and about fifty feet from the target and then wait for my signal before doing anything else.

Most of the gawkers had gone away already, as stated, and it was obvious that the ones who were still there couldn’t see the hole that we were uncovering because none of them were showing any signs of alarm which meant that their line of sight was either being blocked by abutments, or whatever, or perhaps the angle of sight was too acute for them to see that anything untoward was going on. They had so much faith in their security that they didn’t think for a second that something drastic was about to happen.

In the early afternoon the catapult finally finished its job of exposing all of the tunnel mouth and so I gave the signal and the commander involved, who, of course, had already told his men what was expected of them, gave the order and they abandoned the little camp that they’d set-up and stormed the opening and broke through the flimsy, timbered covering on the other side and then the door of the shielding barn and they killed the few defenders who happened to be in the vicinity and then set off apace in order to get to the main gate before the keepers of it could be warned.

Once there they pulled the massive wooden doors open and then hauled up the iron portcullis and, that done, our pre-alerted entire army swarmed in.

Due entirely to the element of surprise, although in this case it must have been more like pure astonishment, we lost only four men after the hastily summoned garrison tried to form up and mount some kind of counter attack but they soon gave up on it and cut and ran. They threw away their armor and weapons as they went and they frantically looked for somewhere to hide for long enough to shed their uniforms and come out pretending to be innocent civilians.

My commanders and I were able to eat our evening meal in the central palace and it tasted much the better from our knowing that it had been prepared for His Royal Highness The King Of Tamarkia that never was.

I was positive sure that he wouldn’t need any of the food himself because his head, along with his lieutenants’ and all of his male relatives’ heads, were in boxes that were already on their way to The Man.

Although The Man hadn’t contacted me directly – there’d been no time for that seeing that I’d only been on site for two days and he couldn’t have known that I’d even arrived – I guessed that he’d long before sent orders to Malansk and his commanders that they were to carry out that grisly act in an unusually wide-spread way and he’d probably done so because he knew that his wife would plead for all of her relatives’ miserable lives as soon as she found out that the siege was over and he figured that a fait accompli and a clean sweep was the right way to go.

As, of course, it was.

We didn’t do our usual ravishing of the first family that time because they were our countrywomen – I’d bedded at least two of the lesser members of it over the years – and the First Lady and several more were related to The Man so we had to protect them rather than molest them.

When the city had been secured, which didn’t take long, and the new administrators were in place, making me a civilian again, I decided to escort the subdued but grateful-to-be-alive-and-unmolested women home and so I commandeered four carriages and ten wagons – they all had an unbelievable amount of baggage – and we set off early one fine autumn morning.

When we entered the palace grounds The Man greeted me warmly and completely ignored all the women and so his wife had to step in and lead them away to temporary quarters.

When we were seated, and had wine to hand, he made me tell him about the unbelievably short siege and I went through it all for him and when I got to the part about Arndt having weakened the wall after the first siege he was both besides himself with glee and vastly relieved to hear that it was mainly Arndt’s doing because, for a long time by then, he’d hated having to think of me as being the only really capable man in his entire army. I would have preferred to not tell him about the tunnel because who could know if the same thing might prove to be advantageous in a future war but seeing that half the army and all the officers knew about it already there was no point in not revealing it to him and I knew that he would have gotten really mad when he’d, inevitably, been told about what had happened and nobody in his right mind would want to make The Man angry.

There’d been no time to set up the lavish dinner in my honor, with hundreds of guests, that he’d wanted to provide and so his wife took the God-sent opportunity and put pressure on him and got him to invite all of the relatives of hers that I’d brought with me to the hastily put-together and more hastily prepared meal,

Even so we had to plough through five courses and then he allowed only five minutes for dessert, a bit rude of him I thought seeing that it was quite clear that all of the women, as usual, liked that part best, and then, ready or not, he stood up, which meant that the meal was over, and he took me to one of his private rooms. He brought out some fine brandy that went down smoothly and well.

