A Lady Under Siege - By B.G. Preston Page 0,1

siege to her husband’s small castle. She saw a soldier wave toward her, and others turn their heads to look up at her. One held up a plate upon which fried eggs and boiled potatoes steamed. She ducked back out of sight.

“Come out my pretty, don’t be shy! Grant us a glance at your lovely visage. Why the delay in revealing yourself? Our master longs to gaze upon your celebrated beauty, to possess it for himself, which stands as the sole reason for these many weeks of fruitless siege.”

Sylvanne showed herself again, leaning out from behind the parapet. More soldiers had abandoned their morning tasks to gaze up at her.

“That’s better,” said their spokesman. “Oh, you are a beauty indeed. Pity you’re imprisoned by your own choice. Double’s the pity, for there’s grumbling of mutiny within those flinty walls of yours, or so we hear from the deserters who’ve descended to surrender themselves to our mercy. Is your husband wavering at last from his stubbornness, is he finally giving way to common sense?”

“Speak you not ill of my husband,” Sylvanne cried out, but she was shocked that the words sounded little more than a whisper.

“Pardon me? Didn’t catch that,” was the answer from below. “I am sorry, m’Lady, but your dainty voice took wing on the wind. Unpractised, is it? And by the way, my name is Kent, and I am very pleased to finally meet you.”

“I said, speak you not ill of my husband,” Sylvanne repeated, in the loudest voice she could muster.

“I speak ill of no one, Madame. I pity the man, is all, and I pity you too, and ask that you pity us the same—we have our homes, and a harvest to attend to—please don’t keep us any longer. Our wheat and barley plead for the scythe.”

Another of the soldiers piped up, “And our wives plead for the prick!” The rest laughed heartily, and muttered things Sylvanne could not make out.

“Shut it, boys,” Kent shouted. They grudgingly fell silent, and he turned his attention back to the lonely figure high on the parapet.

“M’Lady, this siege has attained forty-seven days. The mind can but imagine the loveliness you must have owned when it began. Many say it was your haughty beauty that sparked our master’s obsession, but now you’ve grown thin and pale, my dear. Your beauty is a gemstone in need of polishing. You’re curling up like a worm in vinegar, desiccating like those flowers we call annuals, when autumn brings finality to their natural cycle. But we humans are not annuals, ma’am, mortal though we may be. We’re meant to be hardy perennials, to survive many a season in cycle, to bloom again each spring. Before autumn capitulates entirely to winter, can you not act a sweet, benevolent Lady, and entice your husband to waver from his obstinacy? Can you not convince him to surrender you to us?”

Sylvanne felt weak, and dizzy. She summoned all her strength to answer. “We stay behind these safe walls with good reason, with righteousness as our ally and solace. We do not intend to dismiss these days, forty-seven by your count. A timid surrender now would make mock of our forbearance.”

“But you look so tired, my lovely,” Kent pleaded. “Won’t you come down to the fire and share a morsel? We know you’re eating cold sup these many nights, it’s been weeks since a wisp of smoke has risen from your chimneys. Have reason, Mistress. Think of the suffering you inflict upon the loyalists locked up there with you. Is it your ambition to watch them die, merely for the sake of your own modesty, or your husband’s wounded vanity?”

“I worry more for my husband’s wounded heart. His love for me is what keeps him from parting with me.”

“Fa! And so your husband will die a starveling, and you too, you’ll all die for love, you and everyone else cooped up within. And you, Madame, could save them all. You alone are the singular source of misery within those walls, and the source of ours without. We have no quarrel with your people. We’re neighbours, near enough. Look how we’ve spared the free men, and the villeins, the thanes and tithing men, their wives and children, all citizens of your husband’s modest dominion, who we’ve left in peace to live on as normal, even as we encamp in their midst. That’s on orders from our Lord. We’ve been on faultless behaviour.”

Another soldier, a fat oafish fellow, interjected, “Bloody torture,