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A New Beginning

A strange feeling of coldness washed over Elissa the instant she slid the ring onto her fingers, causing her to close her eyes in an involuntary reflex. When she opened them, she was in a dimly lit room filled with dust and cobwebs. Squinting and looking about, it appeared that she was in some sort of small underground basement, which was now cramped with all of her things. Pale moonlight drifted in from small square window frames – the windows themselves having been broken a long time ago – and everything was covered in a thick layer of dust and cobwebs. A single rickety looking set of wooden steps lead up to the exit, with several wooden steps cracked, broken, or gone.

“Where the hell am I?” Elissa muttered quietly to herself. “Looks almost like a cellar in some abandoned house,” she mused softly, “and it looks like I’m trapped. There’s no way what’s left of those steps will support the weight of me and my armor!” Sighing quietly, she slowly began to unbuckle and gently sit down each piece of armor that she’d labored so hard to put on just a little while ago. Once she’d stripped out of it, she took the extra time to pull of her cotton socks as well and tuck them into her boots. As dusty and dirty as this place was, she’d ruin them just walking from where she stood over to the bottom of the broken staircase!

Wearing nothing but the cotton shirt and pants that she normally wore under her armor, Elissa took time and fastened her scabbard to her waist before starting to tiptoe over to the steps. The floor was perhaps stone, but with the large accumulation of dust and dirt over it, it was almost impossible to tell for certain. It was either a dirt floor with some stone laid in it, or else it was a stone floor simply covered in dirt, and Elissa wasn’t certain which it was!

Ancient spider webs and cobwebs hung in thick layers all around, disturbed and broken by the crates containing her stuff that had appeared scattered around the room. Strands of webs drifted and stuck to her face and tangled in her hair, giving Elissa the feeling of something crawling all over her. By the time she worked her way across the room, she felt dirty and dingy from top to bottom.

Staring up what remained of the steps, they looked old and fragile, and almost ready to collapse at a slight sneeze. Slowly, gingerly, Elissa placed her right foot on the first step and tested it with her weight, causing the old wooden boards to crack and pop warningly, but they didn’t break. Testing to second step the same way, it gave dangerously under her slight weight and she didn’t chance actually stepping on it. The third step held, but then the next few didn’t seem as if they would, causing her to back down to the bottom and start over.

If the steps wouldn’t hold all her weight, Elissa thought that perhaps they could hold a smaller portion of it at a time. Ignoring her dignity, in an act that would cause her father to gasp from the sheer shock of seeing it, the High Lady Elissa got down on all fours and slowly crawled up the steps one by one. Being careful to never place her full weight on the feeble boards, she tried hard to distribute it as equally as she could. Slowly, hand by hand, she tested and eased her way up the steps. Several times she felt as if a board under her knees or under her palm was giving too dangerously and might collapse at any moment, but by some miracle she managed to work her way up to the top, where she collapsed on a dingy wooden flooring.

Taking several moments to catch her breath and calm her nerves, Elissa finally eased to her feet and began to look around. A wobbly old table sat whop-sided in the middle of the room she was in, with several cheap and dirty stools scattered around it. Plates, dishes, and bowls of all sort were piled several feet high atop the table, and the smell of rotting food was ripe in the air as flies lazily buzzed all around. There were two exits in the room, each in opposite directions of each other, and a window so covered in mold and dirt that it was impossible to see out was shut tight across from what was left of the steps going downstairs.

Figuring one direction was as good as the other at this point in time, Elissa tiptoed to her left and away from the stench and buzz of the table. Easing out of the dining room and into the next room, it was a kitchen in the same sad condition. A cast iron stove sat off to one side for cooking over, but it was so covered in pots, pans, and plates that it’d be impossible to use. A countertop was buried under a mound of… something which looked and smelled rather unpleasant, making Elissa quickly turn her head before she could make it what it was exactly. A rotted dog carcass? Pig? Shivering slightly, she wasn’t certain, and from the smell alone she didn’t think she really wanted to know what it was.

Back out of the room slowly, she backtracked past the steps and worked her way around the table while trying not to look too closely at what was on the table. The stench was almost overpowering, and made her hold her breath and quicken her pace on past and out of the room. Entering the next room, it appeared to be what looked like a rundown sitting room. Trash and garbage was everywhere, but the thing that drew her immediate attention was the form of a man sitting in a cheap rocking chair and swaying slowly back and forth.

“So,” he slurred, “you the next chosen one?” The man was dressed in some sort of dingy gray pants and had no shirt or shoes on. His hair was long and unkempt, with a bread that grew out raggedly in all directions and concealed most of his face. Pale, ghostly white skin reflected in the moonlight, giving him and almost corpse-like appearance.

