Chapter 4 - Truth or Lies?
March 8, 1645
The Walled City of Arcadia, Capital of Ivaris
I was awake at dawn. Even though I had no early morning chores to do here like stoke the fires around the castle, help with preparing breakfast, changing the rushes on the floor, my body was used to waking up early. I tried sleeping for a few more minutes but my eyes wouldn’t close and my mind refused to rest some more.
I tidied my bed, cleaned the window, dusted the rugs, folded the linens and everything else that needed to be done in the room. The sun broke out when I was done and I had nothing more to do. I checked around the room for something else I could busy my hands with but there was none.
Well, what’s a love slave to do when her master’s busy?
None. That was the answer. So I resigned myself to boredom and sat at the chair by the window and looked outside at the beautiful hills in the distance. The air was cool on my face and I imagined myself riding across those hills at a beautiful white mare.
Suddenly there was a knock on my door and before I could answer, the door swung on its hinges and a lady and two maids appeared.
“My name is Maria and I am the governess of Ravenswood Castle.” A haughty looking woman with her chin high up in the air said as she regarded me. She looked old and stern as she gazed at me from head to foot.
The two maids went around my room and their eyes widened in surprise when they saw that the bed was already made, everything was organized and clean. They looked for something to do but there was none.
Maria looked around in my room in surprise.
“What was your job before?” she asked me and this time it was I who jumped back in suprise...
“I... I-I worked as a maid at a castle, maam.” I answered. Her brows rose as she looked at me once more. “Very well then. I am quite glad we don’t have another spoiled highborn lady.” She said and the two other maids exchanged glances. I suppose those highborn ladies gave them hell.
“What are your talents?” the governess asked me. Why the hell do I need to tell her my talents? “I can cook, clean, do laundry.” I replied.
“No. Not those. Can you sing?”
“Can you dance?”
“Play the pianoforte? The harp?”
“Yes. But I play the harp better.” I replied.
The governess gazed at me from head to toe again. “Well-learned for a maid don’t you think?” I stiffened in shock at her words. I dropped my gaze and looked on the floor instead.
After a few moments of terse silence, the governess spoke again. “The King requested that you take part in tomorrow’s entertainment. He’s going to hold a party for his Lords and you shall entertain them. I say you dance.” She said with finality.
“What if I don’t want to dance?”
“Do I look like I’m giving you a choice? Or would you really like to defy a king’s direct order?” the governess hissed at me.
There was silence for a long time and I was content to stare out the window once more. “I will find some accompaniment for you and then you shall dance tomorrow. I will return later and then I will show you to a room where you can practice.” She said and I nodded.
A maid went in and placed my breakfast tray on the table as the governess moved to walk out of my room. Then she stopped. “Oh. And one more thing, the king asked me to ask you what you wanted. Diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, rubies? Ask and you shall receive it. Please the king with your dance and he will grant you more favors.”
The governess stared at me for a long time as I contemplated what I would ask for. I do not want any jewellery or trinket from the king. Those would not ease my boredom and I am no highborn lady who needed precious gems touching their skin always.
A smile curved my lips as I knew what I would ask for.
“Books, if you please.” I replied.
Something like incredulity flashed across the governess’ face. “What? B-books?”
“Yes, ma’am. I do not want any jewelleries and the king did say I could ask for anything. Please just give me books that I could read for it gets really dull here and I’ve got nothing to do.” I replied.
The governess composed herself and tilted her head towards me. “Very well, then. You shall have those as you wished.” She said and I gave her a small curtsy as my thanks. After she left, I sat down on the chair by the window again and thought of a proper dance. Something that befits a slave and something that will keep men entertained.
I would like to dance something that would make the king lose control. He deserves it for what he did to me last night. He would like me to dance? Then that’s just what I would do. And I can’t wait to see his face when I go up on stage for I already thought of the perfect dance.
-King Seth Liam Ivaris XV-
“I’m telling you, there’s something different about that girl! She does not seem to be who she tells us she is! A maid? Pffft!” I overheard the governess talking.
I was seated at the great hall, having my breakfast, and the servants were in the kitchen near the hall. Being women, I should not be surprised that they were gossiping about a poor soul so early this morning. Gossiping is one of their favourite past times but I do not really understand the joy or thrill they get from doing it.
"She moves differently, you know? It’s as if it is refined. Have you seen that curtsy she did? It was perfectly executed!” the governess remarked and I heard some murmurs of answers from the other women.
Why should women concern themselves with how another woman curtsies? I shook my head at the ridiculous thought. I wish my ancestors designed this castle in such a way that the kitchens were a bit further from the hall so I wouldn’t be hearing the women’s gossip for almost every single day that I am here at the castle.
“She told me she could sing and dance and also play the pianoforte and the harp! Rubbish! She thinks she’s a highborn lady! And who the hell asks for books when they could have diamonds grazing their pretty little necks?”
