Awesome Authors Presents Ashley Lister

Duke Bluebeard’s Castle by Ashley Lister


For one chilling moment Judith thought she could hear a scream.

It was a woman’s voice and the tone was rich and redolent with pain and regret. The cry was heartfelt from despair. The mournful wail was carried by an undercurrent of something darkly exciting. Coming from the furthest shadows of the castle’s gloom, rattling along the rickety wooden banister and down the stairs that swept into the hallway of the donjon, the cry eventually tapered off to a strangled sob.

And then there was only silence.

The candles fluttered in their sconces as though brushed by an unseen hand. The guttering flames in his candelabra came close to being extinguished. Judith was forced to laugh with self-deprecation at her own nervousness.

It hadn’t been a woman’s scream.

There had been nothing unusual or mysterious about the tone.

It had only been the call of the wind, growing shrill as it whistled through the nooks and crannies of the castle’s ancient stonework. She silently repeated these explanations inside her thoughts, determined to believe the words even though she wasn’t wholly convinced. She could have sworn there’d been a warning in that cry.

Her new husband’s piratical smile did little to help assuage her fears. His jet-black beard glistened like obsidian. The shine within the shadows that hooded his unpatched eye glimmered with the potential for malice. From the corner of his grin a tarnished gold tooth winked in the candlelight. When he guffawed at her panicked expression, Judith thought his baritone laughter should have frightened Satan himself.

“Did you hear what I said, Mrs Bluebeard?” he enquired.

She swallowed, apprehensive that she couldn’t recall what they had been talking about before the cry had diverted her attention. There was no purchase in racking her brains because her mind was a tabula rasa. Not wanting to anger him with a lie, sure he would be able to see through the transparency of any deceit, she shook her head.

“You’ll have to forgive me, Duke Bluebeard,” she started. “It’s been an eventful day. My thoughts must have been elsewhere.”

He nodded, seeming content with her apology. He lifted his candelabra high in the air. The weak glow stretched to the upper levels of the donjon. Fingers of light touched the wooden staircase that was fixed against the stone walls. The illumination lit more than half a dozen grand doorways. It caught the shadows of fluttering wings on circling starlings that nested in the rafters at the top of the donjon. Even in the miserable and ineffectual light from the candles Judith thought the view was dramatic and daunting. She realised, when she saw the castle’s entranceway during the day, it would look breathtaking and spectacular.

Her spirits were momentarily lightened with anticipation.

Perhaps her new role as Duke Bluebeard’s wife would not be as wretched as she had feared. The clatter of overhead thunder grumbled against the castle walls. It made the air taste salty with the electric anticipation of lightning.

“My business affairs call me abroad for a week or more,” Duke Bluebeard confided. He was repeating the words with forced patience, clearly trying to show that he was not annoyed that she hadn’t heeded him the first time he had spoken. “And, while that’s an inconvenience to the beginnings of our marriage, it’s sadly unavoidable.”

Judith smiled agreement. Now that he had repeated himself she remembered hearing that much before.

“You may spend these first few days familiarising yourself with your new home, meeting our staff, exploring the rooms, and learning the duties that will be expected of you in your role as my new wife.”

The majesty of his booming voice trembled against the woodwork and resonated through the stone walls. Listening to his mellifluous tones she could have closed her eyes and easily forgotten that he had the countenance of an ogre. She had heard him saying all of this and wondered if she had really missed any of his previous speech or merely forgotten everything in the upset of hearing the scream of the wind.

Another bellow of thunder roared above. Beneath that sound Judith wondered if she could hear the shadow of the shriek she had caught a moment earlier.

“You may go anywhere in this house that you please,” Duke Bluebeard announced. Nodding up toward the doors on the galleried staircase, he added, “You may visit every room and revel in the hospitality contained behind each door. Enjoy yourself without fear of consequence or repercussion because everything in this house is now yours as much as it is mine.”

Judith was going to thank him for his generosity.

She was silenced by another roar of thunder.

Duke Bluebeard said, “There is only one exception.”

Something in his tone made her regard him warily.

