I thought visiting the market and the forests of Quopia was the most magical experience but as I walked towards my new home and looked at the world around me, I realized that nothing could be more magical than this. There were trees everywhere and colorful birds flying from one corner to another. The sun shone down on me with all its might, making the sky appear beautiful and clear. There were flowers which I’d never seen nor knew the names of but I was happy just looking at them as I continued my journey to God knows where. I did not know where the next town was, I was concerned about getting out of Quopia.
Two days passed but I did not stop, other than for food and rest. I was not wise enough to take some food with me when leaving Quopia, so I had no choice but to pluck the fruits from the trees and eat them. Sleeping at night proved to be fairly difficult as I had to find a secluded place to rest. I did not wish to be found by anyone, so I had to sleep under a tree which was located in a remote area.
However, I did manage to get some amount of rest before I started moving again. I was terrified of being found, which had me looking over my shoulder after every two minutes. Every time I saw a man or a woman walking by me, I could feel my heart stopping, fearing it was someone from Quopia looking for me at the behest of Lord Bancroft
Throughout the journey my mind kept drifting to Lord Bancroft and what he would think when he found out that I’d escaped. I did not want to think about him, he was no longer in my life. But he had claimed me for himself and it seemed as if my heart and mind had accepted that, and so I could not help but think about him.
I did not know where I was going. I had no destination in mind. I just needed to find a new town or village where no one knew me, so I could start a new life there. It was difficult for me to believe that I would finally get the life I dreamed of. Now I would be able to sew dresses for women and hopefully they would like them.
It hurt my heart to leave Ethel behind but I had to do this. God knows what Lord Bancroft would do to her once he realized that she did not keep an eye on me like he told her to. Just imagining his wrath had me trembling to the bone, so I forced the dreadful thoughts to the back of my mind and continued my journey towards my new life.
Three days passed since I left Quopia. Three days since I’d been walking. And finally I arrived at what looked to be a small village. My heart soared with joy when I saw the straw cottages and people milling around, talking to each other.
Would these people give me a place to stay here? I really needed to find a new home and I did not know how far the next village or town was from this one. I wished Ethel was with me, that way I would have someone who could help me talk to the people around here.
With no choice left, I took a deep breath of courage and walked towards the village. No one paid me any heed as I ventured forward, everybody busy with their own work. A couple of men walked past me with wooden logs resting on their shoulders, while a boy of about seven chased a hen, laughing and shrieking as he ran after it.
This village was happy; I could see it in the smiles of people all around me. And I wanted to live here. I wished to be happy just like these people were.
“Excuse me, young lady. Pardon me, but I haven’t seen you here before.” I startled when I heard a man’s voice. I looked to see a man about twenty eight standing in front of me, with black hair and pale blue eyes and a small frown on his forehead. He did not look as if he was going to kill me, only concerned.
“I—I, I am looking for a place to live.” I did not know what to say. Truth be told, I was not expecting anyone to ask me what I was doing here; I did not take into consideration what the people of the village would ask me.
“And why so? Do you not have a home? Where have you come from?” Now I knew I could not tell him that I came from Quopia, otherwise he would send me right back. I had to think of something else, there was no chance of me going back.
“My village has been set on fire. No one survived. My mother sent me out to collect berries and when I came back all I saw was ash. No one survived, they all—“ I pretended to choke on a sob. “They all were dead.” I allowed a few more sobs to escape me, not sure if this man would believe me. “I have been walking for days, looking for shelter. This is the first village I saw. Please help me, I have nowhere to live.” I was glad that my hood was big enough to cover my face, otherwise this man would’ve known that I was lying.
“No, dear one, do not shed your tears. You are safe now. This village will be your safe haven. Come with me, I will take you to see the head of this village. He will give you a home,” the man said. However, I did not follow him as I did not want to appear to eager. I had to make him think that I was a scared, helpless maiden who did not trust him.
“It’s all right, young lady, you do not need to fear me; I mean you no harm,” the man said.
Trying to appear unsure, I hesitantly walked towards him. The man then begun leading me to what looked to be the biggest cottage in the village.
“If it’s not too much of a problem, can you please tell me the name of this village,” I asked.
“The name of this village is Pran. It is a secluded village, as the people like the peace and quiet. The nearest Kingdom is Quopia but it will take a while to go there. For now, you can live here and can leave if you so wish. The people here will treat you like you are family,” he explained.
“Thank you so much. I have nowhere to go and I don’t know where the next village is…” I trailed off. I really hoped he believed me. And if he refused to let me live here, God knows where I would go as I did not know where I would find another village.
“Once we talk to the head of this village then I will take you to the empty cottage that we have. Over here we build an extra cottage in case someone comes looking for shelter. Once you are allowed to live here, we will build another cottage,” he explain.
“May I ask your name, kind sir?” I enquired, praying the head of the village would let me stay. I glanced around to see a few people eyeing me with suspicion and curiosity. I wondered what they were thinking about me. Would they welcome me or shun me?
“You may call me Malin,” he replied as we stopped in front of the cottage. My heart begun drumming as Malin raised his arm and knocked sharply on the wooden door.
