We traveled for a week before we reached the Kingdom of Sodora. The journey was full of discomfort to say the least. Lord Bancroft’s fury had me contemplating my third escape more than once. But I also knew that if I tried to escape now it would end in my death, and I had no intention of dying. It was time that I sought my revenge on the man who made my life miserable.
In these few days, we had to stop for food and rest multiple times. Lord Bancroft made sure to keep a hold of my hand whenever we dismounted and took shelter under a tree. It was strange that a mighty King such as Bancroft would seek rest under a tree. He was a man used to luxury and power, so sleeping under a tree went against everything that he was.
“Why are we seeking shelter under a tree?” I dared to ask one night as we laid curled up under a large oak tree. Lord Bancroft held me tightly, my back to his front, as I gazed at the glowing moon, wondering how beautiful could nature be.
“What sort of a question is this, rose?” He asked, his voice soft which took me by surprise. These past few days we had barely said five words to each other. I just thought that saying anything to him would incur his wrath and I did not have time for that.
“I do wonder, my Lord. You are a King, sleeping under a tree is beneath you,” I replied. I did not dare say anything else, because I needed him to stay calm; his wrath would only hinder and disrupt my plans and I did not wish for that to happen.
Taking revenge on Lord Bancroft for all that he had done to me was vital for my well-being and health. If I was going to start a new life with him in Sodora, then I had to be strong. I had to shed the cloak of fear that prevented me from taking what was rightfully mine to take. Lord Bancroft could not continue to treat me like I was not a human being. Fleeing to Pran had taught me what it was like to be treated like a normal person and I realized that was why how I wished to be treated.
“I have my reasons for taking shelter under a tree, my fiery nymph.” The soft tone of his voice did nothing to put my heart at ease. I knew once we reached Sodora there would be hell to pay. But this time, I was going to fight. I would make him understand that I was not beneath him, even if I was below him in status.
“Does your reason involve me, my Lord?” He couldn’t possibly be so gentle, could he? Lord Bancroft was cold and cruel, he would not be gentle with me; he was going to punish me, and this time I would fight him with everything that I had.
“Those reasons are best kept to myself. You must rest. Sodora is only a couple of days away. Your new life must be your primary focus rather than our shelter,” he stated, his voice tickling my ear.
That night I did as he said and thought about the new world which he was taking me to. Lord Bancroft had told me how beautiful Sodora was, but were the people of the Kingdom just as beautiful? It was then that Malin’s face entered in my mind and I wondered if my friend was all right. Was he still fretting over me or had he forgotten about me? But no matter what happened, I would never forget the man who helped me when I had none and gave me a home. He taught me to be strong and that I could survive on my own if I wished to do so.
The next few days were spent with more traveling. Lord Bancroft kept me close to him no matter where we went or what we did. I could understand why had no intention of letting me go but it only served to terrify me of what was about to happen. Would he lock me in a dungeon and torture me? Would he slice my body until I was lying in a lake of my own blood? Would I be able to fight him and stop him from attacking me?
“This land sure is beautiful, my Lord,” I remarked, gazing at the valleys spread out before me. I could spot a deer running around, its eyes attracting me to its beauty. I never knew how graceful a deer could be until I saw it with my own eyes.
“We have reached the outskirts of Sodora. Tomorrow we shall enter the Kingdom which will be your new home. I hope you are looking forward to it, my fiery nymph. I have a feeling that you will like Sodora, and the people are already expecting you.” Why was he being so kind? He was supposed to tell me that he couldn’t wait to punish me. And how could I like the new Kingdom when I would not be alive to see it? Lord Bancroft was behaving in an odd manner and I could not let his behavior hinder my judgement. I had to seek revenge, it was the only way for my soul to fine peace.
“The people are already aware of my arrival?” I said in response. Would those people accept me in their Kingdom? Did they know that I was nothing but a common whore, living in the harem of Quopia?
You are no longer a common whore. Do not speak of yourself like one!
My inner voice was right. I was no longer a common whore. I left that maiden in Quopia when I fled; I was no longer her and she was no longer me. I was finally free.
“Yes. They are looking forward to seeing you.” His answer made me think of Lady Sabina and how the people of Quopia refused to accept her as their Queen. The war had ended and I was sure Lord Aboloft would’ve won since he was a powerful King; so did that mean that Lady Sabina was now the Queen of the Kingdom?
“I do not think they will accept me, my Lord.” Mayhap it would be best if I continued to have a civil conversation with Lord Bancroft before my impending doom. Mayhap then he might choose to have mercy on me.
“They will accept you because they have no other choice.” I did not say anything after that because I did not know what to say. If the people of Sodora did not accept me, how would that affect the King? I mean, I was sure Lord Bancroft would keep me in the dungeons, so why did he talk about the people accepting me?
The last night before we arrived at the gates of Sodora, was the one I would never forget; simply because my dreams kept me awake, disturbing me until I could do nothing but move closer to Lord Bancroft for comfort.
My dreams were about Ethel. It seemed as if I was back in Quopia to meet my friend, Ethel. However, the world around me looked nothing like Quopia; it looked as if I had entered a world where death and darkness reigned. The pungent smell of lies and betrayal hung in the air making it difficult for me to breathe.
