Ragneta’s head slammed into the cold stone floor. The corners of her vision turned black as stars flashed in front of her face. Ragneta’s ears rang as though she were standing next to a church bell. Spit and blood leaked from her mouth into the pool of saltwater below, just over the stone lip her head had been slammed into. Ragneta moaned and wheezed. The catch pole around her neck tightened as she was lifted into the air once more. Ragneta flailed, attempting to wrap her hands around the catchwire but finding them cuffed at her sides in a rope corset. She shook her head as she stared at the lip of the pool, holding her breath in anticipation of the strike.
“No— please, gods no! Fuck, you’re going to kill me!”
“Looks like I missed,” The voice holding the catch pole said. It was a deep voice, but it still had a feminine edge. Aged was perhaps a good descriptor, though the woman’s strength would contradict this.
Ragneta’s face was dunked into the cool pool of saltwater with a light splash. It was a good thing she held her breath, as Ragneta would find her head held underwater by the catch-pole clutching her neck. The blue water turned red with fresh blood from the Bajonglet, soon filtered by Argelweed purifiers. Ragneta wriggled in place, kicking water up into her captor’s face.
Bubbles rose from Ragneta’s mouth to the surface of the water, she gave a muffled cry that did not reach the ears of her captor. Ragneta thrashed her head, the cold world under the water seeming to move in slow motion. Her lungs ached like a weight was pressing down against her chest, a weight that was crushing the oxygen from her body, starving her blood and sapping her energy. Colored lines crackled across her vision. She could hear her heart pounding in her ears. Ragneta went limp, ceasing her thrashing and hanging in the water as every ounce of her being was focused on not passing out in the briny water.
Another splash as Ragneta was pulled from the water. She coughed, spewing blood into the pool below. Her lungs wheezed for air, taking deep breaths until the pain of being oxygen-starved waned and her vision was clear again. Her muscles ached like she had been carrying 10 kilogram weights.
“Normally we tie subjects down for this next part,” The voice above Ragneta said, “But I want to feel you struggle through the pain.”
“Fuck you— get away from me!” Ragneta barked, glancing over her shoulder at her captor.
Mother Leonita was a tall ronelander with a muscular physique. Her tentacles fell from her head to her shoulders, mantle concealed behind her. The woman’s beak ended in creased lips, a smile directed at her plaything. Unlike the other women of the monarvent, Leonita was wearing an outfit more befitting of an executioner— a sleeveless tunic and pantaloons half obscured by a black apron, articles of clothing that showed off her impressive biceps and calves.
“Oh, but aren’t you curious just *what* I intend to do to you?” Leonita asked, pulling the catch pole closer so that she could stroke Ragneta’s face. Her hand was cool and wet, weathered by years of work doing this exact same thing with countless other helpless prisoners. Her yellow eyes bored holes in Ragneta’s head.
“You’re going to turn me into one of those— magic zombies! Those slaves who follow you like dogs!” Ragneta spit.
“Oh honey, it isn’t ‘magic’!” Leonita laughed, “We know full well all the little details of drelruning, it is practice we have been studying and perfecting for years. It is an art! Such an important part of the culture of the Cerlipes Dynasty cannot be left to wither in the occult.”
“Urgh— Don’t fucking patronize me!”
“Typical Bajon; you think everything that you do not understand is magic. Worry not, your drelrune will help you overcome your self centeredness.”
“Drelmad bootlicking fuck! I’ll kill you!” Ragneta screamed.
Leonita slammed Ragneta’s head into the stone, chipping a tooth and further bloodying the stonework. Ragneta went limp for a moment.
“How do you intend to do that?”
Ragneta wheezed, flexing her throat to prevent herself from choking on her own spit. Her vision was melding together into a vague blob of colors and the sound of her ears ringing was louder than anything else in the room. The only sense she had a good feel for was taste— Her palate dominated by the heavy metallic flavor of blood.
“I asked a question, whelp,” Leonita said, thrusting Ragneta’s head toward the floor before stopping short of cracking her battered skull open.
“F-fug— knife— s-sword— things you k-kill— you kill with,” Blood dribbled from Ragneta’s mouth as she stuttered her half-answer.
“Have I knocked something important out of place?” Leonita giggled.
“Can, can—d see.”
“That will make this next part easier.”
Leonita grabbed the handle of a brand resting in a pit of burning coals. Five white candles were lit around the pit, each one in a different stage of melting. Leonita held the brand in front of her face, inspecting the metal. It was smooth, with a scene from Nadreb scripture carved into its length. The carving depicted the Deepmother raising Solitar from the waters of the abyss, and the people of Solitar creating the Nadreb religion and subsequent Church of the Deepmother in thanks. The steaming tip of the brand, however, was a Drelrune of control— and a rather potent one. Its sharp angles and strange whirling burrs were striking, especially glowing red with intense heat. Something about the drelrune brands were beautiful to Leonita, as was the entire process of drelrune branding itself. This particular rune, striking as it was, would allow Leonita to manipulate almost everything about Ragneta, provided she thoroughly broke her prey.
