When they first met
The kingdom of Dresa. A massive territory, made up of towns and villages. Its expansion stretched as far as the ocean kingdom of Mirimi and as wide as the Vetiti forests. But within its walls, the kingdom harbored many dark secrets.
All children were raised to obey their mothers for fear of the past repeating. Women were the dominant sex and men were raised to obey the strongest link. Men were slaves to the women they worshiped. Used as nothing but breeding tools and household workers. If asked why Dresa and the surrounding kingdoms were like this, the Queen would scoff. For her word was law, and the laws must be followed.
The young girl followed her mother through the winding passageways beneath the city. The stench of musk and waste permeated the air and made it difficult to breath. As the little girl jogged to keep up with her mother’s fast pace, she swore she heard a squeak.
“Mother, what are we doing down here?” the young girl whispered. She feared any loud noise would alert the surrounding vermin and they would converge on them at once. The thought was, of course, ridiculous. No one was more powerful than mother. No one would dare cross her. Not even a mouse.
“You will see soon enough” her mother replied, voice bouncing off the walls as they approached a gate of some sort. The little girl stayed silent as they continued closer.
“My queen” The women standing sentry said, bowing low to show their respect. The queen nodded in acknowledgement as she waited for the women to open the gate.
“Princess” they said as the two passed.
“Thank you!” the little girl said as she raced to catch up with her mother.
“You know you do not need to thank them. You are a princess” her mother stated, never once slowing her pace or turning around.
The girl nodded, realized her mother couldn’t possibly see her and then spoke, “I know mother, I was simply being polite like papa taught me!”
Her mother hummed as they came to a stone arch way. The girl looked around as they entered a room. It expanded at least three stories high and contained dozens and dozens of cells. Each holding one or two boys all covered in filth. The little girl shivered. What was this place. As she made eye contact with one of the boys, the shouting began.
“Hey, little girl! Why not come closer to my cell! I just want to talk!”
“No, pick me! Take me home! I’ll make the very best slave!”
“You?! Your smell would kill’er the second she opened the door! Pick me! I was a slave once before!”
The little girl gasped, fear over taking her as she stepped closer to her mother and lowered her gaze. Why would her mother bring her here?
“None of that little one” her mother said with impatience “we are superior to these swine, and thus do not lower our heads for anyone.”
“Yes mother.” She whispered as she rose her head once again, but ensured she was looking at a wall, rather than one of the sad looking boys in the cages.
“Now,” her mother clapped her hands, gaining the little girls attention, “Why don’t you walk around a little, I wish for you to choose one by the end of the hour or I shall do it for you. Understood?”
The little girl blinked up at her mother confused. Choose? Choose one of these boys for what?
“I’m sorry mother, but I don’t understand…” She trailed off, waiting for her mother’s response.
“Choose one of these boys to be your personal slave. If he doesn’t work out we will find you another, but for now choose.” Her mother said with a wave of her hand.
The little girl stared wide eyed at all of the cells. She was meant to choose. Take one of these boys in to be a slave for her every need? She knew her mother had many slaves, most of which were intelligent, funny, and above all else pretty. But what could a girl her age possibly need a slave for? After thinking for a moment, the girl nodded and began walking around the chamber. She blocked out as much of the noise she could and studied each cell. Inside there was a pot and a mat, but nothing more. Her heart swelled with pity, but she attempted to mask it as well as she could.
A princess does not feel bad, for she is the one that makes the rules. She never understood her mother’s sayings. But she always tried to live by them.
As the little girl wandered closer to the edges of the chamber she realized there was a ramp going up and around the building. She wasn’t able to notice it before because of how dark the room was. After a quick glance at her mother, who was far too busy speaking with one of the guards, she began to ascend the ramp. As she got higher and higher the shouting lessened and the boys became older. They had obviously been there much longer too. Their filth was horrifying and the smell of urine and feces became overwhelming. The little girl almost turned back.
Until she saw him.
He was unlike anything she had ever seen. Standing in the back corner with fists clenched and eyes trained on her, she felt as though she was encountering a wild animal. Her heart began to pitter patter as she made eye contact with the boy. His eyes a bright yellow among the grime and dirt. As she stared, his gaze narrowed further and his lip began to twitch. She tilted her head.
“Hello” she said softly. Eyes round as saucers. “How old are you?” He had to be much older than her, for her head just barely reached his mid chest. She knew she shouldn’t be encouraging conversation. She should turn back and choose one of the boys on the lower level. They seemed more than inclined to be a good slave. This one, well, just the way he held her gaze proved that he would be much harder to train. But there was something about him that made her heart hurt. Like one of the Lyra who sat in the zoo year-round, used only to entertain the guests. They also made her heart squeeze as they peered out between the bars. Almost as though begging her to let them go. She swore to herself that when she turned 21, she would do so.
The boy tilted his head as well, seeming to mimic her in a way. The girl gasped once again as the boy stepped further into the light. His matted hair just barely reached the top of his shoulders and his filth covered face was twisted in a sneer.
“What do you want?” his voice was much deeper than she expected, and she hastily took a step back.
When she realized what she had done, she straightened her shoulders quickly and sucked in a breath. “I want to know your name. Then your age. And how long you’ve been down here.” There. Straight to the point and just how mother had taught her. Always demand, never truly ask.
The boy scoffed “And why should I tell you any of that? The only reason you are here is to choose a lap dog who will blindly follow any and every rule you make.”
The girl lowered her head, sadness and confusion welling in her chest. She wasn’t like that. She wasn’t finding a boy to do her bidding. She wasn’t her mother.
Sure, they would have to do some chores around the house, and probably make sure she didn’t get herself into too much trouble. But compared to this, that life would be amazing. Wouldn’t it?
She looked up at the boy once again. She knew she should just stomp back downstairs and pick one of the many young boys vying for her attention and be done with it. But she couldn’t fathom the idea of leaving this particular boy down here. So, she took another deep breath, and stepped forward.
The closer she came to the cage, the more the boy tensed. Confusion enveloped his face and he began to frantically look around. “What are you doing?” he demanded as she drew within an inch of his cell.
“I’m going to tell you a secret!” she whispered so that only the two of them could hear. Although confused, the boy nodded his head as though giving her permission to continue the conversation. “If I’m being honest, the only actual reasons my mother is getting me to choose a slave is because she wants me to stay out of trouble. Your only real job would be to follow me around and stop me from getting into things I’m not supposed to. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop causing trouble, I just think that’s what my mother is hoping! So, if you want to get out of here, and are willing to spend a whole bunch of time with me, I’d really like for you
The boy stared. It looked as though he hadn’t even breathed for a solid couple minutes before he blurted out “Daegan.”
Startled, the little girl blinked, “What?” she asked.
“My name,” he said “is Daegan”.
The little girl began to grin, surprise written across her face.
om every word. “My name is Henley!”