“Here she is!” a voice screamed. Franz grabbed her arm and lifted her from the bush where Giz was hiding. “Father! Father! Here she is!” he screamed. This was Franz’s triumphant moment, something to bring him back into his father’s good graces. Tinhara snapped her body forward and slammed her head into his face. He released his grip and shouted, covering his nose with both hands. Blood poured between his fingers, trickling down his arm and dripping onto the ground. Tinhara smiled: she paid him back for his attack in Taag’s home.
Tristan grabbed her by the hair, lifting her bodily out of the bush with a single pull. He dropped her on the ground at his feet. “Watch her,” he growled to Calin, who rushed over and jumped on her. He scrambled on top, putting his knee on her chest. Someone else, she wasn’t sure who, sat on her feet.
“You found her, but you could not keep her. What kind of soldier will you make?” Tristan pulled his son’s hands away from his face and tilted his head back. “Bound like a bird for dinner, and she still bloodied your nose. And would have escaped if her feet were free,” he said. “You deserved it.” He put his arm around his son and led him to the horses.
“Franz, are you alright?” Hadyn asked. Tinhara arched her neck for a chance to see Hadyn and watched as she tended to her brother. She ran back to a horse and withdrew a small rag, then ran back to Franz and held it gingerly against his nose. Hadyn offered no words or actions of kindness for Tinhara, who lay bleeding and broken on the ground, under the heavy weight of two men.
“You are good,” Tristan said as he approached Tinhara. From her vantage point, he looked like a giant. His long grey hair was pulled back behind his head and tied with thin leather strips. His beard was thick but neatly shaped; she imagined that he trimmed and shaped it every week. But it was his blue eyes, eyes not of ice but of metal, that caught her attention and held it. It seemed that he was far away, detached, perhaps in a dream trance. “How did you manage all of this?” he asked. Tristan crouched down near her, waiting for an answer.
Tinhara looked at him: her lips were so bruised she could not move them. Was that a hint of admiration in his eyes? Or just madness?
“She was in the King’s Guards,” Hadyn responded from beyond. Tinhara did not turn to look at her when she spoke, but instead remained focussed on Tristan. She watched as he slowly nodded his head and then pushed Calin off her chest.
“That does explain a lot. I have never met a woman able to take such a beating as you,” he said with a smile. “Which simply means you will be more fun to kill.” He stood up, her shirt in his hand, and lifted her easily. The young man perched on her feet tumbled off and landed with a dull thud on the ground.
He tossed her as if she was a child, and she landed heavily. “Check her ropes. Cover her eyes. She cannot run away if she does not know where she is. Bind her arms behind her so she cannot remove the cover. Now!” Tristan shouted. Calin rushed over and yanked on the leather binding her feet while another brother ran toward the horses.
“Here is the rope, and a rag to cover her eyes,” he said breathlessly when he returned. He was a slight boy with blond hair and green eyes that darted around. He nodded as he handed over the items to Calin, who threw the rag to the last of the brothers. Tinhara looked around quickly: she saw Tristan, Calin, Franz, Hadyn, but heard others. She found it impossible to determine exactly how many of Hadyn’s brothers were around.
Calin shouted “Hold her!” and two boys grabbed her, each one taking an arm. She winced a little but refused to speak. Calin carefully cut the leather that bound her hands together and as he did, each boy tightened his grip. Tristan stepped closer, as backup in case she decided to fight. But Tinhara did not fight. She let them put her arms behind her back and bind them again. Once her arms were secured, the rag went over her eyes, blocking out what little she had been able to see despite the swelling.
“Put her on my horse,” Tristan ordered, and she was lifted off the ground and carried. She could smell the horse, hear its anxious footsteps, as they approached. “Put her at the front, sitting up. I’ll ride behind and keep her in line.” She was heaved onto the horse, sitting up, with her legs hanging over either side of the leather seat on the horse’s back. She heard the leather creak again and the seat shift under the weight of someone else climbing on.
