This is scene from a first draft version of Dubric Book 4 - Stain of Corruption. There may be many modifications and changes, and all words contained here are © Copyright 2011, Tamara Siler Jones.
Dien had hacked out a mountain of bloody phlegm onto the road as they rode to the presser's farm, and he had listened to Lars review the particulars of Jinnie's rape.
"I barely remember Ethan," Dien wheezed, rubbing his aching right side. "Served his time without a bit of fuss. I don't think Aghy complained about him once." He coughed again, until a wad of dark gunk flew from his mouth. Busted ribs my ass. That mage hurt me moons ago. Something's pegged up in my lungs. Scowling, he wiped at his lips with the back of his arm. "I always figured Ethan was a drunk, not a kiddy pervert."
"Assumptions are sometimes wrong," Lars said, shrugging. "I just want to be sure. No doubts, no way this can come back to bite us in the ass." He glanced at Dien and added, "I'm not taking him to gaol. Not this time."
"No argument from me. I hate pegging kiddy perverts."
"She bit him on the post," Lars snarled. "Bit him hard enough to knock her own teeth loose. That'd leave a mark, if not outright lacerations. And the bites he left show that his mouth is a mess of missing and crooked teeth. I confirm those two facts, and I'm gutting him like a fish."
Despite the conversation's wretched tack, Dien relished his pride in the young man's principles and resolve. "I won't stop you, pup. Dubric might get his panties in a twist, but he's not here. He didn't see that little girl."
Lars nodded and let out a heavy sigh. "I hate cases like this and just hope we get this done and get home without too much fuss. Or mess. Jess always worries when I come home a mess."
Dien couldn't suppress a smile. He could not conceive of a better man, anywhere, to court his favorite daughter. "You kids have special plans for tonight?"
"Just supper and stargazing, as far as I know. She's been feeling caged up and I try to get her out to open air as much I can." Lars stretched in the saddle and sighed, "She's not happy about the tomb. At all."
Dien ran a shaky hand over his short shorn head. Jesscea had ultimately killed the same mage that had sprung his lungs and, since then, several men had attempted to kill or kidnap her. Desperate to keep her safe, Dien had built a tiny, secured room between two closets. A room Jess utterly hated, referring to it as her tomb. He didn't like making his daughter a prisoner, unable to take a breath of fresh air without an armed escort, but what choice did he have? "I know, pup, but it'll keep her safe," he said at last.
Lars glanced over and said, "I can keep her safe, haven't I proven that? I love her, she loves me. Let us get married. Please."
Dien looked away. Lars had been pressing for marriage for moons. Dien had little doubt that the lad could protect his daughter, or that they truly did love one another, but they were so young. Too young. It was hard enough for two kids to worry about one getting killed without shoving them into the responsibility of marriage, too.
"You're too young. Maybe next summer. Or the one after that. We'll see then."
Lars ground his teeth and stared straight ahead. "Let's just get today's creep caught and punished. At least I can do that well enough."
They reached the presser's shop and dismounted. Dien managed to drag himself to Lars's horse without completely losing his breath, and he let the boy tie both mounts. The presser's shop stood to their left facing the rutty lane, while a long tangled row of overgrown trees on their right served as a windbreak for the house and small barn beyond. "I know you're ticked pup, and I know seeing that little girl tore up was frigging awful, but we have a job to do, no more no less. Keep your head. Don't let it be personal."
Lars pulled his sword from the saddle scabbard then strapped it to his hip. "I'll be fine." He gave Dien a curt nod and, together, they walked to the shop.
A boy about Lars's age opened the shop's main door and stepped out, a five-gallon barrel in his arms and a plump woman tottering close behind. Apparently oblivious to Dien and Lars approaching, he set the barrel in an old wheelbarrow then turned to shake the woman's hand. His eyes widened and he took a startled step back. "Hey!" he called out, paling. "There's men here. With swords."
