The Bride by RR

Bravaria, 1824

Victor sat before the fire and brooded. The light from the fireplace and the candles placed strategically about his library did little to dispel the darkness of the room and nothing to dispel the gloom in his soul. Almost absently, he raised a goblet to his lips and sipped, barely noticing the fine 22-year old cognac he drank.

“Helga and Gretchen” he thought, with a slow sad shake of his head. He thought that in throwing himself into his work he would forget the two of them. Yet here they are, bedeviling his thoughts, demanding he choose. He choked back something, a laugh or a sob; he couldn’t tell. Such was the irony. “Such a strange turn of events,” thought Victor. “How in heaven’s name could such a thing come to pass…

Three days earlier

A pothole in the road jolted Gretchen into reality. Ruefully she turned her attention to the task at hand and skillfully guided the little two-wheeled carriage through the bad stretch of road in the forest, then returned to her thoughts.

Gretchen Schmidt daydreamed as she slapped the reins on the butt of the horse before her. She made a pretty picture as she navigated her two-wheeled carriage over the rutted dirt road. The carriage itself spoke of wealth and position. It was black. The spokes of its wheels a bright yellow. The black leather top was pulled down for the afternoon sunlight. There were two brass lamps to either side of the carriage could be lit for driving at night. Her father bought the carriage and the dappled gray gelding that pulled it for her. As for Gretchen, she was decked out in a long blue skirt with a white starched shirt and blue jacket. Her long, heavy, blond hair was pinned and gathered beneath a lovely blue and white bonnet. Tall, willowy, and graceful, she was a lovely sight to behold. She was also proud and arrogant, with a streak of spoiled ruthlessness that made most of the local girls shy away from her. She didn’t care. She was the type who preferred toadies to real friends. Her father was a very wealthy merchant and the mayor of the nearby town. With wealth, position and beauty, she could have had any young man in the district. However, no suitor had a chance with her. She, with her father’s approval, set her cap for Victor.
Afternoon carriage rides were a habit with her. First she would ride around town then out into the countryside to enjoy the fresh air and flaunt her father’s wealth.

Lately however, her father grew concerned with rumors being passed among the peasants. The peasants whispered of a monster haunting the surrounding woods. “Poppycock” was all Gretchen would say of the rumors. “Monsters, ha!” Gretchen would publicly proclaim. “Silly peasant superstition. There are no such things as monsters.” Gretchen would then bask in the glow of Victor’s approval, for he was a man of reason who would have no truck with peasant superstition. So in spite of the rumors and because her father could deny her nothing, Gretchen continued her afternoon rides.

Gretchen went back to her daydreaming, imagined herself as the belle of the ball, greeting the wealthy and powerful as Victor’s wife, the Baroness Von…

For the second time in as many minutes, Gretchen was shaken out of her daydream. A horseman appeared 50 yards away upon the road before her, coming out of the forest. He didn’t seem to notice her as he spurred his black courser and tore off down the road away from her. Gretchen startled, yet pleasingly surprised, raised her hand and would have shouted but the horseman was out of sight almost instantly. Seizing the whip from where its holder on the cart, she gave her horse incentive to speed up with a quick flick of the whip. Gretchen recognized the top hat, cloak, and especially the horse of the rider’s; it was Victor. Although she was sure she couldn’t catch him before he got to town, she had to try. As she pursued the elusive Victor; she was again plagued by memories and daydreams.

This time she was on her back, in Victor’s huge, perfumed, four poster bed, her nude body sweating and straining under the sweet torture Victor was subjecting her to. The tension building toward sweet release as Victor slowly and gently made love to her. The scene suddenly shifted as she thought what would happen once she caught up with Victor. She saw herself spread out nude with her hair unbound on a blanket in a nearby meadow as Victor ravaged her. Gretchen let out a delighted shutter, as she became heavy and damp with need.

As she topped a rise, she spotted him, then slowed in confusion as he turned right at the crossroads instead of going straight through to town. She slowed as she tried to remember what would take Victor out that way. She did recall that Victor had some tenants out in that direction. There was also the mill.

