Pleasure’s Dragon excerpt

( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( O ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) )

 

Pleasure’s Dragon

 

( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( O ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) )

By Natasha Frizzell

 

Text Copyright © 2018

Natasha Frizzell

All Rights Reserved

 

Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Dedication

In loving memory of

Abby Sinlao Laresma

A fellow daughter of the King

Who entered the King’s true kingdom on May 31, 2018

You are missed, praying friend

See you there someday

Table of Contents

Text Copyright © 2018

Dedication

Table of Contents

[ 1 ] The Stranger

[ 2 ] Pleasure

[ 3 ] Back to Reality

[ 4 ] Home

[ 5 ] The Woods

[ 6 ] The Large Man

[ 7 ] The Convent

[ 8 ] The Head Sister

[ 9 ] The Library

[ 10 ] A New Life

[ 11 ] Caught

[ 12 ] The Tower

[ 13 ] The Dragon’s Lair

[ 14 ] The Mines

[ 15 ] The Other Village

[ 16 ] The Well

[ 17 ] The Prince

[ 18 ] The Executioner

[ 19 ] The Body

[ 20 ] The Adoption

[ 21 ] The Abduction

[ 22 ]  The Slave Camp

[ 23 ] On Sale

[ 24 ] A Different Inn

[ 25 ] Introductions

[ 26 ] Confession

[ 27 ] Papa

[ 28 ] Grave Digging

[ 29 ] Lessons Begin

[ 30 ] How Mama Met Papa

[ 31 ] Argument

[ 32 ] The Plea

[ 33 ] The Confrontation

[ 34 ] Fire

[ 35 ] Tunnels

[ 36 ] The Spring

[ 37 ] Which Way

[ 38 ] Avalanche

[ 39 ] Hospitality

[ 40 ] Reunion

Epilogue

 

I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, Psalm 78:2

[ 1 ]
The Stranger

BETSY WAS NOT just a servant. Worse, I’m afraid. She was, in reality, the servant of servants. Betsy was the servant that all the other servants bossed around.

It was not her looks. Betsy was a plain, pale, brown eyed, brown haired girl. She was not beautiful, but had no obvious defects to rally the bullies against her. No, it was not her looks that relegated her to a low position.

It was her outsider-ness.

All the other servants at Apfelgarten came from families that had served at Apfelgarten for generations. They passed down their talents from parent to child through rigorous training. They were born and bred believing their life’s work and happiness sprouted solely from service to Lord Ulrich and Lady Ingrid of Graufelsen, the master and mistress of Apfelgarten.

Betsy, however, had been dumped at Apfelgarten by her parents. They had told all the neighbors that she was there to save for her dowry. Betsy knew better.

Lady Ingrid loved the shoes Betsy’s father made. So after the third time Betsy got caught sneaking off to parties, Lady Ingrid swept in to offer Betsy a servant’s job, and, thereby, keep her out of trouble until her marriage to the butcher’s son could take place. The match had been made years before. The date was set for shortly after the son’s formal apprenticeship finished. It was a good match. Betsy could not deny it. But she felt that a little fun before her wifely duties commenced was surely in order. Her parents, however, did not.

As Betsy was Afpelgarten’s outsider, she served whichever servant happened to need her the most each day. Hence her role: servant of servants.

During harvest, when apples poured into the kitchen, she scrubbed and peeled and sliced them for Cook. When company was expected, she scrubbed and dusted and polished for the head maid. As the lord and his lady were entertaining their guests, she bounced babies and chased toddlers for the governess. At nearly fifteen years of age, the next year and two months of servanthood stretched before Betsy abominably long.

One unseasonably warm fall evening when she was finally released from her scrub board on washday, she did not wish to remain in the kitchen. Cook was sour because her apple tarts had not all been consumed at the parish picnic. So Betsy slipped her bread and cheese into the pockets of her white apron and settled herself on the little stone bench nestled midway down the lane.

After she had supped and the blue sky began to turn grey, Betsy stood to return to the mansion and found herself to be no longer alone. A figure, cloaked and hooded, appeared in Betsy’s path. The figure’s cloak was made of a black fabric which inexplicably shimmered purple.

