The rose garden which Bess had discovered in a hidden part of the castle’s fortifications was beautiful on this soft, warm evening. Each kind of rose seemed to smell better than the last, and she was busy trying to make a connection between the colour of the rose and its scent. There was a pinky orange rose which smelt of cloves, and a yellow rose which smelt slightly bitter - like lemon, maybe?
As she moved between the rows of bushes her moss-green gown with the trimming of gold beads caught every so often on the thorns. She was not used to wearing dresses. Where she came from, girls wore leggings like men, especially when they rode bareback. Girls ran more-or-less wild until they came of age to be married, and the custom was that they had to be caught and subdued by the man who wished to marry them. A man who could not catch and subdue his bride would never be able to govern her within the marriage, it was believed. And the governing was difficult, because after a youth of freedom, the endless cooking, washing and child-bearing was arduous and tedious work against which a woman often felt like rebelling. That was when the hard hand of her husband came into its own.
Bess’own lot was different. Her husband Raoul, who was the Lord of this castle, had been hunting far from home when he saw her running like a deer through a meadow full of flowers. He took such a fancy to her that he tossed a bag of gold coins through the doorway of her cottage and snatched her up onto his saddle, where he laid her crosswise like a slaughtered deer and carried her back with her long hair dangling one side of the horse and her bare feet the other.
Of course Bess could tell that there was enmity and jealousy among Raoul’s own people. How dare he bring in blood from the common folk the other side of the marshes? But the Lord had only to scowl at someone who wished to criticise him, and they grew quiet.
It wasn’t that Raoul was cruel or wicked. He was young to have such power and so he didn’t dare allow anyone to mock or go against him. He had fallen head over heels in love with Bess as soon as he set eyes on her, and he would make her his wife against all opposition.
And so he had, after a brief period in which his womenfolk had given her a veneer of civilisation. She was thinking now about their wedding. What a long ceremony it had been, and so solemn, and boring! She had had to walk sedately for what seemed like hours in her long dress. But the day had ended in the wedding night, and what a night that had been!
As was the custom, he had carried her up to the chamber which had been his and was now theirs, and had closed the door so that they were alone for the first time since he had ridden home with her. He had sat her on the big bed, turned her so that she had her back towards him, and started to undo her buttons with nimble fingers.
“From now on,” he had said, quietly and kindly into the nape of her neck, “I am your master and my word is law. You vowed to obey me today and I will make sure that you do. Only thus will we live happily together. My people are not so very different from yours. Our women have less freedom when they are younger, and more freedom when they are older, but in all the best marriages the man is the head of the household. If his wife disobeys him, he will listen to her if she has given him cause in the past to believe she may have something worthwhile to say. Otherwise he punishes her.”
Bess remembered that she had turned round and looked at Raoul with adoring eyes. She knew she would never disobey him - how could she, when she loved him so much?
Raoul had continued. “It is the custom on the wedding night for the bride to be given an idea of what will happen if she disobeys. I will be gentle with you as you are young and it may come as a shock to you, but when I have finished undressing you I am going to spank you.”
“Spank?” Bess had queried. “What does that mean?”
“In your world I believe men beat their wives. They hit them anywhere on their bodies. Here men spank them, which means that they apply the blows to their buttocks.”
“That’s shaming!” Bess had protested. “That’s a private part of the body for a woman.”
He had reached the last of the many buttons of the bodice of the wedding gown and she slipped it off over her feet. He had helped her to take off her petticoat and as he did so, he discovered that underneath it she was wearing a pair of leggings that she had brought with her.
“What are these?” he asked in astonishment.
“We wear them to make ourselves decent,” Bess had replied. “I wasn’t given any garment like it here, so I put these on.”
“You will never wear them again. That is my first command to you. Now I will give you your first spanking.”
Bess was a strong girl but even if she had resisted, which she didn’t, it would have availed her nothing as Raoul laid her face down on the feather bed and pulled her leggings off. She had been frightened and ashamed, but she made herself remember that this was her husband and he had promised to be gentle with her.
In the rose garden as dusk descended, Bess’ heart was beating fast as she relived what had happened next. Her Lord and master, after baring her bottom which would have been taboo in the land where she came from, slapped her buttocks alternately. The first few blows sounded very loud but didn’t hurt at all. She remembered she had even pushed her bottom upwards towards his hand in appreciation of the warming sensation. But as the slaps multiplied, it began to be a little uncomfortable. It was not so much that he had caused her pain as that she felt he was capable of doing so.
When Raoul had spanked her to the point where she wished he would stop, he did stop. He turned her onto her back, lifted her gently, and moved her so that her head was on the pillow. Then he quickly disrobed himself and crouching over her, pushed her hair away from her face and kissed her mouth, her neck, her breasts, her belly.
Bess knew a little about coupling from observing animals, but this was nothing like what she’d seen or what she expected. Her Lord awakened responses in her young body that she hadn’t even known existed, and then he joined himself to her with a powerful thrust that tipped her over into ecstasy.