The mill was run as a partnership between Gerhard Muller and Victor. Victor’s father provided the land and starting capital while Muller provided the labor and expertise. The miller Gretchen recalled was a widower with only a daughter to keep him company this far out of town. A very beautiful daughter, Gretchen suddenly remembered to her distress. Shaking her head to banish the silly thought of Victor taking up with a peasant, she turned her carriage at the crossroads to follow Victor. As she traveled down the road, thoughts of the Miller’s daughter started to plague Gretchen.

The Miller’s daughter was named Helga. She was shorter than Gretchen, with beautiful green eyes, a wide, generous mouth, and a cute upturned nose. She usually wore her long blond hair in braided pigtails. A lifetime of work at her father’s mill combined with natural attributes gave Helga a spectacular figure. A generous bosom, narrowed to a small waist, then expanded to womanly hips. Gretchen sneered as she thought of the unfairness of Helga having a figure that she could achieve only after struggling into a corset. Gretchen also remembered that the Miller is one of the town council and a special meeting was called to discuss the rumors of the monster haunting the woods. He would not be at the mill at this time and Victor would have no reason to be here.

She slowed as the mill came into sight, turning off the road to conceal her presence. Stepping out of the carriage, Gretchen walked up to the mill.

The mill was a water-powered affair, set next to a swift-moving stream. Between the stream and the turning water wheel there was more than enough noise to cover her approach. Gretchen knew that the stream was fed by glaciers high in the mountains and just past the mill the stream dropped off into a lake. The waterfall was about 20 feet high and combined with the mill, made a beautiful picture. Next to the mill, were a farmhouse, barn, chicken coop and other out buildings. All were well kept and in good repair. Compared to her fine house in town, it was a hovel.

As Gretchen came around the barn to make her way to the house, she came upon Victor’s horse tied out around the side of the barn. Suspecting the worst, she had to see for herself. Gretchen, as silently as she could, made her way along the side of the barn toward the house. As she got towards the front of the barn, she started hearing noises. Knowing what they were, she quietly sneaked around to the large open door facing the farmhouse and peeked inside.

At first Gretchen’s blood froze then boiled at the sight before her. There in the fresh straw of a stall was her Victor and Helga. Gretchen stood there as she saw a nude Victor take an equally nude Helga as a stallion would take a mare. “No” Gretchen growled to herself, “more like a hound taking a bitch.” She saw enough. Taking care not to be seen or heard, she made her way back to the carriage. As she turned her carriage back towards town, Gretchen started thinking of ways to be rid of her rival.

“Tomorrow”, Gretchen thought. “The town council will be seeing Victor in the afternoon, that will be the best time to have a little discussion with Helga.” With a cruel smile, Gretchen went over her options. 

The afternoon of the next day, at the mill…

Gretchen dressed with care for her meeting with Helga. Instead of taking her carriage, Gretchen instead rode out to the mill. The main reason for riding out to the mill was so she could take the back roads and go more easily across country, attracting less notice. The other reason she rode was so the way she dressed would not be out of place. Gretchen wore her hunting outfit consisting of a black riding skirt, white shirt, and red jacket. The outfit also included a lacy little black hat, under which she pinned her hair, black leather gloves, and black riding boots. Also included with the outfit was a black, leather, riding crop. Underneath her hunting outfit, Gretchen went for once without a corset and wore only a single petticoat for ease of movement. Gretchen also carried a heavy leather purse with funds raided from her father’s cash box.

Gretchen rode in quickly and pulled up before the house, dismounting from the sidesaddle before the horse came to a complete stop. Gretchen called toward the house “Helga Muller!” She thought grimly on the offer she was about to make Helga Muller. Slapping the riding crop into her glove covered hand and feeling the sting, a large part of Gretchen, a very large part, was hoping that Helga would refuse the money.