“My child,” said the cloaked woman in a voice as soft as velvet, “you look so weary. Sit a spell with me.”

Betsy could think of nothing to say, but sat again and wondered who the woman could be. She did not remember a mention of any guests at Apfelgarten at present, but with 12 guest bedrooms, guests were likely. As the bench was quite small, the stranger sat close to Betsy. Then, she pulled a small glass bottle from her shimmery cloak which tinkled pleasantly as she moved. With her delicate fingers, the woman uncorked the bottle and held it before Betsy.

“This will revive you,” she said.

Now Betsy’s mother had warned her and her sister about the evils of strange people through various stories which usually ended with the children being eaten by monsters or banished to wastelands. So Betsy quickly stood and began to stammer an apology for not being able to accept her kind offer at this time.

The woman threw back her hood. Betsy beheld the woman’s silky-black curls, amethyst eyes, and her perfect pink lips. Her olive complexion looked quite exotic to Betsy. Almost every villager in the vicinity had the same pale skin that she did. Well, there was that one family. But they lived out of town, so perhaps they did not really count as villagers, did they?

The woman’s fine emerald gown with golden embroidery left no doubt that she must be rich and probably of noble stock. Maybe foreign nobility?

“It’s just a concoction of natural herbs and fruit extracts, my dear,” she said with a smile. She held up the glass bottle even closer to Betsy. “An old recipe passed on to me by my grandmother.”

Betsy thought surely such a lady meant well. Perhaps she should be polite. She gingerly took the bottle with a smile and a nod. She swallowed only a tiny sip, but instantly began to feel a peculiar rush of warmth and energy. Her hands wanted to clap, and her feet wanted to dance. Betsy laughed. But then she stopped herself and flushed with resentment for surely this lovely stranger was playing tricks on her. Such a cordial must have the devil in it somewhere! Betsy passed the glass bottle back to the stranger.

“Who are you?” Betsy blurted.

The stranger smiled and replaced her glass bottle somewhere in her flowing, shimmery cloak.

“I am a collector of ancient herbal remedies,” she said. “I can brew beauty and nightmare-free-sleep quite well. I’m presently at work on both fame and fortune. But pleasure is my specialty.”

Betsy felt stupid. Foreign royalty–not likely. The woman was a traveling salesperson.

“I haven’t the money to spend on such things,” Betsy said curtly. “I’m saving for my dowry, ma’am.”

The beautiful woman laughed so long and hard that Betsy began to feel that perhaps she had said something quite wrong.

“You think me a peddler then,” said the cloaked woman with a grin. “No, my dear. I need not earn my bread and butter. This is my hobby. Let’s see . . .”

The woman fumbled in the folds of her flowing cloak. “Do you have frequent nightmares?” she asked.

Betsy shook her head.

“I daresay you don’t need more beauty,” said the stranger. “How about pleasure then?”

The woman produced a tiny corked glass vial and held it up to Betsy.

“Now I cannot make any promises as to how long the pleasure will last,” she said. “For some it’s only hours, for some days, and some weeks. But however long it lasts, I can assure you a lovely time.”

Betsy was only half listening. Her ears had somehow gotten stuck. This high class lady had remarked that she, herself, the servant of servants, did not need more beauty. How delicious to think of herself as beautiful! She found herself accepting the vial.

“Now hurry home, my dear,” said the stranger. “It’s growing quite dark.”

Betsy turned toward the mansion and saw that indeed the sun had slipped away behind it. She turned around to bid the stranger adieu, but discovered the lady had disappeared. How odd. She must have slipped into the trees.

Finally free to give in to the effects of the cordial, Betsy skipped and sang all the way back to Apfelgarten. She was glad for the moonlight which lit her way. She burst into the kitchen door.

“Where have you been, lass?” demanded Cook. “Poor John’s been all over the grounds for you. Miss Evaline has been invited to a ball at the count’s! He has an eligible son, you know. She must have the finest dress, of course. The seamstress needs you right away!”