“Aye, I would love a diamond. I’m a maid and I don’t read nor write and I have no use for books. Diamonds... Well that can buy me a lot of things.” Another maid agreed.
“Maybe it’s all a ploy to make us think she’s smart when she really isn’t. Maybe she does not even know how to read a book.” The governess commented and the women snickered.
“Then let us expose her for the fraud she is!" all the women agreed.
Poor soul... That of whomever they were gossiping about.
“Governess!” I called out to her because I could not stomach another minute of their cruelty.
“Yes, milord?” she said as she made a deep curtsy. “Is everything alright for the feast tomorrow?” I asked.
“Yes, your highness. Everything’s settled. I have talked to your newest mistress and she has agreed to dance.” She explained.
“Good. See to it that everything’s perfect for tomorrow.” I ordered so that she could busy herself with something else other than gossiping with the women.
“I will be training with the men today. I will return tomorrow before the feast.” I told her as I stood up and crossed the hall towards the exit.
“I bid you be safe, your grace.” She said and gave another curtsy.
March 9, 1645
The Walled City of Arcadia, Capital of Ivaris
I can do this. Deep breaths, Adrienne. You’ve practiced this all this yesterday and you spent a great part of today doing your costume. You can do this. Now go walk out there and make their jaws drop, especially the King’s.
I took a deep breath to settle my nerves and took one step at a time towards the raised platform in the middle of the hall. My hair was loose and flowing behind my back. My face was partially covered by a transparent cloth that hung from my ears and down to my neck. I wore a rectangular piece of cloth that covered my breasts and left my shoulders and my belly bare. I also wore a long skirt that reached my toes but had two slits at the sides that reached my upper thigh. A golden belt hung at my hips where I sewed in some flattened silver tins tied in small strings
All the men gazed at me and I tried to look as confident as I could as I walked towards the hall. With every step I took, they were given a tantalizing view of my long legs that peeked at the slits on my skirt. All conversation stopped and both noblemen and warriors stared at me with lust in their eyes. Now the room was cast in silence and the jingle of the tins at my belt could be heard as I walked.
I stepped up towards the raised platform at the same time that my drummers took their place below the stage. A loud, single sound was made as the drummer hit the drum with his palm. It was my cue to bow and I curtsied low.
Another drum beat and I assumed position. I raised my hands together high above my head, arched my spine which made my breasts more pronounced and then tilted my hips to the left. I lifted my eyes and looked at the king and he looked back at me with a passion-filled gaze.
The drums started beating a fast rhythm and I moved my hips to match their pace. The silver tins on my belt moved as I danced and created a sensual haze around the room. I moved my arms gracefully and then arched my back and then undulated my hips. The bangles on my arm and the tins on my belt jingled and I smiled as I enjoyed my dance.
Every pair of eyes in the room was trained on me and I saw desire in every one of them. I looked away and trained my eyes on the wall before I saw any of them drool and lose my composure. Ever since I was young, I have wanted to dance but dancing like this would be forbidden.
I am a love slave now and to hell with all the rules! I am bound but I am also free in another way and I am openly showing rebellion with this dance for this was a dance that only courtesans and other low women danced. This was how they aroused their men into passion and this was how they earned their coin.
I lifted my eyes once more and stared at the king with all the defiance I could muster. He raised a brow and then lifted his cup in a salute to me. His lips caressed the edge of the rim of his goblet before he took a long swig of wine.
The drums changed rhythm and now tantalized everyone slowly. I matched my movements to it and my body became more languid and pliant with its movements. I moved my hips from side to side as I slid lower and lower down the floor only to stand up again and run my hands from my neck down to my breast, where they lingered, and then down my navel.
One of the serving men was pouring wine for one of the noblemen. He looked up at me and I directed my gaze toward him and flashed a smile his way. His jaw fell open and he kept on staring at me. The nobleman jumped up as wine flooded the table and poured down on his legs. The serving man apologized profusely and handed the nobleman a cloth to dry himself and then he resumed watching me dance.
The drums picked up the rhythm once more. I moved my body harder and faster to match its persistent beat. Gone were the soft and lazy movements. Now, I twirled and raised my arms to the beat of the drums and allowed my body to be overcome by it. My bangles and the tins in my belt jingled loudly with my movements.
Then there was a long pause from the drums followed by a loud beat. I stopped dancing and then brought down my arms and placed them by my side.
Another beat and I raised my arms once more and positioned myself like how I started.
Two beats... I wiggled my hips from right to left.
Another beat, I brought down my arms and then turned around the room and bowed. I bowed first to the king and then turned to each corner of the room and bowed to the men.
At first there was silence and I was afraid they didn’t like my performance but when I moved to exit the stage, every single men rose, well except for the King, and they all burst into tumultuous applause.
