R. C. SmithShort Stories and Vignettes

Do not read my works if you are offended by descriptions of sexuality and violence.
(Do not read them just for those descriptions, either.)

The Monument

I had to torture her, you know. How else could I have won her trust? Yes, I also raped her. We don’t call it rape, though. Rape is sex with a woman against her will. A captive enemy commander doesn’t have a will. All she has is information, and a body that can be used to get it. Or at least for trying. And for boosting the morale of the population, when they get to see a high-ranking enemy executed. With a good-looking enemy like her, they’d expect a spectacular show. I had to make sure that they got it. But that was still a few days away. Right then, I had just taken over her case.

The Navy had taken her. Her ship had been blown South by a heavy storm, unusual for the season, and blown her right into our hands. Or that was the story they told. I didn’t buy it. The crew had been all female. Lower ranks, who didn’t know anything. They died at the hands of the Navy officers, within a few days. Days of agony, I suppose, but the reports didn’t bother to go into details, they were too unimportant. An all female crew. Whatever the Navy said, that wouldn’t have been a military patrol, or expedition. And there were no indications that they were priestesses, on a ritual mission to one of their island sanctuaries. No, knowing their customs, this all female crew could only mean one thing: their mission had been diplomatic. They hadn’t been blown off their course, they had meant to come to us. They had meant to talk. They hadn’t known that there was nothing to talk about. We had already decided upon the war that would destroy them.

I waited a full week before I claimed her. The Princess, they called her, though I don’t think they had any proof that she was from the Queen’s family. The Queen tried to ransom her, but our leaders just laughed her off. The Navy boasted they’d make her talk, and what she’d tell would be worth more than whatever the Queen could be willing to offer. I waited, because I knew that the Navy interrogators were professional enough not to kill her, and not to spoil her looks for the public execution. I also knew, no matter what they did to her, she wouldn’t talk. I could have told them, but they wouldn’t have believed me. And afterwards, they might have asked me how I had known.

I didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that I had already been around at the time of the old war. I had encountered members of the Queen’s Guard then, I had seen them suffer and seen them die. None of them had ever talked. No point in bringing that up now. There were questions I didn’t want to be asked. So the thing to do was to wait, and after one week they were so frustrated with her that they were glad I took her off their hands.

Out of the hands of the Navy, and into the hands of the Army’s chief intelligence officer of the Northern Sector. No, not directly into my hands. Not yet. First, I gave her into the hands of our interrogation team. They did what they could, but they didn’t get any further with her than the Navy guys had. Of course not. After three days, I told them I’d take over. They respected my wish for privacy, a chief intelligence officer doesn’t take off his pants in front of subordinates.

On the outside, she still looked whole enough. Inside, the damage was accumulating. Slowly, I added some more. From days long ago, I knew a few ways to hurt her in ways she hadn’t been hurt before. I will not go into details, for it is better if such knowledge will die with me. The pain alone would have killed a weaker woman, not to mention the internal fractures, ruptures and the loss of blood. I waited. With her hope for diplomacy thwarted, I knew she’d try to come up with something else. She knew she couldn’t last very long anymore, and she knew that I was as high up the hierarchy as she could hope to get at. At last, she talked.

It wasn’t easy for her to speak intelligibly in her agony, and I did not interrupt her tortures to make it easier for her. She had to talk, and she talked. The fleet would attack in the Fall, she said.

At that time of the year, the wind blows from the South. We’d never expect their attack at that time, and we’d never expect an attack from the South, not knowing that for three years they had prepared that expedition, three years in which their fleet had sailed far out onto the void of the ocean, turning South far out of sight of our patrol ships, building hidden bases bristling with ships, troops and supplies on the labyrinthian tropical Southern coasts, to catch us unprepared for an assault from that unexpected direction.

It was a good plan. Had she made it up in her days of agony, or had they prepared it in advance, just in case? We’d have to move our troops South, and to all the vulnerable parts of the coast, and we’d have to put all available resources into the Navy — and, of course, we’d have to cancel the attack across the mountains. I knew it was a lie, of course, because I knew that she had not given in, and she never would. Only vanity might have made me think that I had broken her, but vanity is not among my vices.

I didn’t believe it, but, more important, the Navy wouldn’t believe it either. They knew better. It didn’t matter, though. I hadn’t expected her to come up with something useful anyway. But, I had her where I had wanted to have her.

