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The Queen and the Archer by Jane Fairweather – Extended Preview

The Queen and the Archer by Jane FairweatherWithout warning Rosamund began to sprint out of the glade. Will suddenly found himself possessed by the most tremendous fury. How dare this slip of a girl defy her father’s wish that she follow his, Will Scott’s, advice? The king had not quite put it like that, but that was what he meant. Queen or no queen, this girl was going to have to be taught to obey for her own protection.

The queen, despite having to lift her skirts as she ran, was moving extremely quickly and it took Will a while to catch up with her. When he did she seemed to speed up, and for an infuriating minute or so, seemed to be just outrunning him. In the end he flung himself at her slender legs and brought her down. She immediately started trying to get up again, though she had landed heavily and her face had collected some mud. Will hung on, but she broke away from him and ran screaming for help, shrieking Will’s pardon was revoked and he would hang. Mercifully there was no one to hear.

She might have escaped too, he always thought going over it in later years, but she caught her foot in a tree root and he just reached her before she started running again. He was not in a mood for words, especially as she turned to face him and went for him with her nails, just as viciously as on the previous day. Some people, he thought to himself, never learn! However, this time he was ready for it and he grabbed her by both arms and picked her up with contemptuous ease. Then she started screaming (which annoyed him even more) that he was a traitor and would suffer the worst death she could find for him.

She came out of her temper to realize with horror that the archer had lifted her up over his shoulder and was swearing he was going to teach her the lesson of her life. She felt incredibly ridiculous; how had she been so stupid as to make the mistake of attacking him again? She could not believe herself. She knew the power of this man, but she had lived through his anger once before and with luck the storm would pass fairly quickly and she might even get her own way, if she pretended to be conciliatory.

Then Will Scott, archer and outlaw, was sitting on the stump of a fallen tree and Rosamund, queen of Lyonesse, was firmly over her subject’s knee with her feet a long way off the ground and she could feel a cold breeze coursing round her bare behind. She wondered why her loins always stirred so much when this peasant was around; it was ridiculous! She could feel his large left hand firmly gripping both her small wrists and felt ashamed that she had put them up to protect her bottom. She had never done that when she was being punished by her father; it had been a point of pride.

There was an agonisingly long pause. Was it any use apologising? She opened her mouth to say it, though the loss of dignity stuck in her throat. But a remarkably severe slap descended. It seemed to her to be even harder than the day before, but quite possibly she was still tender. There was a disconcerting gap.

“I am sorry,” she said desperately.

“You’ve earned this and you are going to get it,” came the very angry reply. “And you are not going to talk yourself out of it.”

Will raised his hand very high again and brought it down with a neat twist of the wrist onto her other buttock. He felt her wriggle. Well, let her; she was going to wriggle a whole lot more by the time he had finished with her.

She felt the sheer ferocity of that slap and realized this was going to be even worse than yesterday. Well, if this archer thought he could subdue Rosamund of Lyonesse, he was in for a surprise. She bit her lip and kept it tight as the slow agonising slaps accumulated.

This did not stop her whole bottom throbbing or tears gradually appearing in her eyes. Ever so slowly the pain became intense and she felt almost detached from what was happening. And then to her deep embarrassment, she was climaxing. She could feel her legs were twisting about and she was making almost animal noises and ashamed at the indignity of it. But whatever happened, she was not going to hand authority over her life to this man. She was a queen and he was an archer and that was that; if she wanted to go to Duke Rhys and sort this mess out, she would do so. She would just take the spanking and then make it clear she had not changed her mind one iota; that would show him. And yet in her heart of hearts she found herself almost liking the archer for having the courage to confront her; only her father had previously dared either confront her or discipline her. She wondered why she was not planning a slow execution for him like she had after he kidnapped her father, or indeed as she had done in the long walk back to the castle the previous day. She realized she was just waiting for him to get through his anger. But now the pain was getting too much for her determined detachment. Her twisting and wriggling became so wild that she wondered if she was going to fall off his knee, and she could hear herself yelping and crying.