Victor sipped his cognac in his darkened library and wondered what could he have done to prevent the tragedy from occurring. He knew that he must bear the burden of being its cause. Both Helga and Gretchen had their good points and bad. Helga had warmth, a sense of humor, and an earthy enthusiasm that had always left him wanting more. Unfortunately, Helga was not even close to his status. Gretchen on the other hand was closer to his status, wealthy, and quite good in bed, though not quite noble. Victor however had no illusions about her character, and knew that she wanted to marry him to gain nobility. Both women, quite beautiful in their own way, often had him wishing that he could take the best of both of them and make them into one woman. That woman he would marry without hesitation. Victor suddenly snorted into his goblet. Of course that would mean that he would have had to contend with both of their vile tempers…

Afternoon, two days ago, at the mill…

“Helga Muller!” The shout surprised Helga. Almost causing her to drop her shovel. With a rueful laugh she swallowed down the heart that was suddenly in her throat. No monster would announce itself in such a manner, would it? She stepped from the stall she was mucking out, placed the shovel by the entrance of the stall, and made her way toward the front of the barn. Catching sight of a pitchfork, Helga veered slightly in her course and picked it up, just as a precaution. “Helga Muller!” came the shout again, imperious, arrogant, female. It got Helga’s blood up. At the barn entrance, who should she spy but none other than Gretchen Schmidt. Disgusted she placed the pitchfork at the wall next to the barn door and stepped out.

Bitter enemies since childhood, the two have constantly squabbled and even fought on a few occasions. They would have fought even more if Helga hadn’t lived out of town and Gretchen’s father had not told his daughter to behave like a lady. Helga smiled as she remembered their last clash, which resulted in Gretchen shrieking for mercy. And felt her blood boil when a couple of days later, 4 friends of Gretchen’s paid a call and beat her bloody.

Looking at what Gretchen was wearing, Helga felt downright dowdy. Helga had her hair in its customary braided pigtails. Her white, short sleeve, off the shoulder peasant top displayed a generous amount of bosom. A heavy green skirt and a white apron covered her strong sexy legs. Helga wore white stockings and sensible leather shoes.

“Helga Muller!” Gretchen thundered for the third time. Helga wondered what could have gotten Gretchen so wound up this time. Then in a flash she knew, Victor. Looking around Helga didn’t see and of Gretchen’s toadies. It seems that Gretchen wanted a private chat. That was fine with Helga, she wanted to get Gretchen alone for quite sometime.

When Gretchen drew breath for a 4th call, Helga called out, “Over here!” Chuckling a bit as Gretchen whirled and nearly lost her balance in the mud, Helga called “What do you want Gretchen?”

Gretchen stood her ground, obviously waiting for Helga to come to her. Helga shrugged her shoulders and said, “When you can think up an answer, I’ll be in the barn.” Then turned and walked into the barn.

“Don’t you turn your back on me peasant!” Gretchen snarled as she started across the muddy yard and into the barn. Helga turned and faced Gretchen’s advance, having learned the folly of turning her back on Gretchen once before.

“Then I will ask one last time.” Helga snarled dangerously, “What do you want?”

Gretchen took a deep calming breath and stated quietly, “I want you gone from here. I want you away from this town and my life.” “This”, Gretchen hefted the heavy purse and tossed it to Helga’s feet, “is for a new start. Take it and go.”

Helga bent and picked up the purse, not taking her eyes from Gretchen as she did so. She hefted it a couple of times feeling and hearing the heavy coin within the purse jingle. “No.” Came Helga’s answer. “You don’t want me out of your life. You want me out of Victor’s life.” Helga allowed herself a small smile as she saw Gretchen stiffen in anger.

Gretchen ground her teeth and decided to lay her cards on the table. “Yes I want you out of Victor’s life. I am going to marry him and I won’t have you mucking things up by presenting him with a bastard!”

Helga smiled sweetly and said with relish, “As opposed to presenting him with one of your own?”

Helga felt the sudden sting of a slap snap her head to the right. She whipped her head back to Gretchen who said with a dangerous softness, “Get out of here Helga, the monster may one day come calling, and who knows what might happen to you?”

Helga’s answer to the threat came swiftly. The heavy purse in her hand made contact with Gretchen’s face, spinning her around and knocking her face first into the mud of the yard. Gretchen lay groaning in the mud.

Helga dropped the purse beside Gretchen, brushed her hands finished and turned and walked back deeper into the barn. “That worked out quite nicely. She can show herself out.” Helga thought. Humming to herself, she didn’t notice the sudden rush behind her, but she did feel the burning lash of the riding crop as it made contact with her bare white shoulder.

