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Kingdom of Destiny: Chapters 1-3
Tonight there is a grand ball. I am not sure if Father will allow me to attend, since I am so young.
I am Princess Andromeda of the Kingdom of Silver Lakes. I am eight years old. My kingdom is near the Skies of Water and Fields of Gondorra. My father is an ill king and dying with every breath he takes. He is withered and aged even though he is a relatively young king.
A maid enters my room. She takes me to the water room, where she begins to clean me up from the long day. She pulls a beautiful sapphire blue silk gown with silver embroidery from my wardrobe. She brushes my blonde locks into a ballet bun encircled by a braid then dresses me. The gown slips easily over my slight form. The silk is cool against my skin and I practically dance while she fixes my tiara in my hair and applies facial glitter near my eyes, since that’s the only makeup my father allows.
My mother died of the Silver Fever years ago. I am her only child and my father’s only living heir. He wants me presented well.
I wiggle my toes into silver flats and pick up a worn book from my bedside. The book tells of a prophecy of famine and slavery ending in the fair queen ruling back on her rightful throne down from the depths of society. It is a wonderful story to read. It is the book of my religion, worshipping Farca. I open the tattered cover and become lost in the story.
An escort calls me down. The ball is about to begin.
The ball has been going on all evening. Father has had me dance with him several times and people have complimented Father on his beautiful daughter. I think they speak nonsense, for I am only eight, but Father just laughs heartily and says indeed.
The food looks better than it tastes. I do believe the cooks have prepared it to look wonderful and only those with an acquired taste actually like it.
Across the room, I see one of my dear friends, Fredonia of Faram Manor. I run across the room to her, careful not to trip on my gown.
Her own red velveteen gown is matched with her brown tresses and sparkling hazel eyes. There is gold embroidery on her gown and gold ribbons woven through her hair.
We hug and giggle. “Freddie, I have missed you. It’s been so long since you’ve visited the palace!”
“I know, but I’m not welcome all the time. Your father would have a stroke if I visited more often.” Her voice is colored with the tones of the southern region of Faram.
We eye my father and giggle again. We think that my father is in love with her mother, but we cannot be sure. Her mother, Ekaterina of Faram Manor, is a soft-spoken, delicate, provincial beauty and would be a perfect match for my father.
The ball soon ends, our giggling and chattering passing the time quicker than we would like. We say our goodbyes and make our departures.
A maid takes me back up to my room and dresses me for bed in a lace hemmed nightgown with loose trousers beneath. I wash my face clear of sparkles and take down my bun. The maid brushes my hair into a waist length braid for bed and turns the covers down on my four poster bed. I crawl in and pull the covers to my chin, snuggling up.
Later, Father comes in and kisses my cheek lightly. “Sleep well, daughter.” His breath tickles my cheek and I smile.
I awake to smoke. The tower windows are lined with putrid smoke, distant flames glowing on the metal window sashes. I cough, tears springing to my eyes.
Suddenly an explosion shakes the palace, the glass windows shattering inward from the impact. I throw my arms around my face instinctively, shielding it from shards of glass. Flames lick up the wall to my window.
Our peaceful palace is under attack.
My door slams open, banging against the opposite wall. I can see the silhouette of a man standing in my doorway. I clutch the bedcovers.
“Come, Princess. Make haste!” the young man coughs, grabbing my hand and pulling me from the room.
I stumble around behind my mysterious rescuer, temporarily blind in the sudden inky darkness of the interior hallway.
“What’s happened?” I cry, my voice swallowed in the dark.
“The palace is under attack. We are being forced into exile.” The man answers, his voice still unrecognizable.
Suddenly, a door opens, throwing us into the flame and smoke. I use my spare hand, shielding my face as we weave through an angry mob.
Something yanks hard at the back of my silken nightgown, throwing me hard to the cold stone floor of the courtyard. My jaws connect together with a clink and I bite my tongue. Warm blood fills my mouth and, disgusted, I spit it out.
The lace hem of my nightgown is torn from my fall. I yank off the torn embellishment and scramble for the young man’s hand again.
Now that we are in some sort of light, I can see him. He appears to be about fifteen years old, tall and lanky, so much that I mistook him for older. From his attire; simple woolen knee breeches, cotton chemise, and stockings with boats for shoes, he appears to be a stable boy.
He jerks me along behind him to a boat. He leaps aboard, and turns back to me, his arms open. He wants me to jump. I take a step back, frightened.
At that moment, I hear scuffling behind me. My pulse quickens, and I prepare to jump.
