We were orphans after the war. The songs and stories about the heroes and the knights who defeated the ‘bad guys’ on the wrong side, the heroes who brought peace to the world – were all done and finished a year back.
What was left was too hard to understand as a child.
All that made sense were my friends.
Vlaric, the tall blonde boy who took us for walks in the town to the library. Ten years old.
Vladimir, the dark haired boy who only spoke when Vlaric was around. Seven years old.
Missy, the springy raven haired girl who screamed everyone awake at night, playing pranks all day. Seven years old.
And me, the youngest orphan rascal; Mona. I talked too much, cried too much, ate too much... everything was too much. Seven years old.
We all had a role to play. The eldest boy protected, the younger boy was his back up. Missy and I – we just sweet talked people on the street into giving us treats to share with our friends.
My greatest memory? Having secret picnics with them in the local park by the stream. An old rotunda used for celebrating ceremonies, knighting events, weddings, funerals and anything important – was abandoned and overgrown with moss after the war.
You could run around the structure, take a dip in the creek behind it, fish, climb trees and play all around it. We picked herbs to make fake salads and made crowns of daises. Occasionally we played with the beetles. You know, harmless kid adventures. For that year, it was the best year of my life.
Our last day together as children was the day I remember the most vividly, however, because it was the worst.
It was such an odd, all consuming memory. I could remember every detail like it happened yesterday.
We were packing up a picnic basket, after ants infested our meal, we decided to return earlier before the rain started.
Missy had scraped her knee after tripping on a slippery log and Vladimir was feeling under the weather. It was a really bad day over all. The first part I remember vividly was grabbing Vlaric’s hand and whispering, “Can you take me, I’m tired?”
He was getting over a cold himself, but he let me jump onto the railing so I could sit on his shoulders on the walk back. It was so kind of him, he didn’t have to do it, that’s why it really stuck.
Missy limped back, sniffling the whole way with her make shift walking stick. Vladimir was pale and also coughing most of the way.
It was a slow, agonizing walk while trying to beat the storm brewing overhead. The grey clouds tumbling in over the mountains were stained with yellow light, which gave a pretty glow over the city down the steep hill from our orphanage which sat on top and got battered by a lot of the wind. Everything in that moment before we walked out of the forest, was pretty, all the stone pillars holding up fancy architecture, the hustle of the afternoon trade, the green green surroundings because the city sat at the base of a well nourished mountain.
It honestly looked like a perfect fairy tale, even though it was far from it.
When we arrived back it was later than our curfew. We knew we’d get into trouble, but we didn’t expect this amount of trouble to be waiting for us.
There was an entire ruckus back at the orphanage. Our care taker was screaming our names through the wooden double story house, “Where are those four? Where are they –?”
We could hear her screaming before we walked in.
“Dorkas?” Vlaric takes responsibility, as always, “We’re right here!”
I climb off his shoulders and stand my ground with Missy and the boys in the open door while we peered at the crowd waiting inside, down the narrow hall. So many people were wearing fancy suits and uniforms. It held all our attention.
“Oh! Mona!" Dorkas runs in from the meeting room, and of course she blames the whole thing on me, “I told you not to convince them to go out today! We have important guests!” she flurries towards us, “Look at the mud on your face! Missy! Your bleeding? This is a disgrace, my, my,” Dorkas hisses this under her breath at Vlaric, who’s turning red. He doesn’t like her tone.
“What’s all this then?” he tries to challenge Dorkas, he was always cunning when it came to other adults – he talked high born, like one of them. He’s pointing to the folk in the meeting room, “Did you sell us off before we could meet our ‘special’ benefactors? Who the hell are these people?”
“As a matter of fact...” Dorkas starts to smile, but then purses her lips at the booming voice that silences everyone from the meeting room.
“They’ve arrived! Bring them in here at once!”
That commanding voice still haunted me to this day.
We were pulled by the ears by Dorkas and some of her helpers. The doors were shut and we were forced to sit before a crowd of strangers who lingered around the second hand couches and the drab curtains that we helped stitch. Vlaric stood in front of us, trying to protect us, but there was nothing that could be done.
“Who are you, sir?” Vlaric asks tightly to the scary man with the long beard and one eye who sits before us. He commanded the whole room full of highly important men.
“My name’s Rexion, young man. That’s all you need to know about me. We’re recruiting for our armies, young enough to train fresh, for war, for peace, all things boys your age dream of becoming. We need girls too,” Rexion smiles and Missy’s back straightens, she’s nervous when she starts to feign bravery. She’d be seconds from tears, I knew her too well.
I was too shell shocked to even react.
“Boys don’t legally train for war until they’re 12, sir. It’s the minimum requirement, by law – ” Vlaric tries to reason.
“That law is gone, boy. Why do you speak like that?”
“He reads too much,” Dorkas apologises, while Vlaric blushes in embarrassment.
“We’re taking any child you need gone, over the age of 7,” Rexion jumps straight to the point.
Dorkas comes forward and motions to us, “That’s Missy, Vlaric and Vladimir.”
I note she doesn’t mention me, I know it’s because I’m the smallest so I can appear younger.
“No!” Vladimir speaks up past his husky sore throat, shocking everyone that knows him for only speaking in private with Vlaric, “No, miss, that’s not fair!”
“Calm down, Vlad. What will Missy do, Rexion?” Dorkas asks, “If you don’t mind me asking.”
“We need more priestesses devout to our God of Earth – too many were killed in the massacres. She’ll be safe in a church, around other women.”
“I want to go with the boys!” Missy stands up, “Please?”
“What about me?” I stand up too.
“Mona,” Vlaric growls my name, a warning not to get involved.
“...and who are you... young lass... it’s always entertaining to see how much fire young children have before they’re broken by the dark world,” Rexion chuckles to himself, “It’s humbling; refreshing.”
“My name is Mona and you won’t take my friends!" I grab Missy’s hand and Vladimir, trying to drag them with me, “Come on, Vlaric! Let’s go!”
“This is ridiculous,” one higher born man whispers into Rexion’s ear, “We must be on our way, we don’t have time for this –”
Rexion sighs, standing, “Take her out of here,” Rexion motions to Dorkas, “Your payment will come by next week.”
It never would.
Multiple adults have to pull me away screaming, which sets off Missy screaming too, waving her stick around. Vladimir and Vlaric are intercepted by tall soldiers, who usher them out another door.
In seconds, we’re completely separated.
I’m dragged upstairs and locked into our room. Dorkas mutters that this is the best outcome, that it’s the most she can do for me. Apparently, this whole time, she held a soft spot for me alone; but that meant being away from all of them!
I turn, now alone. The four beds are messy, unmade and they still held all my friend’s belongings. I run to the window, but it’s been stuck at an inch open since we’d ended up here over a year ago.
“Missy!” I scream out to her as she’s pulled, still screaming into a carriage, surrounded by priestesses in blue and black long dresses.
“Mona!” she yells out when she sees me in our window as she looks over her shoulder before she’s gone.
Missy is swiftly shoved in, the doors locked and the horses whipped to move.
I wait to see the boys, frantically searching for their appearance, but they’ve clearly been departed from the back onto the adjacent road. I can’t see them.
I can’t say goodbye to any of them.
It’s the last and the very worst memory I have.
I never knew what I wanted to be, because I was only seven years old. But from that day I have one goal – and that is to see my friends again.
READER WARNING: this epic fantasy romance will contain polyamory, dark themes in all areas concerned, it will read as a slow burn but slowly get more and more intense [very intense], it will contain revenge plots, magic, hate-love [whispers... sex :O] and of course; fatalities. [Not of the main character kind, I promise, I’m not into that shit x]