Chapter 1- Jonathan Edward Frey
“In one day time you will be married to Lord Frey,” My mother said proudly as she laced up my dress. “And if the gods are willing by spring you will be with child.”
I said nothing but just stood there before the huge oval mirror, while she primped my appearance to her liking. I was pretty much a puppet in my mother’s world. It was forbidden to do anything without her approval. She loved to have absolute control over everything that happened under her roof. Not even my father was safe from her tyrant rule in our home. It didn’t matter because my father was just as equally a horrible person. I was their only child and their only ticket to obtaining their desired wealth through my arranged marriage to Lord Frey. It wasn’t unheard of for girls to marry older men at my age of nineteen – some girls married even younger. In fact my parents would have married me off to Lord Frey sooner if they could but he, at the time, was still grieving the death of his first wife who passed away five years earlier from an illness.
Lord Frey was not an unattractive man. He was a very wealthy man, investing his wealth in the growth of our large town of Crystal Falls. I was bound to live a lavished life in luxury – something I was not accustomed to. My family was not poor; however we were not rich either. My father was paid well to manage Lord Frey’s estate. It was how Lord Frey had come to see me. Well, not in person because I was never allowed to leave my home; but by a small painted portrait that my father carried on him that had coincidently fell out his pocket as Lord Frey passed by him in the manor. Lord Frey was captivated by my beauty. He wanted to see me in person to know if I was real, as Lord Frey told me when he came to our home one day. A month later, I was engaged and a contract was made promising her payment. Mother didn’t care how much older Lord Frey was, it was all about the money.
Mother glared at me through the mirror waiting for a response.
“Yes mother,” I said looking at the unhappy girl in the reflection who stared back at me with wide green eyes. My ivory complexion was a bit paler today, “As it pleases you.”
“And so it does.” She smiled as she yanked the brush through my loose, dark curls. I winced softly.
I looked down at the wooden floor, tension set in my shoulders.
She stopped brushing and sighed in annoyance. “Honestly Mary, you should be thanking your father and me for this blessing! Many women would kill to be in your shoes and marry Lord Frey. It’s a great honor. Think about what this could mean for your father and me.” She paused. “I didn’t raise you to be selfish either.”
‘No, because you’re plenty selfish for the both of us,’ I thought.
I tried to force a smile on my face. It wasn’t convincing. Mother snatched me around to face her; I could feel the ice in her glare. Her fingers dug into my upper arms.
“Don’t you dare disappoint me! We need this money and you will do everything in your power to keep that man happy. I don’t care if he wants your maiden head with his cock deep in your mouth, you will make him happy. Do you understand me?”
When I didn’t respond quickly enough, she roughly gripped my chin between her fingers. “Do you?”
“Yes mother!” I gasp painfully.
She let go and smiled again, turning me around once more towards the mirror. She went back to brushing my hair. “Maybe if you make him really happy he will provide us with servants and cooks of our own.”
The rest of the morning lingered on with a list of chores mother had me do around the house. Father had been gone all morning at the Frey’s manor preparing for the wedding and also going over the contract, making sure that it was sound. Every time I thought about my wedding my heart raced. I knew that this was pretty much it. I wasn’t going to marry him for love – I barely knew him personally – that was for certain. I felt like I was living my life to make others happy. From this marriage my father would get a new home and lands in the country and mother will finally get to live a lavish lifestyle that she always wanted with many servants. And Lord Frey would get a young wife that could provide him with children that he always wanted.
I was miserable. I felt trapped in a life that truly made me unhappy. My parents were selfish and never really cared about me. At a very young age my mother always talked about marring me off to a wealthy man. I lived my life to serve them. The only good thing about this marriage was at least I was leaving out of this house.
As I was elbow deep in hot water washing the last bit of dishes from this morning, there was a loud knock at the door. I wiped my hands on a towel, intending to answer it but mother was already there.
“My Lord!” her voice sang from the hallway. “What a pleasant surprise! I wasn’t expecting to see you until tomorrow at the wedding!”
“My apologies, Mrs. Morgan.” I heard Lord Frey’s deep voice respond. “I hope I haven’t imposed.”
“Not at all, my Lord! Do come in!” she said.
I heard the front door close and footsteps moving towards the sitting room as mother ushered Lord Frey.
I already knew what would be expected of me before mother even asked. I quickly prepared two cups of tea, placing them on the platter next to the sugar. Taking a deep breath to calm my racing heart, I made my way to the sitting room with the tea.
There sat Lord Jonathan Edward Frey. For his age he was extremely handsome. His graying hair was slicked back and his facial hair was neatly trimmed. His doe shaped brown eyes were rimmed with thick long lashes. He was well dressed and even sitting down I could tell he was very tall and well built.
