Life After Life

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Chapter 8 - Veryan

8 Veryan

I wiped my brow as I finished scrubbing Everose’s clothes. I pulled all the wet clothes into a basket and hefted it up. I felt my arm muscles tighten and strain, but I had been doing this now for what seemed like forever, so the weight was nothing new. The laundry room only had 2 windows that let little light into the room. So, when I kicked open the door to hang the laundry I was momentarily blinded by the sun.

I closed my eyes and thanked the goddess that I’m alive. This was every day of my life, I opened my eyes and started to walk down the dirt path to the clothesline. As I was walking with the basket on my hip, a younger maid went scurrying by. She stopped just as she passed me and said in her still young and girly voice

“OH! Veryan you got a letter!”

She handed me the stack of letters so that I can find my name, since she can’t read. I set the laundry down and flipped through them. It was a small envelope and the only marking was my name on the front.

I handed her back the pile and she went running up the hill. I sighed, remembering when I was twelve years old. Peony’s whole family worked here at the castle, and most likely when Peony was old enough she would start a family with someone here and the tradition will continue. Peony was a happy pleasant girl, never wanting for more, never wondering what life was like elsewhere. I tucked the letter in the folds of my skirt and picked the laundry back up.

Work must be done first before I could worry about the letter. The grass was green and lush under the clotheslines. I worked quick and efficiently, barely having to pay attention to my actions. Instead I day dreamed, Everose made sure that as her lady in waiting I was taught how to read and write. Therefore, I loved reading literature. I read of other kingdoms and faraway lands, trees with trunks so big that it would take 10 soldiers to cut it down! I dreamt of running through the dark cool shade of the forest. My bare feet hitting the ground, my toes digging into the soil. I reached into the basket once more and my hand came out empty, I looked down and saw that all the laundry was gone.

I straightened my back out and headed towards my own personal favorite spot, the basket swinging in the wind. A big oak tree hung over the path a little way past the clothesline. I fanned my skirt out and got comfortable in its shade. I pulled the letter out and examined it, there was no indication as to who it was from. I flipped it over and pull up the wax seal finally opening it, the letter started

Dear Veryan, I hope that my letter finds you well and good health. I arrived home a few days ago, it started to snow a little here in Rimerona. This must be the earliest snow I’ve ever seen. I apologize I started to ramble, I guess I just wanted to apologize for not coming back to check on you. It has a bothered me ever since I left, hopefully writing this letter will cure of what I’m assuming is guilt since I have never felt this way before. Now I find myself hoping for a reply as well, though if you do not feel inclined I will not be bothered. I look forward to hearing from you, or not I suppose.

Prince Dorian

I read over the letter again to make sure I read it correctly. My heartbeat picked up a little bit and I felt a warm flush settle gently on my cheeks. I looked up into the branches of the oak tree I sat underneath. The leaves danced gently in the wind, the sun shone through them, so their color looked illuminated. I tried to remember the last month or so, it has all been so hectic. Though Queen Melena was not my mother, I loved her just like one. The flash of memories of a lifetime sprinted through my head followed by a burst of pain deep in my chest.

I closed my eyes, trying to detach myself from the pain. My mind wandered back to Prince Dorian, everything about him I’ve always hated, even when we were younger, and he would come along with his father for business trips and such. He was always so arrogant and treated the staff like we were there only to serve him.

Then I remembered being in one of the rooms no one used all by myself when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. All the furniture in the room was covered by cloths except for a mirror leaning up against a seat. I was sitting in front of it trying to give myself a haircut because while cleaning some of the cleaner had gotten on my ends and turned them orange. I remember I had cut too much off the one side and now my hair was uneven and short. I didn’t even hear the door opening over my own crying.

Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder, I looked up at the mirror and there he was standing over me. Prince Dorian’s blue eyes actually looked concerned “why are you crying?” I rubbed my fist across my face to try and get rid of some of the snot and tears. “I cut my hair too short on one of the sides.” I mumbled a sob building in my chest “And now I don’t know how to fix it, girls are supposed to have long hair, our hair is our pride.” I start to cry hard again. He just stood there staring at me, until he stooped down grabbed the scissors and sat down next to me. “Hold still for a second” he said softly, he ran his fingers through my hair and started to cut. He kept checking the mirror to make sure it was even all around.