There was a lilt to his voice as unsettling as the shrill call that she had mistaken for an anguished cry. Unnerved, Judith regarded his one good eye with a feigned air of composure. She willed herself not to think of the stories she had heard.

“You can go anywhere you please in this house. You can command my servants with the confidence that they will obey you as they would heed me.” His gaze flashed back up to the gallery above them as he added, “But you must never enter the seventh door.”

She followed the line of his gaze and saw the particular door he was studying. Highest of all the doors, the same design as every other – dark oak, polished to a dull lustre and fitted with a shiny brass knob – it seemed innocuous and undeserving of such a portentous warning.

“Why mustn’t I enter the seventh door, Duke Bluebeard?”

“You must not enter the seventh door because your husband has told you not to.” His single eye was fixed on her with a dour warning. “A good wife would be satisfied with that answer and would question it no further.”

She remembered the stories.

Duke Bluebeard repeatedly took new wives. Each time he took a new wife he warned the innocent young bride never to enter the seventh room. Each time the curious wife defied his warning. Each time she discovered the seventh door hid a trophy cabinet filled with the severed heads of her predecessors from the Bluebeard marriage bed. And, each time, because he always found out, Duke Bluebeard decapitated his curious new bride and added her head to his collection behind the seventh door.

But surely, Judith told herself, that was just a wicked tale that contained no grain of truth. Wasn’t it? Surely that was just an apocryphal fable intended to demonise feminine curiosity and validate masculine oppression. Wasn’t it?

“What secret does the room contain that you want to keep from me?”

He lowered the candelabra so that the door retreated and hid amongst the shadows above them. Solemnly, he shook his head. He looked like a man struggling to seem patient. The effort only made him appear more intimidating.

“Trust me, Mrs Bluebeard, you don’t want to find out my secrets.” He took hold of her hand, led her to the donjon stairs, and said, “You don’t want to find out any of my secrets.”

Shivering, and trying to disguise her nerves, Judith allowed her husband to lead her up the rickety staircase and up to the first door.

The wood beneath her feet groaned with each step. She could smell the smoky remnants of the candle and the pungent flavour of her new husband’s perspiration. She was aware that the buckles on his boots jangled menacingly as he marched up each step.

They paused outside the bedroom door while the fluttering flames of the candles cast dancing shadows across the stone walls. Above them she was conscious of light glinting from the polished knob of the seventh doorway. She knew her husband was taking her to their marital bedroom and a snake of unease loosened its coils inside her belly.

“I thought your business affairs were calling you abroad for a week,” she started hesitantly.

His smile was broad enough to show the full length of his tarnished gold tooth. Caught in the gleam of the candlelight, his single eye appraised her with hungry lust. “I’m needed abroad with some urgency,” he agreed. “But not with so much urgency it can spoil my first hour with my new bride.”

She stepped back into the shadows, hoping he wouldn’t see the reservations that now held her in their thrall. His hand had been locked around her wrist but he released his hold on her and snatched a chatelaine of keys from the thick belt at his waist. Selecting the smallest he slipped it into the lock, twisted it, then pushed the door open. Raising the candelabra, gallantly coaxing her into the bedroom, he said, “After you, Mrs Bluebeard.”

Judith bit her lower lip. Rather than glancing at her new husband she studied the doorway he wanted her to enter. Everything beyond the jamb was impenetrable blackness and she knew that to yield to his invitation would be stepping into the unknown. It crossed her mind that she had already come this far. Going into the bedroom was only another step on a road she had been travelling since accepting his proposal of marriage. But it still took a tremendous effort to persuade herself to enter the room. As she stepped into the void of darkness she was aware of her new husband following.

There was the funereal tang of lilies. She caught the delicate fragrance of a pomander and the earthy and more mystic musk of scorched sage. Light from Bluebeard’s candles struggled to extend into the dense air of their bedroom but she walked over the threshold and, when she reached the shadowy bulk of the large four poster bed, she turned to face him.

His smile glistened with avarice.

He placed the candelabra on a bedside cabinet, careful not to let the flames rest too close to the velvet drapes and hanging tapestries that swathed the walls. With restrained haste he reached for her bodice.

