Pain of Love Part Three- III

ImageThe boy moved with skill and ease through the maze of streets and buildings that surrounded Ashemark. He felt different after a meal, a bath, and now a purpose. The one-eyed northerner had sent him out to find a woman named Summer. The way he described her, one might think she was the most beautiful woman the gThe boy moved with skill and ease through the maze of streets and buildings that surrounded Ashemark. He felt different after a meal, a bath, and now a purpose. The one-eyed northerner had sent him out to find a woman named Summer. The way he described her, one might think she was the most beautiful woman the gods had ever sent to Westeros. The boy wondered what she could possibly see in the weathered and scarred ruffian that had employed the seven-year old boy. He ran his fingers through his shampooed black hair and considered Grayne. I like him. Haven’t had a decent bite to eat since I came out of me mum’s belly, he thought. Ugly as the winter is cold, but he done all-right by me.

  He didn’t know the name of his master, but old ‘one-eye’ (as he called him, in his head) had given him an area of the city to look for her. He had been told to ask questions, but to keep a low profile. He knew a few back alleys where he could find other street people to ask about the beautiful Summer. His wife? If she was as beautiful as he heard, she wouldn’t be too hard to find.

  If she was so beautiful, why would he leave her?

  It was deep into the afternoon, the sun was setting and the street-child grew hungry. He was able to purchase a half-loaf of bread and some fruit juice with which to wash it down. His clean clothes, and combed and washed hair had made it more difficult to get the information he needed from the dirtier types in the city, but he never would have been allowed to buy bread looking the way he had yesterday.

  The sun was setting as he reached the end of his quest; a small flower shop set right against the castle wall. The boy was naturally uneasy this close to the garrison and the Lord and all them royal mucky mucks.

  He made his way in the front door. The smell of flowers were a chorus of smells to his nose, causing the boy to sneeze as soon as he entered. He heard light footsteps, and suddenly the woman his new master had described was before him. The boy looked up at her and instantly knew it was the Summer he sought. Everything was as he described, from her curly red hair to her plump red lips. He was dizzy, perhaps from the intoxicating flowers, from the long walk or from her beauty. He was unsure why, but his head certainly reeled. He struggled with a response to her genuine warm smile and her question of, “How can I help you, little man?”

His mouth hung open as he struggled with the words. He knew he had succeeded at finding Summer and was already planning on what to say to his one-eyed northern master. He knew the man would be happy and that made the boy happy. He tried to say something, but the beautiful Summer kept smiling and that just made him dizzier. “Can I help you?”, she asked, but not to him.

The smell of roses and chrysanthemums vanished, replaced by leather, steel and body odor. The boy hid behind a large vase filled with flowers that was as tall as he was and risked a glance at the three armed and armored men that entered the humble shop. Their armor was patchwork leather poorly sewn together, and their blades were not castle-forged steel, but they were obviously dangerous, especially to the unarmed woman. Two of the men strode into the shop and secured the back door as the third stood menacingly. The boy moved to the opposite side of the giant pot, preventing him from seeing Summer, but making it harder to be seen by the men. His heart raced and he felt bile rising in his stomach. I have to protect her. For One-Eye’s sake.

“Nice shop you have here, Summer.” the boy heard the third man say.

“I am here by the grace of his lordship,” she said threatening them with her powerful patron. “There are many guards in the area who will be here in a flash, if I scream.”

“Then I will have to silence you,” the boy heard the man’s reply, and then a struggle. When he heard her muffled scream, he leapt out from behind the massive vase and rushed up Summer’s side. He latched on to the man around his waist and bit down on one of his arms that was struggling to keep Summer from screaming. The man cried out despite himself and thrashed outward against the boy, flinging him with a crash of glass and steel into a display of vases and flowers.

Free of the melee with the man, Summer began to scream. Her shriek threatened to alert the entire Westerlands, until the ruffian silenced her with a punch to her gut that brutally forced the air out of her lungs. As she was bent over from the punch, the ruffian followed with a two-fisted haymaker to the back of her neck. The boy heard a sickening crunch and then the sound of her collapsing to the floor like wet meat.

Bloody but still alive, the boy struggled to his feet, preparing to battle the three hooligans and save his master’s woman. With a shout, he lunged at Summer’s abuser, but the boy was scooped up from behind by one of the thug’s partners, before he could soundly thrash him. He was held in the air, kicking and screaming in an attempt free himself and save the woman.

The boy stopped thrashing when the man who downed Summer grabbed him by his clean black hair and holding his head still, promptly slit his throat.

