Just as the journey to Petraverdi had been so different from her first visit, so the countryside around the fortress. Herethere had been bare earth, snugged down for the winter, now there were rich crops awaiting harvest, cattle standing in the fields, and fruit of all kinds hanging thickly from the trees. She resolved to ride out and see the bountiful lands she was now the mistress of, taking with her Julietta, while her bottom would still allow her to ride out and fulfil the role of
companion, that Arabella would be very careful to take with her in future. She had no wish to encounter the Count's wrath again, nor his rod.
As they left the fortress, a small crowd gathered to see the new Countess, and pay their respects. Arabella waved to some, stopped to talk to others, acknowledged them all, until she came to one sour faced, middle-aged woman, who looked at her very directly and called out. "Welcome home, Milady. You must visit our village soon, and bless the harvest."
Arabella recognised her at once, and her mind flew back to that dreadful afternoon, when, naked and bent in the heat, the woman had driven her like an animal, and a cruelly used one at that. She pointedly ignored her, and moved on down the line.
The two young women rode on happily together, Julietta pointing out many of the local features she had missed on her solitary ride, the previous year, and admiring the prosperous looking farms, and the people that attended them. At one point they came across two men standing by the roadside, their dogs at their feet and guns tucked under their arms. The men lifted their hats and called out a greeting, and the two riders waved and called back. Suddenly Arabella turned and rode back to the men, calling to Julietta to follow.
"It's Giovanni and Julio, who rescued me," she called, "I must go and speak to them. I never got a chance to thank them properly at the time."
"I don't know about that," her friend teased her, "from what I hear, they had a good day's sport from you, to say nothing of free labour in the mill."
"Don't be silly, Julietta. Anyway, I'm sure they are much too much nature's gentlemen to have stayed to watch me bared and beaten." But she blushed, all the same. "Hello there. I'm sorry I didn't recognise you straight off but, if you remember, I wasn't quite myself when we met last." She dismounted and stood close to the two men, holding her horse. "I haven't had the chance to thank you before, but I do now, and I'm also very sorry for the trouble I put you to, and all the others who turned out to look for me."
"Why Milady, we would all turn out again today, and gladly, to serve our Countess. I hope it isn't indelicate, Ma'am," Giovanni went on, "but you musn't think you owe us anything. Everyone of us that saw it,-" so they had been there. She blushed again. "or even those who only heard about it later, are agreed that it was a very brave gesture. You didn't have to go through with it, you could have just run off back to England, but now there isn't a man here that wouldn't drop everything, if he thought you needed help. Nor a woman for that," he added, "why even that sour old bitch, Marthe who owns the mill thinks you are a modern angel, and would box the ears of anyone she caught sniggering at your plight that day."
Covered in confusion, Arabella thanked them again, and, mounting, resumed her ride, her mind in a whirl. Far from forgetting about it, the villagers were turning her into some sort of legend, a modern Lady Godiva! And the miller woman had come especially to see her heroine, and been snubbed for her
pains. How was she going to right that injustice? She did not know, but surely Donna Magdala could help?
Twenty-four hours later found them preparing for the Court of Honour. Julietta, knowing her fate, moved uneasily as her maid went about the ritual cleansing and oiling that would lead, eventually, to the first step of the long and painful road that stretched out in front of her, six weeks of nightly beatings, until her flesh was purple pulp, that screamed at each touch.
When the victim was properly prepared for sacrifice, Arabella took her place. Earlier she had come to Julietta's room and asked for the loan of gown and maid, as she too was going to offer herself for penance, and absolution. With the maid's aid, she stripped and then was washed, the rough sponge scouring the buttocks, and between the thighs until they glowed. Then she bent while sweet oil was worked into the soft skin. Finally the simple coarse red gown was slipped over her head. Hand in hand and barefoot, they set off down the cool stone passages to the chamber where the court met.
A handful of red gowns joined them in a respectful line facing their Judge, and those who had come to see justice done. Standing to one side was Fabriona, the accepted executioner of the court, a cousin of Carlo's, whose gaunt and wiry frame belied her strength and skill with rod and strap, and ruthless dedication to administering the punishments of the court to the last pang of agony, the last cry of pain, the last tear.