She wanted to snatch a demure hand against her chest, tell him that he was taking things too quickly, but she didn’t doubt he would resent such a display of modesty. Instead, she stood rigid as he plucked at the lace fastenings that contained her bosom and released the bow she had tied there. Slowly, the fabric was unpeeled from her breasts. She heard him draw breath, a sound that mixed hunger, impatience and satisfaction in one wordless exclamation, and then she realised she was exposed to him. Glancing down, seeing the expanse of pale flesh and swollen tips of her nipples, she raised a hesitant gaze at his face.

His smile had turned wicked with its breadth. He licked his lips approvingly. Seeing that she was watching his face, suddenly seeming ill at ease beneath the scrutiny of her attention, he grabbed the bodice with both hands and tore it open.

Judith stiffened as though he had slapped her, but made no objection to the fact that he had stripped her topless with the one impatient gesture. She stood motionless as he hurled the rent garment aside. She made no attempt to stop him when his callused hands reached artlessly for her breasts. The sensation of being touched was everything she had dreaded and hoped. The exquisite sensation of having her new husband’s hands cup and squeeze her was only spoilt by the repulsiveness of his features and his avaricious leer.

“You’re a fine prize,” he breathed.

She swallowed, aware that he was giving her a compliment and not sure how to respond.

“Thank you, Duke Bluebeard.”

She didn’t know whether he didn’t hear or if he was simply in no mood to reply. His hands went to the waistband of her skirts, she felt a brief moment’s tension as he pulled tight on the fabric, and then she heard the ripping sounds as the cloth was torn away from her hips.

The candles seemed to roar as the movement of air caught them.

Even though her modesty was protected by richly inked shadows, she could feel her blushes burning more deeply when she was presented naked for him.

“Aren’t you everything a groom could wish for?” he chuckled.

She said nothing. To cover her embarrassment she dutifully began to help her husband out of his clothes. She unplucked the buttons beneath the ruffle on his shirt, exposing his broad, masculine chest as she pushed it from his shoulders. As soon as she had unbuckled the stiff leather belt from his breeches, the garments fell from his hips. She knelt on the floor, her face no more than a breath away from his manliness, as she worked to unfasten the buckles that secured his leather boots.

He stood motionless as she removed the boots. There was only one chilling moment when the swaying shaft of his erection stroked her cheek.

Judith stiffened.

The flesh was scalding. It left a fluid trail against her soft, dry skin.

With his boots removed, Judith stood up and considered him. Naked her new husband was more foreboding than when he was dressed. His entire body was covered with a down of dark hair that gave his muscular physique an animal appearance. The only parts of his body that weren’t swathed with dark curls were the palms of his hands and the thick length of flesh that pushed out from his groin.

All her doubts and reservations returned fresh to her mind. The idea of fleeing had never seemed more appealing. But how could a solitary woman flee from a secure castle on a stony island in the unchartered depths of the Forgotten Sea? She supposed she only had to escape his clutches in the first instance, and worry about the consideration of the castle, island and sea later. But there was no time to think about that much as he pulled her into his embrace. The heat of his erection smouldered against her bare leg. The fat and swollen end pressed dangerously close to the lips of her exposed sex.

She wanted to scream. It would have been a scream that would have rivalled the pitiful wail she had heard on entering the house. But he was kissing her before she could open her mouth. Whatever sound of terror she had intended to make was lost as his tongue plundered between her lips.

The scratch of his beard rubbed coarsely against her mouth. The slippery hairless length of his smooth tongue made her think of the slippery hairless length that sat like molten flesh against her thigh.

One hand cupped her breast.

His callused thumb brushed across her nipple. The traitorous bead of flesh stood hard for him, as though it savoured his unwelcome caress.

And his hand slipped down to her hip.

She bit back a cry of protest.

Strong fingers clutched at her. That rough thumb of his stroked against her loin. She was stricken by the idea of how close he was to touching her most intimate parts. She swallowed and held her breath. Her heart raced. She struggled not stiffen against him for fear he might sense her revulsion.