When he finally finished, I looked at myself my hair now gently fell to halfway to my shoulders. I reached up and touched it softly, before I could say anything Prince Dorian said, “I think you look good with short hair.” Our eyes met in the mirror both full of surprise. His neck and cheeks turned red and he ran out of the room, shutting the door softly behind him.

I opened my eyes back to the present and pulled gently on the ends of my hair, it needed a trim. I decided to write him, just to thank him for his concern but not to feel any guilt or any other unnecessary feelings. I picked myself up off the ground and brushed any dirt or grass from my skirt. I folded the letter and placed it in my apron. I picked up the basket and started to make my way back towards the castle.

Once inside I dropped the basket next to the wash bin. The hallways were bustling with other maids running around trying to keep this castle running. I went into the servant’s quarters my room’s walls were stone and though a little small, my room had a wonderfully large window that overlooked some of the gardens on the castle grounds. My room was never too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter. My bed was soft as I ran a hand along my blanket adjusting it softly. I sat down at the small desk in the corner next to the window and pulled out a piece of paper and a charcoal stick.

Dear Prince Dorian,

I thank you for thinking of me but please feel no more guilt over me. I was perfectly fine, and you would have returned to find me not there. I am not one to sit and wait to be rescued. I ventured out on my own and tended to some of the wounded in the halls. And snow this early, has a witch cast a spell upon your Kingdom? I hope you realize I am only teasing, hopefully the snow will hold off a little longer here. It is not my favorite season. If this is the final words, you’ll read from me then I again thank you for everything that you have done for me. If I will hear from you again, I look forward to it.

Veryan”

Though my handwriting wasn’t as neat and precise as his I felt a little proud of my writing ability. I was not some dense kitchen maid. I put the letter into an envelope and seal it with a little wax. I wrote Prince Dorian’s name on the front but did not put my name.

I smirked at my cleverness, though I would not allow myself to get excited at the idea that he may reply to me. A prince writing to a servant, I laughed outright at the idea. I went to the mail room and placed my letter in the outgoing basket. My stomach started to grumble as I left, and I turned to start walking to the kitchen. I saw a very concerned maid, wandering down the hall. I smiled as she walked by and she hesitated.

“Veryan, do you know where Sara is?” I considered for a moment then added, “Probably in her room, making dresses for the princess. Why, do you need Sara?”

“No but the princess had a request.”

I smiled a little seeing at how Everose was getting back to her normal self.

“Well go on and tell me and I’ll go find Sara.”

Again, she hesitated.

“Well, the princess wants trousers and a blouse made for herself, you, Sara and Eliza.”

I just stared at her a moment, and then I barked out a laugh grabbing my stomach.

“No honestly tell me what it is.”

The maid looked horrified at the idea she might have heard her wrong.

“That’s what she said, I swear!”

I thought of Ever and what could be going through her mind, I shrugged and nodded walking away leaving her unsure of where to go.

I followed the route I’ve walked for last six years, Sara came and worked her way up the ranks so fast. She really was an amazing seamstress. As I walked away from the servant quarters the halls became more decorated again.

Now, down the hall from Sara the walls were decorated with bright paintings of ladies in beautiful dresses, purples and greens of all varying shades. I got to her door and knocked softly, her assistant Eliza answered, bobbing up and down. Her bright red hair was a curly mess all around her face, she was young but was wonderful help and company to have around.

She opened the door and called out to Sara who was deep in her closet of fabrics.

“Veryan is here Sara!”

As I closed the door I heard a bump and it sounded like something fell. I looked to Eliza who just gave a shrug. Sara’s work room was strewn with mannequins who had fabric pinned to their bodies, pin cushions filled with needles and pins sat everywhere, and there was a three-sided mirror with a pedestal in the middle that had cloth draped over it right now. Sara was unorganized but somehow in this crazy mess she was able to find everything she needed.

Sara came out her hair shorter than mine & a little disheveled. She was holding purple and red silk in her arms. She walked towards Eliza.

“Eliza darling please put this over there” she handed off the fabric and I fought the urge to run my fingers over the glossy material.

