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?What would you do with a wife who produced gold with every word, and diamonds from every scream? ?
The 16th day of the Fourth Month Dear Diary:
You are my only outlet for relieving my pain, Diary, and I am lucky my princely husband allows me this small release. He has denied me everything else, even the power of speech. The only sounds I can make are in his presence, in the torture?I mean the treasure?chamber.
Let me backtrack a moment here.
My name is Tracia, which literally means 'treasure' in some obscure language or another. When I was born, my mother and father wanted a good, obedient child, so I was placed under a spell of perfect obedience. Whatever I am told to do, I must do, whether I will or no. At first it was not so bad; I was never given an order I could not see myself following.
Then my mother died, and my father took another wife. I was only three at the time. My new stepmother brought a child from her former marriage; a whining, whey-faced girl a year older than myself. Soon after this, my father died, leaving me to her cruel mercies. She doted on her daughter, and took advantage of my enchantment by ordering me to take up all the menial chores of the household so that she and her daughter would not have to work. So there I was, sweeping, cooking, fetching water from the village well, and always wishing I had free will, so that I might throw down the broom and declare myself done with them both.
You know the rest of the story, Diary: everyone does. I went to the village well one day to fetch water, and there was an old woman there, who asked me to draw her up a bucket of water. I did it willingly, needing no compulsion to do so; but how often, when I look back upon that day, have I wished I had never seen her! For after I gave of her to drink, she turned into a beautiful fairy, and placed an enchantment on me as thanks: Whenever I spoke, gold pieces would rain from my mouth. When I laughed or sang, precious stones and diamonds would fall. When I went back home, I thought my newfound enchantment would raise my status before my stepmother. It wasn't so. First she tried to send her own daughter to the well in hopes of meeting the old woman, and thus meeting with her own fortune. It didn't turn out that way; she came back cursed with toads and serpents falling from her lips. So for a long time, we were tripping over the gold piecesand pearls and stones when I spoke. Finally my stepmother commanded me to not say a word unless she willed it. So of course, I shut up.
Then a prince came along who had heard of my (to him) good fortune. He offered to marry me then and there, and make me his Queen, and my mother happily assented when he proposed to move her to a much larger house in town and included her in royal functions. And I, who didn't really like him, was compelled to marry him anyway due to the cursed spell of obedience.
After the wedding, I found that being Queen did not entitle me to any special treatment. My new husband was a greedy, grasping man. He was afraid that I might talk to my serving girls and give them gold coins as gifts (they were certainly in sufficient abundance) so he deprived me of the girls. Not content with this, and not quite believing in my obedience, instead of simply commanding me to be silent he had me fitted with a gag that locked around my head and prevented all sound from escaping my lips. It was a heavy, thick, stiff piece of leather that was curved to fit the lower half of my face, and was only taken off so that I might eat, still unspeaking, with my husband. Oh, I hate this gag.
He began experimenting after our week's honeymoon was over, and he saw which sounds I made produced which jewels. There is a large black book in the treasure room, which the servants say contains an accounting of each piece of treasure in that room. They are only half-right. It does contain a list of every piece of treasure in there; but it also contains a description of what he did to me to produce those gems. For the treasure chamber is also fitted out as a torture chamber.
My husband found out that sounds of pain produced the purest, most beautiful jewels. And the more pain I was in, the louder I scream, the more precious the gem. He wished a diamond big enough to set as the crowning stone in his scepter: to produce that diamond I was stripped down and tied between two posts in the torture chamber/treasure room, and flogged until I could no longer stand upright between them. The gag was left on until the very end. Just before the last stroke fell, he unlocked my gag, and I threw back my head and screamed in agony. A diamond the size of an egg tumbled from my lips. Now, whenever I see that scepter, I think of the burning agony of that flogging, the weeks of anguish that followed as I tried to recover, the barrel of small, sharp diamonds that were the testimony to my pain, for every time the physician came to tend to my bleeding stripes, the pain from his touch caused me to cry out, and another diamond fell from my lips.
There are barrels of gems in the torture chamber produced by my pain. The worst of all are the diamonds. Those are products of the many whippings and floggings that have been inflicted on me. Then there are the rubies, which come from a caning across my bottom that will leave bleeding lines across my backside. Emeralds are produced when he clamps my nipples and forces me to endure their pinch for a long time. Small emeralds are produced from the sounds I make while my nipples are clamped; the large ones are produced when the clamps are removed and blood returns to their tortured tips. The very large twin emeralds that adorn my husband's crown are the product of clamps being removed after three hours of wearing them; I remember screaming in pain and fainting. When I awoke, my husband was rubbing an ointment into the purple-black nubs of flesh and telling me I had produced two of the most perfect emeralds anyone had ever seen. My pain, he said, was small price for the jewels.
