Category Archives: Coralline’s Kingdom

The Jester

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Beth snickered to herself as she donned her brightly colored hat, pinning it securely to her wavy brown hair.  The usually jolly bells that hung from three pronged hat had been silenced with wads of cotton.  For once she needed stealth on her side, not attention.  She gave her head a vigorous nod, pleased at the silence that followed.  She glanced in the mirror, checking that her costume was in place, before stuffing three red juggling balls into the long side pocked of her baggy pants and grabbing her mandolin from its shelf.

She paused at her bedroom door and took a few deep breaths.  A voice in the back of her head screamed at her to stop now, turn around, enjoy having the night off.  A louder, more belligerent voice forced her to open the door and step into the hallway. “Unnecessary,” the voice grumbled. “Too serious.”  I’ll show her too serious.  And really, she thought, wasn’t that the point of a court jester? So that things didn’t get too serious?

Of course, the underlying reasons for Beth’s insistence had nothing to do with the dignity of her position.  She wanted to see the three visiting heads of state.  It was rare for so many monarchs to be together, and they would only be there for the evening.  While King George had arrived several days before and would be visiting for almost a fortnight, Queens Isobel and Marion were both en route to other places, stopping as a courtesy and a gesture of thanks to Queen Coraline for the recent defeat of an ogre horde that had been terrorizing them all.  Beth had seen the arrival of the Queens earlier that day, had witnessed with the rest of the crowd the formal greetings on the palace steps from George and Coraline, but she wanted to be up close to them, to perform for them!  How could Cory deny her this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?!

She couldn’t.  At least, that’s what Beth had convinced herself, even after being given a very firm “no” by the queen earlier.  Her bottom tingled a little as she thought about the outright defiance she was about to commit.  She shrugged it off.  She would deal with the consequences later. For now, she had a show to put on.

She slipped down the hall toward the kitchen, avoiding contact with anyone as long as she possibly could.  No doubt the cook or even the head of the waitstaff would send her straight back to her room, and then she’d still end up in trouble but with nothing to show for it.  She stood by the closest kitchen entrance, observing people walk through the short hallway leading to the smaller dining hall.  She watched a parade of well-dressed servers walk past carrying small plates of beautiful julienne peppers and other colorful vegetables.  Beth took a deep breath- it was now or never!  With grace that belied her silly costume, she twirled the last of the servers around, snatching his plate and turning him antipodal before taking his place in line as they marched into the dining hall.

Beth pranced her way to the table, a giant grinned spread across her face.  The queen– her queen– had her back to the servers from her place at the head of the table in the smaller of the formal dining halls. To her right sat King George, and beside him, his wife Katherine. To her left, Queen Isobel, then Queen Marion, then Marion’s wife June.  The three women to the left were the first to spot her, smiles slowly spreading across their faces at the surprise entertainment.  George and Katherine saw her a moment later, though she noted a hint of confusion on the King’s face.  If she wasn’t good at her job, Beth would have scowled; he must have heard Cory’s conversation with her earlier.  Coraline was starting to turn, curious about the changing expressions on the faces of her company, just as Beth reached around with all the cheer she could muster and placed the Queen’s plate in front of her before backing away slowly with long graceful bows, slickly pulling her mandolin strap so the instrument slid around her torso from her back.

Coraline leveled a glare at her with eyes so stormy and dark that she almost faltered, but she couldn’t stop now.  In for a penny, she thought as she strummed the small instrument.  “And now,” she announced grandly, “I welcome to our humble land with a lesson on recent history!

“There once was an ogre hoard
Whose losses we could not afford
And so the queen said
We’ll kill them all dead!
Even ogres will fall to the sword.”

Beth took another bow with plenty of flourish as the monarchs applauded politely.  She heard the scraping of a chair against stone and she cut the bow short, standing quickly to see the queen rising up from her chair.  “That is quite enough, Elizabeth.”

“Name’s Patches, my queen, Patches Pitches! I’ll leave you in stitches!” Beth said nervously, trying to stay in character as she reached into her pockets for the juggling balls.  It wasn’t a great plan, but it was the only one she had- keep the show going.  She glanced nervously at the guests, who were starting to look confused (except for King George, who looked torn between amusement and sternness).  As the red balls soared upward, time seemed to slow and Beth had time to think about how funny it was to see such powerful people looking confused, and then Coraline’s voice cut through her thoughts. “One.”