Pain of Love Part Three-II

 A foggy day threatened rain as Grayne entered the small city surrounding Ashemark castle. Sellers shouted loudly hawking wares from vulnerable carts, desperately trying to make sales before the weather worsened. The weary northerner bought some cooked beef conveniently placed on a stick. He needed to find a place to stay with the few coins he had remaining. An able-bodied man, especially one with the heartiness of Grayne, was able to make coins as needed, taking unpleasant jobs. He had mucked stables, unloaded ships, and picked cotton so frequently that he had forgotten any details of the labor. He had learned long ago, in the care of the torturer Farzan, to shut his mind to any unpleasantness.

 He finished the meat and threw the stick into an alley that was already covered in trash. An urchin, no more than seven years old rushed out of the alley and began to accost him, touching him, complimenting him, and asking for money.

 Grayne threatened a back-hand and the child closed his eyes and cowered. Opening a single eyelid to see if Grayne was going to beat him, he instead became alarmed. “Ser, hide your blade.”

 The northerner eyed him with suspicion and the child, with renewed urgency and wild desperate eyes said, “Ser, weapons are not allowed so close to the castle! You must hide it, or expect to spend a night in the jail.” The boy pointed at Grayne’s sheathed blade.

 Thinking on it, he didn’t remember seeing a single weapon upon entering the crowded city. He cursed himself for being so dense as looked around for something with which to hide the blade for the idea of a night in any cell filled him with unease. Seemingly sensing the man’s thoughts, the urchin told him that he might know where there was a bedroll that he could use to hide the blade.

 “What would you ask for such an item?”

 “I ask only that I be your squire, ser knight. I would carry your bedroll,” he said with a deliberate wink, “and show you around the city.”

 “I don’t need a vassal, boy. I could simply pay you for your information and assistance,” said Grayne looking around and moving into the more concealed location of the trash-strewn alley.

 “My terms are non-negotiable, ser.” said the boy, clearly sensing Grayne was a foolish foreigner and ripe for the plucking. “I could use the money, but I would also enjoy sleeping indoors for bit. How long will you be in town, ser?”

 He ignored the question and said, “Agreed, fetch the bedroll, boy and we will talk further.”

 The child jumped excitedly into the air before turning on his heels and rushing deeper into the alley.

 Grayne scrunched his face and looked into the sky upon feeling a few drops of rain.

 The boy returned promptly holding a dirty, but dry, thick green blanket. It was obvious to the man that this was the boys home. Grayne took the scabbard off his belt and wrapped it in the child’s bedroll, completely concealing the weapon, albeit suspiciously. He handed the rolled-up sword to the boy and the child held it awkwardly in his outstretched arms. He knelt before the boy and his single grey eye locked with the boy’s own brown eyes. That child’s dirt-caked face was flushed of color from fear of the menacing man. The boy could not look away as the threatening northerner said with frigid sincerity, “If you betray me, I will kill you.”

Pain of Love- Part Three

Suddenly, it came into view. A gigantic castle which was the seat of Marbrand power jut out above the small city below. The Ashemark, as it was called, was the solid stone centerpiece of a bustling city that surrounded the keep. As the city’s radius ended, the landmarks changed from businesses and houses, and became farms and hovels. Grayne had barely reached the perimeter of farmlands and could barely make out the stronghold in the distance. A feeling of uneasiness came over him, after months of travel, he had reached his destination.

The northern warrior who had survived so much took a moment to steady himself. He took a deep breath and as his eyes surveyed familiar landmarks his mind drifted back in time to the reason he had returned, to the reason he had been able to survive the horrific ordeals of the past five years.


By the Crone. the Maiden, the Stranger, the Smith, the Warrior. The Mother and the Father, I take you on this day and for all my days.” Grayne and Summer looked into each other’s eyes and recited the vows of marriage in the secret grove outside town, but under the blanket of stars and the watchful eyes of the new gods.

The priest performed the blessing, and quickly and quietly left the young couple alone in the forest. A warm breeze rustled the leaves of the trees. Grayne took his young bride in his arms and kissed her full lips passionately. His large hands pushed back her auburn hair and he gazed with adoration into her grass-green eyes. His strong arms encircled her and he felt like he should never let her go. He held her for many long moments and she was relaxed in his powerful protective embrace.

“Let’s run away. Let’s leave this place and never come back,” he said as he stared at her with aggressive sincerity. “We will be safe. We have nothing here.”

