I Am Not the Goddaughter
Table of Contents|
appeared in issue 205.
|part 4 of 5|
Princess Rhiannon of New Fairy was a prodigal daughter of a king, forced by circumstance into a life of prostitution before returning to her father. Though freed from her servitude, Rhiannon has suffered a terrible curse and must appear naked at all times, vulnerable and cold. As she resumes her rightful place in the world, she encounters dark sorcery, the evil of men, the intrigue of enemies and her own inner conflicts.
“Oh, by the gods! Oh, by the gods! Oh, by the gods!”
“Branwen just settle yourself.”
We had climbed out of her privy right as she had lifted her skirts and was about to cut loose. She had on a light blue Sidon gown, ankle length as daring as that seems. It made a nice contrast to her long blond locks, which were untied and hung loosely down her back.
“What are you doing climbing out of my privy?”
She had recoiled from the sight and was pressed against the wall opposite us. “And what is that brown substance all over you? It looks like dung and smells so very foul.”
“That is exactly what it is,” I said sourly.
“It is foul-smelling dung. And I want it off of me!” We had crawled by many an orifice that had rained on us unmercifully. The people of New Prydain have slaves pour water into a canister in their privies. They do press a lever, and the weight of Daearu draws the water, along with their excreta down into the tunnels and from there into the grand river. It seemed they were all doing it as Raoul led us through the sewers.
I stomped my foot. Headed toward the privy door. They are indoors in New Prydain.
“No you don’t!” She shook her long, blond hair emphatically.
“Excuse me? Do you want an international incident? I am going to your bathing chambers.”
“You are to do no such thing. Oh, merry meet, Rosalyn.” Rosalyn had just climbed out. Her uniform was covered with brown waste too. “No, neither one of you is going to parade through my palace in this condition.”
“What are we to do then?” I shook my hands, and some of the feces almost splattered on Branwen. She cringed and pressed even flatter against the wall.
“Wait here. I will have one of the sewer slaves escort you back through the tunnels to where they clean up.”
“Back through the tunnels?” I was horrified.
“You came in that way; you can go out that way. By the Man-God, you are disgusting. Please, do not go anywhere else.” She made a ‘halt’ motion with her hands and rushed out, repressing a gag.
“Well, this is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into, Rhiannon. And where is Raoul?”
I did not deign to answer the one comment. And I had no idea what the answer to the other was. Raoul, who had led us here, had stepped aside, as we scootched up the tunnel into Branwen’s privy. And we had not seen him since; nor the death sword. So much for it always returning to me. It seems to prefer its creator’s company to mine. How very male of it.
Our wait seemed hours long. Rosalyn sat on the stall, and refused to touch her encrusted clothing, her hair, the sides of the privy. She held her hands up above her head, and swayed them. I was pacing. I had given up wiping myself clean. There was not enough paper present; it is much less pleasant than the leaves we use for the purpose in New Fairy and I only ended up smearing the filth around me. The paper was from magazines, though, and I did catch up on the escapades of the Red Highwayman, the rogue you love to hate, and the Inn Keeper’s fair-haired daughter.
“You could try making swirls out of it,” Rosalyn said between deep throated coughs. “It will make you seem covered in chocolate.” Chocolate is a confection women use in New Prydain to relieve the symptoms of the moons’ blessing, instead of Dian’s buds. It is the color of dung, but it tastes far better than it looks, which is nothing like the petite black berries of our remedy.
I was about to reply to my lady-in-waiting by suggesting an unnatural act, when a tinny, hollow-sounding voice came from the direction of Rosalyn’s butt.
“M’ladies. Are you up there?”
“Where else would we be?” I shouted back.
That was greeted with chuckles. “Well, ‘m’ladies, your escort has arrived.” He spoke in a lower class accent, similar to Rosalyn’s.
“Well, Rhiannon. What are you waiting for?”
“You go first, Rosalyn.”
“Uh, uh. You are the princess here. You go first.”
Shooting her a look almost as dirty as how I felt, I descended back into the tunnel network beneath Branwen’s privy. I was greeted by the sight of a shorn male butt.
“Follow me, m’ladies,” came the voice of the butt’s owner, more vibrant now as it was not being filtered through lead.
“Lead on,” I said, enjoying the one pleasant view in this grimy mess.
Poor Rosalyn, all she will see will be my ass. But she wanted to take up (dare I say) the rear. In ordinary cases, this could not be the most delightful thing for her to tramp behind, but now that it looked like I had not cleaned myself there in over a year, it must be particularly repugnant.
We emerged to a deep green, well manicured lawn by a slave barracks. There were several female slaves waiting for us, standing at attention, holding towels, soaps, perfumes, and the other necessities of life.
“Well, m’ladies, enjoy your bath. Enjoy it indeed.”
The sewer slave who had been our guide turned out to be much more than a well-formed buttocks. He was short, stocky, but handsome, if you do not count that he was almost as hairy as a monkey and would not be out of place swinging from vines. Since his backside had shown no such growth, I wondered if he did shave there or whether some quirk of nature left it as smooth as a baby’s bottom.