Ragneta’s blurry vision could just make out that a brand was being held in front of her, red hot and steaming. She began struggling against her cuffs again, unable to budge the tight knots even an inch.
“Fuck— No, gods, no!” Ragneta screamed.
“I was really hoping that bash I gave you would act as a sedative.” Leonita said, Pressing Ragneta’s chest against the ground, her head hovering just above the water. “Mm— No, that was a lie; I could care less how sedate you are.”
The catch lowered on Ragneta’s neck as a heavy, black boot forced itself against the back of her head, craning the bajonglet’s neck downwards. A choke sputtered from Ragneta’s throat, arm muscles tensing on instinct in an attempt to grab her crumpled neck. Her throat burned, begging for mercy as the boot pressed harder against Ragneta’s battered skull.
Ragneta felt pressure against her back— far heavier than that against her neck. She wheezed as the air was squeezed out of her lungs and through her bent throat. Sharp pain crawled across her spine as the Bajonglet tried to suck in as much air as she could. It was obvious to Ragneta, even in her delirious state, that Leonita was standing on her back. She grunted, doubling her attempts to suck in all the oxygen she could despite the muscular woman using her as a step stool. The catch slipped from Ragneta’s neck, but this provided the bajonglet little relief given Leonita’s alternate method of restraint.
Leonita grabbed her drelrune brand with both hands, hovering it just above the nape of Ragneta’s neck. The bajonglet could feel the heat on her back. She grit her teeth and groaned, balling her fists in anticipation.
“Fuck— do it! Fucking do it! Get it over with godsdamnit!” Ragneta cried, tears welling in her face.
A shrill hiss echoed against the stone walls of the chamber as the brand made contact with Ragneta’s neck. The stench of burning fur filled the room before being replaced by that of burning flesh. Ragneta screamed as pain bloomed from the nape of her neck. All of her muscles tensed, attempting to alleviate some of the hellish pain that was coursing through her spine. Ragneta thrashed her head back and forth, prompting Leonita to lean more of her weight onto the bajonglet’s skull.
“Why scream? No one can hear you. Or if they can, they do not care to rescue you.”
“Fuck! Stop— gods, please!” Ragneta sputtered, tears streaming down her face. This didn’t just feel like a burn, it was something worse. Ragneta had been burned before, but this felt like hot needles being driven into her skin over and over again. Some kind of fucked up Drel magic, Ragneta reasoned, was making this far more painful than a burn.
Even after the brand was removed from her neck, Ragneta continued to groan in pain. It wasn’t until Leonita stepped off of her back that the woman was afforded any kind of relief. Not even taking the time to fill her crushed lungs, Ragneta dunked her head into the saltwater pool. The cool water helped the pain very little— the difference between it and a placebo would have been negligible— but the cool saltwater felt satisfying against Ragneta’s face. Her head surfaced briefly for air before ducking under the water once more.
Leonita moved to the opposite end of the pool and dipped the burning end of her brand in the water. She would allow Ragneta this momentary comfort unimpeded. The torturer inspected the tip of her iron, retrieving a handkerchief from the neck of her tunic and wiping the burnt flesh from its warm head. When she was satisfied, she returned the brand to a wooden rolling rack which also held her catching pole and various other torture instruments. Atop the rack was a table, on which a bottle of seaweed liquor and an empty lowball glass sat. Leonita tipped the bottle into the glass until it was filled with alcohol and took a small sip. It had an intense taste that was not unlike that of an almond, but fresh and a bit briney. Leonita hummed and smiled.
Ragneta pulled her head from the pool once more. Enough of the pain in her neck had been alleviated, but a sharp stinging remained at the base of her skull. She reached a hand back and touched her new brand, only for a sudden sting to prompt her to withdraw it once more. She craned her head towards Leonita, who was watching her while sipping at an alcoholic beverage.
“N-not much of a nun, are you, you c-crazy bitch. B-beating me and then drinking?” Ragneta coughed.
“I am not a nun, sweetheart. Monarvents and monasteries are not the same thing,” Leonita chided, taking another sip of her drink.
“Fuck you,” Ragneta spit.
Leonita finished her drink and placed her glass down, then inspected the cork for breaks and popped it back into the closure of her bottle.
“Fuck you!” Ragneta screamed.
“I heard you the first time, I chose not to respond. Your language is childish— unbefitting of a servant.”
