Marantha is sent from her home to make a life for herself in court. But things never go as planned
Evil isn't born it's made
An age of gold will end and so the land will be torn asunder trice and thrust into endless battle. Two born of the same blood will lead an army to opposite ends of a battlefield and so they shall too be torn from the binds of blood. One shall survive and unite the world in darkness and death.
The markets bustled with shoppers darting from one stall to the next to find the items they needed. A young girl played with a lock of long curly, red hair whilst swinging a basket casually in her other hand. She dragged her feet through the dew soaked grass, dampening the hem of her blue skirt. Mother expected her back by midday. She slipped up to a table covered in silk ribbons, if she was careful she might, this time, have enough coppers to buy herself a new one. She reached up to touch a brilliant blue one at the back only to have her hand swatted away by the shopkeeper. 'Begone child of filth, we don't want your dirty money here,
She jumped back and ran down a nearby alleyway. She never understood some peoples distaste for her family. Her mother was the matron of a pleasure house and she looked after many young girls and a few young men and their children. Marantha was not often allowed in the front rooms but she knew that there were many visitors from this village, and many of them were satisfied with the service they received. But when it came to being outside of the house many people turned her away in scorn and perhaps guilt. Child of filth and evil they would always say.
Marantha walked around the outside of the market and saw a familiar face led a horse to the animal pens. Kell the stable boy stopped and lent against a wall. He was whispering to someone in the shadows. Mara crept closer to try and over hear. A young lady in a pale yellow dress came up to him and he wrapped his arms around her waist. Though the girls face was covered Mara knew exactly who it was. Her older sister Avalyn, sneaking off to be with her lover.
'Ava!' She called ' Ma said you would be in big trouble if you two got caught together again!'
The youths turned towards Mara and Avalyn took a step towards her, holding out her hands, pleading.
'Don't worry i won't tell. I just don't want you hurt when we have to leave for court.'
Avalyn smiled at her sister and held both hands in hers.
'That's why Kell plans to join the legion, so he can make enough money and run away together. If everything goes according to plan, in just a few short years i'll be able to marry my own captain of the guard!' Avalyns eyes glistened, filled with her dream. Kell walked up to the two sisters and placed a hand on Mara's shoulder. 'we love each other, we will find a way to be together'
Mara smiled sadly at the couple. While she was too young to experience the love they felt for each other, she knew they were doomed in their quest to be together. Mara and Ava were training too hard to become ladies in waiting at court for such a youthful love to survive. They were destined for more rich or noble husbands their mother would always say. 'come on Mara lets finish getting the supplies for mother together. She'll be angry if we're late for Dynald's lessons' she said as she let go of one hand and started to lead her from the alley, throwing a quick look and smile over her shoulder at her lover.
Dynald was such an elegant old lady Mara always though. Dynald had grown up in the courts waiting on the noble ladies of her age. She had done well for herself and managed to secure a marriage with a handsome minor nobleman. They were in love for the first few years until she birthed a son. Her husband gave into the drink and gambled away their state. Despite Dynald's best efforts they found themselves fall into disgrace among the nobles of the region. Her husband didn't seem to care and just frequented the whore houses and taverns more. As her son grew older, she had to leave more and more care up to the nannies and tutors while she tried desperately to salvage their reputation and some money. She began her own same trading enterprise that she kept well hidden from her husband. As she withdrew more and more from her family, she started to help young girls find their way to court and helped them improve their station as she had. Finally when her husband got very ill and died, Dynald bought a town hose in Wyvernmill and moved away, leaving her son the run of the estate. Unfortunately he had developed his fathers temperament and was insufferable to the aging lady.
She had told Mara, that that was when she met her mother. Young, looking for work at the pleasure house and with two young children. Dynald had seen potential in the young girls and agreed to help make them a better life than what their mother had had. Since then avalyn and Marantha spent several hours a day, learnign to read, write, recite poetry and stitch. In return they ran errands for the lady and helped her with chores that she was no longer able to do. Dynald also enjoyed the company.