“You won’t get away from me,” Tristan whispered in her ear. She suppressed a shudder and waited. He wrapped his long arms around her, taking the reins on either side of her, and clicked his tongue. The horse moved forward slowly at first, then gained speed. The gait of the animal bounced her around and Tinhara soon found herself leaning against Tristan’s arms and chest just to stay upright. She could hear the other horses behind them, although no one in the procession talked.
Concentrating on keeping her balance, Tinhara barely heard Tristan’s question. He repeated it.
“How long were you in the King’s Guards?”
Tinhara stuck her tongue slowly out, licking her lips, before responding. There was no point in making him angry, no harm in telling him the information. “Nine years.” Her voice was harsh and low.
She felt Tristan squeeze his legs together and he clicked his tongue again. The horse sped up. “Nine years as a King’s Guard. I knew that Qan allowed women into the military, something we don’t allow here. But I had no idea they could produce such a tough soldier out of a woman. And you are so small, the size of some of my youngest children. But tough. Yes, that would explain why Hadyn was unable to escape you. You are a tough soldier.” He laughed and sped the horse up again; Tinhara thought they were going as fast as they had been just before reaching the water. “What was your rank?”
“Simple Guard,” Tinhara lied. She pressed herself against the horse’s neck and, realizing that was not going to give her the stability she needed, she leaned in the opposite direction and pressed herself into Tristan’s chest. It was big and hard and the buckles on his coat scraped at her wounded back.
The distance that would have taken a few hours on foot seemed to take only a few minutes on these animals; they were certainly faster than most animals in Qan, including a startled tawnluk. She found herself concentrating on Tristan’s commands to the horse; if she could steal one, she would certainly have to know how to control it. They sped up again and she could feel the way he rode, how he moved in rhythm with the horse. They were going very fast and Tristan moved his arms together to keep her on the horse.
Tinhara knew they reached a village as people shouted. Tristan reined in the horse and stopped the animal. He shouted to the people around him, hollering in that harsh language she did not understand. He urged his horse onward and continued their journey, racing along in a direction that Tinhara could not guess. The cover over her eyes had been very effective, and she could not tell in which direction they had ridden. The sound of the hooves hitting the ground changed slightly as Tristan slowed the horse and finally brought it to a stop. They had moved from hard to soft ground, and she could hear a whisper whenever the horses stepped. Tristan slid down from the seat and lifted Tinhara down, placing her very gently on her feet. She cocked her head sideways, wondering if she had somehow won him over. A sharp punch to the stomach answered her question and she doubled over, gasping for breath.
She heard peels of laughter and shouts, and listened as countless people began to run toward them. They screamed and yelled, and the horses began to step uneasily around her.
“Schul!” Tristan screamed, and everyone fell silent. All movement stopped for a moment. “Karlina! Take Hadyn inside. Boys, tend to the horses, then inside. I will see to our guest,” he snarled. He ripped the cover off her eyes, but Tinhara’s eyes were swollen shut. She could see nothing, but heard all the footsteps scattering in different directions. Some walked away with horses, some scampered away and echoed off the wooden floor of a nearby building before fading away. She felt something at her feet, and realized that Tristan had cut her bonds.
“You cannot see, can you?” Tristan asked. He was so close she could feel his breath on her face. She shook her head once, and he laughed. He put his arm around her and led her down a path. “I have dreamed of the time when I would have my daughter back. She is the most precious thing to me. More precious than my wife and my other children.” He leaned in close to her and said, “but don’t tell them that.” He laughed again, a strangled laugh that barely escaped from his throat. Tinhara stumbled and began to fall forward, but Tristan caught her and quickly put her back on her feet.
“Careful, now. I cannot have you fall and smack your head open,” he said with a tenderness in his voice. “I cannot tell you how I have dreamed of having Hadyn back,” he repeated. She could tell that he was smiling. “And you have returned her to me. And I suppose I ought to thank you for that. And so, thank you for returning my daughter.” Tinhara nodded once.