The horses within the barn startled as Helga shrieked at the sudden unexpected pain of the riding crop. Helga whirled and brought up her hands to defend herself. With a sharp snap, the crop came down again, raising a burning welt across her right forearm. Again the crop came down, raising a burning welt across the top of one perfect breast. And again the crop came down striking the hands and forearms Helga raised defensively. Catching sight of the bitch before her, Helga suddenly bent forward and charged. Accepting a lash across the back, Helga used the pain of it to fuel her charge and tackled Gretchen to the ground. Helga felt Gretchen’s breath go out with a “whoof”, as she scrambled to on top of Gretchen and gripped Gretchen’s wrist to prevent any further lashings of that riding crop. Here atop Gretchen, Helga used the strength gained from a lifetime of working in a mill to her advantage, her left hand crushing and banging Gretchen’s right wrist to the barn floor in an attempt to disarm Gretchen. Helga’s right hand was buried into that elegant hairdo Gretchen had. Helga had to smile as she gazed down at her struggling foe. She loved seeing the mud on Gretchen’s face and shirt and silently vowed to Gretchen that this would only be the beginning.

Gretchen was not in good position. Not only there was a throbbing on the side of her face, it felt as if her wrist was caught in a vice as well. In spite of her best efforts she couldn’t hold on to her riding crop. Involuntarily, her hand opened and Helga with a backhanded motion brushed the crop away. Gretchen then felt two strong hands seize her hair and start to rip it out by the roots. To make matters worse, Helga also started to bang the back of Gretchen’s head into the hard packed earth floor of the barn. With every impact, Gretchen grew a bit dizzier. She knew if this kept up, she would be at Helga’s mercy. Suddenly, Helga’s breasts popped out of her low cut blouse and Gretchen saw her opportunity. Reaching up, Gretchen dug her glove-covered hands into Helga’s breasts. Helga let out a shriek of anguish as Gretchen’s left hand dug into a breast tender from the lash of the riding crop. Helga abandoned her attack and attempted to twist away from that painful grip, ripping open her blouse in the process. Gretchen, taking swift advantage, removed her right hand from Helga’s breast, cocked her fist, and launched it into Helga’s jaw, knocking Helga off her.

Both women got to their feet as quickly as possible, knowing that the first one to her feet would have the advantage. Gretchen was first on her feet. She reached out a hand, grasped a dangling braid, and pulled Helga into a standing headlock. Once she had Helga into position, she started raining blows onto Helga’s face. Gretchen grinned as she felt each blow strike her foe. Victor had long stated the superiority of fisticuffs over brawling and had even shown her a few moves. Gretchen had worn gloves for that very reason.

Helga was still wondering what the hell happened. What she thought would be a short but satisfying brawl on her part was turning into the fight of her life. She tasted blood on her lip and her left eye was closing. She knew she had to get out of this hold or she will lose, badly. Try as she might, she couldn’t pull out of the headlock. Not with Gretchen still holding her braid. Reaching down and gathering Gretchen’s legs and hips in her arms, Helga lifted Gretchen off her feet and suddenly dropped her. That was a bad idea. When Gretchen felt her feet leave the ground, she tightened her grip around her enemy’s head. So when Helga dropped Gretchen, Helga found herself pulled into a flip which placed her flat on her back, still in Gretchen’s head lock. Gretchen, with an almost manic grin plastered on her face, started to pound Helga’s face and head again. Helga, in dire straights, reached up with a hand and grasped Gretchen’s long and now unbound hair. The savage yank Helga gave not only caused Gretchen to scream out in pain, it also brought Gretchen’s head to where Helga wrapped her strong sexy legs around it.

Helga cruelly smiled as she applied pressure to Gretchen’s head with her white stocking clad legs. The cruel smile widened, as Helga heard her foe’s muffled cries and witnessed Gretchen’s frantic attempts to escape. The smile stopped when Gretchen managed to get to her knees, which brought Helga to a sitting position, pulled open Helga’s legs and escape the hold. Helga didn’t even think about it, she drew back one sexy stocking clad leg and kicked Gretchen away from her.

