Coralline stood at her bedroom window, looking out onto her small sleepy kingdom,
watching as the darkness slowly faded. Her hands were clasped loosely behind her as she watched the baker haul a load of kindling into his shop, stoking a fire that had surely been burning for an hour already… as she watched the midwife making her way back home after a midnight delivery… as she watched Lou sneak back to her own quarters. Cory sighed. That was the third time this week she’d noticed the girl creeping back to the barracks. No doubt she’d snuck off to see Alice. When Lou wasn’t training, she could always be found there, or waiting around the school where Alice taught for class to be dismissed so she could persuade the young teacher to walk with her off into the woods, usually with promises of poetry and music and other such sweet nothings.
Cory sighed again. She would have to address this today. She hadn’t said anything the first time, not wanting to spoil their fun. The day after the second time, though, Lou had nearly hacked off her own arm during training because she was careless in her sleep-deprived state. Coralline had been observing her guards and witnessed the whole thing. She generally left the discipline of the guard to her lieutenants, but she had a special place in her heart for Lou and decided to see to her chastisement herself. She’d only given her a stern warning, though, with threats of worse to follow if it should happen again. Apparently, the threats hadn’t been enough.
The sun was fully risen by the time Coralline finished her contemplation. She dressed in a long gown, simple and elegant and unobtrusive; her typical garb. She bid good morning to the cooks as she walked through the kitchen, pocketing an apple for breakfast before making her way out of the humble castle and toward the training grounds, where she greeted Lt. Robert and the other officers in their temporary office, a large tent at the end of a huge field. Generally, her kingdom was a peaceful one. But lately there had been rumblings of an ogre hoard from the east, so she had gathered her soldiers, along with troops from the neighboring two kingdoms, and had them preparing for a possible attack.
They had been strictly regimented for almost three months now, and she knew that some of her younger soldiers were becoming restless. The older members knew how to stay sharp, to keep preparing, to be patient. Lou wasn’t the only one becoming careless about her orders of staying alert and keeping to her own chambers when she had duty the next day. Cory pursed her lips, her face grim as she watched her beloved women and men, those with whom she trusted the safety of her kingdom, assemble. She did not like war. She did not relish battle. She didn’t plan to lose a single one of them to something so foul as an ogre hoard, and certainly not because of their own carelessness.
And so, instead of discreetly requesting that Lou be sent to see her, she waited and watched, giving only a quiet word to Robert about her intentions. A look of irritation had crossed his face at the mention of Lou’s continued insubordination, but it passed quickly. He knew that if the queen felt called to punish the girl herself, it would be the last time Lou showed up with bags under her eyes, nodding off during the strategy talks that ended their days. His queen had a very… hands-on approach to dealing with wayward subjects. He shifted slightly, trying to ignore the memory of his own experience with her displeasure. No, Lou was not going to be a problem, though she may have to stand through their next strategy talk.
Lou herself was so unaware that she hadn’t even noticed the queen’s presence on the field, but she heard twitters from some of her comrades and she perked up immediately. A faint blush rose to her cheeks as she remembered the scolding she gotten earlier this week. Surely her absence from her own bed hadn’t been noticed last night. She knew her bunkmates wouldn’t squeal, and though Alice would gently chide her for showing
up on her doorstep, she would never turn her in. Coralline must be here for something else, she told herself. In fact, why she would assume the queen would be here for someone as lowly as herself was almost absurd. It had to be something else.
And yet… she couldn’t shake the feeling of the queen’s eyes watching her as she went through her routine morning drills. She started sneaking glances across the field, which caused her to flub a simple parry against her partner. She tried to keep herself focused after that, but couldn’t help stealing another glance when she had the opportunity. The queen’s face seemed even sterner than before, which Lou hadn’t thought possible, and there was no doubting this time that every bit of that regal attention was, in fact focused on her. Butterflies erupted in her stomach at the thought. She had had the queen’s full attention before, rather more often than she liked to think about, in fact. Lost yet again in her own thoughts, Lou came to just in time to dodge her partner’s blade again, caching his quizzical look at her fumbling this morning. She blushed, and he followed her gaze to where the queen sat watching. A blush crept up his own cheek as he realized he, too, was being watched, if only because of his proximity to Lou. At least he had been doing well. He straightened up as the queen stood, obeying with his comrades the shout from one of the corporals to assemble.
Coralline looked out at the perfectly formed rows of soldiers, forgetting her displeasure for a moment to take pride in her people, in their willingness to protect and serve her. Her heart swelled, then her expression tightened. And it was her job to protect them, as much as she could. As Lieutenant Claire gave the command, every one of the women and men before her dropped to one knee, head bowed, weapons set aside. She didn’t often require the more formal customs her station afforded her, but her people were still dutifully trained and willing to offer them when required. She generally liked to be among them, not above them, but today she drew on the power of her position as queen. She used the training she herself had endured, having been groomed for her role from the time she was very small, and projected her voice clearly and sternly across the ranks. “Louise Bordel.”
