The following morning, precisely at 11 a.m., Marcia presented herself, in uniform, before the priestess with whom she had conversed during the decollering ceremony. She presented the cleaned and neatly folded linen, hooded robe to the priestess and together they walked down a narrow path to the bench of reflection which overlooks the river and is set in the holiest of ground within the Danubian Republic.
“My child, I have reflected on your words and meditated over their meaning. I believe that you did receive the words of your father and that he even now walks the life path set before you at your side.
“I also believe your river vision to be a parable for your life in the Duchy. You will save what is new in your life while also seeing your old self swept away by the events that will form your future.
“As to the loud engine noises and gunfire, I fear the Creator has not blessed me with the answer to that part of your visions.” The priestess then asked me if she had any questions.
“Many questions, Servant of the Ancients and the Creator. May I return here to speak of them with you as I find a voice to ask them?” I responded.
“If your life path draws you to my door one hundred times, you will find it open to you one hundred and one,” the priestess replied.
A benediction and exchanges of goodbye followed and I returned down the steps of the Temple grounds alone and pondered the priestess’s words.
On my return to the Military Academy, I found she had a lighter schedule than usual as a day of rest had been declared following the Day of The Dead celebration. She decided to spend the time with a good three-kilometer swim, as she had not worked out in the fast and meditation period before the Day of The Dead.
Going to the staff locker room I removed my caftan and belt, kicked off my sandals, and was ready to begin my workout. Looking down at myself I saw that after four months of neglect my pubic area was beginning to fill in as I had not seen it in over five years. Still only wispy from years of waxing, I doubted I had many live roots to provide hair there any longer, but it was an attempt at this culture’s standard. I was sure the hair on my head had come in better, that I could feel it as I ran my fingers through it and brushed it. I had long ago learned that Danubians relied on each other for hair braiding and as makeup was not allowed and one could brush unbraided hair without the benefit of a mirror, mirrors were in scant supply in Danubia.
The rest of my body thanks to the laser treatments my parents had gotten me, remained bare. I had finally lost the last of my tan lines and was now an even light-toast color all over mu body. I envied the twins, who by summer’s end had gotten themselves so deeply and evenly browned that they looked like good pumpernickel bread. With duties and responsibilities I had not been able to spend that much time working on my tan, but wandering about nude for four months had done the work naturally.
“Instructor Shevat, what troubles you?” a small voice asked from behind her.
“Ah, Cadet Kara, you startled me,” I had turned to see the owner of the voice, “and the reason I was so perplexed is I cannot tell without seeing my hair if it is long enough now to begin braiding it.”
“I often braid my barracks mates’ hair for them, Instructor, and if you would not think it a breach of protocol, perhaps I could try to do yours?” Cadet Kara offered.
“How’s your bottom,” I asked, “That Sergeant knew what he was doing.”
“Healing nicely, Ma’am,” Cadet Kara said, “Bruises should be completely gone by the Harvest Feast.”
“I’m glad for you that your life path has found you a quick healer,” I turned around and exposed the fact that some four weeks post switching my welts were still raised and angry looking. “I fear I was not so fortunate.”
“Ma’am, permission to speak freely,” I nodded, giving the girl her voice, and she continued, “Often I am told when the punishment calls for fewer strokes, they are given with maximum force.” Cadet Kara stated, “I guess the Vice Commandant wanted you to remember the lesson you were being taught, Ma’am.”
“Well, I certainly shall,” I stated. Then added, “Let us get our workouts completed, then perhaps I will let you try to do something with my hair.”
Cadet Norlina Kara had gone from a weak swimmer fearful of water over her head to a mediocre swimmer in time trials yet more confident in deep water. She could not keep up with Marcia Shevat. She was lagging further behind with each lap but persisted in swimming a kilometer and a half before ending her workout. Four weeks ago, Cadet Kara could barely complete one lap.
She sat on the pool edge watching her instructor cut through the water like a knife in warm butter until Marcia completed her last two kilometers. Only then did she say, “Instructor, might I suggest a warm shower, a shampoo, and my humble attempt to braid your hair?”
“You most certainly may so do, Cadet, our paths seem to be running together at the moment and I would welcome you becoming the instructor as I have never done my hair in this way before.” I smiled as she reversed the roles from instructor to student.
“I feel strange being in the shower room with only another woman,” Norlina blurted from under the spray of her shower head, “Usually there are male cadets in here with us.”