“Alright, thank you, Malin.” Just as I finished speaking the door opened to reveal a young girl of about ten, with braided golden hair and brown eyes. She smiled at Malin but that smile died when she saw me.
“Hello,” the girl said.
“Hi, Alma, is your father home?” Malin asked with a smile.
The girl, Alma nodded before opening the door wider and allowing us to enter. The cottage was big enough, yet small, the perfect size. One could live comfortably in a cottage like this. I could see two rooms which I assumed were the bedrooms and what appeared to be a small space where the entire family was currently sitting. I could see a man with gray hair and sparkling brown eyes sitting with a woman with golden hair and gray eyes. On her lap sat a babe who looked to be no older than a year.
“Malin! It’s good to see you today!” The man stood up and walked over to us. However, he stopped when his eyes landed on me. “And who is your companion? I have never seen her before.”
“Lord Quillon, I found this young maiden at the borders of our village. Her village burnt and she has nowhere to go. She seeks sanctuary, so I brought her here. She has no family and no roof over her head. We must help her,” Malin said.
There was silence after Malin finished speaking and I wondered what was going on in the mind of Lord Quillon. He stood still, eyeing me with suspicion; I could see he was thinking whether to trust me or not. The intensity of his gaze had me lowering mine, making it difficult for me to maintain eye contact.
“What is your name, young lady?” Lord Quillon asked, his voice hard.
I swallowed hard. “Hil—Hildred, my Lord.” If these people allowed me to live here, then I would make sure no one knows that I was a common whore in Quopia. I would start a new life here and would make sure no one knew of my old one.
“And what happened to your family, Hildred?” He asked.
“They…they all died in the fire, my Lord,” I answered, making sure to keep my voice soft.
“You say the whole village burned down, what was the name of your village?” This question frightened me. How was I supposed to lie about this? I could not lie about this, could I? But I had no choice, this was going to be my life now, one filled with lies and deceit.
“Ce—Cewmann, my Lord. I lived in the village of Cewmann,” I answered, praying he wouldn’t ask me where it was. I never knew how difficult lying could be and yet some people could do it so easily.
“I see. And how long have you been traveling? How did you find this village?” Lord Quillon queried, folding his arms behind his back.
“Th—Three days.” I was afraid to answer this question but I had no choice. If this man was kind enough to listen to me and not kill me, then he deserved all the honesty I could give him.
“Hmm, you do look pale and tired. You are not running from something or someone, are you? Because I am the leader of this village and it is my job to protect the people from any threats and dangers. And I need to know everything because I do not wish for any surprises in the future,” Lord Quillon said.
I shook my head. “You can put your trust and faith in me, my Lord. I assure you I am not running from anyone and I will not let any harm come to this village.”
Lord Quillon smiled gently. “I am pleased to hear it.” He looked at Malin. “Malin, take Hildred to the empty cottage we have and make sure she is comfortable, then come to me as we have some important matters to discuss.”
Malin smiled and bowed. “Yes, my Lord. Come Hildred, I will take you to your new home.” I bowed in front of Lord Quillon.
“Thank you, my Lord, for giving me sanctuary when I have none.” With those words, I turned and walked out of the cottage with Malin, my heart lighter than it ever had been.
“I think I can now welcome you to Pran. I hope you are happy and comfortable here,” Malin said as he led me towards a cottage which was situated in a corner.
“I cannot thank you enough for giving me shelter. This village has my eternal gratitude.” I told him.
“You can show your gratitude by helping the people. Is there anything you can do? Any skills which could be of benefit to us?” Malin asked as he pushed the door of the cottage open. It wasn’t as big as Lord Quillon’s cottage but it was big enough for me.
“Uh, well I do enjoy sewing dresses, and I can help out with anything if my help is required,” I answered. I didn’t do anything in the harem because a common whore was not allowed to do anything except to please one man after the other. Helping these people out was going to be a novel experience for me, one I wasn’t sure I wished to have. But I had my life in my control now which meant I had to learn to do everything.
“Oh? We are currently in need of a seamstress. Mayhap I will tell the villagers that you have the skill to make new clothes for them so they can have one less task on their hands.” Malin smiled, a friendly smile which warmed my insides. I never had a man who was my friend but perhaps now things would change.
“I will try my best to be of use to people around here,” I promised, happy to know I had a new home now. I just hoped my past would not chase after me. Lord Bancroft was a powerful King whose influence crossed Kingdoms, hopefully he would not find out I was here.
“Good. I am glad you came to Pran, Hildred. I shall take my leave now. You must wash and get some rest. Since you don’t have clothes, I will bring some for you as my sister will be more than happy to lend you one of her dresses, along with some food as well,” he told me.
“Thank you so much, Malin!” I exclaimed. “Your kindness means the world to me. If there is any way I can pay you back for all that you’ve done for me, please let me know.”
Malin grinned at me, his beautiful eyes crinkling at the corners. “I will let you know. I will be back soon. You can get acquainted with your home in the meantime.”
Once Malin was gone, I sat down on a wooden chair and took a deep breath. Finally, I was out of Quopia and was now going to start a new life. I no longer had to be afraid of a King’s wrath upon me and pleasing a man. All I had to do now was please myself…
And that was exactly what I would do.