She was so startled that she fumbled, catching a ball in her left hand while the other two rolled lazily toward the table, both bouncing softly against King George’s chair.  He picked them up, setting them gently on the table, before turning back to the scene unfolding before them.  Coraline snapped her fingers authoritatively before opening her palm expectantly.  Finally abashed, Beth walked forward and dropped the last red ball silently into her waiting hand.  “Elizabeth Adair, you have made some very poor choices tonight in your quest to have an audience.  It looks like you will get exactly that, though.”  The queen turned her attention to her guests as she continued, “Beth was disappointed to hear that her services would not be required tonight, as I wanted to keep this dinner fairly brief.  Now I must beg your apologies, as she has decided to act the fool and in doing so, acted rather foolishly.”

Beth felt her knees begin to shake involuntarily as she glanced at the table.  The heads of state all had stern expressions on their faces now (save Katherine, who look almost as petrified as she felt) and she quavered under so much scrutiny.  She couldn’t look up for more than a second, preferring instead to keep her head bowed and her eyes on the floor as Coraline continued.  “In doing so, she has not only embarrassed herself, but she has embarrassed me.  If you will excuse me, my dear queens and king, my friends, my guests, I will have to take some time now to indulge this need of hers.  Please feel free to enjoy dinner as best you can; this won’t take too long.”

And with that, she pulled her chair back, just a few feet away from a table full of the most powerful people in several kingdoms, and took a seat.  She looked expectantly at Beth, who stared back, wide-eyed, and whispered “please,” having just enough sense to keep from pleading “Cory” in front of the other royalty.  Her eyes were two brown marbles, large and pitiful as she realized that she was about to be dealt with right there in the dining hall.  She had known there would be consequences, even severe ones, but she’d been unable to keep herself from this destructive plan once she’d gotten it in her head.  She never dreamed that she’d be spanked in front of everyone, though.  It was her nightmare.

Coraline looked at her expectantly.  Beth swallowed hard, willing herself to take the few steps necessary to be right by the queen’s side.  It was no longer defiance that caused her to hesitate, but outright dread.  Still, she knew what was expected of her.  Slowly she made her way to the queen’s side, taking off her mandolin as she did so and holding it out.  Queen Coraline took it with a nod, handing it to Queen Isobel to put on the table, before reaching up to grab Beth’s wrist and tip her unceremoniously across her royal lap.  Beth was actually grateful to be in the position, at least for a moment as the queen adjusted her.  Anything was better than staring into all those disapproving eyes.  Then she felt her baggy jester’s pants being tugged open, right down the split that was supposed to come apart at very specific times in her act.  Her underwear were tugged down immediately afterward, and suddenly her bottom was as cool as her face was hot, and things were so much worse.

And then Cory’s hand started falling on her bottom, loud clear smacks that stung and made Beth wiggle immediately.  Usually the queen lectured when she doled out discipline, but she must have assumed Beth knew exactly why this was happening because she let her hand do all the talking.  Beth was starting to let out little squeaks when she noticed the feet of a server walking passed her head.  She reached up and grabbed the metal bells of her hat, tugging them, mortified– the kitchen staff was seeing her get a bare bottom spanking while they served dinner to a table full of monarchs!  Big tears started to form in her eyes, slowly rolling down her cheeks and dripping onto the stone floor, and her cries became more frantic.  Coraline paused, and Elizabeth felt a shift below her as the queen reached for something.  The next second, Beth felt the hard snap of thick leather across her sore backside, a feeling she wished wasn’t so easy to identify.  She frantically wondered where the queen might have gotten the implement.  With a gasp, she saw Isobel lay the mandolin down gently on the floor by her chair– she had undone the strap! Beth barely had time to be indignant about being spanked with her own mandolin strap, she was so busy concentrating on the grip on her hat and trying not to kick too much.  Kicking only made it worse with Queen Coraline, particularly if there was an audience.  She liked to show off how obedient her subjects were to her, how willingly obedient, and so Beth was making every effort possible to be still and quiet.  She was managing not to outright yell, at least.

