“I am King! And I am strong, strong I say!”
Long black whip clutched in his hand, the King raised his arm above his head and brought it down with one swift, powerful stroke. As the leather soared towards its target a flash of movement caught his eye. Quicker than he would have believed possible, Anna had thrown herself on top of Tuptim, pale skin and grey silk masking the terrified girl beneath. There was nothing he could do to stop the whip’s path and he gazed in horror at the long, fraying tear that opened along Anna’s bodice, at the angry red line that appeared across her exposed back. He dropped the whip at once, an odd ringing in his ears, and ran from the room. His feet led him instinctively towards his living quarters, but his mind was separate from his body, still replaying the cry of pain he’d hoped never to hear.