“Rhiannon, you do not like it when you are stared at in that manner; do not do so to this poor fellow.”
The poor fellow grinned at Rosalyn’s remark, but stayed his distance as we headed to our “ladies in attendance.”
Rosalyn was well treated. She removed her garments, and one girl, choking at the smell, went off with them, holding them as far out as she could, as another hung up a pink Sidon gown for her use after her bath. I was told, in a preemptory manner, to stand as barely warm water was poured on me.
“Rinse yourself off, missy,” one of the slaves said.
“You are supposed to do that.”
“Hah. High and mighty are we, because the queen has taken an interest in you? Clean yourself, or present yourself to her majesty in your filth and see what she thinks of you.”
They had mistaken me for another slave. That was obvious. I grabbed the soap, and began lathering myself. Rosalyn was noting this with a twinkle in her eye.
“Oh, girl, once you are presentable, come hither and clean my arse.” She laughed as I threw a bar of soap at her. The slave who had taken Rosalyn’s clothes from her returned and gave her a blue gown, made from fine linen. Smirking at me, Rosalyn pulled it over her through the opening at its head, and winked as the slaves smoothed it down and tied it with a leather belt.
“Perhaps I’ll use this belt on you, if you are too haughty.” She grinned and the slave girls nodded approvingly. She will pay for this. When we get home, I will order her hanged upside down by the palace gardens.
Once we were cleaned, the slaves led us across the lawn, past naked men using scythes to trim the grass, to Branwen, who was in an outdoor cotillion, being served tea. She was scowling at something, and looking down to her right.
She brightened as we approached.
“Well, all squeaky clean, are we?” She studied me with amusement. “And perfumed as well.” She sniffed. “Now stink of oranges. Better. Well, enjoy your tea. It will refresh you after your ordeal.” She choked back a guffaw at mention of my ‘ordeal’. “May I have a moment with your lady in waiting, please?”
“With Rosalyn? Of course.”
What did she want with Rosalyn? She and Rosalyn did not get along, almost from their first meeting. Still, I was glad to sip the tea, and to ignore the resentful looks of the serving girls, who obviously thought I was being treated above my station. Branwen took Rosalyn by the arm, and led her, through the Dian’s buds and manicured lawn, to a cherry tree some feet away. There, she began gesticulating, pointing to me, and speaking in a clearly earnest way. Rosalyn responded with the same earnest expression and with much flailing of her arms.
They came back; Rosalyn sat beside me to my right, and Branwen sat across from me. A slave poured her some tea. She sipped it and ignored the slave, as if the beverage had simply appeared in her cup. She frowned, then jutted her chin down and sighed gustily.
“Rosalyn says I should just come out and say this.”
“Come out and say what? Have I done something to offend you?”
“No, no. Well, yes, in a way. I had to buy you back, you know.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“I am not like you; I cannot simply take property from my subjects.”
I tensed at this. “I do not simply take property from my subjects.”
“But you have the power to; I do not. But what I am saying is that I had to buy you back to give you your freedom.”
“You paid Jean-Paul?” I nearly rose in outrage.
She shrugged. “No, not your kidnapper. You had already been sold by the time you popped out of my latrine. I had to buy you from the auctioneer. For 100,000 crowns.”
“That seems cheap to me.”
She laughed. “You always had a high opinion of yourself. No, that is top market for a brothel slave, as you were going to be.”
“I will pay you back.”
“Oh, you certainly will. Otherwise, I will not tear up the bill of lading, and you will join my stable of serving girls.” She must have seen the look on my face, as she added, “just kidding. 100,000 crowns is nothing to me. No, what I am concerned about is your tendency to get yourself sold as a slave whenever you visit my kingdom.”
“I scarcely can help that.”
“Yes, you can. If you got over your phobia about clothing.”
“It is not a phobia-”
“I know; I know; you feel you are ensorcelled. But Rhiannon, sweet friend of my childhood, you know there cannot be such ensorcellment.” She reached out and touched me. “And even so, to go looking for fabulous jewels that will,” she rolled her eyes, “clothe you in glory, warm you in winter. And were forged by a little green man.”
“The Goblin King.”
She closed her eyes. “Yes, the Goblin King. The very one who hides under your bed or lives in your closet. Who is behind the wasps’ sting, the souring of milk, or the chair that falls away from you when you are inebriated. Puck himself.”
“His name is Raoul.”
“Yes, I am quite sure it is.” She leaned closer. “A children’s tale, not something a grown up fairy woman should believe in. No, whatever dementia took over your mind in New Dyved is getting worse. I want you to see an alienist.”
“A Master of the Mind. Someone who can probe what ever is making you have these sick and self-destructive behaviors. Going everywhere naked. Treating subjects as equals. Always keeping the peace, even when the parties want war. Being sold into slavery. Estranging the offworlders, who only want peace now. Believing the hallucinations that thrust them back into the skies were real. Climbing through tunnels of feces and urine. Please, Rhiannon. Do it for me.”
“I will not.” This angered me.
“I could order you. Until the Courts issue their final decree, I am technically your mistress.”