For a moment Summer smiled, but then that smile turned to a frown. “We can’t! I know you, Grayne. You aren’t a deserter. I don’t give a damn about this war or House Marbrand, and I know you don’t either! But, your word is important to you.”

Grayne’s steel grey eyes were like battering rams as they crashed through Summer’s resolve. She shook her head and turned away. Grayne jumped in front of her and demanded, Let’s go! We will be a dozen leagues from here before they know we’re gone!”

Summer kissed his lips and said, “You’re not afraid of anything.”

“I’m afraid of losing you, he said as he kissed her plump red lips again.

“You won’t. I will be here when you get back. I promise,” a tear rolled down her cheek.

“What if I don’t come back?” he said, knowing the uncertain nature of war, though he had never been in a real battle.

“You will. I know you will.”

“I don’t want to go.”

“I don’t want you to go, either. Just promise me you will come back to me.”

“I promise,” he said resolutely. 

And their lips met with frantic passion. A desperate urgency to their desire overcame them as their love became a pure primal force. There in the forest beneath the stars and the old gods and new, they became husband and wife.

Pain of Love Part Two- IV


Cold rain mercilessly assaulted his form, and although his heavy coat and leather armor shielded him from the sky’s fury, Grayne was soaked to his bones. He wondered if it was possible for one’s soul to be drenched as he rushed through the streets of Lannisport, looking at houses and businesses with a single careful eye. On an ordinary night, the tall, well-armed Northerner would have looked out of place and raised the suspicions of the elite City Watch. However, he was all but invisible as guardians and criminals alike huddled in doorways and under overhangs to avoid the rain, even though at times the rain seemed to fall sideways. Even ‘ladies of ill repute’ were wisely inside warmer locales. Eventually, he found the building for which he frantically searched. The only thing of note that belonged to the humble door was a small golden seven-pointed star, a symbol that indicated a faithful of the Seven, the seven gods worshipped across Westeros, lived within the structure. He pounded on the otherwise nondescript door with his damp fists. The dark streets seemed to absorb and dull the sound from the rapid impact of his furious knocking.

Suddenly, the door swung wide, and light rushed into the street illuminating Grayne’s bedraggled and soaked shape. The tall, proud northerner looked not unlike a sad, wet dog under the deluge of water that sprayed from the sky. A tiny grey-haired man stood in the doorway, bathed in warm light emanating from the open doorway. “Come in! Quickly! It is wretched out,” the old man grabbed Grayne and pulled him inside without asking who he was or what he was doing at his home in the middle of the gods-forsaken night. The soaked warrior did as he was bade.

Grayne stood silently as the man closed the door behind them. He looked the frail man up and down, noticing his neatly trimmed head of grey hair, his gaunt form wrapped in a weathered housecoat and his piercing blue eyes that seemed brighter in the light of a single candle. “Forgive me, father,” Grayne said as a puddle of rainwater coalesced beneath him.

“My son, why are you here? How man I help you?” asked the tiny, frail man as he pulled a heavy chair along the wooden floor with a scraping sound.

Grayne sat down on a hard wooden chair and shifted back and forth trying to get comfortable. After failing to find comfort in the seat, he said, “I have heard you are a respected holy man of the Seven. I wish to confess my transgressions. I have done wrong and I seek the forgiveness of the Seven. I have committed a failure of spirit. Will you hear my evil deed?”

The bedraggled holy man sat in a soft chair across from Grayne. The chair looked black in the limited light of the single candle. He leaned in to say to the soaked traveller, “I do not pretend to communicate to the gods, my friend. I cannot speak for, or with them, but I know that if you speak the truth from your heart, they will hear you.” The man scanned Grayne’s weathered and war-torn visage with his brilliant blue eyes for some insight into the man’s past. Looking into his one good eye, he saw only pain. “Go ahead; tell me. What have you done?”

“i betrayed a woman, a woman who had treated me wrong, but more than repented for her own failure of spirit. I left her to die, and I know I am a moral coward.”

“Tell me,” said the holy man.

Grayne quickly explained the years of torture and his love for Summer. The elderly man listened with quiet respect as Grayne described in a few sentences the pain and horror of years in a desolate holding cell and his strange relationship with Raven.

“I find commendable and no sign of weakness your ability to forgive this woman for her role in your abuse,” said the man after struggling for long moments to absorb the tale.

“I always felt as if I was using her. Does that make sense? She was able to repair my teeth for me, and she had been a good travelling companion.”

“Yet, you bore her no love?”