Lord Frey’s face lit up when I walked into the room. He stood and bowed his head in acknowledgement. “Ah, my beautiful bride!” he said tenderly. He would have kissed my hand had they not been occupied, “Such a lovely and gracious hostess!”
Though his greeting was sincere I still had to force a smile. I said softly, “My Lord, I’ve brought you some tea.”
His lips stretched into a warming smile. “My flower, we shall be married tomorrow. Please, call me Jon.”
I looked down nervously. “If it pleases you, my Lord…ehrr… Jon.” I swallowed hard. First name basis was a very intimate thing.
“Will you allow me to call you Mary?” He took a small step towards me, lifting my chin to look into his molten eyes. His masculine scent made my mouth water. “I would call you beautiful angel but I wouldn’t want to anger the gods.” He chuckled. My skin was getting warm under his touch.
“You may.” I whispered. My heart was trying to beat out of my chest. Jon had never touched me this intimate before.
My sheltered life had left me so inexperienced. Thanks to my parents I wasn’t allowed out of the house nor have a social life. My parents wanted to keep me pure and protected of the world. I was only permitted out back in our small fenced in garden – it wasn’t much of a garden since nothing ever grew and remained dead. I would sit back there on the old wooden bench under the tree and get lost in my many books. It was my happy place, a portal to another world. I would read about romance and how the woman was supposed to act when a man showed affection. It was so natural and loving. This was not a natural love but one that was meant to be forced. I would try to imitate the woman’s behavior in my books – fluttering their eyelashes and being completely helpless in the arms of true love – but this wasn’t my books and I wasn’t in love. Even if I tried I would most likely just embarrass myself.
In the short time that I stood in front of him I nearly forgotten that we were not alone. Mother cleared her throat causing Jon to step back from me and pulling me out of my mind.
Mother waited impatiently for me to serve her tea. Setting the platter down on the small table before them, I moved to stand behind the chair where my mother sat. Lord Frey did not take his eyes off me even as I continued to look down at the floor.
“Lord Frey, what brings about this welcoming visit?” mother asked taking a sip of her tea.
Lord Frey sat back down and scooped two spoonful of sugar into his tea. He took a sip before answering. “I came here on business.”
“Oh?” mother sat her tea down on a saucer next to her. “What can I do for you, my Lord?”
“I came to discuss the contract with you.” He said finally turning his attention to her.
“My husband would be the required person to speak to on this matter.” She said and tilted her head slightly, confused. “Apologies my Lord but… didn’t you go over the contract this morning with him at your manor?”
“Actually I have, which is why I’m here.” He hesitated for a moment looking for the right words. “Mr. Morgan and I have come upon and added agreement to the contract that he feels you may be a bit more difficult to persuade.”
“It is known that I can be a difficult woman to please, especially when it comes to the welfare of my daughter and family.” Mother smiled, “but I assure you it’s only for the best interest of my family of course. What is this new add on to our contract?”
Lord Frey’s expression became unreadable as he measured mother’s words. “There are going to be great changes to our beautiful town, Crystal Falls as I have been chosen to become Governor. I intend on making a lot of serious changes with the finances that I provide for our town. As of tomorrow, Mary will become my wife and will also have the title of Governess.”
“So I heard!” Mother’s smile widened. I bet she could see the money rolling in. “It’s a great honor to Crystal Fall to have you as our Governor.”
“Yes,” Lord Frey took another sip of his tea. “With that being said, Mr. Morgan and I have made some changes towards the contract… add-ons if you will. One of which my bride will be leaving with me… today.”
My head snapped up, gazing at Lord Frey in astonishment. I heard mother’s sharp intake at the sudden news. Lord Frey met my gaze and smiled at me in encouragement as he beckoned me to sit next to him. Hesitantly, I did, unable to bring myself to meet mother’s icy glare I felt. Hadn’t she told me to make Lord Frey happy no matter what?
Mother laughed once without humor. “Lord Frey, you couldn’t possibly think that I would allow this! It would be most improper! Mary is not yet your wife and will not be with you until then! The damage this could cause my… I mean… her reputation!” she corrected herself. “To be with a man she has yet to wed!”
Lord Frey held up his hand to stop her from continuing. “You should know that I care not of what my town shall think of this. Tomorrow, Mary will be their Governess and none shall speak ill of her.” His eyes hardened and his tone was firm. “Besides, Mary is coming with me today to prepare her for her role. Your husband had already agreed upon it and there is nothing more to discuss on that matter.”
