The next morning, just before dawn, Lord Dunkan went to Laurissa’s room and stood beside the bed.
“Laurissa. It is time to wake up.” Laurissa moved a little and groaned, then settled back to sleep. Lord Dunkan had to be careful of his treatment with Laurissa. She is still human and only a child. Her wounds will not heal as his does. He pulled the blanket off her, grabbed her shirt collar, and pulled her off the bed. She landed on the cold hard stone floor with a delightful squeal.
“If this is how you show gratitude, then perhaps I have been too easy. You will sleep on the floor tonight.”
“I’m sorry, Master. I didn’t hear you.” She replied as she stood up and rubbed her bottom.
“Get dressed and go eat breakfast, then return here.”
Lord Dunkan left and sat in the sitting room while he waited for Laurissa to finish her task. Laurissa was unsure why Lord Dunkan was so displeased with her. She wanted to show him she could be grateful.
The blond woman brought her two cooked eggs and a slice of bread with water. Laurissa sat at the long table that was set on one side of the sitting room while Lord Dunkan sat in his favorite chair near the fireplace.
Laurissa looked at her plate, then to Lord Dunkan, and felt strange eating alone. It was okay before she started to talk to him. They are friends now, shouldn’t he want to eat with her? “Master? Are you going to eat?”
“I will later, little one. Finish your meal.”
Laurissa wordlessly did as was instructed then went to her room. She paced her room, wondering what kind of training Lord Dunkan had in store for her.
Lord Dunkan finally appeared in the doorway. His presence sent chills down Laurissa’s spine. He looked upset. She wondered what she did wrong.
“Come with me.”
Laurissa followed him down the hallway toward the sitting room and then stood behind him as he opened a door at the very end. She didn’t notice the door before. Inside the door was an extremely small room. It was crammed with furniture.
“Take the desk and chair and return to your room.”
Laurissa started to reach into the doorway to grab a desk. “Your silence is inexcusable, little one. I will not warn you again.” Lord Dunkan’s cold voice sent chills down Laurissa’s spine. She flinched and turned to him.
“Yes, Master, I’m sorry. I’ll try harder.” She noticed his blue eyes almost glowed. She backed away from him. What monster has glowing eyes? Lord Dunkan heard her thought.
“I am no monster, Laurissa. Do as you are told.”
Laurissa’s eyes widened with shock. Her curiosity got the better of her. She wanted to know all there is to know about Lord Dunkan. “Can you read my mind?” Laurissa whispered.
Lord Dunkan’s hand came out of nowhere and struck her cheek. “I have clothed you, fed you, and gave you a warm place to sleep. You tell me you will earn your living, and yet you cannot perform a simple task without disrespecting me.” Laurissa’s cheek throbbed as tears filled her eyes. “Get out of my sight until you can decide if you truly wish to live here or not. I will not wait long for your answer.”
Laurissa ran from him and out of the manor. “Keres, follow Laurissa, and make sure she makes the right decision.” He projected.
“Yes, my Lord.”
Keres had been cleaning up the dishes from Laurissa’s breakfast. She heard the smack when Lord Dunkan struck Laurissa and felt bad for the girl. She has been subject to his wrath before. When he gives a command, he expects it to be executed at once and without question. Laurissa will need to learn that. They all learned it when they were training. Keres still felt sorry for her.
Laurissa kept running until she was out of breath. Her cheek felt like it might bruise. She had never been hit before. Why did he hit her? She only asked a question. It seemed only natural. She recalls a time where she had a thought, and Lord Dunkan responded to her. The first time she took a bath, she thought he was trying to kill her, then he said the water wouldn’t harm her. Now his eyes glow. He says he isn’t a monster, but people aren’t always truthful—especially monsters.
“You wounded Lord Dunkan’s feelings, child.”
Laurissa jumped when she heard a female voice all of a sudden. Laurissa turned and saw the blond woman standing.
“My name is Keres.” She said and knelt down on her knees. Laurissa only looked at her. “You can speak to me. I will not hurt you.”
“You’re just one of his girls!” Laurissa said angrily.
“I am not ’just’ one of his girls. I care for him like a father. He takes good care of us.”
“Is he always so mean?”
“Only when you disobey him. He is only trying to help you.”
“What is he, Keres?”
“I am not permitted to say. That is for Lord Dunkan to tell you when the time is right.”
“So he isn’t human?”
“I apologize, child. I cannot answer your question. He will let you know on his own time. You must learn respect. He will continue to care for you and defend you if only you do as he says without question.”