With sickening horror she knew what he wanted from her. The idea left her ill with a maddening combination of need and nausea.

Sisters and family had told her what to expect on her wedding night and Judith had treated all those stories with a measure of gratitude and scepticism. Now, as he positioned himself over her, she began to wish she had paid more heed to what had been said.

“Make me happy, Mrs Bluebeard,” he growled.

His callused fingers touched against the velvet folds of her wet centre. She was jolted by conflicting barbs of desire and disgust. Without knowing why she pushed herself more closely against him. She didn’t want to share physical intimacy with him. But she was desperate to know what other sensations he could provide.

The fat end of his erection pressed against her sex. It was round and broad and too large to go inside her tight confines. Even when he laid her on the bed, allowing her to rest against the must-scented sheets and part her thighs, she didn’t think she would be able to accommodate the broad girth of his shaft.

“Wait!” she called.

He stiffened.

She could sense he did not like being told to wait.

“Let me make this easier, Duke Bluebeard,” she whispered. When her sisters had given her advice they had suggested ways and wiles. She was loath to try them but the alternative…

Judith shuddered.

She pressed kisses against the scratchy curls on his chest as she slipped beneath him. She pressed kisses against the unnatural hairs that covered his stomach. She pressed kisses lower as her mouth neared the heat of his arousal.

Duke Bluebeard groaned.

He had been stiff above her. Now he relaxed. In a fluid movement he moved her from beneath him and collapsed onto the bed. She found herself above him and with their positions changed. Her mouth was now poised on the brink of accepting his thick shaft. Her inner thighs were spread around the coarse and scratchy tendrils of his bristling beard.

Not allowing herself to think about her actions, only remembering that her sisters had said this would please any husband, Judith took him in her mouth and sucked. She wouldn’t let herself think about the taste. She could only let her thoughts focus on the sensation of his smooth hardness throbbing softly against her tongue. As she suckled and inhaled, she was aware that his mouth was busily reciprocating between her thighs.

His kisses were not as unpleasurable as she had feared.

His tongue stroked the smouldering length of her sex lips.

His nose pushed against the forbidden ring of her anus. His lower lip, a delightful combination of glossy-smooth flesh and scratchy-harsh beard, taunted her sex to a state of heightened sensitivity. She could feel the rush of responses swelling in her stomach.

“Suck it,” he gasped.

She felt the words being commanded against the wetness of her sex.

“Suck it and take my seed in your mouth.”

She sobbed, repulsed by the idea and suddenly desirous to do exactly as he had demanded. She attacked his length with renewed ferocity, stroking her tongue against the sweat, slick flesh and sucking with a greedy haste.

He was repulsive and dangerous and a scourge to all those who had ever sailed the seven seas. He had a reputation for cruelty and misogyny and brutal treatment of his wives. But she yearned to taste his explosion in her mouth. She needed to savour that flavour.

His tongue continued to spark miracles against the sweet flesh of her sex. She was brought close to tears of gratitude as he lapped ripples of pure joy from her lips. The pressure of satisfaction continued to build inside her loins and she felt it flood from her body in small rushes of euphoria that left her torn between being sated and harvesting a greedy need for more.

His climax came without warning.

She was sucking against the stiff shaft when it shuddered in an unbidden spasm. A stream of scalding ejaculate brushed over her tongue and spat against the back of her throat. Before her gag reflex had swallowed that first mouthful the fat length was juddering again and again, thrusting globules of creamy and noisome seed to the back of her mouth.

She could taste the brine from within him. It was a flavour that now filled her nostrils and slickly covered the interior of her mouth.

And, whilst that repulsed her, the magic that he was licking against her sex only continued to rise and swell and take her to a plateau of discovery that left her breathless with shrieking gratitude.

She collapsed on the bed, still sucking at his dwindling shaft as the last tremors of pleasure shook their way from her trembling body.

“Is this your new bride?”

Judith almost shrieked when she heard the voice. She spat her husband’s cock from her mouth and modestly covered herself with her hands as she regarded the woman who had been watching them.