Dynald sat in the sun room with her embroidery abandoned on her lap. She was staring out the window, lost in a daydream. The girls waited patiently by the door, waiting to be let into the room. They listened for a moment to the birds which hopped around the base of the tree just outside the room. The birds stopped and the silence broke the old lady's revere. She turned and smiled at the girls. 'Come sit and read me some poems from the golden era.' Avalyn busied herself with making some tea and Mara chose a book off the shelf and sat on some cushions opposite the lady. Sweet floral fragrances filled the air and mixed with the sweet melody of the girls voices as they recited poems about long lost kingdoms and forbidden loves. 'Forbidden loves aways tug at the heartstrings' Dynald remarked 'but they are always so doomed to fail' she said looking pointedly at Ava.
'Your mother wanted you home early this even Avalyn, for the fitting of your new dresses for court' She smiled and Ava grinned. It wasn't long now and the sisters would be whisked away and be the stars of their own love stories set in the drama of court.
The sun started to fade and Mara glared at the embroidery flower that sat on her lap. It still wasn't perfect enough. Mara sighed to herself and put it aside to put on another kettle of tea. She heard hooves clatter on the flagstones outside. Dynald sat up straight, and quickly put aside her embroidery. 'i didn't realise my son would arrive so soon, quickly go child'
Heeding the lady's warning Mara put down the kettle and slipped out of the room quickly, a door across the hall banged opened and a scruffy and drunken man stumbled through the frame. 'Where do you think you're going' He grabbed her by the arm and tugged her back towards the sun room. 'No wonder i'm losing so much money on this place' he rambled at Dynald. 'You have such pretty servants. Well i found a buyer from this awful house, and i'm taking some of them with me where they'll be more useful to me' he cocked his head towards Marantha and raised his eye brow. Dynald looked horrified 'please Tiav i need my servants, they will come with me when i am moved' Tiav snorted and pushed Marantha back into the hall 'this one is too small to be of much use to you' He pushed her into the arms of his waiting soldiers and started to walk towards the exit, he paused 'A caravan will be here in a week to move this place mother' he spat. then he stalked out of the house into a waiting carriage. The soldier pushed Marantha towards the door and roughly lifted her over the edge of a cart. 'you girls look after this one, or you'll all get a good flogging' said a rough voice.
Mara cried out and flailed wildly as the hands in the cart tried to hold her still. A hand was pressed against her mouth, muffling her screams and a soft voice whispered in her ear. 'Hush child, there is nothing more we can do. or we will all die'
As the cart carried Mara further and further away from her home, her cries died out to small sobs and hiccups. Eventually her tears dried up and she felt herself being numbed by the rocking of the cart. A gentle hand stroked her hair and soft voices whispered stories to her as she fell asleep.
When She awoke the sun was shining and the rocking of the cart had stopped. She sat up quickly as she remembered what had happened the night before. Her eyes immediately welled up with tears, she had no idea how far she had been taken from her home or how far they would take her. Though she knew that now, running away was not an option. The face of a young lady popped over the edge of the cart. 'Oh good you're awake' she smiled sweetly and held out her hand to help Mara down 'breakfast is waiting, we let you sleep for awhile but we must get going soon. This is hard for you, i know, it'll take some getting used to but we'll help you.' Mara took the womans hand and was lifted from the cart. The woman led her to a campfire where the other servants sat. An older lady held out two bowls, 'Here's yours Sadis, and yours young miss. welcome to our family'
Mara ate quickly, realising that she had become hungry over the night. She then went to look for a nearby shrub to relieve herself. An other serving girl went with her as if they were afraid something awful would happen to them if they let her get away. And with a master like Tiav, perhaps there would. The serving girl led her back to the cart and helped her up the lifted herself easily over the edge and settled back against some sacks and closed her eyes. "enjoy the peace while it lasts kid, we will be put to work shortly" mara looked over at sadis who lounged lazily on a sack opposite. Sadis explained all about Tiav's home. It would be a weeks journey from now and they would pass close to the borders of Mesor. Once at the estate they would be expected to get back to the harvest, looking after the grounds and house. Sadis worked in the kitchen and promised to help find Mara a place to work there. "you can lose yourself in the cooking" she said "even for just a moment you can forget that we are slaves in all but name"
The carts continued their rhythmic rock across the country side for three more days. Mara was occasionally overcome with grief and longing to be home. She stared out at the world slowly rolling by as she let her hope for a grand rescue slip away. She listened to the girls chatter away or sometimes just sat in silence. She watched them doze on sacks of food. On the morning of the fourth day the girls seemed more restless than usual. They said they were over halfway to the estate They didn't want to scare mara but to them this trip was a holiday away from the hard slog at the estate. And the thought of it ending brought back a lot of the anxieties of home. The girls became noticeably more and more on edge. They didn't want to return.