Lou’s stomach dropped, as if filled with rocks, and it took every ounce of self-control for her to rise in answer to the queen’s call. She stood near the back of the lines of kneeling soldiers, now singled out as she towered above them, feeling very much on display. Coralline did not expand her command, leaving nothing but Lou’s full name to hang in the air as she crooked a finger at the young girl. Lou swallowed, feeling clumsy as she broke rank and made her way up front, feeling the heat from her face and knowing her usually fair skin was a bright shade of red now. When she neared the queen, she dropped back to one knee, keeping her eyes focused on the ground, thankful that she could use the sign of deference to avoid looking at Coralline’s face. Moments later, though, the queen’s shoes appeared before her, and the next thing she knew, her face was being pulled upward rather painfully by her ear. She was now very much face to face with the queen’s disapproving eyes, as Coralline bent forward and said quietly “you will spend the morning with me, little girl.” With that, Coralline turned and began walking toward her horses and cart, not looking back to see if Lou followed.
She did, of course. She even resisted the urge to drag her feet, knowing that the entire company was watching her. She walked with her back straight and her head up, a slow rebelliousness creeping into her stance as she warily eyed the queen’s retreating back. Maybe she shouldn’t have snuck out, but Coralline didn’t have to call her out like that in front of everyone. By the time she reached the cart, her emotions had shifted dramatically from embarrassed and subdued to outright defiant. Of course, she would never have let that show before, but the closer she got to Coralline, the less she thought of her as the queen and the more she remembered that they had been playmates as children, growing up running around the kingdom, in trouble together as often as not. Though Cory had started taking Lou in hand long before she’d assumed her official title. She had outgrown their mischief making much earlier than Lou, not only because she was a few years older, but because her station demanded it. And, if Lou was being completely honest, because perhaps Lou needed someone to do so and no one else was quite up to the task.
Lou set her jaw, pushing those thoughts out of her head as she climbed into the cart, plopping down next to Coralline, who sat straight with the reigns already in her hands. Of course, Cory had a driver and a beautiful carriage when she wanted them, but she preferred to command her own pair of horses and steer her own buggy. She looked down at the younger woman, her eyebrow raises as she noted the amazing pout that had formed. She smiled grimly. So that’s how it was going to be, she thought, as she snapped the reigns smartly and they began the short trip to the castle.
They arrived at the back entrance, where servants quickly took the horses as Coralline and Lou made their way inside, Lou’s blush renewing itself as they passed the various staff members, even though she tried to look nonplussed about following the queen up to her chambers. She knew that the queen didn’t hesitate to discipline anyone in the kingdom as she saw fit, but not all of them were brought to the queen’s bedroom. Lucky me, she thought unenthusiastically. She heard Cory shut the door behind her as she was ushered into the room, where Lou crossed her arms across her chest and tried to ignore the heavy stone feeling in her stomach as it re-emerged. Coralline walked over to her wardrobe, and despite her bravado, Lou couldn’t help biting her lip as the queen pulled out a thin leather strap, testing it once against her own palm before shutting the wardrobe and walking back toward the bed. She lay the strap down on the large oak chest that sat the at the food of the bed, then turned to look at the blushing young woman before her, placing her own hands on her hips as she gave the girl her full attention. “Look at me.”
Lou’s mouth tightened and her eyes narrowed as she continued to concentrate intently on the floor by the window. “Louise,” Cory snapped, and Lou’s eyes snapped involuntarily up to meet Cory’s eyes. She hated her first name and had gotten into endless scraps as a child over it, until everyone knew to call her Lou or not to call her at all. But it had been drilled into her from an early age that when her full name was used… especially in that tone… especially by Coralline… she obeyed.
“I believe we talked rather extensively a few days ago about this business of you sneaking out when you have to report for training the following morning.” Coralline’s face was hard, and Lou couldn’t help but shrink a bit as she noted how very powerful… how queenly… she looked at this moment. She forced herself to nod her head once, quickly. “Remove your weapons and come here.”
Lou hesitated only a second before unbuckling her belt and sword, laying them gently on a table by the wall, and stepping over to the chest. Coralline pointed, and Lou stiffly bent down, feeling strangely comforted by the formality of this session. The strap disappeared from her vision as the queen snatched it up, and she felt it being tested across the fullest part of her backside, a few gentle taps, and then the simultaneous echoing snap of it landing and a blaze of pain across her bottom. It was followed quickly by a second, and a third, with almost no hesitation. She fought to keep her feet still, but it took almost all of her concentration. Thankfully, the strapping was over almost as quickly as it started. She had counted a dozen swats, and she could feel the heat under her thin breaches and tunic.
“Stand up,” she heard, and she obeyed, resisting the urge to reach back and rub the sting from her bottom. Coralline reached out and grabbed Lou’s chin, looking her very sternly in the face as she said, “You have a duty to me as your queen, and to the people you have promised to protect, and I will not have you risking your safety or ours. Is that clear, Private Louise Bordel?”