He’d given me a lot presents already – like a fine gold-embossed dagger, with a ruby and diamond handle, and an impressive pile of jewelry for my wife, “or whoever” – and then he invited me to choose any chivalric title that I wanted.

I thanked him and told him that the only title that interested me was ‘Emperor Of Europe’ and he said that if that one became available he’d take it for himself but he told me that if it did happen I could become king of any country that I chose – “Take your pick; France or those loose Italian states or Austria or Germany or Spain or The Land Of The Engs.”

I told him that I’d heard that it rained just about every day in Eng-Land and that when the skies cleared up for a day or two the Engs got invaded by the Scots from the north or by the Welsh from the west or by the Irish from the south – in French or Spanish ships – or from the east by bloody-minded war-parties from those ice-covered countries up north.

I went on to say that I’d also heard that Spain was such a dry, poor country that the Moors, who’d over-run it much earlier, hadn’t bothered to so much as explore most of the country and that, besides the dryness, in the northern parts the natives thought that watching bulls being tortured and killed was entertainment and that it was also up to its eyebrows with various hierarchies who were secure because they could, and did, make any and all men and women cower simply by threatening them with ‘Eternal damnation” and who unaccountably believe that having God’s people tortured in God’s name is done to please that same God.

As for Italy I said that I’d heard that it was split into so many factions that trying to make one country out of them would take up all of my time and leave none to enjoy the wine and the food and the women.

Regarding France and Austria and Germany I told him that seeing that they had common borders and were constantly trying to enlarge themselves at the expense of one of the others I wanted to be King of all three or he was to forget about it.

After a good deal more of happily drunken argument we eventually agreed on – forgetting about it.

We’d emptied a large carafe by then and just after he’d called for more to be brought in the clock on a table by the window chimed midnight and it triggered the host in him to tell me that he was mortified about the fact that although he knew that I couldn’t have been with a woman for sometime he’d forgotten to fix me up with one for the night. When I’d assured him that I didn’t want one, “But thank you very much, Sire,” he offered to send me a boy or a youth but I told him that my inclinations didn’t go that way and that I thought that I could cope with celibacy for one more night.

He apologized profusely again and, a bit later, when he tried to stand up to go and empty his bladder he fell right back into his chair and so he had enough sense to call it a night and he rapped the table to get some assistance.

I left him then and I managed to find my room and the brandy successfully muffled the signals that were coming from my loins because of my having been in the company of many lovely ladies who, it had seemed to me, had competed to be the one who was showing the most cleavage.

I was able to sleep for about four hours but then I was awakened by an attention getting erection that wouldn’t quit and long experience told me that the only way to get it to surrender was by getting out of bed and finding a woman to come and share it with me.

However, I also knew that in that place, the Palace, that wouldn’t be a wise thing to do so I got dressed and when I’d found the stables I saddled my horse.

By riding hard I arrived at my old farm as the crows were waking up everybody and everything including the roosters.

My wife knew already that I’d won yet another big victory and when they’d roused her from her bed she came at me with all smiles and I could see in her eyes that she hoped that she was now a ‘Lady’ of some kind – preferably a ‘Duchess’ but at least a ‘Countess’ – and she didn’t take it kindly when I told her that she was still plain old ‘The General’s wife.’

However, the King’s presents helped to placate her a little.

Seeing her all rumpled and rosy and smelling her unique natural odor brought back many memories and after kissing her mouth I eased her nightgown aside and buried my face between her nice breasts to get more of her odor which, of course, aroused me again at once and, knowing that the children wouldn’t be getting up until the crack of noon, I asked her to come with me to the big bedroom. She swallowed, delved deep and then came up with enough grace from somewhere to agree without carping, but also without much enthusiasm.

That first time went well for me, as it would have if she’d been sporting a hole as big as a horse’s collar between her legs, which, seeing that our fifth, and last, child had had an unusually large head, was close to being halfway true.

