Lord Balcour's Downfall
By: David G. Hale
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Winter in the small village of Upfordshire was usually a harsh time…cold, wet weather was the norm, and food was always in short supply. The landlord of the county, Lord Balcour, demanded the lion’s share of the villager’s harvest each year as payment for allowing them to farm the fields surrounding his castle. Even in a good year, the villagers were left with barely enough food for basic survival. But this year a drought had cut the harvest by better than half, leaving Lord Balcour mightily displeased. The meager scraps left after his tribute was paid forced the villagers to share with one another so that all might survive until spring. To make matters even worse, word around the county was that a witch’s spell had caused the drought, and that Lord Balcour was bent on finding the witch and punishing her for daring to spoil his bounty.
Two families that had come together were those of Terence Danforth and Samantha Godwin, he a strappingly handsome 21 year old blacksmith, she a beautiful, tender girl just turned 18 and recently betrothed to Terence. The wedding was to take place in the spring, a fact which relieved many in the village who feared for young Samantha’s well being. On more than one occasion, Lord Balcour had approached Samantha’s parents, offering them wealth and privilege if the would only allow their daughter to come live with him in the castle and become his wife. Each time they had wisely refused, and with good reason. More than one young girl’s parents had accepted this offer, only to watch their innocent young daughters disappear behind the cold gray stone walls of the castle and never be seen again. It was always told they had died of some mysterious disease or other unexplained malady, but everyone in the village suspected the worst. Parents who demanded to know more always seemed to disappear as well, and soon the questions stopped altogether. These refusals by Samantha’s parents infuriated Lord Balcour, but under the law he was powerless to force the girl to live with him against her will. Or so they all believed.
One cold, windy night the Godwin and Danforth families had just sat down to their meager repast when they heard a great commotion of men and horses just outside the door of the hut. Before anyone could move, the door exploded open from the kick of a heavy boot and the room filled with heavily-armed men from Lord Balcour’s private guard. Two of them made a direct line for young Samantha, grabbing her under each arm and dragging her roughly towards the door. Terence leapt to his feet instinctively to protect her, but was struck down immediately by one of the guards behind him. With a flourish the captain of the guard appeared, filling the open door.
“Is this the filthy whore of Satan himself?” He spat the words in Samantha’s face as she whimpered and struggled in vain against her captor’s hold. “By orders of Lord Balcour, you are under arrest. Take this sinful bitch to the castle immediately!”
Samantha’s father stood up in protest. “What in God’s name is going on here? Who are you to come in my home and arrest my daughter?”
The captain turned to face Mr. Godwin, staring at him with fiery, hateful eyes. “God has nothing to do with this! We come on the authority of Lord Balcour and arrest this wench on charges of witchcraft! She’ll face the judgment of Lord Balcour first, then the mercy of God Almighty if she’s lucky!”
“This is preposterous! My daughter is no witch!” Her father took a step towards the captain, only to have the captain grab him by the shirt and pull him to his chest.
“Be thankful I don’t arrest the lot of you, for harboring this whore. That in itself is a crime worthy of death. Do not risk my anger any further.” He then shoved Mr. Godwin backward with such force he fell to the ground. “Away, we take our prisoner and return to the castle!”
With those words Samantha was dragged into the night, her face a mask of sheer terror. As quickly as they had appeared, the captain and his men were gone, their hoof beats and Samantha’s plaintive cries soon muffled by the low-pitched howl of the wind.
Lord Balcour sat at a huge oak table laden with roast fowl, stewed beef and baked delights from his army of chefs. Behind him a warm fire blazed in the fireplace, bathing the room in a comfortable red glow. From the other end, a guard entered and approached his lord, coming to attention upon reaching his chair.
“M’lord, your captain’s party has arrived with the prisoner as you commanded. They await you in the dungeon.”
“Excellent.” Lord Balcour licked his greasy fingers and wiped them on the fine linen table cloth. Belching loudly, he placed his still-loaded plate on the stone floor, whistling for his dog Samson, a huge mastiff with drooping, drooling jaws. From out of nowhere the dog appeared, sloppily lapping up the lumps of food Balcour had left behind.
He led the way downstairs to the dungeon, followed by two of his men, and presently they arrived at a massive wooden door. One guard opened it and Lord Balcour strode inside the dank chamber, a dimly-lit room filled with evil devices whose only purpose was to cause agony and suffering on an inhuman level. In the center of the room, two wooden posts were set into the floor. Between them was Samantha, one wrist lashed tightly to the top of each pole. She trembled in terror, her tear-streaked face tensing as Lord Balcour slowly approached. The air in the chamber was thick and dank, and beads of sweat ran down Samantha’s neck, slipping between the ample mounds of her heaving breasts.
“Well, my dear, dear Samantha, look what you’ve come to.” Balcour circled his captive like some vulture, while she twisted in her bonds trying to keep him in her view. “It didn’t have to come to this. You could have been my wife you know, instead of Satan’s. Look how your choice has betrayed you.”
