Hazel ducked behind a pillar, heart pounding in her chest. She held her breath in trepidation as she listened to the pounding of the soldiers’ boots, falling on marble tiles, as they marched past her. She exhaled a sigh of relief as the footfalls faded. That had been far too close. Most would think her crazy for attempting her current course of action. She preferred to think of herself as an idealist. Hazel had been planning this operation for months. She had scouted the castle in various disguises, mapped the floor plans, memorized the movements of the guards. Tonight, was the night her efforts would come to fruition. Tonight, was the night the Queen’s dragon would finally be liberated.
Hazel’s blood boiled any time she thought about the Queen’s dragon. To keep such a magnificent creature locked away in a castle was the epitome of cruelty, in her opinion. A dragon should be free to soar the skies at its fancy, collect treasure, hunt, meet other dragons and have little baby dragons. The only times Hazel had seen the Queen’s dragon permitted out of the castle were in times of war. Brought out to fight the Queen’s battles and then pushed aside as if she was worthless. Hazel was disgusted. The Queen did not appear to value her dragon as anything beyond a weapon. In fact, Hazel could not recall seeing the Queen and the dragon together on even one occasion.
“Dragon Queen my arse!” Hazel muttered under her breath. “More like over-privileged dragon exploiter.” Those of royal blood thought they could treat the little people however they wanted. Tonight, Hazel would make a stand.
Queen Evelyn sat in her bedchambers looking out over the castle courtyard. Movement caught her eye and she shook her head as she watched the cloaked figure duck behind a pillar. Fiery locks peaked out from beneath the woman’s hood. Evelyn sighed, that was unmistakably Hazel. Hazel had been skulking around the castle for the better part of a year now, always in a different disguise, always embarrassingly conspicuous. Had Evelyn not strictly instructed her soldiers to leave Hazel be they would have put a stop to it months ago. Evelyn knew she should have permitted her soldiers to arrest Hazel. Allowing this to continue made her look weak. In all defiance of logic, she couldn’t bring herself to do it.
Evelyn and Hazel had known one and other since they were children. They had been friends once, had played together, shared secrets, joys and sorrows. Once they grew older they had shared more. That had ended when Hazel’s mother, a commander in the royal army, fell in combat. Evelyn had been barely beyond childhood, had no control over her father’s battle strategy. Hazel had blamed her nonetheless, had never been able to forgive her.
Evelyn felt she was a good Queen. She cared about her subjects, knew many of them by name. She gifted them gold when they fell on hard times and invested in public infrastructure. Hazel, however, could not see anything beyond the pain of losing her mother. She now ran a small band of revolutionaries intent on toppling the monarchy. Calling them revolutionaries was generous. Hazel’s followers consisted exclusively of village children and rumour had it their participation was largely based on the provision of free cake.
Judging by Hazel’s current attire she was about to commit the crime she had been planning. Evelyn wondered what role Hazel would be taking tonight. Thief? Perhaps assassin? Evelyn hoped it would not be the latter. The punishment for violence against a member of the royal family was death and she did not wish to see Hazel harmed. She rose to her feet. Her heart was heavy with longing for what might have been. Regardless of Hazel’s intentions, it was time to greet her uninvited guest.
Hazel continued making her way across the courtyard, keeping to the shadows. When she first hatched this plan she had been afraid she would fail. Every successful scouting mission had bolstered her confidence. Now, she felt like victory was within her grasp. Perhaps she would live to one day see a society ruled by the people for the people. The dragon, however, was the first step. Who knew? Perhaps, after she freed her, she would demonstrate her gratitude by supporting the cause. The prospect was thrilling. A revolution against the monarchy aided by a dragon. It would be glorious! She could rain fire down on all those who thought they had a right to trample hard-working families just like her own. She was getting ahead of herself, she acknowledged. Once she completed her mission the dragon would be free to make her own choices and Hazel would respect whatever she decided.
Hazel’s musings were interrupted by a loud swooshing sound. She spun around just in time to see the dragon alight in the middle of the courtyard. Hazel was taken aback. She had expected to find the dragon chained in the dungeon. She had never spotted her about the castle on her scouting missions. Given, she had not scouted the dungeon. However, she had not felt the need. There wasn’t anyone being kept in the dungeon at present. The soldiers would never expect a dungeon break-in. Getting through the populated parts of the castle was the hard part. She had expected to sneak into the dungeon have a quick look around, find the dragon, and then leave. Evelyn must have let the dragon out for a special occasion she decided. The dragon was usually kept in the dungeon, she was sure. She cleared her throat.
“I’m here to free you.” She addressed the dragon. The dragon’s expression appeared almost human. Surprise flickered across her face, swiftly replaced with a look of amusement. “Didn’t you hear me?” Hazel barely restrained herself from stomping her foot in frustration. “You no longer have to be a slave, no longer have to endure the Queen’s cruelty. You will be free to live your own life, free to make your own choices.” The good-humoured expression drained from the dragon’s face, replaced with one of fury.
