by Van © 2004
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actresses I would cast in a boxing kelly motion picture,
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Princess Kellan strolled silently through the forest.
was more than two miles from her father's castle and without chaperone
guard; but the land was at peace and not a soul was about in this part
the woods. Besides, if she had to endure one more lecture
on proper conduct from her mother or that flock of clucking hens she
called her court... she'd scream! Not allowed to do
anything meaningful (other than embroidery), not allowed to venture
forth without a train of brutish (albeit devoted) guards, not allowed
to even wander the town and chat with her father's people... there had
been no alternative. Kellan had filched a modest lunch of bread,
cheese, cold meat, and wine from the kitchens. She placed her new
book (a small tome of Frankish poetry) and pilfered repast in a rough
satchel, donned a dun-colored cloak, tucked her copper-red hair under
its generous hood, and escaped via the "secret" postern
on the northern side of the keep. She walked slowly and
carefully, keeping her face away from the ramparts and the men-at-arms
or may not be looking her way... and was soon in the shelter of the
Kellan laughed, threw back her hood, then tossed the folds of the cloak
off her shoulders. Her bliaut
gown was stretch velvet in a deep forest green over a chemise
of ivory linen. The margins of the gown's square-cut
décolletage and the hems of its long, drooping over-sleeves were
richly embroidered, as was the long belt buckled loosely around her
narrow waist with
its tongue trailing nearly to the ground in front. Her boots
and gloves were a rough, rust-brown leather.
The winter had been cold and wet and the spring (thus far) pleasantly
warm, promising a good harvest if summer proved equally kind. The
first of the understory wildflowers were peeking through the leaf
litter. Kellan strolled through the
forest along one of the lesser game trails, thoroughly enjoying the
solitude and near silence. At one point she thought she heard a
twig crack in the distance... but a careful survey of her surroundings
revealed nothing more sinister than a few songbirds flitting through
the branches overhead.
She came to a small glade... and sighed. Perfect!
She spread her cloak on the new grass, lay her satchel to the
side, and settled gracefully to the
soft ground. She opened the flap of the satchel, took out the
Frankish tome, and began idly turning the parchment leaves. The
decoration was simple but elegant, the hand of the copier neat, clear,
and easily read. She turned back to the first page, and—She was
Kellan turned—and found a figure standing at the edge of the clearing,
leaning against the trunk of a giant oak. It was a tall boy.
He was clad in knee boots and pants of dark brown leather with a
matching, tight-laced jerkin over a coarse, short sleeved tunic of
hunter green linen, and— no—it
was a woman! Her features were high-cheeked and fair, her
hair a dark Saxon blonde, pulled back in a tight ponytail. She had a
bastard sword in a tooled sheath on a broad, loose belt dangling from
her left hip. The hilt of a fighting dagger protruded from each
boot top. Two smaller daggers were sheathed in leather bracers
laced tightly around her wrists and forearms. A leather rucksack
rolled blanket were slung on her back. She carried herself with
the confident ease of one of her father's veterans. Her costume
and kit were rough, but well cared for and functional. She was no
more a soldier on campaign.
"It's not polite to stare," the stranger observed. Her thin lips
were smiling, but her icy blue eyes were cold and calculating.
Kellan's cheeks colored. Her natural inclination was to assert
her rank and demand to know this sword maiden's business; but she
realized that under the circumstances discretion might serve her
better. "It's not polite to sneak about in the forest like a
wolfshead, either," she responded. Kellan slid
her hand back towards her satchel. She had a small blade bundled
with her lunch. Would it were tucked under my sleeve, she
The stranger shrugged out of her rucksack and let it drop to the
ground. "My name is Duana," she announced, "retriever of lost
items and sword for hire. And you would be...?"
"A maid-of-the-court enjoying her privacy,"
Kellan answered. "Now, if you'd be so kind as to—"
"Perhaps you can help me with my current quest," Duana interrupted.
She opened a side pocket on her rucksack and pulled out a neatly
coiled hank of thin, braided cord. "My employer would like to
invite one Princess Kellan, daughter of King Brom, to be her guest.