Donna Magdala called them to order.
The first to step forward was an older woman, perhaps forty years of age, obviously once of some beauty, but now past her best. She confessed to fits of jealousy, as her confidence in her own attractiveness waned, and to having written a particularly vicious letter to the husband of one of her many younger cousins, accusing the girl of having an affair with her own husband, an accusatipn that she now acknowledged was completely without foundation.
"Such jealous slurs are very dangerous in a close-knit family like ours, the more so as they are difficult to refute entirely, and the poison often leaves a lingering doubt in one partner's mind. I intend to punish you severely for this," Donna Magdala continued, "and you will start by receiving fifteen strokes with the rod across your buttocks." Showing both contrition and apprehension, the woman removed her gown and revealed a body still shapely in a Junoesque manner, her waist still well-defined above her swelling padded buttocks. As she took up position at the rear of the padded leather 'horse', her feet well apart, her body bent, and stretched along the cowhide, polished by the contact of so many breasts and bellies, squirming and sweating in their agony, the executioner selected a long yellow rod of cane from the Dutch Indies, a flexible and lively length that hissed in the air as she made an experimental cut or two.
The President of the court called to her.
"Fabriona, that is a very full buttock you have to work on there and, if you are to do it justice, I think you should replace that rod you have selected by something with more weight. Those plump hinds will absorb anything but the heaviest stick, and I want her not only to feel them now, but to carry the reminder with her over the coming days." "Very well, Madam," came the reply, "I'll see what I can find." What she found was another length of similar oriental cane, but thicker, as broad as a man's finger, rather than a woman's and although Fabriona demonstrated its flexibility by bending it between her hands, it was noticeable that the effort was much greater, and the tendons in her wrists stood out with the strain.
Returning to her charge, she examined the fatted cheeks bent over the 'horse' and squeezed the flesh experimentally.
"You're going to feel this brute, Dominique, even through these fat cushions, it's got weight and bite, and frankly, I do not think you have any chance of staying down unaided for a full dozen, and you know how it is once you've conceded the first time, and been awarded extras. You'd do much better, I think, to ask to be strapped down from the start. It will only cost you two, whatever happens, whereas heaven alone knows how many you may notch up if you try to fight it unsecured."
By now Dominique was seriously frightened at her coming ordeal, and could barely utter her assent. Fabriona laid down the solid rod and took straps from the cupboard, with which she secured the waiting victim's wrists to the front legs of the 'horse', low down so as to stretch the bent body forward, and draw it up onto its toes, before pulling the ankles even wider, so as to secure them to the rear legs.
When all was ready to her satisfaction, she took up her position to one side of the bare and huddled masses, and checked her aim. The monstrous rod rose to well above her shoulder, and then swept down and in, to arrive almost from underneath. On its journey it made a thrumming sound, much deeper than the ripping hiss of the discarded rod, and then impacted in the soft flesh with a loud 'thuck'.
The mounds quaked with the impact, and the woman's whole body jolted as her breath came out in a strangled cry. As the rod fell back, the blood rushed back into the gouged flesh to paint a livid red trace of its track, a little below the widest part of those wide haunches. A calculated pause to let the woman feel the full benefit of the swelling bruise, and then the second stroke swept in just below the first, with identical results, and another finger thick purple rope building in the plump white globes.
By the sixth such assault, not only was the buttock becoming pulpy, as well as purple, especially on the right, but Dominique's control was slipping. Now she cried out full-throatedly as each searching stroke burrowed into the cringing flesh, and the after-tow of each pain wave drew a long low moan.
Twelve now but not the end, the piper had to be paid yet for the privilege of being secured, and the plum coloured bruise mass had spread to cover most of the buttock below the centre. Blood was already oozing from the right flank, and looked fair to be a trickle before the last terrible two had fallen, but the surface abrasions were as nothing to the buried bruising of the heaped flesh that ran deep into the once white pillows, and would maintain their aching reminder of her fault for days to come.