“Bella,” Duke Bluebeard exclaimed cheerfully. “I didn’t think you’d miss the opportunity to meet my new bride.”

“This is her, is it?

He sat up on the bed. He seemed unembarrassed that he was naked and had only just finished sharing marriage’s most intimate pleasures with his new bride.

“Bella,” he said in the tones of a formal introduction, “I’d like to present the new Mrs Bluebeard. Judith, this is my housekeeper, Bella.”

Mortified that the woman had seen her naked, horrified by the idea that the housekeeper had been watching while she and her new husband joined on the sheets in a feral coupling of mouths and private parts, Judith mumbled a terse greeting.

Bella ignored Judith. The housekeeper’s concentration was fixed on the duke. “Congratulations on your marriage,” she said tonelessly. “I do hope your matrimonial bliss has more longevity on this occasion.”

Bluebeard bellowed laughter. He clapped Judith on the back and said, “Heed my housekeeper well, Mrs Bluebeard. She knows my needs and she can guide you to being happy in your new home.”

He began to put his clothes on as he spoke. His spent shaft waggled innocuously up and down.

Bella eyed the flesh with stoic disinterest.

“I’ll be away for a week taking care of business abroad, Bella,” Duke Bluebeard thundered. “Please take care of Mrs Bluebeard in my absence. When I return I shall compensate for you any extra duties you’ve had to undertake because of my absence.”

“Very good, Duke Bluebeard.”

He turned to Judith and placed a hand behind her head. Before she knew what was happening she realised the man was about to kiss her. His heavily bearded face scratched the sensitive flesh of her soft cheeks. His abrasive mouth scoured hard against her lips. She could taste the flavour of her own sex on his tongue.

Two stubby fingers went to the still-tingling lips of her sex. He squeezed them hard against her. She bucked with a thrill of unbidden pleasure and wished her body wasn’t so responsive for him.

He moved his face away as she was torn between a surge of desire for him and a fresh burst of loathing. When she opened her eyes she saw that Bella was glaring at her with a fresh scowl of contempt.

“Remember that kiss until I return,” Duke Bluebeard commanded.

Then he was marching out of the room, the buckles on his boots rattling every step with a menace that frightened the starlings lodged in the rafters atop the donjon.

Judith was left alone. She was naked beneath the scowl of the housekeeper. She no longer bothered to drape a modest hand across her breasts or over the sodden split of her sex. The housekeeper had seen everything already. There was no sense in trying to keep secrets that had already been uncovered.

When she caught the glint of the housekeeper’s disapproving scowl, Judith realised she had just uncovered the woman’s main secret. “You love him, don’t you?” Judith observed.

Bella’s lips tightened into a reluctant frown. She said nothing.

Judith continued, darkly thrilled to think she had fallen on the housekeeper’s truth. “You want to keep him for yourself. You’ve been responsible for his previous wives exploring their curiosity…”

“What nonsense,” laughed Bella. There was no mirth in the sound. “I don’t know where you young women get such fanciful ideas.” She held up a hand to indicate that the discussion was ended.

But Judith could see the truth in the woman’s face.

Bella adored Duke Bluebeard. Bella clearly wanted to share his bed as a future Mrs Bluebeard. And Bella would clearly give anything to rid the Duke of unworthy wives.

“You must come with me so I can show you around you new home,” Bella decided. Your husband would want you to explore.”

Judith nodded. “My husband has already told me that I’m free to explore wherever I want. He said the only room I should never enter is the seventh room at the top of the castle.”

Bella arched an eyebrow. “He warned you against visiting that room?” She barked dry laughter. “I don’t know why he would have suggested such a thing. I think that’s where we should start the tour of the castle.”

She held out a hand and took Judith’s fingers.

As soon as the contact was made, Judith was stung by a dazzling array of images that she knew came from Bella’s memory.

She could see Bella watching Duke Bluebeard with each wife that had spent time in his matrimonial bed. As Bella watched, Judith became aware of the woman’s desperate arousal: one part lust-fuelled desire to two parts stomach-clenching jealousy.