When the cordial began to wear off a few hours later, Betsy had to fight the weariness of the day to concentrate on the demands of the seamstress. Granted, the seamstress could not be totally faulted for her foul mood.

The Lady Ingrid had threatened sacking if this dress failed to transform the rather squinty-eyed, square-jawed Miss Evaline into a beauty desirable enough the catch the eye of the count’s son. The seamstress, with Betsy as her helper, now had only the next 20 hours to accomplish this tremendous task.

The seamstress muttered that Miss Evaline had best visit the village wishing well. Rumor whispered that any wish spoken into the well would be answered by the King himself. But Miss Evaline dissolved into fits of giggles, and the lady of the house took offense, so the matter was dropped.

All through the night, the next morning, and well into the afternoon, Betsy measured, pinned, cut, held, and stitched while receiving many a berating for slight imperfections. Nevertheless, Miss Evaline and her dress finally clambered into the carriage and set off to besiege the count’s son.

Cook did allow Betsy a lovely chicken pie. It would have been delicious had Betsy not gulped down the entire delicacy in four bites. She then fled to her small bed in the servants’ quarters. Although she had been longing for this very moment for hours upon hours, now she found her over-tired limbs too stiff and sore for comfort and the light too invasive to permit sleep.

After tossing and turning many times, she remembered the glass vial in her dress pocket. Oh! She had flung the dress over the end of the bed without caution. What if the vial had shattered and leaked all over her sole servant’s dress? It was a nice, light blue dress with a white apron, and Betsy did not wish it to be stained.

Betsy sprang from the bed, searched the worn fabric for the pocket, and at last recovered the vial—whole and unbroken. She dropped her dress at her feet.

Now what had that beautiful woman said about the vial? Pleasure for a few hours or so. Well, was not this the perfect occasion to allow herself a little something special? Her fingers hesitated momentarily on the cork, and then popped it open. Just for a smell, of course. A delightful fragrance of summer strawberries and cream tickled Betsy’s senses. Surely, just this once, one little drink would be all right.

Quick as a drink, the deed was done. Only moments passed before strange things began to occur. A peculiar spinning sensation, slow at first, but gaining in momentum, wrenched Betsy’s stomach and threw her to the ground. Whirling ever faster, Betsy could no longer distinguish the wood walls of her tiny bedroom. Flamboyant colors and sparkles of light flashed past her with terrifying speed. Overcome with fright, Betsy screamed and clutched in vain for an anchor. Finding none, she fainted.

 

“I said in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.’ But behold, this also was vanity.” Ecclesiastes 2:1

[ 2 ]
Pleasure

WHEN CONSCIOUSNESS DAWNED, Betsy felt the silkiest sheets kissing her skin and the fluffiest down pillows snuggling her body. She almost opened her eyes, but, fearing that the dream would vanish, quickly clenched them closed again. She enjoyed the gentle breeze, the lullaby swaying sensation, and the peaceful plucks of harp string. Harps!?!

Curiosity overcame her. Betsy opened her eyes to find herself in a luxurious bed of sorts swaying gently amidst the trees. Leafy clad wood nymphs appeared in the tree branches.

One asked Betsy, “Fair Lady, do you desire to arise?”

Well, of course not! Here she was. This was it. Pleasure. Betsy basked in the delight of doing precisely nothing until her tummy rumbled. She sat up, and the wood nymphs immediately inquired after her needs. Betsy confessed to feeling a bit peckish. Her leafy bower lowered through the roof of a modest stone cottage which Betsy found to contain a dressing room.

Hunger completely forgotten, Betsy allowed the tiny fluttering fairies to select a becoming morning gown for her. With a swish of their miniature wands, the fairies could change the gown’s hue to any color of the rainbow. After some time of admiring the effects in the sizable gold mirror, Betsy settled on a dusty pink rose shade. With the fairies promise that she could come back and change as many times in a day as she liked, Betsy stepped out of the cottage.

Outside, a glittering jeweled carriage pulled by unicorns awaited her. The large nosed leprechaun footman with a mischievous grin asked Betsy where she was off to. She replied, “Breakfast.” No sooner had Betsy settled in her seat than the door was flung open.

