Lord Fowler and his men moved Lords Kress and Darkwing to the manor house of Lord Hawkness. Lord Kress’ manor had been burned out, a fact that was unknown to him. Horace was paraded behind the wagons that transported the injured men. Children, and others threw rocks, rotten food and one even dumped a chamberpot over him.
Lord Hawkness saw to the injured men while Lord Fowler caged Horace and some of his men in cages brough from his estate. Heavy iron collars were placed around the neck of each man. All of them had been stripped naked, doused in water and then given bread and a thin stew for dinner. Dogs and men patrolled the yard to prevent any rescues.
Raven winced as he was lowered into a deep warm bath. Everything hurt. His only consolation was that Kress moaned in the tub next to him. He winced as the water opened up various cuts and scabs. Worse yet was the knowledge that he’d have to scrub his skin at some point.
“That bastard doesn’t have enough skin to pay for all the pain and damage,” hissed Kress as one of the bath maids began to gently scrub his back.
“I agree. I’ve been thinking about that. About what we could do to him that would be worse than being flayed,” said Raven.
“Have an idea do you?” smiled Kress.
“Yes. It’s cruel, painful and most of all, makes the punishment last, because we don’t kill him.”
“Oh, but I wanted to watch the blood drain out of him,” said Kress.
“Ah, but once he’s dead, that’s it. If we go by my plan, he’ll have to live with this for the rest of his life,” said Raven.
“Alright, what do you want to do?”
Raven leaned forward and explained his plan. Kress smiled.
Rachel was directing the men in the cleanup of the manor when a horseman rode into forecourt. Tod ran in to tell Rachel that there was a messenger for her. She ran for he door. The man had dismounted and pulled a letter out of his pouch.
I am hoping that this letter finds you safe and sound. I am a guest of Lord Hawkness and am recovering from my time spent with Horace and his slavers. I have discovered that he is the man who raided your family’s croft. If you would care to witness his punishment, please return with the messenger.
I love you and hope to see you soon,
Rachel hollered for Maggie. She showed her the letter and then raced upstairs to gather her things. In less than an hour, she was on the road to Lord Hawkness’ manor. The stallion loved the run, not knowing or caring that he was urged to ride faster. The messenger had to whip his horse to keep up with Rachel.
They got to Lord Hawkness’ manor just before nightfall. Rachel dismounted almost before the horse came to a halt and threw the reins at a groom. She ran into the main hall looking for anyone who might tell her where Raven could be found.
“Ah, Mistress Rachel,” called Lord Fowler from next to the fire.
“Where is Raven?”
“He’s upstairs. Neither he nor Lord Kress are in good shape. It was almost too late when we found them. I’ll take you up,” Lord Fowler said. He turned and headed for a set of stairs that were broad enough for six men. Rachel followed. They walked down a hall and at the far end, turned left. Lord Fowler stopped for a moment.
“M’lady, please remember that they are grievously hurt, and yet are doing their best to pretend it never happened. We’ve kept them together to help with the nursing. Some of the wounds are unseen,” he said pointing to his head.
“I understand,” Rachel said. She then turned the latch on the door and walked in. On two beds that looked more pillow than bed lay Kress and Raven. Both were swollen, bruised and cut. Rachel ran over to Raven who tried to sit up when he saw her enter the room.
“Oh my love,” she whispered, her voice choked with tears.
“I think it looks worse than it feels at the moment,” said Raven, his voice hoarse from the smoke he’d breathed.
Rachel looked him over. Barely an inch of skin was without bruise, welt or cut. A long slash across his face was puffy and swollen. She went to clasp his hand and found it covered in bruises and his wrists ringed with cuts and scrapes from the manacles. “Oh Raven, are you like this all over?”
“Yes. All over. I think the only place that bastard didn’t manage to whip was between my toes.”
“At least you didn’t nearly get your manhood pulled off,” said Kress from the other bed.
Rachel looked at Raven with a puzzled look.
“The whip caught his cock,” said Raven wincing at the thought of it. “I got my fair share too.”
“I want to hug you, but I’m afraid I’ll hurt you,” she said. “Oh, and Maggie sent salve. Lots of it. Like she knew what had happened.”
“I’m not surprised. She always knew when I got hurt or injured,” said Raven.
“When did they find you?” she asked.
“This morning. And before you ask, they have Horace and his men. We haven’t found George or the other men he sold though,” said Raven.
“We will,” said Lord Fowler. “I’ve got my men out looking right now.”
Raven nodded and winced. Rachel dug into her bag and brought out two large jars of sweet smelling salve. “Lord Kress, if you have a servant, he can put this on you,” she said as she put the jar next to him.
“I’ll find someone,” said Lord Kress. He smiled over at Lord Fowler, who nodded and left the room. “Maggie’s salves are known across the Crofts.”
Rachel nodded and opened the jar and set it beside Raven. “Let me see just how bad you are hurt.”
Raven didn’t want her to see, but there was no way around it. He opened his robe. The bath had chamomile and other herbs in it and it had brought up the bruises while cleaning out the wounds. Scrubbing the dirt and dead skin out of the lash marks had made both men scream and cry. Kress had passed out. The new scabs were forming and would be allowed to stay.
“Oh my god,” said Rachel. “And they let that man live?”
“As soon as we are a bit more steady on our feet, it will be Horace’s turn for pain,” said Raven. He was upset that Rachel turned pale at the sight of his body. He didn’t want to have her arrive until he was a bit healed, but Lord Hawkness had disagreed and sent for Rachel. Hawkness had been worried that Raven might die at one point.
“Just don’t leave me alone with him. Else there might not be anything left,” said Rachel.
“Ah lass, we have devised a very fit punishment for him. Just you wait,” sighed Kress.
Rachel nodded and began to slowly brush salve onto Raven’s skin. She gasped when she saw his poor balls and cock. She winced and realized that the men had said Kress was worse off. She sent for some fine linen and used it to pad the wounds as she turned Raven over. His back was twice as bad as his front and there were bandages placed against his skin where it had been ravaged by the whip.
Rachel soaked the stiff bandages off and then smeared him with salve. Then she put new bandages on. It took over two hours for her to complete the task. When she finished, the maid who’d worked on Kress helped her roll Raven onto his side. Then they turned Kress to face him.
“I’ll get the dinner M’lady,” said the maid as she headed out the door.
Rachel nodded as she washed her hands and tried to tidy up the mess. She’d just sat down when the maid and Lords Fowler and Hawkness came in. She smiled to see the two men carrying dinners on trays.
“Rachel, if you don’t mind me calling you by your first name, eat first and I’ll help Raven,” said Lord Fowler.
“Thank you, but only if I may know your first name,” said Rachel.
“Henry,” he said as he settled in front of Raven. “That lout over there is Devon and the lump in the bed being fed by wee Mary there is Justin.”
Rachel nodded. She began to eat the stew which was thick and meat heavy. The bread itself was heavenly, and slathered with butter. She watched Henry feed Raven, who was hungry, which was a good sign. Neither man had a fever, which was a miracle she didn’t expect to last. She finished her stew and then picked up the bowl with peach cobbler. It was warm, crusty and very flavorful.
“And just what is this punishment that our two invalids have come up with?” she asked between bites.
“Oh no. Not telling,” said Kress. He smiled.
Rachel looked to Raven. He shook his head as his mouth was full. She sighed.
After dinner, she gave each man a sleeping draught that would help with the pain. Then she curled up on the cot that Mary and another maid had brought into the room. Devon Hawkness had offered her a room, but she refused to leave Raven. Devon said he understood. She was asleep moments after she closed her eyes.