Sadis walked with marantha as usual to a nearby bush so she could relieve herself. They were just a short run away from the Forrest and Mara would be lying if she said she didn't consider just making a run for it. But she wouldn't survive long out in the wild. Just as she lifted the hem of her skirt and started to squat screams erupted from back st the camp and people came crashing out of the Forrest a short while away chasing after the group. People held swords aloft and swung wildly at tiav and his men. A hand grabbed Mara roughly by the shoulder and spun her around. Sadis stared at her with wide eyes. 'run girl. Into the woods go!' Mara didn't feel her feet she bolted across the plain and crashed through the trees her feet carried her over fallen logs and deep into the Forrest. For a moment she heard the footfalls of sadis following behind then they faded and Mara was alone with her own crashing steps. A sharp pain shot through her torso and she became short of breath and slowed to a walk. The adrenaline pulsed through her body but she felt pike she couodnt run any further. Then a loud crash and a yell nearby sent her fleeing deeper into the Forrest she ran and ran still her whole body ached and her throat burned so dry. She stopped and lent against a tree. It's coarse bark pulled against the delicate and now rather dirty fabric of her dress, but it was cool and felt ancient and untouched. She sank to the ground and lay spread out in the dirt. She felt her chest heave with the weight of the run. She closed her eyes and opened her ears to the sounds around her. As she settled the birds started to sing again. And the crickets returned to chirping. No longer disturbed by her flight though the underbrush the Forrest returned to its ancient state of being. When Mara opened her eyes her breath had returned to normal and she was starting to feel the chill and the damp of the mossy ground. As she sat up she remembered where she was or rather realised she had fled wildly in no specific path and had no idea how to return. Or even if she should return. The bandits looked like they were ready to kill. Perhaps there was no reason to return to the group. She was free from Tiav, but this was not how she wanted to be free. Her throat felt like sand and she longed for a cold tea or a mulled wine. She knew a stream would have to do. If she could find one. Mara rose on shaky legs her thighs and calves burned with from the extreme exercise. She stumbled forward steadying herself on a tree. She raised her head and lifted herself. She would be a lady of court she said to herself. Be as graceful as one, don't show the pain. And so she walked on through the endless Forrest, going deeper and deeper as the day cooled.
Mara pushed on till the mist started to settle and the light started to fade on the canopy. The damp did little to quench her thirst but helped cool the burning in her legs and chest. As the birds started to quieten Mara heard a soft trickle coming from her right so she changed her direction and headed towards the sound. A short walk later she nearly stepped out and fell down a small ditch with a small slow running river. The water rolled over stones and bugs hoped from stepping stone to stepping stone. Marantha tried to careful step down to the river but her legs were weak from the trek she slipped and fell face first into the river. She pushed herself up with weak arms, and touched her face gingerly. She had a couple grazes from the trees which stung and she could feel a bruise forming on her cheek.