The leprechaun announced, “Banquet hall.”

A bearded dwarf helped Betsy alight and led her into a curious cavern chiseled into the mountainside. Although a great fire and innumerable candles on golden stands were lit, Betsy found the warmth pleasant and not at all overbearing. Once seated in a scarlet-cushioned, high-backed, wooden chair at the immense stone table, a parade of dwarves appeared. Each dwarf bore a golden dish. Unable to make up her mind as to what she would like, Betsy simply tried a bite of everything. With her stomach fuller than she ever imagined possible, Betsy thanked the dwarves and sat back wondering what she was supposed to do next.

As she wandered out of the banqueting cavern, she found the leprechaun brushing the unicorns while humming an Irish jig.

“Where to, Miss?” he grinned and winked. Betsy tried hard not to stare at his ridiculous nose.

“Umm. . . What are my choices exactly?” she queried.

“Choices asks you. Choices say I!” The leprechaun grinned and skipped back to open the door of the carriage. “The Battlefield O’ Ultimate Glory is tip top. Ye can choose from a variety of fearsome dragons, gargoyles, banshees and whatnot. They’ve lovely weapons for hacking the creatures, they do. Swords, scimitars, axes, knives, maces . . .” The leprechaun paused to draw breath.

“I rather had in mind something more relaxing,” said Betsy tentatively.

“Relaxing, bah,” he muttered. He snuffed his large nose in disappointment.

“The Bubbling Baths or Meandering Meadows would suit your ladyship,” he stated resignedly through tight, pursed lips.

“Oh, the baths!” cried Betsy in delight.

To someone accustomed to quick, cold morning sponge scrubs, Betsy viewed a bath as the ultimate luxury. Now the Bubbling Baths of the land of Pleasure would not disappoint even the most frequent of bathers. Down a short, smooth wooden boardwalk, amidst spongy moss covered rocks were various small pools. Each pool was slightly secluded in its own trellis of vines and flowers. A sizeable pond in the middle housed giggling mermaids who beckoned Betsy to come and select a pool. Her fingers discovered that each pool was a slightly different temperature.

When she found the perfect pool, not too cool and not too hot, she fretted a moment over where to place her rosy gown.

“The vines will hold it for you, silly,” chided an auburn haired mermaid.

And so they did. As Betsy removed each piece of clothing, a vine reached out and shaped itself to hold the item. Slipping quickly into the pool, Betsy found the pool perfectly shaped for relaxing.

There she stayed luxuriating in the various bubbles and oils offered her. Til the constant recommendations of the mermaids began to wear on her.

“Split ends, you poor, sorry thing. You must eat more seaweed, you know. Keeps hair healthy.”

“Such a pity, your complexion. Ghastly freckles. A mask of sea cucumber innards once a week would work wonders, I’m sure.”

The Meandering Meadow proved a lovely spot for an afternoon snooze. And the evening banquet surpassed all expectations. Although sleepy from so fulfilling a meal, Betsy begrudged the end of the day.

“Sir,” she addressed the leprechaun. He sprang down spritely from the carriage window washing he had been attending to, doffed his hat and bowed low. “I was wondering,” said Betsy tentatively. “I was wondering if perhaps there is something to do here in the evenings.”

“A-course, a-course!” The leprechaun shifted his weight from left to right in a bobbing jig like way. “There’s a perfectly gruesome tragedy at the theater. Fantastic deaths. It’s well worth a weep. The haunted mansion’s got monsters and ghosts a plenty. Twil shiver your spine and extract your most guttural scream.”

The gleam and twinkle in the little man’s eyes extinguished. His lips pursed. “But I thinks ye be wantin’ the palace ball.”

Betsy inhaled deeply, holding all the hope in her heart. “A ball?”

“Yep. Get in. I’ll take ye to yer cottage to dress.”

With a sigh of obvious disapproval, the leprechaun held open the door of the carriage.