Lou shifted stiffly on her feet. “It’s clear, your highness.” Coralline gave a curt nod and released the girl’s chin. “Good.” Lou watched as Cory shed her royal mannerisms like one might shed a winter’s coat, all the formality falling away as her arms once again came to rest on her hips. Instead of feeling comforted, though, Lou felt the butterflies in her stomach erupt with double the force. If she thought Coralline the queen was intimidating, it was nothing on how she felt about Coralline her friend. As she realized that this punishment was not as over as she had hoped, some leftover sense of self-preservation kicked in and she took a step backwards, hands in front of her as she heard the words tumbling out of her mouth, “Wait, Cory, that was enough!” Coralline didn’t pause, though, grabbing Lou’s arm as she sat down on the chest, pulling the little solider across her lap and securing her there with an arm around her waist.
“Surely your memory is not so short as this, little one,” she scolded as she adjusted Lou across her lap. “When have you ever disobeyed me and not received a good spanking for it?” Lou buried her face in her arms as she felt her breaches being whisked down with her underwear. “But you strapped me already!” she wailed. Cory couldn’t help but smile at Lou’s muffled voice as she surveyed the bare pink bottom in front of her. She ran her hand lightly across the warm skin, surveying the damage and finding herself satisfied with her earlier work. She pulled Lou in closer to her body with her left arm, making sure she had a firm grip on the girl before raising her right hand and bringing it solidly down. “I gave you the strapping that you should have had several days ago, Lou,” she said as she continued to spank her friend. “The strapping Lt. Robert was more than eager to give you, as a matter of fact.” She increased her swats at that, showing her displeasure at having saved Lou earlier and having that trust violated. “I promised him that if it happened again, I would personally deal with his naughty soldier. And I am doing just that!”
Lou’s legs kicked wildly at the onslaught of swats on her already sore backside, looking every bit as undignified as she felt, her feet now a tangle of shoes and breeches. She grasped the railing of the bed, holding on tightly to keep from reaching her hand back. She couldn’t help the gasps and yelps that escaped her lips as Cory continued to spank and scold. “Do you think that I make rules just because I can, Lou? Or do you think that perhaps I make them because I am trying to keep you safe? Is there anything safe about swinging a deadly weapon around when your eyes are half closed because you couldn’t keep to your own bed, young lady?” Cory increased the strength and speed of her swats, concentrating on Lou’s sit-spots and the tops of her thighs. “You will be in your own bed tonight, and sleeping on your stomach!”
“Yes ma’am, yes ma’am, yes ma’am,” Lou heard herself say, her wiggling desperate as she tried to escape Cory’s punishing hand. There was a pause and she felt herself being pushed forward, and suddenly her legs were trapped between the queen’s. She felt Cory shift beneath her, and peeked up to see her reaching for something on the bed. Lou flung her hands back instinctually, rightly not trusting whatever Cory had grabbed. “Move it, little girl,” she heard above her as she felt the cool wood of Coralline’s wooden brush tap her palm. “Pleeease, Cory, I won’t do it again, not until the battle is over, I promise,” she begged, but as always it fell on deaf ears.
“One,” she heard.
“Please!!” Lou yelled, desperate, but only heard a firm “Two” in reply. With a groan, she moved her hand forward, knowing better than to let Cory get to three, and a split second later, the brush was bouncing off her now red bottom, just has fast as Cory’s hand had been spanking moments ago. Lou screeched and flailed wildly, but she’d been in the position so many times over the course of their friendship that it didn’t seem to faze Coralline in the least. She didn’t scold now, just concentrated on making sure every inch of the naughty girl’s bottom was a deep scarlet. Coralline felt rather than heard the last of the defiance leaving Lou, felt the shift in the girl’s muscles and in the grasp Lou had now of her ankle, holding on for dear life. Satisfied that she had made her point, Coralline slowed and then stopped, setting the brush aside and resting her hand on the very hot backside across her lap. “Are we finished her, Lou?”
“Yes ma’am,” Lou choked out, and relief washed over her as she felt herself being tugged up to sit in the queen’s lap. She flung her arms around her neck, burying her face there as Cory’s arms wrapped around her, rocking them both back and forth gently. Cory rubbed her back and held her for a minute before she began talking, her voice much gentler now. “Soon this battle will be over, and things will return to normal, and these extra rules will become a distant memory, love. But they are in place for a reason, and I don’t think any of us, and Alice at the top of that list, want to see you hurt because you didn’t listen.” Lou nodded wordlessly, reaching her hand back to rub her throbbing bottom. “If it happens again,” and Lou stiffened because she heard the hardness creeping back into Cory’s voice, “I will let your lieutenants deal with you as they see fit in addition to the spanking you will get from me. Is that clear?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Lou practically whispered. Coralline kissed Lou’s forehead before gently guiding her up. Lou stood there in her long tunic, barely embarrassed as Cory pulled her
underwear up and then helped her to step out of her shoes and pants. Exhaustion was indeed catching up with her, and she was thankful when Cory tugged her over to the edge of the bed and bid her climb in. “I’ll wake you at dinner, little one,” but Lou barely heard her.
She was already falling fast asleep.