Evelyn had intended to remain in her dragon form for the duration of her confrontation with Hazel. She had been afraid to see her in a form she would recognize, didn’t wish to hear the vile words Hazel would surely hurl at her. However, Hazel’s implication struck a nerve.
The switch happened so quickly Hazel barely registered what was happening. One moment she was staring up at the dragon. The next Evelyn stood before her trembling with rage. Hazel gaped.
“You think I would abuse a dragon?” Evelyn struggled to keep her voice steady. “I have never hurt an animal. Would never…” Evelyn’s voice trailed off momentarily. “You should know that!”
“You… you don’t own the dragon.” Hazel stammered “You are the dragon… why did you never tell me?”
“I developed the ability after our friendship ended.” Evelyn stated coldly. “Why would I tell you?” Hazel continued to stare at Evelyn wide-eyed for several moments before regaining her composure.
“I should know you wouldn’t abuse a dragon?” She shouted. “I thought I knew you cared about me. I thought I knew you would never knowingly allow harm to come to my family! You knew your father’s battle plan, knew he planned to sacrifice her. You should have warned her! Maybe…”
“You think your mother would have deserted the army?” Evelyn snapped. “Grow up, Hazel!”
Hazel drew a dagger and charged at Evelyn. Evelyn glanced frantically around the courtyard relieved upon noting a lack of witnesses. In moments, she was back in her dragon form. She rose into the air. Picking Hazel up in her claws, she flew to her bedroom window and tossed her inside. Switching back to her human form she fell through the air, flipping just in time to project herself through the window. She landed on the bedroom floor her irate gaze falling on a stunned Hazel, who still sat on the bed where she had landed.
“This Kingdom has laws!” Evelyn’s glare bore into Hazel. “The fact that I’m the Queen does not mean I can flaunt them at will. We have a council designed to prevent such abuses of power. Don’t you understand? If you continue your actions against me I may not always be able to protect you!
“Protect me?” Hazel scoffed “Like you protected my mother? You don’t care about protecting me. You don’t care about protecting anyone! You only care about yourself. Do it! Have me executed. Watch the people rise!” Hazel jumped to her feet and began stalking towards Evelyn, dagger in hand once more.
“It was her idea!” Hazel froze. Her eyes met Evelyn’s, confusion and uncertainty flashing across her face.
“What?” She snapped.
“You mother…” Evelyn held her gaze. “Sacrificing herself was her idea. My father forbade it. She did it anyway…” Hazel felt a numbness invade her body. She wanted to scream at Evelyn, call her a liar, but she could feel the words were true.
“Why…” Tears began to fall. “Why, didn’t you tell me then?”
“I knew it would devastate you.” Evelyn wanted to close the distance between them, take Hazel in her arms. However, she was unsure if Hazel would want that. “She always prioritized her role as a soldier over her role as your mother and I could see how much it hurt you. I thought it would be better if you hated me instead of hating her. I thought it would be easier for you… Had I known it would turn you into this… I would have done things differently.” Hazel remained motionless as waves of pain washed away the numbness, replacing it with feelings of abandonment, guilt, and self-loathing. She lifted her blade again and continued her advance on Evelyn.
“Hazel! I don’t want to fight you.” There was desperation in Evelyn’s voice.
“Then don’t.” Hazel’s voice sounded hollow. “Call your soldiers! The punishment for assaulting a member of the royal family is death, right? That’s what I deserve. All you ever did was try to protect me and I…”
Evelyn’s expression hardened. She closed the distance between them in a few determined strides. Gripping Hazel’s wrist she wrenched the dagger from her hand. She threw the blade to the floor. Keeping a firm hold on Hazel with one hand she brought the palm of the other down on her bottom, smacking her six times in quick succession.
“Don’t say that. Don’t you ever say that!” Hazel could feel Evelyn’s breath against her neck. She stumbled as Evelyn pushed her in the direction of the bed but strong hands held her upright. Evelyn undid the clasp on Hazel’s cloak, pushing it from her body, allowing it to fall to the floor. Reaching for the buttons of her breeches she undid those too, stripping the tight fabric down her thighs. Hazel began to protest but Evelyn paid her no mind. Sitting down on the edge of the bed she hauled Hazel across her lap.
Hazel squirmed. She had only been in this position with Evelyn once before and it had not been a pleasant experience. All things considered, however, she was getting off lightly. She had tried to kill Evelyn. She should be in the dungeon awaiting her trial. She certainly did not deserve to be treated to such intimacy. Tears continued to slip down her cheeks and she buried her face in the quilt.
Now Evelyn had Hazel across her knee she felt uncertainty, feared taking such liberties might further inflame the situation. Hazel wasn’t hers. Hadn’t been for many years. A realization was setting in, this was her fault. She should have been honest. She had been young, foolish. She thought she was saving Hazel pain but really she had just allowed her to lose both her mother and her girlfriend at the same time. At a time when Hazel had needed the support of her partner she had allowed her to push her away, hadn’t even tried to fight for her. Evelyn felt a few tears of her own slip down her cheeks. She shook herself. She had committed to this decision now. As much damage as her current actions might cause, failing to finish what she started would be worse. She couldn’t simply leave Hazel to her downward spiral without at least trying to snap her out of it. She may not have fought for her back then but she was going to fight for her now.
