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Halls Run Red

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Aurora had always been a beauty, even as a child. Her hair, red as an open flame, grew a few shades darker as she aged, but it was still the most radiant hair color in the entire Court. The Count's daughter had a sweet smile and innocence in bounds. None loved her more than her elder brother Tristan. Their father did not have as much time as he might like to spend with his daughter, so her brother watched over her like a hawk, playing with the girl in between his lessons and scaring off the other noble boys her age that tried to come too close to her.

She still played with Lucien, one of their father's vassal's children, but he was a whole year younger than her. Tristan knew that it was good for her to have someone to talk to when he was busy, and he also knew that he had appropriately warned him off of any ill intentions. He did not mind her playing with the servant children. They would never hurt her, lest they wish to lose their lives. But the noblemen's sons and daughters were chased off by Tristan. He did not wish for them to interact with his sister. The politics of the Court would spoil any and all friendships that might be kindled, and they might try to manipulate her. Aurora did not yet understand this, naive and gentle as she was. 

Aurora was only eleven when she met a nobleman visiting from across the sea. He was very handsome, and he had a silver tongue, his words like honey and just as sweet. His name was Ignatius. Tristan was not home at the time, going with their father on one of his famed hunting expeditions for the first time. He had kissed her forehead and said he return in but a few weeks. Don't miss me too much. I'll be back before you know, sister dear. She had nodded, giggling, and told him to bring her back a pheasant. She liked them in soup. 

Ignatius had charmed the young girl, giving her gifts and singing her songs. He told her stories of battles and bravery. It was all very fascinating, just like the heroes in the stories that she read in the scrolls of their library. The nobleman would catch her in between prayer, and he would take her into his room. She was unsure if she should go inside, but he said that it was alright. He knew better than her. 

It was just a new game, Ignatius had said, and it was one the girl should give a try. He held Aurora down, pressing her down on her front, and it hurt and hurt and hurt and hurt. It was like burning while being ripped apart by the nobleman's big hands as they pulled her legs further apart, her skirt bunched up around her hips. The only way it hurt less was listening to the breathy grunt in his ear of how much he loved her. That was the only thing that kept her from screaming. Tears slid down her cheeks, and she buried her face in the blankets of the bed to keep silent. He loved her.

Why did love hurt so much? She had always imagined love to be a sweet thing, something that was warm and happy and full of light. Something that would make her heart sing, and butterflies to form in her stomach. This... this hurt. But he said it was love. He would not lie to her, surely? 

The only time Ignatius had ever said it was when he had her pinned down like this, when there was something too big inside her and his hand was shoved in Aurora's mouth, so she could not scream or cry or even breathe. Ignatius would say he loved her, and the girl would not be able to try and scream or cry or even breathe any more. Which was for the best, really. Aurora was not allowed to tell anybody. It was their special, secret game. Aurora was eleven, after all. She may not have gotten her moon blood yet, but eleven was old enough to keep a secret. 

Aurora did not enjoy the game, but Ignatius did, so they kept playing it. Sometimes, the girl would cry because she was so scared of playing. Other times, she would hide under the bed and watch the door all night. But he liked the game, so they kept playing it. Whenever they played the game, Aurora felt like she was drowning. Drowning under the nobleman's huge body, drowning in pain, drowning in the silence, and drowning in love.

"I love you, Aurora." 

Tristan returned home from the hunt with Father, and he went in search of his younger sister. He had not managed to catch a pheasant, but Father had and he was going to present it to Aurora and tell her about what they had done. He could not find her in her room, and she was not in the church or with the servant children. Feeling a bit frantic, Tristan went in search of her. He ran into Lucien and questioned him about his sister's whereabouts. The boy, eyes wide like a frightened deer, told him that he had seen her go with a nobleman down the hall to the guest quarters. 

After making Lucien tell him which room it was, Tristan went down the hall to find his sister. He shoved open the door, which was not even locked, and he saw red when he saw his little sister lying under some man, half clothed. Her eyes were shut, screwed up in pain, and the man did not even notice him, so intent on chasing his pleasure as he was. Tristan's vision went red with fury, disgust roiling in his stomach. He picked up a large vase from a low pillar beside the door and strode over to the man. He slammed it over the man's head so hard that the sturdy clay broke. 

Aurora made a muffled scream against the blankets as the man fell on top of her, blood beginning to bloom from the back of his skull. Tristan pulled his hunting knife from his belt and started stabbing him in the back over and over again. He did not stop until blood was splattered all across his chest and face, matting his curly brown hair down to his forehead. Panting, Tristan grabbed the disgusting piece of filth by his hair and yanked his head back. He sliced deeply across his throat, and hot blood bubbled out over his hand. Tristan ignored the last twitches that the man made as he died, grabbing him around the waist and pulling him off his sister. 

The girl had blood all over her, but the only part that concerned Tristan was the one between her legs, staining her thighs. Aurora covered her face, crying, and he gently pulled her skirt back over her to cover her legs. Tristan placed his arms under her, and he pulled her up against his chest, holding her like a bride, hands under her covered thighs. His sister buried her face in his chest, whimpering and trembling. Tristan carried her through a back way to get to the baths. He set her down as carefully as he could at the edge of the water. 

"Tell me truly, Aurora. What hurts? Are you bleeding?" Tristan asked her. He knelt in front of his little sister. She looked down at her lap, the tear tracks on her face standing out against the pink of shame on her face. The girl pointed between her legs. 

"It hurts here. I do not think I am bleeding right now, though," Aurora murmured. She looked up at him, her eyes glistening with tears. "Are - are you upset with me? I'm sorry." 

"Oh, sister. I would never be upset with you for this. It is not your fault," Tristan insisted firmly. "Do you understand me? He did this to you." He clenched his jaw, swallowing back a surge of rage. "I should have been here for you. I tried to keep you from these things, but I should have had it explained to you what happens between a man and a woman. So you would know. If anything, this is my fault." 

"No! Do not say that, Tristan. You... you kept me safe. Protected me," Aurora said. She blinked back tears. 

"As I shall as long as I still draw breath, little sister. No one shall ever touch you like this again," Tristan promised her. He lightly touched her face with a gentle smile. "Now let us get you cleaned up. You should not have to wallow a second longer in that cretin's blood."