For the previous part of this story go to THE CROSSROADS OF THE CARDS .

She remembered her husband; Cabangu was the son of a C'Donite priest, he thought he was C'Don's gift to the ladies. The problem was, all the ladies thought so, too. She had thought to be so lucky when he focused on her. She was an artisan, a maker of fine tapestries or vases, and he was a hunter of reknown. He fastened on her, to the puzzlement of many. She was small-breasted and her chin was too small, and was not the belle of the summer dances by any means. She masked her social ineptness with a cutting wit, but how she longed for someone to hold, late at night...

Then, like a fairy tale, Cabangu picked her, and she kept on looking over her shoulder, wanting to make sure he wasn't addressing someone else. He was very tall...some even muttered about there being giant blood in his veins, but if so, no one could trace it...nearly seven feet tall, blonde and thin. He too had a cutting wit, and was often seen making fun of the socially inept.

She told herself that he admired her wit, and she still thought that was part of it. But she also suspected that she saw her vulnerability past the sarcastic mask she imposed. As a hunter, he was good at detecting weaknesses.

The first month or two were blissfully happy. But his lovemaking was swift and savage, and often she had scratches and bite marks to show for it. He had no patience for anything that was solely for her pleasure, but he would demand she do things to him that would pleasure him solely.

He got jealous, when he was home, at the time she would spend on her art. He soon demanded access...and control...of the money she made, and like a fool, she acceded.

He grew to control her more and more. She soon found he couldn't find final release during lovemaking without hurting her in some way. At first in small ways, making it a pleasurable game, a small fantasy. But soon that fantasy led to him devising ways to degrade her more and more. In all honesty, she had never thought imagination was his strong suit, but she was wrong.

Very, very wrong.

Once he had blindfolded and tied her up, and then made violent love to her. He was not a bad lover, and she had responded...but afterwards, she heard raucous laughter. He had, while she was blindfolded, invited his best friends in...to watch. They had sneaked in silently, and she had never had a clue. Then with a dismissive,

"Go ahead,"

...He allowed them to touch her in the most intimate of places. They never said a word. It was a particularly humiliating rape. She never knew which of his many friends had so used her. She dreaded going to market. Any of the many men she saw might have been one of the ones who had..enjoyed her.

That was the beginning of a whole series of humiliating "games" that left her less of a person each time. She had yelled at him when he finally released her, when his friends were gone.

He smiled his charming smile and said,

"You have no choice. You're mine, to do with...as I will."

Then he hit her.

This went on for months. Then his sister approached her.

"I know what a cruel, sadistic person my brother is. You used to laugh a lot. I don't see you laughing any more."

And she was so frightened of her own husband that she didn't dare nod yes or no.

"I have friends who can help you. Friends who will take action. Friends who can free you of my sadist brother. I don't love him. He used to vent his spite on me."

Disydius said nothing in reply.

His sister brought out a small vial. "Two drops...no more...in his food. He will sleep. He will not wake up."

She didn't dare hold out her hand. Instead, the sister put it in a pocket of her tunic.

"It's up to you."

That night, her husband began to talk of...animals, and other beings. Of rutting centaurs and satyrs and unicorns, and what a sight it would be to see her submit to such. That he might arrange such...another night. Perhaps he'd include an audience, he mused aloud, gloating at the way blood drained from her face.

That night was his last.

Then afterwards, she panicked. There was a dead body in her bed, and he had been so strong, so healthy...how would she explain it?

She stole out to see his sister, Tuthirm, as the sun was coming up.

"So, you did it. Well, I don't shed any tears for Cabangu. He was a sadistic fool. And I have...friends...who are skillful at getting rid of bodies.

"Twelve friends."

Thirteen in all, she thought...startled, she asked,

"A coven?"

"Our father--your father-in-law--was a C'Donite priest, but look how your husband turned out. Do you owe that great a loyalty to C'Don? Did he hear any of your pleas when you were in pain?"

Tuthirm looked at her,and continued: "He went out early to go hunting by himself, early this morning. He never returned. That is what you will tell anyone who asks. Go to market, and when you return, his body will be gone. We do not ask you to join us. But if you ever want to...remember who it was, and who they followed, who really helped you, when C'Don wouldn't. Two drops of mantichore's venom, that greatest of poisons, was of more help than all the prayers you ever uttered."

She was horrified, but so relieved when she returned and the body wasn't there. After six months had passed, she was declared officially a widow. A full year afterwards, she shyly asked Tuthirm about how the coven worked, and a week later, she attended her first meeting.

Now, two years later, she had fled the small town in Grejakim, to be here, the capital and source for all Saginite covens, everywhere.

Those interested with comments, suggestions, things I have forgotten, things I messed up, contact me at...

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Copyright © 1997 Al Schroeder