“Of course. Why else would you have been drelruned?” Leonita said, walking towards Ragneta and crouching to eye level with the woman. “You shan’t be shipped off to some other master, though, I’ve taken a particular interest in you.”
Ragneta shut her eyes and held back tears as Leonita grasped the Bajonglet’s chin. Her head was tilted up toward Leonita’s face. Fear of being struck— burned— even drowned flooded into Ragneta’s mind. She shivered and gave a whimper.
“I will not charm you permanently like the others— what was the word you used? Zombies? Don’t worry, that will not be you. I want you to suffer for me every once in a while, after all.”
Fingers traced Ragneta’s jaw, stroking her neck and chest past her bare breasts before grabbing her rope corset. Shivers racked Ragneta’s body. The bajonglet was pulled to her feet beside Leonita— chest level with the brick house of a woman. A thick musk wafted off of Leonita, sharp and briney with a tinge of the metallic stench of blood. Ragneta winced at her torturer’s pungent aroma. The pair’s eyes met, and Ragneta said a silent prayer that the woman hadn’t noticed her displeasure.
Leonita wrapped Ragneta’s bruised neck in the crook of her arm and pulled the bajonglet into her armpit, pressing the moth against her smooth red skin. Ragneta’s legs kicked above the ground as her neck strained from supporting the rest of her body. The already ruined skin on her throat stung like it was being flayed, the bajonglet felt as though her head was practically being torn from her body. The pit was soaked in sweat, and soon, so was Ragneta’s face. Her pretty white fur was desecrated with the slimy perspiration of her new master. The briney stink ground into her nose and her lungs filled with the hot, humid air that had been marinating under Leonita’s arms all day. Ragneta struggled, trying to pull away, but Leonita’s muscular arms only clamped harder against her small head. Muscles squeezed the moth’s head from every side like an iron vice.
“Mrmmf— F-fuck,” The Bajonglet whimpered.
“You will need to get used to this smell, bug,” Leonita crooned.
Ragneta pressed her legs into Leonita’s unmoving thighs, desperate to escape her grasp. The rope around the bajonglet’s hips and wrists seemed to only tighten the more she fought. Everything Ragneta did was useless. Leonita was like an immovable object, absorbing every kick from Ragneta’s legs while keeping her hoisted above the floor like she was a toy.
“You like that, little bug? Mm— that’s the smell of your mistress. You’re mine.”
A dull thunk resonated through the room as Ragneta tumbled to the ground the moment Leonita released her. Leonita smiled as she gazed down at Ragneta’s sweat-soaked face. There was something satisfying in a primal sense about marking her property with her stench. Bajonglets didn’t have a scent marking instinct— but Ronelanders did, and that fulfillment was all that mattered to Leonita.
“Why— why?” Ragneta spit.
“Why what? Full sentences, bug,” Leonita barked, grabbing Ragneta by her rope corset and pulling the moth to her feet.
“Why are y-you hurting me? What d-did I do to you?”
“I find you cute, little bug. But I am selfish— I want you to be my little bug, and I expect my little bug to be obedient, prim, and proper,” Leonita hummed, “Discipline is necessary to maintain perfection. You are also property, I am allowed to do what I want with my property, of course. I shall ‘hurt’ you whenever I please for whatever reason I please. Understood?”
Ragneta whimpered, trying to force out a response. She didn’t want to fight anymore. Her body was broken and her will was shattered. She just wanted it to be over— she wanted Leonita to use and discard her as fast as possible so she could be rid of the pain, even if it meant discarding her mortal coil with it.
“Understood?” Leonita barked, spitting in her toy’s wincing face.
Leonita slammed the back of her fist into Ragneta’s face, clutching her rope corset tight so that the bug wouldn’t be sent reeling to the floor from the blow. Blood spattered across the ground.
“I am your owner and you need to address me as such. Formal language. I know your Bajon nobles are obsessed with formalities— act as you would around a superior,” Ragneta said.
“You’re being amicable now as you think it will get you somewhere. You are tired and bruised. Come tomorrow when your body is rested I’m sure you will have more obscenities to expectorate like the bug you are.”
Obeying Leonita was easy. Her heart told her not to— it told her to fight and kick and scream but her body wouldn’t listen. Her body knew that obeying would stave off the pain if just for a moment and so it obeyed. Ragneta coughed, hoiking a glob of phlegm and blood onto the floor.
Leonita stepped forward, looking over her shoulder at Ragneta. “Follow next to me,” She said.
Ragneta obeyed, her shaky legs stumbling across the floor to take her place beside Leonita.
The room they were in was nothing more than a large cell made of stone with iron bars restricting exit. Unremarkable were it not outfitted with chains, whips, and torture implements that Ragneta had (luckily) not yet experienced. Down the hall were similar such rooms with the occasional prisoner inside, too battered or dazed to do much more than whimper at the sounds of Leonita’s footfalls.
