I was running down the empty halls to my bed chambers. The sun was rising, lighting the outside of the dark stone manor I call home and casting a bleak, hopeless light over the rotten town of Irinis. I run as if Hell was on my heels, I know one of the guards had seen me outside the manor’s walls while I snuck around, giving bread to the poor, hungry civilians. The constant taxes make it impossible for them to eat the very wheat they barely managed to grow.
I know I should have stayed inside my chambers, but unlike my cruel mother and late father, I cannot idly sit while the people die in poverty of starvation. Mother has tried teaching me how to look down upon civilians, to treat them like they did not matter. It is not true. Their lives matter.
I try to quietly open my door, praying the guard had not alerted my mother. My stomach dropped, my heart feeling as if it had stopped. There she was, my mother, dressed in silks of black, mourning and noble elegance, her fire red hair done up to match the authority she had. Her angry dull blue eyes piercing my dusty brown eyes caused me to step back.
“Why, child, must you disobey me? I’ve told you over and over, asked, commanded you to never leave the safe walls of the manor. Why, Alys, why disobey me?”
“Mother, please understand, I do it for the good of the people. I disobey because there are so many who cannot afford to feed themselves. The taxes prevent them from buying; the laws of which you passed prevent them from making use of their own crops and stocks. I give them the bread they desire, the blankets they need, but nothing more, and nothing less.”
“You waste our own stores, our own supplies, to care for rabble that cares not for you! You are above them, yet you lower yourself into their filth. You care not of what your “just deeds” do to you, to me! Why, if your father was alive he’d have you beaten for your insolence!”
“Mother, Father has been dead for several moons now, and he isn’t going to rise from the dead. He has no authority over me, and as of today, nor do you.” I spoke with determinacy, not willing to back down now.
Her face flamed with anger as she grabbed me by the hair, dragging me out of the room. I shouted and tried to pull away from her, begging her to stop, but to no avail. Up the stairs into the tallest tower, each painful tug upon my scalp, I realized her plan. She shoved me into the sole room in the tower.
“If you won’t listen to me, I have no choice but to lock you in here!” She slammed the door, the lock clicking into place.
Her voice was muffled by the door, but she ordered a guard to attend to my door, no one shall enter the room but a few choice servants and her.
I began to weep, overwhelmed by the feeling of being imprisoned against my will. The room was cold, dusty, and spacious; the fireplace had not been lit in many years. The door opened again, but I paid no mind to it.
“Missus? It is I, Ginette… the Lady said I can still attend to ya.” The gentle voice of my portly, red haired, personal maid softened the pain of the punishment.
I turned to her, smiling weakly. “That is good, I suppose. At least I may have a good friend. Come Ginette, help me tidy the room.”
“As ya wish, missus. My, there is enough dust to make ya a lovely fur coat.”
I giggled at her poor joke, a small comfort in my prison. With her aid, the room was at least cleaner. Since she was still my servant, I could send her to fetch my things, to be my eyes and ears of the manor while I did nothing.
Over the next few days, my room transformed from prison to at least a comfortable cottage, making use of the space for my books, wardrobe, and knickknacks. The few servants of the manor treated me well. Cookie made little cakes and sweets for me to enjoy during the day. Wit Whittler, the manor’s personal furniture craftsman, came and went with his men, replacing the plain wood furniture with their gorgeously carved furniture. Ginette carried news of the comings and goings, some traders from the desert lands, and most notably, a dark, tall man that felt sinister to look upon.
Nothing prepared me for Ginette bursting into my room the night prior to my birthday.
“Missus! They plan to kill you tomorrow!”