“Wake up! They’re here” I stirred from where I had been lying, I pushed myself up getting my bearings, still not fully awake. What a weird dream, I thought to myself. I realised with horror that I was in fact on the island in the cave.
“Tulip, are you alright son?” I look up to see my father suspended by a rope halfway off the ground above me, “He’s here alright lower me further down Blare!” once his feet hit the ground he wrapped me in a massive bear hug. “I thought you’d been eaten by wolves, don’t you ever leave us again.” I was stunned by my father’s sudden break of his icy outer shell, as he held me to his chest, the back of my head cupped in his hand, I looked at his face, he was crying.
“Father I’ve only been gone a night.” He held me out at arm’s reach looking into my blue eyes.
“Tulip, you’ve been gone three days” his eyes narrowed suddenly, touching my head gently, “what happened to your hair?”
“Nothing father, I know its long but I look after it.”
“No it’s not that. It’s white.” I grabbed my long hair and pulled it round to my front, my eyes widened in shock, he was right; my hair was as white as snow, not grey like the village elders but pure, clean white.
“Father I’m scared, what’s happeni...n” I trailed off as I fainted into his arms, exhausted.
I woke again in the back room of the village tavern, I was laid on the table, the village apothecary, our closest thing to a physician, prodding me and stroking his straggly beard while humming to himself. He turned to my father who was at the head of a small crowd standing in the small doorway.
“Your son is fine Hundi, in fact he is the healthiest 10 year old boy I have ever seen, his lungs are strong and there isn’t a blemish on him, I’d say he is the healthiest member of the village.
“That’s impossible he fell almost 100feet” my father exclaimed. At this the old man’s eyes widened and he turned to look at me.
“Interesting, maybe I missed something, he could have broken the bones inside, or maybe just bruised them. 100 feet you say” My father nodded “amazing, well there is nothing wrong with him, I’d say the Gods intervened.”
My father was dragging me, by my hand, through the dirt street that ran through the centre of the village. I was struggling to keep up with him,
“Father slow down” I pleaded, but he just glared at me holding my hand tighter as he sped up, causing me to stumble. He yanked me to my feet hurting my arm. Once we reached our home he pushed me into the arms of my beaming mother, who sat me in front of the fire and thrust a steaming bowl of rice into my hands. My father took my mother into their bedroom and I could hear their faint mutterings.
“we must... away”
“no... fine... my son”
“...lord Lucas... handsomely”
“for him” at this my mother ran from the room and into the village weeping, brushing past my brother who strode over to me, placing a heavy hand on my shoulder.
“I’m glad to see you’re alright, my brother” I beamed at him handing him my rice, he took it without complaint and dug in.
I awoke the following morning to the beat of horses, “Brother. Wake up lord Lucas is here!” I quickly pulled on my tunic and my sandals, rushing out to see our Lord. I stared in awe at the giant of a man in fine embroided robes of ruby red and emerald green sat upon a chocolate pony with a well kept sandy mane. I instantly fell to my knees pushing my face into the ground.
“You the white haired girl, stand” I remained with my head pressed to ground, until I felt a cane prodding into my back, “Are you death girl? I said stand.” I shakily got to me feet, keeping my head bowed. My hair unbound fell forward covering my face. I flinched as Lord Lucas’s cane whipped up to my chin, gently lifting my face so I stared into his eyes. “Boy?” he said calmly. “Why is your hair so long?” I averted my eyes.
“My Lord” I muttered not knowing what to say. He smirked at this,
“Alright, my boy don’t panic, you need not answer but tell me why it is white you must only be 9 or 10?”
After a hesitation I utter “A daemon my Lord” At this there was a sharp intake of breath from the crowd.
“A Daemon you say, curious, tell me what is your name?”
“Tulip Konos vas Oker, my Lord” he smiled at that, leaning down from his horse and whispering in my ear,
“I’ll let you in on a secret. My family name is Lucas; my first name is also Tulip.” My eyes widened, and a beam crossed my face. He sat back up in his saddle still smiling. “Who is responsible for this boy!” My Father stood holding his chin high.