She wrapped an arm around Hazel’s waist, holding her in position, and began. Her hand descended landing a smart smack in the middle of Hazel’s right cheek. She could feel Hazel’s body shaking as she sobbed into the quilt. She settled into a steady pattern working her way up and down both cheeks ensuring no area of her bottom was left unspanked. Hazel squirmed slightly but made no attempt to escape the blows. Now, confronted with the truth she was forced to acknowledge how unfair she had been to Evelyn. The worse thing was a part of her had always known or at least suspected. Her mother had always valued military success above all else. Disobeying orders? Knowingly getting herself killed with no thought of how it might affect Hazel? It was very much in character. Hazel just hadn’t wanted to believe it. Hating a dead person felt wrong. Directing her anger towards Evelyn was easy in comparison. Her behaviour towards Evelyn had been monstrous. Evelyn had just allowed it to happen, had never once attempted to defend herself, until today. She deserved any amount of pain Evelyn chose to inflict on her and she would take it without complaint.
Evelyn slowly built up the intensity of the spanking, incrementally increasing the speed, putting slightly more strength behind each smack. Hazel’s bottom rapidly turned a warm shade of pink.
“Never again!” Evelyn emphasized the words with sharp slaps to each of Hazel’s sit spots. “I will not tolerate you putting so little value on your safety. You may not care whether you live or die but other people do.” She delivered a rapid volley of swats continuing to focus on Hazel’s sit spots.
“Yeah, like who?” Hazel half laughed half sobbed. “You were the only person who cared back then… it’s not like I’ve made any new friends recently.”
“I still care.” Evelyn moved her attention to Hazel’s upper thighs. Hazel inhaled sharply.
“Well, you shouldn’t.” Hazel muttered. Evelyn stopped and pulled her into a sitting position. Hazel stared at her shoes.
“Hazel, look at me.” Evelyn’s voice was firm, Hazel glanced in her direction. “I love you, Hazel. I have always loved you. You feel guilty your actions over the past few years have hurt me. Your death would hurt me far more.” Evelyn let her instincts take over and reached for Hazel, pulled her close, wrapped her arms around her. Hazel buried her face in Evelyn’s chest. “Hazel?” Evelyn took a deep breath. “I need to apologise. I should have been honest with you. You may not have realized but you needed me. I should have been there for you and I wasn’t.” Evelyn could feel Hazel’s tears soaking her shirt. They both remained silent for a long moment. Evelyn held her breath waiting for a response, any response. Finally, it came.
“I need you to hurt me.” Hazel’s words were muffled.
“I…” Evelyn’s words failed her. She cleared her throat. “I spanked you?” All she wanted right now to keep holding Hazel.
“It wasn’t enough.” Hazel raised her head to look into Evelyn’s eyes. “Please… I don’t think I can move forward unless I feel punished.” Evelyn took a deep breath and nodded. She rose to her feet pulling Hazel with her. Hazel felt a small measure of relief as gentle hands guided her to bend over the edge of the bed. Evelyn stood for a moment gazing at the woman before her. She wanted to reach for Hazel again, caress her. Hazel shifted position, restless. Evelyn closed her eyes, pushed the feeling aside, tried to reconnect with the anger and fear she felt when Hazel first came at her with that dagger. When she opened her eyes again her expression was harder. She reached for the buckle of her belt, undoing it she pulled it from her waist in a fluid movement. Doubling it over she snapped it together causing a loud crack to echo throughout the room. Hazel flinched slightly. Evelyn cast a last longing look at Hazel before slicing the belt through the air as hard as she could. The thwacking sound of the belt connecting with Hazel’s flesh reverberated through the room. Hazel dug her nails into the quilt. Evelyn inhaled deeply, taking a moment to renew her resolve. She lashed the belt down again, and again after that, building up momentum. Hazel bit down on her lip, the metallic taste of blood assaulted her taste buds. She deserved this and she was determined to demonstrate her acceptance of the punishment. The belt fell over and over igniting bursts of pain all over Hazel’s bottom. As welts began to overlap Hazel’s resolution to remain silent began to dissolve. When intermittent yelps turned into screams Evelyn threw the belt to the ground.
Hazel pulled herself to her feet, she stumbled. Evelyn caught her, gently ushering her to lie down on her stomach. Sitting on the bed next to her she ran her fingers through her hair.
“Please tell me that was enough? I don’t think I can…” Evelyn shuddered slightly her eyes falling on the crisscross of welts marring Hazel’s flesh.
“I love you too.” Hazel looked up at her with a fierce intensity.
Evelyn lay down next to her draping an arm across her shoulders. Brushing her lips against Hazel’s neck she was greeted with a soft snore. Evelyn smiled. Snuggling closer she drifted off to sleep herself. This had been an exhausting night for both of them.