Perhaps you know the young lady? Red hair? Fair of
face? Freckles in summer and rosy cheeks in winter? Eyes
the color of the deep ocean? Clever with words, but not so bright
that one might not find her wandering the woods, alone, unarmed, and
Kellan eased one gloved hand even closer to the satchel, then lunged
for where she hoped the knife would be found. Instantly the sell
sword was on her, pinning her to the ground and wrenching her hands
behind her back. "Ow!" Kellan complained as cord tightened around
her gloved wrists. "Get off me!" The cord was cinched and
knotted, then her thumbs were looped and added to her bondage. "I
said get off—nrmpfh!"
Duana had her right hand over Kellan's mouth. "Quiet, Princess,"
she whispered in Kellan's ear. "It's very impolite to shout
during an abduction. It forces one's
abductor to... take measures."
A wadded cloth was stuffed in Kellan's mouth; a very large
wadded cloth. Next, a knot tied in the center of a long bandage
was centered between her teeth and over the wad, and was cinched at the
nape of her neck. Her abductor used the ends of the bandage to
make several more passes around her head and over her mouth and lips,
cinching each band and carefully lifting Kellan's hair as required.
The final layers were done with the bandage unfolded, so Kellan's
lower face was completely covered, from her bulging cheeks to under her
chin. Her face burning with outrage, Kellan pulled on her bound
wrists and forced a well-muffled complaint past her gag. Her
captor had returned to her knapsack and was pulling coils of hemp rope
from deep, narrow side pockets.
Kellan scrambled to her feet and bolted for the forest.
She didn't get far. Duana was on her instantly. "Now
Princess," the sword maiden scolded, "best not test my patience or
good nature, all right?" The fugitive was plunked back down
on her spread cloak and a loop of hemp dropped over her head and
settled around her arms and above her heaving breasts. This was
followed by several more, as well as loops below her breasts,
harnessing her shoulders, and pinning her elbows back. Next, rope
was pulled around Kellan's waist
and forearms, then cinched between body and arms at the small of her
back. Duana took her time, carefully interlacing, frapping, and
cinching her quarry's bonds as she worked. She made sure the hemp
would be tight and inescapable. Finally, Kellan's booted ankles
were crossed and bound, her legs wrapped and swaddled with the folds of
gown's skirt, then coils of the same long rope hitched and tied around
her legs at her calves, above and below her knees, around her thighs,
through her wrist bonds, then tied off between her elbows.
Duana said, rolling Kellan onto her back and reclining to share the
with her captive. "And now we can enjoy each other's company like
Kellan twisted and squirmed in her bonds, glaring at her captor with
eyes of blue fire, and forcing well-muffled and very unladylike remarks
through the rude cloth stuffing her mouth and bandaging her lips.
"She said you were a feisty one," Duana remarked, opening Kellan's
satchel, "not quick to anger, but willful and spoiled." With a
gloating smile Duana used her fingers to comb Kellan's fiery curls away
from her glaring face. "I've been skulking around your father's
castle for days," she said, "waiting for you to show yourself. I
was half afraid I'd have to scale the walls and take you from
your bed... but here you are." Kellan squirmed and continued
at her captor. Duana laughed, pulled Kellan's lunch from her
satchel, and untied the bundle. "How very kind," she said.
"It's a veritable feast you've brought me, and I am so very tired
of jerky, tack, and beans." She munched a slice of cheese,
back in the satchel, and pulled out the wineskin. "Wonderful...
but you wouldn't have a firkin of ale in there, would you?"
Kellan glared and continued her futile struggles, watching her captor
consume cheese, cold ham, new bread, and wine. She'd daydreamed
about abduction, of course. What girl of noble birth hadn't?
Such traditional trothplighting was
increasingly rare... but a girl could dream, couldn't she? Kellan
pulled on her wrist bonds and groped with her fingers, all for naught.
The reality of abduction was quite different from the fantasy.
The ropes were tight and increasingly uncomfortable. Her
was cloying and her jaw growing sore. Worst of all, her abductor
was a mercenary sword maiden, not a rich, kind, handsome prince
of his own (badly in need of
Duana finished the last of the food, but had
imbibed only a little of the potent wine. She examined
Kellan's eating knife with a critical eye, then tucked it in her
belt. "Well, I suppose I owe you an explanation," she sighed,
covering a belch with her left hand. "Tell me, Princess; have you
ever heard of The Sorceress of the Rose Tower?"