Ethan, a thick, balding man in a worker's leather apron, rushed out the door and instructed the young worker to head to the house. "Is there some problem, gentlemen?" Ethan asked, gaze flicking aside to watch Lars's hand fall to his sword. He let out a tired, accepting sigh. "I gather you're not here to purchase cider or whiskey." The woman gaped and fell back to land, sprawling, in her wheelbarrow.
Dien and Lars stopped a few short lengths in front of the man. "Ethan the presser?" Lars asked.
"Yessir," Ethan said, nodding his head slightly. "I don't want any trouble. Can you give me a moment to lock up my shop?"
He turned to go but stopped when Lars said, "Let me see your teeth."
Ethan looked back, caution tightening his eyes. "Excuse me?"
"You heard him shit heap. Show us your frigging teeth," Dien said. He coughed to clear his pipes and spat a wad of blood.
Ethan shook his head and took a step back. "Why do you need to see my teeth?"
"Because I said so," Lars snapped, stepping forward. "You teeth and your dick. Now."
Dien came to stand beside Lars. "I'd suggest you comply before we force your frigging mouth open." The woman in the wheelbarrow watched the confrontation, her eyes bugged open and her mouth babbling silently.
"I don't understand," Ethan said, looking back and forth between the two officials. "I know why you're here and I've volunteered to be arrested without any fuss. That should be good enough."
Lars partially drew his sword in an obvious threat. "Not this time. Show me your Goddess damned teeth now or I'll look at them while you're lying on the ground screaming."
"Pup..." Dien said, his voice a low warning.
Lars muttered something Dien couldn't hear then said, "Last chance. Show me your damned teeth. Now."
"Just arrest me," Ethan said, holding out his wrists for shackles. Take me to gaol. I'm not denying I hurt--"
Lars punched him square in the throat and Ethan dropped like a bag of grain. He writhed on the ground, wailing a low, hoarse squeak.
"What'd you do that for?" the woman screeched. She struggled to get out of her wheelbarrow but her heft kept her stuck and flailing. "He said he'd go with you!"
Lars stood over Ethan, panting, and muttered an audible curse. "He's missing a couple of teeth on the bottom, and an upper molar. Piss!" He looked over at Dien and added, "It's not right. Our guy's missing a bicuspid and a canine, both on top. Nothing gone on the bottom."
Dien arrived and stared down at Ethan. "You're sure pup, certain, about the bites?"
"I sketched them." The boy pursed his lips a moment and shook his head. "He didn't do it."
"Check his dick," Dien said, pulling his own sword. "Make sure."
"No!" Ethan choked out. "You can't do this! Just arrest me and be done--"
As Ethan reached down to stop Lars, Dien kicked him in the belly. "Hold your ass still or I'll cut your pegging hands off."
Lars knelt to quickly cut open the front of Ethan's trousers and flipped the fabric aside. "He's clean. See for yourself," he said, shoving back to his feet. "Dammit!"
"Of course I'm clean!" Ethan choked out. "I bathe every other--"
Dien glared at Ethan's unmarked privates then kicked him again. "Shut the peg up."
Ethan started to beg to be taken on to gaol, but Dien just kicked him again before looking at Lars.
The boy was pacing and muttering. "Why would someone volunteer to go to gaol for a rape they didn't commit? Why? It doesn't make any sense. We've had criminals that were relieved to get caught, sure, but no one in their right mind would--"
"I can think of a reason," Dien said. He glared down at Ethan with sudden, crushing pity.
Lars turned, furious. "Her hair was smeared with molasses and there were sorghum seeds in her back and ass! It's syrup-making season and she said it was the presser. It all makes sense, adds up, but... it's not him!"
"I ain't arguing with you, pup, but did she say it was this presser?" Dien asked.
Realization brightened Lars's eyes and he rushed back to them, blade in hand. "Is it your apprentice, you lying freak?"
"Is he your son?" Dien asked, his voice soft.