Both Gretchen and Helga tried to get on their feet again. This time however, Helga was the first one up. Helga knowing that she couldn’t take anymore battering from Gretchen’s leather covered fists, stepped up to Gretchen and taking Gretchen’s pretty red jacket by the shoulders, yanked it down, trapping Gretchen’s arms. Helga then grabbed Gretchen by the front of her blood and mud stained blouse and spun her around by it. The once fine material gave way with a loud rip, baring Gretchen’s breasts, and sending Gretchen into an uncontrolled stumble that ended with a sudden stop against the barn wall near the exit.

Gretchen, who was desperately trying to clear her head and free her arms, could only watch helplessly as Helga charged. Helga hit like a bull. She gathering up Gretchen into to her arms and pushed her into the barn wall brutally. Gretchen was barely able to resist as Helga grasped Gretchen’s hair and slowly and methodically started to pound the back of Gretchen’s head through the barn wall. Gretchen, who was conscious by sheer willpower alone, gathered her remaining reserves and counter attacked in the only way left to her. Helga halted her attack and suddenly screamed at the pain of a riding boot scraping its way down her shin. Helga was so surprised that she loosened her grip in Gretchen’s hair. Gretchen, quick to seize any opportunity, reached out and clamped her teeth into Helga’s perfect shoulder. Helga’s scream suddenly went higher in amplitude and pitch as Gretchen bit harder. Helga pulled Gretchen off of her by her hair and flung her back against the barn wall once more. This time Gretchen braced herself, took the impact, and came back with a savage kick to Helga’s shin. If it were not for the protection afforded by Helga’s heavy skirt and apron, the kick might have broke Helga’s shin. As it was Helga staggered back a step or two before her leg gave way. Helga toppled onto the hard packed earth and grasped her tortured shin.

Gretchen in the meantime struggled to free herself from her confining jacket. Keeping an eye on her enemy, she first peeled off her gloves because they interfered with the removal of the jacket. She then so quickly got out of her jacket, her ruined blouse went with it. Blood lust warred briefly with modesty as Gretchen found herself topless. Bloodlust won when Gretchen saw Helga start to rise. Gretchen took a quick step forward and drew back her boot for a kick when suddenly her face caught fire. Gretchen raised her hand to a suddenly bloody cheek and shrieked her agony to any and all who could hear it. Staggering back against the barn wall, Gretchen caught sight of the author of her misery. Helga stood before her, favoring her leg, breasts still out of her ripped open top, bruised and battered. Helga smiled victoriously as she brandished the once forgotten riding crop in her hand.

At the sight of the riding crop, Gretchen slipped from rage to madness. She no longer wanted Helga out of Victor’s life; she wanted Helga dead. Spying a pitchfork against the wall beside her. She reached out, snagged it and leveled it at Helga. 

Victor sat staring into his goblet, watching the amber liquid swirl about. He gently manipulated the goblet and thought about the council meeting. Lots of talk and little action. Herr Muller left the council meeting early, citing that he didn’t want to leave Helga alone after dark. The council was still wrangling when Herr Muller returned; both he and his horse in a lather. Helga was missing. Gretchen Schmidt’s horse was also there and she too was missing. There were signs of struggle in the barn and the mill itself. Victor took command to prevent a mob from racing out to the mill. The fire alarm was sounded, many of the able bodied men of the town had equipped themselves with torches, lanterns, and a variety of arms, mounted up, and followed Victor to the mill. When they arrived, it was after dark. Victor divided the men into parties of three and began a search. The men took in the torn clothing, bloodstains, and other signs of a struggle and muttered about monsters as they went about their search. However, even then Victor knew in his heart that the only monster to visit the mill was of the green-eyed variety.

Two days earlier at the mill…

Helga was flushed from the exertions of the battle she was in with Gretchen. She was especially flushed with the pleasure of seeing Gretchen’s cheek laid open with the very riding crop Gretchen started beating her with. Looking at Gretchen now she felt her flush of victory drain away to the growing realization that her opponent had become unhinged. Gretchen stood before her hunched over a little, in obvious pain. Gretchen was stripped to the waist, bruised and battered. Her long blonde hair all but obscured her face, revealing only a cold hateful right eye and a wounded cheek that freely bled on to her heaving breasts. For all that Gretchen held the pitchfork in steady hands. Quickly, Helga took stock of her own condition. She too was battered and bruised, especially on the face. Her left eye had completely closed. The welts left by the riding crop started to burn under the sweat of her exertions, fueling her desire not to lose to the bitch before her. Her top was all but torn from her, leaving her practically bare to the waist. Most importantly however, was the scrapes and bruise forming on her shin. It would slow her down at a time when she needs to move quickly. “Stall Helga.” She thought to herself desperately.