The second time – it was involuntary because my body recognized my partner’s body and remembered all the good times and wanted to recapture some of that rapture – was hopeless because, although, when I was all the way inside her, she pressed her knees together and brought into play all of the internal muscles that can be utilized, it was so unrewarding for me that I started trying to bang it against the sides in there and, when I could take no more of that nonsense, I faked an orgasm for the first time in my entire life – I wanted to be kind to her because of our history – but I don’t think that I fooled her much and even as I was going through with it I already knew, and she must have guessed it too, that there’d never be a third try that morning nor, indeed, any other tries ever because the act is far too important to my mental and physical health for me to even entertain the idea of putting up with anything less than the ideal.

When I’d dismounted I stayed still and rested and I remembered why it has long been the accepted practice in my country for the patriarch of a family to get himself a sized wife.

A ‘sized wife’ is a woman who was a virgin when she first came to the man’s bed and has allowed only him to penetrate her ever since then – hence ‘sized’ or ‘custom-fitted.’ Obviously she stays exactly right for him physically for years and years and indeed for the rest of their lives as long as she doesn’t get pregnant. They are usually women so plain and poor that they are not only available but also won’t ever tempt the husband, or any other man in the household, to want to marry them – which accounts for the legitimate wife’s near complacency with the arrangement – and the fact that they’re plain, or fat or skinny or short or even blind or deaf doesn’t matter much as long as they’re clean in their person because their only role, when called on when the love play with the wife is finished, is to provide a vagina that is guaranteed to grant the maximum pleasure to the man who bored it out in the first place and has had exclusive use of it ever since.

Because of her much vaunted and privileged role in life the sized wife takes strict precautions against getting to be with child but if her methods fail then the legitimate wife – who is always at least the second person, and sometimes the first, to know about it because she assiduously keeps track of such things and is entitled to make spot checks when the moon tells her that she should – finds her a suitable husband, by offering whatever sized dowry that it takes to get it done, from among the farm workers and the baby becomes that man’s child and has no claim on the estate of the family.

If that has to be done the wife then has to find another virgin and the cycle repeats itself.

The need for the practice comes up because enhancing the man’s pleasure is taken very seriously and it certainly helps with limiting his need to go out looking for younger flesh.

I knew that if I was to come back and live permanently with my wife I’d have to employ a sized wife and I shuddered when I tried to visualize the woman that she’d deem plain enough to be safely brought into her household.

She’d given birth to my seven children and so her inability to please me was fully understandable but – what’s a man to do? Volunteer for castration, maybe?

I found out when I was around twenty five that my father was so virile that over the years he’d had himself a whole string of sized wives but, because I was the youngest of his children, by the time that I was old enough to go to school he had eased off somewhat and so in my formative years – between, say, eight and fourteen – there was only one of them, her name was Maya, and she and I became very close.

There was a large gap in ages between my next oldest brother and me because my mother had had three girls in a row before I came along and, consequently, I was left pretty much to my own devices seeing that my brothers didn’t want a kid tagging along with them and I didn’t want to play house nor pretend to cook nor dress dolls, or whatever, with my sisters.

Because of that I was very grateful when Maya took a liking to me for some reason and she became my, very welcome, regular companion when she’d finished her few assigned household chores every morning. She’d go along with whatever role I dreamed up for her – she’d play the bear or the deer or the wild sheep while I was on a hunt for one of those and she’d help me build castles out of discarded planks of wood; or make tree houses; or assemble huts out of tree branches; or dig for treasure and, well . . . all the rest of it, and it was always me who tired of any of our activities first.

She’d even trot along behind me when I was riding a pony or, later, a horse and she never dropped back very far because she had one of those loping running styles of her tribe that let them cover ground effortlessly and tirelessly.

We’d swim together in the summer and we’d be naked, of course, and she’d warm me with her body afterwards and, until I got to be about ten, my only reaction to being held up against her was gratefulness for the warmth and softness and for there being plenty of flesh to hug.