“My love is for one woman.”

“Continue,” said the holy man, seeking a conclusion to the story.

“We knew the Ironborn liked to raid the villages up and down the coast, but we didn’t anticipate an attack while we were in town,” Grayne said looking down at the puddle below his chair.

“It was a raid?”

“A hundred of so Ironborn attacked from the south by land, and a few ships blocked escape by sea.They moved quickly, killing any men who stood against them and carrying off any women they could grab. I sent Raven running, but they had the village surrounded. I could do nothing as the Ironborn took her; they snatched her up as she ran. I dispatched the ones I faced easily enough, but there were two dozen between me and those who took her screaming through the streets. She called out to me, begging me to save her, but I did nothing. I ran like a coward.”

The grey-haired man’s previously welcoming demeanor faded as he squinted his eyes in judgement and asked, “Why? Why did you not help her? Were you afraid?”

Grayne closed his eyes and breathed in deeply. After a few moments, he replied. “Yes, but not for my own life. I knew I could never wade into such a throng of armed men and hope to live. I couldn’t help but think of the woman I loved, the woman for whom I had suffered so much. I knew I couldn’t save Raven without risking my future with Summer.”

The elder priest looked horrified and sad at the same time as his face drained of color and his eyes opened wide. “You left your companion to the mercy of the raper ironborn?” he asked, knowing full-well the answer.

Grayne’s silence mirrored his inability to save Raven .

The old man’s words shot from him like an accusatory ballista,.“Why do you tell me this story? Why do you come to me in the middle of the night…awaken me…for what? Do you seek the forgiveness of the Gods? I do not know what to say.” The holy man stood up from his soft chair and stormed about the room. “Your actions…your inaction…is without forgiveness!”

Grayne closed his eyes and breathed in deeply. He filled his lungs with warm air and said, “I had hoped someone would tell me I am not a monster.” With that, he stood and said,” I am sorry to have wasted your time.” He slowly, but determinedly, strode to the door, but before he could pull the door open and flee back into the cold wet night, the holy man asked him to stop. The elder priest stared at him and stood motionless contemplating Grayne and his story. Without expression, he slowly shook his head and said, “May the old Gods and new have mercy on your soul.”

Grayne slunk back into the cold wet night alone, and without the mercy he sought.

Pain of Love Part Two- II


“Can you do it?” Raven asked the question pleadingly. “We have travelled so far and I owe him so much.”

The old hag they had travelled so far to see just stood there and let Raven plead her case. Long moments passed and Grayne felt he could actually hear her dying. The sound he heard may have only been the creaking sound that emitted from her withered form. Aside from that, the room was silent.

The woman finished contemplating and her words seemed to creak out of her. “Raven, I can do it, that’s not the question. The question is; can he survive the process?” She breathed the words and they hung in the air like swamp air- toxic and heavy.

Though the woman’s eyes had lost their luster perhaps decades ago, Raven looked into them with the seriousness of stone. She said, “If there is any man alive who can, it is this one.”

Grayne stepped forward and also met the ancient woman’s stern gaze. His eye narrowed as he examined the hag. With sudden forcefulness he pulled Raven out of the grass thatched hut. He leaned over and in hushed but forceful tones said, “This…”, he struggled for the word, “…woman is veritably ancient!” In response to the look that came upon Raven’s pristine face, he said, “I know you said she is a miracle worker, but I don’t know…”

From the hut, the crone breathed, “I may be old, but my ears are as keen as any bird of prey.”

“It’s her eyes I’m worried about,” Grayne mumbled.

“Grayne, please! I know it sounds hard to believe, but I have seen her handiwork before. She can save your jaw!”

Grayne looked skeptical. “You’ve seen her replace teeth in someone’s jaw before?”

Raven lowered her head and spoke at the ground, a response Grayne had become accustomed to in the months since they had escaped the torture chamber of Farzan. “Well, no; only the reverse.”

Grayne was about to grab her and run as fast and as far as possible away from this place when suddenly the hag was beside him. She made no creaking as she sneaked up beside Grayne, but her putrid breath hit him like a fist of rotting foods. He wondered how this woman whose mouth smelled like dead things could perform a procedure on his own mouth.

“Grayne, though I have never done the procedure before, I have seen it done. Not with actual teeth, mind you, but with Dragoncalc, a stone that has the same hardness and structure as real teeth,” the hag spoke at Grayne.

