tower with steps and bluebells 2

The characters of the Southern Vampire Mysteries belong to Miss Charlaine Harris. No infringement on my part is intended. The characters on True Blood belong to Mr. Alan Ball. No infringement on my part is intended.

I have no BETA, editor, or other such charming person. All mistakes are my own.

 

This story is rated M.

The Tower:   Chapter 2—The Damsel

My name is Rapunzel and I was raised in this tower. I have vague memories of my mother. I would sit with her and help her weave, my small hands lightly touching the wool as she taught me to count and learn my letters. One night she tucked me in, told me she loved me, to always be a good girl, eat what food was available, study when I could, and kissed me goodnight. I never saw her again.

The next day, I moved up in rank. Because I was the youngest in this privileged set of house slaves, I was set to the task of cleaning the tower steps. Like all jobs in the castle, there is a hierarchy. The first cleaner up the tower steps was a woman with a bucket of water and a cloth. She removed the large bits that would be on the floor.

I followed with my brush and small pail of water. I scrubbed the stones that were worn with the ages; the footprints of those that trod here beginning to show in the stone.

There was an older girl who followed along behind me with a bucket of water and a rag and her job was to remove the soap and grim that I loosened.

And behind her came a woman with a mop. And behind her, a woman with long hair and her job was to dry the steps.

No one talked about what it was we scrubbed away. Mud, blood and sometimes what I later learned were portions of bodies. Were they mortal or immortal, I had no way of knowing. But our buckets were emptied into our garden and refilled numerous times before the job was done. We labored from past sun-up to before sundown. And by the time the darkness filled the night sky and the vampyr king rose, the stairs had to be spotless, our meal finished, and we were locked away. With what daylight would remain, we would practice writing letters with the soot from the fire and we would count numbers. When there was no more light, it was time for our evening rest.

Looking in my pail of water, I watched myself grow. As I grew, from a small one, to a gangly youth my job shifted and a new, younger one would take my place. I knew that eventually, my job would be to dry the stairs and when I reached that age, that task would be mine to fulfill.

We cleaners of the steps were kept chaste. We seldom saw others. The vampire king was the only one privileged to use these stairs so we saw Cook at breakfast and the late meal. We were kept separate; our garden was our own to tend and the well our own to use.

We were locked in at night and released each morning to go about our chores. We were kind to each other, as our sisterhood would shift and another would be added and one deleted.

When the blood flow started, I knew myself to be a woman. But I still had years before I would be served to the king. Time passed and one day I was promoted to the mop woman and Mercy had moved up to dry the steps with her hair.

Our routine seldom varied and time passed. It was a bit startling the morning I looked into my water bucket and I saw my mother staring back at me. “Momma,” I cried out. I was so unnerved that I dropped the pail and water sloshed everywhere.

“You look like her,” Mercy was watching me. “Your mother.”

“I barely remember her voice,” I smiled. “In my dreams, I still see glimpses of her.”

“She delighted in you,” the older girl smiled at me and caressed my check. “Myself as well. You have been a good friend.”

Hugging me, I could see the tears in her eyes.

“Where do you go?” I ask.

“Tonight I go to the bed of the king,” was all she said as she hugged me again and wished me well.

To the bed of the king…I knew what that meant. He had a taste for virgins with long hair. It was rumored that he tied them to the wall with their tresses and unless she pleased him exceedingly, he drained her and then took his pleasure with a blood whore who was not afraid of his desires. At times, we cleaners-of-the-steps huddled together in our bed, and during the night, we would hear the screams and moans of the king and his women. Not all sounds held pleasure and sometimes the blood whore went missing the next rising, as well.

We all helped Mercy to bathe and put on a clean shift. That new dark, when the key turned, there stood Cook. With hugs and kisses and tears we said our farewells. For me it was a long night. I listened for the slightest sound, hoping that my friend would please him, and if not that, at least she would die without pain and suffering. I heard no screams and pleadings and eventually I slept. It was with hope and misery when I rose with the first ray of light that came in the window. She was not present when we broke our fast and there sat a new young one at the table. Cook said nothing as she gave us an extra portion. It was Mercy’s I realized and felt my heart-break. We had all lost a sister. And our small one, she had woke this morning without the comfort of her mother. I would weep for us all at the things I now knew, but that did not change how the world looked upon us.  I was now the oldest woman of the step cleaners. It was my job to manage the cleaning. They must be spotless.