He was struck in spite of himself by the girl’s dogged courage. His hand was hitting her as hard as he could make it and he was quite deliberately hitting the same spots over and over again, and he could feel them getting hotter and hotter. Despite her obvious pain and frequent crying out, he did not feel that she was going to give in, but this could not go on forever.

“Will you obey me when it is a question of your own safety?” he finally asked.

“If I must.”

She just did not feel she could take anymore.

Had she surrendered, or had she not? Still he let her slide off his knee.

“God, I am on fire,” she said with tears rolling down her cheeks and clutching her buttocks as she staggered about the glade.

Her skirts were way above her waist and she was too concerned with clutching her pain to care. He found himself startled by his pleasure at the sight of her soft white belly and the lovely red pubic hair, which he noticed was quite wet.

He turned his mind to thinking what should be done next. They would need food and a disguise for the queen. But what disguise? A peasant girl’s outfit would be easy to get hold of, but her majesty was so recognisable. Could she pass as a boy? It seemed much the most sensible idea. No one would notice the difference except for her voice of course, which was anything but a boy’s and highly individual. Still perhaps she could play dumb.

“Well, if we are not going to the duke, may I ask where we are going?” enquired the queen, wondering if her bottom was going to ever stop stinging, but quite determined not to show it.

She had now firmly pulled her skirts down to their proper position.

“Well, as I said, your majesty, before I was so rudely interrupted, we are going to look for Merlin Oakwood as your father instructed me. However, we need a disguise for you. I must get you some boy’s clothes; you are too obvious in women’s clothes, and…”

He got no further, because the queen was letting out a shriek of rage and saying she was on no account going to wear boy’s clothes.

“But your majesty, it is the only safe disguise for you. In women’s clothes you just look too much like yourself.”

“I will not wear boy’s clothes!” she said very quietly and determinedly.

At this point Will Scott very formally took out the large knife he had fastened to his belt and walked slowly and deliberately to a large hazel bush and carefully cut a long straight switch. Then he walked back to her very slowly and looked her straight in the eye.

“Bend over and touch your toes,” he said.

She had been thinking this cutting of a hazel twig was perhaps something to do with lighting a fire, then she realized it was not. Then it struck her there was something about this man that needed to be obeyed. Feeling in the grip of a strange spell, she reached for her toes, which was actually quite hard to do. She heard a remote voice telling her she could hold her legs just above her ankles if it was easier, for which she was grateful. She could feel her skirts and shift being lifted and pulled up so hard they were almost over her head; she could feel the satin of her underskirt touching her neck.

“I am going to give you twelve with this switch and you are going to count.”

She found herself trembling so much she wondered if she was going to fall down. The switch hit her quite near the top of her buttocks; the tears flowed.

“One,” she managed to say in a very small voice.

The switch cracked again, just a little lower down; it was a different noise to the willow cane. The sting felt slightly different too, but it still hurt horribly and she found the indignity of her bottom being in full view of this man was very real. She was a grown woman, for goodness’ sake! Somehow the spanking had seemed less undignified, though she was not sure why.

“Ah! Five!” she said through her shrieks, which she was uncomfortably aware were getting rather loud. She wondered if there was anyone else to hear.

“I can barely hear you!” he said. “Say it clearly or I will give you two for each one I can’t hear.”

“Yow! Oh, that hurt so much. Six!” she called out rather loudly, as a particularly vicious lash caught the crease between bottom and thighs.

It struck her that he had now covered her backside in welts from top to bottom. What next? There was an ominous pause. Then the switch was very slowly working its way left to right across the previous welts and she was howling for mercy. Somehow she managed to keep counting, though looking back she always wondered how she did it. When it was over, she went down on her knees and clutched her backside.

He looked at her in that position and thought in spite of himself how much he liked the shape of this impossible girl, but put it firmly out of his head.

He gave her a quite a long while to recover, then instructed her to stand up and pull her skirts down.