Hands reach for me, dirty fingers grasping at my hair and dress. A dark silhouette leaps into the boat, grabbing an oar from the benches. He smacks the boy in the head with it, knocking him out. The boy topples to the hull of the boat without a second movement. I scream.
A rough cloth is tied at my mouth to prevent me from making more noise. I pound on something warm and hard. It laughs cruelly. Something jerks my head back, then throws it forward again at a dizzying rate. My head feels unnaturally light. Before they can tie them, my hands find the source of my lightheadedness. My braid is gone. A tear trickles down my cheek.
Something or someone hits me over the head once. My vision sparkles into black fuzziness.
**7 Years Later**
Chapter 1: Slave
Leather thongs strike my back. I wince, my back arching against the raw stinging pain. Welts and bruises swell on my back, but the skin is never broken.
When the thongs don’t strike again, I crack open one eye. Is he done whipping me? I can feel the curious stares of other slaves as he circles around to me in front.
“Would you like to tell the other why you are being punished?” he snarls, spittle on his lip. He is Master of Blackmoor Manor, known to the slaves as Master.
“Answer me when I talk to you, girl!” he growls, baring his white teeth. He lifts his hand to smack me, but suddenly lowers it, eyes fixed past me.
I turn as well to see the sight he beheld. His wife is standing in the doorway, her face disapproving and her manner austere, yet kind. She strides across the furniture-barren room to the whipping stand.
I lower my eyes as she takes me in, inspecting every inch of me. Finally, she turns to her husband.
In a determined voice, she says, “She will be a house slave, not a field slave where she will be beat.”
Her husband bows his head and surrenders me to her. She grasps my arm and gently tugs me from the room. I am suddenly self-conscious of the fact that I look like I haven’t had a bath in about four years, which to be quite honest, I haven’t.
She takes me up to the manor and ushers me through a back door to a wooden staircase. All the while, she chattered about her plans for me and her new life here. The old missus had died about five years ago, and left behind five children, two of them twin infant girls. He remarried Mistress Olga, as she is called, and they have had one child together, and she came into the marriage with one daughter, bringing her to a grand total of seven children.
Fritz is seventeen, Alexei is fifteen, like me, Walter is fourteen, Anastazia is ten, Kezi and Miri are five, and Areida is two. Fritz looks just like his father in looks, dress, and manner while his two brothers couldn’t look more like their late mother. Kezi and Miri are as different as the sun and moon and Anastazia has Mistress Olga’s looks. Areida, well, she is too young to tell yet.
She suddenly stops and flings a door open into a simple, but elegant bedroom. I step into the room, my face portraying my awe. She pulls a cord near the breathtaking glass wall quickly three times. Maids begin appearing and filling a clawed-foot porcelain tub with hot water and lavender suds. I begin to relax, my face settling into a smile.
Mistress Olga gestures for me to undress. I hesitate, then tear the rough woolen field clothes off and slipped into the warm bathwater.
For the next half hour, I am scrubbed and scoured from head to toe, removing all dirt and grime. The maids cover me in a fluffy dress and set after my matted, gnarled hair.
The brush pulls strands of hair from my scalp with a quick, sharp sting. I grip the edge of my cushioned chair with white knuckles. Mistress Olga whips out the shears. I squeeze my eyes shut so I won’t have to watch.
A cool cloth is placed on my forehead and moves soothingly over my face, cleaning off layers of dirt.
My eyes open to see several awed, astonished faces around me. My hair had been brushed to a sheen, showing its gleaming blonde color. My face had been powdered with little talcum with a dab of pale rouge in my cheeks.
I jump away from the girl in the mirror. She did the same, mimicking my exact actions.
“Is that…me?” I gasp.
Mistress Olga laughs. “Yes, yes it is. Come.” She gestures for me to follow.
I see the maids gathering my old clothes and hesitate.
“They’ll be burned. Come, to new clothes.” Mistress Olga insists.
I follow her into a colossal closet filled with gowns for every occasion and nightgowns of every formality. Mistress Olga rummages through some and selects a simple blue belted gown. She holds it out toward me.
I pull up the hem and peer under it. Mistress Olga looks through the collar and smiles at me.
“It’s huge,” I comment softly.
“It’s only huge to you, my dear. I will take you under my wing and raise you up as a proper gentlewoman.”
“But you told Master I would be a house slave,” I stammer, my mind whirling in confusion.
Mistress Olga simply laughs.
Chapter 2: New Life
As Mistress Olga promised, my lessons were to begin in a week. In the meantime, I played with the little girls since Mistress Olga was often away on business.