As we clean this morning, amongst our sorrow, I plan our day. I will send the others for their afternoon meal and I shall take flowers from our garden to adorn Mercy’s sleeping niche and tuck some into her hands and bosom, so that she might smell them throughout eternity and not the blood stench of the king’s breath.

“What?” Eric sat upright and gasped. “My breath does not stink and I would never just take a virgin once. I would teach her the pleasures of…”

“Eric,” Sookie pinched him, “you started this. Just take your licks and leave it be. Now where was I,” she arched an eyebrow at him. “Oh yes,” she began.

“The vampire king, he held a great reverence for those virgins he deflowered. There was a crypt in the bowels of the tower and there Mercy was laid to rest. A niche where for the first time in her life, she slept, alone. And now she slept alone, forever.

Yes I was young and foolish at the time, my thoughts being the king did this to honor them.   I did not know until later that he kept them as trophies. Does his evil sickness ever end?”

“What vampire would keep a dead body as a trophy?” Eric hissed. “We are not serial killers!”

Pamela snickered so loudly, she spit all over the book of fairy tales as she was thumbing through it.

Samuel was having a few problems; seems he was coughing violently on spit he had swallowed at the wrong time.

“R-r-r-r-right,” Sookie nodded all knowingly. “I believe Sophie-Anne kept all her x-lovers iced down and in the ah-h-h-h, frigid, position.”

“Who told you that?” Eric’s voice was full of disapproval.

“Vlad told Mina and Mina told me,” she answered. “Oh-h-h, by your reaction I can tell that it really is true. We wondered how you could get the penis to freeze in the well, upright position. And the women…we wondered about that as well. We thought maybe she thawed them out, had her fun, then refroze them…”

“Lover!” Eric’s voice was shocked. “Do not discuss such things in front of our daughter!”

“Yes, right,” she chuckled. “Now where was I…oh yes…”

Abigail was the baby of our small troupe and that night she whimpered for her mother. On the oldest fell many chores. I did not realize it at the time just what Mercy did for all of us.

Fetching here from the far edge of the bed, I tucked her in next to me, causing Roseland to back up a bit and the others to shift. “You are now part of a sisterhood,” I held her small body and felt her warmth, “a good and decent sisterhood. We work hard at cleaning the stairs for our king. Our king feeds us well and we sleep in our own room in the tower. We are safe and warm here and he will not allow another to touch us.”

Weeping silently, I held the small nestling as she slept from her day’s many labors. This was as close as I would ever come to holding an infant in my arms and feeling the wonder of motherhood. I cried for what I would never have and for her fate, as well. Her womb, like mine, would always be barren. And when she was the mother, she also would be filled with the one that would end her life.

The next morning at breakfast, there was a small crock waiting for me at my place at the table. “What is this?” I asked Cook and lifted the lid, where a sweet aroma lifted past the smells of frying meat.

“The king says you are now to wash your hair with this.”

“Why?” I blurted out.

“You are now the mother. And you are marked differently then the previous mothers. This he had blended especially for you. Rosemary with a hint of rose and lemon,” she inhaled deeply. “Expensive stuff. This is the smell that he wants left in the tower. Never before has he ordered a special blend. All the other mothers shampooed with the lavender. But this, this is light and lovely. He has his bed sheeting washed in the same. It is, I am told, his favorite aroma to delight his senses.   When the time comes closer for you to be his, he shall have you bathe in it as well. He likes clean. That is to include the meal he has in his bed.”

Our days continued and the first year of being mother passed.   And then the second. And then the third.

We were quiet but merry as we went to breakfast. It was the height of summer and the birds were singing. Cook greeted us as we came to breakfast. Before I sat down, she lowered her voice. “His child is back. Princess Pamela, she prefers the company of women, as well. Stay away from the windows after dark. He spoils her and she may convince him to let you be an indulgence.”

“Thank you, Cook, truly,” I managed a smile of gratitude.

“Tell all the girls, no lingering at the windows when night begins to shadow the earth. Now eat,” she sighed, “and let us hope that one falls on a stake.”

“What?” Pamela sat up. “Did I doze off? Did you say fall on a stake? The king has been a very bad ass eating baby mommas and no-o-o one has said anything at all about him being staked,” she pouted. “And I roll into town and it’s kill the child! Kill the king’s child!” she roared.

“You do a really good multiple angry villagers impersonation,” Sookie grinned. “That was impressive.”

“Just ask her how many times she has been chased by angry villagers,” Eric said and he and Samuel both laughed.

“Yes,” Samuel grinned, “our Pamela would know what an angry village would sound like, first hand times multiples.”