“I see…,” Mother’s said reading the seriousness on his face. Her mouth was in a tight line. She wasn’t pleased that she had no control which she was very much used to.
“Now,” Lord Frey continued. “Reviewing the contract once more last night, before I placed my signature, I noticed something flawed.”
“And what was that?” she said bitterly and annoyed.
“I’m paying you a large sum of money to marry your daughter. So I thought to myself, why pay you all of the money up front when it is not guaranteed that Mary can provide me with an heir son. This is the whole point of this marriage… I want sons. I want healthy sons. So I came to the conclusion, I will only pay you half of the money. You will get the other half the money when Mary conceives a healthy son of mine that lives pass his tenth birthday.”
Mother stood up immediately. She was fuming and had enough. “This is certainly preposterous! The arrangement was to marry our daughter for a price that will set our family in good financial standing! Now, a day before the wedding you waltz in my home and decide to change your mind? Lord Frey, are you not a man of your word?”
Lord Frey waited until mother calmed down a moment before responding. “Mrs. Morgan, I assure you that I am a man of my word.” He said coolly.
I was beginning to feel uncomfortable from the tension in the room.
“Where is my husband?” Mother demanded. “We will not agree to this madness!”
“Alas, Mr. Morgan has already agreed and it is final.” He said standing up. He held his hand out for me to take, helping me up to his side. “As far as your husband, I believe he is taking the first half of the payment to be deposited in the bank as any wise man should.”
Mother didn’t argue with that.
“I know this was last minute. Surely you understand my predicament.” Lord Frey spoke gently. I felt him gently squeeze my hand – so small in his massive grip. “I have considered this as a wedding gift, a gift to your new Governor. To show your family how grateful I am I will consider an important role for Mr. Morgan as I find one fits.”
My heart clenched. Rewarding the greedy and selfish parents of mine made me sick deep down.
She sighed as her eyes fluttered closed in defeat. My father always told me that I favored my mother’s appearance. My mother would be beautiful if it wasn’t for her hateful ways. I truly hoped that I didn’t grow up to be like her, especially when I become a mother someday. I vowed to never allow this to happen to my children; to be married off like this, to be treated like an object.
Mother opened her eyes and smiled pleasantly. It took her great effort. “Lord Frey, I graciously accept the change to the contract and pray for your happiness in the marriage to my daughter. This is an honor you bring to the Morgan family and you have our complete loyalty.”
Lord Frey did not return her smile but also did not look unkind. His expression was emotionless. “Thank you, Mrs. Morgan.”
Mother looked towards me. “Mary, go fetch your belongings. You’re leaving with Lord Frey.”
“Yes, mother.” I said.
As I took a step forward, Lord Frey held me back.
“My bride doesn’t fetch anything.” He said between clenched teeth. The anger was there in his tone. “You go and gather her belongings and Charleston will come receive them. And do make haste, I’ve have other things to do today.”
All the friendliness was absent from Lord Frey with mother. It was as if mother had used up the last quota of his politeness. Or maybe it was because he knew mother no longer had her grip in my life anymore as I now belonged to him.
Stunned, mother stood there with her lips slightly parted. She was not used to anyone talking to her this way. It secretly pleased me.
“Post haste, Mrs. Morgan!” He snapped. “My bride and I will be out by the carriage.
The sun shone high and bright on Crystal Falls. It made our clustered town with cobbled stone streets welcoming. Many of the citizens were out and about, children played in the streets while carriages strode by. I felt excited yet anxious taking in the new found freedom from my parents.
Lord Frey’s Carriage was parked at the end of the steps of my parent’s home. It was a large luxury carriage pulled by four magnificent brown horses. There was Lord Frey’s sigil on the door, a howling wolf head surrounded by intertwining gold circles. A lanky older man was climbing down from the driver seat of the carriage as we descended the steps, my hand still in Lord Frey’s.
I glanced up at him as we neared the carriage. Lord Frey looked more relaxed and his eyes were lively. He looked down at me smiling. “Darling, this is Charleston, our coachman.” He said.
Charleston bowed, “Always at your service ma’am.” He was dressed very professional. His thick mustache was slightly curled upwards and he had huge bushy eyebrows.
“Charleston, help Mrs. Morgan gather my bride’s belongings.” Lord Frey instructed.
“Yes, my Lord.” Charleston bowed again and hurried up the stairs, disappearing into my parent’s house.
I turned to do a final glance at my now old home, a two level brick home attached to rows of other home in the busiest part of town . It was a home full of horrid memories. I was not going to miss this place.