There were cheers and loud hoots and glasses of wine and ale were all raised in my honor. I smiled to them and bowed once more before I crossed the room and sat at the table where the King’s Harem was seated.
The ladies all looked at me with murder and jealousy in their eyes so I just cast my gaze downward. I drank the water placed before me and found that I was so thirsty and that my throat was so dry from all the excitement.
I looked up and saw that the King was still looking at me and so were most of the noblemen. After a short while, their gazes made me uncomfortable so I just reached for the plate of food in front of me and helped myself to some grapes. I concentrated on eating and blocked out the noise of the room.
“You were brilliant there, milady.” A rough voice whispered in my ear. I looked back and saw a young man. Judging by his impeccable clothes, the gold medallion on his neck, and the fine ruby ring on his finger, he was one of the noblemen. A baron or a lord, perhaps?
“Thank you, milord.” I said and stood up and curtsied.
“I’ve seen no greater entertainment in all of my travels other than your dance.” He said as he gave me a warm smile. I looked into his eyes as he said those words and I felt a warm sensation tingle down my spine.
Truth. He is telling the truth.
“Your compliments spoil me, milord. I am sure you say that to the other ladies, as well.” I told him and also gave him a warm smile.
“I do not. I’m not a rake as you think.” He said with a wink.
This time as I looked into his eyes, a cold feeling settled itself inside me.
Well, what else did I expect? I knew men would do anything, most especially lie, just so they could get into women’s skirts. It’s just how they were born. It’s what they do. It’s just unfortunate for them that I have this uncanny ability to tell the truth from a lie. I’ve had it since I was born and I told no one about it so that people won’t guard themselves around me.
Living with this ability has made my life both easier and harder. It is easier because no one could ever fool me and harder because it pains me when someone close to me is lying straight to my face.
“Can I have the pleasure of accompanying you for a lovely stroll on the gardens?” the nobleman asked and he extended his hand towards me.
“Forgive me, I don’t even know your name, milord.”
“It’s Lord James. I am the Baron of Castle Alnwick.” He said with a wicked grin. I looked towards where the King was seated so that I could ask his permission but he was not there. I felt a familiar presence behind me and then a hand clamped down on my wrist.
“I believe it is I who would be awarded the pleasure of accompanying this lovely creature outside.” I turned around and came face to face with the King of Ivaris himself. His grey eyes were locked onto mine and there was an expression in those depths which I could not fathom.
The baron beside me reddened and he bowed stiffly. “Certainly, your highness.” He replied. The King of Ivaris extended his arm to me and I tucked my hand inside the crook of his elbow as he escorted me out of the room filled with drunk men and outside towards the beautiful gardens.
I saw the gardens from my window and I have wanted to go there ever since but we weren’t allowed to leave our rooms. Now, I gazed into the tamed green grass, the various flowers, the shrubs, the small trees, the fountain with colored fish, and the beautiful lanterns that lit the courtyard.
“It’s beautiful.” I whispered.
“This garden is the work of my mother. She took great pride in it.” The king told me.
“She did a great job.” I replied and then let go of the king’s arm and strolled towards the greenhouse where orchid of every color bloomed. I touched a petal and marvelled at its beauty.
“Wow...” The king returned to my side and he was holding a red rose in his hand. It was one of the biggest and most beautiful roses I’ve ever seen! The king took out his dagger and then started removing the thorns.
When all the thorns were removed, he held out the rose towards me. “For you on your stunning performance.” He said. “Did you like it, your highness?” I asked him.
“Yes.” He replied and I looked into his grey eyes. He looked back at me equally. I waited for the feeling of either warmth or cold from his words but there was none. My brows drew together in confusion. This has never happened before. Why couldn’t I recognize the king’s words? Why can’t I feel if he’s telling the truth or lying?
“I’m glad you liked it, your highness.” I said and I smiled at him. I heard his sharp intake of breath and saw the flash in his eyes before he adjusted his features again and looked as if he was carved from marble.
We walked around the garden in silence and then the king led me towards a bench. I sat and he sat beside me and stretched his long legs. Then he turned his head and those grey eyes bore into me once more.
“Why aren’t you wearing any jewellery? Have you forgotten to ask for them from the governess? I told you, you could have anything you like.” He told me.
I shook my head. “I don’t want jewelleries.” His head turned towards me sharply and he glared at me. “What?”
“I said I do not like jewelleries, your highness.”
“But the other women have plenty of it and you have none! Are you trying to embarrass me in front of the noblemen?”
“No, my Lord. I do not wish to embarrass you. It’s just that I do not like jewellery that much. The other women may wear it all they like but not me.” I replied stiffly.
The king’s brows were furrowed now and he looked at me as if I infuriated him. Well, I think I really did infuriate him but now I do not know why jewellery is a very big thing for him.
“If it is important to you then I will wear the comb with rubies, your highness.” I conceded.
