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Chapter One

There was strife, but there is always strife when one monarch usurps another.

Over the border, on what used to be King Argus' land pockets of rebels loyal to King Argus - or loyal the man they believed their dead king to be - took up the holy cause of resisting King Genevieve's takeover of his realm.

Queen Eleanor, had been locked in a tower by her sister, the woman who'd been both lover and murderer of the king. Her only solace now was in seeing the small fires from the tower, of knowing that down below in what used to be her husband's kingdom there were still people who'd been as blinded by him as she.

The Good King. The Virtuous King. It had all been a lie. As he'd publicly displayed loyalty to his wife, King Argus had kept a string of women secretly called The King's Select. He set them up in a communal house, used them, pitted them against one another for his own amusement and the women bore it all, some because they loved him or others because they clung to the promise of a pampered retirement but all because they had to.

But when he did tire of the women, it was not a life of ease that awaited, but death. King Argus was not the man he pretended to be. And as his wife stood in the tower, tears trailing down her cheeks she did not know whom she hated more - her dead husband or the sister who had been sleeping with him.

Queen Genevieve was just as hateful. She'd had King Argus killed when she'd found out about the select, tipped off by a former member of the group and Roderick, the man employed to train the women to pleasure the king. It was with some measure of sadistic glee that Queen Genevieve had told her sister how Argus had betrayed them both.

"Both?" Eleanor had raged. "BOTH??" She'd put her face in her hands briefly before facing her sister. "I am the only one who is betrayed. You were nothing more but one of his whores, Genevieve."

Her singular display of passion had earned her imprisonment, but from a high enough vantage point for Eleanor to see that her sister's new subjects weren't all going down without a fight. Like any King, Argus had landed gentry and knights in his favor and they all felt they had as much right to rule in the dead king's absence as some neighboring queen come to stamp them out. It pleased Eleanor that her sister wasn't finding things so easy for the taking now.

But as hard as it was for Genevieve, it was harder on the ground.

In a small hut deep in the forest, a blonde woman in simple peasant's garb, her blonde hair bound in a kerchief, leaned over an moaning soldier and grimly assessed the severity of his leg injury.

The arrow had gone deep into the thigh muscle, and the time the young man had spent hiding from his pursuers had been enough for infection to set in. She laid her hand on his head.

"The physician will have to dig this out," she said gently. "It will be exceedingly painful, and some of the flesh around the wound will have to be cut away."

He looked at her with such confused, pained eyes; he could not have been more than fifteen.

"Do you have a family we can send word to?" she asked. "To let them know that you're alive but will have to be here to mend?"

He shook his head. "They're all dead," he said. "I'm the last of them. The Queen's men. They came in the night. They believed my father to be with the resistance. They killed him and my mother. My younger brothers...."

He looked away.

"No need to explain," she said. "And I can certainly understand why you would choose to fight."

She dabbed his head with a cool rag. "She's a horrible woman."

"Don't let her hear you say that," he said. "She'll have your head, too."

Lillith offered a small smile. She did not tell the youth that while the queen may not have her head, she'd dealt a blow to her heart. In comparison to the young soldier's injury, she knew it would seem a small thing. And perhaps it was, but just as this young man would carry the effect of his hurt for the rest of his life, she'd carry her hurt as well.

She still missed Roderick, and she knew in her heart that he'd not dismissed her as the king's man Cedric had claimed.

"He favors the Queen now," he'd informed her, and has no use to you.

"I don't believe you," she'd said. "I must hear it from him."

"You'll hear nothing but the sound of your neck snapping on the gallows if you question me further." The aid's menacing tone implied that he could have that power if he pressed his employer. So Lillith had said nothing and was shuffled into a cart with a bag of clothing Roderick had packed for her and driven across the border and on to a village she'd never even heard of. The driver ignored her pleas to be taken to where she'd originally been captured by King Argus; at the time she did not know he was dead and wanted to warn her father that he may take vengeance for her fleeing out on him. She'd spend two whole days agonizing over his plight before learning that he'd been killed. Shortly after that, the resistance started.

It seemed natural to ally herself with the rebels and she used her caring kindness and knowledge of herbs to treat those who'd been injured by the Queen's guard. There were many; Genevieve's cruelty knew no bounds. So incensed was she by the resistance that anyone she suspected of fomenting the uprising was punished. Families were burned alive in their huts if they could not be smoked out. Livestock was slaughtered as a warning to those who'd even enjoyed past associations with those now in the resistance, but it was the captured rebels themselves who were the most seriously tortured. Heads sat on pikes along what was now called The Queen's Road, although the rebels still called it the opposite. The lad with the infected leg was one of the lucky ones to have been undetected.