“Well, that was that time in Paris,” she batted her eyelashes. “Having my way on the steps of the cathedral with the boy wonder. That was worth being chased by angry villagers.”

“Louix XIV,” Samuel mouthed.

“On the church steps?” Sookie gasped.

“Well, in my defense, church was out for the day. I guess I could have done him on the back of that horse but there would have been no angry villagers,” she explained matter-of-factly.

“No angry villagers…” Sookie mumbled and then shook her head to clear it and nodded. “Well just okay then…wow…!” Having come to some type of decision she said, “Shall we continue, and I can see why Cook warned her about Princess Pamela.”

“Here we go,” Pam snarked but was smiling.

All that day we cleaned and while we dumped water and gathered fresh, we worked our small patch of garden as we walked by, weeding, planting a seed, being mindful of the flowers that grew there. At the late meal, I began and explained to my sisters about the princess. Things Cook had said in passing. Spoiled, willful, and the king’s only child, I stressed. Keep away from the windows.   Do not watch for the night birds, do not answer their song. She is vampire and her skills will be that of our king. We wash, study, tell a story and then sleep. Nothing from the outside holds our attention. And until the sun rises, we stay away from the windows.

The weeks passed and Cook said nothing more. Then months. We worked, we slept, and as late summer approached, during the night sometimes I woke and I thought I heard arguing. Then screaming followed by angry weeping. The king’s child, I thought, as there was no one else who would dare.

I wondered about what brought on such a rage. As I listened to my sisters sleeping, I thought perhaps I knew. She could have the world, but instead she wanted what she could not have.

Quiet nights followed. The dark was deep in shadows and the others were asleep when I woke. What? Was that a voice? A whisper? Was that the key in the door? Or was it someone scratching?  Quietly I got out of bed and going to the fireplace, I fanned the embers until the flames licked hungrily at the kindling I added. By the time the door swung open, I had enough fire that I could light the limbs.

Holding up both, I saw the female take a step in and then hesitate as I took a step toward her.

“I am going to kill you,” she laughed, “slowly, for thinking to raise those firebrands in my direction. Now, which is the sweetest.”

I started screaming, which woke the girls and they started screaming as well as older ones grabbed the smallers and pulled them behind me.

“What the fuck?” was roared from a voice that was at the base of the tower and then his body filled the door.

“She was not invited here,” I shouted, “no one has enticed her. I have never seen her before this moment.

You let her feed on children?” I shrieked. “She comes asking which is the sweetest! You and your child are perversions and degenerates. Scared to stand and fight a warrior for your meal, instead you take babies from their beds while they sleep. Filth! Vermin!” I screamed at them while I waved my firebrands.

“You are the mother,” he said with a nod.

“Child,” he began and she whimpered, “But you would not even let me in to see them, I am your child, it is my right…”

He was that fast!   She was standing there and then he had her by the hair, dragging her down the steps while he flogged her with silver. Her screams filled the night air.

“We need someone to lock the door,” I shouted down after him. I heard a growl and then a door slammed.

“That worked very well. I am glad we rehearsed that. But the door is unlocked. Get the covers and pillows off the bed and nest beneath.  I shall stand watch until the door is locked.”

I sat with my back against the door. Remembering. As the flames danced in the fireplace, I remember my mother getting up from her work, stretching her back, and picking me up dancing me around the room. In these moments, love is only in my dreams and also huddled under the bed and I am thankful for the woman we call Cook.

I am pulled from my memories by a knock at the door. Standing, I slowly opened it, peeking out. There stood our king.

“You are the mother, I know by the smell. My child, she will not forget this nor will she bother you, again.”

“You do not know that, my king,” I answered.

Smiling he laughed. “You are correct. I do not. But if she trespasses here, again, I have told her I will silver her and leave her out in the sun. She is my child but your are mine as well. And if I do not enforce my rules with my own, this is seen as a weakness and there will be others who will think to test me. So she will die and you will live until it is your time to wait upon me.” Reaching forward, he lifted a strand of hair. “I think you shall live after I breech you. Your courage will taste sweet upon my tongue.”

Dropping his hand, he cupped my right breast. “I like them best filled, preparing for the babe, but yours will do.” Turing, he walked away.

Closing the door, I sat back down against it until I heard Cook call out. “Rapunzel, rest now,” and the door locked.

The next morning when we started cleaning, there were two sets of footprints.   That was most odd. At the afternoon meal, I asked cook about it.