Of course, that didn’t hold true for long because one day, when, as I said, I was around ten years old, I got an erection when she was holding me and when I pulled away to investigate it I asked her what was happening to me and she giggled as she reached to hold it and said, “At last. Hooray! Let me show you what we can do with it, shall I? – – – – – – – – Oh, dear! – – – – – Well, when you get to be a little older I’ll show you. Be patient because then you’ll find out for yourself why all men go crazy about wanting to put it into us. Well . . . . it’s good for us women too, I suppose, but not, I’m sorry to say, nearly as much as it is for them.”

I don’t remember if she was disappointed or not when, for several weeks, the thing kept showing up and then disappearing again on its own almost as soon as she could reach for it but when it got better at its job and stuck around for a little longer she applauded but she’d tell me that it was still too small for its primary purpose and that I had to be patient.

Getting all that practice made my development in that area accelerate and by the time I got to be about a year older I was regularly getting it off inside her to the extent that she stopped bothering to wear anything under her wrap-around dresses to be able to accommodate me that much quicker. Because she was a big woman I’ve been partial to big women ever since.

Being allowed to wallow in her soft flesh was gratifying enough but when she showed me how to discharge my needs her body took on the trappings of a shrine.

 As I matured I wanted to do it more and more often – not much later I truly couldn’t get enough – and while Maya liked pleasing me and never said no she was adamant about our going to one of our safe places to do it to be sure that we never got caught or even aroused suspicion which always surprised me.

One afternoon, when I’d just had my fourteenth birthday and she’d been away for two weeks to help her family with the harvest I got a really big erection – it was hard to the point of being painful and was long past the point of being all-attention-gathering – and when, at last, I got to be alone with her I indicated very clearly that I wanted to get it on by feeling her up and, as she was opening up her clothes, she looked over and saw what I was pointing at her and her face took on a frightened look and she pulled her clothes back together and turned to run off but, out of mercy I guess, she turned back and said that she could never again let me put it inside her because it had grown too big.

I wouldn’t let her go until she gave me a sensible reason for the sudden and cruel change in our usual routine and she eventually and reluctantly came out with the details of what a ‘sized wife’ was all about and why staying custom-fitted for her master was all important for one of them. After saying that she went away quickly and easily left me behind because I couldn’t walk properly no matter about run.

When what she’d said had sunk in my impediment eased away immediately and I had to sit down because it came to me then that my father had been having sex with my Maya for years and, worse, whenever he’d done it to her recently it could only have a been a few hours before or after I’d been with her!

My face turned white from the import because it was easy to imagine what a terrible chance Maya had been taking for me. I would have gotten a bad beating but she’d have had her throat cut and then would have been thrown to the night creatures in the woods.

I went through agonies in the next few days seeing that, like those Egyptian Pharaohs, hardly ever in my life had I had a serious erection that I hadn’t be able to get taken care of – well, that is excepting night time exotic dreams but they took care of themselves – and I knew that I couldn’t ask my brothers for advice because they had a way of brushing aside my explanations until they got the truth out of me and that was not to be borne so I had to beg Maya for help and she fixed me up with a willing kitchen maid.

However, that didn’t go on for long because she was a capricious little woman who made me beg for her favors every time and, besides that, she kept asking for presents so I got rid of her.

Because of that, no longer having a suitable partner, I was forced to learn – at first hand, as it were – the usual practice of finding relief that’s used by all youths who weren’t born with my advantages.

I thought that that would be the end of my – uh – intercourse with Maya but that wasn’t true by any means.

Around one month after what I’d thought of as having been the last time that I’d ever be with her she gave me our signal to meet in one of ‘our’ secret places – that time it was in one of the bays in the milking barn – and when I got there she threw off all of her clothes, without a word being spoken, and then she lay down on the hay and opened herself up to me in as lascivious a way as can be done.