Ragneta couldn’t do much more than whimper, either. Her focus was on the pace of her walking and her balance. She was devoting every brain cell to the specific task of not stumbling over and knocking into Leonita; a difficult one given her addled brain, blurry vision, and ringing ears. Still she stumbled forward at a pace that was adequate for her captor. At least, she assumed so— given the lack of knuckles striking her face.
The pair came to a door. It was a normal, wooden door this time and not one made of iron bars meant to hold prisoners. This door opened to reveal a room carved from sandstone adorned with shelves upon shelves of books illuminated by glowing lanterns. In the center of the room beside a window gazing out onto the sea was a desk with a wooden easel and reed pen sitting atop it. Hanging over the window were the crossed crescents, the symbol of Nadreb. This depiction of the crosses featured a spike through the center, indicating the Church of the Deepmother denomination of Nadreb. Wooden benches and chairs were lined up against the walls flanked by lecterns and stacks of books. Leonita hung her blood-spattered apron on a wall and took a seat at her desk. The wooden chair creaked under the Ronelander’s impressive weight.
“Sit. Back to me,” Leonita demanded, pointing to a space beside her desk.
Ragneta had to hold her arms out crouching onto the floor to prevent herself from knocking into Leonita’s desk. She crossed her legs and sat her bare bottom on the floor next to Leonita. She took a deep, shaky breath, wondering when Leonita would just throw her in a cell and be done with it.
A sharp pain bloomed from the Bajonglet’s neck. She yelped in pain, pulling away from Leonita only to find a fist clenched around her throat pulling her back against the Leonita’s meaty thighs.
Gods, this is where it ended.
She was going to be turned into one of those zombies. Leonita was going to prod at her Drelrune and fuck her brain beyond comprehension and the worst part was that the Ronelander was going to enjoy doing it. She was going to get raped or tortured or made into a soldier to be killed like cannon fodder. Ragneta grabbed at Leonita’s muscular arm, trying to pull herself free from the woman’s iron grip. Leonita held strong. Her arms were like tree trunks— solid and unyielding, they didn’t let up even a centimeter. Ragneta used what was left of her strength to kick at the air out of sheer desperation. Fingers pressed against her neck, burning like an arc of static from a wool sock.
And then nothing.
Ragneta’s muscles relaxed as she assumed her crouching position once more. Her mind was still conscious, sending signals to her muscles to move and stand and fight once more but they wouldn’t listen. She tried harder, straining against the mental locks that had been put in place by the rune but to know avail. She wanted to scream and thrash but she couldn’t. Her body stayed as still as a statue even despite the burning pain in the back of her neck. Tears flowed from her eyes and dripped onto the fancy rug below.
“Once again I shall not destroy your identity outright. This does not mean I will not manipulate you through your rune. Quite the opposite, in fact.”
Ragneta felt anger, sadness, and confusion all welling up in her chest but she couldn’t express any of it. Her head throbbed, the corners of her vision graying. She could see the veins in her corneas stretching into her line of sight. The anxiety pushed against her stomach. Ragneta wanted to puke her guts out and then die on the floor in front of the gory puddle. One last insult to her new “owner.”
“Straining to move your muscles is only going to make you sick. I would suggest you relax,” Leonita said. She wasn’t even looking at Ragneta, instead feeling the movements through her fingers pressed into the Bajonglet’s neck. With her opposite hand she was inking notes using a slender reed pen and a piece of paper. She had done this numerous times but never with a prisoner she enjoyed as much as Ragneta. She was sweet, beautiful, and intelligent— all things which Leonita yearned to squeeze from her. She was everything Leonita had ever wanted in a person. In another life perhaps the pair would have married. It was unfortunate Leonita had such twisted inclinations. No matter— they would be together, even if the arrangement was non-traditional. Not that Leonita minded; there was nothing more romantic than total submission. All the better if the one submitting had to be coaxed into it; a marriage consecrated at the tip of a whip.
The thin bamboo of Leonita’s reed pen creaked in her tightening grip.
Leonita ran her fingers down Ragneta’s neck, tracing the vertebrae in her spine and humming to herself. Her soft fur was silky like the finest of cotton, as cozy as it was beautiful. It was groomed to perfection, fluffy and thick across every inch of her shivering back. It would look even better stained red with blood and streaked with deep cuts. Leonita’s pen snapped in half, spattering ink across the paper. Ragneta winced. Deep breaths in and out. The Ronelander dropped the broken pen into a waste basket at her side, then retrieved another from a box beside her easel.
“Goddess, I am so excited to get started with you,” Leonita cooed.