She could see Bella admiring the Duke’s hirsute figure, licking her lips as she considered the smooth stalk of his arousal. She could see Bella glowering at each nubile and desirable bride, her loathing growing greater every time a woman took pleasure on Duke Bluebeard’s body. And she could see Bella leading each new bride to the grisly trophy room behind the seventh door.

It was where he kept the severed heads of his fatally curious wives.

They stared balefully toward the door, cloudy eyes blindly lamenting every miserable bride who discovered their presence behind the seventh door. If they could have spoken Judith knew that each of them would have been sighing the words, “He finds out. He always finds out.”

Almost as an afterthought she realised, when she first entered the castle, she had heard one of these severed heads crying out in tortured happiness that decapitation was preferable to marital life in Duke Bluebeard’s bed.

“Mrs Bluebeard?”

Bella’s words brought Judith back into the room.

“I asked you if you wanted to begin your tour of the castle. I asked you if you wanted to start by exploring what lies behind the forbidden seventh door.”

Her grip tightened around Judith’s wrist.

Judith considered the question. She realised she had a choice between this life as Bluebeard’s bride, or the oblivion of death that would come from ignoring her husband’s one command.

“The seventh room,” she repeated. Allowing Bella to keep hold of her wrist, Judith said, “Yes. Please, take me there.”


About Ashley Lister

Ashley ListerAshley Lister is the author of more than fifty published full-length titles, several of which have been translated into foreign languages. He has written countless short stories and novellas and been published in a variety of national magazines, celebrated anthologies and academic journals.  Ashley has also written three non-fiction books, as well as discussing his work in national newspapers (such as The Daily Express, Daily Record etc) and on national radio.  Aside from continuing to write long and short fiction, Ashley regularly blogs for the Erotic Readers & Writers Association, reviews horror (fiction and film) for the online magazine The Digital Dead, hosts a regular open mic night for Blackpool’s Pub Poets and is the poet in residence at the Fosse’s Theatre Showbar Comedy Club.

Ashley has lectured in Creative Writing for more than a decade now, writing and running a variety of courses aimed at a broad range of abilities. He has delivered workshops to students ranging from functional skills classes through to HE courses. He has delivered workshops as part of Occupational Therapy provision at secure mental health facilities and he has discussed the craft at writer-focused conferences such as Eroticon and the annual Self-Publishing conference, delivered at Leicester University.

He recently completed his PhD in Creative Writing where his thesis considers the relationship between plot and genre in short fiction.

Twitter: @ashleylister



Books by Ian D Smith

How to Write Erotic Fiction and Sex Scenes

How to Write Erotic Fiction and Sex Scenes

Whether you’re writing a steamy erotic novel, or a romantic novel and want to take the reader beyond the bedroom door, writing a convincing sex scene can be one of the most difficult challenges for any fiction writer. How to Write Erotic Fiction and Sex Scenes is a practical guide to help every writer rise to this challenge.

Buy Links


Swingers: Female Confidential

Swingers: Female Confidential

Why do women swing?

In a frank and fascinating exposé of female involvement in the swinging scene, Ashley Lister sets out to find answers to this tantalizing question. Through painstaking research and countless interviews, he reveals the sometimes shocking attitudes and secret lives of those women at the forefront of today’s recreational sex scene.

This is the first ever book devoted exclusively to female swingers and includes candid confessions from a wide spectrum of women, from young party-loving students to outwardly conservative middle-aged professionals. It provides a comprehensive and up-to-the-minute survey of the contemporary swinging scene and a remarkable insight into modern female sexuality.

Buy Links

Raven and Skull

Raven and Skull

Jean-Paul Sartre said, ‘Hell is other people.’ But he was only half right. Hell is the other people who work in the offices of Raven and Skull.After a week of horror and upset, six colleagues from the Raven and Skull offices get together in the pub to exchange stories and decide which of them has had the worst week.Each one has had a week plagued by adultery, theft, betrayal, murder, cannibalism, black magic and death. The stories theyshare are dark and twisted and reflect the regular reality of Raven and Skull. Do you dare to hear what they have to say?

Buy Links

Awesome Authors Archive

Pin It on Pinterest