This follows The Clearing.
Phillipa shut her eyes as her governess secured her wrists around the smooth bark of a maple tree. Helena used the same blue handkerchief the princess had picked out so carefully weeks ago. She opened her eyes again and stared into the wood, vaguely aware of Abraham’s blurry figure in her periphery.
Her cheek was pressed against the trunk and her feet planted in the soil. Helena and the girl– Camilla, of course, Phillipa knew her name but just never had occasion to use it– had tied up her skirts and spread her pantaloons as well. The princess could feel any minor disturbance in the clearing’s air on her swollen and exposed bottom. Her heart thumped in her chest, fear driving its rhythm. She had nothing to offer any of them: she had tried. What had become clear to her was that they had the upper hand, and what they wanted now was retribution.
Suddenly Helena was in her line of sight again, reaching over to run a quick finger across Phillipa’s wet and muddied cheek. She looked into the older woman’s eyes and saw pity along with affection. “I don’t feel a bit sorry for the hiding you’re about to receive, nor the one I just gave you, Princess. I am sorry it has taken so long for me to take you in hand. You’ll be better for this, but first… first you have to get through it.”
Fresh tears welled in Phillipa’s eyes as her governess walked away. She wasn’t sure why, or if she believed the woman entirely, but she was starting to understand her. And more than any emotional toll, she knew things were about to become very painful. Abraham didn’t give her a warning before the first lick of his heavy strap landed. Phillipa was too shocked to make any noise at first, and so there was only the steady thwap of leather against skin. Then her lungs released the breath they’d held captive and the princess screamed into the forest.
The strap fell regardless, over and over again on the round curve of her royal bottom, making her jump and wiggle and twist against the sturdy tree trunk. She’d turned her noise to begging, every bit of oxygen spent on “Please, pleeeeassee, I beseech you,” and “I swear I shall be good, on my honor, on my honor!” Still, Abraham continued until her sobs overtook her pleas. Then he stopped, as abruptly as he’d begun, and she relaxed muscles she didn’t even realize she had been clenching. The silence felt heavy in the absence of the strap, but she couldn’t contain her crying. After a moment, Helena came to her again, loosing her wrists and using the handkerchief to clean the princess’s face. Phillipa reached behind her, moaning as her fingers touched the hot skin of her bottom.
That morning, she would not have been able to describe anything more mortifying than having her naked backside exposed to a group of peasants. Now, she could barely fathom the thin cloth of her undergarments touching her bruised skin. It occurred to her suddenly that they must ride horses back to the castle, and fresh tears coursed down her face. The blue cloth was instantly dabbing at her cheeks again, but behind the gentle touch came a firm voice. “Compose yourself, little girl. And make your apologies.”
Phillipa took a deep breath and turned to see Abraham and Camilla standing together, looking at her. She filled her lungs again slowly, and then said in a shaky voice, “My humblest apologies for the pain I have caused you both, and especially you, Camilla.” Despite her best efforts, tears pricked her eyes again. Phillipa would have reached for the other woman’s hand if they had stood closer, though she doubted the whipping girl wanted any touch from her. Still, she felt genuine remorse coursing through her and she looked solemnly into the other woman’s face. “I am so sorry,” she finished.
Camilla nodded, accepting the apology. Abraham made no indication that he had even heard the princess speak, except to kiss the top of his wife’s head. “We will see you in the princess’s chambers tomorrow, Camilla,” the governess said from behind Phillipa. The woman’s hand came to rest on the princess’s shoulder. Camilla nodded again, then turned with her husband, and they left down the same faint trail by which they’d come.
“Let’s get you righted, Princess. We still have quite a bit of day left, and we need you to look presentable.” Phillipa nodded numbly, following the guiding touches of her caretaker as she tied ribbons and buttoned buttons, covering the girl’s well-spanked bottom and turning her back into a seemingly dignified child of the monarch. She felt small and docile, hesitating only when Helena bade her mount her horse.
The governess produced a thick blanket from her saddlebag, and Phillipa blushed anew at the idea of someone preparing for her current state. The blanket could not have done much to ease the ride, but the thought was enough to propel the princess upward and into the saddle. The path back was long and painful, but Phillipa did survive. She glared at the staff as if nothing had transpired, playing the part of the haughty young royal as always. And if a few of the stable boys noticed that her eyes were a bit puffy, her gait a bit stiff, and her tongue a bit softer?
None of them said a word.