At last, hoarse with her screams, scarcely able to stand, she was released from her mount, and set to turn a tear streaked face upon her judge.
"That was for the hurt you did to another woman's marriage but, since you made your false accusation in a letter, not even face to face, your hands will also pay a price. Four cuts on each palm." She turned to Fabriona. "A lighter cane will be more suitable this time." Dominique was made to stand out between the Court, with its attendants and the line of remaining penitents, and hold out a plump white palm at waist level, her forearm horizontal and fingers braced back. With a thin and whippy rod, Fabriona cut into the soft fleshy part of the proffered member.
Her strength to resist sapped by the ferocious beating she had received over the 'horse', the poor woman shrieked and sheltered her wounded hand under her armpit, as if to save it from further assault, but, by threats and dominance, Fabriona forced her to offer it again and again, each time more reluctantly, until four livid red tracks ran across the small white palm. And then the other hand had to take its due share of agony.
Whimpering now, huddled over, with her hands thrust under her arms, Dominique stood once more before the Court. Donna Magdala's face was set in stone. Arabella found it difficult to see in it the kindly and thoughtful mentor, at whose feet she had sat, learning the ways of the Petraverdis.
"Finally we come to the matter of your unreasoning sexual jealousy. It is most unbecoming to a woman of your rank and position in Society and, despite your apparent distress, I cannot overlook it. You will receive six strokes of the strap on your vulva, but, in view of the fact that you have been severely punished already tonight, you will report to my room in two days' time, when you will be in a better condition to appreciate their beneficial effect, and after you have had forty-eight hours in which to contemplate them."
Dominique made a stiff and flinching curtsey in acknowledgement of the clemency granted her, and retired to the end of the chamber, while the next penitent took her place, ashen faced at the degree of severity the Court seemed set on tonight.
She was little more than a girl, probably no more than eighteen, and stood nervously before the President, holding a small enamel box. "Lucia, you stand accused of the disgusting habit of smoking cigarillos. Do you have anything to say?"
"No, Madam," replied the girl, in a small voice, "it's true that I have been smoking, and I'm truly sorry."
"As to that, the Court will make it its business to see that you are," Donna Magdala responded, drily, "Are those the offending objects?" "Yes, Madam," came the tremulous reply, and she placed the evidence of her fall from grace at the President's feet.
"This is a particularly abhorrent habit in one so young and fresh, leading as it does to stinking breath, and dry yellowing skin, to hawking and spitting, and all manner of ills, and I intend to both punish you as a deterrent, and to mark the disgusting nature of the offence in an appropriately degrading manner."
Donna Magdala paused momentarily, to let her words sink in,and then continued.
"You will bare your buttocks for one dozen cuts with the rod. But for your age, and relative inexperience of the court, it might well have been many more. Afterwards, you will be left on the horse, and one of your precious cigarellos will be placed in your anus, lighted of course. As it burns down, you will have plenty of time to contemplate what will happen when it reaches its fleshy holder."
The girl blanched as her judge pressed remorselessly on.
"In addition, to mark the disgusting and degrading nature of your fault, you will, for the next seven days, be assigned to wash, by hand, the entire household collection of soiled monthly rags."
The girl squirmed with mortification, for not only was this far and away the most lowly task in the household, lower even than the emptying of chamber pots, but, with nearly a hundred women of menstruating age within the walls, she might well have to scrub and wring out up to fifty noisome towels a day with her delicate hands, unused to menial work of any kind, let alone this degrading task.
At a gesture from Fabriona, she doffed her gown and bent herself over the 'horse', revealing two perfect peach halves, well fleshed, and clenching involuntarily with fear of what they were to suffer, while the wide spacing of her thighs, with her ankles strapped to the rear legs of the 'horse', combined with the tightly bent posture, opened up the cleft between to expose not only her pouting vulval purse but the crinkled anus, soon to receive a fiery visitor.