"You're an angel," the boy said. "A living angel."

Lillith had smiled, laying a reassuring hand on his head before leaving him with the physician, who'd often told her that her beauty was the only bright spot in the injured rebels' broken lives. Today she could not bear to hear what she knew would be the horrid screams of the young soldier she'd just seen, who'd have to undergo treatment with nothing more to dull his pain than some sour wine.

Leaving the camp was forbidden, but she did not want to be there.

"I'm going to gather herbs," she said.

"Don't go far." The physician looked over at her. He was a kindly man who'd taken her under his wing in an almost paternal fashion. He was twice her age, but still a handsome fellow and she knew he would have been even more handsome in a fine suit rather than the ever-present blood-stained shirt. But even so, when the sleeves were rolled up to reveal his strong forearms, and he smiled through the grime she saw a fellow nearly as handsome as Roderick, and a kind man who would have her if she would have him. But her heart was still lost to the man who'd touched her body and soul when she'd entered King Argus' house, a man who at that very moment was convincingly serving the queen.

To a spectator, it would look the other way around. It was the queen who was on her knees, and it was Roderick who was in obvious control. Genevieve knelt before him, trembling as those twin emotions - fear and need - raged with in her. Roderick was circling her, methodically tapping the cane against his palm as he walked.

"You were late," he said. "I expected you here at dusk. That was what we agreed, wasn't it?"

"I'm sorry, my master. I am Queen. I have obligations..."

Her response prompted a sharp rebuttal. Roderick rushed to her, grabbed the hair at the back of her head and sharply jerked it back so that she was looking up at him. The Queen's hands remain clasped at the back of her neck.

"In here, you are a slave," he said. "My slave. And your service starts every day at sunset, understand? When the sun sinks below the horizon you are no longer a queen. You are mine to use. You are my whore, my personal wanton, mine to fuck, to whip, to use in any and every way I please."

She shuddered with desire at his words and Roderick marveled at the depths of her need for control and humiliation. He'd trained dozens of women for King Argus, but never had he resorted to the tactics preferred by the queen. She didn't just want to be controlled; she wanted to be subjugated, even debased. In some ways he was relieved. His heart still lay with Lillith, and if the queen had been like Lillith and someone who simply responded to his control then he would have felt far more disloyal to the woman he loved. But the queen didn't just respond to control, she craved it. It was an addiction and the more he fed it, the deeper it got. This made her as different from Lillith as night was from day, and because cruelty was not part of how he trained women - especially Lillith - he could feel that this was more of a role he was playing, and not an affair he was engaging in.

He played it well, and the Queen had no reason to suspect that she did not possess Roderick's heart. She was beautiful enough and vain enough to believe that a man she gave herself to would be so awed by the prize she presented that he would be a hundred percent hers. King Argus had taught her nothing. After his death it was as if he had never existed. She seemed to think that an even deeper submission would bind Roderick to her in ways she could not bind Argus completely, and Roderick played along. For he knew something the queen did not: Her desires would be her ultimate undoing.

Roderick thought of Lillith every single day. The last sight he had of her was from the window of a carriage. Absence did not lessen his love for her; each hour that put distance between them increased his affection for her, and made him hate the queen more. But that, too, helped him with his plan. Roderick was not a cruel man, but his disdain for the ruthless monarch made him able to be exactly what she wanted him to be.

"Rise," he said harshly, and she scrambled ungracefully from the floor.

"I should just walk out," he said. "I should leave you in here, unpunished, ignored..."

She was really crying now; her fear of being ignored was so much greater than her fear of bruises.
"But instruction is warranted," he said. "Bend over the bed. Stretch your arms forward. If you put your hands back you shall have to explain why your palms are too sore to shut your hands around the quill you use to sign your decrees."

She shuddered, knowing he'd make good on his threat. He'd done it once, had striped the palms of her hand with a a bundle of switches until she screamed. She'd been kneeling on the floor, shaking from the pain. He'd been careful not to break the skin, but her palms were a fiery red afterwards, but the awful pain did not stop her from grabbing his cock and pulling it into her hot wet quim. The hand-lashing had been for trying to shield herself during a spanking; she'd never done it since. Even the Ice Queen had her limits.