One morning, after a late breakfast, the maids dress me in a pink provincial-style dress with an elbow length white chemise. I braid my hair down my back and slip into pink flats.
I head out to the winding rose gardens with a wicker basket, my intent to gather bouquets for girls’ tea party this afternoon to keep them occupied.
I hum a quiet lullaby while I work. I am almost finished when I hear someone clear their throat behind me. I freeze. I stand up, turning slowly as I do. Fritz of Blackmoor Manor is standing there.
I curtsey slightly. “Master Fritz.”
He smirks. “Lady Andromeda. Such a foreign name. Where did you say you were from?”
I stiffen. “I didn’t.” I narrow my eyes into slits, preparing myself for the inevitable interrogation.
Instead, Fritz slowly circles me. I feel a hot blush rise to my cheeks. I am not used to being looked over in this fashion.
He stops behind me and comes close. I begin to hyperventilate, unsure of what he’s going to do. He slips his arms about my waist, his lips at my neck.
I yank away from him. “Fritz, stop this.”
“Why?” He laughs.
“You and I both know it’s wrong. You know you aren’t allowed to speak to me unless your mother is present, which she isn’t.”
“You don’t like this?” He laughs softly, almost mocking me. “We’re alone…for once. You’re absolutely breathtaking and naÃ¯ve, and…”
He stops talking and just gazes at me. My stomach sinks into a pit somewhere in my pelvis, and I begin backing away from him, keeping a distance between us. I’m doing pretty good when I feel something at my back. The garden wall. No.
Fritz moves in then, pinning my arms at my sides and angling his head. He smiles, then presses his lips to my mouth.
I struggle, trying to push him away from me, but only succeeding in him thinking that I like it and want more. He presses closer to me, until I’m sure I’m about to become one with the wall.
I rip my mouth away and gasp, “No. You never looked at me while I was a slave, why now? It’s forbidden and if we are caught…” My eyes fill with tears and I attempt to tear away from his grasp.
He only grips tighter and kisses me again. I pull away and shout “Farca!”
He yanks on my arms.
“Ouch!” I cry. “Fritz, stop!”
“Don’t make any more noise, and I won’t do anything rash.”
I snort. “What’s your definition of rash?”
He laughs, a cruel hard sound in the back of his throat. “Feisty. I like it.” He kisses me once more.
This time, I don’t hesitate. I free one of my arms in a burst of strength and slap him directly across the face and knee him in the pelvis.
He doubles over and backs away from me, cursing.
“Our visit is over, Master Fritz. It’s time for me to make these bouquets and get dressed for dinner.”
I jerk my other arm away from Fritz and gather up my fallen roses, flouncing off to the manor house.
Chapter 3: Becoming a Gentlewoman
My lessons with Mistress Olga begin this morning. After a refreshing shower, I call in the maids.
They bring me a green cotton dress with black stockings and black dancing shoes. My hair is brushed into three French braids which are then coiled into a single bun at the nape of my neck.
Again, my face is powdered and my lips colored. I wiggle my stocking toes into my dancing shoes and teeter down the hallway to the library.
When I am permitted entrance, Mistress Olga is waiting for me. She has laid out books for studies, a tea set for lessons on tea, and cleared out an area for dance lessons.
“Walter and Alexei will be joining us,” she says. “They too need their gentlemen lessons.”
I smile at the prospect of Walter, a rambunctious fourteen year old interested in nature, being a gentleman.
A soft, insistent knock comes at the door. Mistress Olga calls for them to enter. The boys come through the door and bow quickly to Olga and me. I curtsey in return.
Mistress Olga claps twice. “Students, please take your places around the tea table.”
Walter pulls out a chair for me with a nervous smile. “Thank you, Walter,” I reply in my own trembling voice.
Alexei looks at us. “Are you two nervous?”
We look in shock at him. “You aren’t?”
“Well, not really. I’ve been having lessons for a year now.”
“Well then it makes sense for us to be nervous. We’ve never had lessons before.” Walter says determinedly to his brother, eyes flashing.
I giggle quietly behind my gloved hand. The sibling rivalry between the two is absolutely hilarious.
Mistress Olga looks at the three of us in amusement. “Well, we will begin with tea, then move to dancing, and studies after that.”
Walter and Alexei bow their head in agreement. I simply smile.
“Andromeda, this lesson is for you,” Mistress Olga says, turning to me. “You will learn how to handle the tea set and will serve the gentlemen.”
I give a wobbly smile, and stand.
TO BE CONTINUED……