Then he told her to turn round and look him in the eye, and he enquired, “Now can I trust you not to run off?”

Rosamund shrugged and said she would obey. Half of her was pleased to have someone to tell her what to do, and half of her was not convinced that the duke was her enemy and more than a little angry at being told what to do, especially the idea of wearing boy’s clothes. But this archer had already saved her life once, and perhaps she should not totally ignore his advice. If they met some of Rhys’s men, she would judge the situation and go along with her archer, or declare herself, as the situation seemed to demand. Besides, though she did not like to admit it, she knew she did not want to go through another punishment from this terribly strong man. No! For the time being at least she would have to go along with this odd, well-meaning peasant. But why, she wondered, did she feel so little resentment? She ought to be so much angrier than she was. But she had no real explanation. Then it struck her that when she was about nine or ten, she had resented the confinement that girl’s clothes forced on her and wished she could wear boy’s breeches and it would at least be an interesting experiment. However, she also hoped devoutly that it never came out that the queen of Lyonesse had worn boy’s breeches; the whole country would laugh at her.

Will made her walk in front of him. She stumbled along, feeling extremely sore, though noticing an unaccountable sense of pleasure in her loins. But then she turned to wondering how the archer knew which of several apparently identical paths to follow. Even odder, he frequently cut across the woodland where there seemed to be no path at all. After a while she plucked up the courage to ask how he knew where they were going, and he muttered something barely audible about it being something you were born with, or not.

They came eventually to a small copse within the main wood. He told her to go into it. They were going to try to sleep for a few hours.

* * *

When she woke, it was well into the next day. He offered her the few pieces of chicken he had left from the landlady’s bounty. He did not mention he had not eaten himself, or that he had stayed on guard over her all the time she had had been sleeping.

He said to her very firmly, “I am afraid I am going to have to call you Peter from now on, your majesty. It is for your own protection. They will be looking for a girl and it should help fool them.”

“Yes, I suppose it will,” Rosamund replied, not liking to contradict the bowman, “Oh, well, it will make the adventure more interesting, I suppose. I have always wondered what it be like to be a boy! Actually I have already begun to find out with that whipping, I suppose. Girls don’t normally get it as hard as that.”

“Have you ever been punished before two nights back, then?” Will asked with genuine surprise.

“Yes, of course I have; my father could be quite strict.”

Will restrained himself from laughing, then asked for her word of honour that she would stay where she was till he returned with the provisions and some boy’s clothes. This she gave, if reluctantly. She had been brought up from an early age to honour her word, so she supposed she would have to do as she had just said, though she made a little caveat to herself, that if some of Rhys’s men came by, she might make herself known if they did not look too obviously hostile. She wished she knew just what was going on.

* * *

Will staggered into the glade with a sack on his back and was greeted with sullen indifference. He was sensitive enough to realise that Rosamund was not in a good mood and was probably hungry, so he told her so, took out the bread and cheese and made rough sandwiches for both of them.

“No butter!” Rosamund exclaimed, spitting out her first mouthful.

“Really, Peter, a boy like you should know a lot of people never see butter! It’s what we have, so get on and eat it,” Will retorted.

“I am not Peter, I am your queen, and I would like to be taken somewhere that I can get decent food. And really, it is ridiculous that we are not going to Duke Rhys. I am sure he can be trusted.”

“Your majesty, for your own safety, you are Peter. If I have one more word out of you like that, you will have another switching. There is a flourishing hazel bush over there. Shall I go and cut a switch, or perhaps two? Now get on and eat! And when hopefully you have recovered your temper, I will tell you what I have found out, and we will try to make a plan.”

Rosamund very reluctantly succumbed to superior force and started to munch her way through the coarse stoneground bread and very strong cheese. It was different from anything she had ever eaten but the flavour grew on her, except it was very salty. She asked for a drink and was allowed to drink from the large bottle of small beer that the landlady had provided. Then she resumed her munching. Gradually she felt better, but nevertheless she also felt decidedly cross that this peasant had been right and her bad mood was partly due to her being hungry. She was right about going to Duke Rhys, she knew she was. However, she glanced at the springy twigs of the hazel bush and decided she had better keep such thoughts to herself.