When she’d assured me that past restrictions no longer applied I indulged myself and she worked her hips like never before and made it a grand ride indeed and then, for the first time ever, she held me in place and milked me dry after I’d transferred my juices. After that, instead of lying still for me for a while to let me wallow, she pushed me off and she raised her hips and packed hay underneath them and she stayed still like that for about ten minutes.

When I’d gotten some strength back, and seeing as how I’d been looking at her center being raised invitingly while I was waiting for signs of life, I wanted to do it again but, also for the first time ever, she said no and soon after that she got up and got dressed and when she walked away the only words that came out of her mouth were, “Same time tomorrow. Do you hear me?”

I reluctantly had to be content with having it only the one time and I stayed where I was and tried to make sense of what had happened.

Back then I barely knew that the nice thing that we’d been doing for each other for all of that time was how babies are made so I should be excused for seeming to be totally dense. Except for her insistence on our being unobserved every time I’d thought of our making love in the same way that I’d thought of her bathing me or dressing me or telling me stories at bedtime.

I had to ask a farmhand, a long and special friend of mine, what the reason for her new and strange behavior was. I described what ‘a certain girl’ had done and he explained its significance at once.

The next day, after reporting to our spot as ordered and getting undressed, the previous day’s happenings were repeated and, once again, after a being made to get off her as soon as I’d delivered, I watched her lying still with her bottom raised up by straw and I asked her why she wanted to have my baby. She blushed and blustered and sighed and tried to avoid answering but when I persisted she said, “Well, I guess that I’ll have to tell you but you have to promise to keep it to yourself. Do you promise?

“Well, I’m coming up to be thirty years old and I realized a while ago that being a pampered sized-wife is not what I want anymore. I want my own family and although I know only too well how hard a life it is being a farmer’s wife at least it will be my life. Having a baby – no, I mean having your baby because you’re young and strong and I love you which will mean that not only will it be healthy but I’ll be able to love it too whereas I doubt if I could do so with your father’s, although – Oh dear me! – he must never find out. Please, promise me again that you’ll keep my secret? Good, I’m sure you will – well, having a baby will mean that I’ll be given a dowry and a husband will be found for me and, please don’t tell anybody this either, I think I’ve found a way to get the man that I’ve picked out for myself to be the one but I’ll have to be quick about it.

“There’s another reason why I have to get this done right away and that’s because you’ve now opened me up to your size and so I have to work hard to fool your father every time that I’m called to his bed and that’s not a nice thing. Even though he only wants me two or three times a week these days I hope that I don’t have to do it much longer.”

We met every afternoon for perhaps two more weeks and the same scenario played out every time and then, one day, she didn’t show up and she never did again.

When I got to be sixteen my father sent me away to get some military training with the King’s army and after successfully passing the various physical tests – and being able to recall and recite most of the successful battlefield strategies from way back in history, and achieving the required levels of ability with all kinds of weapons during the first year, – we were all spilt up and taken out of the big dormitory and assigned to what they called ‘Squad Rooms’ which had sixteen beds and lockers in them – ‘Squad’ is the name given to sixteen soldiers or sixteen cavalry or sixteen just about everything else in the Army and is a favorite number because it can be easily and quickly configured into four by four; or eight by two; or sixteen by one; as required for specific duties. A squad can provide a useful amount of intimidating force on its own and can be combined with others to form, well, all the way up to a division while still keeping the built-up sense of team-work and loyalty and long practiced self-protecting procedures within each squad – and we were delighted to find that on three days of the week four women from neighboring towns and villages, who were attracted by the generous tips that we were sure to give them, were sent into our rooms just before lights out, ‘To turn down the bedcovers.’

To avoid unpleasantness and complications they all carried with them a half dozen sheathes made from sheep intestines that were washable and reusable and they usually had to wash some of them out there and then because we were all seventeen or eighteen years old and were in our prime and . . . . but there, that’s another story for another time and what I want to relate here is that over the next two years we chose, or were chosen by, our favorites and one of them was a lovely and accommodating women who had been born in a village that was near my home and who was called Myra and, I subsequently found out, had been friends with Maya’s family.