As Helga slowly backed away deeper into the barn she asked almost conversationally, “Are you going to kill me Gretchen?” Gretchen who was slowly stalking her victim snarled out a “Yes.” “Why” challenged Helga, who finally had a plan to get past her foe. Gretchen growled back. “Because Victor is mine and will always be mine. No round heeled, peasant trollop is going to take him from me!”

Helga, now where she wanted to be and a little tired of being called peasant, decided to add a little fuel to the fire. “Peasant am I? Peasant! We are not as different as you would pretend Gretchen. Look at yourself, beaten, bloodied, and soiled just like I am! You would, just like I would, do anything to possess Victor. You would scheme, lie, and cheat to have him. You think nothing of fucking him and having him make you pregnant in order to have him marry you. Like I would, you would fight for Victor and”… “Kill for him.” Gretchen finished. “Kill for him.” Helga softly echoed. Looking into each other’s eyes, they came to an understanding. Only one woman would leave this place alive.

The time for conversation was over. Gretchen had just tightened her grip on the pitchfork in preparation to charge when Helga darted into a nearby stall. Robbed of her prey, Gretchen gave a hate-filled shriek and pursued.

Old Willie was skittish. The old roan plow horse was quite upset over the conflict that erupted in the barn. The high pitched screaming and the smell of blood had him so fearful that he almost attacked Helga as she entered the stall. A quick word and a gentle pat are all that kept Willie from kicking Helga. Willie not so sure about the screaming two leg behind him, so he kicked back so that it would keep its distance. Willie appreciated the two legs that cared for him freeing him and he wasted no time in thundering out of his stall and out of the barn. He brushed aside the other two legs with out a second thought, just as long as he was away from those two crazy two legs.

Gretchen somehow managed to keep her feet and a hold of the pitchfork as the old plow horse knocked her spinning into a stall across from the one Helga was in. Turned around, she quickly spun only to catch something in the face. The weight, texture and especially the smell told her immediately what it was. Gretchen screamed with absolute fury as she wiped the remains of the road apple from her face. Looking around she saw Helga quickly hobble out of the barn door. Screaming like a charging valkyre, Gretchen set off in hot pursuit.

Helga ran for her life as well as she could with an injured leg. She spared a wistful thought about her house with locks on its doors and her Papa’s loaded musket over the mantle, and knew that she couldn’t make it to the house before Gretchen caught up with her. Instead she headed next door to the mill where she hoped she could hide, evade Gretchen, and get to her house.

Helga’s heart leaped in her chest as the mud between the barn and the mill sucked the shoes from her feet, almost causing a fall. She could hear Gretchen’s almost insane shriek of rage an imagined her and that awful pitchfork closing the distance to pin her to the side of the mill. At the side door Helga grasped the handle of the sliding bar that kept the door closed. It took three tried to open that door. Helga stumbled through and turned to close and lock the door only to find Gretchen almost on top of her.

Gretchen screamed again as she caught sight of the closing door she would not be denied her prey this time. Turning so that her shoulder would strike the door, she charged to prevent Helga from locking her out. When Gretchen hit the door, it flew open. There was none of the resistance Gretchen was expecting. She stumbled into the mill a few steps before losing her balance and falling face first on the rough plank floor. The impact was such that Gretchen lost the pitchfork she was holding. It clattered across the large open room to rest against the far wall under some machinery.

Helga was filled with glee. When she saw Gretchen about to hit the door she stepped aside instead of trying to force the door closed against Gretchen’s charge. She was rewarded at the sight of her enemy on the floor before her. She wasted no time in diving onto her foe, straddling her, and yanking back as hard as she could on her enemy’s long blond hair. Helga enjoyed the damage she was inflicting and gleefully told Gretchen what she had in store for her.