Tristan leaned in close. She could hear him lick his lips. “I will not let her go again, not until I have struck a deal with the Karech for her voice.” Tinhara turned her head and frowned as he huffed a satisfied smile. “But now that I have thanked you, that is the last of the kindness you will see from me.” She tripped over a small stair and Tristan let her fall onto the floor of the building. He picked her up, his massive hand around her neck. The air seemed mouldy and stale and the sounds seemed to die in mid air instead of echoing off the walls. “Because more than dreaming of getting my daughter back was finding the man who took her.” He paused. “Or woman. The person who kept her from me. And that would be you.” He stopped for a moment and she could feel him reach out beside her. She heard a metal door open, and he bent her over and shoved her inside. She slammed against some metal bars and leaned heavily on them, waiting for his next move. She heard the door shut behind her, and the lock turn. The cold of the metal felt good against the hot, damaged skin of her face. She moved her head slightly, touching another bar, when the first one seemed to get too warm. She knew she was in a cage, but had no idea of its size.
“I’ll keep you here. This is your new home, for now. I made a promise to myself that when Hadyn returned home, the first thing I would do is hold a grand feast. And I shall. And tomorrow, when I am rested and in good spirits, I will come back for you.” She heard him shift closer to her, and felt his heavy bulk move the cage slightly. “And when I come back,” he said, “Then I will have my fun. The other promise I made was to you, whoever you may have been. I promised that I would do to you everything you have done to my daughter. I saw the bruises and cuts and broken bones. I promised that when I caught you, your life and body and soul will be mine. I will beat and defile you, break you down until you beg me to kill you. And then, do you know what I shall do? I shall nurse you back to health. Each time you are close to death, I will bring you back to life, and I will keep you here, forever, without hope of anything more than pain and disgrace and terror. And I will remember how to do those things I have not done since I was at war, and I will invent new tortures and I will take great pleasure in them. And when I am bored of it all, when I have extracted my revenge, then I will set you on fire and burn you.”
The Burning Woman. Tinhara could hear him breathing. She wanted to scream and run, to throw herself against the bars and shout, but she waited silently for him to leave. This was not the first time she had been imprisoned, and she knew how to behave with her captor: give away nothing important, listen to everything they say, note everything they do. Although Hadyn had said that her father could be a cruel man, she had no idea of the depths to which he would travel. The cage shifted again as Tristan backed away. She heard him take a few steps and then stop. There was a grating noise, something sliding against something else. The end of a pole hit her sharply in the face, sending her head crashing back against the cage. She groaned and slumped slightly while Tristan laughed.
“I have a dinner to go to,” he said. She heard him hurry out of the room and lock another door behind him. Tinhara groaned and slumped further. There was little room in the cage, but if she curled up and leaned forward, off her hands, she could sit. His words echoed in her ears.
He beat his own son: he was capable of anything. Exhausted and unable to see or move properly, Tinhara struggled for a long time to remove her otuk and get it underneath her body. Although still tangled in her arms, it made sitting on the bars bearable. She coiled herself up and tried not to think about where she was, or what would happen. Now, survival was a series of small tasks, one job at a time, all linked to a final outcome that meant staying alive. She chose to remember the first time she saw Hadyn, at the taksin auction. She recalled the voice that captured her spirit and launched her on a new journey; no matter how it ended, it had been worth the tribulations. Although she was cramped and nervous, she fell into a restless sleep that was filled with nightmarish images of two-headed beasts with metal legs.
Hadyn’s sweet voice aroused her from her sleep. She let it wash over her, filling her with a joyful remembrance that bolstered her soul. It was the same song she had heard at the taksin auction, and Tinhara refused to open her eyes until the song was finished. As the final notes trickled into her ears, she opened her eyes. The swelling had gone down a bit and she could see through the bars of the cage to the wooden door that lay a few feet beyond. She sat up and tore open newly closed wounds. She winced and grunted and shifted herself around to take pressure of her hip; it had been digging into one bar and she could barely move. She worked her arms around her legs so they were now in front of her. Tinhara tried to open her mouth, but her lips were sealed with dried blood and she did not have enough moisture to loosen it. She wiped the blood away from her nose so she could breathe better and then slowly, carefully, began to pry her lips with her fingers.