“I am, my Lord, Hindi Konos vas Oker.”
“Hindi, I wish to purchase your son.” My father remained silent, stunned slightly. “50 coppers should suffice, do you agree” The price was small less than would be paid for an ox, but for a young serf, it was a fair price.
“More than gracious my Lord, I would be honoured if you were to take my son into your household.”
“Then so be it, let it be known” He proclaimed to the village, “That on this day, I Tulip Lucas vra Oker, claim Tulip Konos Vas Oker, whom shall be hence forth known as Tulip Konos vas Lucas! In the will of the emperor it be done” I stood gob smacked at the magnitude of it all, I had just been adopted by the most powerful man I knew of apart from the emperor, better yet I was no longer tied to Oker, I was free to roam the empire, if my master permitted it, I barly registered the farewell hugs of my friends and family, the proud look in my father’s eyes as he handed me the money he had been paid for me and a small satchel of my clothes. I wept as the village elder presented me with a mule on which to ride.
Lord Lucas led me away from the village, I turned on the mule’s back and waved farewell to the crowd which had assembled to see me depart. It was about an hour into the Journey along the dirt road, when Lord Lucas spoke to me.
“Tulip, you must address me as master from now on, no longer Lord. Understand?” His voice was firm and commanding but strangely welcoming.
“Good, we will be at my Manor by noon, where you will be cared for by Juliet, the matron, she will feed you and give you fresh clothes, you will then be brought to my study where we will talk, until then I have no desire to talk, only to enjoy the views of my land as we ride through it. Understood?
“Yes master” I was content to watch the rice paddies and woodlands role past, we passed through Okerta, a small farming village which was nestled around a wooden bridge which crossed the Oker River, which flowed from a spring in my old village. I smirked at the unimaginative names given to the villages and locations within the Oker serfdom, all named for the massive mountain which dominated it.
Soon a large manor complex came into view, nestled in the crook of the river; a small wall surrounded it, at the front two spearmen stood guard, flanking a metal gate, each wore a steel collar, with a rendition of Mount Oker surrounded by a circle stamped at regular intervals around the thick collars. A flag sat atop the slate tiled manor roof, bearing the same emblem. We entered through the gates into the complex; I glanced around as servants hurried forward to take the reins of both the pony and my mule. A wooden stable was built up against the side of the wall, to the right of the entrance. The manor dominated filled the rest of the small entry courtyard, with a small single storey building branching off to the left of the manor, I assumed this was the barracks as I could hear the laughter of the men coming from the doors, I also registered the faint clash of weapons drifting through the air, from the training yard which was commonly placed on the far side of the compound.
“Come Tulip” I looked back from where my eyes had been scanning the compound to Lord Lucas who stood in the open doorway of the manor, a plump woman stood beside him. “This is Juliet Gorbet vas Lucas, the matron of the household, she will take you to your room, I will see you at dusk in my office until then good day” at this he disappeared inside and the plum woman led me inside. There was a small entry hallway, dominated by a large oak staircase, up which we climbed, we continued along many corridors in which I lost my bearings until we reached a small door, at the end of a richly decorated corridor. She slid the door open and we stepped inside.
Once inside I was stripped by the matron and forced squealing into a freezing bath, where she scrubbed my hair and body, until my pale skin was squeaky clean. Once I had been washed and dried roughly, Juliet handed me a long robe of a noble which fell to my ankles, next she handed me a pair of breeches and sandals which I pulled on, grateful to no longer be naked in front of the oppressive woman.
“Good enough to eat, such a good thing to, shame to put such a good looking boy to waste in the mines, especially with such beautiful hair.”
I was escorted through the maze of corridors to an antechamber in where a young girl about my age was sweeping the floor. She looked up and smiled faintly, before being shooed off by Juliet. “Leave the boy alone Jessica,” turning to me “wait here until the Lord summons you” she strode off leaving me sitting on a bench to the side of the small room, I began to fiddle with the leaves on a small bonsai tree to my left.