“There is an emissary and his humans that has arrived. They come every so often. Sometimes The Da’vid only by himself. But now he has come with his accountants and taxmen and lawyers to collect the restitution that is owed. If our king does not pay, then Princess Pamela will be required.”

“What happened?” I whispered. “Do you know?”

“Across the continent, she burned many homes, villages, and left death and destruction. Peasants that were used to farm the vampires’ fields were killed. Crops torched as she danced nude watching them burn. It has taken months to access all the damage that she did. That is why she is here. She ran home to hide behind our king.   The Da’vid brought the charges against her and what is owed. I heard from one of The Da’vid’s humans as I served them breakfast that there is not enough gold or slaves to fill the coffers of those she wronged.”

“Cook,” a voice called out. It was one I did not recognize. Occasionally we would see people at a distance, but we could hear their voices on the other side of our walls.

Our breakfast finished, we stood to leave.

“Good day,” he said bowing and smiled. “Cook, I am in need of hot chicken broth. One of my fellows has taken a cough.”

“Of course,” she nodded.

As we walked through the door I felt his eyes on me.

“That is an interesting weave to your apron,” he smiled.

“My mother wove it and wore it and it was given to me,” was all I said and then we left the room.

It was dark, the fire banked, and we were all abed when a knock came at the door.

“Dress,” Cook said. “I will stay with the sisterhood. Go with Rachael. She will take you to the king.”

“Is it my time?” I heard my voice shake. “I have not said my goodbyes.”

“No,” Cook offered me a small smile. “You are just required.”

I was led through the halls and the door was opened. I was pushed inside and the door closed. There was a small vampire that sat before the fire. When he saw me enter, he stood. “Please,” was all he said as he indicated where I was to sit.

“Tell me about the weave in your apron.”

“It is the work of my mother,” I smiled, tracing one of the six pointed stars that ran through out it.

“Did she teach you what it means?”

“It is the symbol of our God. That He placed these stars upon the foreheads of His son and daughter. That our King David took this star for his own. My mother said I was to keep our God’s stories close to my heart. I taught them to my sisterhood, as well. When we say our prayers, we thank this God.”

“Jews,” was the only word I heard him say as we both sat and the fire popped and sent showers of sparks up the chimney.

There was nothing I could read on his face. But when he spoke, he had come to a decision.

“Since you are of my faith, I cannot in good conscience leave you in slavery. Because of Pamela’s great debt, I can take the sisterhood for my own. They will be raised in this faith and they will be safe.

You,” he shook his head. “Eric had a fondness for your mother. He sees her in you. I do not think he will part with you but I shall try.” Pointing to the star he said, “This changes things. Because of the vows that I have made, I cannot help you to escape. I can at least give you a chance at freedom if you are willing to take it. Can you find a rope to drop from your window?”

“Yes, but I would need time.”

“I leave in four days with your sisterhood. I promise you that. If you can make your way outside and head toward the direction of the setting sun, I will find you in the woods.

Eric will discover you are gone and come looking. If nothing else, your missing scent will tell him so. If you succeed in escaping, break off a limb this size,” he picked up a piece of kindling, “and shove it up into his heart, here,” he showed me on himself.

“Once this is done, I will find you. My name is Samuel,” he said as he walked me to the door. “Walk in faith,” he said softly as he escorted me out. “The negotiations begin with your king, now.”

Rachael was waiting for me outside the door. Together we walked back up the stairs.

“What did he want?” she nudged me. “You were not in there long enough for a quick fuck and suck. I thought maybe that was why the king had agreed to send you. Princess Pamela has placed such a tax burden upon him he may never dig out.”

“He was only interested in this piece of weaving. I told him my mother did it and that she is dead. So it cannot be reproduced. At least, not by her hands.”

When I entered our room, Cook said nothing and left. When I laid down, there were many thoughts that went racing through my mind. In my heart, I wanted to believe the vampire Samuel. And if he was sincere, I would be prepared.

“What,” Roseland asked, “what happened?”

All in the bed sat up.

“This is what I know,” I sighed and I explained what had happened.

“Where would you possibly get a rope?” Selma wept.

“I have a plan. I will need your help, you will need to double up on the chores,” I began as I told them how I must spend the next four days.

The next morning, we hurried through breakfast. I had my small knife in my pocket. As my sisters went to clean, I went down to the crypt. “I am so sorry my sister,” I wept as I approached each one that reposed in her niche and said a prayer. “But I know you would wish to help,” as I began cutting the hair from the corpses.