Well, I learned to like what Myra could do for me so much that I fought, literally and multiple times, to allow her to ‘drop out’ of her assigned group and come to my bed exclusively. Obviously I could hardly use force on her but, knowing that although she liked me too she had to make a living, I gave her just about all of the allowance that my father sent me every month.

I continued to see her for years afterwards whenever I could get away from my army duties, up until I got married that is, because we were so compatible that no one else could come even close to parity with her between the sheets and that ability is much prized by me and by the few men who are lucky enough to meet up with it.

Anyway, thinking about ‘sized-wives’ in general had made me remember Maya and that, in turn, made me recall that Myra knew her family and so, suddenly swamped with curiosity for a reason that didn’t quite surface enough to be recognized, I rode over to Myra’s village the following afternoon and I found that she was still living in the same house that I’d bought for her and where we’d often gotten together.

She was very frail and had recently been widowed but she was pleased to see me and after doing some pleasant reminiscing, while drinking some of the wine that I’d brought, I asked her about Maya and she told me that before she, Myra of course, had met up with me in the military training camp, Maya had been married off to a widowed dairy farmer from outside the next town who had prospered no end soon after the marriage and they now had a large on-going business and they were living in a big house with extensive grounds that carried many dairy cows and cattle. When I asked her about the size of Maya’s family she told me that she had given birth many times – she knew for sure that she’d had at least four kids in quick succession – and further careful and discrete questioning got her to recall that the first of them had been born prematurely but had turned out to be a healthy boy. I asked her if she could remember what they’d named that first son and it took her a few minutes before she could come up with it.

The boy’s given name was, ‘Arndt.’

                                     //                                                         //

The next day I stayed in bed for a while to let my family have breakfast on their own and when I showed up for lunch after taking a long walk, all five of my children who were still at home came to the table, in their own sweet time of course and after much calling, and, although they were pleasant enough at first, not ten minutes had gone by before the squabbling started.

It was as if I’d never gone away.

It was the exact same nonsense too –

“T’wasn’t my fault. He told me to do it.”

“Did not!”

“Did too!”

“Did not!”

 – – – –

“All right, stop it you two.”

And then, from the other side of the table –

“Mama, he’s looking at me again.”

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Am not. “

 – – – –

“All right. Stop it you two.”

It put me off my food and way-out-of-proportion annoyance swamped me even though I knew that that such behavior is universally tolerated as being normal family life.

Not ten minutes after their infuriating nonsense had driven me away from the table an endless stream of visitors were shown into the house.

After greeting them – and accepting their congratulations – I politely tried to look interested in their answers as I asked about their families’ health and the wellbeing and the recent histories of mutual acquaintances. After a few minutes of polite but empty chatter every one of them sent his wife and children away and then led the conversation around to the hard times that he was going through and then attempted to put the squeeze on me for a job or a loan or some such.

After the tenth – or was it the twentieth? – had been aided appropriately I felt something rebel in me and I told my clerk that I’d finished for the day and that he should use his best judgment regarding the ones who were still waiting.

Then I called for my horse to be saddled.

I went upstairs and packed my saddlebags and when I came down again I found that my whole family had somehow sensed what was going on.

They had all gathered in the foyer by the front door and they all pleaded at the same time but in their different ways to get me to stay.

I kept my mouth shut as I pushed through them to get to the door and then I waded through another bunch of visitor/supplicants and then, after I’d mounted, I nodded goodbye in their general direction, without catching anyone’s eye, and I headed south.

I yearned to be with my new family and with Arndt.

I knew that by leaving the place where I was brought up without finding and talking to Maya – something I didn’t want to risk because it might well have caused her endless and unnecessary trouble with her large, well-established family – I’d never find out for sure if Arndt was my son or my half-brother or maybe not even related in any way at all.

But there, either-which-way, it doesn’t much matter does it?