Kellan ceased struggling, and her eyes popped wide with fear.
Kelly Fey pulled
her Forester off US-26 and onto State Road 53, then onto a side road
that led towards the bluffs above Cannon Beach. This was her
third trip to her new home. The first
had been in the company of her realtor, the second to drop off a
rental truck load of boxes and furniture, and now... she was coming
Sunglasses protecting her blue eyes from the summer sun, a scarf
enforced ponytail preventing the open window from blowing her red hair
into her face, Kelly negotiated a series of twists and turns and was
finally on the dead-end road that terminated in her very own two acres.
A mile in she passed the workshops, barn, and rustic house of her
nearest neighbors. All the buildings were stained dark brown and
had elaborately carved trim painted in various subdued colors. An
carved wooden sign near the mailbox read "Behr Workshops." Kelly
smiled. The Three Behrs. They were blonde sisters
who ran a successful business handcrafting custom furniture, restoring
antiques, and making replica costumes. Her realtor had said they
were very nice people, and Kelly hoped it was true. She was
moving waaaay out here in the Oregon coastal rainforest for the privacy
she knew would help
her writing, but she was hardly a hermit. In any case,
she reasoned, better good neighbors than otherwise.
And then she was home. Kelly let the Forester coast to a halt and
smiled. 900 square feet
of Prairie-style cottage surrounded by pines, rhododendrons, and
ferns... and it's all mine (...not counting the mortgage,
of course). The exterior was green-on-green, two shades of
moss with a hint of olive. The interior was plaster and
richly stained and polished wood: hardwood floors, exquisite
wainscoting, and exposed beams.
Kelly moved the boxes from the Forester to the house, then set up her
coffee maker. She'd brought very little of her old furniture with
her. It was all inexpensive (meaning cheap) and not suitable for
her new digs. The house had several built-in bookcases, two
window seats, and a breakfast nook. There was also a desk built
against a window wall with a stunning view of a wooded hillside, the
perfect place for Kelly to set up her laptop and start work on her next
series of novels. All I need
is a comfortable work chair, she mused, waiting for the coffee
to brew; ...that and a real bed. She'd be
sleeping on a mattress on the floor until she could find a frame and
headboard she liked.
Just then there was a knock at the door. Kelly answered and found
a smiling woman waiting. She had honey blonde hair, pale skin,
ice-blue eyes... and was... beautiful. Kelly herself was no
slouch. Her red hair, peaches-and-cream complexion, and even,
high-cheeked features had been called beautiful on more than one
occasion... but the stranger was stunning; lithe and
"Hi, I'm Dawn Behr," the stranger said with a friendly smile.
"My new neighbor!" Kelly responded, grinning and
shaking Dawn's hand.
"The very same." Dawn released Kelly's hand and pulled a bottle
of wine from behind her back. A red satin ribbon was tied around
its neck in a festive bow. "Unless you have other plans," the
grinning blonde announced, "I'm shanghaiing you for dinner at our
place. You like pot roast?"
Duana smiled at her staring captive. "I see you have
heard of my employer," the sword maiden muttered, then began
rummaging in her knapsack.
Princess Kellan recovered from her initial shock and resumed struggling
against her bonds. The Sorceress of the Rose Tower was infamous,
the subject of many stories designed to
scare the fool out of children (and instruct them in proper moral
behavior). She was supposed to be very beautiful, despite being
hundreds of years old. Some said she was Morgan le Fay in
disguise. Others that she was Morgan's hand maiden, now a
powerful magician in her own right. She lived in the western
mountains, in the tall keep of a
ruined castle, surrounded by a foul marsh and protected by a hedge of
rose bushes. Some said the roses were so old they were as tall
as trees, their branches as thick as a strong man's arm, hard as iron,
and with countless thorns as long and sharp as lance points. The
Sorceress sat in her tower plotting evil schemes, conjuring magic, and
sending her demon servants to perform villainous errands.