I wish I could believe him.
He affords me every luxury, everything I could need or want, as compensation for having to cause me such pain. Silken sheets, fine clothing, the rarest, most choicest delicacies for my table?but I would trade it all for surcease from my pain. Which I have told him, numerous times. It is for the good of the kingdom, he tells me each time he takes me to the torture chamber and straps me down naked to the hideous pieces of equipment. Being a monarch means one must make sacrifices for the good of the kingdom.
I am not fooled. It is not for the kingdom that he tortures me; we have poor still, in the streets, hungry, begging for food, while I sit here, a prisoner of my own husband, surrounded by luxuries I cannot truly enjoy. No, it is not for them that I suffer; I suffer for him, for his vanity and selfishness and greed, and because he enjoys seeing (I have seen the light in his eyes when I am in the greatest pain) and hearing me in pain as much as he enjoys counting his gold. My pleas for mercy produce gold ingots, which he melts down to make coins. It is said in other countries that our coins have a greater percentage of gold than others, almost pure?well, you know why now. Wait. My door is opening. It is Later, still the 16 th It was my husband. He wants a pair of matched blue diamonds to make into earrings as a present for the Duchess of Rhyann's upcoming jubilee. Ah, Diary, how I wish I could run away, hide, something! For colored diamonds, blue and yellow and green and red, are the costliest and most precious gems that exist. And they are not only expensive to buy, but costly for me since this will mean pain unimaginable. By the time he is done (for he will have what he wants, no matter what it takes, he will find a way to wring blue diamonds from my lips in the excess of my pain) I will wish that I am dead. But he will not be so kind, no. For me, the greatest sacrifice for the kingdom and my husband is not my pain (I got enough of that from the beatings my stepmother gave me) it is from continuing to live.
He allows me no sharp knives, for fear I will try to take my own life. My rooms are searched daily for anything I might try to harm myself with; I wear chains between my ankles, long enough to allow me to walk, but not to step up on a piece of furniture to hang myself. And the windows in my suite have bars on them, to prevent my taking a swan dive from my casement. Truly, I am the most wretched person in the kingdom. Even though the beggars in the street starve, they are better off than I. They might be able to fight as they are dragged to the torture chamber?I must walk to it, cursed by this spell of obedience, unable to fight the compulsion set on me!
The 3 rd Day of the Sixth Month Dear Diary:
The Duchess of Rhyann's jubilee is today, and I cannot bear to go. I cannot look on those cursed blue diamonds without thinking of the incredible pain I have suffered the last few weeks, in the aftermath of what my husband has done to me to procure them. Even now my hands still shake, blood spots the bandages wrapped around my wrists and ankles, and I can hardly bear the touch of my own clothing against my skin. I shall tell him I am still not well enough to attend the celebration, and he must go without me.
Did I not tell you, Diary, that he would do anything to get what he wanted?
When I met him in the torture chamber he removed the gag and ordered me to strip. No matter how many times I do this, it is still humiliating, but I do it, because if I do not he will call the guards to strip me, and that I cannot bear. No. It is better that I undress myself.
He beckoned me to the rack, indicating I should lie upon it. I know this well; I have been on here once before. The feel of one's limbs being stretched to their breaking point, to the point of dislocation, is a terrible one, and one that I pray each time I am pulled from it that I never feel it again.
I began crying, pleading, begging him to find some other way. I will stand there and scream for him as loud and as long as he wishes, to produce the jewels; but he insists that only true pain will work, and he orders me to lie upon the table. I have been cursed with obedience; I had to climb upon the rack's table, lie face-down, and stretch my hands upward to the iron shackles.
He has never believed in the enchantment of obedience, even though he has ample evidence of my own behavior to prove it. He believes that, in some way, somewhere in my soul, I enjoy the pain, the helplessness; and this is borne out by the moisture that builds between my legs when he takes me in a parody of the tender intercourse normally exchanged between a husband and wife. He does not understand that I become wet out of a sense of self-preservation; that my body becomes moist to save itself from being hideously abraded. Maybe it helps assuage his conscience to think that I enjoy it. Needless to say, I don't.
