The mood in camp was both somber and joyous. Rand’s family of outcasts and refugees were joyous because everyone had returned safely. The mood was tempered by the realization that tragedy had been narrowly avoided. Only Rand’s quick thinking and the brave acts of his men had saved the three girls before Morgaine’s men had seized them.
Rand called for a general meeting at the camp’s center where a council firepit had been constructed. It was surrounded by makeshift stools made from tree stumps. Rand told someone to drag a sturdy one to the front of the firepit.
Juliet, following Rand’s instructions, stood nervously on the edge of the crowd, next to John and Bran, each of whom had a firm grip on Edith and Lylie. She remembered what he had told her just before summoning the rest of the camp:
“The next hour will not be pleasant for you, princess, but discipline must be maintained. I have to do this so that everyone understands I will not countenance disobedience, even from you. My followers expect that foolish and dangerous behavior will be punished, and I can do no less and still maintain their respect and loyalty.”
Juliet didn’t say anything as Rand escorted her to the council fire. Her knees were shaking. Lylie and Edith looked remorseful and worried.
Rand addressed the gathering. “We are grateful that Edith and Lylie and Juliet are returned to us safely. This could have been disastrous for all of us. They were minutes away from capture when we found them. I must repeat this for you young women among us—no one leaves the Darkwood without a purpose and an escort and a plan.” He looked pointedly at the three girls.
“Our survival here depends upon it.”
“We have a tradition in matters like this and I choose to invoke it now. These three deserve punishment,” he said, gesturing toward the girls. “And it will be up to their rescuers to correct them.” At a signal, John and Bran handed each of the sisters a small knife. “Go now and cut switches, both of you. We will wait for you to return. You will present the switches to your rescuer and ask for his forgiveness. Then you will accept whatever punishment he deems proper. It is only fitting, since he risked his life to save yours. Go, now.”
The two girls took the knives and scurried off to obey. All eyes turned to Rand as he handed Juliet a knife. By now the rumors had spread. The entire camp had heard that Juliet was indeed a princess of Westvale and the daughter of the king.
“You too, princess. It should be a green shoot about this long,” he said, spreading his hands, “and about this thick on the gripping end.” He indicated his little finger.
Heads nodded approvingly. Their leader was not according her any special treatment. It was as it should be.
Nervously, Juliet followed Edith and Lylie down a path into the woods. The girls had found a bush with long springy shoots and were busily cutting and trimming switches.
“What should I do?” asked Juliet. She didn’t quite know how to go about it.
“You mean you’ve never been switched?” said Lylie.
“No. Never,” said Juliet. She had felt her mother’s hand but that had been long ago, and of course, more recently, the outlaw’s. Never had she been subjected to a whipping of any kind. The idea seemed terrifying. Her limbs were almost shaking.
“It hurts like the very devil,” said Edith, carefully peeling buds off a limber withe. “I fear none of us will sit comfortably for a time. Here,” she said, “I will show you how to do it.”
Juliet and the two girls returned to the circle clutching switches. Each of them carried three rods. Lylie had said it would be worse for them if a switch were not sturdy enough and it broke, so they had each prepared three. The switches were an arm’s length long, carefully peeled and very limber. Juliet tried to imagine what it would feel like.
Juliet followed the lead of Edith and Lylie. She stood in front of Rand and presented him with the switches she had cut. Along with the others, she made her apology, but while Edith and Lylie asked for forgiveness, she merely said with downcast eyes, “I’m sorry.”
Someone had placed another stump near the fire ring. Edith and Lylie were ordered to face each other across the stump, bend over, and place their hands on its surface, fingers touching. They obeyed, their posture thrusting their buttocks out in readiness for the switching. Juliet watched breathlessly as two of the older women raised the girls’ dresses and tied them above their waists with twine. Edith was completely bare underneath; Lylie wore linen drawers, which were dragged down, baring her bottom.
While they were being prepared, John and Bran tested the switches, swishing them through the air. The sound was chilling to Juliet. It was a shrill whine. The men made the switches quiver with a wrist motion and Juliet realized that even a light flick of the wrist would result in a painful stroke on bare flesh.
When all was in readiness, Rand told them to begin. The men took up positions on opposite sides of the stump and tapped the switches against the bare bottoms of the girls. Edith and Lylie flinched at the contact and shuffled their feet.
“No moving, girl,” said Bran.
John said, “Look in your sister’s eyes and remember what foolishness this was.” Then the men drew back their arms.