Now the fairies at the cottage specialized in ball gowns. Although the dress choice was excruciating, Betsy’s anxiousness to arrive at the ballroom prompted her to try on only 10 perfect dresses and switch colors only a dozen times. The fairies stacked her brown hair up in a becoming fashion with gorgeous ringlets dangling down and topped it all off with a dazzling tiara. Betsy did not feel plain now!

The leprechaun readied the unicorns and whisked her off to the glittering palace. His bored, resigned scowl barely registered on Betsy’s consciousness. Her senses were overwhelmed with the fashion of the courtiers, flashing, flickering chandeliers, and waist-high vases filled with immense fresh flower bouquets. Pomp and splendor kissed every glance of her eyeballs.

Before Betsy even had time to wonder if she would be asked to dance, it happened.

“Uh . . . yes,” she managed and took the strong hand of the tall, dark, impeccably dressed man before her. Betsy grew uneasy as he guided her to the dance floor. The other dancers danced perfectly. She was a complete dance novice.

“I don’t really . . . um . . .,” Betsy began.

Her partner smiled. “Relax,” he said. “It’s easy. I’ll show you.” And he did. First a simple waltz. Gradually adding in twirls and promenades. He never said much.

Betsy was dying to ask him so many things because his brown skin and curly brown hair looked so foreign and exotic to Betsy. How very far she was from Apfelgarten!

But he expertly deflected all her questions with things like, “Dancing makes you thirsty, doesn’t it? Let’s go to the buffet for a drink” and “Come, I’ll show you the view from the high terrace. It’s beautiful up there.”

Her prince was admirably attentive to her every thought and need throughout the evening. He was certainly dressed like a prince. His long, curly brown hair was tied back at the nape of his neck, as was the current fashion. His lacy collar, sleeves and smooth, silky stockings were spotless, stark white. His waistcoat was golden and stitched with intricate designs. His stunning royal blue, long overcoat covered most of his black knee-length pants. The blue overcoat was embroidered with with gold which matched the gold buckles on his black shoes.

The dances blended into one another, a blur of delight. A dazzling fireworks display culminated the evening. Carriages were called for. Betsy’s leprechaun arrived.

“Thank you. It was wonderful. I  . . .” Betsy stopped. “I’m sorry. What’s your name? Will I see you again?”

“I’m Prince Charles,” he said smiling. “I’ll be here every night.”

With a bow, he was off. Betsy was soon nestled into her silk sheets in the swaying bed. She was lulled to sleep by the harps of the wood-nymphs.

When Betsy awoke, she was delighted to find herself still swaying in the trees. The wood-nymphs remained eager to please her. She tried to remember what the potion-lady had explained. This Pleasure had already lasted an entire day! But how much longer could she stay? The lady’s words floated through her mind vaguely. Oh well. Why worry about it, thought Betsy. Just enjoy.

And she did. The mermen towed her around Lazy Lagoon. She made friends with the animals in the Friendly Forest. A slow, gentle giant gave her a bird’s-eye view tour of the entire land of Pleasure.

Betsy woke each day in playful exuberance. She did not trouble her mind any longer with thought of what day it might be. What did it matter? This was Pleasure. When any doubt or qualm invaded her mind, she pushed it aside with a banquet, bath, or new experience.

Although her days were stuffed with an assortment of enjoyments, every night was the same. Her prince awaited her at the palace. Gowned in silks, brocades or taffetas Betsy waltzed, minueted and sashayed. The rose garden or turret towers offered havens for stolen moments of privacy.

Prince Charles was a patient listener. He never said much about himself, so Betsy assumed that he was just too modest to brag about his amazing exploits. When he did talk, he spoke of horses, so Betsy assumed he was an expert rider. Each night Prince Charles guided Betsy to her carriage and solemnly promised to meet her again the next evening.

“You could come with me tomorrow afternoon,” said Betsy. “The leprechaun says there’s a comedy on for a change at the Theater of Tragedy. Or I daresay we could convince the centaurs to let us wager on their races.”

“I shall see you at the ball,” said her prince.

“But surely you must do something all day,” persisted Betsy. “Can we not meet for lunch?”

“My time is not my own,” said her prince. “I shall see you at the ball.”

And he did. Every night until . . .

 


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