And she knew she had broken this cardinal rule, that she had embarrassed Cory, which would make this punishment worse than any she’d had in the recent past.  Because of this, Beth didn’t beg her to stop, though soon her tears were intermingled with “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry ma’am” and “I’ll never be so disrespectful again, not ever.”  Eventually, the queen did stop, through abruptly, without any of the slowing down or gentle touches that usually signified the end of a spanking.

Beth did so quickly, bringing her hands to her head without being told, though she wanted to rub her throbbing bottom and knew her face was streaked with tears.  Coraline stood, grabbing a napkin from the table and using it to wipe Beth’s face.  Next she grabbed the small red ball she’d set down earlier in her right hand, then took Elizabeth’s arm with her right, marching her to the corner of the room.  She placed the ball in the corner, holding it in place with two fingers and looking expectantly at the girl before her, no trace of sympathy in her expression.  With a shuddering breath, Beth moved forward and pressed her forehead against the ball, securing her place in the corner.  She felt the queen grab the sides of her split pants again, jerking them apart, and then Beth’s hands were being placed by her sides and wads of cloth shoved in her hands.  “Keep them just like this,” came a clipped order, and then the queen was gone.

Beth cried silently as she sat in the corner, her bottom feeling twice its usual size, feeling the cool breeze of the occasional wait staff passing her by and listening to the chatter at the table.  Maybe it was awkward for them, but it didn’t seem to be.  Beth could hardly pay attention, though.  Her bottom hurt from the spanking and her face hurt from crying, and she sat in the corner feeling deeply embarrassed and ashamed of her actions that night.  She wasn’t sure how long she stood there, but she was as still as she could manage.  She was there through the entire dinner, and just barely stopped herself from letting out an audible sigh of relief when she heard chairs scraping the floor, signifying the end of the meal.

She listened as the queen bid the others goodnight, sounding as gracious and delightful as she always did, as if she hadn’t taken her naughty fool across her lap an hour ago and spanked her bare bottomed at the supper table.  Finally, Beth felt a hand on her back and she turned, practically flinging herself into the queen’s arms.  Tears that had dried up long ago suddenly appeared again as the girl began to sob harder than she had even during her spanking. “I’m so sorry, Cory.  I didn’t mean to.  I shouldn’t have.  I’m sorry.”  She heard gentle shushing noises as Coraline guided her up the stairs to the royal bedchamber.  Cory hushed her with a kiss on the forehead, and a gentle “It’s okay, Beth.  You’re forgiven.  It’s over now.”  Beth nodded her acknowledgement as her queen, her mentor, and her friend gently undid the buttons and snaps on the jester’s costume, guiding the girl as she undressed her, then pulled one of her own soft night gowns over the girl’s head.  She took another cloth, a cool one that must have been laid out for Cory’s own night time ritual, and dabbed Beth’s face until it was dry and her eyes felt less puffy.  Then she put the girl to bed, lying beside her and rubbing gentle circles on Elizabeth’s back.  Despite her aching bottom, Beth felt very content, and the rebellious feeling she had been battling for days was completely put to rest.

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The Ogres

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Coraline took a deep breath. And another. And a third. She counted 207 breaths before she felt calm enough to call Louise out of the corner. To Lou’s credit, she had been perfectly still the entire time, almost 20 minutes with her nose pressed firmly against the tent walls and her bottom surely stinging from several hard swats from the walk earlier. Of course, Lou hadn’t seen Coraline this mad in a very long time, if ever, and some usually dormant sense of self-preservation had kicked in.