He gagged me again and began to turn the winch of the rack. Quickly at first, then slower and slower, until my body's stretching slowed to a crawl. The gag suppressed my cries but the tears and the expression in my eyes and face were a fair indicator of how I was suffering. He continued to stretch and stretch me until I was taut and straining, then he locked the wheels in place and left me stretched upon that hideous table, unable to scream, or cry, or plead for release. Then he walked away, leaving me alone in darkness.
I do not know how long I remained there. It seemed an eternity to me, but then, for anyone who has ever suffered excruciating torment, a minute can seem like forever. I was damp with sweat, heedless of anything but the pain. There was no respite from it; rather, the longer I stayed there the more I hurt.
An eon later my husband came back to the chamber. He felt the muscles of my shoulders and hips, tested the tension of the iron chains and shackles around my wrists and ankles, then gave the winch another quarter turn. I begged him with my eyes to free me, and for a moment I thought he might, then he went and got a bucket, placing it under my head before unlocking my gag. Then he picked up a heavy, thick, rubber hose, such as our law enforcers carry for the beating of miscreants, and began to strike me about my shoulders, back, buttocks, and hips. Blows fell on stretched, aching muscle, and I began to scream helplessly as my muscles were bruised and battered.
With each scream a diamond dropped from my lips, starting out a pale, icy blue, and gradually deepening as my pain increased until I was screaming madly with agony, and the diamonds falling from my lips were a clear, pure blue, the color of a cloudless summer sky at noon. He then clamped his hand over my mouth, stifling me while he ordered a member of the Palace guard to deliver two of the hardest blows yet to my shoulders. At the second one I wrenched my head away from his hand, and the movement caused my shoulder to pop out of its socket. I remember screaming; and then screaming again as my tortured writhing dislocated my other shoulder. From my lips fell two blue diamonds, each one the size of a small apple. He seized on these gems greedily and carelessly ordered his guards to free me of the table and have the physicians attend to me. Every inch of the skin on my back was swollen and tender from the repeated blows, and I was in unimaginable pain. Two yellow diamonds fell from my lips as the physician snapped my dislocated arms back into their sockets, and I lay in bed for weeks suffering. I have only just gotten up, and my wrists, chafed by the metal shackles my husband used to bind me, still bleed occasionally as the bandages rub the scabs loose.
From my window I can see the celebration in the courtyard. She is wearing them, showing them off, garnering the admiration of all the other ladies of the court. I cannot bear to see it. I will die if this continues, I cannot bear pain like this again. But it is almost certain I will, as I can see one of the vainer ladies, the Countess's rival, speaking to my husband. She will, no doubt, ask him for a pair similar to the Countess's, and he, being the gentleman he is, will oblige. And I will have to have my arms pulled out of their sockets again by the horrible rack.
No! It cannot happen, it cannot, he cannot be so cruel!
The 12 th day of the Seventh Month Dear Diary, It is to happen. My husband has informed me that two other women have asked him to provide him the same baubles. He could have given them some of the smaller blue diamonds, but no, he wishes to repeat the size of the first stones, and so the rack is being oiled and prepared for use again.
I have cried, wept, pleaded, begged, promised anything, but to no avail. He is adamant. I will suffer for a court lady's vanity, and for his desire. Life is cruel! Ah, if I could only see that fairy again, if I could ask her to take this curse of jeweled words from me, surely she would see how miserable her gift has made me, and she would free me from her spell. I wish?I wish?I could be freed from all spells, the obedience one and the curse of jewels, and be ordinary!
Later The most unbelievable thing has happened, Diary! My prayer, my wish, was answered!
The fairy appeared, as lovely as she appeared when I first saw her that day by the well all those years ago. She is extremely upset on my behalf, and she has told me she will take me away, somewhere where no one will find me, and she will lift the curse.
However, as with all fairy spells, this one carries a price. She says she has longed for a mortal who will serve her, obey her every wish and whim. So in return for lifting the curse of jeweled words from me, I shall spend the rest of my life serving her. It is as well for me; I will obey her, serve her, gladly even, if she would only lift this curse from me! Which she has promised to do. She tells me now to take only the barest necessities, for the fairies will provide anything I need. I shall take only the clothes on my back; I need nothing else. Let my husband wallow in the riches from my curse; I don't need them! Diary, I shall leave you here, to bear testimony to whoever may find you what I have suffered, and why. You will show everyone the darker side of the fairy tale.