Although the President had taken account of her age and inexperience to set her tally at a dozen only, she was granted no further
consideration. Fabriona whaled in the rod with the full force of her steely arm to raise a series of plumy welts across the girlish globes. Each stroke was greeted with a cry of gradually increasing intensity until she shrieked aloud, and bucked and writhed as much as her tightly secured position allowed. When it was done, a thick blood-blue bar, three or four inches wide, stretched across the weeping woman's hinds, particularly inflamed and puffy on the right, where several droplets of blood threatened to break loose and trickle down her thigh.
But the sentence was not yet complete. Fabriona went to the box at Magdala's feet and extracted a slim white paper cylinder, its honey brown contents showing at each end. Taking a candle from one of the wall brackets, she stood at Lucia's head and placed the forbidden tobacco stick between her lips. When it was well alight, she moved to the girl's rear, and sought out the cringing anus with her left hand, thrusting two fingers, none too gently, deep into the rectum. As she withdrew them slowly, she pressed the butt end of the cigarello into the gap between them so that, as the fingers drew clear, the sphincter closed on the last fifth of the cigarello, which hung there, jerking lightly as the anus twitched, and issuing a thin string of blue smoke, as evidence of its continued vitality. Lucia's body tensed as she tried to prevent the cheeks of her arse closing on the red hot
morsel of glowing tobacco.
With appropriate justice handed out to the pretty smoker, the head of this household of firmly disciplined women returned to the file still awaiting correction.
"Stand forward, Julietta. You've come here, at your own request, to be put through the cleansing fire of a repeated ritual beating, so that, by the end, you will rave passed through the vale of agony to a place where your mind is at peace, although your body is in torment."
Donna Magdala lifted her gaze from Julietta's red clad form, to address the assembly at large.
"Our dear Sister here has already experienced this prolonged and painful course, it having been prescribed for her last year as a remedy for her spiritual ills at that time and, despite, or rather because of, that experience has returned for another healing draught of that same medicine. I strongly recommend that any of you, placed in a similar position, where intrigue and danger surround you day and night, and there are terrors of all sorts to be faced, I recommend you, I repeat, to submit yourselves to such an ordeal, to temper your spirits for the tasks before you. Moreover," she went on, "I shall be writing to the Senior Ladies of all our scattered families, urging them to institute the practice of sending their young women here, at least once, when they are of an age to be thrust into the kind of position I have described, so that they will enter the world of great responsibilities, having passed through the tempering process themselves."
A murmur of approval greeted this speech, and Arabella thought she might well find herself administering a very severe 'rite of passage' for the females of the clan by the time she took up the burden that Donna Magdala would eventually lay down. How would she feel, she wondered, when called upon to cut soft young woman flesh with an implacable rod, like the pitiless length that Fabriona was selecting for Julietta's martyrdom? Not only to mark tender white skin with bars of anguish, but to bring that brutal stick hissing into a buttock ravaged by days and weeks of repeated thrashings, where the once white
smoothness was now a lumpen purple mass of raised, dark throbbing bruise, so sore that even to touch was unbearable. And she would be driving in the rod, extracting a scream for every stroke, and testing the young woman's control to its last stretched nerve end. A shiver of excitement ran through her at the dire duty she would one day be called upon to perform, and her fervid imaginations flowed down her belly, to become warm wet physical manifestations that trickled down her inner thigh. She shook herself free of the wave of lust that engulfed her as Donna Magdala spoke again.
"This evening then, Julietta, you will bare your buttocks for eight strokes of the rod, and will each night, for six weeks, report to me before retiring, for a further eight strokes. Starting at your bedtime tonight." She added to a gasp for the audience, and a shudder from Julietta. It was common knowledge that it was far more difficult to accept additional strokes on cold and stiffening bruises than in the heat of battle, as it
Since the 'horse' was still occupied by Lucia, and the brand that now menaced her anus from ever closer range, Julietta, when naked, was placed over the trestle, a similar position, but rather more
uncomfortable, for the end was not padded, and pressed harshly into the pubic region, and the front legs were very short, and imposed a severe camber which dragged the rider up onto her very tiptoes.
Fabriona adjusted her victim until she was stretched and strained to the utmost, and then proceeded to drive in eight strokes as hard as any Arabella had witnessed, so far.