He looked down at the woman, who was more than a foot shorter than her and shook his head in silent acceptance. After all, he could not present himself to Summer, the woman he loved, in his current condition. After a deep breath, he asked, “What can I offer you in payment? We have a few gold Stags, but perhaps I can…” Grayne looked at the hut for chores he could perform, but it seemed in good working order. The roof, though made of grass and sticks seemed strong and the wooden walls seemed in good repair.

She looked at him and with a smile that had two more teeth than Grayne’s said, “I am an old woman, and it has been years since I have known the tender touch of a man. Though I am old, I do have needs.” The words lingered in the air with fetidness.

Grayne staggered back from the impact of her statement. Though he had faced many terrors over the years that had hardened his mind making him effectively fearless, terror struck him in the gut and his stomach flipped.

The old hag began to cackle! “You should see your face. Don’t worry, Grayne. I wouldn’t fuck you for all the crowns in all of the Lannisters’ vaults.” She turned and walked back into her hut breathing a final cloud over her shoulder, “You’re too ugly!”

Pain of Love- Part Two- I


Grayne woke with a start. He threw off the blankets that covered him and struggled to stand. A pale-skinned woman with curly black hair stood from the chair by the fireplace and rushed over to him.

“Grayne, you need to take it easy,” she said urging him to return to the bed.

“Who are you?! Where am I?” he demanded from a crouched position. He looked ready to spring and his single good eye scoured the room. He acted like a wild cornered animal although he was still emaciated and could barely stand. In fact, he looked as if he might topple.

The black-haired woman spoke in a soothing voice. “Grayne, we are at the Cardinal’s Roost, an inn in the town of Falnook. We left Farzan and the Citadel weeks ago. I am Raven. Do you remember me?”

Her words seemed to take the fight out of him and Grayne fell backwards onto the bed. “Yes, I do remember.” He put his hand over his damaged eye and felt a patch covering the grisly opening. He struggled to remember and said, “I am so very tired.”

“You have been asleep for twelve hours,” Raven said as she moved over to the table near the door. She brought a tray and set it on the edge of the bed. “I have apples and milk.” She held out an apple segment for him to take. “I didn’t think you’d want bread,” she said lowering her eyes bashfully.

Grayne snatched the apple piece from her hand and ate it voraciously. “Go slowly,” she warned. “You will make yourself sick. You need time to adjust.” She handed him another piece of apple and took the knife from the tray and began to cut more segments.

Grayne ate the second piece more slowly, but he still eyed her suspiciously, like a wild animal, as though she might take the apple away from him. She handed him another piece and began to pour milk from a pitcher into a metal cup. As she handed it to him, she asked, “Who’s Summer?”

Grayne’s eyes narrowed. He threw the cup full of milk aside and it splashed onto the wooden floor. With strength borne of anger he grabbed Raven by her black hair. She screamed and he took up the apple knife and placed it against her neck. A line of red trickled down her porcelain neck.

Desperately she cried out, “You said her name in your sleep. Please, I meant nothing by the question.”

He let out a guttural noise from his toothless maw. “What is this? Is this a trick?” Years of physical, emotional and psychological torture left him with the belief that even this could be part of Farzan’s cruelty. “Answer me, or by The Seven I will cut your pretty throat without a second thought!”

“Grayne! No, this is no trick! Farzan is imprisoned by your house.” Grayne tensed up at hearing Farzan’s name. “I swear to you, I only want to help you.”

“Why?!” he asked as the blade pushed deeper into the flesh of her neck.

“I…I,” she stammered. “I want to repay you for what I have done to you. For the years you lost. For…for my role in..” she trailed off.

“I don’t need your help!” he shouted as he pushed himself off her while still holding the blade at his side. “I don’t want your help,” he said just above a whisper.

“Grayne, I will do anything to save you. Please, you have to trust me.”

He turned back, and in a flash was back upon her. “I have to?” he asked with a pink gummy smile. His single grey eye bore into her skull before he pushed her away.

“On the table there is a small leather bag. Please look in it,” she said short of breath.

Grayne looked at her for long moments, searching her face for a clue as to her motives. Finally, he rose off her and moved unsteadily to the desk. He lifted the brown leather bag and looked back at her. The bag was light. He expected it to be filled with coin, perhaps a consolation for her participation in the years of torture he withstood. He looked at the bag and back at her.

She looked down at the floor as she said, “Go ahead. Open it.”

Grayne pulled the bag open and peered inside. He squinted as he looked for several long moments, trying to comprehend what was inside. “Is this a joke?” He threw the bag at her, but Raven did nothing to defend herself from it. She simply let it hit her in the face. The brown bag flopped onto the floor and its contents spilled out onto the oval rug underneath her.