“I… I am,” Elissa stammered. Whatever this was, it certainly wasn’t anything like anything she’d ever imagined. “Are you the Darkbringer?”

“I’m Dark,” the man slurred, before commanding her to, “Strip!”

Blinking a few times, confused, Elissa simply stared as the figure in the chair continued to rock slowly back and forth. “Wha… What?” She was completely lost.

“Strip,” the man commanded again. “It’s a simple enough thing to do. All you have to do is take off anything that you weren’t born with.” His speech was slurred and he almost seemed like he was ready to fall out of his chair at any moment as he swayed from time to time as he slowly waved his hands in a motion indicating that she should get on with it.

“Umm…” Pausing a moment, Elissa hesitated. Her instincts told her to ignore such a ludicrous request, and her sleep deprived mind wanted to stubbornly argue. For a moment, she considered refusing outright, but then she slowly shook her head and pulled her shirt off over it. Her duty was supposed to be ’simple and easy to understand – complete and utter obedience’, and the price of failure was supposed to be devastatingly high. Swallowing back her pride, she unbuckled her scabbard and held it in her left hand with her shirt. Finally untying the string that held her pants up, she let them fall to the ground and stood there naked, awaiting to see how the man would react, and what he’d expect next from her.

For several long moments, he simply rocked back and forth, saying nothing and not seeming to move as he stared at her. “Turn. Slowly,” he finally commanded.

Having determined to already come this far, Elissa slowly stepped forward to step out of her pants and then turned slowly. Trying not to blush, she held her arms out to either side so she could be inspected easily. If her father could see her now, he’d probably go into a fit and die of embarrassment. ‘Duty over pride’, she reminded herself. The fate of her family, her kingdom, and the human race itself seemed to hang upon it.

After she’d finished completely rotating for the second time, the figure in the chair nodded to himself. “Stop,” he ordered, “and wear this.” In one wild movement, he tossed a bundle of cloth towards her; his aim wildly inaccurate, it landed well off to Elissa’s side.

Working her way carefully around the broken bottles and heaps of trash in the room, Elissa bent and slowly picked it up. Examining what she’d been thrown, it looked to be nothing more than a dusty grey set of washrags tied together with some sort of old string. “This?” She asked, questioning if she’d picked up the right piece of garbage.

“That’s it! That’s your uniform,” the man confirmed and then chuckled roughly. “Wasn’t expecting no woman. Never get a woman,” he muttered drunkenly to himself. “It’s a loin cloth for a guy, but it’ll just have to do. That’s your uniform now, and you can’t wear anything else as long as you’re here. If you don’t like it, you can always not wear it!” Cackling wildly, the man swayed forward and almost fell out of his chair before he caught himself and flopped backwards in it hard enough to almost make it flip over in that direction.

Shaking her head and blinking several times to try and clear her thoughts didn’t help Elissa at all. Trying to ignore the figure laughing, she gently sat down her sword, scabbard, and shirt, and untied one side of the string. Wrapping the cloth around herself, she tied it back and then stared down at herself. The dingy grey fabric in front wasn’t much wider than her hand, and not much longer than that! Even under the loosest of standards, it wasn’t honestly enough to say that it covered anything really!

Sliding the rope down so the cloth rode low and covered what needed to be covered as much as possible, Elissa tried to ignore the feeling of the cool wind on her backside. The cloth in the rear was just as small and uncovering, and did very little to conceal the bottom curvature of her butt cheeks and nothing to cover her hips.

“My top?” Elissa asked, looking around to see if she missed it.

“Nope!” The figure in the chair cackled wildly once again and rocked violently back and forth once more. “What you have is your uniform. Wear it or not, I don’t give a shit. You just can’t wear anything else besides it.”

“And.. What… what am I going to be doing?” Elissa asked, worried but determined that she’d handle whatever fate sent her, way for the sake of her family and people.

“Fetching me a beer,” the figure slurred, as it settled back into a slow rhythmic rocking once again.

“A beer?” Elissa asked, confounded. “How am I supposed to get a beer?”

“Go wench for it if you have to,” the figure shrugged.

“Is that an order? I have to wench?” Elissa gasped, feeling week in the knees.

“The orders to get me a beer. Steal it. Wench for it. Kill some bastard and take theirs. I don’t give a shit how you do it. Just go get me a beer,” the figure commanded. “And soon too!”

“I… I’ll be back with a beer soon, Milord.” Shaking her head to try and clear it, Elissa slowly worked her way back into the dining area.

Bewildered, she couldn’t help but wonder: Just what the hell had she gotten herself in to?!

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