He'd been pushing to find those limits, using her desires to mold and train her, playing her like an instrument. He'd remained detached from every one of the King's Select until Lillith had come along. It was easy to remain detached from the queen, and even easier to fool her into thinking he felt just the opposite. After punishing her, he would take her in his arms and tell her that he was only so cruel for her own good, because he knew she wanted to please him and how could she if he did not correct her, and harshly. She would tremble in his arms and look into his eyes. First she did so with lust, but then later he saw something else in them - Love. And Trust.

He let those feelings deepen along with her depravity. He was especially cruel today as he brought the cane down across her haunches. She was ready, for he had denied her this implement until she'd healed from the last caning. The bite of the cane was blindingly painful and she screamed into the coverlets, her nails dragging through the fabric to the point of nearly ripping it. But Genevieve did not put her hands back. She held steady as Roderick marked her bottom, telling her as he did of how the welt bloomed and how he loved marking her as his own. And through the torturous pain she'd get wetter and wetter and spread her legs wider and wider until Roderick knew he could ignore her needs no more. He undid his codpiece and drove into her, slamming again and again, waiting for the pulsations of her orgasm to signal to himself that he could take his own release. And he would and then withdraw, and in that moment he would allow himself pity for being put in this position.

He didn't dwell, though.

"Come here, love," he said, and she crawled across the bed to him like a wounded cat, her long hair flowing around her body like a mantle. Queen Genevieve curled into him, whimpering as his hand roamed her injured bottom. The welts were angry, red ridges that would take weeks to heal.

"You're coming along nicely," he said. "I am so proud of you."

She smiled up at him. "I worship you, you know."

He smiled back, convincingly he realized, when tears of joy came to her eyes. "So many women in my life, so many I've trained and I realize now that it was all so I would be prepared to train you."

"To what ends, Master?" she asked. "I'm afraid to ask."

"To what ends?" He repeated her question, which was a loaded one, he knew. He pretended to ponder, knowing what she wanted to hear. She wanted to be owned by him, to be consumed. But he could not tell her that he was going to give her that. He needed her to be more desperate for his complete control, so desperate that it would make her rash - rash enough to make mistakes, rash enough to make the greatest mistake of all, which would be to grant him complete trust and freedom to move about as he pleased.

Roderick rose from the bed. "You're not ready," he said, and she crumpled in a heap and then became angry. "I am your Queen!" she said. "I could have you beheaded for..."

"..SEE?" He interrupted, pointing an accusing finger at her, and Genevieve fell silent. "You are still too proud. Even here you only pretend to submit but when you don't get exactly the answer you want, you pull rank." He shook his head, fixing her with what he knew was a risky look of disgust.

"You," he said, "make a mockery of your submission. And I'd rather have my head on a pike than live a lie. You say you desire mastery, and I desire nothing more than to master you, to make you mine in every way possible. But you are over-proud and haughty."

Roderick stood and adjusted his codpiece. He'd not gotten undressed with her, not completely although he knew she longed for that, too, to have him naked with her and maybe looking into her eyes when they made love. She wanted to claim him as he claimed her. She wanted him to be hers, to possess him, as she'd never been able to possess King Argus. Now, as she watched him turn away she leapt from the bed and fell at his feet, clutching his legs as she looked up at him.

"Oh,," she said. "You are wrong. I am not over-proud and I beg your mercy and forgiveness for my show of pride. It's just that....I am queen all day and I find my mind constantly warring with itself. I was born to rule, but I feel destined to serve, to serve one man completely and wholly. I thought I had that once before but it was a lie. But with you, I believe you are the one I've been waiting for. If you will just be patient...." Her breath caught now and tears flooded down her cheeks. "If you will just be patient I can be what you want me to be. I just need to find a way to balance my life as queen with my service to you."

He lifted her up and smoothed her hair away from her eyes, going from aloof to caring in a way that he knew kept her off balance. "But can you, Genevieve? Is it really want you want? It would taken an exceptionally dedicated woman to live the life you want to lead. It will take more strength to be a slave than it will ever take to be a queen." He paused. "I cannot demand that of you."

"You don't have to," she said, searching his face desperately. "I'll give it freely."

And Roderick smiled, but just to himself. He was almost where he wanted her to be. He could only hope that Lillith would not give her heart to another before he found her again.

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