Samantha’s dark brown eyes were wide with fear, her voice cracked as she answered. “Please, my Lord Balcour, you know I’m not a witch, you know…”
Balcour lashed at her, the back of his hand finding her mouth and splitting her bottom lip slightly. “Silence, bitch!” he screamed, “You’ll speak only to confess your sins of witchcraft and fornication.” He glared at her, a look of pure hatred in his eyes. “By the time I’m through you’ll beg for the peace death can bring. You’ll regret selling your body to Satan instead of being my wife, I promise you that. Let’s just see what Lucifer got for his money, shall we!”
With that he tore at Samantha’s dress, ripping it down the front, yanking and tearing it until the whole of the garment lay about her ankles. She shrieked at the humiliation but Balcour’s hand continued, snapping the tied ribbons of her pantaloons and pulling them down as well. With a final tug the mound of clothing was sent flying across the room and Samantha was nude before all of them. Balcour and his henchmen leered at her, their eyes enveloping her lithe body, as she cried and struggled in vain to free herself.
Lord Balcour pressed himself against her naked body, and Samantha could feel his excited manhood straining against the fabric of his breeches, demonstrating his unnatural lust for her. “I’d say the Old Man had good taste, to be sure!” He ran a hand over her breasts, pinching and twisting one nipple until Samantha cried out in agony. With his other hand he pulled her head back by the hair, a thin line of blood trailing down her chin from the cut on her lip. “Once you confess, the law does allow you a final appeal for my mercy, remember that. What form that appeal takes is up to you, so be thinking of how a young, sweet girl such as yourself might win the favor of my mercy. But think quickly…the harder I must work to procure a confession, the more degrading your appeal will have to be, if you take my meaning.”
With a low, guttural laugh he threw her head forward and then, in a flash of cruelty, slapped Samantha’s bare bottom with his hand as hard as he could, immediately raising an angry red welt as she screamed and danced to the pain.
Sunrise the next morning found Terence in bed, a bandage covering the wound left by the guardsman the night before. As he came to through the fog and the pain, he felt a cool, wet cloth gently mop his brow, guided by his mother’s gentle hand.
“What…what has happened?” he said, trying to sit upright.
“Son, lay back, you’ve had a terrible hit on the head.” He recognized his father’s voice coming from somewhere across the room.
Terence lay back on the bed, the events of the previous evening filtering back through the haze in his brain. Scenes began to emerge, details gradually took shape and then, like a thunderclap, everything came clear. Dinner. Samantha. The men, bursting through the door.
“Samantha! She’s in danger, isn’t she, tell me, I must know!” He flew from the bed, the pain and dizziness erased by his love and concern for Samantha. “I must go to her at this instant!”
“My son, " his father said, “Think of what you are saying. Lord Balcour had her arrested, if you go to the castle you’ll be killed, you know that.”
“I cannot abide her in the hands of that monster! Do you suggest we allow him to do this, to take her while we sit by and do nothing? If he touches her I will not forgive myself, I’d rather die trying to save her than live knowing that pig took her away from us!” The room was quiet, nobody said a word.
“Everyone in the village knows what Balcour is up to.” Terence’s voice was now calm, measured. “Everyone knows what awaits Samantha, the same fate the other girls faced. He starves us, steals our women for his own twisted pleasures, profits from our sweat and blood. But enough is enough. If I have to go by myself, I will. Death with honor is preferable to life on my knees.” He struggled to his feet, walked to the mantle and retrieved his broadsword. After strapping it around his waist, he took a dagger from the wall and stuck it in his boot.
“You’ll not go alone boy, I’m with you.” It was Samantha’s father, standing in the open door of the hut. “My daughter will not spend one more minute in Balcour’s hell hole!”
“You’re right.” Terence’s father was reaching for his crossbow. “We’ve suffered Balcour’s abuses long enough, the time has come to stand up and be men. I’m with you as well.”
Terence hugged his father. “Then let’s be off. I know some others in the village who feel as we do, we’ll gather them and be on our way.”
Samantha’s body hung limp between the wooden poles. The straps binding her wrists were biting into her skin under the weight, and trickles of blood ran down her arms. For the moment she was blessedly unconscious, the unending tortures of the night before finally too much for her to bear. The once flawless, porcelain-like skin of her back and buttocks was criss-crossed by angry, throbbing welts. Lord Balcour had applied the lash liberally to her, taking an evil delight each time the thin, oiled-leather snake hissed through the air to bite its victim again. Her breasts, once soft, beautiful and perfectly formed, now hung sore and swollen from her chest. Balcour had caught them in a massive clamp of his own demonic design, a screw allowing him to slowly tighten the two rough oak panels, mashing and crushing the two mounds of flesh together. With each slight turn of the handle, more tears had streamed from Samantha’s eyes while her mouth hung open in a grotesque, silent scream.
But still, she had not confessed. Frustrated, Lord Balcour finally decided to rest a few hours and renew himself. Now, with the light of a new day, he had returned to the dungeon to continue his hideous labors. He approached Samantha with a bucket of hot water, heated just enough to cause excruciating pain when poured over her open wounds.