I opened my mouth to respond to that. She reached out and squeezed my hand.
“I will not, Rhiannon. But please, what could it hurt to see this man? If you decide that your dementia is real after visiting him, then so be it. I will accept your immodest and unwomanly manner in all solemnity. Go see this man. For me, Rhiannon. For our friendship.”
I gave in. She evidently had sensed that I would, as she had made an appointment for me to stop by this alienist’s office that afternoon. So come two hours past second noon, I was entering into the lobby of a rainbow colored, marble building on Warf Street. It was three stories, had five cauldrons for hot water on its roof, and felt cool in contrast to the hot outdoors.
Slaves with enormous fans made of peacock feathers were circulating the coolness. One of them, a man with deep green eyes and an enormous manhood that resembled a cow’s intestine, winked at me. I cold shouldered him but felt vaguely violated in spite of his fascinating leek-like eyes, so very, very green.
Rosalyn and I climbed to the third story. This ‘alienist’ had his office on the third floor, which meant his water would be hottest, having the least to go from the cauldrons, and his view of the river and the aqueducts would be the most magnificent.
He had an inner and outer office. Placed behind a rich lime and brown eitann desk was a middle aged, gray haired woman, perhaps forty, although it is hard to tell sometimes with mortals. She was wearing a brown gown, with Guild colors on it. Blue and tan, meaning that she was of secretarial rank.
“May I help you?”
“We are here to see the physician,” Rosalyn said.
“Ah, yes, he is expecting you, Lady Rhiannon. You and your slave just go on in.”
Rosalyn gave me a look, as she always does when people mistake our relative stations. She had purchased a bright yellow Sidon gown to replace her feces-desecrated warrior’s clothes. Her sandals had ruby studs on them.
She refrained from doing something naughty, like making me open the door for her. She pulls these pranks sometimes at home, when everyone is but amused, but she knows she risks a cudgeling here, where people might take her seriously.
We entered, and there was a tall man, with blond curly hair standing, holding a book, which he was not reading. On its spine read the words, The Edible Woman. I recognized it, as Rosalyn too likes these bizarre offworlder tales and has me read them to her as part of her literacy training. It is about a form of cannibalism the offworlders practice.
The alienist was watching the traffic on the delta. He put down the book, picked out something from his trouser pocket. It was a tiny bag. He opened the contents as he turned around.
“Looking for these, Rhiannon?” It was Jean-Paul! I leapt toward him, almost straddling his desk. My stomach was on it, my arms dangling over it by his leather chair, the kind that has little wooden wheels. “They will cost you a pretty penny.”
“Rosalyn, kill him and get the jewels!” I croaked.
Rosalyn rushed around the desk; Jean-Paul opened the window and tossed the little bag out.
I screamed, pulled myself over the table, somersaulted upright and leapt out the window. Only to fall flat on the wall outside, as Rosalyn grabbed my ankles. As I dangled there, I watched helplessly as a black bird, with the wingspan of a dragon, swooped down, and grabbed the gem bag in its claws. It looked me square in the eye, and cawed. I reached out to the Harpy futilely and whimpered as my only source of covering on this world left to the heavens.
“Ooooh, looks like you’ll be needing a little help,” Jean-Paul sneered.
“Get back in here!” I heard Rosalyn yell.
“You have your hands full there.”
I heard him stop walking, and squeaks from his boots indicated he had pivoted around on his heels. Rosalyn later told me he opened his arms expansively.
“You can get me, and let your mistress drop to her death, or you can let me go. Guess we’ll see what you’ll do.”
And to Rosalyn’s expletives, he left the room.
“Man-God, you are heavy. Where do you put it, Rhiannon? It must all go to your bosoms. Certainly not your butt.”
“Just get me off of here.”
“It’s all I can do to hold on.” Her voice was tense.
“You must, Rosalyn; you must.”
But I could feel the strain on her hands and arms, as if there were communication between them and my ankles. I saw truly how far three stories were, when the foot nearest the ground is but inches from solid marble.
“Oh, Lord, I’m getting weaker, Rhiannon.”
“Hold on! Please, Rosalyn. I will do anything you ask, just hold on!”
“Anything I ask, Rhiannon. Well, that could prove very interesting.” She let go of one ankle and scratched her head.
“Stow it and hold on!” She regrabbed.
I felt myself being pulled up. Two sets of manly arms took hold of me. Guards, the ones that Branwen had made escort us around town, yanked me inside. I fell into Rosalyn’s arms, blubbering.
“The gems are gone, Rosalyn; they’re gone.”
“I know; I know, little one.”
She stroked my hair as I bent back to receive her hugs.
“Hold me, Rosalyn. I can hide in your arms; I can be modest in your arms; I will not be cold in your arms. Hold me, Rosalyn.”
“Is that what this ruckus was all about?” The secretary blurted. “Gems for a slave? Well, no spoiled slaves here.” She put her hands on her hips.
“That’s right,” Rosalyn said, as she held me tight. “No spoiled slaves here. Just spoiled princesses.” She continued stroking me and licking my tears away.
Copyright © 2006 by Rachel Parsons