At first Julietta accepted each cut in stoic silence. She was
obviously prepared for what she was to receive, and counted it a point of honour to accept them in her flesh as some sort of rite, that must be observed with silence and decorum, but no woman flesh, not even if as experienced as that laid out under the rod, could go on taking these atrocious cuts without response, and, by the fifth, she broke, and howled her pain. When she was released, after the eight had all burrowed into her tender underparts, to stand with Dominique against the end wall, and nurse her wounds, her tear and snot streaked face was riven by the pain still lancing through her buttocks.
Arabella suddenly recollected that she was next in line, and tore her eyes away from her suffering friend, to step forward before the
"If you please, Ma'am, I have come to make report of myself, and ask correction," she began, "I have been guilty of grave discourtesy to one of our people, someone of very lowly station, and therefore all the more damaged by being cut publicly by her betters." and she went on to describe how she had deliberately ignored the greeting from the mill woman.
"As I learned later, it was even more hurtful for the woman as she had, in fact, become very attached to me, and had come especially to wish me well, and invite me to her village."
Donna Magdala took her time considering her verdict.
"Put a crotch strap on her," she ordered.
While Arabella peeled off her gown to stand naked before her new kinsfolk, Fabriona fetched the instrument of her penance from the cupboard. First she fastened a strong leather belt round her waist, pulling it firmly to cinch it tight above the jut of her hips. Then she took the thin round thong hanging from an eyelet at the small of her back, oily and black with the feminine secretions of the previous sufferers, and drew it up through the parted thighs to attach it to a buckle fixed to the front of the belt. She parted the lips of Arabella's vulva with one hand, and pulled up on the strap with the other, until the narrow leather disappeared into the folds, cutting painfully into anus, inner labia and clitoris, already transfixed by its sensitizing ring.
"Tighter than that. Much tighter," commanded the President, "I want to see it taut as a bow string, so she'll feel it every time she moves." Arabella hissed through her clenched teeth as Fabriona obeyed, and heaved up on the straining thong, pulling her up on her toes, her fingers scrabbling at her sides. It felt as if it was cutting her in two.
"As you have rightly said, your offence is very grave, and cuts right at the base of this family. -" as this strap cuts into mine, thought Arabella, hysterically. "-since our whole security depends on the loyalty of the people of this valley. So you will go at the first opportunity to see this woman in her own village. You will ask her forgiveness for your slight, and you will honour her in front of her people, by making her your escort while you tour their land, and bless their fields and harvest.
"Moreover," she went on, "you will go for seven days without the services of a maid, or a friend in lieu," she added, looking over to where Julietta stood with throbbing rear, "without brush or comb, without soap or water to wash in, and you will wear that strap until such time as the woman from the mill, and no other, agrees to take it off for you. Is that quite clear?"
"Yes, Ma'am." said Arabella, and prepared to rejoin her companions in disgrace.
"Before you go, please be so good as to bend yourself over the trestle," the stern faced judge interposed," Ten of your very best please, Fabriona. I want them laid on tight."
Before her order could be obeyed, there was a sudden
interruption. Lucia screamed as the burning tip of the cigarello finally reached her sphincter and scorched the exquisitely sensitive flesh there. Her body convulsed again and again at the unbearable intrusion, and then released itself as her belly spasms forced a brown turd from her anus, expelling the agonizing butt, as both evidences of her disgrace fell to the floor between her feet. Released, she hopped around, clutching her fundament before being directed, under threat of further punishment, to stand with the others, her hands on her head, and hold her peace.
Order being restored, Arabella minced forward, the thong cutting agonizingly with every movement, just as Donna Magdala intended, and eased herself gingerly over the trestle. What had been, for Julietta, mere discomfort became something very much worse for Arabella, wearing a strap that cut her in half at every little movement, every little bend, and on that trestle one had to do more than bend a little movement. It would have been an ordeal to simply bend so tight with that devilish thong slicing her tenderest female parts. With the cane cutting deep into her hinds it was sheer torture. She gave up any pretence of heroism after four, and simply screamed. When she was given permission to rise, and join her fellow penitents against the far wall, she made her way to her allotted place with little shuffling steps, holding her hands to her face to keep them from the urgent, but forbidden, desire to clasp her ravaged buttocks, and sobbing loudly.