“You deserve more than that with your rubies. Tell me what you want and I’ll get them for you.” He said. I looked at him again and gazed deep into his eyes. I desperately wanted to know if he was telling the truth or if he was lying to me.
Again, I felt nothing.
Damn this is frustrating! I turned my gaze away from him and stared at my hands instead. “Choose for me, milord. I don’t really have any preferences.” I replied. I felt the heat of his gaze all over my body.
“Rubies. More rubies would suit you. I would give them to you because they remind me of your fire.” He said in a husky voice and I almost melted against him. No. This should not be happening.
I stood up with the rose in my hand and walked to the other side of the garden, away from the King. More roses grew here and they were of different colors! There were blue, pink and violet roses too! I marvelled at their beauty for a while until I felt the King standing by my side once more.
I waited for him to say anything but he was silent for a long time. I stole a peek at him from under my lashes. His head was thrown back as if he was looking at the sky but his eyes were closed. His entire body was bathed in the moonlight and he looked like some sort of God. His eyelashes were long and his cheekbones were high. His lips were full and chiselled. He looked like a formidable king but right now he just looked like an ordinary man. A handsome man. A man without the burden of a kingdom on his shoulders.
Suddenly a thick fog came out of nowhere and surrounded the entire garden. I tried to reach out for the King but I could not touch him. The mist filled the garden entirely and I could not see anything. Then the mist glowed and turned blindingly white and I had to close my eyes.
When I opened my eyes again, I was in a different place. I was in some sort of a meadow. It wasn’t night here like at the palace. The sun shone here and the warmth caressed my skin. I looked down and I was wearing a plain white dress and I was barefoot. The grass tickled my feet as I walked across the meadow filled with so much flowers that it looked as if it belonged in another world.
I saw a speck of black in the distance. The speck stood out among the various colors of the meadow and I walked towards it. As I drew nearer, I realized that the black speck was actually clothes and that these clothes were worn by a very tall and muscled man.
I approached him cautiously and hid behind a tree so that I could look at him more closely. His head was thrown back and his face was tilted up towards the sun. His eyes were also closed and his posture was very much how I last saw the King of Ivaris.
The eyes of the man in front of me snapped open and grey eyes flecked with gold gazed into me. When the man saw me, his face split into a grin and he held out his hand toward me. “Selene...” he whispered and the wind carried the sound towards me.
I felt an irresistible pull towards him and without even thinking, my feet were taking steps towards him. I placed my hand on his and he drew me to his side in a firm grip. He was so tall that I had to look up at him and found myself gazing at the face that looked like the King of Ivaris!
No... Where am I? What’s this I’m seeing?!? I can see some glimpses of the future and they only lasted for seconds. Never have I encountered a vision like this where I felt everything! I can feel the sunlight on my skin, the grass beneath my feet, smell the fragrance of the flowers and feel the touch of this man!
The man smiled down at me and I felt my own lips curve into a smile. ”Aiken...” I whispered breathlessly and then the man’s head swooped down and he claimed my lips in a kiss. I closed my eyes and gave in to the sensations that he was evoking with his lips.
My head reeled and I felt blissful. When I opened my eyes, it was dark and I was back in the garden. I was on the ground and strong arms held me. I looked up and grey eyes bore into me. “What happened?” I asked the King of Ivaris.
“You fainted.” He replied and then shouted some orders to his men. He looked at me again and there was something again in his grey eyes that I couldn’t understand. I felt as if I knew something about that expression and it was really familiar but I could not recall where I saw it before.
“I’m fine now. You can let go of me, your highness. I am sorry if I bothered you.” I said as I tried to scramble out of his arms. But the King had a fine grip and his arms were like a cage around me. He placed one of his arms under my knees while the other one supported my back. Then he stood up and lifted me effortlessly as if I weighed nothing.
“Your highness!” I screamed in surprise.
“Shh... I’ll bring you to your room so that you may rest. You’re very pale.” He said and he strolled inside the hall where I felt every pair of eyes were looking at us. I buried my face in his chest in shame. I felt his muscles tense and then relax after a moment.
My guard, the one who won the Hakor, opened the door and the King strode inside my room with me in his arms. He then gently laid me down on the bed and tugged the covers over me.
“Rest.” He said in a voice which told me it was an order and not one that should be disobeyed. I nodded.
“Thank you, your highness.” I told him but he was already out the door and it slammed behind him as he left. I sighed and then closed my eyes. I was instantly asleep for I was tired but that night, I was haunted by dreams about grey eyes flecked with gold.
Rushes- some sort of leaves that are weaved into a pattern and then placed on the floor. It sort of acts like a rug so that mud and dirt won’t stick to the floor. When the rushes are dirty, they just roll it away and lay a newly weaved one on the floor. Some people place rose petals or scented oils on the rushes to keep the room smelling clean! :)
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