I laughed at her. I told her they had no such plan, I told her we knew their Navy was a mess, as was their Army, and I told her where we’d attack them, across the mountains, where they didn’t expect us, where we knew their forts were crumbling and their garrisons depleted, as was the local population, due to bad harvests and disease. I told her how we’d overrun them, how we’d leave the ground strewn with their dead and dying on our way to the capital, how we’d subjugate them once and for all, and how nothing could stop us, certainly not her attempt at deception. Then I slapped her face for lying to me, told her all the gory details of the execution that I had helped plan for her on the next day, and raped her one last time, for goodbye.

The execution of the Northern “Princess” was a huge spectacle. The Prince was there with his concubines, as were the ministers, and the top ranks of the military. And, of course, a crowd of ten thousand or more, and the crowd of those who served them, offering beverages and food, and, not strictly legal but quite openly, sexual services.

It was a glaring hot summer day. She was a stunning sight — a strong body, full breasts, long black hair, and a noble face that showed contempt for her tormentors. She didn’t scream when the stake entered her vagina, nor when it pierced her entrails, nor when it splintered her right collar bone where it exited. Agony now showed in her face next to the contempt, but it only enhanced her beauty. She still didn’t scream when red hot pincers ripped apart her thighs. When one of her breasts was gone, and she still bore the pain in silent contempt, I began to worry. She couldn’t last long anymore, now. Was she overplaying her hand?

When the pincers dug into her other breast, she finally made her sacrifice. It was the greatest sacrifice she could possibly make, or ever have made. Her honor. She finally screamed.

Having held out so long had been a foolish display of pride, a dead giveaway that she was still in control, but nobody else noticed. Not the jeering crowd, not the fools on the seats of honor. What did they know about their enemy? Nothing. For them, her scream was their victory. They had grudgingly paid respect to her strength, but only on the premise that she’d finally break. Now they delighted in seeing her broken, in having their expectations fulfilled. Now she could die, without stealing a triumph from them.

Fools.

Her screams, only interrupted by her struggles to take in air, were loud and wailing, emphasizing her defeat at the skills of her executioner. Nobody noticed the sacrifice she made, except for two people. One of them, of course, was me. The other one I spotted immediately when her screaming began. At the edge of the crowd, a nondescript elderly woman with a horse-drawn cart, on which she offered ale out of several barrels. She stood next to the horse, when it suddenly shied. The cart toppled, spilling the ale. I was too far away to hear, but her gestures showed that she cursed the horse, the bystanders, the dying woman, and her own bad luck. Then, her business having come to an end, she put the cart back on its wheels, and drove off, still cursing, and being cursed by some bystanders whose pants and shoes had gotten drenched in ale.

As a cover for her sudden departure, it was a far too conspicuous maneuver. I held my breath, but nothing happened. Lack of competence, on both sides. The woman got away, with the message that only she had understood, with an urgency she hadn’t been prepared for. I only knew there had been a message, in those screams. I knew there was a code, though I couldn’t read it. I knew what the message was, of course. It had come from me, after all.

So, you see, I had to torture and rape her, to make her believe me. Had I told her I was on her side, she’d never have trusted any information I’d have given her. She would have suspected that I assumed she’d find a way to pass it on, and therefore she’d never have done so. But when I had proven to be her enemy, when I gloated over her helplessness, her pain, and her impending harrowing death, when I stupidly tried to complete her humiliation by letting her know about the destruction that her country faced after her death, that she could believe.

She died in shame, humiliating herself before her enemies, sacrificing her honor for her country, not knowing that I had deceived her. Not knowing that I had deceived her into believing the truth.

The rest you know. I went to the North, into the mountains with the attack force. Unexpectedly, they found themselves expected. Many died, on both sides, but your lines of defense held. Some of our troops retreated before winter made the mountains impassable, some of them perished in the cold, some went into captivity, I among them.

I am grateful that you will not ask me for information that does not concern her fate, and which I am not willing to give. I would have liked to learn her name before I die, but I understand that you refuse it to me. I have heard my sentence, for what I have done to her. Fittingly, my death will match hers. I welcome death, for after what I have done, I could neither live with my own people, nor with yours. I will die screaming, but my screams will not carry a secret message. All I have to say I have already said.

Her mission to prevent the war has failed, but her death has not been in vain. The war has stalled. Maybe there will be negotiations now, maybe there will be a truce. And maybe, one day, when I will long be forgotten, on the place where she has suffered and died, people will look in peace at a monument erected in her honor. Thank you.

(09/2012)

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