The proceedings were not quite done, however. The last candidate for correction, a young and very pretty woman of about twenty-one, with long black hair tumbling down her back, glided forward to face her judge, and removed her gown to reveal a tall graceful figure, slim, but with a certain rounded fullness at hip and breast.
"Veronica, you have come to us for help in controlling your feelings of lust, and the risk you run from the men your voluptuous body is bound to attract." The young woman looked at the ground, and Donna Magdala continued.
"Excision of the clitoris is often recommended in these cases, especially by German medical men, but, as those who frequent this court will be aware, I am very reluctant, ever, to order the mutilation of a woman's body and, especially, one as fine as yours. Still, something must be done to curb your feelings and keep you from exposing yourself to danger and disgrace, when you can no longer resist the blandishments of men, and your own internal urges." She paused, while the woman come to judgement shifted uneasily, her fingers clenching and unclenching against her bare thighs.
"I feel it would give you a breathing space in which to regain control of your feelings if you could be temporarily deprived of your sexual focus, and any desire for intercourse with men or women come to that. My judgement is therefore that, after you have received ten strokes of the cane on your bare buttocks for your failure to control your urges to date, you should have one of the cigarillos that Dominique has so conveniently provided extinguished by pressing it against your bud. Do not be afraid, it will recover eventually, but for some weeks you are unlikely to want to indulge in sexual activity of any kind, with man, woman or your own fingers and, during that time, you will have the opportunity to come to terms with your lustful desires without
Veronica paled at this dire sentence, but went without hesitation to the trestle, to be punished for her lack of control during arousal. Fabriona continued to show exceptional form or, perhaps, the rod she had selected that night was particularly venomous, probably a
combination of the two. She addressed the full white bottom presented to her, and drove in cut after cut that clawed into the soft, tender under-buttock, which clenched and writhed with the unbearable agony that burrowed in to the woman's very deepest layer of consciousness. At first she tried to conceal how deeply she was hurt but, as the thick blood filled ropes grew under the jutting overhang of her fatted haunches, like her predecessors that night, she was soon giving tongue, without restraint and by the end was reduced to tears.
Her composure was not helped by the knowledge of what was to come next. Still bent over the trestle, but made to move backwards a little, so that the end of the top bar pressed into her belly, rather than her mons, she was firmly secured by a broad strap, fastened tightly round her waist and under the bar, her wrists were fastened to the front legs, low down, and then her ankles were pulled roughly forward on either side of the rear legs, which had the effect of parting her thighs widely, and fully exposing her vulva, no longer protected by the end of the cross bar.
Fabriona took the cigarillos and candle to Dominique.
"Since you are the expert in these disgusting objects, perhaps you would be so good as to light one for me," she mocked. Dominique's sore bottom and anus, and the prospect of arduous and degrading hours to come, seemed to have depressed her desire for tobacco, and she
reluctantly drew on a white cylinder until the end glowed red.
Stepping smartly to Veronica's bent rear, Fabriona parted the labia with the fingers of one hand and, with the other, touched the glowing end to the small pink bud revealed. Veronica convulsed, and kept on emitting high piercing shrieks as Fabriona slowly ground the burning cigarillo into the most intimate female flesh. Suddenly, Veronica's arched and spasming body collapsed, and she ceased to rend the chamber with screeching cries. Fabriona removed the now dead cigarillo and unfastened the fainting, groaning woman, who lay on the floor, groaning and twitching, her hands grasping her vulva.
It was a very solemn congregation that filed out when Donna Magdala dismissed them. Arabella and Julietta walked back to the latter's room in subdued mood, their bare feet slapping on the cold stone flags, as they limped stiffly along, Arabella groaning additionally at the gnawing bite of the thong in her crotch.
Their mood was even darker an hour or so later, as Julietta prepared herself for her scheduled visit to Donna Magdala, to have her buttocks hewn again before retiring, an atrociously agonizing experience on cold and stiffening gluteal muscles which shrieked their protest as did she, too.