Lord Frey gently turned my head to face him. His eyes were smoldering. He cupped my hands in his as he took a moment to appraise me.
“You are so beautiful.” He said tucking a loose curl behind my ear. “I know we have a lot to learn about each other but I assure you, you are in good hands. The world is at your feet now.”
“You are most kind.” I was very aware of eyes on us. Everyone in town knew about the wedding tomorrow and knew it was frowned upon for two people to show affection without being married or be accompanied by a chaperone. Or perhaps it was because they were finally able to see the girl who never left this house. Lord Frey didn’t seem to care. I tried not to let the stares bother me but I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. “I am forever grateful.” And I meant that.
He must have noticed my stiffness. A woman walking by staring at us received the full power of his stone cold glare. Lord Frey was an intimidating man and you didn’t want to end up on his bad side. The woman quickly turned her attention elsewhere and hurried along.
Lord Frey opened up the carriage door. “Why don’t we get you inside, out of the sun.” he was careful as he helped me inside the spacious carriage. The interior was beautifully elegant and comfortable. The cushioned seats were forest green trimmed in gold. There were white, thick curtains in the windows that were pulled back to permit the sun to shine its buttery rays inside. This carriage could easily carry a large family and keep everyone aboard content.
Lord Frey watched as I admired his carriage, sliding in next to me.
“I’ve never been inside a carriage before.” I admitted, feeling one of the soft, silk pillows that were next to me absentmindedly. “Mother never lets me leave the house. She was afraid that something might happen to me.”
He sighed. “I can’t believe they did that to you. I understand keeping you safe but to locking you up like a caged animal is unacceptable. Believe me, you will be well protected with me, however you shall adventure as you please.” Lord Frey took my hand again. “Have you ever seen your own town? Do you even know what Crystal Falls look like?”
I looked down at our hands. He was holding mine again and the warmth felt nice. “Not pass the front window or door. The most I’ve been was out back in our home in the small garden. It’s fenced in so it was not too far from the house.”
His frown deepened. “My god… I knew they never treated you well but that is horrible. The gods know I wanted to take you away sooner but your mother wouldn’t allow it until a contract was made.”
‘Imagine if your wife never died…’ I thought and felt terrible as soon as I thought it. However it was true. If his wife never died, I would most like be still stuck in that house or worse… married off to some other person.
“My Lord, don’t fret.” I said smiling weakly.
His brown eyes softened, “To be quite honest, I never cared for your parents. They are known amongst Crystal Falls to be a selfish pair; especially your mother. Everyone calls her a tyrant and has a hunger for money, “he ranted but stopped himself.
So I wasn’t the only one who thought that of my parents apparently.
Jon misread the blank expression as a look of distaste. “Forgive me Mary. I shouldn’t speak ill of you parents.”
I shrugged. “It’s not like they were much of a parental figure.”
“Regardless, it is not polite of me to do so.” He paused for a moment, his eyes never leaving mine. “Things are going to change drastically for you Mary. You have no true knowledge of the world we live in or for politics. I do not expect you to learn of everything overnight. I will introduce you into my world as delicate as I possibly can but you may still become overwhelmed. There is so much to explain to you however in time you will get the hang of it all.
“For now, allow me to get to know you better. Tomorrow is our big day. I wish for it to be a day to remember.” Jon’s smile was captivating. “What is your favorite meal? I’ll be sure that it is prepared for our feast.”
I thought for a moment. “I do enjoy a good meat stew with lots of veggies.”
It was one of my favorite meals to cook.
Jon’s eyes brightened. “That’s actually one of mine! My cook Greta makes the best meat stew with baked rolls that melt in your mouth. I’ll be sure to have her prepared it tomorrow.”
Smiling from ear to ear, I said. “I doubt she makes the best.”
His smiled faded slightly. “Oh?”
“You haven’t tried mine!” I explained, squeezing his hand lightly hoping to bring the smile back.
His smile did return even bigger. “I’ll have to try your cooking someday, if you will cook for me.”
“Of course.” I said. Jon was beginning to make me feel a bit more comfortable around him. This was going to be a new chapter in my life and I had to admit I was frightened. I felt the knots twisting in my stomach.
I turned my attention out the window to the busy street. It was so nice outside. The sun gave welcoming warmth for the early fall season. My head lifted up towards the sun, eyes closed, taking in as much of it as possible. A gentle breeze caressed my skin causing a loose curl to tickle my cheek. I opened my eyes, peering at the clear blue sky. This would be a lovely day to read under a tree and get lost in its chapters.
“What do you think of that, Mary?” Jon’s asked.
I looked at him alarmed. I hadn’t heard a word he said.
