In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt Helpless.
Helplessness: that dull, sick feeling of not being the one at the reins. When did you last feel like that –- and what did you do about it?
And in response to Felicity Johns’ Friday Flash Challenge Forbidden
She was walking carefully the cold marble floor a gift at this hour. She had to be careful but her feet shuffling barely made a sound. Holding her wrists together she focused on not making any noise. She shrunk in a small alcove as a door opened to let two men out; their loud whispers to their hostess left little doubt as to what they’d done. It happened sometimes… tonight was such, which made it possible for her to navigate the castle at this hour without too many risks of being found out. But she knew she was forbidden to be out at night.
She arrived at her destination fast enough pushing the door to the lower level open. Surprisingly the guard accepted her bribe and promised he’d leave his assignation for thirty minutes, giving her the time she needed. She stepped to the cell – for all that it was a room, it had bars – where her mother slept.
“Mother?” She murmured. Elvira’s blind gaze met hers and her mother smiled before she frowned. Standing, she approached the entrance. Thankfully she wasn’t chained; Zahra reached with her fingers through the narrow space between the bars. Her mother’s touch was such a gift, she might have cried. But she didn’t.
“Zahra, does he know you’re here?”
She was about to answer when he spoke. She trembled, the chains between her anklets and bracelets rattling noisily, as she stepped away and shrunk against the wall. She hadn’t seen him sitting in the large chair by the hearth; she hadn’t paid attention and she’d pay dearly for the mistake.
“Of course I do.”
Her mother answered fast. Whether she understood or not the reality of the situation remained to be seen but Zahra was thankful for her quick reply.
“Thank you my Lord for allowing my daughter to visit me. You are merciful.”
“I know Elvira.” But his gaze promised punishment. She wasn’t allowed to come. He forbade it. “Take a moment with your mother Zahra. Then you and I shall talk.”
She nodded. There probably would be no talking, only the lash for a transgression she was aware of. But she’d hoped he’d been drunk and asleep. He was the latter when she left his apartments.
“Zahra love, do as he says. We owe him.” She owed him nothing. “I know what you’re thinking. I get it. But they’d have killed us. At least we’re protected and safe.”
Zahra bit her lips; she couldn’t tell her mother the truth. Coming here tonight was the one act of defiance she had. And it wasn’t even one: she needed to come here. But her days and nights were ruled by the man whom her mother would have her thank. And she was forbidden to see her mother unless he allowed it. But every hesitation, every stare, every question became a pretext for him to refuse to grant the right to visit. She didn’t know what to do.
“Zahra,” he spoke, the command quite clear to her, “it’s time.”
She nodded, incapable of uttering the words she knew she was expected to say.
“Thank you for allowing her to visit me my Lord.” Her mother subserviently said. She hated to hear her mother speak like that; she’d been as powerful as a queen once. And now, blind, prisoner, she knelt to that man who’d destroyed everything. Was there nothing to be done?
She knew the answer to that the moment he touched her. Every time his fingers grazed her skin she knew. No, there wasn’t. His was the greater power and she was nowhere near as mighty as her mother. The bracelets at her wrists shuddered with his energy and she trembled.
“Good night Elvira.” He said hooking his hand around the chains between her wrists and pulling her out of the room. The guard stood right there, bowing to his Lord, never truly accepting her bribe. Somewhere in her mind, she understood. She couldn’t even blame him.
He led her through the corridors ignoring her difficulty to follow. The chains were hindering her movements as they were intended to. She tripped a few times but never fell. That too was forbidden. Arriving in his room was only the beginning of her ordeal.
“You know what happens now Zahra?”
She nodded helplessly. For each transgression, she received punishment. He chained her to the wall, something he did often because somehow she kept breaking his rules. She never really understood how but she kept doing what he forbade.
“Not a sound.” He ordered. The first lashing caught her by surprise. The second made her numb and by the third tears raced down her face as she bit her cheeks so as not to utter a sound. But she felt like screaming, she wanted to explode. She wanted to break free. It wasn’t fair. She hadn’t done anything to deserve this. She needed to leave here. Another lashing her mind went numb, she reached for a place of calm and peace, when she was learning about her gifts. She remembered her mother explaining it was in a place of serenity that one found their greater power. She let herself go into the memories, until suddenly she felt a burning in her body. But this one soothed instead of hurting her.
A voice suddenly broke through the fog of her mind.
“Zahra, don’t. You’ll kill yourself. Stop it!”
Stop what? Hands grasped at her skin, and she felt the power in them but it merely itched. There was a plea and then the world burst into light.