Splayed across the floor were thirty-two teeth.

Pain of Love 10 (End Part 1)

Grayne heard the distant sound of horns and wondered if they were part of his dreams. He dismissed the idea, because he rarely slept deeply enough to dream.

He remained still and listened.

Again he heard them. His muscles were weak and his body was bruised and mangled, but his ears were sharper than they ever were. He spent most of his days listening to the sounds beyond his prison and imagining the forms those sounds belonged to.

He listened for the return of Farzan.

Minutes passed and several times he heard the sound of booted footsteps running outside his prison. He remained lying on the floor, listening to the thrum of troop movements, feeling their unified booted footsteps passing on all levels of the keep he had been a prisoner within for almost five years. He felt a feeling he had not felt for as long as he could remember.

He felt hope.

That hope suddenly washed away as the heavy wooden door to the ten-foot chamber he lived in opened with a clang. Farzan entered the chamber with a rapid clack of his heavy boots. In a flash of motion, Farzan stood above the withered form of Grayne with a blade at his neck.

“You win, Grayne. I know not how you have survived all these years, much less resisted giving me the one thing I wanted from you. Troops from your family house are here and it is likely that they will take the keep. That is why I have decided to kill you.”

From the stone floor, Grayne looked up at his torturer. Though he lacked the strength to resist the sword-wielding man standing over him, his one deep blue eye continued its defiance. The other was milky white and bore a deep scar from the top of his right cheek across his eye and to his forehead.

Grayne’s toothless smile grinned up at Farzan. His ghastly mouth and grotesque eye seemed to mock his torturer. “You almost had me. I was planning on saying your lover’s name later this evening,” Grayne mocked him. “Let’s make a deal. If you can hold the keep until the Hour of the Wolf, I will say his name.”

Farzan was not amused. “You won the game, northerner.” The black-bearded masochist prepared to thrust his blade into Grayne’s exposed throat. Grayne did not resist. He could not stand much less defend himself.

Grayne’s lethargy turned to action and he suddenly yelled, “No!” Suddenly a hooded figure was upon Farzan, but he sidestepped and managed to avoid a fatal strike. Instead, the blade jutted out of his left breast. Blood poured from the wound as he pulled himself from the blade and his attacker.

Stumbling away, he dropped his sword and turned to see the hooded form of his female assistant. She was defenseless, but he was too stunned to attack her. He just stood there as soldiers entered the room.

Three men of house Marbrand entered the torture chamber with blades barred. One pointed his sword at the robed woman and another prevented Farzan from fleeing. The final warrior approached the beaten form of Grayne and started to cut him down. His sword wouldn’t cut the thick chains, so he began to look for keys.

In seconds, the soldier found the keys and freed Grayne. He slid off the torture rack and the soldier struggled to keep him upright.

“Why, Grayne? Why did you save him?” the hooded woman asked.

Grayne answered her with a question of his own, “What’s your name?”


“Raven, this man’s life is mine to take. I will kill him in time.”

The soldier that freed Grayne unsheathed his dagger and held it out to Grayne. “Go ahead.”

Grayne looked for long moments at the man who had tortured him for years. He stared with his one good eye at the now-powerless Farzan and slowly shook his head. “No. Not like this. One day, when we are both at full strength.” He smiled a horrible toothless smile and said, “I need him to fight back.”

Pain of Love 9

“Wake up, my love. Happy nameday!”

Grayne propped himself up on one arm as his three children stormed into the bedroom and leapt onto the mattress stuffed with goose feathers. The two black-haired boys wrestled with their father as the youngest girl, his red-haired daughter, smiled by the foot of the bed.

He looked past the battle and standing there, hair aflame in the sunlight was Summer, his devoted and beautiful wife. “Boys, boys, let your father eat his breakfast!” She shooed the boys away and presented Grayne a tray overflowing with meats and breads. “I will be back with juice and beer.”

“Thank you. Thank you, all,” he said wrapping his arms around both boys. “It all looks so delicious! It’s a good thing, because I’m famished!”


Grayne awoke with a start. He was curled-up and shivering on the stone floor, and as usual, naked. His unkempt brown hair was shoulder-length. His skin had a yellowish hue, a combination of lack of sunlight and a lack of nutrition. The deficiency of appropriate foodstuffs was evident in his frail frame. The once heavily-muscled, young man in the prime of his life and in peak physical condition now looked like a man three times his actual age.