Ethan shook his head and rolled to his side, to his knees. "Just arrest me. Hang me if you have to. I don't care. I did it. I hurt that little girl. Arrest me!"
"Check the house," Dien said to Lars as he dragged Ethan to his feet.
Lars ran around the row of bushes, soon screaming for Ethan's apprentice to halt, to not move, and to drop it.
Dien slapped shackles on Ethan's wrists then shoved the smaller man aside and stumbled toward Lars.
"He used to be a good boy," Ethan said, his voice squeaking yet hoarse as he stumbled to keep up. "Please. Please don't kill him."
Lars had his sword out and slowly approached the lad carrying a valise. The other boy looked back and forth between the two castle officials and backed away, moving toward the open ground between the house and barn.
"Stop right there," Lars ordered, moving aside to block the boy's retreat.
"You planning on take a little jaunt?" Dien asked. "Visiting relatives, maybe?"
The boy shook his head and clutched the valise to his chest. "Leave me alone."
"Don't say anything, Edgar," Ethan said from behind Dien. "Go back in the house. I've already told them I did it."
Edgar, eyes wide and darting between Lars and Dien, took a step to the side. Both of his hands were on the valise and Dien saw no obvious weapons. "Pa... They got swords."
"Yeah, we do," Lars said. "And we both know how to gut filthy freaks like you."
Edgar babbled, "I... No. No," and stumbled his next step back while Ethan screamed for him to stay quiet and go back in the house.
Dien and Lars both moved closer. "Pup," Dien said, using one hand to keep Ethan behind him. "I'm a bit occupied here. He's all yours."
"All right." Lars put his sword away and held out his empty hands. "Let me see your teeth, Edgar. Okay?"
"No!" Ethan yelped, lunging at Dien. "Don't you hurt my boy!"
Edgar staggered toward his father as Dien grasped Ethan by the shirt and flung him to the ground. "Pa!" Edgar screamed, rushing toward them, valise tossed aside and forgotten.
Lars lunged, tackling Edgar and knocking him off his feet. They wrestled, blows flying, but Lars punched Edgar repeatedly in the face until the other lad stopped struggling. "Piss-head bastard," Lars muttered as he shoved himself aside and wiped at his bleeding mouth with the back of his wrist. He took a breath and returned to loom over Edgar. "Let me see your teeth."
Edgar clamped his mouth shut and shook his head, so Lars punched him in the face again. And again. Until all the fight was out of him.
One finger hooked in the other boy's lower lip, Lars jerked his jaw down. "No canine and the bicuspid's rotted to the hells," he said, shoving back. "Match there." He took a couple of breaths and spat a mouthful of blood before pulling his dagger.
"No. Please," Ethan begged, but Dien cuffed him and dragged him to the two boys. A crowd had gathered at the road and, greedily horrified, they slowly moved closer.
Edgar protested weakly but was no match for Lars's dagger at the fastenings of his trousers. Another flick and the trousers opened. Lars coughed and turned his head away for a moment; the disgusted grimace on his face was unmistakable. "Definitely snap," he said, looking up at Dien. He made a gagging sound and cleared his throat.
"And she bit him good," Dien said, nodding at the mess. "Looks like we got our proof, pup."
Lars nodded and glared at Edgar's bleary blinking. "Edgar whatever-the-piss-your-aftername-might-be, as a duly appointed and noble-ranking representative of the province of Faldorrah, I hereby deem you guilty of raping Beliene's daughter Jinnie and other minor children. Such an offense is punishable by death, as per the discretion of my office. And I so decree." Lars flipped the dagger in his hand and held it at Edgar's throat. "Do you have any last words before I commute sentence and send your filthy soul to the seven hells?"
"You can't! Please! He's only sixteen!"
Still a pegging minor, Dien thought. Piss. He shoved Ethan back to the ground and ran a hand over his short-shorn head. "Pup..."
Lars glared at Ethan. "That's why Dubric incarcerated you. The father paying penance for the crimes of the son."
