When Rielle awoke, it was to the strange sounds of knocking on her tower door. She shivered amongst the blankets, which, whilst many, were not enough to sustain her body heat against the wind that blew in through the stupid hole in the stone-work.
"Leave me alone," Rielle moaned into the hair that fell into her face. All she could see were the strands of her curls, separate, dirty. They stuck up in all the places Rielle wished they wouldn't.
The knocking was persistent. A smooth-toned voice soon accompanied it. "Oh, Brielle. Time to dine. Or do you wish to starve?"
"Leave me alone," repeated Rielle, louder this time.
The door swung open. It must have been locked from the other side. Rielle hadn’t bothered to check the previous evening. She blinked through tears, using her ears to decipher who had entered. The deep sounds of boots reverberated along the floorboards: it was the man who owned her prison.
“You must eat, you know.” The man towered over her. Rielle winced as his boots neared her head. She threw the blanket as far over the remainder of her body as it would go.
A second later, it was revealed again, as the man easily peeled it away from her head.
“Silence won’t do. How are we to make conversation?”
“I don’t want to converse with you,” she cried, feeling numb.
“You will get up. I see you haven’t bothered to change. No matter; we shall deal with that after we eat.”
“We shan’t,” Rielle whispered, both hoping that he would hear her and also would not.
Again, her captor laughed, as if those words were pleasure to him. She knew he was eyeing her, even when she tried to study the patterns in the woodwork instead.
The blanket was fully pulled off her body. Rielle squealed, throwing her hands down to make sure that her nightdress revealed nothing to him. She curled into a ball with that aim, too, though Rielle also tried to shelter herself from the ongoing cold of the room.
“I can march you there if you refuse to walk,” the man said. “One way or another, you will breakfast with me.”
His stern tone reminded Rielle of Felix. As she crumpled into tears at his absence, she lifted herself, doubled over, away to the door and she dragged herself down the steps, not caring if she did trip and fall to her death. Part of her hoped she would.
After the long time of being, once again, shunted through the echoing rooms of bare wood and stone, Rielle felt her skin warm, for they had suddenly passed into the inhabited area of the castle. And what a change just moving through a doorway was.
Flames licked the air of these rooms. Velvet was not spared for any furniture, from the armchairs to the covers of the tables and even the rugs to carpet. Shelf after shelf displayed books rare and real. Rielle stared.
Finally, the man led her through into a dining hall. Bare apart from the wooden dining table that occupied most of the middle of the room, the place had been decorated with picture-less murals to attempt to cover the neat stonework. It was nice, she admitted, nice for a man who held her against her will. There were, too, a couple of paintings, strangely-garbed men whose eyes searching Rielle in every step she took.
“I took the liberty of having breakfast provided whilst I came for you,” her captor announced. “I hope you don’t mind it slightly cold.”
Rielle shook her head. She was guided – marched – into the closest chair, and the man tucked a serviette into the top of her nightdress. Rielle winced. His hands were alarmingly close to her curves. Other than that, he made no further precautions to keep her from running – then again, Rielle had lost track of the ways and corridors through the castle.
As the man moved away to his own seat, there at the opposite head of the table, Rielle looked down at the china crockery and the food she had been presented with. Soft and eggy, the folded parcel looked much like an omelette, except that the pieces of meat stuffed within it were so dark that they were almost black, yet not burnt. Nevertheless, it smelt like a normal breakfast. It didn’t taste too odd, either.
For every bite she took, she was acutely aware of being watched. By him. Not even halfway through the omelette-meal, Rielle didn’t want to finish. Sickness ate her insides instead. When she placed down her fork, however, the man opposite her did the same, crossing his arms as he leant forward in front of his plate.
She shook her head.
“Brielle,” he said, relishing the taste of the syllables of her name. “When will you learn? Food is important. I serve it to you in your interest.”
“If you are going to be so interested in me,” Rielle stubbornly argued, “you should at least tell me your own name.”
“My name?” He chuckled.
“What’s so funny?”
“Why should I tell you my own name when you could so easily use it against me if you were ever to…audaciously leave here? I don’t think you realise the powers of such names, do you, Brielle? Otherwise you would not have rid yourself of such a pretty one.”
“Enough of names,” Rielle choked. She had meant to throw the words at him, but her fear overran her once more.
“I see your concern; do not convince yourself that I don’t. You worry, Brielle, that you will not know how to address me. I shouldn’t worry about such a petty matter: you may address me as ‘Master’.” Once again, the man succumbed to his own, meaningless humour.
“Stop it!” Rielle muttered. She began to cry, large teardrops plopping into the foreign omelette. She ripped the serviette from her dress and threw it to the floor, standing, bracing herself to march out of the room.
“There’s no need for that. Sit down.”
“I’m not hungry.”
Those brown eyes blazed. “Sit!”
Overcome by his command, Rielle fell back on to her chair, before picking up her fork and forcing the food down once more. There was no etiquette here, no need for the primness of table-manners she had once hated of her home. She slumped over her plate, letting the rust-coloured strands of her hair drip into the dish.
“Now, now,” said that lingering voice, “we don’t want to tarnish the colours of those beautiful locks. Do sit up, Brielle.”
She looked up, uninterested. Why must a lonely heart hurt so much? Through half-closed eyes, Rielle barely saw the Master lean back on his chair, throwing his boots onto the tabletop, and angling himself to easily cross his feet whilst they lingered on the table.
“Etiquette,” she said aloud without meaning to.
“Oh, yes,” remarked he, flashing her rows of teeth. “But, as you’ll see, this is my home and I do what I wish here.”
She could think of nothing to spit back at him.
A chair scraped back somewhere in the ‘real’ world; someone moved closer, lurked behind her. Rielle simply didn’t care anymore.