“Oh, I can see that in a culture where nudity is common public practice, after all, we came from the pool naked, and now we are showering that way as well, but does it not bother you that males are in here bathing with you?” I inquired.
“No, Ma’am,” the Cadet stated. “As most contact between same-sex persons is forbidden by the Ancients, it is comforting to have a boy nearby if you need a neck massage or your back washed. If two girls or two boys get too closely connected it could be presumed that they were lovers and that would cause Temple discipline to be enacted.”
“Oh, so there are no homosexual or lesbian Danubians,” I asked in a tone of disbelief.
“Surely, there ARE,” Norlina acknowledged, “but they manage to keep their practices secret or if caught they are disciplined in the Temple courtyard and then expelled from Danubia with no legal right to return.”
“Ah, we call that exile in my country,” Marcia stated, “deportation and exile.”
“Yes, exactly,” Norlina responded, “before the reforms put in place by the duke administration, lesbians caught in the act could be sentenced by the criminal courts to a term of ritual prostitution in the Temple backcourts. They were called Comfort Courtesans, and for a fee paid to the priests any adult male who had no life partner could use them.
“That was one of the many things the reformers changed,” Norlina continued, “even more common are homosexual men and lesbians marrying. Then behind the doors of the marriage home, they entertain persons of like temperament.”
“Wow, how do the priests take that behavior?” I asked.
“Officially, what happens inside the marriage home is a private affair between a husband, his wife, and the Ancients,” Cadet Kara replied. “The risk is always there that a nosy neighbor will peek through the shutters and see something and report it. Some prefer to take the annual three-week mandatory rest period, you call it a holiday, I think, overseas and practice their perversions elsewhere out of the sight and reach of the Danubian clergy.” By this time the pair had dried themselves and dressed. I had left my hair wet so that Norlina could attempt to comb it into sections and begin the tight braiding process. Norlina’s nimble fingers had Marcia’s hair in plaits in fifteen minutes. Parted down the middle, Marcia’s hair now held two semi-circular braids curled neatly over her ears.
“As it grows more, Instructor, I or whomever you wish to redo your hair, can add to the braiding. However, for now, you look perfectly Danubian, Ma’am.” Cadet Kara smiled pleased with the work she had done.
“Thank you, Cadet, for your effort, your time, and for allowing me to share this portion of your life’s path with you,” I acknowledged. “I shall depend upon you through the end of this semester to remind me when my hair needs to be redone. I wish to maintain a Danubian military appearance now that I have sufficient hair to allow it.”
“I accept it as my honored task to perform such duties for you, Instructor,” the cadet stated.
Status and rank would always keep them distant, yet strangely Norlina and I would be linked in comradeship for many years to come. Dressed and coiffed, the pair saluted each other at the door of the natatorium locker room and went their separate ways.
Lt. Mykel Drakov embarrassed himself with a shocked intake of air when he saw Marcia Shevat exit the Academy Physical Culture building into the parade ground. Right hand to left shoulder salutes were exchanged and then side by side but never touching or holding hands the pair walked toward the Officers Club. “You look so, uh hum, so…” Mykel tried to speak.
“Danubian?” Marcia laughed lightly.
“Ah, yes, that was the word for which I sought, you look so Danubian, Instructor Shevat, so Danubian indeed.” The young lieutenant finished.
’I try, with a little help from a friend, I try’ I thought. ’I hope I can call Cadet Kara a friend, she is only two years younger than I and I like her company,’ then aloud said, “My hair was a mess after my swim and Cadet Kara offered to braid it for me.”
“She did a fantastic job, Instructor, I must mention to her that as a military cadet she makes an excellent handmaiden.” Dracov teased.
“Oh, is she or I in trouble over this?” I asked.
“Not to worry, women often do each other’s hair and spend time in idle conversation, I think you call it gossiping,” Drakov laughed lightly, “in a society where personal vanity is frowned upon and in which few mirrors exist no one would have the exotic braids they do without such company.”
“I was thinking more rank and social status wise, Lieutenant, although she did volunteer her services,” I responded.
“A gift of her time and talent, an act of charity performed for her Ancestors, perfectly allowable even in the military codes,” Dracov finished.
Over their tea, I explained what Ivanka had asked me to do and then told Mykel I had accepted the burden of proxy disciplinarian for the administration of lashes to Wilhelmina Novotna, on the final day of the University semester.
“Only trouble is, though I’ve received them, I’ve never administered them. How does one train for such a duty? The Vice Commandant did mention a course on the subject of discipline, but I’m not sure when I am due to take it.” I stated.