Jon chuckled, not showing any sign of impatience on his handsome features. His wise eyes crinkled when he laughed. He patted my hand reassuringly. “I can’t blame you for being distracted with your new freedom.”
I was free from my parents yes but was I really all that free?
Lord Frey continued. “I have a lot to tend to today before our wedding. Now, your mother wanted you to wear her old wedding dress. If that’s what you wish to wear then that is fine. If not I can have a seamstress get you fitted for a dress to your liking. Which do you prefer?”
“I rather not wear my mother’s dress,” I admitted, imagining dressed in her oversized dress that didn’t feel like me.
“I’ll send for the seamstress.” Jon hesitated for a moment. There was a flash of indecision. “Mary…”
“Yes, Jon?” his name still sounded strange off my lips.
His eyes were searching my face. “Mary, as I stated, there is so many things that you must learn. I… I want to explain some things tonight at dinner. For the moment, I just want to get you home. I’ll give you a brief tour before I head out. The seamstress will be over once I send for her and I should be back at the manor before dinner.”
I nodded. Why was he sounding so unsure and guarded? What did he want to talk to me about? I doubt that me learning my soon-to-be role as Governess would make him sound uncertain. And the way he brought this up for the second time almost made it seem as a warning.
“Is there anything I should worry about my Lord?” I asked feeling anxious.
Jon was tentative but shook his head. He opened his mouth as to say something but snapped it closed.
At that moment Charleston had returned. He loaded what little belongings I owned in the back of the carriage before taking his place behind the reigns. It surprised me that Lord Frey didn’t have to tell Charleston where our next destination was. The carriage rolled forward with a gentle start. My heart leaped with excitement as we made our way down the busy cobblestone street. I glanced back out the window at the passing people and building, not once watching to see my old home – my past – fading in the distance. The feeling was amazing and my gods, Crystal Falls was breathtaking as we passed the many small businesses and homes. My eyes grew wide when we strode by a bookstore. I absentmindedly reached for Jon’s arm. It felt firm under my grip.
Jon laughed. “I take it you enjoy reading a lot.” His voice was light.
I turned to him, biting my lower lip and nodded. “I love it!”
“I would offer to stop at the bookstore but I’m certain you will be pleased with my collection at home.” He bragged a little. “I have a mass collection of all kinds in the study.”
I grinned cheerfully. “You will never get me to leave from there.”
“I think I can persuade you once you’ve seen the gardens.” I noticed how he watched my lips as I spoke. “I’ve been told that you love gardens.”
“That is correct,” I said. I wanted to look back out the window at the town but felt it would be rude, “though nothing ever grew in my mother’s garden.”
Jon laughed again. “I’ve noticed.”
For the first time while being in the carriage I noticed something long leaning against the seats across from us. It looked odd there but also seemed important.
“What is that?” I asked, refraining from reaching out to touch it.
Jon followed my gazing then smiled. He grabbed it. The long, dark wood was smooth and at the top I could see a beautiful silver metal, warped into an elegant spiral around a leather handle with a huge red stone that shimmered at the hilt. Jon balanced the object in his hands. He gripped the dark leather handle in his right hands – which was now protected behind the warped metal – and the wooden case in his other hand pulling them apart. The long metal sung as it slid from its protection revealing a thick, heavy looking, and sharp blade. Its impeccable beauty was captivating and deadly. Along the edges of the long blade were black runes carved into the metal. I felt it calling for me towards its flawless power.
“This is my Great Sword.” Jon said watching as I admired it. “Her name is Mercy.”
“My gods!” I cried “She’s beautiful!”
“Not in comparison to you.” He smiled then looked down at the sword in his hands. “Mercy has been passed down in my family for many generations. She is the protector and order of the law. She has been through many battles and those who wield her can draw from her strength. However, not just anyone can wield this sword and draw from her power. Only those with pure of hearts can behold this gift.”
My eyes were wide and mouth slightly agape. Jon made Mercy sound almost magical. The strange black runes were striking against the silver blade. I gazed at the Great Sword like it was a forbidden holy relic that mankind shouldn’t have in their possession.
Jon chuckled as he took in my expression. He slid the sword back into its protective sheath and set it back in place against the seat. “I’m only joking. It’s just a sword that has been passed down through many generations.” He teased, stealing away the magic he had me believe of the sword. “My father gave it to me when I became of age.”
I frowned at the joke but his smile was repentant. “Are you any good with it?”
“I am very efficient with this sword.” He smirked.
“Have you ever had to use your sword?” I asked curious.
Jon’s smile faded and eyes hardened. “More than once…” he said and said no more.