I cut and carried and braided working long after my sisters had fallen asleep. Freedom! I could not imagine what the world must look like.

But Abigail and the others would know! I could not think about those that would replace us. My heart would not allow it as I only concentrated on my sisters.

On the fourth morning when we rose, at breakfast waiting for us was one of Samuel’s servants. “Go about your duties today, but when the dark awakens the king and The Da’vid, you will belong to my master. Sadly,” his eyes met mine, “you will not accompany them.”

Nodding I understood, he bowed his head to me and left.

When we went to The Tower, to clean I smiled. “All is ready. I will meet you later tonight.”

After the late meal, we went to our room. There was not much to pack into the cloth sack that had been provided.

Under the bed the rope waited. The last thing my sisters would help me with would be to move the bed. I would tie my rope to that and be away.

Dark was upon us and there was a knock at the door. “Say your goodbyes the man’s voice said. “We depart soon.”

It took all of us to push the bed next to the window.

That accomplished, there was no reason for them to delay. “No,” I kissed each of them. “No tears. I will see you later. Now be gone!”

The clouds pushed in and out, teasing the moon. I could hear the noise of the horses and mules from the courtyard. I heard to mount up and push-off and then the rumble of wagons began.

Out came my knife and off came my hair. I rubbed the spruce oil on my hands and then into my scalp.

Out came my rope and I tied it to the bed, using my hair to secure it.

Dropping my rope I said, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down you hair.” Stepping up into the window, I had no doubt to my success. Down into the dark I went.

Samuel could not pick me up until I had staked my king. Most good. The first thing I did once I was in the woods was to break off a limb and sharpen it on both ends. I did not know when or where I might strike but I wanted to be prepared.

I continued walking the path the sun made as it set. I did not worry. I knew I was being watched and tracked.

When I heard the bellowing behind me…

“Bellowing?” Eric interjected with sadness in his voice. “I have not ever bellowed,” he said with dismay. “My bride, from where do such ideas come?”

“Tellin’ a story here,” Sookie smiled at him and kissed him on the nose. “No one interrupted you. Please be just as courteous,” she patted his cheek. “We will be settin’ a good example for Baby Signy. No interruptions.”

“Bellowing,” his voice sounded hurt as she continued.

So, the chase was on. I had to make it believable to draw him in. I broke off one stick so he would know I was armed. Tossing it aside, I picked up the one I had prepared. When the moon went out, I knew this was my time. I could not see in this dark and he could. Sitting on the ground and taunting him, I knew he would come to me.

When he pulled me up by my hair, I ran the stake true and I felt his skin slide easily past the wood.

“I will find you and fuck you to death,” he snarled as he fell to the ground. “Just like I did your mother.”

That was the wrong thing to say. Stomping on his crotch with my shoes, I left him to die.

When I turned to walk away, the moon came out and I walked for twenty feet when I felt another beside me. Samuel swung me up onto his back and we were gone.

When we reached his wagon train, there was much rejoicing between my sisters and me. The Da’vid took us into his home. From time to time he would tell us what news he heard. King Eric yet lived but had become unclean. He was an abomination to vampires and from time to time he was hunted.   Princess Pamela, because of her unfaithfulness to her maker and the extensive damage she had done, was found, tortured and destroyed. No amount of money could right the many wrongs she had committed. Because of her, famine swept the land and humans and vampire went hungry. Cats became scare, rats plentiful and the plague consumed the humans and vampires starved. All because of an unfaithful child.

Our days with Samuel were merry and bright and he continued our education. Some of my sisters went on to become scholars. For those that wished it Samuel found for us good husbands who loved and treasured us. And we lived happily forever after.

“Figures,” Pam rolled her eyes. “The guy with all the money gets the harem and the happily ever after. That is so-o-o cliché. Especially with the king roaming the earth, back to sleeping in dirt and living off the nasty left-overs of the great European unwashed. And the good-timin’ gal gets silvered, staked, tortured and left out in the sun, and blamed for the plague. Just figures. But it does,” she smiled, “sound like I had a very good time.” Adjusting her lipstick with her finger she said, “Samuel,” and closely observed him.   “Do you have anything you would like to add to this travesty?”

“I am glad I am the guy with all the money,” he smiled.   “I like happily ever afters.

What are we reading next?”

The End…and they all lived happily ever after….

Dear Readers,

Yes, Pamela in TB is only one hundred or so…this story is not to canon…so she is older…

As always, thanks for reading!

CES