The situation at Quopia changed drastically. Where there was peace, there was a war now raging. The place where people lived in peace and harmony was not surrounded with angry mobs and frustrated men. The place I called home was now in chaos.
I knew there was a war coming, the Kings sitting at the dining table discussed as much but I did not know just how big of a war this was. It was as if the people of Quopia had betrayed their homeland and were now fighting against the one who had given them a place to stay. Lord Aboloft was a cruel King but he was just in his ways. He knew the difference between right and wrong, so people going against him was utterly senseless.
However, despite everything, the war was going to take place and Lord Aboloft was prepared for it. Lord Bancroft along with King Eldon and King Mavon were going to assist him in this war against the people who were rebelling against Lady Sabina becoming the Queen of the Kingdom. Why they refused to accept her rule was beyond the realms of my comprehension, because Lady Sabina was kind and loving. She was the perfect Queen. But she knew why those people were rebelling and I wished to talk to her, to get to know more about her.
My worry for Lord Aboloft and Lady Sabina kept intensifying as the days drew closer to the war that would either make or break this Kingdom. Once the war was over, it would be time for me to leave Quopia, and there was nothing I could do about it. I wasn’t sure if I wanted the war to happen or not. On one hand I was eager to get out of here and start a new life of my own, where powerful Kings like Lord Bancroft and Lord Eldon did not reside, but at the same time I wished to stay in Quopia because it was my home—it was all I knew.
“Do you think the people of Quopia are going to stop rebelling against the new Queen?” I jumped at the sound of Ethel’s voice. I turned around to see her standing at the door of Lord Bancroft’s chambers, a small smile on her face. What was she doing out of the harem? A common whore was not allowed to leave the confines of that room.
“Ethel? My goodness, what are you doing here? If somebody sees you they will tell Lord Aboloft and he will punish you,” I chided. I did not wish for Ethel to be punished, which was why I had to get her back in the harem before anybody saw her.
“Relax, Hildred, my God, must you fret so much? Lord Bancroft ordered me to come here and keep you company as he will be busy fighting the war,” she explained.
“Are you absolutely certain he said this?” What if the guard lied to Ethel to get her in trouble? I still remembered the man who lied to Lord Bancroft about me offering myself to him. If I ever saw him again I would demand he tell the truth to everyone or I would use my new weapon and stab him to death.
Since when did you surrender to the darkness inside you?
I already knew the answer to that question. There was a darkness in me that no one knew of and if I remained careful, I would make sure that nobody knew about the sinister thoughts that plagued me. Lord Bancroft was the reason for my blooming darkness, and after this war was over, I feared he might get a glimpse of the evil that resided within me.
“Of course I am certain. Lord Bancroft came into the harem and ordered me to keep you safe while he fought the war,” she answered.
“Keep me safe? What would happen to me here?” I asked, slightly bewildered over Lord Bancroft’s concern. What was he thinking that had him worried about me?
“There is a war happening, Hildred, anything can happen. The enemy can and will attack the castle. We must be careful,” she answered as if I was daft for asking this question.
If the enemy was going to attack, then there was no place we could hide for safety. We were all destined to die unless we hid in a place which nobody knew about.
“Then hiding is not the answer. I mean, we cannot hide here; if the enemy attacks the castle then we will all die,” I said.
“We have to; Lord Bancroft gave me strict orders to stay with you in his bed chambers and keep you safe. If you do anything foolish and you get injured because of it then Lord Bancroft would punish me,” she stated.
Lord Bancroft. Just hearing his name had me thinking about Lord Mavon and what he told me about Lord Bancroft and his mother. Was it possible that the woman with gray eyes was me? But I was so young when Lord Bancroft first saw me. Was that why he waited so many years to claim me?
“I will not do anything foolish. And why did he tell you to keep me company. The war will not begin until after a few days.” I told her. However, my statements fell short when I heard a chorus of screams as if a group of people were about to attack. It was only when I looked out of the window did I realize just how wrong I really was.
It looked as if the entire town was gathered outside the walls of the castle with flaming torches and pitchforks. God, what were they thinking? They would all die here. I was sure Lord Aboloft would not spare anyone. Why were they rebelling?
“The war begins now, Hildred. And we have to make sure that we do not get injured; which is why you are not leaving this chamber until this war is over,” Ethel stated, crossing her arms in front of her chest.
My heart begun racing as I glanced at the army of soldiers gathered inside the walls. Very soon the walls would no longer be a barrier between us and the enemy and we would have no choice but to fight for our survival.
Lord Bancroft was out there. He would be fighting against these people who looked as if they would not back down until they destroyed everything. What if Lord Bancroft injured himself? And why did that thought cause my heart to clench painfully?
No! Do not think about him. You must escape. Run now before it’s too late.
The thought came unbidden to my mind. But now that it was here, it refused to leave. And I knew in my heart that if I didn’t leave now then escaping would be difficult. Right now, everyone was busy fighting the war, no one would know if I ran away. And no one would stop me.
But could I do it? Did I have the courage to run from one life and start a second one? Was I strong enough to face this world on my own?
This was not the time to be having second thoughts and questioning my decisions. I had to find a way to distract Ethel and run away from here. This was the perfect opportunity. I just had to escape my dearest friend.