“Time to awaken, my sweet flower,” he said as he raised the bucket. He poured some of the water over her back, the wave of agony it brought as it ran over her abused skin jolting Samantha awake with a scream that brought a smile to Balcour’s thin lips.
“Why do you do this to me? I’m not a witch, you know that, why do you torment me so?” Her tear-choked plea drew Balcour to her, close enough to smell his putrid, fetid breath.
“I am the lord of this county. That means you are whatever I say you are.” He poured the remainder of the hot water over her, just to prove his point. “You would not be my wife, would you? You refuse a life of wealth and power, not only for yourself but for your family as well. I cannot force you to be my wife, that’s true enough, but as a witch I can do with you as I please. Confess your sin of witchcraft my lovely, and appeal for my mercy, it’s that simple. This only continues if you want it to. Confess, it’s not too late.”
“I beg you, I’m not a witch.” She could barely speak through her sobs. “To confess so would be a mortal sin in the eyes of the church, I cannot…”
“Enough!” Balcour screamed. “It is my punishment you should fear right now, not that of the church! You will confess, I promise you, you’ve felt no pain to this point!” He turned to the guards at the door. “Get this lying bitch on the rack, and then she’ll tell me what I need to hear!”
One guard cut her wrists loose as the other grabbed her by the ankles. Samantha struggled weakly, but her ravaged body held little strength. In seconds the guards had carried her to the rack and were strapping her spread-eagled to both ends. Under this pretense the two pawed and fondled her most private places, deepening her humiliation. Finally, their lustful invasions complete, they backed away and gave control of the helpless young girl back to Lord Balcour.
He approached the giant wheel at the head of the device, giving it just enough of a turn to draw Samantha’s body taut and initiate her to this new agony. “Now your lies will turn to truths. No whore of the Devil has taken the rack and maintained her deception. Taste a bit more.”
He eased the wheel over one more notch, causing Samantha to cry out in sheer agony as her shoulder, elbow, hip and knee joints began to separate. From the shadows the guards leered at her nudity and took pleasure in her suffering. Through tear-filled eyes, she saw Lord Balcour leaning over her.
“Time to decide, my dear. If I turn the wheel again, a confession won’t help you and I’ll just give what’s left of you to my guards over there. And they’ll not be as nice to you as I would have been, think about that. The time has come. Make your decision now.”
Just as the last word passed Balcour’s lips, the door to the dungeon was breached, shouts filling the chamber. Terence was the first man through, and his mighty sword found the neck of the closest guard before anyone could make a move. The guard’s head fell back silently, blood gushing from the stump of neck left behind. The click of the crossbow was next, and the other guard died where he stood, his heart pierced by the arrow fired by Terence’s father.
Lord Balcour stood wide-eyed, not believing what he saw. The bloody intrusion left him unable to speak for the moment. Terence, seeing his love Samantha’s nude and battered form on display, grew blinded by rage. Taking out his dagger, he quickly cut her loose from her bindings. She shook with fatigue, pain and fright and struggled to stand upright. One of the band of men gave his robe to cover her and Terence wrapped her carefully before giving her over to her father, who cradled her in his arms.
Balcour used this slight pause to regain his senses, turning to face Terence. “How dare you! When my men arrive your sorry little group of crusaders will be taught your place! You’ll beg me to allow you to die!” Each word dripped with venom and hatred.
As the others watched, Terence approached Balcour and placed the tip of his dagger just under the Lord’s chin. “Your men are not going to arrive, my lord! Save a handful, who meet their fate as we speak, your men no longer support your vile and criminal reign. It was they, on learning of our purpose, who allowed us free passage into your castle. Your time is through, Balcour, a hangman’s noose is your fate, you inhuman bastard! But first I think you should taste some of the pain you so freely dispensed in this very chamber!”
Lord Balcour’s face bleached white as the realization of what Terence had told him sank in. That they were here before him with a knife at this throat told him their story was true. Seeing no way out, Balcour plunged himself forward onto Terence’s dagger blade, sinking the cold steel deep into his neck. Terence released the dagger in shock and watched as Balcour collapsed to his knees, a cascade of deep red blood pouring down the front of this robes. An odd smile crossed his face as his life ebbed, and the last thing he saw as his vision began to darken was Samantha, safe in her father’s arms, staring at him with a look of contempt in her deep, beautiful brown eyes.
Five months later, early spring. A bright, cheerful sun shines down on the village of Upfordshire as laughing children play in the wildflowers. In the surrounding fields, the rich dirt is tinged with green as early crops begin poking their sprouts towards the sky. The succulent aromas of a feast permeate the air, the wedding feast of Terence and Samantha, who is now fully healed of her wounds and more lovely than even before. The king, unaware of the abuses perpetrated upon the county by Lord Balcour, has by royal decree appointed Terence as new Lord for his bravery not only in rescuing fair Samantha, but also for leading the revolt against the evil Balcour. Finally the people of Upfordshire could look forward to being governed with fairness and honesty under the rule of Lord Terence and Lady Samantha.