Gretchen was in dire straights. Her eyes started to fill with tears as her scalp was being torn, her neck was stretched back, and her back was bent almost to the breaking point. She heard Helga hiss into her ear, “When I get through with you, the funeral will have to be closed casket!” Spurred, Gretchen reached back blindly and got a hold of one of Helga’s braids. Yanking as hard as she could she was rewarded with a shriek of pain. Even more rewarding, was the fact that she pulled Helga off balance. Pushing off the floor, Gretchen started them both rolling across the floor. Helga, surprised at this turn of events, loosened her grip, allowing Gretchen to escape.

Both have got to their knees as they caught sight of one another, they paused, breathing hard and sizing up their situation. Two madwomen were in an isolated place. No one will interrupt them. No one will stop them. This has gone beyond Victor. Despite the clothing torn, the pain received, the blood shed, both were eager to go on. Nothing would satisfy either one of them except to see their foe dead.

Gretchen took the opportunity to view and categorize her surroundings. The mill was a large open room about 40 feet long and 20 feet wide. 20 feet across the small side door she came in was a moving convoluted mess of wooden gears that somehow turned a millstone to crush grain into flour. To the right of the machinery was a 6’ long table with benches to either side with cups and a bottle upon it. Behind the table a set of shelves with various items, mostly drink, upon them. At the right wall was a double door large enough to admit a wagon. To the right of the door was a large set of scales and a stack of grain filled sacks. To the left was another small door, Gretchen had no idea where it went. Windows with their shutters open, provided light and ventilation. The entire room smelled of and was coated in a light dusting of flour. Their struggle raised a gossamer like cloud of flour and the breeze though the open windows set it dancing in the sunlight.

To these women however, the beauty of the moment was lost as they concentrated at the task at hand, killing their rival. Slowly the two got to their feet and started circling. Ruthlessly, they categorized the damage they did to one another, looking for some weakness to exploit. Then at some signal that only they could hear, they attacked one another. With shrieks of rage they filled their hands with their opponent’s hair and spun about the room, ripping and tearing at one another until Helga tripped and both ended up on the floor again.

There on the floor they rolled, their skirts riding high as each tried to gain the upper hand. First Gretchen would be on top raining blows onto Helga’s once pretty face. Then Helga would manage to get on top, clawing at Gretchen’s face with cruel fingernails. Back and forth they battled pretty evenly until Helga latched onto Gretchen’s throat and started squeezing. Gretchen gave a small cough and suddenly found herself unable to breathe. Helga, who had her by the throat, was shaking her like a terrier shakes a rat. Gretchen knew by Helga’s expression that if she didn’t get out of this Helga would strangle her to death. Once again Victor’s fisticuffs lessons came to her rescue as she cupped her hands and slapped them to each side of Helga’s head. The double blow was relatively week and sloppy, but the pain was enough to cause Helga to thrust herself away and cup her ears. Gretchen was up and crawled after her as quickly as she could. Helga, seeing Gretchen crawling after her drew back her right leg and kicked out at her enemy. Gretchen grunted as she took the impact on her right shoulder. Grabbing her foe’s leg to immobilize it, all Gretchen managed to do was to come away with Helga’s stocking.

Helga managed to get to her feet and stumbled toward the table in hope of using the items on it as weapons. Her heavy green skirt and apron tripped her up, causing her to fall to one knee. Hearing footsteps behind her, Helga got to her feet and lunged for the bottle on the table, only to be stopped short and jerked back like a dog on a leash. Her wind suddenly cut off, Helga reached for and tried to dig her fingers under the thing that had stolen her breath.

Gretchen delighted in her rival’s plight. Grinning savagely, she pulled her makeshift garrote, Helga’stocking, tighter around the bitch’s throat. Gretchen gloried in the fact that Helga’s face was turning red. She enjoyed Helga’s futile attempts to pull the stocking from her throat. She laughed at Helga’s antics as Helga pulled her around the room in a vain attempt to get free. Gretchen stopped laughing when Helga suddenly went backward, pushing Gretchen into the moving machinery of the water wheel! Gretchen screamed as the gears scraped into her back and tangled up part of her hair. Gretchen instantly abandoned her hold and threw herself away from Helga and the machinery. Her shriek echoed through out the mill as she left part of her hair in the gears. It was lucky that she escaped when she did, otherwise she would have pulled into the machinery. Gretchen stood there, contemplating her escape when the sudden sound of smashing glass brought her attention back to her enemy.