“Hildred? What in the world are you thinking about?” Ethel asked, a puzzled frown on her forehead.
I gave her a soft smile, hating myself for what I was about to do. “Nothing. I am just thinking about Lord Bancroft. He is out there, fighting, what if he gets injured.” It was only a partial truth but it was better than the actual truth.
“Oh my, are you actually worried for the King’s wellbeing?” A smile broke out on her face as if she couldn’t be happier.
“Why are you smiling, Ethel?” I asked her.
“Because Lord Bancroft claimed you and you were not happy about it. You tried to run from him and even though he punished you, he is so very fond of you and now you are worried about his wellbeing just like he is concerned about your safety. You care about him, Hildred!” She exclaimed, placing a hand over her heart and sighing in bliss.
I’d known Ethel since childhood and loved her with all my heart but right now I did not recognize her. And that’s when I knew that I couldn’t tell her about me running away right now. I had to lie to her and get out of Quopia. I would be all alone, with no one to talk to. No one would know where I’d gone or if I was alive.
“Yes well, he has been rather kind to me these past few days. I told you he takes me out to the gardens and even to the market,” I said, not wanting her to know what I was really planning to do.
“Of course. I told you, since he claimed you he will take care of you. I am so happy for you, Hildred. I wish you always stay happy with Lord Bancroft. I am sure Sodora will be a beautiful change for you,” she said. The mention of Sodora had my doubts turning to ash. I would never go to Sodora. I had to run now, there was no time for fear.
The cries of men behind me had my bones shuddering. I was afraid to look outside but I knew I would have to. With a glance at Ethel who sat on a chair with a contented look on her face, I knew what I had to do. I did not expect my life to take such a turn but it had and I had no choice but to go in this direction.
“Ethel?” I called her.
“Yes Hildred?” Her smile had tears pricking my eyes but I forced them back. I would not cry right now.
“I feel hungry; can you please get me something to eat?” I wasn’t sure if it would make Ethel leave me but I had to try.
“Of course. I do not believe the cooks will be present at this time, with the war raging outside. I will go into the larder and cook something for you,” she said, standing up.
“Thank you.” Without thinking about my actions, I threw my arms around Ethel and wrapped her in a warm embrace. This was the last time I would hug her; I knew it was dangerous and she would become suspicious but I did not care. If I left without saying good bye to the only person I ever loved, I would never forgive myself.
“Hildred? Are you unwell? What is the matter?” Ethel asked.
“Nothing. I just want you to know that I love you and I want you to forgive me if I ever did you wrong,” I whispered.
“Hildred, we are not going to die. Lord Aboloft will win this war and no harm will come to either of us. So you do not need to ask for forgiveness, and there is nothing to forgive,” she replied.
“But you must know that I love you and I’ll always will,” I argued, pulling away from her with great reluctance.
“Yes, I know that and my feelings are mutual. Now you must wait here while I go and bring something for you to eat.” Giving my hands a warm squeeze, Ethel rushed out of the bed chambers, leaving me all alone.
Once she was gone, I hurried towards the cupboard and pulled out a cloak. The bag of coins Lord Bancroft gave me was still inside the pocket along with the knife I bought. However, I took out the brooch and placed it on the table where Lord Bancroft kept his rings and other things. It killed me to run away like this; I’d wanted to give the brooch to him in person. I wished to see his face when he opened the box and saw the brooch.
You are wasting time. Leave now or it would be too late.
A stray tear escaped my eye but I quickly wiped it away. Taking a deep breath, I draped the cloak around me and pulled the hood over my head. Since it was big enough to hide my face, I knew no one would recognize me.
Without thinking about anything else, I ran out of the bed chambers. I looked left and right, keeping my senses alert for anything and anyone. If I saw anyone I would hide in a corner and wait until they left. But because of the war going on outside, there was no one guarding the inside of the castle. I should’ve been relieved but I was too worried about getting out of the castle.
When I emerged outside, I couldn’t believe I’d actually succeeded in getting out. But I couldn’t stop and rejoice over my victory because the war around me made me wish I’d stayed inside. Bodies of men—both young and old—were scattered around me, torn and bloody. I wanted to cry out and scream at the whole world but I had bigger things to worry about.
With no choice but to close my eyes and forget about the carnage taking place around me, I tried to maneuver my way around the bodies, making sure to hold on to my cloak so as not to be seen by anyone.
I didn’t know how long I walked for or where I was going, but when I no longer heard the screams and cries of people around me and instead found peaceful silence, I knew I was no longer inside the walls of the castle and had left the war behind me.
It was only when I deemed it safe did I drop the hood from my head and looked at where I was. It seemed as if I was on top of a hill with the castle looming at a distance. I could make out the flag of Quopia which stood at the top of the highest turret and fluttered in the wind.
This was it. I’d done it. I was out of the castle. Now I could go wherever I want. I would finally get the life I dreamed of. Lord Bancroft would not take me to Sodora and he would not punish me anymore.
With this belief firmly in my heart, I raised my arm and waved at the castle.
“Good bye, Quopia,” I said before turning around and running away…
Leaving Quopia behind.