Mykel laughed. Then he said, “Saturday, in the Physical Culture building, be there at 10 a.m. and bring your issued switch with you.”
That Saturday began a ritual of training that would last six weeks. I learned that the weekly demerit punishments for the cadet corps were held on each Saturday.
A cadet would be marched into the punishment room, and while standing at attention would recite his or her infraction and the number of lashes to be doled out. The cadet would then disrobe, be bent over a piece of gym equipment resembling a vaulting horse and an instructor picked at random by the draw of lots would administer the punishment.
The number was never less than five lashes for something small. Unchained boots, unmade beds, and for female cadets poorly braided hair were examples of five stroke penalties. Being late for formation, late returning from the past, or failing a quiz could result in ten strokes of the switch. Failing to salute an officer, failing to properly address an instructor, or blatant disregard of safety procedures on the firing range or in the field rated fifteen lashes. This was the limit for non-parade ground punishment. As Marcia had learned, Instructors and Cadets who rated a higher number of strokes were dealt with publicly, to act as an example for the Corps of Cadets.
Lieutenant Drakov addressed the cadets to be punished on the first Saturday I was in attendance, “You are all lucky today. All of you who are due five lashes take one step forward.” Twenty of the thirty cadets did so. “Please state the nature of your offenses then disrobe here and now,” each did so, twelve males and eight females soon stood in a line naked and shivering, wondering why they were so ‘lucky’.
“Because we have a trainee disciplinarian in Instructor Shevat, each of you shall receive only three lashes from her. To complete your punishment, gather your clothing and carry it with you back to your barracks. You are confined there until Monday morning and the start of classes.” Dracov announced.
“You others, so that you may not think me unjust, shall receive half your sentence plus one stroke, this day.” Addressing the other ten cadets in the room whom he left to the tender mercies of the other instructors.
With that, the line began to progress toward the horse where Marcia was to learn to switch. The first cadet, a male who obviously either liked to be switched or was a very poor cadet, had a mass of semi-healed welts on his buttocks and thighs.
“Lay three across his shoulders, taking care not to overlap them. Pause thirty seconds between them for maximum effect,” Drakov spoke as he positioned Marcia in the proper stance for a shoulder strike and demonstrated where the blows should land by guiding Marcia’s hand so the switch lightly touched the cadet’s skin.
“Count them, Cadet,” I ordered and began.
“ONE, thank you, Ma’am,” the cadet said.
“TWO, thank you, Ma’am,” he said again.
“THREE, thank you, Ma’am,” the cadet said. As he rose from the punishment position, he sported a huge erection.
Looking to Mykel and waiving the switch lightly in a silent signal, she got an affirmative nod in response.
“Cadet, how DARE YOU disrespect your disciplinarian with such a vulgar display?” I imitated her own father’s drill instructor voice as I bellowed. “You will rid yourself of that immediately. Begin now and if you mess the floor the ten strokes you are to be given for your disrespect will be doubled.”
In front of his fellow cadets, the aroused male was forced to masturbate himself to completion and tried to catch every drop in his other hand. Mykel used a flashlight to assure no specks had flown onto the floor to create a slipping hazard to the other cadets. The unfortunate male cadet stood, puddle in hand, and waited for his return to the horse after the rest of his fellow cadets were finished with their punishment.
I returned my attention to the line, the next cadet, a female who had failed to make weight, presented herself. Mykel again guided my hand to show me how to place the blows.The girl counted her punishment then stood and thanked her disciplinarian, gathered her clothing, and left. Two more males, then three females, received their punishment and so it went in a blur until the first hapless cadet was back for his second visit to Marcia’s switch. Mykel tossed the boy a towel and he finally wiped his fluids off his hands. He was then ordered to lay himself on his back over the horse. The fear became obvious in the male cadet’s eyes. Legs spread to either side, hands clasped behind his back he was ordered to remain still or face the punishment being started over with four sergeants holding his limbs outstretched.
“You may begin at his navel and work your way down to his crotch, Instructor Shevat,” Mykel Drakov told her. “Only if he becomes aroused again may you strike his penis.” Turning to the cadet, Mykel suggested, “If I were you, I would not develop an erection, this time.”