Kellan paused in her struggles to regard her captor. She
doesn't look like a demon, the
prisoner decided, but she could be in sorcerous disguise,
Duana produced a small package, roughly a span by a palm by a palm.
It was bundled in a scarf of deep red Cathay silk. She
untied the knots and folded the scarf back, and Kellan beheld a small
wooden casket, the kind used to contain valuables:
gold, silver, jewels, spices, etc. ...only there was something strange
about this casket. Such things were
usually elaborately carved, with ornate smith work at the hinges and
clasp. The casket in Duana's hand was like a tiny replica
of a simple storage trunk, with banding and joinery appropriate for
a much larger receptacle. As such, it was exquisite, but who
bother to make such a thing?
The mercenary set the box on the forest floor, pulled an iron key on a
long, thin, silver chain from under her tunic, then leaned down and
tapped the key on the top of the box three times. There was a
blue flash... and the box began to grow, and grow, and grow!
In a dozen rapid heartbeats it had become full size, a common
trunk large enough to contain a dozen or more folded garments.
Duana inserted the key in the trunk's elaborately tooled and very
solid iron lock, gave it a turn, and opened the trunk's slightly domed
lid. She then turned and smiled at Kellan. "Don't worry,
Princess. It's well padded inside, and the Sorceress tells me
time stands still once the shrinking magic is keyed."
Kellan blinked. Inside? Shrinking magic? She
wouldn't! Apparently, she would; and she did! Duana
lifted her mewing and squirming captive, placed her bound, booted feet
inside the trunk, then forced Kellan to kneel and roll
onto her side. It was a close fit, but Kellan found she had
some wiggle room. As promised, the
interior was well padded with red velvet, and it smelled of roses.
Diana leaned into the trunk and checked the knots of Kellan's
bonds. "I thank you for the gift of your cloak. Our journey
will be a long one and its added warmth will be welcome at night."
Her captor's smug smile was the last thing Kellan saw as the lid
closed. She forced a piteous plea past her gag, but was ignored.
She was in total darkness! The air was close and sweet, the
scent of roses now cloying, to the point that Kellan's head began to
swim. She heard the key turn in the lock, and at the same time a
series of solid clicks, as if several bolts were engaging around the
interior of the lid. Something (the key?) tapped the lid once...
twice... thrice.... then there was a blue flash, and—
Kelly and Dawn
chatted for about an hour, drinking coffee while Kelly unpacked boxes.
Kelly learned that Dorey Behr, Dawn's older sister, produced fine
costumes for Renaissance Fairs, SCA events, and fancy dress balls.
Her designs were historically accurate in appearance, but
incorporated modern materials and techniques. Dawn had explained
that Elizabethan courtiers were actually sewn into their gowns
for special occasions. Kelly agreed it was better to incorporate
cleverly hidden zippers and clasps than to be that
historically correct. Anyway, Dorey made complete costumes,
costume pieces, and accessories; custom order and by standard size.
Dawn herself was a carpenter. All the Behr sisters were
carpenters, actually, but Dawn designed and made furniture full time.
She also made what she cryptically referred to as "period pieces"
and "special accessories" to complement Dorey's RenFaire designs.
Kelly's curiosity was sated by the promise of a tour and
they got to the Behr Workshops.
The youngest Behr, and, according to Dawn, the spoiled baby of the
family, was named Debbie. She was a recent college graduate, and
was currently serving as Dorey's model and Dawn's apprentice.
Dawn also revealed that Debbie was an avid reader, especially of
Fantasy and High Adventure, and Kelly was her favorite author.
Blushing furiously, Kelly found and opened a box bearing her
publisher's logo, reached inside, and pulled out an advance copy of
her next novel. It was the final book in her Caverns of Careen
trilogy, due in bookstores in a little less than two months.
sign this for her," she mumbled.
"She'll be thrilled! That's very nice," Dawn said,
smiling warmly. "Like I said... spoiled."
Kelly really liked Dawn. She was smart and had a sense of humor.
One shared pot of coffee and Kelly knew she had a new friend.
And then it was time to depart for dinner.
