The way to the chapel was strewn with rubble and bloody corpses. As Amity trod along the stone floor, she could hear the soles of her bare feet squelching on the stone floor. She shivered as she reasoned that the stickiness that adhered itself to her feet was the blood that flowed from the slaughtered victims of the Duke of Warwick's revenge. However, she was less concerned than she might otherwise have been for the cleanness of her feet. Her naked body was already a mess of dirt, scratches and bruises. A little more made no difference at all.
But before she bathed her body in a stream or even in the castle's filthy moat, in which faeces floated amongst the corpses of the brave defenders of the Baron of Flint's demesne, she had more pressing duty to attend. And this was to give her praise to the Lord God for sparing her from the gruesome slaughter that had delivered every man, woman and child within the castle walls to a premature encounter with their maker. She hoped only that their souls would be spared the pains of eternal damnation she was certain their murderers must surely endure when their time should come.
Amity was shocked to see that his cloth had not spared the priest who served in the chapel any more than it did his congregation. Amongst the piled bodies, slumped over the pews and under the shelter of the holy relics that had failed on this occasion to save believers from the knights and mercenary warriors of a vengeful Duke, there, on the very spot where the faithful celebrated the blessed Eucharist, was the body of the priest, his body slumped over the now drying blood he had shed in defence of the holy sacrament.
It was at the feet of the carved image of the Saviour, raised high on the cross commemorating the moment of His great sacrifice, that Amity bent down, her naked body normally so incongruous in such a holy place, and made her obeisance. As the Lord Jesus Christ had saved the world from its sins, so too had He seen fit to spare her from the fate of her fellows. And in gratitude of that, Amity's first priority was to pray to the Lord to express her gratitude for His infinite mercy and also to request that this mercy should extend to the souls of the freshly massacred, whose corpses filled every room and open space within the castle walls; and no doubt throughout the estate of the now deceased Baron of Flint whose foolishness had brought such disaster upon his servants and family.
She confirmed the vow she had earlier made as she prayed to the Lord her Saviour. As she knew of no sacrifice appropriate for a young woman of no worldly wealth, she vowed instead to eschew forever any possessions of any kind for the rest of her natural life. This was a vow not only to accept no reward for her labours beyond that necessary to stay alive but to own not even clothes to shroud her naked flesh. A vow she intended to keep forever and one that would remind not just her, but anyone who saw her, of the extent of her gratitude to her saviour.
In truth, clothing was something she rarely wore anyway. The recently decapitated Baron, like his father, treated his serving wenches as nothing better than whores. They were his mere playthings from whom he demanded sexual favours whenever he wished and paid no regard at all to their own desires. Only the barest rags were ever allowed to cover the wenches in his service and he took pleasure in their humiliation.
The Baron was one who believed that just as he owned every ox, sheep or swine in his estates, so too did he own the villeins and serfs who tended them. Not for him was there any intention to reciprocate the fealty extended to him. He never promised nor provided any protection or kindness. The English peasantry in his service were his to dispose as he felt fit and the young Baron followed his father's example in his dereliction of any duty towards those living within his estate.
In any case, he was unable to provide the protection the serfs most desired. The greatest source of their misery and the cause of their most bitter complaints had always been the depredations of the Baron himself.
Although he professed to the Christian faith, he frequently damned even the Lord Jesus Christ and treated the ministers of the chapel as servants whose prime purpose was to avail him absolution from the many sins he committed. And should a priest show any reluctance to do so, or ever display the temerity to question the Baron's wisdom, he would be treated with as little respect as that shown by the Duke of Warwick's knights to the now deceased Father Jacques de Calais whose bloody body draped the steps to the nave.
Initially, she had welcomed the opportunity to serve as a wench for the elder Baron of Flint. Like many in the manor, she naively believed that the violence and petty slights visited on her by the Baron's knights was not representative of their liege. Her new servitude was also rescue from the abuse she suffered from her natural father who treated his daughter and wife with as little kindness as did his Norman overlords. She had long lost her virginity to her father's perverse passion from which her mother was unable to protect her daughter any more than she was able to protect herself from a man who believed only too well that she was there solely to honour and obey.
But, as Amity discovered, all that happened was that she exchanged one misery for another, with the additional burden of having to learn, with no formal tuition, the French language that was all the Baron's court spoke or understood.
