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neutral gaze

As she suspected, Countess Bathory had been told by her ladies that the girl in question was indeed singularly gifted among the serving girls. Anna had been consulted and further speculation as to the girl’s true nature were made and all but confirmed.

Erzsébet was pleased, regardless, and shortly after the maiden was taken down to her new position in the dungeon, the lady of the house readied her guards and descended to meet her. It was a quiet procession, as usual, however the Countess was not surprised at how easily they unbarred the door and removed the torches around the entrance unnoticed.

As expected, having spent a few hours in the dungeon surrounded by torture devices of all shapes and sizes, not to mention the four barely-alive girls chained to the walls, the poor thing was enthralled – and one implement held her attention more so than the others. Not that Countess Bathory could blame her. “I see you are fascinated by the Iron Maiden.”

The girl, Ildikó, turned quickly toward the sound of Erzsébet’s voice, an expression of thinly veiled terror on her face as she watched the guards along with Kateline and Jó Ilona enter the room, shielding the Countess from view. “I have never seen such a thing.”

“It’s quite beautiful, isn’t it?” Erzsébet asked lightly, maintaining her position in the darkened doorway. “I had it made by a clockmaker at Dolna Krupa. Such a fine and efficient piece of art.”

“Art?” Ildikó frowned. “It seems more a work of cruelty to me.”

The Countess laughed softly. “Quite overspoken, aren’t you? A perilous thing in my service, you know.”

“My apologies, Your Highness.”

“No matter. You are different from the other maidens. More robust, I think. Stronger. My sorceress tells me of your great stamina and health, that you are… special.” Smiling to herself, Erzsébet watched the young girl process that bit of information, as a soldier entered further into the room and placed a tray of food on one of the tables.

Once satisfied the girl understood her words, she continued. “You will tend to these girls. And yourself, also – the cook tends to forget to bring meals to those in the dungeon. I fear this part of the castle makes her uncomfortable. I rather enjoy its accommodations. Besides, my Maiden graces this room, and that, of course, makes it my first choice for... guests.”

Her instructions given, the Countess made a silent motion to her entourage, indicating it was time to take their leave. But not before she offered a few final words over her shoulder. “Don’t worry, my pet. A serving girl as different as you should be treated as such, and we’ll return to visit later. You shan’t be down here alone too long.”

With the torches replaced and the door once again barred, Erzsébet began the journey back to her rooms, pausing once to impart the next part of the plan to her ladies. “Give her an hour and then I wish her to be prepared for this evening. And this one will go directly to the Maiden.”

[All dialogue between Countess Bathory and Ildikó is taken directly from Tales of the Slayer Vol 1: die Blutgrafin by Yvonne Navarro.]


bathed in blood

February 2007

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