I laid the first welt directly across the boy’s navel. Her second was spaced about a half inch further down.By stroke six she was at the cadet’s crotch. He had wisely remained limp. Stroke seven drew a scream as Marcia struck just below the hips on both the cadet’s upper thighs. With his legs spread the blow landed well into the inner aspect. Stroke eight fell a bit below seven. Stroke nine was two inches lower in the mid-thigh and stroke ten landed just above the knees. By the time the last one hit the first six had already begun to purple. The cadet wisely found the strength to stand, thank his punisher for his correction, and then gather his clothing up and leave the room in something that passed for a military posture.
When the cadet was well gone, Mykel said to me, “Well, done. Although I doubt he’ll ever have an erection again in his lifetime, the blatant fact he enjoyed the first punishment needed to be addressed on the spot and you did so.”
“I may need to ice my arm. My rotator cuff feels like it is about to fall out of the joint in my shoulder. Thank you for the feeling I did the right thing. Though for some of those kids, I can’t see how punishment is warranted,” I said. “I felt sorry for the girl with the weight problem. She is otherwise healthy and I think she is in my Principals of Military Law course and is quite bright. To be lashed for being plump makes no sense to me.”
“Yes, however, the regulations as written are the rules we must follow. In them, it clearly states she is outside the parameters of fitness.” Mykel stated.
I let it drop. Some things I could not change nor understand, due to my outsider status. The things I could do, I would bring to Mykel’s parent’s attention as staff concerns, and perhaps get some things modified while I was here. I attended each Saturday discipline call for the next four weeks. The Saturday before my scheduled disciplining of Wilhelmina Novotna I begged off to prepare for that duty. I was now as accurate with my strokes as Mykel and knew how to inflict the maximum pain with the minimum of damage to the skin and underlying tissue.
Spokeswoman Takinva had also given me the protocol for the session. Monday morning with the Spokeswoman, the injured party Ivanka Siminov, an Appeals Judge, a Priestess, and me present, Wilhelmina Novotna would admit to her overzealous legalistic action against Ivanka, then publicly strip off her clothing in front of her three classes from this semester and Ivanka’s class from the last spring semester.
She would then assume the ‘prisoner position’ legs spread wide apart and hands clasped behind her head, while Ivanka lathered and shaved Wilhelmina Novotna’s pubic hair off. A day of penitent reflection in the presence of the priestess would continue through 8 a.m. Tuesday morning. At that time the professor would present herself for discipline, in the company of the Spokeswoman, the Priestess, and the Appeals Judge. Her Spring class, of which Ivanka had been a part, would be present for the punishment as would the Siminov family. Following the punishment Novotna would be expected to conduct each of her scheduled classes, freely presenting her welts and bruises to her students. She was to remain nude for the rest of the academic year.
On Tuesday at 7:55 a.m., the Siminov family sat in chairs to bear witness to the punishment, as the Spring class filed in to fill the rest of the chairs. I, dressed in the skirt and blouse of her uniform without the over tunic or fore and aft cap, waited for the arrival of the nude shaved older woman and her legal and religious entourage. At the stroke of 8 a.m., as the final steeple bell rang out, the trio of religious and legal people escorted the nude professor into the room.
Spokeswoman Takinva formally saluted me, who returned the salute in kind. “Instructor Shevat, I present to you the woman known as Wilhelmina Novotna for discipline, and surrender my temporary custody of her to you,” Takinva spoke the formality, stepped back, and saluted again.
I returned the salute; “I accept custody of the woman known as Wilhelmina Novotna for discipline, Spokeswoman. Is there no criminal nor prisoner number assigned?”
The Appellate Judge stood forward and saluted, “On appeal, it was decided this matter was one of consideration as a repentant person for violation of the civil statute, in this instance the University disciplinary guidelines. Therefore, no prisoner number has been assigned to Wilhelmina Novotna. You may continue, Instructor.” The Judge then saluted again and I dutifully returned it.
“Does this satisfy the religious community as well,” I addressed the Priestess after saluting her?
A salute and a brief, “It does,” followed from the Priestess.
“Then let us begin,” I nodded my head toward the table on which were arranged several hard pillows to better position the professor for discipline. Novotna walked over to the table and arranged herself correctly on the pillows the first time. It had been practiced in the Priestess’s presence repeatedly the day before. The Appeals Judge and the Priestess bound Novotna’s hands and feet to the legs of the table and I approached. Laid spread eagle over a table with hands and feet bound to the table legs, Novotna would be required to call each stroke and say ‘thank you for correcting my behavior’ after each stroke. Any stroke not counted in the thirty seconds allowed between strokes would not count toward the total.