The skin pulled as she plucked away at the blood crust, but she eventually opened her mouth and sucked in a deep breath. As she exhaled, her shoulders slumped forward and she paused for a moment before taking her next breath. Her ribs hurt when she breathed, and when she moved, even with the slight passage of breath, she could feel that her clothes were sticking to her skin. She moved gently, pulling the clothes off the wounds, hoping that if she was slow and deliberate, she might be able to let some of them keep their early scabs.
The smell of cooking meat wafted into her cage, making her stomach growl. Her throat was parched and her head ached, and she tried to lick her lips but her tongue was so dry that it simply scraped and bounced off her cracked, bloody lips. After almost an hour of struggling, she was finally able to move most of her body, one limb at a time, without her clothes tearing at her. The dull throbbing she felt in most of her body meant not that she was getting better but only that she was getting used to the pain. She finally stopped moving, having made herself as comfortable as she could, and she listened. Far away, perhaps through an open window, she could hear Hadyn’s family enjoying a meal. All the voices blended together into a whispering, calming sound; it was as if they had been together forever, as if Hadyn had not just returned from months away. It was as if Tinhara was not locked up like an animal in their yard.
Then she heard another sound, a scraping sound, and she turned her head slightly. She heard a bone in her neck pop, but it relieved a bit of tension and she sighed with relief. She spied a small streak of light that something seemed to be walking past and back again. Whatever it was, it was digging its way through the chink in the wood, into the hut. She watched it, wondering if it was some kind of vermin come to feast on her bloody flesh.
A small claw stuck its way through the chink and dug at it. Wood splintered away until there was a hole large enough for the creature to pass through. Giz walked through the hole and chattered softly. “Giz,” Tinhara called to him. He chattered again and flew up to the top of the cage. He landed on a bar, wrapping his tail around a second bar to keep hold. He stood near Tinhara’s head, flashing his teeth and raising his eyebrows. He looked around nervously and quickly flung something small at her. A piece of meat hit her in the face and slid down her cheek. She snatched it up before it had a chance to fall any further, and put it in her mouth. It was still raw and the succulent juices filled her mouth with much needed moisture. She sucked the meat dry before swallowing the morsel.
Sticking her finger through the bars, she stroked Giz’s fur. “Can you get water?” she asked him. She had no idea how he might, or if he understood what she’d said, but she had to ask. Giz bared his teeth again and grabbed hold of her finger. He looked around again, flew back to the ground, and crawled out of the hole. He did not come back for almost 20 minutes, but when he did, he had three more pieces of raw meat. Tinhara ate them greedily, marvelling at the tenderness of the animal. Giz had left her again, long before she had finished the meat pieces. They were small, almost insignificant, but for Tinhara, it was the best meal she’d had in a very long time. It was not long before the garboil returned again, this time dragging a large piece of green plant behind him.
He laboured to get it through the hole; its bushy top stopped its easy movement into the hut. He jumped on it to crush it slightly and finally forced it through the hole. He dragged it over to Tinhara and left it just outside her cage. She shifted around, moving first one leg, then a shoulder, then the other leg and the other shoulder. Slowly she reached out and tried to grab the plant, but it was too far away. She could not put her hands outside the bars, and her fingers could only brush at it. Giz flew up to the top of the cage and chattered at her, urging her on but refusing to help. Suddenly he jumped down onto the plant and pushed it toward her. Her fingernails dug into its fibrous body and pulled it into the cage with her. She sniffed at it and licked it. It was mild tasting, although very distinctive. She bit into it and was surprised at how much liquid it released. She chewed on it, sucking up the water it gave her. It was not enough to quench her thirst, but it did end the aching rawness in her throat. Fibrous strands got stuck in her teeth and she had to pick at them with her fingers, releasing the final bits of plant. Giz had once again left her, and she listened for his flapping wings or chattering voice to signal his return. Instead, she heard heavy footsteps coming toward the building. She pushed the remainder of the plant under her, out of sight.