When the call came, she turned, slowly, still not entirely sure if she wanted to leave the corner. She took a few faltering steps forward, though, swallowing her regret as she thought about how promising the day had started…

~~~

Louise and her fellow soldiers had been preparing for battle for months now. Endless days of training, first in the bitter cold of winter’s end, and more recently in the sticky wet heat of summer. This morning, they had finally gotten orders to move out. The ogre horde had been spotted. It wasn’t a rumor anymore, but a confirmed sighting of close to a dozen tall and floundering beasts making their way up the countryside.

Lou had been itching for action. She felt like she could perform the various drills they had been practicing in her sleep, which she
begrudgingly acknowledged was the point. Now she found herself marching steadily with her compatriots towards the caves several miles away, where they hoped the horde was holed up, lazy and full from their recent pillaging of a neighboring kingdom. The livestock had been decimated, but the quick thinking leaders had been wise to send a messenger at the beginning of the attack. There was a short period of time, 48 hours at most, when the creatures were lethargic as their bulging stomachs worked to digest their recent feasts. Queen Coraline had consulted with her cabinet in the sluggish light of the evening sun, and the night was spent plotting. It was half day’s march, and if they moved fast, they could catch the ogres while they sat with their gorged bellies, unaware and dopey. They marched before dawn the next morning.

Coraline road in the middle of the company, tall on her dark brown horse, her long hair in a thick braid, bouncing in time with the clopping of hooves. A few other leaders were on horseback, but the majority of the company, close to a hundred women and men, marched. Lou didn’t mind,though. She liked being on her feet, feeling the strength of her own legs propelling her steadily forward. She was near the front of the command, surrounded by the other members of her unit. They weren’t exactly quiet– if the ogres were sleeping, nothing would stir them, and if the ogres were awake, they’d retreat and reorganize. Ogres were mammoth creatures, brutally strong and lumbering, but aside from the occasional burst of speed, they weren’t particularly nimble. But aside from the clanking of shields and swords and the stomping of feet and hooves, there wasn’t much chatter. Coraline was keeping the pace brisk; even with the quick notice, it wasn’t guaranteed that they’d get there before the beasts roused themselves enough to begin searching for their next meal.

They were fighting either way. The rest of the small army, some two hundred other soldiers, were several miles behind them, preparing for the alternate plan, ready to fight should they see this smaller dispatch return.

~~~

Several hours later, a ripple went through the group as news was delivered from the scout. They creatures were sleeping just a mile ahead, in a copse of trees. They picked up the pace, and Lou watched the officers consulting with each other over the tops of their heads. The mission was simple. The orders were clear. The best ogres were to be killed quickly and efficiently, three soldiers to each leviathan, blows to be delivered through the rib cages and through the necks. Any sign of movement, retreat, regroup. No heroes. They had enough power not to take unnecessary risks.

Lou’s heart thumped hard in her chest as they crested the final hill and she caught site of the dozing giants. Their skin was mottled and brown, all of them lying naked against trees or each other, many of their knobby hands draped over their grotesque stomachs. Her heart beeped hard, but it beeped steadily, and when the command came, Louise Bordel was ready.

It was a quick and brutal, almost a slaughter. Two trolls had awakened at their swarm and were through digestion enough to fight back, a lumbering twelve foot tall female and a smaller, younger male, but they were quickly defeated. Others barely had time to swat with their over-sized hands before they were dispatched. Adrenaline poured through Lou’s body as she turned slowly around, gauging the bloody scene of the finished battle. Her sword remained up and ready, her muscled tense. She wanted more, needed something to do with the manic energy coursing through her body. That’s when she saw the troll charging down the side of the opposite hill, a gargantuan male with arms at a pendulum swing by his side. Lou’s feet almost moved of their own accord, and she began to charge the monster right back. Why he wasn’t with the rest of the horde, she didn’t know, but she would see to it that he would meet the same fate they had.

She heard the retreat command as it was hollered from a nearby officer, but she ignored it, listening instead to her muscles crying out, wanting to put to use all their latent skills. There was no use in retreating! This needed to taken care of, and then they could celebrate their victory tonight. Next came the muffled syllables of her name, but still she charged forward, closing the gap between her and the frenzied beast. Next came the beat of hooves, and she just had time to wonder who was coming to back her up before she felt her collar seized and her body jerked backward. Her training took over and she let herself fall into a crouch, turning quickly clockwise with her sword drawn. It smacked with a resounding clank into another sword, one pointed into the ground, unwavering as it blocked her apparently expected blow. Lou then looked up into the blazing eyes of Queen Coraline, standing there with her sword still vibrating and her hand still clutching Lou’s collar.

