Princil's Magic : Chapter 5 : Guthelm's Woman (Part 1)
Now Aribor has delivered Remzain to the Great Sorceror Valdark. The story continues :-
She is beautiful to those who value such things,” said Valdark coldly. “She would indeed fetch a tidy sum in the slavemarkets of Grelb or Gorthon!”
Aside to Aribor alone he whispered, “ She would indeed make some powerful magic if she were left to our finer arts.” Aribor nodded. He of all people understood what value the beauty would have to sorcerors and makers of magic, wild and dark. He tried not to reveal the reluctance he felt towards Valdark using her for such practices, just in case the Great Sorceror was still penetrating his mind. He had the sense that Valdark had already passed sentence upon him, that confiscation of his prize was sufficient punishment and he saw no further reason to pry into his mind. But he also knew Valdark had already said she was destined for King Guthelm’s use. Her beauty was a prize which could be used to please Valdark’s master, in whatever way the master wished. Guthelm would be pleased to have the best of the local beauty selected for him.
As a prize Valdark treated Remzain with civility. One could never be sure if a captive woman given as a prize might become a prized wife or mistress to the King, with some real power. The women of the King had sometimes been awarded the power of influence over the King, choosing his most favoured lieutenants and plotting the downfall of those they did not like. It was always wise not to antagonise the females who entered Guthelm’s bed, or who were given to other lieutenants or allies, because it was never easy to predict which ones would gain the most favour and power, whether longstanding, temporary or permanent. There had been many women, at different times, who had held power by their influence, and some of them still did. It was sensible not to antagonise them. Of course she might just as well be discarded or given away, or be treated as a mere bauble.
“You are to be taken to the King, Guthelm, who will, I am sure, be pleased to see you amongst his conquered women. Be sure you will be well enough looked after. I understand your father was Chanceleord – a Councillor of this city?”
“Was?” Remzain asked, her worst fears coming to the fore. “What has happened to him?” Her last knowledge had been that Aribor would look for and perhaps hope to save her father.
Valdark knew without any further investigation who she was. “Your father has been sentenced Remzain. The sentence has probably already been carried out,” said the sorcerer coldly, betraying no feelings upon that subject.
“What is the sentence?” she asked, fearing the worst. “What has been done to him, or will be done?”
“The sentence was death!” said the sorcerer.
“Wizard, is this true?” Remzain asked to Aribor?
“It is true Remzain. I have no power to save him. His sentence is passed.”
“Who has passed sentence?” she asked.
“Guthelm and the judges,” said Valdark. “Do not be worried Remzain. You yourself will be looked after well enough. Your father cannot now be saved. There is nothing you or anyone can do to save him now. All you can do is to look forward to your new life. Take my advice; leave the past behind!”
Remzain understood. This was what she had expected. She knew of the reputation of the barbarians. But she had hoped Aribor might have some influence. Now clearly she was being taken from the wizard Aribor by this Valdark, evidently his superior, apparently to be given to Guthelm, the King of Grumandor. If Guthelm was responsible for her father’s death she could hardly feel any pleasure in her new master. If her father was still alive, which seemed less than likely, perhaps there might be some way she could influence him.
Guthelm was big, stocky, an ox with great strength in his arms and neck. He wore the furs of animals and was bearded. He chose a helmet with horns and wore it as a crown often. He would have been handsome once, but hard living and excess eating made him overbuilt and fleshy. He looked dangerous, as his reputation suggested. Remzain was very much frightened by him, because of the power he was reputed to have over his own people, and over the conquered. His reputation for impulsive violence and disregard for the conquered was known, even to her, a young lady of Cromilil, and now her father was ensnared and possibly murdered already in his dungeons, and she was his slave or servant, to be used by him at his whim, she assumed.
Valdark stepped forward. “My lord, this is the young lady of the city, Remzain her name. She is one of the most beautiful prizes we have yet discovered in this city. I thought perhaps you would like her to join your women, as a slave, perhaps a concubine if you take to her.”
The King lowered his goblet and gave concentration to the young lady brought before him. His searching eyes looked directly at hers and perused her body, perhaps undressing her. “Fine, yes. She is fine. I am sure I can find room for her amongst my women. You are a beauty! Tell me your age, dear girl?”
“I am twenty one years old sire,” she replied quickly, nervously. She found she was tongue tied in his presence. All the court looked on.
“Are you a rich girl or poor?”
“Few are poor in Cromilil. My father is, or was, rich, I suppose, a merchant.” He did not enquire further of her father. She judged he did not know of her connection to a councillor who had been tried that very afternoon in his court.
“I dislike rich merchants, but their daughters may be tender,” said the King. “When I am ready, later, you will come to me tonight. Thank you Valdark for your taste.”
She wanted to say more, about her father, but evidently she was dismissed. She strained to say, “Sire my father is in your captivity. I believe he is to die. Can you save him?”
“Who is her father?” the King enquired.
“Chanceleord, a Councillor,” replied Valdark.
“We passed judgement today?” said the King.
“Yes my King.”
“Which was he?”
“He has gone. He went during the evening’s entertainment,” said one of the King’s henchmen. “He gave a speech! We had some fun with him, but he died bravely.”
“I do remember now. A pompous fool! He died hard, but I suppose bravely,” granted Guthelm.
Remzain went cold at those words of the henchman – ‘he went during the evening’s entertainment’ – and even colder at the King’s callousness. But what could she expect from these barbarians and the reputation of this King. She had to save herself, survive and put her father behind her. At least she knew. She wanted to say more to the King, to enquire, to chastise or ask for her father’s body, or something …. But no words came to her, and she knew that it was just as well. She must preserve herself, and the rest of her family, still alive and safe as far as she knew; unless Aribor had revealed all to Valdark, but she expected that he had not, that he had remained true to his contract, although he had lost her to his superiors.
The King’s attention was instantly elsewhere, and she was hauled off the floor by the rope which loosely bound her wrists. She was with Valdark and the burly silent sorcerer for the moment. Valdark beckoned her, and the silent sorcerer pulled her gently with the rope. “Come Remzain! We will take you to the quarters where the King’s women are kept.”
The women’s quarters were not far away – across the street from the Council Hall, in rooms that had been a hotel for waiting representatives or merchants from other towns and cities until today.
“Borlod (the silent sorcerer) will take you in and leave you with the King’s staff. I have much work to perform,” said Valdark. Remzain thanked him politely, but she did not know why she should thank him for the horrible news of her father, for her captivity, for her being given to the odious King, who was responsible for the sacking of her beloved city and her idyllic homeland, and the evident murder of so many of its innocent citizens. Why should she thank him for taking her even from the wizard Aribor. Odious Aribor might be, but there was an honour and safeguard in him, which she now valued. She was sure he would keep her family protected. She wished she were able to give him more favours to ensure his further loyalty. His continuing loyalty worried her a little, but she did not think he would volunteer to betray her family. Aribor had been silent, and she sensed his upset. She understood that he had been forced to give her up. She had sensed a devotion which had not been there when she was initially taken into his control. In a sense their roles had been reversed in the short few hours they had been together.
Grim faced bodyguards of the King barred the entrance carrying axes and swords. They recognised the silent sorcerer as their own and set their eyes upon the beauty. They looked, but not too closely. It was obvious to them why she had been brought here. Only the best would be given to their King and perhaps she was one of the best they had seen. Borlod led her inside.