The stroll to
the Behr compound was quite pleasant. The shadows were getting
long and the sunlight had a yellow cast, and it was pleasantly cool in
the shade of the tall conifers surrounding the road on all sides.
Both were dressed in jeans, light blouses, and sneakers, and
Kelly was carrying a sweater for the walk home.
"There's a trail on the downslope side that's actually a little shorter
than the road," Dawn announced. "We'll take flashlights and I'll
be your guide back when you want to leave."
Kelly nodded. They were coming to the Behr compound. The
lines of the buildings were graceful and pleasing. Seen up close
the myriad of painted carvings were ornate, artistic, and detailed.
Most were of Celtic or Medieval design, and varied from elaborate
knot patterns to naturalistic swirls and curves to stylized plants and
animals. "Wow, this is really cool! It must have taken
of hours to carve all this. It's all beautiful!"
Dawn smiled. "Thanks. I did a lot of this testing new
router jigs," she explained. "I figured I might as well do it on
something that would last rather than useless scrap." They
entered the kitchen... and both inhaled deeply. Beef was
simmering in a slow cooker, and it smelled delicious. "Just wait
'til you taste Dorey's pot roast," Dawn purred. "She uses a dash
of cognac, and it's so soft the meat just flakes apart." Dawn
picked up a note and
read it, then smiled. "Dorey and Deb are out behind the barn
finishing a photo shoot," she explained. "We're updating our
online catalog, and Dorey's still playing with her new digital camera.
They left the kitchen and returned to the central compound.
"That's my main wood shop," Dawn said, indicating one of the
buildings, "that's the finishing shed..." They strolled towards
what was obviously a barn. Its foundation and lower walls were
mortared rubble stone, to a height of about nine feet. The rest
was dark-stained wood. A woman with dark blonde hair, fair skin,
and blue eyes came around the corner of the barn. She was dressed
in jeans, sandals, and a tank top, and had a digital camera in her
hands. "...and this is Dorey," Dawn added.
Dorey Behr was as beautiful as her younger sister, but different.
Both had high-cheeked, even features, and lithe, athletic
physiques; but Dawn's beauty was somewhat exotic, while Dorey's was
Nonetheless, the family resemblance was unmistakable.
"Welcome to the neighborhood," Dorey said, shaking hands.
"Thank you," Kelly responded.
"Where's the brat?" Dawn asked.
Dorey nodded back the way she'd come. "I'm done playing
with the camera, but she wants to go for a time record, so she can
write a testimonial for your new fiddle design."
"Time record?" Dawn mumbled.
"She's less than half an hour from eight hours," Dorey explained.
Kelly was confused. "Fiddle?"
"This is too cool!" Dawn told her sister. "Brat gets to
meet her literary idol, only under... unexpected conditions."
"Yeah," Dorey agreed. "I don't think she thought you'd bring her
favorite author home quite this early."
Kelly was still confused. "If Debbie's busy... That's her
Dawn and Dorey nodded, mischievous smiles on their faces. "No,
oh no," Dorey said. "She's not busy."
"No, not at all," Dawn added quickly, indicating Kelly should
step around the corner. "She's right here."
Kelly rounded the barn—and her jaw dropped in shock.
A few yards away was a young woman in the costume of a medieval or
Renaissance serving girl: off the shoulder white blouse (with no bra),
tightly laced bodice, ragged skirt, and dirty bare feet. Her
long, honey blonde hair was a tousled mass. Her neck and wrists
were locked in a wooden yoke, wrists in front. A 'shrew's
fiddle'! Kelly realized, recognizing the yoke as the humiliating
form of public punishment reserved for "difficult" women. It was
made of oak, was carved with a simple vine and leaf motif, and looked
heavy. It closed by a spring leaf hinge and antique padlock, and
was attached by a long, hand-forged chain to a ring set in the barn's
stone wall. A coarse woven cloth was stuffed in the "serving
girl's" mouth and another held it there, folded and tied between her
teeth as a tight cleave-gag. The captive stared at Kelly, her
blue eyes wide above the dusting of freckles on her cheeks and nose.
She took a deep, bosom-heaving breath, and screamed into
| boxing kelly