“Hello Veryan, how can I help you today?”

“I received a message from another maid about a request from the Princess.”

“Oh my! How wonderful I feel like it has been so long since she has asked for something!”

“It’s a little peculiar” I hesitated.

Sara was known for being emotional and very traditional.

“Well, out with it, I’m just so happy to see her getting back to herself.”

I smirked a little.

“Well she wants trousers and a blouse, for herself, me, you and Eliza.”

I clasped my hands behind my back. Sara just stared at me a smile stuck on her face, Eliza looked aghast waiting for Sara’s reaction. Her smile was still firm.

“Did she give a reason as to why Eliza and I need these.... outfits?” I shook my head no, Sara was older than me and it made me just a tad nervous when she got upset.

Sara just clicked her tongue; her smile became a thin line.

“I’ll get started then, did she say when she needs them?”

I cringed and look at the floor.

“This evening.”

Sara took a deep breath.

“Thank you Veryan as you can see we’re very busy. I will bring them later.”

She ushered me to the door, almost shooing me out as if I was a stray cat. I glanced over Sara and saw Eliza give me a tentative smile. As the door closed I let out a deep sigh of relief she didn’t scream! Thank the goddess!

I returned to my earlier mission of finding something to eat. One of the many kitchens in the castle was empty, as the chef for the royal family cooked in the kitchen closest to where the royal family actually dwelled. I used the spicket in the corner of the kitchen to pour some water into a large pot.

My arms were strong and as I pumped the handle the water flowed quickly, I hung the pot so that the water can start to boil. Next, I grabbed some potatoes and carrots from the produce bin laying on the counter and began to chop them, once they were all done I threw them in the boiling water to cook. Then I went to the salt box and pulled out a piece of venison my taste buds were already dreaming of the taste of my venison stew. I cut the meat into thin strips and speared them with metal rods. I hung the meat over the fire too, I added herbs and spices to the stew. Focused on the task at hand I didn’t hear anyone come into the kitchen.

Finally, I mixed it all together and the smell was delicious. Hungry I turned around to get a bowl from the cupboard and discovered Hayther leaning against the counter watching me. I started a little as I wasn’t expecting anyone to be standing there.

“How long have you been there? Your creepy man!”

“Just a moment, I always find it fascinating when you cook. You really lose yourself and become unaware.”

I huffed and grabbed two bowls. Hayther just laughed and came over to hold the bowls for me while I ladled stew into both of them. We sat down at the small table against the wall, he took the first bite of his and sighed.

“My favorite dish that you make! Maybe you should become a chef!”

I gawked at him.

“And leave Ever’s side? I don’t think so.”

At the sound of her name his cheeks became a little pink.

“Have you really not talked lately?”

He sighed and wouldn’t look up from his bowl.

“I don’t know, everything just has been so crazy lately I don’t want to stress her out, I mean you know what the queen said before...”

He gulped another spoonful, a sharp pain registered in my chest at the thought of the queen. Hayther wouldn’t look up and I felt as though he was hiding something from me. I remembered that night when I put a cold washcloth to Ever’s cheek.

“You still need to talk to her.”

Hayther didn’t respond instead he picked up his bowl and drank the stew without even using his spoon. His chair scraped against the stone floor as he got up to put his bowl in the sink.

“Well, I gotta run. I’ll see you later.”

I get up quickly and stand in his way as he turned around to leave.

“Sometimes there are things that we don’t know or understand and that’s why people act the way they do.”

Hayther finally met my eyes.

“We’ve kissed.”

I nod my head.

“The other night when I came in the room by accident?”

He shakes his head no.

“It was when Prince Dorian was still here and but then she invited him to go riding and I can’t stand in her way if she is choosing him.”

A knot forms in my stomach at the thought of Ever and Prince Dorian. I shake my head a little knowing that she harbors no feelings toward him. The memory of Prince Dorian kissing Ever’s hand flashes through my mind.

I shrugged and picked up my bowl from the table as well and placed it in the sink.

“I noticed that a new guard has been picked to take over Jordan’s place.” I said as Hayther shrugged his shoulders.

“He protected Prince Dorian during the attacks, the king thought he deserved a reward for his bravery.”

I didn’t say anything as Hayther left.

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