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The Song of Steel

Book One - Chapter 18

By W.R. Logan


Copyright 2004 W.R. Logan

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Brietana was pleased with herself.  Too many years had she catered to the retched queen.  She had given her virgin’s gift to a friend of the crown for the queen.  As if that were not enough to earn her betrayal, Brietana had been forced to watch her brother service the woman for the first year she was a slave.  Brietana was glad went the queen had grown tired of him and sent him to the stables.  She still cared for her brother deeply even though the man that she knew had disappeared with his manhood.


She worked hard to gain the queen’s trust.  Jillian had come to require Brietana to do much of her legwork after the king had confined her to one wing of the castle.  He was worried that some assassin would come after his jewel.  The kingdom was not so lucky.


The queen had trusted her to write her letters for her and then read the returns.  She thought Brietana was just a tool to use as she bid, just like those eunuchs.  Brietana had more on her agenda than being the queen’s lackey. The queen failed to realize that devotion not given freely was easily bought and the church had found her price.  Freedom.


The girl had never really known freedom.  Even before their ship was taken by King Geiger’s slavers, Brietana and her brother served as galley slaves.  Both of her parents had been slaves and most likely, their parents before them.  It was common to breed your slaves to produce more slaves.  A man born to slavery was less likely to rebel against it.


Her freedom had been dangled in front of her and she had grabbed it with both hands.  All the church had wanted was a full report of whom the queen saw and spoke.  The Scepters thought that the queen had known more about her daughter’s whereabouts than she admitted.  The fools had never imagined the woman sought to kill the girl.  All the church had seen of Queen Jillian was what she had wanted them to see.  She hid behind her deceptions like the crowfeet around her eyes hid under her make-up.  In front of Brietana, her slave, she was her true self, a person that Brietana had come to hate.


The Scepters’ reactions were mixed between shock and horror.  Rage soon followed when they had realized the mistake they had made discussing business in front of the queen.  With all of the information they had given her compiled with her own, her assassin would have a good chance at success.  Their urgency increased three fold when Brietana had told them that it was the Hemlock that the queen had hired to do her work. They sent men to the castle right away to fetch the queen.


The Hemlock was well known to noble and peasant alike.  His blades were made of pure poison the same as his heart.   The few people that claimed to have seen him told completely different tales of his appearance.  Some even claimed that the assassin was a female.  But what ever the killer looked like or what gender graced the space between his legs, Hemlock was the best.


Stories of the assassin’s kills had both frightened and delighted children for ages.  Every bard in every tavern knew at least ten songs of the murderer’s adventures.  “The Killing of a Queen” had become one of Brietana’s favorites.


Brietana stretched out in the queen’s feather bed able to enjoy its comfort for the first time.  With the queen dead, her one master, she would be free.  That was the king’s own laws and the church had promised to keep them.  Her brother was no longer Queen Jillian’s servant so he would have to stay.  He seemed to be as happy with his current chores as he had been on the ship.  Brietana felt little guilt for leaving him.


The Scepters had promised to let her brother, Karel, attend her wedding.  And maybe someday her new husband would let her buy her brother.  The wages of a royal baker had to be enough to afford the cost of a stable slave.


Her future husband, Shan, was not much of a man to look upon.  He weighed about double what a man of his height should and grew bigger every year.  His hair was fading away revealing the white of his scalp.  Large moles adorned his round face every few inches.  It would be gracious to say he was an unattractive man. But Brietana was well aware of her own shortcomings.


When she had first come to the castle, many nobles as well as knights had offered to buy her gift.  Jillian had refused their offers using her instead to win the friendship of a very powerful noble from Ronan.  The man was ruff with her and enjoyed the pain that he gave her.  She had begged the queen not to make her attend to him for the rest of his stay.  The queen refused to listen to her saying, “We all must make sacrifices for the good of the kingdom.” Before her growth spurt, Brietana was made to endure many more of those sacrifices.


The wild growth had brought with it a freedom in itself.  No longer was she forced to service the visiting nobles or the queen.  A new girl was chosen to be the queen’s concubine.  She was red haired, as that was Jillian’s fancy, with olive skin and pearl white teeth.  The woman had been a noble in the east that was unfortunate enough to be aboard a ship claimed by the king’s slavers.  Brietana wondered what the woman would do with her newly won freedom.


She took another bite of one of the pastries that Shan had given her.  He was not a beautiful man but she liked his smell.  The man smelled of cakes, pies, biscuits and flour.  It rarely took him more than a few minutes to finish his pleasure and then he would let Brietana eat her fill from the kitchen stores.  She felt sorry for the way she had treated the man when she had the queen’s favor.  When they were wed, she would give him many sons to carry his name.





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