The lock was released on the outside door and Tristan and Calin stepped in. Tristan had a big smile on his face, and moved in an agitated, frantic fashion. “I have had a brilliant idea,” he told her as he gripped the bars of the cage. He pulled back, dragging her out of the hut and into the bright sunlight. It hurt her eyes and she kept them closed until it stopped stinging. Calin trailed dutifully after them. “Losing my daughter to the taksin trade was a great blow for me. People laughed at me.” He stood up, having moved her cage a few dozen feet from the hut. Calin stood by his side, eyeing Tinhara. “They laughed at me. Me! I could hear them laughing. But now I have her back, and I have you.”
He paused for a moment and bent slightly to bring himself eye level with her. “You have corrupted my daughter’s mind. You have control over her, don’t you?” he asked. Tinhara gave him a half-smile. “I know you do because when she told me her story, she said you rescued her. You! Rescue her! You have convinced her that you had her best interests in mind. Of course, of course I can see through that. I know your tricks, and I know that you have a power over her. But you do not have power over me, and I can see. See the truth. And that is how I got my idea. I have to show her, show everyone, the truth. The truth that you had control. Had! And that I am taking the control back. And there is nothing you can do about it.” As he spoke, a small stream of spittle ran from the corner of his mouth. His eyes grew wider with each pronouncement, and he seemed more determined with each word.
He took a long metal pole from Calin’s hand. The pole had a strange formation of metal on the end: a misshapen circle, like a teardrop, but at the top of the drop, where the ends grew narrow, the metal curled away from the circle, looping around a few times before coming to an end. “I need to show them all that I control you,” he said as he lifted the pole in both hands and slipped it carefully through the bars of the cage. Tinhara tried to back away, but when she could move no further, she put her hands up as a defence. Tristan poked and jabbed the pole at her face and throat, smashing it against her injured hands and hitting her cheeks. Finally, he slammed it against her throat. The metal slipped around her throat and he pushed harder. She heard it hit the bars behind her where it grated and twanged. She tried to lean forward but could not move her head. Tristan let go of the pole and stood back, hands on his hips, and laughed. She pulled at the pole and turned her head slightly. The metal curls had wrapped themselves around the bars, trapping her in place. “Got you!” Tristan shouted.
Calin stepped forward, key in hand, and unlocked the cage. She tried to kick at his reaching hands, but it was to no avail. He grabbed her legs and pulled them out of the cage, dragging her body out until the only thing that kept her in the cage was the pole, and then he sat on her. Her legs ached under his weight and she could not move them. Thrashing only dug the metal deeper into her neck, so she lay still, waiting for Tristan’s next move. Calin bound her ankles with rope but left a bit of space between them. It would make it possible for her to take small steps.
“I designed that myself. I call it a catchpole. Designed just for you. I spent days perfecting it,” he said as he walked around behind her. “Calin will vouch for that, won’t you? He was able to escape all of the predecessors, but not this one. This one is perfect.” He leaned down behind Tinhara and spoke close to her ear. “You can’t use the pole as a weapon because it is caught in the bars. You can’t move your head, there is no room for you to move your arms, and Calin has your legs. It is the perfect way to remove someone from such a small cage.” He shifted around and looked her over carefully. “You are small, much smaller than I imagined. The cage must seem very comfortable to you. I thought you would be taller. If you were taller, you would not be able to sit like you had. Taller, yes, and bigger. But then again, you do not need a large size to have control of my daughter’s mind.” He reached out and began to work on the metal springs that locked her in place. She could feel him pulling at the springs to release her.
Once released, she tried to sit up, but could not. The pole caught itself on the ground and jammed into her neck. “You see? A weighted handled means that you cannot keep your head up long enough to see where you are going. You cannot escape. I have planned for this time since the night she was taken. I am a bit disappointed,” Tristan said as he walked back around to the pole handle. “I thought you would be bigger. But it doesn’t matter.” He pulled the pole handle toward him, forcing Tinhara to bend and move as he commanded. Calin yanked on the ropes around her ankles, pulling and releasing them in perfect time with his father’s jabs. She was being forced out of the cage, the pole finally following her through the cage opening and dragging on the ground. The pole was behind her and although she grabbed for it, she could not reach it before Tristan had hold of it again.