As Amity's facility in French improved, she learnt not only the words necessary to serve her duties as a wench to the portly, balding Baron but also those words for profanity and obscenity freely mouthed in the company of the Baron's equally foul-mouthed knights and directed with no restraint at the wenches who served him. These profanities were just the accompaniment to the indignities and humiliations met upon Amity and the other women who served his table. She soon learnt that unless a fellow baron or a member of the royal family should visit the Baron's castle, she would be denied the modesty she yearned for, and that the abuse she had known all her life before was to be exceeded by the horrors that were limited by only the Baron's imagination.
After her first day in his service, shivering under the rag which served as her only clothes and also her bed linen, her tears and shame could not be consoled even by the tender caresses of her companions who were now much more inured to the Baron's despicable lust. She soon learnt that the only solace available were her hours of sleep or those waking hours in the company of her equally unfortunate fellows in the execution of their many and arduous menial duties. She wondered how anyone could be so cruel and heartless as the Baron and his knights.
She rejoiced on the occasion of the old Baron's death in a hunting accident witnessed only by his eldest son, the new Baron. Perhaps the young lad, barely needing to shave and so inept on the saddle, would treat his servants and villeins with more respect.
Her hopes were dashed when the young Baron continued in the tradition of his father, made worse by the fact that he was more virile and so able to pursue his rapacious assaults with more energy and persistence. Only the proscriptions ordained by the church prevented her from taking her own life to bring her misery to its end.
She became a frequent visitor to the chapel, avoiding those times when the Baron or his knights made attendance, rare though these were, and prayed to the Lord for deliverance. She found comfort in the images of the Holy Mother Mary and of the blessed saints whose images filled the chapel as they did every church in Christendom. And most of all she took comfort and strength from the example of Jesus Christ, who like her, had suffered so much and had yet, through His suffering, brought the blessing of the Holy Spirit to the world.
"Fucking Warwick!" exclaimed the young Baron not many months after assuming the mantle left by his father. "The cunt slighted me. He even accused me of being the cause of my father's death."
"He was a close friend of your father, my liege," remarked Sir Guillaume, one of the older knights who had lost an ear and a hand in the Crusades. "It is natural he should be aggrieved."
"Are you suggesting that it was I, you fuckface whoreson, who was in some way responsible for my father's death?"
"Not at all, my liege! But many have wondered how it is his own arrow should bring him so low."
"Don't you fucking accuse me, you cockless ass. My father's arrow was deflected by a tree between him and the boar we hunted. Were it not for my urgent ministrations his death would have been sooner. Was it not I who raised the alarm?"
"I make no accusations, my liege, but words have been said in the Royal Court..."
The young Baron eyed his knight with a true glint of menace that clouded his misleadingly innocent face. "It is not right for the Duke of Warwick to slur my character. Not only I, but others in the Royal Court, heard him slander my good name and should the opportunity arise I shall take my blade and force it deep inside the same orifice of his as I shall soon be embedded within of the cuckold's daughter, Amity, here."
Unfortunately, the Baron was true to his word and Amity soon lay beside her sated master, shivering from the chill of the banqueting hall and her own shame, while the Baron resumed his drunken revelries with his other knights who had similarly taken advantage of the many pretty young women who served his table, slaved in the kitchen and throughout cared for their many needs beyond those of their carnal desire.
It was not many days after this that Sir Guillaume fell low in a sword-fight, to be discovered by three other knights who wept while wiping clean their blades of the blood that they claimed belonged to the assailants, whose bodies, unlike that of Sir Guillaume were never to be found.
And from that day hence no suggestion was made by the late Sir Guillaume's fellow knights of the rumour rife within the Baron's manor that it was the young Baron Reynard who had been responsible for his father's untimely demise.
This was not, alas, the last time the Baron referred to the slights he had endured from the Duke of Warwick. Not many days after Sir Guillaume had been laid to rest, amongst great weeping in the chapel, Amity heard the Baron once again curse the name of the Duke. She lay beneath the snoring body of Sir Henri, his penis still between her legs and her arse still sore from the Baron's simultaneous violation.
"The whoreson declared that in battle against the treacherous Comte de Boulogne, he would not choose to serve beside me. He said that he could no more trust me than should my father when hunting. Is there no limit to the hogfucker's impertinence? Am I not, as much as he, a servant to the King?"