He never slept well and was prone to frequent interruptions of his sleep pattern. He awoke to a noise and was instantly on alert. The sound of a key in the heavy and rusting iron lock of his metal prison cell roused him from his fitful rest. His eyes squinted at the light originating from the lanterns that seemed suspended in mid -air. As his eyes adjusted, he made out the shadowy forms of the armed and armored guards. His eyes opened wide in surprise at the figure behind the soldiers. Farzan’s boots made a clacking sound with which Grayne was all-too familiar.

“Farzan-the-Mighty! Long time no see, old friend,” Grayne cackled trying to stand.

One of the guards ended his attempt to rise with a kick to the jaw that rattled his teeth and sent him crashing into the stone corner with a thump.

Farzan strode past the guards and stood before Grayne’s crumpled form. “Every time I return from the field I half-expect you to be dead.” He crouched down in front of the naked bruised man, his leather armor creaking as he moved. “However, I am pleased to see you alive. It means our fun is not at an end.” He motioned to the soldiers and they picked up the naked prisoner roughly. Grayne mumbled something and Farzan urged him to speak louder.

Grayne struggled to speak. “I said, I would like to see the manager of this inn, the service is terrible.” He smiled a crooked smile as the soldiers strapped him to the cold steel table that was already stained with his own blood.

“I grow tired of this,” growled Farzan.

“Then why don’t you let me go?” Grayne asked. “We will call it even. Months of torture as payment for the death of whats-his-name…Rodderick!”

Then he saw her. She walked into the cell quietly enough and hidden by the shadowy illumination of the lanterns resting on the floor. He knew not her name and had seen little of her form beneath the dark hooded robes. He had caught glimpses, and his brain filled in the gap for what his eyes could not see.

She strode quickly and quietly, and stopped beside Farzan. Grayne saw she carried something metal, and before she lifted the lid, he smelled what was inside the metal serving tray. The enticing smell of cooked goose wafted from the metal lid and he almost lost consciousness.

Farzan said, “Smells good, doesn’t it? I am giving you a choice, old friend.” Farzan punched the last word with a sarcastic blow and held out a small metal item. At first Grayne thought it was a dagger, but upon further inspection saw it was a dental tool, a small metal item used to pull a rotten tooth from its socket. As a child, he had been a victim of a tool similar to the one before him, and the memory of the shooting pain it brought caused him to close his eyes tightly.

“You have three choices. You may stay here in this cell and continue with your diet of toilet water every other day and moldy bread twice a week.” Farzan paced dramatically. “Or, you may have a bite of this succulent goose,” he said with a flourish and the robed woman lifted the lid to reveal the fresh cooked goose. Grayne gazed wide-eyed and the scent overwhelmed him and he began to drool.

Farzan turned back to Grayne suddenly, and said, “But, the food comes with a price. For each bite, I will take one of your teeth.” Farzan raised the dental tool. “Or,” the torturer took a deep breath before continuing, “You can say his name and I will grant you the sweet release of death!”

The robed woman coughed quietly as Farzan’s words lingered in the air with the smell of spiced cooked goose and dried blood. Seconds passed as Farzan waited for an answer.

Grayne mumbled something.

Farzan punched Grayne in the forehead. He leaned in so his face was almost touching Grayne’s. “Speak up, boy! What shall it be? Delicious cooked goose?” Farzan paused and then he said, “Or death?”

Long moments passed as Farzan breathed heavily on Grayne. “I’m sorry. It’s been a while since I was this close to a man. The last one was a bit lower. He had my sword and scabbard in his mouth, if you catch my meaning. What was his name?”

Farzan reeled back in fury as the soldiers rushed forward. “Hold him tight, men. Keep his mouth open.” Before Farzan went to work brutally extracting Grayne’s teeth, he whispered, “You could have had goose.”

Grayne closed his eyes tightly as his mind drifted to his imaginary family. Though his illusory reflections distracted his mind, they did not eliminate the pain of the removal of each and every one of his teeth.

Pain of Love 8

Grayne swung under the scorching rays of the summer sun. His body hung limply at the end of rusting chains supported by cruel hooks that had days ago stopped hurting. He felt only a buzzing numbness as he slipped in and out of conciousness.

At first, his prayers to the Seven were verbal, but now were silent as his voice was too dry for words. He had prayed for escape and bloody retribution, but now he silently wished for the strength to survive to be with his beloved Summer again. The image of her soft hair and smile kept him alive, the memory of her gave him the mental strength to endure.

