Author Topic: The Silken Rope  (Read 1199 times)

Description: Thomas confronts Lady Tewkes

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The Silken Rope
« on: January 05, 2012, 08:27:18 AM »
“Why is the house so dark?” she asked as she stepped into the foyer.  There wasn’t a trace of light anywhere and no sign of anyone about.  That was odd, she had a large staff that saw to her needs at all hours.  So where were they?  “Hello?” She slipped from her cloak with irritation and let it fall to the floor and went in search of…anyone.

There was a faint light from the parlor and she followed it curiously, but it wasn’t her husband or staff that waited for her.  There was no telling how tall he was sitting down, but his dark trousers and jacket blended into the room and the fabric of the chair, but the white shirt was gleaming and matched the carefully knotted neck cloth that rose snugly under his chin.  There was a single splash of red at his waist, a sash perhaps, but she saw no sign if the sword belt that should have covered it.  He was dressed as a duelist, but it didn’t seem that he’d brought his blade.

“Who are you?” she asked.

There was a deep glow as he drew on a cigar, a nasty noxious thing recently come into vogue among a certain sort.  Pale skin, icy blue eyes and dark hair that only brushed over his ears.  “Come now, Lady Tewkes, certainly you must know who I am.” His voice was a rich baritone that seemed to flow over her.

“You’re a housebreaker,” she said in a stern voice and turned for the bell rope, but only her waist turned, her feet refused to obey her command.  Then she looked back at the man, and then there was comprehension at last. “The Traveler!”

“Madame,” he made a face. “Please, Lord Traveler is fine, Duke Thomas, Lord Traveler is also accurate.  Even Thomas, though you haven’t earned that level of familiarity.  The Traveler is the name of several fantastic business establishments across the better places in the world, not the name of a man.”

“Lord Thomas,” she amended grudgingly. “Might I sit?”

“No,” he replied and puffed on his cigar for a few moments. “It is best that you stand in the presence of your betters.”

“Betters?” she grew indignant.  “I’ll have you know that I am a hereditary countess in my own right and my husband is a hereditary duke.”

“As am I, my dear,” he smiled.  “Perhaps you missed that from my introduction and tutorial.  There is some confusion over my title being hereditary, but since I’ve borne it for over thirteen centuries now, it seems that the point is moot, after all.” 

He puffed his cigar again and blew the smoke toward the corner of the room, it was strangely luminous which confused her, she was seeing things, something, and then she saw the body of her husband suspended by the neck from a velvet rope.  Her eyes widened and suddenly her corset seemed too tight and she reeled as she fought for breath and the shock that threatened the strength of her knees.  She count neither stand nor fall of her own accord, trapped upright by the will of another.

“Your husband was a rather uninteresting species of noble toad,” Thomas commented as he stood silently from the chair.  His boots made no sound on the rug and then he reached bare wood and she heard his measured tread as he walked toward her.  His finger beneath her chin raised her head until she looked into his eyes, he saw her pupils tiny despite the darkness of the room and the whiteness of her pallor.

“You aren’t an unattractive woman,” he said, looking eye to eye with her.  “And it can’t be easy standing in those heels right now.  His fingers brushed down her throat and over her décolletage, dipping into her expansive cleavage and drew the knife she concealed there.  He smiled at it and she heard his heels on wood as he slowly stepped around her, and then the constriction of her torso eased as, with a deft movement, he sliced away the lacing of her corset. Her breath came in great gulps and her color improved somewhat, but she still refused to look into the corner where her husband dangled.

“Did you have to kill him?”

“No,” he replied with complete candor.  “Though you may take some comfort that he didn’t perish for anything that he’d done, and so I didn’t let him suffer needlessly” Thomas replied from behind her.  “He died, as he lived, a wretch besotted by his wife.  Living for, and in this case dying from, her whims and caprices.  Even being cuckolded didn’t affect his adoration.  I wonder if he knew that he was bespelled?”

He walked around her; his hands were deftly tying a complicated knot into silken rope.  “Interesting, the hangman’s knot; in some countries only the commons and traitors can be hanged, and on those rare occasions where a noble gets the rope, they go out of their way to accommodate them with a silk rope.”  He tossed the untied end into the air and it didn’t fall back down.  He left the noose swinging in front of her and reached out and took her hand.

“Fascinating,” he said as he slipped a ring from her gloved finger.  “Amber is an uncommon eye color, but it isn’t too uncommon for a woman to match her jewelry to her eyes,” he held the ring to her cheek where he could see it and her eye color together.  “Fabulous eyes.  Interesting thing about hanging, when you draw someone up, the blood vessels in the eyes burst and they bug out of their sockets.  Somewhat grotesque, you can look over to your husband and see what I mean, if you like.”