The other barons expressed horror at the Duke's most recent example of discourtesy, vying with each other to recount the vile unholy deeds he had committed and the extent to which his arse deserved to be abused.
"There is a village but one day's ride hither that should feel the wrath of your steel," remarked Sir Simon. "They deserve as surely as their master to feel the vengeance of a baron dishonoured."
The Baron of Flint laughed. "Every wench will know a knight's cock in their arse and their babes in arms the lethalness of his steel."
The evening was enlivened from thence by speculations of the Baron's righteous rage, whose concomitant sexual excitement was similarly stimulated to the further shame and distress of the abused serving wenches. This was a night whose bruises pained Amity and her fellows for many days after, while, receiving no sympathy and no respite, they continued to serve their masters in their menial and amorous chores.
"I pissed on as many whores as I had piss in my bladder!" boasted the Baron after he and his knights had enacted their revenge, fired up with mead, hemp and wine.
"And I their pathetic children!" boasted Sir Henri, whose lascivious hands groped the naked flesh of poor Edwina, who had just this day began her service in the Baron's kitchen and suffered the most from the knight's predations.
"Not one villein or serf alive! And every ox, ass and swine removed to our kitchen!" echoed Sir Yves with a cruel laugh. "The Duke of Warwick now knows that the Baron of Flint is not a man to cross."
However, there was no immediate reprisal and the Baron was frustrated by the lack of concern the Duke showed to those in his estate, although a formal complaint was made to the King to compensate the Duke for his loss.
As the days and weeks passed by, Amity heard more accounts of the atrocities the Baron chose to inflict on the peasants labouring on the Duke of Warwick's fields, whilst suffering, as did the other wenches, the drunken self-congratulation of the knights of Flint.
The Baron's frustration at the Duke's stoical inaction mounted at the same pace as his boldness in the extent of his murderous incursions into the shires and boroughs who owed allegiance to the Duke. Amity shivered, despite the extent of her own misery, at the accounts of the knights' depredations. No woman or child, let alone man or livestock, was spared the sword or carnal lust of the knights and their armed servants. Each horror was recalled in detail of women raped, children abused and men disfigured before, without exception, all but the valuable beasts of the estate were slaughtered or put to the flame.
Like the other wenches, accustomed now to a court that treated them with no respect, but at least spared their lives and refrained from mutilating their young bodies with the swords and knives never far from their person, Amity was frightened that an excess of mead or ale might be enough for the court to extend their perversions beyond that which they normally felt free to express on the Duke's servants.
And then one evening, there was a dread morose silence in the court. A messenger from the King had arrived, guarded by the Royal privilege whose potency defended him from the rage the Baron was so near to expressing on the trembling servant.
"The King has declared that he will offer no protection should the Duke take what he considers due recompense for the wrongs he has suffered!" the Baron exclaimed, not for the first time that evening.
As it was Amity who was at this moment enduring the Baron's drunken amorousness in the sullen and cheerless atmosphere that had engulfed the court in their post-dinner orgy, she particularly trembled as she heard the Baron's words. Would he visit on her the blows that poor Matilda had suffered when the Baron was similarly angry and it was she who was fellating him? Would Amity also earn a broken nose and bruises that took more than a week to subside?
On this occasion, no! The Baron's despondency left him disinclined to do more than drink and moan, showing rather more anger towards his knights whom he accused, long and vociferously, of showing excessive zeal in their ravishments of the Duke's properties, both human and animal.
"I am a man who has been wronged not only by the insults of a Duke, but also by the excess of my own court!" the Baron swore. "You are all nothing but the open cunts of pox-ridden whores!"
And later still in the evening, the serving wenches, Amity amongst them, huddled together in unwilling attendance of the court's possible lusts, the Baron's anger extended to insulting the King, who had unfairly sided with the vicious Duke, and, even, (and this shocked Amity to the core) to God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, who had so abandoned the Baron in his hour of need.
It was these shocking profanities that convinced Amity, who soon afterwards retreated to the chapel to beg forgiveness for the sins she had committed in the duty of the Baron, that her lord and master would be damned in this life as he would surely be in the next. As she bent down, wearing only the filthy rags that maintained her last few shreds of modesty, she begged that the Lord Jesus should spare her; although she understood that His justice should be extended to those who so impertinently desecrated His name.
It was late afternoon not many days later that Amity first heard word of the Duke's vengeance of the slights he had suffered.