“I’ve never had a father. Are all fathers like this?”
“I have known violent men in the past. It was Lord Dunkan that rescued me from such a man. I owe him my life.” Laurissa lowered her gaze from Keres. “Come, child. I will help you take the desk out.” Keres offered her hand to Laurissa. Laurissa reluctantly accepted it and followed her home to Lord Dunkan’s Manor.
Lord Dunkan sat in his chair near the fireplace. Keres let go of Laurissa’s hand and continued down a hallway. Laurissa’s heart pounded in her chest as she slowly made her way to Lord Dunkan. He did not pay attention to her as she approached.
Laurissa stood in front of Lord Dunkan with her hands clasped in front and lowered her eyes to the ground. Lord Dunkan remained silent and waited for her to speak.
“I’m sorry, Master. I was only curious about your ability. I meant no disrespect.” Lord Dunkan did not respond and remained still in his chair. Then Laurissa remembered what he said. “I would like to continue living here, Master.”
“You may remain here as long as you do as I ask.”
“Get the desk and chair and take it with you to your room. You must do this on your own.” His voice was once again smooth. Laurissa recognized the other part of his voice as danger. He is a very dangerous man, or whatever he is.
“Yes, Master.” Laurissa left to the hallway where the storage was. Keres stood waiting for her. “Master said I have to do this by myself.” Keres dipped her head then left.
Laurissa reached in to get the desk. It was stored on its side to fit into the narrow door. As she pulled it out, she could feel how heavy it is. She was unsure how she was going to get the desk into her room. The desk fell out of the closet with a loud bang. The noise seemed to echo off the walls. The desk is intricately designed and incredibly crafted. It is made from dark wood and glossed to a fine finish. Small vines swirled around the legs and bordered the desktop. This desk looked priceless and Lord Dunkan had it shoved into a small hole. She began again to wonder who her master really is.
Laurissa tugged and pulled the desk, but it is too heavy. She went around the desk and put her weight into it, and pushed as hard as she could. It finally moved down the hallway slowly. She was sore and out of breath by the time she got to her room’s doorway. Just as she feared, it would not fit through the door.
Laurissa ran to Lord Dunkan. “Master! The desk is too heavy for me, and it won’t fit through the door.”
“You must do as I ask, little one. Figure it out.”
“But it’s too heavy.” She whined. Lord Dunkan’s glare darkened. “Sorry, Master.” Laurissa blurted out and ran back to the desk.
Laurissa tried lifting the desk. She was able to lift it only a little. She knew Lord Dunkan would be very upset if she couldn’t get it in the room. She turned the desk to wedge it into the door frame, then went back to the storage room and examined her options. There is one chair, some skins, and rope. She took the skin and rope then went back to the desk. Laurissa put the skin fur side down and tested it on the floor. It moved easily. She lifted the desk as far as she could and slid the skin under it, so most of it was under the desk, then put the desk on top. She tested it, and the desk moved much easier.
Laurissa took the rope and wrapped it around the desk then pulled against it using the door frame to keep the desk immobile. The wood creaked and groaned, and her muscles screamed. Then she put her feet on the bottom of the desk. While she pulled on the rope, she pushed with her feet. The animal skin slipped, and the desk flipped. She fell hard on her rump and ducked as the desk leaned toward her. The door frame caught the desk with a loud bang.
Laurissa looked up to see the desk is inches from her head. She sat for a minute to catch her breath, then stood to examine the desk. The corner of the desk leaned on the inside of the doorway, and the bottom of the desk slid to the opposite corner on the animal skin. She straightened the desk and slid it easily into the room then lowered it on a wall in her room.
Laurissa returned to the storage room and retrieved the chair. This was much lighter and easier to move. She excitedly went to Lord Dunkan.
“Master! Master, I did it! I got the desk in the room like you said.”
“You did well, little one.” He said calmly and emotionless.
“Master, I wasn’t sure where in the room you wanted it, so it is leaning on a wall.”
“Yes, Master.” Laurissa excitedly turned and ran down the hallway to wait for him.
Lord Dunkan now knew Laurissa was able to use critical thinking to solve a puzzle. This will be a valuable tool if she is ever sent on a task or given a house. Lord Dunkan followed Laurissa to her room.
Laurissa went into the room and stood beside the desk, then looked at Lord Dunkan with pride. His eyes seemed to glow once again. She quickly looked away and stood before him.
“Where would you like the desk? This is where you will spend a large portion of your training.”