The whoosh-swick of a switch impacted Edith’s flesh and she gasped. A split second later, John’s switch struck Lylie’s bottom. Juliet saw her eyes open wide, surprised by the intensity of the sting. The men delivered the punishment at an even pace, the strokes alternating between the two girls. Edith and Lylie reacted by yelping and shuffling their feet each time a lick was applied to the bare flesh of their resilient bottoms, but the men kept it up, laying on lash after lash with the limber switches. Juliet observed that each girl clenched her bottom cheeks in reaction to a stroke, then relaxed them before the next one struck. It was a lurid dance, the shifting from foot to foot, the bare bottoms of the girls quivering and flexing in reaction to the rapid-fire strikes from the switches. Red lines appeared on bare white skin. The girls began to react vocally now, a chorus of pleas and promises.
“Ow! Ow! I’m sorry. Please!” they said, begging for mercy. Juliet couldn’t tell who was crying what. As if it mattered. Soon that would be her.
The switching went on for several minutes. By the end of it, the girls were sobbing and pleading for mercy and forgiveness. Whether it was the state of their bare bottoms or the tone of their apologies, Juliet didn’t know, but as if by some unspoken understanding, both men halted. The girls were allowed to rise and readjust their clothing. Both dropped to one knee and kissed the hand of her rescuer and punisher. Then they were led away, presumably to seek relief for their burning bottoms.
Juliet had watched in fearful anticipation. Her mouth was dry, her knees were shaking, and her heart thumped wildly. It was her turn. She looked to Rand. At least it would be he and not some strange man who would deliver her punishment.
Rand grasped her by the wrist. She looked at him quizzically. “I’m not sure you can stand there and take your punishment like the others, princess. So we’ll do this another way.” She watched as he snapped off half of the switch’s length, then stumbled as he pulled her along toward the stump. He sat down, and before she could register what was happening, he pulled her face down across his knees.
“Ooof,” she gasped as she toppled across his lap, her nose inches from the dirt. It was a humiliating posture to be in. In front of Rand’s followers, she was going to be spanked like some common tavern wench who had insulted a customer. She turned red in the face as Rand hoisted her skirts. Her feet fluttered helplessly behind her. Underneath she had on drawers and she gasped in shame and embarrassment as Rand yanked them down. Her bare bottom now was totally exposed with nothing but a gentle breeze between her skin and that switch. Then Rand shifted his body. Craning her neck, Juliet saw him reaching for the switch. He grasped it in his right hand and tightened his left arm, which encircled her waist. He tapped her bottom with the switch, testing its resilience.
“Now, princess, in the future you’ll obey the rules I set. I mean to make this memorable.”
Swick! The switch struck and Juliet felt an instant line of fire across her buttocks.
Swick! Again the switch impacted her bare flesh.
Swick! Huick! Swish! Three searing licks fell in rapid succession, causing her to wail and throw her feet up behind her.
Rand whipped the switch down with deft flicks of his wrist, placing red hot stripes across the squirming bottom cheeks of the unhappy princess.
Juliet had never felt anything sting so badly. Each strike was a blazing line of pure agony. He plied the switch from the top of her buttocks down to the soft fold where her bottom joined the tops of her thighs.
Juliet writhed and bucked over Rand’s lap, but he held her securely. She wriggled and fluttered her feet, trying everything to shake off the awful sting. Nothing worked. The switch sang through the still air of the camp, delivering its fiery message of pain, and she could not escape, no matter what she did.
Soon, she began to bleat her abject apologies.
“Ow… yow! Please… ahhh!”
Rand ignored her. He continued to apply the switch to her quickly reddening bottom at a steady tempo, undeterred by her wails and pleas for mercy.
“You (swick) need to learn (swick) this lesson (swick) well, princess. In this camp, my word is law (swick).”
Juliet howled with each red hot stripe of the switch.
Finally the princess broke into tears, sobbing uncontrollably. She slumped across Rand’s lap, emotionally exhausted, broken, unable even to squirm. It was the signal he’d been waiting for, her surrender. He stopped.
Rand took Juliet by the waist and placed her on her feet. Her dress fell to cover her nakedness. One of the older women appeared at his side. “Go with Gertrud, princess. She will give you a salve to take the sting away,” he said.
Juliet allowed the woman to lead her away. They climbed into a treehouse, remote from the others. Each step made Juliet wince. Her bottom stung like a thousand hornets had stung it. The woman bade her lie face down on a pallet.
“This will help take the sting out of Rand’s switch,” she said as she spread a gooey poultice over Juliet’s welted bottom. “He’s very taken with you, you know,” she added.