“Ethel?” I called my friend as soon as I saw her standing under a tree. The naked branches of the tree terrified me, simply because it symbolized death. That’s when I realized that I was not in Quopia, because the Kingdom I was born in was full of life, not death.
Ethel turned around to face me, but when I saw her face I couldn’t help the scream that erupted from my mouth. The skin of her face was melting, as if she were made of wax. Her eyes were shedding tears of blood and her mouth was open in surprise. When she saw me, the words that left her destroyed my very soul.
“Look what you have done to me. You left me, Hildred…
“You destroyed me.”
When I woke up crying and screaming, it took Lord Bancroft a long time to calm me down and force me to go back to sleep, but even he knew that I could not sleep after the dream I had about my friend.
In the morning, we mounted the horse and covered the remaining distance. When I saw the gates of Sodora and the thick walls on either side, I couldn’t help but gasp.
The gate looked as if nature had taken it upon herself to create it. Vines and flowers rose from the ground and curled around the metal gates, covering it from top to bottom. The walls were influenced by nature in a similar fashion, as I could barely see the bricks which made up the walls.
When I got my first glimpse of the castle, my eyes widened and my jaw slackened in awe as I gazed at the grand structure. It looked as powerful as the King ruling it and I could tell it would be a long time until I would be able to become familiar with this place.
The people of Sodora welcomed us with open arms. They cheered and clapped as Lord Bancroft entered the gates, the horse slowing its pace. I was sure that the applause was for their King and not me, after all, King Bancroft was returning after winning a war.
Once we reached the entrance of the castle, Lord Bancroft dismounted before helping me down. He held me until I was steady on my feet before taking a hold of my hand and leading me inside the castle, the doors shutting behind us, silencing the world once more.
The inside of the castle was just as stunning as the outside. A black carpet was spread out on to the floor. Knights in their attire stood on either side of the carpet as Lord Bancroft and I walked further and further. None of them moved, no one made a sound as we walked inside.
I thought Lord Bancroft would head for the throne but he surprised me when he took a left turn, into a dimly lit corridor.
“My Lord, where are we going?” Where were the servants? Were they not here to offer their King some refreshments?
“You will know soon, rose. Keep walking,” he stated, his voice devoid of emotion. My heart jolted when I thought about whether he was taking me down to the dungeons. Where else would he be taking me?
Just then a couple of female servants walked towards us and bowed deeply. Would they be the one to take me down there, since Bancroft had more important things to do like addressing his Kingdom. Of course he would order the servants to take me down to the horrors that were not visible to the ordinary man.
“My Lord, welcome back. I hope you had a nice journey. You look well, if I dare say so myself,” the maid standing on the left spoke, a soft smile on her face. The friendly way in which she spoke to her King had me feeling uneasy. She was a maid; she should not be speaking to him in such a manner. And why was she looking him in the eyes? Even I didn’t dare to look at King Bancroft in the eyes unless he ordered me to. I did not like these maids for some reasons and I didn’t think I could allow them to take me down to the dungeons.
“I am well. We won the war and Lady Sabina is now the official Queen of Quopia. There shall be celebrations throughout the Kingdom,” Lord Bancroft replied. Were these women really the servants or did the King have any other relationship with them?
Mayhap they are a part of his harem.
Even so, the women in the harem were not allowed to leave their place and roam around the castle, it was forbidden. So who were these women really?
“That is wonderful news, my Lord. Your victory demands to be celebrated. If you have any orders for us, please do say so.” This time it was the one on the right who spoke. Why did these women bring such discomfort to me?
“There are a few things that need to be done. First, I want you to write and send a letter to Lord Aboloft, informing him of our arrival along with an invitation to come visit us next month. Secondly, I want you to send some refreshments up to my chambers.” I jumped when he pulled me closer to him. “And then, leave us be.”
The woman standing on the left gasped, her blue eyes widening. “My Lord, is that…” she didn’t finish.
“Yes, she is. Now go and report back once you are done. I expect the refreshments to arrive in the next few minutes,” he stated before walking away, leaving the women behind.
“Are they your servants, my Lord?” I asked, while looking at the stained glass windows and giant paintings on the walls. The corridors seemed to stretch on for miles and miles. Where was he taking me?
“Yes, my fierce nymph, the women you saw were some of my servants,” he answered.
We soon arrived at a door which was flanked by four guards. They bowed when they saw their King before taking a step to the side, allowing Lord Bancroft to open the door.
Lord Bancroft pushed the door open and entered, and when I saw what was inside, it had heat spreading throughout my body. These were Lord Bancroft’s private quarters and this room was where he slept.
“This is where we shall sleep, my rose. I hope this chamber is to your liking. If not, then I shall have my servants change it to how you wish it to be,” Lord Bancroft announced, taking me by surprise. What was he talking about? Was he not going to through me in the dungeon?
“We will sleep here?” It came as no surprise to me that Lord Bancroft would make me sleep with him, but sleeping in this luxurious room still felt like a dream.
“Of course. If you do not like it, then we shall change it,” he said.
“No, no. You must not change it, my Lord. This is beautiful,” I said with a small smile.
“Good. Now that we have discussed this, let’s talk about what is going to happen to you now,” he stated.
My heart stopped, knowing that it was time when Lord Bancroft…
Would punish me.