Laurissa looked around the room. All the walls are bare. She supposed the wall it rested on would be a good place. Facing the wall would be less of a distraction. Besides, the desk is extremely heavy and her arms and legs hurt.
“Here is okay, Master.”
“Arrange it to your liking. I will return momentarily.”
“Yes, little one.”
“Why do your eyes glow?”
“That will not be today’s lesson. Do as you are told.” He said sternly.
Laurissa arranged the desk keeping the skin under it, then sat the chair near it. By the time she was done, Lord Dunkan had returned with an arm full of paper. Laurissa had never seen paper before. She watched as Lord Dunkan arranged a scroll of paper and ink on the desk.
“Have a seat, little one.” Dunkan said smoothly.
Laurissa quickly sat on the chair. Her feet dangled, not touching the floor.
“This is a scroll. It is used to write words to communicate or write memories down one does not want to forget.” Lord Dunkan opened a scroll to reveal a lot of funny lines, shapes, and blots. “These are words. Each symbol means something and combined they say a phrase or a sentence and eventually a story.”
“I like stories, Master. Will you tell me one?”
“You will read the stories on your own.” Laurissa looked disappointed. Lord Dunkan continued ignoring Laurissa’s hurt feelings. “This is a blank paper scroll, and this is your writing utensil and ink.” He pointed to each item. “The scroll tells secrets about local wildlife and teaches its reader about certain plants. I thought you might enjoy this since you spent time in the woods.”
“But I can’t read, Master.” She complained.
“I know this. Today you will begin learning how to read and write.”
“Really? You’re going to teach me?”
“Yes. Do not interrupt. You will begin by writing your name.” Lord Dunkan took the quill and drew a symbol, then, leaving a large gap, created another symbol. He continued until he drew eight symbols. “This is your name, little one. Each symbol is one letter. Copy the symbols I have shown you.”
Laurissa took the quill and tried to hold it the way Lord Dunkan had. It felt odd in her hand. She dipped the quill in the black jar and tapped the quill on the edge of the jar, then carefully and slowly drew lines to match the first symbol. It wasn’t perfect, but it was her very first thing she wrote. She continued until all her symbols were done. They looked close, but they were far from perfect.
Lord Dunkan took Laurissa’s hand in his own and guided her hand to write one symbol five separate times, then released her hand. Laurissa drew the sixth one almost perfectly. She continued until her symbols matched Lord Dunkan’s. Lord Dunkan did the same for each symbol and watched Laurissa complete each one on her own. He then took the quill and combined the symbols to form a word. Laurissa was able to copy it perfectly.
“This is your name, little one.”
Laurissa looked at the word and began to cry. Lord Dunkan never understood a female’s emotions.
“You should be proud of yourself. It has been a long day. You may rest.” Lord Dunkan’s voice was the most gentle she has ever heard from him.
“When you are hungry, you may join me in the sitting room.” Lord Dunkan is famished. He is proud of Laurissa’s work and could feel her joy when she accomplished something she never dreamed she could do, and yet tears streamed down her little face. Females cry when they are happy, angry, and sorrowful. It is a mystery he has not been able to unravel.
Laurissa stayed up the entire night, skipping dinner, writing her name over and over and over. She never dreamt she would be able to write. Lord Dunkan gave her something precious. Not only did he teach her to write, but he wrote her name. It gave Laurissa meaning. She is someone, not a nobody, or an evil demon spawn. It is such a wonderful, beautiful feeling to be given life.
Tears continued flowing as she realized she is a living human being, and Lord Dunkan wanted her and cared for her. Laurissa wanted to make Lord Dunkan proud of her more than ever. She can never repay him for his kindness.
The next morning, Lord Dunkan entered Laurissa’s room and found her slumped over the desk with the quill in her hand.
“Laurissa, it is time to wake!” He said sternly.
Laurissa’s head popped up quickly, “Yes, Master. Sorry.”
The paper stuck to the side of her face. She pulled it off, leaving mirrored images of her name all over the side of her face. Lord Dunkan lost control and truly began laughing. Laurissa looked at him with a blank face. The depths of her blue eyes studied him. Laurissa thought she saw fangs like the great cat in his mouth.
“Take a bath, little one, and eat breakfast. We will begin when you are through.” He said after he got his composure.
After breakfast Lord Dunkan showed her the basic symbols to form words. Lord Dunkan remained patient with Laurissa as she learned to write throughout the day. She succeeded wonderfully.
“Begin copying this scroll until you retire for the night.” He told her after dinner.