“Now, Peter, the sooner we get you out of those girl’s things and in to proper boy’s clothes, the better. What your mother can have been about, leaving a boy of your age in skirts like a small child, I cannot imagine,” said Will, entering perhaps too enthusiastically into the spirit of the thing.

Rosamund’s anger flashed. “I am not going to change into boy’s clothes. I am the queen of Lyonesse!” she screamed, glaring defiantly at her persecutor.

“And I am going to cut a switch, unless you start to change before I count to three,” said Will, purposefully standing up and taking his knife out of his belt.

Rosamund glared back at him. He counted to two with a slow deliberation that she found unnerving, but she was still determined not to give in. Then he said, “Th…” and then “rr,” and she suddenly panicked; not able to face another whipping, she started to undo the fastenings on her red velvet gown.

Will had genuinely meant to send her into some bushes to change, but he did not like to stop her undressing now she had started, and he found himself watching with fascination as the girl took off her gown and folded it neatly, and then added her pretty but badly scuffed court shoes and the silk stockings with their rather ineffective garters to the heap. Then she seemed to take a breath before removing her two elaborately embroidered satin petticoats and white bodice. The top petticoat had a large piece torn out of it, presumably to staunch her father’s blood, Will thought. Then she seemed to find the strength to remove these garments, and finally she was standing in her woollen shift. He was just about to give her the boy’s clothes, thinking there was little to choose between a girl and a boy’s shift and she might as well keep on the one she was already wearing, when Rosamund suddenly took her shift off and stood there holding it out to him. She was actually willing him to stop dithering and hand the clothes to her like her maid would have done, but he was startled yet again by the sheer prettiness of her young body. He very nearly started to move towards her and kiss her, but then thought that Rosamund could not have meant anything so dramatic. This was confirmed when he heard the queen’s voice very plaintively asking how long she had to stand there freezing before he gave her the new clothes. He felt relief he had not taken advantage of his queen, but also worried by the intensity of the attraction he had felt, and quite alarmed at the girl’s innocence; he must at all costs avoid anything like this happening again!

He took her shift and then fumbled in the sack for the boy’s. She crossed her arms, cursing his slowness to herself. She took it and put it on, complaining that it smelt awful. He apologised for the camphor, which appeared to be something she had not come across before, and handed over the boy’s woollen hose. She slipped it on quite neatly, though complaining it felt rough and she was not used to having anything covering her bottom. He wondered if her soft, well-switched skin would cope with the wool. He flung her the white linen shirt, which quite suited her, he thought. Then she slipped on the pair of leather breeches, which were slightly on the slack side and he found himself regretting they concealed the contours of her lovely lower half. Then finally he tossed her the leather jacket, which she buttoned up. Unlike the breeches, this was quite tight and he found himself wondering if it did not make her breasts too prominent, but decided probably only he would notice.

“How do I look?” asked Rosamund with female anxiety.

“Very pretty for a boy.”

“That’s a relief! I thought I’d look awful. Do I really look alright?” Rosamund replied, still sounding uneasy.

“Yes, really. Maybe more girls should dress like it.”

“You’d better stop talking about me as if I am a girl, if I am going to be a boy!” Rosamund replied in a voice full of practicality. “Now what about my hair? I cannot possibly wear it as long as this!”

Will had forgotten about this. Trust a girl to think about her hair! But she was quite right.

“I have no scissors!” he apologised.

“Can’t you use your knife? It needs doing. Somebody will notice a boy with long hair.”

Will realised with relief that she was suddenly entering into the spirit of the thing. He took his knife and whetstone out, sharpened the knife, and made a reasonable attempt at a boy’s haircut.

“I expect I look dreadful!” said the queen, laughing.

“No, your high… Peter, I mean, you look very good.”

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