Tinhara was lifted to her feet and she used small footsteps to walk ahead of Tristan and Calin. She worked a little at the binding around her wrists as they walked. The mud that collected as they trudged toward the house weighed down her heavy boots.
It was a large building made of wood and metal. She could see people peeking out of the windows and she was sure she had seen Hadyn in a lower window. There was a flash of red and it was gone. They circled around the house, children’s prying eyes watching all the while.
At the front of the house was a courtyard, and in the courtyard was a large wooden platform. They carried her up the platform, one on each arm, and when they reached the top, she was almost level with the top of the house. The land beyond the house was cultivated field for as far as she could see. There were horses and other shorter, fatter animals that reminded her of shorthaired musk ox. She turned a little and caught sight of the village far in the distance. At another time, this might have been beautiful. Now, it looked desolate and lonely; there were no people, there was no snow, no ancestors, nothing that spoke to her. The land had no voice.
Tristan stopped her with a sharp yank on the catchpole. She found herself standing before a series of wooden planks. They were joined together at the middle and formed a pointed circle. At the edges of each point on the circle was a leather strap. He pushed her, face first, up against the middle of the circle and held her there while Calin, complicit in his father’s madness, quickly untied her feet and pulled off her boots. He strapped her bare left foot to one of the planks. He pulled at the next foot but could not reach it with the strap on the other side of the circle.
“She is too short, father,” Calin reported. “Her feet won’t reach the straps.” He stood up and tossed his hair back with a snap of his head. Tristan pushed the catchpole a little harder as he thought.
“Move the boards closer together,” he finally ordered. Calin ran down the stairs and into the house. With the side of her face pressed against the middle board, Tinhara could see the house clearly, see into some of the windows. She searched for Hadyn but did not see her. She did see a young boy, blond, lounging in a chair in a small room. He seemed uninterested in the events happening outside his window. It took some time before Calin returned. Tristan had been mumbling to himself in his native tongue.
His son finally returned with a small metal and wooden tool and used it to claw at one of the planks. With a great screeching noise the wood finally pulled free of its brethren. Calin moved it closer, estimating where her feet would be best placed. Tinhara pulled her right foot closer to her, close to the middle, and Calin followed her in slightly. Finally satisfied he began to pound on the wood. Tinhara could feel him nailing the plank into place; each swing shook her body with its force. He grabbed the plank, tugged backward a few times to make sure it would not move, and when he was satisfied, he reached around and grabbed her right foot. The straps were thick and wide and did not cut into her skin the way the other ropes and bindings had.
As if he had read her mind, Tristan said “I have put a lot of thought into this cross. Again, I thought you would be a man, be bigger, but as you can see, I can make accommodations. The straps are made of the finest leather. They have good grain. They will not tear, they will not dry out and shrink.” She could feel him moving closer, shimmying his hands along the pole to get nearer to her. “Do you like the view? It took four days to decide where to build this platform. Four days! I finally climbed onto the top of the house and I saw this beautiful view. I want you to see how beautiful our country is. I want you to see what you will never touch.” Calin reached around front and cut the rope binding her hands, but was careful to hang tightly onto each thumb. She tried to pull free, but she was held fast by the ankle bindings and the catchpole.
“Do not struggle,” Tristan said as he punched her hard in the kidney. She grunted and relinquished her fight, allowing Calin to strap her hands above her head on other planks. The final straps went around her waist and finally, after Tristan released her from the catchpole, they stood back and looked at her.
“This is everything I have dreamed of,” Tristan murmured as he ran his hand along one plank. His fingers traced over Tinhara’s tattered clothing, along her arm, across her shoulder and along the other arm. She had the freedom to turn her head to watch him as he walked side to side admiring his handiwork. He stepped to the front of the cross and she was no longer able to see him. He was right behind her and she could hear his breath. She heard his arm move, cloth rubbing against itself.