“Mount,” she ordered, and the adrenaline poured out of Lou like water out of a pitcher. She stumbled a bit as she stood, in part because of the small shake Cory gave her before letting go of her collar. As she sheathed her sword and mounted, she looked up into the face of the fast advancing ogre, now only a few dozen yards away. Now she could see that he towered over even the biggest of the felled trolls, at least 15 feet tall, and his muscles bulged under his oily green-gray skin. She had no idea how this one had been separated, but clearly he had and nothing indicated that he was in the tail end of a digestion phase. Just as she began to make out his cracked teeth in his gaping mouth, she felt Cory’s body against hers and the horse was turning, galloping away at breakneck speed.

Lou felt as small now as she had fearless just moments ago, riding like a child on the queen’s horse, the woman behind her with her arms reaching forward to hold the reigns. This was how mothers and fathers rode their children around. Lou saw rows of soldiers at the treeline, the best of the archers, all with their bows out and arrows drawn, and she pulled out of her embarrassment enough to realize that they hadn’t been shooting because she had been out in front, directly in their line of fire. She shrunk even further down, pressing her body against the horse, wishing she could disappear. She closed her eyes, but she heard the twinge and swish of arrows being let fly as soon as they crossed the line of defense. The pace of the horse slowed abruptly as they entered the copse and began navigating through the trees. They caught up with the rest of the company as the trees began to thin out. Lou saw several faces turn in her direction and then quickly away. Lieutenant Claire, on foot nearby, turned and began to walk toward them, her mouth set in a grim and angry line. “Dismount, Louise,” said Coraline tersely, the only words she’d uttered since commanding her to mount earlier.

Almost as soon as her feet hit the ground, Lou felt the iron grip of her lieutenant close around her arm and her backside was bombarded with hard, solid swats that made her yelp even through her clothing. She reached her free hand back but the officer avoided it with ease, spanking Lou’s thighs occasionally as they spun in a circle. Tears of both shock and pain filled Lou’s eyes at the onslaught, but it was over abruptly as she heard Coraline say above her head, “Lieutenant.”

That word held all the authority needed to make Claire stop spanking her wayward solider and turn to the queen, though she didn’t release Louise’s arm. “Take her to my tent,” Cory instructed, barely waiting for Lt. Claire’s sharp nod before turning away and heading back toward the battlefield. The relief Lou felt was followed immediately by dread as Lou watched her retreating queen. She hadn’t stopped Claire because she didn’t think the girl deserved it. In one short command, Louise heard everything the queen really meant. I understand you are angry, Lieutenant. But I am angrier, and I outrank you, so it is my displeasure she will feel on her backside when she tries to sleep tonight.

Claire released her arm as she delivered one final swat and barked “march.” And so she did. Cheeks ablaze and head down in shame, she marched toward camp.

~~~

When they had returned, Lou had been given a bucket of water and a change of clothes, for which she was grateful. She had examined the state of her backside discreetly as she bathed, noting several distinct red hand prints on her lower thighs from the lieutenant’s brief but hard spanking. Later she’d been given a small dinner, and other than that, she’d done nothing but pace inside the tent. It was bigger than the simple shelters the soldiers slept in, a place for meetings in addition being afforded with the queen’s station. Still, it only house a simple bedroll on one side and a small table with two chairs on the other. On the table sat the dark mahogany hairbrush with which Lou had had many encounters. Next to it was a thin riding crop that made her eyes widen. She’d never been spanked with a crop before. Usually the queen used one of her thick leather straps or heavy wooden paddles to make herself clear during the most serious of offenses. Louise thought of how absurd it would be for the queen to bring spanking implements to battle, though, so she must be making due. A hot blush rolled over her neck and face as she thought about how she was the reason the queen did need an implement.

~~~

Coraline had changed into a simple tunic and leggings, not unlike what Lou wore. She stood by one of the chairs, arms on her hips. When Lou was close enough, she reached out and grabbed the girl, pulling her the last few steps forward. Lou tensed, expecting the swats to start falling, but instead she found herself being hugged almost violently. Her arms automatically returned the embrace, and she found herself holding onto Cory as tightly as Cory was holding on to her. “You foolish, foolish girl,” the queen mumbled into her hair as they held onto each other. Despite her dread of the imminent spanking, Louise felt something loosen inside her chest. She realized some part of her feared the queen would be too disappointed to even punish her, that she had lost Cory’s love with her disobedience. She felt the warmth of her friend’s arms around her and knew that wasn’t the case. That didn’t stop her heart from jumping when the queen pushed her gently away a moment later, then settled down in one of the chairs. Lou reluctantly took the hand offered to her and let herself be tipped over Cory’s lap. She wasn’t surprised to feel her britches and underwear being pulled unceremoniously down to her knees. She wouldn’t get even a moment with their thin protection. She was just realizing that everyone in the camp was going to hear her getting her ass handed to her like an errant child when the queen’s hand found its target for the first time. Lou felt the breath leave her as swat after swat fell. She wiggled, trying to stay put and trying to stay silent, as the heat began to build. She wasn’t sure this even counted as a warm up, with Cory spanking so hard and so fast. Then the lecture started, which didn’t slow the spanking down at all– if anything, the swats were harder.