“What do you want?” He voice struggled to find its strength.

“She speaks,” he smiled and stepped behind her and she felt the combs and pins holding her hair fall out one by one until her golden blonde hair fall loose and lustrous around her shoulders and his fingers combed through her long tresses carefully.  “As I was saying, in many countries the punishment is different between rich and poor, I made a point of making sure it was the same here.  Aside from the spectacle of stripping away the titles before the rope pulls tight.  With power comes privilege they say, but it comes with a price as well; such as, the great humiliation of the abatement of honors before such a terminal sentence is served.”  He slipped first one and then the other of her gloves from her hands.

“All sentences include the words ‘at hard labor,’ that means that you don’t find convicts with nails lacquered and so beautiful as yours.  Those of a convict are filthy and broken.  It’s often the same for suicides,” he added. “The body is found hanging, and if you don’t bind the hands of the convicted, the nails are often shredded.  So is the skin of the neck as they try to tear loose the rope.”  He paused as if picturing it, and she had no doubt he’d seen it many times.  “Perhaps in the struggle when they realize that it takes a long drop for a quick death and they struggle as the rope tightens, and fight for life as vision fades, from the outside in to pinpoints of light as the brain is starved of blood.  Eyes are wide open as the blood vessels rupture and the whites turn red, unseeing as the body dies around them.”  He sighed and raised her hand and kissed it.

“What do you want?” she asked as her body fought to break free of a hold she couldn’t feel or understand.

“That is a fine dress,” Thomas changed the subject.  “But you paid far too much for such shoddy workmanship.” His finger hooked in her bodice and the slow sound of ripping cloth filled the deadly silence of the room.  The cloth parted as if his holed finger were a blade, or in her mind she pictured a claw, a razor-sharp talon, until at last the garment fell away.  “But, even it is too good for you.”  He stepped back and considered her lush figure, shivering in a thin silk shift.  “Funny, women like you use the word whore as an epithet, a deadly insult, but I know many more honest whores than I do honest noblewomen.  They let men pay for the honest enjoyment of their bodies, while you use yours to soften your lies and to cheat and steal from others.  Your body is a weapon, wrapped around treachery and deceit.”

He returned to the chair and sat, facing her as he lifted a drink from the small table beside him and opened a book.  “There are a lot of names in here, and sums as well,” he refilled his drink and studied her, a drink and his cigar in one hand and her ledger book in the other.  “A great deal coming in and going out.  I commend your records, they are quite thorough.  I even commend you on your cipher, a shifting cipher based on the ancient language of the Royal Court of Aldoreane.  Not many speak it these days, its considered a dead language, but I learned it when it was still alive and thriving.” 

He laid the book in his lap and puffed his cigar again before tucking it into the inner pocket of his jacket.  “You have made many mistakes in your life, more than you’ll ever remember or acknowledge.  Now, Madame, have made a key blunder and in the fullness of time I will share the cause of your downfall with you.  We’ll have a long and fruitful discussion before then.”

“About what?” He voice was a little shrill now.

“Treason,” he replied.  “For a start.”


“Conspiring to assassinate the Grand Duchess of Hesterbur, assignation of and conspiring to assassinate officials of the Realm and the Province of Hesterbur and bribing officials of the Realm and the Province of Hesterbur; but, those are not why I’m here,” he finished his drink and set his glass aside.  “For those you’d be dragged from here in irons and have to endure the indignity of a very public trial.”  He sat and held her eyes captive with his for what felt like an eternity to her.  “You have done something far worse, you have plotted against me, and my family.  That is something far worse than any mere treason.  Governments don’t take these things personally, I do.”

“You have no proof!”

“Oh, I have this lovely book, which is proof enough for a court, but I also have the confessions of some of your fellow conspirators, courts wouldn’t accept that though, hearsay isn’t admissible and I didn’t leave any that confessed alive.  I didn’t leave some of them with bodies to be found,” he smiled at that notion.  “Although they did go to some of your meeting after they’d left the problems of this world behind.”  Before her eyes his features slowly shifted to those of three other men before returning back to his own.  “Your own confession should prove to be quite interesting.”

“You can’t make me talk!” She cried out shrilly.

“On the contrary,” he replied coldly.  “Soon, I’ll have a hard time making you stop talking, that’s why I brought the rope.”
« Last Edit: March 14, 2014, 11:53:21 PM by Lord Palatine »


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