Helga had had enough. Once free of that makeshift noose, she again lunged for the bottle of liquor on the table. Where once she thought of just wrapping it around Gretchen’s head, she now had a better idea. Raising the bottle high, she brought it down on the edge of the table. It exploded with a satisfying crash, leaving a nicely jagged edge. Helga turned and brandished the broken bottle, giving Gretchen an idea what was in store for her. Gretchen seeing the bottle took a step back, whirled and ran for the far door. Helga screamed in frustration and pursued as quickly as her hurt leg could let her. Despite her scream, Helga was pleased. There was no escape for Gretchen behind that door. It was a walkway that only went to the wheel. Helga laughed maniacally as she saw Gretchen pause, look at the lake 20 feet below, and then turn to await her charge. 

Helga charged, her broken bottle raised and held downward in her hand. With Helga screaming in rage and victory and Gretchen screaming in rage and fear, they met on the walkway. Helga plunged the broken bottle down onto her foe only to find it stopped by Gretchen’s two hands. What couldn’t be stopped was the force of Helga’s charge. Helga forced Gretchen to bend back over the railing, which at first groaned alarmingly, then parted with the crack of a pistol shot, dumping both into the freezing, dark water below.

They lost one another upon impact. Helga also lost the broken bottle. The alpine lake was so cold that it almost burned. As the water sucked them beneath the surface they desperately removed their clothing so as they could swim better. Gretchen removed her skirt, petty coat, and boots. When she made the surface she was garbed in just her stockings. Helga stripped off her apron and skirt. All that remained of her clothing was a single white stocking on her left leg. Both broached the surface practically nude and shivering. Blood, filth, and flour was washed from both, revealing cuts and bruises on once lovely feminine flesh. All that was forgotten once they caught sight of one another. Each did a single kick to bring them within grappling range and began the savage struggle again. Each grabbed the wet hair of her opponent and did her level best to push her opponent under. They screamed and cried and coughed as each tried to drown the other. They tired quickly however. Pain and exhaustion combined with the coldness of the water slowed them down. Still they did not stop. Helga released Gretchen hair and grabbed the swan-like throat before her. Gretchen, with strong hands about her throat, did the same to Helga. As both squeezed, trying to throttle the life from her foe, the lake leeched the warmth from their bodies, the consciousness from their minds, and drew them deep into the depths and the darkness.

They were not found until morning. The search parties have been out all night seeking the two women. The talk of monsters had been getting wilder and wilder. It was all Victor could to prevent the party from becoming a mob. The came the shout. Men went to the bank of the lake and gathered about with disbelieving eyes. In the deathly silence Victor knelt, first prying Gretchen’s hands from Helga’s throat. Then he pried Helga’s hands from Gretchen’s throat. “Herr Schmidt, Herr Muller, come get your daughters.” announced Victor in a terribly quiet voice. The men went down, covered their daughters’ nakedness with borrowed cloaks and started to sob uncontrollably. As for Victor, he too had to fight very hard to keep control. He knew why they fought and died. “Damn you” a vicious hiss sounded in the still morning. Victor looked up to see Herr Schmidt continue to Herr Muller. “Damn you and your daughter to Hell!”

“Enough” Victor’s voice cracked across the stillness. “There has been enough conflict, enough hatred.” His voice softened, “Gentlemen, take your daughters home.”

“But what about the monster?” queried someone from the crowd.

“Fools!” Victor rounded on them, “The only monster that visited here last night was one that had plagued mankind from the beginning…” “Hatred.” The men about him could only nod in agreement.

Epilogue – Today

Even dead they still plagued him, demanding that he choose. Thoughts of them whirled in his mind as Victor sat and brooded over his coming decision. “Helga and Gretchen, Helga and Gretchen” he thought as he drained his cognac. “If only I can…” Victor froze as inspiration struck.

Thus the Baron, Doctor Victor Von Frankenstein decided to take the best of both Gretchen and Helga in order to make the bride that his creature had demanded. 

The End

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