Tristan stepped up to her, matching her pose, and leaned against her. “I have dreamed of everything I would ever do to you. I will cut off your fingers, or what’s left of them,” he whispered. He wrapped his hands around hers, engulfing them in his fists. “And your feet, your toes. I will cauterize each one so you do not bleed to death, so there is no infection to take you away from me.” He pushed his legs up against hers and pressed his hips and chest against her back. He leaned his head down, over hers, and rested his cheek against the top of her head. “And I will snip your ears off and feed them to the katl. I will slice you open with thin knives and let you heal, then slice you open again.” He propped himself against her and began to move his hips back and forth. “I will beat the pride out of you, break your arms and legs and let them heal, I will suck out your eyes and eat them with wine.” He started to breath harder, grinding against her.
Tinhara turned her eyes toward the house, but no one was in sight, not even the little boy. She looked instead to the fields and concentrated on the rows of plants moving in the slight wind. Tristan was beginning to sweat and beads of perspiration dropped onto her face and rolled down her neck. With each drive of his hips, the planks of the cross squeaked in her ears.
“And you will stay here, on display, for my sons and my neighbours to watch. Watch me take control of you,” he grunted. He began to move precisely, pushing her against the cross and tightening his grip on her hands. “You,” he said with a thrust, “will be mine!”
With his final words he shuddered and grunted and then held his breath, and finally exhaled with a soft moan. He thrust against her a few more times before stepping back from the cross. Moving around to face her, he cleared his throat and smiled at her. His pants were damp and his brow was covered with sweat. He coughed and laughed, throwing his head back. “You have no idea how good this will be,” he said softly. He reached between the planks and stroked her hair. She pulled her head back to get away from his touch, but that made him angry. Tristan grabbed a fistful of her hair and pulled her face forward, slamming it into the plank. Tinhara shook her head and sneered.
“You won’t be the first and you won’t be the last,” she spit out.
Tristan laughed again and scampered quickly around the cross so he was behind her again. He pressed his body up against hers and snarled in her ear. “I will be the last, because I will keep your body after you are dead, and I will watch you rot and I will defile your bones.” He punched her in the small of her back, sending a shooting pain through her spine. She tried to twist away from the pain, but she was held fast.
“Calin!” he shouted as he punched her again. His son trotted up to his father.
Tristan grabbed Tinhara’s head and slammed it a few more times into the plank. “Beat her,” he said.
“Yes father,” he replied. Tristan stepped away and let his son at her. He punched her in the back and kidneys, in the shoulder where the arm met the socket, and in the face. He kicked at her thighs and stomped on the sides of her feet. Anything that was not protected by the plank was attacked. He began to breath laboriously under the strain of the beating.
Tinhara let her head drop, hoping to protect her face with her shoulder, but his fists were hard and well placed. Her shoulder popped out of its socket with one blow, one of the few unbroken ribs snapped, her cheekbone cracked and pain shot up into her eyes.
“Stop,” his father commanded, and he did. Tristan walked around behind her, she could hear the wooden platform groaning under his weight. He laughed and slapped his son on the back. “Well done. Just as I showed you. You have made me proud, Calin,” he said. “We will leave her here until tonight.” They started to walk away, Calin already heading down the stairs, when Tristan stopped and turned back to Tinhara. “Tonight, in case you are wondering, is when I have the entire village over as guests in my house. We will have a great outdoor feast to celebrate the return of my daughter. And everyone will have a chance to see you, in your pitiful state, and they will know then that I control you. They will know then and they will stop laughing!” he shouted as he turned back and headed down the stairs.
Tinhara spit some blood out. She tried to take the weight off of her right foot but it put too much pressure on her wrists and waist. She looked up at the sky, over to the fields, and then at the house. There was no sign of Hadyn although she could see others stirring in the house and walking past windows. She kept a sharp lookout, thinking a few times that she had caught a glance of the red-haired beauty. Then she saw Hadyn in a window, down and to the left. She tensed slightly, wanting to call out. But as she stared, the figure turned around and it was not Hadyn. It was that young man, of the same age and likeness. A twin, but it was not Hadyn. Tinhara sank back into herself, wondering why Hadyn did not sneak a glance out of one of the windows.