That surprised Juliet. “But he punished me so harshly. He whipped me,” she said.
“You must understand,” said Gertrud. “He had to. You violated an important law. He couldn’t look the other way, especially after Edith and Lylie had been punished for their part in it. The camp trusts that he treats everyone the same. You may be royalty as you say you are, but here it makes no difference.”
Juliet looked straight ahead and said nothing as the woman continued to tend to her. She supposed the woman was right. Still, the episode had been utterly demeaning, not to mention the awful sting of the switch. It wasn’t something she cared to repeat, ever.
“He cares for you,” said Gertrud in a low voice. Then, conspiratorially, she whispered, “If you go to him tonight, he will not refuse you. I could see it in his eyes.”
Juliet turned her head, startled. She saw the woman nod. “He will not refuse you. He wants you.”
She did not have to seek him out. An hour later, after Gertrud had finished and left, she heard someone climbing up the ladder. Juliet looked up. Rand stood in the doorway, a silhouette in the moonlight. Juliet got to her feet slowly, a shy maiden, waiting. Rand came to her, put his arms about her, and drew her close.
“I am sorry I had to do that, princess. I will help you return to your father.” Impulsively, she kissed him. For an instant she drew back, shocked at what she had done. Rand looked surprised, too. Then, as if of one mind, they came together, arms encircling each other and their bodies melding together. Their lips met and they kissed, a long passionate embrace that thrilled Juliet to her core.
He ran his hands all over her, up and down her back, then caressing her flanks. Her hands were busy, too. She felt his chest, then the broad shoulders, marveling at the hardness of muscle she felt there. Then her hands fell to his hips and the lean muscles of his legs. When he brushed his fingers across the tips of her breasts, the thrill of pleasure that shot through her made her knees buckle slightly.
Deftly he untied her bodice and he parted the fabric to reveal snowy breasts tipped with pink nipples. Another gentle tug on a string loosened her skirt and it fell about her ankles.
He knelt on one knee. What on earth was he doing? she wondered in a daze. His face was nearly level with her pelvis. Gently he put his finger in her drawers and tugged them down until they pooled at her feet.
She winced slightly as his hands cupped her buttocks, but she forgot her discomfort and lost herself in the most exquisite of sensations when Rand pressed his face into the triangle of her womanhood and kissed her womanly slit. She uttered a little moan of pleasure as his tongue flicked out, seeking, pushing itself into her sex, which was now flushed with moisture. All the while his fingers kneaded her buttocks, drawing her in so that her mons was fully accessible to his tongue. Ohh… it was heavenly. Never before had she felt such sensation. His probing tongue found the little nub of her clitoris and a surge of pleasure hit her like a lightning bolt. When her knees sagged and she almost fell, Rand caught her. He stood and scooped her into his arms. Gently he laid her on the sleeping pallet, then stood back.
Juliet lay watching Rand divest himself of clothing. When he tore away the underclothes, her startled eyes fastened on his male organ. She’d never seen one before, at least not in rampant erection like this. It was long and thick and straight, and she could only imagine what it was going to feel like inside her. But more than anything she wanted it, wanted to feel its length sliding into her most intimate place. That she was giving her maidenhood to this outlaw did not deter her resolve or desire in the slightest. She wanted this man.
He knelt on the pallet and eased his way between her legs. Instinctively she spread her knees apart and shifted her body so that she might more easily receive him. He kissed her belly and worked his way up her body, touching her everywhere with his lips. When he reached her breasts, he let his tongue tweak her nipples. Pleasure shot through her body and she closed her eyes, throwing her head back. When she opened them again, he was at her portal, ready to enter. His hands slipped beneath her buttocks and lifted her. Then she felt it, his erection pushing, sliding. There was a brief moment of intense pain as her maidenhead ruptured. Then he was in.
“Be still for a moment, my princess. The hurt will subside.”
It did. And then he began to move, stroking in and out, slowly at first then faster. The friction of his penis against her found her pleasure spot causing waves of the most ecstatic feeling she’d ever known to build. Starting as a stream in a woodland glade, it became a roaring cascade, tumbling over a waterfall. The powerful thrusts of Rand’s manhood were driving Juliet out of her mind, and she writhed in a delicious agony. Finally, from the core of her being came a wave, a tumbling, frothing cataract that burst from within like a wave crashing against the rocks. She moaned and her body shook, racked by a pulsating, overpowering bliss that peaked then finally subsided. In that moment Juliet realized that nothing about her life would ever be as it had been before.
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