“Woman, this Siminov family with myself as their proxy, now owns your name and your life path. You are Siminov property until your name and life path are returned to you,” I told the errant professor. “The woman being disciplined will count each stroke,” I addressed the assembly, “and will thank the Siminov family for allowing me to correct the error of your life path. Following the fiftieth stroke, the woman being disciplined will present herself before Ivanka Siminov, beg Ivanka Siminov for her forgiveness, and ask for the restoration of her name. Should Ivanka Siminov assess that the woman being disciplined has not repented of her error, and should Ivanka Siminov not forgive her, the woman being disciplined shall still be free but be nameless and numberless until Ivanka Siminov chooses to return the name and life path to the woman.”
Protocol out of the way; I stated to everyone, “Let us begin. Woman you are advised the first five taps are not your discipline, they are my way to assess how best to complete your sentence without permanently damaging your body.”
Even at the first light tap, Novotna leaped in response. I thought Novotna would make it, perhaps to twenty strokes before she was screaming in pain so badly, she would forget to keep count and thank the Siminov.
Marcia turned out to be wrong, though sobbing quietly into the u-shaped pillow that supported her neck Novotna never lost count until stroke forty-six. The Spokeswoman called a halt for examination. The Judge told Marcia to move from Novotna’s buttocks and upper thighs to her shoulders.
Stroke forty-six landed across both shoulder blades and caught the flesh of the right upper arm as well. Novotna let out a scream that could curdle the blood and began with a wracking cry that suggested she had broken completely. I looked to the Spokeswoman and Judge for a decision and was told not by them but by the Priestess to, “Complete the punishment without count or comment.” The two legal representatives acknowledged this instruction, and I laid on the last four strokes, alternating sides of the table as I did so. Novotna finished with a scant four inches of non-marked flesh between her neck and knees. The welts and bruises on her buttocks and thighs were already showing blood blistering and angry purple coloration. Her upper back would soon follow.
“Please release the woman who has been disciplined, so that she may beg forgiveness of the person she has wronged and ask for her name to be returned.” I saluted and addressed the Judge and Spokeswoman.
The Judge and Spokeswoman undid the shackles binding Novotna but did not assist her in rising from the table. On shaky feet, she wobbled over to the Siminov family. In front of Ivanka, she knelt in the open-legged prisoner position and whispered, “Please forgive me and release me to follow my life path, Ivanka Siminov,” Novotna then began to sob.
“Woman, my pain becomes your pain and my shame becomes your shame. By your act of penitence, you have restored me to fullness. I know to do the same for you. Rise woman and once again take the name and title Doctor Wilhelmina Novotna.” Ivanka had two scripts in front of her, and the other would have denied Novotna her name and title until Ivanka decided to give them back. Ivanka then added, “Your name you may have. You’re clothing and worldly possessions you may not. You will finish the terms of my sentence at your hand, to remain nude until the academic year finishes. Only then shall you be allowed to clothe yourself. Go now, your classes await their professor.”
Tears running down her face, a humbled Professor Wilhelmina Novotna walked out of the room to bathe in the faculty shower before her class at 11 a.m.
I had worked up a sweat switching Novotna. I wanted to also shower and do my hair, a braid having come loose while laboring as a proxy disciplinarian, but the Siminov family wanted to take me to brunch in celebration.
“Well, if you can stand the stink of my body, I sure could use a few calories after that workout,” I told Ivan Siminov.
Wilhelmina Novotna, prepared to be disgraced upon arriving in her first class after her discipline, was surprised to find her entire class, standing next to their desks, clothing neatly folded atop the desks, nude. As she walked through the door, spontaneously, the class applauded. Making the required turn to expose her battered rear to the class, Professor Novotna received an even louder round of applause, and several “Doc-doc, Professor” calls as well. Remission and repentance were rewarded, and she began the class after insisting they all be seated as if nothing was unusual. So, it was also in her next two classes that day. For the rest of the semester at least a few, sometimes as many as half of her students would remain naked during class as a form of moral support.
Wilhelmina Novotna gradually relaxed into her enforced nudity and, once the bruises healed a bit, actually would sit on a corner of her desk while lecturing in much the same manner as she had when worn her long skirts and starched blouses and sensible shoes. She also found herself relaxing from the dictatorial martinet of an instructor she had boxed herself into being and becoming more of a mentor and facilitator for her students. She was pleasantly surprised when she read the themes from her three classes that not one bogus paper was handed to her.
What she had planned for her Spring semester classes would shock and surprise everyone. She and Ivanka Siminov had joined heads on a concept and were to present it to the administration after the holidays.