Ethan nodded, crawling toward him. "Please. Just take me to gaol and be done with it."
Lars cursed and looked up to search Dien's eyes, then something brightened there, behind his gaze. "Article twenty seven in the federal code," he said, nodding slightly. "There's more than one punishment for rape, if we go to federal law, instead of Faldorrahn. Just because we can't execute him doesn't mean we can't save the kids."
Dien bent to grab Ethan by the back of the collar. "You still want to serve your son's sentence?"
Ethan's eyes rolled back until he looked up at Dien. "What?"
"Article twenty seven allows for castration of perverts, leches, rapists, and molesters if an execution isn't warranted."
"Or allowed," Lars said, moving the dagger toward Ethan's hips. He grimaced again. "I'd rather just kill him so I don't have to touch that... mess."
"But he was a good boy! It's my fault, I took him to a whore for his birthing day! She gave him the snap and it's rotting his brain. Please! Punish me, not my son!"
Frigging hells, Dien thought as he shoved Ethan back again. Lars's birth mother had a long history of prostitution, an occupation that had brought Lars much grief and shame. A snap-riddled whore infecting a boy so badly that he'd hurt children might make the situation a personal affront for Lars and break whatever control he still had over the current frigging crisis in progress. And continue to worsen the boy's already strained relationship with his mother.
"What? You're blaming this on a whore?" Lars immediately paused, shaking his head, then took a shuddering breath and lunged at Edgar again. Edgar groaned and tried to crawl away, but Lars shoved him flat onto his back and punched him in the gut, the throat, the face. "Don't you dare blame her. She didn't do it. You did. You. Bastardhells!" He shoved himself away and took a few panting breaths. "Why'd you have to hurt little girls?"
Edgar laughed despite the blood clogging his mouth. "So little, so tight. So tasty."
Snarling, Lars grabbed him by the throat and throttled him, slamming his head against the ground. "Pegging shit. Pegging filthy shit! I should just kill you anyway. Goddess damn, I hate this pegging job. Pegging filthy shits!"
"Pup, don't," Dien said, his voice low, his heart breaking. "Keep the law. Don't let him win. Not like this."
"Goddess damn you and the law." He stared at the mess in Edgar's pants and rummaged in his jacket pocket, his expression fading to exasperation. "Damn it. I forgot my gloves. You bring any?"
Dien shook his head. "Sorry, pup. I didn't expect to run into this."
"Piss." Lars snatched a kerchief from a trouser pocket. Fabric protecting his hand, he grasped Edgar's testicles as if they were smeared with maggoty slime, then made a single, firm swipe with his dagger. Edgar and Ethan both screeched, but Lars just stood and, bloody mess in hand, he snapped an evidence sack from his jacket pocket. He shoved the kerchief and wad of bleeding testicles inside then spat on Edgar before kicking him one last time.
Ethan fought Dien's grip, screaming, writhing, and swinging wild, shackled punches. "What'd you do to my son? You call him a freak? You pegging bastards! What'd you do to my son?!" He wailed, tears streaking down his face.
Dien held the presser just out of reach. "We let him live. Be thankful we didn't cut off your balls, too." Ethan's struggles faded then he sagged, weeping.
Lars cursed and kicked the valise open. Six bloodied sets of little girls panties lay inside, most smeared with old, crusty semen. "Should've killed him. Would have been easier, all around," Lars muttered, kicking the valise closed again before tossing it to Dien. "I think I need some lye soap and disinfectant," he said, rubbing his hands on his trousers. "Get this mess scrubbed off me and my clothes." He sighed, his shoulders sagging. "I wish I could scour it out of my brain."
"We'll go right to the barber, get you cleaned up," Dien said, undoing Ethan's shackles so he could tend his unconscious son. As Lars staggered to the horses, Dien approached the crowd. "If any of you folks have young daughters, we'll leave them both to your tender care."