“What is the very first thing you learned when you signed up?” Cory demanded, peppering Lou’s thighs. “Obey orders, ma’am!” Louise squeaked out.

“Just the orders you want to follow?”

“All orders, ma’am!”

Just as Lou’s legs began to kick tiny little kicks, the swats stopped, only to begin again immediately. She shrieked as the brush made contact, and her legs pumped as she desperately tried to wiggle off the queen’s lap. She had tried so hard to be stolid, to take the spanking she knew she deserved, but the hard thwack of the brush on her already throbbing bottom was too much for Lou to take stoically. She kicked and pushed and tried to block, but nothing she did seem to affect the queen at all. She continued her line of questioning, making Lou answer and re-answer questions about who was in charge and who was not. She didn’t give the girl a chance for even a second to distract herself by counting strokes or disappearing into her mind. Louise felt every single smack, and by the time the queen was finished, tears were falling freely down onto the dirt floor. She lay there across Cory’s lap, her breathing hitched at she moaned quietly. She had kicked her pants and underthings away, but she felt sure her bottom was so swollen that she couldn’t fit into them anyway. Coraline pulled her up, but instead of pulling her in for a hug, Louise found herself kneeling on the chair the queen had just vacated.

“Please, Cory,” she heard herself beg as she saw the crop disappear from the table beside her, and she hated herself for saying it. Coraline walked around the chair, so they were face to face. She didn’t look sad or regretful, or any of the emotions Louise usually found in the queen’s face during a particularly harsh punishment. She saw nothing but grim determination as they made eye contact. “You will obey orders, Louise. You will obey my orders. Every last one of them.”

“I will, I promise,” Louise started to babble, but she was cut off abruptly as Caroline put a finger to her lips. “Prove it,” she said firmly before removing her hand and taking a step back. “Put your hands behind your head.” Lou hiccuped once, but obeyed. “Stick your bottom out.” Fresh tears rolled down the girl’s cheeks, but she bent forward, feeling the muscles of her abdomen tighten.

“Do. Not. Move.”

And then the queen was walking behind her again, and Lou heard the swish of the riding crop being tested, and then an eruption of new pain across her throbbing ass, enough to make her cry out, but she didn’t move her hands, didn’t unbend her body. She maintained the position through seven more blazing stripes, the last two laid across and below the crease of her bottom and thighs. And then it was over, and she was in Cory’s lap and Cory was hugging her, and she was blubbering apologies and nonsense and the queen was whispering comforting nonsense right back to her. She wasn’t sure how long she sat there, turned sideways against Cory like that, head nuzzled against the queen, but eventually she started to doze off, the day’s events and the harsh spanking zapping all of her energy. She was stood gently, her underwear tugged back on and up a moment later, and guided to the bedroll, gasping slightly when her bottom brushed the hard ground. A second bedroll was laid beside her own, and Coraline climbed into it, every bit as exhausted as the girl beside her. Louise fell asleep to the steady throb of her swollen backside and the queen’s fingers running through her short hair.

~~~

She awoke with a groan at dawn, the pain in her bottom every bit as fresh as it had been hours ago when she was climbing into bed. Coraline was already up, of course. The woman never slept. Louise got up gingerly, walking in the dim light of the rising sun toward the small table. There was a bowl of oatmeal and a roughly hewn mug full of strong black coffee there for her. She grimaced at the though of sitting, and decided to take her breakfast standing up. She let out a long, beleaguered sigh and peeked her head out of the tent. It was going to be a long march home.

The Sleepy Soldier

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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.