Even the peasants that had enjoyed the public brutality he had been sujected to had long ago lost interest as his screams had faded away.

Grayne suddenly became aware of a fluttering and a weight upon his right shoulder. He turned his head until he could see a black raven perched on his shoulder with his left eye. The vision of a flail impacting the right side of his face was the last memory he had with that eye. He only felt discomfort from the area his eye once was as the dead eye was exposed to the elements without even an eyelid to protect it.

The raven cawed at him. Grayne tried to shake the bird off but was reminded painfully of his situation as the sharp hooks dug deeper into his infected flesh.

“Go away. Scat!” Grayne commanded the black bird. Though ravens were routinely used to send messages between men rich enough to afford such beasts, he suspected this was an ordinary wild crow.

He believed, that is, until it spoke.

” Whatcha doin’, Grayne?” the bird asked.

Grayne hissed at it, trying to frighten it to flight. “Well, that’s a fine howdyado,” it responded.

He knew he was having a fever dream, but the raven looked and sounded real enough. The legends spoke of ravens being the messangers of the gods, but they only sent ill omens and he didn’t believe in such childlish stories. “You’re not real. Now go away and let me die in peace.”

“Fuck all that!” it said flapping its wings but remaining on his shoulder. “You ain’t gonna die. What about Summer?”

“She’s better off without me.”

The raven turned its head away from Grayne and said, “That’s the truth. She’s a fine piece of meat, she’ll find a new man with no trouble. Especially with how you look.” The raven turned back and shrieked in alarm. “Ye Gods, man. What’s wrong with your eye?!”

Grayne said nothing.

“Looks painful. It is, isn’t it?” The raven bobbed up and down with excitement. “It’s all pusy and WHEW does it stink!” It scrutinized the eye with a diecerning vision. “Yeah, that’s got to go.”

With his good eye, Grayne saw the raven open and close its beak as it moved closer to his face. “No. Don’t!” he shouted.

“It’s got to go.”

Grayne screamed as the raven pulled the dead eye from its socket like a worm from the ground. Peasants slowly returned with grim humour to watch and laugh as the raven tugged on his infected eye until it was torn free. They clapped as the raven flew away with its grisly prize, leaving Grayne sobbing and moaning with renewed agony.

Pain of Love 6


The hot sun hung high in the sky as the soldiers pushed the bound and gagged Grayne toward the hangman’s structure. The soldiers in their heavy armor sweated under the heat of the intense summer sun. As they forced him up the stairs and toward the opening through which many men had dropped to their deaths, Grayne frantically looked for an escape. With a furious eye, he searched the guards desperately and struggled against his bonds. His efforts were useless as his restraints were too strong and the guards too well armed for any escape.

As the guards and their prisoner stopped at the top of the stairs, Grayne took in the scene before him with horror. Where once was a rope attached to the roof of the structure there were now cruel jagged hooks attached to sturdy chains. The rusty links waited unmoving.

“Do you like the modifications I made?” came a familiar voice from the yard below. The silver plate mail of Farzan was blazing in the midday sun and Grayne squinted against the reflection.

The guards removed the northerner’s gag. He defiantly spat in Farzan’s direction. “You are a twisted man, Farzan! You can do whatever you want; you won’t get anything from me,” he said with less determination.

“I’m glad. It gives me the opportunity to test my new apparatus. I dare say this torture device will be copied by all the kingdoms soon enough. You have the pleasure of being the first test subject. Unless you wish to spare yourself the ignominy of this fate.” The cruel knight paused, and when Grayne was silent he simply said, “Very well.” With a nod of acknowledgement to his men, they roughly forced Grayne to the edge of the pit and as he was struggling they began viciously inserting the hooks into his flesh. One hook pierced the flesh of his back, two sliced into his armpits, two more into the soles of his feet and the final one was jammed into the tender meat between his balls and his ass. The men laughed roughly while Grayne shrieked. And without another word the men pushed him into the wooden opening.Grayne plummeted, but before he hit the ground, his descent halted as the hooks and chains did their job. His weight slammed into the hooks as the chains reached their limits and Grayne howled louder than he thought possible. Even the men who seconds before had laughed cruelly at the helpless man winced at Grayne’s torment as he swayed and writhed in agony at the end of the chains.

“Let’s see how a few days swinging in the hot summer breeze affects his mood,” the cruel knight said, but there wasn’t anyone who could possibly hear him over Grayne’s howls of pure agony that pieced the air.